Songs of Ascent

Lazarus is raised

I’ve been trying through a few calendar cycles to write something about our Orthodox Lenten services on Wednesday evenings, and I almost gave up. But I have to say that they are the most soul-nourishing and sweet times, and maybe my favorite part of Lent. It took me several years to become familiar enough with the format to be able to settle down and receive this great blessing the Church has given us to facilitate repentance.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good….” This refrain is repeated many times to the quieter tones of these midweek services that are designed to sustain our souls and bodies with spiritual food as we make our journey to Pascha.

And the Songs of Ascent! These Psalms (120-134) have always been my favorites, from the Jesus People days when we sang so many of them to folk tunes. The words lodged themselves in my heart accompanied by visions of the Hebrews walking for days to the Holy City on pilgrimage to one of the major Jewish feasts. They are read in their entirety every weekday at Vespers during about the first half of Lent, and I can think about how I am on my way, too, to the feast of feasts, The Resurrection of Christ, Pascha. Now we are only a week away from Lazarus Saturday, and a different section of the book of Psalms is set for Vespers, but I will still meditate on this one from last week:

O Lord, My heart is not exalted,

Neither are my eyes raised up;

Neither am I carried along in great things,

Nor in things too marvelous for me.

If I were not humble-minded,

But exalted my soul,

Like a child weaned from his mother,

So you would reward my soul.

Let Israel hope in the Lord

From this present time and unto the ages.

Psalm 131

7 thoughts on “Songs of Ascent

  1. I recently went through the psalms counting up all the songs that we learned in the early days that had come directly from setting the words to music. An informal count yielded over 65 and I plan to go through and mark every one of them before I forget them all. But when I’m reading the psalms in laudes, many times I find myself humming the melodies that go with them from that time.


  2. Jesus People days. Well, I am a little on the young side for those but I became a Believer in a church where the worship was heavily influenced by several couples who had been Jesus People. I didn’t realize it until I spent much more time in the Bible how richly steeped those songs we sang were in Scripture and I will forever be grateful for having God’s Word hid in my heart that way.


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