Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 30
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2016
Title. A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the House of David. [Or, A Musical Psalm at the opening of David’s house.]
Arg. Thomas. That Christ planted the Church by His Resurrection in eternal glory. The Prophet speaketh to the Father, and to the Son, and concerning the praise of the same. Concerning the Pasch of Christ, and the prayers of the future Church, and with praise in man. The voice of Christ to the Father. The Church prays and praises.
Ven. Bede. A Psalm and Song is this: when it thus commences the hymn, and the art of the organ follows up that which the human voice has begun: and wherever it occurs, it teaches that by the knowledge of Divine cognition, good works are to be taken in hand. For the acquired knowledge of God must precede the efficiency of holy deeds. By the House of David we understand the Temple of the Lord’s Body: by the dedication of that house, His Resurrection, by which it was raised to eternal power and glory. At the beginning of the Psalm, the Lord, after the glory of His Resurrection, returns thanks to the Father because He had delivered Him from the adversity of the world, commanding also His saints to sing praises to God, since all things are put in His power: I will magnify Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast set me up. Secondly, He affirms that He shall never be moved, and tells us that thanks must be paid to the Lord by the living, and not by the dead. Thirdly, He returns to His Resurrection, and exults in the deposition of the frail flesh, and the eternity of His majesty and glory: Thou hast put off My sackcloth, and girded Me with gladness.
Syriac Psalter. A prophecy and returning of thanks.
1 I will magnify thee, O Lord, for thou hast set me up: and not made my foes to triumph over me.
This is one of the musical Psalms: the others being 48, 67, 68, 75, 92. What the dedication or opening of the house of David was, (L.) is a point much disputed by commentators. Some will have it to mean the completion of his own house in the City of David: some the setting up the tabernacle there, as if that were more truly David’s house than his own. Others again will have it of the anticipative dedication of the Temple in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Again others will have the Psalm to apply to the return of the Jews from Babylon, and the complaints of sickness and the like to refer metaphorically to the misery which God’s people endured in captivity. But perhaps, as the literal expression is the opening of David’s house, and as the allusions to sickness are so very strong, it is easier to understand it of the re-opening of the palace after some dangerous illness of David, of which we have no account in the books of Samuel. But whatever difficulty there may be as to the literal, there can be none whatever in the spiritual, meaning.* And this is one among many instances in which the mystical interpretation which is stigmatised as so doubtful and unreal, gives us a firmer hold than any literal explanation can do. Thus it refers to the Ascension of the True David into the Kingdom which His own Right Hand has purchased for Himself and for His people; to the dedication of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, effected, so to speak, by His own entrance therein. It is in this sense that the Western Church employs this Psalm among others for Ascension Day. I will magnify Thee, O Lord. “The saint,” says S. Ambrose, “exalts the Lord, the sinner humbles Him; and by how much the more a man seeks to the Lord, by so much the more he both exalts Him and is exalted himself.”* Set Me up indeed: for “God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trump.” Set Me up in glory above those who lately set Me up on the Cross, as a mark of derision:* Set Me up as the Monarch to Whom the eyes of all the world must be turned. Well may the Eastern Church exclaim,* “Because Adam by the fall of his nature had descended into the lower parts of the earth, therefore that very same nature, renewed by God, was to-day set up far above all principality and might and dominion: for God so loved it that He made it sit down with Himself: so sympathised with it that He united it to Himself: so united it to Himself, that He glorified it with Himself.” And so indeed we may take the verse of human nature exalted in the Person of our Lord, and exulting in its deliverance from Satan, the world and itself. And not made my foes to triumph over me. Not, says one, as if it were God’s act that our enemies do prevail against us:* but that he may show how entirely all victory, on our part, comes not from ourselves, but from the Giver of all good things. But, they ask, (Ay.) Did not Christ’s enemies triumph over Him, when they that passed by railed on Him, wagging their heads; when they said, Ah, Thou that destroyest the Temple: or again, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive? Answer. They rejoiced indeed over His death as man, but not over His dedication as the evening sacrifice of the world: and it is of the dedication of David’s house, whether in humility on the Cross, or in glory on the Throne, that the Psalm tells. Dionysius the Carthusian, who gives three distinct explanations of this Psalm, the literal, the tropologic, and the anagogic, (D. C.) says very touchingly, in the second of them: We, who have been raised up from the pollution of sin, are bound to consider what and how great a benefit of God this is, that we have been separated from the multitude of our acquaintances, friends, co-evals and co-equals, who perhaps were in themselves much better than we are, but whom yet hell has been permitted to swallow up. What thanks and praise then are we bound to pay to Him Who so justly condemned them, but so mercifully spared us! Whence that holy man, feeling quite insufficient of himself to return the thanks that were due, calls on all saints, whether in heaven or on earth, to join him: “Sing praises unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks unto Him for a remembrance of His holiness.”
2 O Lord my God, I cried unto thee: and thou hast healed me.
I cried unto Thee. But when? When, as the Apostle says, “He made prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him That was able to save.”* He cried when He said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He cried when He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit. But never at any other time did He so cry,* as by the sweet voices of His Five Wounds: the voice of our Brother’s Blood cried unto God from the ground,* while it spake better things than that of Abel.* But how can it be said that our Lord was healed, seeing we never hear that His most precious Body was subject to disease?* For this reason; that till the Resurrection it was mortal and passible; after the Resurrection it became impassible as well as immortal; and thus the effects which were wrought on it as on every other earthly body by Adam’s sin, were, strictly speaking, healed.* O Lord my God. S. Albertus very well observes that the Lord refers to power, the God to wisdom, the my to love. He is God, therefore He knows how;* He is Lord, therefore He can; He is mine, therefore He will. The thanksgiving itself, Thou hast healed Me, agrees well with the petition, (C.) “Glorify Thy Son:”* for this glorification and this healing are the same.
3 Thou, Lord, hast brought my soul out of hell: thou hast kept my life from them that go down to the pit.
Impossible in its literal sense that this verse could be written of David,* who had not yet even fallen on sleep and seen corruption. But it looks past all those long centuries, and sees the Son of David returning from preaching to the spirits that were in prison, accomplishing the Great Forty Days that still remained upon earth, and with body and soul reunited once and for ever, ascending into glory. The words have always been used in defence of that Article in the Creed, the descent into hell, as well against the heretics who have denied it,* like Calvin and Bucer, as against the Catholics who have taught that our Lord went there by effect, and not by actual presence. It is true that this Article occurs in no Creed that is used by the Eastern Church; and that, till the Council of Aquileia, it made no part of any Western symbol. But still, it has been held by both East and West from the very beginning; and from the beginning also the present verse has, by its commentators, been shown to affirm it. But how are we to understand the expression,* from them that go down into the pit? That although in our Lord that sentence was emphatically fulfilled, “How dieth the wise man? as the fool:”* yet that that Life, that blessed soul, was kept from the companionship of the malefactor and such as he with whom it had been so lately associated on Mount Calvary. Or we may take the words on our own lips: Thou hast kept my Life, that which is dearer and better to us than life itself, nay, that which is our very true and hidden life, Him Who is all our salvation and all our desire, from them that go down into the pit, (C.) the Jews, whose paths, and designs, and aims, were leading them there. Or yet once more: the pit may be the pit of wilful sin, and of final despair; and then, all those who take the Psalm on their own lips, are thereby reminded that it is no virtue or strength of their own which keeps them from descending into that abyss, but God’s goodness—Thou, Lord, hast kept—even as he, who whenever he saw a malefactor go by to punishment, was in the habit of saying, (Cd.) “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.” And ascetic writers remind us that it is no more possible for a soul, dead in trespasses and sins, to work out its own resurrection from this pit, than for a body to raise itself from the grave. The pit, (A.) says S. Augustine, is the profundity of this world. What mean I by the profundity of this world? The abundance of luxury and wickedness. They therefore who immerse themselves in lusts and in carnal desires, they go down into the pit.
[Thou hast kept my life. The literal Hebrew text1 is even more precise in its reference to the Resurrection. It is: Thou hast brought me back to life from (among) them that are sunk in the grave.]
4 Sing praises unto the Lord, O ye saints of his: and give thanks unto him for a remembrance of his holiness.
Sing unto the Lord: but how?* Not with the mouth only, but with a pure heart and spirit. Because “praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the Lord.”* And therefore not all,* but His Saints only, (L.) are called on thus to sing to Him. And observe that the word Saints may as well be translated merciful ones; thereby agreeing with what S. James says that pure and undefiled religion is.* As to the latter clause, Give thanks for a remembrance of His holiness, they take it in different ways. Either give thanks, because He, in His holiness, has been pleased to remember us, the word remembrance being received objectively: or in order that His holiness may be kept in remembrance, when the same word is taken subjectively. Apollinarius seems to understand it in the latter sense:
καὶ οἱ ἀκηράσιον μνημήῑον αἰνετὸν ἔστω.
Or we may put the words still into our Lord’s mouth on the Cross. (Ay.) Give thanks because that which has been effected by the Head may be hoped for by the members:
Pascha novum colite;*
Quod præit in Capite
Membra sperent singula.
Give thanks, O ye saints, in taking up your own crosses, because the Saint of saints first took up His:* and above all Give thanks for a remembrance of His holiness* in that blessed Sacrament, which by its very name is the Eucharist, and which was instituted for the continual remembrance of His death until His coming again. S. Augustine says: It is a true and ancient proverb, Where the Head is, there are the other members. Christ hath ascended into heaven, whither we are about to follow. He hath not remained in hell, He hath risen again, He dieth no more. And when we shall arise again, we shall die no more also. “Give thanks,” says Gerhohus, (G.) “ye who are in very deed, not in pretence, His saints: not like the five foolish virgins who were accounted saints because of their virginity, and because of their lamps, but who, because they had no oil in their lamps, are not to be counted real saints. Wilt thou know, O faithful soul, betrothed to Christ, what are the arms by which He embraceth thee when adorned with true sanctity, not only in the bridal chamber of future beatitude, but as thou art now, commended to His angels and good prelates, as His paranymphs? Not to dwell on that saying now, that ‘His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace me,’—when His left hand in the present life helps thee by loading thee with all manner of good merit, and His right hand in the life to come shall beatify thee for the sake of those very merits, bestowing on thee good things, not only condign with, but far exceeding, the gifts of His grace; to omit this now: He, Christ, thy Bridegroom, is the truth, and would fain, as it were, embrace thee with both His arms in manifesting to thee both Himself and thyself. So that first thou mayest know what thou wast, mayest know what thou hadst made thyself, when thou didst go aside after lies from the truth: and thus, having become acquainted with thy own wretchedness, mayest begin to understand what is His loving-kindness. Look at thyself and fear: look at Him and hope. If thy misery terrify thee, let His mercy console, thee. But that thou mayest be capable of mercy, love the truth, which shows thy wretchedness. Such honour have all His saints, of whom it is now said, Sing praises unto the Lord, O ye saints of His.”
5 For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life: heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Or as the former part of the verse is in the Vulgate, For in His indignation there is anger, (L.) and life in His will. This again is one of those verses which have consoled many and many a saint, in the prison, before the unjust tribunal, or on the rack. And so strikingly does it apply to our Lord, that even Rabbi Moses Hadassan understands it of the Messiah. The Father’s wrath then endured during the time that He hid His face from the Only-begotten Son; long, fearful hours to endure then, (Cd.) but the twinkling of an eye compared with the eternity of the glory which was won by that suffering. The Chaldaic version well expresses it: One hour is His anger:* His good will is eternal life. S. Gregory Nazianzen, paraphrasing Isaiah, says well: “I gave thee up to punishment and I will help thee;* in a little wrath I struck thee, and in everlasting pity will I glorify thee. Far greater than the measure of My correction, is the measure of My loving-kindness.” Gerhohus takes occasion from a consideration of God’s anger to enter into the various excuses and apologies that are made for man’s. And as it is written of Him, “Surely He scorneth the scorners,”* (G.) so it is equally true He is angry with them that are an-angered. Heaviness may endure for a night: or as it is in the Vulgate, (A.) In the evening weeping will tarry. “It is evening,” says S. Augustine, “when the sun sets. The sun had set on man, that is, that light of righteousness, the Presence of God. Hence when Adam was expelled, what is said in the book of Genesis? When God walked in paradise, He walked in the evening.* The sinner had now hid himself in the wood. He was unwilling to see the face of God at which he had been wont to rejoice. The sun of righteousness had set on him. He did not rejoice in the presence of God. Thence began all this mortal life. In the evening weeping will tarry. Ye will long be in weeping, race of man, for ye will be born of Adam. (Ay.) And so it is come to pass,* In the evening weeping will tarry, and exaltation in the morning. When that light shall have begun to arise on the faithful which shall have set on sinners. For therefore, too, did Jesus Christ rise from the tomb in the morning, that what He had dedicated in the foundation, the same He might promise to the house. In our Lord it was evening when He was buried, and morning when He rose again on the third day. Thou, too, wast buried in the evening in paradise, and hast risen again on the third day. How on the third day? If thou wilt consider the course of the world, there is one day before the law, another under the law, a third under grace. What on that third day thy Head showed, the same is on the third day of the world shown in thee.”
Mane novum mane lætum
Vespertinum tergat fletum;*
Quia Vita vicit letum
Tempus est lætitiæ.
“And the same thing,” says the great Carmelite expositor, (Ay.) “is clearly set forth in that passage of Kings where it is said:* ‘The king of Israel was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even.’ The King of Israel, that is, the King of them that see God, is Christ. The Syrians are devils.” Heaviness may endure for a night. And so it did for that dark night which was spread over Mount Sinai, (G.) when there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the Mount; and when God gave that law which, far from wiping away the tears of man, added to them, because it showed him his misery, without showing his remedy.* The Church was in the habit of singing on the procession in the Paschal night the Triumphal Song,* taken word for word from a Sermon of S. Augustine, and uttered when the morning of gladness was first about to dawn. And thus it ran:
When Christ, the King of Glory, entered hell, to bring to pass its overthrow,
And the choir of Angels before His face commanded that the gates of the princes should be lifted up,
The people of the saints which were held captive in death, exclaimed with joyful voice:
Thou hast come, O desired One, Whom we expected in our darkness that Thou mightest bring forth, in the light, them that were bound, from their prison-houses.
Thee, our lamentation called:
Thee, our long torments required:
Thou art made the hope of the desperate, the great consolation of the suffering.
6–7a (6) And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be removed: thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my hill so strong.
Notice, firstly, the different division (and it is the more correct one) of the Vulgate, (L.) which gives the latter clause of this verse to the next. Plenty of examples there are of the pride which David here laments in himself. So it was said to the King of Tyre, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground.”* So even S. Peter could declare, “Though all men should be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended.”* One of S. Chrysostom’s homilies is occupied in dwelling,* from these and the like examples,* on the warning, that a haughty spirit goeth before a fall. But to none does this particular Psalm apply more exactly than to Hezekiah. Raised up, as he had been, (Cd.) from illness,—boasting of his treasures to the ambassadors of Babylon,—and then not rendering again according to the benefit done to him. “But,” (Z.) says S. Ambrose, “if David is to be blamed,*—if, in the midst of his holiness, he was sometimes puffed up,*—what is to be said of us miserable sinners, who go so far beyond him in our presumption, and fall so far short of him in our merits?”* S. Peter Damiani, referring to this passage, says: “Pride makes the human mind like glass, so that, by reason of impatience, it cannot bear a blow without shattering.” And he very well knew the working of the soul who could thus explain the passage: “I, (D. C.) when converted from my sins, said in my prosperity,—that is, in the excessive confidence of my eagerness,—I shall never be removed: that is, I shall never return to my former sins: I shall never again experience that desolation and sorrow of soul which follows upon the parting from God’s ways. This is a very common feeling with new converts, that as soon as ever they receive the unaccustomed comfort and grace of the Holy Ghost, they at once incautiously presume; and in their joy, as if they never could lose that sweetness, propose great things to themselves,—things beyond the power of human nature to accomplish.” But rather let us apply the text to our Lord.* He might truly speak of His prosperity,—that is, of the abundance of gifts and graces bestowed on Him,* in Whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; of Whom it was said, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord:”* the abundance and prosperity of Him, (Cd.) Who yet for our sakes became poor, even as it is written,* “The rich and the poor meet together.” And well might He say, I shall never be removed; even according to the vision of that king of old, whereby it was foretold that in the latter times the God of heaven should set up a kingdom which shall never be moved. Dionysius the Carthusian gives a very singular explanation, (D. C.) reading the phrase, I said, I shall not be removed for ever. That is, that our Lord, knowing, as the Evangelist says, all things that should come upon Him, knowing that it was necessary that He should be moved,—that is, should endure tribulation for a season, yet here comforts Himself by the thought that He should not be removed for ever; that these afflictions would pass, but the exceeding and eternal weight of glory would remain. Thou, Lord, of Thy goodness, hast made my hill so strong. Or rather, as it is in the Vulgate, (D. C.) Lord, in Thy good will Thou hast added strength to my beauty. According to our translation the sense is clear. David is speaking of the hill of Sion, God’s hill, in which it pleased Him to dwell,—the fair place and the joy of the whole earth,—the hill which he himself had wrested from the Jebusites, and had made the head of his kingdom. Or, if it be the Son of David Who speaks, then the hill that is made so strong is that hill which is exalted above the mountains, and to which all nations shall one day go up,—namely, the Church of the Living God. But if we take it in the Vulgate translation, then it is still our Lord that speaks: and He prophesies that His beauty,—the beauty of which He is the source,* and which He is ready to bestow on His people,—shall endure for ever: not like the beauty of this world, the fashion whereof perisheth: (L.) but shall be as eternal as heaven itself. Thou hast added strength to My beauty cannot but remind us of the verse, “Upon all the glory there shall be a defence:”* that is, that the magnificence of the outward decorations and the external ritual of the Church is actually adding to her strength, by attracting those to her who as yet know her not, and by exciting those in her who are already her children.
7b (7) Thou didst turn thy face from me: and I was troubled.
No verse can more plainly teach us that glorious and comforting truth on which the mediæval writers especially love to dwell, that it is the looking, or not looking, of God upon His creature, that forms the happiness or the misery of that creature; that those secret springs of joy which sometimes seem to rise up of themselves, and with which a stranger intermeddleth not, are nothing but God’s direct and immediate looking on us;* while the sorrow for which we cannot assign any especial cause,—call it melancholy, or low spirits, or by whatever other name,*—is nothing but His turning away His Face from us. I was troubled. As indeed He well might say, of Whom it is written, that “He began to be sorrowful and very heavy;”* and of Whom also it might be said, in the words of the Prophets, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God;”* the sins, that is, which He bore, but which He did not. But never was He so troubled,* never did the Father so hide His Face from Him, as when this verse was so emphatically fulfilled in His “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani!”
8 Then cried I unto thee, O Lord: and gat me to my Lord right humbly.
And how did He cry?* Even at that very time that He was Himself forsaken, He prayed for His murderers. Or, (Ay.) as others take it, He prayed that His soul, so soon about to be separated from His Body, might not be left in hell, nor His flesh see corruption: that the dedication of David’s house, commenced in the anguish of the Cross, might be accomplished in the glory of the Resurrection. Then cried I. No occasion for crying or tears in Paradise, (A.) where there was nothing but praise. But crying only, and that strong crying and tears, can recover the second and better Paradise. I cried, not only to the Lord, but even to them that stood about.* “Oh how,” exclaims the Greek Church, “could ye condemn the King of creation to an unjust death? neither calling to mind His mercies, nor listening to His words: ‘O My people, what have I done unto you? Did I not fill Judæa with wonders? Did I not raise the dead by a word alone? Did I not heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease? What is it that ye render Me in return? How long will ye be regardless of Me? Laying strokes upon Me in return for My healing; slaying Me for My life-giving; hanging Me, the Benefactor, on the Cross as a malefactor; the Lawgiver as the lawless; the King of all as the culprit. Long-suffering Lord, glory be to Thee!” Right humbly. “For though He were a Son,* yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”* And how could the Spotless Lamb pray more humbly than from the place of malefactors, amidst the derision of the crowd, in the midst of two thieves!
9a (9) What profit is there in my blood: when I go down to the pit?
9b (10) Shall the dust give thanks unto thee: or shall it declare thy truth?
A sad verse as any that is in the Psalms. If we take it in the usual sense, according to S. Jerome, it is the lamentation of Christ that His Passion, so to speak, had been endured in vain;* that so few, bitten by the fiery serpent of temptation, would look to this the brazen serpent, and live; that so few would flee to that Cross for refuge, to lay hold on the hope then set before them. S. Gaudentius tells his people from this complaint how their sins frustrated the effects of Christ’s Cross;* how the price of the world was paid in vain; how that Blood—
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere,*
would in its fulness have been poured forth to scarcely any purpose. What profit is there in My Blood? And they answer, none, or next to none; and they most decidedly so reply, (L.) whose own holiness of life caused them more bitterly to lament the evils of sin, as S. Dositheus and S. Isidore of Pelusium. When I go down into the pit: or, as it is in the Vulgate, When I descend into corruption. They understand this of our Lord’s descending amidst the corruption of human nature at the Incarnation, and still the question is the same, What profit is there in it? “This profit there ought to be,” says S. Ambrose,* “that for the Blood thus shed for us, for the labour thus undertaken for us, we are bound to return all our labour,—if need be, to lay down our very lives; to offer ourselves, and all that we have, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to the Sacrifice on the Cross.” Or in another sense they understand the question concerning the Body of our Lord, as a prayer that it may not be suffered to return to corruption. S. Thomas dwells at great length on this subject,* and points out the various benefits we have received by the preservation of that Spotless Body from the effects of the grave: that Body which was to be raised up from the tomb, now no more liable to return to corruption, in order that it might be the food of all the followers of Christ till His Coming again. Shall the dust give thanks unto Thee?* And here they introduce another meaning: that praise, to be acceptable to God, must come from a heart devoted to Him; from those who have set their affections on things above, not on things of the earth; from those who are not of that dust which is the serpent’s meat,* but whose heart and affections are altogether on high. Shall the dust give thanks unto Thee? Or, as it is in the Vulgate, Shall the dust confess unto Thee? Whence S. Augustine takes occasion to say, (A.) “When it is ill with us, let us confess our sins; when it is well with us, let us confess praise to God; but without confession let us never be,”—a sentence which is made his own by the Master of the Sentences.* It is a singular sense which is attached to these words by S. Basil, the ascetic Doctor: “What profit is there in my blood? That is, in all the force and vigour of human existence, if by that very health and strength of body I am led to corruption of the soul.” Whence he proceeds to dilate on the benefits of fasting, and to praise the philosopher Plato for having chosen an unhealthy spot as the place of his abode, because sickness is the mother of philosophy.
[Shall the dust give thanks unto Thee? It is, teaches a Saint, the question of Christ to His Father.* If I be not raised up again from the pit, then My bloodshedding has been useless. If I come not back victorious, to open the Scriptures to My disciples, to send them the Holy Ghost, can My dust confess unto Thee,* by bringing forth Confessors for Thee and preachers of Thy truth, as I, if raised up, will do? Or, shall man, himself mere dust, ever give thanks to Thee aright, if I return not to show him the way, to be Myself his Oblation of Thanksgiving in the Eucharist? And then we may compare the words of S. Paul, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, ye are yet in your sins.”*]
10 (11) Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.
Or as it is in the Vulgate, The Lord heard and had mercy upon me: the Lord is become my helper. But it matters little as to the mystical sense, whether it is still the prayer of our Lord that He might rise again, or His thanksgiving after His Resurrection. And notice the force of the word helper. For equally is it said by the Holy Ghost, (C.) that Christ raised Himself, or was raised by the Father; raised Himself as God, was raised as Man; the Father co-operating with, (Lu.) and so verily becoming the Helper of, the Son. Have mercy. And so the Father had mercy on that Frame on which the Jews had no mercy; crowning those limbs with glory which they had lacerated with the scourge; setting a diadem of pure gold on that Head, which they had outraged with thorns; putting all power into those Hands, into which they had thrust the reed of derision. He so had mercy on the Son, as in Him to have mercy upon us; He so became the Helper of the Son, (G.) that henceforth every feeble and wounded soul may derive from Him unbounded help, and strength. Or, to look at the verse in another sense, we have here no indistinct reference to the Blessed Trinity. The Father is called on to hear; the Son, by the recollection of Calvary, to have mercy; the Holy Ghost to be the Helper of those in whom He dwells, and whom He sanctifies.
11 (12) Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.
Well and beautifully says Adam of S. Victor:*
Saccus scissus et pertusus
In regales transit usus;
Saccus fit soccus gratiæ,
Caro victrix miseriæ.
And first we must apply these words to the Resurrection, (L.) when the heaviness of the tomb was turned into the joy of “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon;”* when the saying of the Prophet was fulfilled, and to them that mourned in Sion beauty was given for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,* the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; when the promise of the Lord was fulfilled, “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy;”* when the saying of old time was brought to pass, “For Almighty God hath turned to joy unto them the day wherein the chosen people should have perished;* ye shall therefore among your solemn feasts keep it an high day, with all feasting.” Thou hast put off my sackcloth: or, as it is in the Vulgate, Thou hast cut or slit my sackcloth (saccum meum conscidisti,) where the word saccus, with its twofold meaning of sackcloth and bag,* gives a great scope to metaphorical interpretations. So they tell us that the bag in which the price of our redemption was contained, (A.) being cut open, that price itself was poured forth. Or again, that this sack was full of the precious wheat, (G.) hereafter to flourish into the harvests of the Church, when first it had lain in the ground and died. S. Albertus is fullest on the various meanings of the sack; “a word,” says he, and he says it truly, “common to all languages, as the redemption prefigured by it extended to all nations.” And as it has been well remarked, (Ay.) while the sackcloth in which the Sun of Righteousness was enveloped was rent on the Cross, the material sun became black as sackcloth of hair, when there was darkness over all the earth from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. And girded me with gladness: with the state of immortality, thenceforth to be the reward of the conqueror,—
When they beneath their Leader
Who conquered in the fight,*
For ever and for ever
Are clad in robes of white.
12 (13) Therefore shall every good man sing of thy praise without ceasing: O my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
I know not whence this translation is derived: the Vulgate gives it: That my glory may sing to thee, and I may not be pricked, with the first clause of which the Bible version closely agrees, and which is sufficiently literal.1 True, that because of the triumph of the Cross, every good man shall sing of His praise Who obtained it, without ceasing: but let us rather take the verse as the voice of the Church. All these things were done, all the afflictions endured, all the promises made good, to the end that her glory might not be silent; that in a thousand ways, by her hymns, by her canticles, by her ritual, all which things are her true glory, she may set forth the praises of the Victor. Or we may take it as still spoken by our Lord, and the glory, that glory which He had with the Father before the world was, and which, (L.) having been for a while clouded and eclipsed by the humiliation of His earthly life and Passion, was now to be restored to Him, not only in all its former brightness, but with the addition of splendour which, according to S. Paul’s teaching, His obedience and His labours had merited for His manhood.* And thus we see the force of the next clause, and that I may not be pricked. For the Hands which had been pierced with the nails now serve to remind Him, by that engraving, (G.) of His love, and of the victory won by that love. My God. “O ye all,” says Gerhohus, “who, being the sons of Leah, or of the handmaidens, love not this son of Rachel, ye who envy His dominion,—ye who, so far as in you lies, hinder His reigning in this world,—now, now, while it is the time of penitence that may be of effect, return to Him the First-born, reigning over all the land of Egypt, that is to say, heaven and earth, according to His own most true saying, ‘All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth.’ Lament before Him that ye have sinned against Him, and He will have mercy upon you, and will fill your sacks with corn, that ye perish not with hunger before ye can arrive at His own home. And according to the measure of your sins He may suffer you for awhile to lament until ye say from your hearts, ‘We are verily guilty concerning our Brother.’* But at length He will rend your sackcloth, and will so enrich you, that none of you will any longer stand in need of those sacks of yours; and He will bestow on each of you a beautiful stole, with which adorned, and now free from the weight of your sacks, ye may be able to exult, so that each of you will say to your elder Brother, ‘Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.’ And do Thou, O good Joseph, say to them, ‘As for you, ye thought evil against Me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.’ O my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever. This let us say, one and all: ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the praise, that we perish not of hunger, we who bring our sacks to Thee empty, and receive them again full; when, under a mystery, we feed on Thee, the true Corn of life. And so it must be until the sackcloth of our mortality shall be cut in twain, and Thou shalt no longer be received as concealed under a covering, but face to face shalt satisfy us with the finest wheat flour for ever and ever.’ ”
Glory be to the Father, to Whom the Son cried and was heard, in that He feared; and to the Son, Whose life was kept from them that go down into the pit; and to the Holy Ghost, to Whom we cry, Lord, be Thou my helper;
As it was in the beginning of the dedication of the Lord’s Temple on the Cross, is now, that the true Son of David is set down on the throne, and ever shall be, when His people shall behold the glory which He had before the world was: world without end. Amen.
Gregorian. Monday: Matins. [Easter Eve: II. Nocturn. Ascension: I. Nocturn.]
Monastic. Sunday: II. Nocturn.
Parisian. Monday: III. Nocturn.
Lyons. Monday: Lauds.
Ambrosian. Tuesday of the First Week: III. Nocturn.
Quignon. Tuesday: Compline.
Eastern Church. Mesorion of Terce.
Gregorian and Monastic. As to Psalm 28. [Easter Eve: Thou, Lord, hast brought my soul out of hell. Ascension: I will magnify Thee * for Thou hast set me up. Alleluia.]
Parisian. Sing praises * unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks for a remembrance of His holiness.
Lyons. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever.
Mozarabic. O Lord, my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou didst hear me.
O most mighty God,* Who liftest us up, suffer not our enemies to triumph over us; but do Thou so strengthen us by Thy might, that, our heaviness being turned into joy, we may ever give thanks for the remembrance of Thy holiness. Through (1.)
Bring our soul,* O Lord, out of prison, and keep our life from them that go down into the pit; and as, when about to redeem the world, by Thine ineffable virtue, Thou didst descend from on high and burst the bars of hell, vouchsafe of Thy mercy that we may never be brought down by our sins; and grant that, with them who are predestinated to eternal life, we may, after our power, sing to Thee, and may merit the possession of beatitude and Thy everlasting delights. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)
Thee, O Lord,* we humbly beseech that Thou wouldest turn our heaviness into joy; that Thou wouldest relieve us of the weight of our sins; and that, as Thou dost gladden us by the mystery of Thy Resurrection, Thou wouldest vouchsafe to raise them to heaven, for whose sake Thou didst not abhor to descend into hell. Through (1.)
[Hear our prayers, O Lord, and have mercy upon us; (D. C.) turn our heaviness into joy, and gird us about with gladness and salvation, that we may sing and give thanks to Thee for all Thy benefits in the blessed dwelling of eternity. Through (1.)]