“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord. May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.”
A Song of Ascents is a sacred song, or a sacred hymn. Fifteen of the Psalms are given the title “A Song of Ascents”. I particular want to focus on Psalm 134, which is one of those fifteen. And further more I want to focus on the verse two of Psalm 134, “Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord”.
In The Great Thanksgiving, which is the Eucharistic Prayer, or Anaphora (“Anaphora” is a Greek word “ἀναφορά” meaning a “carrying back” hence its meaning in rhetoric and linguistics or a “carrying up”, and so an “offering” hence its use in reference to the offering of sacrifice to God), for those of us in liturgical traditions begins with this responsive reading called Sursum Corda started by the Celebrant:
Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
I have a good friend named Zack that attends St. James Episcopal Church here in Knoxville, which is where Courtney and I attend Wednesday night Holy Eucharist/Healing. Zack is a very very reverent young man. I admire his reverence and view it as a role model for my own; He has been an influence for my spiritual life. One night while reading the liturgy I just posted above I noticed Zack lifted his hands towards the heavens while saying responsively, “We lift them to the Lord.”
That has really been something on my mind here lately coupled with the Song of Ascents found in Psalm 134.
Lift your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!
Could there be a connection between that sign of reverence and the command to lift our hands to the holy place and bless Yahweh?
I believe there is a connection………………………………THE HEART!
The heart is the bridge to those two. Because the Celebrant instructs lift your hearts to the Lord and we respond saying, “We lift them to the Lord.”
Now, we cannot actually lift our physical hearts in our hands to the Lord, nor is that what the author of Psalm 134 and of The Great Thanksgiving meant.
The heart is so much more then what we here in Western culture give it credit for. The heart to the Ancient Hebrews was the center of one’s ENTIRE being. All emotions, feelings, and thoughts originated not with the mind as they do with us in the West, but in the heart.
One author put it this way: “The heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. ‘Heart’ and ‘soul’ are often used interchangeably (Deu 6:5; Deu 26:16; compare Mat 22:37; Mar 12:30, Mar 12:33)”.
Jeff Benner said it this way: “We often associate the heart with emotions such as love and kindness as in ‘He has a good heart’. This is also true with the Hebrews who saw the heart as the seat of emotion. But unlike us they also saw the heart as the seat of thought whereas we see the brain as the seat of thought. To the ancient Hebrews the heart was the mind including all thoughts including emotions. When we are told to love God with all our heart (Deut 6:5) it is not speaking of an emotional love but to keep our emotions and all our thoughts working for him”.
Even more ironic is that our very theme this year on Johnson Bible College’s campus is Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (They actually have the NIV verse, but I prefer the NRSV for the wording, and that I hate the NIV).
Keep your heart with vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
There is something more to the heart that we tend to overlook.
This begins to paint a very beautifully poetic portrait of worship.
If we are lifting our hearts to the Lord then we are in essence lifting ALL of ourselves in honor to the King.
We are lifting our hearts, our entire being, our essence, our all to Jesus Christ.
If we are lifting ALL of our being, that which is our hearts, then we are lifting ALL that comes with our hearts: fear, dread, worry, anger, frustration, lust, bitterness, burdens, joys, strengths, loves, hopes, passions, and goodness.
For it is in worship that we can lift our hearts and worship our Lord.
For it is in worship that we can lift our hearts with all the weaknesses that are causing them to rupture at the seams and be strengthened by Jesus’ presence in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. And we exalt God with the goodness that our hearts may contain having them strengthened by His presence and accepted as gifts of spiritual worship.
Lifting our hands while reciting the “Lift your hearts. We lift them to the Lord,” is such a strong symbolic and reverent sign of worship.
There is such beautiful imagery there; think about it.
In lifting our hands and hearts to the King of Kings in the prayer beginning Holy Eucharist we also acknowledge that the Sacrament’s contain Jesus Christ’s own presence. So in lifting our hands and hearts in worship Jesus’ presence comes down to dwell with us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
He meets us there in our worship and surrender! Our depravity collides with His divinity, as David Crowder would say.
We exchange the burdens of our hearts in our spiritual act of worship for the Grace of His Blessed Heart.
I do not know about you, but that is some POWERFUL imagery.
And that’s what makes the Anaphora such a powerful part of the Holy Eucharist. Because Anaphora as we discussed meant “carrying up” or “offering”. We are offering our hearts, our ENTIRE being as an offering unto the Lord.
Last night in a meeting for our weekend of prayer here at JBC, Lauren Mills read John 4:23-24, “‘But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’”
Lifting our hearts and hands to the Holy Place, lifting them to the Lord, is our participating in worshiping of the Father in Spirit and in Truth.
Lifting our hearts to the Lord in spiritual worship is what the Father desires from us. And this is not without a promise:
“Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water,” urges the writer of Hebrews.
And even Psalm 134 has a two-way street with it. The Psalm says to bless the Lord that God may bless us out of Zion.
So therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, our Father beckons us to come forth lifting our hands in symbolic gesture of lifting our hearts, our all, our entire being, giving it ALL to Him.
In your worship, in your prayers, and in partaking of the Holy Eucharist, I urge you to pause and remember that we lift our hearts in worship of our Father.
Give the Father ALL you have.
MEET THE LORD THERE IN YOUR WORSHIP!
LIFT YOUR HEARTS UNTO TO THE LORD!
“Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.” -Lamentations 3:41
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας