The Venite, Psalm 95, is the historic standard “invitatory”, or call to worship, and even a cursory glance through its text reveals its aptness for the role. The opening words “O come,” are followed by three “let us” statements, each giving different angles toward defining worship: singing, rejoicing, thankfulness and gladness, approaching God, and particularly using psalms. The next verses provide reasons for worshiping God: his greatness and kingship, his ownership of all creation by virtue of being its Creator. The result is a return to the opening verse: “O come, let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.” The emphasis on physical posture and gesture is not only symbolic of the disposition of the true worshiper’s heart but also instructive for the postures of right worship; indeed, one of the biblical terms for worship literally means “fall down before” or “prostrate.”
The tone of the second half of Psalm 95 turns suddenly to a dire warning against ignoring God’s voice and hardening against him. The Exodus generation is invoked as an example of those who so spurned the Lord and received punishment for their rebellion. These verses point back specifically to Exodus 17, and are in turn picked up for further explication in Hebrews 4 & 5. The worshiper is reminded of the obligations of worship: praise is empty when not accompanied with (or followed by) obedience to the One who is praised. Many Old Testament Prophets had strong condemnations for those who participated in divine worship but practiced unrighteousness, and Psalm 95 is our most prominent reminder within the liturgy of the Church that we, too, must practice in our lives the same faith we profess in the congregation.
The Jubilate, Psalm 100, is a functional substitute for Psalm 95 but does not contain all the same elements. A few similar phrases are found – 100:2 and 95:7 are almost identical – and the same invitation to worship the Lord is extended, but Psalm 100 lacks the “warning” verses, providing instead only the briefest hint in the words “it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.”
The Pascha Nostrum, as indicated in its Scripture reference text, is an amalgamation of three New Testament texts strung together, the word Alleluia (or “praise the Lord”) interspersed as an antiphon (a repeated word or phrase) between each section of the canticle. Like the invitatory psalms the Pascha Nostrum invites people to worship – “let us keep the feast” – but instead of grounding the reason for this invitation in God’s kingship or ownership of the world as its Creator, it instead points to the new creation inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. The “warning” text of Psalm 95 is similarly transposed here: rather than dwelling on the danger of apostasy this canticle draws the Gospel connection between Christ’s death and the Christian’s death to sin. This warning is not the cold hammer of the Law, but the healing embrace of the Gospel.