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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 88

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 24, 2014

1. The Title of this Psalm contains a fresh subject for enquiry: the words occurring here, “for Melech to respond,” being nowhere else found. We have already given our opinion on the meaning of the titles Psalmus Cantici and Canticum Psalmi (in the comments on Ps 44): and the words, “sons of Core,” are constantly repeated, and have often been explained: so also “to the end;” but what comes next in this title is peculiar. For “Melech” (Maheleth) we may translate into Latin “for the chorus,” for chorus is the sense of the Hebrew word Melech (Maheleth). … The Passion of our Lord is here prophesied. Now the Apostle Peter saith, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (1 Pet 2:21); this is the meaning of “to respond.” The Apostle John also saith, “As Christ laid down His life for us, so ought we also to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16); this also is to respond. But the choir signifies concord, which consists in charity: whoever therefore in imitation of our Lord’s Passion gives up his body to be burnt, if he have not charity, does not answer in the choir, and therefore it profiteth him nothing (1 Cor 13:3). Further, as in Latin the terms Precentor and Succentor are used to denote in music the performer who sings the first part, and him who takes it up; just so in this song of the Passion, Christ going before is followed by the choir of martyrs unto the end of gaining crowns in Heaven. This is sung by “the sons of Core,” that is, the imitators of Christ’s Passion: as Christ was crucified in Calvary, which is the interpretation of the Hebrew word Core (Mt 27:33). This also is “the understanding of Æman the Israelite:”7 words occurring at the end of this title (the Vulgate has “Ezrahitæ”). Æman is said to mean, “his brother:” for Christ deigns to make those His brethren, who understand the mystery of His Cross, and not only are not ashamed of it, but faithfully glory in it, not praising themselves for their own merits, but grateful for His grace: so that it may be said to each of them, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (Jn 1:47), just as holy Scripture says of Israel himself, that he was without guile (Gen 25:27).

2. “O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before Thee” (ver. 1). Let us therefore now hear the voice of Christ singing before us in prophecy, to whom His own choir should respond either in imitation, or in thanksgiving.

“O let my prayer enter into Thy presence, incline Thine ear unto my calling” (ver. 2). For even our Lord prayed, not in the form of God, but in the form of a servant; for in this He also suffered. He prayed both in prosperous times, that is, by “day,” and in calamity, which I imagine is meant by “night.” The entrance of prayer into God’s presence is its acceptance: the inclination of His ear is His compassionate listening to it: for God has not such bodily members as we have. The passage is however, as usual, a repetition.

3. “For my soul is filled with evils, and my life draweth nigh unto hell” (ver. 3). Dare we speak of the Soul of Christ as “filled with evils,” when the passion had strength as far as it had any, only over the body?… The soul therefore may feel pain without the body: but without the soul the body cannot. Why therefore should we not say that the Soul of Christ was full of the evils of humanity, though not of human sins? Another Prophet says of Him, that He grieved for us (Isa 53:4): and the Evangelist says, “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy:” and our Lord Himself saith unto them of Himself, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Mt 26:37-38). The Prophet who composed this Psalm, foreseeing that this would happen, introduces Him saying, “My soul is full of evils, and My life draweth nigh unto hell.” For the very same sense is here expressed in other words, as when He said, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.” The words, “My soul is sorrowful,” are like these, “My soul is full of evils:” and what follows, “even unto death,” like, “my life draweth nigh unto hell.” These feelings of human infirmity our Lord took upon Him, as He did the flesh of human infirmity, and the death of human flesh, not by the necessity of His condition, but by the free will of His mercy, that He might transfigure into Himself His own body, which is the Church (the head of which He deigned to be), that is, His members in His holy and faithful disciples: that if amid human temptations any one among them happened to be in sorrow and pain, he might not therefore think that he was separated from His favour: that the body, like the chorus following its leader, might learn from its Head, that these sorrows were not sin, but proofs of human weakness. We read of the Apostle Paul, a chief member in this body, and we hear him confessing that his soul was full of such evils, when he says, that he feels “great heaviness and continual sorrow in heart for his brethren according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Rom 9:2, 4). And if we say that our Lord was sorrowful for them also at the approach of His Passion, in which they would incur the most atrocious guilt, I think we shall not speak amiss. Lastly, the very thing said by our Saviour on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), is expressed in this Psalm below, “I am counted as one of them that go down into the pit” (ver. 4): by them who knew not what they were doing, when they imagined that He died like other men, subjected to necessity, and overcome by it. The word “pit” is used for the depth of woe or of Hell. “I have been as a man that hath no help.”

4. “Free among the dead” (ver. 5). In these words our Lord’s Person is most clearly shown: for who else is free among the dead but He who though in the likeness of sinful flesh is alone among sinners without sin? (Rom 8:3) … He therefore, “free among the dead,” who had it in His power to lay down His life, and again to take it; from whom no one could take it, but He laid it down of His own free will; who could revive His own flesh, as a temple destroyed by them, at His will; who, when all had forsaken Him on the eve of His Passion, remained not alone, because, as He testifies, His Father forsook Him not (Jn 8:29); was nevertheless by His enemies, for whom He prayed, who knew not what they did.… counted “as one who hath no help; like unto them that are wounded, and lie in the grave.” But he adds, “Whom thou dost not yet remember:” and in these words there is to be remarked a distinction between Christ and the rest of the dead. For though He was wounded, and when dead laid in the tomb (Mt 27:50, 60), yet they who knew not what they were doing, or who He was, regarded Him as like others who had perished from their wounds, and who slept in the tomb, who are as yet out of remembrance of God, that is, whose hour of resurrection has not yet arrived. For thus the Scripture speaks of the dead as sleeping, because it wishes them to be regarded as destined to awake, that is, to rise again. But He, wounded and asleep in the tomb, awoke on the third day, and became “like a sparrow that sitteth alone on the housetop” (Ps 102:7), that is, on the right hand of His Father in Heaven: and now “dieth no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him” (Rom 6:9). Hence He differs widely from those whom God hath not yet remembered to cause their resurrection after this manner: for what was to go before in the Head, was kept for the Body in the end. God is then said to remember, when He does an act: then to forget, when He does it not: for neither can God forget, as He never changes, nor remember, as He can never forget. “I am counted” then, by those who know not what they do, “as a man that hath no help:” while I am “free among the dead,” I am held by these men “like unto them that are wounded, and lie in the grave.” Yet those very men, who account thus of Me, are further said to be “cut away from Thy hand,” that is, when I was made so by them, “they were cut away from Thy hand;” they who believed Me destitute of help, are deprived of the help of Thy hand: for they, as he saith in another Psalm (57:7), have digged a pit before me, and are fallen into the midst of it themselves. I prefer this interpretation to that which refers the words, “they are cut away from Thy hand,” to those who sleep in the tomb, whom God hath not yet remembered: since the righteous are among the latter, of whom, even though God hath not yet called them to the resurrection, it is said, that their “souls are in the hands of God” (Wis 3:1), that is, that “they dwell under the defence of the Most High; and shall abide under the shadow of the God of Heaven” (Ps 91:1). But it is those who are cut away from the hand of God, who believed that Christ was cut off from His hand, and thus accounting Him among the wicked, dared to slay Him.

5. “They laid Me in the lowest pit” (ver. 6), that is, the deepest pit. For so it is in the Greek. But what is the lowest pit, but the deepest woe, than which there is none more deep? Whence in another Psalm it is said, “Thou broughtest me out also of the pit of misery” (Ps 40:3). “In a place of darkness, and in the shadow of death,” whiles they knew not what they did, they laid Him there, thus deeming of Him; they knew not Him “whom none of the princes of this world knew” (1 Cor 2:8). By the “shadow of death,” I know not whether the death of the body is to be understood, or that of which it is written, “That they walked in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death, a light is risen on them” (Isa 9:2), because by belief they were brought from out of the darkness and death of sin into light and life. Such an one those who knew not what they did thought our Lord, and in their ignorance accounted Him among those whom He came to help, that they might not be such themselves.

6. “Thy indignation lieth hard upon Me” (ver. 7), or, as other copies have it, “Thy anger;” or, as others, “Thy fury:” the Greek word θυμὸς having undergone different interpretations. For where the Greek copies have ὀργὴ, no translator hesitated to express it by the Latin ira; but where the word is θυμὸς, most object to rendering it by ira, although many of the authors of the best Latin style, in their translations from Greek philosophy, have thus rendered the word in Latin. But I shall not discuss this matter further: only if I also were to suggest another term, I should think “indignation” more tolerable than “fury,” this word in Latin not being applied to persons in their senses. What then does this mean, “Thy indignation lieth hard upon Me,” except the belief of those, who knew not the Lord of Glory? (1 Cor 2:8) who imagined that the anger of God was not merely roused, but lay hard upon Him, whom they dared to bring to death, and not only death, but that kind, which they regarded as the most execrable of all, namely, the death of the Cross: whence saith the Apostle, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree” (Gal 3:13). On this account, wishing to praise His obedience which He carried to the extreme of humility, he says, “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death;” and as this seemed little, he added, “even the death of the Cross” (Phil 2:8); and with the same view as far as I can see, he says in this Psalm, “And all thy suspensions,” or, as some translate “waves,” others “tossings,” “Thou hast brought over Me.” We also find in another Psalm, “All thy suspensions and waves are come in upon Me” (Ps 42:7), or, as some have translated better, “have passed over Me:” for it is διῆλθον in Greek, not εἰσῆλθον: and where both expressions are employed, “waves” and “suspensions,” one cannot be used as equivalent to the other. In that passage we explained “suspensions” as threatenings, “waves” as the actual sufferings: both inflicted by God’s judgment: but in that place it is said, “All have passed over Me,” here, “Thou hast brought all upon Me.” In the other case, that is, although some evils took place, yet, he said, all those which are here mentioned passed over; but in this case, “Thou hast brought them upon Me.” Evils pass over when they do not touch a man, as things which hang over him, or when they do touch him, as waves. But when he uses the word “suspensions,” he does not say they passed over, but, “Thou hast brought them upon Me,” meaning that all which impended had come to pass. All things which were predicted of His Passion impended, as long as they remained in the prophecies for future fulfilment.

7. “Thou hast put Mine acquaintance far from Me” (ver. 8). If we understand by acquaintance those whom He knew, it will be all men; for whom knew He not? But He calls those acquaintance, to whom He was Himself known, as far as they could know Him at that season: at least so far forth as they knew Him to be innocent, although they considered Him only as a man, not as likewise God. Although He might call the righteous whom He approved, acquaintance, as He calls the wicked unknown, to whom He was to say at the end, “I know you not” (Mt 7:23) In what follows, “and they have set Me for an abhorrence to themselves;” those whom He called before “acquaintance,” may be meant, as even they felt horror at the mode of that death: but it is better referred to those of whom He was speaking above as His persecutors. “I was delivered up, and did not get forth.” Is this because His disciples were without, while He was being tried within? (Mt 26:56) Or are we to give a deeper meaning to the words, “I cannot get forth” as signifying, “I remained hidden in My secret counsels, I showed not who I was, I did not reveal Myself, was not made manifest”? And so it follows,—

“My eyes became weak from want” (ver. 9). For what eyes are we to understand? If the eyes of the flesh in which He suffered, we do not read that His eyes became weak from want, that is, from hunger, in His Passion, as is often the case; as He was betrayed after His Supper, and crucified on the same day: if the inner eyes, how were they weakened from want, in which there was a light that could never fail? But He meant by His eyes those members in the body, of which He was Himself the head, which, as brighter and more eminent and chief above the rest, He loved. It was of this body that the Apostle was speaking, when he wrote, taking his metaphor from our own body, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?” etc. (1 Cor 12:17-21). What he wished understood by these words, he has expressed more clearly, by adding, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor 12:27). Wherefore as those eyes, that is, the holy Apostles, to whom not flesh and blood, but the Father which is in Heaven had revealed Him, so that Peter said, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16), when they saw Him betrayed, and suffering such evils, saw Him not such as they wished, as He did not come forth, did not manifest Himself in His virtue and power, but still hidden in His secrecy, endured everything as a man overcome and enfeebled, they became weak for want, as if their food, their Light, had been withdrawn from them.

8. He continues, “And I have called upon Thee.” This indeed He did most clearly, when upon the Cross. But what follows? “All the day I have stretched forth My hands unto Thee,” must be examined how it must be taken. For if in this expression we understand the tree of the Cross, how can we reconcile it with the “whole day”? Can He be said to have hung upon the Cross during the whole day, as the night is considered a part of the day? But if day, as opposed to night, was meant by this expression, even of this day, the first and no small portion had passed by at the time of His crucifixion. But if we take “day” in the same sense of time (especially as the word is used in the feminine, a gender which is restricted to that sense in Latin, although not so in Greek, as it is always used in the feminine, which I suppose to be the reason for its translation in the same gender in our own version), the knot of the question will be drawn tighter: for how can it mean for the whole space of time, if He did not even for one day stretch forth His hands on the Cross? Further, should we take the whole for a part, as Scripture sometimes uses this expression, I do not remember an instance in which the whole is taken for a part, when the word “whole” is expressly added. For in the passage of the Gospel where the Lord saith, “The Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt 12:40), it is no extraordinary licence to take the whole for the part, the expression not being for three “whole” days and three whole nights: since the one intermediate day was a whole one, the other two were parts, the last being part of the first day, the first part of the last. But if the Cross is not meant here, but the prayer, which we find in the Gospel that He poured forth in the form of a servant to God the Father, where He is said to have prayed long before His Passion, and on the eve of His Passion, and also when on the Cross, we do not read anywhere that He did so throughout the whole day. Therefore by the stretched-out hands throughout the whole day, we may understand the continuation of good works in which He never ceased from exertion.

9. But as His good works profited only the predestined to eternal salvation, and not all men, nor even all those among whom they were done, he adds, “Dost thou show wonders among the dead?” (ver. 10). If we suppose this relates to those whose flesh life has left, great wonders have been wrought among the dead, inasmuch as some of them have revived (Mt 27:52): and in our Lord’s descent into Hell, and His ascent as the conqueror of death, a great wonder was wrought among the dead. He refers then in these words, “Dost Thou show wonders among the dead?” to men so dead in heart, that such great works of Christ could not rouse them to the life of faith: for he does not say that wonders are not shown to them because they see them not, but because they do not profit them. For, as he says in this passage, “the whole day have I stretched forth My hands to Thee:” because He ever refers all His works to the will of His Father, constantly declaring that He came to fulfil His Father’s will (Jn 6:38) so also, as an unbelieving people saw the same works, another Prophet saith, “I have spread out my hands all day unto a rebellious people, that believes not, but contradicts” (Isa 65:2). Those then are dead, to whom wonders have not been shown, not because they saw them not, but since they lived not again through them. The following verse, “Shall physicians revive them, and shall they praise Thee?” means, that the dead shall not be revived by such means, that they may praise Thee. In the Hebrew there is said to be a different expression: giants being used where physicians are here: but the Septuagint translators, whose authority is such that they may deservedly be said to have interpreted by the inspiration of the Spirit of God owing to their wonderful agreement, conclude, not by mistake, but taking occasion from the resemblance in sound between the Hebrew words expressing these two senses, that the use of the word is an indication of the sense in which the word giants is meant to be taken. For if you suppose the proud meant by giants, of whom the Apostle saith, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” (1 Cor 1:20) there is no incongruity in calling them physicians, as if by their own unaided skill they promised the salvation of souls: against whom it is said, “Of the Lord is safety” (Ps 4:8). But if we take the word giant in a good sense, as it is said of our Lord, “He rejoiceth as a giant to run his course” (Ps 19:5); that is Giant of giants, chief among the greatest and strongest, who in His Church excel in spiritual strength. Just as He is the Mountain of mountains; as it is written, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be manifested in the top of the mountains” (Isa 2:2): and the Saint of saints: there is no absurdity in styling these same great and mighty men physicians. Whence saith the Apostle, “if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Rom 11:14). But even such physicians, even though they cure not by their own power (as not even of their own do those of the body), yet so far forth as by faithful ministry they assist towards salvation, can cure the living, but not raise the dead: of whom it is said, “Dost Thou show wonders among the dead?” For the grace of God, by which men’s minds in a certain manner are brought to live a fresh life, so as to be able to hear the lessons of salvation from any of its ministers whatever, is most hidden and mysterious. This grace is thus spoken of in the Gospel. “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (Jn 6:44); … in order to show, that the very faith by which the soul believes, and springs into fresh life from the death of its former affections, is given us by God. Whatever exertions, then, the best preachers of the word, and persuaders of the truth through miracles, may make with men, just like great physicians: yet if they are dead, and through Thy grace have not a second life, “Dost Thou show wonders among the dead, or shall physicians raise them? and shall they” whom they raise “praise Thee”? For this confession declares that they live: not, as it is written elsewhere, “Thanksgiving perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not” (Sir 17:26).

10. “Shall one show Thy loving-kindness in the grave, or Thy faithfulness in destruction?” (ver. 11). The word “show” is of course understood as if repeated, Shall any show Thy faithfulness in destruction? Scripture loves to connect loving-kindness and faithfulness, especially in the Psalms. “Destruction” also is a repetition of “the grave,” and signifies them who are in the grave, styled above “the dead,” in the verse, “Dost thou show wonders among the dead?” for the body is the grave of the dead soul; whence our Lord’s words in the Gospel, “Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mt 23:27-28).

11. “Shall thy wondrous works be known in the dark, and thy righteousness in the land where all things are forgotten?” (ver. 12), the dark answers to the land of forgetfulness: for the unbelieving are meant by the dark, as the Apostle saith, “For ye were sometimes darkness” (Eph 5:8); and the land where all things are forgotten, is the man who has forgotten God; for the unbelieving soul can arrive at darkness so intense, “that the fool saith in his heart, There is no God” (Ps 14:1). Thus the meaning of the whole passage may thus be drawn out in its connection: “Lord, I have called upon Thee,” amid My sufferings; “all day I have stretched forth my hands unto Thee” (ver. 13). I have never ceased to stretch forth My works to glorify Thee. Why then do the wicked rage against Me, unless because “Thou showest not wonders among the dead”? because those wonders move them not to faith, nor can physicians restore them to life that they may praise Thee, because Thy hidden grace works not in them to draw them unto believing: because no man cometh unto Me, but whom Thou hast drawn. Shall then “Thy loving-kindness be showed in the grave”? that is, the grave of the dead soul, which lies dead beneath the body’s weight: “or Thy faithfulness in destruction”? that is, in such a death as cannot believe or feel any of these things. “For how then in the darkness” of this death, that is, in the man who in forgetting Thee has lost the light of his life, “shall Thy wondrous works and Thy righteousness be known.” …

12. But that those prayers, the blessings of which surpass all words, may be more fervent and more constant, the gift that shall last unto eternity is deferred, while transitory evils are allowed to thicken. And so it follows: “Lord, why hast Thou cast off my prayer?” (ver. 14), which may be compared with another Psalm (22:1); “My God, My God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me?” The reason is made matter of question, not as if the wisdom of God were blamed as doing so without a cause; and so here. “Lord, why hast Thou cast off my prayer?” But if this cause be attended to carefully, it will be found indicated above; for it is with the view that the prayers of the Saints are, as it were, repelled by the delay of so great a blessing, and by the adversity they encounter in the troubles of life, that the flame, thus fanned, may burst into a brighter blaze.

For this purpose he briefly sketches in what follows the troubles of Christ’s body. For it is not in the Head alone that they took place, since it is said to Saul too, “Why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4 and Paul himself, as if placed as an elect member in the same body, saith, “That I may fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh” (Col 1:24). “Why then, Lord, hast Thou cast off my soul? why hidest Thou Thy face from me?”

“I am poor, and in toils from my youth up: and when lifted up, I was thrown down, and troubled” (ver. 15).

“Thy wraths went over me: Thy terrors disturbed me” (ver. 16).

“They came round about me all day like water: they compassed me about together” (ver. 17).

“A friend Thou hast put far from me: and mine acquaintance from my misery” (ver. 18). All these evils have taken place, and are happening in the limbs of Christ’s body, and God turns away His face from their prayers, by not hearing as to what they wish for, since they know not that the fulfilment of their wishes would not be good for them. The Church is “poor,” as she hungers and thirsts in her wanderings for that food with which she shall be filled in her own country: she is “in toils from her youth up,” as the very Body of Christ saith in another Psalm, “Many a time have they overcome me from my youth” (Ps 129:1). And for this reason some of her members are lifted up even in this world, that in them may be the greater lowliness. Over that Body, which constitutes the unity of the Saints and the faithful, whose Head is Christ, go the wraths of God: yet abide not: since it is of the unbelieving only that it is written, that “the wrath of God abideth upon him” (Jn 3:36). The terrors of God disturb the weakness of the faithful, because all that can happen, even though it actually happen not, it is prudent to fear; and sometimes these terrors so agitate the reflecting soul with the evils impending around, that they seem to flow around us on every side like water, and to encircle us in our fears. And as the Church while on pilgrimage is never free from these evils, happening as they do at one moment in one of her limbs, at another in another, he adds, “all day,” signifying the continuation in time, to the end of this world. Often too, friends and acquaintances, their worldly interests at stake, in their terror forsake the Saints; of which saith the Apostle, “all men forsook me: may it not be laid to their charge” (2 Tim 4:16). But to what purpose is all this, but that early in the morning, that is, after the night of unbelief, the prayers of this holy Body may in the light of faith prevent God, until the coming of that salvation, which we are at present saved by hoping for, not by having, while we await it with patience and faithfulness. Then the Lord will not repel our prayers, as there will no longer be anything to be sought for, but everything that has been rightly asked, will be obtained: nor will He turn His face away from us, since we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2): nor shall we be poor, because God will be our abundance, all in all (1 Cor 15:28): nor shall we suffer, as there will be no more weakness: nor after exaltation shall we meet with humiliation and confusion, as there will be no adversity there: nor bear even the transient wrath of God, as we shall abide in His abiding love: nor will His terrors agitate us, because His promises realized will bless us: nor will our friend and acquaintance, being terrified, be far from us, where there will be no foe to dread.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 144

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 24, 2014

A PRAYER FOR VICTORY AND PROSPERITY

THIS psalm consists of two parts—verses 1-11, and verses 12-15. The first part is largely an imitation of the great Davidic Psalm 18, with an admixture of extracts from Psalms 8, 21, 37, 102. The second part is a prayer for the fulness of Messianic blessing. The first part is a song of war and victory; the second contains a picture of the idyllic peace which Israel is to enjoy, under the rule of her Messianic King. It is possible, perhaps, to take the psalm, as a whole, as a liturgical prayer for the deliverance of Israel from foreign oppression and for the speedy coming of her Messianic greatness.

The dependence of this psalm on Ps. 18 gives it a claim to be styled a ‘ Davidic Psalm.’ The title, Adversus Goliath (to which nothing corresponds in the Hebrew), suggests the possibility that the particular Jewish community which introduced this psalm into its liturgy, felt itself to be overshadowed by its opponents, as David was by Goliath, but hoped, nevertheless, for a victory over its adversaries no less complete than David’s over Goliath. Such a victory would be, as it were, the inauguration of the Messianic age.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 138

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2014

A HYMN OF DELIVERANCE

THIS is a song of thanksgiving for the goodness of Yahweh towards His people in general, and in particular for some gracious intervention of the Lord on behalf of Israel that has just occurred.

Yahweh has glorified His name and His word by granting success to His people, Israel. For this public thanksgiving is due. The heathen gods will be compelled to look on while thanksgiving is being made to Yahweh for the gracious deeds by which He has broken the power of Israel’s heathen foes. Even the kings of the heathens, themselves, when they realise all the greatness of Yahweh’s truth and kindness and power will join with Israel in honouring Him and giving Him thanks. The help which the Lord has recently given will not be refused again in time of need, for the loving-kindness of Yahweh endures for ever, and He cannot forget the “work of His hands.”

The psalm is ascribed to David in the Massoretic text, and tO David, Haggai and Zechariah by the Septuagint. This shows uncertainty of tradition as to authorship. The idea that foreign kings are to join in honouring the God of Israel belongs to the realm of Messianic hope. It has been suggested that the best setting for this psalm would be the period of Nehemiah when Israel was able to face the heathen world boldly, in the proud consciousness of her newly established power.

It will be noted that this psalm is closely allied in many respects with Ps. 116.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 22:34-40

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2014

Ver 34. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.35. Then one of them, which was a Lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,36. “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37. Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38. This is the first and great commandment.39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jerome: The Pharisees having been themselves already confuted (in the matter of the denarius), and now seeing their adversaries also overthrown, should have taken warning to attempt no further deceit against Him; but hate and jealousy are the parents of impudence.

Origen: Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, to shew that the tongue of falsehood is silenced by the brightness of truth. For as it belongs to the righteous man to be silent when it is good to be silent, and to speak when it is good to speak, and not to hold his peace; so it belongs to every teacher of a lie not indeed to be silent, but to be silent as far as any good purpose is concerned.

Jerome: The Pharisees and Sadducees, thus foes to one another, unite in one common purpose to tempt Jesus.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or the Pharisees meet together, that their numbers may silence Him whom their reasonings could not confute; thus, while they array numbers against Him, shewing that truth failed them; they said among themselves, Let one speak for all, and all speak, through one, so if He prevail, the victory may seem to belong to all; if He be overthrown, the defeat may rest with Him alone; so it follows, “Then one of them, a teacher of the Law, asked him a question, tempting Him.”

Origen: All who thus ask questions of any teacher to try him, and not to learn of him, we must regard as brethren of this Pharisee, according to what is said below, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of mine, ye have done it unto me.” [Mat_25:40]

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 73: Let no one find a difficulty in this, that Matthew speaks of this man as putting his question to tempt the Lord, whereas Mark does not mention this, but concludes with what the Lord said to him upon his answering wisely, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mar_12:34] For it is possible that, though he came to tempt, yet the Lord’s answer may have wrought correction within him.

Or, the tempting here meant need not be that of one designing to deceive an enemy, but rather the cautious approach of one making proof of a stranger. And that is not written in vain, “Whoso believeth lightly, he is of a vain heart.” [Ecc_19:4]

Origen: He said “Master” tempting Him, for none but a disciple would thus address Christ. Whoever then does not learn of the Word, nor yields himself wholly up to it, yet calls it Master, he is brother to this Pharisee thus tempting Christ. Perhaps while they read the Law before the Saviour’s coming, it was a question among them which was the great commandment in it; nor would the Pharisee have asked this, if it had not been long time enquired among themselves, but never found till Jesus came and declared it.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He who now enquires for the greatest commandment had not observed the least. He only ought to seek for a higher righteousness who has fulfilled the lower.

Jerome: Or he enquires not for the sake of the commands, but which is the first and great commandment, that seeing all that God commands is great, he may have occasion to cavil whatever the answer be.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But the Lord so answers him, as at once to lay bare the dissimulation of his enquiry, “Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love,” not ‘fear,’ for to love is more than to fear; to fear belongs to slaves, to love to sons; fear is in compulsion, love in freedom. Whoso serves God in fear escapes punishment, but has not the reward of righteousness because he did well unwillingly through fear. God does not desire to be served servilely by men as a master, but to be loved as a father, for that He has given the spirit of adoption to men.

But to love God with the whole heart, is to have the heart inclined to the love of no one thing more than of God. To love God again with the whole soul is to have the mind stayed upon the truth, and to be firm in the faith. For the love of the heart and the love of the soul are different. The first is in a sort carnal, that we should love God even with our flesh, which we cannot do unless we first depart from the love of the things of this world. The love of the heart is felt in the heart, but the love of the soul is not felt, but is perceived because it consists in a judgment of the soul. For he who believes that all good is in God, and that without Him is no good, he loves God with his whole soul. But to love God with the whole mind, is to have all the faculties open and unoccupied for Him. He only loves God with his whole mind, whose intellect ministers to God, whose wisdom is employed about God, whose thoughts travail in the things of God, and whose memory holds the things which are good.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: Or otherwise; You are commanded to love God “with all thy heart,” that your whole thoughts — “with all thy soul,” that your whole life — “with all thy mind,” that your whole understanding — may be given to Him from whom you have that you give. Thus He has left no part of our life which may justly be unfilled of Him, or give place to the desire after any other final good [marg. note: alia re frui]; but if aught else present itself for the soul’s love, it should be absorbed into that channel in which the whole current of love runs. For man is then the most perfect when his whole life tends towards the life [marg. note: al. bonum] unchangeable, and clings to it with the whole purpose of his soul.

Gloss., interlin.: Or, “with all thy heart,” i.e. understanding; “with all thy soul,” i.e. thy will; “with all thy mind,” i.e. memory; so you shall think, will, remember nothing contrary to Him.

Origen: Or otherwise; “With all thy heart,” that is, in all recollection, act, thought; “with all thy soul,” to be ready, that is, to lay it down for God’s religion; “with all thy mind,” bringing forth nothing but what is of God. And consider whether you cannot thus take the heart of the understanding, by which we contemplate things intellectual, and the “mind” of that by which we utter thoughts, walking as it were with the mind through each expression, and uttering it.

If the Lord had given no answer to the Pharisee who thus tempted Him, we should have judged that there was no commandment greater than the rest. But when the Lord adds, “This is the first and great commandment,” we learn how we ought to think of the commandments, that there is a great one, and that there are less down to the least. And the Lord says not only that it is a great, but that it is the first commandment, not in order of Scripture, but in supremacy of value.

They only take upon them the greatness and supremacy of this precept, who not only love the Lord their God, but add these three conditions. Nor did He only teach the first and great commandment, but added that there was a second like unto the first, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:” But if “Whoso loveth iniquity hath hated his own soul,” [Psa_11:5] it is manifest that he does not love his neighbour as himself, when he does not love himself.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 30; see Rom_13:10: It is clear that every man is to be regarded as a neighbour, because evil is to be done to no man. Further, if every one to whom we are bound to shew service of mercy, or who is bound to shew it to us, be rightly called our neighbour, it is manifest that in this precept are comprehended the holy Angels who perform for us those services of which we may read in Scripture.

Whence also our Lord Himself would be called our neighbour; for it was Himself whom He represents as the good Samaritan, who gave succour to the man who was left half-dead by the way.

Aug., de Trin., viii, 6: He that loves men ought to love them either because they are righteous, or that they may be righteous; and so also ought he to love himself either for that he is, or that he may be righteous. And thus without peril he may love his neighbour as himself.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: But if even yourself you ought not to love for your own sake, but because of Him in whom is the rightful end of your love, let not another man be displeased that you love even him for God’s sake. Whoso then rightly loves his neighbour, ought to endeavour with him that he also with his whole heart love God.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But who loves man is as who loves God; for man is God’s image, wherein God is loved, as a King is honoured in his statue. For this cause this commandment is said to be like the first.

Hilary: Or otherwise; That the second command is like the first signifies that the obligation and merit of both are alike; for no love of God without Christ, or of Christ without God, can profit to salvation.

It follows, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 33: “Hang,” that is, refer thither as their end.

Raban.: For to these two commandments belongs the whole decalogue; the commandments of the first table to the love of God, those of the second to the love of our neighbour.

Origen: Or, because he that has fulfilled the things that are written concerning the love of God and our neighbour, is worthy to receive from God the great reward, that he should be enabled to understand the Law and the Prophets.

Aug., de Trin., viii. 7: Since there are two commandments, the love of God and the love of our neighbour, on which hang the Law and the Prophets, not without reason does Scripture put one for both; sometimes the love of God; as in that, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God;” [Rom_8:28] and sometimes the love of our neighbour; as in that, “All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [Gal_5:14]

And that because if a man love his neighbour, it follows therefrom that he loves God also; for it is the selfsame affection by which we love God, and by which we love our neighbour, save that we love God for Himself, but ourselves and our neighbour for God’s sake.

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 26, 30: But since the Divine substance is more excellent and higher than our nature, the command to love God is distinct from that to love our neighbour. But if by yourself, you understand your whole self, that is both your soul and your body, and in like manner of your neighbour, there is no sort of things to be loved omitted in these commands. The love of God goes first, and the rule thereof is so set out to us as to make all other loves center in that, so that nothing seems said of loving yourself.

But then follows, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” so that love of yourself is not omitted.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 107

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2014

THE THANKSGIVING OF THE RESCUED

THIS psalm, though it begins a new Book, forms the natural conclusion to the two preceding psalms. Israel appears here as reconciled with the Lord, and as safely returned from the Exile. The prayer in Ps. 104:47 is taken as granted. The Israelites whom the Lord has brought home are called on to thank
their Saviour, Yahweh, for His manifold favours, and in particular, for the graces of redemption from captivity and safe home-bringing (Ps 107:1-3).

In four strophes, which are clearly marked off by a peculiarly constructed refrain, four perils, typical of the dangers of human life generally, and typical, in particular, of the dangers and difficulties of the Exile in Babylon and the Return from that Exile are vividly described: (a) Ps 107:4-9, the perils of travellers lost in the desert; (b) Ps 107:10-16, imprisonment; (c) Ps 107:17-22, grievous illness; Ps 10723-32, the terrors of a storm at sea.

In a final strophe (Ps 10733-43) the psalmist deals, in the manner of a Sapiential Writer, with the methods of God’s gracious providence as seen in nature and history—especially in the history of Israel. This strophe differs so much in manner and form from the rest of the poem that it has been often treated by critics (sometimes even by Catholic critics) as a separate psalm. It can be shown, however, that in this final section of Psalm 107 also, the redemption of Israel from the captivity of Babylon is kept in view ; hence this strophe, emphasizing, as it does, the might by which God bends all the powers of nature to His purposes and the loving care which He exercises towards His people, forms a fitting conclusion to a poem on the peculiar dangers of the Exile and return from the Exile.

It would appear from a close study of the psalm that it was not composed immediately after the return from the Babylonian Exile, but considerably later. The psalmist has clearly in view, not merely the difficulties of the home-coming from Babylon, but also the perils of all the later home-comings of pious Jews, returning from the Diaspora to join in the celebration of the great feasts in Jerusalem.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 67

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 12, 2014

A HARVEST SONG

HIS psalm is based on the Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 the blessing with which the priests were wont to bless the people gathered for worship in the Temple. The Aaronic Blessing in Numbers 6. runs thus:

May Yahweh bless thee and keep thee!May Yahweh make His face to shine upon thee!May Yahweh lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace!

It wishes to Israel, and to each individual Israelite, the care and protecting presence of God, and the sense of peace which comes from friendship with God. In many ways Yahweh could reveal His love for His people, and His protecting presence in their midst ; but no revelation of His love and presence could be more obvious to the popular mind than that contained in the blessings of a bounteous harvest. The psalm is a song of thanksgiving for harvest joys. At a harvest festival whether Pasch (Passover), Pentecost or Tabernacles the words of the Aaronic Blessing are thought of as echoed by the multitude, and expanded into a song such as we have here. The Lord has, indeed, been gracious, and therein lies a token that He will be gracious again. The blessing which Yahweh has granted to Israel is a blessing for the heathens also. They will learn thereby what a mighty and what a loving God Yahweh is, and thus, they, too, will be led to know and praise Him. Thus, in the psalm, the natural blessings of harvest are typical of the greater blessings which the Gentiles will enjoy in common with Israel in the Messianic time.

There is no clear indication of date in the Hebrew text of the psalm. The superscription in the Vulgate (following the Greek) ascribes it, in the usual way, to David. It is clear that the psalm is liturgical in character. It is not connected, as far as can be seen, with any definite occasion, and it was, no doubt, used, in a purely formal way, at all kinds of harvest festivals. Modern criticism regards it as postexilic chiefly because of its universalism.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalms 9 and 10 (Psalm 9 in LXX and Vulgate)

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 16, 2014

In the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Latin Vulgate Psalms 9 and 10 are treated (correctly) as a single psalm, numbered 9. Most modern bibles treat them as two separate psalms, numbered 9 and 10. Father Boylan follows the LXX/Vulgate numbering. What he refers to as part one of the psalm corresponds to the modern psalm number 9. Part two corresponds to the modern psalm number 10.

A SONG OF THANKS FOR THE OVERTHROW OF ENEMIES

THE first part of this psalm (verses 2-21) is a song of thanks giving for the rescue of Israel from foreign enemies; the second part (22-39) i s a prayer for protection against troubles which have arisen within the Hebrew State.

Part I. The Lord has held judgment over the heathen strangers. He has reduced their cities to ruins, and blotted out their name forever. Israel, avenged and victorious, sings glad songs of praise and thanks in Jerusalem. The heathens have met with that same fate which they had planned for Sion. The first part ends with a strong appeal to the Lord to set a masterful ruler over the heathens that they may realise that they are but mere men.

Part II begins with a complaint that the Lord is not helping in the hour of need. He seems to stand afar off, and to give no thought to His friends. The friends of the Lord are here the poor and the God-fearing, who are pursued and oppressed by godless Israelites. The oppression of the weaker Israelites by the wealthy and insolent and God-defying aristocrats is vividly described. The psalmist prays to God, as the sole refuge of the weak and lowly, to break the power of their ruthless oppressors.

The concluding verses (37-39) serve as a conclusion to both parts of the psalm. The foreign enemies have been ruined, and the oppressors within Israel have learned the lesson that man is but man, and that God is the shield of the weak and oppressed. The two parts of the poem end with the same thought.

In this analysis it is assumed that the two parts constitute a single poem. The Hebrew text regards them as two separate poems. The combined arrangement is, however, supported by certain features of the Hebrew text itself. This psalm is one of the alphabetical psalms, and the alphabetical structure is continued through the two parts. The two parts form a single psalm in the Greek versions, and in Jerome s version. The Hebrew text of the second part (Ps. 10 Hebrew) has no title as if it had been set in isolation by some accident. As we see, the two parts, besides being connected by the acrostic arrangement, end similarly, and the situation of Part I is implied in the conclusion of Part II. The Vulgate arrangement of the two parts as one poem is, therefore, to be retained. Since, however, Part II forms a separate psalm in the Hebrew text, the Vulgate numbering of the psalms will henceforth, for the most part, be different from that of the Massoretic text (and therefore also, of the Revised Version).

The occasion of this poem cannot be determined. David had many experiences of victories abroad and troubles at home. Yet it is very difficult to find in any known incidents of his reign a background for the ninth Psalm. The tendency of many modern commentators
is to parallel Part I with the prophecy of Nahum, and to explain the defeat of the heathen as referring to the fall of Niniveh. More radical critics would find the inspiration for the two parts in events of the Maccabean period. If we set aside the Vulgate ascription of the psalm to David, we shall have nothing to guide us in placing the poem but mere subjectivism. The words of the title: Pro occultis filii may point back to a consonantal Hebrew text which could be translated, According to the death of the Son but this again, would give us no help in discovering the historical context of the psalm.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 48

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 13, 2014

THE CITY OF GOD: A SONG FOR PILGRIMS

FROM verse 10 we see that the multitude stands in the Court of the Temple. In verse 13 the people are exhorted to go forth, and walk round Sion, so as to study the glorious strength and beauty of Jerusalem, and thus be able to describe its greatness to their children’s children. Possibly, therefore, this psalm was used as a processional hymn at the beginning of one of the great festivals in Jerusalem. The procession going forth from the temple would traverse the streets of the city, and return again to the temple. The Jewish pilgrims who have come from distant homes, have heard of the greatness of Jerusalem: now they see it with their own eyes. The psalm would be thus one of those “Hymns of Sion” mentioned in Ps. 137:3. With pride the singer dwells on the inviolate greatness of the fortress city. No invasion has ever made it fear: indeed, hostile kings who marched against it were cast into dread and dismay when they beheld its strength, and fled in fear, while their armies were broken and dispersed like the great merchant ships which a storm from the east has fallen on, and shattered.

It is possible that some particular attack on Jerusalem is referred to in verses 5-8. Critics favour the view that Sanherib’s (Sennacherib’s) campaign (701 B.C.) is in the psalmist s mind. There are striking points of contact in the poem with Isaiah 33.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 65

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2014

THANKSGIVING FOR GOD’S FAVORS

THIS psalm represents the people gathered together in the Temple to praise and thank the Lord for His favours; (a) for forgiveness of sin which had called for punishment (verses 2-4);
(b) for His merciful providence in nature and history (verses 5-9); and, (c) for His most recent blessing a springtime full of promise. Apparently a season of drought, which the people acknowledge to have been deserved by their sins, has been followed by favourable rains. The thanksgiving which the people had vowed to the Lord (verse 2), should He hear their prayers, is conveyed in this hymn. It is one of the most beautiful of the nature-poems of the Psalter. It resembles Ps. 67 in its main motif.

The superscription of the psalm in the Septuagint and Vulgate connects the poem with the exilic prophets Jeremias and Ezechiel, and apparently assigns its composition to the period of the return from the Babylonian Exile. The ascription to Jeremias and Ezechiel, and the reference to the Exile are absent from the Massoretic text. All three texts agree in ascribing the psalm to David. It is obvious, however, that the poem could not have for its author David, Jeremias and Ezechiel, nor any two of these sacred writers. Hence we may safely disregard this title in so far as it speaks of authorship. That the people are not in Babylon, but in Palestine, follows from verse 10 and following verses, if they are taken as a description of the effects of fertilising rains sent by God in answer to prayer. Verses 3, 6, 9 are very universalistic in tone and are regarded by many modem critics as proving the post-exilic origin of the psalm. It is, however, very dogmatic to assert that the idea of God s universal rule and providence was not familiar in the pre-exilic period.

Attempts have been made to take literally the reference to the return from Exile in the title, and to explain the psalm as a song composed to be sung by homesick exiles on their way to Jerusalem. In Sion, not in Babylon, the exiles may sing again the songs of home. The Temple will be set up again and all men will come to visit it. “Sinners” have prevailed over the exiles until now; but Israel s sins are now forgiven, and the exile is loosed from the yoke of the stranger. How splendid it will be to live again in the shadow of the Temple! The mighty God of Israel will do wonders once more and will raise His people into power again. The rise of Israel is foreshadowed under the symbol of a wonderful spring that has followed on a season of drought.

This view of the origin and meaning of the psalm is possible. Support for it might be found in Joel 2:21-26, where the return of fertility and abundance as a token of the return of Yahweh s favour after a season of famine (Israel s punishment for sin) is similarly described.

It is, however, easier and better to take the psalm simply as a hymn of thanks sung during a service of thanksgiving which the people had vowed unto God if He would graciously send them rain in a season of drought. Such a hymn might, obviously, belong, as far as its theme is concerned, to any period of Jewish history. As a song of Sion it would, of course, be sung in Jerusalem ; and, as a song of thanks for a springtime of promise, it would thank the Lord for His mercies towards the people dwelling in His own land.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 65

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2014

1. The voice of holy prophecy must be confessed in the very title of this Psalm. It is inscribed, “Unto the end, a Psalm of David, a song of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, on account of the people of transmigration when they were beginning to go forth.” How it fired with our fathers6 in the time of the transmigration to Babylon, is not known to all, but only to those that diligently study the Holy Scriptures, either by hearing or by reading. For the captive people Israel from the city of Jerusalem was led into slavery unto Babylon.7 But holy Jeremiah prophesied, that after seventy years the people would return out of captivity, and would rebuild the very city Jerusalem, which they had mourned as having been overthrown by enemies. But at that time there were prophets in that captivity of the people dwelling in Babylon, among whom was also the prophet Ezekiel. But that people was waiting until there should be fulfilled the space of seventy years, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah.1 It came to pass, when the seventy years had been completed, the temple was restored which had been thrown down: and there returned from captivity a great part of that people. But whereas the Apostle saith, “these things in figure happened unto them, but they have been written for our sakes, upon whom the end of the world hath come:”2 we also ought to know first our captivity, then our deliverance: we ought to know the Babylon wherein we are captives, and the Jerusalem for a return to which we are sighing. For these two cities, according to the letter, in reality are two cities. And the former Jerusalem indeed by the Jews is not now inhabited. For after the crucifixion of the Lord vengeance was taken upon them with a great scourge, and being rooted up from that place where, with impious licentiousness being infuriated, they had madly raged against their Physician, they have been dispersed throughout all nations, and that land hath been given to Christians: and there is fulfilled what the Lord had said to them, “Therefore the kingdom shall be taken away from you, and it shall be given to a nation doing justice.”3 But when they saw great multitudes then following the Lord, preaching the kingdom of Heaven, and doing wonderful things, the rulers of that city said, “If we shall have let Him go, all men will go after Him, and there shall come the Romans, and shall take from us both place and nation.”4 That they might not lose their place, they killed the Lord; and they lost it, even because they killed. Therefore that city, being one earthly, did bear the figure of a certain city everlasting in the Heavens: but when that which was signified began more evidently to be preached, the shadow, whereby it was being signified, was thrown down: for this reason in that place now the temple is no more, which had been constructed for the image of the future Body of the Lord. We have the light, the shadow hath passed away: nevertheless, still in a kind of captivity we are: “So long as we are,” he saith, “in the body, we are sojourning afar from the Lord.”5

2. And see ye the names of those two cities, Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon is interpreted confusion, Jerusalem vision of peace. Observe now the city of confusion, in order that ye may perceive the vision of peace; that ye may endure that, sigh for this. Whereby can those two cities be distinguished? Can we anywise now separate them from each other? They are mingled, and from the very beginning of mankind mingled they run on unto the end of the world. Jerusalem received beginning through Abel, Babylon through Cain: for the buildings of the cities were afterwards erected. That Jerusalem in the land of the Jebusites was builded: for at first it used to be called Jebus,6 from thence the nation of the Jebusites was expelled, when the people of God was delivered from Egypt, and led into the land of promise. But Babylon was builded in the most interior regions of Persia, which for a long time raised its head above the rest of nations. These two cities then at particular times were builded, so that there might be shown a figure of two cities begun of old, and to remain even unto the end in this world, but at the end to be severed. Whereby then can we now show them, that are mingled? At that time the Lord shall show, when some He shall set on the right hand, others on the left. Jerusalem on the right hand shall be, Babylon on the left.… Two loves make up these two cities: love of God maketh Jerusalem, love of the world maketh Babylon. Therefore let each one question himself as to what he loveth: and he shall find of which he is a citizen: and if he shall have found himself to be a citizen of Babylon, let him root out cupidity, implant charity: but if he shall have found himself a citizen of Jerusalem, let him endure captivity, hope for liberty.… Now therefore let us hear of, brethren, hear of, and sing of, and long for, that city whereof we are citizens. And what are the joys which are sung of to us? In what manner in ourselves is formed again the love of our city, which by long sojourning we had forgotten? But our Father hath sent from thence letters to us, God hath supplied to us the Scriptures, by which letters there should be wrought in us a longing for return: because by loving our sojourning, to enemies we had turned our face, and our back to our fatherland. What then is here sung?

3. “For Thee a hymn is meet, O God, in Sion” (ver. 1). That fatherland is Sion: Jerusalem is the very same as Sion; and of this name the interpretation ye ought to know. As Jerusalem is interpreted vision of peace, so Sion Beholding,7 that is, vision and contemplation. Some great inexplicable sight to us is promised: and this is God Himself that hath builded the city. Beauteous and graceful the city, how much more beauteous a Builder it hath! “For Thee a hymn is meet, O God,” he saith. But where? “In Sion:” in Babylon it is not meet. For when a man beginneth to be renewed, already with heart in Jerusalem he singeth, with the Apostle saying, “Our conversation is in the Heavens.”8 For “in the flesh though walking,” he saith, “not after the flesh we war.”9 Already in longing we are there, already hope into that land, as it were an anchor, we have sent before, lest in this sea being tossed we suffer shipwreck. In like manner therefore as of a ship which is at anchor, we rightly say that already she is come to land, for still she rolleth, but to land in a manner she hath been brought safe in the teeth of winds and in the teeth of storms; so against the temptations of this sojourning, our hope being grounded in that city Jerusalem causeth us not to be carried away upon rocks. He therefore that according to this hope singeth, in that city singeth: let him therefore say, “For Thee a hymn is meet, O God, in Sion.” …

4. “And to Thee shall there be paid a vow in Jerusalem.” Here we vow, and a good thing it is that there we should pay. But who are they that here do vow and pay not? They that persevere not even unto the end1 in that which they have vowed. Whence saith another Psalm, “Vow ye, and pay ye unto the Lord your God:”2 and, “to Thee shall it be paid in Jerusalem.” For there shall we be whole, that is, entire in the resurrection of just men: there shall be paid our whole vow, not soul alone, but the very flesh also, no longer corruptible, because no longer in Babylon, but now a body heavenly and changed. What sort of change is promised? “For we all shall rise again,” saith the Apostle, “but we shall not3 all be changed.… Where is, O death, thy sting?”4 For now while there begin in use the first-fruits of the mind, from whence is the longing for Jerusalem, many things of corruptible flesh do contend against us, which will not contend, when death shall have been swallowed up in victory. Peace shall conquer, and war shall be ended. But when peace shall conquer, that city shall conquer which is called the vision of peace. On the part of death therefore shall be no contention. Now with how great a death do we contend! For thence are carnal pleasures, which to us even unlawfully do suggest many things: to which we give no consent, but nevertheless in giving no consent we contend.…

5. “Hearken,” he saith, “to my prayer, unto Thee every flesh shall come”. (ver. 2). And we have the Lord saying, that there was given to Him “power over every flesh.”5 That King therefore began even now to appear, when there was being said, “Unto Thee every flesh shall come.” “To Thee,” he saith, “every flesh shall come.” Wherefore to Him shall “every” flesh come? Because flesh He hath taken to Him. Whither shall there come every flesh? He took the first-fruits thereof out of the womb of the Virgin; and now that the first-fruits have been taken to Him, the rest shall follow, in order that the holocaust may be completed. Whence then “every flesh”? Every man. And whence every man? Have all been foretold, as going to believe in Christ? Have not many ungodly men been foretold, that shall be condemned also? Do not daily men not believing die in their own unbelief? After what manner therefore do we understand, “Unto Thee every flesh shall come”? By “every flesh” he hath signified, “flesh of every kind:” out of every kind of flesh they shall come to Thee. What is, out of every kind of flesh? Have there come poor men, and have there not come rich men? Have there come humble men, and not come lofty men? Have there come unlearned men, and not come learned men? Have there come men, and not come women? Have there come masters, and not come servants? Have there come old men, and not come young men; or have there come young men, and not come youths; or have there come youths, and not come boys; or have there come boys, and have there not been brought infants? In a word, have there come Jews6 (for thence were the Apostles, thence many thousands of men at first betraying, afterwards believing7), and have there not come Greeks; or have there come Greeks, and not come Romans; or have there come Romans, and not come Barbarians? And who could number all nations coining to Him, to whom hath been said, “Unto Thee every flesh shall come”?

6. “The discourses of unjust men have prevailed over us, and our iniquities Thou shalt propitiate”8 (ver. 3).… Every man, in whatsoever place he is born, of that same land or region or city learneth the language, is habituated to the manners and life of that place. What should a boy do, born among Heathens, to avoid worshipping a stone, inasmuch as his parents have suggested that worship from them the first words he hath heard, that error with his milk he hath sucked in; and because they that used to speak were elders, and the boy that was learning to speak was an infant, what could the little one do but follow the authority of elders, and deem that to be good which they recommended? Therefore nations that are converted to Christ afterwards, and taking to heart the impieties of their parents, and saying now what the prophet Jeremias himself said, “Truly a lie our fathers have worshipped, vanity which hath not profited them”9—when, I say, they now say this, they renounce the opinions and blasphemies of their unjust parents.… There have led us away men teaching evil things, citizens of Babylon they have made us, we have left the Creator, have adored the creature: have left Him by whom we were made, have adored that which we ourselves have made. For “the discourses of unjust men have prevailed over us:” but nevertheless they have not crushed us. Wherefore? “Our impieties Thou shalt propitiate,” is not said except to some priest offering somewhat, whereby impiety may be expiated and propitiated. For impiety is then said to be propitiated, when God is made propitious to the impiety. What is it for God to be made propitious to impiety? It is, His becoming forgiving, and giving pardon. But in order that God’s pardon may be obtained, propitiation is made through some sacrifice. There hath come forth therefore, sent from God the Lord, One our Priest; He took upon Him from us that which He might offer to the Lord we are speaking of those same first-fruits of the flesh from the womb of the Virgin. This holocaust He offered to God. He stretched out His hands on the Cross, in order that He might say, “Let My prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight, and the lifting up of My hands an evening sacrifice.”1 As ye know, the Lord about eventide hung on the Cross:2 and our impieties were propitiated; otherwise they had swallowed up: the discourses of unjust men had prevailed over us; there had led us astray preachers of Jupiter, and of Saturn, and of Mercury: “the discourses of ungodly men had prevailed over us.” But what wilt Thou do? “Our impieties Thou wilt propitiate.” Thou art the priest, Thou the victim; Thou the offerer, Thou the offering.3 …

7. “Blessed is he whom Thou hast chosen, and hast taken to Thee” (ver. 4). Who is he that is chosen by Him and taken to Him? Was any one chosen4 by our Saviour Jesus Christ, or was Himself after the flesh, because He is man, chosen and taken to Him?… Or hath not rather Christ Himself taken to Him some blessed one, and the same whom He hath taken to Him is not spoken of in the plural number but in the singular? For one man He hath taken to Him, because unity He hath taken to Him. Schisms He hath not taken to Him, heresies He hath not taken to Him: a multitude they have made of themselves, there is not one to be taken to Him. But they that abide in the bond of Christ and are the members of Him, make in a manner one man, of whom saith the Apostle, “Until we all arrive at the acknowledging of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.”5 Therefore one man is taken to Him, to which the Head is Christ; because “the Head of the man is Christ.”6 The same is that blessed man that “hath not departed in the counsel of ungodly men,”7 and the like things which there are spoken of: the same is He that is taken to Him. He is not without us, in His own members we are, under one Head we are governed, by one Spirit we all live, one fatherland we all long for.… And to us He will give what? “He shall inhabit,” he saith, “in Thy courts.” Jerusalem, that is, to which they sing that begin to go forth from Babylon: “He shall inhabit in Thy courts: we shall be filled with the good things of Thy House.” What are the good things of the House of God? Brethren, let us set before ourselves some rich house, with what numerous good things it is crowded, how abundantly it is furnished, how many vessels there are there of gold and also of silver; how great an establishment of servants, how many horses and animals, in a word, how much the house itself delights us with pictures, marble, ceilings, pillars, recesses, chambers:—all such things are indeed objects of desire, but still they are of the confusion of Babylon, Cut off all such longings, O citizen of Jerusalem, cut them off; if thou wilt return, let not captivity delight thee. But hast thou already begun to go forth? Do not look back, do not loiter on the road. Still there are not wanting foes to recommend thee captivity and sojourning: no longer let there prevail against thee the discourses of ungodly men. For the House of God long thou, and for the good things of that House long thou: but do not long for such things as thou art wont to long for either in thy house, or in the house of thy neighbour, or in the house of thy patron.…

8. “Thy holy Temple is marvellous in righteousness” (ver. 5). These are the good things of that House. He hath not said, Thy holy Temple is marvellous in pillars, marvellous in marbles, marvellous in glided ceilings; but is “marvellous in righteousness.” Without thou hast eyes wherewith thou mayest see marbles, and gold: within is an eye wherewith may be seen the beauty of righteousness. If there is no beauty in righteousness, why is a righteous old man loved? What bringeth he in body that may please the eyes? Crooked limbs, brow wrinkled, head blanched with gray hairs, dotage everywhere full of plaints. But perchance because thine eyes this decrepit old man pleaseth not, thine ears he pleaseth: with what words with what song? Even if perchance when a young man he sang well, all with age hath been lost. Doth perchance the sound of his words please thine ears, that can hardly articulate whole words for loss of teeth? Nevertheless, if righteous he is, if another man’s goods he coveteth not, if of his own that he possesseth he distributeth to the needy, if he giveth good advice, and soundly judgeth, if he believeth the entire faith, if for his belief in the faith he is ready to expend even those very shattered limbs, for many Martyrs are even old men; why do we love him? What good thing in him do we see with the eyes of the flesh? Not any. There is therefore a kind of beauty in righteousness, which we see with the eye of the heart, and we love, and we kindle with affection: how much men found to love in those same Martyrs, though beasts tare their limbs! Is it possible but that when blood was staining all parts, when with the teeth of monsters their bowels gushed out, the eyes had nothing but objects to shudder at? What was there to be loved, except that in that hideous spectacle of mangled limbs, entire was the beauty of righteousness? These are the good things of the House of God, with these prepare thyself to be satisfied.… “Blessed they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”1 “Thy holy Temple is marvellous in righteousness.” And that same temple, brethren, do not imagine to be aught but yourselves. Love ye righteousness, and ye are the Temple of God.

9. “Hearken to us, O God, our Saviour” (ver. 5). He hath disclosed now Whom he nameth as God. The “Saviour” specially is the Lord Jesus Christ. It hath appeared now more openly of Whom he had said, “Unto Thee every flesh shall come.”2 That One Man that is taken unto Him into the Temple of God, is both many and is One. In the person of One he hath said, “Hearken, O God, i.e., to my hunger:”3 and because the same One of many is composed, now he saith, “Hearken to us, O God, our Saviour.” Hear Him now more openly preached: “Hearken to us, O God, our Saviour the Hope of all the ends of the earth and in the sea afar.” Behold wherefore hath been said “Unto Thee every flesh shall come.” From every quarter they come. “Hope of all the ends of the earth,” not hope of one corner, not hope of Judæa alone, not hope of Africa alone, not hope of Pannonia, not hope of East or of West: but “Hope of all the ends of the earth, and in the sea afar:” of the very ends of the earth. “And in the sea afar:” and because in the sea, therefore afar. For the sea by a figure is spoken of this world, with saltness bitter, with storms troubled; where men of perverse and depraved appetites have become like fishes devouring one another. Observe the evil sea, bitter sea, with waves violent, observe with what sort of men it is filled. Who desireth an inheritance except through the death of another? Who desireth gain except by the loss of another? By the fall of others how many men wish to be exalted? How many, in order that they may buy, desire for other men to sell their goods? How they mutually oppress, and how they that are able do devour! And when one fish hath devoured, the greater the less, itself also is devoured by some greater.… Because evil fishes that were taken within the nets they said they would not endure; they themselves have become more evil than they whom they said4 they could not endure. For those nets did take fishes both good and evil. The Lord saith, “The kingdom of Heaven is like to a sein cast into the sea, which gathereth of every kind, which, when it had been filled, drawing out, and sitting on the shore, they gathered the good into vessels, but the evil they cast out: so it shall be,” He saith, “in the consummation of the world.”5 He showeth what is the shore, He showeth what is the end of the sea. “The angels shall go forth, and shall sever the evil from the midst of the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Ha! ye citizens of Jerusalem that are within the nets, and are good fishes; endure the evil, the nets break ye not: together with them ye are in a sea, not together with them will ye be in the vessels. For “Hope” He is “of the ends of the earth,” Himself is Hope “also in the sea afar.” Afar, because also in the sea.

10. “Preparing mountains in His strength” (ver. 6). Not in their strength. For He hath prepared great preachers, and those same He hath called mountains; humble in themselves, exalted in Him. “Preparing mountains in His strength.” What saith one of those same mountains? “We ourselves in our own selves have had the answer of death, in order that in ourselves we should not trust, but in God that raiseth the dead.”6 He that in himself doth trust, and in Christ trusteth not, is not of those mountains which He hath prepared in His strength. “Preparing mountains in His strength: girded about in power.” “Power,” I understand: “girded about,” is what? They that put Christ in the midst, “girded about” they make Him, that is on all sides begirt. We all have Him in common, therefore in the midst He is: all we gird Him about that believe in Him: and because our faith is not of our strength, but of His power; therefore girded about He is in His power; not in our own strength.

11. “That troublest the bottom of the sea” (ver. 7). He hath done this: it is seen what He hath done. For He hath prepared mountains in His strength, hath sent them to preach: girded about He is by believers in power: and moved is the sea, moved is the world, and it beginneth to persecute His saints. “Girded about in power: that troublest the bottom of the sea.” He hath not said, that troublest the sea; but “the bottom of the sea.” The bottom of the sea is the heart of ungodly men. For just as from the bottom more thoroughly all things are stirred, and the bottom holdeth firm all things: so whatsoever hath gone forth: by tongue, by hands, by divers powers for the persecution of the Church, from the bottom hath gone forth. For if there were not the root of iniquity in the heart, all those things would not have gone forth against Christ. The bottom He troubled, perchance in order that the bottom He might also empty: for in the case of certain evil men He emptied the sea from the bottom, and made the sea a desert place. Another Psalm saith this, “That turneth sea into dry land.”1 All ungodly and heathen men that have believed were sea, have been made land; with salt waves at first barren, afterwards with the fruit of righteousness productive. “That troublest the bottom of the sea: the sound of its waves who shall endure?” “Who shall endure,” is what? What man shall endure the sound of the waves of the sea, the behests of the high powers of the world? But whence are they endured? Because He prepareth mountains in His strength. In that therefore which he hath said “who shall” endure? he saith thus: We ourselves of our own selves should not be able to endure those persecutions, unless He gave strength.

12. “The nations shall be troubled” (ver. 8). At first they shall be troubled: but those mountains prepared in the strength of Christ, are they troubled? Troubled is the sea, against the mountains it dasheth: the sea breaketh, unshaken the mountains have remained. “The nations shall be troubled, and all men shall fear.” Behold now all men fear: they that before have been troubled do now all fear. The Christians feared not, and now the Christians are feared. All that did persecute do now fear. For He hath overcome that is girded about with power, to Him hath come every flesh in such sort, that the rest by their very minority do now fear. And all men shall fear, that inhabit the ends of the earth, because of Thy signs. For miracles the Apostles wrought, and thence all the ends of the earth have feared and have believed. “Outgoings in morning and in evening Thou shall delight:” that is, Thou makest delightful. Already in this life what is there being promised to us? There are outgoings in morning, there are outgoings in the evening. By the morning he signifieth the prosperity of the world, by the evening he signifieth the trouble of the world.… At first when he was promising gain, it was morning to thee: but now evening draweth on, sad thou hast become. But He that hath given thee an outgoing in the morning, will give one also in the evening. In the same manner as thou hast contemned the morning of the world by the light of the Lord, so contemn the evening also by the sufferings of the Lord, in saying to thy soul, What more will this man do to me, than my Lord hath suffered for me? May I2 hold fast justice, not consent to iniquity. Let him vent his rage on the flesh, the trap will be broken, and I will fly to my Lord, that saith to me, “Do not fear them that kill the body, but the soul are not able to kill.”3 And for the body itself He hath given security, saying, “A hair of your head shall not perish.”4 Nobly here he hath set down, “Thou wilt delight outgoings in morning and in evening.” For if thou take not delight in the very outgoing, thou wilt not labour to go out thence. Thou runnest thy head into the promised gain, if thou art not delighted with the promise of the Saviour. And again thou yieldest to one tempting and terrifying, if thou find no delight in Him that suffered before thee, in order that He might make an outgoing for thee.

13. “Thou hast visited the earth, and hast inebriated it” (ver. 9). Whence hast inebriated the earth? “Thy cup inebriating how glorious it is!”5 “Thou hast visited the earth, and hast inebriated it.” Thou hast sent Thy clouds, they have rained down the preaching of the truth, inebriated is the earth. “Thou hast multiplied to enrich it.” Whence? “The river of God is filled with water.” What is the river of God? The people of God. The first people was filled with water, wherewith the rest of the earth might be watered. Hear Him promising water: “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink: he that believeth on Me, rivers of living water from his belly shall flow:”6 if rivers, one river also; for in respect of unity many are one. Many Churches and one Church, many faithful and one Bride of Christ: so many rivers and one river. Many Israelites believed, and were fulfilled with the Holy Spirit; from thence they were scattered abroad through the nations, they began to preach the truth, and from the river of God that was filled with water, was the whole earth watered. “Thou hast prepared food for them: because thus is Thy preparing.” Not because they have deserved of Thee, whom Thou hast forgiven sins: the merits of them were evil, but Thou for Thy mercy’s sake, “because thus is Thy preparing,” thus “Thou hast prepared food for them.”

14. “The furrows thereof inebriate Thou” (ver. 10). Let there be made therefore at first furrows to be inebriated: let the hardness of our breast be opened with the share of the word of God, “The furrows thereof inebriate Thou: multiply the generations thereof.” We see, they believe, and by them believing other men believe, and because of those others believe; and it is not sufficient for one man, that having become himself a believer, he should gain one. So is multiplied seed too: a few grains are scattered, and fields spring up. “In the drops thereof it shall rejoice, when it shall rise up.” That is, before it be perchance enlarged to the bulk of a river, “when it shall rise up, in its drops,” that is, in those meet for it, “it shall rejoice.” For upon those that are yet babes, and upon the weak, are dropped some portions of the sacraments, because they cannot receive the fulness of the truth. Hear in what manner he droppeth upon babes, while they are rising up, that is, in their recent rising having small capacities: the Apostle saith, “To you I could not speak as if to spiritual, but as if to carnal, as if to babes in Christ.”1 When he saith, “to babes in Christ,” he speaketh of them as already risen up, but not yet meet to receive that plenteous wisdom, whereof he saith, “Wisdom we speak among perfect men.”2 Let it rejoice in its drops, while it is rising up and is growing, when strengthened it shall receive wisdom also: in the same manner as an infant is fed with milk, and becometh fit for meat, and nevertheless at first out of that very meat for which it was not fit, for it milk is made.

15. “Thou shalt bless the crown of the year of Thy goodness” (ver. 11). Seed is now sowing, that which is sown is growing, there will be the harvest too. And now over the seed the enemy hath sown tares; and there have risen up evil ones among the good, false Christians, having like leaf, but not like fruit. For those are properly called tares,3 which spring up in the manner of wheat, for instance darnel, for instance wild oats, and all such as have the first leaf the same. Therefore of the sowing of the tares thus saith the Lord: “There hath come an enemy, and hath sown over them tares;”4 but what hath he done to the grain? The wheat is not choked by the tares, nay, through endurance of the tares the fruit of the wheat is increased. For the Lord Himself said to certain workmen desiring to root up the tares, “Suffer ye both to grow unto the harvest.”5 … Conquer the devil, and thou wilt have a crown. “Thou shalt bless the crown of the year of Thy goodness.” Again he maketh reference to the goodness of God, lest any one boast of his own merits. “Thy plains shall be filled with abundance.”

16. “The ends of the desert shall grow fat, and the hills shall be encircled with exultation” (ver. 12). Plains, hills, ends of the desert, the same are also men. Plains, because of the equality: because of equality, I say, from thence just peoples have been called plains. Hills, because of lifting up: because God doth lift up in Himself those that humble themselves. Ends of the desert are all nations. Wherefore ends of the desert? Deserted they were, to them no Prophet had been sent: they were in like case as is a desert where no man passeth by. No word of God was sent to the nations: to the people Israel alone the Prophets preached. We came to the Lord;6 the wheat believed among that same people of the Jews. For He said at that time to the disciples, “Ye say, far off is the harvest: look back, and see how white are the lands to harvest.” There hath been therefore a first harvest, there will be a second in the last age. The first harvest was of Jews, because there were sent to them Prophets proclaiming a coming Saviour. Therefore the Lord said to His disciples, “See how white are the lands to harvest:”7 the lands, to wit, of Judæa. “Other men,” He saith, “have laboured, and into their labours ye have entered.”8 The Prophets laboured to sow, and ye with the sickle have entered into their labours. There hath been finished therefore the first harvest, and thence, with that very wheat which then was purged, hath been sown the round world; so that there ariseth another harvest, which at the end is to be reaped. In the second harvest have been sown tares, now here there is labour. Just as in that first harvest the Prophets laboured until the Lord came: so in that second harvest the Apostles laboured, and all preachers of the truth labour, even until at the end the Lord send unto the harvest His Angels. Aforetime, I say, a desert there was, “but the ends of the desert shall grow fat.” Behold where the Prophets had given no sound, the Lord of the Prophets hath been received, “The ends of the desert shall grow fat, and with exultation the hills shall be encircled.”

17. “Clothed have been the rams of the sheep” (ver. 13): “with exultation” must be understood. For with what exultation the hills are encircled, with the same are clothed the rams of the sheep. Rams are the very same as hills. For hills they are because of more eminent grace; rams, because they are leaders of the flocks.… “They shall shout:” thence they shall abound with wheat, because they shall shout. What shall they shout? “For a hymn they shall say.” For one thing it is to shout against God, another thing to say a hymn; one thing to shout iniquities, another thing to shout the praises of God. If thou shout in blasphemy, thorns thou hast brought forth: if thou shoutest in a hymn, thou aboundest in wheat.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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