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

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2016

The responsorial psalm for today consists of Psalm 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131. Due to the structure of the commentary this post includes note on 13, 15-16, 71

Psa 119:13 With my lips I have pronounced all the judgments of thy mouth.
Psa 119:14 I have been delighted in the way of thy testimonies, as in all riches.
Psa 119:15 I will meditate on thy commandments: and I will consider thy ways.
Psa 119:16 I will think of thy justifications: I will not forget thy words.

In those four verses he expresses his love for God’s law, possibly by reason of his having got that benediction of the lawgiver, that he had just asked for. He says he has the law of God in his mouth, his will, his understanding, and his memory, and thus, in every part of his soul. As to his mouth he says, “With my lips I have pronounced all the judgments of thy mouth.” I have constantly spoken of, and constantly preached, your commandments to all who may choose to hear them; “judgments,” here, mean commandments, and he adds, “of thy mouth,” to remind us they are not the precepts of man, but of God, having been declared by his mouth. In regard of his will, he says, “I have been delighted in the way of thy testimonies, as in all riches.” I have taken a great delight in walking in the way of thy testimonies, as misers take in amassing riches. Great and rare is such affection, when man, in general, for a very trifling lucre, is wont to despise all God’s commandments. As to his understanding or reflection he says, “I will meditate on thy commandments: I will consider thy ways.” I will be constantly occupied in meditation and turning over in my mind all you have commanded or prohibited; and, as regards another affection of the heart, he says, “I will think of thy justifications.” The Hebrew here implies that he will be delighted in chanting them. Having previously said that “I have been delighted in the way of thy testimonies, as in all riches.” Where his delight seems to arise from the utility of the subject, he now says that he will be delighted with them by reason of the pleasure to be derived from them, just as the law of the Lord is compared in Psalm 18, to gold and to honey, as being both useful and agreeable. The meaning of the passage, then, is, “I will think of thy justifications;” I will occupy myself in chanting the praises of your commandments, in order to delight myself, as I would with sweet and pleasant songs. He now ultimately comes to the memory, saying, “I will not forget thy words;” because, by frequent meditation on them, and pleasing chant of them, I cannot possibly forget “thy words,” or your law. Hence, we infer that to those who have the benediction of the lawgiver, that is, the spirit of true charity, the law of the Lord is neither heavy nor severe, but that it is, as the Lord himself said, “a sweet yoke and a light burden.”

Psa 119:24 For thy testimonies are my meditation: and thy justifications my counsel.

An explanation of the words from verse 23: “I was employed in thy justifications;” for he says they were a sweet consolation to him in his troubles, and a faithful counsellor in his doubts.

Psa 119:71 It is good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may learn thy justifications.
Psa 119:72 The law of thy mouth is good to me, above thousands of gold and silver.

From the abundance of the first gift that had been conferred on him, he now declares, “It is good for me that thou hast humbled me,” no one but one truly meek and humble of heart, and thus truly good, and who from experience could form an opinion of what is good, could give expression to such a sentiment. For he that is truly good looks upon any humiliation, arising from tribulation, as a great good, inasmuch as it leads to a better observance of God’s law, the value of which he expresses, when he says, “The law of thy mouth is good to me above thousands of gold and silver,” and so it is, because through the observance of the law we acquire life everlasting, to which no treasures can be compared.

Psa 119:103 How sweet are thy words to my palate! more than honey to my mouth.

The fourth advantage is, that God’s law confers extreme happiness on those that observe it; for “thy words,” that is, God’s commandments, are sweeter to the palate of the soul than honey is to that of the body. Nothing can be sweeter than a good conscience, and the hope of everlasting happiness, derived from the observance of God’s law.

Psa 119:111 I have purchased thy testimonies for an inheritance for ever: because they are the joy of my heart.

The reason for my not having “erred from thy precepts” was because “I have purchased thy testimonies for an inheritance forever;” that is, I have chosen your law as an everlasting inheritance, because it is most sweet and most agreeable to me, and the source of supreme joy and delight.

Psa 119:131 I opened my mouth, and panted: because I longed for thy commandments.

And I, as one of those little ones, “opened my mouth,” the mouth of my interior, by asking and praying, “and panted,” longed for the spirit of knowledge and piety, that I may understand and observe your commandments, for I longed both to understand and to observe them. The metaphor is taken from our natural respiration, for when we are worked hard, and nearly suffocated in consequence, we open our mouth and pant, on which we draw breath and get better.

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