Psalm 45: Queen for More Than a Day

Statue of the Virgin Mary

“All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters, her raiment is threaded with spun gold.”
(Psalm 45:14)

This psalm improves my posture and my self-esteem. I confess that I’ve loved this psalm as much for the applications to myself as for any references to the Messiah, to Christ the King, to Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth or to the Church as Bride of Christ.

So it’s out in the open. This woman, who kept a scrapbook chronicle of film star Grace Kelly’s transformation into Princess of Monaco, fancies herself of royal blood and regal appearance when presuming to pray Psalm 45. Things could be worse, but hardly less introspective.

The King Has Desired My Beauty

Father Guinan (see below) finds this psalm unique in being addressed to a king and his queen-bride rather than to God. I trust this allows for my personal application. C.S. Lewis says that Psalm 45 meant one thing before Jesus came to the earth, but another after his coming. Verses three through nine are now applied to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. The psalm’s second part is now seen to be about his bride, the Church.

I’m more than willing to defer to my scholarly betters, but I still believe that Psalm 45 appeals deeply to my senses, emotions, and physicality because it was first inspired by—and directed to—human subjects.

Perhaps you’ve always thought yourself beautiful (or handsome) and desirable, but I haven’t. So a verse such as “The King has desired your beauty” holds power to change. In the context of prayerful repetition, that power is surely multiplied.

I suspect that the cadence of Psalm 45 has been seriously affected by its translation into English, so I can hardly imagine how much majesty it must have in Hebrew. I prefer an earlier translation of Psalm 45 because I have prayed it in that particular rhythm with such earnestness so many times that to leave out the adjective spun in front of the word gold (as the revised translation now does) causes interior discord.

The high points remain: the king desires this woman’s beauty; she is “all glorious” as she processes (surely down a richly carpeted aisle strewn with sweet-smelling herbs and flower petals) in a marvelously rich, embroidered garment, sparkling with threads of (spun) gold. “The glad and joyous acclaim” I hear includes gasps of awe, together with a strong fanfare from wind instruments, a whisper of bells and a syncopation of tambourines.

My Heart Is Stirred

What a visual prayer this psalm has become! And what a spiritual tonic! And how perfectly aligned with the dynamics that mysteriously move me to belief and action.

Pope John Paul II is also stirred by Psalm 45. Last October at a general audience, he said, “The psalmist’s insistence in exalting the woman is important….The Bible loves beauty as a reflection of God’s splendor; even clothing can be raised to a sign of dazzling inner light and purity of soul.”

I certainly didn’t begin my connection to Psalm 45 from the point of insight described by the pope, but today I bask in it. The triumph and power of the royal marriage celebrated in this psalm have invigorated my own abilities to step out in faith, to choose a new path, to stand straight with arms open, willing to accept the love of others. It is a blessing to have recognized the welcome that was always there—to enter the palace of the king!

Understanding Psalm 45

Uniquely in the Book of Psalms, Psalm 45 is addressed not to God in the Temple, but to the king and queen in the royal court. It is a royal psalm, a love song and a wedding song. The king is addressed and described (verses 3-9), then the queen bride (verses 10-16). Human love is celebrated in joyous terms. Since the king was God’s anointed representative (verse 8), a royal wedding was both a political and a religious occasion. Political power and strength are God’s gifts and are to serve the cause of God’s kingdom of truth and justice (verses 4-5).

Next Month: Psalm 95

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