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

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 21

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 2, 2016

1. The title is a familiar one; the Psalm is of Christ.[Prophetic of His ascension.—C.]


2. “O Lord, the King shall rejoice in Thy strength” (ver. 1). O Lord, in Thy strength, whereby the Word was made flesh, the Man Christ Jesus shall rejoice. “And shall exult exceedingly in Thy salvation.” And in that, whereby Thou quickenest all things, shall exult exceedingly.

3. “Thou hast given Him the desire of His soul” (ver. 2). He desired to eat the Passover,Luke 22:15.

“>7 and to lay down His life when He would, and again when He would to take it; and Thou hast given it to Him.John 10:18.

“>8 “And hast not deprived Him of the good pleasure of His lips.” “My peace,” saith He, “I leave with you:”John 14:27.

“>9 and it was done.

4. “For Thou hast presented Him with the blessings of sweetness” (ver. 3). Because He had first quaffed the blessing of Thy sweetness, the gall of our sins did not hurt Him. “Diapsalma. Thou hast set a crown of precious stone on His Head.”[Rev. 19:12. Our author agrees with the Septuagint and the Vulgate here, as to “precious stone.” Jerome gives coronam obrizam. Gr. ὄβρυζον.—C.]

“>10 At the beginning of His discoursing precious stones were brought, and compassed Him about;Matt. 5:1. [Compare Mal. 3:17.—C.]

“>11 His disciples, from whom the commencement of His preaching should be made.

5. “He asked life; and Thou gavest Him:” He asked a resurrection, saying, “Father, glorify Thy Son;”John 17:1.

“>12 and Thou gavest it Him, “Length of days for ever and ever” (ver. 4). The prolonged ages of this world which the Church was to have, and after them an eternity, world without end.

6. “His glory is great in Thy salvation” (ver. 5). Great indeed is His glory in the salvation, whereby Thou hast raised Him up again. “Glory and great honour shalt Thou lay upon Him.” But Thou shalt yet add unto Him glory and great honour, when Thou shalt place Him in heaven at Thy right hand.

7. “For Thou shalt give Him blessing for ever and ever.” This is the blessing which Thou shalt give Him for ever and ever: “Thou shalt make Him glad in joy together with Thy countenance” (ver. 6). According to His manhood, Thou shall make Him glad together with Thy countenance, which He lifted up to Thee.

8. “For the King hopeth in the Lord.” For the King is not proud, but humble in heart, he hopeth in the Lord. “And in the mercy of the Most Highest He shall not be moved” (ver. 7). And in the mercy of the Most Highest His obedience even unto the death of the Cross shall not disturb His humility.

9. “Let Thy hand be found by all Thine enemies.” Be Thy power, O King, when Thou comest to judgment, found by all Thine enemies; who in Thy humiliation discerned it not. “Let Thy right hand find out all that hate Thee” (ver. 8). Let the glory, wherein Thou reignest at the right hand of the Father, find out for punishment in the day of judgment all that hate Thee; for that now they have not found it.

10. “Thou shalt make them like a fiery oven:” Thou shalt make them on fire within, by the consciousness of their ungodliness: “In the time of Thy countenance:” in the time of Thy manifestation. “The Lord shall trouble them in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them” (ver. 9). And then, being troubled by the vengeance of the Lord, after the accusation of their conscience, they shall be given up to eternal fire, to be devoured.

11. “Their fruit shalt Thou destroy out of the earth.” Their fruit, because it is earthly, shalt Thou destroy out of the earth. “And their seed from the sons of men” (ver. 10). And their works; or, whomsoever they have seduced, Thou shalt not reckon among the sons of men, whom Thou hast called into the everlasting inheritance.

12. “Because they turned evils against Thee.” Now this punishment shall be recompensed to them, because the evils which they supposed to hang over them by Thy reign, they turned against Thee to Thy death. “They imagined a device, which they were not able to establish” (ver. 11). They imagined a device, saying, “It is expedient that one die for all:”John 11:50.

“>1 which they were not able to establish, not knowing what they said.

13. “For Thou shalt set them low.” For Thou shalt rank them among those from whom in degradation and contempt Thou wilt turn away. “In Thy leavings[In reliquiis tuis. So Vulgate.—C.]

“>2 Thou shalt make ready their countenance” (ver. 12). And in these things that Thou leavest, that is, in the desires of an earthly kingdom, Thou shalt make ready their shamelessness for Thy passion.

14. “Be Thou exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength” (ver. 13). Be Thou, Lord, whom in humiliation they did not discern, exalted in Thy strength, which they thought weakness. “We will sing and praise Thy power.” In heart and in deed we will celebrate and make known Thy marvels.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 80

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 20, 2015

1. … If perchance things obscure demand the office of an interpreter, those things which are evident ought to require of me the office of a reader. The song here is of the Advent of the Lord and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His vineyard. But the singer of the song is that Asaph, as far as doth appear, enlightened and converted, by whose name ye know the synagogue to be signified. Lastly, the title of the Psalm is: “For the end in behalf of them that shall be changed;” that is, for the better. For Christ, the end of the Law,Rom. 10:4.

“>5 hath come on purpose that He should change men for the better. And he addeth, “a testimony to Asaph himself.” A good testimony of truth. Lastly, this testimony doth confess both Christ and the vineyard; that is, Head and Body, King and people, Shepherd and flock, and the entire mystery of all Scriptures, Christ and the Church. But the title of the Psalm doth conclude with, “for the Assyrians.” The Assyrians are interpreted, “men guiding.” Therefore it is no longer a generation which hath not guided the heartPs. 78:8, p. 369, supra.

“>6 thereof, but now a generation guiding. Therefore hear we what he saith in this testimony.

2. What is, “Thou that feedest Israel, hearken, Thou that conducteth Joseph like sheep”? (ver. 1). He is being invoked to come, He is being expected until He come, He is being yearned for until He come. Therefore may He find “men guiding:” “Thou that conductest,” he saith, “Joseph like sheep:” Joseph himself like sheep. Joseph himself are the sheep, and Joseph himself is a sheep. Observe Joseph; for although even the interpretation of his name doth aid us much, for it signifieth increase; and He came indeed in order that the grain given to deathMortificatum.

“>7 might arise manifold;John 12:24.

“>8 that is, that the people of God might be increased.… “Thou that sittest upon the Cherubin.” Cherubin is the seat of the glory of God, and is interpreted the fulness of knowledge. There God sitteth in the fulness of knowledge. Though we understand the Cherubin to be the exalted powers and virtues of the heavens: yet, if thou wilt, thou wilt be Cherubin.See St. Macarius, Hom. 1.

“>9 For if Cherubin is the seat of God, hear what saith the Scripture: “The soul of a just man is the seat of wisdom.” How, thou sayest, shall I be the fulness of knowledge? Who shall fulfil this? Thou hast the means of fulfilling it: “The fulness of the Law is love.”Rom. 13:10.

“>10 Do not run after many things, and strain thyself. The amplitude of the branches doth terrify thee: hold by the root, and of the greatness of the tree think not. Be there in thee love, and the fulness of knowledge must needs follow. For what doth he not know that knoweth love? Inasmuch as it hath been said, “God is love.”1 John 4:8.

“>11 “Appear.” For we went astray because Thou didst not appear. “Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasse” (ver. 2). Appear, I say, before the nation of the Jews, before the people of Israel. For there is Ephraim, there Manasses, there Benjamin. But to the interpretation let us look: Ephraim is fruit-bearing, Benjamin son of right hand, Manasses one forgetful. Appear Thou then before one made fruitful, before a son of the right hand: appear Thou before one forgetful, in order that he may be no longer forgetful, but Thou mayest come into his mind that hast delivered him.… For weak Thou wast when it was being said, “If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross.”Matt. 27:40.

“>1 Thou wast seeming to have no power: the persecutor had power over Thee: and Thou didst show this aforetime, for Jacob too himself prevailed in wrestling, a man with an angel. Would he at any time, except the angel had been willing? And man prevailed, and the angel was conquered: and victorious man holdeth the angel, and saith, “I will not let thee go, except thou shalt have blessed me.”Gen. 32:26.

“>2 A great sacrament! He both standeth conquered, and blesseth the conqueror. Conquered, because he willed it; in flesh weak, in majesty strong.… Having been crucified of weakness, rise Thou in power:2 Cor. 13:4.

“>3 “Stir up Thy power, and come Thou, to save us.”

3. “O God, convert us.” For averse we have been from Thee, and except Thou convert us, we shall not be converted. “And illumine Thy face, and we shall be saved” (ver. 3). Hath He anywise a darkened face? He hath not a darkened face, but He placed before it a cloud of flesh, and as it were a veil of weakness; and when He hung on the tree, He was not thought the Same as He was after to be acknowledged when He was sitting in Heaven. For thus it hath come to pass. Christ present on the earth, and doing miracles, Asaph knew not; but when He had died, after that He rose again, and ascended into Heaven, he knew Him. He was pricked to the heart, and he may have spokenOxf. mss. “he spoke.”

“>4 also of Him this testimony which now we acknowledge in this Psalm. Thou didst cover Thy face, and we were sick: illumine Thou the same, and we shall be whole.

4. “O Lord God of virtues, how long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy servant?” (ver. 4). Now Thy servant. Thou wast angry at the prayer of Thy enemy, wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou hast converted us, we know Thee, and wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou wilt evidently be angry, in fact, as a father correcting, not as a judge condemning. In such manner evidently Thou wilt be angry, because it hath been written, “My son, drawing near unto the service of God, stand thou in righteousness and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation.”Ecclus. 2:1.

“>5 Think not that now the wrath of GodSo Oxf. mss.; Ben. “it.”

“>6 hath passed away, because thou hast been converted. The wrath of God hath passed away from thee, but only so that it condemn not for everlasting. But He scourgeth, He spareth not: because He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.Heb. 12:6.

“>7 If thou refusest to be scourged, why dost thou desire to be received? He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. He who did not spare even His only Son, scourgeth every one. But nevertheless, “How long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy servant?” No longer thine enemy: but, “Thou wilt be angry with the prayer of Thy servant,” how long? There followeth: “Thou wilt feed us with the bread of tears, and wilt give us to drink with tears in measure” (ver. 5). What is, “in measure”? Hear the Apostle: “Faithful is God, who doth not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear.”1 Cor. 10:13.

“>8 The measure is, according to your powers: the measure is, that thou be instructed, not that thou be crushed.

5. “Thou hast set us for a contradiction to our neighbours” (ver. 6). Evidently this did come to pass: for out of Asaph were chosen they that should go to the Gentiles and preach Christ, and should have it said to them, “Who is this proclaimer of new demons?”Acts 17:18. E. V. “strange gods.”

“>9 “Thou hast set us for a contradiction to our neighbours.” For they were preaching Him who was the subject of the contradiction. Whom did they preach? That after He was dead, Christ rose again. Who would hear this? Who would know this? It is a new thing. But signs did follow, and to an incredible thing miracles gave credibility. He was contradicted, but the contradictor was conquered, and from being a contradictor was made a believer. There, however, was a great flame: there the martyrs fed with the bread of tears, and given to drink in tears, but in measure, not more than they are able to bear; in order that after the measure of tears there should follow a crown of joys. “And our enemies have sneered at us.” And where are they that sneered? For a long while it was said, Who are they that worship the Dead One, that adore the Crucified? For a long while so it was said. Where is the nose of them that sneered? Now do not they that censure flee into caves, that they may not be seen? But ye see what followeth: “O Lord God of virtues, convert us, and show Thy face, and we shall be whole” (ver. 7). “A vineyard out of Egypt Thou hast brought over, Thou hast cast out the nations, and hast planted her” (ver. 8). It was done, we know. How many nations were cast out? Amorites, Cethites, Jebusites, Gergesites, and Evites: after whose expulsion and overthrow, there was led in the people delivered out of Egypt, into the land of promise. Whence the vineyard was cast out, and where she was planted, we have heard. Let us see what next was done, how she believed, how much she grew, what ground she covered.

6. “A way Thou hast made in the sight of her, and hast planted the roots of her, and she hath filled the land” (ver. 9). Would she have filled the land, unless a way had been made in the sight of her? What was the way which was made in the sight of her? “I am,” He saith, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”John 14:6.

“>1 With reason she hath filled the land. That hath now been said of this vineyard, which hath been accomplished at the last. But in the mean time what? “She hath covered the mountains with her shadow, and with her branch the cedars of God” (ver. 10). “Thou hast stretched out her boughs even unto the sea, and even unto the river her shoots” (ver. 11). This requireth the office of an expositor, that of a reader and praiserOne ms. “hearer.”

“>2 doth not suffice: aid me with attention; for the mention of this vineyard in this Psalm is wont to overcloud with darkness the inattentive.… But nevertheless the first Jewish nation was this vine. But the Jewish nation reigned as far as the sea and as far as the river. As far as the sea; it appeareth in ScriptureNumb. 34:5.

“>3 that the sea was in the vicinity thereof. And as far as the river Jordan. For on the other side of Jordan some part of the Jews was established, but within Jordan was the whole nation. Therefore, “even unto the sea and even unto the river,” is the kingdom of the Jews, the kingdom of Israel: but not “from sea even unto sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the round world;”Ps. 72:8.

“>4 this is the future perfection of the vineyard, concerning which in this place he hath foretold. When, I say, he had foretold to thee the perfection, he returneth to the beginning, out of which the perfection was made. Of the beginning wilt thou hear? “Even unto the river.” Of the end wilt thou hear? “He shall have dominion from sea even unto sea:”Ps. 72:8.

“>5 that is, “she hath filled the earth.” Let us look then to the testimony of Asaph, as to what was done to the first vineyard, and what must be expected for the second vineyard, nay to the same vineyard.… What then, the vineyard before the sight whereof a way was made, that she should fill the earth, at first was where? “Her shadow covered the mountains.” Who are the mountains? The Prophets. Why did her shadow cover them? Because darkly they spake the things which were foretold as to come. Thou hearest from the Prophets, Keep the Sabbath-day, on the eighth day circumcise a child, offer sacrifice of ram, of calf, of he-goat. Be not troubled, her shadow doth cover the mountains of God; there will come after the shadow a manifestation. “And her shrubs the cedars of God,” that is, she hath covered the cedars of God; very lofty, but of God. For the cedars are types of the proud, that must needs be overthrown. The “cedars of Lebanon,” the heights of the world, this vineyard did cover in growing, and the mountains of God, all the holy Prophets and Patriarchs.

7. Then what? “Wherefore hast Thou thrown down her enclosure?” (ver. 12). Now ye see the overthrow of that nation of the Jews: already out of another Psalm ye have heard, “with axe and hammerFractorio.

“>6 they have thrown her down.”Ps. 74:6.

“>7 When could this have been done, except her enclosure had been thrown down. What is her enclosure? Her defence. For she bore herself proudly against her planter. The servants that were sent to her and demanded a recompense, the husbandmen they scourged, beat, slew: there came also the Only Son, they said, “This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him, and our own the inheritance will be:” they killed Him, and out of the vineyard they cast Him forth.Matt. 21:35, etc.

“>8 When cast forth, He did more perfectly possess the place whence He was cast forth. For thus He threatens her through Isaiah, “I will throw down her enclosure.” Wherefore? “For I looked that she should bring forth grapes, but she brought forth thorns.”Isa. 5:2.

“>9 I looked for fruit from thence, and I found sin. Why then dost thou ask, O Asaph, “Why hast Thou thrown down her enclosure?” For knowest thou not why? I looked that she should do judgment, and she did iniquity. Must not her enclosure needs be thrown down? And there came the Gentiles when the enclosure was thrown down, the vineyard was assailed, and the kingdom of the Jews effaced. This at first he is lamenting, but not without hope. For of directing the heart he is now speaking, that is, for the “Assyrians,” for “men directing,” the Psalm is. “Wherefore hast Thou thrown down her enclosure: and there pluck off her grapes all men passing along the way.” What is “men passing along the way?” Men having dominion for a time.

8. “There hath laid her waste the boar from the wood” (ver. 13). In the boar from the wood what do we understand? To the Jews a swine is an abomination, and in a swine they imagine as it were the uncleanness of the Gentiles. But by the Gentiles was overthrown the nation of the Jews: but that king who overthrew, was not only an unclean swine, but was also a boar. For what is a boar but a savage swine, a furious swine? “A boar from the wood hath laid her waste.” “From the wood,” from the Gentiles. For she was a vineyard, but the Gentiles were woods. But when the Gentiles believed, there was said what? “Then there shall exult all the trees of the woods.”Ps. 96:12.

“>1 “The boar from the wood hath laid her waste; and a singular wild beast hath devoured her.” “A singular wild beast” is what? The very boar that laid her waste is the singular wild beast. Singular, because proud. For thus saith every proud one, It is I, it is I, and no other.

9. But with what profit is this? “O God of virtues turn Thou nevertheless” (ver. 14). Although these things have been done, “Turn Thou nevertheless.” “Look from heaven and see, and visit this vineyard.” “And perfect Thou her whom Thy right hand hath planted” (ver. 15). No other plant Thou, but this make Thou perfect. For she is the very seed of Abraham, she is the very seed in whom all nations shall be blessed:Gen. 22:18.

“>2 there is the root where is borne the graffed wild olive. “Perfect Thou this vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted.” But wherein doth He perfect? “And upon the Son of man, whom Thou hast strengthened to Thyself.” What can be more evident? Why do ye still expect, that we should still explain to you in discourse, and should we not rather cry out with you in admiration, “Perfect Thou this vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted, and upon the Son of man” perfect her? What Son of man? Him “whom Thou hast strengthened to Thyself.” A mighty stronghold: build as much as thou art able. “For other foundation no one is able to lay, except that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”1 Cor. 3:11.


10. “Things burned with fire, and dug up, by the rebuke of Thy countenance shall perish” (ver. 16). What are the things burned with fire and dug up which shall perish from the rebuke of His countenance? Let us see and perceive what are the things burned with fire and dug up. Christ hath rebuked what? Sins: by the rebuke of His countenance sins have perished. Why then are sins burned with fire and dug up? Of all sins, two things are the cause in man, desire and fear.All sins are either of desire or of fear.

“>4 Think, examine, question your hearts, sift your consciences, see whether there can be sins, except they be either of desire, or of fear. There is set before thee a reward to induce thee to sin, that is, a thing which delighteth thee; thou doest it, because thou desirest it. But perchance thou wilt not be allured by bribes; thou art terrified with menaces, thou doest it because thou fearest. A man would bribe thee, for example, to bear false witness. Countless cases there are, but I am setting before you the plainer cases, whereby ye may imagine the rest. Hast thou hearkened unto God, and hast thou said in thy heart, “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but of his own soul suffer loss?”Matt. 16:26.

“>5 I am not allured by a bribe to lose my soulOr, “life.”

“>6 to gain money. He turneth himself to stir up fear within thee, he who was not able to corrupt thee with a bribe, beginneth to threaten loss, banishment, massacres, perchance, and death. Therein now, if desire prevailed not, perchance fear will prevail to make thee sin.… What had evil fear done? It had dug up, as it were. For love doth inflame, fear doth humble: therefore, sins of evil love, with fire were lighted: sins of evil fear were dug up. On the one hand, evil fear doth humble, and good love doth light; but in different ways respectively. For even the husbandman interceding for the tree, that it should not be cut down, saith, “I will dig about it, and will apply a basket of dung.”Luke 13:8.

“>7 The dug trench doth signify the godly humility of one fearing, and the basket of dung the profitable squalid state of one repenting. But concerning the fire of good love the Lord saith, “Fire I have come to send into the world.”Luke 12:49.

“>8 With which fire may the fervent in spirit burn, and they too that are inflamed with the love of God and their neighbour. And thus, as all good works are wrought by good fear and good love, so by evil fear and evil love all sins are committed. Therefore, “Things set alight with fire and dug up,” to wit, all sins, “by the rebuke of Thy countenance shall perish.”

11. “Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand, and upon the Son of Man whom Thou hast strengthened Thyself” (ver. 17). “And we depart not from Thee.… Thou wilt quicken us, and Thy Name we will invoke” (ver. 18). Thou shalt be sweet to us, “Thou wilt quicken us.” For aforetime we did love earth, not Thee: but Thou hast mortified our members which are upon the earth.Col. 3:5.

“>9 For the Old Testament, having earthly promises, seemeth to exhort that God should not be loved for nought, but that He should be loved because He giveth something on earth. What dost thou love, so as not to love God? Tell me. Love, if thou canst, anything which He hath not made. Look round upon the whole creation, see whether in any place thou art held with the birdlime of desire, and hindered from loving the Creator, except it be by that very thing which He hath Himself created, whom thou despisest. But why dost thou love those things, except because they are beautiful? Can they be as beautiful as He by whom they were made? Thou admirest these things, because thou seest not Him: but through those things which thou admirest, love Him whom thou seest not. Examine the creation; if of itself it is, stay therein: but if it is of Him, for no other reason is it prejudicial to a lover, than because it is preferred to the Creator. Why have I said this? With reference to this verse, brethren. Dead, I say, were they that did worship God that it might be well with them after the flesh: “For to be wise after the flesh is death:”Rom. 8:6.

“>1 and dead are they that do not worship God gratis, that is, because of Himself He is good, not because He giveth such and such good things, which He giveth even to men not good. Money wilt thou have of God? Even a robber hath it. Wife, abundance of children, soundness of body, the world’s dignity, observe how many evil men have. Is this all for the sake of which thou dost worship Him? Thy feet will totter,Ps. 73:2.

“>2 thou wilt suppose thyself to worship without cause, when thou seest those things to be with them who do not worship Him. All these things, I say, He giveth even to evil men, Himself alone He reserveth for good men. “Thou wilt quicken us;” for dead we were, when to earthly things we did cleave; dead we were, when of the earthly man we did bear the image. “Thou wilt quicken us;” Thou wilt renew us, the life of the inward man Thou wilt give us. “And Thy Name we will invoke;” that is, Thee we will love. Thou to us wilt be the sweet forgiver of our sins, Thou wilt be the entire reward of the justified. “O Lord God of virtues, convert us, and show Thy face, and we shall be whole” (ver. 19).

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 145

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 27, 2015


THIS psalm, which is called a “Praise-song” of David, is a simple alphabetic acrostic—the first line of each verse commencing with a letter of the alphabet next in order to that with which the preceding verse began. The nun-line is wanting in the Massoretic text, but it can be supplied from the Greek, and is represented in the Vulgate.

In the first eight verses the psalmist celebrates the goodness and greatness of God as manifested throughout creation. In verses 9-12 the purpose of this manifestation is explained—that the Kingdom of Yahweh may be glorified. This Kingdom is to last for ever; hence, in verses 13-21, the psalmist voices his confident expectation that the Lord will protect with special kindness those of His loyal worshippers
who are, for the moment, in suffering or distress. If God’s faithful worshippers were to be for ever forgotten and abandoned, how could
God’s Kingdom be perpetual?

Verse 13 of this psalm is cited in Aramaic translation in Dan. 3:100; 4:31, so that the psalm must be regarded as older, at least, than the Book of Daniel. The attribution of the psalm to David may be due, perhaps, to the extensive use of other psalms which it shows.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 43

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 20, 2015


Arg. Thomas. That Christ is the Light of the world, the Way, the Truth, and the Life: the voice of the Church praying that she may be divided from them that believe not. To them who have obtained the faith of Christ [that is, the recently baptized], the voice of the Church praying that the good and the bad may be severed in the last day.

1 Give sentence with me, O God, and defend my cause against the ungodly people: O deliver me from the deceitful and wicked man.
2 For thou art the God of my strength, why hast thou put me from thee: and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresseth me?

These two verses will better come under our notice in Psalm 144: for a reason there to be mentioned.

3 O send out thy light and thy truth, that they may lead me: and bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling.

Here he sets forth the only way of his liberation:—and what way is that, (Michael Ayguan.

“>Ay.) but by the Incarnation? Thy Light: as it is written: “That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”S. John 1:9.

“>* Thy Truth: as He said Himself:—“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”S. John 14:6.

“>* And therefore, the Master of Sentences uses this verse formally, when writing “of the benefits of the Incarnation.” Light indeed, after so many centuries that darkness covered the earth,Lib. iii. dist. 19.

“>* and gross darkness the people! Truth indeed, when those things that were concealed from the wisest philosophers of Greece and Rome are now revealed to babes and sucklings! Others will have it that,S. Chrysost. Hesych.

“>* by Light, the Son of God, by Truth, the Holy Ghost, is more especially set forth. That they may lead me. So our translation, and rightly. The Vulgate has, they have led me: then, with reference to the past benefits of the Incarnation: Thy holy hill. Take it of the Church Militant, as almost all the commentators: not that I would much blame those, who keeping our Lord’s dear Passion here,Hesych.

“>* as always, before their eyes, see in the holy hill, Mount Calvary. It is to be observed that, in the “sending forth,” the Greeks, followed by S. Ambrose, generally see an allusion to the First Advent; S. Augustine, with almost all the Latin Fathers,S. Ambros. de Spirit. S. xix.

“>* to the Second. And then truly the light will be shown which clearly distinguishes the tares from the wheat; and the truth, which, however they may have been mingled in this world, shall then definitively, and for ever, set the sheep on the right hand, and the goats on the left. It is a beautiful idea of Hugh of S. Victor that by light is meant the faith by which we walk now; by truth,Hugo Victorin.

“>* the reward which we are hereafter to possess:—as if the reality would so far surpass all that faith can tell, or hope desire, here, as to make their warmest aspirations little better than untruths. This was one of the many verses used against the Arians:—the Trinity being set forth in Him Who sends: in the Light: and in the Truth.S. Athanas. ad Serapion. S. Cyril lib. i. in S. Joan.

“>* The Jews were in the habit of referring the truth to Elijah; the light to the Messiah. And no doubt there is a reference to the Urim and Thummim by which God’s Will was manifested on the stones of the High Priest’s breastplate. And to Thy dwelling. Take the holy hill in what sense you will, there can be no doubt that this dwelling is the “habitation of God, the house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.” Therefore, the Incarnation: therefore that holy hill up which the Lord bare the Cross: therefore also that holy hill the Church Militant; all to this one end: that Calvary might end in Mount Salem, that the Church of warfare might lead to the Church of peace!

4 And that I may go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness: and upon the harp will I give thanks unto thee, O God, my God.

Never, surely, more glorious and comforting verse than this. To see the Man of Sorrows,—now His warfare almost accomplished,—now the sin He bare for us almost pardoned,—approaching to the Great Altar of the Evening Sacrifice of the world. And yet, drawing near to offer Himself to the Father, that Father is the God of His joy and gladness. O glorious example for His servants in all their sufferings! (Gerhohus.

“>G.) See to it, Christian, that when thou art called to offer a sacrifice to God, He is the fountain of gladness. See to it that thou draw nigh, not with fear, not reluctantly, nay, not even acquiescingly,—but rejoicing that thou hast it in thy power thus to sacrifice to Him Who sacrificed Himself for thee. See to it that thou count nothing of any further worth than as it may so be made the matter of sacrifice; and say with Him, the Priest and Victim, as thou drawest near the time of thy trial,—“I have a Baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” This is well chosen as the introit to the altar of the Latin Church, though the Vulgate translation be different: “And I will enter in to the altar of God, to the God, Who giveth joy to my youth.” That, albeit not the correct sense of the Hebrew, is not the less appropriate in our dear Lord’s mouth; seeing that it was in the very prime and best estate of human youth, that He thus drew near to His altar. Or,S. Chrysost. Hesych.

“>* taking the words in another sense,—here our youth is indeed rejoiced and gladdened, because at that altar of the Cross, we put off the old man, corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new man, renewed in knowledge after the Image of Him That created him. Others again take this altar of the golden altar on which the prayers of the saints are offered; so that we do really and truly draw nigh that altar whenever we approach God in prayer. Or,Ruffinus.

“>* as the Carthusian takes it, so may we,—of the Blessed Eucharist. That I may go unto the altar of God; yes, (Dionysius the Carthusian.

“>D. C.) but that is the least part of our service; wherefore, not stopping at the altar, he continues, even unto the God Whose Flesh and Blood are there really and truly eaten and drunk. And notice the parallelism of the two passages: even unto the God that rejoiceth my youth, and that other Psalm: “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,”Ps. 103:5.

“>* (and what are they but the food of angels?) “making thee young and lusty as an eagle.”

And upon the harp will I give thanks unto Thee. I have said before why on the harp. The harp gives forth no sound till it is struck by the hand; and the only praise which God cares for is that which comes from the deeds,Vieyra, iii. 117.

“>* which satisfieth His goodness not only by the lip, but also in the life. And how in another sense the harp sets forth the peculiar offering of martyrdom, we have already seen in Vol. I. p. 460.

5a (5) Why art thou so heavy, O my soul: and why art thou so disquieted within me?
5b (6) O put thy trust in God: for I will yet give Him thanks, which is the help of my countenance, and my God.

The third time, in this, and the preceding Psalm, in which we have these verses. They see in this, a dependence on each Person of the Ever Blessed Trinity for and against our enemies; or, as others, we may see in the triple repetition,—the Thanksgiving for Creation, for Redemption, and for Glory. (Cassiodorus.

“>C.) And Cassiodorus dwells at great length on the consideration: how precious, in the sight of God, must be the virtue of Christian joy,—when S. Paul twice,—“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice,”—and David, as here, thrice commends it to us.

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who sends out His Light and His Truth; and to the Son, the God of our strength: and to the Holy Ghost, which is the help of our countenance, and our God;

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


Almighty God,Ludolph.

“>* fountain of perpetual light, we pray Thee that, sending forth Thy truth into our hearts, Thou wouldst lighten us with the new effulgence of Thy eternal light. Through. (If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen.


O Lord,Mozarabic. Passiontide.

“>* Only-Begotten Son of the Father, Who didst by Thy Passion judge betwixt Thy servants and the ungodly people, defend us, we beseech Thee, by the virtue of the same Passion from the power of the enemy: that Thou alone mayest receive the praises of Thy Church, Who alone didst pay the price of our Redemption. Amen. Through Thy mercy. (The Mozarabic ending is—at the conclusion of the prayer, without any other termination: Amen. Through Thy mercy, O our God, Who art blessed, and livest and governest all things, to ages of ages. Amen.


Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, that we may be illuminated by Thee the Light, directed by Thee the Way, corrected by Thee the Truth, quickened by Thee the Life. Who livest. (If the prayer be addressed to God the Son: Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 78

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 26, 2015

This post is complete but needs some editing. The following abbreviations are used for authors cited (a number of other authors are cited specifically by name):

(G) Gehohus.

(DC) Denis (Dionysius) the Carthusian.

(Cd) Balthazar Corderius.

(L) Lorinus.

(C) Cassiodorus.

(Ay) Michael Ayguan.

(A) Augustine.

(P) Parez.

(R) Remigius of St. Germanus.

(B) Bruno of Aste.

(Lu) Ludolphus,

(z) Euthymius Zigabenus.

Title: Maschil of Asaph. LXX. and Vulgate: Of understanding, for Asaph. Chaldee Targum: The understanding of the Holy Ghost, by the hand of Asaph. Arabic Psalter: Of Asaph, an address to the people.


Arg. Thomas. That Christ feeds His people with the spiritual food of manna. The Voice of the Prophet to the Jews. The Voice of Christ touching the impiety of the Jews, and of Christians, eating the Lord’s Flesh, murmuring against Him. The Voice of Christ touching the Jews, when God showed them many wonders by Moses, and they believed him not.

Ven. Bede. Asaph, as we have said before, is to be explained as the synagogue, that is, gathering together, but as Understanding is prefixed, he shows that the faithful synagogue is here meant. In the first part of the Psalm only two verses are ascribed to the person of the Lord, to increase respect for the utterances whose opening the King Himself hath appointed. Hear My law, O My people. In the second part Asaph speaks more fully, charging the Jews with ingratitude for the Lord’s bounties, and with despising His commands through their wicked heart. Which we have heard and known. Thirdly, he sums up the gifts which God bestowed on Israel, who, nevertheless, ceased not to murmur. Marvellous things did He in the sight of our forefathers. Fourthly, he tells what punishment came upon them, and how the sentence was mitigated by the Lord’s mercy: When the Lord heard this He was wroth. Fifthly, they were punished for their murmurings, but they returned again to entreat the Lord, acknowledging His wondrous works. While the meat was yet in their mouths. In the sixth place, they spake again deceitfully and followed their wonted errors, yet the mercy of God destroyed them not as they deserved. They did but flatter Him with their mouth. Seventhly, he tells how they provoked the Lord in the wilderness, though Egypt had been afflicted for their sakes. Many a time did they provoke Him in the wilderness. Eighthly, the sin of Jewish obstinacy is joined to the narrative of the Lord’s bounties. But as for His own people, He led them forth like sheep. Ninthly, a terrible vengeance follows, so that He forsook the tabernacle in Silo, and delivered His people into captivity, and afterwards chose the Mount Sion, and David for king, of whose seed Christ, the Physician of salvation, should come. When God heard this, He was wroth.

Syriac Psalter. Of Asaph. He implies in it that they ought to keep God’s commandments, and not be as their forefathers.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. A plain statement of Christ to the Church concerning the transgression of the former people.

This long Psalm is unquestionably a religious protest from the Temple of Jerusalem against the schism of the Northern kingdom headed by the powerful tribe of Ephraim, at some period after the reign of Solomon. There are two occasions which seem to fit in with its language more than any others, to either of which it may be ascribed. The first is the outbreak of war between Abijah and Jeroboam I., and perhaps just after the great battle in which the latter was defeated. (2 Chron. 13) The second is the proclamation of Hezekiah, summoning all Israel and Judah to keep the Passover together at Jerusalem for the first time, since the revolt from Rehoboam. (2 Chron. 30) The former of these opinions is that preferred by most critics; but the mention of Asaph in the title does not interfere with either view, as the name undoubtedly denotes a family, and not a single person.

1 Hear my law, O my people: incline your ears unto the words of my mouth.

They begin by asking who is the speaker here. And the answers vary. Some, of whom the greatest are S. Augustine, Cassiodorus, and Dionysius the Carthusian, take it of the Father; S. Athanasius, S. Jerome, and Beda, with several others, (G.) of Christ; S. Bruno of the Church, the mystical synagogue; and others of Asaph himself, or David. My people, whom I have made Mine own by separating thee from the nations, (D. C.) and by delivering thee from Pharaoh’s power. Hear My law, (G.) not only that given on Sinai, especially the ten moral precepts, but the higher law (of which the earlier dispensation was but a figure) given after your rescue from the darkness of the spiritual Egypt by the offering of the true Paschal Lamb. Hear, ye on whom I have not laid the burden of the old Law, but to whom I have given a new law, written not on tables of stone, but on the tables of your hearts by My finger, in giving you the Holy Ghost, to teach you all truth and to declare to you things to come. Incline your ears in faith to the words of My mouth, not going back, because they are hard to be understood, but saying with the Apostle, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”*

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will declare hard sentences of old;

We have an inspired commentary on these words in that chapter of the Gospels which itself contains seven parables. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables;* and without a parable spake He not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”* The passage is thus fatal to the bare literal interpretation of Holy Writ,* as it teaches us that all the events recorded therein have a deeper mystical intent underlying the narrative,* a truth on which S. Paul dwells more than once. I will open My mouth. This form of speech occurs but rarely in Scripture,* and always marks some important utterance to follow. Thus begins the account of Job’s words: “Then Job opened his mouth.” (Cd.) It is spoken again of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount,* of S. Philip’s instruction to the eunuch,* and of S. Peter’s recognition of the Gentiles.*Hard sentences of old. The Gospel gloss receives a supercommentary from the Apostle, (L.) exhaustive of the meaning: “The preaching of Jesus Christ,* according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the Prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of the faith.” Of old. The Vulgate reads from the beginning. Where note that Christ is the beginning and the end; because the beginning is infinite,* so must be the end. Wherefore, He is ever beginning, whether He begin or end. He ever beginneth, for He can lack no perfection, and therefore cometh to no defect, and He is thus perfect, because He is the Alpha and Omega.

3 Which we have heard and known: and such as our fathers have told us;

4 That we should not hide them from the children of the generations to come: but to show the honour of the Lord, his mighty and wonderful works that he hath done.

We have heard from the Prophets of the Old Testament, (C.) we have known by the revelation of Christ the Word,* as it is written, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, (Ay.) and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life.”*Our fathers have told us. According to the Commandment in the Law,* which bade them explain to their sons the testimonies, statutes, and judgments which the Lord enjoined them. That we should not hide them. The Vulgate reads, They have not been hidden from their sons in the other generation. They explain it, (C.) their sons by succession of teaching, not of race, the spiritual generation of the Christian Church. Another generation, (A.) notes S. Augustine, because regenerate. The honour of the Lord (where the Vulgate reads praises) denotes,* according to S. Albert, the increase and preservation of the children of Israel, and belongs to God’s attribute of goodness. The mighty works refer to the deliverance from Egypt, and belong to His power. The wonderful works to the miraculous feeding, expressive of His wisdom.

5 He made a covenant with Jacob, and gave Israel a law: which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children;

6a (6) That their posterity might know it: and the children which were yet unborn;

6b (7) To the intent that when they came up: they might show their children the same;

He made a covenant. The LXX. and Vulgate,* a little more forcibly, He raised up a covenant, or testimony. (A.) The earlier commentators agree in seeing here a reference to the Ark of the Covenant or testimony,* which was the visible witness to the Law, which had been witnessed before by Angels. (P.) Gerhohus, in a beautiful passage too long to extract, (G.) tells us that all the early Hebrew story, from the visions of Bethel and Peniel, was only the testimony borne by halting Jacob to the coming Lawgiver; and when He, the true Israel, the Prince with God, appeared, then mere testimony ceased, and the Law went forth from Sion, written with His finger on the hearts of His Apostles and elect. (R.) When they came up, out of their sins,* to be born anew in the laver of baptism, then they were to be taught fully the mysteries of God theretofore hidden from them. (D. C.) These are they of whom the Apostle speaks: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.”*

7 (8) That they might put their trust in God: and not to forget the works of God, but to keep his commandments;

8 (9) And not to be as their forefathers, a faithless and stubborn generation: a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit cleaveth not steadfastly unto God;

Cardinal Hugo tells us that the three theological virtues are summed up in the former of these verses.* Hope is expressly named; Faith keeps God’s doings in remembrance; Love seeks to obey Him for His own sake. The union and growth of these virtues in the soul is, then, the end proposed by the whole teaching of this psalm. (L.) They note the epithets of the ninth verse, and point out that all unbelievers against knowledge are included under them; Jews, being faithless and stubborn; heretics, choosing error, that set not their heart aright; and bad Christians, whose spirit cleaveth not steadfastly unto God.

9 (10) Like as the children of Ephraim: who being harnessed, and carrying bows, turned themselves back in the day of battle.

The Targum here mentions a Jewish legend that the Ephraimites sallied out of Egypt thirty years before the Exodus, (Ay.) and after a severe defeat from the first enemies they encountered, (C.) returned to their bondage.* Other literalist interpretations take the words of the pressure put on Aaron to make the golden calf; of the defeat by the Amalekites, (D. C.) at Hormah; of the slaughter of Ephraim’s sons by the Gittites;* and of the more fatal rout by the Philistines, when the Ark was taken, so that the Israelites, in that sense, kept not the covenant of the Lord;* and of the alliance of Ephraim and Syria against Jerusalem, (P.) in the days of Ahaz. The mystical explanations are not less various.* The Doctor of Grace tells us that the words are spoken of them who live by works, and not by faith, that the bows denote outward acts and that shooting with the bow, and then turning back in the battle, implies heeding and purposing in the day of hearing, and deserting in the day of temptation. (A.) S. Gregory the Great explains the passage of Doctors of the Church,* whom Ephraim, “fruitfulness,” denotes, shooting their arrows of rebuke with the elastic cord of the New Testament from the stiff bow of the Old, (B.) but often shrinking from the toil of resolute struggle against the sins and vices of the day.* Again, as Ephraim was set above his elder brother, Manasseh, so the Jewish people was chosen in preference to the Gentile nations, but fell away in its time of probation, despite the arrows of boastful promise to keep the statutes of the Lord. (Ay.) Or we may take it of the rich of this world, abounding in temporal fruitfulness, uttering crafty words of feigned religion, but turning back, and getting behind Satan, in the day of battle,* that is, in the very first approach of a struggle against sin, being too cowardly to await the actual conflict.

10 (11) They kept not the covenant of God: and would not walk in his law;

11 (12) But forgat what he had done: and the wonderful works that he had showed for them.

They kept not the covenant as they had promised, (Cd.) saying, “Speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee, and we will hear it, and do it.” (Lu.) And would not walk in His law, by making progress and persevering therein.* It is not their actions that are here blamed, but their will, since even when they did so walk, it was not heartily. Wherefore they are said not to have done it, because they did it not of good will and love, for there are men who do right, but would cease doing so if they dared. Fear, not love; necessity, not will;* the fear of punishment, not the desire of righteousness, compels them. Thus they go on from falling away and turning back, which may be mere weakness, into forgetting what God has done, which is black ingratitude and sin, especially as the works were wonderful and for them. So when Christ came, (G.) not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it, by making its moral precepts more stringent, the Jews hated Him, forgat all His wondrous works of healing and mercy, would not walk in His law, and slew Him.

12 (13) Marvellous things did he in the sight of our forefathers, in the land of Egypt: even in the field of Zoan.

Our forefathers. (A.) They raise the question here why the forefathers, but just blamed for unbelief, should be cited here as authorities. The Targum explains it of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to which S. Augustine objects that they were dead before the miracles in Egypt were wrought, though they may have been still present in spirit; and he prefers to understand it of Moses and Aaron. In the land of Egypt. That is, as they for the most part agree, in the spiritual darkness of this world, of which Egypt is a common type in the Bible. In the field of Zoan. The name in the LXX. and Vulgate here is Tanis, a mere linguistic corruption. The word means “low country,” and the expositors, understanding it as “lowly command,” (A.) allegorize it freely. S. Augustine takes it of the lesson of humility given us in the dark world, that we may be exalted in the world to come. Cassiodorus points the remark by citing the words of Christ, (C.) “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”* And this law He gave to our fathers His first disciples, when He wrought His miracles in their sight. (G.) He who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the Lord of Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, of whom they were the types. Apostles, because as He told Abraham to go forth from his own country, so He sent His Apostles throughout the world, wherefore S. Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee.” Martyrs, because they devoted themselves freely to death as His Sacrifice, like Isaac. Confessors, because Leah and Rachel, Jacob’s two wives, denote the active and the contemplative life. S. Albert explains Tanis or Zoan of the Blessed Virgin, compared to a plain or field, because it is healthy, smooth,* wide, and fruitful, while she was sinless, gentle, loving, the Mother of the Divine Food; and that field Zoan,* the “lowly command,” because she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word;” and again, “He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden.”

13 (14) He divided the sea, and let them go through: he made the waters to stand on an heap.

He not only brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea, (A.) but brought His spiritual Israel through the waters of Baptism, (G.) reddened with His own Blood, making the flowing and ebbing tides of carnal desire stand still. (Ay.) On a heap, The LXX. and Vulgate read, As in a leathern bottle, because on the one hand these desires are swollen, and on the other, they are so restrained by God’s grace as to be unable to flow out and drown the soul.

14 (15) In the day-time also he led them with a cloud: and all the night through with a light of fire.

The cloud is the Incarnation of Christ, (A.) whereby He led His people, during the day-time of the world, visible to them in the lowliness of His Flesh. (G.) But in the night, when no man can work, that terrible night of the Judgment,* He will appear as “a consuming fire” in the awful might of His Godhead. (C.) Or, the cloud of the day-time is the shadowy type of the earlier dispensation, the fire of the night, the revelation of the antitype, Christ Himself, in the evening of the world. Again, the cloud may denote the Sacramental veils under which He is now hidden, the fire, (Ay.) the open vision yet to come. Once more, the cloud typified Him of Whom it is written, “Thou hast been a shadow from the heat,”* and Who, that He might bestow that shadow, was willing to be planted as a tree in this world, so that the Bride cries: “I sat down under His shadow with great delight.” (D. C.) And then the first words tell us of the cool refreshment of His divine grace; and the latter, speaking of the Light of Light, express the glory of wisdom, the enlightenment of the inner man by Christ in all trouble and distress, seeing that He is ever near the afflicted. S. Cyril of Alexandria inverts one of the foregoing explanations, saying that Christ led the Jews in the darkness by fire,* that is, by a law of threatenings and punishment,* but that He leads Christians in the light by the watery clouds of Baptism.

15 (16) He clave the hard rocks in the wilderness: and gave them drink thereof, as it had been out of the great depth.

16 (17) He brought waters out of the stony rock: so that it gushed out like the rivers.

“Wherever they went,” (G.) observes Gerhohus, “He brought waters for them out of the Rock, which followed them. Not that the rock moved from its place, but the water which flowed therefrom followed them. And one has expressed this wondrous mystery very well in verse, saying:

Bis silicem virgâ Dux perculit atque Propheta,

Ictio bina Ducis sunt duo ligna Crucis,

Fons est de petrâ populo datus absque metretâ,

Larga salus homini corpore de Domini,

For the smitten Rock is Christ crucified, from Whose right side flowed pure and living water, of which whoso drinks, it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. This we say of the Spirit,* Whom they that believe in Him receive. And this Spirit was certainly typified in that visible water which flowed from the right side of the Temple, to wit, of Christ’s Body.* For Christ had as it were two sides: the left, according to time, of His weakness and mortality; the right, according to time, of His glorified Humanity. From the left side water did not issue, so long as Jesus was not yet glorified; but His right side poured out water for the salvation of His people, because He, crowned with the glory and honour of the Resurrection, on the very day of His Resurrection and glory breathed on the Apostles, saying, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost:* whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.’ Also, when crowned with the diadem of the Ascension, He poured forth the water of the Holy Ghost in such abundance that the Apostles and Disciples, drinking thereof, were accounted drunken, and said to be full of new wine.” In the wilderness. In Judea, forsaken of God for its sins, as one will have it; on the Cross, where He was desolate and unfriended, (D. C.) as the Carthusian more touchingly explains it. But the majority keep to the usual allegory of the world, as opposed to the Laud of Promise. He brought waters out of the stony rock. (Ay.) Smiting our hard hearts with His Cross, He caused floods of penitential tears to burst forth. So runs that ancient Western collect: “Almighty and most merciful God,* Who broughtest a well of living water out of the rock for Thy thirsting people; bring forth tears of compunction from our hard hearts, that we may lament our sins, and of Thy pity, obtain pardon thereof.”*Like the rivers:

Prestad me, fuentes e rios,

Vuestras eternas corrientes,

Aunque en estas cinco fuentes

Las hallan los ojos mios.

17 (18) Yet for all this they sinned more against him: and provoked the most Highest in the wilderness.

Their additional sin, observes S. Augustine, (A.) was unbelief, wherefore it is said that they provoked God in drought,1 because, though their bodies drank of the water from the rock, (G.) their minds remained parched and dry of all spiritual grace. And as even Moses failed in belief at this time and place, saying, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?”* so the Scribes and Pharisees, smiting the true Rock with the two beams of the Cross, believed not that living water would flow out. The punishment of Moses and Aaron for their sin was exclusion from the Promised Land;”* unto whom I sware in My wrath: that they should not enter into My rest,” and the punishment of the unbelieving Jews is exclusion from the Paradise of God.* And they too provoke God in the dry place who through hardness of heart refuse to weep for their sins.

18 (19) They tempted God in their hearts: and required meat for their lust.

Note, (R.) observes Remigius, that the tempting consisted in asking with their lips for that which they thought beyond God’s power to give them, and thus the Psalmist condemns all untrustful prayer.* One mediæval commentator applies this text to monks seeking mitigation of their fasts and rules of diet from their superiors, without adequate cause. The Carthusian, (D. C.) more deeply, extends it to all Christians who neglect the Saviour’s counsel:* “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness;” and, “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” but are anxiously disquieted about mere temporal things. (Ay.) They remind us, as. to tempting, (L.) that the act is ascribed to God, to man, and to the devil, and in all cases it implies making trial of the person tempted. It is never taken in a good sense when man is said to tempt God, by making unnecessary trial of His power, goodness, or wisdom, it is never in a bad sense when God is said to tempt man, it may be good or bad when one man tempts another, and it is always evil when the devil tempts man.

19 (20) They spake against God also, saying: Shall God prepare a table in the wilderness?

20 (21) He smote the stony rock indeed, that the water gushed out, and the streams flowed withal: but can he give bread also, or provide flesh for his people?

Gerhohus acutely remarks that the form their unbelief took was ascribing the miracle of the water to natural causes. (G.) They admitted the fact, but denied its true character, and now demanded a test from Moses; (C.) and he thus pierces more deeply into the nature of their sin than those who see here a denial of God’s omnipotence.* The words have been also most aptly applied to those unbelievers who said, “How can this Man give us His Flesh to eat?”* and then to the heretics of a later day,* acknowledging one Baptism for the remission of sins, but denying the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, Another acute criticism of Gerhohus deserves citation. (G.) He observes that two objections have been brought against the order of events in this Psalm; first, that the literal manna preceded the striking of the rock; and next, that the institution of the Holy Eucharist preceded the issue of water from Christ’s side. He replies that the Prophet has done it rightly, because the Passion, whose power and virtue underlie the Sacrament, and give it efficacy, began before the Last Supper, because the Betrayal had taken place, and the horror of the Agony was drawing near; and Christians now must be baptized into the Passion and Death of Christ before they can approach to feed on His Flesh and Blood at the Holy Altar, the Table which He has prepared for His people in the wilderness of this world. Yet another interpretation may be added, taking the words of those who disbelieve in the full remission of sins. They allow that God can touch a hard heart, and dissolve it into tears of remorse; they doubt His power to strengthen the penitent in perseverance, and to feed his soul with divine grace unto the end.

21 (22) When the Lord heard this, he was wroth: so the fire was kindled in Jacob, and there came up heavy displeasure against Israel.

22 (23) Because they believed not in God: and put not their trust in his help.

For He was wroth, (C.) the Vulgate reads He delayed. And they explain it that in His longsuffering He deferred the punishment deserved, nay, even heard their petition. And this longsuffering of the Lord is most plainly evident, observes the Carthusian, under the New Law. (D. C.) Heathen philosophers knew somewhat of God’s majesty; Jews knew His righteousness, but only Christians know His patience. (L.) So the fire was kindled in Jacob.* They take it literally of the burning at Taberah when the people complained, and then of avenging wrath in general. (R.) But Remigius and Richard of Hampole agree in seeing here the fire of appetite kindled in the hearts of the murmurers by their own act, on account of which displeasure came up, so as to reach the very chief of the people. The English hermit continues his explanation by pointing out that when Jacob (that is, all Christians bound to wrestle against sin,) is kindled with earthly passion, then wrath ascends upon Israel, on those priests and prelates whose duty it is to warn and correct by precept and example.*In His help. The A. V. more correctly, agreeing with the LXX. and Vulgate, In His salvation: and thus the words tell us of that day when the firebrand of the Roman soldier caught the golden window of the Temple,* and the doom of Israel was accomplished because it believed not in God’s Salvation, the Crucified Son of David. Cardinal Hugo explains this whole passage,* like the previous verses, as referring to the impugners of the Holy Eucharist; and the Carthusian takes it of all sinful Christians, (D. C.) unrepentant even when the Church has been scourged by infidels, heretics, and tyrants, for their sins.

23 (24) So he commanded the clouds above: and opened the doors of heaven.

This, (C.) observes Cassiodorus, is one of the parables and hard sentences of the Psalm, and denotes the command given to the clouds, His preachers, to declare, through the Holy Scriptures, (D. C.) which are the doors of heaven,* the advent of the Saviour, Who comes to be received as the Manna of our souls, in the mystery of Communion. They take the clouds also of the Angels, employed as messengers of the Incarnation, as when S. Gabriel came to Nazareth, and the heavenly host appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and the doors of heaven are then explained as the mouth of the Apostles, opened to preach Wisdom, or, more literally, as denoting the everlasting doors lifted up to allow the egress of the angelic herald. And Rupert beautifully explains these doors of the body and soul of the Virgin Mother of God. The Lord opened her soul to receive His command in faith, and her womb that His Only-begotten might come forth:

Tu Regis alti janua

Et porta lucis fulgida;*

Vitam datam per Virginem

Gentes redemptæ plaudite!

24 (25) He rained down manna also upon them for to eat: and gave them bread from heaven.

25 (26) So man did cat angels’ food: for he sent them meat enough.

The Greek Fathers remind us that the literal manna is said by Christ not to have come from heaven,* when the Jews quoted this very text:* “Verily, (Z.) verily,* I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven,” and that manna is called Angels’ food, not because the Angels eat of it, but because they ministered it. And the Chaldee Targum, paraphrasing thus, “food which came down from the dwelling-place of Angels,” (D. C.) partly supports this teaching. The Latin Fathers, however, seasonably remind us that Christ, the true Manna, is rightly called Angels’ food, because the heavenly powers derive their life and vigour from contemplating Him in open vision. So S. Peter Damiani:

Where the Sacred Body lieth,* eagle souls together speed,

There the Saints and there the Angels find refreshment in their need,

And the sons of earth and heaven on that One Bread ever feed.

How Christ is fitly compared to Manna, we may read in the eloquent words of the Carmelite. (Ay.) “As the manna came down like dew or rain, so Christ descended upon earth into the Virgin like the rain into a fleece of wool. As the manna was like coriander seed, a fragrant herb, so Christ was the fruit of the Blessed Virgin, a sweet and fruitful plant, as she herself rightly speaks,* As the vine brought I forth pleasant savour.’ It is said to have been white, because of His purity, which He ever retained, for ‘He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.’ It is said to have been beaten in a mortar, because of the pains which He endured. Its taste was like honey, because of His spiritual sweetness. And it is particularly stated that the children of Israel gathered it every day except on the Sabbath. Where note, that the six days wherein it was gathered denote our toilsome life in this world, and by the Sabbath we understand that blessed life which is free from labour. So long as we live in this world, then, we need this spiritual food of Christ’s Body. Therefore It is daily sacrificed in the Church, and is received for the support of devout believers. Wherefore It is that daily bread for which we daily ask, saying, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ But in the life of blessedness, there will be no need of this Sacrament, because we shall see Him as He is. Therefore it is said, that the manna was not gathered on the Sabbath, but that a double portion was gathered on the sixth day, to signify that this food, given to the righteous at their end, not merely increases their merit, but leads them to the kingdom. And it seems wonderful that all meted the same measure, so that he who gathered much had no more, and he who gathered little, no less; which figured that in the Sacrament whole Christ is contained in the whole, and the whole in each part, so that he who receives an entire Host, receives just as much as he who takes a part, and conversely.* It is said to have been collected to the amount of an omer, which is a measure of three pints, to denote that we have to take account of three things in that Sacrament, to wit, the Body, Soul, and Divinity, which are united. And observe, that the children of Israel said, when they saw that food, Man hu, which is, being interpreted, What is this? For if we ponder on what this Sacrament contains, we shall find many wonders, surpassing all natural thought.” To set down here all that Saints of old have loved to say on this great mystery, (A.) in hymn, and liturgy, and comment, would be impossible. Enough, if we cite a very few. Thus, in accordance with that belief expressed by so many Saints, that the Angels throng round the Altar when the Holy Sacrifice is being offered,* we have the Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn from the ancient Church of Jerusalem:

King of Kings,* yet born of Mary, as of old on earth He stood,

Lord of Lords, in human vesture,—in the Body and the Blood,

He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way,

As the Light of Light descendeth from the realms of endless day,

That the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged Seraph, Cherubim with sleepless eye,

Veil their faces to the Presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry,

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Lord Most High!

They tell us, (Cd.) too, of the purity and holiness, like that of Angels, which befits those who would receive that Food, even Him Who feedeth among the lilies. “Hadst thou the purity of Angels,* and the holiness of S. John the Baptist,” says one whose golden words have strengthened countless devout souls, “thou wouldest not be worthy to receive or handle this Sacrament. For it is due to no human merits that man may hallow and touch the Sacrament of Christ, and take the Bread of Angels for his food.” The word which all the old Versions agree in rendering Angels is, more literally, mighty ones. Fitly is that meat called “the food of mighty men” which strengthened so many athletes in the arena of martyrdom, which gave women and children the valour of heroes, so that of their last struggle they might say,

O that Bread! that Bread of Angels!

O that Corn of mighty men!

Never, never had we tasted

Of its mightiness as then!

He sent them meat enough. The LXX. agreeing with modern critics, translate by ἐπισιτισμόν, food for the journey, a fitting name for the mystic food, whether as the cake baken on the coals of bitter suffering,* in the strength of which Elijah went through the wilderness forty days and forty nights unto the mount of God, typifying the pilgrimage of all Christian souls, or as the viaticum in that yet more awful journey when the soul goes forth alone. The Vulgate reads cibaria, in the plural,* and Rupert reminds us, that though Christ be the One Bread, yet as He gives Himself freely like the rain, in all lands and nations and countless churches, we may well say foods, (D. C.) multiplied as He is unspeakably to be the nourishment of His people. (B.)

O esca viatorum,

O panis Angelorum,

O Manna coelitum,

Esurientes ciba,

Dulcedine non priva

Cor te quærentium.

Enough, for all, and that to the end of the world.

26 (27) He caused the east wind to blow under heaven: and through his power he brought in the south-west wind.

In the first clause S. Jerome’s version reads, (Ay.) He took away the east wind, that is,* made it cease to blow, in order that the westerly wind from the Red Sea might bring over the quails from Africa. And it is explained mystically of God sometimes punishing man by taking from him the wholesome but painful wind of discipline, (Cd.) and giving him the softer but dangerous airs of temporal prosperity.* Another interpretation sees here the rejection of the Jewish people, and the bringing in the Gentiles in their room. (D. C.) The Vulgate reading, transtulit, is explained by the Carthusian to denote the sending forth preachers, whom the winds typify, through the world; the south wind (Vulg. Auster) denoting the most saintly and lofty teachers of the Gospel, and the south-west wind a lower and less mystical class.* Cardinal Hugo, keeping still the Eucharistic Sacrifice in view, understands here the breath of the Holy Spirit effecting the consecration, and the attendant ranks of angels which accompany the rite.

27 (28) He rained flesh upon them as thick as dust: and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea.

Flesh, (B.) in that He taught them the doctrine of the Incarnate Word; and that like dust, either because He was light in arising, because of His holiness, and free from all the waters of sin, or because He was humbled even to the dust for our sakes. Feathered fowls.* Cardinal Hugo explains it of the Angels who bore the soul of Christ from heaven to earth at the Incarnation. (G.) Gerhohus takes it of the winged words of doctrine, clean or unclean, according as they are Catholic or heretical. Ayguan, (Ay.) interpreting the flesh as bodily troubles, takes the fowls to be spiritual consolations, arising up from those very troubles, and bearing our souls upwards towards God. Another will have it that both clauses denote earthly pleasures:* the flesh which brings us to the dust; the frivolous enjoyment, which, uplifting us for a brief moment, brings at last to barrenness and bitterness, denoted by the sand of the sea. Once more, the feathered fowls have been explained in a good sense, as contemplative Saints, friends of God, (D. C.) whom He rains upon the Church to be the pastors of souls.

28 (29) He let it fall among their tents: even round about their habitation.

Their tents, (Z.) implying the general diffusion of the gift throughout the host of Israel; their habitation, showing that each person in the camp had his own private share. Thus it tells us of the Flesh of Christ given to the Churches at large, and also to be the food of individual Christians. Their tents, again, (D. C.) as so often, denoting the militant Saints of active life; their habitation the stiller retreat of the contemplative, both filled alike with the bounty of God.

29 (30) So they did eat, and were well filled; for he gave them their own desire: they were not disappointed of their lust.

They remind us that in the eagerness of the Jews for earthly food,* and the full contentment of their longing, we may see the Christian desire for spiritual delights, and especially for Communion with Christ in His own Sacrament. He gives them Himself, the Desire of all nations; He does not disappoint them, for He is more than they can imagine or hope.

30–31 (31) But while the meat was yet in their mouths, the heavy wrath of God came upon them, and slew the wealthiest of them: yea, and smote down the chosen men that were in Israel.

Not in the mouths of the elect, (D. C.) but of them who eat unworthily, into whom Satan enters, as he did into the traitor Judas, and of whom the Apostle says, “Whosoever shall eat this bread or drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.”*And slew the wealthiest of them. The A. V. more exactly reads, as does the Vulgate, the fattest of them. That is, continues the Carthusian, He slays spiritually them who receive Christ carnally, by taking from them charity and grace. For, as the Apostle says,* “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body.” And smote down (Vulg., hindered) the chosen men that were in Israel. He excluded those who seemed to be eminent in the Church from entering the heavenly kingdom, because of unworthy communion; for the word chosen does not always in Holy Writ imply election to everlasting life.* The slaying applies sometimes even to temporal chastisements, since the Apostle adds to the previous sayings, “For this cause many are weak and sickly amongst you,* and many sleep.”

32 But for all this they sinned yet more: and believed not his wondrous works.

33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity: and their years in trouble.

They refer the words in the first place to the evil report brought back by the spies, (Ay.) and to the consequent reluctance of the Israelites to attempt the conquest of Canaan; (P.) followed as it was by the punishment of the forced wandering in the desert, till all the adults save Caleb and Joshua were consumed in vanity, that is, cut off in the vain and endless toil of the wilderness; thus losing, as Parez adds, the hope revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of being buried in the land where Messiah should make His grave,* that they might share in His Resurrection; a hope which induced Joseph to command the removal of his bones from Egypt.* In trouble. The LXX., Syriac, and Vulgate read with speed. And they explain it of the sudden judgments which fell on them, as in the matter of Korah, and of the fiery serpents, (Ay.) Exactly like this was the unbelief of the Jews in the time of Christ, refusing to believe, though they saw so many signs and wonders wrought by Him. Wherefore it is said,* “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: that the saying of Esaias the Prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?”* They preferred to go back into the Egypt of the carnal and ceremonial law, (P.) and their doom is to perish in the spiritual wilderness, finding no entrance into the rest of the people of God. (z.) Vanity and speed are rightly conjoined here, remarks Euthymius, because all who live easy and frivolous lives find the years pass swiftly by them; while those who labour intently in the paths of virtue find their time long by reason of their toil.

34 When he slew them, they sought him: and turned them early, and inquired after God.

“God,” observes Lactantius, rebuking the heathen,* “passes away most readily from men’s recollection, just when they ought to give honour to Divine mercy, as enjoying His bounties. But if any heavy trouble come upon them—if the terrors of war resound—if deadly pestilence brood over them—if long drought deny sustenance to the corn—if wild storms or hail come upon them—they have recourse to God; they ask His aid; God is besought to help.… They never remember God save when they are in distress; but when fear is over and perils are gone, then they hurry eagerly to the temples of the gods. To these they make libations and sacrifices, and offer crowns. But God, Whom they besought in their need, they do not thank by so much as a word.”

Here, too, a false repentance is set before us. They sought Him, (Ay.) not for the sake of eternal life, (A.) but fearing to end the vapour too soon. It was not they whom He slew that sought Him, but those who feared to be slain in like manner. But the Scripture speaks thus because they were one people, (G.) and it is spoken as of one body. Early, like hirelings obliged to come at a fixed hour, but not like men ready to endure the burden and heat of the day, far less to persevere until the evening, like that true labourer of God of whom it is written, “Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour, until the evening.”* And inquired after God. The Vulgate reads, came unto Him. How may this be? asks Gerhohus. Is He, Who is everywhere, to be approached on foot, in chariots or on horses, in ships, or any like means? Nay, only by the movements of the heart can we come to God or depart from Him.

35 And they remembered that God was their strength: and that the high God was their Redeemer.

It would not be said here,* tersely remarks a Saint,* that they remembered, (P.) if they had not first forgotten. Their strength, or, as LXX. and Vulgate, their helper, against Amalek, their redeemer from Pharaoh. Where note that the title Redeemer is here given to the Father, (C.) as it is also in another place to the Son,* “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed;” and in a third passage to the Holy Ghost, “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death;”* wherefore the attributes of power and redemption are common to the Holy Trinity. Moreover, the Son is our Helper, (B.) by co-operating with our good works, as He was our Redeemer on the Cross.

36 Nevertheless, they did but flatter him with their mouth: and dissembled with him in their tongue.

37 For their heart was not whole with him: neither continued they steadfast in his covenant.

The old Versions, (Ay.) yet more forcibly, read, They loved Him in their mouth. This false love, offered to Him before Whom all the secrets of the heart are bare, endured till the time of Christ. Wherefore He Himself saith, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,* This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.”* Isaiah foresaw, comments S. Hrabanus, the deceits wherewith the Jews should craftily war against the Gospel, and he speaks in the person of the Lord. For they honoured Christ with their lips when they said, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth;”* but their heart was far from Him, when they “sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words.”* And if we take the passage to refer to false Christians, especially to the traitor Apostle, we may dwell on the reading of the Illyrian Psalter, They kissed Him with their lips. Their heart was not right, remarks Gerhohus, (G.) precisely because it was not with Him. And they were not steadfast in His covenant, (P.) because they failed to keep the precepts of the Law, even under the terrible sanctions of the blessings and curses.* Nor were they faithful in the inheritance of the New Testament, (A.) faith in which, though veiled, was found amongst the elect even then; and now that it is revealed, it is not found in many of the called. A German commentator sums up this verse with a quaint old Teutonic saw:

Lieben ohne Treu,*

Beichten ohne Reu,

Und beten ohne Innigkeit,

Die drei Ding sind verlohrne Arbeit.1

38a (38) But he was so merciful, that he forgave their misdeeds: and destroyed them not.

38b (39) Yea, many a time turned he his wrath away: and would not suffer his whole displeasure to arise.

God is merciful to both good and bad, “for He maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, (Ay.) and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust;” and this as regards temporal blessings. But this is the mercy of His left hand, not of His right; temporal, not spiritual; since it is common to good and bad. In this wise God was merciful to that nation, in that He did not root it out from the earth, as it deserved. The spiritual mercy, that of His right hand, whereby sins are remitted and eternal blessings are conferred, is quite other. That He did not bestow on that evil generation, for the greater part of them perished in the wilderness, for murmuring and rebelling against God. Therefore, when it is said that He forgave their misdeeds, it is not to be understood of their evil fathers, but of the children who succeeded them, such as David, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Daniel, and other righteous men, to whose misdeeds God was merciful when they sinned, as clearly appears in the case of David. And destroyed them not. It is well said, many a time.* Once He spared them at the intreaty of Moses, (L.) after the sin of the Golden Calf;* a second time at Taberah; thirdly,* when Aaron stood with his censer between the living and the dead; fourthly, by means of the brazen serpent; fifthly, by suffering the younger generation to enter Canaan. (G.) And even when the sins continued, He reserved the root of the tree whose branches He lopped, (B.) from which shot forth the Apostles and the first company of believers, (R.) not suffering His whole displeasure to arise. Even still He holds to His pledge, keeping a remnant of the Jews undestroyed, that they may turn at the last to Christ.

The Doctor of Grace warns us that this text has been abused by those who, (A.) desirous of continuing in sin, exalt God’s mercy at the expense of His justice. But, rejoins he, if, to speak in their own words, God will perhaps not destroy even bad men, He will certainly not destroy good men. Why then do we not rather choose that wherein there is no doubt? For they that lie to Him in their tongue, while their heart holds somewhat else, think and wish even God to be a liar, when He threatens them with everlasting punishment. But as they do not deceive Him with their lie, so He does not deceive them with His truth.

39 (40) For he considered that they were but flesh: and that they were even a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Two things are set before us here:* God’s clemency, for He considered; and man’s wretchedness. The latter is twofold. He is but flesh, and therefore liable to sin. He is a spirit that passeth away from God and holiness,* and has no power to come again; as it is written, “None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.”* No power of himself, (A.) doubtless, adds S. Augustine, but he can be called back by grace. And that fitly; for man, who fell at another’s tempting, (G.) may well be restored by another’s help. But he who fell by his own pride may rise again, if he can,* with no helper; but because he cannot, he may be styled as truly as man is (nay, more truly) a spirit that passeth away, and cometh not again, even as the Truth said unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan.”* It was not said to him, as in the Song of Songs to the faithful soul, the Bride of God, “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.”* And the words are also a terse definition of death, telling us how the spirit passeth away from this world, and cometh not again, (Ay.) but leaves the flesh here behind.

And what’s a life? a weary pilgrimage,

Whose glory in one day doth fill thy stage

With childhood, manhood, and decrepit age.*

And what’s a life? the flourishing array

Of the proud summer meadow, which to-day

Wears her green blush, and is to-morrow hay.

And what’s a life? a blast sustained with clothing,

Maintained with food, retained with vile self-loathing,

Then, weary of itself, again to nothing.

40 (41) Many a time did they provoke him in the wilderness: and grieved him in the desert.

Already, (Ay.) when they were but in the second year of their wanderings, God complained that they had tempted Him “ten times;”* and it may thence be gathered how often they did so during the eight and thirty years which followed. The ten occasions were—(1) Murmuring at the three days’ thirst,* after the passage of the Red Sea; (2) Complaining for lack of food; (3) The second demand for water, at Rephidim; (4) The Golden Calf; (5) The demand for flesh-meat; (6) The attempt to return into Egypt after the report of the spies; (7) The mutiny after the death of Korah; (8) The complaint because of the judgment of the mutineers; (9) The third demand for water, at Kadesh; (10) The revolt at Mount Hor, punished with fiery serpents. The place where they committed their sin was an aggravation of it, because it was precisely in the wilderness, with no human help near, (G.) that they ought to have felt most dependence on and trust in God.* The words hold true still of all who are far from the spiritual Church,* wandering in the wilderness of their sins, in the dry place unwatered by the streams of grace.

41 (42) They turned back, and tempted God: and moved the Holy One in Israel.

Turned. Whence and whither? From good to evil. Moved. The LXX. and Vulgate read exasperated. But the A. V. reads limited, that is, set bounds to His omnipotence. The Hebrew is הִתְווּ, the Hiphil of תָּוָה, which is properly “to mark with a Thau,” the sign of the Cross. Hence the Targum explains the passage signed Him with a sign, which Delitzsch adopts in the sense of casting a stigma on Him.* Most of the old Versions and of modern critics agree with the Vulgate,* taking תָּוָה in the sense of the Syriac ܬܘ݀ܐ; but Gerhohus,* keeping to the hint given by the Chaldee, boldly paraphrases, (G.) They crucified the Holy One in Israel; (L.) and thus limited Him, the Omnipresent, to the narrow bounds of the Rood.

42 (43) They thought not of his hand: and of the day when he delivered them from the hand of the enemy.

43 (44) How he had wrought his miracles in Egypt: and his wonders in the field of Zoan.

So, (Lu.) too, bad Christians have thought not of His hand, nailed for them on the Cross, that day when He delivered them, after having wrought His miracles in the darkness of this world, of which Egypt is the type, (R.) and shown His wonders in Zoan, the “low estate” of His humble Manhood, the “lowliness” of His Maiden Mother, the mean origin of His princes, the Apostles.* Hereupon there follows a list of plagues sent on the Egyptians, agreeing in number with those recorded in Exodus, (A.) but differing in details and order. The three omissions are the lice, the boils, and the darkness; the additions are the caterpillar or “blight,” (Vulg. ærugo,) the frost, and the hot thunderbolts—a special agent of destruction, and not a mere accompaniment of the storms. (L.) Lorinus applies here the canon of S. Jerome, that when in Holy Writ the topic is the praise of God, the historical order is frequently departed from, and a rhetorical one adopted instead, inverting the sequence of events. The actual order of the ten plagues may be recalled by Cardinal Hugo’s mnemonic verses:*

Sanguis, rana, cyniph, muscæ, pecus, ulcera, grando,

Bruchus, caligo, mors, invaluere necando.

44 (45) He turned their waters into blood: so that they might not drink of the rivers.

The especial appropriateness of the plagues which fell on the Egyptians to the circumstances and the religion of the country, (A.) has often been dwelt on. Their mystical import has not been less discussed. The first plague, of blood, is thus interpreted as the punishment for breach of the first Commandment, denoting, as it does,* the change of men’s thoughts from pure and lofty ideas of God to carnal and animal ones, leading to debased idolatry. (Ay.) Again, it is taken as the token of Divine anger for the decree enjoining the drowning of the Hebrew infants. Rupert combines these two ideas,* explaining the passage of idolatrous persecutors, who shed the blood of the Saints, and whose punishment is to be blood-drinking, not for one or two days, but a whole week, that is, through eternity. Cardinal Hugo takes it in two ways: first, of those who give themselves up to flesh and blood, so that all things turn into condemnation for them; and secondly, of the tasteless water of the old Law, changed into the Blood of the New Covenant, ruddy from the veins of Christ.* Once more, another mediæval writer speaks thus: “There is a conversion of water into blood, but that is confined to the Egyptians. There is another conversion of water into wine, but that is at a marriage. And there is a. third conversion, of wine into blood, but that is in the Lord’s Supper.* The first conversion, of water into blood, is said to mean that the water of deadly wisdom, the wisdom of this world, the prudence of the flesh, turns into blood; that is, into death for them who walk according to the flesh. For the prudence of the flesh is death, and the wisdom of the flesh is at enmity with God. The Prophet, censuring men of this stamp, saith, ‘What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink muddy water?1 or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?’* For all earthly wisdom, whereof the Egyptians (the friends of this world, God’s enemies) drink, is hateful to God. Therefore the water of Egypt is that which is turned into blood, because its blood is on them who drink it. The second change is of water into wine, and this seems to denote conversion, to wit, of fear into the love of righteousness. This change takes place at a marriage, because the Church is betrothed to God in faith and righteousness, that righteousness which is of faith in Jesus Christ. The third change, of wine into blood, is when righteousness so delights the soul, that one is ready to contend for it unto blood and death; and this is the perfection of righteousness.”

What is this silent might,

Making our darkness light,*

New wine our waters, heavenly Blood our wine?

Christ, with His Mother dear,

And all His Saints, is here,

And where they dwell is Heaven, and what they touch, divine.

45 (46) He sent lice among them, and devoured them up: and frogs to destroy them.

The A. V. here, instead of lice,* reads divers sorts of flies, which represents a reading suggested by S. Jerome in the LXX., κοινόμυιαν,* instead of the usual one, κυνόμυιαν or dog-fly. The Hebrew word is עָרֹב, a mixture; and the very ancient tradition mentioned in the Book of Wisdom, and accepted by Josephus, R. Jonathan, R. Aben Ezra, and R. Ishaki,* alleges the plague to have been not of flies, but of wild beasts. Gesenius, however, giving the sense of to suck to the radical עָרַב, follows Bochart in accepting the LXX.* interpretation, which is also that of the Roman, Gallican, Arabic, and Illyrian Psalters. S. Isidore, holding this view, urges that the fly, as a restless insect,* was the fit punishment for restless and unquiet minds; and the Carmelite adds, that the dog-fly aptly denotes the animal passions and pursuits of the Egyptians. So far back as Origen’s time the text was applied in this sense against the Cynics. (Ay.) S. Augustine notes the fact that dogs are born blind,* so that they cannot see their parents; (A.) and Rupert, therefore, takes this, the fourth plague,* as punishment for breach of the fourth Commandment, (according to the Latin reckoning,) which extends,* the Gloss tells us, to those who despise the prelates of the Church. Frogs denote talkative vanity,* especially, as some will have it, (B.) the idle fables of heathen poetry and philosophy; and thus the peril of sins of the tongue is pointed out,* in particular those committed by heretics in their resistance to the Gospel, (D. C.) by the word destroy. S. Gregory Nyssen, however, takes frogs,* as denizens of the mud, to denote persons of voluptuous and self-indulgent life, whom the very waters do not cleanse. Ayguan expands this idea, taking the frogs to mean the three chief sins of the modern world, pride, luxury,* and avarice.* The frog dwells in foul and muddy waters, (Ay.) which denote luxury. Next, the belly of the frog is far larger than any other part of its body, and keeps close to the ground; thus signifying those who are greedy of earthly riches. Thirdly, the frog advances by leaps; and this is a type of those who attempt to lift themselves to high position by a sudden bound, unwilling to pass by the true mean of the middle space, whereby honour is won. Wherefore of these three sins it is said, “I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon.”*

46 (47) He gave their fruit unto the caterpillar: and their labour unto the grasshopper.

The LXX. reads ἐρυσίβη, or blight, with which the Vulgate arugo agrees. (A.) Aquila and S. Jerome have bruchus,* and the probable meaning of חָסִיל is the wingless locust, or the larva of the locust. The blight, says a Saint, is hidden sin, and particularly the sin of self-sufficiency, which kills the soul when it seems to be healthiest, The grasshopper, or rather the locust, observes S. Augustine, is malice hurting with the mouth, that is, with false witness. And Rupert, taking the same view, teaches that it especially denotes the false witness of heretics, saying, that as the locusts were carried into Egypt, not by their own flight, but by a wind, so those who quote Scripture against the truth are not borne, as they suppose, on the wings of knowledge, but by the wind of spiritual pride, to the subversion of their hearers, (C.) and their own destruction.* And others refer the term chiefly to envious detractors. (D. C.)

47 (48) He destroyed their vines with hailstones: and their mulberry-trees with the frost.

“By this plague is shown,” says the Carmelite,* “how God alarms the life of the evil by the words of His preachers, (Ay.) and calls them back to grace. Wherefore Gregory saith, By hail or snow, cold and hard,* we understand the hearts of the evil. But since Almighty God chooses His Saints from such, and knows well how many elect He possesses who are as yet exposed amidst the life of the evil, He fittingly describes Himself as having His treasures in snow and hail. These elect He brings out at His command, and by heavenly grace makes them white with the purity of righteousness. Saul was hail and snow at first by his cold insensibility; but he was made to be snow and hail against the breasts of his adversaries, by the whiteness of his righteousness and by the smiting of his vigorous speech. O what a treasure God had then in snow and hail, when the Lord saw him, His secretly elect, living in the life of evil! O what hail was that He took in His hand to smite full many a breast of the adversaries, hail wherewith He laid low so many hearts that resisted Him! Let no man, then, be uplifted because of his own works, nor despair of them whom he sees to be still cold, because he does not see the treasures in the snow and hail.” The Lord destroys vines with hailstones when He strikes at carnal pleasures with the wise sayings of preachers. Others, following S. Augustine, take the verse in a bad sense, (A.) of the sins of violence and coldness. (D. C.) So the tyrannical and rapacious, while oppressing others, slay their own souls, and destroy their own former good works with the frost of hatred and ill-will, which is iciness of the soul.* The Vulgate for vines reads vineyards, and then we may take the vineyard to be the Church, and the mulberry-trees its Priests; for they should bear fruit, at first white in purity of life; then red, in fervour of charity; and lastly black, in mortification of the flesh. Of these it is written, “To the end they might provoke the elephants to fight, they showed them the blood of grapes and mulberries.”* Frost, arising from the waters, is the love of riches, which is fatal to the priesthood; and hail denotes their quarrels and dissensions.

48 (49) He smote their cattle also with hailstones: and their flocks with hot thunderbolts.

“By the death of beasts,” remarks S. Augustine, (A.) “was typified, so far as I can judge, the loss of chastity. For concupiscence, whereby offspring ariseth, we have in common with beasts. To have this, therefore, tamed and ordered, is the virtue of chastity.” By the death of irrational cattle, (Ay.) consequently, the fate of those is denoted who live like beasts, not restraining their unlawful passions with the bridle of continence. Their flocks. The LXX. and Vulgate read,* their possession. And this possession, say they, is the orderly condition of the mind or soul, which is wasted with fire, (Vulg.) when delivered over to the flames of passion or luxury. (A.) S. Augustine, noting that this plague is not specified in Exodus, suggests that it denotes fierce anger, which may lead even to homicide.

49 (50) He cast upon them, the furiousness of his wrath, anger; displeasure, and trouble: and sent evil angels among them.

S. Augustine comments at much length on this passage, (A.) touching the punitive ministry of good and evil angels, pointing out that both have great sway over the powers of nature, and that evil spirits are sometimes permitted by God to exhibit this influence of theirs. They may tempt also, as in the cases of Job and Ahab; and may, as well as good angels, be employed as the executioners of God’s wrath. And he decides that evil angels were the instruments of the slaughter of the beasts and the first-born in Egypt, and also of the hardening of the Egyptian hearts, inasmuch as they were suffered to suggest sin to those whom God had forsaken because of their unbelief. But when God punishes the righteous with temporal penalties,* He does it by the hands of His good angels. The Greek Fathers, however, say that the angels are here called evil, (Z.) not by reason of their nature, but merely as bringing evils on the heads of sinners.

50 (51) He made a way to his indignation, and spared not their soul from death: but gave their life over to the pestilence;

51 (52) And smote all the first-born in Egypt: the most principal and mightiest in the dwellings of Ham.

The words He made a way denote that there could have been no approach made even to punish sinners, (C.) unless they were first deprived of the protection of God,* so that the enemy had power to hurt them. (G.) And that way was God’s hidden justice, whereby He might have chastised the Egyptians for the sin of their will; but He made that way broad and conspicuous, by permitting them to commit sins of act, drawing down fearful vengeance. Wherefore it is said that He spared not their souls from death, because He allowed those souls to sink into the death of sin even before He smote their bodies, giving their life over to the pestilence. The LXX. and Vulgate read this clause, And shut up their cattle in death. (B.) Literally, by the hail and murrain; spiritually, by slaying their virtues of meekness and obedience, (D. C.) and by eternal condemnation of their carnal desires and works.* And smote all the first-born in Egypt. (A.) They refer it to a mightier overthrow than that in the Book of Exodus—to the victory of the Incarnate Saviour over the devil and his angels,* and over the false teachers who are their allies.* And He has made us partakers of this victory by causing us also to renounce the devil, his pomps, and his angels. That, too, adds Rupert,* by slaying original sin, the parent of so many offences, after the immolation of the true Paschal Lamb. They point out also that the words denote the spiritual chastisement of unfaithful Christians, when God deprives them of His grace. For the first-born mean those things which claim the highest love and reverence, (C.) such as the two great commandments of love of God and love of one’s neighbour, or as faith and righteousness. (R.) Faith when formed is, as it were, the first-born of the soul, and God slays it when men persist in abiding in Egypt, the darkness of this world. (D. C.) The Carmelite is even more mystical in his view. Taking this plague as vengeance for breach of the tenth commandment, (Ay.) he says that they who covet, wish to be the heirs of those whose goods they desire, and therefore wish them to have no other heirs, no first-born. This is, in its degree, a sin like the slaughter of the Hebrew children: and God punishes it by slaying faith, the firstborn of spiritual works, in the souls of the covetous. The most principal and the mightiest in the dwellings of Ham. (L.) The LXX. and Vulgate read, The first-fruits of all their labour in the tabernacles of Ham. There is a contest between the commentators as to whether these words refer to children, to the fruits of the earth, (Lu.) or to the first-born of cattle. There is more agreement as to the mystical signification,* which is, (D. C.) that God slays the fervour of charity and the principal virtues in souls which persist in dwelling amongst the ungodly.

52 (53) But as for his own people, he led them forth like sheep: and carried them in the wilderness like a flock.

53 (54) He brought them out safely, that they should not fear: and overwhelmed their enemies with the sea.

He led them forth. The LXX. and Vulgate, (G.) more emphatically, He took them away. That is, (P.) away from the jaws of the lion and the wolf, from the power of the devil, from worldly conversation, from evil companionship, (D. C.) as He saith by Hosea, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death.”* And He hath elsewhere spoken of the elect, “Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”* This the Saviour doth whenever He pours the grace of conversion into man. (L.) There is a wild Jewish legend that a sheep appeared of a sudden to the people of the Exodus, spoke with human voice, and pointed out the way; and that these words of the Psalmist refer to that event, true enough in a higher sense. Ayguan’s gloss, (Ay.) that they recall the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb, which opened the road from Egypt, may be mentioned, but will hardly be adopted. (D. C.) And carried them. The A. V., better, guided them, as the Good Shepherd, in the wilderness, of this world’s exile, whereof the forty years’ wandering was a type, like a flock, because of the unity of that Church which He founded,* and that flock one of sheep, because the sheep, (Ay.) by their inoffensiveness, their patience, their silence, (D. C.) and their usefulness to man, aptly signify devout and faithful souls, which their Shepherd feeds with the priceless food of His own precious Body and Blood. Safely. The LXX. and Vulgate read, In hope. Rightly,* for hope is the chariot whereon God brings His elect to Himself across the wilderness of penitence, as Joseph sent for Jacob. The hope of the Israelites was the Land of Promise, ours is the better Country. (A.) We are being led home in hope, “for by hope we are saved.”* That they should not fear. It is written in the Book of Exodus, that when Pharaoh pursued the children of Israel,* “they were sore afraid.” R. Kimchi answers that their fear lasted but a moment,* and was calmed by the words of Moses, “Fear ye not; stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” Ayguan’s reply is, that there are two kinds of fear:* one which causes abandonment of a plan, (Ay.) and the other which is less effective; and that only this slighter fear affected the Israelites. (D. C.) And then it is taken of the constancy of Martyrs and Confessors in resisting suffering, losses, and temptations, because of the hope within them.

Fides spe corroborate,

Caritate radicata,*

Fulget in martyribus,

Corda Deo præparata,

Passione sociata,

Præstant sacris legibus.

And overwhelmed their enemies with the sea, (C.) by destroying our ghostly foes, (R.) and blotting out our sins in the cleansing waters of Baptism.

54 (55) And brought them within the borders of his sanctuary: even to his mountain which he purchased with his right hand.

The borders. So the Hebrew and S. Jerome. (L.) But the LXX. and Vulgate read, The mountain of His sanctification, not improbably from the copyists of the former confounding ὄρος and ὄρος. The words imply first the entrance into Canaan generally, and then the special conquest of Jerusalem itself. And the mountainous character of Palestine, especially on its Lebanon border, enables some of the commentators, though following the Vulgate text, to give this true explanation. Others apply the first clause to Jerusalem, whose “foundation is upon the holy hills,” (C.) and the latter to Mount Sion, or Moriah,* whereon the Temple stood. The mystical interpretation presents no difficulty.* The Church into which God leads His elect is mountainous,* because He hallows them by confession, praise, contemplation, and employment about heavenly things. The arrival at the borders denotes the life of less perfect Christians, the ascent of the mountain the victory of the Saints, of whom is written, “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, and who shall rest upon Thy holy hill?”* And this mountain He purchased with His right hand,* when He stretched that hand out to be nailed upon the Cross. Wherefore He says of this especial glory vouchsafed to His dearest ones, “Moreover, I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with My sword and with My bow.”*

55 (56) He cast out the heathen also before them caused their land to be divided among them for an heritage, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

Here, as so often,* they dwell on the seven Canaanitish nations as typical of the seven deadly sins, assigning them, however, somewhat variously; and show how every penitent soul is like Mary Magdalene, out of whom Christ cast seven devils. Less mystical, though not less true, is the gloss of Cassiodorus, (R.) that the words tell us of the disappearance of barbarous Pagan customs before the civilizing advance of the Gospel, (C.) whereby, as another points out, Christians now dwell in lands formerly occupied by idolaters. (D. C.) Caused their land to be divided. This clause is more fully expressed by the LXX. and Vulgate, (C.) He divided by lot to them in the line of distribution. Cassiodorus, agreeing herein with a suggestion of the Pseudo-Dionysius,* that lot sometimes means a splendour or appointment of the Spirit, takes these words to denote the various degrees of gift, reward, and beatitude in the kingdom of heaven.

In domo Patris

Summæ majestatis

Ecce sunt pulchræ

Mansiones multæ,

Quæ sunt certantum

Pro virtute tantum

Ac triumphantum.

By lot, because it is not of man’s judgment,* but by the election of God; (B.) by lot, because it is a free gift of the Spirit,* and not of man’s purchasing, and in the line of distribution, that the exact limits of each virtue may be marked out, (Ay.) so that frugality may not narrow itself into covetousness, nor liberality expand into waste. Or, again, (B.) the line may denote the varying amount of grace and power given to each believer,* “according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (D. C.) Once more, the passage has been explained of the partition of the mission-field of the world amongst the Apostles, (A.) an event formerly celebrated in the Western Church by a special festival. And made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. S. Augustine, who explains the heathen to be evil spirits, takes these words to mean the exaltation of ransomed men to the thrones left vacant by the fall of the rebel angels; (D. C.) while others are content with seeing here, as in the earlier clause, the victory of Christianity over Paganism.* And it is also taken of heavenly virtues dwelling in souls once the habitation of evil thoughts, because “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”*

56 (57) So they tempted, and displeased the most high God: and kept not his testimonies;

57 (58) But turned their backs, and fell away like their forefathers: starting aside like a broken bow.

58 (59) For they grieved him with their hill-altars: and provoked him to displeasure with their images.

There are six distinct sins here enumerated.* Deceit, in tempting God; infidelity, in displeasing Him; omission of duty, in keeping not His testimonies; apostasy, in falling away; breach of promised vows, in likeness to a broken bow; idolatry, in the hill-altars and images. They all agree that the broken bow refers to faultiness of will, as the bow is the intention, of which the practical issue is the arrow. (B.) The A. V. reading, a deceitful bow, is the true rendering; and the meaning is therefore that of feebleness and laxity in spiritual things, when there is no real elasticity in the soul, sufficient to project a prayer or a good work as far as the mark, and therefore failing in the time of need. (Z.) Euthymius, dwelling on the LXX. word στρεβλόν, crooked or twisted, explains it of a will which is not straight and honest, and which therefore cannot send the arrow in the right line, though it may do so with sufficient force. (A.) The Latin Fathers, for the most part reading a perverse bow, explain it of a weapon turned against its owner,* rather than against his enemies. And it is thus taken especially of evil-living preachers, whose denunciations of sin recoil on their own heads. So it is written,* “They return, but not to the Most High: they are like a deceitful bow.” (D. C.) And the hill-altars imply spiritual pride, which gives not God the glory, but exalts human merit;* while the images are any objects of love and admiration which are not given us by God, but framed by ourselves in our hearts, even if not endued with bodily form.

59 (60) When God heard this, he was wroth: and took sore displeasure at Israel.

60 (61) So that he forsook the tabernacle in Silo: even the tent that he had pitched among men.

He heard it, (Z.) as He heard the voice of Abel’s blood crying out, as He heard the voices of Sodom and Gomorrah. For sins cry out before God, and disclose their authors. And took sore displeasure at Israel. The LXX. and Vulgate, even more forcibly, And brought Israel exceedingly to nothing. Literally, in the first instance, by the successive overthrows and bondage He permitted them to endure; and later, spiritually, by the transfer of their privileges to the Gentiles. He forsook the tabernacle in Silo, when the Ark was captured in the days of Eli, (A.) and the tabernacle left empty. The Ark never returned to Shiloh again, and thus the vengeance which fell on that guilty city is cited as a warning to Jerusalem: “Go ye now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My Name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel.”* Mystically,* they take it first of the rejection of the whole Jewish nation; (D. C.) then of the Christian Church, when punished for its sins; and finally of our bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost,* forsaken by God when He leaves the soul, in displeasure at a carnal life. “Wherefore is added, Even the tent that He had pitched amongst men. It is not said, observes Gerhohus, that He dwelt in walls, but in men. (G.) For God, Who is a Spirit, dwells not in habitations made with hands, but in rational spirits; for which reason, they who worship Him must worship in spirit. But He chooses to have temples or tabernacles made with hands, wherein He may be served by men, whose minds He inhabits by faith working through love. And if this faith and love be quenched in men, He cares little for the mere walls of temples, however beautiful and costly. Thus He abandons heretics, who break away from the unity of the Church, in whose bodies and souls He had once dwelt through faith. Wherefore, (R.) adds another commentator, it is needful to bear in mind that saying, “Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these.”* There remains one mystical sense, yet more profound, which is strangely omitted by all the commentators. It is the reference to Him of Whom the dying patriarch spake by the name of Shiloh,* Who was sent forth from the Father when “the Word was made flesh,* and tabernacled among us.” Because of our sins, which He bore in His own Body on the tree, He was forsaken in His last trial by His Father, so that He cried, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Then, far more truly than when the Ark was taken, or the Temple spoiled, was that fulfilled which follows:

61 (62) He delivered their power into captivity: and their beauty into the enemy’s hand.

Into captivity, in the garden, and in the grave; into the enemy’s hand, when Judas betrayed, and Pilate condemned, and death seized Him; their Power,* because “the Arm of the Lord;” their Beauty, because He is “fairer than the children of men.” They take the passage otherwise,* and variously. Some explain it of the Ark, (A.) the power in which the Jews trusted for victory, (G.) the beauty which they had adorned with cost and skill.* Others understand here the bravest and goodliest of the youth, (Ay.) slain in the battle with the Philistines at Aphek; and again in the slaughter and captivity of a far later age, under Titus and Hadrian. Mystically, it is interpreted of those who, by boasting of their own good works,* suffer the enemy to rule over their souls, and thus deliver up that holiness which was their power and beauty into his hands.* Or it may denote the soldiers of the Church, especially bishops and priests, (D. C.) giving their bodies, which are their power,* up to sin, while their souls, their true beauty, also become the slaves of their ghostly foes. Our power and beauty,* observes another, (R.) are our baptism and other divine graces, which we lose when we think we can be saved by faith alone, without good works as its fruit.

62 (63) He gave his people over also unto the sword: and was wroth with his inheritance.

The LXX. and Vulgate read, yet more strongly, He shut up His people in the sword. (Ay.) And they point out how complete was this chastisement; for not only was there a terrible slaughter at the time, but “there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:* but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.” An earlier book tells us how vigilantly this mode of repression was carried out. “Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?”* Nor was it less strict later; for “there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan; but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.”* Mystically, adds the Carmelite, (Ay.) God shuts up His people with the sword whenever He suffers any to be overcome by the temptation of the devil. For the sword denotes evil counsel. But note, that this cannot be without our own consent. Wherefore Gregory shows in that saying in Job,* “The sword drawn, and coming out of the sheath,* the devil lays his snares for the righteous, but while he is plotting evil in his thoughts, the sword is in its sheath; and while he is carrying out his wicked scheme, then the sword is being drawn from the sheath, because the evil deed discloses the hidden thought. And observe that it says, “drawn and coming out of the sheath;” drawn by the seducer, but coming forth by our own will. The Carthusian, writing when the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre was still a lingering hope of Western chivalry and religion, takes the passage to denote the slaughter of Christians in the Holy Land by the Saracens, permitted for their sins, (D. C.) because God was wroth with His inheritance.

64 The fire consumed their young men: and their maidens were not given to marriage.

65 Their priests were slain with the sword: and there were no widows to make lamentation.

They take the fire mystically of carnal passions, (Ay.) working more fatal results than the sword and brands of the Philistines. (D. C.) Given to marriage. This, though a paraphrase, is the most probable meaning of the Hebrew הוּלָּלוּ, were praised, to wit, in the bridal songs. The LXX. and Vulgate, however, refer it to the funeral ode, and translate, were not lamented. (Ay.) And they explain it that sin had grown to such a height, (D. C.) that there was no compassion felt for those who had forfeited their purity, but rather admiration for such as showed most openly their want of it. (A.) Others, more literally, (C.) refer the words to the number and frequency of the slaughters, which left neither time for solemn rites, nor persons to perform them.* Philip de la Grève explains the young men to mean constancy of mind, and the maidens purity, which are most abundant when the soul is guarded with devout prayer, and is kept apart from bodily pleasures, which two conditions are typified by the priests and the widows of the latter verse. But when prayer and continence disappear, then constancy and purity fail also. Their priests were slain with the sword. The words refer first to the death of Hophni and Phinehas,* and then, mystically, (G.) to all clerks and religious persons who fail either in soundness of doctrine or holiness of life. (D. C.) They are slain with the sword of God’s “Word, proceeding out of their own mouths as they preach. And there were no widows to make lamentation. Literally, the text refers to the death of Phinehas’* wife in childbirth. Widows and maidens are taken of Religious women. The Vulgate reads, were not lamented. (G.) Gerhohus, very boldly, explains it that devout persons, in times of great spiritual coldness, are slow to lament over the loss of mere physical purity on the part even of Religious, because there is a possibility of such a terrible fall rousing them to true repentance and zeal; while, if they possess that one merit, and no other, they may trust in it to their destruction, and be counted amongst the foolish virgins, (D. C.) who took no oil in their lamps. The Carthusian, conversely, takes these latter words to mean that coldness had spread so widely, that no one was found to weep for those living in carnal sin, of whom the Apostle says, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”*

65 (66) So the Lord awaked as one out of sleep: and like a giant refreshed with wine.

First, and most truly, it is spoken of that Lord Who awaked—what time His priests of the elder Law had spiritually died by their sin against Him—out of His sleep of three days in the grave,* refreshed with the strong wine of the Cup of His Passion, which He had drunk to the very dregs. Giant He, as the noble old hymn calls Him:

Geminæ Gigas substantiæ,*

Alacris ut currat viam.

He awaked, then, (G.) at the cry of Samuel and His other faithful servants lamenting that the Ark was carried captive into idol temples. He awakes in anger still when His priests, through neglect of godly discipline, give His Sacred Body, the Ark of the New Covenant, to unworthy communicants, the shrine of whose hearts is full of earthly idols.

66 (67) He smote his enemies in the hinder parts: and put them to a perpetual shame.

Literally,* the text refers us to the diseases which He sent on the Philistines so long as they retained the Ark. Mystically, the Fathers of Nicæa explain it of the evil powers,* behind whom the Lord came in the might of His Resurrection, and gave them over to everlasting reproach. He still smites His enemies in the hinder parts when they look back on things behind, (A.) and that after putting their hands to the plough,* either by giving them up to their sins in the latter part of their life here, and suffering all those little suggestions of the evil spirits, which are like mice, to devour them, or by final condemnation in the end of the world, (C.) which is, in fearful truth, perpetual shame. (G.) Ayguan discusses at much length,* and with illustrations borrowed from his classical lore, (Ay.) the three motives which cause men to smite—corrective love, hostile anger, and judicial punishment, of which the first and third alone can be predicated of God.

67 (68) He refused the tabernacle of Joseph: and chose not the tribe of Ephraim;

68 (69) But chose the tribe of Judah: even the hill of Sion which he loved.

He does not say that He refused the tabernacle of Reuben, (A.) nor the others of Judah’s elders; for it might be replied that they deserved such rejection, as they were rebuked by their dying father for their sins. Nor does He speak of rejecting Benjamin, whence a king had already sprung; but those are named who seemed to excel in merit. For Joseph fed his father and brethren in Egypt, and after being wickedly sold, was justly exalted, because of his piety, chastity, and wisdom; and Ephraim was preferred before his elder brother by his grandfather Jacob’s blessing: and yet God refused the tabernacle of Joseph, (Z.) (for Shiloh lay in the territory of Ephraim,) and chose not the tribe of Ephraim. We learn herein the rejection of the whole Jewish people, which looked for mere earthly rewards, and the election of the Gentiles in their stead; not because of merit, but of grace.* And as Joseph denotes increase, and Ephraim means fruitfulness, (G.) so these words teach us that God does not choose the powerful and wealthy of this world, as it is written, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.”* He chooses Judah, which means praise, or as the old commentators take it, confession, denoting those sinners who acknowledge their own weakness, and give Him the glory. So Peter attained to the blessing of Judah, when he confessed Christ. As to the one was said, “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise,”* so to the other was spoken,* “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Of Judah was said, “Judah is a lion’s whelp; he stooped down, he couched as a lion.”* And to Peter was signified by what death he should glorify God, that is, girt by another, and with hands extended on the Cross, dying as Christ the Lion, and Lion’s whelp died, to whom Peter was made like in death. But one thing which is said of Judah far surpasses the person of Peter, “Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee,”* which saying pertains especially to Christ, the only Man to be worshipped amongst men. The name Judah befits not Peter only, who confessed the Rock, but all God’s elect, who believe with the heart unto righteousness, and make confession with the mouth unto salvation. So the Lord chooses the tribe of Judah out of the mass of the ungodly.* The more obvious references, to the Davidic descent of Christ, and to the chief manifestations of His miracles in Jerusalem, are not forgotten by the expositors. The Carmelite mentions a Hebrew legend to account for the preference of Judah, that when Moses began the passage of the Red Sea, the Israelites all hung back in fear, till Amminadab, (Ay.) Prince of the house of Judah, set them the example of boldly entering the waters. Mount Sion, “expectation,” is the Church Militant which He loved, as it is written by the Apostle, “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it.”*

69 (70) And there he built his temple on high: and laid the foundation of it like the ground which he hath made continually.

The LXX. and Vulgate read, He built His holy thing as of a unicorn1 upon the earth, (C. which He founded for evermore.* The words as of a unicorn denote that Christians uplift the strong horn of their faith to the One God, the Undivided Trinity. Holy thing (ἁγίασμα, sanctificium,) they take diversely. First of that “holy thing”* born from the earth of Virgin flesh, (G.) but set up above the heavens for evermore. Then it is taken of the Body of the Head, of that Church, the Sanctuary of God stablished on the earth in the hearts of the faithful and bound together in the unity of the Spirit, (C.) so as to have “One Lord, (G.) one faith, one baptism.”* They dwell also on some of the supposed characteristics of the unicorn, (Ay.) such as his solitary habits,* and repulse of all other beasts from his den, which they explain of the law forbidding a stranger to minister in the Temple,* and of Solomon’s peaceful rule over the neighbouring peoples. The love of the unicorn for chastity, so that he can be captured only as he sleeps in the lap of a virgin, is a myth of which another commentator here avails himself;* and a third sees in the strength of the single horn the firm union of faith and charity, based on belief and worship of One God, (B.) and growing up towards heaven. The Æthiopic Psalter, nearly agreeing with modern critics in reading, He built His tabernacle in heaven on high and founded it on the earth for evermore, gives a far truer and deeper meaning than these quaint fancies. For that Sanctuary which is alike in heaven above and on earth beneath, is the Only-begotten Son, God and Man at once, and that for evermore, because of the indissoluble hypostatic union of the Two Natures in His Person.

70 (71) He chose David also his servant: and took him away from the sheep-folds.

Though the words are spoken of Christ, (A.) yet He is called here servant, and not Son. And that because the nature which was taken of David was not that Substance which is co-eternal with the Father, but the “form of a servant.”* And took Him away from the sheep-folds, exalting Him to the throne of glory, (C.) after He had fulfilled His office, as the Good Shepherd upon earth. Or, as others will have it, taking Him from the Jewish nation, the “few sheep in the wilderness,”* lost ones of the house of Israel, to whom He was first sent, (G.) and giving Him the wider and more glorious rule over the Gentile Church.

71 (72) As he was following the ewes great with young ones he took him: that he might feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.

Great with young, (R.) because Christ did not ascend until His Church began to be fruitful in faith and good works; great with young, even under the Jewish Law, for many zealous and just ones were found in it ready to bear fruit, of whom three thousand on one day and five thousand on another, shorn of their fleeces by abandoning their old habits and possessions, (G.) came up from the waters of Baptism at the call of Peter. (C.) That He might feed Jacob His people, militant here on earth, and Israel His inheritance, the Church Triumphant in heaven, looking ever on His Face. (R.) Others see in Jacob a type of the Jewish Church, in Israel of the Christian; and yet another interpretation is that Jacob is the faithful, but yet imperfect Christian, engaged in wrestling with his sins and overthrowing them,* while Israel is he who has attained to the peaceful contemplation of God. (Ay.) The Carmelite, eagerly searching out every point that may suggest his Lord, tells us that there are eight marks of a good shepherd. He must have bread in a wallet, a dog in a string, a staff with a rod, a horn and a pipe. The bread is the Word of God. The wallet is remembrance of that Word. The dog signifies zeal, which the shepherd should have for the Lord’s house, that he may drive wolves thence with the holy barkings of sound preaching and unwearied prayer. The string which leads the dog, is moderation and discretion in zeal. The staff is comfortable exhortation, to support the weak, and console them lest they fall in time of trouble. The rod is lawful power, to correct the restless. The horn, by whose alarming sound warriors are roused to battle, is the awful threat of hell, at which Christ’s soldiers gird themselves with the spirit of might to war against soft sins. The pipe, with its sweet notes, denotes the pleasantness of everlasting bliss, which the faithful Shepherd sweetly and oft-times chants in the ears of His flock. It is thus that God chose David to feed Jacob His servant.

72 (73) So he fed them with a faithful and true heart: and ruled them prudently with all his power.

The A. V., nearer at once to the Hebrew and to the Vulgate, reads, So He fed them according to the integrity of His heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of His hands. Truly in the innocency of His heart, (A.) for in Him was no spot of sin, He fed them with the Word, (C.) even with Himself, and in the skilfulness of His hands,* because He wrought in wisdom all the works whereby He taught His people what to choose and what to shun. (L.) Or, more touchingly, when He, in His dying hour, like His ancestor, “guiding His hands wittingly,”* suffered them to be nailed upon the Cross, it was that He might guide us, according to that lovely reading, in the glory of His hands. Thus He leads His people from passive innocency of heart,* which He gives them by purifying their souls, on by skilfulness of hands in every good work, (B.) till He brings them into the eternal pastures:*

Bone Pastor, Panis vere,*

Jesu nostri miserere,

Tu nos pasce, nos tuêre,

Tu nos bona fac videre

In terrâ viventium:

Tu qui cuncta scis et vales,

Qui nos pascis hic mortales,

Tuos ibi commensales

Coheredes et sodales,

Fac sanctorum civium!


Glory be to the Father of David; glory be to the Son, Who is David; glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who is the abundance of the pastures of David the Shepherd.

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


Almighty God,* most bountiful provider, refresh us with the food of spiritual manna; that guided by the skilfulness of Thine hands, we may glory at Thy right hand in the mountain Thou hast purchased. Through. (1.)

Almighty,* Incomprehensible, and Merciful Lord, Who destroyest not sinners so often as they grieve Thee by their offences, set mercy before Thy wrath; and as often as we provoke Thee to smite, so often let Thy loving-kindness cause Thee to forgive. Feed us, then, with the Bread of Angels; that receiving its might, we may overcome the wily craft of the evil one, and through Thine aid enter through the open gates of heaven into the number of its citizens. (11.)

O Lord Most High,* be Thou our Helper, that by the abundance of Thy might, we may be filled with comfortable strength, and by the overflowing bounties of Thy grace, may be enriched with the gifts of freedom. (11.)

O God,* Who givest the Bread of Heaven to the sons of men; and feedest an earthly being with the fatness of Angels, grant us the abundant corn of Thy Word, and refresh us with that spiritual food wherewith Thou didst nourish our fathers in the wilderness. (11.)

O Lord,* we who set our hope in Thee, forget not Thy works, for Thou art wonderful in Thy Saints with righteousness and mercy, and terrible amongst the ungodly, in that Thou bestowest seasonable remedies upon the righteous, and repayest the wicked the chastisements due to them. We therefore beseech Thee, most merciful God, that Thou wouldest enlighten with the light of Thy commandments them whom Thou savest from their cruel enemies, removing from them the waves of temptations, showing to them a path of safety, and refreshing them in this world’s wilderness with the Body of Thy Christ as their heavenly Bread. (11.)

O God, (D. C.) Who hast pity upon all, and ceasest not to receive with fatherly kindness them who return unto Thee; remember, we beseech Thee, that we are but flesh; and be ready to turn Thy wrath away, nor kindle all that wrath against us, but soften it, and vouchsafe us Thine unfailing grace. Through. (1.)

Christ the Lord,* Who was elected for our redemption by the Father’s counsel; taking flesh from the flock of mortals, feeding the Christian people, whether it be the Sup-planter of its sins, or with the soul the Beholder of God; in the goodness of His heart vouchsafe to feed His Church, abiding in His will, and set it in the heavenly Jerusalem. To Him be glory with the eternal Father, and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.


Gregorian. Thursday. Matins.

Monastic. The same.

Parisian. Wednesday. Matins.

Ambrosian. Tuesday of Second Week. II. Nocturn.

Lyons. Thursday. Matins.

Quignon. Tuesday. Matins.


Gregorian. As preceding.

Parisian. First portion: The children * which were yet unborn; to the intent that when they came up, they might teach their children the same; that they might put their trust in God. Second portion: He took away * His people like sheep, and brought them out in hope.

Monastic. Incline * your ear to the words of My mouth.

Ambrosian. As preceding Psalm.

Lyons. First portion: As Monastic. Second portion: He chose the tribe of Judah, even the hill of Sion, which He loved.

Mozarabic. Incline your car to the words of My mouth, * My people, hear My law.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 114

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 19, 2015

1. The river Jordan, when they were entering across it into the land of promise, when touched by the feet of the priests who bore the Ark, stood still from above with bridled stream, while it flowed down from below, where it ran on into the sea, until the whole people passed over, the priests standing on the dry ground.1 We know these things, but yet we should not imagine in this Psalm, to which we have now answered by chanting Allelujah, that it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, that while we call to mind those deeds of the past, we should not consider things like unto them yet to take place. For “these things,” as the Apostle saith, “happened unto them for ensamples.”2

2. “When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among the strange people” (ver. 1), “Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion” (ver. 2); “the sea saw that and fled, Jordan was driven back” (ver. 3). Think not that past deeds are related unto us, but rather that the future is predicted; since, while those miracles also were going on in that people, things present indeed were happening, but not without an intimation of things future.… Some things he has related differently to what we have learnt and read there: that he might not truly be thought to be repeating past acts rather than to be prophesying future things. For in the first place, we read not that the Jordan was driven back, but that it stood still on the side nearest the source of its streams, while the people were passing through; next, we read not of the mountains and hills skipping: all which he hath added, and repeated. For after saying, “The sea saw that, and fled; Jordan was driven back:” he added, “The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like young sheep” (ver. 4): and then asketh, “What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest: and thou, Jordan, that thou wast driven back?” (ver. 5). “Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like young sheep?” (ver. 6).

3. Let us therefore consider what we are taught here; since both those deeds were typical of us, and these words exhort us to recognise ourselves. For if we hold with a firm heart the grace of God which hath been given us, we are Israel, the seed of Abraham: unto us the Apostle saith, “Therefore are ye the seed of Abraham.”3 … Let therefore no Christian consider himself alien to the name of Israel. For we are joined in the corner stone with those among the Jews who believed, among whom we find the Apostles chief. Hence our Lord in another passage saith, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd.”4 The Christian people then is rather Israel, and the same is preferably the house of Jacob; for Israel and Jacob are the same. But that multitude of Jews, which was deservedly reprobated for its perfidy, for the pleasures of the flesh sold their birthright, so that they belonged not to Jacob, but rather to Esau. For ye know that it was said with this hidden meaning, “That the elder shall serve the younger.”5

4. But Egypt, since it is said to mean affliction, or one who afflicteth, or one who oppresseth, is often used for an emblem of this world; from which we must spiritually withdraw, that we may not be bearing the yoke with unbelievers.6 For thus each one becometh a fit citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, when he hath first renounced this world; just as that people could not be led into the land of promise, save first they had departed from Egypt. But as they did not depart thence, until freed by Divine help; so no man is turned away in heart from this world, unless aided by the gift of the Divine mercy. For what was there once prefigured, the same is fulfilled in every faithful one in the daily travailings of the Church, in this end of the world, in this, as the blessed John writeth, last time.7 Hear the Apostle the teacher of the Gentiles, thus instructing us: “I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples.”8 What more do ye wish, most beloved brethren? For it is surely clear, not from human conjecture, but from the declaration of an Apostle, that is, of God and our Lord: for God spoke in them, and though from clouds of flesh, yet it was God who thundered: surely then it is clear by so great testimony that all these things which were done in figure, are now fulfilled in our salvation; because then the future was predicted, now the past is read, and the present observed.

5. Hear what is even more wonderful, that the hidden and veiled mysteries of the ancient books are in some degree revealed by the ancient books. For Micah the prophet speaketh thus. “According to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things, etc.9 … In this Psalm, therefore, although the wonderful spirit of prophecy doth look into the future, yet it seemeth, as it were, to be merely detailing to the past. “Judah,” he saith, “was His sanctuary: the sea saw that and fled:” “was,” “saw,” and “fled,” are words of the past tense; and “Jordan was driven back, and the mountains skipped, and the earth trembled,” in like manner have a past expression, without, however, any difficulty in understanding by them the future.… For though it was so long after the departure of that people from Egypt, and so long before these seasons of the Church, that he sang what I have quoted; nevertheless, he witnesseth that he is foretelling the future without any question. “According to the days,” he saith, “of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things.” “The nations shall see and be confounded.” This is what is here said, “The sea saw that, and fled:” for if in this passage, through words of the past tense the future is secretly revealed, as is the case; who would venture to explain the words, “shall see and be confounded,” of past events? And a little lower down he1 alludeth more clearly than light itself to those very enemies of ours, who followed us flying, that they might slay us, that is, our sins, which are overwhelmed and extinguished in Baptism, just as the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, saying, since “He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He is of good will and merciful, He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us, He will drown our iniquities: and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

6. What is it, most beloved? ye who know yourselves to be Israelites according to Abraham’s seed, ye who are of the house of Jacob, heirs according to promise, know that even ye have gone forth from Egypt, since ye have renounced this world; that ye have gone forth from a foreign people, since by the confession of piety, ye have separated yourselves from the blasphemies of the Gentiles. For it is not your tongue, but a foreign one, which knoweth not how to praise God, to whom ye sing Allelujah. For “Judah” hath become “His sanctuary” in you; for “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and by circumcision of the heart.”2 Examine then your hearts, if faith hath circumcised them, if confession hath cleansed them; in you “Judah” hath become “His sanctuary,” in you “Israel” hath become “His dominion.” For “He gave” unto you “the power to become the sons of God.”3 …

7. But I would not that ye should seek without yourselves, how the Jordan was turned back, I would not ye should augur anything evil. For the Lord chideth those who have “turned” their “back” unto Him, “and not their face.”4 And whoever forsaketh the source of his being, and turneth away from his Creator; as a river into the sea, he glides into the bitter wickedness of this world. It is therefore good for him that he turn back, and that God whom he had set behind his back, may be before his face as he returneth; and that the sea of this world, which he had set before his face, when he was gliding on towards it, may become behind him; and that he may so forget what is behind him, that he may “reach forward to what is before him;”5 which is profitable for him when once converted.…

8. “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (ver. 7). What meaneth, “at the presence of the Lord,” save at the presence of Him who said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”6 For the earth trembled; but because it had remained slothful, it was made to tremble, so that it might be more firmly fixed at the presence of the Lord.

9. “Who turned the hard rock into standing waters, and the flint stone into springing wells” (ver. 8). For He melted Himself, and what may be called His hardness to water those who believe on Him, that He might in them become “a fountain of water gushing forth unto everlasting life;”7 because formerly, when He was not known, He seemed hard. Hence they who said, “This is an hard saying, who can bear it?”8 were confounded, and waited not until He should flow and stream upon them when the Scriptures were revealed. The rock, that hardness, was turned into pools of water, that stone into fountains of waters, when on His resurrection, “He expounded unto them, commencing with Moses and all the prophets, how Christ ought to suffer thus;”9 and sent the Holy Ghost, of whom He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”10

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 107

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 17, 2015

This post needs some editing.

This Psalm, though separated from its immediate predecessor in the Hebrew distribution of the Books of the Psalter, is closely related to it and to the 105th in scope and diction. Its language points clearly to the end of the Babylonian exile, and yet there is a certain vagueness of expression, a lack of direct statement either of absolute deliverance, of the restoration of the Temple worship, or of the name of Jerusalem, which so far militates against its character as a post-Captivity Psalm, that some critics have denied it any specific historical character, and regard it as little more than generally didactic. There is one item of internal evidence which is tolerably conclusive against a post-Captivity date, which is that in the third verse, where the four quarters of the horizon are named, the sea stands for the south, a sufficiently correct description of the Persian Gulf for an inhabitant of Babylon, but impossible to a Jerusalemite speaking of the Mediterranean, always the sea in Palestinian language. It would seem then that the present Psalm is a hymn of thanksgiving composed for the use of the synagogue in Babylon, after the decree of Cyrus had been promulgated, and while the exiles were gathering together from all quarters of his empire, probably at Babylon itself, for the homeward march of the first caravan under Zerubbabel. This hypothesis seems to reconcile the difficulties, and to account for the absence of any name for the city referred to in the fourth verse. Babylon itself, with its large Jewish population, and the regular services of the Great Synagogue, would seem almost home to the Jewish pilgrims from the borders of India, or the frontiers of Scythia, cut off as they had been from all religious fellowship with their people, and the worship they found there established would lead them to look onwards to a dearer and more sacred city, towards which they were at last, by Divine mercy, suffered to direct their steps.

1 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious: and his mercy endureth for ever.

The Holy Ghost begins the Fifth Book of the Psalter with praise,* and ends it with praise, because they who spiritually observe the Pentateuch of the Law shall, with the Angels, praise God for evermore. These three Psalms (105, 106, 107.) begin in the same fashion, for the three orders in the Church praise in like manner the Holy Trinity. The first, personifying both peoples (Jewish and Christian) sings of the Advent of Christ, and afterwards of the blessings of the faithful, which God conferred materially on the elder people, and spiritually upon the new. The second, personifying the Church, sings in confession of the sins of the Jews, telling of what the people in its unfaithfulness committed before Christ’s coming, and how, afterwards, in its unbelief, it repaid the Lord. The third, personifying the Church of the Gentiles, sings joyfully of how the merciful Lord delivered the captive bondsmen out of the hands of the enemy, and the Good Shepherd gathered His scattered sheep from many lands into one flock.

2 Let them give thanks whom the Lord hath redeemed: and delivered from the hand of the enemy;

3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west: from the north, and from the south.

In this Psalm we have set before us four temptations, (A.) four invocations, four deliverances in answer to these, (R.) four acknowledgments of the mercies of the Lord. The first temptation is error and lack of God’s Word; the second is the difficulty of overcoming the passions of former habit; the third is weariness and disgust at the Word of God; (Lu.) the fourth is storm and peril in the guidance of the Churches. And while the primary reference is to the release of the children of Israel from captivity, (Ay.) and to their assembling to the Holy City from their various places of exile, yet a wider gathering, a greater redemption, the overthrow of a more formidable enemy, (R.) is spiritually foretold. It is the redemption with the Precious Blood of Christ from the dominion of Satan, the gathering of the Catholic Church out of all nations of the world, from the rising of the sun, the Jews, on whom God had bestowed the dawning light of knowledge of the Law, the actual presence of the Sun of Righteousness Himself, to the sunsetting, the Gentiles lying in actual darkness and ignorance; from the cold north of sin and carelessness as to religion, to the bitter and stormy sea of passionate unrest, into the one fold where He cherishes the wanderers. And we can use in our day with yet more effect Tertullian’s argument that the Christian faith is the only one which can make its way and win disciples everywhere;* “In whom else have all nations believed, save in Christ Who now hath come? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, and the inhabitants of Pontus and Asia, and Pamphylia, the sojourners in Egypt and the part of Africa which is beyond Cyrene, the citizens and strangers at Rome, the Jews too and other nations in Jerusalem, the various tribes of the Getulians and borders of the Moors; all the limits of the Spains, and divers tribes of the Gauls, and the regions of Britain untrodden by the Romans, but now subdued to Christ, and the lands of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and Scythians, and many hidden races and provinces and many islands unknown to us, which we are utterly unable to enumerate, in all which places the Name of Christ has already found its way and reigns.” (L.) But the song which befits this “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues,”* who “shall come from the east and the west and from the north and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God,”* is only for the redeemed, for those who know themselves to have been led captive by the enemy, and “sold under sin,”* but now to be “redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the Precious Blood of Christ.”* Those who choose to abide in the prison of their sins, and they who do not confess that they need a Saviour, must be silent when this chant is raised, when “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.”*

4 They went astray in the wilderness out of the way: and found no city to dwell in;

The Targum restricts the historical sense of this verse to the forty years’ wanderings of Israel in the desert of Sinai,* while the Greek Fathers extend it to the sufferings of the later Jews in exile after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests,* and to the toils of their homeward journey.* But the deeper meaning tells us of those who wander in the wilderness of this world, (A.) unwatered by the rivers of grace, by the rain and dew of the Holy Ghost, (C.) by the tears of penitence, who have strayed far from the Way,* which is Christ, and have lost the track which leads to the Heavenly Jerusalem.* The words hold good especially of all such as are selfishly intent on themselves alone, and thus, disregarding all social claims upon them, (L.) separate themselves not only from the fellowship of the Saints, but from all intercourse with others whom they may help, or who may help them. Such as these find no city to dwell in, they are at war with society, and alien from the example of Him, the Way, Who taught in the streets of Judea, and they have no peace here, since, as the Preacher saith, “The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the City.”*

5 Hungry and thirsty: their soul fainted in them.

“Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”* And observe that the words imply eager longing,* and cannot therefore be applied to such as are content to remain in ignorance. Rather we may take them of those Gentile philosophers, (Ay.) notably Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who laboured diligently to find the truth,

And reasoned high

Of providence,* foreknowledge, will, and fate,

Fixed fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute,

And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.

Of good and evil much they argued then,

Of happiness and final misery,

Passion and apathy, and glory, and shame,

Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy.

Wherefore their soul fainted in them,* not because God was hard and stern, but that in His love He suffered them to fail, that they might call to Him in their need, and hearing His reply,* “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved,”* they might learn to love their Helper.

6 So they cried unto the Lord in their trouble: and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He led them forth by the right way: that they might go to the city where they dwelt.

What counsel loosed them from such difficulties and straits,* from wandering, from the wilderness, from that sore drought? O wondrous thing! one cry sent up to God from the heart,* changed all for the better. “Truly,” as one has wisely said, “troubles are the spurs to make us run to God.” And observe, remarks a third Saint, they did nothing whatever but cry, exactly as they had done in Egypt; (A.) they performed no admirable actions, they merely called with their whole heart, and told their trouble plainly out to God, and at once their trials vanished, and the sorely needed help was given. And we may well believe that the prayer of many a Gentile,* crying in the night, like Cornelius, through the prevenient grace of God, (L.) went up in this manner, that the preachers of the Gospel might come over and help them.* He led them forth by the right way; by the way of holiness and truth, (C.) by the personal guidance of the Lord Jesus Himself, (L.) and by the teaching of the Apostles. (A.) He did not merely show them the way, as one might point out a distant city from the summit of a lofty mountain, so that the wayfarer might miss the track when he descended into the plain, but He led them forth, and was Himself the guide and pattern of their journey, as well as their Teacher. And observe it is said by the right way. A sage once said to a king, who desired to avoid the toil of study, that there is no royal road to mathematics; the Evangelists and Apostles tell us, in the clearest language, that there is no crooked road to heaven. If the way be not straight, it leads not thither, for the one use of that way is that fallen men may recover Paradise, may once more go to the city where they dwelt, for “here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”*

8 O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness: and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men.

The goodness (LXX. and Vulg., mercies) of the Lord denotes that He has called us to the Faith, (D. C.) that He has waited patiently for us, that He has lovingly converted us, freely justified us, made us to advance in holiness, and to persevere in good. The wonders are His Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, mission of the Holy Ghost, and all the miracles He hath wrought Himself or by the hands of His servants. (C.) These ought to be the theme of thanksgiving in private, of proclamation in public, for they are not meant for a single nation, but for all the children of men. This intercalary refrain recurs four times in the Psalm,* at the eighth, fifteenth, twenty-first, and thirty-first verses. A mystical reason is given for the three former collocations, that as the eighth Beatitude re-echoes the first, so the eighth verse repeats the praise of the opening words of the Psalm; the number fifteen suggests the Psalms of Degrees, the steps of ascent to Heaven, and twenty-one denotes the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit bestowed by the Holy Trinity. And we may add, in the same strain, that thirty-one denotes the final reward of heaven, that which remains over and above for those who have fulfilled the moral law of the Decalogue in faith, hope, and charity. Or again, keeping the same thought in mind, we may note that Joshua did not finally conquer Canaan till he had overthrown and slain one and thirty kings.*

9 For he satisfieth the empty soul: and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

This is the second temptation from which God delivers,* by His second act of mercy,* delivering us from the habit of sin and the difficulty of doing well;* because there are many who, after being rescued from unbelief, (A.) are from evil habit unable to do right, because the embers of sin and the enticement of the flesh remain in them. The first reference is to the manna wherewith the Israelites were fed in the desert, a type of better things. (D. C.) The souls which were given over to idolatry were empty,* because God was not in them, and they were bare of grace and spiritual gifts. These He satisfies with repentance, a bitter but necessary diet, while He leaves cloyed and full ones to themselves, for “the full soul loatheth an honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”* He has something better than this in store, however,* as He hath said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, (D. C.) for they shall be filled,”* here but gradually and according to the needs and powers of this life, but perfectly and absolutely in their Country, for as much as each soul truly, earnestly, purely, and reasonably longs for, whether of grace here or of glory hereafter, so much does God freely bestow, according to the measure of each one’s capacity, till all are satisfied with the plenteousness of His house.*

10 Such as sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: being fast bound in misery and iron;

11 Because they rebelled against the words of the Lord: and lightly regarded the counsel of the most Highest;

12 He also brought down their heart through heaviness: they fell down, and there was none to help them.

The Chaldee paraphrast interprets these words of Zedekiah,* King of Judah,* a captive and blind; who, according to a tradition mentioned by S. Jerome,* was not only, as we read, chained with brazen fetters, but put into an iron cage at Riblah, and carried thence in the train of Nebuchadnezzar, like a wild beast, to Babylon, where, “bound in fetters, and holden with cords of affliction,”* he died after four years of suffering, into which hunger itself entered as an ingredient, because he lightly regarded the counsel which God sent him by the prophet Jeremiah.*

The words set us before us in type the condition of the Gentiles before the coming of the Lord, (C.) for they did sit in darkness, lacking the light of faith, and blinded by unbelief. And in using the word sit, the Psalmist points out that they had been for a long time in this condition. The shadow of death was the corrupt life of this world, a terrible picture of the death to come. They were fast bound, who were held entangled in the cords of sin under the rule of the devil. Beggary (Vulg. mendicitate) refers to the scarcity of good, the sorest penury of all, which afflicts, not the body, but what is far worse, the soul; (A.) and iron denotes the hardness of the sufferings,* and also the difficulty of breaking the chains of old habits of unbelief and sin. “I was bound,” remarks S. Augustine in his Confessions, “with no external iron, but by my own iron will.” Thus the whole passage may fitly be explained of the condition of sinners, who sit, because of their determined perseverance in wickedness, in darkness, as being either ignorant, or because “the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,”* so that “their foolish heart was darkened,”* in the shadow of death, as separated from God, who is the light and life of the soul;* fast bound in poverty, because lacking the power to do good, (Ay.) and in iron, because chained so as to be unable to flee from danger or evil, and that not because of any irresistible might in their enemies, but solely because of their own refusal to accept the light yoke and easy burden of the Lord, to give heed to His warnings and chastisements, and to listen to His preachers of righteousness and faith.* Thus He also brought down their heart with labour (A. V., LXX., Vulg.,) so that even the dungeon was not a place of rest, (Z.) but of toil,* in that the captives suffered as their fathers had done in Egypt; that is, bondage to Satan does not involve mere incapacity to do good, but the necessity of doing evil, and that at the cost of far more labour than God exacts from His servants.* And it is well added, there was none to help them,* none of the allies to whom Zedekiah looked, none of the false gods to whom his subjects prayed; for while we have Christ and His holy Angels to aid us in all things righteous, the devil and his agents, after luring men into sin, leave all the toil of it to them, as well as the remorse and punishment to come. Wherefore it is truly said,* “The wages of sin is death.” But when it is added, there was none to help them, that held good only so long as they continued to sit and keep silence. The moment they knelt in prayer, a Helper came:

13 So when they cried unto the Lord in their trouble: he delivered them out of their distress.

14 For he brought them out of darkness, and out of the shadow of death: and brake their bonds in sunder.

15 O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness: and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!

For this cause was He born, (D. C.) and came into the world, “to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house,”* “to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet unto the way of peace.”* And this He fulfilled in that He brought, (C.) leading with His own Hand,* and sending no messenger in His stead, men out of darkness into the clear light and true knowledge of God, out of the shadow of death, by showing them the glory of a holy life, and brake, not merely loosed, but brake, with speedy deliverance and irresistible might, (C.) their bonds asunder, by destroying the tyranny of Satan, and giving men instant power against evil habit, as he did to Levi the publican, who rose up at once at His call, and left everything behind to follow Him. Wherefore here follows the second exhortation to thanksgiving for so great benefits; and because of the magnitude of them, the Psalmist returns to amplify further what he has already spoken, and adds:

16 For he hath broken the gates of brass: and smitten the bars of iron in sunder.

Here we are taught that the obstacles in His way were no small ones. No slight doors, no slender cords held the captives prisoned, but gates of brass, and bars of iron. The use of these same words in describing the victorious progress of Cyrus, of whom the Lord saith, “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight, I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron,”* shows us that the primary reference here is to the strong fortifications of those great Eastern cities which formed the strength of the Babylonian empire, seemingly impregnable, but yet doomed to fall before an invader.1 And the citation (as it probably is) of the passage in Isaiah here,* makes in favour of the view that this Psalm was composed in honour of the decree of Cyrus in favour of the Jews.* The favourite interpretation of the passage is that which has fixed this Psalm tor the Matins of Easter Eve in the Ambrosian Use;* namely, that it tells of the victory over Death and Hell wrought by the Passion and Resurrection of Christ,* and of His bearing away with Him to Paradise the once imprisoned Patriarchs. And this idea is repeated in more than one hymn, as thus:

Saviour, for our warning seen,

Bleeding on that precious Rood,

If, while through the meadows green

Gently wound the peaceful flood,

We forgot Thee, do not Thou

Disregard Thy suppliants now.

Guide our bark among the waves,

Through the rocks our passage smooth,

Where the whirlpool frets and raves,

Let Thy love its anger soothe;

All our hope is placed in Thee,

Miserere Domine!

29 For he maketh the storm to cease: so that the waves thereof are still.

30 Then are they glad, because they are at rest: and so he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.

31 O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness: and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!

The Vulgate has kept much more exactly and happily to the original,* which runs:* He stayed the tempest into a gentle breeze, and the waves thereof were silent. And they tell us that God does this whenever He quells the violence of diabolic temptation and persecution, and sends in its stead the tender grace of the Holy Ghost, stilling all the tumult of the world and the wild commotions of the heart of man. Again;* they remind us of how often the power of the torments inflicted on the Martyrs was stayed, so that they felt no pain on the rack or amidst the flames, because God dealt with them (save in the matter of preserving the life of their bodies) as He did with the Three Children,* when He “made the midst of the furnace as it had been a moist whistling wind, so that the fire touched them not at all, neither hurt nor troubled them.”* Once more;* He stayed the rage of the heathen against the Gospel, by the might of the preachers of the Word, and converted their fierce passion into calm zeal, (Ay.) as He did with Saul of Tarsus, when his persecuting temper was changed into burning love for souls; for then, as on the Lake of Gennesaret, Jesus “arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”* He does the like too, (B.) when after bringing men through the storm of unwilling conversion, He grants them spiritual peace, following on repentance and amendment. Then are they glad, because the fierce billows are at rest,* and so He makes them enter into the haven of their desire. What that haven is, they describe variously.* One takes it to be the calm of prayer; another the Cross; a third the Church. The most frequent exposition of any is,* that it denotes tranquillity of soul; another again takes it of everlasting salvation, or of the Heavenly Country, reminding us that hell, depicted as the bottomless abyss, (W.) has no haven where anchor may be cast; but best of all is that simplest and fullest view which tells us that Christ is Himself the harbour of safety for all tempest-tossed souls;

Ipseque Portitor, ipseque Portus.*

“the Pilot and the Haven,”* as the Cluniac calls Him.*

O that men, (A.) For the fourth time the cry of thanksgiving goes up, and on this occasion with a twofold force; because the previous verses tell us of the total failure of human wisdom, and the gladness of unexpected deliverance from imminent peril.

Safe home, safe home in port!*

Rent cordage, shattered deck,

Torn sails, provisions short,

And only not a wreck;

But oh! the joy upon the shore,

To tell our voyage-perils o’er!

32 That they would exalt him also in the congregation of the people: and praise him in the seat of the elders!

The Chaldee paraphrases the former of these clauses as denoting the full assembly of the children of Israel, (C.) and the latter as the chair of the wise men, that is, the Sanhedrim, or sacred council. The more usual Christian exposition is nearly identical, for it takes the terms as signifying the laity and clergy. There are, however, two further comments; (B.) one, that the first half of the verse refers to the Gentile Church, and the second to the Jewish Synagogue, its elder in the knowledge of God.* Cardinal Hugo, dealing in his wonted fashion heavy blows at the secularity and nepotism of his time, draws another lesson from the Vulgate wording, Church of the commons (ecclesia plebis), and stall of the elders (cathedra seniorum), and bids us note that the Psalmist speaks of the commons, but says nothing of princes, because they are wont to exalt themselves instead of God, and that he speaks of the stall of the elders, because mere boys ought not to be promoted to cathedral dignities.

33 Who turneth the floods into a wilderness: and drieth up the water-springs.

34 A fruitful land maketh he barren: for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

At this point the tone and character of the Psalm changes,* and from the contrast between the sufferings of men and God’s mercy in deliverance,* the singer passes to the praise of the providential government of the world, and of the manner in which the Lord exercises His omnipotence by changing the condition of things, in proof of His sole Lord ship and mastery. And the first example given has most probably a direct reference to the destruction of the cities of the plain, so precisely does it answer to the twofold description of the surrounding country before and after that terrible visitation: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest to Zoar.”* Later, we read: “The whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim.”*

The mystical interpretation here usually found is the rejection of the Jewish people,* the drying up of the springs of spiritual grace,* the disappearance of the fruit of good works,* the cessation of prophecy, (A.) the overthrow of their national polity, the abolition of the Mosaic worship; and that because of the guilt of the Scribes and Pharisees.* For barren the literal rendering is saltness,* A. V. marg., or salt-marsh, LXX. ἅλμην, Vulg. salsuginem;* and one commentator tells us that this epithet here implies that the punishment of the Jews is meant as a condiment for our souls, to correct their folly and guard them from decay.* We are justly reminded by another that such judgments have not fallen upon the Jews alone, but that Christian Churches too have had their candlestick removed.* We know how Persia, once rich in Martyrs, how Egypt, the fruitful mother of ascetic saints, how Asia Minor, formerly diademed with a starry crown of famous Churches, have all bowed before the Koran; how the Church of Libya and Mauritania has left no trace behind; how the great Nestorian community, whose missions once stretched from Siberia to Ceylon, from Antioch to Pekin, has dwindled to a few scattered families; how the sun of the Faith in Japan set in blood; how Holland, and Scandinavia, and much of Germany, and Switzerland, and Scotland, have “forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,”* that cannot retain the great doctrines of the Christian Faith, but pass, by inevitable steps, from denial of the Church, to denial of her Founder; from insulting the Bride, to crucifying the Bridegroom afresh, and putting Him to open shame. And none can read the ecclesiastical history of these latter countries for the period immediately preceding the religious convulsion of the sixteenth century, without confessing that it was indeed for the wickedness of them that dwelt therein that God sent upon them that terrible disaster.

35 Again, he maketh the wilderness a standing water: and water-springs of a dry ground.

36 And there he setteth the hungry: that they may build them a city to dwell in;

37 That they may sow their lands, and plant vineyards: to yield them fruits of increase.

Here we have the other side of the picture, (A.) the calling of the Gentiles, and the spread of the knowledge of God throughout the earth,* as the waters cover the sea. It is not impossible that the literal reference may be to the resettlement of Canaan by the returning Jews, when the long deserted fields were again brought under tillage, the tanks, reservoirs, cisterns, conduits, and general system of irrigation put once more into working order, and, above all, Jerusalem itself rebuilt.* And this would seem to square with the primary and literal sense of certain prophecies of Isaiah. Mystically, (C.) they tell us that the standing waters are the fonts of Baptism, filled with calm pools for the laver of regeneration, or else resident pastors, as distinguished from the water-springs, which are the itinerant preachers of righteousness who go forth into heathen lands,* dry ground, where the rain of doctrine is unknown;* that the city is the Church, given as a home to them that hungered and thirsted after righteousness, where they may sow the land with the seed of the Word of God, and plant the vineyards of the local Churches, while they are engaged in raising up the walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Another interpretation, not very different, sees in the standing water Holy Scripture, made over to the Gentiles as a vast reservoir of spiritual wisdom, whence the springs, the preachers and expounders, derive those waters wherewith they irrigate the gardens of the Church, the souls of the faithful.* Yet again, it is explained, but less happily, of floods of penitential tears, and the whole passage is accommodated, by more than one writer, to the circumstances of the Religious Life.

38 He blesseth them, so that they multiply exceedingly: and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.

They multiply exceedingly in holiness and good works, and when this is the case with the teachers and pastors of the flock, (C.) God does not suffer their cattle,* that is, those simple and less cultivated souls to which they minister, (D. C.) to be made a prey of by heretical teachers,* whose surest wile to lead the uneducated astray is to point out the shortcomings of their lawful pastors. He does not suffer them to decrease; nay, He makes them to increase more than any others,* for “hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?”* “And base things of the world, and things which are despised,* hath God chosen.” He hath not made them less, because persons of no great ability are not worse off under the Gospel than they were under the sects of philosophy, but better, for God has a particular care for those on whom men look down, and finds work and dignity for them in His Church, because the heart is mightier than the brain, and love greater than faith, and hope, and wisdom. So we are taught by the beautiful legend of the eloquent Bishop, who doubted if a poor beggar who sat at the foot of the pulpit could understand the periods wherewith the preacher held and swayed the minds of his congregation, but who was instructed in a vision at night that he owed his very power, and the success which followed its exercise, to the beggar’s intercessory prayer on his behalf, which had gone up and been accepted at the throne of God.

39 And again, when they are minished and brought low: through oppression, through any plague, or trouble;

40 Though he suffer them to be evil intreated through tyrants: and let them wander out of the way in the wilderness;

41 Yet helpeth he the poor out of misery: and maketh him households like a flock of sheep.

After the Christian Church had been multiplied exceedingly from the Twelve and the Seventy into vast numbers of disciples, (Z.) it began to be minished and brought low in two ways; (Ay.) first, by persecution thinning the ranks sorely with martyrdom and with apostasies; and next, by internal heresies, (A.) schisms, and divisions; which sometimes, as in the days of Arian success, have reduced the Church to a few, and will do so again in the last days, during the manifestation of Antichrist. In periods of strife and unbelief such as these, He poureth contempt on princes,* (A. V., LXX., Vulg.,) because revolt against justly constituted authority, whether in Church or State, simply because it is authority, is one of the marks of the schismatic temper, and always goes hand in hand with false doctrine, though the rulers of the Church may indeed have earned that contempt by their luxury and worldliness.* Or, again, (L.) these words may bear a meaning closer to that of the Prayer Book version, and tell us of the manner in which God laughs to scorn the attempts of tyrants to uproot and extirpate His Church. Several of the commentators, while keeping with sufficient closeness to the main scope of this exposition, take the passage not as immediately descriptive of the Church weakened by heresy, (A.) but of the heretics themselves considered apart, (C.) and called few (Vulg.) not because of actual paucity of numbers,* but because of their spiritual unimportance as compared with the wide extent of the Catholic Church (an interpretation which holds good even for these days.*) And in that case the contempt poured on their princes will denote the constant multiplication of schisms from the sects founded by heresiarchs, whose influence is inadequate to retain permanent hold over their disciples; and to the low esteem in which the ministers of all such sects are sooner or later held by their flocks, who quickly learn that they have no Divine commission, and may therefore be treated as man’s servants, not as God’s ambassadors, (C.) inasmuch as by their departure from Catholic unity and tradition, (R.) and by their conflicting interpretation of Scripture, they cannot serve as leaders to the Land of Promise, but only wander out of the way in the wilderness. And in this wise, “He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged: He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.”* Yet even in such times of rebuke and blasphemy, (R.) God does not forget His suffering people, but makes the very prevalence of error a lesson of warning to them, that they may desire the true riches, after having had some experience of the poverty of schism, its few and feeble tenets, its meagre worship, its lack of depth and fervour; and then He makes their families like a flock, (A. V., S. Hieron,) because while His pastors sorrowfully look at the diminished number of the faithful, and lamenting over the seceders, say, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us;”* He answers on the other hand in words of encouragement, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.”* Thus, the conversion of Northern Europe repaired the breach made by the progress of Islam in Asia; thus, the missionary successes and the great Religious Houses of the tenth century counterbalanced the sin and ignorance of that truly Dark Age; thus the Martyrs who died on the Cross in Japan made reparation to their Lord for the sin of the European traders who trod that Cross under foot, that they might have licence to traffic with the heathen.

Two other expositions of the passage may be cited. One is,* that it is to a great extent a brief recapitulation of what went before, and describes the overthrow of the Jews by the Romans, and the substitution of the Gentiles in their stead as the spiritual children of God. The other sees in it the spread of the Religious Life, despite the fewness, obscurity,* and poverty of its followers; nay, the manner in which that very poverty served as the strength of the cloister, and multiplied Houses of many a famous Order throughout the wide pastures of the Church.

42 The righteous will consider this, and rejoice: and the mouth of all wickedness shall be stopped.

43 Whoso is wise will ponder these things: and they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.

The Psalmist, (C.) after describing the proud abettors of heresy, now returns to the lowly Catholics, whom in their poverty God, leaving the princes of the sects to their hunger, refreshes with heavenly aid.* And the preachers of righteousness, seeing the conversion of the nations brought about in this wise, rejoice, whereas the voice of unbelief, Jewish, sectarian, and infidel, is silenced, because unable to resist the mighty advance of the Word of the Lord.

Whoso is wise will ponder these things, (C.) and prefer to be ranked amongst the poor of Christ, than amongst the princes of the sects, and will rather choose to knock at the door of the King of Heaven than teach words which do hurt. And so humbling themselves they will understand, (A.) not their own merits, strength, or power, but that whatever good they possess is bestowed on them by the mercies of the Lord, Who led the wanderers into the right way; and fed the hungry; loosed and freed him who struggled against the force of sin, and was bound in the chains of habit; Who, sending the medicine of His Word, healed him who turned away from the Word of God and was at the point of death through weariness; Who calmed the sea and brought into the haven of rest him that was in peril amidst wrecks and storms, and set him amongst a lowly people, that He might bring His sheep into the fold of Paradise. (D. C.) He who remembers and understands all this is wise, though he may not have the learning of this world, and for this cause the Lord Himself hath said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight.”*


Glory be to the Father, the Most Highest; glory be to the Son, the Word sent to heal us, and save us from destruction; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the gentle wind which stilleth the tempest of our souls.

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

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15 and 17

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2015

Psalm 71

Title: LXX. and Vulgate: A Psalm of David, of the sons of Jonadab, and of the first captives. Without title in the Hebrew.


Arg. Thomas. That Christ opens our lips to declare the glory of His Name. The Voice of Christ to the Father. The Voice of Christ to the Father against the Jews, concerning the Resurrection. The Prophet concerning the Passion and Advent of Christ.

Ven. Bede. The Prophet Jeremiah mentions that Jonadab was a priest of God, who had commanded his sons not to drink wine, and not to dwell in houses, but in tents, and that they found great favour with the Lord for their obedience in these respects; and they are now put for faithful and devout persons. Whence Jonadab is interpreted The voluntary one of the Lord, who can say, An offering of a free heart will I give Thee. With whom the former captives also shed tears, that is, they who were first made captives and then ransomed, who, made captive by sinning, but ransomed by repenting, say, And Thou broughtest me from the deep of the earth again. A representative person is introduced, who, freed from the captivity of sins, remained firm in the Divine commands, preaching to us the mighty love of Christ the Lord, which is always freely bestowed on us, with no previous merits of our own. In the first part of the Psalm this person intreats that he may always be delivered from human iniquities, that he may give thanks unto the Lord. O God, in Thee have I trusted. In the second place, he prays that he may not be deprived in old age of His bounties, by Whose help he was guarded in his youth, Cast me not away in the time of age. Thirdly; numbering His gifts, he promises ever to give thanks. Thy righteousness, O God, is very high, &c.

Syriac Psalter. Composed by David, when Saul warred against the house of David. Also a prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Christ’s Sufferings and Resurrection.

S. Athanasius A Psalm in solitary address.

Various Uses

Gregorian. Thursday. Matins. [Maundy Thursday. I. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Wednesday. Matins. [Maundy Thursday. I. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Friday. Lauds.

Lyons. Thursday. Compline.

Ambrosian. Monday of Second Week. III. Nocturn.

Quignon. Friday. Matins.

Eastern Church. [vv. 1–9.] Prime.


Gregorian. Ferial. Be Thou * my protecting God. [Maundy Thursday. O my God * deliver me out of the hand of the ungodly.]

Monastic. Ferial. Thou art my helper and redeemer * O Lord, make no long tarrying. [Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Parisian. O my God * deliver me out of the hand of the ungodly, for Thou art my patience.

Ambrosian. As Psalm 69.

1–2 (1) In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust, let me never be put to confusion: but rid me, and deliver me, in thy righteousness; incline thine ear unto me, and save me.

This Psalm of David belongs to the close of his life and reign, and it may be noted that it is, in great part, a cento from previous Psalms, as 22, 25, 31, 35, 38, 40, although the noble passage vv. 13–20 is new. It has been also frequently grouped with the preceding Psalm, and counted as part of it. They see in it the pilgrimage of the Church from the days of Adam to those of Antichrist, (P.) counting the seven ages of man’s estate in this wise. From the Fall to the Incarnation are three periods,—infancy, childhood, and youth, typified by exile, the patriarchal dispensation, and the Law. From the first to the second Advent are four stages: early manhood, from the Ascension, through the ten persecutions to the accession of Constantine the Great; the prime of life, through the Arian troubles, till Justinian; middle age, during which the yet unended power of Mohammedanism sprang up; and that eld during which the Church still waits in dread for the coming of Antichrist; and the Psalm contains petitions apt for each of these troubles in turn. In thee, O Lord, have I trusted. Once I trusted in myself, (R.) and then I was confounded; now I have turned to Thee, and I shall never be confounded again. (Cd.) And that because, as the Apostle tells us, “Hope maketh not ashamed,”* following therein the saying of another wise man: “Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded?”* Rightly so, (D. C.) since in trusting Him, we are not merely relying on Almighty power, but on infinite love, on purest bounty, on the merit of Christ’s Passion. Let me never be confounded. That in this world, however I may seem to be brought low and despised, I may feel myself strong in Thee at all times. Or, if we take the Vulgate, confounded eternally, it will be a prayer against condemnation in the doom. In the mouth of Christ, the words are but another way of putting what Isaiah prophesied: “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting; for the Lord God will help Me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”* The insults of the soldiers, of Herod, of the Jews, may fall on the Man of Sorrows, but they cannot touch the Eternal Word, and therefore, observes S. Bruno, (B.) Our Lord trusts in the immortality and impassibility of His Godhead, derived from that Father in Whom He trusted. Deliver me in Thy righteousness. When the sinner utters this prayer, he beseeches God to deliver him by Him Whom He hath made Judge of all the world,* because He is the Justice of God, the King Who reigneth in righteousness, and executes judgment and justice in the earth. And our claim on God’s justice is based on our trust in His promise, (G.) which He binds Himself to fulfil, that He may be justified in His sayings. What we say by reason of our sin, Christ speaks by reason of His innocence. His claim for deliverance is that in Him His enemies find no fault at all, and therefore justice demands that He should go free. Incline Thine ear unto me, and save me. It is the cry, says Gerhohus, of one lying sick and wounded, unable to rise, and asking the Physician to bend over him to listen to his account of his sufferings, (G.) asking the good Samaritan to stoop down and save him, by pouring oil and wine into his wounds.

3 (2) Be thou my strong hold, whereunto I may alway resort: thou hast promised to help me, for thou art my house of defence, and my castle.

In the LXX. and Vulgate the first part of this verse reads differently; Be Thou to me for a protecting [LXX. shield-bearing] God, and for a strong place to save me. And we may see in it the prayer of the Church under two circumstances, when she goes out to aggressive battle against error and sin; and again, when she is compelled by pressure from without to act chiefly on the defensive, as in days of persecution. And thus, (Ay.) as the Carmelite observes, because the Martyrs were so fortified by the grace of God, that the darts of the persecutors could not pierce their hearts, they are mystically called “fenced cities,” as was Jeremiah.* Or, if we look at it from another point of view, the Church intreats for her active and her contemplative members, of whom the former are in the open battles; the latter within the stronghold of the religious life, which Hugh of S. Cher likens to a fortress, for twelve reasons, thus summed up:

Murus, dentales, turris, vigiles, tuba, scuta,*
Mons, aqua, saxa, cibi, machina, fossa, viri.

Thou art my house of defence, and my castle. The first title belongs to God as our Protector; the second as our strong place. And the house of defence will then be His help against peril in this world; the castle, or with the Vulgate, refuge, (C.) the eternal habitation whither no danger can come.

4 (3) Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the ungodly: out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.

The words are first those of Christ, enduring the contradiction of sinners. (Ay.) And note, that two kinds of sinners are set before us. The unrighteous (Vulg. transgressor of the law) evil Jews or Christians, who know God’s will, but refuse to do it, and the cruel (or unjust) the heathen who sin through comparative ignorance. And as Christ thus prays for Himself against Caiaphas and Pilate, (G.) so He prays for His Church to be delivered from false brethren and from Pagan oppressors. The Carthusian will have the ungodly to be our ghostly enemy, (D. C.) and yet more, the whole three clauses to apply to the pleading sinner, who makes his prayer to be delivered from himself, (Ay.) his own ungodliness, is own transgressions. And God does save, notes Ayguan, triply.* From the temptation of the flesh, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” From the snares of the devil, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.”* From the lures of the world, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from the present evil world.”*

5 (4) For thou, O Lord God, art the thing that I long for: thou art my hope, even from my youth.

My patience, is the Vulgate reading in the first clause. And they explain it,* rather frigidly, the cause of my patience. Let us look deeper, and take it with S. Ambrose. Doubtless Christ Himself is slain in the Martyrs, and in them who suffer death, or bonds, or stripes, for the faith, the sufferings are Christ’s, that His life may be manifest in their body.* He then Who endures in them is truly their patience, since it is not their own powers that hold out. From my youth, since I was generated in grace, and not merely from my bodily childhood. And the mediæval writers, looking to the usage of their time, (R.) see here the candidate for Christian chivalry, already following his liege lord to battle, (G.) armed with faith, (Ay.) hope, and charity, but not yet more than an esquire who has still to win his spurs, and to be trained in the pureness of chastity, the prudence of truth, the obedience of humility. And so the prophet speaks, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”*

6 (5) Through thee have I been holden up ever since I was born: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s womb; my praise shall be always of thee.

They see in the first clause here the mystery of predestination, (Ay.) and the Angelic Doctor adds,* that the task of guardian Angels is intrusted to them even before the birth of the children whose keepers they are to be. My mother’s womb. Literally, (G.) says Gerhohus, because of infant baptism, whereby children of but a few days or hours old, are received in the arms of God. Ayguan, (Ay.) pointing to the same rite, explains the words of our Mother the Church, who bears us to God in the Sacraments. And, applied to Christ, the words may be taken of His Incarnation, and also bear reference to the pious opinion of the Church that the pains of childbirth took no hold on His Virgin-Mother.

Gaude, sine partu tristi
Virgo partum edidisti,*
Immo gaudens protulisti
Prolem mater filia.

Others again give long lists of Saints,* who from early childhood persevered in holiness, as fulfilling this prediction, while Parez and S. Bonaventure explain it of the infancy of the Church in Abel’s days. My praise shall be always of Thee. It is more in the Vulgate, (P.) My singing,* implying not only praise, (B.) but rejoicing for victory. And they take it of Church song, as contrasted with heathen or secular ballads.*

7 (6) I am become as it were a monster unto many: but my sure trust is in thee.

If we take the Prayer Book Version literally as it stands, we may well think on that graffito scrawled by a Pagan hand, and lately discovered, wherein a Christian is seen worshipping a crucified figure, having a man’s body, but an ass’s head, a notion once widely spread, and a serious bar to the reception of the Faith by the Empire. But the word hardly notes so much. It is rather, with the Vulgate and A. V., a wonder, yet still referring to the offence of the Cross, to the astonishment with which the world looked on the life and sufferings of Christ and His Apostles, (C.) regarding even their miracles rather as something to stare at than as proof of a new revelation.* And as Isaiah, walking naked and barefoot for three years was “a sign and wonder,”* so the Apostles, who left all their earthly possessions, and followed Christ during the three years of His earthly ministry, and all Christians who spiritually did the like in the three stages of holiness, the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways, were made, as S. Paul says, “a spectacle unto the world, and angels, and men.”* But we may take the words in another sense of our Lord, Whose Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection have made Him indeed a wonder and a glory to His people,* as well as even to those Jews and heathens who rejected Him.

8 (7) O let my mouth be filled with thy praise: that I may sing of thy glory and honour all the day long.

It is the song of our country, (Ay.) notes the Carmelite, a song ever accompanied with joy. And that joy is threefold, the inner gladness of the heart, the vocal sound of the lips, the tokens of external actions. The words, that I may sing of Thy glory, (from the LXX. and Vulgate,) are not found in the Hebrew, but are none the less dwelt on by the commentators. One, with a quaint literalness of interpretation, explaining the words of the Song of the Church, takes glory to refer to the recitation of the Doxology,* honour, or as the Vulgate reads, magnitude, to that of the Magnificat, which seems to accord with the remark of Cassiodorus that all the day long means the whole twenty-four hours, (C.) as otherwise Vespers and Nocturns would be shut out. (P.) Parez, more happily, takes glory to refer to the Resurrection: honour to the Ascension of Christ.

9 (8) Cast me not away in the time of age: forsake me not when my strength faileth me.

In the time of age. They question in what sense Christ, Who never knew eld of body or soul, can use these words of Himself, (A.) and they explain them differently. They take it either of the physical and mental exhaustion of the Passion, (D. C.) like in its wasting effects to old age, (G.) or, with yet deeper meaning, of His crucifying our old man in His own Person. Again; it is the prayer of the Church, (P.) looking forward to the great apostasy of the latter days, and dreading lest her love, waxing cold, should expose her to yet more terrible losses than she sustained when so many Eastern Communions fell before the advance of Islam, or when the mighty Nestorian Church, once vaster than Greek and Latin together, and ranging from the Yellow Sea to the steppes of Eastern Russia, from Siberia to Ceylon, vanished like a dream before Gengiz-Khan and his successors. It is also the cry of each member of the Church for himself. For, just as we have seen two kinds of youth spoken of above, so there are two kinds of age, decrepitude of body and of soul. The latter exists when the spiritual heat of love waxes cold, (D. C.) and the soul is not renewed by increase of grace, but either grows old in negligence and sin, is bowed down by weary persecutions, or becomes less active in good works. Well may we, with S. Thomas Aquinas, recite this verse with tears of contrition and hope; well may we, with a holy man of a later day, cry, “O fire ever burning, and never waxing low: behold, I am chill and cold, kindle my veins and my heart, that they may burn with love of Thee. For Thou hast come to send fire upon the earth, and what wilt Thou, save that it be kindled?”* So praying, He will hear us, and will give us, even in extreme age, strength to say with His Martyr, S. Polycarp, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”*

10–11 (9) For mine enemies speak against me, and they that lay wait for my soul take their counsel together, saying: God hath forsaken him; persecute him, and take him, for there is none to deliver him.

They take it first of the Passion, of that Council of the Pharisees gathered after the raising of Lazarus, (A.) and of the mockings suffered by Christ upon the Cross, (Ay.) when His cry was, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me”* and theirs was, “He trusted in God that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him.” It is the cry of the Church under the three greatest trials, the Pagan persecutions, (P.) the Mohammedan successes, the rise of the sects, which last in especial say, God hath forsaken her, “with our tongue will we prevail; (L.) we are they that ought to speak; who is lord over us?”*

12 (10) Go not far from me, O God: my God, haste thee to help me.

13 (11) Let them he confounded and perish that are against my soul: let them be covered with shame and dishonour that seek to do me evil.

Again; the words are both of Christ and of the Church. The Lord asks for His members rather than for Himself, that for the elect’s sake the days may be shortened. And note, that whereas type and prophecy both foretold that the Saviour should be three days and three nights in the grave, yet the time was too long for the infant Church to bear, and therefore the Father hasted to help the Son, and raised Him up just after the midnight of Easter Eve, Who had given up the ghost at the ninth hour of Good Friday. Thus the confusion will refer to the alarm caused by the signs at the Crucifixion, the darkness, the earthquake, (D. C.) the rending of the rocks, and still more to the dismay on hearing the news that the sepulchre was void, while the perishing denotes the overthrow of the Jewish nation. The Church, fallen on evil days, intreats for help also. And we may note again, as so often before, the warnings against the persecutors, how they were confounded and perished, as Nero, Julian, Valens; how they were put to shame and dishonour, as Valerian, whom the Persian Sapor made his footstool, and as Eugenius, who was the last to raise the standard of ancient Paganism against the Cross. (G.) Once more, the words are those of the penitent sinner, to whom God is always near, but who feels that he has been departing from God, (D. C.) and going afar off in his wickedness. And the prayer will then be chiefly directed against ghostly enemies, though also against human tempters.

14 (12) As for me, I will patiently abide alway: and will praise thee more and more.
15 (13) My mouth shall daily speak of thy righteousness and salvation: for I know no end thereof.

Rather, with the A. V., LXX. and Vulgate, I will hope continually, and that not merely when I am afflicted by the devil, (G.) with poverty, disease, or lust, but when even the hand of God is heavy against me, I will say with holy Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”* And will praise Thee more and more. The LXX. and Vulgate here read, And will add above all Thy praise. How can this be? ask they all. They answer it diversely. Literally, it may tell us how David was the first to set forth the praises of Christ’s Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, and Kingdom, for the instruction of the people, whereas the Saints who praised God in former times told far less of these mysteries. (Ay.) And the Carthusian sees in it a promise to persevere in the compositions of fresh songs of praise. (D. C.) Or we may reflect how the Synagogue praised God for temporal blessings, while the Church, (G.) not forgetting such thanksgiving, lauds Him yet more for spiritual gifts. Yet again; S. Augustine remarks that God’s justice deserves all praise, even were He to condemn all mankind, (A.) but seeing that He has shown us mercy, we add that praise to the glory of His Name. When I confess that the Word of God created the heaven and the earth and all that is therein, (C.) observes another, I have praised the Lord with perfect devotion. But when I add that He became incarnate for the salvation of men, I have added to His praise. Once more—and the lesson is a practical one—I will not merely praise Thee in speech and words, (Z.) but with my works also, because the Lord is praised in this wise too, and therefore the Saviour said, “That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”* My mouth shall daily speak of Thy righteousness and salvation. (Ay.) It is the voice of the Bride. The righteousness and salvation is He of whom Paul says that “Christ Jesus of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;”* of whom Simeon said, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”* Daily. The LXX. and Vulgate read, All the day. That is, adds Ayguan, both in the day of prosperity and the night of sorrow.* Or with the Gloss, All the day means the day with the night, because night serves day, not day night. (G.) The night is our flesh, and the day is righteousness, and whatever is done in the flesh is of the night, while deeds of righteousness belong to the day. And there is yet another meaning, that of the everlasting praise of Christ in the land where is no darkness at all.

Dies sine vesperâ, nocte non sepultus,*
Quem non sol per aëra sed divini vultûs
Illustrat serenitas.

I know no end thereof. More exactly, with the A. V., I know not the numbers. The word סְפֹרוֹת (closely connected as it is with סְפֶר a book or writing) has been rendered by some copies of the LXX. and by the Vulgate similarly, I know not letters. And they take it first of Christ, concerning Whom the Jews said, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”* answering the question by saying that He indeed knew not the letter that killeth, but the Spirit that giveth life. And again they say that the letter means the old Law, (Ay.) which they compare to the staff of Elisha, sent by the hand of a servant to recover the dead child, but vainly, so that Elisha needed to come and lay himself down on the child, (A.) that is, our true Elisha (“God of salvation”) needed to humble Himself and become as a servant, nay, as one dead, to do what Moses failed to accomplish. Or again, the Five Books of Moses are the porches of Bethesda, where men lie waiting and sick. It needed the Angel of the Covenant to come down into the water of the Jewish nation that the sick might be healed. And then they take it of the Church, or of single Christians, saying the like of that which the Lord had said. For there are three kinds of letters, those which puff up, those which make man a servant, and those which make him a son.* They are the secular learning of philosophers, the Jewish law, and the New Testament, the last of which only is needful for the soul to know. The Carthusian adds that the words may be a confession of the utter ignorance of man contrasted with the infinite wisdom of God, (D. C.) or that it may be used of inspired Saints like SS. Peter and John, of whom it was said, truly in one sense, that “they were unlearned and ignorant men.”* S. Augustine, who probably had the reading πραγματείας instead of γραμματείας before him, gives a various translation, (A.) negotiationes, tradings, and dwells on the spiritual dangers which attend on all commerce; (C.) and Cassiodorus follows him, limiting his censure carefully to avarice and fraud. The various reading is said by another to apply to the Church of the last days, resisting the wiles of Antichrist, (P.) who will bring to bear all worldly learning, and even a bare literal rendering of Holy Writ, to aid his cause. And Hugh of S. Victor, taking both readings, sums up the matter by saying that whoso reads the Scripture for mere curiosity and not for edification, knows indeed its letter and its tradings,* but has not the true weight granted to the man who studies it for the savour of godliness.

16 (14) I will go forth in the strength of the Lord God: and will make mention of thy righteousness only.

The LXX. and Vulgate, for go forth read enter in, and more correctly, as the first sense is that of proceeding to the temple to praise God because of His mighty deeds. Euthymius connects the words with those of the preceding verse. I know not letters, that is, (Z.) observes he, the Scribes lay down a rule in their writings that all Jews must enter the temple of Jerusalem thrice a year, but I will go for a better reason, the strength of the Lord. (Ay.) Ayguan, more deeply says, I will go from the mere letter of the Old Testament into its spiritual meaning, the power of Christ. I will not look, adds Gerhohus, to the mere outward rite of even the Gospel Sacraments, (G.) but will enter further into them to find there the saving might of Jesus, Who gives me faith, endurance, and power to fulfil His commands, a triple cord to draw me and bind me to Him. And will make mention of Thy righteousness only. Not of my own, (D. C.) but ascribing all that is good in me, all virtue, and all grace, to Thee; all evil, defective, or sinful, to myself, saying with the Apostle, “By the grace of God, I am what I am;”* and again, “If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”* Since, as the same Apostle says, such persons “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”* And he says only, because when the soul has left human weakness behind, and entered into the spiritual power of God, it will think no more of the flesh, but will ponder on God alone.*

17 (15) Thou, O God, hast taught me from my youth up until now: therefore will I tell of thy wondrous works.
18 (16) Forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am gray-headed: until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to all them that are yet for to come.

Here, as so often, the words may apply to Christ or to the Church. Thou hast taught Me, is the Lord’s address to His Father, even according to that saying, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.”* And again, “As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things.”* From my youth up, because the human soul of Christ “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”* It is also the voice of the Church. Thou hast taught me; (Ay.) referring all her gifts to Him as her Teacher, Who said, “Neither be ye called masters, for one is your Master, even Christ.”* And that from the youth of the Church, from the time when the Apostles drew their lessons from His lips during His three years’ ministry, when He opened the Scriptures to them after His Resurrection, when He sent the Holy Ghost on them at Pentecost. Therefore will I tell of Thy wondrous works. How Thou rulest me, how Thou hast set me in the way of salvation, how Thou makest me to live whom Thou hast wonderfully quickened in soul. For what greater marvel is there than to quicken those dead in soul? A quickened body lives even when its quickener is absent, as Lazarus did in the corporal absence of Christ, because the life of the body is in the soul. But the quickened soul cannot live thus without God, Who is its life. This then is wondrous grace, which can quicken the dead, and abide with us afterwards, that we die not. Wondrous too are those works whereof the Church tells, the Incarnation of the Word, the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, and that God so loved us that He gave His Only-begotten Son unto death for us. Forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am gray-headed. They take it of the coming of Antichrist in the last times, when the faith of the Church has become weak, and from Augustine in the fifth century to Parez in the fifteenth, each accounts his own days as near the end, and finds all the marks of decrepitude in the belief and lives of Christians, all the signs of growing strength and insolence in the powers of evil. Until I have showed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power unto all that are yet for to come. The LXX. and Vulgate translate, (Ay.) Until I declare Thine arm to every generation that is to come, and couple the word power with the next verse. Thine arm is the Incarnate Word, and the phrase until notes that the preaching of Him will not be carried beyond this life, because the vision of God in the life to come will supply all spiritual knowledge to the Saints, and there will thus be no preaching in heaven; nor yet in hell, because the time for conversion has gone by. (R.) To every generation, as against the teaching of certain heretics, that the Church was to endure for a time, as the Jewish dispensation did, and then be supplanted by a more perfect revelation.

19 (17) Thy righteousness, O God, is very high: and great things are they that thou hast done; O God, who is like unto thee?

The LXX. and Vulgate couple the first words with the preceding, so that the clause runs [I will declare] Thy power and righteousness, O God, unto the highest, great things which Thou hast done. (Ay.) That is, I will declare the power of Thy justifying grace from its first beginnings in the soul up to its highest achievement in turning sinners into perfect Saints; (R.) or again, (Cd.) I will tell of Thy marvels, not only to Thy humbler creature, man, but I will call on Thy highest works, the Thrones, (B.) Dominations, and Princedoms of the heavenly host to join in the praise which is Thy due. (A.) Higher yet, observes Cassiodorus, (C.) even to that right hand of the Father where the Man of Sorrows is throned. Again; God’s power is shown in His setting man free, (A.) His righteousness in causing His Son to die for us. His power gives man strength to do good works, (L.) His righteousness justifies man. His power is seen in the valiant endurance of the Martyrs, His righteousness in the holy lives of the Confessors. O God, who is like unto Thee? It is the cry of Adam, (A.) after he had sinned by tasting of the fruit, whereof the serpent told him, “In the day that ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,”* and had thereby lost the likeness which he had before, as being made in the image and likeness of God. And none can answer it, save the Second Adam, because He is the “brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His Person;”* and He can change our vile body, making it like to His glorious Body, and so “we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”*

20 (18) O what great troubles and adversities hast thou showed me! and yet didst thou turn and refresh me: yea, and broughtest me from the deep of the earth again.

All the bitter sorrows of My Passion, the Agony, the Betrayal, the mocking, (D. C.) scourging, crucifixion, the yet sharper pangs of man’s sin and thanklessness. And refresh me. The LXX., Vulgate, and A. V. more truly, revive Me, raising Me from the grave, where I lay in the deep of the earth. And we may take it next, (A.) with S. Augustine and all who follow him, (G.) of the wretchedness of mankind after the Fall, and the bounty of God in lifting it up from the depth of sin by the message of salvation, (R.) and giving it new life in Christ. And observe, says Cassiodorus, (C.) that there are seven ways in which God gives us remission of our sins. Firstly, in baptism; secondly, by martyrdom; thirdly, by almsgiving; fourthly, by our forgiveness to our debtors; fifthly, by our conversion of our brethren; sixthly, by abundant charity; seventhly, by penance. Again; (Ay.) it is the voice of the Church, thanking God for all her early sufferings and persecutions, when the blood of the Martyrs was the seed of the faithful, and the Gentiles, attracted by their valiant constancy, were turned by God, and brought to life, and out of the abyss of earthly sin. We may see too a literal meaning here which seems to have escaped the commentators, that is, the public recognition of Christian worship after the edict of Constantine, when the Church emerged from the deep of the catacombs into the light of day. Lastly; (D. C.) it is the grateful acknowledgment of every elect soul which God has brought through great tribulation into the kingdom of grace. (Z.) And so Ezekiel says, “O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”*

21 (19) Thou hast brought me to great honour: and comforted me on every side.

Again it is the voice of Christ, speaking of His own Resurrection, (D. C.) Ascension, and of His deliverance from all the liability to suffering which had belonged to His humanity. And this is brought out strongly by the Vulgate reading, Thou hast multiplied Thy magnificence upon me. Multiplied, (Ay.) observes another, because Christ, Who is the magnificence of God, was multiplied, not in person, but in nature, by His Incarnation, where God was made Man, and thus was built up of Godhead, body, and soul. It is the voice of the Church, raised to high dignity of grace, and to the earthly honour of having kings and queens at her feet, and stored with all the gifts of the Comforter. And, lastly, it is the thanksgiving of sinners whom God has first scourged with fatherly chastisement, (G.) and then made kings and priests, clothing them with the garment of salvation, and comforted, as He is the God of Consolation, in all their trouble. For comforted on every side, the Vulgate reads, Thou hast turned and comforted me. Turned, because by Christ’s Incarnation the sternness of the law was turned into the loving tenderness of the Gospel, (Ay.) so that He whom we called Lord in fear, we now call in love, “Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation.”*

22 (20) Therefore will I praise thee and thy faithfulness, O God, playing upon an instrument of music: unto thee will I sing upon the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.

On an instrument of music, LXX. and Vulgate, On the vessels of psalm, which most of them take, as does the A. V., to be the psaltery. And S. Augustine points out that the chief difference between the psaltery and harp is that the former has the hollow sounding-board placed above the strings, and the latter has it below. And because the Spirit is from above, flesh from the earth; there seemeth to be signified by the psaltery the Spirit, by the harp the flesh. And men who are appointed to sing God’s praises with psalmody may be aptly called vessels of psalm; in particular the clergy, some of whom are vessels to honour,* and some to dishonour. Yet again,* our bodies, within which the truth dwells, are its vessels, (C.) and the Psalms themselves are vessels holding the truth, as a pure and fragrant wine. Truth, in three ways, of life,* of righteousness, and of doctrine. O Thou Holy One of Israel. Because all nations will become a part of the true Israel when the fulness of the Gentiles is gathered in. Note too, (P.) that this is the only Psalm of David’s writing which contains this title of God, and as it is the very last of his songs, it looks forward in this wise to the universal kingdom of Christ, as the sea into which all the streams flowing from the vessels of song shall one day empty themselves. That is a poor house, (G.) says Gerhohus, where there are vessels for oil and wine, and nought to put in them, but what is the wretchedness of a house which has not even vessels fit to hold them!

23 (21) My lips will be fain when. I sing unto thee: and so will my soul whom thou hast delivered.

They all agree in seeing here the union of bodily and spiritual praise of God, the harmony of will and deed, of heart and life, when the body is subdued to the spirit, and obeys its rule with gladness. It is the idea which has been expressed by a poet of our own day:

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell,
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster.

Not here,* however, where “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” can this harmony be perfectly free from discord. We must look forward to the time of which the next verse tells us.

24 (22) My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded and brought unto shame that seek to do me evil.

In the Land of beauty there will be no false notes to mar the sweet song of praise, because—

Fleshly wars they know no longer,* since with blemish stained is none,
For the spiritual body and the soul at last are one;
Dwell they now in peace eternal, with all stumbling they have done.

All the day long. The unending day of eternity, (D. C.) during which the song of the redeemed shall ever ascend before the throne of God, (G.) when the ghostly enemies of our souls have been brought to everlasting shame.

Pectora plausibus atque canoribus ora parabit,*
Cum sua crimina, lapsaque pristina stans memorabit,
Quo fuit amplior error, iniquior actio mentis,
Laus erit amplior, hymnus et altior, hanc abolentis.

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, from Whom cometh soberness; and to the Son, of Whom is righteousness; and to the Holy Ghost, Whose is loving-kindness.

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


Incomprehensible Ruler of the throne on high,* Who sufferest not them that trust in Thee to be condemned to everlasting confusion, fill our lips, we beseech Thee, with Thy praise, and ever inspire us with thoughts of holy things. Through. (1.)

Deliver us, O our God,* out of the hand of the ungodly, Who didst vouchsafe to bear for us the pain of the Cross, that Thou only mayest be our patience, Who for us didst endure the grave. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Let our tongue, O Lord,* be talking of Thy righteousness, that Thy praise may proceed from our lips all the day long, that inasmuch as the glory of Thy Passion hath been set forth by us, so we may now and ever without end praise Thee in that righteousness whereby we live through faith. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

We beseech Thee,* O Crucified Lord, to be our house of defence and our castle, that delivering us from the hand of the enemy, Thou mayest place us in a stronghold, to receive our crown. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O God of might,* Who, though Thou wast God, didst willingly suffer Thyself to be seized at the time of Thy Passion, when they took their counsel against Thee, saying, “Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him;” forsake us not in our trouble, and go not far from us, that Thou only mayest look on us and help us, Who on Thy Cross triumphest over the powers of this world. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O Jesu,* Son of God, Whom the multitude of Thine enemies vainly persecuted, and drove from themselves the bounty of Thy loving-kindness while taking counsel together against Thee to seize Thee, and sought to take Thy life from Thee, a willing victim, Whom they knew not to be the author of life; Grant that we may with holy devotion in good works follow after Thee, Whom they pursued with ill will, so that wherein Thine enemies shall for ever mourn, therein we may have everlasting joy. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Let our lips be firm in Thee,* O Lord, with the tidings of truth, that they never be loosed in the vain speech of error, and may ever speak Thy glory and never cry aloud in the unseemly disputes of quarrelling, that our soul which Thou hast redeemed, may, when praising the triumph of Thy Martyr and Forerunner, John Baptist, obtain Thy favour through his intercession. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

We beseech Thee,* O Lord, that our human mouth being filled with Thy praise, we may ever think in our hearts of that which we offer Thee with acceptable voices. Through. (1.)

O God, (D. C.) unspeakable mercy, go not far from us, make haste to help us, and forsake us not in our old age when we are gray-headed, quicken us, and comfort us in Thy love, and grant that we may ever worthily sing the majesty of Thy glory. Through. (1.)

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 7

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 14, 2015


1. Now the story which gave occasion to this prophecy may be easily recognised in the second book of Kings.3 For there Chusi, the friend of king David, went over to the side of Abessalon, his son, who was carrying on war against his father, for the purpose of discovering and reporting the designs which he was taking against his father, at the instigation of Achitophel, who had revolted from David’s friendship, and was instructing by his counsel, to the best of his power, the son against the father. But since it is not the story itself which is to be the subject of consideration in this Psalm, from which the prophet hath taken a veil of mysteries, if we have passed over to Christ, let the veil be taken away.4 And first let us inquire into the signification of the very names, what it means. For there have not been wanting interpreters, who investigating these same words, not carnally according to the letter, but spiritually, declare to us that Chusi should be interpreted silence; and Gemini, righthanded; Achitophel, brother’s ruin. Among which interpretations, Judas, that traitor, again meets us, that Abessalon should bear his image, according to that interpretation of it as a father’s peace; in that his father was full of thoughts of peace toward him: although he in his guile had war in his heart, as was treated of in the third Psalm. Now as we find in the Gospels that the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ are called sons,5 so in the same Gospels we find they are called brethren also. For the Lord on the resurrection saith, “Go and say to My brethren.”6 And the Apostle calls Him “the first begotten among many brethren.” The ruin then of that disciple, who betrayed Him, is rightly understood to be a brother’s ruin, which we said is the interpretation of Achitophel. Now as to Chusi, from the interpretation of silence, it is rightly understood that our Lord contended against that guile in silence, that is, in that most deep secret, whereby “blindness happened in part to Israel,”7 when they were persecuting the Lord, that the fulness of the Gentiles might enter in, and “so all Israel might be saved.” When the Apostle came to this profound secret and deep silence, he exclaimed, as if struck with a kind of awe of its very depth, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the wind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?”8 Thus that great silence he does not so much discover by explanation, as he sets forth its greatness in admiration. In this silence the Lord, hiding the sacrament of His adorable passion, turns the brother’s voluntary ruin, that is, His betrayer’s impious wickedness, into the order of His mercy and providence: that what he with perverse mind wrought for one Man’s destruction, He might by providential overruling dispose for all men’s salvation. The perfect soul then, which is already worthy to know the secret of God, sings a Psalm unto the Lord, she sings “for the words of Chusi,” because she has attained to know the words of that silence: for among unbelievers and persecutors there is that silence and secret. But among His own, to whom it is said, “Now I call you no more servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you:9 among His friends, I say, there is not the silence, but the words of the silence, that is, the meaning of that silence set forth and manifested. Which silence, that is, Chusi, is called the son of Gemini, that is, righthanded. For what was done for the Saints was not to be hidden from them. And yet He saith, “Let not the left hand know what the right hand doeth.”10 The perfect soul then, to which that secret has been made known, sings in prophecy “for the words of Chusi,” that is, for the knowledge of that same secret. Which secret God at her right hand, that is, favourable11 and propitious unto her, has wrought. Wherefore this silence is called the Son of the right hand, which is, “Chusi, the son of Gemini.”

2. “O Lord my God, in Thee have I hoped: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (ver. 1). As one to whom, already perfected, all the war and enmity of vice being overcome, there remaineth no enemy but the envious devil, he says, “Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me (ver. 2): lest at any time he tear my soul as a lion.” The Apostle says, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”1 Therefore when the Psalmist said in the plural number, “Save me from all them that persecute me:” he afterwards introduced the singular, saying, “lest at any time he tear my soul as a lion.” For he does not say, lest at any time they tear: he knew what enemy and violent adversary of the perfect soul remained. “Whilst there be none to redeem, nor to save:” that is, lest he tear me, whilst Thou redeemest not, nor savest. For, if God redeem not, nor save, he tears.2

3. And that it might be clear that the already perfect soul, which is to be on her guard against the most insidious snares of the devil only, says this, see what follows. “O Lord my God, if I have done this” (ver. 3). What is it that he calls “this”? Since he does not mention the sin by name, are we to understand sin generally? If this sense displease us, we may take that to be meant which follows: as if we had asked, what is this that you say, “this”? He answers, “If there be iniquity in my hands.” Now then it is clear that it is said of all sin, “If I have repaid them that recompense me evil” (ver. 4). Which none can say with truth, but the perfect. For so the Lord says, “Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven; who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the evil, and raineth on the just and the unjust.”3 He then who repayeth not them that recompense evil, is perfect. When therefore the perfect soul prays “for the words of Chusi, the son of Jemini,” that is, for the knowledge of that secret and silence, which the Lord, favourable to us and merciful, wrought for our salvation, so as to endure, and with all patience bear, the guiles of this betrayer: as if He should say to this perfect soul, explaining the design of this secret, For thee ungodly and a sinner, that thine iniquities might be washed away by My blood-shedding, in great silence and great patience I bore with My betrayer; wilt not thou imitate me, that thou too mayest not repay evil for evil? Considering then, and understanding what the Lord has done for him, and by His example going on to perfection, the Psalmist says, “If I have repaid them that recompense me evil:” that is, if I have not done what Thou hast taught me by Thy example: “may I therefore fall by mine enemies empty.” And he says well, not, If I have repaid them that do me evil; but, who “recompense.” For who so recompenseth, had received somewhat already. Now it is an instance of greater patience, not even to repay him evil, who after receiving benefits returns evil for good, than if without receiving any previous benefit he had had a mind to injure. If therefore he says, “I have repaid them that recompense me evil:” that is, If I have not imitated Thee in that silence, that is, in Thy patience, which Thou hast wrought for me, “may I fall by mine enemies empty.” For he is an empty boaster, who, being himself a man, desires to avenge himself on a man; and whilst he openly seeks to overcome a man, is secretly himself overcome by the devil, rendered empty by vain and proud joy, because he could not, as it were, be conquered. The Psalmist knows then where a greater victory may be obtained, and where “the Father which seeth in secret will reward.”4 Lest then he repay them that recompense evil, he overcomes his anger rather than another man, being instructed too by those writings, wherein it is written, “Better is he that overcometh his anger, than he that taketh a city.”5 “If I have repaid them that recompense me evil, may I therefore fall by my enemies empty.” He seems to swear by way of execration, which is the heaviest kind of oath, as when one says, If I have done so and so, may I suffer so and so. But swearing in a swearer’s mouth is one thing, in a prophet’s meaning another. For here he mentions what will really befall men who repay them that recompense evil; not what, as by an oath, he would imprecate on himself or any other.

4. “Let the enemy” therefore “persecute my soul and take it” (ver. 5). By again naming the enemy in the singular number, he more and more clearly points out him whom he spoke of above as a lion. For he persecutes the soul, and if he has deceived it, will take it. For the limit of men’s rage is the destruction of the body; but the soul, after this visible death, they cannot keep in their power: whereas whatever souls the devil shall have taken by his persecutions, he will keep. “And let him tread my life upon the earth:” that is, by treading let him make my life earth, that is to say, his food. For he is not only called a lion, but a serpent too, to whom it was said, “Earth shalt thou eat.”6 And to the sinner was it said, “Earth thou art, and into earth shalt thou go.”1 “And let him bring down my glory to the dust.” This is that dust which “the wind casteth forth from the face of the earth,”2 to wit, vain and silly boasting of the proud, puffed up, not of solid weight, as a cloud of dust carried away by the wind. Justly then has he here spoken of the glory, which he would not have brought down to dust. For he would have it solidly established in conscience before God, where there is no boasting. “He that glorieth,” saith the Apostle, “let him glory in the Lord.”3 This solidity is brought down to the dust if one through pride despising the secrecy of conscience, where God only proves a man, desires to glory before men. Hence comes what the Psalmist elsewhere says, “God shall bruise the bones of them that please men.”4 Now he that has well learnt or experienced the steps in overcoming vices, knows that this vice of empty glory is either alone, or more than all, to be shunned by the perfect. For that by which the soul first fell, she overcomes the last. “For the beginning of all sin is pride:” and again, “The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from God.”5

5. “Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger” (ver. 6). Why yet does he, who we say is perfect, incite God to anger? Must we not see, whether he rather be not perfect, who, when he was being stoned, said, “O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”?6 Or does the Psalmist pray thus not against men, but against the devil and his angels, whose possession sinners and the ungodly are? He then does not pray against him in wrath, but in mercy, whosoever prays that that possession may be taken from him by that Lord “who justifieth the ungodly.”7 For when the ungodly is justified, from ungodly he is made just, and from being the possession of the devil he passes into the temple of God. And since it is a punishment that a possession, in which one longs to have rule, should be taken away from him: this punishment, that he should cease to possess those whom he now possesses, the Psalmist calls the anger of God against the devil. “Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger.” “Arise” (he has used it as “appear”), in words, that is, human and obscure; as though God sleeps, when He is unrecognised and hidden in His secret workings. “Be exalted in the borders of mine enemies.” He means by borders the possession itself, in which he wishes that God should be exalted, that is, be honoured and glorified, rather than the devil, while the ungodly are justified and praise God. “And arise, O Lord my God, in the commandment that Thou hast given:” that is, since Thou hast enjoined humility, appear in humility; and first fulfil what Thou hast enjoined; that men by Thy example overcoming pride may not be possessed of the devil, who against Thy commandments advised to pride, saying, “Eat, and your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods.”8

6. “And the congregation of the people shall surround Thee.” This may be understood two ways. For the congregation of the people can be taken, either of them that believe, or of them that persecute, both of which took place in the same humiliation of our Lord: in contempt of which the multitude of them that persecute surrounded Him; concerning which it is said, “Why have the heathen raged, and the people meditated vain things?”9 But of them that believe through His humiliation the multitude so surrounded Him, that it could be said with the greatest truth, “blindness in part is happened unto Israel, that the fulness of the Gentiles might come in:”10 and again, “Ask of me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the boundaries of the earth for Thy possession.”11 “And for their sakes return Thou on high:” that is, for the sake of this congregation return Thou on high: which He is understood to have done by His resurrection and ascension into heaven. For being thus glorified He gave the Holy Ghost, which before His exaltation could not be given, as it is written in the Gospel, “for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”12 Having then returned on high for the sake of the congregation of the people, He sent the Holy Ghost: by whom the preachers of the Gospel being filled, filled the whole world with Churches.

7. It can be taken also in this sense: “Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger, and be exalted in the borders of mine enemies:” that is, arise in Thine anger, and let not mine enemies understand Thee; so that to “be exalted,” should be this, become high,13 that Thou mayest not be understood; which has reference to the silence spoken of above. For it is of this exaltation thus said in another Psalm, “And He ascended upon Cherubim, and flew:” and, “He made darkness His secret place.”14 In which exaltation, or concealment, when for their sins’ desert they shall not understand Thee, who shall crucify Thee, “the congregation” of believers “shall surround Thee.” For in His very humiliation He was exalted, that is, was not understood. So that, “And arise, O Lord my God, in the commandment that Thou hast given:” may have reference to this, that is, when Thou showest Thyself, be high or deep that mine enemies may not understand Thee. Now sinners are the enemies of the just man, and the ungodly of the godly man. “And the congregation of the people shall surround Thee:” that is, by this very circumstance, that those who crucify Thee understand Thee not, the Gentiles shall believe on Thee, and so “shall the congregation of the people surround Thee.” But what follows, if this be the true meaning, has in it more pain, that it begins already to be perceived, than joy that it is understood. For it follows, “and for their sakes return Thou on high,” that is, and for the sake of this congregation of the human race, wherewith the Churches are crowded, return Thou on high, that is, again cease to be understood. What then is, “and for their sakes,” but that this congregation too will offend Thee, so that Thou mayest most truly foretell and say, “Thinkest Thou when the Son of man shall come, He will find faith on the earth?”1 Again, of the false prophets, who are understood to be heretics, He says, “Because of their iniquity the love of many shall wax cold.”2 Since then even in the Churches, that is, in that congregation of peoples and nations, where the Christian name has most widely spread, there shall be so great abundance of sinners, which is already, in great measure, perceived; is not that famine of the word3 here predicted, which has been threatened by another prophet also? Is it not too for this congregation’s sake, who, by their sins, are estranging from themselves the light of truth, that God returns on high, that is, so that faith, pure and cleansed from the corruption of all perverse opinions, is held and received, either not at all, or by the very few of whom it was said, “Blessed is he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved”?4 Not without cause then is it said, “and for the sake of this” congregation “return Thou on high:” that is, again withdraw into the depth of Thy secrecy, even for the sake of this congregation of the peoples, that hath Thy name, and doeth not Thy deeds.

8. But whether the former exposition of this place, or this last be the more suitable, without prejudice to any one better, or equal, or as good, it follows very consistently, “the Lord judgeth the people.” For whether He returned on high, when, after the resurrection, He ascended into heaven, well does it follow, “The Lord judgeth the people:” for that He will come from thence to judge the quick and the dead. Or whether He return on high, when the understanding of the truth leaves sinful Christians, for that of His coming it has been said, “Thinkest thou the Son of Man on His coming will find faith on the earth?”5 “The Lord” then “judgeth the people.” What Lord, but Jesus Christ? “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”6 Wherefore this soul which prayeth perfectly, see how she fears not the day of judgment, and with a truly secure longing says in her prayer, “Thy kingdom come: judge me,” she says, “O Lord, according to my righteousness.” In the former Psalm a weak one was entreating, imploring rather the mercy of God, than mentioning any desert of his own: since the Son of God came “to call sinners to repentance.”7 Therefore he had there said, “Save me, O Lord, for Thy mercy’s sake;”8 that is, not for my desert’s sake. But now, since being called he hath held and kept the commandments which he received, he is bold to say, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, that is upon me.” This is true harmlessness, which harms not even an enemy. Accordingly, well does he require to be judged according to his harmlessness, who could say with truth, “If I have repaid them that recompense me evil.” As for what he added, “that is upon me,” it can refer not only to harmlessness, but can be understood also with reference to righteousness; that the sense should be this, Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, which righteousness and harmlessness is upon me. By which addition he shows that this very thing, that the soul is righteous and harmless, she has not by herself, but by God who giveth brightness and light. For of this he says in another Psalm, “Thou, O Lord, wilt light my candle.”9 And of John it is said, that “he was not the light, but bore witness of the light.”10 “He was a burning and shining candle.”11 That light then, whence souls, as candles, are kindled, shines forth not with borrowed, but with original, brightness, which light is truth itself. It is then so said, “According to my righteousness, and according to my harmlessness, that is upon me,” as if a burning and shining candle should say, Judge me according to the flame which is upon me, that is, not that wherewith12 I am myself, but that whereby I shine enkindled of thee.

9. “But let the wickedness of sinners be consummated” (ver. 9). He says, “be consummated,” be completed, according to that in the Apocalypse, “Let the righteous become more righteous, and let the filthy be filthy still.”13 For the wickedness of those men appears consummate, who crucified the Son of God; but greater is theirs who will not live uprightly, and hate the precepts of truth, for whom the Son of God was crucified. “Let the wickedness of sinners,” then he says, “be consummated,” that is, arrive at the height of wickedness, that just judgment may be able to come at once. But since it is not only said, “Let the filthy be filthy still;” but it is said also, “Let the righteous become more righteous;” he joins on the words, “And Thou shalt direct the righteous, O God, who searcheth the hearts and reins.” How then can the righteous be directed but in secret? when even by means of those things which, in the commencement of the Christian ages, when as yet the saints were oppressed by the persecution of the men of this world, appeared marvellous to men, now that the Christian name has begun to be in such high dignity, hypocrisy, that is pretence, has increased; of those, I mean, who by the Christian profession had rather please men than God. How then is the righteous man directed in so great confusion of pretence, save whilst God searcheth the hearts and reins; seeing all men’s thoughts, which are meant by the word heart; and their delights, which are understood by the word reins? For the delight in things temporal and earthly is rightly ascribed to the reins; for that it is both the lower part of man, and that region where the pleasure of carnal generation dwells, through which man’s nature is transferred into this life of care, and deceiving joy, by the succession of the race. God then, searching our heart, and perceiving that it is there where our treasure is, that is, in heaven; searching also the reins, and perceiving that we do not assent to flesh and blood, but delight ourselves in the Lord, directs the righteous man in his inward conscience before Him, where no man seeth, but He alone who perceiveth what each man thinketh, and what delighteth each. For delight is the end of care; because to this end does each man strive by care and thought, that he may attain to his delight. He therefore seeth our cares, who searcheth the heart. He seeth too the ends of cares, that is delights, who narrowly searcheth the reins; that when He shall find that our cares incline neither to the lust of the flesh, nor to the lust of the eyes, nor to the pride of life,1 all which pass away as a shadow, but that they are raised upward to the joys of things eternal, which are spoilt by no change, He may direct the righteous, even He, the God who searcheth the hearts and reins. For our works, which we do in deeds and words, may be known unto men; but with what mind they are done, and to what end we would attain by means of them, He alone knoweth, the God who searcheth the hearts and reins.

10. “My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart” (ver. 10). The offices of medicine are twofold, on the curing infirmity, the other the preserving health. According to the first it was said in the preceding Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;”2 according to the second it is said in this Psalm, “If there be iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid them that recompense me evil, may I therefore3 fall by my enemies empty.” For there the weak prays that he may be delivered, here one already whole that he may not change for the worse. According to the one it is there said, “Make me whole for Thy mercy’s sake;” according to this other it is here said, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness.” For there he asks for a remedy to escape from disease; but here for protection from falling into disease. According to the former it is said, “Make me whole, O Lord, according to Thy mercy:” according to the latter it is said, “My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart.” Both the one and the other maketh men whole; but the former removes them from sickness into health, the latter preserves them in this health. Therefore there the help is merciful, because the sinner hath no desert, who as yet longeth to be justified, “believing on Him who justifieth the ungodly;”4 but here the help is righteous, because it is given to one already righteous. Let the sinner then who said, “I am weak,” say in the first place, “Make me whole, O Lord, for Thy mercy’s sake;” and here let the righteous man, who said, “If I have repaid them that recompense me evil,” say, “My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart.” For if he sets forth the medicine, by which we may be healed when weak, how much more that by which we may be kept in health. For if “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, how much more being now justified shall we be kept whole from wrath through Him.”5

11. “My righteous help is from the Lord, who maketh whole the upright in heart.” God, who searcheth the hearts and reins, directeth the righteous; but with righteous help maketh He whole the upright in heart. He doth not as He searcheth the hearts and reins, so make whole the upright in heart and reins; for the thoughts are both bad in a depraved heart, and good in an upright heart; but delights which are not good belong to the reins, for they are more low and earthly; but those that are good not to the reins, but to the heart itself. Wherefore men cannot be so called upright in reins, as they are called upright in heart, since where the thought is, there at once the delight is too; which cannot be, unless when things divine and eternal are thought of. “Thou hast given,” he says, “joy in my heart,” when he had said, “The light of Thy countenance has been stamped on us, O Lord.”1 For although the phantoms of things temporal, which the mind falsely pictures to itself, when tossed by vain and mortal hope, to vain imagination oftentimes bring a delirious and maddened joy; yet this delight must be attributed not to the heart, but to the reins; for all these imaginations have been drawn from lower, that is, earthly and carnal things. Hence it comes, that God, who searcheth he hearts and reins, and perceiveth in the heart upright thoughts, in the reins no delights, affordeth righteous help to the upright in heart, where2 heavenly delights are coupled with clean thoughts. And therefore when in another Psalm he had said, “Moreover even to-night my reins have chided me;” he went on to say as touching help, “I foresaw the Lord alway in my sight, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved.”3 Where he shows that he suffered suggestions only from the reins, not delights as well; for he had suffered these, then he would of course be moved. But he said, “The Lord is on my right hand, that I should not be moved;” and then he adds, “Wherefore was my heart delighted;” that the reins should have been able to chide, not delight him. The delight accordingly was produced not in the reins, but there, where against the chiding of the reins God was foreseen to be on the right hand, that is, in the heart.

12. “God the righteous judge, strong4 (in endurance) and long-suffering” (ver. 11). What God is judge, but the Lord, who judgeth the people? He is righteous; who “shall render to every man according to his works.”5 He is strong (in endurance); who, being most powerful, for our salvation bore even with ungodly persecutors. He is long-suffering; who did not immediately, after His resurrection, hurry away to punishment, even those that persecuted Him, but bore with them, that they might at length turn from that ungodliness to salvation: and still He beareth with them, reserving the last penalty for the last judgment, and up to this present time inviting sinners to repentance. “Not bringing in anger every day.” Perhaps “bringing in anger” is a more significant expression than being angry (and so we find it in the Greek6 copies); that the anger, whereby He punisheth, should not be in Him, but in the minds of those ministers who obey the commandments of truth through whom orders are given even to the lower ministries, who are called angels of wrath, to punish sin: whom even now the punishment of men delights not for justice’ sake, in which they have no pleasure, but for malice’ sake. God then doth not “bring in anger every day,” that is, He doth not collect His ministers for vengeance every day. For now the patience of God inviteth to repentance: but in the last time, when men “through their hardness and impenitent heart shall have treasured up for themselves anger in the day of anger, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,7 then He will brandish His sword.”

13. “Unless ye be converted,” He says, “He will brandish His sword” (ver. 12). The Lord Man Himself may be taken to be God’s double-edged sword, that is, His spear, which at His first coming He will not brandish, but hideth as it were in the sheath of humiliation: but He will brandish it, when at the second coming to judge the quick and dead, in the manifest splendour of His glory, He shall flash light on His righteous ones, and terror on the ungodly. For in other copies, instead of, “He shall brandish His sword,” it has been written, “He shall make bright His spear:” by which word I think the last coming of the Lord’s glory most appropriately signified: seeing that is understood of His person, which another Psalm has, “Deliver, O Lord, my soul from the ungodly,8 Thy spear from the enemies of Thine hand. He hath bent His bow, and made it ready.” The tenses of the words must not be altogether overlooked, how he has spoken of “the sword” in the future, “He will brandish;” of “the bow” in the past, “He hath bent:” and these words of the past tense follow after.9

14. “And in it He hath prepared the instruments of death: He hath wrought His arrows for the burning” (ver. 13). That bow then I would readily take to be the Holy Scripture, in which by the strength of the New Testament, as by a sort of string, the hardness of the Old has been bent and subdued. From thence the Apostles are sent forth like arrows, or divine preachings are shot. Which arrows “He has wrought for the burning,” arrows, that is, whereby being stricken they might be inflamed with heavenly love. For by what other arrows was she stricken, who saith, “Bring me into the house of wine, place me among perfumes, crowd me among honey, for I have been wounded with love”?10 By what other arrows is he kindled, who, desirous of returning to God, and coming back from wandering, asketh for help against crafty tongues, and to whom it is said, “What shall be given thee, or what added to thee against the crafty tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with devastating coals:”11 that is, coals, whereby, when thou art stricken and set on fire, thou mayest burn with so great love of the kingdom of heaven, as to despise the tongues of all that resist thee, and would recall thee from thy purpose, and to deride their persecutions, saying, “Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded,” he says, “that neither death, nor life, nor angel, nor principality, nor things present, not things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”1 Thus for the burning hath He wrought His arrows. For in the Greek copies it is found thus, “He hath wrought His arrows for the burning.” But most of the Latin copies2 have “burning arrows.” But whether the arrows themselves burn, or make others burn, which of course they cannot do unless they burn themselves, the sense is complete.

15. But since he has said that the Lord has prepared not arrows only, but “instruments of death” too, in the bow, it may be asked, what are “instruments of death”? Are they, peradventure, heretics? For they too, out of the same bow, that is, out of the same Scriptures, light upon souls not to be inflamed with love, but destroyed with poison: which does not happen but after their deserts: wherefore even this dispensation is to be assigned to the Divine Providence, not that it makes men sinners, but that it orders them after they have sinned. For through sin reaching them with an ill purpose, they are forced to understand them ill, that this should be itself the punishment of sin: by whose death, nevertheless, the sons of the Catholic Church are, as it were by certain thorns, so to say, aroused from slumber, and make progress toward the understanding of the holy Scriptures. “For there must be also heresies, that they which are approved,” he says, “may be made manifest among you:”3 that is, among men, seeing they are manifest to God. Or has He haply ordained the same arrows to be at once instruments of death for the destruction of unbelievers, and wrought them burning, or for the burning, for the exercising of the faithful? For that is not false that the Apostle says, “To the one we are the savour of life unto life, to the other the savour of death unto death; and who is sufficient for these things?”4 It is no wonder then if the same Apostles be both instruments of death in those from whom they suffered persecution, and fiery arrows to inflame the hearts of believers.

16. Now after this dispensation righteous judgment will come: of which the Psalmist so speaks, as that we may understand that each man’s punishment is wrought out of his own sin, and his iniquity turned into vengeance: that we may not suppose that that tranquillity and ineffable light of God brings forth from Itself the means of punishing sin; but that it so ordereth sins, that what have been delights to man in sinning, should be instruments to the Lord avenging. “Behold,” he says, “he hath travailed with injustice.” Now what had he conceived, that he should travail with injustice? “He hath conceived,” he says, “toil.” Hence then comes that, “In toil shall thou eat thy bread.”5 Hence too that, “Come unto Me all ye that toil and are heavy laden; for My yoke is easy, and My burden light.”6 For toil will never cease, except one love that which cannot be taken away against his will. For when those things are loved which we can lose against our will, we must needs toil for them most miserably; and to obtain them, amid the straitnesses of earthly cares, whilst each desires to snatch them for himself, and to be beforehand with another, or to wrest it from him, must scheme injustice. Duly then, and quite in order, hath he travailed with injustice, who has conceived toil. Now he bringeth forth what, save that with which he hath travailed, although he has not travailed with that which he conceived? For that is not born, which is not conceived; but seed is conceived, that which is formed from the seed is born. Toil is then the seed of iniquity, but sin the conception of toil, that is, that first sin, to “depart from God.”7 He then hath travailed with injustice, who hath conceived toil. “And he hath brought forth iniquity.” “Iniquity” is the same as “injustice:” he hath brought forth then that with which he travailed. What follows next?

17. “He hath opened a ditch, and digged it” (ver. 15). To open a ditch is, in earthly matters, that is, as it were in the earth, to prepare deceit, that another fall therein, whom the unrighteous man wishes to deceive. Now this ditch is opened when consent is given to the evil suggestion of earthly lusts: but it is digged when after consent we press on to actual work of deceit. But how can it be, that iniquity should rather hurt the righteous man against whom it proceeds, than the unrighteous heart whence it proceeds? Accordingly, the stealer of money, for instance, while he desires to inflict painful harm upon another, is himself maimed by the wound of avarice. Now who, even out of his right mind, sees not how great is the difference between these men, when one suffers the loss of money, the other of innocence? “He will fall” then “into the pit which he hath made.” As it is said in another Psalm, “The Lord is known in executing judgments; the sinner is caught in the works of his own hands.”1

18. “His toil shall be turned on his head, and his iniquity shall descend on his pate” (ver. 16). For he had no mind to escape sin: but was brought under sin as a slave, so to say, as the Lord saith, “Whosoever sinneth is a slave.”2 His iniquity then will be upon him, when he is subject to his iniquity; for he could not say to the Lord, what the innocent and upright say, “My glory, and the lifter up of my head.”3 He then will be in such wise below, as that his iniquity may be above, and descend on him; for that it weigheth him down and burdens him, and suffers him not to fly back to the rest of the saints. This occurs, when in an ill regulated man reason is a slave, and lust hath dominion.

19. “I will confess to the Lord according to His justice” (ver. 17). This is not the sinner’s confession: for he says this, who said above most truly, “If there be iniquity in my hands:” but it is a confession of God’s justice, in which we speak thus, Verily, O Lord, Thou art just, in that Thou both so protectest the just, that Thou enlightenest them by Thyself; and so orderest sinners, that they be punished not by Thine, but by their own malice. This confession so praises the Lord, that the blasphemies of the ungodly can avail nothing, who, willing to excuse their evil deeds, are unwilling to attribute to their own fault that they sin, that is, are unwilling to attribute their fault to their fault. Accordingly they find either fortune or fate to accuse, or the devil, to whom He who made us hath willed that it should be in our power to refuse consent: or they bring in another nature, which is not of God: wretched waverers, and erring, rather than confessing to God, that He should pardon them. For it is not fit that any be pardoned, except he says, I have sinned. He, then, that sees the deserts of souls so ordered by God, that while each has his own given him, the fair beauty of the universe is in no part violated, in all things praises God: and this is not the confession of sinners, but of the righteous. For it is not the sinner’s confession when the Lord says, “I confess to Thee, O Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise, and revealed them to babes.”4 Likewise in Ecclesiasticus it is said, “Confess to the Lord in all His works: and in confession ye shall say this, All the works of the Lord are exceeding good.”5 Which can be seen in this Psalm, if any one with a pious mind, by the Lord’s help, distinguish between the rewards of the righteous and the penalties of the sinners, how that in these two the whole creation, which God made and rules, is adorned with a beauty wondrous and known to few. Thus then he says, “I will confess to the Lord according to His justice,” as one who saw that darkness was not made by God, but ordered nevertheless. For God said, “Let light be made, and light was made.”6 He did not say, Let darkness be made, and darkness was made: and yet He ordered it. And therefore it is said, “God divided between the light, and the darkness: and God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.”7 This is the distinction, He made the one and ordered it: but the other He made not, but yet He ordered this too. But now that sins are signified by darkness, so is it seen in the Prophet, who says, “And thy darkness shall be as the noon day:”8 and in the Apostle, who says, “He that hateth his brother is in darkness:”9 and above all that text, “Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”10 Not that there is any nature of darkness. For all nature, in so far as it is nature, is compelled to be. Now being belongs to light: not-being to darkness. He then that leaves Him by whom he was made, and inclines to that whence he was made, that is, to nothing, is in this sin endarkened: and yet he does not utterly perish, but he is ordered among the lowest things. Therefore after the Psalmist said, “I will confess unto the Lord:” that we might not understand it of confession of sins, he adds lastly, “And I will sing to the name of the Lord most high.” Now singing has relation to joy, but repentance of sins to sadness.

20. This Psalm can also be taken in the person of the Lord Man: if only that which is there spoken in humiliation be referred to our weakness, which He bore.11

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

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 7

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 14, 2015


THE psalmist is threatened by many enemies, and begs for help against them from the Lord. He claims that he has given no cause for their hostility. Had he given such cause he would, he says, willingly pay for his offence with death. But, since he is innocent, he begs the Lord to declare his innocence in a public trial a trial like the Last Judgment at which the nations will be gathered to hear the sentence.1 In this trial God will, the singer hopes, take His seat once again as world-judge, and by His sentence put an end to evil, and protect the just. The Psalmist sees his enemies preparing a new attack against him, and warns them that they are devising destruction for themselves when they think of destroying him. For the intervention of the Lord to this end, which the singer now confidently expects, he will sing a hymn of praise.

If we could ascertain the real nature of the charge made against the Psalmist which is referred to in verse 4, we should be able, perhaps, to date the poem with some certainty. But we do not know what is really implied in verse 4. The psalmist is obviously a person of great importance, since a great trial, like the Judgment of the nations, is demanded for his sake. The Davidic authorship claimed by the
superscription, is, therefore, quite possible. We cannot identify the
Benjaminite, Chusi.

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

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