February 17, 2019

Four Green Fields and Psalm 45

In the great Tommy Makem Irish song Four Green Fields, there’s a penultimate line that sends chills: “But my sons have sons, as brave as were their fathers...”.  There’s the tension of the “already and the not yet” given that the testing of the sons of his sons is not yet complete.  

I came across a resonance of that in Scripture today, Psalm 45:16: “Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee: thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.”   Other renderings: “Instead of ancestors, you shall have sons..”  Or from the more informal The Message: “Set your mind now on sons— don’t dote on father and grandfather. You’ll set your sons up as princes over all the earth.”  

The Venerable Bede in the 7th century ardently referred to this Psalm verse in his exposition on the twelve loaves “bread of offering” in Leviticus: 
And in this way it is brought to pass that the table of the Lord is never left destitute of bread, but as soon as one loaf is taken away another is put in its place, as long as the churches never lack ministers of the word who follow one another in succession. They always manifest the faith of apostolic piety and the purity of apostolic action, continuing as in that most beautiful verse in which it is said in praise of that same holy church: “Instead of your fathers, sons are born to you; you will make them princes over all the earth.” In other words, that is as if it were being said to the tabernacle of the Lord: “Instead of your old loaves, new ones are prepared for you; you will designate them for the refreshment of the spiritual hearts of the faithful in all the world.” (ON THE TABERNACLE 1.7.11)
It seems an example of how something in popular culture can pluck the strings of an ancient longing and truth. 

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