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 the ‘Catholic’ Category

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 11:25-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 5, 2020

Mat 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones.

 

“At that time.” According to St. Luke 10:21, this occurred on the return of the seventy-two disciples from their mission, and while they were boasting of the success that attended them, and of the miracles they wrought. From this, our Redeemer takes occasion to give expression to the following, and then He “answered.” However, the word, “answer,” is frequently used in the SS. Scriptures, when nothing in the form of a question demanding an answer, preceded; and merely means, to enter at once on some discourse. Here, then, it may be very probably connected with the foregoing denunciation of the Capharnaites (Capernaumite)   thus:—Jesus, considering within Himself the obstinate impenitence of the Capharnaites, &c., and the just judgment of God, withholding His lights and graces in punishment of their sins, consoles Himself with the thought, that such was according to the just dispensation of His Heavenly Father; and He exultingly bursts forth into acts of thanksgiving for His adorable dispensation. St. Luke says (Lk 10:21), “He rejoiced in the Holy Ghost,” and thus consoles Himself with the idea that His Father willed it so. “Answering,” may also have relation to the thoughts passing in our Saviour’s mind regarding this wonderful economy of God, and the obduracy of the Capharnaites.

 

“I confess to Thee,” i.e., I praise Thee, I extol Thee, I give Thee thanks.

 

“O Father,” of whom I am alone the eternal, consubstantial, well-beloved Son.

 

“Lord of heaven and earth,” having supreme dominion over all creatures, angels, and men. It is not, therefore, from infirmity or weakness that He has not subdued the rebellious wills of the Capharnaites. The words also convey, that He can do as He thinks proper, in heaven and on earth; and that, therefore, any disposition He makes regarding His creatures, is supremely just and equitable.

 

“Hast hid,” by not imparting powerful interior graces, and in punishment of their obstinate pride, withholding those lights which would efficaciously influence them to profit by the external graces of preaching, with which they were favoured.

 

“These things.” These mysteries of grace and glory preached by our Redeemer and His Apostles.

 

“From the wise and prudent,” viz., the Pharisees and others, who were endowed with human learning and abilities. These were the “wise,” to whom St. Paul refers (1 Cor. 1), as rejected in the work of the Gospel; worldly wise, “wise” in their own conceits, haughty and proud, devoid of the humble docility necessary for embracing the faith.

 

“And hast revealed them to little ones,” i.e., hast given Thy abundant, illuminating graces for embracing the difficult and abstruse truths of faith to the humble and the poor (the Greek for “little ones,” νηπίοις, means, infants), who, with the humble docility of children, embrace what is proposed to them.

 

These are the foolish, the weak, and the contemptible things, which God has chosen, to confound the wise, the strong, and the things of consideration in this world. (1 Cor. 1) Humble, unlearned fishermen, has He replenished with all knowledge, and placed on a level with the princes of His people.

 

But how could our Lord rejoice and praise his Father for having concealed these things from the proud? As a great evil, should it not be a subject for tears and sorrow? Resp. Thanksare not rendered precisely for having concealed these things; but, because, having concealed these truths from the wise, He was pleased to reveal them to the humble. Precisely, as it is said (Rom. 6:17), “But, thanks to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed,” &c., which means, thanks to God, that, having been formerly servants of sin, you have now obeyed, &c. He thanks His Father for having chosen men, like infants, and enlightened them to disseminate his faith, passing over the great ones of this world. Others say, thanks and praise are rendered for both. For, when “He hides these things,” He shows His Justice; and when “He reveals them to the little ones,” He displays His Mercy. The judgments of God, whether in the matter of Justice or Mercy, are ever equitable; ever deserving of praise.

 

Mat 11:26 Yea, Father: for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.

 

“Yea” (in Greek, ναι, nay), briefly repeats the former acts of praise, and is strongly commendatory of the workings of God’s adorable providence. “I confess,” is here understood, to be repeated, as if to say: Again and again, I thank Thee, O Father, for this ordination of Thy adorable providence, which is to be ever praised and glorified.

 

In all things, therefore, coming from the hands of God, we should humbly bow down and give Him thanks, and from our inmost heart, conform to His adorable will, saying always, even when things go against us, “Fiat voluntas tua sicut in cœlo,” &c (Thy will be done in heaven, &c). “Ita, Pater, quia sic placitum fait ante te.” (Yea, Father, for so hath it seemed good in thy sight) “Fiat, laudatur et superexaltetur in æternum, justissima, altissima et amabilissima voluntas Dei in omnibus.” (Let it be praised and exalted above all things forever, the most righteous, highest and most pleasing to the will of God in all things) God wills it, no further inquiries, reasoning, or murmurings about it.

 

Mat 11:27 All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him.

 

Lest it might be imagined, from our Lord’s thanking His Father, for having revealed the mysteries of grace to the little ones, &c., that Christ Himself had not this power, He adds, “all things,” all power, all dominion, all knowledge, &c., were communicated to Me “by My Father,” at My Incarnation. Others say, at My eternal generation. These interpretations, however, amount to the same; or, rather, the latter is included in the former. Since it is from His eternal generation, that the gifts bestowed on Him at His Incarnation flowed, therefore, if “My Father” be omnipotent and omniscient, so am I; and I can, therefore, reprobate or save. The mysteries of grace and glory have been concealed by My Father, and also by Me, from the wise, and imparted to the humble.

 

“And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father.” This may regard comprehensive, perfect, natural knowledge. This the Son also has, and the Holy Ghost. As the words, “and he to whom it shall please the Father to reveal Him,” although not expressed here, because they are included in verse 25, “hast revealed,” &c., are still implied, if we look to the words, “and to whom it shall please the Son to reveal,” it is better to understand it of the knowledge of the Father, known from revelation, as it is only of such knowledge, man is capable; such knowledge alone can be communicated to him.

 

“Neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him.” These latter words are not expressed above, regarding the Father; because, revelation was before attributed to the Father (v. 25), and, moreover, it is through the Son that God the Father reveals Himself and the Godhead to the world. “Manifestavi nomen tuum hominibus,” &c. (John 17:6) The equality of the Son with the Father is shown here. For, He knows all regarding the Father, as the Father does regarding Him, which is put more strongly by St. Luke 10:22, “And no one knoweth who the Son is but the Father; and who the Father is but the Son.” Again, “the Son reveals it to whom He pleases.” The Holy Ghost is not included, since the exceptive or exclusive words applied to one Person of the Trinity do not regard the other Divine Persons, who possess equally the Divine nature. They only regard creatures. No one knows the mysteries regarding the Father, nor those regarding the Son, except those to whom they may be pleased to reveal them. Hence, when the Father reveals (v. 25), the Son also reveals. St. Chrysostom observes that the words, “to whom it shall please the Son to reveal,” show the Son to be equal to the Father in power and dominion. For, although Christ reveals as man, and through His human nature, still, this nature subsists in a Divine Person; and this man, Christ is God also, and as God, equal to the Father. Others connect the words of this verse with the following verse, “come to Me,” &c. As all power of saving, all dominion, all knowledge, have been communicated to Me by My Father, to be imparted by Me to whomsoever I please, I do, therefore, invite you all to “come,” &c.

 

Mat 11:28 Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.

 

“Come to Me,” approach Me, with the proper dispositions of faith, hope, devotion, &c., with a desire to observe all My precepts, who am equal to the Father in all things, the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, to whom all things were delivered by My Father, having, therefore, at My disposal the dispensation of every good gift, including the perfect liberation from all evils incident to human life; “all you that labour,” &c., groaning under the intolerable burden of sin, and its concomitant evils, viz., the tyranny of concupiscence and your corrupt passions, the remorse of conscience, and the dread of the fearful punishments of sin; and who, moreover, are groaning under the yoke of the Mosaic law.

 

“And I will refresh you.” The Greek word for “refresh” (αναπαυσω = anapauso), means, rest, cessation from trouble. Hence, the words signify: I will grant you respite and rest; respite from your temporal miseries, and vexatious sufferings, which I shall temper for you, by granting you grace to bear them patiently; rest, from the burdensome uneasiness ever attendant on sin, and the consequent remorse, with dread of punishment, by remitting them; rest, also, from the intolerable yoke of Mosaic ceremonies, which neither you nor your fathers, could bear (Acts 15:10). So that all are sweetly invited, without exception: Gentiles, whose burden of temporal miseries He alleviates, whose sins, both as to guilt and eternal consequences, He remits; and Jews, whom, in addition to the foregoing benefits, He frees, from the galling yoke of the Mosaic ceremonial law.

 

Mat 11:29 Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: And you shall find rest to your souls.

 

“Take My yoke upon you.” “My yoke,” in opposition to the yoke of the Mosaic law; and the heavy yoke of sin, concupiscence, and its consequences, under which you have been hitherto groaning, placed on your shoulders by your former spiritual taskmasters.

 

“My yoke,” which you will not be left to bear alone, which I shall help you to carry. “My yoke,” which I bore before you, and gave you an example to carry. By “yoke,” is meant the law of the Gospel in all its parts, called a “yoke,” because, like every other law, it binds us to certain duties, and forbids us to transgress certain limits. It is also called a “burden,” because, we are obliged to bear it, to live according to it, and to fulfil it. It consists in bringing the Intellect into the captivity of faith, and the Will into the captivity of obedience, so as to observe all His commandments.

 

“And learn of Me, because I am Meek,” &c., which some thus interpret: Among the virtues and precepts inculcated in My Gospel, there are two virtues in particular, which I am specially desirous you should learn of Me, as your Divine Master. These are, humility and meekness. These are the special virtues, which shall serve as the surest means of procuring perseverance in bearing My sweet yoke; which alone can secure that desirable peace and rest surpassing all understanding. It is to pride and the angry desire of vengeance—vices, the opposite of humility and meekness—that all the miseries of this world are to be attributed. These are the virtues which we can imitate our Lord in cultivating, and from which no one can be dispensed. This is the interpretation of St. Augustine: “Discite a me non mundum fabricare, non cuncta visibilia et invisibilia creare … sed quoniam mitis sum et humilis corde” (Learn of me not to raise the fabric of the world, not to create all things visible and invisible, not in the world so created to work miracles and raise the dead; but, “that I am meek and lowly in heart). Our Lord tells us to copy after Himself in the practice of these virtues in particular (Serm. 69).

 

Others, with Maldonatus, &c., say, the meaning is: Take upon you My yoke, &c.; be not afraid of approaching Me, be your unworthiness and sinfulness what it may; rather, come with confidence, and learn, from your experience of Me, that I am not, like the Scribes and Pharisees, a haughty, morose, repulsive tyrant, to scare you away; but, on the contrary, a meek and gentle master, who will receive you with the greatest kindness and benignity, with truly humble condescension and affability.

 

This latter interpretation would seem to accord better with the context. For, the words of this verse would seem to be but a fuller explanation and development of the subject of the preceding verse (28). “Come” (v. 28), by your dispositions of heart to observe My law and obey My will and ordinances, is more fully expressed in the words of this verse, “Take up My yoke upon you.” “To Me,” who will not repel you; “because, I am meek and humble of heart,” gentle, kind in My government and intercourse, and you will find Me to be such. “And I will refresh you” (v. 28), is the same as, “you will find rest to your souls.” (The Greek for “refresh” and “rest,” is the same, ἀνἀπαυσιν = anapausin. See verse 28). This rest, this refreshment, results not from the observance of the precepts regarding meekness and humility of heart merely, although these form a portion of God’s law very effectual for begetting peace and rest; but, from bearing the “yoke” of Christ in its fulness, embracing the observance of all His commandments, the love of God and our neighbour, all that regards faith and morals. This is quite clear from the words of Jeremias (6:16), to which our Lord here manifestly alludes, also from Sirach 51:34-35.

 

Mat 11:30 For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

 

If we adopt the interpretation of St. Augustine, given above, then the words will mean; by practising the virtues of meekness and humility, after His example, which are the surest means for enabling us to take up the yoke of Christ, and observe all His other precepts, we will be sure to enjoy peace of soul, because, they shall divest the yoke of Christ, or, the observance of His commandments, of bitter, galling irritation—the effect commonly produced by a “yoke.” They shall render the observance of God’s commandments, neither galling nor irritating; on the contrary, they shall beget in their observance, feelings of sweet benignity and contentment; and as a burden is oppressive from its weight, they shall render this “burden” “light” and easy to be carried, “and His commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3).

 

In the latter interpretation, the words of this verse are a proof, that they would find rest for their souls, in approaching Christ, in experiencing His meekness and humility, and in carrying “His yoke,” as explained above.

 

The “yoke” of Christ, far from galling or irritating, is “sweet,” comparatively, if contrasted with the yoke of the Mosaic law, “which neither they nor their fathers could bear;” and with the “yoke” of sin, and the slavery of the devil, which, though sweet and gratifying to corrupt nature, still leaves behind it bitterness, remorse of conscience, and ultimately plunges men for ever into hell.

 

It is “sweet” in itself, and “light,” because, His law is perfectly in accordance with the natural law, which the Gospel, with the mere addition of some positive precepts, more fully developes. Again, it is mild in regard to sinners, and has removed the rigorous punishments of the Old Law. Again, it carries with it abundant help and graces, not given in the Old Law, for self-fulfilment, and holds out promises the most consoling and abundant, of the fulfilment of which it gives us a sure earnest and foretaste here in the peace of God, which it bestows, exceeding all understanding. Finally, it proposes love and charity, as the sweet motive of our actions, and not, like the Old Law, the servile fear of punishments. “Ubi amatur, non laboratur; aut si laboratur, labor amatur” (St. Augustine).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 1:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2020

Chapter l In this chapter the Apostle declares the purpose of Almighty God, from all eternity, to call the Ephesian believers, and all other faithful followers of Jesus Christ, to grace and salvation; and prays that they may he enlightened to see the splendour and sublimity of this heavenly calling, and of the hope cf sharing the greatness:and felicity of Jesus Christ, seated in glory at the right hand of God.

Eph 1:1. Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, to all the saints who are at Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus;

Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God. This statement is frequently repeated by St. Paul, as at the beginning of both the Epistles to the Corinthians, that to the Colossians, &c. It implies that a vocation depending on the will of God is required for every minister of Christ, whether called to preach the Gospel or stand at the altar. It may suggest to every priest to consider and reflect upon the motives and circumstances which led him to enter the sacerdotal office, so that if he thinks there existed any defect in his vocation, it may be supplied by penance.

To all the saints. So also in both the Epistles to the Corinthians, and elsewhere. For all Christians are saints, and  called to sanctity, though, it may be, in different degrees. They came forth immaculate from the fount of baptism, and with that beginning a profane and worldly life can hardly be consistent. At least they should aspire in some degree to sanctity.

Eph 1:2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace. St. Paul prays for grace and peace for his brethren, in almost all his Epistles. Grace and peace are what we should continually ask of Christ, for ourselves and others. Grace includes every gift necessary for eternal life ; peace is the firm, unshaken, and tranquil. possession of these spiritual gifts.

Eph 1:3. Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in every spiritual benediction,, in the heavenly places, in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no verb in this sentence, either in the Vulgate or the Greek text. We may understand, either blessed is, or blessed be. It is a theological truth that God is, and ought to be, blessed ; the recognition of this truth is an act of piety in the creature towards the Creator. In this verse the Apostle blesses God. and affirms that God has blessed us. In the first, to bless means to praise, in the second it signifies to do good; but both significations are radically the same, because to praise, and to do good, proceed alike from a good will, and have their origin in charity. We bless God, when we thank him for his benefits, and God blesses us when he bestows those benefits. For God’s blessing confers good, in which it differs from the ineffectual, and sometimes false, benedictions of man.

In every spiritual benediction. The word in is redundant by a Hebrew idiom. With every spiritual benediction. In saying spiritual benediction, the Apostle means to contrast the blessings we receive from God, with those he promised to, and conferred upon, his ancient people, which were not spiritual, but material. He promised’ earthly blessings to the Jews, he has promised the heavenly to Christians. The New Testament is distant from the Old, as heaven from earth. In the ancient Scriptures, as for example in Lev. 26, Deut. 7, or 28, we find only earthly advantages secured or offered to the people of Israel. But, in reading the New Testament, we find no promises of terrestrial good. Blessed are the pour in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Who loveth me, we will come and make our dwelling with him Matt. 5:3, Jn 14:23. The followers of Christ are, on the contrary, warned to expect persecution and affliction. You shall mourn and weep. hi the world you shall have trouble. Jn 16:20, 33. The spirit of the Christian faith is to despise earth, and aspire to heaven, to be withdrawn from what is carnal, the more abundantly to possess that which is spiritual.

In the heavenly, understand regions or places, not literally but in figure, because the nature of the heavenly cannot be fully apprehended by our limited intelligence. God has blessed us in the heavenly places, because there he dwells; or more properly, has blessed us with celestial gifts which are one day to raise us to heaven.

In Christ. That is, through Christ ; or by the faith of Christ; or because the possession of Christ is the promised blessing which awaits us in the heavenly places, whither he has ascended. The preposition in is omitted in the Greek, but probably by mistake of a transcriber, the expression as it stands being: a solecism and ungrammatical. Christ is the means or channel by which every blessing of God reaches us; and by which our praise and benediction ascends in answer to God. Through him, with him, and in him, is all honour and glory given to God omnipotent, not by man only, but by the holy Angels as well.

Eph 1:4. As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and immaculate, in his sight, in charity.

As he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This particularizes and describes the blessing referred to in the last verse. God chose us, before the foundation of the world, in view of the merits of Christ, and for the sake of Christ; and having chosen us in eternity, has blessed us in time. The Greek word καταβολή (kataboles) signifies the laying of a foundation, literally, throwing down. As if, says St. Chrysostom, God had thrown down the universe from an infinite height, not locally, but on account of the immeasurable distance which separates the nature of the Creator from that of the creature.

That we might be holy and blameless in his sight. This is the object of our election, to be holy and blameless, not only in the sight of men, who may be deceived, but in that of God, who sees all things. In charity, because this is the crown and perfection of sanctification, and the means of attaining it. The Apostle does not assert that sanctification is the final end of our election, but it is the final end as regards this life. Or it may be considered as identical with the final beatification of soul and body in the presence of God, for which it is, in any point of view, essential. But St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Syriac version, take the words in charity as belonging to the next verse: who has predestinated us in charity, or love.

In order to understand these opening words of the Apostle, it may be useful to enumerate some of the shocking tenets of the heretics against whom this Epistle is directed, and which were more fully brought to light at a later period when they had been separated from the communion of the Church. These errors are fully detailed in the writings of Irenaeus and St. Clement.

It will be sufficient to say here that the followers of Simon Magus maintained, 1. That the Creator of the world was not the Supreme Being, but an evil or imperfect principle or agent; 2. That he was the enemy of Christ, and brought him to the cross; 3. That the heirs of salvation have a divine or angelic nature, derived from spheres beyond the knowledge of the Creator; 4. That their salvation is, therefore, the result, not of election but of creation; 5. That it depends on destiny, not on the will of the Creator; 6. That sanctity, or obedience to the laws of the Creator of the world, is a degrading servitude, and the contrary is the characteristic of the sons of light; 7. That the rest of the race of mankind are not objects of charity, but of scorn and hate, like their Creator, and incapable of salvation; 8. That knowledge, not love, is the perfection of humanity and the inheritance of the Saints. These errors are combatted throughout the present Epistle; and in the two verses now under consideration St. Paul asserts, 1. That our Creator is blessed; 2. That he has blessed us, that is, all baptized Christians, in Christ; 3. That he has chosen us before creation; 4. That he has chosen us to salvation; 5. That he has chosen us for Christ’s sake, from the foreknowledge that we should believe in Christ; 6. That he has chosen us to sanctification; 7. That sanctification is obtained and made perfect by charity; 8. That in charity he has predestinated us to life eternal.

To this may be added that the heretics appear to have considered the world to have existed from eternity, or at least the material from which it was framed, on which account St. Paul says that God laid, or cast down, the foundations of the world. And that angels, not Christ, are our true mediators with God; for which reason the Apostle avers that God has blessed us in heavenly places in Christ. It is possible that some of these wild opinions may be faintly reflected in the heresies or philosophies of modern times, but for the most part they are obsolete and forgotten, and the chief interest of the Epistle to the Ephesians consists in the sublime and beautiful exposition of the Christian philosophy with which St. Paul has crushed and refuted them, in this magnificent treatise, and which he derived directly from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

Eph 1:5 Who predestined us to the adoption of sons, through Jesus Christ, into him, according to the purpose of his will:

Who predestined us. The Apostle borrows this word, from the vocabulary of his opponents, who attributed. everything in human life to destiny, or the influence of an inexorable fate determined by mysterious powers presiding over the birth of every individual, and whose dictates could not be escaped. But he uses the term in a sense of his own, very different from theirs, declaring that God has, from the beginning of the world, appointed or predestined believers in Christ, to the adoption of sons. The same blessing he has described before, and now expands in further detail; to be chosen to sanctity is the same thing as to be predestined to sonship. For the saints are the sons of God. Through, by means of and for the sake of Jesus Christ, to him. The Greek text, as we have it now, reads εἰς αὐτός (eis auton), to himself; the translator of the Vulgate appears to have read eis auto, to him, that is, to Christ. According to the purpose of his will, or the good pleasure of his will, his own voluntary and spontaneous mercy and kindness, the sole origin and source of this infinite honour and benefit to man. It is clear that St. Paul understands that this adoption to be sons of God had already been conferred upon the Ephesian Christians in the laver of regeneration, to which God had chosen or predestined them from eternity. This was the immediate object of their predestination and election, to which these tended; and that he does not refer to any immediate election and predestination to glory, appears from these considerations. 1. The inscription, the Epistle being addressed to the saints and faithful, not to such as were chosen to glory. 2. The words of the text: predestined to sonship, which is the privilege of all believers. 3. The general tenor of the Epistle addressed to them. No one would venture to assert that none of the Ephesian Christians were damned; that the object of St. Paul in writing it was to assure them of salvation unconditionally, or that he meant to make their election to glory patent and public to all the world. That their attainment of eternal glory was the end of their election, there is no doubt; but it does not follow that the; mode of arriving at grace and glory are the same. This is, however, another and more general question; what is asserted here is that the Apostle is not treating of election or predestination to final glory, but election and predestination to the adoption of sons, which is the privilege of all baptized believers in Christ. They are chosen to sanctity. But it is evident, from the language of this Epistle, that the Ephesian Christians were not all saints. This election is not, therefore, absolute, but conditional. Absolute on the part of God, who gives the graces necessary for sanctity, but conditional, as assuming our own free cooperation with that grace.

Eph 1:6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, whereby he made us gracious in his beloved Son.

To the praise of the glory of his grace. The Syriac: that the praise of his grace may be celebrated. The final cause and object of our election and salvation is, that for God’s infinite love and mercy, praise and glory may be rendered to him by men and angels.

In which grace, or by which grace, he has made us gracious, endowed us with Christian graces, made us acceptable and beloved to himself, as his own sons. Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and place a ring on his hand, Lk 15:22. St. Chrysostom says: By this grace he not only freed us from our sins, but made us pleasing, and objects of love and affection to himself. As if he took up one who was foul and disfigured with pestilence, disease, and leprosy, enfeebled by age, ruined in fortune, and restoring him at once to youth, health, strength, and beauty, beyond all compare, and in the flower and fulness of his age, and the vigour of life, clothed him with purple,, placed a jeweled diadem upon his head, surrounded him with state and splendour. Thus has God recreated and adorned the soul of man, and made it brilliant and beautiful, lovely, amiable, and desirable in his sight.

In his beloved Son. The word Son is omitted in the Greek. In the Beloved. The Syriac: through his Beloved. Christ is essentially and by excellence the Beloved of the Father. The felicity of Deity consists in the eternal affection that reigns between the Father and the Son. The Son beholds the fulness of the Father’s glory ; the Father sees his own infinite perfection perfectly reflected in the Son, his image and likeness. And through our union with Christ we also are beloved, rendered amiable, gracious, acceptable, to God the Father, in the Beloved. The false doctrine of the heretics, that the sons of light have by creation, and of themselves, a different nature from other men, the development of which must bring them to ultimate glory, is contradicted by this statement of the Apostle, that we are gracious and acceptable in the sight of God only for the sake of Christ, and through union with liim.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Fr. de Piconio, Notes on Ephesians | 1 Comment »

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 22

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 4, 2020

PSALM 22
CHRIST’S PASSION: AND THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES

1 Unto the end, for the morning protection, a psalm for David.
2 O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.

David speaks here in the person of Christ hanging on the cross, in the height of his suffering, as appears from Mt. 27, in which we read that the Redeemer, just before he expired, exclaimed: “O God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The words, “Look upon me,” are not in the Hebrew; they were added by the Septuagint, for explanation sake. When Christ complains of having been forsaken by God, we are not to understand that he was forsaken by the Second Person, or that there was a dissolution of the hypostatic union, or that he lost the favor and friendship of the Father; but he signifies to us that God permitted his human nature to undergo those dreadful torments, and to suffer an ignominious death, from which he could, if he chose, most easily deliver him. Nor did such complaints proceed either from impatience or ignorance, as if Christ were ignorant of the cause of his suffering, or was not most willing to bear such abandonment in his suffering; such complaints were only a declaration of his most bitter sufferings. And whereas, through the whole course of his passion, with such patience did our Lord suffer, as not to let a single groan or sigh escape from him, so now, lest the bystanders may readily believe that he was rendered impassible by some superior power; therefore, when his last moments were nigh, he protests that he is true man, truly passible; forsaken by his Father in his sufferings, the bitterness and acuteness of which he then intimately felt. “O God, my God;” looking upon himself as a mere servant, he addresses the Father as his God, because, at that very moment, he was worshipping him as the true God, offering to him the most perfect sacrifice that ever had been offered, the sacrifice of his body. “Look upon me;” he asks him to behold how he suffers for his honor, to acknowledge, therefore, the obedience of his Son, and to accept the sacrifice so offered for the human race. “Why hast thou forsaken me?” As if he were surprised! Is it possible you could allow your beloved and only begotten Son to be overwhelmed in such an abyss of pain and sorrow? Similar expressions are met in Jn. 3, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son;” and, Rom. 8, “He did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” “Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.” Many, afraid of imputing sin to Christ, give a very forced explanation of these words. Some read them by way of interrogation, without any authority whatever. Others explain thus, “My sins,” having none, “are far from my salvation;” that is, are no obstacle to it. Without entering into other interpretations, mere gratuitous ones, inconsistent with the punctuation, the meaning simply is: with justice I said I was forsaken in my sufferings, because my exemption from them would be incompatible with my satisfying for the sins of the human race, which I have taken upon me, and which I mean to wipe away. And that Christ could take the sins of the human race upon himself, as if they were his own, is plainly shown in the Scripture, 1 Peter 2, “Who his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree:” Isaias 53, “And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all:” and, 2 Cor. 5, “Him who knew no sin he hath made sin for us;” that is, a victim for sin. As a victim for sin, then, must be immolated, in order to cleanse from the sin, so Christ, having undertaken to become the victim for the sins of the world, with much propriety says, “Far from my salvation are the words of my sins;” that is, I cannot avoid death, since the sins of the whole world are upon me to satisfy for them. “The words of my sins” is a Hebraism, meaning the sins themselves. “Are far from my salvation,” are inconsistent with my salvation, and I must, therefore, needs suffer.

3 O my God, I shall cry by day, and thou wilt not hear: and by night, and it shall not be reputed as folly in me.

He assigns another proof of his being forsaken by God, and without any hope of temporal salvation. Though I may cry out day and night to be delivered from this death of the body, you will not hear me. He alludes to his two prayers, one at night in the garden, the other by day on the cross. “And it shall not be reputed as folly in me.” Though I may cry, and though I know you will not hear me, so far as my escaping temporal punishment or suffering is concerned; still, it will “not be folly in me,” because my principal object, the redemption of the human race, will be effected, and I will not be kept in death, but will rise to life everlasting.

4 But thou dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel.

He proves that it was not folly in him to cry out at night, even though he was not heard by day, and that for four reasons. First, because God is holy and merciful. Secondly, because he is wont kindly to hear those that call upon him. Thirdly, because he is in the greatest straits. Fourthly, because, from his nativity, he has confided in God, and in him alone. The present verse contains the first reason. You, O Lord, will certainly hear me, for you “dwell in the holy place;” you are all sanctity and piety; malice or cruelty cannot come near you, and, therefore, you are “the praise” of thy people “Israel;” both because the people of Israel praise thee, and they are praised on your account. For the greatest praise thy people can have is their having a God so holy in every respect.

5 In thee have our fathers hoped: they have hoped, and thou hast delivered them.
6 They cried to thee, and they were saved: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

Reason the second, from the instances of his kindness, numbers of which are to be found in Judges. As often as the children of Israel appealed to him, so often did he send them one of the judges to deliver them, such as Gedeon, Samson, Samuel etc.

7 But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.
8 All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.
9 He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him.

The third reason, derived from the straits in which Christ is placed. “But I am a worm, and no man:” I am just now in that position that I am not only “made less than the Angels,” but even made less than man. “Despised and the most abject of men,” Isaias 53, nay, even beneath them, when even Barabbas and the robbers were preferred to me, and thus, I am now become so wretched, more “a worm than a man;” “the reproach of men;” at whom men blush, as they would at some opprobrious character; as did Peter, when he swore a solemn oath, “he knew not the man;” and “the outcast of the people;” one so rejected by the very scum of the people, that they called out, “Not this man but Barabbas.” “All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn:” When they saw me in that state they all mocked me, all manner of persons, high and low, priests and laics, Jews and gentiles; which was fulfilled when, as St. Luke 23, writes, “And the people stood beholding, and the rulers with them derided. And the soldiers also mocked him.” “They have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.” This, too, was accomplished, as St. Matthew writes, chap. 27, “They blasphemed him, wagging their heads, and saying, Vah, thou who destroyest the temple of God.” “He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him.” St. Matthew testifies in the same place that the Jews made use of the very words, saying, “He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will.” Wonderful prophecy, predicting not only the facts, but the very words that would be used on the occasion.

10 For thou art he that hast drawn me out of the womb: my hope from the breasts of my mother.
11 I was cast upon thee from the womb. From my mother’s womb thou art my God,

The fourth reason, drawn from the eternal innocence of Christ. The word “For” does not imply a consequence; it is very often used in the Scriptures as a mere copulative; sometimes it is quite redundant. “You art he that hast drawn me out of the womb.” I am thine from my birth; specially so, because I have not been born like others; but, through thy singular favor, have been both conceived and born, my mother’s virginity remaining intact. “My hope from the breasts of my mother.” Not content with having “drawn me out of the womb,” it is you who principally nourished me; for, though apparently on the breast of any mother, I know milk from heaven was supplied by you; and, therefore, from her very breasts, I learned to hope and confide in thee. “I was cast upon thee from the womb;” The moment I left my mother’s womb, I fell into thy bosom, where I was cared with such singular love and affection. “From my mother’s womb thou art my God.” As well as you, from the moment of my birth, so providentially protected me, so I, from the earliest dawn of my life, began to serve and to love you as my God.

12 Depart not from me. For tribulation is very near: for there is none to help me.

“Depart not from me,” according to some, is a part of the preceding verse, a matter of no great moment; it means, since “I was cast upon thee from the womb,” since “thou art my God,” I may with justice ask you to “depart not from me,” especially when my most grievous and my last “tribulation is very near;” that is, my death. “For tribulation is very near.” This verse may, perhaps, apply to his agony in the garden, when he was so overwhelmed with fear at the idea of his approaching passion; but, I am more inclined to think it should be understood of his actual passion at hand, both because he uses the perfect tense, when he says, “They have dug my hands and feet.” “They parted my garments amongst them;” and because he, before that, quoted the language of the Jews, boasting of their having nailed him to the cross; and, finally, because the very first verse of this Psalm was quoted by our Savior, when hanging on his cross. According, then, to his expression in the 2nd verse, “it shall not be reputed as folly in me.” I will not cry to thee to deliver me from death, but not to detain me therein.

13 Many calves have surrounded me: fat bulls have besieged me.

An account of the cruelty of his enemies, whom he compares to bulls, lions, and dogs. He alludes to the High Priests and Pharisees, who insult him like bulls, goring him, as it were, with their horns, saying “Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God;” or, like lions with their mouths open, hungering for him; thirsting for his blood, and bellowing, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him;” or like dogs gnawing and biting him when they belied him, saying, “We have found this man perverting our nation;” and again, “If he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up to thee:” which calumnies and detractions were the cause of our Lord’s immediate crucifixion; and, therefore, he says presently, “They have dug my hands and feet.” To come now to particulars. “Many calves have surrounded me.” We are not to understand young weak calves, but grown, with horns, almost bulls; for the following, “fat bulls have besieged me,” is only a repetition. The High Priests and Pharisees are called “strong” and “fat,” because they were powerful and rich. Some will have it that by the “calves” he meant the populace; by the “bulls,” the Pharisees; not at all improbable; but I prefer the first explanation.

14 have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring.

The High Priests and Pharisees panting for his death.

15 I am poured out like water; and all my bones are scattered. My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels.
16 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my jaws: and thou hast brought me down into the dust of death.

He tells in these verses how he dealt with the cruelty of his enemies. He offered no opposition to their violence, but always exhibited the humility, patience, and mildness, spoken of in Isaias, chap. 1, “I have not turned away my face from them that rebuke me and spit upon me;” and by 1 St. Peter, 2, “Who when he was reviled, did not revile; when he suffered he threatened not, but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.” He, therefore, says, “I am poured out like water;” I made no resistance, allowed myself to be turned, driven in all directions, as one would turn a stream of water. “And all my bones are scattered;” I have lost all my strength, not in reality, but I do not wish to exercise it. I let my enemies use theirs, according to St. Luke 22, “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” I have, therefore, shown myself weak and feeble in my resistance, as if I were flesh entirely; “And all my bones are scattered;” and thus incapable of resistance. “My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels;” I have patiently borne, and meekly borne, all those injuries before man, but I have been also interiorly “humble of heart;” which heart has not been swollen with anger, nor hardened with rage, in a spirit of vengeance, but has been on the contrary, like “melted wax,” in the spirit of affection and love to them, in the spirit of mercy for their blindness, by virtue of which I prayed of you, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “In the midst of my bowels;” a usual phrase in the Scripture, to express our internal feelings; thus, John 7, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water:” and, Cant. 5, “My bowels were moved at his touch:” “My strength is dried up like a potsherd.” My whole strength has dwindled away, dried up like a brickbat, when I allowed myself to be tied and beaten as if I were incapable of resisting them. “And my tongue adhered to my jaws:” I did not choose to say an offensive word to my enemies, or to complain of their wrongs. “And thou hast brought me down into the jaws of death.” In consequence of their persecutions, and my non resistance, you have, my God, without whose permission nothing can happen, brought me to my death and burial.

17 For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. They have dug my hands and feet.
18 They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me.
19 They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.

All which was fulfilled to the letter, as may be read in St. John, chap. 19.

20 But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence.

He returns to the prayer with which he commenced the Psalm, and to which he recurred again in verses 10 and 11, and now resumes it here. Having gone through the details of his passion, he now prays to God for a speedy resurrection, as it is it that will deliver him perfectly from the persecution of his enemies. “But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me.” My enemies have arrived at the height of their malice, have put out all their strength against me; it is, therefore, your part to look to me now, to defer your help no longer, but kindly to defend me against their machinations.

21 Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog.
22 Save me from the lion’s mouth; and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns.

He tells the sort of assistance he requires. “Deliver my soul from the sword.” Deliver me from the instrument of death, making use of the word sword for any instrument, a thing common in the Scriptures, 2 Sam 12, “The sword shall not depart from thy house;” Ezechiel 33, “And see the sword coming upon the land;” Rom. 8, “Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or persecution? or the sword?” In like manner, the word soul is used here for life, a thing not uncommon in the Scriptures. “My only one from the hand of the dog;” by “the dog,” he means those dogs he had already spoken of; but he makes use here of the singular number by a figure, to show that the malice of them all appeared to be now concentrated in one, and, therefore, so much the more violent and malignant. “My only one;” he means his own life, which he loved in a singular manner, as being that of the incarnate Word. “Save me from the lion’s mouth;” that lion of which ver. 13. says, “They have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring;” “and my lowness from the horns of the unicorn.” He said before, “Fat bulls have besieged me.” Unicorns are now substituted for bulls, being much more fierce and wild, to show that the cruelty and ferocity of his enemies, so far from being softened by his many sufferings, was only excited and increased. Now, in all these petitions the Lord does not ask to have his temporal life spared; but, as we have repeatedly explained before, he asks that his life may be repaired quickly, and so repaired that he shall be no longer exposed or subject to the bite of the dog, the claws of the lion, or the horn of the bull or the unicorn.

23 I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee.

He now begins to tell the fruit of his resurrection, the conversion of the world to God. “I will declare thy name to my brethren. When I shall have risen, I will send my apostles through the entire world, and through them, “I will declare my name;” that is, I will impart the knowledge of thy name and of thy Godhead to all men through them; all being my brothers, by reason of the flesh I assumed; and thus, “in the midst of the church will I praise thee;” no longer in a corner of Judea, but in the midst of the immense church, composed of Jews and gentiles, through the mouths of my ministers will I praise thee. St. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, quotes this passage, chap. 2, “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church I will praise thee.”

24 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him.
25 Let all the seed of Israel fear him: because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication of the poor man. Neither hath he turned away his face form me: and when I cried to him he heard me.

Having said that he would “praise God in the midst of the church,” which was to be effected by getting his faithful to do so, he now exhorts the faithful to praise God, “Ye that fear the Lord;” ye who know and worship him; for fearing God, in the Scriptures, is synonymous with worshipping him; thus, Jonas, when questioned about his people, says, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the God who made the heavens and the earth;” and Daniel says, “Let all fear the God of Daniel;” and it is said of Judith, “that she feared God exceedingly.” The meaning, then, is, you who know and worship the true God, praise him; and, lest we should imagine this exhortation was addressed to a few, the Jews, for instance, he adds, “All ye seed of Jacob, glorify him. Let all the seed of Israel fear him;” that means, glorify, praise, and fear God, all ye children of Israel, and not only ye who are children in the flesh, but ye who are children according to the promise, namely, all the gentiles converted to Christianity; “Because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication of the poor man.” He assigns a reason for wishing God to be praised by all, namely, because he heard the prayer he put up to him for his resurrection and glory, for his victory over the devil, and for the redemption of the human race. He calls himself “a poor man,” as, in truth, he was, when, in his agony, hanging on the cross, he hung naked, deserted, and suffering from hunger and thirst. “Neither hath he turned away his face from me, and when I cried to him he heard me.” A repetition of the preceding sentences.

26 With thee is my praise in a great church: I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.

Having encouraged his faithful to praise God, he now predicts the certainty of it. The praise I will chant to thee through my faithful will not be from a corner, nor from a handful of the Jews, but from the church of all nations. “I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.” Vows here signify sacrifices and oblations, as Isaias 9 has it, “They shall worship him in victims and offerings, and they shall make vows to the Lord, and perform them;” for when Christ saw how agreeable was the holocaust of his death to the Almighty, he promises now that, through his ministers, he will, in the best manner he can, most frequently renew the same holocaust, which he says, in the words, “I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him;” through my ministers, the priests of the New Testament, I will most constantly immolate that most agreeable of all sacrifices to God; “in the sight of them that fear him;” of those that acknowledge, worship him, for the sacrifice may not be performed before infidels.

27 The poor shall eat and shall be filled: and they shall praise the Lord that seek him: their hearts shall live for ever and ever.

Of this sacrifice “the poor shall eat,” when they acknowledge their spiritual neediness and poverty; “and shall be filled, because they will taste of the good, exceeding all good; “and they shall praise the Lord,” thanking him for such an immense favor: “that seek him;” those that hunger for and eagerly seek him; “their hearts shall live forever.” Such will be the fruit of this reflection, that the hearts nourished by such excellent and noble food will lead a spiritual life—a life of grace here, and of glory forever; for so the Truth speaketh, in John 6, “Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live forever.” For, as perishable food supports the body for a time, so the imperishable food confers life everlasting.

28 All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord: And all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight.

He shows how it will happen that he shall have to praise God “in a great church,” because all nations will be converted to God through the merits of the sacrifice on the cross. “They shall remember” their first origin, how they were formed in their first parent, a thing they had quite forgotten, through original sin; and, therefore, they said to the wood and the stones, “Thou art my father,” Jerem. 3 “They shall remember” their first creation, “and all the ends of the earth shall be converted to the Lord;” that is, all the nations on the face of the globe, even to its remotest ends; that is to say, some from every nation. “And all the kindred of the gentiles shall adore in his sight.” An explanation of the preceding verse; because, “adoring” the Lord, and being converted to the Lord, imply the same thing; namely, the abandonment of idolatry by the whole human race all over the world.

29 For the kingdom is the Lord’s; and he shall have dominion over the nations.

They will deservedly be converted to and adore the Lord, because he, not the infernal spirits, being the true and natural king of all, will justly “have dominion over the nations.”

30 All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and have adored: all they that go down to the earth shall fall before him.

Having stated that “The poor shall eat and shall be filled, and shall praise the Lord;” and that “All the kindred of the gentiles shall adore in his sight,” for fear any one may suppose it was only the poor and the hungry would be called and converted, he now introduces the rich and the powerful. “All the fat ones have eaten, and have adored.” The very “fat ones” of this world, who abound in its blessings, such as princes, emperors, kings, they, too, shall eat of the Lord’s table, and will adore and praise the common Lord, whose sway is over all nations. In the style of the prophets, the perfect tense is used here for the future. Finally the words “that go down to the earth,” mean all mortals who to earth must return. “Shall fall before him;” shall bend their knees, and adore; and thus the conversion of the gentiles, the fruit of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, will be truly general.

31 And to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him.

He concludes by saying, that he and his posterity would thence forward live for God’s glory alone, and for his faithful service; the soul is put here for the entire man, which is often done in the Scripture.

32 There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall shew forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.

An explanation of the expression, “My seed shall serve him,” for “the generation to come;” meaning the people, under the new dispensation, will get good news concerning the Lord and his justice, the justice of Faith. “Then shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come;” that means, the generation to come shall get the news; it shall be announced to them, for it is a Greek phrase, like the expression, “The poor have the gospel preached to them;” whereas, literally translated, it would mean, the poor preached the gospel: the meaning, then, is, not that the Lord will be declared to the generation to come, but the generation to come will be declared, as enlisted to the Lord; this is plain from the following, where he says, “The heavens shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born;” now, “that shall be born,” and “the generation to come,” are one and the same. The Lord, then, will be declared to the coming generation, for the heavens, that holy people, will do it. The justice of faith is called the justice of God, which makes men truly just, and which God gratuitously gives to those who believe in Christ. For the gospel strongly inculcates that we are all sinners, that we cannot be justified of ourselves, but that through faith in Christ we are to expect justice from God alone.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, St Robert Bellarmine | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 21

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 1, 2020

PRAISE TO GOD FOR CHRIST’S EXALTATION AFTER HIS PASSION

Ps 21:1 IN thy strength, O Lord, the king shall joy; and in thy salvation he shall rejoice exceedingly.

Having obtained a victory, “The King,” Christ, “Shall joy in thy strength,” for the strength and power he got from you to triumph so successfully over his enemies; “And in thy salvation,” the salvation you gave him, “shall rejoice,” nay, even “rejoice exceedingly.” One part of the verse thus explains the other.

Ps 21:2 Thou hast given him his heart’s desire: and hast not withholden from him the will of his lips.

Words corresponding to “May he give thee according to thy own heart,” in the last Psalm, a Hebrew idiom, by which granting a petition means, giving the thing asked for, as we read in 1 Sam 1:18. The priest Heli says to Anna, “The God of Israel grant thee thy petition which thou hast asked of him;” thus, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire” means, thou hast given him what he desired; “And hast not withheld from him the will of his lips;” you have not refused him what he, by the expression of his lips, showed he wished for and desired. In one word that Christ got all he wished for in his heart and expressed with his lips.

Ps 21:3 For thou hast prevented him with blessings of sweetness: thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones.

How justly Christ must have rejoiced to find he not only got what he asked, but that God even anticipated his wishes, bestowed the greatest favors on him, without his even asking them. “Thou hast prevented him (anticipated) with blessings of sweetness;” and the meaning is, that Christ, without his asking them, was liberally endowed with God’s gifts, such as being conceived by the Holy Ghost, the being united in person with the Word, the infusion of all knowledge and virtue, and the beatific vision, all of which he got at the very instant of his conception, and was therefore “prevented (anticipated) with the blessings of sweetness.”

“Thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones,” would seem to refer to his royalty and his priesthood, which, too, he had from his conception, and hence the name Christ; for a crown of gold marks the king as well as the priest.

Ps 21:4 He asked life of thee: and thou hast given him length of days for ever and ever.

He got the above named gifts by anticipation, without asking them; but corporeal glory and immortality and other gifts, he afterwards asked and got. “He asked life,” which he did on the eve of his passion. “He offered up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death,” Heb. 5, “but God gave him length of days, forever and ever,” meaning life everlasting, that, “rising again from the dead, he may die no more, death shall have no more dominion over him,” Rom. 6. Jansenius would have David alluded to here; Euthymius and Theodoret, before him, say Ezechias was meant; but this verse disproves both, for neither David nor Ezechias got that length of days here mentioned.

Ps 21:5 His glory is great in thy salvation: glory and great beauty shalt thou lay upon him.

God not only gave him life “forever and ever,” but he also “exalted him, and gave him a name which is above every name,” Phil. 2; for that was truly “the great glory he had in thy salvation,” the salvation through which God saved him; and hence, “thou wilt lay upon him glory and great beauty,” in lieu of the ignominious crown of thorns his enemies put upon him, rendering him, as Isaias, chap. 3, has it, “without beauty or comeliness.”

Ps 21:6 For thou shalt give him to be a blessing for ever and ever: thou shalt make him joyful in gladness with thy countenance.

Having been “exalted to the right hand of the Father,” with “a name above every name,” a universal benediction of those “that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell,” will follow. “Thou shalt give him to be a blessing;” you will set him up as a common, a universal subject for thanksgiving, that all may bless him. “Thou shalt make him joyful in gladness with thy countenance;” signifying the joy consequent on the enjoyment of all those blessings; “With thy countenance” means, in thy presence, or before thee.

Ps 21:7 For the king hopeth in the Lord: and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.

The aforesaid blessings will be fixed and firm for eternity, “For the king hopeth in the Lord;” in the infinite power of God, and not in the strength of man; “And through the mercy of the Most High,” through the infinite goodness of him who is above all, and to whom all are subject; “He,” therefore, “shall not be moved;” he will not waver, but remain secure for eternity.

Ps 21:8 Let thy hand be found by all thy enemies: let thy right hand find out all them that hate thee.

Proving that neither Christ nor his kingdom will be disturbed, because all his enemies will be destroyed. “Let thy hand be found by all thy enemies, to punish them, which he repeats in the second part of the verse. He would seem now to address Christ rather than the Fathers because Christ was the special object of the hatred of the Jews, and of his other persecutors; and it is of him Psalm 110 speaks, “Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool.”

Ps 21:9 Thou shalt make them as an oven of fire, in the time of thy anger: the Lord shall trouble them in his wrath, and fire shall devour them.

The punishment of his enemies described, “Thou shalt make them,” namely, his enemies, “as an oven of fire,” to burn on all sides, like “a lighted oven,” “in the time of thy anger;” in the day of thy wrath, viz., the day of judgment. For Christ our Lord “Shall trouble them in his wrath,” and then, at his command, everlasting fire will devour them, and make them “like an oven of fire.”

Ps 21:10 Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth: and their seed from among the children of men.

For fear any one may object that the posterity of Christ’s enemies would, one time or another, stand up for their fathers, and offer violence to Christ, the prophet now adds, that not only will his enemies be destroyed, but the same destruction will extend to their children, and to all their posterity.

Ps 21:11 For they have intended evils against thee: they have devised counsels which they have not been able to establish.

Most justly shall they be punished, because they unjustly sought to injure you. With great propriety and accuracy David says, “They have intended evils against thee.” they could only intend them, for Christ, “in whom there was no sin,” could not be directly subject to punishment; but these wicked men “intended,” and, as it were, distorted such evils against him, such as contumelies, wounds, stripes, death itself, seeking to turn the innocent Christ from his path. “They have devised counsels which they have not been able to establish.” They had the evil intention of destroying Christ, and of obstructing his kingdom; a thing they could not accomplish, because God converted all these persecutions to the good of Christ himself, and of his faithful servants.

Ps 21:12 For thou shalt make them turn their back: in thy remnants thou shalt prepare their face.

The great misfortune of the wicked is here described; scourging alone is to be their lot; and, to add to their misfortune, they will have a view of God’s elect, in the highest glory and happiness. “Thou shalt make them turn their back.” Nothing but their back shall be seen; they shall be all back, to be scourged all over. “In thy remnants thou shalt prepare their face;” the word “prepare” signifies “to direct,” in the Hebrew; and then the meaning is, you will direct their countenance, that is, of the wicked, to look “at thy remnants;” that is, the elect, whom you have left to yourself, and of whom it is written, Rom. 9, “The remnants will be saved.” This is a very difficult passage. Theodoret and Euthymius explain it thus: “Thou shalt make them turn their back:” rout them, make then fly, turn their back. “In thy remnants:” that is, in those that remain after them, their children. “Thou shalt prepare their face:” thou shalt satisfy thy anger. Let the reader choose between the two interpretations.

Ps 21:13 Be thou exalted, O Lord, in thy own strength: we will sing and praise thy power. 

The Psalm concludes with a pious effusion of praise to Christ our King, with a prediction of what is to happen after the final destruction of all the wicked. “Be thou exalted, O Lord, in thy own strength.” You that once appeared so humble, so infirm even, as to suffer crucifixion, now, in your strength and power, after subduing your enemies, and shoving them into Gehenna, “be exalted” to the very highest heavens; meanwhile, “we,” thy elect, “will sing,” with our voice, and with all manner of musical instruments will celebrate thy power and glory, in the hope of one day coming to thy kingdom, there to praise thee forever and ever.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture, St Robert Bellarmine | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Ambrose on Hospitality

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 31, 2019

The following is excerpted from St Ambrose’s On the Duties of the Clergy, Book II, chapter XXI.

103. Hospitality also serves to recommend many.11 For it is a kind of open display of kindly feelings: so that the stranger may not want hospitality, but be courteously received, and that the door may be open to him when he comes. It is most seemly in the eyes of the whole world that the stranger should be received with honour; that the charm of hospitality should not fail at our table; that we should meet a guest with ready and free service, and look out for his arrival.

104. This especially was Abraham’s praise,12 for he watched at the door of his tent, that no stranger by any chance might pass by. He carefully kept a lookout, so as to meet the stranger, and anticipate him, and ask him not to pass by, saying: “My lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not by thy servant.”13 Therefore as a reward for his hospitality, he received the gift of posterity.

105. Lot also, his nephew,14 who was near to him not only in relationship but also in virtue, on account of his readiness to show hospitality, turned aside the punishment of Sodom from himself and his family.

106. A man ought therefore to be hospitable, kind, upright, not desirous of what belongs to another, willing to give up some of his own rights if assailed, rather than to take away another’s. He ought to avoid disputes, to hate quarrels. He ought to restore unity and the grace of quietness. When a good man gives up any of his own rights, it is not only a sign of liberality, but is also accompanied by great advantages. To start with, it is no small gain to be free from the cost of a lawsuit. Then it also brings in good results, by an increase of friendship, from which many advantages rise. These become afterwards most useful to the man that can despise a little something at the time.

107. In all the duties of hospitality kindly feeling must be shown to all, but greater respect must be given to the upright.1 For “Whosoever receiveth a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward,”2 as the Lord has said. Such is the favour in which hospitality stands with God, that not even the draught of cold water shall fail of getting a reward.3 Thou seest that Abraham, in looking for guests, received God Himself to entertain.4 Thou seest that Lot received the angels.5 And how dost thou know that when thou receivest men, thou dost not receive Christ? Christ may be in the stranger that comes, for Christ is there in the person of the poor, as He Himself says: “I was in prison and thou camest to Me, I was naked and thou didst clothe Me.”6.

108. It is sweet, then, to seek not for money but for grace. It is true7 that this evil has long ago entered into human hearts, so that money stands in the place of honour, and the minds of men are filled with admiration for wealth. Thus love of money sinks in and as it were dries up every kindly duty; so that men consider everything a loss which is spent beyond the usual amount. But even here the holy Scriptures have been on the watch against love of money, that it might prove no cause of hindrance, saying: “Better is hospitality, even though it consisteth only of herbs.”8 And again: “Better is bread in pleasantness with peace.”9 For the Scriptures teach us not to be wasteful, but liberal.

Posted in Catholic, fathers of the church | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom on Fasting

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 31, 2019

The following is excerpted from St John Chrysostom’s 3rd Homily on the Statues.

7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession. Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveller boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest. So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travellers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveller. Hence St. Paul saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole armour of God.”4 Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behoves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual armour, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual armour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow. Cultivate thy soul. Cut away the thorns. Sow the word of godliness. Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman. And Paul will say to thee, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”5 He too himself practised this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”6 Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on. And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance. Keep down the waves of inordinate desires. Repel the tempest of evil thoughts. Preserve the bark; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot. But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.

8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practise it, unless it be done according to a suitable law.7 “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.”8 To the end then, that when we have gone through the labour of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted,9 but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it. The Ninevites fasted, and won the favour of God.1 The Jews fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame.2 Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow. Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskilfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

9. Let us see then how the Ninevites fasted, and how they were delivered from that wrath—“Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything,”3 saith (the prophet). What sayest thou? Tell me—must even the irrational things fast, and the horses and the mules be covered with sackcloth? “Even so,” he replies. For as when, at the decease of some rich man, the relatives clothe not only the men servants and maid servants, but the horses also with sackcloth, and give orders that they should follow the procession to the sepulchre, led by their grooms; thus signifying the greatness of the calamity, and inviting all to pity; thus also, indeed, when that city was about to be destroyed, even the irrational nature was enveloped in sackcloth, and subjected to the yoke of fasting. “It is not possible,” saith he, “that irrational creatures should learn the wrath of God by means of reason; let them be taught by means of fasting, that this stroke is of divine infliction. For if the city should be overturned, not only would it be one common sepulchre for us, the dwellers therein, but for these likewise. Inasmuch then as these would participate in the punishment, let them also do so in the fast. But there was yet another thing which they aimed at in this act, which the prophets also are wont to do. For these, when they see some dreadful chastisement proceeding from heaven, and those who are to be punished without anything to say for themselves;—laden with shame,—unworthy of the least pardon or excuse:—not knowing what to do, nor from whence they may procure an advocacy for the condemned, they have recourse to the things irrational; and describing their death in tragical fashion, they make intercession by them, putting forward as a plea their pitiable and mournful destruction. When therefore, aforetime, famine had seized upon the Jews, and a great drought oppressed their country, and all things were being consumed, one of the prophets spoke thus, “The young heifers leaped in their stalls; the herds of oxen wept, because there was no pasture; all the cattle of the field looked upward to Thee, because the streams of waters were dried up.”4 Another prophet bewailing the evils of drought again speaks to this effect: “The hinds calved in the fields and forsook it, because there was no grass.5 The wild asses did stand in the forests; they snuffed up the wind like a dragon; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.” Moreover, ye have heard Joel saying to-day, “Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet;—the infants that suck the breast.”6 For what reason, I ask, does he call so immature an age to supplication? Is it not plainly for the very same reason? For since all who have arrived at the age of manhood, have inflamed and provoked God’s wrath, let the age, saith he, which is devoid of transgressions supplicate Him who is provoked.

10. But, as I said before, we may see what it was that dissolved such inexorable wrath. Was it, forsooth, fasting only and sackcloth? We say not so; but the change of their whole life. Whence does this appear? From the very language of the prophet. For he who hath discoursed of the wrath of God, and of their fasting,7 himself too, when speaking of the reconciliation, and teaching us the cause of the reconciliation, speaks to this effect; “And God saw their works.”8 What kind of works? That they had fasted? That they had put on sackcloth? Nothing of the sort: but passing all these points in silence, he adds, “That they turned every one from their evil ways, and the Lord repented of the evil that He had said He would do unto them.” Seest thou, that fasting did not rescue from this danger, but it was the change of life, which rendered God propitious and kind to these barbarians?

11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honour fasting; for the honour of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works! Is it said by what kind of works? If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him! If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him! If thou seest a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never1 to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,”2 it says.

12. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes;3 and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbour. Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”4 Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbour thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse;5 for should he be a wicked man, he becomes more careless when he finds a partner in his wickedness; and should he be a just man, he is lifted to arrogance, and puffed up; being led on by the sin of others to imagine great things concerning himself. Besides,6 thou hast struck at the common welfare of the Church; for all those who hear not only accuse the supposed sinner, but the reproach is fastened on the Christian community; neither dost thou hear the unbelievers saying, “Such a person is a fornicator, or a libertine;” but instead of the individual who hath sinned, they accuse all Christians. In addition to this,7 thou hast caused the glory of God to be blasphemed; for as His Name is glorified when we have good report, so when we sin, it is blasphemed and insulted!

Posted in Catholic, fathers of the church, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 17

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2019

Title. A Prayer of David.

Ven. Bede. Since many of the Psalms consist of prayers, the question may be asked why such an inscription more especially belongs to this. But though the others contain divers prayers mixed with other matters, this is a supplication through its whole course. Now David, as is known, signifies the Lord Christ, in Whose Person this Psalm is uttered for the instruction of the human race.

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ, cast out of the city, was surrounded by the Jews. Christ speaketh concerning the Jews to the Father, complaining that they received Him as a lion greedy of the prey, and satiated with sins left the crime of their incredulity to their babes, when they said, “His Blood be upon us, and upon our children.”

Ven. Bede. A threefold prayer is in this Psalm uttered by Christ according to His humanity. The first is where He makes His supplication to be heard according to His righteousness: Hear the right, O Lord. The second, that His innocence may be delivered from the snares of the Jews: I have called upon Thee, O God, for Thou shalt hear me. In the third, He supplicates a speedy resurrection, to the end that the perverse people of the Jews may no longer insult over Him; and that His faithful people may not doubt concerning His Majesty, He declares that He shall remain in eternal blessedness: Up, Lord, disappoint him, and cast him down.
Eusebius of Cæsarea. A prayer of the perfect man, or of Christ Himself, for them that are to be saved by Him.

S. Jerome. This Psalm is sung in the Person of Christ against the Jews, and in the person of the Church against heretics.

1 Hear the right, O Lord, consider my complaint: and hearken unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.

It is a very beautiful idea of Pseudo-Dionysius regarding the efficacy of prayer,* that the case is as if we, standing on board a vessel, and holding in our hands a rope fastened to the shore, were to pull lustily at it. While endeavouring as it were to bring the shore to ourselves, we should indeed be bringing ourselves to it. And thus in prayer: while we seek in appearance, to bend God’s will to us, we are indeed bringing our will to His. Here Christ prays not for Himself alone, but for the instruction of all: and the right which is to be heard is that righteousness which He offers for us, that full and complete sacrifice which He presents for our sins. And if we take the words into our mouths,* S. Gregory Nyssen tells us that he will use it in vain whose debtor is in prison: the sound of his chains, says he, will be louder than the sound of your words. Or again applying the verse to the Son of God, (G.) “While I hang in agony on the Cross, whose cross beams represent as it were a balance, I cry for justice in the sight of the Father and of the whole company of heaven, to wit, whether My misery be not sufficiently great to abolish the guilt of all that believe in Me. I, the Son of God, suffer for slaves; I, the Just, for the unjust.” Has not such a sacrifice a sweet-smelling savour by which the evil odour of sin may be destroyed? Has not such a sacrifice a voice that must be heard, not only on the part of mercy, but also of justice? That goeth not out of feigned lips. As they pray, who say, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which He commands.

2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence: and let thine eyes look upon the thing that is equal.

My sentence, it is as if He said, in this world was, “Let Him be crucified;” “Not this Man, but Barabbas:” but let My true sentence come forth from Thy Presence, Thou Who hast said, “I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession.”* Not the sentence of My accusation set up over My Cross, (G.) but the sentence pronounced before the world was, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” Let Thine eyes look upon the thing that is equal. It is equal or right, that, since the innocent suffered, the guilty should go free, that the innocent Lamb should atone for the wandering sheep; that since the Prince of Life submitted to the law of death, they that were all their life-time subject to his bondage should attain to everlasting life.

[From Thy presence. That is,* let men know of a surety that My condemnation to the Cross was not the work of the Jews and Pilate, to whom I said, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above;”* but that it was done of My free-will, and according to Thy decree and foreknowledge, for the salvation of My enemies.]

3 Thou hast proved and visited mine heart in the night-season; thou hast tried me, and shalt find no wickedness in me: for I am utterly purposed that my mouth shall not offend.

Proved, visited, tried: S. Thomas thus explains their difference. God proves when He puts a man to the test whether he will keep His laws or not. He visits, when by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, He would give him power to keep them. He tries, whether His servant will persevere to the end, or whether, having run well, he will cease to run at all. And that word try has the force of trial by fire which indeed is expressed both in the LXX.* and in the Vulgate. And that story is well known of him who, inquiring of the refiner of silver how he knew when the dross was sufficiently separated, received for answer, “When I can see my own image perfectly reflected in it.” In the night season. And what is that but saying “In the multitude of the sorrows that I have in my heart,” for night is mystically the season of affliction, “Thy comforts have refreshed my soul?”* Thou shalt find no wickedness in me. And then manifestly, He That speaks is the Son of God. But take it in the other sense: put those words into the mouth of one of the members, which only the Head can really and truly say, and then notice how the next clause follows: for I am utterly purposed that my mouth shall not offend. What is this but S. James’s “If any man offend not in word, the same is also a perfect man?”* And well might S. Pambo say when he had come to one of the elder saints of the wilderness for instruction in the ascetic life, and had heard from him that verse, “I said, I will take heed to my ways that I offend not with my tongue,”* That is enough for a whole life’s practice; let me go home and attempt it.

4 Because of men’s works, that are done against the words of thy lips: I have kept me from the ways of the destroyer.

The Vulgate is quite different: That my mouth may not speak the words of men: because of the words of Thy lips, I have kept hard paths. And taking it in that sense He would not speak the words of men Who denounced the doings and the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees; Who exposed them for making clean the outside of the cup and the platter, while their inward parts were full of iniquity. I have kept hard paths. Hard indeed: hard, literally, in His manifold journeys among the mountains of Judæa and the plains of Galilee and the sea-coasts of Tyre and Sidon; hard, mystically, in that life which was but one sorrow from beginning to end; begun in the manger because there was no room for Him in the inn: ended between the two thieves on the Cross. And because of Thy words. Because—“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?”—Because of the prophecies that He should be despised and rejected of men; because of the types, that He should be the Lamb sacrificed with fire, (Ay.) and together with hyssop and bitter herbs. It is to be noticed that some of the older translations give the passage thus: I have kept the ways of the transgressor: which they interpret to mean that He was numbered with them, reckoned among them, called a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber while He lived, and joined with the wicked in His death. I have kept hard paths. This is the Antiphon which the Church takes as the ordinary interpretation of the Psalm. And well it may be: for what is the whole of the Christian course but a succession of hard paths,—the strait gate and the narrow way which the martyrs and the confessors trod, and which they trod for the same reason, namely, love. Lorinus beautifully applies those words of the heathen poet:

Nam ubi amor condimentum inerit,* cuivis placiturum credo.
Neque salsum neque suave esse potest quicquam, ubi amor non admiscetur.
Fel quod amarum est, id mel faciet: hominem ex tristi lepidum et lenem.

5 O hold thou up my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps slip not.

Hold Thou up, or, as the Vulgate has it, Make perfect. That is, says Gerhohus, in the paths of eternity: because of Thy commandments, I have kept hard paths in this world; let their hardness and sorrow be turned into the joy and glory of the next. Hold Thou up my goings. And where were they so truly held up as on the Cross? There indeed stablished; (C.) there indeed made perfect. Or, again, others will have this expression of making perfect to refer to the example that He left us, that we should tread in His steps; and in this way a very beautiful meaning may be drawn forth. Hold Thou up My goings, that I may leave a pattern to them that shall come after Me to life everlasting, that My footsteps—that is, that their footsteps which are Mine, because taken in My strength, and based upon My example—slip not, notwithstanding all the infirmities of the flesh, and the assaults of the world and of Satan.

6 I have called upon thee, O God, for thou shalt hear me: incline thine ear to me, and hearken unto my words.

The Prophet, (Cd.) as Cajetan very well observes, sets us a memorable example in two respects. The one, his trust in God, Thou shalt hear me: the other, his acknowledgment that he has no merit of his own, (G.) Incline Thine ear to me, because my words have in themselves no power or force to reach it. Or, to apply these words to our Lord: I have called upon Thee, when I said, “The hour is come: glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee;” when I prayed, “Father, glorify Thy Name;” when I said, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am.” But now, as the hour of My Passion approaches, as the redemption or damnation of the human race depends upon My drinking or not drinking the cup, now in a different and deeper sense than before, incline Thine ear unto Me, and hearken unto My words, those seven words which I shall utter on the Cross; for others, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do:” for Myself, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”

7 Show thy marvellous loving-kindness, thou that art the Saviour of them which put their trust in thee:

First let us separate the last clause from its present awkward junction, and refer it, as it ought to be referred, to the next verse. And then we take the words on our own lips, and having spoken of the Lord’s Passion, pray for that marvellous loving-kindness by which He said to the thief, (G.) “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise:” by which He made good the very title of His Cross—Jesus, in that He showed Himself to be the Saviour, the King: in that He accepted the prayer, “Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” Thou That art the Saviour of them that put their trust in Thee. Where notice the condition upon which only He becomes our Saviour,—namely, that we trust in him. But yet observe how faint a degree of hope He sometimes rewards. The disciples had already got into the past tense, “We trusted that it had been He Which should have redeemed Israel,”* when He joined them in the way, and when He taught them of Himself.

Vs 7 cont. with 8 and beginning of 9. From such as resist thy right hand, 8 Keep me as the apple of an eye: hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 9 From the ungodly that trouble me. 

And they expound it of our Lord looking, (G.) in the fulness of His Omniscience, backwards and forwards, to the many times in which He, in His own people, was kept as the apple of an eye: the time when Pharaoh took counsel to oppress the chosen race with heavy burdens: when Satan moved them to murmur in the wilderness: when Saul pursued David for so many long years: when Antiochus stood up against the great and the holy people: when Herod sought to destroy the infants at Bethlehem: when, in the ten great persecutions, “the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together,” and at length in the fulness of their joy struck the medal which declared the execrable superstition to have been crushed: and finally, in the time of Antichrist, when, if it were possible, the very elect should perish; but because they are elect they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand. Or, to take it in another sense, we ourselves ask to be kept as the pupil of God’s Eye,—that is, as the very and eternal Son of God; for the pupil of the eye,* as Hugh of S. Victor reminds us, has been from all antiquity the type of a son. Anastasius IV. found so great consolation in this expression, that Custodi me ut pupillum oculi was his motto. But, as mediæval writers love to tell us, the pupil of the eye, the true type of all God’s servants, is more especially so of those that have entered on the religious life. The eye lies, as it were, enshrined in its own little temple: so they, shut out and shut off from the cares and the allurements of this world. “The Saviour,” says Salvian,* “desirous to have followers of the purest and holiest of all, commanded that by such the most trifling sins should be avoided: that the life of a Christian should be undefined, as is the pupil of our eye: to the end that, as the one cannot abide the smallest particle of dust, (G.) so our life should reject and abhor every spot of defilement.” Under the shadow of Thy wings. “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” There they see the two wings of which the Psalmist speaks: that which protects from temporal,* and that which shields from eternal, dangers. Others take it of the two Testaments: the promises and consolations of each. S. Basil sees in the type of wings the swiftness of God’s protection: others, from that expression, the shadow, would remind us that we are none the less safe in this world for a little temporary darkness.

[Thy right Hand.* The Right Hand of the Father is the Son, and the words therefore are spoken in His person against the Jews, (D. C.) and in that of the Church against the Pagan enemies of His Name. The apple of an eye. This type is used of Christ, because as the eye, itself very small, gives light to the whole body,* so Christ, Who appeared most lowly and obscure, is the “Light of the world”* and of His mystical body, the Church.]

Verse 9 cont. with verse 10. Mine enemies compass me round about to take away my soul.
10 They are inclosed in their own fat: and their mouth speaketh proud things. 

Compass me about. They refer very appositely to that verse, “Then came the Jews round about Him, (G.) and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us to doubt?”* And notice that the fat was that part of the sacrifice which belonged to God only, and hence one of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas; that, when any man said, “Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth,”* the answer was, “Nay, but thou shalt give it me now.” And thus our Lord’s enemies, (C.) instead of rendering to God the things which were God’s, (R.) inclosed themselves in, kept back for their own, (B.) those very things. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” “How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh from God only?”* Others refer it to their sensuality, and being given over to the lusts of the flesh: others, again, as Theodoret and Ludolph, to their having shut themselves up from all compassion, and so they connect it with the next verse. Or, lastly, the expression may but mean such a delicate and luxurious life, as that of the rich man who fared sumptuously every day, and of whom, and of whom only, it is written, that “in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.”

[Their mouth speaketh proud things,* such as, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” and “We have no King but Cæsar;” and yet again, “He is guilty of death,” (D. C.) “Crucify Him.”* It is said, their mouth, (C.) because the wicked often condemn in their heart the very thing which they utter.]

11 They lie waiting in our way on every side: turning their eyes down to the ground;
12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey: and as it were a lion’s whelp, lurking in secret places.

[They lie waiting, &c. The LXX. and Vulgate read here, (D. C.) Casting me out, they compassed me. They cast Him out more than once, as when at Nazareth they “rose up, and thrust Him out of the city,”* intending to throw Him down a precipice.* They cast Him out of the city of Jerusalem, crucifying Him “without the gate,”* and compassing Him upon the Cross. The Syriac and Symmachus read, They praised Me, and now they have compassed Me. And this they did twice, when they tempted Him, saying, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth;”* and again, when they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”*]

Turning their eyes down to the ground: for where the treasure is, (Ay.) there will the heart be also. Or, as others take it, “Watching My steps, if perchance they might find any occasion of stumbling in Me:” as when they sent out those that feigned themselves just men, to entangle Him in His talk. S. Thomas well reminds us how often Holy Scripture bids us to lift up our eyes,—“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills:”* “Lift up your eyes to the heavens:”* “Lift up your eyes on high,* and behold who hath created these things:” and again, “Lift up your eyes, and behold the fields:”* because we are of our own nature so apt to forget our country and our home, and to fix them on the place of our exile. The lion—that roaring lion, who goeth about seeking whom he may devour; the lion’s whelp, his followers and ministers, of whom it is well said that he lurketh in secret places, because it is written, “Every one that doeth good, cometh unto the light.”*

13 Up, Lord, disappoint him, and cast him down: deliver my soul from the ungodly, which is a sword of thine;

Here, again, the Vulgate entirely differs: Deliver my soul from the ungodly; Thy sword from the enemies of Thy Hand: where they interpret the sword of the Lord Himself. How many a time,* says S. Bonaventura, has the petition, Up, Lord, been uttered by the true of heart! How many a time has it seemed for the present unheard, that it might be answered the more gloriously hereafter! Disappoint him, or rather, be beforehand with him: and S. Jerome has an epistle on the way in which God thus snatches His children from the power of the enemy at the very moment when human hope seems over. So, most wonderfully of all, they were disappointed who remembered that that Deceiver had said, (G.) while He was yet alive, “After three days, I will rise again:” and themselves endeavouring to be beforehand with Him, by the watch and the seal, only rendered more glorious and more manifest the fulfilment of His own words, “I Myself will awake right early.” And if we are to take the last clause in the sense of our own version, the ungodly, which is a sword of Thine, then it can have no better commentary than God’s own words to Sennacherib, “Now have I brought it to pass that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps: therefore their inhabitants were of small power.”*

[Christ is called the Sword of God,* “sharper than any two-edged sword,”* for He is two-edged in His twofold nature of God and Man. His soul is the sword wherewith the Father, drawing it out of the sheath of His Body, conquered hell.]

14a From the men of thy hand, O Lord, from the men, I say, and from the evil world: which have their portion in this life, whose bellies thou fillest with thy hid treasure.

[From the men, I say, and from the evil world, &c. The best texts of the LXX. with the Vulgate read, quite differently,* Divide them, O Lord, in their life from the few, off the earth. Do not wait till the Judgment Day to part the sheep from the goats, (D. C.) but even now make the distinction between Goshen and Egypt. Save the little Christian flock when the guilty nation perishes in its own city, and is driven off its own land. Divide evil Christians in this life by excommunication from the Church Militant, that they may repent in time. S. Albert explains the words further of evil Bishops, who are set apart by rank and wealth from the lowly and obscure,* who heap up riches, and are guilty of nepotism.]

14b They have children at their desire: and leave the rest of their substance for their babes.

It is not without reason that they see a terrible meaning in these words. The rest of their substance, (Ay.) that is, of the possessions of the Jews, the chief enemies of Christ, who indeed had their portion in this life, though once filled with the hidden treasure of His knowledge. The rest of the substance which they left to their descendants was none other than that curse, (L.) “His Blood be on us and on our children.” It is not worth while to go through the twelve meanings, partly literal, partly mystical, which the diligence of the commentators has discovered for the very obscure Vulgate: “O Lord, from the few of the land, divide them in their life: with Thy hid treasure is their belly filled.” That is, that the great mass of the Jews, left to their deserved perdition, should be separated from the few of the land who had heard the Apostles’ message, and had repented. But if we follow our own version, the men of Thy hand must be only an amplification of that which went before, “The ungodly, which is a sword of Thine:” the men who, while they seek to carry out their own devices, and to injure Thee and Thine, are indeed but passive instruments in Thine hand. With reference to God’s thus ordering the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, Vieyra says well: (he is speaking of the disciples who went to Emmaus:) “It was the Lord’s intention to send back those disciples with joy to Jerusalem. Why then,* if He purposed to send them to Jerusalem, did He go with them to Emmaus: Et ipse ibat cum illis? The road to Emmaus and the road to Jerusalem are precisely opposite: and does Christ go with the disciples to Emmaus when He wishes to take them to Jerusalem? Yes: for these are the marvels of Divine Providence, to conduct us to its own end by our own ways. To accomplish the designs of God by the straight ways of God, this might be anybody’s providence; but to accomplish the designs of God by the erring ways of men, this is God’s Providence. To go to Jerusalem by the road to Jerusalem is the ordinary road; to go to Jerusalem by the way of Emmaus, that is God’s road.”

[They have children at their desire. The Italic version reads here, (B.) very singularly,* They are filled with swine’s flesh,1 given up, as they are, to every uncleanness, and error forbidden by the Law, and leaving all their evil ways as a legacy to their posterity.]

15 But as for me, I will behold thy presence in righteousness: and when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it.

With one consent all the mediæval commentators take the righteousness in this place to mean our Lord. I shall behold Thy Presence; (Ay.) but not for any merits of my own: I shall behold Thy Presence, because, as S. Paul says, (G.) I have put on Christ. Or, if the words be spoken by our blessed Lord Himself, then it is, I, Whom they call the Seducer; I, of Whom they said, “Nay, but He deceiveth the people;”* I shall behold Thy Presence in righteousness: righteousness in fulfilling My promises, that where I am, there My faithful people shall be also; in putting down the mighty from their seat, and exalting the humble and meek; and in giving possession to the meek-spirited of the heavenly land. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee; and therefore, all My sufferings over, all My promises fulfilled, all My glory accomplished, I shall behold Thy Presence in righteousness. And when I awake up after Thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it. “But when,” says S. Bonaventura,* “O Lord Jesu, when shall that when be?” And S. Augustine dwells upon that word satisfied, knowing, (A.) as he says, “that, without God, all is emptiness.” “This is that glorious satisfying which leaves nothing empty or hollow, nothing which the soul can desire or pursue. Blessed satisfaction without satiety, pleasure without weariness, the use of everlasting delight without softness, continual felicity without any labour. While we live, our eyes and ears are unsatisfied with seeing and hearing; the more they receive, the more they desire. We may have pleasure, but we are never filled: our merriment rises, at it were, to the summit; the depth below is all bitter. Well, therefore, said David, Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee.” So writes Drexelius; and I cannot better follow up his words, and end the Psalm, than by the beautiful verses of Bernard of Cluny:

O bona patria, num tua gaudia teque videbo?
O bona patria, num tua præmia plena tenebo?
Die mihi, flagito, verbaque reddito, dicque, Videbis.
Spem solidam gero: remne tenens ero? Die, Retinebis.
O sacer, O pius, O ter et amplius ille beatus,
Cui sua para Deus: O miser, O reus, hac viduatus!

And therefore: Glory be to the Father, Whose Presence we shall behold in righteousness; and to the Son, Who awoke up after His likeness; and to the Holy Ghost, Who is Himself that satisfaction, communicated in this world partly, that in heaven He may be bestowed fully and everlastingly.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Various Uses

Gregorian. Sunday: II. Nocturn.
Monastic. Friday: Prime.
Parisian. Saturday: Lauds.
Lyons. Sunday: II. Nocturn.
Ambrosian. Monday of the First Week: III. Nocturn.
Quignon. Tuesday: Prime.
Eastern Church. Terce.

Antiphons

Gregorian. Because of men’s works* that are done against the words of Thy lips, I have kept hard paths.
Parisian. O hold Thou up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
Mozarabic. Hear the right, O Lord, consider my complaint: hearken with Thine ears to my prayer.

Collects

Turn,* O Lord, the eyes of our heart to behold the verity of Thy judgments, that while we are here proved by Thy spiritual fire, we may hereafter be satisfied with the fruit of righteousness by Thy Presence for ever. Through thy mercy.

Christ,* the Son of God, Whose insatiable enemies, enclosed in their own fat, surrounded Thy soul, deliver our souls from the wicked; and let Thy Passion so extinguish our passions, that we may never turn our eyes down to the ground. Amen. Through Thy mercy.

Keep us,* O Lord, as the apple of Thine eye, lest the whirlwind of carnal concupiscence should injure the eyes of our innocence: guard us under the shadow of Thy wings, that we may not be seduced by the allurements of those pleasures that lie in wait for us; that we, who, up to this day, stand firm by the help of Thy grace, may merit, when Thy glory shall appear, to be satisfied with it. Amen. Through Thy mercy.

[Show Thy marvellous loving-kindness, O God, (D. C.) hide us under the shadow of Thy wings, keep us as the apple of an eye, that our goings may be perfected in Thy paths, and we may appear with Thee in righteousness and be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear.]

Posted in Bible, Catholic, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 91

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2019

PSALM 91
THE JUST IS SECURE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF GOD

Explanation of the Psalm

1 He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.

The first verse contains a remarkable promise, in which the Holy Ghost assures us that the divine assistance will never be wanting to those who really put their trust in God. To explain the words. “He,” no matter who he may be, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, patrician or plebeian, young or old, for “God is no respecter of persons,” but he is “rich to all that call upon him”—“that dwelleth,” to give us to understand that this liberal promise does not apply to those who put only a certain amount of trust in God, but that this trust must be continuous, constant, and firm, so that man may be said to dwell in God, through faith and confidence, and to carry it about with him, like a house, like a turtle, “in the aid,” for God’s aid is not like one of the strongholds of this world, to which people fly for defense, but consists in an invisible and most secret tower that can be found, and entered by faith alone. However, the expression in the Greek as well as the Latin conveys, that we must place the most entire confidence in God, but still we are not to neglect the ordinary means that man can avail himself of. The husbandman puts his trust in him who gives the rain from heaven, and makes his sun to rise, but in the meantime he will be sure to plough, to sow, and to reap, knowing that God helps those who help themselves. “Of the Most High,” God has been called by many names, but that of the “Most High” seems the most apposite in this passage, both because God is really most high, sits in the highest place, sees everything, and is aware of every danger around us. And again, not only is he Most High, and sees everything, but all things are subject to him, and therefore, he can deliver us from all manner of danger. “Shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.” The second part of the verse, in which a reward is promised to those who put their trust in God, and the meaning is, He that really trusts in the divine assistance will not be disappointed in his hope, but will be completely protected by the Lord. The several words in each member of the verse beautifully correspond with each other. The word “dwelleth” corresponds with “abide under;” the word, “in the aid,” with “protection,” and “the Most High,” with “the God of heavens.” To come now to the several words. The Hebrew for protection signifies shade or shadow, implying that God protects those that trust in him, as the hen that gathers her chickens under the shadow of her wings. Shadow may also signify the grace and favor of princes, a shade that easily, and from a great distance, affords protection, as are read of a stag that roamed about in the greatest security, by reason of its having a label on its neck, “Touch me not, I belong to Caesar;” thus, the true servants of God are always safe, even among lions, bears, serpents, fire, water, thunder, and tempests, for all creatures know and reverence the shadow of God. Even the Latin word “protection” is very significant. To protect means to cover from a distance, and one may be covered from a distance in two ways, by the person standing nigh, and warding off the weapons that are shot from a distance; or by standing afar off, and still warding off the weapons of close combat. God does both, for, abiding in us, he wards off the weapons that are shot from afar, for he sees the very first beginning of the danger; and, by his wonderful power, stifles it in the bud, if he thinks proper; he also, though seated in heaven, puts aside all dangers, however proximate to us, for he has far seeing eyes and long reaching hands, so that he can easily cut short all impending dangers, his eye is his intelligence, his hand is his power, and his power his will. “The God of heaven;” for nobody is all sufficient, needing nothing, and through and in himself omnipotent, but the true God, who made the heavens, “For all the gods of the gentiles are devils; but the Lord made the heavens;” and though the earth, and the sea, and the air are great and wonderful works of God, still, among things created there is nothing greater or more wonderful than the heavens, whether we regard its size, its beauty, its efficacy, its velocity, or its stability; and no wonder the prophet should exclaim in another place, “The heavens show forth the glory of God.”—“Shall abide.” This expression conveys that the person trusting in God will be protected by him, not now and then, or casually, but will be constantly protected by him, that the protection of God will not be like a hut on the roadsides but like one’s own or his father’s house. Here we cannot but wonder at the folly of mankind, who make so little of such a promise. Those in power spend much money on their fortresses and body guards, and yet are often betrayed by them; but here it is not frail and deceitful man, but the Almighty and truthful God that says, “Trust in me, and I will protect you,” and yet scarce can one be found to trust himself to God as he ought.

2 He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.

The prophet now proves and explains his assertion by the testimony of a just man confiding in God, who gives his testimony from experience. “He shall say to the Lord;” that is, the just man, who dwells in the aid of the Most High, will acknowledge the favor of the protection he had from God. He calls God absolutely Lord, because God alone is truly and strictly Lord, both because he has neither equal nor superior, is subject to no necessity, wants nothing; as also, because all things are at his beck, without him they can neither move nor exist; and finally, because he alone can change, destroy, or repair all things as he pleases. “Thou art my protector, my refuge, my God.” These words represent three of God’s favors, for which the just man returns thanks; one, a past favor; the second, a present; and the third, a future favor. The first favor is that unspeakable mercy of God, through which he supports man after falling into mortal sin, and rushing headlong to hell; of whom is said in Psalm 117, “Being pushed, I was overturned that I might fall; but the Lord supported me;” so St. Bernard explains the passage, and says, “A sign of such support is, when the person who fell rises up more humble, more resolute, and more cautious, as did David, and Peter, and Magdalen.” The just man, then, who confides in God, mentions this favor first, not that it arises from confidence, (for it precedes instead of coming from confidence), but because he says to himself, if God be so good as to protect the enemy who does not confide in him, and to inspire him with penance and confidence, how good and kind must he not be to the friend and child who does confide in him. The second favor is one of the present time, and is contained in the expression, “and my refuge.” For, when God protects anyone through the grace of justification, he does not, at once, take him up to heaven, but he places him in the line of his soldiers, who are fighting here below, but if he trust in the Lord, he will prove “a refuge” to him in every temptation and difficulty, and a most safe and secure refuge, as the Hebrew word for refuge implies. The third favor is a future one, and the greatest of all, and is contained in the words, “my God,” for God is the supreme good, and God is always God in himself, and, therefore, the supreme good; and he will be peculiarly so “when we shall see him as he is,” for then we shall enjoy the supreme good. The just man, therefore, reflecting and allowing that God was one time his protector, then his refuge, and, after this life, will constitute his happiness, comes to the conclusion, “in him will I trust;” that is, I am firmly determined to put my trust in him, through every danger and temptation, as did holy Job, when he said, “Although he should kill me, I will trust in him.”

3 For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word.

Having said, in the previous verse, that he would put his trust in God, he now assigns a reason for doing so, “For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters, and from the sharp word,” in which he alludes to two favors conferred on him, one temporal, the other spiritual. The temporal blessing consists in immunity from snares, stratagems, and frauds of the wicked, the source of much temporal injury; the frauds being designated by the “snares of the hunters,” and the “sharp word” implies the injuries consequent on the frauds. And, as frauds and stratagems are generally effected through the tongue, Eccli. 51 says, “Thou hast preserved me from the snare of an unjust tongue.” God, then, in his singular providence, has caused, and always will cause, the frauds and schemes of the wicked to do no harm to the just, who confide in the aid of the Most High. Another favor, and much a greater one, is an exemption from the temptations of the evil spirits; for such is their craft, that men, however prudent they may be, when compared with them, may be looked upon as half fools. Those demons, then, are the hunters of whom the Apostle says, “For they who would become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil;” and again, “And they recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captives, at his will.” Those demons are so numerous as nearly to fill completely the dark prison in which they are confined, and, according to St. Jerome, they are so powerful and so ferocious as to be compared, in the Scriptures, “to lions and dragons;” and they have no other study but constantly “going about roaring, seeking whom they may devour;” and, if we would seriously and attentively keep this fact before us, we would watch with as much fear and trembling in our prayers as it is probable Daniel did in the lions’ den, or the three children in the fiery furnace. All created things are so many snares, which catch the heart of man either through the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, or the pride of life. The wise man says of them, “The creatures of God are made a snare to the feet of the unwise,” Wisdom 14; and Eccli. 9 has, “For thou art going in the midst of snares,” “The sharp word” is that spiritual death incurred by the person caught in such snares, or, if you will, it may mean that sentence that will be pronounced on the wicked, “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire;” for what can be rougher or more severe than such a sentence, when it conveys the loss of all that is bright and good, and an accumulation of all that is evil, not for a time, but for eternity. Such sentence of a most just judge will be justly pronounced on those who voluntarily suffer themselves to be tangled in the snares of the hunters, the demons.

4 He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust.

The prophet now speaks in his own person, and addresses the just man, who spoke hitherto, saying, you were right in saying I will trust in him, for “he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters;” for he really did deliver you, and will always deliver you from every danger, for while you will be but a little one, and no match for your enemies, he will foster you under his wings, like a hen or an eagle. God has been compared to two birds in the Holy Scriptures, the eagle and the hen; to the former in Deut. 32, “As the eagle enticing her young to fly, and hovering over them;” to the latter in Mat. 23, “How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” God was an eagle before, a hen after the incarnation; or, if it be referred to Christ alone, as God he is an eagle, as man a hen; or he was a hen previous to an eagle after his resurrection. He, therefore, says, “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders.” God, like an eagle or a hen, will gather you under his wings, and will so “overshadow” and protect you, that you will have nothing to fear from the heat of the sun, nor the severity of the rain or the storm, or from birds of prey; lodged, therefore, in the greatest safety “under his wings,” under his care and protection, “thou shalt trust” for deliverance and safety.

5 His truth shall compass thee with a shield: thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night.
6 Of the arrow that flieth in the day, of the business that walketh about in the dark: of invasion, or of the noonday devil.

The prophet now explains another figure in regard of the more advanced in years, who can defend themselves; for God arms them with an extraordinary shield. The poets record the shields of Aeneas and Achilles, which were said to have been gifts from heaven, and through which they became invulnerable; but that was all a fable; but the shield of which David speaks is really celestial, and truly renders those invulnerable who know how to make proper use of it; and the prophet says, “He shall compass thee with a shield;” not with a helmet which protects the head only, nor with a coat of mail that protects the breast and shoulders only, but with a shield that may be used for the protection of the entire body, for it may be raised or lowered, turned to all sides, and opposed to every blow. “In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one,” says St. Paul, Ephes. 6. That shield is truth, so the passage says, “His truth shall compass thee with a shield;” as if he said, The truth of the Lord shall encompass thee like a shield. The truth of the Lord has two acceptations in the Scripture. In one sense it means God’s strict observance of his promises, as in Psalm 88, “My truth and my mercy shall be with him;” and in another part of the Psalm, “But my mercy I will not take from him; nor will I suffer my truth to fail.” In another sense it means the truths revealed to the prophets and Apostles, on which we have, in John 17, “Thy word is truth;” and in Proverbs 30, “Every word of God is fire tried; he is a buckler to them that hope in him;” and in Ephes. 6, “In all things taking the shield of faith;” that is, of truth, which is had through faith alone, that being a supernatural truth. Both sorts of truth form the best possible shield to repel all the weapons of the enemy, whether in adversity or prosperity, for God’s promises are so fixed and unalterable, that of them may be said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away;” for the truth of God is like holding ground in which the anchor of hope is firmly fixed. While the anchor is passing through the water it does not hold the ship, for water is a liquid and unsteady element, but once the anchor takes hold in the ground, it keeps the ship in her place. Thus our hope, when it is built on the promise of man, cannot but totter and waver; but when fixed in God’s truth, it remains firm and steady; “For God is true, and every man a liar,” Rom. 3. And who can injure him who has been promised the protection of that God who cannot deceive him? The truth of faith protects us like a shield also when it gives us a certainty that eternal happiness is prepared for the just, and torments everlasting for the sinner after this life; and that judgment will be held on the last day, when all men shall have to render the most exact account of all their deeds, words, thoughts, desires, omissions; in short, of every idle word, however brief, they may have uttered. Such and similar reflections, disclosed to us by the truth of faith, would easily protect us from all temptations, both in adversity and prosperity, if we would daily use them as a shield; that is, if we daily and faithfully meditate on these truths of our religion. Who is he that would not bravely bear up against any terror whatever, by reflecting seriously on those words of our Lord? “And fear not those that kill the body, and cannot kill the soul; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And who is there that will not despise the empty pleasures of this world, and the occasions of wronging their neighbor, when they seriously reflect on the following words of our Divine Master? “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”—“Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night; of the arrow that flieth in the day.” He now tells us what the dangers are against which we need the shield of truth. The passage is a very obscure one, and variously explained, but of the various ones offered, we consider one to be the most simple and literal, as follows: You will have no dangers to fear, either by day or by night. “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night,” you need not fear anything that may frighten you by night; fear, here, being used for the thing that causes it; as it is also in 1 Peter 3, “And be not afraid of their terror;” just as hope is used for the thing hoped for, and desire for the thing desired, as in Titus 2, “Waiting for the blessed hope;” and in Psalm 77, “And he gave them their desire;” that is, the thing they desired. The words, “of the arrow that flieth in the day,” mean, you will have to fear no dangers in the day time; “of the business that walketh about in the dark,” is only a repetition and explanation of “the terror of the night;” “of invasion or of the noonday devil,” is a mere repetition of “the arrow that flieth in the day.” In fine, in these words we have a general promise of security, both by day and by night, to those who trust in God, and are armed with the shield of truth; “For if God be for us, who is against us?” Rom. 8; as also, “And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good?” 1 Peter 3.

7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.

The prophet follows up the description of the victory of the just man who confides in God, and makes proper use of the shield of truth. He reminds the just of the great value they should set upon such a victory, it being a rare one, and that of the few over the many. For in this fight “a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh to thee;” neither the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flieth in the day, nor the business that walketh about in the dark, nor the noon day devil shall come nigh to thee. “Thy side” means thy left side, being opposed to the right, and signifies adversity; whilst the right stands for prosperity; and many more fall from the latter than from the former; for prosperity is the source of pride, usury, licentiousness, impudence, and other like vices; while adversity renders men humble, chaste, and patient; for, as the Apostle says, “Tribulation worketh patience.” The numbers, a thousand and ten thousand, merely signify that many will fall on the left, but a great many more on the right hand; and it is in such sense these numbers are understood in Kings, “Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands;” and, in Deut. 32, “How should one pursue after a thousand, and two chase ten thousand?”

8 But thou shalt consider with thy eyes: and shalt see the reward of the wicked.

A fresh source of joy to the just man, who not only has been promised a victory, but that he will, furthermore, have great pleasure in seeing his enemies laid low, and punished according to their deserts, a promise that is sometimes fulfilled even in this world. Thus, the children of Israel saw the Egyptians cast dead on the shores of the Red Sea; Moses and Aaron saw Dathan and Abiron swallowed up alive; Ezechias saw the prostrate corpses of Sennacherib’s army; and Judith, with God’s people, saw the head of Holofernes cut off, and his whole army scattered and routed; but this promise will be completely fulfilled on the day of judgment, when we shall see all our enemies prostrate on the ground, naked and unarmed, without any strength whatever, and consigned to eternal punishment. “But thou shalt consider,” not in a cursory way, or in a hurry, but with diligence and accuracy, you will consider all your enemies, their number, their position, what they deserved, and what they are suffering; “with thy eyes;” you will not take it from hearsay or report, but you shall see with those very eyes with which you saw the arms and the dangers of your enemies: for your eyes will then be your own property, a thing they are not now, while curiosity opens them, sleep closes them, old age dims them, and death destroys them; and all in spite of you. “And shall see the reward of the wicked;” you will then see plainly the reward the wicked get for all their labor. Hence will arise a beautiful order of things, that now seem in general disorder and confusion. For, while punishment should follow sin, and virtue should be rewarded, it often happens that the just are afflicted, and bad men honored; and thus sorrow comes from virtue, joy from sin; but, on the last day, all things will be righted and put in their proper place; guilt will meet its punishment, and that in proportion to its enormity; while, on the contrary, justice shall be rewarded in proportion to its merits, too; and then will be accomplished what is prophesied in Psalm 57, “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge;” that is, when he shall see the sinner duly punished; not that he will rejoice in their misfortunes, but for the vindication of the divine justice and wisdom, that will appear so conspicuous in the punishment of the wicked.

9 Because thou, O Lord, art my hope: thou hast made the most High thy refuge.

This verse is very easy, as far as the words are concerned, all of which have been explained when we discussed the first and second verses; but the connection is not so apparent; because, in the preceding verse, the prophet seems to have addressed the just man; he now seems to speak to God, saying, “Because thou, O Lord, art my hope;” and we don’t see why he says so; and then the second part of the verse, “thou hast made the Most High thy refuge,” is addressed to the just man again, but without any connection between the members of the sentence. The first part of the sentence is the voice of the just man speaking to God; the second part are the words of the prophet; we have already observed that this Psalm is, to a certain extent, dramatic, in the form of a dialogue, though the characters are not named, however; that the prophet speaks at one time, the just man at another, and God at another time. The prophet, then, having said to the just man, “God will overshadow thee with his shoulders,” as the hen does her young; “will compass thee with a shield,” as a general would his soldiers; “you shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the day;” and hence many will fall on your right and left, but the danger will not come near you, but you will rather see your enemies conquered before your face—the just man, on hearing all this, turns to God, and says, “Because thou, O Lord, art my hope,” I believe every word of it; it’s all true, and that because you, O Lord, art my hope; I trust not in my own strength or arm, nor in the strength nor in the arms of my friends; but in thee alone, who art my whole and sole hope, and in whom alone I confide. Now, God is said to be the hope of the just, because they not only hope for help from him, but they hope he will prove himself a strong citadel in their regard, to which they fly for protection in time of persecution; and dwelling in which, through faith, hope, and charity, through prayer and contemplation, they can suffer no injury. The prophet understood that well, and, therefore, he adds, “thou hast made the Most High thy refuge;” as much as to say, you have acted most wisely and properly in placing your hope in God; for thus you have selected your place of refuge in the highest possible and best fortified citadel you could select, God himself, where (as will be said in the following verse) no harm can possibly reach you.

10 There shall no evil come to thee: nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.

The prophet now tells what good the just man is to derive from having made the Most High his refuge, and says it consists in his being most safe from all evil. Evil is two fold, that arising from sin, and that arising from the punishment consequent on sin. The evil of sin is absolutely and radically evil, and to it applies the first part of the verse, “There shall no evil come to thee;” the evil of punishment is not simply evil, and, therefore, to it applies the second part of the verse, “nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.” That the evil of sin is simply and absolutely evil, and that such is not the case with the evil of punishment, is clear from the fact that the former renders man absolutely evil, while the latter makes him only miserable; nobody can turn the evil of sin to good account; not so as regards the evil of punishment. The evil of sin cannot be called good, for it is not right to call it so, it being iniquity; nor is it of any use, when he who sins always loses more than he gains; the evil of punishment may be called good, for it is frequently both good and useful. God, being the author of all good, is not the author of the evil of sin; while the evil of punishment has God, as being a just Judge, for its author. That can be inferred from the words of the prophet; for; when, he says, “There shall no evil come to thee,” he speaks of the evil that is in us, and cannot be outside us; such is the evil of sin, which must of necessity be within us, that is, in the power of our free will; and when he adds, “nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling,” he speaks of the evil that may happen to our property, our children, our house, our land; and such is the evil of punishment. A serious doubt arises here regarding the truth of this promise; for David was certainly one of those just who trusted in God, and still the evil of sin; adultery, murder, and the scourge, nay, even many scourges, “came near his dwelling;” for he says himself, “I washed my hands among the innocent, and I have been scourged all the day;” which may also be said of Job, Tobias, of the prophets and Apostles, nay, even of Christ himself, who, too, was scourged; nay, even the Lord “scourgeth every son whom he receiveth,” Heb. 12. To this objection two answers may be made; the first is, that the promise does not regard this life, but the next, when that prophecy will be fulfilled, “Thou shalt consider with thy eyes; and shalt see the reward of the wicked;” for then, when we shall have entered the heavenly tabernacle, we will be quite safe from all the evil of sin, as well as of punishment; for God’s reason for “strengthening the bolts of the heavenly Jerusalem, and “placing peace in its borders,” was that the scourge may not possibly come near it. The second answer is, that the promise does regard this life, but that is to be understood with some restriction; for the evil of sin will not come near the elect and those who trust in God; not that they cannot possibly fall into sin, but because, through God’s singular providence, their very sins will tend to their improvement, making them more humble and cautious, and more inflamed by the love of God, in proportion to the extent they are indebted to his grace and mercy. So St. Gregory applies it to St. Peter, which also holds in the case of St. Thomas, Mary Magdalen, and many others. The scourge, that is, the evil of punishment, will not “come near their dwelling,” because, in spirit, they are dwelling in the heavenly tabernacles, and, with the Apostle Paul, engrossed entirely in meditation, they scarcely feel such temporal evils, or if they do, they despise them; nay, more, so far from looking upon them as evils, they consider them positive blessings and graces, from which they hope to reap an abundant crop of glory; such were the feelings of the Apostle when he said, “I am filled with comfort. I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.”

11 For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.

The just man might have said, I am quite sure that no evil can possibly happen to me, when I shall have got within that heavenly tabernacle; but I would like to know who is to guard me on the way to it, to prevent my going astray, or falling in with robbers, or into a pit? The prophet replies, Never fear, “For he hath given his Angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.” Each word in which requires an explanation. “For” does not refer to the preceding, but to the following sentence the meaning being, whereas God gave you in charge to his Angels, to guard you on the way, the Angels will take you in their hands, for fear you should knock against a stone. “Angels”—Angels are blessed spirits, most noble princes, who guard with the greatest care, being most powerful, wise, and excellent, showing us how God values the human race in assigning such guardians to it. But why Angels, instead of an Angel? According to our Lord, we have a guardian Angel every one of us; for he says, “Their Angels always see the face of my Father;” and when St. Peter knocked at the door, those within said, “It is as Angel.” Granted; but we still have Angels who have common charge of us, such as those who are in charge of towns, states, and kingdoms; on which see chap. 10 of Daniel. “His;” they are called “his” Angels because there are fallen angels also, of whom is said in the Apocalypse, “And the dragon fought and his angels.” God, then, gave you in charge to “his Angels,” and not to those angels who, instead of protecting you, would have sought to destroy you. “Hath given charge;” the reason why the Angels take such care of us is, because God ordered them to do so, gave us in charge to them; for, though they guard us with right good will, loving us as they do, and though they have a horror of the evil angels, and wish the heavenly Jerusalem to be renewed as soon as possible; and though they know all this to be most agreeable to their King, Christ our Lord, still God’s command is uppermost, is their ruling motive for the whole; for they are conscious of being God’s servants, and there is nothing that he requires more strictly from his servants than prompt and implicit obedience; “over thee,” which means that God’s providence extends to all, and that he has given a guardian Angel to each and every human being; but still that he has a peculiar regard for the just, for those that confide in him; and, therefore, that he has given special orders to his Angels to look “over thee,” the just man, who trusts in his help, “to keep thee;” the charge God gave his Angels regarding the just was to preserve him from his enemies, the evil angels; for man, by reason of the flesh that envelopes him, can see nothing save through the eyes of the flesh, and, therefore, is no match for the evil spirits, unless he get help from someone more powerful; “in all thy ways;” not on thy way, but in all thy ways; for numerous are the ways of man, and in every one of them he needs the help of his guardian Angel. The law is the way, according to Psalm 118, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord;” and in the same Psalm, “I have run the way of thy commandments.” The way also means the works, as in Proverbs 8, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways before he made anything.” Finally, this life is a way to a certain extent. The way of the law is varied, for there are many laws; the way of the works is equally so, for there are many works; the way of life is also varied, for there are many parts, ages, and states of life. We require assistance in every one of them, since we are liable to fall in every law, work, age, and state of our life.

12 In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

A verse full of metaphors, but otherwise easily explained; we, therefore, have merely to explain what he means by the “Angels’ hands,” what the “stones” and the “feet” signify. The Angels’ hands signify the intellect and the will, or wisdom and power, for it is by understanding and by willing they do everything. The stones, all the obstacles that we meet in this life, be they temporal or spiritual, such as scandals, temptations, persecutions, and the like. The feet mean our affections, that very often knock against the stones; and, as St. Augustine, treating of this passage, says, Our feet are two affections, fear and love; and, whenever man proceeds in his actions, words, or desires, he is carried by one or the other, by the desire of acquiring one thing or losing something else, or by a desire of avoiding evil, or the fear of falling into it; we then knock our foot against the stone, when we fall into sin, on an occasion offering of acquiring some temporal good, or of avoiding some temporal evil, whence we lose eternal happiness, and incur eternal punishment; but they “who dwell in the aid of the Most High” are so assisted by the Angel guardian, that the occasion is altogether removed; that is, the stone is taken out of the way, or the mind is so enlightened as to distinguish good from evil; that the feet, that is, the affections are so raised from the earth that the temporal advantage, that could not be had without sin, is easily despised; and the temporal evil, that could not be avoided without sin, is most patiently endured.

13 Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.

Having made mention of the good Angels who have charge of the just man that trusts in God, he now alludes to the bad angels, and says, so far from their harming the just man, that he, on the contrary, will trample on and crush them, as the Apostle says, “And may the God of peace crush Satan speedily under your feet.” He calls Satan a serpent, by reason of his cunning, and a lion, by reason of his ferocity; and, as there are various sorts of serpents, he calls him an asp, a basilisk, and a dragon, for to the cunning that is common to all serpents, the asp unites obstinacy, the basilisk cruelty, and the dragon great strength and power, for all of which Satan is remarkable. This is not the only passage in which the devil is called a serpent and a lion. In Job 26, and Isaias 27, he is called “the winding snake” and “the crooked serpent.” The Apocalypse calls him “the dragon” and “the old serpent;” and St. Peter calls him “the roaring lion,”

14 Because he hoped in me I will deliver him: I will protect him because he hath known my name.

As we read in Deuteronomy, that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand,” the holy prophet would have three witnesses to prove what he promised in the beginning of the Psalm, viz., that all who truly trust in God would be protected by him. The first witness was the just man, who, from his own experience gave testimony to the truth of it, when he said, “For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters.” The second witness was the prophet himself, who, as the organ or voice of the Holy Ghost declared, “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders.” The third witness is God himself, who, in the last three verses, confirms all that had been said, and adds a great deal more, for these three verses contain eight promises of God, which most appropriately commence with deliverance from evil, and advance up to elevation, to supreme happiness. Four of them, “I will deliver him, protect him, hear him, am with him in tribulation,” belong to this life; and the four others, “I will deliver him, glorify him, fill him with length of days, and I will show him my salvation,” belong to the next life. “Because he hoped in me I will deliver him.” The deliverance that is promised here refers to deliverance from all evil, and may be referred to the deliverance previously mentioned through the Angels, or the shield, or in any other way, so that the meaning is, Let not the just man imagine for a moment that he can be delivered by the Angels, or by a shield, or by any means without me; they can do nothing without me, and it is I that will deliver him through them, and frequently without them, since it was in me principally, and not in them, that he trusted. Looking at the passage from a higher point of view, the deliverance here promised may be said to mean deliverance from the tyranny of sin, which may be said specially to be a mark of the perfect, and a most desirable one; our Savior himself, speaking thereon, says, “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Now such liberty is not granted unto all, but to those that hope in God, “Because he hoped in me I will deliver him.” It is not, then, every hope, but that confidence that is the fruit of a good conscience, and springs from filial love and affection, that frees man from the vices that tyrannize over him; for, as avarice ties him down, and holds him captive, and the more he advances in charity, the more is his avarice diminished; and when his charity and attachment to the supreme good shall be most perfect, then, too, will his liberty be most complete, that liberty that is styled by the Apostles “the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” The next promise is, “I will protect him, because he hath known my name.” For he that is freed from the tyranny of vice in this world, still is not perfectly free, he needs God’s help to advance in grace until he shall have come to glory. God, therefore, promises continual protection to those “who have known his name;” that is, to those who have come to the knowledge of his power, wisdom and goodness which raises up in them the most firm hope and confidence. They, too, are said “to know his name,” who are on familiar terms with God, and know him as a pastor, a friend, and a father, speaking of which our Savior says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep, and my sheep know me;” and, on the other hand, speaking of the others, he says, “I know you not;” and in 2 Thess. 1, “In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God.” Wonderful altogether is God’s kindness to man, when he speaks to him not only as a Lord but as a friend, and no wonder David should exclaim: “Lord, what is man that thou art made known to him?”

15 He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.

There are four promises in this verse; the first is a general promise of being heard, a promise which God alone can make; and that there is no restriction whatever to the promise of hearing the prayer of all who confide in God, is clear from the words, “and I will hear him;” other passages of Scripture confirm it. Deut. 4, “Neither is there any other nation so great, that hath God so nigh to them, as our God is present to all our petitions.” John 13, “You shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done to you;” and in Mark 11, “All things whatsoever you ask, when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you;” and finally, in 1 John 3, “We have confidence towards God, and whatsoever we shall ask we shall receive of him;” and though certain conditions are necessary to have our prayer heard, the principal one is that which is expressed here, when he says, “he shall cry to me;” which implies a vehement desire, springing from confidence and love. The three other promises come next. “I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.” Three promises correspond most exactly to the three most remarkable days in the year: the Friday on which the Lord, hanging on his cross, was in his greatest tribulation; the Saturday on which he rested in peace from all his troubles; and the Sunday on which, by rising from the dead, he had a most glorious triumph. All the just and the elect have three such days before them; for, with Christ, we must all go through our own tribulations on Friday, that is, in this life, which is the shortest, and is counted but as one day; we must rest in the sepulchre on the Saturday; and, finally, rise on Sunday, and be glorified with Christ. The Lord, therefore, says, “I am with him in tribulation;” for the person praying asked for the gift of patience above all things, “which is necessary for you, that you may receive the promise,” Heb. 10. Now, the Lord who said, “I will hear him,” promises him, in the first place, the gift of patience, when he says, “I am with him in tribulation,” each word of which has a peculiar force of its own. “I am,” in the present tense, whereas everything else was expressed in the future; “I will deliver, I will protect, I will hear, I will glorify, I will fill;” and this was so expressed, with a view to show us that the troubles of this world are momentary, as the Apostle, 2 Cor. 4, says, “For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;” and, therefore, God’s mercy causes our tribulations to fall upon us, as it were, drop by drop, whereas our future glory will flow upon us like the inundation of a river; as the Psalm expresses it, “Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure;”—“with him” conveys that God is present with everyone, in various ways, but that he is specially, through his interior consolations, and the influx of his unspeakable sweetness, with those who are in trouble; like a fond mother, whose entire care, even to the neglect of the others, is bestowed on the child in sickness; or as we ourselves, who nurse and care the ailing members of our body, and care not for the others. “In tribulation;” this gives us to understand that, however great the consolations, whether temporal or spiritual, bestowed by God upon his friends here below, that they are not without a certain admixture of tribulation. Some, especially among sinners, have their troubles without any consolation; but none, neither just nor wicked, have their consolations without some mixture of trouble; but there is this difference between the good and the bad; that the former, with few tribulations, more apparent than real, get true and solid consolations, for “the fruit of the spirit is charity and joy,” Gal. 6; but as to those who have not the Spirit, how can they expect its fruits? “I will deliver him;” this promise regards the future life, for it is at their death that the just are delivered from all present and future troubles, as St. John has it in the Apocalypse, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth, now and forever; that they may rest from the labors;” and again, chap. 21, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more.” The wicked appear to be delivered from the troubles of this world by death, but it is by no means the fact; for they only pass from temporary to eternal tribulation; they are no more delivered than is the wretch who is brought out of jail to the place of execution. Sometimes, however, the just, even in this life, are delivered from their tribulation. Such was the case with Joseph, Job, David, Tobias, Daniel, the three children, Susanna, and others; but it was only a short and brief delivery. The fourth promise is, “and I will glorify him;” that, to a certain extent, sometimes happens also in this life, for holy Job was not only delivered from many and grievous tribulations, but was even raised to great glory afterwards; so was the patriarch Joseph; so was king David; but, beyond yea or nay, the real and true glorification will be accomplished in the other world only, for “Then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” Matt. 13; and he says to the Apostles, “you also shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel;” and, to express their glorious position, the Psalmist says, “Their principality is exceedingly strengthened;” and the Apostle, in speaking on the matter, says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.”

16 I will fill him with length of days; and I will shew him my salvation.

These are the two last favors promised to those “who dwell in the aid of the Most High,” and may be looked upon as an explanation of the sixth favor. “I will glorify him,” for the glory of the saints consists in their having secured supreme happiness; now, supreme happiness must be everlasting, for happiness, without being everlasting, is nothing more than misery; and eternity, without happiness, is eternal misery. He, therefore, describes real eternity; first, by the expression, “I will fill him with length of days,” and then true happiness by the words, “and I will shed him my salvation.” By length of days is meant a space of time, so extended as fully to satisfy man’s desire, for that is what he promises when he says, “I will fill him with length of days;” and, as man’s desires cannot be satiated but by a continuance of what he desires, this length of days must be taken to mean eternity. The Scripture makes use of such expressions to designate eternity, because it speaks to those who can form no idea of eternity, but from the length or the number of days. In eternity there is no succession of days, but one day always going on, or rather one moment lasting without change, succession, or vicissitude. But it may be said, the vicissitudes of the seasons bring their pleasure with them, and we find men beguiling the length of the day in summer, and of the night in winter; by various amusements. That arises from all the stages of this life being full of various inconveniences and troubles, which make us look forward with impatience to the future, but when the day, than which no better can be expected, shall have come, the wish, then, that it may always last, will be the wish of all. “And I will show him my salvation.” I will cause the just man to live no longer by faith, by belief in what he sees not, but that he may clearly see and feel, and know by experience the salvation I offer him. That salvation consists in the beatific vision promised to us, which renders man’s salvation both perfect and perpetual. The mind will then be cleared of all error and ignorance, when it shall have arrived at the summit of wisdom, which consists in viewing the supreme and sovereign author of all things. From such wisdom there will spring up in the will a most ardent and steadfast love of the supreme good, that will completely take the affections from anything gross or unworthy, and such salvation will have its own effect on the inferior part of man, that thus will become subject to the superior without resistance or rebellion; and on the body itself, which will rise again immortal, impassible, most beautiful, and brighter than the sun. Here we cannot but wonder at the blindness of mankind; for while all wish for eternal happiness, and cannot avoid wishing intensely for it, they will, however, for some temporal or trifling advantage, whether in grasping and hoarding riches, or obtaining and keeping honors and preferments, or in gratifying and indulging their carnal and sensual desires, leave no stone unturned, will run backwards and forwards, watch, labor, sweat, exercise all ingenuity, draw upon their eloquence, apply all their talents; and still, where true, solid, and eternal happiness, real riches, the highest honors, unspeakable happiness that has been prepared for those that love God, are in question, they are so lazy that they will not even condescend to stir one finger for them. It is dreadful to reflect that man, endowed with reason and understanding, should so devote his whole life to the pursuit of things the most likely to shut him out from eternal happiness. We should pray to God, that as he has deigned to promise us such blessings, he may infuse his Holy Spirit into us, so as to enlighten our hearts, that we may know “what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” Eph. 1.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture, St Robert Bellarmine | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 115

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2019

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory.

Having recorded the wonderful things that God did for his people on their departure from Egypt In the previous psalm), he now, in the name of the whole people, prays to him not to regard their shortcomings, but his own glory, and to continue to protect his servants. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us.” We ask not for praise or glory on our own merits, which are none; “but to thy name give glory;” protect us for the glory of your name, and not for our own merits.

2 For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the Gentiles should say: Where is their God?

He, in a very short space, assigns three reasons why God ought to seek the glory of his name in preserving his people. First, because he is merciful; secondly, because he is true and faithful in observing his promise; thirdly, that the gentiles, seeing God’s people in a state of destitution, may have no cause for blaspheming him and them. He, therefore, says, “For thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake,” show your glory, or give glory to thy name, for it is then your glory will be exhibited when you show mercy to your people; and then you will have carried out the truth of the promises you made our fathers, “Lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?” lest the incredulous gentiles should get an occasion of detracting from your power, and, perhaps, of ignoring your very existence.

3 But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.
4 The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men.
5 They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not.
6 They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not.
7 They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.

He now, on account of his having said, “Lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?” gives expression to a most beautiful antithesis between the true and false gods; as much as to say, The gentiles should get no opportunity of reproaching us; but if they should do so, saying, “Where is their God?” we will answer, “Our God is in heaven;” and the wonderful things he has done bear testimony to it; for “he hath done all things whatsoever he wished;” while, on the contrary, their gods are on the earth; and thus hitherto are so unable to do anything that they cannot even make use of the members they appear to be endowed with; for, though they have the shape and figure of man, and appear to have all his members and senses, they neither see, nor hear, nor smell, nor touch, nor walk, nor speak; they do not emit anything in the shape of the voice of man, nor even of beasts.

8 Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.

This is a prophecy in the shape of an imprecation, as is usual with the prophets; for the makers of, and the worshippers of idols, will actually become similar to the idols after the resurrection; for, though they will be possessed of feeling and members, the case will be with them as if they had none; they will even desire to have none; for they will see, hear, smell, touch nothing but what will be hateful and disagreeable; and, with their hands and feet tied, they will be cast into exterior darkness, without being able in any way to help themselves. Even in this life they are like idols, because, though they hear and see, it is more in appearance than reality; for they neither see nor hear the things that pertain to salvation, the things that only are worth seeing, so that they may be said more to dream than to see or hear; as St. Mark has it, “Having eyes ye see not, having ears ye hear not.”

9 The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
10 The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
11 They that fear the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.

Having said, Let them that make them become like “unto them, and all such as trust in them,” he adds, by way of antithesis, that the children of Israel trusted in the Lord, and that they had him, therefore, as a protector, naming the house of Israel first, which includes the whole Jewish nation; then the house of Aaron, which means the priests and Levites, the elite of God’s people, and who should, therefore, have special trust in God; and, finally, all those that fear the Lord; for at all times there were pious souls, however few they may have been, not belonging to the children of Israel who feared and worshipped God in all sincerity; such were Job and his friends, and afterwards Naaman, the Syrian, and others.

12 The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house of Israel: he hath blessed the house of Aaron.
13 He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great.

He now confirms what he had asserted, viz., that God would be the helper and the protector of those that trust in him. He ranks himself among the number as having got special help and protection from God. He then, in the same order, confirms his assertions of God having blessed the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and all who fear him, great or small, without any reference to greatness or littleness, whether of age, power, wisdom, or riches. When God is said to be “mindful,” it means that he regards with a singular providence; “and blessed us,” by assisting and protecting us—“us” meaning the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that fear him.

14 May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children.
15 Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” as we read in Lk. 6; and as the heart of the holy prophet was burning with desire for the glory of God and the salvation of his neighbor, he turns over the same subject, prophesying at one time, then exhorting, and then by praying all manner of happiness on mankind, in the hope of bringing them to have a holy fear of God, and to repose all their hope in him. Turning, then, to those who fear God, whose blessing he had assured them of, he says to them, “May the Lord add blessings upon you,” and not only on you, but “upon your children.” And thus may you be blessed with a full and entire benediction from the Lord, “who made heaven and earth;” that is, by him in whose hand is the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth. The saints of the Old Testament were very much in the habit of praying to the Lord for the dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth for their people; for all the fruits of the earth depend on them. In a more spiritual meaning, God blesses with the dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth those to whom he gives spiritual and temporal blessings in abundance; as he did to Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and David, and such others.

16 The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men.
17 The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord: nor any of them that go down to hell.
18 But we that live bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever.

These three verses may be differently interpreted, applying them to the Jews under the Old Testament, or to the Christians in the New. If we apply them to the Jews, the meaning is, Having said, “Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” he now asserts that it is only fair that they who have been blessed by the Lord should, in return, bless him while they live upon this earth, which he gave them for a habitation, leaving to the Angels the duty of blessing him in heaven, that being his habitation and that of his servants who minister unto him. “The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s;” that is, the supreme heaven belongs peculiarly to God and to the Angels who minister unto him; “but the earth,” with the elements that surround it, “he has given to the children of men” for their habitation, and for such a splendid portion of the universe man should constantly return thanks to God as long as they live and enjoy the fruits of that earth. Because “the dead shall not praise thee, O Lord;” for the dead, being devoid of sense, and no longer in possession of the goods of this world, and being even bereft of life, cannot praise God or return him thanks for his benefits. “For any of them that go down into hell.” Not only will the dead lying in their sepulchres not praise the Lord, but also “they that go down to hell;” the spirits who have gone down to the infernal regions; they, too, will not praise God for temporal blessings they cannot now possibly enjoy. “But we that live,” and are in the enjoyment of such blessings, “bless the Lord from this time now and forever,” through all succeeding ages. Applying the passage to the Christians under the New Testament, we are to bear in mind that “the heaven of heaven” means that supreme part of heaven where the children of God reside; of which the Apostle says, “For we know that if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven;” that house God chose for himself, “but the earth,” this visible world, “he has given to the children of men,” as distinguished from the children of God; and, therefore, he adds, “The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord;” that is, they who, though living bodily, are spiritually dead, they will not praise you; “nor any of them that go down to hell;” who have died in their sins, and have gone to eternal punishment; “but we that live” the life of grace, adhering to thee through faith and charity, citizens of our heavenly country, though we are detained here for awhile below upon earth, we, I repeat, “bless the Lord,” and we “bless him forever.”

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture, St Robert Bellarmine | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 26

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2019

Psalm 26
David’s prayer to God in his distress, to be delivered, that he may come to worship him in his tabernacle

1 Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in my innocence: and I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.

David, having a misunderstanding with the king, appeals to the King of kings, there being none other to whom he could appeal. “Judge me, O Lord.” Be you, O Lord, my judge; let not Saul take it on him, but do it yourself. “For I have walked in my innocence,” with confidence I challenge God’s judgment, because my conscience which God alone beholds, does not reprove me, “For I have walked in my innocence.” I have led an innocent life. “I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.” Trusting in God’s justice, I will not fail, but will conquer.

2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; burn my reins and my heart.

Having stated that he led an innocent life, he proves it by the testimony of God himself, who neither can deceive nor be deceived; for he does not tell God to “prove and try him,” in order to come at truth of which he was ignorant, but that he may make known to others what he in secret sees. David then, on the strength of a good conscience, and in the sincerity of his heart, speaks to the Lord, saying. “Prove me and try me;” search with the greatest diligence, examine the inmost and deepest recesses of my heart; nay more, “burn my reins and my heart,” examine my thoughts and desires as carefully as gold, when tested by the fire. I do not think David asks here to be proved and tried by adversity, or that “his reins and heart” should be scorched by the fire of tribulation, when he seems to be asking for the very contrary; but he asks, as I stated before, to be “proved and tried” by a most minute examination and inspection; and God having the most minute and exact knowledge of everything, that he may declare to the world the innocence of his servant, and thus silence the calumny of his enemies.

3 For thy mercy is before my eyes; and I am well pleased with thy truth.

He assigns a reason for wishing to be “proved and tried,” inasmuch as his conscience encouraged him therein, as if he said, I beg of you to prove me, for I have trod thy paths, for “all thy ways are mercy and truth,” Psalm 24; and “thy mercy is before my eyes,” which I always look upon and consider, in the hope of being able to imitate it, and to act by my neighbors in conformity with it; “And I am well pleased with thy truth.” It has pleased me, and I have therefore lived according to it.

4 I have not sat with the council of vanity: neither will I go in with the doers of unjust things.
5 I have hated the assembly of the malignant; and with the wicked I will not sit.

Theodoret, in my opinion, most properly says, that these words apply to the idolatrous assemblies of the gentiles in their temples, of which David had the greatest abhorrence, and which he witnessed while in exile with the king of the Philistines. Everything, he says, here appears to be put in opposition to what he says in other parts of the Psalm, for instance, “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house;” and a little before that, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord;” and herein after, “In the churches will I bless thee, O Lord.” He calls the assembly of the idolaters the “council of vanity,” for what can be more vain? What, more vain than idols, false images? As the apostle says, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” 1 Cor. 7. Throughout the Scriptures idols are called vain, or vanities, Deut. 32, “They have provoked me with that which was no God and have angered me with their vanities;” and 1 Kings 12, “And turned not aside after vain things, which shall never profit you, nor deliver you, because they are vain.” See also 3 Kings 16; Jeremias 2, and various other passages. The same idolaters are styled, “Doers of unjust things,” because the height of injustice is to give to creatures the worship due to God alone. “The council of vanity,” in one verse is called the “Assembly of the malignant” in the next; “Doers of unjust things” in the same verse are called the “Wicked,” a name peculiarly appropriate to idolaters, in the following verse.

6 I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord:

Having expressed his hatred of the conventicles of the idolatrous infidels, among whom he was then living, he adds, that he has, on the contrary, the most intense love for the tabernacle of the Lord and the assembly of the saints; and briefly states what he means to do when, through God’s assistance, he shall have been called from exile to his own country. “I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord.” Before I go into thy temple, I will do what all pious people are wont to do: “I will wash my hands,” and go about your altar joining those in the act of it, in hymns of praise. For the meaning. Some will have it, that David alludes to the washing of hands, as a proof or sign of one’s innocence, as Pilate washed his hands before the Jews, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man;” as if he said, See, I have washed my hands, do not pollute them with the blood of this just man; and I, therefore, dare not condemn him. We often use a similar expression when we wish to get out of a thing. We say, “I wash my hands out of it.” I consider, however, the sense more likely to be, and more in keeping with the rest of the chapter, to consider David alluding to a custom of the Jews, who, previous to their entering into the tabernacle, purified both themselves and the victims they offered, which purifications or lotions, are called by the apostle Heb. 9, “Divers washings and justifications of the flesh;” and, as those external lotions ought to be the sign of internal purity, David, therefore, says, “I will wash my hands among the innocent,” as a sign of my real internal purity, as an innocent person would wash them; and not with the hypocrites, who do so with clean hands and unclean heart. The expression, “I will compass thy altar,” some understand of the number of victims; but I rather think it refers to those who in hymns of praise will go about the altar, as the following Psalm has it, “I have gone round, and have offered up a sacrifice of jubilation;” and in the very next verse to this we have, “That I may hear the voice of thy praise; and tell of all thy wondrous works.”

7 That I may hear the voice of thy praise: and tell of all thy wondrous works.

An explanation of the expression, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord,” that with the choir of worshipers I may hear, and join in singing the praises of the Lord. St. Augustine, arguing against the Pelagians, proves, with great accuracy and piety, from this passage, that they only hear the voice of God’s praise who refer all their actions, and all they possess, to God’s free gift. For the hearts of the just, “who have ears to hear,” are always devoted to God’s praise, thanking him for all their own merits and virtues; whereas, on the contrary, those who presume on their own justice, and are swollen with the idea of their own perfections, as if they had them by their own exertions, and not from God, do not hear “the voice of thy praise,” but the voice of their own praise.

8 I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house; and the place where thy glory dwelleth.

Nothing gave him more trouble in his exile than the being unable to see the tabernacle of the Lord. His mind, deeply inflamed with the love of God, looked upon no spot on the earth more beautiful than that where God was wont to show himself visibly. The tabernacle that contained the ark of the covenant was called, “The house of God,” “the place of the habitation of his glory,” because a bright cloud would frequently descend thereon, to signify God’s presence there; the God “who inhabiteth light inaccessible,” Jam. 1:6, and because there, too, was the oracle from which God gave his responses.

9 Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with bloody men:

Having appealed to God, at first, as a judge, and having exposed his innocence, of which God was witness, he concludes by a prayer, that judgment may be delivered in his favor, “Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked.” Do not condemn me as you do the wicked; “My soul” means me, as it does frequently through the Scriptures; and by “Bloody men,” he means those who, like so many homicides, were persecuting him.

10 In whose hands are iniquities: their right hand is filled with gifts.

He tells us who are the wicked and the bloody men of whom he spoke in the foregoing verse; they are those who receive bribes for unfair judgments, glancing at the sins of those in power, the judges. With much point he says, “In whose hands are iniquities;” attributing the iniquity to that part of the body that touches the bribe, to show the bribe was the cause of the iniquity.

11 But as for me, I have walked in my innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me.

He repeats his reason for not being condemned with the wicked, namely, because “He walked in his innocence;” that is, led an innocent life. “Redeem me, and have mercy on me.” Deliver me from my present troubles, and then have mercy on me, that I may not fall into them again. The words “redeem” and “deliver,” most frequently have the same meaning in the Scriptures, unless, perhaps, the Holy Ghost may insinuate that any deliverance of the elect from tribulation may be called redemption, inasmuch as such is effected through the blood of Christ our Redeemer.

12 My foot hath stood in the direct way: in the churches I will bless thee, O Lord.

These words have reference to the concluding expression in the last verse, “have mercy on me.” I have asked to be delivered from my present trouble by reason of the rectitude of my life; I ask for future mercy, because “My foot hath stood;” that is to say, is firmly fixed and planted in the direct, honest road, and, therefore, I cannot easily leave the straight path of thy law; and, in thanksgiving for it, “I will bless thee” and praise thee “in the churches,” the assemblies of the pious.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture, St Robert Bellarmine | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: