In convertendo

A correspondent in Brazil replied to my Idlepost last night by, as we say, “blowing up the trumpets in Zion.” He sang back one of the Songs of Ascent:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
     we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
     our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
     “the Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
     and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
     like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
     will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
     carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
     carrying the sheaves with them.

This canticum graduum needs little commentary, because it explains itself. Picture the Hebrews singing, in their ancient pilgrimages, mounting the hill to Jerusalem, and the steps to the Temple. Bear, too, in mind, the idea of restoration, as in this instance Zion was restored, and the people Israel delivered from their captivity.

We deal here with an aspect, or dare I say a reality, of the Christian teaching that is overlooked: that of victory and deliverance, by the grace of God. We do not hope to be “tolerated,” and left to our own business alone, as my friend Bruno Galli Cicconi explains. Our Lord, creator of the universe, is not looking for some special dispensation.

Quite apart from the liturgy, I associate the “gradual canticles” with Advent, and the long march rising, towards the shepherds, and above them the angels on high. The whole sequence (Hebrew CXX to CXXXIV) speaks to me of this rising, this announcement, this restoration of the Kingdom, from our “vale of tears.”

Cicconi: “May the sacrifice of the Vendeans not have been in vain, because the whole world has forgotten what was perpetrated there, but the Lord forgets nothing.”