By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M.

The Book of Psalms contains two rich veins of material which can help us to celebrate the holiness of the Name of the Lord:  19 Hymns of Praise and 16 Thanksgiving Psalms.  The minimal distinction between the Hymns of Praise and the Thanksgiving Psalms has been expressed simply:  “The difference is that songs of thanksgiving shout for joy over the specific deed which God has just done for the one giving thanks, while the hymns of praise sing of the great deeds and majestic attributes of God in general (Sabourin, The Psalms, page 287).

One day Jesus sent out his disciples ahead of him, and they returned rejoicing in their success.  Luke records:  In that same hour [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will (cf. Lk 10:21).  With these words Jesus hallowed the Name of his Father.

The concept of joy lies at the heart of the faith of the People of God.  It is found in just under 45 of the Psalms and is found in all seven categories of the Psalms.  On another occasion one thousand years before Jesus, King David was installing the Ark of the Covenant into his new capitol city, Jerusalem:  And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was belted with a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn (cf. 2 Sam 6:14,15).  David and the Isrealites were hallowing the Name of the Lord.

Our religious culture is not as demonstrative as that of the Hebrew people, but we can learn a lesson from the passage of C. S. Lewis book, Reflections on the Psalms, 1958, cf. pages 93-95.  About his own confessed reluctance to praise God publicly he writes: “But the most obvious fact about praise — whether of God or anything — strangely escaped me . . . I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . The world rings with praise . . . The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.  My whole more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable what we delight to do, what we can’t help doing about everything else we value.”

As we have said, the Book of Psalms contains many different categories of material; but its Hebrew designation Seper Tehellim (Book of Praises) shows its most important contents are the Hymns of Praise.  A striking example of this is Psalm 100:1-3:  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.