The Psalm for the Divine Liturgy on the First Sunday of Abib is verse 7 of Psalm 88 (89), which says, “God is glorified in the council of the saints; great and terrible toward all that are round about him.” (Ps 88:7 LXX).
Meditating on this verse in a homily on repentance, St. John Chrysostom preached the following:
O such strictness toward the righteous! O such abundant forgiveness toward the sinner! He finds so many different means, without himself changing, to keep the righteous in check and forgive the sinner, by usefully dividing his rich goodness. And listen how. If he frightens the sinner who persists in sins, he brings him to desperation and to the exhaustion of hope. If he blesses the righteous, he weakens the intensity of his virtue and makes him neglect his zeal, since he considers himself already blessed. For this reason he is merciful to the sinner and frightens the righteous. “For he is terrible to all who surround him.” And, “The Lord is good to the whole world.” “He is terrible,” David says, “to all who surround him.” And who are they but the saints? “For God,” David says, “who is glorified in the council of the saints, [is] great and terrible to all who surround him.” If he sees someone who has fallen, he extends a loving hand. If he sees someone standing, he brings fear on him. And this reveals righteousness and righteous judgment. He establishes the righteous one with fear, and he raises up the sinner with benevolence. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Repentance and Almsgiving 7.5, Fathers of the Church 96:90. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press.)
The lesson for us, according to St. John Chrysostom, is to never be complacent in our relationship with God. If we see ourselves as being righteous, we should nevertheless remember that God is “great and terrible toward all that are round about him.” If we see ourselves as being sinners, these words should remind us of the day of the final judgment that awaits each and every one of us and motivate us to repent and return to him.
In all cases, the words of this Psalm remind us never to be complacent or inactive in our relationship with God.
Through the prayers of the Holy Theotokos and David the Psalmist, O Lord have mercy on us and grant us the forgiveness of our sins.