Psalm 93 is the first psalm appointed in the Anglican Breviary for Lauds on Sundays throughout the year (except from Septuagesima through the Triduum). The 1979 BCP Daily Office Lectionary wisely follows the same judgment by regularly appointing Psalm 93 (coupled with Psalm 96) for Morning Prayer on Sundays, as well as for the first psalm at Morning Prayer on Easter Monday. I’m not sure whether the Breviary’s selection corresponds to the traditional Benedictine schedule for the weekly recitation of the Psalter, but in any case it is a wonderful choice. The psalm reads thus (in the Coverdale translation):
The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel;
the Lord hath put on his apparel, and girded himself with strength.
He hath made the round world so sure, that it cannot be moved.
Ever since the world began, hath thy seat been prepared:
thou art from everlasting.
The floods are risen, O Lord,
the floods have lift up their voice;
the floods lift up their waves.
The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly;
but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier.
Thy testimonies, O Lord, are very sure:
holiness becometh thine house forever.
It would be hard to select a more concise and forceful proclamation of the Easter gospel than this short psalm.
The Lord “hath put on glorious apparel.” Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and he has wrapped himself in light as with a cloak. The glorious apparel that he now wears is the power of an indestructible life, the life that was the light of men and that the darkness has not overcome, the life of the Living One who holds our souls in life and in whom we live and move and have our being. This very life coursed through Christ’s body and soul as he walked the earth, to the everlasting wonder of those who heard him, who saw him with their eyes, who looked upon and touched him with their hands, and who believed that this was He who lives. Now this life is his very garment, not hidden under the rags of a condemned criminal, but shining forth for all to see. What is mortal has been swallowed up by life, mortality has put on immortality, a living being has become a life-giving Spirit, and we know now that we have seen the Lord.
Second, he has “girded himself with strength.” This life — the life by which the Son of God has lived since before the world began and that he now wears as his festal raiment — is strength.
“He hath made the round world so sure, that it cannot be moved.” But how can that be? The earth is moved all the time. Every day I read in the paper about a new disaster, a new conflict, a new scandal, a new threat to the stability and flourishing of communities and families and individuals the world over. Every hour I’m reminded of the fragility of my life, my vocation, my health, my friendships, my projects and my plans. The only thing that’s sure in this world is that there is no sure thing. The round world spins so much that it makes me dizzy, and my soul rises up against me in revolt, telling me how inadequate or unsuccessful my life has turned out, how I’ve never really gotten the things I always wanted, how no one understands or listens to me, how I’m all alone on a tumultuous sea.
It is true: “The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lift up their voice; the floods life up their waves. The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly.” There are dangers on every side: danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from our own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren. There are attacks from every corner: the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, and the spirits of malice and envy and resentment and despair wander about the world for the ruin of souls.
“But yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier.” Mightier than the sound of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, mightier is the Lord who dwells on high. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea, though its waters rage and foam, and though the mountains tremble at its tumult, because the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold. He is my help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I trust, who subdues the peoples under me. I have no power of myself to help myself: outwardly I am attacked by the adversities that harm the body, inwardly I am assaulted by the thoughts that destroy the soul, and I have curled up in a ball of fear and despair.
But no more. He has returned, my Teacher and my Master, my Savior and my Lord. The powers of Death and Hell could not hold him, the raging waters have been stilled by his perfect peace. Now I shall not be afraid of any terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, of the plague that stalks in the darkness, nor of the sickness that lays waste at midday, because he shall deliver me from the snare of the hunter, and from the deadly pestilence. He shall cover me with his pinions, and I shall find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness shall be my shield and buckler. He is strong, this my God, and he is here. He has set up a castle of defense around me; he has lifted me from my fearful cowering and set me high upon a rock. He is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear? He is the strength of my life, of whom then shall I be afraid? My faith in him is the rock wall that will quench all the flaming darts of the enemy, and nothing will hurt me. And when he who is my life appears, then also will I appear with him in glory.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ the claim is made, according to the New Testament, that God’s victory in man’s favour in the person of His Son has already been won. Easter is indeed the great pledge of our hope, but simultaneously this future is already present in the Easter message. It is the proclamation of a victory already won. The war is at an end — even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind — and truly it is burning — but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear. (Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, pp. 122-23)