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Psalm 126 ("Greek numbering: Psalm 125) or Shir Hama'alot (שיר המעלות) is a "psalm and common piece of "liturgy. It is one of the "Songs of Ascents. In the "Latin Psalters it has the title "In convertendo Dominus.
In Judaism, Psalm 126 is sung in an upbeat, fast, joyous manner before "Birkat Hamazon (the Grace After Meals) on "Shabbat, "Jewish Holidays, "Rosh Chodesh, "Chol Hamoed, and by some on other "days in which Tachanun is not recited. While fourteen psalms actually begin with the words "Shir Hama'alot" ("Song of Ascents), this psalm is commonly referred to as "Shir Hama'alot" due to this common use.
Currently, in the Liturgy of the Hours, Psalm 126 is recited or sung at "vespers on "Wednesday of the third Week, In the liturgy of the Mass, it is read on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time of the year B6, the second Sunday of "Advent and 5th Sunday of "Lent that year.
This is a song of "joy and of "thanks to "God. The thanks is reflected in its third verse, "The LORD has done great things for us". But still more exuberant than expressions of thanks is the joyousness of the author. The author shows the people as gleeful to return to "Zion after 2 generations of detention by the Babylonians, as is expressed in verse 1 and 2: "When the Lord restored the captives of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joyful singing".
In the following verses 5 and 6 this is contrasted to people who are going out to sow while suffering without hope for immediate relieve (as during the time of the Babylonian abduction). They cry while placing their seeds (which may be meant literally or symbolically), but doing so confidingly will finally transform their grief into joy when they will receive the bountiful "harvest God will be faithful to bring.
The psalm was set as a "motet in Latin by composers including "Dmitri Bortnyansky, "Jean-Philippe Rameau ("In convertendo Dominus) and "Lorenzo Perosi. It was set to music in "Latin by "Jules Van Nuffel, "In convertendo Dominus, and in a 1998 version by "Philip Glass in which the chorus sings worldless syllables and a narrator recites the text in English.
Verses 5 and 6 were set by Brahms (in "German) in the first movement of "A German Requiem. Other German partial settings were made by "Heinrich Schütz, "Johann Hermann Schein and Heinrich Hartmann. Verses of the psalm have been set in English by composers including "William Byrd and "Charles Villiers Stanford.