"He will joy over thee with singing"

I once preached on todays first reading, concentrating on this description of God: "The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals" (Zeph 3:17-18). Thats the NAB version. Heres the KJV: The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save , he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." On this text the nineteenth-century American Protestant commentator Albert Barneswrote these lovely reflections:

He will rejoice over thee with joy: Love, joy, peace in man are shadows of that which is in God, by whom they are created in man. Only in God they exist undivided, uncreated. Hence, God speaks after the manner of men, of that which truly is in God. God joyeth "with an uncreated joy" over the works of His Hands or the objects of His Love, as man joyeth over the object of "his" love. So Isaiah saith, "As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Is 62:5). As with uncreated love the Father resteth in good pleasure in His well-beloved Son, so "God is well-pleased with the sacrifices of loving deeds" (Heb 13:16). and, "the Lord delighteth in thee" (Is 62:4); and, "I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in My people" (Is 65:19); and, "the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good" (Deut 30:9). And so in a two-fold way God meeteth the longing of the heart of man.The soul, until it hath found God, is evermore seeking some love to fill it, and can find none, since the love of God Alone can content it. Then too it longeth to be loved, even as it loveth. God tells it, that every feeling and expression of human love may be found in Him, whom if any love, he only "loveth Him, because He first loved us" (I Jn 4:19). Every inward and outward expression or token of love are heaped together, to express the love of Him who broodeth and as it were yearneth "over" (it is twice repeated) His own whom He loveth. Then too He loveth thee as He biddeth thee to love Him; and since the love of man cannot be like the love of the Infinite God, He here pictures His own love in the words of man' s love, to convey to his soul the oneness wherewith love unites her unto God. He here echoes in a manner the joy of the Church, to which He had called her (I Jn 4:14), in words the self-same or meaning the same.We have "joy" here for "joy" there; "singing" or the unuttered unutterable jubilee of the heart, which cannot utter in words its joy and love, and joys and loves the more in its inmost depths because it cannot utter it. A shadow of the unutterable, because Infinite Love of God, and this repeated thrice; as being the eternal love of the Ever-blessed Trinity. This love and joy the prophet speaks of, as an exuberant joy, one which boundeth within the inmost self, and again is wholly "silent in His love," as the deepest, tenderest, most yearning love broods over the object of its love, yet is held still in silence by the very depth of its love; and then, again, breaks forth in outward motion, and leaps for joy, and uttereth what it cannot form in words, for truly the love of God in its unspeakable love and joy is past belief, past utterance, past thought.

Speaking of singing: There was only one classic Advent hymn sung during today's liturgy. The other songs wererecent compositions banal in tune and lyric. If we don't sing Advent hymns during Advent, when will we ever sing them? Don't we have a duty to hand on our musical heritage, too?

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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