"The midst of the earth”: Ps. 73:12b (LXX) in Patristic and Liturgical Understanding
Keywords:Psalms, patristic, interpretation, centre of the world, Golgotha, axis mundi, liturgical, verse, omphalos mundi
The verse “You have wrought salvation in the midst of the earth” (Ps. 74/73:12) occurs in numerous liturgical texts. This article examines how this verse has been understood by patristic authors from circa third to fifth centuries. The Hebrew original and its Jewish interpretations focus on God’s salvific acts in the world, in the eyes of all peoples, while the Septuagint allows a more punctual understanding “in the centre of the world”. The latter option was utilised immediately after the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as Golgotha became the solemn centre of Christian pilgrimage and was widely recognised as the centre of the earth in theological and cosmological terms. Therefore, the verse became much used in liturgical celebrations related to the cross, as witnessed already in the Typikon of Mar Saba.
Moreover, the idea of Golgotha as axis mundi was soon applied in colourful ways regarding traditions related to the creation and burial of Adam, sacrifice of Isaac, and even eschatological visions. Excitingly, these interpretations have evident predecessors in Judaism and in the early Jewish Christian beliefs and practices. All this guarantees that the verse is one of the richest dictums in liturgical life in terms of theological, mythic, and historical connotations.
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