Preface Psalm 103
Following “Blessed is our God…” which the Priest who is to conduct the Vespers Service says majestically, the Hierarch, Priest, Psalte (chanter) of the Church recites articulately, slowly and steadily, the majestic Psalm 103, which in liturgical terms is called the Psalm of Preface because it is the psalm which is the prelude to Vespers.
This Psalm expresses all the majesty and grandeur of the Creator who in His Omnipotence and Omniscience created the world. It is a wonderful poem, through which the Poet in just a few verses, shows us the wondrous works of creation and calls on the most perfect of Creations, mankind, to sing praises to the Creator. It comprises 35 verses and we can distinguish them as follows: In the first part, verses 1-4 refer to the things created on the first and second day, beginning at the creation of light and the heavens. The second part, verses 5-18 the created things of the third day are praised, referring to the separation of the waters from the earth, the waters which water the dry earth and bring forth food to the animals and to man. The third part, verses 19-23 speaks of the creations of the fourth day, the sun and moon. The fourth part, verses 24-30 speaks again of the sea and of the creations of the fifth and sixth days, expressing his wonder for all the fish of the sea. We then come to the fifth and final part, verses 31-35 which are verses in praise of the Creator.
It is these verses that are sung in a celebratory manner by the Psaltes during festal Vespers Services and are usually known by the name Anixantaria.
This Psalm promotes the majesty of the Creator through His creations and calls on mankind, the crowning glory of creation, to stand between the Creator and creation and to hymn and praise the Most High God. Psalm 103 follows in the simplest language, so that it can be understood by all.
1. Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, You are very great. You are clothed with praise and splendour.
2. You wrap Yourself with light as with a garment, stretching our the sky like a skin.
3. It is You who covers the upper regions of the heavens with water, who makes the clouds His chariot, who walks on the wings of the winds.
4. Who makes spirits His angels, and His servants flames of fire.
5. Who poises the earth on its axis so that it will never wander throughout the ages.
6. The deep, like a garment, is its clothing, and waters stand on the mountains.
7. At Your rebuke they run away, and at the peal of Your thunder they quail.
8. They spring from mountains and flow down valleys, to the place which You have appointed for them.
9. You have set a bound which they cannot pass, so they can never return to cover the earth.
10. He sends torrents down ravines; and the waters pass between the mountains.
11. They give drink to all the beasts of the field; and wild asses quench their thirst there.
12. The birds of heaven settle on them; among the rocks they pipe their calls.
13. You water the mountains from above, the earth is filled with the fruit of Your works.
14. He makes grass spring up for the cattle and plants, through the labour of men, to produce bread from the earth.
15. That wine may cheer the heart of man, that his face may shine with oil, and bread sustain man’s heart.
16. The trees of the plains are drenched, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted.
17. There the birds make their nests, and the herons higher up.
18. The high mountains are for the deer, the rocks are a refuge for badgers.
19. He has made the moon for the seasons and the sun knows its time for setting.
20. You order darkness and night falls, during which all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21. Young lions roar for their prey, and they seek their food from God.
22. The sun rises and they gather together and then lie down in their dens.
23. Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening.
24. How magnificent are Your works, O Lord! You have made all things in wisdom. The earth is full of Your many creations.
25. There is the sea, great and wide; there live reptiles without number, creatures small and great.
26. There ships sail to and fro; there to is the serpent which You made to play there.
27. All of these look to You to give them their food in due season.
28. When You give it to them they gather it, when You open Your hand all things are filled with goodness.
29. When You turn Your ace away they are troubled. You take away their spirit and they vanish and return to dust.
30. You send out Your Spirit and they are created; and You renew the face of the earth.
31. May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; the Lord delights in His works.
32. He looks upon the earth and makes it tremble; He touches the mountains and they smoke.
33. I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34. May my meditation please Him and I will delight in the Lord.
35. May sinner vanish from the earth, and the lawless too, so that they may no longer exist. Bless the Lord, O my soul.