Friday, October 25, 2013

In You O Lord, Psalm 131

In You O Lord
Psalm 131
(c) 2000 Michael Bokulich

When I started playing for our parish's Life Teen Mass 19 years ago (!!) it was common practice for the psalm of the day to be replaced by a song. That didn't sit well with me. I really didn't like simply replacing one of the day's readings from scripture. At the same time I wasn't about to use the other option of the time, the psalm setting in our missalette. Not my style. So I started to arrange psalm settings. Over the  years leading music at this Mass and others I composed a psalm setting for most Sundays. I'm guessing that I composed about 150 different Psalm settings.  I'm always coming across things like this in old piles of music. Hmmm, I wonder what this sounded like...

Of course some were much better than others. I would usually have the psalm written for our weekly rehearsal, but not always. It was not unheard of for me and the band to be in the church a couple of hours before Mass cranking something out. I remember one particular Sunday getting up to lead the psalm and drawing a total blank. I turned to whoever was singing with me at the time (probably Nina) and asked, "How does this go?" We then proceeded to stand there going back and forth until we managed to work it out while the congregation and dear patient Fr. Patrick looked on with amusement.
Then there was the psalm with the rap verses. Believe it or not it was actually pretty good. Fr. Patrick was there for that one as well and complimented me on it afterward, saying that he couldn't usually stand rap but enjoyed the psalm. High praise indeed!
Out of all of these psalm settings I've kept only a few. I always felt that there was something beautiful about "living music", music that was composed, used in worship and then surrendered to God and forgotten. (I also wasn't really that organized...) But a few have stuck around. This is one.
I've sung this psalm hundreds of times. I've used it during times of worship at large conferences and in various living rooms. I've sang it at our parish with our choir singing four part harmony (thanks Dan). I sang it at my wife's grandfather's funeral and, at my Mom's request, I sang it at her's. Truly bittersweet moments.
I love this psalm. It's the shortest of the psalms. So sweet, so simple.
When I lead worship I often have my eyes closed. But when I get to the last verse of this psalm I force myself to look out to the congregation. I see their eyes, I see God's people, I feel His love for them, and I feel so vulnerable as I sing to them,
O Israel...
O Israel hope in the Lord
O my people let us hope in the Lord, forever

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