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 103

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

ARGUMENT

ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST, sitting in the heavens, extends His kingdom and dominion over all nations. The Voice of the Church to her people, that the creature should praise the Creator.

VEN. BEDE. After those most lowly prayers of the happy poor man, and the utterance of his sighs of penitence, the whole of this Psalm overflows with the praise of the LORD, and the gladness of laudation follows the previous tears, for to David always means CHRIST, to Whom praise is given.

Throughout the whole Psalm the Prophet is speaking. In the first part he enjoins his soul to bless the LORD and to remember His benefits. Bless the Lord, O my soul. In the second place, he tells what things He did for Moses and His other faithful ones, that He may be understood to have been ever bountiful from all ages. He showed His ways unto Moses. Thirdly, he directs his words to the Angels and heavenly powers, and summons the other rational creatures to busy themselves constantly in the praise of the LORD. Bless the Lord, all ye angels of His.

SYRIAC PSALTER. Of David, concerning the coldness which mastered him in the time of his old age. Also an acknowledgment and thanksgiving offered by men of GOD.

EUSEBIUS OF CÆSAREA. The doctrine of thanksgiving.

S. ATHANASIUS. A Psalm of counsel, and, as it were, of command.

COMMENTARY

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me praise his holy Name.

The notes of confession and lamentation in the previous Psalm change into those of praise and thanksgiving found in this and the five succeeding ones; whence the Greek Fathers suggest that this may very well be a Temple-Psalm of acknowledgment of the merciful restoration of Sion prayed for just before.* And we may take it as the thanksgiving of the pardoned sinner, who has made his acknowledgment of guilt and has received absolution,* breaking out thereupon into a song of thanksgiving, like Moses after the overthrow of the Egyptians. Praise the Lord, O my soul. There is no special occasion of thanksgiving mentioned, no particular time for it prescribed here, whence we may gather that every event of our life gives us sufficient reason, every moment of it a fitting opportunity, to praise the LORD. In the hymns of the Church during public worship, in the conduct of business, in taking food, in slumber itself, innocent and free from all evil thoughts and dreams which the memory of past sins may excite, praise the LORD, O my soul.* All that is within me, my secret plans, my thoughts, desires, inclinations, whatever goes on within and appears not externally, for it is not enough to praise with the voice alone, unless all that is within praise too, unless desires, thoughts, and reason combine in one act of earnest thanksgiving to the holy Name of GOD as He is in heaven, FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST,* to the holy Name JESUS,* by which He is revealed to us on earth.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul: and forget not all his benefits;

He repeats his opening words, for the more effect of kindling the ardour of his soul, (A.) to show that the praise of GOD should never cease,* and that both the active and passive faculties of the soul should join in praise.* If thou forget,  thou wilt be silent. Thou canst not have the LORD’S benefits before thine eyes, unless thine own sins are there too, not pleasure in past sin, but condemnation of it, condemnation by thyself, remission from GOD. Several of the commentators, dwelling on the Vulgate word here for benefits, retributions,* dwell on its meaning as teaching us how GOD repays us good for evil, how He has given us back, over and over again, all the gifts of grace which we lost by our first parents’ fall; how He bestows on us afresh, with large and accumulated interest,  any benefit for which we have yielded Him hearty thanks,* how all His bounties are double, first in withholding the punishment which is our due, and then in conferring the prize we could never win.

3 Who forgiveth all thy sin: and healeth all thine infirmities;
4 Who saveth thy life from destruction: and crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things: making thee young and lusty as an eagle.

The Psalmist counts up six benefits which we have received from CHRIST in redemption. First, that He has remitted our guilt, making satisfaction by His own death. Secondly, He hath healed our infirmities, by allaying the heat of our carnal passions, and by doing away in Baptism with the imputation of original sin. Thirdly, He has delivered us from the ruin and death of wickedness by the teaching of the Gospel. Fourthly, He bestows on us reward for the faithful observance of the Gospel precepts. Fifthly, He has purchased for us the kingdom of heaven and all its happiness, with His own Blood. Sixthly, He has obtained for us, by His own Resurrection, the immortality of the body, when our forms shall be renewed in youth and vigour, and soar upward to the celestial heights.* Who forgiveth all thy sin: that is, both original and actual. And healeth all thine infirmities: that is, all the weakness and tendency towards sin engendered partly by original guilt, and partly by former evil habit and all outward occasions, such as ignorance, forgetfulness, and other frailties, which make it easy for us to err.* And the fulness of the claim made here by the Psalmist for that great Physician Who “hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,”* teaches us that no sin is unpardonable, that no trace of the sickness of the soul will finally remain in the forgiven penitents who are to swell the ranks of heaven. They take occasion to remind us, too, of the bodily cures wrought by the LORD JESUS during His earthly sojourn, and of His being still the one source of all healing wrought for us still by human agency. Who saveth thy life. The A. V. more exactly, with LXX. and Vulgate, redeemeth thy life, teaching us that we, who were sold under sin, have been bought back by the Blood of CHRIST, and that our life, the principle of grace,* is not given over to destruction, that is, to the evil one,* nor our soul to the second death. Who crowneth thee.* And that either by encircling us for a defence,* as though with armour or a ring of soldiery; or in the more usual acceptance, with the royal diadem of the kingdom,* or the wreath of a victorious struggle here and in the world to come. Cardinal Hugo enumerates many crowns named in Holy Writ, first of which is the LORD JESUS Himself, of Whom is written, “In that day shall the LORD of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people.”* And He is thus Himself the chief reward and glory conferred upon His Saints.* There are, besides this chief and imperial diadem, various others; as the Church, of which the Prophet saith, “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy GOD.”* There is the Manhood of CHRIST, that “crown wherewith His Mother crowned Him in the day of His espousals”* to the human race. There are the converts made by the preachers of righteousness, “for what is our life, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye?”* There is everlasting blessedness, “Thou hast crowned him with glory and worship.”* There is wisdom, for “much experience is the crown of old men.”* And “the fear of the LORD is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of rejoicing.”* With these, and others like them, the LORD crowns us in His mercy and loving-kindness, crowning His own gifts, not our merits.

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, and especially that good thing of the Holy Eucharist, the rich food of His own Body and Blood, as well as with the blessedness of heaven and the crowning felicity of the Beatific Vision,* satiating and surpassing all our desire (Vulg.) And a Jewish commentator wisely adverts here to the proof of GOD’S preeminent skill as a Physician, in that He not only heals us, and snatches us out of the very jaws of death, but that when we are faint, and loathe not only medicine, but even food, He, instead of exhibiting nauseous drugs, offers such pleasant and dainty remedies, that they are eagerly swallowed, and bring back appetite, health, and vigour to the patient,* so that his youth is renewed as an eagle’s (A. V., LXX., Vulg.) This renovation of the eagle is correctly referred by S. Jerome to the moulting of that bird, after which all feathered creatures seem to obtain fresh strength and activity, which is of course more noteworthy in the large and powerful eagle than in smaller birds.* But a wild Rabbinical legend that the eagle, once in every ten years,* till it reaches a century of life, flies so high in air that its wings are scorched to cinders in the blaze of the sun, and that it then falls headlong into the sea,* whence it emerges with new plumage and renewed strength,* has been eagerly caught up by some of the mediæval commentators, who allegorize it of man, having his old sins scorched up by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and then, plunging into the waters of Baptism, coming forth born again to GOD. S. Augustine recounts another piece of natural history, only less wonderful, to the effect that the upper beak of the eagle gradually enlarges with time, till it completely overgrows and as it were locks the under one by curving round it, so that the bird is on the point of starvation, till instinct urges it to break the upper beak away by dashing it violently against a rock, whereupon it resumes its feeding and recovers its strength; which the Saint explains of the sinner’s recourse to that Rock which is CHRIST, and of the food which He bestows on the famished soul.  The interpretations of the renewal here as that of regeneration, of repentance, or of resurrection, are common to all the expositors;* as also the notion of the lofty and rapid ascent in holiness and glory of the soul which has thus obtained new vigour, “for they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: they shall walk, and not faint.”

6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment: for all them that are oppressed with wrong.

This He did for us men,* when we were oppressed by the wrong-doing of the enemy that held us in bondage, for He executed righteousness,* or, as LXX. and Vulgate read, mercies, for man in redeeming him with His own Blood,* while at the same time executing judgment in overthrowing the dominion of our spiritual foes, triumphing over them openly on the Cross; of which twofold operation the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt,* accompanied by the plagues and destruction of their oppressors,* was a type. And the verse teaches us that lesson inculcated in another place, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the LORD,”* warning us therefore not to take the office of revenging our wrongs with our own hands, but to imitate the patience of the Saints in leaving it in His, for, as the Wise Man has written, “He that revengeth shall find vengeance of the LORD, and He will surely retain his sins.”*

7 He showed his ways unto Moses: his works unto the children of Israel.

Those ways of GOD were the precepts He delivered to Moses,* and they are so named, partly because they were designed for the Israelites to walk in, and partly because the Law itself was but a transition to the Gospel, a road to the fuller dispensation of grace. And in that it is said in another place, “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,”* He showed His ways unto Moses when the Prophet besought Him,* saying, “Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee,”* and He made that proclamation before him as He passed by, “The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”* He made known His works unto the children of Israel,* in permitting them to behold the miracles He wrought in the deliverance out of Egypt, and for their sustenance or their chastisement in the wilderness. The LXX. and Vulgate for works read wills, and they explain that though the will of GOD is one and indivisible, yet in its multiplicity of effects it may be spoken of as manifold. Some will have it that there is a marked distinction to be drawn here between the knowledge communicated to Moses, as GOD’S faithful servant and interpreter, who was suffered to know His ways, and that given to the rebellious people, who were told His will, which they did not obey, and therefore never attained to true knowledge of His ways, so as to walk in them.* And as He literally taught Moses the road by which the Israelites were to journey towards Canaan, while enjoining on them simply obedience to the leader He had set over them, so in the Church He makes known His ways to His Saints, teaching them the inner secrets of the spiritual life and of the path to heaven, while instructing the general mass of believers simply as to what His will is, which is plainly set before us, “for this is the will of GOD; even your sanctification.”*

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, and of great goodness.

These four titles denote all the bounties of GOD,* from the first to the last. The first is the grace of predestination,* or the eternal love of GOD; then follow the gift of justification and the remission of our various sins, and finally there is added the crown of glory, which He bestows on penitent sinners.

9 He will not alway be chiding: neither keepeth he his anger for ever.

He does chide us in this world, from the cradle to the grave, in chastising us for our sins, and in purifying us with trials and afflictions; but He reserves His mercies for us in the perfect happiness of His kingdom. We have a pledge of this in that, while we were yet in our sins, He justified us, and gave us blessings instead of parental punishments. And, spoken especially of His chosen people, the words tell us of the final restoration and conversion of Israel, so long suffering under the wrath of GOD.* They are careful to warn us that the verse does not prove the Universalist theory, as it is dealing only with the promises of GOD to His elect and to all penitent souls,* not to such as harden themselves in sin, who must look for wrath and fiery indignation.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins: nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses.

That is as some will have it, He has not punished our original guilt,* but has rather shown us how we may be cleansed from it,* nor has He straightway taken vengeance on our actual transgressions, but has given us time and means of repentance. And others remind us that when He does punish,* it is with far greater leniency than our guilt merits. So Ezra makes his confession: “And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our GOD hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given such deliverance as this, should we again break Thy commandments?”*

11 For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth: so great is his mercy also towards them that fear him.
12 Look how wide also the east is from the west: so far hath he set our sins from us.

Lorinus, writing at a time when Galileo was but on the track of his astronomical discoveries, and when the almost total lack of instruments narrowed the range of observation and even of conjecture, endeavours to exhibit the forcible nature of these similes by setting before his readers some calculations as to the vast distances of the heavenly bodies from us, the extent of the firmament which is penetrable to our gaze. It is enough to say, in briefly substituting some of the incomparably greater results of modern science for those which the learned Jesuit offered his readers two centuries and a half ago, that there are nebula? visible to the telescope now, but too distant to be resolvable into separate stars, whence light, travelling at the rate of twelve millions of miles in a minute, must have required seven hundred thousand years to reach our earth; that at the very least one hundred millions of stars believed to be suns, the centres of planetary systems like our own, are countable, each of which systems revolves in a minimum orbit of six thousand millions of miles, and is probably distant from its next neighbour nineteen billions of miles; while all this inconceivable vastness is merely one tiny point in space which our feeble organs and imperfect instruments have enabled us to observe and map out. So great is His mercy, so far hath He set our sins from us. For He hath caused our sins to set in the grave of Baptism, and made the Man,* Whose Name is the East, the Sun of Righteousness, the Day-star,* to arise in our hearts, so that we, who were sometimes darkness, are now light in the LORD,* Who ascended to the height of heaven from the earth, shows His mercy thence to those that fear Him, by His perpetual mediation on behalf of His tried and suffering Church. In the mention of the East and West there may be very possibly a reference to the restoration of the Jewish exiles from Babylon to their own land.* And a Rabbinical commentator observes that we do not find the North and South named, because much of the space lying between their extreme points is uninhabitable by man, owing to the bitter cold, whereas life can be supported in every part of East and West, which therefore serve as better types of the fostering love of GOD.

13 Yea, like as a father pitieth his own children: even so is the LORD merciful unto them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth whereof we are made: he remembereth that we are but dust.

Let Him be as stern as He will, He is our FATHER. He hath scourged us, hath afflicted us, hath crushed us; He is our FATHER. Son, if thou weepest, weep under a FATHER’S hand, be not angered nor violent in pride. What thou sufferest, what thou lamentest, is not punishment, but medicine, it is chastisement, not condemnation. Refuse not the scourge, if thou wouldst not be ousted from thine heritage. Think not of the pain of the scourge, but of thy place in the testament;* for He knoweth whereof we are made, He knoweth our weakness, our proneness to sin, the fuel of evil that abides within us. He knows what He made, how it fell, how it may be restored, adopted, enriched. Behold, we were made out of clay. “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the LORD from heaven.”* Observe, too, that a father’s affection for his children is of much earlier date than theirs for him. He cares for them even before their birth, bears with their childish faults, provides them with all necessaries, and rules them, usually, with more justice and firmness than their mother;* while, on the other hand, children need to emerge out of infancy before they begin to have any intelligent love for their fathers, and it rarely becomes their task to contribute to their support. Whence we are here taught the lesson that GOD’s love and care for us does not depend on our goodness, but on His own, and that we are not less His children, nor less the objects of His tenderness when we rebel against Him,* for He remembereth that we are but dust, and making full allowance for our frailty, is more ready to forgive than we to sin.

15 The days of man are but as grass: for he flourisheth as a flower of the field.
16 For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone: and the place thereof shall know it no more.

The simile of man’s frailty which occurs in Ps. 110:5, 6, is here presented afresh, with two additional circumstances to heighten it; the comparison with the flower of the field, and the mention of the wind as sufficient to destroy it, instead of the scythe implied in the former passage.* The commentators dwell on the contrast between a flower of the field, left to itself, untended, and therefore withering for lack of moisture when the heats come, and the flower of a garden, sheltered from the too scorching rays of the sun, and carefully watered.* And, further, as a field is designed for the plough, unlike a wood or a meadow, a field-flower has little prospect of being allowed to live out its span, as it is uprooted or cut down in the act of making the furrows, if it be not even sooner cropped by cattle as they graze. As soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.* This is the true sense of the text, confirmed by the parallel passage in Isaiah: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it;”* and the reference is to the hot wind of the desert,* parching up the herbage suddenly. But the LXX. And Vulgate, taking a different sense of the Hebrew רוּחַ, translate it as spirit, and most of the commentators then explain it as meaning either the breath, the vital principle, or the soul of man, thus: For the spirit will pass (hath passed, LXX.) through him, and he will not abide, meaning either that he will cease to draw his breath, and will therefore die; or that vital power will forsake him;* or, again, that the soul will be parted from the body.* And this meaning can be fairly defended by a similar passage in another Psalm, “For He considered that they were but flesh: and that they were even a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”* There are one or two mystical senses proposed also,* of which the most noteworthy are, that the words refer to the unseen passage of the Angel of Death, as he comes to take the soul away; or else to the loss of the principle of grace and strength on the part of our first parents, so that they could not abide, but fell from Paradise, so that their place knew them no more. The last clause is slightly changed in construction by LXX. and Vulgate, He shall know his place no more. That is, the dead cannot return to animate their bodies,* nor to resume their former state and employment; and we may gather also from the words a presage of the fuller teaching of S. Paul on the Resurrection, that our revived bodies will not be numerically and physically identical with those which died, nor will the revival itself be according to natural laws. Others deduce from the words an argument for the unconsciousness of the dead as to what takes place in this world, save in the case of special revelation. Cardinal Bellarmine suggests a more profitable lesson,* by bidding us observe how the heavenly bodies, albeit constantly moving, revolve in vast orbits, and do return, unchanged, to their former place, whereas things sprung from earth are in constant process of change and decay, and can never retain, much less recover, the vigour of their prime, an allegory which needs no explanatory gloss.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear him: and his righteousness upon children’s children;
18 Even upon such as keep his covenant: and think upon his commandments to do them.

The LXX. and Vulgate mode of rendering for ever and ever here is from eternity to eternity,* whence the commentators explain the sense as denoting the everlasting predestination of GOD* to save mankind by the sacrifice of the immaculate Lamb,* and the everlasting duration of the blessedness thereby obtained for us. And we may notice the contrast between His mercy and ours, for it is written, “Your goodness (mercy, marg.) is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”* Upon them that fear Him. This holds not only under the Law, but under the Gospel, for the same condition is expressed by the Blessed Virgin in the Magnificat;* and we may obtain the merciful goodness of the LORD by penitence, as He will grant us justification in return for contrition, sanctification for confession, and the grace of obedience when we make satisfaction.

And His righteousness upon children’s children.* Hence we may gather the continuance of mercy for Israel, whatever time it may repent and believe, for, as S. Peter declared to the Jews in his Pentecostal sermon, “the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the LORD our GOD shall call.”* And S. Augustine bids us remember that this does not exclude the barren,* for men’s works are, in a sense, their offspring, so that the promise here is first that GOD’S mercy,* in approval and co-operation, is upon these works,* and then upon the children of all such works,* namely, the rewards which follow them. And with this interpretation we shall do well in understanding the eighteenth verse as referring not to the children, as it seems at the first glance, (which, however, would be mere iteration of the first clause) but to the parents, for whose sake, and because of whose faithfulness and obedience, blessing is bestowed on their descendants, though not necessarily on all without distinction. So we read that when the dying patriarch Jacob was laying his hands in benediction on Ephraim and Manasseh, it is not said that he blessed them, but “he blessed Joseph,”* that is, he knew that the most precious benediction to Joseph would be one which descended to his children. There is a difference between keeping the covenant of GOD,* and thinking upon His commanaments to do them. The first need not necessarily imply more than observance of the prohibitory laws, while the second denotes fulfilment of the positive ones; or yet more fully, keeping is storing the seed carefully in a granary; doing is planting it in the ground, that it may bring forth abundant fruit; a notion well brought out by the Talmudic parable of the man who left a bag of corn in charge of a friend; and on his return from a journey, asked for his deposit, and was shown a field of waving wheat instead of the small parcel which he expected.* We are all bound to GOD in the covenant made with Him in Baptism, and have His Scriptures to teach us what are the commandments thereby made binding upon us. But Holy Writ, to those who merely think upon it, and admire its beauties, but do not put its precepts in action, is as the voice of Ezekiel to the rebellious Jews, “They hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but do them not.”* Accordingly, the Fathers use many similes to describe the uselessness of mere reading of Scripture apart from living it.* It is like, says one, having a table spread with meat and drink,* but taking no food from it.* It is like an armoury, whence you borrow no weapon,* observes a second. It is a well whence you draw no water, a dispensary whence you take no medicine, a garden whence you gather no flowers, a treasury whence you extract no wealth, as the Golden-mouthed preacher forcibly urges.

19 The LORD hath prepared his seat in heaven: and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Not on earth,* in the sanctuary of the Temple, ruling over the Jews alone, as aforetime; but now ascended, the LORD, the SON,* assumes the throne which the LORD, the FATHER, hath prepared for Him and rules all creation, Jews, Gentiles, angels, and spirits alike. And therefore we, if we wish to stand by that throne, if we would gain the merciful goodness of the former verse, must have “our conversation in heaven,”* “where CHRIST sitteth on the right hand of GOD.”* The LORD hath prepared His seat not merely as a throne,* but as the place of judgment, and it is added that His Kingdom ruleth over all,* to teach us that He is not a Judge under a king, but is Himself at once supreme Judge and King, Whose citation none can resist, against Whose sentence none may appeal.* Mystically, they remind us that the Church, the practice of holiness,* and the devout soul, are all seats of the LORD, and true heavens, as well as that celestial home of the Angels, where He is lifted above the Thrones. And as the word seat may be used in three senses, for the chair of a teacher, the tribunal of a judge,* and the throne of a king, be CHRIST the LORD dwells in this threefold fashion in the righteous soul, as Teacher of its reasoning faculties, as Judge over its passions, as King over its will and desires.

20 O praise the LORD, ye angels of his, ye that excel in strength: ye that fulfil his commandment, and hearken unto the voice of his words.
21 O praise the LORD, all ye his hosts: ye servants of his that do his pleasure.

Conscious of his own infirmity, the Psalmist desires that not only his weak powers,* his soul and all within him, should praise the LORD, but that a worthier homage may be done to Him, and therefore invokes the Angels to take up the strain in clearer and more fitting accents.* He calls not only on the Angels,* as a special order of celestial beings, but upon all those that excel in strength, all GOD’S hosts, the whole chivalry of heaven throughout the nine ranks of its hierarchy, to swell the song. And we may observe the apparent inversion in the latter clause of the twentieth verse, where fulfil stands before hearken, contrary to the natural order. There are three explanations of it. First, that the sentence should run,* “fulfil … that ye may hearken;” implying that the Angels are not like men, who do GOD’S will in hope of reward, but that obedience itself is the reward, pleasure, and glory of the heavenly spirits,* who look for nothing further. The second is, that the phrase denotes the swiftness of their obedience and execution, in that their task is accomplished at the instant when the command is uttered. Thirdly, and best; they not only obey such orders as are given them,* but stand waiting and listening intently, to catch the first intimation of the Divine will.

Who best
Bear His mild yoke,* they serve Him best: His state
Is kingly, thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest,
They also serve who only stand and wait.

The frequent use of the word Angel to denote a messenger,* has led some of the commentators to apply these verses in a secondary sense to the preachers of the Gospel or to the priests of the Church,* alike bound to serve and praise GOD in voice and acts. Ye servants of His. In this epithet the majesty of GOD is set before us, in that they who just before are described as excelling in strength, are now declared to be but ministers to do His pleasure. And that pleasure that they should minister to the heirs of salvation.* In Holy Writ, before the coming of CHRIST, we find that the Angels who appeared to men accepted their reverence and homage, as when David and the elders fell down before the destroying angel,* and Daniel before Gabriel; but after the Ascension of CHRIST, the Angels refuse all such marks of respect,* saying, as twice to the Beloved Disciple, “See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant,”* for now they see that human nature, once so far below them, is exalted above them in supreme dominion.

The Angels tremble as they see
The lot of mortals altering,*
Flesh sins, but flesh again sets free,
And GOD, the Flesh of GOD, is King.

22 O speak good of the LORD, all ye works of his, in all places of his dominion: praise thou the LORD, O my soul.

It is possible for all the works of GOD to praise Him,* though not in the same fashion. His intellectual creatures praise Him consciously and audibly, as witnesses of His might and glory, His irrational and inanimate works praise Him silently, by fulfilling exactly the end of their creation, and by teaching men somewhat of His power and goodness, so that they are quickened to praise Him anew,

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,*
Earth, with ten thousand voices, praises GOD.

In all places of His dominion.* Where GOD has no dominion, there is no need to praise Him; but wherever He hath dominion, He is to be praised,* and as that is everywhere, no one can be excused from paying this homage. They are no words for the Jews, observes a Greek Father, for they, tied to one spot for their worship, asked “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?”* But we have been taught by the LORD Himself in His words to the woman of Samaria, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the FATHER;.… but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the FATHER in spirit and in truth;”* in that Holy Catholic Church which is made up of all nations, and spread through all lands, so that from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,* in every place incense is offered unto the Name of GOD,* and a pure offering, because all the earth has been purged with the Blood of CHRIST, and men may now “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.”* Praise the Lord, O my soul. The last verse is the same as the first, praise at the outset, praise at the close; we have set out with praise, may it be our lot to return thither, and reign where it is everlasting, where the heavenly hosts praise the FATHER, where all the works of creation praise the WORD by Whom all things were made, where the souls of ransomed men praise the SPIRIT, Who hath sanctified them.

Wherefore: Glory be to the FATHER, Who pitieth His own children; glory be to the SON, Who hath prepared His seat for judgment in heaven; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who healeth all our infirmities. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

 

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4 Responses to “A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 103”

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