Psalm 136 recalls the Lord’s mercy in the actions of the Creator and the Savior as the sacred psalmist raises a joyful acclamation of praise for the eternal goodness of God. As we listen to the voice of God, our prayer must accompany every meditative path even when we approach biblical texts that are not actually formulas prepared for liturgical recitation. The Sacred Scriptures are only respected when we reverently open our hearts in full obedience to the Word of God so that it can penetrate us deeply as a fruitful seed and transform our consciences, making them merciful. This is the fruit of prayerful listening.
In Psalm 136 the contemplation of God’s benevolent action begins with an emphasis on the greatness of the Creator’s works, starting with the immensity of the heavens (vv. 4-9); it then evokes the great epic of the Exodus where the Lord’s powerful hand brings about victory over the “mighty” kings of the earth (vv. 10-22). The psalm concludes its litany of thanksgiving remembering the gift of the “small” in the daily bread. One of the most significant elements of our biblical faith is the tension between the Lord’s infinite power – celebrated with an abundance of superlative attributes connected with his Name (“God of gods, Lord of lords” vv.2-3) – and the humble reality of his servant (v.22) on whom divine greatness is bestowed. It is the paradoxical way of our God’s revelation, stimulating our reflective attention and belief.
For Christians the event of the Incarnation – the descent of the Most High into the poverty of human flesh – is the sublime peak of this divine economy, full of humility, completely aimed at salvation and so fully expressing mercy. To welcome with greater awareness one of the central mysteries of our Creed, it is good to follow the paths that prophetically prepared its coming; it is necessary to understand that the humbling even unto death on a cross of the one who was “in the form of God” (Phil 2: 6-8) is the very fulfillment of the Lord’s plan written from time eternal.