"I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!'"

An Advent meditation by Jeanne Kun

Scripture: Psalm 122

1 I rejoiced because they said to me, "We will go up to the house of the Lord".  And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem— 3 Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity.  4 To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, according to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.  5 In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David.  6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  May those who love you prosper!  7. May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings.  8 Because of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you!"  9 Because of the house of the Lord, our God, I will pray for your good.
Meditation: The Psalms of Ascent (120-134) are a collection of psalms sung by Jewish pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the three great feasts of the Jewish year (cf. Deut. 16:16). They may have been sung by the exiles on their return from Babylon. In any case, Psalm 122, the responsorial psalm from the liturgy of the First Sunday of Advent, epitomizes the spirit of an exile or pilgrim reaching his longed-for destination.

The traveler's anticipation (verse 1) builds as he considers the privilege of entering the holy city. I remember my own growing eagerness the first time I had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem. As the car wound up the steep mountains of Judea on the last approach to the city after the long flight to Israel, I found myself eagerly repeating over and over again under my breath, "How I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord!'" Perhaps Jesus prayed this psalm with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed up to Jerusalem for the feasts.

The trials of the exile and the hazards of travel were eclipsed by the joy the psalmist experienced when he finally entered the Temple (verse 2). The very appearance of Jerusalem, "built as a city with compact unity" (verse 3), visually suggested what the traveler hoped to  realize  there: unity, love of the brethren, love for God's house, the revelation of God and fellowship with him, vindication brought about by God's judgment.

The psalm closes with the pilgrim's avid prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, alluding to the etymology of the city's name (shalom = peace). The Hebrew greeting "Shalom" is an expressing the wish for peace, happiness, and prosperity to another.

 For reflection: Where is peace lacking in my own circle of relationships and my daily circumstances? What can I do to be a peacemaker? Do I pray for peace for the troubled nations of the world?

 Prayer starter: Lord, may peace come to us not only in the heavenly Jerusalem but in the earthly Jerusalem. Bring peace to Israeli and Arab, to all men and women of this earth. Bring your healing to the divisions among peoples and nations, that we may live in unity.

This meditation originally appeared in God's Word Today,
Volume (20), Number (12), December 1998, published by The University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.
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