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

Archive for July 27th, 2013

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 103:6-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 27, 2013

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

This He did for us men (says St Basil), when we were oppressed by the wrong-doing of the enemy that held us in bondage, for He executed righteousness (according to Chrysostom), or, as LXX. and Vulgate read, mercies, for man in redeeming him with His own Blood (Didymus), 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 (according to Eusebius and Cardinal Hugo). And the verse teaches us that lesson inculcated in another place, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the LORD” (Rom 12:9), 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” (Sirach 28:1).

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

According to Chrysostom, 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” (Ps 25:10), He showed His ways unto Moses when the Prophet besought Him, saying, “Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee” (Agellius referencing Ex 33:13) 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” (Ex 34:6). He made known His works unto the children of Israel, says Cardinal Bellarmine, 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, (Lorinus) 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, (Cassiodorus) 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 (Cardinal Hugo).  And as He literally taught Moses the road by which the Israelites were to journey towards Canaan, (St Augustine) 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 (Balthazar Corderius), “for this is the will of GOD; even your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3).

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

According to Cardinal Bellarmine, these four titles denote all the bounties of GOD, from the first to the last. The first is the grace of predestination (as Agellius notes), 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.

According to St Augustine, 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. Remigius of St Germanus says 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. (Cassiodorus) 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 (St Chrysostom). They are careful to warn us that the verse does not prove the Universalist theory, (Dinoysius the Cathusian) as it is dealing only with the promises of GOD to His elect and to all penitent souls, (Cardinal Bellarmine) 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, (Honorius) 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, (Cardinal Hugo) 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?” (Ezra 9:13)

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. (St Augustine) For He hath caused our sins to set in the grave of Baptism, (Cassiodorus) and made the Man, (Honorius) Whose Name is the East, the Sun of Righteousness, the Day-star (2 Pet 1:19), to arise in our hearts, so that we, who were sometimes darkness, are now light in the LORD (Eph 5:8), 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 (Rabbi David Kimichi).  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, (St Augustine) 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 (Targum); for He knoweth whereof we are made, He knoweth our weakness, our proneness to sin (Dionysius the Carthusian), 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” (1 Cor 15:47). Observe, too, that a father’s affection for his children is of much earlier date than theirs for him (Michael Ayguan).  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 (De Muis); 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 (Cardinal Bellarmine), for He remembereth that we are but dust, and making full allowance for our frailty, is more ready to forgive than we to sin.

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A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 106:19-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 27, 2013

19 They made a calf in Horeb: and worshipped the molten image.
20 Thus they turned their glory: into the similitude of a calf that eateth hay.

There is a peculiar stress on the words in Horeb (as Agellius notes) as denoting the very place where the great manifestation of GOD’S Power and presence had been made, and where the Law had been given, whose very first words were a prohibition of the sin of idolatry (as Honorius noted). And the Prayer Book wording of the twentieth verse implies that while without doubt the Egyptian worship of the bull Apis suggested the form of the idol which Aaron made, the intention of the Israelites was to worship the true GOD under a visible symbol, not to substitute another deity for Him. But others interpret it, They bartered their glory for an ox, &c., which implies a change in the object of worship. Mystically (according to Cardinal Hugo), their guilt is repeated by all such as in the “dry place” (Horeb = parched or dry) of a heart un-watered by the HOLY SPIRIT, turn from heavenly things to carnal ones, and barter their glory, the promise of a divine inheritance, for the gratification of the flesh, which is the devouring of grass (Isa 40:6), or who (according to St Albert the Great) flatter and abase themselves before unworthy prelates and princes, instead of keeping their tokens of reverence for GOD only. And the Jews themselves repeated this sin (says Cassiodorus), when at Calvary they rejected their Glory, and chose Barabbas, fit type of that coarse and sensual multitude of which the poet says,

Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati.
We are a crowd, born but to eat of food.

21 And they forgot GOD their Saviour: who had done so great things in Egypt;
22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham: and fearful things by the Red Sea.

The three epithets of GOD’S manifestations in these verses (according to Cassiodorus), rising to a climax, are intended to emphasize the incredible folly and fickleness of the people, in that they not merely failed in gratitude, but were unable to retain such striking and important events in their memory (as Honorius notes).  Disloyal Christians do the like (as St Albert the Great notes) when they forget the great things of CHRIST’S Incarnation and Nativity (Cardinal Hugo), the wondrous works of His miracles wrought in this dark world, the fearful things of the sanguine tide of His bitter Passion, which so many men fear to imitate, which caused such dismay to the evil spirits. Wherefore we ought not to forget Him, Who hath borne such things for us, “Forget not the friendship of thy Surety, for He hath given His life for thee” (Sirach 29:15). “So long as I live,” exclaims a Saint (St Bernard), “I will remember the toils which the LORD endured in preaching, His weariness in going about, His temptations in the fasting, His watchings in prayer, His tears of compassion. I will remember also the sorrows, reproaches, spittings, buffetings, mockings, insults, scourgings, and the like; for if I do not, the Blood of that Righteous One, which was poured forth upon the earth, will be required of me.”

23 So he said, he would have destroyed them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the gap: to turn away his wrathful indignation, lest he should destroy them.

Whilst they murmured only for bread and water (says St Athanasius), He bore with them as a nurse with her fosterchild, but when their madness reached such a pitch of wickedness as this, they were scourged. And GOD (notes Agellius), very wroth because of their impious course, was minded to destroy them utterly, and spake to Moses, saying, “Let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation (Ex 32:10).  But Moses, the one whom He had chosen to deliver the people out of Egypt, like a valiant champion, standing in the very breach and gap of the shattered wall which they had broken down by their guilt, opposed himself bravely to the wrath of GOD, as it was rushing on the people, and repelled His advancing vengeance with prayers and supplication, saying, “LORD, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people?” (Ex 32:11) Therefore Moses fought with prayer, as the strongest of weapons against GOD, and blunted His shafts and swords, and that according to His own will, nay, His indirect suggestion. For He told Moses that He would destroy them, for that their deserving was such that they might be justly rooted out altogether. And so He complains by the mouth of Ezekiel: “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none; therefore have I poured out Mine indignation upon them” (Ezek 22:30). A greater than Moses, One “drawn out” of the many waters of His sore tribulations (says St Albert the Great) has taken His stand for us in the gap of that broken fence of mankind, His own most Sacred Body, broken by and for our sins, broken in the Blessed Sacrament, broken with nails and spear upon the Cross, to plead on our behalf (Cardinal Hugo). When, therefore, the Priest at the Altar makes the fraction of the Host, we may bear in mind the perpetual intercession which goes up for us before the throne of GOD, and take courage (pseudo-Hieronymus); and all earthly deputies of our great High Priest may remember (says Honorius) that intercessory prayer will often effect the conversion of sinners, who have remained unmoved by the preaching of the Word.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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