Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Like a tree planted ...

I am taking a course in Psalms right now at one of the local seminaries. It is an experience in sensory overload. We sing from the Scottish Psalter, dance in a circle to tambourines, enact portions of the text, colour in the text with pencil crayons, and other exquisite things.

I am not much of a song and dance type so I was a tiny bit skeptical at first. However, we fit in an hour of Hebrew first, for some of us, and I also follow the LXX. We cover as much of the history of interpretation as we can in 3 hours, quite a lot actually. There are two instructors, a Reformation Psalms and Hebrew specialist, and a preaching instructor who focuses on spirituality and homiletics.

In each class there is something really special - on top of the song and dance that is - we looked at some images of a 16th century mural of Psalm 1. There were 8 panels for the psalm, some reflecting both the Septuagint and Vulgate interpretation, as well as the original Hebrew. Many aspects of this psalm vary greatly between the Hebrew and the Septuagint.

However, the central panel was truly remarkable for its interpretation. The tree planted by streams of water was actually not one, but two stately trees, a man-tree and a woman-tree, both gracefully illustrated in the best 16th century tradition. Their branches were loaded down with fruit and the woman-tree was dipping a branch to drop apples into the basket of a beggar.

In the background, strangers were being invited in, beggars fed, clothed and cared for. The righteous of the first psalm were being portrayed according to the text of Matt. 25:31-46.
    Blessed are those
    who do not walk in step with the wicked
    or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,

    2 but who delight in the law of the LORD
    and meditate on his law day and night.

    3 They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

    "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Matt. 25:34-36

It was a beautiful illustration of a righteous man and a righteous woman, caring for the poor.


Bob MacDonald said...

I am soooo jealous. Where and when is the course and for how long? I am about to begin sessions on the psalms with a local congregation - I hope it is OK to share some of your reflections if we are on the same psalm and subject.

Gem said...

Worshiping in school sounds very cool :D
That experience sounds like a description of how church should be.

Iyov said...

Suzanne, sorry about this, but it appears I have tagged you.

Anonymous said...

That is an absolutely INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL illustration. What a wonderful experience. Awesome.

Is there any place I can see a copy of this illustration? Maybe even download it?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Sorry, no image available.