Psalm 30 – The Dawn Brings Joy
Psalm 30 is a reflection rich in contrasts. In the opening verse, the Psalmist has prayed that the Lord will not allow his enemies to rejoice over him (v. 2b); he concludes having been moved from mourning to dancing, now girded by the Lord with joy (v. 12). In vv. 3-4, the Psalmist’s being lifted up and restored to life are in striking contrast to the depth of the grave and the pit. In v. 6, God’s anger, of a mere moment’s duration, is opposed to the divine favor which lasts a lifetime; similarly do the tears of the nighttime differ from the joy that comes with dawn. In vv. 7-8, we see the divergence between the assurance of good fortune and the confusion brought about by God’s absence. In v. 12, mourning is changed into dancing, and garments of sackcloth removed as one is enveloped in joy. The mounting effect of these rhetorical oppositions increases our sense of the importance of God in the life of the Psalmist; the One called “Lord my God” at both the beginning and end (vv. 3, 13) is fully cognizant of the pain and struggle faced by those he has created. These contrasts further illustrate the movement of the paschal mystery in the lives of God’s people. The transformation from sickness to health, from sadness to joy, from confusion to certainty, from fear to trust, from imminent death to new life all encompass experiences of paschal grace at work in human lives. Yet the psalm’s images do not ignore that human tendency to overconfidence about the paths we choose for ourselves. “I will never be shaken” (v. 7b) bespeaks the pride that goes before a fall; and when the Psalmist asks God, “Can dust give you praise?” (v. 10b) he means, “Who will offer you praise if you let me die?” The straightforward humanity expressed in such words makes this psalm appropriate for anyone’s prayer. The Church’s liturgy interprets the opening line of the psalm, “You have raised me up,” as a Christological anticipation of the Resurrection, giving it a place at the Easter Vigil as a response to the fourth reading (Isaiah 54:5-14).
Psalm 30 (29)
1 A Psalm. A Canticle for the Dedication of the Temple. Of David.
2 I will extól you, Lórd, for you have ráised me úp,
and have nót let my énemies rejóice over mé.
3 O Lord my Gód, I críed to you for hélp,
and yóu have héaled me.
4 O Lórd, you have lífted up my sóul from the gráve,
restóred me to lífe from those who sínk into the pít.
5 Sing psálms to the Lórd, you fáithful ones;
give thánks to his hóly náme.
6 His ánger lasts a móment; his fávor all through lífe.
At níght come téars, but dáwn brings jóy.
7 I sáid to mysélf in my good fórtune:
“Í shall néver be sháken.”
8 O Lord, your fávor had sét me like a móuntain strónghold.
Then you híd your fáce, and I was pút to confúsion.
9 To yóu, O Lórd, I críed,
to my Gód I appéaled for mércy:
10 “What prófit is my lífeblood, my góing to the gráve?
Can dúst give you thánks, or procláim your fáithfulness?”
11 Hear, O Lórd, and have mércy on mé;
bé my hélper, O Lórd.
12 You have chánged my móurning into dáncing,
removed my sáckcloth and gírded me with jóy.
13 So my sóul sings psálms to you, and wíll not be sílent.
O Lórd my Gód, I will thánk you foréver.
Prayer for Psalm 30
Christ Jesus, Lord of life, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free from the silent darkness of sin and death. By our dying to self may we participate in your paschal mystery, and so in beholding your redemptive grace at work in us, sing endless psalms of praise to you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.