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 March, 2016

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.’ ”

And therefore:

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.)]

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 33

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2016

Title. LXX.: A Psalm of David. Without any title in the Hebrew.1


Arg. Thomas. That by Christ, the Word of the Father, the heavens and their powers were established. The Prophet exhorts God’s people with praise. The voice of the Church consoling the martyr. The Prophet admonishes to rejoice in the Lord.

Ven. Bede. In this Psalm the Prophet exhorts the Church of the faithful to psalmody, enumerating the power and mighty deeds of the Creator, that man may more eagerly hasten to praise Him, when he knows His virtue and power. Through the whole Psalm the Prophet speaketh: but in the first section he admonisheth the just to rejoice in the Lord, Who supports His creatures with admirable power. In the second he exclaims that the man is blessed who has merited to take His worship in hand, signifying the Christian times in which a multitude of the Gentiles would believe.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. An exhortation to celebrate God’s praises, together with Divine knowledge.


1 Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for it becometh well the just to be thankful.

This Psalm has from the beginning been applied to the martyrs, (A.) as it is said now on the Festival of Many Martyrs. And so it was in the time of S. Augustine. Thus he speaks on such a festival:* “You know that which we have just been singing, Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O ye righteous. If the righteous rejoice in the Lord, the unrighteous only rejoice in the world. This is the first rank that has to be overthrown.1 First we must conquer delectation and then trouble. How can we conquer the world when it rages, if we cannot vanquish it when it flatters?” Thus then, in this verse we invite those blessed ones with God to join in our gladness: for it indeed becometh well those to be thankful of whom the hymn says:

Me incessanter
Laudantes amanter;*
Hinc hi beati
Perpetim firmati,
Hinc gloriosi
Semper luminosi,
Similes mihi.
Sunt hi viventes
Me vitâ fruentes,
Pulchre lucentes
Me lumen videntes,
Sunt et divini
Di quoque igniti
Mihi uniti.

And if it becometh well the just to be thankful, so also, the wise man says, “Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner.”* And therefore notice that neither our Lord nor S. Paul would allow Satan to confess the power of God. “He rebuking them, suffered them not to speak, for they knew that He was Christ.”* And thus, when the Pythoness proclaimed, (L.) “These men are the servants of the Most High God,”* Paul commanded the evil spirit to come out of her. Notice also how the last verse of the preceding Psalm and the first verse of this seem to run into each other: the penitential sorrow of the one having been gradually raised into the exultation of the other. Ayguan has a singular idea of the body’s upbraiding the soul with reference to It becometh well the upright, (Ay.) as it is in the Vulgate: both were created by God upright, and intended to look up towards the sky. Man does not imitate the beast by bowing his head to the ground, as even the heathen poet tells us,

.… Cœlumque videre

Jussit,* et erectos ad cœlum tollere vultus;

but in his soul man does stoop and bend down, curved instead of upright, to the pleasures and business of this world. Rejoice. S. Ambrose observes that there is no greater defence against Satan than spiritual joy, which indeed comes second in the catalogue of the graces of the Spirit;* as the evil spirit that vexed Saul was driven away by David’s harp.

2 Praise the Lord with harp: sing praises unto him with the lute, and instrument of ten strings.

Here we have the first mention of musical instruments in the Psalms. It is to be observed that the early Fathers almost with one accord protest against their use in churches; as they are forbidden in the Eastern Church to this day, where yet,* by the consent of all, the singing is infinitely superior to anything that can be heard in the West. It is not easy to determine when they were first introduced into the West. S. Gregory the Great speaks of organs;* but Amalarius in the eighth century, describing the use of the Church of France, says that no instruments were employed. S. Thomas Aquinas seems to disapprove them,* or at least barely tolerates them; and the Church of Lyons, which held more faithfully to primitive practice than any other in France, admitted them only in the sixteenth century. To what perfection they were brought among the Jews the whole routine of the Temple service abundantly shows. The instrument of ten strings they take to mean the music of the Church Triumphant, ten being the symbol of perfection: and as the Vulgate, herein following the Hebrew, mentions only the harp and the ten-stringed Psaltery, instead of the three instruments which both our Bible and our Prayer Book version have, they see in this the union of the Church on earth with that in heaven. So Bernard of Cluny,—

Thou city of the Angels! thou city of the Lord!*
Whose everlasting music is the glorious decachord.

Tropologically, all mediæval writers dwell on the similarity between the strings of musical instruments and Christian souls. Firstly,* they are made of dead animals,—so must we be dead to sins. Next, they require an equal tension, as our passions must be subdued and moderated. Thirdly, as all their sound depends on the air; so all that we can do is to be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Adam of S. Victor sees a parallel between the martyrs and their sufferings and the strings of the lyre, which are drawn tight and stricken, so that they may yield their sweetest sound.

“Sicut chorda musicorum*
Tandem sonum dat sonorum,
Plcctri ministerio;
Sic in chely tormentorum
Melos Christi confessorum
Martyris dat tensio.”

So, again, Hildebert of Le Mans:

“Sicut chorda solet dare tensa sonum meliorem,*
Sic pœnis tensus dat plenum laudis honorem.”

3 Sing unto the Lord a new song: sing praises lustily unto Him with a good courage.

This is the first time that we have had that expression, A new song: on which S. Augustine has left us a whole treatise, and on which all mediæval writers love to dwell at length. Zigabenus sees in this expression the four great hymns of the New Testament: (Z.) he also sees in the decachord the ten songs of the Old Testament, those of Miriam, Moses, Deborah, (A.) Hannah, David, Solomon, Judith, Hezekiah, Habakkuk, the Three Children,—an adaptation rather than an explanation. S. Augustine would have the decachord to mean the three commandments which pertain to God, the seven which pertain to man.1 The remarks of Ayguan may so well apply to choirs of the present day, that I will transcribe them here. “For when we go to sing the Office of God in church, (Ay.) reverence and humility ought to be more strictly observed, lest, when we come into the presence of God Himself, we should be worse than at other times. For there are some who, wandering in their thoughts, staring about with their eyes, slovenly in their dress, look about and gaze upon the flat walls, sing one thing and think of another, are bodily in the choir, and mentally in the market.2 And there are some singers of effeminate voices, who glory in their delicate modulation, and put in other notes than those that are written in the ecclesiastical books, that they may rather, forsooth, please the people than God. They who sing after this fashion do not sing in the choir with Miriam, the sister of Moses: but in the palace with the daughter of Herodias, that they may please those that sit at meat, and Herod. They glory in reaching such and such a high note; but no one reaches such a high note as he whom God is accustomed to hear from His lofty mountain. You, therefore, sing in the valley of humility, that you may merit to be heard on the hill of glory. If you so sing as to be careful about the praise of others, you sell your voice, and make it not yours, but theirs. You have your voice while you sing in your own power; have your mind in your own power too.”* Lustily unto Him with a good courage. Notice how God cares rather for the will than for the deed: how we must throw ourselves heart and soul into our work, if we would do that work so as to please Him. Our English translation, lustily, gives the force more emphatically than any other version. If we wish to show the inferiority of the Bible translation, we could not choose many more glaring examples than this. Compare, on the one side, the noble, Sing praises lustily unto Him with a good courage; on the other, Play skilfully with a loud noise.3

[A new song,* because Christ has made all things new, and we having put on the new man,* must have a new kind of praise in our mouths.* That, remarks another saint, is love, for the Lord hath said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”* And not only one another, but “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.”* And it may be further taken of the counsels of perfection, of chastity, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it;”* and of poverty, “Sell that ye have, and give alms.”*]

4 For the word of the Lord is true: and all his works are faithful.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” (A.) said the Word of the Lord Himself; and it well follows, All His works are faithful, since it is written, “All things were made by Him.” Yet the greater part of the early commentators do not take it in this sense. Theodoret, with the literal interpretation which his school dearly loved, takes it of Holy Scripture. So does S. Gaudentius of Brescia.* S. Basil and Cassiodorus take it of the Catholic faith; S. Bruno, by a miserably narrow interpretation, understands it of the precept of singing. The word, says Ayguan, is the half-way spot between the intention and the action; (Ay.) and therefore is the Word of the Lord true, or straight, because of the faithfulness of all His promises. As it is written, “All His commandments are true: they stand fast for ever and ever.”

5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Righteousness and judgment: or as it is in the Vulgate, Mercy and judgment.* For these are the two pillars on which God’s house is reared up,—the Jachin and Boaz which stand before the celestial temple. And mercy is well put before judgment: for the promise of the Deliverer who should bruise the serpent’s head was given before the sentence of punishment was pronounced on Adam and Eve: as also at the last day the King will first speak the blessedness of those on the Right Hand, before He shall bid those on the left to depart into everlasting fire.* And since He loves mercy, so He commands us to love it also. “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice and to love mercy?” The earth is full. And why does he rather say the earth than mankind? Because God’s mercies are over all His works, as well as over man: He that gave warning in the plague of hail that the cattle of the Egyptians should not perish,—He that forbad the taking the dam and the eggs together,—He that had pity on the much cattle of Nineveh, (Z.)—certainly shows His goodness to His other creation as well as to man. Again; the earth is mentioned as if to tell that this world,* and not the next, is the season for repentance and mercy.

6 By the word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth.

Here we have one of the most remarkable testimonies in the Old Testament to the doctrine of the Trinity. Almost all the Fathers have so applied it,—Tertullian,1 S. Cyprian,2 S. Ambrose,3 S. Augustine,4 S. Isidore,5 S. Fulgentius,6 S. Athanasius,7 and many others. Some of these have gone further, and have attributed the creation of the heavens more especially to the Word, that of the stars and angels more especially to the Holy Ghost. S. Augustine, referring the heavens, as he always does, to the Apostles, shows how it was the teaching of the Word of God which made them what they were, and formed them for their work. “And how dared,” says he, “those same heavens to go with confidence, of weak men to be made heavens, except that by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made firm? Whence could sheep among wolves have such strength, except that by the breath of His mouth were all the strength of them? ‘Behold,’ saith He, ‘I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.’ O Lord, most merciful, surely Thou dost this that the earth may be full of Thy mercy! If, then, Thou art so merciful as to fill the earth with Thy mercy, see whom Thou sendest, see whither Thou sendest. Sheep into the midst of wolves. ‘I send them,’ saith He, ‘because they are become heavens to water the earth.’ Whence weak men can be heavens. But all the strength of them by the Spirit of His mouth. Behold, the wolves shall take you, and deliver and give you up to the powers, for My Name’s sake. Now arm ye yourselves. With your own strength? Far from it. ‘Take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.’ This is of a truth, (Cd.) All the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Many have thought that S. John, at the commencement of his Gospel, and especially in that saying, “All things were made by Him,” was simply referring to this passage, and re-stating it in its own highest Christian meaning. If this be so, it is a curious instance of the way in which the Apostles understood the symbolical teaching of the Psalms. S. Basil understands the heavens, not of Apostles, but of Angels, which, however, is less in accordance with the general principle of symbolism. Grounding themselves on this verse, the Jewish rabbis declare that the basis of all the bases of the Mosaic law is this: that the creation of the world was the immediate work of God, and not His mediate work by the hand of Angels.

7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together, as it were upon an heap: and layeth up the deep as in a treasure-house.

Taking the heavens to signify the Apostles, and the hosts of them the exceeding great army of converts which by their preaching was spread throughout the world,* then here we see an analogy with that prophecy in Isaiah, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” These waters He gathered together in that book of remembrance which is written for them that fear Him:* and layeth up the deep as in a treasure-house: for what are His treasures but the innumerable souls which either directly or indirectly the preaching of the Apostles has brought in? The Vulgate has it, gathering as in a bottle the waters of the sea: (Z.) and they refer to the new wine and the new bottles which the Lord’s Incarnation was to prepare. Others again take the deep thus laid up in a treasure-house,* of the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God: others, of afflictions, bitter in themselves like the waters of the sea, but the exceeding great treasures of grace. Or again: Theodoret takes the waters* in the bottle of the clouds, sucked up and raised from the sea and there reserved till the time comes to pour them forth upon the earth. As it is written in Job: “Who can number the clouds in wisdom, or who can stay the bottles of heaven?”* On an heap. As it was when the Red Sea was passed, (L.) and when the nether waters of the Jordan were cut off. And if we take the Latin,* Placing the abysses in His treasures, then we may see how the greatest sinners have sometimes become His greatest saints;* abysses of wickedness turned into treasures of mercy. S. Basil says,* “Laying up the abysses in His treasures. It would have been more after the common manner of speech, Laying up His treasures in abysses: that is, containing His treasures in mysteries and hidden secrets. But now He speaks of the abysses themselves as of something precious and worthy of Divine treasures. Nor do I know whether the reasons themselves of Divine judgments hidden in themselves, and comprehensible by no minds, are hence called abysses, because they are reserved to the Divine understanding alone. We, when we shall be held worthy of that knowledge by which God is seen face to face, shall then contemplate those abysses in the treasures of God. But if you collect what is written concerning bottles in the sacred volume, you will approach nearer to the understanding of those prophecies. Those are called new bottles in the Gospel who day by day renew their spiritual life, and receive new wine from the True Vine. But they who have not yet put off the old man with his deeds, are old bottles, into which new wine cannot conveniently or safely be poured.” Thus Adam of S. Victor:

Utres novi,* non vetusti,
Sunt capaces novi musti;
Vasa parat vidua;
Dat liquorem Helisæus;
Nobis sacrum rorem Deus,
Si corda sint congrua.

[The waters, being the nations of the world, according to that saying, “the waters are peoples and multitudes, and nations and tongues,”* are gathered together into the unity of the Church,* which is compared to a bottle, because, as a leathern bottle is made of the skin of a dead animal,* so the Church is made up of those who have mortified sin in the flesh.]

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord: stand in awe of him, all ye that dwell in the world.

In like manner, the Prophet: “Fear ye not Me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at My presence, Which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it?”* They seem to see,* in the two clauses, a double division of those who are addressed: Let all the earth: those who are of the earth, earthy:—all ye that dwell in the world:* those who are true children of that Church which is scattered throughout the whole globe. Stand in awe of Him. And was it not so, when after the stilled storm, Peter fell down at His knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord?” Was it not so when the Gadarenes besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts? Well says S. Augustine: (A.) “Let them not fear another instead of Him. Doth a wild beast rage? Fear God. Doth a serpent lie in wait? Fear God. Doth man beat thee? Fear God. Doth the devil fight against thee? Fear God. For the whole creation is under Him Whom thou art commanded to fear.” Stand in awe of Him. Or as it is in the Vulgate, Let all the inhabitants of the earth be moved because of Him. And that answers precisely to the saying of Ezekiel: “So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at My presence.”*

9 For he spake, and it was done: he commanded, and it stood fast.

Prudentius, in that noble hymn of his, has versified this passage:
Ipse jussit, et creata: dixit ipse,* et facta sunt:
Terra, cœlum, fossa ponti, trina rerum machina,
Quæque in his vigent sub alto Solis et Lunæ globo.

The Greek Fathers seem to take the two clauses as referring,* the former to God’s material, the latter to His spiritual, works. But notice then: He spake, and it was done: a most clear reference to the Word,* by Whom it was done. S. Isidore most truly teaches that He spake is often said of God instead of “He did:” because by His Word His creative power was exercised. And S. Ambrose well says: “God did not give the command that the effect might be: but that it might be seen to be His effect.”* They dispute with reference to this verse, why, in the Apostles’ Creed, in the Latin, God is called Creator of heaven and earth, and in the Nicene, the Maker. And they reply that it was with reference to the heresy of Marcion and his followers, that God did indeed create all the great and chief parts of nature, (Ay.) but that as to the little every-day occurrences of this life, they are brought to pass, made, so to speak, by Satan.

10 The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: and maketh the devices of the people to be of none effect, and casteth out the counsels of princes.

11 The counsel of the Lord shall endure for ever: and the thoughts of his heart from generation to generation.

So of Ahithophel; so it was with Holofernes; so with Sennacherib. And therefore well might Gamaliel say, “If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.” And the Scriptural S. Albert heaps together innumerable passages which testify to the same thing.* So says Eliphaz: “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.”* So S. Paul: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” So, again, Isaiah: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure:”* and once more: “The Lord of Hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass: and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” And thus writes S. Cyprian:* “Hast thou the protection of God? stand safe and without fear against everything that the devil or the world can perform. For what fear can he have from the world, to whom God is a protector in the world?” Casteth out the counsels of princes. It is not in the Hebrew; but being in the LXX., and both in the Italic and Vulgate, it has probably fallen out of the original by accident. And who are these princes, (Ay.) save the devil and his legions? as our Lord Himself says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”* “So,” says one of the greatest of the Fathers,* “so, O Christian, his devices against thee are every day brought to nought. He sends such and such a temptation, intending it to be thy ruin; but the Lord, by His overruling providence, turns it into thy victory. He pours forth against thee all the fiery darts of evil thoughts: thy Lord not only intercepts them, but infuses in their stead His Holy Spirit into thy soul.” The counsel of the Lord. Yet we must remember that, as S. John Damascene says, “Counsel,* properly speaking, is only taken by the ignorant.” Hear, therefore, the Carthusian: (D. C.) “But Holy Scripture frequently attributes counsel to God: but it is then ascribed to Him, not in so far as it includes the inquisition of doubtful matters, but in so far as it excludes a hasty determination.” And they remind us that there are three kinds of counsels which God overthrows: 1, the vain philosophy of heathen sects, long before the Advent; 2, (P.) the counsel of Scribes and Pharisees, Annas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pontius Pilate, against our Lord, while He was on earth; and 3, the counsels of great persecutors, of Decius and Diocletian, of Huneric and Mahomet, against His Church since His Ascension. And notice once more how God turns the counsels of the wicked into good. “Often,” says S. Gregory, “while some,* puffed up by human wisdom, devise the most subtle counsels against the dispensation of God, they only carry out the Lord’s will; and while they seek to overthrow it, they indeed confirm it. So Joseph, sold into Egypt that he might not be lord over his brethren, by that very means was made a king and prince to them.”

12 Blessed are the people, whose God is the Lord Jehovah: and blessed are the folk, that he hath chosen to him to be his inheritance.

How does He choose them?* And Cardinal Hugo answers the question at length. If we take God’s own simile of a husbandman, He removes the briars of sin, He ploughs with the plough of the Word, He sows the seeds of grace; He surrounds with the hedge of fear; He walks in His garden in the cool of the evening. S. Basil will have the people to mean the Jews; and then, when they counted themselves, as the Apostle speaks, unworthy of eternal life, the folk to mean the Gentiles. Or, if you like, we may take the people to mean the chosen band of the Apostles: (L.) as the Lord Himself saith,* “Have not I chosen you twelve?” Others, again, see, in the distinction between the two clauses, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant; (Ay.) or rather,—and it is to be noticed how completely a mediæval writer here eschews the notion of a purgatory1 of suffering,—of the Church awaiting her future reward before the Resurrection, and the Church as having entered into possession at the consummation of all things. To use his own words, “The blessedness which is possessed in our country, so far as respects the first robe before the Resurrection, but which will be complete as to both robes after the Resurrection.” What this blessedness consists in let S. Bernard tell us:* “In that eternal and blessed life those blessed ones triply have fruition of God: to wit, seeing Him in all things, having Him in themselves, and, which is ineffably more glorious and blessed, beholding Him in His very essential Trinity, and contemplating that glory without any enigma, by the pure eye of the heart. And it is this condition of blessedness, which noting, the Saviour saith, ‘This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God.’ ” And if we take the two clauses together, we thence find that God is the possessor as well as the possessed: as is set forth by S. Anselm with admirable force in his Prosologion. “Therefore God Himself says, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy Name; thou art Mine.” Corderius is rapt beyond his usual elevation in considering this passage: “O words,” says he, (Cd.) “most sweet, and that fill the mind with wonderful happiness! We are the possession of God, we belong to Him, we pertain to Him; no one can hurt us, without challenging the power of God. ‘Thou art Mine,’ He says, and that by a peculiar reason; not in that way only in which the heaven and earth are God’s, as being the demiurge and architect of all, but because, saith He, ‘I have redeemed thee, fear thou not.’ The purple blood itself of the Immaculate Lamb, that immortal and incomparable price, which, save God, nothing can equal, cries out loudly, ‘Fear not;’ and,* as S. Cyprian speaks in his exhortation to martyrdom, promises to us security and protection. To the same effect is that which follows:”

13–14 (13) The Lord looked down from heaven, and beheld all the children of men: from the habitation of his dwelling he considereth all them that dwell on the earth.

So the ancient hymn tells us:

Speculator adstat desuper
Qui nos diebus omnibus,*
Actusque nostros prospicit
A luce primâ in vesperum.

Instead of from the habitation of His dwelling, the Vulgate has it, from His prepared dwelling, an expression which they interpret variously. The meaning attached to it by S. Gregory Nyssen is something harsh:* The Lord—that is, Christ—from His prepared dwelling—that is, from the bosom of the Father, Whose He always is, looked down upon the children of men at the Incarnation. S. Thomas takes it as reminding us that there is a certain abode prepared,* as for God now, so for those that are God’s hereafter; a place where He is, and where we shall be also. And so in Ecclesiasticus: “The eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, beholding all the ways of men, (D. C.) and considering the most secret parts.”* Prepared habitation. We may take it, if so we will, of those whom God has used as His instruments and temples by which to work, and in which to dwell: (A.) according to that saying, “What, know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, Which is in you?”* Thus, from His habitation in each of the Apostles, the Holy Ghost considered the various nations to whom, by their means, He preached: China and India by S. Thomas, Scythia by S. Andrew, Spain by S. Paul. So it is that He exercises that which Tertullian calls His* censorium lumen over those to whom His word is spoken by His messengers at this day. And there is no doubt a contrast in the first and second clauses, between The Lord looked down from heaven and from His prepared habitation. Under the old dispensation He looked down from heaven as a God afar off; under the New Covenant from His prepared habitation: as it is written, “A body hast Thou prepared Me.”*

Man with man in converse blending,*
Scattered He the Gospel seed.

15 (14) He fashioneth all the hearts of them: and understandeth all their works.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, He fashioneth the hearts of them singly. Hence they are accustomed to refute the fancy of Origen, (L.) that the souls of men were created long before their bodies, and that they are simply put into each body as it is formed. It is not here the place to open, as so many modern commentators do, a door to the whole Jansenian controversy, from the last clause,* and understandeth all their works. Others have gathered that the singly or separately refers to the spirit of man as contrasted with the souls of beasts; (Z.) and others, as S. Isidore of Pelusium, take it to mean that God by Himself, and without any intermediate ministry, has fashioned each several soul. “But do thou, O Christian,” says Hugh of S. Victor, “knowing that* He understandeth all thy works, Whose works even from the cradle to the grave were what they were, that He understandeth all thy works, Whose highest work was performed on the Cross of Calvary, take heed lest He behold in thee works of worldly pleasure, works of self-indulgence, works of sin; works the very opposite of, and contrary to, those which His own right hand and which His holy arm effected; works that will be thy shame and confusion in that day when thou, and all the sons of men, must be judged according to thy works.”

15 There is no king that can be saved by the multitude of an host: neither is any mighty man delivered by much strength.

16 A horse is counted but a vain thing to save a man: neither shall he deliver any man by his great strength.

This is the lesson which God at sundry times and in divers manners taught His people. Thus He said to Gideon, (L.) when about to fight with the Midianites, “The people are yet too many; bring them down to the water, and I will try them for thee there.”* So, again, the man of God said to King Amaziah, “O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel. But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle; God shall make thee fall before the enemy.”* And so, once more, where it is written that Judas Maccabeus “stretched out his hands towards heaven, and called upon the Lord That worketh wonders, knowing that victory cometh not by arms, but even as it seemed good to Him, He giveth it to such as are worthy.”* Neither is any mighty man delivered by much strength.* For consider that He Who was indeed the mightiest of all mighty,—the God Who, to them that had no might, increaseth strength,—the God Who is strength Himself, delivered not the race of man by strength, but by weakness; as when He fell beneath the Cross, as when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, as when in the weakness of death He was taken down and laid in the grave. Mighty man: or giant, as it is in the Vulgate. They compare, (Ay.) therefore, Sihon, King of the Amorites, and Og, the King of Bashan,*—the latter “of the remnant of the giants,”*—with the two clauses of the present verse: as they do the horse, counted but a vain thing to save a man, with that of Pharaoh, which went down into the Red Sea. And so it is written in another place, “Thus saith the Lord: (D. C.) Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,* neither let the mighty man glory in his might: let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord.”* And notice why a horse is so often spoken of as a worldly method of defence or attack: because the children of Israel never used horses in battle. We read of the vast number of war-horses brought into the field by the Ammonites and Syrians; also the chariots of iron, which proved an insuperable difficulty to the Ephraimites, in driving out the ancient possessors of their land. But, excepting for show, the kings of Judah had none; and even for show, the Law forbade any great number, “He shall not multiply horses unto himself.”* Neither is any mighty man delivered: or, as it is in the Vulgate, And a giant shall not be saved in the multitude of his strength. There we have a clear reference to those giants whom the Philistines sent forth against God’s people, Goliath at their head: (A.) all of them manifest types of Antichrist. Let S. Augustine, then, teach us what is to be our strength. “To the Lord all, in the Lord all. God be your hope, God be your fortitude, God be your firmness; He be your prayer, He be your praise: He be the help by which you labour, He be the end in which you rest.”

18 (17) Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him: and upon them that put their trust in his mercy.

They take it of that eye which, while the Lord was before the judgment-seat, looked Peter into repentance,—while He was hanging on the Cross, inspired the penitent thief with love and hope. And that word* behold, as S. Cyril says, is not idly to be passed by. It seems to bring the mercy of God home to us; as if, not only in those old histories, but in these present days, (C.) that Eye was still watching us through our wanderings, and beaming upon us the strength which is to bring us to our home. And notice once more the gradual ascent from fear to love: upon them that fear Him, first; then upon them that put their trust in His mercy. This was the verse on which the poor old anthropomorphite monk in Egypt based his religion. “It has been all my life,” he said, to the Bishop who showed him the impossibility of his creed, “my comfort to believe, that the Lord was watching me with eyes like those of a man: now you have taken away my God, and what shall I do for another?” S. Albert well observes that here we have a promise of God’s protection in this life in the first clause; of His salvation in the world to come in the next. And he goes on to make an ingenious application of the Mosaic law. “Hope and fear,” he says,* “are the two millstones between which a man’s soul is ground so as to become contrite; and therefore the Law forbids that either the upper or the nether millstone should be taken to pledge, neither being of use without the other.”* And therefore they are well joined in Ecclesiasticus: “Ye that fear the Lord, (A.) hope for good.”* S. Augustine says well: “Whereby shall we be saved? Not by might, not by strength, not by power, not by glory, not by a horse. Whereby, then? Whither shall I go? Where shall I find whence I may be saved? Seek not long, seek not far. Behold, the eyes of the Lord are upon them that fear Him. Ye see that these are the same whom He beholds in His habitation, those who hope in His mercy; not in their own merits, not in strength, not in fortitude, not in a horse; but in His mercy.”

19 (18) To deliver their soul from death: and to feed them in the time of dearth.

They take it with one consent of the blessed Eucharist. Its two principal virtues—deliverance from temptation and eternal death, (L.) and food and refreshment in the wilderness of this world—are marvellously brought out. Gerson, in his beautiful treatise on the Magnificat, dwelling on this subject,* contrasts with the seven deadly sins seven physical properties of the Altar Bread, which he sums up in a line:

Parva, nitens, sana, teres, azyma, mundaque, scripta.
And in three others he sums up the twelve blessings which it bestows:
Restaurat, satiat, delectat, roborat, auget:
Obdormire facit; caro servit; mens dominatur:
Vim genitivam dat: transformat, inarrhat et unit.

To deliver their soul from death: thus speaks David. “He that eateth Me, shall even live by Me,”* says the Son of David. “The time of death is now,” says S. Augustine; (A.) “the time of saturity will be by-and-by. He That deserteth us not in the famine of this corruption, how will He desert us when we shall have become immortal? But while it is the time of famine, we must tolerate, we must endure, we must persevere to the end; and because we bravely bear this famine of our pilgrimage, we must expect to be refreshed in the wilderness, that we faint not.” And, as this, so those many other dear promises in the Old Testament of food to them that are needy: “The poor shall eat, and be satisfied;”* “The Lord giveth meat unto them that fear Him;”* “Behold, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry.”*

20 (19) Our soul hath patiently tarried for the Lord: for he is our help, and our shield.

21 (20) For our heart shall rejoice in him: because we have hoped in his holy Name.

And here we have the answer of the righteous, (L.) who have up to this time been addressed or been spoken of. The Psalm is, as it were, antiphonal: the one choir tells of God’s past mercies, the other resolves to trust in Him for the present. It is worth noticing that the second verse is rendered differently in the LXX. and the Vulgate from the original. Instead of the hope in God’s Name being the cause of joy, these versions would imply that the joy was the cause of the hope. Because our heart rejoiceth in Him, we have hoped in His holy Name. S. Bernard dwells at great length on the duty of spiritual joy. Observe, that in the list of the graces of the Holy Ghost,* if love stands the first, joy occupies the second place; and of what value must that be in the sight of God, which precedes our dear Lord’s last legacy, namely, (Ay.) peace! And notice the difference between our help and our shield: the former the positive, the latter the negative assistance; the former leading on to good works, the latter defending from evil temptations. It is the same thing which we shall hereafter find in the 46th Psalm, “God is our hope and strength;” (P.) hope in the good things which we intend to perform,—strength against the temptations which we desire to conquer. In His holy Name. Another instance of that reference to the Name which is above every name, of which we have had so many, and shall have so many more.* “It is enough,” says S. Basil, “that we are called by the name of Christians, to render us superior to every assault of every enemy.” That Name, lauded in so many hymns; that Name, (L.) no less the worship of the saints in heaven than of those who are yet militant on earth. They propose1 ten names of God, and ask which is that to which reference is here made. God forbid that I, or that any one who may read these pages, should doubt for one moment:

Jesu Nomen omne bonum
Tenet,* dulcem facit sonum,
Promeretur regni thronum,
Auditum lætificat:
In hoc lucet splendor Patris;
In hoc patet decor Matris;
In hoc fulget honor fratris;
Hoc fratres magnificat.

22 (21) Let Thy merciful kindness, O Lord, be upon us: like as we do put our trust in thee.

“O valiant prayer,” (L.) cries Theodoret, “measure Thy mercy by my confidence.” So it is indeed; and let us take that prayer in virtual effect on our own lips, whenever we join in the noblest hymn in the Church, ending as it does with the same supplication. O high aim, marvellous petition of the Christian! that he may be forgiven only as he forgives; that he may be helped only as he trusts! Hugh of S. Victor, with that deep mind of his, sees here, in that word* fiat, “fiat misericordia tua super nos,” the mixture of free will and of grace, (C.) which is the only true and safe teaching. Cassiodorus here sees a petition for the Incarnation: that being the merciful kindness hid from ages and generations, but now revealed in the cottage of Nazareth by the message of Gabriel. Let the same writer give us what he calls the conclusion of the Psalm. “What honeyed words have we heard! how gloriously has the celestial Psaltery sounded! Such are the chords of its mandates, that if we will receive them in the ears of our minds, we shall both purify ourselves by the means of David’s lyre, and it will be to us as it was to Saul: evil spirits will be chased away, so that with pure heart we shall serve the Lord. Yes, the blessed have also their music, which enters the hearing of the faithful soul; the sound whereof never fails, the meaning whereof never grows old.”

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, Whose Counsel shall endure for ever; and to the Son, the Word of the Lord, by Whom the heavens were made: and to the Holy Ghost, the Breath of His Mouth;

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


Gregorian. Tuesday: Matins. [Office of Many Martyrs: II. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Monday: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Thursday: Matins.

Quignon. Wednesday: Vespers.

Lyons. Tuesday: I. Nocturn.

Ambrosian. First Week: Wednesday: I. Nocturn.


Gregorian. It becometh well * the just to be thankful. [Many Martyrs. But the righteous * live for evermore, and the reward of them is with the Most high.]

Monastic. It becometh well * the just to be thankful.

Parisian. The Word of the Lord is true.

Ambrosian. Same as Psalm 32.

Mozarabic. Praise the Lord upon the harp, sing praises unto Him upon a psaltery of ten chords.


Feed, O Lord, Thy people, in the time of famine,* with Thy Word, and deliver our souls from the death of sin; that, being filled with Thy mercy, we may, through Thy gift, merit to be admitted to the joys of the righteous. Through (1.)

Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us; and as Thou didst separately fashion the hearts of men,* so be Thou pleased to sanctify them specially; and because Thine eyes are ever open to them that fear Thee, bestow on us the fulness of Thy fear, and confer on us the completeness of Thy knowledge. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)

O God, Whose command it is that the righteous should be full of joy; whose praise both obeys Thee by loving,* and loves by praising; who, by the Harp of the Law, sing the New Song, and in the Psaltery give the glad music of pious words; grant, O Lord, that we may follow in their footsteps, and praise Thee together with them: and because Thy Word is true, and all Thy works faithful, grant that we may believe Thee with a faithful heart, and may diligently obtain Thy loving-kindness. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)

[O Christ, Word of the Eternal Father, by Whom the heavens were made, (D. C.) enlighten us with the gift of Thy Spirit, and stablish us in good works, that we may be justified through faith in the Trinity, and through working that which is pleasing to Thee, and may, together with the people Thou hast chosen for Thine inheritance, be glorified for ever. Who livest (5.)]

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 104

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2016

Title. LXX. and Vulgate: Of David. Complutensian LXX.: A Psalm of David, on the constitution of the world.


Arg. Thomas. The Voice of the Church praising God, and recounting His works. The Voice of the Prophet touching the fabric of the whole reconciled world. The Voice of the Holy Ghost touching the fabric of the world. The Voice of the Apostles concerning the Jews.

Ven. Bede. David denotes the person of the speaker, but the whole Song is in honour of Christ the Lord, Who is Creator, and Ruler, and Redeemer of the world.

The Prophet, desiring to signify divine mysteries by the order of nature, first sings of the Sacraments of Christ and the Church under the type of the formation of heaven and earth: Praise the Lord, O my soul. In the second part, he enumerates the works of the Lord veiled under divers figures: O Lord, how manifold are Thy works. In the third place, he declares that in the everlasting world he will unceasingly utter the praises of the Lord, which he had made his song, even in his short life here: I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being.

Syriac Psalter. Of David, when he was going to worship before the Ark of the Lord together with the Priests. As regards us, it teaches us Confession and Prayer. And it gives us information touching the first beginning and order of creation, and tells somewhat of the Angels.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. The Doctrine of Confession.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm of exhortation and as though of command.


1 Praise the Lord, O my soul: O Lord my God, thou art become exceeding glorious; thou art clothed with majesty and honour.

The Prophet calls on himself to bless the Lord, (C.) and knowing how mighty is the grace of unity in the Faith, he speaks to himself alone that which he would exhort all men. He saith, Thou art become exceeding great. We need to inquire closely into the force of these words, for was He at any time not great, that He should become great through men’s praises? Or what can be added unto Him, Who is the wonderful and incomprehensible fulness of all might? But God is magnified amongst men, when He is plainly seen by them to be great and exalted, so that they feel Him to be their Maker, the bestower of all good things, their Redeemer, and finally, their Judge. So, too, to put on, is to be clothed with some covering which one had not before. But when did God lack beauty (Vulg.), Who ever bestoweth all lovely things upon His creatures? Never;* but till He created the world, He was, so to speak, bare and unadorned, and unknown, but then, by making confession and beauty (Vulg.) that is, beautiful and graceful things, whereby He could be known and praised, He clad Himself therewith. (C.) And He became yet better known, yet more truly magnified, by His Incarnation, even in its very lowliness,* He was glorious in His Resurrection, exceeding glorious in His Ascension, exceeding glorious, because exceeding humbled first, for “Wisdom lifteth up the head of the lowly.”* Now, enthroned in the highest,* He is clothed with the majesty of heaven, with the honour paid Him by adoring Angels; (Ay.) and on earth, in His Church, He is girt about with the confession of repentant sinners, (A.) whom He robes in the beauty of His own righteousness.

2 Thou deckest thyself with light as it were with a garment: and spreadest out the heavens like a curtain.

Christ our Lord is revealed in these words as the Great High Priest of His own universe,* clad in the white vesture of perpetual holiness, while the heavens are spread around Him as “the tent for Him to dwell in,”* the Tabernacle whence He pours down His benediction, as they are also the scene of His perpetual intercession for mankind.* In the first literal sense, the verse describes the manner in which God, “Whom no man hath seen, or can see: dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto,”* has yet created light as conveying to our minds the best image of Himself, His ineffable radiance and unimaginable purity; (L.) according to that saying, “Light is the shadow of God;” whence some imagine that in this place the shining forms of the Angels, encompassing the throne of God, and deriving all their glory from vision of Him, are intended; or, as others will have it, the heavens themselves, studded with constellations as though with jewels,* are the garment of the Most High. (D. C.) Others prefer, however, to read the words in the sense of the Apostle’s saying,* “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,”* and to understand here the uncreated and vital glory of His essence.* The pure and stainless Manhood which the Lord took of His Virgin Mother, whereby He became known and visible to mortals, was likewise a garment of light, by reason of its holiness and the revelation it made; (L.) and its true beauty was disclosed for a little to the three Apostles in the vision of the Transfiguration; while a like glory, by Divine favour,* encompassed the mystic woman of the Apocalypse (whether we take her as the Blessed Mary or as the personified Church), clothed as she is with the sun, borne up on the moon, and diademed with twelve stars. And spreadest out the heavens like a curtain. (A.) How He did this thing, that He might clothe Himself with the Church as a garment of light, the Psalmist would fain set before us in certain typical mysteries; how the Church was made to be light, without spot or wrinkle, but white and shining in the raiment of her Spouse; we may observe by noting these words, like a skin (Vulg.), denoting the perfect ease with which God deals with His vast creation, far more readily than a shepherd pitches a tent, or a man unrolls a scroll, because His word alone is enough to effect His will; a marked contrast with the toil and pain which men must put forth in any trifling enlargement of their fixed dwellings or their roofs. That skin which He has stretched forth for us, is the great scroll of Holy Scripture, for as the parchment skin on which we write is taken from the bodies of dead animals, so the Bible was set forth by God for man after he fell by sin into the power of death. Out of that skin of death the heaven of Scripture was made, and while the living Prophets and Apostles were, for the most part, known to but few, and restricted within narrow limits, they, being dead, yet speak, and are now far more widely known and familiar, for while they yet lived, the skin was not stretched out, the heaven was not yet extended.

And whereas it was the valiant martyrdom of the Apostles and early Saints which spread their teaching far and wide in that Gentile world out into which the Jews drove them; (Ay.) now, on the other hand, there is little progress made in the conversion of heathen nations, because preachers and missionaries have no love for martyrdom, and do not care to peril their lives for the Gospel; wherefore the Lord complains of them by His Prophet: “There is none to stretch forth My tent any more, and to set up My curtains, for the pastors have become brutish, and have not sought the Lord.”* The heavens are spread out like a parchment also,* that they may be a great roll wherein the countless names of Christ’s Saints can be written, they are spread out as the curtains of a tent, to be the tabernacle wherein those Saints shall dwell; the new heavens, that is, which shall take the place of that former “heaven, departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.”* The Church Militant here in earth,* a fairer heaven than the visible sky,* enlightened by the Sun of wisdom and the moon of knowledge, studded with the starry examples of the Saints, is spread out like a tabernacle as a shelter and refuge for all who need it, as a shrine wherein perpetual worship is offered to the Lord. And it is most rightly said to be stretched out, (C.) for whereas only the righteous might seem to have any claim to it, yet God’s mercy has extended it so as to embrace the publican, the harlot, and the sinner, whom He thus shelters in the dwelling of the Bride, in token of His folding them Himself in the all-embracing love of the everlasting arms. And as each holy soul is His heaven too,* He stretches it out by enlarging its charity, and that in such self-denial and mortification as is typified by the skin, implying, as we saw before, the idea of death.

3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: and maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind.

The Hebrew is more properly upper chambers, (as LXX. ὑπερῷα) and the literal notion is that the dark and thick rain-clouds are, as it were, the foundations of God’s heavenly dwelling, while the bright ethereal clouds, much higher in the atmosphere,* are the upper chambers resting upon them. It is to be noted that the Latin word expressive of this same idea, cœnaculum, is used by Ennius and Plautus in the sense of the dwelling-place of the Gods in heaven. The ancient commentators, however, almost universally understand the phrase to denote a stratum of water superimposed, as a roof, above the visible sky, in fact, as “the waters above the firmament”* of the Book of Genesis, and enter at length into physical theories which are more ingenious than tenable or instructive, though closely adhering to the Vulgate, rendering here Who coverest the upper parts thereof with water,* which does not differ materially from the Chaldee paraphrase. The mystical sense of the true meaning is, nevertheless, recognized by Hesychius, (Cd.) who refers the verse to the Sacrament of Baptism, the foundation of that spiritual life which rises far into the heights of heaven; albeit he seems to think, like a Latin commentator,* that the idea presented is the immersion and covering over of the body of the neophyte with the waters of the baptistery. (A.) The Latins explain the upper parts of the heaven of Scripture to be charity, as the chief of graces, and this,* they say, is roofed over by the Holy Spirit, typified by the waters;* while another view is, that we may here understand the surface letter of Holy Writ, covered over with deep mystical meanings.* And a Saint reminds us how an upper chamber was the scene of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, as also of the descent of the Paraclete in fiery tongues,* in type of our co-operation with God, as He comes down to meet us, who have ascended a little way to meet Him. And though he follows the notion of the waters covering the chamber, he might better have referred to the common phrase of “ascending from the laver of baptism,” so often met in early Christian writings.

And maketh the clouds His chariot. The notion here presented is that of the noise of peals of thunder, resembling the roll of heavy wheels, while the swift movement of the lighter clouds through the air suggests the rapid pace of horses. Thus Horace:

Namque Diespiter
Igni corusco nubila dividens
Plerumque,* per purum sonantes
Egit equos, celeremque currum.

For the Lord of skies,
Though wont to cleave the clouds with vivid flame,
Through the clear heavens drove his echoing steeds,
And chariot fleet.

In such a chariot as this the Lord came to battle against the Egyptians,* in such a one He descended to give the Law on Sinai,* and when He went up, forty days after Easter, from Olivet in the presence of the Apostles, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”* He is still borne into all regions of the world, (A.) into the hearts of countless disciples, by His true preachers, clouds which are high above the level of earth, which pour down the refreshing rain of doctrine, which are borne along by the mighty rushing wind of the Holy Ghost,* which flash and blaze with the light of holiness and the power of miracles.* And walkest upon the wings of the wind. This is expounded by the Chaldee paraphrast into “clouds swift as the wings of an eagle.” (A.) And the notion is accepted by most of the Fathers, (C.) who see here simply a type of the rapidity of God’s operations, though they add a mystical sense also, taking the winds or spirits to mean righteous souls, on which God treads as His path, when they put themselves under His feet in loving subjection. But we may very well take the words in close connection with the immediately preceding clause,* and interpret them as the corresponding passage of Ps. 18:10, of the swiftness with which the preaching of the Gospel was communicated to the world from its starting-point at Jerusalem.

4 He maketh his angels spirits: and his ministers a flaming fire.

If it were not for the gloss upon this verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews (and for the plural predicate in the second clause following a subject in the singular) its most obvious literal sense would be,* He maketh the winds His messengers,* and the flaming fire His ministers,* as when He used a wind to dry the Red Sea before Israel,* and when He sent fire on the cities of the plain.* But the construction as given above is that of the New Testament citation,* which may be explained in two ways; first, that God gives His angelic messengers the swiftness of the winds, and the mighty force of burning flame, as we read of the horses and chariots of fire which caught away Elijah, and compassed Elisha in Dothan;* not that their faculties are limited to this extent, but because these are the most striking similes at hand. (A.) The other view is nearer to the grammatical construction,* and is that He maketh His spirits messengers to bear His will to men, and especially chooses out those who are kindled and glowing with the fervour of heavenly love. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?”*

And is there care in heaven? And is there love
In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,*
That may compassion of their evils move?
There is:—else much more wretched were the case
Of men than beasts: But O! th’ exceeding grace
Of Highest God that loves His creatures so,
And all His workes with mercy doth embrace,
That blessed Angels He sends to and fro,
To serve to wicked man, to serve His wicked foe!

How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to succour us that succour want!
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skyes, like flying pursuivant,
Against fowle feendes to ayd us militant!
They for us fight, they watch and dewly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
And all for love, and nothing for reward:
O why should heavenly God to men have such regard?

“It should be known,” observes S. Gregory, “that the word Angel is a title of office, not a description of nature. For those holy spirits of the heavenly country are always spirits, but they cannot always be styled Angels, for they are Angels only when some message is brought by them.”* And S. Jerome will help us to the reason why fire is named in this connection: “Angels are sent for various ministries, and especially to those who need purification, and because of former sins,* deserve to be purged in some degree by chastisements.” The rushing wind and fiery tongues of Pentecost justify us in applying this verse also to the Divine Commission of preachers of the Word, (L.) sent to sweep away the clouds of heathen darkness,* and to kindle and enlighten souls with the Gospel, that fire which their Master came to send on the earth.

5 He laid the foundations of the earth: that it never should move at any time.

Rising at once from the thought of the material earth, (Cd.) and that principle of gravity which keeps it in its appointed orbit, (A.) they bid us see here the creation of the Church, or of every holy soul which is the microcosm of the Church, steadfast and unshaken in faith, because of the firmness of the base on which it stands, for “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”*

6 Thou coveredst it with the deep like as with a garment: the waters stand in the hills.

7 At thy rebuke they flee: at the voice of thy thunder they are afraid.

8 They go up as high as the hills, and down to the valleys beneath: even unto the place which thou hast appointed for them.

9 Thou hast set them their bounds, which they shall not pass: neither turn again to cover the earth.

This is the description of the gradual emerging of the earth from the shroud of waters which enveloped it at the first: and is in fact but the expansion of that one verse,* “And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry ground appear: and it was so.”* The waters are represented as fleeing hither and thither at the voice of the Lord, and either rising in waves as high as mountains and then sinking into abysses like the valleys,* (according to the version above and the Chaldee paraphrase) or else, by their gradual subsidence, permitting the mountains to rise and the valleys to sink into their appointed stations, (which is the sense of the LXX. reading, the A. V. margin,* and that of S. Jerome,) and then assuming their own permanent place, namely, the sea and springs, into which they are gathered. Their bounds are explained for us in another passage of Holy Writ, “Will ye not tremble at My presence, which have placed the sand for a bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it?”* “And I said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”* It is not uninteresting to compare Ovid’s description of the harmonizing of chaos, far inferior as it is, merely as a piece of poetry, to this noble Psalm, and those who please may institute further comparison with the seventh book of Paradise Lost.

Circumfluus humor
Ultima possedit, solidumque coërcuit orbem.*
Sic ubi dispositam, quisquis fuit ille deorum,
Congeriem secuit, sectamque in membra redegit.
Principio terram, ne non æqualis ab omni
Parte foret, magni speciem glomeravit in orbis.
Tum freta diffudit, rapidisque tumescere ventis
Jussit, et ambitæ circumdare littora terra.
Addidit et fontes, et stagna immensa lacusque;
Fluminaque obliquis cinxit declivia ripis:
Quæ, diversa locis, partim sorbentur ab ipsa,
In mare perveniunt partim, campoque recepta
Liberioris aquæ, pro ripis littora pulsant.
Jussit et extendi campos, subsidere valles,
Fronde tegi silvas, lapidosos surgere montes.

Moisture, flowing round,
Seized the last place, and held the strong world bound.
Some God then clave the huge mass thus prepared,
And, after cleaving, into sections shared.
First, that the earth might on all sides appear
Equal in bulk, he shaped it a great sphere:
Then poured the billows, bade them swell when fanned
With gales, and gird the shores of compassed land.
Gave also springs, meres, broads full widely spread,
Hemmed the steep rivers in their winding bed,
(Which, varying in each region, are imbibed
In part by earth, while part, less circumscribed,
To ocean’s freer plain of waters reach,
And banked no longer, dash against the beach.)
And bade the valleys sink, the plains extend,
The woods be green, the craggy mounts ascend.

The mystical interpretation given to the verses, (C.) is the gradual arising of the Church Catholic out of the wild waves of heathen ignorance and darkness, which stood at first on the hills,* that is, oppressing and slaying God’s chief Saints, but then fleeing before the voice of the Sons of Thunder,* the Apostles of the Lord, and allowing the mountain heights of saintly contemplation, the lowly valleys of devout humility, to be plainly seen; while these waters of heathenism, though not altogether dried up, shall never again be suffered to sweep over the whole earth, whatever partial floods and deluges may waste local Churches, but have as their final bound the Second Coming of Christ, when there shall be “no more sea.”*

10 He sendeth the springs into the rivers: which run among the hills.

11 All beasts of the field drink thereof: and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them shall the fowls of the air have their habitation: and sing among the branches.

For the rivers we should rather translate water-courses, the channels of a torrent down the side of a mountain, which is the exact force of the LXX. φάραγξιν.* As the vast expanse of the salt ocean,* referred to in the former verses, teaches us the mighty power of God, (L.) so His bounty and tenderness, not only to man, but to the lower animals, are set before us now in His provision of the sweet waters whence beasts and birds slake their thirst. The mystical interpretation is that from Christ, Who is the Rock, the streams of Gospel doctrine flow down to the valley in the channels which He has grooved in His great mountains,* the Apostles (those twelve wells of Elim,) (Ay.) and other eloquent preachers of the Word, so that men,* mere beasts of the field in comparison with the immortal Angels,* draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation, because “when He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.”* Which run among the hills. The Vulgate, not dissimilarly, reads, The waters shall pass through in the midst of the mountains, that is, as it is explained, Christian teaching will flow forth amongst all nations from amidst the harmonious concord of the prelates and rulers of the Church, till not only the tame and domesticated beasts of the field,* that is, the partially instructed Jews and the more civilized Gentile races, but also the wild asses, the untaught and savage heathen, shall alike drink of those cool streams, while the birds, the Angels and those holy souls winging on high in prayer and contemplation, shall sing the praises of God among the branches of that Tree of Life which grows by the banks of the “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,”* for “the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”*

Quyte through the streetes,* with silver sound,
The Flood of Life doth flow;
Upon whose bankes, on everie syde,
The Wood of Life doth growe.
There trees for evermore beare fruite,
And evermore do springe;
There evermore the Angels sit,
And evermore doe singe.

For among the branches, (A.) however, the LXX. and Vulgate read, from the midst of the rocks, which they variously explain as from the firm testimonies of Scripture,* from the fellowship of the Apostles,* or from the surroundings of a hard and austere life, which causes no sorrow, but singing and gladness to the Saints of the Lord.

13 He watereth the hills from above: the earth is filled with the fruit of thy works.

As the hills are the source of the chief rivers which irrigate the earth, (L.) so they (too lofty for those rivers to reach) are in turn watered themselves from God’s chambers (A. V.) of the clouds, which pour down rain impartially on all those surfaces which are not already moistened by fountains, streams, and lakes, so that the whole earth, not merely a few isolated tracts, is satisfied (Vulg. A. V.) with the fruit of God’s works in that it produces the abundant harvests of which the succeeding verses speak. The mystical sense is explained by S. Augustine of the direct and immediate teaching of the Apostles by Christ Himself, (A.) as for example in the vision of the sheet full of unclean beasts shown to S. Peter, and the conversion of S. Paul on his road to Damascus, so that the torrents of Gospel teaching flowed down upon the plains below through the water-courses of these great hills, and watered the whole earth with the knowledge of the Lord, producing a great harvest of converted sinners. And, (C.) remembering that the same word upper chambers stands here as in the third verse,* we may well bear in mind that assembly of the disciples in Jerusalem, when the fiery rain of the Holy Ghost came down upon them, and was communicated to the nations far and wide by the sermon of S. Peter and his fellows; when the multitude from many countries were astonished, as each man heard them speak in his own dialect, and many a one amongst them brought forth fruits meet for repentance, whereof the Prophet saith, “this is all the fruit to take away his sin.”*

14a (14) He bringeth forth grass for the cattle: and green herb for the service of men.

15 That he may bring food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man: and oil to make him a cheerful countenance, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

The gradual ripening of the crops, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear,”* is here set before us, with the distinction of the kinds of herbage designed for the use of animals alone from those intended for the benefit of man. (A.) The favourite exposition of the former verse is that it denotes the spirit of liberality which the rain of Gospel grace causes to spring up in the hearts of the hearers of the Word, so as to induce them to provide abundantly and cheerfully for the temporal needs of their teachers. “It is true, I see, and acknowledge,” observes S. Chrysostom,* “the fact is certain, the earth does bring forth grass for cattle and green herb for the service of men. But I see other cattle of the Lord, which are meant when it is said, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.* Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written.’ How then does the earth bring forth grass for the cattle? Because ‘the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel.’ He sent forth preachers and said unto them, ‘Eat such things as are set before you, for the labourer is worthy of his hire.’* And when He said, Eat such things as are set before you, lest they should object, ‘We shall be despised at the tables of strangers, if we are in want; wouldst Thou have us so intrusive?’ No, saith He, it is not a gift of theirs, it is your hire. Hire for what? What do they give, what do they receive? They give spiritual things, they receive carnal things; they give gold, they receive grass. For ‘all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.’* All thy temporal superfluity and abundance is grass for the cattle. Hear for what cattle. ‘If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?’ ”* In like manner the Saint explains herb for the service of men, as signifying the same thing, the temporal offerings made to those who have become the servants of men by devoting themselves to the ministry of the Gospel. (C.) Another view is that the whole verse has to do, not with paying the hire of labourers, but with bestowing alms on the needy; of whom there are two classes, the noisy, persistent and shameless mendicants, compared to the cattle, and the self-respecting, patient, suffering poor, who have a right to the nobler title of men. And they cite a saying of an unknown author against indiscriminate almsgiving, which has a Talmudic ring in it: “Let thine alms sweat in thy hand, till thou find a righteous man on whom to bestow it.” So the Wise Man saith, “Give to the godly man, and help not the sinners. Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly; hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby.”* A happier exposition, however, than either of the above,* is that which sees in these verses the gradual unfolding of doctrine, the ascent in spiritual instruction, from the grass for the cattle, that is, the plainest and simplest teaching for the perfectly unlearned, and the green herb for the service of men, the somewhat more advanced, but still primary catechizing of new converts; to the richer and more solid gifts of corn, and wine, and oil, which are held back for those who are able to receive them. But in each and all,* in grass and herb, in corn and wine alike, in the simplest rudiments, and in the profoundest speculations, the food of the soul is one and the same Jesus Christ,* growing up like a tender plant out of the pure soil of His virgin Mother, cut down and dried up like grass in the burning heat of the Passion, Himself that Bread which came down from Heaven, (Ay.) and yet was brought out of the earth, once in the Nativity, and again in the Resurrection, to be the spiritual food of man, as well in devout thought as in that Blessed Sacrament of His love,* wherein He is indeed the Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and the Bread to strengthen man’s heart.

O Tree of Life! O Vine of God! Thou art amid us now;*
The Bread we break, the Wine we bless, are they not very Thou?
Veiled in His creatures comes our God; He comes Who dwells above,
The altogether lovely, and the Fount and Life of Love.
“O come, ye heavy laden, and henceforth restful be;
O come, your weary weight of sin long since was laid on Me”—
This is Thy call, O Merciful; to all who will is given
To eat supernal Bread and drink the mystic Wine of heaven.

“For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.”*

And oil to make him a cheerful countenance. (B.) Our Father does not confine His bounty to giving us His Son, to be our food, our joy, and our strength, but He bestows upon us also the blessed Unction of His Holy Spirit, Whom He sent upon the Apostles, and through them, on all redeemed mankind. There is, however, a certain ambiguity in the construction of the Hebrew,* which may be turned (as it is nearly by LXX., Vulgate, and S. Jerome,) in order to make his face cheerful [as though] with oil, taking this as a result produced by the wine, and not that oil is a separate gift, which is, however, the better way. Hence, some of the commentators explain this “oil of gladness”* to be grace, wherewith the Lord Jesus is altogether anointed, (A.) whence He is named Christ, and He anoints His preachers and messengers therewith, that they may give the Gospel freely, and not for sale;* while others take it of the Divine mercy which brings man out of his grief into gladness by the remission of sins, (R.) and confers upon him that regal chrism which makes him a king and priest to God.* Further, (C.) we are reminded that oil enters literally into the rites of four sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, (P.) and Unction of the Sick; while mystically the oil of mercy belongs to penance, and that of love to matrimony. One commentator,* seeming to bear in mind that saying of Pliny, “There are two liquors most grateful to men’s bodies, wine within, oil without,”* takes the oil here to mean the outward and visible graces and gifts of the Spirit, particularly the power of working miracles, which made the face of the Apostles to shine before men, giving them renown and lustre, while the wine signifies the inner working of the same Spirit, in heavenly operation upon the soul. If,* however, we do take the oil as a qualification of the wine, and not as an independent matter, we may fitly couple it with the last clause of the verse, bread to strengthen man’s heart, and take the whole passage of the Holy Eucharist: “For I feel that two things are most especially necessary to me in this life,* without which this miserable life will be unbearable to me: Prisoned in the dungeon of this body, I acknowledge that I need two things, to wit, food and light. Therefore Thou hast given me, a sick man, Thy Body for the refreshment of my soul and body, and hast made ‘Thy word a lantern unto my feet.’* Without these two I cannot live well; for the Word of God is the light of my soul, and Thy Sacrament is the Bread of Life.”* And one result of that blessed communion is the spirit of martyrdom,* the desire of sharing the Passion of Christ, a sweet and intoxicating wine pressed out for us from the Vine of the Cross, a food which strengthens man’s heart to bear all for Jesus.

16 The trees of the Lord also are full of sap: even the cedars of Libanus which he hath planted;

17 Wherein the birds make their nests: and the fir-trees are a dwelling for the stork.

The trees of the Lord are the indigenous ones, (L.) not planted by the hand of man, nor tended by human culture. The words of sap are not in the Hebrew,* and though the meaning does,* no doubt, ultimately, come to that, yet the immediate sense rather appears to be with rain, which continues the train of thought begun in verse 13. And the intention is to impress further the idea of the sweep and completeness of God’s providential care, not only in the creation, but in the maintenance, of the great forest trees, needing no hand but His to tend them. The usual reading of the LXX. here, followed by the Vulgate, is trees of the plain, (A.) implying their indigenous and wild condition, as distinguished from trees of an orchard or park. These trees of the Lord are, they tell us, the Gentile nations, heretofore uncultured and ignorant, but now filled not only with the refreshing showers of heaven, but with the corn and wine, and oil of God.* The cedars of Libanus come later in order, because He chose the base things of the world first, and filled the lowly and hungry with good things, before turning to the rich and mighty. There are cedars of Libanus in the world which never are so filled, those haughty and ungodly sinners, lying outside the Land of promise, of whom it is written, “The Lord breaketh the cedars of Libanus;”* but these, which are filled, are such only as He hath planted, for “every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”* Note also that Libanus, meaning white, may be taken in two ways, of the shining pomp and splendour of worldly dignity, and of the purity of soul, the true whiteness of sanctification, conferred by the cleansing waters of heaven; so that here we may, in the latter sense, understand the more eminent Saints as intended.

Wherein the birds make their nests. The word עִפֳּרִים, meaning any small birds, (A.) is here translated by LXX. (C.) and Vulgate as sparrows, and the explanation given is that spiritual persons, and especially members of Religious Orders, are supported by the bounty of wealthy and powerful persons, from whose superfluous riches they are fed, in some corners of whose domains they build their convents, aptly called nests,* because they who erect them are conscious of being mere sojourners, and of having here no continuing city. The insignificance, gregariousness, and homely brown aspect of the sparrow, have made it a not inapt emblem of the monastic societies, and in fact the French name for the bird is moineau, (C.) “little monk.” Happy is that tree, observes Cassiodorus, (himself senator, consul, prime minister, who left all to become a simple monk,) where such a nest is built, for any that contains such an institution may know that it has been planted by God.

And the fir-trees are a dwelling-place for the stork. This, which is the true meaning of the last clause, is so unlike the LXX. and Vulgate reading, that the commentators are of no real assistance in arriving at the mystical sense. This appears to be that the Saints of secular and domestic life are here signified. The fir-tree,* from its utility in building and joinery, and from its yielding pitch for binding planks together, so as to exclude wind and damp, serves as a type of settled habitation, a notion brought out by the word house (A. V., LXX., Vulg.,) here contrasting with the nests of the earlier clause, and confirmed by the stork’s habit of returning year after year to the same spot.* The bird itself (called by the Greeks, “most pious of winged creatures,”)1 whose Hebrew name חֲסִירָה is derived from a root חָסַד, “to be kind,” is noted for its tenderness to its young, an affection popularly said to be reciprocated, so that the whole picture adequately corresponds to the suggested meaning. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, The house of the heron (ἐρωδιοῦ, herodii) is their leader, (L.) meaning that the larger size of that bird, and the alleged loftiness of its nest, give it a kind of kingship amongst the feathered tribes. The commentators, not being very clear as to the nature of the herodius, tell us that it is a bird of prey, of great size and strength, more than a match for the eagle, and thus a type of violent and daring sinners. But if these sinners will be converted,* and take refuge with Christ, then He Who is the Leader of the birds, of all spiritual and devout souls, becomes the house and shelter of the sinners too, and enables them to overcome the evil spirit whom the eagle typifies. Or again, reading the sentence conversely, they tell us that the bold sinner himself, who has once been the house of the herodius, on being converted, becomes the leader of spiritual persons, and eminent over them in capacity for good now as for evil previously, as instanced in S. Paul and S. Augustine.

18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats: and so are the stony rocks for the conies.

That is, the loftier mysteries of devout contemplation and the more difficult parts of Scripture form the favourite theme of meditation for soaring hearts, inasmuch as the literal meaning of the Hebrew name of the ibex or wild goat is climber. “Let not these animals seem vile to thee,* thou seest that the flock feeds in lofty places, to wit, on a mount. Therefore, where are precipices for others, there is no peril for the goats; there is the food of this flock, there their provender is sweeter, their pasture choicer. They are seen by their herdsmen, hanging from the wooded cliff, where can be no attacks by wolves, where the fruitful trees minister abundant produce.”*

The conies. These are included in the Proverbs amongst the “four things which be little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise,”* for though they “are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.” The coney or hyrax is a small animal externally much resembling a rabbit or a marmot, though of a totally different species, and is noted for its extreme wariness, and the rapidity with which it hurries to the shelter of a cleft or cavern on the first alarm. It is thus a fit type of all timid souls,* unable for the bold climbing of stronger natures,* but finding a refuge not less sure than the highest hills in devout and lowly reliance on the Wounds and Passion of Christ,* the Rock of Ages cleft for their salvation. For wild goats and coneys, the LXX. and Vulgate read stags and hedgehogs, (A.) but there is no important difference introduced thereby into the exposition, save that a few of the commentators take the latter word to denote men still rough with small daily sins, who seek refuge and purification within the Church of Christ. And observe, (P.) that in these two verses we have three refuges set before us: the Tree of the Cross, the mount of prayer, the rocks of a steadfast faith in Christ.

19 He appointed the moon for certain seasons: and the sun knoweth his going down.

One meaning of the first clause is more fully set forth in another place: “He made the moon also to serve in her season for a declaration of times, and a sign of the world;* from the moon is the sign of feasts.”* But it may be extended to a wider significance, and embrace all the lunar phases, and the seasons of the year. S. Chrysostom understands by the moon here, drawing its light from the unseen sun, the Synagogue,* appointed only for the certain seasons of the Law and Prophets, but not knowing the mystery of the Passion, for only the Sun of Righteousness Himself knew of His coming Crucifixion, His awful setting in blood: saying, “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son,* that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.”* The more usual exposition of the moon here is, however, as the Christian Church, (A.) waxing and waning, but never extinguished, but sometimes decrescent by reason of apostasy and coldness, (L.) sometimes shining at the full in the victories of the Martyrs. Only the sun is said to know, for the moon depends on him, and has no independent light of her own, and therefore must draw her knowledge from him, as the Church derives all her wisdom from Christ. And one of the things He knows, which we do not, is why He sets at times in the hearts of His people,* leaving them in the darkness of their sins or of their doubt and sorrow; wherefore it follows:

20 Thou makest darkness that it may be night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do move.

It was darkness, that of sorrow, in the hearts of the Apostles at the time of the Lord’s Passion,* when the wild rage of the populace, truly beasts of the forest, was wreaked on Him. It was darkness, that of sin, then too, in the hearts of the Jews, when the evil spirits, believing themselves victorious, assumed the mastery over them; and a little later, when the fierce heathen of Rome moved their camps and forces against the guilty city for its total overthrow.* Of these several glooms that darkness which lasted from the sixth to the ninth hour at the Crucifixion was a type; and so,* when the like overshadows our hearts, then evil thoughts and passions, the suggestions of our ghostly enemies, move and pass through (Vulg.) our minds;* while in the whole body of the Church,* the darkness and ignorance of incompetent and slothful pastors enables heretics to devour the Lord’s flock, as it is then “in darkness and the shadow of death.”*

21 The lions roaring after their prey: do seek their meat from God.

This the evil spirits did at the time of the Passion,* when they saw treason and cowardice invade the very college of the Apostles; when Judas betrayed, Peter denied, and the others fled. Wherefore the Lord saith, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift you as wheat.”* They seek their meat from God, because, (A.) on the one hand, as we read in the story of holy Job, they can tempt no man unless God grant them permission; and again, their object is to draw sinners from God and to themselves.* Peter was dragged out of those very jaws: Judas was swallowed up. And the words hold good of rapacious kings and governments seizing on the property of the Church and of religious houses,* robbing from God, for “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”*

22 The sun ariseth, and they get them away together: and lay them down in their dens.

When the Lord arose again in the glory of His Resurrection,* the evil spirits and their tools, the chief Priests and Pharisees, (A.) were confounded and put to rout; when the Truth is boldly preached in all its clearness after a season of neglect and darkness, or of persecution, the enemies of the Gospel, Jews and heretics alike, retire to their lurking-places; when the Day-star arises in our hearts, the evil passions of the soul are lulled to rest, and hidden from the thought. Before the Resurrection,* the evil spirits had greater power in the world than now, and went up and down, seeking whom they might devour; but now their power is restricted, and they are compelled to lurk in dens, and not to range openly about. When the last great arising of the Sun of Righteousness shall take place,* and the Lord shall come in glory to judgment, then His enemies shall lay them down in their dens, in the everlasting prison of the bottomless pit. And because the evil spirits are fettered even now, and cannot work harm at their pleasure, we read,

23 Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour: until the evening.

Here is the result of sunrise, (Ay.) teaching us the contrast between man and beast. For the wild beasts hide in the daytime, to avoid capture, but roam about at night for prey, while man, endowed with reason, rests in the night and toils in the day. Every one on whom Christ shines is prompted to toil for Him, and that till the evening of life, to the coming on of death; and thus the Apostles, and all other great preachers since, have gone forth to the labour of extending the Gospel kingdom, to last through the persecution of Antichrist, and to the very twilight of the world. Until the, evening, for “the night cometh when no man can work,”* but not ceasing until that time, for the Lord hath said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”* The toil may be heavy, and the hours slow, so that man is “as a servant that earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling that looketh for the reward of his work,”* but takes comfort, remembering that

Be the day weary,* or be the day long,
At the last the bell ringeth to evensong.

24 O Lord, how manifold are thy works: in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.

He does not undertake to answer his own question, (A.) How manifold? for he confesses God’s works to be greater than his own power of expression; whether these works belong to the creation of nature or to that of grace.* And observe how the concurrent operation of the Blessed Trinity is set forth: O Lord, how manifold are Thy works, teaches of the Father, (C.) the Source of all things; in Wisdom hast Thou made them all, tells us of the Son, the Eternal Word, “Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God,* by Whom were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made;”* the earth is full of Thy riches, is spoken of the Holy Ghost, Who filleth the world. And they explain this last clause diversely of the Church, God’s possession (Vulg.) which fills the earth,* as it is made known in every land, or of the gifts of the sacraments, and those of faith, hope, and charity poured out on the world by the Gospel; or again of the special land of Judæa, filled by the Apostolic preaching with saintly disciples, the true riches of the Lord.

25 So is the great and wide sea also: wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

So is. These words are not in the Hebrew, which is better translated Yonder is the great and wide sea, the expression of a writer living at some distance from the coast.* In this recurrence to the ocean, it is no longer mentioned, as in the sixth verse, merely as a shroud and pall which hid the earth, but as itself a field of creation, teeming with living things, and as wonderful as the earth and sky. Mystically, the great sea is the life of the present world, (L.) full of creeping things, temptations and perils,* both small and great, (Ay.) through which man must pass before he can reach the peaceful shores of his Country; lured as he is on his voyage by the siren voices of desire, pride, and avarice. The literal Hebrew of the epithet wide is given by LXX. and Vulgate, wide with hands, that is, stretching out its arms, as it were, to east and west; (R.) but the commentators take it as meaning wide for hands, that is,* affording ample employment to the Saints in the conversion of the heathen.

26 There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan: whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.

These ships are the preachers which carry Christ into the hearts of men,* of the local Churches which pass over the sea amidst storms and tempests, piloted by Christ with the wood of the Cross. And observe, that as the world is the sea, and temptations and persecutions the storms, so if the Church be the ship, the Cross is the mast, faith the sail, good works her yards, the Apostles and doctors her crew, the Holy Ghost the favourable wind, the harbour the end of the world, (L.) and the country reached everlasting life. This is that vessel of which we read, “And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him,”* of which it is true that “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”* Every soul that has set out on the voyage for the Happy Isles is like a ship too,* whereof some make shipwreck of the faith, and never reach the haven, while others, more blessed in their undertaking,* come safe to land. And in saying there go the ships, we are taught that the way to heaven must needs be over the waters of Baptism. Leviathan, translated dragon by LXX. and Vulgate, cannot here mean, as it elsewhere does, the fresh-water crocodile, but stands for any sea monster,* taking its pastime, by sporting and playing freely in the waters. But the ambiguity of the Hebrew, reproduced by the Vulgate,* makes another reading possible, whom Thou hast made to sport with him, a sense borne out by the similar language, “Wilt thou play with him [leviathan] as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?”* And then the notion will be of the perfect ease with which God deals with the vast bulk of the monster as a mere toy in His hands.* There is a wild Jewish tradition that the male leviathan is for three hours daily the plaything of God, while the female, slain to avert the multiplication of such huge creatures, is salted down for the food of Israel in the days of Messiah. (Ay.) A literalist view, (D. C.) taken by some of the mediæval commentators,* albeit with some incredible adjuncts, sees here denoted the ease with which leviathan, despite his size and strength, is captured and killed by means of human skill and ingenuity pitted against brute force.

Mystically, they take it to mean the devil,* who, in despite of his power and craft, is made a mock of by God, by men, and by Angels; by God, when suffered to tempt men that they may advance in holiness; by men, whom he often finds stronger, like Job, the more he strives to weaken them; by Angels, whom he knows to be fully aware of all the circumstances of his fall. The LXX. rendering of Job 40:19, speaking of Behemoth, is “This is the beginning of the creation of the Lord, made to be sported with by the Angels;” whence S. Augustine, (A.) illustrating the present Psalm, remarks, “Wouldst thou mock the dragon? Be an Angel of God. But thou art not yet an Angel of God. Until thou be such, if thou do but hold the course towards it, there are Angels to mock the dragon, lest he should hurt thee. For the Angels of heaven are set over the powers of the air.” And thus, having lost his great power, he is made for a mock, so that any one who has Christ for his Head, can trample on the dragon, and bruise the head thereof, by refusing to yield to his suggestions, (P.) or to swerve from the right way. And so the Master Himself made a mock of the sea monster, luring him with the bait of Manhood which had the hook of Deity,* and does so still by daily rescuing sinners from his grasp through means of repentance.

27 These wait all upon thee: that thou mayest give them meat in due season.

28 When thou givest it them they gather it: and when thou openest thy hand they are filled with good.

The Psalmist once again turns to the contemplation of God’s continual providence and care for His creation, in that He does not simply make it, and having laid down certain fixed laws for its guidance,* withdraw Himself from all interference and supervision, but is its active and incessant ruler, so that all vital things live by His bounty, and would die were He to close His hand and turn His face away. All faithful souls wait upon God, (L.) that He may give them Christ’s Body and Blood to be their food, in the due season of love and penitence; and all persecutors, all evil spirits, (A.) and even the great dragon himself, must wait God’s pleasure before they can tempt or devour any man. When temptation comes, or when destruction comes, it is only in due season, (C.) at the time when Divine probation or Divine displeasure wills it. They then who would fain not be the dragon’s food, have to see that they be not earthy in their conversation, for it is written of the serpent, “Upon thy belly shalt thou go,* and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;”* so that they whose conversation is in heaven are far above out of his reach, and are not fed upon, but feeders, for “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”* And man obtains this when God discloses Himself by opening His Hand; that is, (A.) revealing His Only-Begotten Son, by Whom, and not by any efforts of our own, we are filled with good; with the graces of faith, hope, and charity, with the gifts of the Sacraments and of the Spirit in this life, and satiated with everlasting blessedness in the world to come; for “every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”*

29 When thou hidest thy face they are troubled: when thou takest away their breath they die, and are turned again to their dust.

God turns away His face sometimes, (C.) lest men should ascribe to their own merit or holiness that good wherewith they are filled, and to teach them that His open hand is its efficient cause, so that they are troubled, till they pray to see once more the light of His countenance. And as He is the bestower of life, so He also takes it away, and as the withdrawal of His Spirit from any man means spiritual death, (for we read, “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him,”*) so a man thus punished is turned again to the dust, and becomes the prey of the creeping serpent. But the Lord also, (A.) in His mercy, after He has troubled sinners, takes away from them the spirit of pride and rebellion, so that they die to their sins, and make their confession to God in the dust of humility and repentance.

30 When thou lettest thy breath go forth they shall be made: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

The force of the former clause here is seen better in the A. V. translation, nearly identical with LXX. and Vulgate. Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit,* they are created. That is, in the literal sense, whereas God destroys one generation of animated beings, reducing them to dust, He exercises His creative energy by calling a fresh generation into being, and thus replenishes the earth with creatures of every species. It is the same quickening and vivifying influence of which we read in the beginning of the Mosaic record, “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”* And what He does in this wise by secondary causes, (Ay.) He is able to do at once by primary and immediate operation, so that the verse may be well understood of the general Resurrection, when the Lord God will say, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”* And besides this sense, there is the further one of the continual mission of the Holy Ghost in the Church for the conversion of sinners, and their renewal by the new birth of Baptism, the new cleansing of repentance, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,”* wherefore, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”* And it is rightly said the face of the earth, because the teaching of the Apostles, converting the Gentiles to the truth, has spread everywhere, “their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words into the ends of the world.”*

31 The glorious Majesty of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

This ought rather to be taken, as by LXX. and Vulgate, as a prayer: Let the glory of the Lord be for ever.* The Psalmist begins with the praise of God’s glory and ends with prayer for its everlasting continuance.* His first petition is also the first in the Our Father.* Because the Lord renews the face of the earth, and creates afresh living creatures therein, because He maketh all things new, and will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth when the old have passed away, therefore His glory shall endure for ever. Not that it would cease to be, in its essence and eternity, were He alone in the universe, but that it can be manifested only while there is a creation to disclose, to serve, and to worship Him. And it is then said, The Lord shall rejoice in His works,* because He delights in the life, not in the death of His creatures, “for God made not death; neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living.”* When the new creation is complete, it will be said, as it was once before, “God saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good.”* But whereas it afterward “repented the Lord, and grieved Him at the heart,”* because of the fall of man, He will have no such sorrow and dishonour in the Resurrection,* for His works of mercy and of justice will be both made perfect, in destroying sin and rewarding holiness, so that the glorious majesty of the Lord shall endure for ever, (L.) as He is worshipped by His ransomed Saints, those works of His grace wherein He rejoices. And the Father, Who saved the world by the Incarnation and Passion of His Son, will look well pleased on Him, saying, “Behold Mine elect, in Whom My soul delighteth.”*

32 The earth shall tremble at the look of him: if he do but touch the hills, they shall smoke.

Amongst those works of God wherein He delights,* the conversion of sinners holds a high place, and He looks upon them when they are trusting in their own strength, till they tremble, (A.) and even the proud amongst them send up the smoking incense of confession and prayer from the height of their imagination to the footstool of His throne. The immediate reference is to the trembling and darkness on Sinai at the giving of the Law,* and some commentators see therein and here a type and prophecy of the earthquake which shall precede the Judgment, and the fire,* out of which the elect shall be saved, (R.) to which the smoke will be due.

33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will praise my God while I have my being.

34 And so shall my words please him: my joy shall be in the Lord.

I will sing, denotes our due service of praise and worship during all this mortal life, (A.) as long, too,* as we truly live by the Spirit of God; I will praise implies action, as the word signifies playing on an instrument, and tells us of the other service of good works, never to cease for the redeemed in this life, nor, perhaps, in that which is to come.

Others, however, comparing that voice of the Prophet, (Ay.) “Tate an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered;” explain the words here as denoting the mournful song of confession of sin. That song may be sung, observes the Carmelite, in bass, in tenor, in alto, as we pass from contrition to confession and thence to mortification. There are four chief faults in singing, remarks the Cardinal of S. Sabina; slurring over the notes,* singing false, being flat, and being in discord; and we may commit all these in confession, by being silent about some of our sins, misrepresenting others, making excuses to palliate them, or not being penitent at heart.

So shall my words please Him. More exactly, (Ay.) with LXX. and Vulgate, be sweet unto Him, for though confession is bitter to man, who offers it, yet it is sweet to God Who receives it. But, as a devout writer observes, “all is washed away in confession, the conscience is purified, bitterness is taken away, the waves are driven back, the calm returns, hope revives, and the soul becometh cheerful,”* wherefore is added here: My joy shall be in the Lord, when all pleasure in worldly delights has passed for ever from the soul.

Jesu,* Thou joy of loving hearts,
Thou fount of life, Thou light of men,*
From the best bliss that earth imparts,*
We turn unfilled to Thee again.

35 As for sinners, they shall be consumed out of the earth, and the ungodly shall come to an end: praise thou the Lord, O my soul, praise the Lord.

The LXX. and Vulgate read this verse as a prayer, (L.) agreeing therein with the A. V. There is but one jarring note in the harmonious Psalm of creation, it is only man of all living things that can make God sad, and draw tears from the eyes of Christ.

All true, all faultless,* all in tune,
Creation’s wondrous choir,*
Opened in mystic unison
To last till time expire.
And still it lasts: by day and night,
With one consenting voice,
All hymn Thy glory, Lord, aright,
All worship and rejoice.
Man only mars the sweet accord,
O’erpowering with harsh din
The music of Thy works and word,
Ill matched with grief and sin.

And therefore the Psalmist prays that this discord may be amended; (A.) and that in one of two ways, either by the conversion of sinners, that burnt up with the fire of the Holy Ghost, they may have no earthliness left remaining in them, but that all their ungodliness may come to end; (D. C.) or, if they harden themselves against the mercy of the Lord, they may be entirely taken away, that they be no longer a stumbling-block in the way of the elect.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. (C.) A dignified ending of the Psalm, as the like beginning of it is dignified, for we should ever be praising Him Who never ceaseth to bestow His bounties upon us. He is Alpha, and our life should begin with His praise:* He is Omega,* and it should close in like manner, for “the soul of blessing shall be made fat” with all the riches of God’s house, when He shall have put away evil for evermore.* And therefore, with deep significance, we have here as the final words of the Psalm, and for the first time in the Psalter, the cry of Hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord, celebrating His victory over sin, His judgments on the wicked; just as its first occurrence in the New Testament is in the vision of S. John,* “I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are His judgments: for He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia.”


Glory be to the Father, Who is clothed with majesty and honour; glory be to the Son, the Eternal Wisdom in Whom He hath made all things; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Author of the new creation, Who reneweth the face of the earth.

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


Gregorian. Saturday: Matins. [Whitsunday: Matins. Transfiguration: III. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Saturday: I. Nocturn. [Transfiguration: II. Nocturn.]

Ambrosian. Friday of Second Week: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Monday: Matins.

Lyons. Saturday: Matins.

Quignon. Monday: Lauds.

Eastern Church. Prefatory Psalm at Vespers.


Gregorian and Monastic. Praise * the Lord, O my soul. [Whitsunday: Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Alleluia. Alleluia. Transfiguration: He is clothed with majesty and honour * decked with light as it were with a garment.]

Ambrosian. As Psalm 102.

Parisian. All * hast Thou made in wisdom, O Lord, the earth is full of Thy possession.

Lyons. Praise * the Lord, O my soul.

Mozarabic. Thou art clothed with majesty and honour * Thou deckest Thyself with light as it were with a garment.


O glorious and Almighty God,* Who hast satisfied the dry land with abundant fruit, grant us to contemplate with spiritual understanding Thy glorious Ascension, that while we look up to Thee in heaven, we may ever meditate on heavenly things. (5.)

How magnified are Thy works,* O Lord, in wisdom hast Thou made them all; but fill us with the Spirit of guidance, that whilst we wonder at Thy works, our understanding may praise and magnify Thee in Thy works. (11.)

O Lord God Almighty,* Who hast commanded the evening, and the morning, and the noontide to be called one day, and hast bidden the sun to know his going down; pierce, we beseech Thee, the darkness of our hearts, that as Thou sheddest Thy rays, we may acknowledge Thee to be Very God and Light everlasting. (11.)

O Lord God Almighty,* Who makest Thine Angels spirits and Thy ministers a flame of fire, kindle in us, we beseech Thee, the flame of Thy love, which, by the word of the sacred mouth, Thou hast vouchsafed Thy promise to send, and let it glow in such wise within us by faith and works, that it may cut away all sins from us, and unite us with the heavenly citizens. (11.)

O God, Who lookest upon the earth, (D. C.) and makest it to tremble, send Thy wholesome fear into our hearts, that, abandoning the evil things whereby we have grievously offended Thee, our sinful face may be renewed by Thy Spirit within us, and we may ever cling to Thee in holy devotion, and sing to Thy praise in the pleasantness of salvation. (1.)

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalms 42 & 43

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2016

Psalm 42

THE poet is far from the Temple and its worship, in some part, perhaps, of the northern East Jordanland. He bids his soul, in a twice repeated refrain, to hope for a share in the Temple worship once more. His enemies mock him because he has no ritual of sacrificial worship, and, therefore, seems to have no God. He thinks of great days in the past when he journeyed with joyous pilgrim throngs to the ancient shrine of the nation. The memory sustains him now when he is so far away from Jerusalem. He has, indeed, no solemn worship of the Lord in the lonely place of his sojourn, but he sings in the night time the praises of Israel’s God. “Be not sad, my soul” he concludes, “Once again I shall praise the Lord before His face in the Temple and say to Him: Thou art my Helper and my God.”

Davidic origin is not claimed for this Psalm, and, as the poem seems to imply the existence of Temple worship, Davidic origin is, indeed, excluded. The presence of the refrain of Ps 42 in Ps 43, and other points of contact have led nearly all modern commentators to regard Psalms 42 and 43 as a single poem. Since, however, this view is not quite certain (Ps 43, for instance, being ascribed in the Greek to David), and since this work deals with the Vulgate Psalter, it is more convenient to treat Psalms 42 and 43 separately. The author, some commentators think, probably was a priest. The mosaic of psalm passages in Jonah 2:3-10 includes a verse from Ps 42, so that this psalm is, most probably, older than the Book of Jonah. It is certainly older than 586 B.C., since it supposes the Temple still standing. There is nothing in the psalm to support the popular radical view that the writer was the High Priest Onias III, and that the occasion of the psalm was the conquest of Jerusalem by Scopas, a captain under Ptolemy Epiphanes. The scene of its composition is probably indicated in verse 7.


THE situation of the poet here is the same as in Ps 42. The petition in verse 3 is very natural as a final section, apart from the refrain. Though troubled so greatly by the mockers who surround him, the psalmist is confident that he will once again appear before his God in Jerusalem. The messengers of the Lord, His Light and His Truth, will come to guide him to the Hill where God dwells, that he may share again with the same holy ardour and joy with which he joined in the sacred ceremonial in his youth, in the worship of the Temple. The refrain makes the connection of Pss 42 and 43 certain.

The title “A psalm of David,” is wanting in the Hebrew. It may have been suggested to an early critic by the reference to the Tabernacle in verse 3. There is no good reason for regarding Ps 43 as other than the concluding portion of Ps 42.

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Year C: Palm Sunday Commentaries on the Processional and Gospel Readings

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 12, 2016



St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 19:28-40.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 19:28-40.

Sacred Page Blog: The Jewish Roots of Palm Sunday and the Passion (on Luke 19:28-40). Catholic biblical scholar Dr. Brant Pitre with some very interesting stuff on the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Luke 22:14-23:56. A shorter reading, Luke 23:1-49 is allowed .

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 22:14-23:56.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke 22:14-23:56.

Link fixed. Father Donald Senior’s Commentary on the Passion According to Luke.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 22:14-23:56 in Six Parts.

1. Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-38).
2. Jesus Agony, Betrayal, Arrest, Peter’s Denial and Repentance (Luke 22:39-62).
3. Mockery, Trials, Sentence of Death (Luke 22:63-23:65).
4. The Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26-32).
5. Crucifixion and Death (Luke 23:33-49).
6. The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56).

Word Sunday’s Notes on the Shorter Reading in Two Parts:

Part 1. Luke 23:1-25.
Part 2. Luke 23:26-49.


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Year A: Palm Sunday Commentaries on the Processional and Gospel Readings.

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 12, 2016



Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 21:1-11.

Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 21:1-11.

Notes From Word Sunday on Matthew 21:1-11. Includes popular translation, literal translation, notes.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 21:1-11.

Homily on the Processional Gospel. By Bishop Bonomelli. (A.D. 1831-1914).

Homily on the Proper Reception of Holy Communion. Based on Matt 21:5, by Fr Augustine Wirth (A.D. 1828-1901).


Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matt 26:1-27:66. Links below.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 26:1-27:66.

Reflecting on the Gospel for Palm Sunday. Excerpted from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, part of a new commentary series on the NT for Catholics.

Word Sunday on Matt 26:14-27:66. Links below.

Link fixed. Father Donald Senior’s Commentary on the Passion According to St Matthew.

The Mental Sufferings of our Lord in His Passion. A homily by St John Henry Cardinal Newman from his Discourses to Mixed congregations.

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Year B, Palm Sunday Processional and Gospel Readings.

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 12, 2016


PROCESSIONAL READINGS: Note that in Year A John 12:12-16 is allowed as an alternate readings.

On Mark: Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 11:1-10.

On Mark: EWTN Podcast Study of Mark’s Gospel. Listen to episode 11.

On Mark: Speaking of Scripture blog on Mark 11:7-9. An excerpt from Mary Healy’s Commentary on Mark, part of a new Series of books entitled Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture.

On John: Navarre Bible Commentary on John 12:12-16.

On John: Word Sunday on John 12:12-16.

On John: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 12:12-16.

On John: Fathers Nolan’s And Brown’s Commentary on John 12:12-16.

On John: St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 12:12-16.

GOSPEL READING: Allows for a longer (Mark 14:1-15:47) or shorter (Mark 15:1-39) reading.

Longer Reading: Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 14:1-15:47.

Pending: Longer Reading: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 14:1-15:47.

Longer Reading: Father Donald Senior’s Commentary on the Passion According to St Mark.

Longer Reading: Haydock Bible Commentary on 14:1-15:47.

EWTN’s Podcast Study of Mark’s Gospel. Listen to episode 13.

Shorter Reading: Word Sunday (in three parts):

Homilies, Podcasts, Other Stuff:

Update: Sacred Page Blog: My God, My God! Why Have You Forsaken Me? Comments and reflections on the readings by Catholic biblical scholar Dr. John Bergsma.

John Henry Newman’s Homily on Philippians 2:6-11. Text.

Bishop Bonomelli’s Homily on Philippians 2:6-11. Text.

St Martha’s Podcast. Audio. Usually studies the readings in some detail.

Franciscan Sister’s Bible Study Podcast. Audio. Available later in the week.

Dr. Scott Hahn’s Podcast. Audio (text too). Brief, does good job of highlighting the themes.

Father Robert Barron’s Podcast Homily. Audio.


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Commentaries for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year C

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2016


Readings from the NABRE. Used in the USA.

Mass Readings in the NJB Translation. Scroll down. Used in most English speaking countries. For some reason the site has the Gospel reading before the second reading.

Divine Office.


Navarre Bible Commentary on Isaiah 43:16-21.

My Notes on Isaiah 43:16-21.

Word-Sunday Notes on Isaiah 43:16-21.

Homilist’s Catechism on Isaiah 43:16-21.


Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 126.

Pope Benedict’s Commentary on Psalm 126.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 126.

St Albert the Great’s Commentary on Psalm 126.

Word-Sunday Notes on Psalm 126.


Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 3:8-14. Capuchin friar.

My Notes on Philippians 3:8-14. Not yet complete. Currently on verses 8-11.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Philippians 3:8-14.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians 3:8-14.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Philippians 3:8-14.

Word Sunday Notes on Philippians 3:8-14.

Homilist’s Catechism on Philippians 3:8-14.


Navarre Bible Commentary on John 8:1-11.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 8:1-11.  “The Golden Chain” of St Thomas Aquinas.  A running commentary he collected from the works of the Early Church Fathers.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Notes on John 8:1-11.  Father Lapide was one of the most famed biblical scholars of his day.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 8:1-11.  From his popular 19th century commentary.

Was the Story of the Woman Caught in Adultery Really a Later Addition? From Dr. Michael Barber of the Sacred Page Blog. Not a commentary on today’s reading but an issue of importance in relation to it. I’ve decided to link to it here rather than under “General Resources” since more people tend to focus on the “Commentaries on the Gospel” heading. Do check out the General Resources though, there are a number of fine resources there, including Dr. Barber’s fellow Sacred Page blogger, Dr. John Bergsma’s reflections on the readings (actually, this week’s SP reflection is by Dr. Barber and, as just noted, is located below under “General Resources”.

Word-Sunday Notes on John 8:1-11.

Homilist’s Catechism on John 8:1-11.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 8:1-11.

GENERAL RESOURCES: sites that usually deal with the readings as a whole (with some occasional specialty studies).

Word Sunday. All the readings in both and literal translation, notes on the text, podcast, children’s reading.

Doctrinal Homily Outlines.  Gives the theme of the readings, the doctrinal message, and pastoral application.

Lector Notes. Brief historical and theological background on the readings. Can be printed out, copied, and used as bulletin insert.

The Wednesday Word.  It’s about the Sunday readings, but the document is posted on Wednesday, hence the name. Designed for prayer and reflection, the pdf document ends with Father Dom Henry Wansbrough’s reflections on the first and second readings. Fr. Wansbrough is General Editor of the New Jerusalem Bible and contributed commentaries on Matt, Mark, and the Pastorals in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture.

St Charles Borromeo Parish’s Bible Study Notes. Notes on all the readings, usually with some background info as well.

Sacred Page Blog: Go, and…Do Not Sin Anymore. Reflection on the readings by Catholic biblical scholar Dr Michael Barber.

Glancing Thoughts. Brief reflections from philosopher Eleanore Stump.

Thoughts From The Early Church. Excerpt on the Gospel from St Augustine.

Scripture In Depth. Succinct summary of the readings and their relation to one another.


Catholic Mom.  Scroll down to this Sunday. Resources appear oriented towards 7-14 years of age.

Word Sunday’s Children’s Reading. Two very short stories seeking to draw a lesson from the first and Gospel readings.

We Believe. Activities geared towards Kindergarten through 8th grade. Also has resources for catechists, clergy, etc.

The Catholic Toolbox. Not yet posted. Activities, crafts, games, etc., for class or home.

Domestic Church. Lent and Easter activities arranged for families, younger children, older children.

Sunday Connection. Resources for different grade levels, and family activities.

Catholic Kids Bulletin.


Dr. Scott Hahn’s Podcast. Brief. Does good job of highlighting major theme(s). Text available.

Father Robert Barron’s Podcast Homily: Every Saint Had a Past, Every Sinner Has a Future. From the noted speaker and theologian.

St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study on John: The Woman Caught in Adultery. Part of a series of studies on John. Click the POD icon or the direct download to listen.

St Martha’s Parish Bible Study Podcast. Looks at all of the readings in some detail.

Franciscan Sister’s Bible Study Podcast. I’ve linked to the archive page. Click on the study for March 17.


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St Augustine’s Homilies on John 5:31-47

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2016


[I] 1. WE have heard the words of the holy Gospel; and this that the Lord Jesus saith, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true,”4 may perplex some. How then is not the witness of the Truth true? Is it not Himself who hath said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”?5 Whom then are we to believe, if we must not believe the Truth? For of a surety he is minded to believe nothing but falsehood, who does not choose to believe the truth. So then this was spoken on their principles, that you should understand it thus, and gather this meaning from these words; “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true,” that is, as ye think. For He knew well that His Own witness of Himself was true; but for the sake of the weak, and hard of belief, and without understanding, the Sun looked out for lamps. For their weakness of sight could not bear the dazzling brightness of the Sun.

2. Therefore was John sought for to bear witness to the Truth; and ye have heard what He said; “Ye came unto John; he was a burning and a shining lamp, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.”6 This lamp was prepared for their confusion, for of this was it said so long time before in the Psalms, “I have prepared a lamp for Mine Anointed.”7 What! a lamp for the Sun! “His enemies will I clothe with confusion: but upon Himself shall my sanctification flourish.”8 And hence they were in a certain place confounded by means of this very John, when the Jews said to the Lord, “By what authority doest Thou these things? Tell us.” To whom He answered, “Do ye tell Me too, The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” They heard, and held their peace. For they thought at once with themselves. “If we shall say, Of men: the people will stone us; for they hold John as a prophet. If we shall say, From heaven; He will say to us, Why then have ye not believed him?”1 For John bare witness to Christ. So straitened in their hearts by their own questions, and taken in their own snares, they answered, “We do not know.” What else could the voice of darkness be? It is right indeed for a man when he does not know, to say, “I know not.” But when he does know, and says, “I know not;” he is a witness against himself. Now they knew well John’s excellency, and that his baptism was from heaven; but they were unwilling to acquiesce in Him to whom John bare witness. But when they said, “We do not know;” Jesus answered them. “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” And they were confounded; and so was fulfilled, “I have prepared a lamp for Mine Anointed, His enemies will I clothe with confusion.”

[II] 3. Are not Martyrs witnesses of Christ, and do they not bear witness to the truth? But if we think more carefully, when those Martyrs bear witness, He beareth witness to Himself. For He dwelleth in the Martyrs, that they may bear witness to the truth. Hear one of the Martyrs, even the Apostle Paul; “Would ye receive a proof of Christ, who speaketh in Me?”2 When John then beareth witness, Christ, who dwelleth in John, beareth witness to Himself. Let Peter bear witness, let Paul bear witness, let the rest of the Apostles bear witness, let Stephen bear witness, it is He who dwelleth in them all that beareth witness to Himself. For He without them is God, they without Him, what are they?

4. Of Him it is said, “He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, He gave gifts unto men.”3 What is, “He led captivity captive”? He conquered death. What is, “He led captivity captive”? The devil was the author of death, and the devil was himself by the Death of Christ led captive. “He ascended up on high.” What do we know higher than heaven? Visibly and before the eyes of His disciples He ascended into heaven. This we know, this we believe, this we confess. “He gave gifts unto men.” What gifts? The Holy Spirit. He who giveth such a Gift, what is He Himself? For great is God’s mercy; He giveth a Gift equal to Himself; for His Gift is the Holy Spirit, and the Whole Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, is One God. What hath the Holy Spirit brought us? Hear the Apostle; “The love of God,” saith he, “hath been shed abroad in our hearts.”4 Whence, thou beggar, hath the love of God been shed abroad in thine heart? How, or wherein hath the love of God been shed abroad in the heart of man? “We have,” saith he, “this treasure in earthen vessels.” Why in earthen vessels? “That the excellency of the power may be of God?”5 Finally, when he had said, “The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts;” that no man might think that he hath this love of God of himself, he added immediately, “By the Holy Spirit, who hath been given to us.” Therefore, that thou mayest love God, let God dwell in thee, and love Himself in thee, that is, to His love let Him move thee, enkindle, enlighten, arouse thee.

[III] 5. For in this body of ours there is a struggle; as long as we live, we are in combat; as long as we are in combat, we are in peril; but, “in all these things we are conquerors through Him who loved us.”6 Our combat ye heard of just now when the Apostle was being read. “All the law,” saith he, “is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”7 This love is from the Holy Spirit. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” First see, if thou knowest yet how to love thyself; and then will I commit to thee the neighbour whom thou art to love as thyself. But if thou dost not yet know how to love thyself; I fear lest thou shouldest deceive thy neighbour as thyself. For if thou lovest iniquity, thou dost not love thyself. The Psalm is witness; “But whoso loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul.”8 Now if thou hate thine own soul, what doth it profit thee that thou dost love thy flesh? If thou hate thine own soul, and lovest thy flesh, thy flesh shall rise again; but only that thy soul may be tormented. Therefore the soul must first be loved, which is to he subdued unto God, that this service may maintain its due order, the soul to God, the flesh to the soul. Wouldest thou that thy flesh should serve thy soul? Let thy soul serve God. Thou oughtest to be ruled, that thou mayest be able to rule. For so perilous is this struggle, that if thy Ruler forsake thee, ruin must ensue.

[IV] 6. What struggle? “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. But I say, Walk in the Spirit.”9 I am quoting the words of the Apostle, which have been just read out of his Epistle. “But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” “But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and the lusts of the flesh,” he did not say, “Ye shall not have;” nor did he say, “Ye shall not do;” but, “Ye shall not fulfil.” Now what this is, with the Lord’s assistance, I will declare as I shall be able; give attention, that ye may understand, if ye are walking in the Spirit. “But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” Let him follow on; if haply anything, as this which is here obscure, may be understood more easily by the sequel of his words. For I said, that it was not without a meaning that the Apostle would not say, “Ye shall not have the lusts of the flesh;” nor again would even say, “Ye shall not do the lusts of the flesh;” but said, “Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” He hath set forth this struggle before us. In this battle are we occupied, if we are in1 God’s service. What then follows? “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. For these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye do not the things that ye would.”2 This, if it be not understood, is with exceeding peril heard. And therefore anxious as I am lest men by an evil interpretation should perish, I have undertaken with the Lord’s assistance to explain these words to your affection. We have leisure enough, we have begun early in the morning, the hour of dinner does not press; on this day, the sabbath that is, they that hunger after the word of God are wont especially to meet together. Hear and attend, I will speak with what carefulness I can.

[V] 7. What then is that which I said, “Is heard with peril if it be not understood “? Many overcome by carnal and damnable lusts, commit all sorts of crimes and impurities, and wallow in such abominable uncleanness, as it is a shame even to mention; and say to themselves these words of the Apostle. See what the Apostle has said, “So that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”3 I would not do them, I am forced, I am compelled, I am overcome, “I do the things that I would not,”4 as the Apostle says. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” You see with what peril this is heard, if it be not understood. You see how it concerns the pastor’s office, to open the closed fountains, and to minister to the thirsty sheep the pure, harmless water.

8. Be not willing then to be overcome when thou fightest. See what kind of war, what kind of battle, what kind of strife he hath set forth, within, within thine own self. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” If the Spirit lust not also against the flesh, commit adultery. But if the Spirit lust against the flesh, I see a struggle, I do not see a victory, it is a contest. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” Adultery has its pleasure. I confess that it has its pleasure. But, “The Spirit lusteth against the flesh:” Chastity too has its pleasure. Therefore let the Spirit overcome the flesh; or by all means not be overcome by the flesh. Adultery seeks the darkness, chastity desires the light. As thou wouldest wish to appear to others, so live; as thou wouldest wish to appear to men, even when beyond the eyes of men so live; for He who made thee, even in the darkness seeth thee. Why is chastity praised publicly by all? Why do not even adulterers praise adultery? “Whoso” then “seeketh the truth, cometh to the light.”5

[VI] But adultery has its pleasure. Be it contradicted, resisted, opposed. For it is not so that thou hast nothing wherewith to fight. Thy God is in thee, the good Spirit hath been given to thee. And notwithstanding this flesh of ours is permitted to lust against the spirit by evil suggestions and real6 delights. Be that secured which the Apostle saith, “Let not sin reign in your mortal body.”7 He did not say, “Let it not be there.” It is there already. And this is called sin, because it has befallen us through the wages8 of sin. For in Paradise the flesh did not lust against the spirit, nor was there this struggle there, where was peace only; but after the transgression, after that man was loth to serve God, and was given up to himself; yet not so given up to himself as that he could so much as possess himself; but possessed by him, by whom deceived; the flesh began to lust against the Spirit. Now it is in the good that it lusteth against the Spirit; for in the bad it has nothing to lust against. For there doth it lust against the Spirit, where the Spirit is.

9. For when he says, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;” do not suppose that so much hath been attributed to the spirit of man. It is the Spirit of God who fighteth in thee against thyself, against that which in thee is against thee. For thou wouldest not stand to Godward; thou didst fall, wast broken; as a vessel when it falls from a man’s hand to the ground, wast thou broken. And because thou wast broken, therefore art thou turned against thyself; therefore art thou contrary to thine own self. Let there be nought in thee contrary to thyself, and thou shalt stand in thine integrity. [VII] For that thou mayest know that this office appertaineth to the Holy Spirit; the Apostle saith in another place, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live.”9 From these words man was at once uplifting himself, as though by his own spirit he were able to mortify the deeds of the flesh. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if through the Spirit ye do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live.” Explain to us, Apostle, through what spirit? For man also hath a spirit appertaining to his proper nature, whereby he is man. For man consists of body and spirit. And of this spirit of man it is said, “No man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him.”10 I see then that man himself hath his own spirit appertaining to his proper nature, and I hear thee saying, “But if through the Spirit ye do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live.” I ask, through what spirit; my own, or God’s? For I hear thy words, and am still perplexed by this ambiguity. For when the word “spirit” is used, it is used sometimes of the spirit of a man, and of cattle, as it is written, that “all flesh which had in itself the spirit of life, died by the flood.”1 And so the word spirit is spoken of cattle, and spoken of man too. Sometimes even the wind is called spirit; as it is in the Psalm, “Fire, hail, snow, frost, the spirit of the tempest.”2 For as much then as the word “spirit” is used in many ways, by what spirit, O Apostle, hast thou said that the deeds of the flesh are to be mortified; by mine own, or by the Spirit of God? Hear what follows, and understand. The difficulty is removed by the following words. For when he had said, “But if through the Spirit ye mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live;”3 he added immediately, “For as many as are acted4 upon by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Thou dost act, if thou art acted upon, and actest well, if thou art acted upon by the Good. So then when he said to thee, “If through the Spirit ye mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live;” and it was doubtful with thee of what spirit he had spoken, in the words following understand the Master, acknowledge the Redeemer. For That Redeemer hath given thee the Spirit Whereby thou mayest mortify the deeds of the flesh. “For as many as are acted upon by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” They are not the sons of God if they are not acted upon by the Spirit of God. But if they are acted upon by the Spirit of God, they fight; because they have a mighty Helper. For God doth not look on at our combattings as the people do at the gladiators.5 The people may favour the gladiator, help him they cannot when he is in peril.

[VIII] 10. So then here to; “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” And what means, “So that ye cannot do the things that ye would”? For here is the peril with one who understands it amiss. Be it now my office to explain it, howsoever incompetent. “So that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Attend, ye holy ones, whosoever ye are that are fighting. To them that are battling do I speak. They who are fighting, understand; he that is not fighting, understands me not. Yea, he that is fighting, I will not say understands me, but anticipates me. What is the chaste man’s wish? That no lust should rise up in his members at all opposed to chastity. He wisheth for peace, but as yet he hath it not. For when we shall have come to that state, where there shall rise up no lust at all to be opposed, there will be no enemy for us to struggle with; nor is victory a matter for expectation there, for that there is triumphing over the now vanquished foe. Hear of this victory, in the Apostle’s own words; “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Now when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality; then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Hear the voices of them that triumph; “O death, where is thy contention? O death, where is thy sting?”6 Thou hast smitten, thou hast wounded, thou hast thrown down; but He hath been wounded for me who made me. O death, death, He who made me hath been wounded for me, and by His Death hath overcome thee. And then in triumph shall they say, “O death, where is thy contention? O death, where is thy sting?”

[IX] 11. But now, when “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” is the contention of death; we do not what we would. Why? Because we would that there should be no lusts, but we cannot hinder it. Whether we will or not, we have them; whether we will or not, they solicit,7 they allure, they sting, they disturb us, they will be rising. They are repressed, not yet extinguished. How long does the flesh lust against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh? Will it be so, even when the man is dead? God forbid! Thou puttest off the flesh, how then shalt thou draw the lusts of the flesh along with thee? Nay, if thou hast fought well, thou shalt be received into rest. And from this rest, thou passest to be crowned, not condemned; that thou mayest after it be brought to the Kingdom. As long then as we live here, my brethren, so it is; so is it with us even who have grown old in this warfare, less mighty enemies it is true we have, but yet we have them. Our enemies are in a measure wearied out even now by age; but nevertheless, wearied though they be, they do not cease to harass by such excitements as they can the quiet of old age. Sharper is the fight of the young; we know it well, we have passed through it: “The flesh” then “lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” For what would ye, O holy men, and good warriors, and brave soldiers of Christ? what would ye? That there should be no evil lusts at all. But ye cannot help it. Sustain8 the war, hope for triumph. For now in the meanwhile ye must fight. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would;” that is, that there should be no lusts of the flesh at all.

[X] 12. But do what ye are able; what the Apostle himself says in another place, which I had already begun to repeat; “Let not sin reign in your mortal body, to obey the desires thereof.”1 Lo, what I would not; evil desires arise; but obey them not. Arm thyself, assume the weapons of war. The precepts of God are thy arms. If thou listen to me as thou shouldest, thou art armed even by that which I am speaking. “ ‘Let not sin,’ he says, ‘reign in your mortal body.’ For as long as ye bear a mortal body, sin doth fight against you; but let it not reign.” What is, “Let it not reign”? That is, “to obey the desires thereof.” If ye begin to obey, it reigns. And what is it to obey, but to “yield your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin”? Nothing more excellent than this teacher. What wouldest thou that I should yet explain to thee? Do what thou hast heard. Yield not thy members instruments of iniquity unto sin. God hath given thee power by His Spirit to restrain thy members. Lust riseth up, restrain thy members; what can it do now that it hath risen? Restrain thou thy members; yield not thy members instruments of iniquity unto sin; arm not thine adversary against thyself. Restrain thy feet, that they go not after unlawful things. Lust hath risen up, restrain thy members; restrain thine hands from all wickedness; restrain the eyes, that they wander not astray; restrain the ears, that they hear not the words of lust with pleasure; restrain the whole body, restrain the sides, restrain its highest and lowest parts. What can lust do? How to rise up, it knoweth. How to conquer, it knoweth not. By rising up constantly without effect, it learns not even to rise.

[XI] 13. Let us then return to the words, which I had set forth out of the Apostle as obscure, and we shall now see them to be plain. For this I had set forth, that the Apostle did not say, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not have the lusts of the flesh;” because we must necessarily have them. Why then did he not say, “Ye shall not do the lusts of the flesh”? Because we do them; for we do lust. The very lusting, is doing. But the Apostle says, “Now it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”2 What then hast thou to beware of? This doubtless, that thou fulfil them not. A damnable lust hath risen up, it hath risen, made its suggestion; let it not be heard. It burneth, and is not quieted, and thou wouldest that it should not burn. Where then is, “So that ye cannot do the things that ye would”? Do not give it thy members. Let it burn without effect, and it will spend itself. In thee then these lusts are done. It must be confessed, they are done. And therefore he said, “Ye shall not fulfil.” Let them not then be fulfilled. Thou hast determined to do, thou hast fulfilled. For thou hast fulfilled it, if thou determinest upon committing adultery, and dost not commit it, because no place hath been found, because no opportunity is given, because, it may be, she for whom thou seemest to be disturbed is chaste; lo, now she is chaste, and thou art an adulterer. Why? Because thou hast fulfilled lusts. What is, “hast fulfilled”? Hast determined in thy mind upon committing adultery. If now, which God forbid, thy members too have wrought, thou hast fallen down headlong into death.

[XII] 14. Christ raised up the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue who was dead in the house.3 She was in the house, she had not yet been carried out. So is the man who hath determined on some wickedness in his heart; he is dead, but he lies within. But if he has come as far as to the action of the members, he has been carried out of the house. But the Lord raised also the young man, the widow’s son, when he was being carried out dead beyond the gate of the city.4 So then I venture to say, Thou hast determined in thine heart, if thou call thyself back from thy deed, thou wilt be cured before thou put it into action. For if thou repent in thine heart, that thou hast determined on some bad and wicked and abominable and damnable thing; there where thou wast lying dead, within, so within hast thou arisen. But if thou have fulfilled, now hast thou been carried out; but thou hast One to say to thee, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” Even though thou have perpetrated it, repent thee, return at once, come not to the sepulchre. But even here I find a third one dead, who was brought even to the sepulchre. He has now upon him the weight of habit, a mass of earth presses him down exceedingly. For he has been practised much in unclean deeds, and is weighed down exceedingly by his immoderate5 habit. Here too Christ crieth, “Lazarus, come forth.”6 For a man of very evil habit “now stinketh.” With good reason did Christ in that case cry out; and not cry out only, but with a loud Voice cried out. For at Christ’s Cry even such as these, dead though they be, buried though they be, stinking though they be, yet even these shall rise again, they shall rise again. For of none that lieth dead need we despair under such a Raiser up. Turn we to the Lord, etc.


[I] 1. GIVE heed, Beloved, to the lesson of the Gospel which has just sounded in our ears, whilst I speak a few words as God shall vouchsafe to me. The Lord Jesus was speaking to the Jews, and said to them, “Search the Scriptures, in which ye think ye have eternal life, they testify of me.”1 Then a little after He said, “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye have not received Me; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”2 Then a little after; “How can ye believe, who look for glory one from another, and seek not the glory which is of God only?”3 At last He saith, “I do not accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would haply believe Me also, for he wrote of Me. But seeing ye believe not his words, how can ye believe Me?”4 At these sayings which have been set before us from divine5 inspiration, out of the reader’s mouth, but by the Saviour’s ministry, give ear to a few words, not to be estimated by their number, but to be duly weighed.

[II] 2. For all these things it is easy to understand as touching the Jews. But we must beware, lest, when we give too much attention to them, we withdraw our eyes from ourselves. For the Lord was speaking to His disciples; and assuredly what He spake to them, He spake to us too their posterity. Nor to them only does what He said, “Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world,”6 apply, but even to all Christians that should be after them, and succeed them even unto the end of the world. Speaking then to them He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”7 They at that time, thought that the Lord had said this, because they had brought no breach; they did not understand that “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” meant, “beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees.” What was the doctrine of the Pharisees, but that which ye have now heard? “Seeking glory one of another, looking for glory one from another, and not seeking the glory which is of God only.” Of these the Apostle Paul thus speaks; “I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”8 “They have,” he says, “a zeal of God;” I know it, I am sure of it; I was once among them, I was such as they. “They have,” he says, “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” What is this, O Apostle, “not according to knowledge”? Explain to us what the knowledge is thou dost set forth, which thou dost grieve is not in them, and wouldest should be in us? He went on and subjoined and developed what he had set forth closed. What is, “They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge? For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and wishing to establish their own, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”9 To be ignorant then of God’s righteousness, and to wish to establish one’s own, this is to “look for glory one from another, and not to seek the glory which is of God only.” This is the leaven of the Pharisees. Of this the Lord bids beware. If it is servants that He bids, and the Lord that bids, let us beware; lest we hear, “Why say ye to Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”10

[III] 3. Let us then leave a while the Jews to whom the Lord was then speaking. They are without, they will not listen to us, they hate the Gospel itself, they procured false witness against the Lord, that they might condemn Him when alive; other witness they bought with money against Him when dead. When we say to them, “Believe on Jesus,” they answer us, “Are we to believe on a dead man?” But when we add, “But He rose again;” they answer, “Not11 at all;” His disciples stole Him away from the sepulchre. The Jewish buyers love falsehood and despise the truth of the Lord, the Redeemer. What thou art saying, O Jew, thy parents bought for money; and this which they bought hath continued in thee. Give heed rather to Him That bought thee, not to him who bought a lie for thee.

4. But as I have said, let us leave these, and attend rather to these our brethren, with whom we have to do. For Christ is the Head of the Body. The Head is in Heaven, the Body is on earth; the Head is the Lord, the Body His Church. But ye remember it is said, “They shall be two in one flesh.” “This is a great mystery,”12 says the Apostle, “but I speak in Christ and in the Church.”13 If then they are two in one flesh, they are two in one voice. Our Head the Lord Christ spake to the Jews these things which we heard, when the Gospel was being read, The Head to His enemies; let the Body too, that is, the Church, speak to its enemies. Ye know to whom it should speak. What has it to say? It is not of myself that I have said, that the voice is one; because the flesh is one, the voice is one. Let us then say this to them; I am speaking with the voice of the Church. “O Brethren, dispersed children, wandering sheep, branches cut off, why do ye calumniate me? Why do ye not acknowledge me? “Search the Scriptures, in which ye think ye have eternal life, they testify of me;” to the Jews our Head saith, what the Body saith to you; “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.”1 Why? Because ye do not “search the Scriptures, which testify of me.”

[IV] 5. A testimony for the Head; “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”2 A testimony for the body unto Abraham, which the Apostle hath brought forward. “To Abraham were the promises made. As I live, saith the Lord, I swear by Myself, because thou hast obeyed My Voice, and hast not spared thine own beloved son for Me, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea, and in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”3 Thou hast here a testimony for the Head, and one for the Body. Hear another, short, and almost in one sentence including a testimony for the Head and for the Body. The Psalm was speaking of the Resurrection of Christ; “Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens.”4 And immediately for the Body; “And Thy glory above all the earth.” Hear a testimony for the Head; “They digged My Hands and My Feet, they numbered all My Bones; and they looked and stared upon Me; they divided My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.”5 Hear immediately a testimony for the Body, a few words alter, “All the ends of the world shall remember themselves and be turned unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship in His sight; for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He shall have dominion over the nations.”6 Hear for the Head; And “He is as a bridegroom coming forth out of His bride-chamber.”7 And in this same Psalm hear for the Body; “Their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”8

[V] 6. These passages are for the Jews, and for these of our own brethren. Why so? Because these Scriptures of the Old Testament both the Jews receive, and these our brethren receive. But Christ Himself, whom the others do not receive, let us see if these last receive. Let Him speak Himself, speak both for Himself who is the Head, and for His Body which is the Church; for so in us the head speaks for the body. Hear for the Head; He was risen from the dead, He found the disciples hesitating, doubting, not believing for joy; He “opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day.” Thus for the Head; let Him speak for the Body too; “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name throughout all nations. beginning at Jerusalem.”9 Let the Church then speak to her enemies, let her speak. She does speak clearly, she is not silent: only let them give ear. Brethren, ye have heard the testimonies, now acknowledge me. “Search the Scriptures, in which ye hope ye have eternal life: they testify of me.” What I have said is not of mine own, but of my Lord’s; and notwithstanding, ye still turn away, still turn your backs. “How can ye believe me, who look for glory one from another, and seek not the glory which is of God only? For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, ye have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and wishing to establish your own, ye have not submitted yourselves to the righteousness of God.”10 What else is it to be ignorant of God’s righteousness, and to wish to establish your own, but to say, “It is I who sanctify, it is I who justify; what I may have given is holy”? Leave to God what is God’s; recognise, O man, what is man’s. Thou art ignorant of God’s righteousness, and wishest to establish thine own. Thou dost wish to justify me; it is enough for thee that thou be justified with me.

[VI] 7. It is said of Antichrist, and all understand of him what the Lord said, “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye have not received Me; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”11 But let us hear John too; “Ye have heard that Antichrist cometh, and even now are there many Antichrists.”12 What is it in Antichrist that we are in horror of, but that he is to honour his own name, and to despise the Name of the Lord? What else doeth he that saith, “It is I that justify”? We answer him, “I came to Christ, not with my feet, but with my heart I came; where I heard the Gospel, there did I believe, there was I baptized; because I believed on Christ, I believed on God.” Yet says he, “Thou art not clean.” “Why?” “Because I was not there.” “Tell me why am not I cleansed, a man who was baptized in Jerusalem, who was baptized, for instance, among the Ephesians, to whom an Epistle you read was written, and whose peace you despise? Lo, to the Ephesians the Apostle wrote; a Church was rounded, and remains even to this day; yea, remains in greater fruitfulness, remains in greater numbers, holds fast that which it received of the Apostle, ‘If any man preach ought to you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’1 What now? what dost thou say to me? Am I not clean? There was I baptized, am I not clean?” “No, even thou art not.” “Why?” “Because I was not there.” “But He who is everywhere was there. He who is everywhere was there, in whose Name I believed. Thou coming I know not whence, yea, rather not coming, but wishing that I should come to thee, fixed in this place, sayest to me, ‘Thou wast not baptized duly, seeing I was not there.’ Consider who was there. What was said to John? ‘Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending like a dove, this is He which baptizeth.’2 Him hast thou seeking for thee; nay, for that thou hast grudged me who was baptized by Him, thou hast lost Him rather.”

[VII] 8. Understand then, my Brethren, our language and theirs, and look which ye would choose. This is what we say; “Be we holy, God knoweth it; be we unrighteous, this again He knoweth better; place not your hope in us, whatsoever we be. If we be good, do as is written, ‘Be ye imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.’3 But if we be bad, not even thus are ye abandoned, not even thus have ye remained without counsel: give ear to Him, saying, ‘Do what they say; but do not what they do.’ ”4 Whereas they on the contrary say, “If we were not good, ye were lost.” Lo, here is “another that shall come in his own name.” Shall my life then depend on thee, and my salvation be tied up in thee? Have I so forgotten my foundation? Was not Christ the Rock?5 Is it not that he that buildeth upon the rock, neither the wind nor the floods overthrow him?6 Come then, if thou wilt, with me upon the Rock, and do not wish to be to me for the rock.

9. Let the Church then say those last words also, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would believe me also; for he wrote of me;”7 for that I am His body of whom he wrote. And of the Church did Moses write. For I have quoted the words of Moses “In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”8 Moses wrote this in the first book. If ye believed Moses, ye would also believe Christ. Because ye despise Moses’ words, it must needs be that ye despise the words of Christ. “They have” there, saith He, “Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead,” him they will hear. “And He said, If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.”9 This was said of the Jews: was it therefore not said of heretics? [VIII] He had risen from the dead, who said, “It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day.” This I believe. I believe it, he says. Dost thou believe? Wherefore believest thou not what follows? In that thou believest, “It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day;” this was spoken of the Head; believe also that which follows concerning the Church, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached throughout all nations.”10 Wherefore dost thou believe as touching the Head, and believest not as touching the Body? What hath the Church done to thee, that thou wouldest so to say behead her? Thou wouldest take away the Church’s Head, and believe the Head, leave the Body as it were a lifeless trunk. It is all to no purpose that thou dost caress the Head, like any devoted servant. He that would take off the head, doth his best to kill both the head and the body. They are ashamed to deny Christ, yet are they not ashamed to deny Christ’s words. Christ neither we nor ye have seen with our eyes. The Jews saw, and slew Him. We have not seen Him, and believe; His words are with us. Compare yourselves with the Jews: they despised Him hanging upon the Tree, ye despise Him sitting in heaven; at their suggestion Christ’s title was set11 up, by your setting12 yourselves up, Christ’s Baptism is effaced. But what remains, Brethren, but that we pray even for the proud, that we pray even for the puffed up, who so extol themselves? Let us say to God on their behalf, “Let them know that the Lord is Thy Name; and” not “that” men, but “Thou Only art the Most High over all the earth.”13 Let us turn to the Lord, etc.

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St Augustine’s Homilies on John 5:1-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2016

on the words of the gospel, john 5:2, “now there is in jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool,” etc.

1. The lesson of the Gospel has just sounded in our ears, and made us intent to know what is the meaning of what has been read. This, I suppose, is looked for from me, this I promise, by the Lord’s assistance, to explain as well as I can. For without doubt it is not without a meaning, that those miracles were done, and something they figured out to us bearing on eternal saving health. For the health of the body which was restored to this man, of how long duration was it? “For what is your life?” saith Holy Scripture; “it is a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”Jas. 4:14. Therefore in that health was restored to this man’s body for a time, some enduringness was restored to a vapour. So then this is not to be valued much; “Vain is the health of man.”Ps. 60:11. And, brethren, recollect that Prophetical and Evangelical testimony, for it is read in the Gospel; “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of flesh as the flower of grass; the grass withereth, the flower falleth away, the Word of the Lord endureth for ever.”Isa. 40:6, 7; Jas. 1:10; 1 Pet. 1:24, 25. The Word of the Lord communicateth glory even to the grass, and no transitory glory; for even to flesh He giveth immortality.

2. But first passeth away the tribulation of this life, out of which He giveth us help, to whom we have said, “Give us help from tribulation.”Ps. 60:11. And all this life is indeed a tribulation to the understanding. For there are two tormentors of the soul, torturing it not at once, but alternating their tortures. These two tormentors’ names are, Fear and Sorrow. When it is well with thee, thou art in fear; when it is ill, thou art in sorrow. This world’s prosperity, whom doth it not deceive, its adversity not break? In this grass, and in the days of grass, the surer way must be kept to, the Word of God. For when it had been said, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of flesh as the flower of grass, the grass withereth, the flower falleth away;” as though we should ask, “What hope has grass? what stability the flower of grass?” it is said, “but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever.” And whence, you will say, is that Word to me? “The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us.”John 1:14. For the Word of the Lord saith to thee, “Do not reject My promise, for I have not rejected thy grass.” This then that the Word of the Lord hath granted to us, that we might hold to Him, that we might not pass away with the flower of grass; this, I say, that He hath granted to us, that the Word should be made Flesh, taking Flesh, not changed into flesh, abiding, and assuming, abiding what He was, assuming what He was not; this, I say, that He hath granted to us, that pool also signifies.John 5.

3. I am speaking briefly. That water was the Jewish people; the five porches were the Law. For Moses wrote five books. Therefore was the water enclosed by five porches as that people was held in by the Law. The troubling of the water is the Lord’s Passion among that people. He who descended was healed, and only one; for this is unity. Whosoever are offended at the Passion of Christ are proud; they will not descend, they are not healed. And, say they, “Am I to believe that God was Incarnate, that God was born of a woman, that God was crucified, scourged, dead, wounded, buried?” Be it far from me to believe this of God, it is unworthy of Him. Let the heart speak, not the neck. To the proud the humiliation of the Lord seems unworthy of Him, therefore is saving health from such far off. Lift not thyself up; if thou wouldest be made whole, descend. Well might piety be alarmed, if Christ in the flesh subject to change were only spoken of. But now the truth sets forth to thee, Christ Unchangeable in His Nature as the Word. For, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God;” not a word to sound, and so pass away; for “the Word was God.”John 1:1. So then thy God endureth unchangeable. O true piety; thy God endureth, fear not; He doth not perish, and through Him, thou too dost not perish. He endureth, He is born of a woman, but in the Flesh. The Word made even His Mother. He who was before He was made, made her in whom He was to be made Himself. He was an infant, but in the Flesh. He sucked, He grew, He took nourishment, He ran through the several stages of life, He came to man’s estate, but in the Flesh. He was wearied, and He slept, but in the Flesh. He suffered hunger and thirst, but in the Flesh. He was apprehended, bound, scourged, assailed with railings, crucified finally, and killed, but in the Flesh. Why art thou alarmed? “The Word of the Lord endureth for ever.” Whoso rejecteth this humiliation of God, doth not wish for healing from the deadly swelling of pride.

4. So then by His Flesh did the Lord Jesus Christ grant hope to our flesh. For He took on Him what we knew well in this earth, what aboundeth here, to be born, and to die. To be born and to die, abounded here; to rise again and to live for ever, was not here. Poor earthly merchandize found He here, He brought here strange and heavenly. If thou art alarmed at death, love the resurrection. He hath given thee help out of tribulation; for vain thy health had ever been. Let us acknowledge therefore and love the saving health in this world strange, that is, health everlasting, and live we in this world as strangers. Let us think that we are but passing away, so shall we be sinning less. Let us rather give thanks to our Lord God, that He hath been pleased that the last day of this life should be both near and uncertain. From the earliest infancy even to decrepit old age, it is but a short span. If Adam had died to-day, what would it have profited him, that he had lived so long? What “long time” is there in that in which there is an end? No one recalleth yesterday; to-day is pressed on by to-morrow, that it may pass away. In this little span let us live well, that we may go whence we may not pass away. And now even as we are talking, we are indeed passing away. Our words run on, and the hours fly by; so does our age, so our actions, so our honours, so our misery, so our happiness here below. All passeth away, but let us not be alarmed; “The Word of God endureth for ever.” Let us turn to the Lord, etc.

again in john 5:2, etc., on the five porches, where lay a great multitude of impotent folk, and of the pool of siloa.

1. Subjects strange neither to your ears nor hearts are now repeated: yet do they revive the affections of the hearer, and by repetition in some sort renew us: nor is it wearisome to hear what is well known already, for the words of the Lord are always sweet. The exposition of the sacred Scriptures is as the sacred Scriptures themselves: though they be well known, yet are they read to impress the remembrance of them. And so the exposition of them, though it be well known, is nevertheless to be repeated, that they who have forgotten it may be reminded, or they who chanced not to hear it may hear; and that with those who do retain what they are used to hear, it may by the repetition be brought to pass that they shall not be able to forget it. For I remember that I have already spoken to you, Beloved, on this lesson of the Gospel. Yet to repeat the same explanation to you is not wearisome, even as it was not wearisome to repeat the same Lesson to you. The Apostle Paul saith in a certain Epistle, “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not wearisome, but for you it is necessary.”Phil. 3:1, Vulgate. So too with myself to say the same things to you, to me is not wearisome, but for you it is safe.

2. The five porches in which the infirm folk lay signify the Law, which was first given to the Jews and to the people of Israel by Moses the servant of God. For this Moses the minister of the Law wrote five books. In relation therefore to the number of the books which he wrote, the five porches figured the Law. But because the Law was not given to heal the infirm, but to discover and to manifest them; for so saith the Apostle, “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law; But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe;”Gal. 3:21, 22. therefore in those porches the sick folk lay, but were not cured. For what saith he? “If there had been a law given which could have given life.” Therefore those porches which figured the Law could not cure the sick. Some one will say to me, “Why then was it given?” The Apostle Paul hath himself explained: “Scripture,” saith he, “hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” For these folk who were sick, thought themselves to be whole. They received the Law, which they were not able to fulfil; they learnt in what disease they were, and they implored the Physician’s aid; they wished to be cured because they came to know they were in distress, which they would not have known if they had not been unable to fulfil the Law which had been given. For man thought himself innocent, and from this very pride of false innocence became more mad. To tame this pride then and to lay it bare, the Law was given; not to deliver the sick, but to convince the proud. Attend then, Beloved; to this end was the Law given, to discover diseases, not to take them away. And so then those sick folk who might have been sick in their own houses with greater privacy, if those five porches had not existed, were in those porches set forth to the eyes of all men, but were not by the porches cured. The Law therefore was useful to discover sins, because that man being made more abundantly guilty by the transgression of the Law, might, having tamed his pride, implore the help of Him That pitieth. Attend to the Apostle; “The Law entered that sin might abound; but where sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded.”Rom. 5:20. What is, “The Law entered that sin might abound”? As in another place he saith, “For where there is no law, there is no transgression.”Rom. 4:15. Man may be called a sinner before the Law, a transgressor he cannot. But when he hath sinned, after that he hath received the Law, he is found not only a sinner, but a transgressor. Forasmuch then as to sin is added transgression, therefore “hath sin abounded.” And when sin abounds, human pride learns at length to submit itself, and to confess to God, and to say, “I am weak.” To say to those words of the Psalm which none but the humbled soul saith, “I said, Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.”Ps. 41:4. Let the weak soul then say this that is at least convinced by transgression, and not cured, but manifested by the Law. Hear too Paul himself showing thee, both that the Law is good, and yet that nothing but the grace of Christ delivereth from sin. For the Law can prohibit and command; apply the medicine, that that which doth not allow a man to fulfil the Law, may be cured, it cannot, but grace only doeth that. For the Apostle saith, “For I delight in the Law of God after the inner man.”Rom. 7:22. That is, I see now that what the Law blames is evil, and what the Law commands is good. “For I delight in the Law of God after the inner man. I see another law in my members resisting the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity in the law of sin.” This derived from the punishment of sin, from the propagation of death, from the condemnation of Adam, “resists the law of the mind, and brings it into captivity in the law of sin which is in the members.” He was convinced; he received the Law, that he might be convinced: see now what profit it was to him that he was convinced. Hear the following words, “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”Rom. 7:24, 25, Vulgate.

3. Give heed then. Those five porches were significative of the Law, bearing the sick, not healing them; discovering, not curing them. But who did cure the sick? He that descended into the pool. And when did the sick man descend into the pool? When the Angel gave the sign by the moving of the water. For thus was that pool sanctified, for that the Angel came down and moved the water. Men saw the water; and from the motion of the troubled water they understood the presence of the Angel. If any one then went down, he was cured. Why then was not that sick man cured? Let us consider his own words; “I have no man,” he says, “when the water is moved, to put me into the pool, but while I am coming, another steppeth down.”John 5:7. Couldest not thou then step down afterwards, if another step down before thee? Here it is shown us, that only one was cured at the moving of the water. Whosoever stepped down first, he alone was cured: but whoever stepped down afterwards, at that moving of the water was not cured, but waited till it was moved again. What then does this mystery mean? For it is not without a meaning. Attend, Beloved. Waters are put in the Apocalypse for a figure of peoples. For when in the Apocalypse John saw many waters, he asked what it meant, and it was told him that they were peoples.Rev. 17:15. The water then of the pool signified the people of the Jews. For as that people was held in by the five books of Moses in the Law, so that water too was enclosed by five porches. When was the water troubled? When the people of the Jews was troubled. And when was the people of the Jews troubled, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came? The Lord’s Passion was the troubling of the water. For the Jews were troubled when the Lord suffered. See, what was just now read had relation to this troubling. “The Jews wished to kill Him, not only because He did these things on the sabbaths, but because He called Himself the Son of God, making Himself equal with God.”John 5:18. For Christ called Himself the Son after one manner, in another was it said to men, “I said, Ye are Gods, and ye are all children of the Most High.”Ps. 82:6. For if He had made Himself the Son of God in such sort as any man whatever may be called the son of God (for by the grace of God men are called sons of God); the Jews would not have been enraged. But because they understand Him to call Himself the Son of God in another way, according to that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;”John 1:1 and according to what the Apostle saith, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God;”Phil. 2:6 they saw a man, and they were enraged, because He made Himself equal with God. But He well knew that He was equal, but wherein they saw not. For that which they saw they wished to crucify; by That which they saw not, they were judged. What did the Jews see? What the Apostles also saw, when Philip said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”John 14:8. But what did the Jews not see? What not even the Apostles saw, when the Lord answered, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known Me? He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also.”John 14:9. Because then the Jews were not able to see This in Him, they held Him for a proud and ungodly man, making Himself equal with God. Here was a troubling, the water was troubled, the Angel had come. For the Lord is called also the “Angel of the Great Counsel,”Isa. 9:6, (LXX) in that He is the messenger of the Father’s will. For Angel in Greek is in Latin “messenger”. So you have the Lord saying that He announces to us the kingdom of Heaven. He then had come, the “Angel of the Great Counsel,” but the Lord of all the Angels. “Angel” on this account, because He took Flesh; the “Lord of Angels,” in that by “Him all things were made, and without Him was nothing made.”John 1:3. For if all things, Angels too. And therefore Himself was not made, because by Him all things were made. Now what was made, was not made without the operation of the Word. But the flesh which became the mother of Christ, could not have been born, if it had not been created by the Word, which was afterwards born of it.

4. The Jews then were troubled. What is this? “Why doeth He these things on the sabbath days?” And especially at those words of the Lord, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”John 5:17. Their carnal understanding of this, that God rested on the seventh day from all His works,Gen. 2:2 “troubled them.” For this is written in Genesis, and most excellently written it is, and on the best reasons. But they thinking that God as it were rested from fatigue on the seventh day after all, and that He therefore blessed it, because on it He was refreshed from His weariness, did not in their foolishness understand, that He who made all things by the Word, could not be wearied. Let them read, and tell me how could God be wearied, who said, “Let it be made, and it was made.” To-day if a man could so do, as God did, how would he be wearied? He said, “Let there be light, and the light was made.” Again, “Let there be a firmament, and it was made:”Gen. 1:3, 6, 7, if indeed He said, and it was not done, He was wearied. In another place briefly, “He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.”Ps. 32:9, LXX, (33:9, English version). He then who worketh thus, how doth He labour? But if He labour not, how doth He rest? But in that sabbath, in which it is said that God rested from all His works, in the Rest of God our rest was signified; because the sabbath of this world shall be, when the six ages shall have passed away. The six days as it were of the world are passing away. One day hath passed away, from Adam unto Noë; another from the deluge unto Abraham; the third from Abraham unto David; the fourth from David unto the carrying away into Babylon; the fifth from the carrying away into Babylon unto the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the sixth day is in passing. We are in the sixth age, in the sixth day. Let us then be reformed after the image of God, because that on the sixth day man was made after the image of God.Gen. 1:27 What formation did then, let reformation do in us, and what creation did there, let creating-anew do in us. After this day in which we now are, after this age, the rest which is promised to the saints and prefigured in those days, shall come. Because in very truth too, after all things which He made in the world, He hath made nothing new in creation afterwards. The creatures themselves shall be transformed and changed. For since the creatures were fashioned, nothing more has been added. But nevertheless, if He who made did not rule the world, what is made would fall to ruin: He cannot but administer that which He hath made. Because then nothing hath been added to the creation, He is said to have rested from all His works; but because He doth not cease to govern what He made, rightly did the Lord say, “My Father worketh even hitherto.” Attend, Beloved. He finished, He is said to have rested; for He finished His works, and hath added no more. He governeth what He hath made; therefore He doth not cease to work. But with the same facility that He made, with the same doth He govern. For do not suppose, brethren, that when He created He did not labour, and that He laboureth in that He governeth: as in a ship, they labour who build the ship, and they who manage it labour too; for they are men. For with the same facility wherewith “He spake and they were made,” with the same facility and judgment doth He govern all things by the Word.

5. Let us not, because human affairs seem to be in disorder, fancy that there is no governance of human affairs. For all men are ordered in their proper places; but to every man it seems as though they have no order. Do thou only look to what thou wouldest wish to be; for as thou shalt wish to be, the Master knoweth where to place thee. Look at a painter. Before him are placed various colours, and he knows where to set each colour on. Questionless the sinner hath chosen to be the black colour; does not then the Artist know where to place him? How many parts does the painter finish off with the colour of black? how many ornaments does he make of it? With it he makes the hair, the beard, the eye-brows; he makes the face of white only. Look then to that which thou wouldest wish to be; take no care where He may order thee who cannot err, He knoweth where to place thee. For so we see it happen by the common laws of the world. Some man, for instance, has chosen to be a house-breaker: the law of the judge knows that he has acted contrary to the law: the law of the judge knows where to place him; and orders him most properly. He indeed has lived evilly; but not evilly has the law ordered him. From a house-breaker he will be sentenced to the mines; from the labour of such how great works are constructed? That condemned man’s punishment is the city’s ornament. So then God knoweth where to place thee. Do not think that thou art disturbing the counsel of God, if thou art minded to be disorderly. Doth not He who knew how to create, know how to order thee? Good were it for thee to strive for this, to be set in a good place. What was said of Judas by the Apostle? “He went unto his own place.”Acts 1:25.  By the operation of course of Divine Providence, because by an evil will he chose to be evil, but God did not by ordering evil make it. But because that evil man himself chose to be a sinner, he did what he would, and suffered what he would not. In that he did what he would, his sin is discovered; in that he suffered what he would not, the order of God is praised.

6. Wherefore have I said all this? That ye, brethren, may understand what was most excellently said by the Lord Jesus Christ, “My Father worketh even hitherto.” In that He doth not abandon the creature which He made. And He said, “As He worketh, so do I also work.” In this He at once signified that He was equal with God. “My Father,” saith He, “worketh hitherto, and I work.” Their carnal sense touching the rest was troubled. For they thought that the Lord being wearied rested, that He should work no more. They hear, “My Father worketh even hitherto:” they are troubled. “And I work:”John 5:17. He hath made Himself equal with God: they are troubled. But be not alarmed. The water is troubled, now the sick man is to be cured. What meaneth this? Therefore are they troubled, that the Lord may suffer. The Lord doth suffer, the precious Blood is shed, the sinner is redeemed, grace is given to the sinner, to him that saith, “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”Rom. 7:24, 25, Vulg. But how is he cured? If he step down. For that pool was so made, that men should go down, and not come up to it. For there might be pools of such a kind, so constructed, that men must go up to them. But why was this made in such a way that men must go down to it? Because the Lord’s Passion searches for the humble. Let the humble go down, let him not be proud, if he wishes to be cured. But why was it but “one”? Because the Church is only One throughout the world, unity is saved. When then one is made whole, unity is signified. By one understand unity. Depart not then from unity, if thou wouldest not be without a part in this saving cure.

7. What then does it mean that the man was in infirmity thirty-eight years? I know, brethren, that I have spoken of this already; but even those who read forget, how much more they who hear but seldom? Attend therefore for a little while, Beloved. In Serm. i. (li. Ben.) 32 (xxii.) the number forty, the accomplishment of righteousness is figured. The accomplishment of righteousness, in that we live here in labour, in toil, in self-restraint, in fastings, in watchings, in tribulations; this is the exercise of righteousness, to bear this present time, and to fast as it were from this world; not from the food of the body, which we do but seldom; but from the love of the world, which we ought to do always. He then fulfils the law who abstains from this world. For he cannot love that which is eternal, unless he shall cease to love that which is temporal. Consider a man’s love: think of it as, so to say, the hand of the soul. If it is holding anything, it cannot hold anything else. But that it may be able to hold what is given to it, it must leave go what it holds already. This I say, see how expressly I say it; “Whoso loveth the world cannot love God; he hath his hand engaged.” God saith to him, “Hold what I give.” He will not leave go what he was holding; he cannot receive what is offered. Have I said a man should not possess ought? If he is able, if perfection require this of him, let him not possess. If hindered by any necessity he is not able, let him possess, not be possessed; let him hold, not be held; let him be the lord of his possessions, not the slave; as saith the Apostle “However, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that both they that have wives, be as though they had not; and they who buy, as though they possessed not; and they who rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they who weep, as though they wept not; and they who use this world, as though they used it not; for the fashion of this world passeth away. I would have you be without carefulness.”1 Cor. 7:29–32. What is, “Do not love what thou dost possess in this world”? Let it not hold thine hand fast, by which God must be held. Let not thy love be engaged, whereby thou canst make thy way to God, and cleave to Him who created thee.

8. Thou wilt say and make answer to me, “Yea, God knows that I possess innocently what I have.” Temptation proves thee. There is a troubling of thy possessions, and thou dost blaspheme. It is but lately we were in such a case. There is a troubling of thy possessions, and thou art not found what thou wast, and dost show that there is one thing in thy mouth to-day, and another in thy mouth yesterday. And I would that thou wouldest only defend thine own even with vehemence; and not try to usurp with audacity another’s; and what is worse, to escape reprehension, maintain that what is another’s is thine own. But why need I say more? This I advise, this I say, Brethren, and as a brother advise; God bids, and I admonish because I am admonished. He alarmeth me, who doth not allow me to keep silence. He exacteth of me what He hath given. For He hath given it to be laid out, not to be kept up. And if I should keep it and hide it, He saith to me, “Thou wicked and slothful servant, wherefore gavest thou not My money to the exchangers, that at My coming I might require it with usury?”Luke 19:22, 23. And what will it profit me that I have lost nothing of that which I received? That is not enough for my Lord, He is covetous; but God’s covetousness is our salvation. He is covetous, He looketh for His own money, He gathereth in His Own image. “Thou shouldest have given,” saith He, “the money to the exchangers, that at My coming I might require it with usury.” And if by any chance forgetfulness should make me fail of admonishing you, the temptations and tribulations at least which we are suffering, would be an admonition to you. Ye have heard at least the word of God. Blessed be the Lord and His glory. For ye are here gathered together, and are hanging on the word of God’s minister. Turn not your attention to our flesh, by which the word is given out to you; for hungry men regard not the meanness of the dish, but the preciousness of the food. God is proving you. Ye are gathered together, ye praise the word of God; temptation will prove in what manner ye hear it: ye will have the active business of life whereby your true character will be shown. For so he who to-day is shouting with railings, was yesterday a ready listener. Therefore I forewarn; therefore I tell you, therefore I do not withhold it, my Brethren, that the time of questioning will come. For the Lord maketh question of the righteous and of the ungodly. This you know ye have sung, this have we sung together; “The Lord maketh question of the righteous and the ungodly.” And what follows? “But he that loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul.”Ps. 10:5, Sept. (11:5, English version). And in another place, “Into the thoughts of the ungodly there shall be questioning made.”Wisd. 1:9. God doth not make question of thee there, where I question thee. I question thy tongue, God questioneth thy thoughts. For He knoweth how thou dost hear, and He knoweth how to require, Who ordereth me to give. He hath wished me to be a dispenser, the requiring He hath reserved to Himself. To admonish, to teach, to rebuke, is ours; but to save, and to crown, or to condemn, and to cast into hell, is not ours; “But the Judge shall deliver to the officer, and the officer to the prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt not go out thence, till thou payest the last farthing.”Matt. 5:25, 26.

9. Let us then return to our subject. The perfection of righteousness is shown by the number forty. What is it to fulfil the number forty? To restrain one’s self from the love of this world. Restraint from temporal things, that they be not loved to our destruction, is, as it were, fasting from this world. Therefore the Lord fasted forty days, and Moses, and Elias. He then who gave His servants the power to fast forty days, could He not fast eighty or a hundred? Why then did He not will to fast more than He had given His servants to do, but because in this number forty is the mystery of fasting, the restraint from this world? What is this to say? What the Apostle says; “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”Gal. 6:14. He then fulfils the number forty. And what doth the Lord show? That because Moses did this, this Elias, this Christ, that this both the Law, and the Prophets, and the Gospel, teach; that thou mayest not think that there is one thing in the Law, another in the Prophets, another in the Gospel. All Scripture teacheth thee nothing else, but restraint from the love of the world, that thy love may speed on to God. As a figure that the Law teaches this, Moses fasted forty days. As a figure that the Prophets teach it, Elias fasted forty days. As a figure that the Gospel teaches it, the Lord fasted forty days. And therefore in the mount too these three appeared, the Lord in the middle, Moses and Elias at the sides. Wherefore? Because the Gospel itself receives testimony from the Law and the Prophets.Rom. 3:21. But why in the number forty is the perfection of righteousness? In the Psalter it is said, “O God, I will sing a new song unto Thee, upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto Thee.”Ps. 144:9. Which signifies the ten precepts of the Law, which the Lord came not to destroy, but to fulfil. And the Law itself throughout the whole world, it is evident, hath four quarters, the East, and West, South, and North, as the Scripture saith. And hence the vessel which bare all the emblematic animals, which was exhibited to Peter, when he was told, “Kill and eat,”Acts 10:13 that it might be shown that the Gentiles should believe and enter into the body of the Church, just as what we eat entereth into our body, and which was let down from heaven by four corners (these are the four quarters of the world), showed that the whole world should believe. Therefore in the number forty is restraint from the world. This is the fulfilling of the Law: now the fulfilling of the Law is charity. And therefore before the Pasch we fast forty days. For this time before the Pasch is the sign of this our toilsome life, wherein, in toils, and cares, and continence, we fulfil the Law. But afterwards we celebrate the Pasch, that is, the days of the Lord’s resurrection signifying our own resurrection. Therefore fifty days are celebrated; because the reward of the denarius is added to the forty, and it becomes fifty. Why is the reward a denarius? Have ye not read, how that they who were hired into the vineyard, whether at the first, or sixth, or the last hour, could only receive the denarius?Matt. 20:2. When to our righteousness shall be added its reward, we shall be in the number fifty. Yea, and then shall we have none other occupation, save to praise God. And therefore throughout those days we say, “Hallelujah.” For Halleluiah is the praise of God. In this frail estate of mortality, in this fortieth number here, as though before the resurrection, let us groan in prayers, that we may sing praises then. Now is the time of longing, then will be the time of embracing and enjoying. Let us not faint in the time of forty, that we may joy in the time of fifty.

10. Now who is he that fulfilleth the Law, but he that hath charity? Ask the Apostle, “Charity is the fulfilling of the Law.Rom. 13:10. For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, in that which is written, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”Gal. 5:14. But the commandment of charity is twofold; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great commandment. The other is like it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” They are the words of the Lord in the Gospel: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”Matt. 22:37–40 . Without this twofold love the Law cannot be fulfilled. As long as the Law is not fulfilled, there is infirmity. Therefore he had two short, who was infirm thirty and eight years. What means, “had two short”? He did not fulfil these two commandments. What doth it profit that the rest is fulfilled, if those are not fulfilled? Hast thou thirty-eight? If thou have not those two, the rest will profit thee nothing. Thou hast two short, without which the rest avail not, if thou have not the two commandments which conduct unto salvation. “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I distribute all my substance, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”1 Cor. 13:1–3. They are the Apostle’s words. All those things therefore which he mentioned are as it were the thirty-eight years; but because charity was not there, there was infirmity. From that infirmity who then shall make whole, but He who came to give charity? “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”John 13:34. And because He came to give charity, and charity fulfilleth the Law, with good reason said He, “I came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil.”Matt 5:17. He cured the sick man, and told him to carry his couch, and go unto his house.John 5:8, 9. And so too He said to the sick of the palsy whom He cured.Mark 2:9. What is it to carry our couch? The pleasure of our flesh. Where we lie in infirmity, is as it were our bed. But they who are cured master and carry it, are not by this flesh mastered. So then, thou whole one, master the frailness of thy flesh, that in the sign of the forty days’ fast from this world, thou mayest fulfill the number forty, for that He hath made that sick man whole, “Who came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil.”

11. Having heard this, direct your heart to Godward. Do not deceive yourselves. Ask yourselves then when it is well with you in the world; then ask yourselves, whether ye love the world, or whether ye love it not; learn to let it go before ye are let go yourselves. What is to let it go? Not heartily to love it. Whilst there is yet something with thee which thou must one day lose, and either in life or death let it go, it cannot be with thee always; whilst I say it is yet with thee, loosen thy love; be prepared for the will of God, hang upon God. Hold thee fast to Him, whom thou canst not lose against thy will, that if it chance thee to lose these temporal things, thou mayest say, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, as it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done, blessed be the Name of the Lord.”Job 1:21, LXX. But if it chance, and God so wills it, that the things thou hast be with thee even to the last: for thy detachment from this life thou receivest the denarius, the fifty, and the perfection of blessedness cometh to pass in thee, when thou shalt sing Halleluiah. Having these things which I have now brought forward in your memory, may they avail to overthrowing your love of the world. Evil is its friendship, deceitful, it makes a man the enemy of God. Soon, in one single temptation, a man offendeth God, and becometh His enemy. Nay not then becometh His enemy; but is then discovered to have been His enemy. For when he was loving and praising Him, he was an enemy; but he neither knew it himself, nor did others. Temptation came, the pulse is touched, and the fever discovered. So then brethren, the love of the world, and the friendship of the world, make men the enemies of God. And it does not make good what it promises, it is a liar, and deceiveth. Therefore men never cease hoping in this world, and who attains to all he hopes for? But whereunto soever he attains, what he has attained to is forthwith disesteemed by him. Other things begin to be desired, other fond things are hoped for; and when they come, whatsoever it is that comes to thee, is disesteemed. Hold thee fast then to God, for He can never be of light esteem, for nothing is more beautiful than He. For for this cause are these things disesteemed, because they cannot stand, because they are not what He is. For nought, O soul, sufficeth thee, save He who created thee. Whatsoever else thou apprehendest is wretched; for He Alone can suffice thee who made thee after His Own likeness. Thus it was expressly said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”John 14:8. There only can there be security; and where security can be, there in a certain sort will be insatiable satiety. For thou wilt neither be so satiated, as to wish to depart; nor will anything be wanting, as though thou couldest suffer want.

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