O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
(Psalm 8:2, 5, 6-7, 8-9)
8:2. God also causes his glory to shine out on earth and in the history of man when he is acknowledged and praised by the weak (children and infants) to the confusion of those who reject him or refuse to obey his will. His designs are implemented by socially insignificant people, such as David in his early days, or through a nation which counted for little on the world scene, as was the case with Israel. Jesus applied the words of this verse to the children who cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Mt 21:15–16) when he entered Jerusalem. The praise of God in this verse is also addressed by the Christian to Christ: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” The Church uses this psalm in the liturgy of the solemnity of the Blessed Trinity.
8:3–9. The humble people who acknowledge God include the psalmist, who expresses his sense of wonder at the fact that God, the creator of the universe, should have focused on man and taken special care of him, and given him dominion over all things by allowing him to share in his authority (vv. 5–8). The passage gives poetic expression to the fact that man is “in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Gen 1:26–27). Appreciation of the greatness of man leads on to contemplation of the infinitely greater grandeur of God; whereas people who consider themselves powerful reject God and rebel against him (cf. v. 2).
“Little less than God” (v. 5): the Hebrew literally says “little less than a god” or “than gods”, referring to beings intermediate between the supreme God and man which were worshipped in the Canaanite pantheon. The Septuagint and the Latin translations read “little less than the angels”.
The subjection of creation to man and with him to Christ is a process not yet concluded; but it began, never to be reversed, with the resurrection of Christ. He makes it happen through the Church, to the degree that Christians put Christ at the summit of all human activities. For God “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22–23). “Holy Scripture teaches that man was created ‘to the image of God,’ as able to know and love his creator, and was set by him over all earthly creatures (cf. Gen 1:26; Wis 2:23) that he might rule them, and make use of them, while glorifying God (cf. Sir 17:3–10) (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 12).
With this psalm God is given thanks for the dignity he has bestowed on man: “Lord, what is man that you should grant him such importance, that you should take such an interest in him? You go so far as to send your only-begotten Son to him; you infuse him with your Spirit; you even promise him the sight of your face. And so that none of the celestial beings may fail to play their part in your loving concern, you send the blessed spirits, the angels, to serve and help us, making them our guardians; you appoint them our guides” (St Bernard, Sermones de tempore, 3)
In the psalm, the question is not an invitation to philosophical reasoning or scientific research. The psalm’s purpose is to acknowledge the finiteness of a human being, his unimportance and limits (144:3–4; Job 7:17; 15:14). The recognition is evoked here by contemplation of the vast depth of the night sky with its moon and myriad mysterious stars, an experience to which people of many times and places have testified. The experience is not, however, that of being “lost in the cosmos”; rather, it is of awe and wonder at the marvelous majesty of God, who can make and has made a royal regent of this mere mortal. The question is asked in the psalm to serve the purpose of the hymn, praise of the LORD.
– James Mays
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.