The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary On Psalm 100

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 19, 2010

For those who might be interested in how this Psalm was used in the ancient and medieval liturgies, I have included an appendix which notes various uses antiphons, collects, etc.  This commentary was constructed from patristic and medieval sources by JM Neale and is in the public domain (I have modified it somewhat).


1.  O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness, and come before his presence with a song.

St Peter Chrysologus~As when the younger son (i.e., the prodigal) returned, the whole household joined in the dance and sang a heavenly melody, so we ought to take this Psalm, give the timbrel, touch the merry harp with the lute.  What is it that demands such rejoicing?  Why should earth be called to exultation and gladness after the utterance of the terrible and wonderful precepts of God?  Because that awful Deity chose as His own the office of the meek shepherd, and clad Himself in a shepherd’s form, to gather, in His mercy, the wandering nations, the straying people, the tribes scattered far and wide, as lost sheep into one fold.  as the terrible trumpet summons the warrior to battle, so the sweet sound of rejoicing calls the sheep to their pasture.  And as Christ, coming to earth, cries out, “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep;” He seeks for helpers and companions in His charge of all that world whereof He is Master, saying, O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands.

Arnobius~All are invited, there is no acceptance of persons, the summons is to all that labor and are heavy laden, that they may rejoice, and trust in no perishable good, but in the Lord.

Cassiodorus~The plural verb, joined to a singular noun, as the text stands in Hebrew, the LXX, and the Vulgate, points to the union of all the races of mankind in one harmonious chorus of praise. 

St Augustine~Serve the Lord.  All service is full of bitterness, all who are tied down to a servile condition serve and murmur.  Be not afraid that God’s service will be such; there will be in it no sighing, no mourning, no wrath.  None will ask to be sold from thence, for it is sweet to know that we are all ransomed.  It is great happiness to be a servant in that house, even if fettered.  The Lord’s service is free, because not necessity but love serves therein, “for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).

Cardinal Hugo~ Let love make thee a servant, because the truth hath made thee free  With gladness, “not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7); with gladness, because “the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor 7:10).

St Peter Chrysologus~There is good reason for this gladness, because man has passed from his wretched, hopeless, fearful slavery under sin, idols, evil spirits, to the easy yoke of his Maker, to the tenderness of a Father, to the free service of the one good Lord.

And thus the saints (i.e., Ambrose and Augustine) observe in a phrase embodied since in the Collects of the Western Church, that to serve Him is to reign, and as Boethius says very well, to be guided by His bridle is perfect freedom.

St Valerius~With gladness, for he who serves unwillingly makes a slavery for himself, but if thou put good will into thy service, thou wilt find that thou art not God’s servant, but His child.

Micahel Ayguan~And fitness for God’s service involves many things: bodily purity and cleanliness, reputableness of character, orderliness, sparingness in living and substance, humility and reverence, cheerfulness and gladness, since all these qualities answer to attributes of the Master we propose to serve.

And come before His presence.  It is come in before His presence in the LXX and Vulgate, denoting entrance within the Temple bounds.

Cardinal Hugo~And hereupon we are reminded of the several ways of coming to God.  We should come, as doves into the windows of Christ’s wounds, “Come away, O my dove, into the clefts of the rock” (Cant 2:13), “as the doves to their windows” (Isa 60:8).  As a flock into a sheepfold, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them I must bring” (Jn 10:16).  As the timid are brought into a fortified camp, “Let us enter into the defended cities, and let us be silent there” (Jer 8:14).  As a man pardoned into penitence, “I will give him the valley of Achor for a door of hope” (Hos 2:15).  As a prince into his dignity, “The prince shall enter in by the way of the porch” (Ezek 44:3).  “There shall enter into the gates of the city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David” (Jer 17:25).  As conquerors into a captured city, “They said, Show us the entrance into the city” (Judg 1:24).  And Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now,  the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by storm” (Mt 11:12).  As a procession into a church, “They shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table” (Ezek 44:16).  As the elect into glory, The Lord saith, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Mt 25:21), and we add, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb 4:11).

Lorinus~This (entering) we are to do with a song, the fit wedding garment for the marriage of the King’s Son.

St Peter Chrysologus~And yet Archangels tremble, Angels fear, Powers are filled with dread, the elders fall down in the face of heaven, the elements fly, the rocks melt, the mountains flow down, the earth quakes, and shall man, who is earth, enter thus fearlessly, and stand upright, rejoicing?  How can the Prophet be bold to say that this is what we ought to do? Because of the words which follow:

2. Be ye sure that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we oruselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

St Peter Chrysologus~It is because the Lord Jesus is God, Who was a little child in our flesh, Who lay cradled as a mortal babe, Who, rocked peacefully on His Mother’s bosom, was gentle and meek in His converse with us, laying aside all terrors of His Godhead, all His awfulness as Judge, that we are bold to enter into His presence with a song, going to meet the welcome embrace of a loving Father, not the searching examination of our secret faults (i.e., the sins we have forgotten about).

St Augustine~Think not meanly of that Lord, for though ye crucified Him, scourged Him, spat upon Him, crowned Him with thorns, clad Him in a robe of scorn, hung Him on a tree, pierced Him with nails, smote Him with a lance, set guards at His sepulchre, He is God.

Honorius~It is He that hath made us, for, “by Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:3).  He made us in our first creation of nature, He made us also in the second and more glorious creation of grace.

R. Saadi~ Human pride or human science may speak in the spirit of “Pharaoh, king of Egypt, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself;” but the servants of God will say, Not we ourselves, for, “O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our potter; and we all are the work of Thy hand” (Isa 64:8).

Agellius~Not less precise is the testimony of Holy Writ to the sole operation of God in that creation of grace whereby we are made His people, for He saith by the Prophet, “Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; everyone that is called by My Name; for I have created him for My glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa 43:6).  If we take the other reading (i.e., an alternative reading to verse 2 of the Psalm), And we are His, it teaches us that He not only made us, but made us for Himself, to be His very own, and that He has not resigned His claims over us, nor we chosen Him first.  And therefore, because of this close mutual relation, the Bride exclaims, “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine” (Cant 4:3).

Cocceius~This it is to be His people, serving Him with intelligent obedience, with confident love, and the sheep of His pasture, because we constitute His inheritance and His wealth; we need His guidance, are ruled, cared for, and preserved by Him.  We find Him so loving and tender that we cannot forget Him, we seek Him with sighs an yearning, we known and hear His voice, and follow Him, but no other.

3.  O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving (confession; LXX, Vulgate), and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name.

The Rabbinical interpretation of this verse is that, in the days of Messiah, all the sacrifices of the Law will be done, away save the thank-offering of flour or bread, so that the coarse rites of the slaughter of animal victims, suggestive of pollution and sin, shall have no place under the New Covenant.  How precisely this accords with the accomplished fact of the substitution of the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the bulls, sheep, and goats of the Law, in accordance with the prophecy of Malachi (Mal 1:11), need not be dwelt on at length.

Enough the blood of victims flowed of old,
the shadows pass, and legal offerings;
Now higher ministries Thou, Lord, dost mould,
On which a holier shade Thy Priesthood flings.

Elias from the heavens called down flame;
One greater than Elias, hid from sight,
Is here: obedient to His awful Name,
Of Him we make the dread memorial-rite.

Great office, the mysterious Cup to bear
In which the guilty world’s salvation lies,
And with our trembling hands full of deep fear
To offer up the bloodless Sacrifice.
(Parisian Breviary:Jam satis fluxit cruor hostiarum)

St Augustine~St Augustine teaches us wisely that repentance must be the outset of the service of God, into whose gates we enter with confession of sins, not attempting to burst forth in the language of praise till in the advance of our spiritual improvement we penetrate into His courts.

Cardinal Hugo~Not essentially different from this view is the one that takes the gates to be the Sacraments of the Church, especially Holy Baptism, as the entrance of that Church, each of which is fittingly preceded by confession of sins.

Pseudo-Jerome~Another reminding us, that the Lord has called Himself the Door, explains these gates of the Apostles and other holy teachers, His messengers, to bring men to Him, by whom, therefore, they enter in to Him, making confession first and renunciation of all their sins in the time of their ignorance.

Philip de la Greve~And after this strait and painful entrance, we should go at once into the spacious courts of charity, passing from the narrow exclusiveness of the question, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) to the embracing love of that other saying, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved,” (Rom 10:1) passing into the width of heavenly contemplation, and that in the secret recesses of our hearts and consciences.

Cardinal Hugo~There is a stress on His gates, which are many, that we may learn to distinguish them from the gates which are not His, by which men often enter in confession.  There is the gate of hypocrisy; of which we read, “This people draw near with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart from Me” (Isa 29:13).  Pride: “I am not as other men are” (Lk 18:11).  Despair: “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Mt 27:4).  Treachery: “Master, we know that Thou are true” (Mt 22:16).  Flattery: “Thou art good in my sight as an angel of God” (1 Sam 29:9).  Mockery: “Hail, King of the Jews” (Mt 27:29).  Compulsion: “I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God” (Mk 1:24).  Sacrilege: “Unto the ungodly saith God, Why dost thou preach My laws?” (Ps 50:16).

Opposed to all these gates of the evil one, are the twelve gates of the City of God, named from the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 21:12).  On the north, the type of sin, lie Reuben, Judah, and Levi.  Reuben=”behold a son,” is the prodigal returning to show himself to his Father; Judah=”confession” or “praise,’ the giving God the glory by acknowledgment of sin; Levi=”joined,” is the being untied to the Church of God by the abandonment of pagan error  On the east, the region of light and progress, are Joseph=the “increase” in good works; Benjamin=trust in the “right hand” of God alone, and desire for the good things set there; Dan, reverent thought of the coming of the “Judge.”  On the south, where the warmest rays fall, and thus the emblem of those perfected in love, are Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon.  Simeon=”heard” in prayer; Issachar=the “hireling,” who has accepted the summons of the householder, and has entered His vineyard to labor in certainty of reward.  Zebulon=”dwelling,” because they shall go out no more, but dwell in the courts of the Lord’s house.  And on the west, towards the sunsetting, type of death, are Gad, Asher, Naphthali.  Gad=the “troop,” denotes the “innumerable company of angels” and saints (Heb 12:22).  Asher=their “blessedness” in the vision of God.  Naphthali=”a wrestler,” reminds us that the violent have taken His kingdom by storm, and that no one is crowned unless he has conquered.  And these are the gates through which God’s true servants must enter in confession.

St Peter Chrysologus~Be thankful unto Him, and speak good of His Name.  This is a higher praise than our songs while we were still passing through the courts; it is the thank-offering in the Holy Place itself, where we approach the presence of God.  And thus it here denotes the service of heaven, to which the local Churches of earth are but the courts and vestibules, that service wherein the redeemed will praise forever the Name of Jesus.

For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting: and truth endureth from generation to generation.

He is gracious, for He can never be so wroth with a sinner as not at once to be appeased by sincere confession of sin (Micahel Ayguan), gracious with that tender compassion which induced Him to take away the sins of the world (Euthymius Zigabenus).  He is sweet (according to the Vulgate) for in Him is no bitterness at all (St Peter Chrysologus), and thus an ancient Christian poet invokes him:

O Name, sweetest to me, my light, my hope, and my glory,
Savoury taste in the mouth, true fragrancy, watering fountain.

Honorius~His mercy is everlasting, because, on the one hand, He extends the acceptable time, the day of salvation, to the end of the world for all, to the end of life for each sinner, rejecting none, and not closing the door of grace till the last necessary moment; and on the other, He will keep His redeemed in heaven secure in the blessed necessity of sinlessness.

And His truth endureth from generation to generation, because the promise He made to the Patriarchs He fulfilled in their descendants, by coming in person (Cardinal Hugo), no longer in type and prophecy(Theodoret); because His words in Holy Writ shall never pass away, even when heaven and earth are gone (Dionysius the Carthusian); because He keeps to the uttermost in this world and the next the pledge He has given to His disciples of bestowing everlasting blessedness (St Augustine).

Wherefore: Glory be to the Father, Who is gracious, for He hath given His Son for us; glory be to the Son, Whose mercy is everlasting, as He ever pleads for us with the death which He endured for our sakes; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Comforter and Teacher of the Church, Whose truth endureth from generation to generation of Christians unto the end of the world.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end.  Amen.



Hebrew~A Psalm of praise (or thanksgiving).  Septuagint and Vulgate~A Psalm of confession.  Chaldee Targum (i.e., Babylonian Targum)~A song for the sacrifice of thanksgiving.


Thomasius~That we, made (re-created) by Christ, ought to rejoice, serve and play (music) unto Him.  We may take the exhortations as being the Voice of the Apostles to the people, giving an exhortation to gratitude, that we should serve God.

Venerable Bede~ Whereas the word Confession is often set down in the Psalm according to the particular occassion, here it is, however, inscribed by itself in the title, because the whole of this Psalm belongs to the two kinds of Confession, to wit, of penitence and of praise.

In the first part of the Psalm the Prophet exhorts all creation to praise the Lord with exultation.  O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands.  And lest thou shouldst suppose that this kind of confession is always to be used, he promises in the second part that if we repent of our sins we can enter through the gates of His forgiveness.  O go your way into His gates.

Syriac Psalter~Concerning Joshua, the son of Nun, when he quelled the war of the Amorites.  But in the New Testament, concerning the conversion of the Gentiles to the Faith.

Eusebius of Caesarea~ The calling of the Gentiles.

St Athanasius~ A Psalm of rejoicing.

Various uses:

Gregorian~Sunday at Lauds.  Saturday at Matins.

Monastic~Friday at II Nocturn.

Ambrosian~Thursday of the Second Week at III Nocturn.

Parisian~Sunday at Lauds.

Quignon~Thursday at Lauds.


Gregorian~ Saturday: O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands.

Monastic~Same as Gregorian.

Ambrosian~Show yourself joyful before the Lord, the King.  At Christmas and Epiphany: Teh Lord declared His salvation.

Parisian~Serve the Lord with gladness; be ye sure that the Lord He is God.

Lyons~O go into the gates of the Lord with confession, and into His courts with hymns.

Mozarabic~uses the first verse.


Ludolph~ We rejoice in Thee, O Lord everlasting, with gladness and exulation, beseeching Thee, that while the gates of our hearts are thrown open in Thy priase, they may also be flung open wide to receive Thy mercy and truth.

Mozarabic~Inspire our hearts, O Lord, that we may praise Thy Name, for Thou art gracious, and that our earth may be filled with Thy prayer.  And let Thy mercy, moreover, protect us, that Thy revealed truth may make us glad for evermore.

Another Mozarabic~Let us, O Lord, who serve Thee in fear, enter Thy gates with confession, and into Thy courts with hymns and confessions; let us praise Thy Name, for Thou art gracious, and inspire Thou our hearts, that our mouth may be opened wide in Thy praises, and that Thy boundless truth may prevail for evermore.

Dionysius the Carthusian~O God, eternal glory of the heavens, make us enter Thy gates with confession, and Thy courts with hymns, that giving thanks to Thy majesty, we may receive at Thy hands the crown of life, which Thou hast promised to them that love Thee.

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