The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘NOTES ON THE PSALMS’ Category

Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

The following is under copyright and appears courtesy of Dr. Stephen Loughlin and the Aquinas Translation Project.

Psalm 5

a. In finem, pro ea quae consequitur haereditatemVerba mea auribus percipe Domine: intellige clamorem meum. Intende voci orationis meae, rex meus, et Deus meus. Quoniam ad te orabo Domine. Unto the end. For her that obtaineth the inheritance.Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry. Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God. For to thee will I pray: O Lord,
b. Mane exaudies vocem meam. Mane astabo tibi et videbo, quoniam non Deus volens iniquitatem tu es. Neque habitabit iuxta te malignus, neque permanebunt iniusti ante oculos tuos. in the morning thou shalt hear my voice. In the morning I will stand before thee, and will see: because thou art not a God that willest iniquity. Neither shall the wicked dwell near thee: nor shall the unjust abide before thy eyes.
c. Odisti omnes qui operantur iniquitatem: perdes omnes qui loquuntur mendacium. Virum sanguinum et dolosum abominabitur Dominus. Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity: thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie. The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.
d. Ego autem in multitudine misericordiae tuae, introibo in domum tuam, adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum in timore tuo. But as for me in the multitude of thy mercy, I will come into thy house; I will worship towards thy holy temple, in thy fear.
e. Domine deduc me in iustitia tua, propter inimicos meos: dirige in conspectu tuo viam meam. Conduct me, O Lord, in thy justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in thy sight.
f. Quoniam non est in ore eorum veritas: cor eorum vanum est. Sepulcrum patens est guttur eorum, linguis suis dolose agebant. For there is not truth in their mouth: their heart is vain. Their throat is an open sepulcher: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues:
g. Iudica illos Deus. Decidant a cogitationibus suis, secundum multitudinem impietatum eorum expelle eos: quoniam irritaverunt te Domine. judge them, O God. Let them fall from their devices: according to the multitude of their wickednesses cast them out: for they have provoked thee, O Lord.
h. Et laetentur omnes qui sperant in te: in aeternum exultabunt, et habitabis in eis. Et gloriabuntur in te omnes, qui diligunt nomen tuum. But let all them be glad that hope in thee: they shall rejoice for ever, and thou shalt dwell in them. And all they that love thy name shall glory in thee:
i. Quoniam tu benedices iusto. Domine, ut scuto bonae voluntatis tuae coronasti nos. For thou wilt bless the just. O Lord, thou hast crowned us, as with a shield of thy good will.
a. Supra Psalmista orationem proposuit contra persequentes manifeste; hic contra dolosos orat, ne decipiatur. Et circa hoc duo facit. Primo ponit petitionem contra dolosos, ne decipiatur. Secundo, ut lapsus reparetur, ibi, Domine ne in furore etc. Previously, the Psalmist set forth his prayer in no uncertain terms against those who were pursuing him. Here, he prays against those who perpetrate deceptions, that he might not be deceived. Concerning this he does two things. First, he puts forth his petition against these deceivers, that he might not be deceived, and secondly, that he might be restored from a failure on his part, at, O Lord, rebuke me not (Psalm 6:2).
Hic psalmus habet titulum in quo est aliquid novi, qui talis est; In finem pro ea quae consequitur hereditatem. Ubi tangitur figura et mysterium. Figura quidem intelligi potest dupliciter. Primo, secundum quod glossa exponit, et habetur in historia Genesis 21, quod Sara videns ludentem Ismaelem cum Isaac filio suo, turbata est, et dixit ad Abraham: Ejice ancillam hanc et filium ejus: non enim erit heres filius ancillae cum filio meo Isaac. Intellexit quidem Sara ludum illum persecutionem esse contra Isaac; Abraham autem dure accepit quod dixerat Sara de filio suo Ismaele; sed dixit ei Deus: Non tibi videatur asperum super puero et ancilla tua: omnia quae dixerit tibi Sara, audi vocem ejus, quia in Isaac vocabitur tibi semen, etc.: quasi dicat: Isaac tibi haeres erit tuus, non Ismael. Unde infra 25, dicitur: Dedit Abraham cuncta quae possederat filio suo Isaac, filiis autem concubinarum largitus est munera etc. Potest ergo hic psalmus referri ad hoc: quod populus Judaeorum secundum figuram consequebatur hereditatem promissam Abrahae, cujus erat caput David, et rex. Secundum mysterium vero populus Christianus: Gal. 4: Nos autem, fratres, secundum isaac promissionis filii sumus. Ergo psalmus iste tendit In finem, idest in Christum quem laudat Pro ea, scilicet pro ecclesia, Quae consequitur hereditatem, reprobata synagoga. This psalm has in its title something new, namely, Unto the end. For her that obtaineth the inheritance. This can be referred to here in both a literal and mystical way. With regard to the former, this can be understood in two ways. First, as the Gloss explains it and as it is found in history recounted in Genesis 21, namely that Sara, seeing Ismael playing with Isaac her son, was troubled and said to Abraham: Cast out this bondwoman, and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son Isaac. (Genesis 12:10) Sara thought that this play was in fact a persecution directed against Isaac. Abraham accepted, with duress, what Sara had said concerning Ismael his son. But God said to him: Let it not seem grievous to thee for the boy, and for thy bondwoman: in all that Sara hath said to thee, hearken to her voice: for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Genesis 12:12) It is as if he were saying: “Isaac will be your heir, not Ismael.” Whence it is said at Genesis 25:5-6, that Abraham gave all his possession to Isaac. And to the children of the concubines he gave gifts (and separated them from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, to the east country). Therefore, this psalm can be referred to the foregoing, that, in the literal sense, the Jewish people obtained the inheritance promised to Abraham, whose head and king was David. According to the mystical sense, the foregoing is referred to the Christian people: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. (Galatians 4:28) Therefore, this psalm tends Unto the end, that is to say, to Christ whom it praises, For her, namely for the Church, That obtaineth the inheritance, rejected by the synagogue.
Alio modo, secundum litteram Hieronymi, titulus est, Victori pro heredibus canticum David: et sic potest intelligi, quod iste psalmus factus est pro victoria quam David habuit ad litteram. Et sciendum, quod David fugiens haereditatem amisit per Absalonem, sicut habetur 2 Reg. 16. Unde sicut praecedens psalmus fuit pro liberatione et victoria contra Absalonem, ita hunc fecit pro recuperatione hereditatis: quia David reverso in Hierusalem, adhuc malitiose insurrexerant sibi et quidam alii contra eum. Unde 2 Reg. 20, mandavit David Amasae, quod usque in diem tertium convocaret omnes viros Juda, ut persequeretur Siba filium Bochri: quia magis afflicturus est nos filius Bochri quam Absalon. Pertransiverat enim omnes tribus Israel usque Abelam, omnesque electi congregati erant ad eum: quo decapitato regnavit David super omnem Israelem. (We can consider all this) in another way according to Jerome’s version. Its title is For the conquerer on behalf of those receiving inheritances. A song of David. This can be understood in a literal way, namely that this psalm was made for the victory that David had won. It should be understood that David in fleeing lost his inheritance because of Absalom, as recounted at 2 Kings 16. Hence as the preceding psalm was on behalf of the liberation from and victory over Absalom, in like manner he composed this one for the recovery of his inheritance. For although David had returned to Jerusalem, his own still rebelled maliciously, some of them even rising up against him. Thus David (at 2 Kings 20) ordered Amasa to assemble all the men of Juda until the third day so that Seba the son of Bochri might be pursued, for the son of Bochri will do us more harm than did Absalom…He had passed through all tribes of Israel unto Abela…and all the chosen men were gathered together unto him. (2 Kings 20: 4, 5, 14) Upon his decapitation, David ruled over the whole of Israel.
In hoc ergo psalmo secundum litteram tria considerantur. Primo petit exaudiri. Secundo ostendit fiduciam suae exauditionis, ibi, Mane exaudies. Tertio proponit petitionem, ibi, Domine deduc me. Circa primum duo facit. Primo petit exaudiri. Secundo signat rationem exauditionis, ibi, Rex meus. Therefore, in this psalm three things are to be considered according to the literal sense. First, the Psalmist prays to be heard. Second, he shows his confidence in his being heard, at, In the morning. Third, he puts forward his petition, at, Conduct me, O Lord. Concerning the first, he does two things. First, he prays to be heard. Second, he designates the reason for his being heard, at, My king.
Notandum, quod qui vult petere aliquid ab aliquo, sic procedit. Primo desiderat quod vult petere. Secundo meditatur verba proponenda. Tertio proponit ea apud exaudientem. Et e converso auditor. Primo percipit verba auditu. Secundo intellectu capit sensum verborum. Tertio inclinatur ad implendum desiderium petentis. Loquitur ergo David ad Deum, secundum similitudinem hanc. Et primo petit primum, scilicet ut audiat verba ejus exteriori auditu, cum dicit, Verba mea auribus percipe, Domine. Secundo petit sensum, scilicet intellectum verborum, cum dicit, Intellige clamorem meum, non exteriorem, sed interiorem affectum: Ps. 17: Clamor meus in conspectu ejus: Hieronymus: Intellige murmur meum, quod cogitavi proponendum: et consonat illi translationi quae dicit Meditationem. Tertio petit tertium, scilicet exauditionem: Intende voci orationis meae, idest velis exaudire orationem meam: Psal. 69: Deus in adjutorium meum intende. Sed numquid Deus haec seorsum facit, audit, intendit, exaudit? Dicendum, quod metaphorice loquitur: scilicet ut omnia haec approbet, verba exteriora, meditationem interiorem, et quae proponit. It should be noted that he who wishes to ask something from another, proceeds in the following way. First, he desires that for which he wishes to ask. Second, he thinks about the words he is going to use. Third, he sets them before the one listening (to his appeal). On the part of the one listening, the procedure is reversed: First, he hears the words that have been spoken. Second, he grasps intellectually the sense of the words. Third, he is inclined to fulfill the desire of the one asking. Therefore, David speaks to God in this fashion. He begins by asking for the first (of these three), namely that He hear his words with the outer ear when he says, Give ear, O Lord, to my words. Second, he asks for the sense, that is to say, the understanding of his words, when he says, Understand my cry, not made externally, but rather felt within: My cry came before him. (Psalm 17:7) Jerome’s version has: Understand my murmuring which I thought to put forth: and this agrees with that translation which says Meditation. Finally, he asks for the third (of these three), namely that he be heard: Hearken to the voice of my prayer, that is to say, “May you wish to listen to my prayer:” O God, come to my assistance. (Psalm 69:2) But does God do these three separately? Does he hear, consider, and then grant? One ought to say that the Psalmist speaks metaphorically, namely that God approves of all these acts, namely of spoken words, interior meditation, and of what he sets forth.
Secundo ponit rationem exauditionis, cum dicit, Rex meus. Et est hoc principium versus secundum graecum. Ponitur autem triplex ratio exauditionis, scilicet ex parte Dei. Quarum una est Rex meus. Regis enim est gubernare. Ex quo ergo ad Deum pertinet, pertinet ad eum necessaria providere: Hier. 10: Quis non timebit te o rex gentium? Alia ratio est, quia Deus: Deus enim finis est voluntatum nostrarum et conservator: Ps. 27: In Deo speravit cor meum, et adjutus sum etc. Et ideo dicit Deus meus: Isa. 8: Numquid non populus a Deo suo requiret visionem pro vivis et mortuis etc. Tertia ratio sumitur ex parte orantis, cum dicit: Quoniam ad te orabo, Domine; quasi dicat: Conveniens est, quia promisisti orantibus exauditionem. Matth. 7: Omnis qui petit accipit, et qui quaerit invenit, et pulsanti aperietur. Nec refertur quod dicit Hieronymus, Deprecor, et hic dicitur, Orabo: quia hoc designat continuationem orationis sine intermissione: quasi dicat: Ita Orabo, quod tamen semper deprecor: Luc. 18: Oportet semper orare, et non deficere. Secondly, he designates the reason for his being heard when he says, My king. And in the Greek version this is the first verse. He sets forth a three-fold reason for his being heard, namely by God. The first of these is My king. It is the business of a king to govern. For this reason, therefore, this pertains to God, pertains to him to provide for the necessities of life: Who shall not fear thee, O king of nations? (Jeremiah 10:7) Another reason is that that he is God. For God is the end of our willing and is our defender: (The Lord is my helper and my protector:) in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped. (Psalm 27:7) And so he says My God: Should not the people seek (a sight) of their God, for the living of the dead. (Isaiah 8:19) The third reason is taken from the perspective of the one praying, when he says, For to thee will I pray, O Lord. It is as if he were saying: “It is fitting that you have promised to listen to those who pray: For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:8) It does not matter that Jerome says “I beseech” (deprecor) and our version says “I will pray” (orabo), since either word designates the continuation of prayer without ceasing, as if to say: “In this manner Will I pray, that in spite of (what may occur) I beseech (the Lord) continuously”: (And he spoke also a parable to them,) that we ought always to pray, and not to faint. (Luke 18:1)
b. Haec est secunda pars psalmi. Ubi primo ostendit fiduciam se habere de exauditione. Secundo fiduciae rationem, ibi, Mane astabo etc. Dicit ergo: Exaudies vocem meam mane: secundum literam, idest celeriter, quasi dicat tempestive. Hoc enim sperare debemus de Deo quod cito exaudiet: Isa. 30: Ad vocem clamoris tui statim ut audierit respondebit tibi. Idem penul. Adhuc illis loquentibus ego audiam. Ratio fiduciae ponitur cum dicit, Mane astabo etc. This is the psalm’s second part where the psalmist shows, first, the confidence he has in being heard, and second the reason for this confidence, at, In the morning, I will stand. Thus he says: Thou shalt hear my voice in the morning, that is to say quickly, as if to say, at the right time. For we ought to hope this of God that he will hearken to us quickly: At the voice of thy cry, as soon as he shall hear, he will answer thee. (Isaiah 30:19). And again: (before they call, I will hear;) as they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24) The reason for his confidence he sets forth when he says, In the morning, I will stand.
Nota quod Mane quadrupliciter dicitur: scilicet naturalis diei: Gen. 1: Factus est vespere et mane dies unus. Item vitae humanae; et sic juventus dicitur mane: Psal. 89: Mane floreat et transeat. Item diei gratiae in prima conversione hominis ad deum, quia tunc incipit habere lumen gratiae: Ps. 89: Repleti sumus mane misericordia tua. Item aeternitatis: Ps. 29. Ad vesperam, scilicet in vita praesenti, Demorabitur fletus, et ad matutinum, scilicet aeternitatis, Laetitia. Duplex ergo ratio assignatur confidentiae. Primo, quia mane astat, idest Deo adhaeret, et ad Deum se praeparat; unde Hieronymus habet, Praeparabor: Eccl. 18: Ante orationem praepara animam tuam, et noli esse quasi homo qui tentat Deum. Mane ergo diei, idest in matutinis, Astabo tibi, idest tibi intendam. Et hoc, quia tunc est homo liber a solicitudinibus, et magis habet cor liberum ad cogitandum de Deo: Psal. 62: In matutinis Domine meditabor in te: Isaiae 26: Sed et spiritu meo in praecordiis meis de mane vigilabo ad te, et exaudies vocem meam etc. Quia devotos audit. Mane, scilicet gratiae, propulsis tenebris culpae, Astabo, et Contemplabor, ut habet littera Hieronymi. 2 Reg. 23: Sicut lux aurorae mane absque nubibus rutilat oriente sole etc. Exaudies vocem meam, scilicet liberando a culpa et poena. Vel Mane, scilicet in die aeternitatis: Job 38: Ubi eras cum me laudarent astra matutina etc. Et tunc homo totaliter exauditur. Vel Mane, idest a juventute: Astabo tibi: Thren. 3: Bonum est viro cum portaverit jugum Domini ab adolescentia sua: Eccl. ult. Memento creatoris tui in diebus juventutis tuae etc. Exaudies voces meam, quia Prov. 8: Diligentes me diligo: et qui mane vigilaverint ad me, inveniet me. Secunda ratio fiduciae est, quod videt; unde dicit, Et videbo: et exponit hoc primo quomodo astet, cum dicit: Ego autem in multitudine. Primo dicit quid videt: scilicet qui sunt illi qui impediuntur ab exauditione, et quae sunt hujusmodi impedimenta: et isti sunt mali; unde dicit Videbo, scilicet Quoniam Deus etc. Ubi notanda sunt duo. Primo, quod mali excluduntur ab istis. Secundo quod inducuntur in mala poenae, ibi, Odisti omnes etc. Circa primum loquitur de Deo sicut de aliquo homine qui diligit aliquos seu odit. Ubi triplex gradus potest esse: quia alicui peccatoris placet peccatum, alicui placet persona peccantis, alicui neutrum: sed tamen libenter et sine indignatione videt eum. Hoc autem non est in Deo: quia Deo non placet peccatum, nec respicit ad familiaritatem peccatoris. Item dedignatur eum videre: et ideo dicit quantum ad primum, Videbo quoniam tu non es Deus volens iniquitatem, idest non placet tibi. Quantum ad secundum dicit: Neque habitabit juxta te malignus, idest non habes eum in familiaritate tua: Ps. 100: Non habitabit in medio domus meae etc. Item ibidem 25: Odivi ecclesiam malignantium. Quantum ad tertium dicit, Neque permanebunt injusti, idest peccatores, Ante oculos tuos, scilicet approbationis: Habacuc 1: Mundi sunt oculi tui, et respicere ad iniquitatem non poteris. Note that In the morning can be said in a fourfold way: namely, of the natural day itself: And there was evening and morning one day (Genesis 1:5); secondly, of human life: and so one is said to be in the morning of one’s youth: In the morning man shall grow up like grass (Psalm 89:6); thirdly, of the day of grace in the first conversion of man to God, since at that point he begins to have the light of grace: We are filled in the morning with thy mercy (Psalm 89:14); and fourth, of eternity: In the evening, that is to say, in the present life, Weeping shall have place, and in the morning, that is to say, in eternity, gladness. (Psalm 29:6) A twofold reason is assigned for his confidence. First, because in the morning he stands near, that is to say, he clings to and prepares himself for God. Hence, Jerome’s version has, I will prepare for: Before prayer prepare they soul: and be not as a man that tempteth God. (Ecclesiasticus 18:23) Therefore, In the morning of day, that is, at dawn, I will stand before thee, that is, I will be intent upon you. And this because at that time, man is free from responsibilities, and has a heart more free to meditate upon God: I will meditate on thee in the morning (Psalm 62:7); And with my spirit within me in the morning early I will watch to thee (Isaiah 26:9) because he hears those devoted to him. In the morning, that is (of the day) of grace, having repelled the darkness of guilt, I will stand and I will contemplate, as Jerome’s version renders it: As the light of the morning, when the sun riseth… (2 Kings 23:4) Thou shalt hear my voice, having been freed from blame and punishment. Or, In the morning, namely on the day of eternity: When the morning stars praised me altogether. (Job 38:7) At that time man, man is wholly regarded. Or, In the morning, that is, of his youth: I will stand before thee: It is good for a man, when he hath borne the yoke (of the Lord) from his youth. (Lamentations 3:27); Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Thou shalt hear my voice, for I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me. (Proverbs 8:17) The second reason for his confidence is that he sees. Hence he says, And I will see. And he sets forth first how he will present himself, when he says, But as for me in the multitude of thy mercy. First he says that he sees, namely who those people are that are prevented from being heard, and what these impediments are. These people are evil. Hence he says, I will see, namely, Because thou art not a God that willest iniquity. Two things are to be noted here. First, that the evil are excluded from (the very things that the good enjoy). Second, that they are brought to the evils associated with their punishment, at, Thou hatest. Concerning the first, the psalmist speaks of God as a man who delights in some and hates others. (For a man) there can be a threefold approach to this (situation). First, that he is pleased with the sin of the one sinning, second, that he is pleased with the person of the one sinning, and third, that he does neither of these but gladly and without indignation associates with him. But these approaches are not to be found in God who neither is pleased with sin, nor cares to be familiar with a sinner. Furthermore, he disdains to associate with him. Thus he says, with respect to the first, that I will see because thou art not a God that willest iniquity, that is to say, it is not pleasing to you. With respect to the second, he says, Neither shall the wicked dwell near thee, that is to say, you do not have him in your company: He that worketh pride shall not dwell in the midst of my house (Psalm 100:7); I have hated the assembly of the malignant (and with the wicked I will not sit). (Psalm 25:5) With respect to the third, he says, Nor shall the unjust, that is to say sinners, abide before thy eyes, namely receive your approval: Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity. (Habacuc 1:13)
c. Hic ostendit quomodo inducuntur ad poenam: et ponit triplicem ordinem. Triplex enim gradus est, quo modo aliquis odit aliquem. Primo habet eum odio, volendo ei malum in corde. Secundo hoc exequitur inferendo poenam. Tertio si quando punivit, tamen reconciliat eum sibi. Sed Deus primo odit; unde dicit, Odisti omnes etc. Sap. 14: Similiter est odio Deo impius et impietas ejus. Sed contra, Sap. 2: Diligis omnia quae sunt etc. Respondeo: quod Deus fecit, non odit; sed quod non fecit, scilicet peccatum. Sed si nos pertinaciter insistamus, peccatorem odit inquantum non revocat, et per poenas ordinat. At this point, he shows how the wicked are brought to punishment. He sets forth a threefold order, for there is a threefold process by which one hates another. First, one carries a hatred directed at the other, wishing evil to the other from one’s heart. Second, this hatred is carried out by inflicting punishment. Lastly, although punished, one nevertheless reconciles oneself to the other. But God hates at the start; hence the Psalmist says, Thou hatest: But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike. (Wisdom 14:9) However, contrary to this is the following: For thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made. (Wisdom 11:25) I respond to this (seeming contradiction) by saying that God does not hate what he has made. Rather he hates what he did not make, namely sin. And if we insist stubbornly upon our sin, we can say that God hates the sinner insofar as the sinner does not turn away from his sin, and God sets the situation aright through punishments.
Secundo infert poenam; et ideo dicit: Perdes omnes qui loquuntur mendacium: Sap. 1: Os quod mentitur occidit animam. Nota quod triplex est mendacium: scilicet perniciosum, quod fit in nocumentum alterius sive spiritualis sive temporalis rei, puta in doctrina; et hoc est gravissimum. Jocosum, quod dicitur ad delectandum. Officiosum, quo quis loquitur ad proficiendum sive temporaliter sive spiritualiter. Et secundum Augustinum, nullum mendacium officiosum est sine peccato: quia si mentiris ut liberes aliquem, hoc non est bonum: quia Apostolus dicit Rom. 3: Non sunt facienda mala ut veniant bona. Praeterea omne malum posset fieri propter bonum; potest tamen officiosum esse aliquando veniale. Sed jocosum semper est veniale. Perniciosum vero semper est mortale: et de isto hic intelligitur. Next, He inflicts the punishment. And so the Psalmist says, Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie: The mouth that belieth, killeth the soul. (Wisdom 1:11) Note that a lie is of three kinds. There is the pernicious lie, since it results in the harming of another’s spiritual or temporal things (for example in the area of doctrine), and this is most grave; secondly, there is the humorous lie, since it is said in order to please; lastly, there is the officious lie which is proffered for some temporal or spiritual advantage. According to Augustine, no officious lie is without sin. For if you lie to free another, this is not good, since the Apostle says at Romans 3:8 that Let us not do evil, that there may come good. Besides, all evil could be done for the sake of good. Nevertheless, the officious lie can sometimes be venial. But the humorous lie is always venial. The pernicious lie is always mortal. And it is this last sort of lie that is understood here (in the psalm passage currently under consideration).
Tertio Deus sic odit sicut poenas inferens qui non reconciliatur; unde subdit: Virum sanguinum et dolosum abominabitur Dominus. Illa abominamur quae in cognitione nostra non patimur. Viri sanguinum dicuntur illi quorum affectus est ad effundendum sanguinem: Prov. 1: Pedes eorum ad malum currunt, et festinant ut effundant sanguinem: 2 Reg. 16: Egredere vir sanguinum. Dolosus est qui in dolo loquitur. Sed advertendum, quod ordinate procedit Psalmista: quia primo homo simpliciter operatur malum cogitando; et hos Deus odit. Sed quando addunt malitiam exequendo, provocant Deum ad puniendum. Sed quando perdurant, tunc Deus abominatur: Prov. 15: Abominatio est Deo vita impii etc. Thirdly, God hates as he inflicts punishments upon those who are not reconciled to him; hence he adds, The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor. We abhor those who in our understanding we cannot bear. “Bloody men” are those whose passion it is to shed blood: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. (Proverbs 1:16); Come out, thou man of blood. (2 Kings 16:7) A deceitful man is one who speaks in a fraudulent manner. It should be noted that the Psalmist proceeds in an ordered way, that, first, man effects evil at the start simply by thinking, and these God hates. But when they add malice by carrying out (this evil so thought), they provoke God to punishment (of them). But when they continue in their malice, then God abhors (them): The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 15:9)
d. Consequenter cum dicit, Ego, ostendit, quomodo astat Domino: et circa hoc duo facit. Primo ostendit quomodo accedit ad Deum. Secundo, quam orationem porrigit, ibi, Adorabo. Dicet ergo aliquis sibi: tu dicis quod Non habitabit juxta te malignus. Sed numquid non tu es peccator? Quomodo ergo astabis? Et ideo dicit, non secundum merita, sed In multitudine misericordiae tuae introibo, idest appropinquabo tibi, In domum tuam. Vel ad litteram dicitur templum, vel congregatio fidelium: 1 Tim. 3: Quomodo oporteat te in domo dei conversari, quae est ecclesia Dei. Dan. 9: Non enim in justificationibus nostris prosternimus preces ante faciem tuam etc. Sed tu cum sis peccator, idest vir sanguinum, quomodo appropinquas vel adoras? Certe, In timore tuo: Eccl. 1: Qui sine timore est, non poterit justificari; ideo dicit, In timore tuo, scilicet cum reverentia. Consequently, when he says, But as for me, he sets forth how he stands before God. Concerning this he does two things. First, he shows how he approaches God, and secondly, what prayer he makes, at, I will worship. And so, someone might say the following to himself: “You say that Neither shall the wicked dwell near thee. But are you not a sinner? How, therefore, will you stand before Him?” And thus the Psalmist says, “Not according to my own merits, but rather In the multitude of thy mercy, I will come,” that is to say, I will approach you, Into thy house. Or, in the literal sense, (I will come into your) temple, or the congregation of the faithful: (But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know) how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15); For it is not for our justifications that we present our prayers before thy face, but for the multitude of thy tender mercies. (Daniel 9:18) “But you, although a sinner, that is to say, a bloody man, how do you approach or adore Him?”; Certainly In thy fear: For he that is without fear, cannot be justified (Ecclesiasticus 1:28), for which reason he says In thy fear, namely with reverence.
e. Supra petivit orationem exaudiri; hic proponit eam. Et primo orat pro se. Secundo pro aliis. Circa primum duo facit. Primo proponit orationem. Secundo ponit ejus rationem, ibi, Quoniam non est. Circa primum duo petit; scilicet deduci et dirigi; et hoc ideo, quia homo in mundo est sicut in via: Isa. 30: Haec est via: ambulabitis in ea. Qui autem vadunt per viam, indigent duobus: quia si via non sit secura, indigent ducatu; vel dirigente, si sit dubia. In mundo undique sunt hostes: Psal. 141: In via hac qua ambulabam, absconderunt laqueum mihi. Item ignota est via: Job 3: Viro cujus abscondita est via etc. Et ideo primo petit, Domine, deduc me in justitia tua, secundum justitiam tuam, vel ut ambulem in tua justitia: et hoc, Propter inimicos meos: Ps. 142: Spiritus tuus bonus deducet me in terram rectam: propter nomen tuum Domine vivificabis me in aequitate tua. Dirige in conspectu tuo viam meam. Alia translatio habet, Dirige in conspectu meo viam tuam: prima concordat cum Hieronymo: secunda cum graeco; sed tamen idem est sensus: quasi dicat: Domine, sum in via occulta: Prov. 14: Est via quae videtur homini recta, novissime autem deducit ad mortem: et ideo, Dirige me in conspectu tuo, idest secundum tuam providentiam, quia tibi nihil est occultum. Vel In conspectu tuo, ut tibi semper placeam. Vel In conspectu meo viam tuam, ut scilicet semper sit in corde meo, ut te semper sequi possim. Previously, the Psalmist asked that his prayer be heard. Here, he sets this prayer forth. First, he prays for himself, and then for others. Concerning the first he does two thing. First, sets forth his prayer, and second, he describes his reason for it, at, For there is not truth. Concerning the first, he seeks two things, namely to be conducted and be directed, and for this reason, that man while in this world is, as it were, on the way: This is the way, walk ye in it. (Isaiah 30:21) Those who walk in this way need two things. For if the way is not safe, they need guidance, or if it is uncertain, then direction. In this world, there are enemies everywhere: In this way wherein I walked, they have hidden a snare for me. (Psalm 141:4) Furthermore, the way is unknown: To a man whose way is hidden. (Job 3:23) For this reason, he first asks, Conduct me, O Lord, in thy justice, according to your justice, or that I may walk in your justice; and this, Because of my enemies: Thy good spirit shall lead me into the right land: for thy name’s sake, O Lord, thou wilt quicken me in thy justice. (Psalm 142:10-11) Direct my way in thy sight. Another translation has Direct thy way in my sight. The first agrees with Jerome’s version, the second with the Greek. Nevertheless, the sense is the same in both. It is as if the Psalmist were saying: “O Lord, I am on a hidden way”: There is a way which seemeth just to a man: but the ends thereof lead to death. (Proverbs 14:12) And for this reason, Direct my way in thy sight, that is, according to your providence, for nothing is hidden from you. Or, In thy sight, so that I may always be pleasing to you. Or, In thy sight direct my way, namely so that it is always in my heart so that I may always be able to follow you.
f. Deinde cum subjungit, Quoniam, assignat rationem petitionis, et describit inimicos, et periculum imminens. Primo ex defectu boni. Secundo ex abundantia mali, ibi, quia cor eorum etc. Then, when he adds, For, he designates the reason for his petition and describes his enemies and the danger that is imminent, first, because of the absence of good, and second, because of the abundance of evil, at, Their heart is vain.
Defectus quidem est, quia si servarent pacem, possem eis pacificari et secure incedere. Sed Non est in ore eorum veritas; quia aliud habent in ore, et aliud in corde: Osee 4: Non est veritas: et ideo non possum secure incedere. Goodness is indeed lacking because if they were keeping the peace, I could be at peace with them and approach them safely. But There is not truth in their mouth, because they have one thing in their mouth and another in their heart: (The Lord shall enter into judgment with the inhabitants of the land: for) there is no truth (and there is no mercy, and their is no knowledge of God in the land). (Hosea 4:1) For this reason, then, I am not able to approach them safely.
Item ex abundantia mali. Et primo quantum ad meditationem, cum dicit: Cor eorum vanum est, idest vana meditantur, ad quae attingere non possunt, scilicet decipere pauperes qui custodiuntur a te: Eccl. 11: Multae insidiae sunt dolosis. Furthermore, because of the abundance of evil. First, as to their meditations, when he says, Their heart is vain, that is to say, they reflect upon vain matters to which they are not able to attain, namely to deceive the poor who are guarded by you: (Bring not every man into thy house:) for many are the snares of the deceitful. (Ecclesiasticus 11:31)
Secundo ex aviditate: quia, Sepulcrum patens est guttur eorum. Guttur servit ad gustum et locutionem. Uno modo potest legi, ut exponatur secundum quod ordinatur ad locutionem; quasi dicat: Guttur eorum est sepulcrum patens: nam sicut sepulcrum est locus mortuorum, et de eo egreditur foetor, ita locutiones eorum mortificant alios, vel spiritualiter vel corporaliter: 1 Cor. 15: Corrumpunt bonos mores colloquia prava. Item foetida sunt eloquia talium, quia turpia loquuntur: Eccl. 11: Eructant praecordia foetentium. Alio modo ut exponatur quantum ad comestionem et aviditatem: et hoc possumus accipere vel ad litteram; et sic sunt Sepulcrum patens, quia sunt voraces. Et propter hoc ut impleant voracitatem suam, adulantur, et inique agunt. Vel figuraliter: et sicut sepulcrum quantum est de se paratum est ad suscipiendum mortuos, sic isti semper sunt parati ad decipiendum: Hier. 5: Pharetra ejus quasi sepulcrum patens. Second, because of their avidity, for Their throat is an open sepulcher. The throat is employed for taste and speech. This can be read in one way, that it is set forth as it is ordered to speech: Their throat is an open sepulcher, for just as a sepulcher is a place for the dead and from which a stench comes, so too does their speech spiritually or corporeally destroy others: Evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Furthermore, eloquence of this sort is fetid since they speak of base things: As corrupted bowels send forth stinking breath. (Ecclesiasticus 11:32) It can be read in another way, namely that it is set forth as to their eating of food and their avidity, and we can take this either in a literal way; and so they are An open sepulcher, because they are voracious. On account of this, they flatter and act iniquitously so that they might satisfy their voraciousness; or we can take this figuratively; and so, just as much as a sepulcher is prepared to receive the dead, so too these evil people are always open to deceiving others: Their quiver is as an open sepulcher. (Jeremiah 5:16)
Tertio quantum ad eorum oppressionem, Linguis suis etc.: quasi dicat: Per verba blanda ducunt ad mortem: Rom. 16: Per dulces sermones et blande seducunt corda innocentium: Hier. 9: Sagitta vulnerans lingua eorum etc. Haec potest esse oratio justi et ecclesiae. Third, as to their oppression, They dealt deceitfully with their tongues, as if to say: “Through their flattering words they lead us to death”: By pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent. (Romans 16:18); Their tongue is a piercing arrow. (Jeremiah 9:8) This prayer can be of the just and of the Church.
g. Consequenter cum dicit, Judica, orat pro aliis. Et primo contra malos. Secundo pro bonis, ibi, Et laetentur. Circa primum tria facit. Primo petit eorum judicium. Secundo determinat judicii modum, ibi, Decidant etc. Tertio assignat judicii causam, ibi, Quoniam irritaverunt. Then when the Psalmist says, Judge, he prays for others, first against those who are evil, and then, at, Let them all be glad, for those who are good. Concerning the first he does three things. First, he asks for their judgment. Second, he determines the mode of their judgment, at, Let them fall. Third, he indicates the cause of their judgment, at, For they have provoked thee, O Lord.
Dicit ergo, Judica illos, ex quo sunt mali. Sed advertendum, quod duplex est judicium: scilicet discretionis, quo etiam boni judicantur: Psalm. 42: Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam etc. Secundo condemnationis: Jo. 3: Qui non credit, jam judicatus est. Hic loquitur de judicio condemnationis, quo mali judicabuntur in extremo judicio: unde Hieronymus habet, Condemna eos Deus. And so, he says, Judge them, because they are evil. But it should be noted that judgment is of two kinds, namely, that of discretion, by which the good are also judged: Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation (that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man) (Psalm 42:1); and secondly, that of condemnation: He that does not believe is judged. (John 3:18) Here, the Psalmist speaks of the judgment of condemnation with which the evil will be judged at the last judgment. Hence Jerome’s version has, Condemn them, O God.
Sed contra: Matth. 5: Orate pro persequentibus et calumniantibus vos. Respondeo. Dicendum, quod prophetae in sua prophetia non loquebantur voluntate propria: 2 Pet. 1: Non enim voluntate humana allata est aliquando prophetia, sed Spiritu sancto etc. Et ideo quae proferebant, dicebant secundum intellectum divinae justitiae: et ideo haec erant magis praedictiones futurorum quam orationes eorum: unde Iudica, idest scio quod judicabis. However, on the contrary, there is Matthew 5:44: Pray for them that persecute and calumniate you. I respond by saying that the prophets did not speak in accordance with their own will in their prophecies: For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21) And it is in this way that they brought forth what they did, that they spoke according to the mind of divine justice. And it is for this reason that what they said was cast more in predictions for the future than in the prayers they made. Hence, Judge, that is, I know that you will judge.
Modus justitiae duplex ponitur. Primo, ut deficiant ab intento. Secundo, ut removeantur a loco. Per primum impediuntur mala quae intendunt: et ideo dicit, Decidant a cogitationibus suis, idest consiliis: Job 5: Qui apprehendit sapientes in astutia eorum, etc. Vel Decidant, idest puniantur propter cogitationes suas: Rom. 2: Cogitationum accusantium etc. Sed per secundum expelluntur a societate bonorum; unde sequitur: Secundum multitudinem etc. Hoc erit tunc quando Matth. 25, dicetur: Ite maledicti etc. Job 18: Expellet eum de luce in tenebras etc. Et dicit Secundum multitudinem impietatum, quia secundum eas erit modus condemnativus: Deut. 25: Pro mensura delicti erit et plagarum modus. A two-fold mode of justice1 is set forth, the first, so that they might cease from their intent, the second, so that they might be removed from their presence. Through the first the evil are prevented from what they intend to do. For this reason he says, Let them fall from their devices, that is to say, from their counsels: Who catcheth the wise in their craftiness, (and disappointeth the counsel of the wicked). (Job 5:13) Or, Let them fall, that is to say, let them be punished according to their own thoughts: (Their conscience bearing witness to them, and) their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another. (Romans 2:15) But through the second (mode of justice), they are expelled from the society of the good. Hence the Psalmist next says, According to the multitude of their wickednesses cast them out. This will occur at that time when it is said in Matthew 25:41: Depart from me, you cursed (into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels); He shall drive him out of light into darkeness (and shall remove him out of the world). (Job 18:18) And the Psalmist says, According to the multitude of their wickednesses, because it will be according to these that the manner of condemnation will take place: According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be. (Deuteronomy 25:2)
Causa ponitur, Quoniam irritaverunt, idest ad iram provocaverunt. Hoc in Deo non iram, sed voluntatem puniendi ostendit. Alia litera Amaricaverunt te, qui dulcis es, in te pertinaciter peccando. Peccatores primo peccant, post aggravant peccatum suum ex pertinacia, et Deus tunc non parcit, sed irritatur, idest inducitur ad vindictam: Rom. 2: An ignoras quod benignitas Dei ad poenitentiam te adducit? Tu autem secundum duritiam tuam: Deut. 32: Ipsi me provocaverunt in eo qui non est Deus etc. The cause (of their judgment) he sets forth at, For they have provoked thee, O Lord, that is to say, they have roused Him to anger. This does not indicate that there is anger in God, but rather the will to punish. Other versions have They have made you bitter, you who are sweet, in sinning obstinately against you. Sinners aggravate a sin that they have first committed by their obstinacy, and God at that point does not forbear but is angered, that is to say, is lead to vengeance: Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? But according to thy hardness (and impenitent heart, thou treasurest upto thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to this works. (Romans 2:4-6); They have provoked me with that which was no god etc. (Deuteronomy 32:21)
h. Consequenter cum dicit, Et laetentur, ponit petitionem. Et primo ponit eam. Secundo subdit expositionem, In aeternum. Circa primum duo facit. Primo enim ponit quid petit, quia laetitiam; unde dicit Laetentur: hoc est enim finis bonorum omnium. Ps. 67: Justi epulentur et exultent in conspectu Dei, et delectentur in laetitia. Secundo, quibus petit, quia sperantibus: unde, Qui sperant in te. Consequenter cum dicit, In aeternum exultabunt, exponit primo, et dicit, Laetentur. Secundo, cum dicit, Sperent, ibi, Quoniam tu benedixisti justo. Then when he says, But let them all be glad, he puts forth his petition. He begins by putting it forth and then qualifies it by adding, Forever. Concerning the former he does two things. First, he sets forth that for which he asks, namely gladness. Hence he says, Let them..be glad, for this is the end of all the good: And let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness. (Psalm 67:4) Secondly, he puts forth those for whom he prays, namely for those who hope. Hence he says, That hope in thee. Consequently, when he says, They shall rejoice forever, he qualifies the first and says, Let them…be glad, and then the second, when he says, That hope in thee, at, For thou wilt bless the just.
Laetitia namque sanctorum in patria est sempiterna: et ideo dicit, In aeternum: et secura; unde addit, Et habitabis in eis: plena, propter quod subdit, Et gloriabuntur etc. Sempiterna quidem est, non temporalis: Isa. 51: Laetitia sempiterna super capita eorum etc. Secura absque perturbatione: Isa. 32: Sedebit populus meus in pulchritudine pacis, et in tabernaculis fiduciae; et ideo dicit, Et habitabis in eis, sicut protector: unde Hieronymus habet, Et proteges eos: Apoc. 21: Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus, et habitabit cum eis. Est etiam plena: et hoc patet ex quatuor. Primo ex gloria inde concepta; unde, Gloriabuntur, quia non gloriatur quis de re nisi habeat eam excellenter. Sancti vero excellentissime Deum habent; ideo dicit, Gloriabuntur. Secundo ex materia: quia gloriantur de re plenissima, et de omni bono: Joan. 16: Usque modo non petistis quidquam in nomine meo; petite et accipietis, ut gaudium vestrum sit plenum: Jo. 15: Ut gaudium meum in vobis sit etc. Et ideo dicit In te. Tertio ex societate: quia solus homo non potest bene gaudere de aliquo, sed quando amicos habet secum participes illius boni: et ideo dicit, Omnes. Ps. 86: Sicut laetantium omnium habitatio est in te. Quarto ex perfectione, Qui diligunt: hoc enim proprium est amicorum gaudere de bono amici, nec facile homo dimittit quod diligit. The joy of the saints in their homeland is everlasting. It is for this reason that the Psalmist says, Forever. This joy is secure; hence he adds And thou shalt dwell in them. And it is complete, according to which he adds, They shall glory. This joy is indeed everlasting and not temporal: And joy everlasting shall be upon their heads (they shall obtain joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning shall flee away). (Isaiah 51:11) It is secure without perturbation: And my people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence. (Isaiah 32:18) It is for this reason that he says, And thou shalt dwell in them, as a protector. Hence Jerome has, And you will protect them: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. (Apocalypse 21:3) And this joy is complete, something that is clear for four reasons. First, by reason of the glory conceived at that time. Hence, They shall glory, since one does not glory in a thing unless he possesses it excellently. The saints, however, possess God most excellently, for which reason he says, They shall glory. Second, because of the situation, for they glory in a thing most complete, and of every good: Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that you joy may be full (John 16:24); (These things I have spoken to you) that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled. (John 15:11) And for this reason he says, In thee. Third, because of community, for a solitary man cannot rejoice well in something, but when he has friends with him sharing in that good (his enjoyment will be full). For this reason he says, All: The dwelling in thee is as it were of all rejoicing. (Psalm 86:7) Fourth, by reason of perfection, And all they that love. For it is proper for friends to rejoice in the good of a friend, and not easily does a man loose that which he loves.
i. Consequenter cum dicit, Quoniam, ostendit quare sperant. Quia primo de dono gratiae. Secundo ex misericordia praedestinationis etc. Ex dono namque gratiae; unde ait, Quoniam tu benedixisti justo, dando scilicet ei specialem gratiam: Ephes. 1: Benedixit nos omni benedictione spirituali in caelestibus. Et misericordia praedestinationis: Ephe. 1: Praedestinati sumus secundum propositum voluntatis ejus, qui operatur omnia in omnibus: et hoc est quod ait, Scuto bonae voluntatis, scilicet aeterna voluntate misericordiae suae, quae ab aeterno disposuit salvare: Ephes. 1: Elegit nos ante mundi constitutionem, ut essemus sancti et immaculati. Quod autem ait: Ut scuto, innuit quod ipsa voluntas Dei bona est sicut scutum contra omnia mala: 2 Reg. 23: Dominus scutum et robur meum etc. Vel est hic ut scutum protegens, in patria vero ut scutum coronans. Consuetudo namque fuit romanis antiquitus uti scutis rotundis, et in illis habebant spem victoriae; et quando triumphabant, illomet scuto utebantur ut corona. Et inde sancti pinguntur cum scuto rotundo in capite: quia de hostibus adepti triumphum, scutum rotundum ad instar Romanorum gerunt in capite pro corona. Dicit ergo: Scuto bonae voluntatis tuae coronasti nos; quasi dicat, Pro scuto coronationis nostrae habemus bonam voluntatem tuam, quae nos hic defendit, et ibi coronat. Then when he says, For, he declares why they hope, first because of the gift of grace, and second because of the mercy of predestination. Hence, because of the gift of grace, he says, For thou wilt bless the just, namely by giving him a particular grace: (Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places. (Ephesians 1:3) And because of the mercy of predestination (In whom we also are called by lot) being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11), he thus says, As with a shield of thy good will, that is to say, with the everlasting will of his mercy by which he ordained from eternity to save: As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted (in his sight in charity). (Ephesians 1:4) But when he says, As with a shield, he announces that the will of God itself is like a good shield against all manner of evil: The Lord is (my rock, and) my strength and (my savior. God is my strong one, in him will I trust:) my shield (and the horn of my salvation: he lifteth me up, and is my refuge: my savior, thou wilt deliver me from iniquity.) (2 Kings 22:2-3) Or, he is here as a protecting shield, but in heaven as a crowning shield. For it was the custom of ancient Romans to use a round shield and to place in these their hope for victory. And when they were triumphant, they used the same shield as a crown. And for this reason the saints are represented with a round shield about their heads; for having won a victory over their enemies, they bear upon their heads a round shield for a crown just like the Romans. Therefore he says, Thou hast crowned us, as with a shield of thy good will. It is as if he were saying, “For the shield of our coronation we have your good will which defended us in this world, and crowns us in the next.”

© Dr. Stephen Loughlin
(stephen.loughlin@desales.edu)


The Aquinas Translation Project
(http://www4.desales.edu/~philtheo/loughlin/ATP/index.html)
Endnotes

1 or judgment, as indicated earlier at the beginning of g.

 

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

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

1. The title of the Psalm is, “For her who receiveth the inheritance.” The Church then is signified, who receiveth for her inheritance eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ; that she may possess God Himself, in cleaving to whom she may be blessed, according to that, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.”4 What earth, but that of which it is said, “Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living”?5 And again more clearly, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup.”6 And conversely the word Church is said to be God’s inheritance according to that, “Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance.”7 Therefore is God said to be our inheritance, because He feedeth and sustaineth8 us: and we are said to be God’s inheritance, because He ordereth and ruleth us. Wherefore it is the voice of the Church in this Psalm called to her inheritance, that she too may herself become the inheritance of the Lord.

2. “Hear my words, O Lord” (ver. 1). Being called she calleth upon the Lord; that the same Lord being her helper, she may pass through the wickedness of this world, and attain unto Him. “Understand my cry.” The Psalmist well shows what this cry is; how from within, from the chamber of the heart, without the body’s utterance,9 it reaches unto God: for the bodily voice is heard, but the spiritual is understood. Although this too may be God’s hearing, not with carnal ear, but in the omnipresence of His Majesty.

3. “Attend Thou to the voice of my supplication;” that is, to that voice, which he maketh request that God would understand: of which what the nature is, he hath already intimated, when he said, “Understand my cry. Attend Thou to the voice of my supplication, my King, and my God” (ver. 2). Although both the Son is God, and the Father God, and the Father and the Son together One God; and if asked of the Holy Ghost, we must give no other answer than that He is God; and when the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are mentioned together, we must understand nothing else, than One God; nevertheless Scripture is wont to give the appellation of King to the Son. According then to that which is said, “By Me man cometh to the Father,”10 rightly is it first, “my King;” and then, “my God.” And yet has not the Psalmist said, Attend Ye; but, “Attend Thou.” For the Catholic faith preaches not two or three Gods, but the Very Trinity, One God. Not that the same Trinity can be together, now the Father, now the Son, now the Holy Ghost, as Sabellius believed: but that the Father must be none but the Father, and the Son none but the Son, and the Holy Ghost none but the Holy Ghost, and this Trinity but One God. Hence when the Apostle had said, “Of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things,”11 he is believed to have conveyed an intimation of the Very Trinity; and yet he did not add, to Them be glory; but, “to Him be glory.”

4. “Because I will pray unto Thee (ver. 3). O Lord, in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice.” What does that, which he said above, “Hear Thou,” mean, as if he desired to be heard immediately? But now he saith, “in the morning Thou wilt hear;” not, hear Thou: and, “I will pray unto Thee;” not, I do pray unto Thee: and, as follows, “in the morning I will stand by Thee, and will see;” not, I do stand by Thee, and do see. Unless perhaps his former prayer marks the invocation itself: but being in darkness amidst the storms of this world, he perceives that he does not see what he desires, and yet does not cease to hope, “For hope that is seen, is not hope.”1 Nevertheless, he understands why he does not see, because the night is not yet past, that is, the darkness which our sins have merited. He says therefore, “Because I will pray unto Thee, O Lord;” that is, because Thou art so mighty to whom I shall make my prayer, “in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice.” Thou art not He, he says, that can be seen by those, from whose eyes the night of sins is not yet withdrawn: when the night then of my error is past, and the darkness gone, which by my sins I have brought upon myself, then “Thou wilt hear my voice.” Why then did he say above not, “Thou wilt hear,” but “hear Thou”? Is it that after the Church cried out, “hear Thou,” and was not heard, she perceived what must needs pass away to enable her to be heard? Or is it that she was heard above, but doth not yet understand that she was heard, because she doth not yet see by whom she hath been heard; and what she now says, “In the morning Thou wilt hear,” she would have thus taken, In the morning I shall understand that I have been heard? Such is that expression, “Arise, O Lord,”2 that is, make me arise. But this latter is taken of Christ’s resurrection: but at all events that Scripture, “The Lord your God proveth you, that He may know whether ye love Him,”3 cannot be taken in any other sense, than, that ye by Him may know, and that it may be made evident to yourselves, what progress ye have made in His love.

5. “In the morning I will stand by Thee, and will see” (ver. 3). What is, “I will stand,” but “I will not lie down”? Now what else is, to lie down, but to take rest on the earth, which is a seeking happiness in earthly pleasures? “I will stand by,” he says, “and will see.” We must not then cleave to things earthly, if we would see God, who is beheld by a clean heart. “For Thou art not a God who hast pleasure in iniquity. The malignant man shall not dwell near Thee, nor shall the unrighteous abide before Thine eyes. Thou hast hated all that work iniquity, Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie. The man of blood, and the crafty man, the Lord will abominate” (vers. 4–6). Iniquity, malignity, lying, homicide, craft, and all the like, are the night of which we speak: on the passing away of which, the morning dawns, that God may be seen. He has unfolded the reason, then, why he will stand by in the morning, and see: “For,” he says, “Thou art not a God who hast pleasure in iniquity.” For if He were a God who had pleasure in iniquity, He could be seen even by the iniquitous, so that He would not be seen in the morning, that is, when the night of iniquity is over.

6. “The malignant man shall not dwell near Thee:” that is, he shall not so see, as to cleave to Thee. Hence follows, “Nor shall the unrighteous abide before Thine eyes.” For their eyes, that is, their mind is beaten back by the light of truth, because of the darkness of their sins; by the habitual practice of which they are not able to sustain the brightness of right understanding. Therefore even they who see sometimes, that is, who understand the truth, are yet still unrighteous, they abide not therein through love of those things, which turn away from the truth. For they carry about with them their night, that is, not only the habit, but even the love, of sinning. But if this night shall pass away, that is, if they shall cease to sin, and this love and habit thereof be put to flight, the morning dawns, so that they not only understand, but also cleave to the truth.

7. “Thou hast hated all that work iniquity.” God’s hatred may be understood from that form of expression, by which every sinner hates the truth. For it seems that she too hates those, whom she suffers not to abide in her. Now they do not abide, who cannot bear the truth. “Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie.” For this is the opposite to truth. But lest any one should suppose that any substance or nature is opposite to truth, let him understand that “a lie” has relation to that which is not, not to that which is. For if that which is be spoken, truth is spoken: but if that which is not be spoken, it is a lie.4 Therefore saith he, “Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie;” because drawing back from that which is, they turn aside to that which is not. Many lies indeed seem to be for some one’s safety or advantage, spoken not in malice, but in kindness: such was that of those midwives in Exodus,5 who gave a false report to Pharaoh, to the end that the infants of the children of Israel might not be slain.6 But even these are praised not for the fact, but for the disposition shown; since those who only lie in this way, will attain in time to a freedom from all lying. For in those that are perfect, not even these lies are found. For to these it is said, “Let there be in your mouth, yea, yea; nay, nay; whatsoever is more, is of evil.”7 Nor is it without reason written in another place, “The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul:”8 lest any should imagine that the perfect and spiritual man ought to lie for this temporal life, in the death of which no soul is slain, neither his own, nor another’s. But since it is one thing to lie, another to conceal the truth (if indeed it be one thing to say what is false, another not to say what is true), if haply one does not wish to give a man up even to this visible death, he should be prepared to conceal what is true, not to say what is false; so that he may neither give him up, nor yet lie, lest he slay his own soul for another’s body. But if he cannot yet do this, let him at all events admit only lies of such necessity, that he may attain to be freed even from these, if they alone remain, and receive the strength of the Holy Ghost, whereby he may despise all that must be suffered for the truth’s sake. In fine, there are two kinds of lies, in which there is no great fault,1 and yet they are not without fault, either when we are in jest, or when we lie that we may do good. That first kind, in jest, is for this reason not very hurtful, because there is no deception. For he to whom it is said knows that it is said for the sake of the jest. But the second kind is for this reason the more inoffensive, because it carries with it some kindly intention. And to say truth, that which has no duplicity, cannot even be called a lie. As if, for example, a sword be intrusted to any one, and he promises to return it, when he who intrusted it to him shall demand it: if he chance to require his sword when in a fit of madness, it is clear it must not be returned then, lest he kill either himself or others, until soundness of mind be restored to him. Here then is no duplicity, because he, to whom the sword was intrusted, when he promised that he would return it at the other’s demand, did not imagine that he could require it when in a fit of madness. But even the Lord concealed the truth, when He said to the disciples, not yet strong enough, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now:”2 and the Apostle Paul, when he said, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.”3 Whence it is clear that it is not blamable, sometimes not to speak what is true. But to say what is false, is not found to have been allowed to the perfect.

8. “The man of blood, and the crafty man, the Lord will abominate.” What he said above, “Thou hast hated all that work iniquity, Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie,” may well seem to be repeated here: so that one may refer “the man of blood” to “the worker of iniquity,” and “the crafty man” to; the “lie.” For it is craft, when one thing is done, another pretended. He used an apt word too, when he said, “will abominate.” For the disinherited are usually called abominated. Now this Psalm is, “for her who receiveth the inheritance;” and she adds the exulting joy of her hope, in saying, “But I, in the multitude of Thy mercy, will enter into Thine house” (ver. 7). “In the multitude of mercy:” perhaps he means in the multitude of perfected and blessed men, of whom that city shall consist, of which the Church is now in travail, and is bearing few by few. Now that many men regenerated and perfected, are rightly called the multitude of God’s mercy, who can deny; when it is most truly said, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him?4 I will enter into Thine house:” as a stone into a building, I suppose, is the meaning. For what else is the house of God than the Temple of God, of which it is said, “for the temple of God is holy,5 which temple ye are”? Of which building He is the cornerstone,6 whom the Power and Wisdom of God coeternal with the Father assumed.

9. “I will worship at Thy holy temple, in Thy fear.” “At the temple,” we understand as, “near” the temple. For he does not say, I will worship “in” Thy holy temple; but, “I will worship at Thy holy temple.” It must be understood too to be spoken not of perfection, but of progress toward perfection: so that the words, “I will enter into Thine house,” should signify perfection. But that this may come to a happy issue, “I will” first, he says, “worship at Thy holy temple.” And perhaps on this account he added, “in Thy fear;” which is a great defence to those that are advancing toward salvation. But when any one shall have arrived there, in him comes to pass that which is written, “perfect love casteth out fear.”7 For they do not fear Him who is now their friend, to whom it is said, “henceforth I will not call you servants, but friends,”8 when they have been brought through to that which was promised.

10. “O Lord, lead me forth in Thy justice because of mine enemies” (ver. 8). He has here sufficiently plainly declared that he is on his onward road, that is, in progress toward perfection, not yet in perfection itself, when he desires eagerly that he may be led forth. But, “in Thy justice,” not in that which seems so to men. For to return evil for evil seems justice: but it is not His justice of whom it is said, “He maketh His sun to rise on the good and on the evil:” for even when God punishes sinners, He does not inflict His evil on them, but leaves them to their own evil. “Behold,” the Psalmist says, “he travailed with injustice, he hath conceived toil, and brought forth iniquity: he hath opened a ditch, and digged it, and hath fallen into the pit which he wrought: his pains shall be turned on his own head, and his iniquity shall descend on his own pate.”1 When then God punishes, He punishes as a judge those that transgress the law, not by bringing evil upon them from Himself, but driving them on to that which they have chosen, to fill up the sum of their misery. But man, when he returns evil for evil, does it with an evil will: and on this account is himself first evil, when he would punish evil.

11. “Direct in Thy sight my way.” Nothing is clearer, than that he here sets forth that time, in which he is journeying onward. For this is a way which is traversed not in any regions of the earth, but in the affections of the heart. “In Thy sight,” he says, “direct my way:” that is, where no man sees; who are not to be trusted in their praise or blame. For they can in no wise judge of another man’s conscience, wherein the way toward God is traversed. Hence it is added, “for truth is not in their mouth” (ver. 9). To whose judgment of course then there is no trusting, and therefore must we fly within to conscience, and the sight of God. “Their heart is vain.” How then can truth be in their mouth, whose heart is deceived by sin, and the punishment of sin? Whence men are called back by that voice, “Wherefore do ye love vanity, and seek a lie?”

12. “Their throat is an open sepulchre.” It may be referred to signify gluttony, for the sake of which men very often lie by flattery. And admirably has he said, “an open sepulchre:” for this gluttony is ever gaping with open mouth, not as sepulchres, which, on the reception of corpses, are closed up. This also may be understood hereby, that with lying and blind flattery men draw to themselves those whom they entice to sin; and as it were devour them, when they turn them to their own way of living. And when this happens to them, since by sin they die, those by whom they are led along, are rightly called open sepulchres: for themselves too are in a manner lifeless, being destitute of the life of truth; and they take in to themselves dead men, whom having slain by lying words and a vain heart, they turn unto themselves. “With their own tongues they dealt craftily:” that is, with evil tongues. For this seems to be signified, when he says “their own.” For the evil have evil tongues, that is, they speak evil, when they speak craftily. To whom the Lord saith, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?”2

13. “Judge them, O God: let them fall from their own thoughts” (ver. 10). It is a prophecy, not a curse. For he does not wish that it should come to pass; but he perceives what will come to pass. For this happens to them, not because he appears to have wished for it, but because they are such as to deserve that it should happen. For so also what he says afterwards, “Let all that hope in Thee rejoice,” he says by way of prophecy; since he perceives that they will rejoice. Likewise is it said prophetically, “Stir up Thy strength, and come:”3 for he saw that He would come. Although the words, “Let them fall from their own thoughts,” may be taken thus also, that it may rather be believed to be a wish for their good by the Psalmist, whilst they fall from their evil thoughts, that is, that they may no more think evil. But what follows, “drive them out,” forbids this interpretation. For it can in no wise be taken in a favourable sense, that one is driven out by God. Wherefore it is understood to be said prophetically, and not of ill will; when this is said, which must necessarily happen to such as chose to persevere in those sins, which have been mentioned. “Let them,” therefore, “fall from their own thoughts,” is, let them fall by their self-accusing thoughts, “their own conscience also bearing witness,” as the Apostle says, “and their thoughts accusing or excusing, in the revelation of the just judgment of God.”4

14. “According to the multitude of their ungodlinesses drive them out:” that is, drive them out far away. For this is “according to the multitude of their ungodlinesses,”5 that they should be driven out far away. The ungodly then are driven out from that inheritance, which is possessed by knowing and seeing God: as diseased eyes are driven out from the shining of the light, when what is gladness to others is pain to them. Therefore these shall not stand in the morning,6 and see. And that expression is as great a punishment, as that which is said, “But for me it is good to cleave to the Lord,”7 is a great reward. To this punishment is opposed, “Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord;”8 for similar to this expulsion is, “Cast him into outer darkness.”9

15. “Since they have embittered Thee, O Lord: I am,” saith He, “the Bread which came down from heaven;”10 again, “Labour for the meat which wasteth not;”11 again, “Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”12 But to sinners the bread of truth is bitter. Whence they hate the mouth of him that speaketh the truth. These then have embittered God, who by sin have fallen into such a state of sickliness, that the food of truth, in which healthy souls delight, as if it were bitter as gall, they cannot bear.

16. “And let all rejoice that hope in Thee;” those of course to whose taste the Lord is sweet. “They will exult for evermore, and Thou wilt dwell in them” (ver. 11). This will be the exultation for evermore, when the just become the Temple of God, and He, their Indweller, will be their joy. “And all that love Thy name shall glory in Thee:” as when what they love is present for them to enjoy. And well is it said, “in Thee,” as if in possession of the inheritance, of which the title of the Psalm speaks: when they too are His inheritance, which is intimated by, “Thou wilt dwell in them.” From which good they are kept back, whom God, according to the multitude of their ungodlinesses, driveth out.

17. “For Thou wilt bless the just man” (ver. 12). This is blessing, to glory in God, and to be inhabited by God. Such sanctification is given to the just. But that they may be justified, a calling goes before: which is not of merit, but of the grace of God. “For all have sinned, and want the glory of God.”1 “For whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He, justified, them He also glorified.”2 Since then calling is not of our merit, but of the goodness and mercy of God, he went on to say, “O Lord, as with the shield of Thy good will Thou hast crowned us.” For God’s good will goes before our good will, to call sinners to repentance. And these are the arms whereby the enemy is overcome, against whom it is said, “Who will bring accusation against God’s elect?” Again, “if God be for us, who can be against us? Who spared not His Only Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”3 “For if, when we were enemies, Christ died for us; much more being reconciled, shall we be saved from wrath through Him.”4 This is that unconquerable shield, whereby the enemy is driven back, when he suggests despair of our salvation through the multitude of tribulaions and temptations.

18. The whole contents of the Psalm, then, are a prayer that she may be heard, from the words, “hear my words, O Lord,” unto, “my King, and my God.” Then follows a view of those things which hinder the sight of God, that is, a knowledge that she5 is heard, from the words, “because I shall pray unto Thee, O Lord, in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice,” unto, “the man of blood and the crafty man the Lord will abominte.” Thirdly, she hopes that she, who is to be the house of God, even now begins to draw near to Him in fear, before that perfection which casteth out fear, from the words, “but I in the multitude of Thy mercy,” unto, “I will worship at Thy holy temple in Thy fear.” Fourthly, as she is progressing and advancing amongst those very things which she feels to hinder her, she prays that she may be assisted within, where no man seeth, lest she be turned aside by evil tongues, for the words, “O Lord, lead me forth in Thy justice because of my enemies,” unto, “with their tongues they dealt craftily.” Fifthly, is a prophecy of what punishment awaits the ungodly, when the just man shall scarcely be saved; and of what reward the just shall obtain, who, when they were called, came, and bore all things manfully, till they were brought to the end, from the words, “judge them, O God,” unto the end of the Psalm.

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

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

PSALM TITLE
A Psalm of David.

ARGUMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ, when the temple of His Body was destroyed, should raise it again after three days. He hath sent a song to His elect. The song of the elect. Concerning the doctrine of Confession. The voice of the Church repenting with her whole soul. The voice of the Church against her enemies. By fasting. A song for the catechumens and elect.

Ven. Bede. Through the whole Psalm the Church prays that she may not, before the Presence of the Lord, appear contemptible to her enemies. In the first part she makes supplication that she may be taught the commandments of the Lord, and His ways: Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Secondly, she asks for the favours which He hath bestowed on the Holy Fathers from the beginning: Call to remembrance, O Lord, Thy tender mercies, &c. Thirdly, she showeth how they that keep the commandments of the Lord merit eternal rewards, and protesteth that she will constantly remain in the will of the same Lord. The first portion, therefore, consists of five letters; the second of six; the third of nine.

S. Jerome. The 25th Psalm contains the prayer of the Mediator offered to the Father: it may also be the clamour of the Church making her requests to God.

COMMENTARY

This is the first of the Alphabetic Psalms: that is, of those in which each verse, or each clause, commences consecutively with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The others are the 34th, the 37th, the 111th, the 112th, the 119th, and the 145th. Besides these, the Lamentations of Jeremiah are written on the same system, and the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs. Some of the Psalms, of which this is one, are not absolutely perfect in this acrostic arrangement. It is a more ingenious than likely suggestion of Cassiodorus, that those in which the acrostic is maintained without a flaw are intended to describe the state of the perfect; the Psalms in which it is not unbroken, of those who are only striving after perfection.

Probably from these Psalms arose the ABCdarian hymns of the Latin, and Canons of the Eastern Church. The former are by no means uncommon: as, for example, that of Sedulius, A solis ortus cardine: that beginning, Æterna cœli gloria: the A Patre Unigenitus: that of Ethelwald, Alma lucerna micat: the Altissimi verbum Patris: the Agni Genitor Domine. In the Greek Canons many might be quoted: it will suffice to mention those in the Octoechus, and one on the Metastasis of S. John (Sept. 27) antistrophic: (i.e., beginning at the end.)

1–2 Unto thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul; my (א) God, I have put my trust in thee: O let me not be (ב) confounded, neither let mine enemies triumph over me.

The Apostle commands us, “Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.”* Acting in agreement with that command, the Psalmist begins with the expression of his own confidence: My God, I have put my trust in Thee. And if we take the words as spoken by our Lord, (Ay.) they merely assert that which He said on the Saturday before His Passion: “I knew that Thou hearest Me always.”* He says Himself, I have put My trust in Thee. He commands it to us: “Ye believe,* or rather ye have confidence in God; have confidence also in Me.”1 Do I lift up my soul. It is well and wisely commanded by Isaiah,* “Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem:” because by nature our soul “cleaveth unto the dust.” In the very beginning of this his prayer, David commences by raising his mind. It is the Sursum corda which has commenced the Christian sacrifice from the very beginning. Well says S. John Damascene:* “Prayer is the elevation or ascent of the soul to God.” O let me not be confounded. It is the Second Adam that speaks. The first had said, (G.) “I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”* Of the second it is written, “Not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon.”* Let not mine enemies triumph. You may take it of Satan and his hosts, as S. Athanasius does: or, as S. Jerome, of temporal enemies; as Gentiles against the Jews, (L.) or heretics against the Church. Let them not triumph, when we are beginning some holy work, as Tobiah against Nehemiah: “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall:”* or as the Jews at the day of Pentecost, “These men are full of new wine.”* Unto Thee, O Lord.* Erchembert says, beautifully enough: “It is the voice of the Church to Christ: that Church, which lay low in the valley of tears, before Christ came into the world; but by His Advent, He hath raised her in faith, in hope, and in love. It is just the same thing as corn, which, if it lies low in the ground, rots: if it sprouts up, it shall be preserved. Thus the soul which perseveres in its sins goes to decay, and perishes; if it is raised up, and amends itself, and stands in faith, hope, and love, it is guarded by the Lord.”

3 For all they that hope in thee shall not be ashamed: (ג) but such as transgress without a cause shall be put to confusion.

The wise man is the best Commentator. “Look at the generations of old, and see: did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded? or did any abide in His fear, and was forsaken? or whom did He ever despise that called upon Him?”* The multitudes, as the Fathers remind us, hoped in Christ for three days, and were rewarded by being fed with five loaves and two small fishes. S. Albertus Magnus well says:* They that hope in Thee; but it must be with courage, as it is written, “O tarry thou the Lord’s leisure: be strong, and He shall comfort thine heart; and put thy trust in the Lord.”* It must be even under correction; according to that saying, “Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee.”* It must be, although He seem to procrastinate, giving us that for which we hope; according to that saying, “Reward them that wait for Thee.” And the end of this waiting the wise man tells us: “The patient man will bear for a time, and afterward joy shall spring up unto him.”* And again: “Yea, I am with him in trouble: I will deliver him and bring him to honour.”* Deliver him, that is, liberating him from the punishment he has deserved by nature; bring him to honour, bestowing on him the glory that he has merited by Christ. And notice that this verse begins with the letter Gimel. Now Gimel,* by interpretation, is perfection; because patience is the perfection and crown of all virtues. As S. James saith,* “Let patience have her perfect work.” And again it is written in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Through patience the promises are inherited.”* Shall be put to confusion. Thus He turns back the shame on His enemies which they have poured upon Him. And so the Church applies in Passiontide those words of Jeremiah, “Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded; let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed; bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.”* The translation of the Vulgate is somewhat different. Confounded be all they that do wickedness vainly. S. Augustine understands it of those who so vainly toil to acquire those earthly riches which make themselves wings and fly away. Ruffinus takes it to show how vain is every work of the wicked, (A.) seeing that it cannot be carried on in the next world; that there its contriver may say with Job, “My days are past,* my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart.”

4 Show me thy ways, O Lord: and teach me thy (ד) paths.

Notice the difference between ways and paths. By ways, (Ay.) we understand God’s laws, that are common to all men; by paths, which are straighter and narrower than ways, those evangelical counsels, such as poverty, chastity, and obedience, of which it is written, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.”* Observe also the difference of the verbs to show and to teach: as, if once shown, the ways were comparatively easy, but the paths must be taught with difficulty and perseverance. Or, as Gerhohus puts it neatly, (G.) Show me Thy ways by the most shining example of Thy conversation among men in the active life: and teach me Thy paths, in the contemplative life, by which the saints desire to behold Thy divine face in heaven.* Thy ways, not any of which lead to destruction, but all are ways of life. S. Bernard teaches that the soul desirous of God is said in the Psalms to be continually searching out these things,* namely, justice, judgment, and the place of the dwelling of God’s glory, as the way in which she is to walk, the rule by which she is to journey, and the goal to which she is to tend. S. Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, who never misses one clause that tells of grace, takes occasion to deduce its necessity from this verse. Show me, because I cannot show myself: teach me, for without Thee I can never learn. Thy ways: and principally Him Who said, “I am the Way;” and Whom Solomon calls the Beginning of God’s ways. Show me Thy ways; according as it is written, “The Lord directeth the steps;”* and teach me Thy paths, according to that saying,* “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth:” the motive, as S. Albertus speaks, thus coming before the apprehension. Teach me. Corderius well observes that we are not here to understand the word teaching in the way in which Scripture or any external authority is said to teach; for in that sense the prophet had already been taught the ways of the Lord: but of the inward teaching of the Spirit of God, (Cd.) and that twofold. The first, that by which He persuades men to embrace His ways as really desirable, and to be followed for the sake of happiness; the other, that by which He takes advantage of every little external circumstance or accident to draw His own lessons therefrom. After all, I know not but that I prefer the brief comment of Ludolph to any other, (Lu.) who, after quoting the text, merely says, “O Lord, let me not err.”

5 Lead me forth in thy truth, and learn me: (ה) for thou art the God of my salvation; (ו) in thee hath been my hope all the day long.

And here we have what we always must have in the service of God—progress:* Lead me forth. There is among the works of S. Chrysostom a homily on this verse; which, however, is not Chrysostom’s, but some Latin author’s. He dwells on the principal means by which God does learn us, namely, by that Church which cannot err. Learn me, that I may understand what I believe: for faith precedes,* understanding follows: as it is written, “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.”* Learn me; not in the book of nature, as the philosophers, for so it is written, “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made:”* nor yet in the book of Scripture, in which Thou teachest theologians; as it is written, “The vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee, and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed:”* but in Thy very truth, (C.) which is the book of life. For Thou art the God of my salvation. “There are two things,” says Cassiodorus, “which make good Christians: the first, that we should believe God to be the God of our salvation; the other, (Z.) that we constantly set His final retribution before our eyes.” In Thee hath been my hope. It is the voice of the saints before the Advent waiting and expecting the Coming of the Lord. And in this sense it may well be said, For Thou art the God of my salvation. For who is the God of our salvation but Jesus?* All the day long. S. Chrysostom takes it as opposed to night, of our Lord Himself, the true Day. As if the Prophet said. In Thee hath been my hope, on account of that Saviour Who is to come.1 For Thou art the God. Notice the twofold pleading in this petition for help: the one on the part of God,* the other on the part of ourselves. On the part of God, love; on the part of ourselves, patience. And these both taken together, make good the initial letter of the verse, He, which is life.2

It would seem, as Dr. Good very well observes, that from the latter clause of this verse has been separated the clause which now forms the end of the sixth. According to most mediæval commentators, the Vau verse has accidentally been lost. He would arrange the Psalm so that it should take its proper place, and the fourth verse be relieved of its third member thus:

He. Lead me forth in Thy truth, and learn me: for Thou art the God of my salvation.

Vau. In Thee hath been my hope all the day long: for Thy goodness, O Lord.”

The sixth verse (according to our numbering) will then stand: “O remember not the sins of my youth: but according to Thy mercy think Thou upon me.”

6 Call to remembrance, O Lord, thy tender mercies: (ז) and thy lovingkindnesses, which have been ever of old.

And here we may notice the manner in which the Psalmist carries on his supplication. For this Psalm is the pattern of all prayer. 1. He calls on the mercy of God to pity him. 2. He exposes his own infirmity that it may be helped,* in verse 7. 3. He tells how He has been heard, that others may be comforted, in verse 8. Call to remembrance, O Lord, Thy tender mercies; and God makes answer, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”* Why does He say lovingkindnesses in the plural, rather than lovingkindness? And they give the answer, Because it is written,* “How multiplied” (our version reads excellent) “is Thy mercy, O God!”* And it has been well said that this very verse, in its method of addressing God, is another proof of His mercy: that He allows Himself to be asked to call to remembrance; as if He, the omniscient, ever could forget. Think Thou upon me. We cannot read such words without remembering the most marvellous as well as the most touching time that they ever were uttered, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!”

7 O remember not the sins and offences of my youth: (ח) but according to thy mercy think thou upon me, O Lord, for thy goodness.

Notice the difference of sins and offences: as the Vulgate has it, delicta et ignorantiœ: following the LXX., ἁμαρτίαι καὶ ἄγνοιαι. The greater part of the commentators take the sins, in the full force of the Latin word, to mean sins of omission: but Cassiodorus, though not employing the word, (C.) understands them to be venial sins. So early a passage on that subject is curious, and worth quoting: “They will have delictum to be something that is of less moment than a sin, and is so called because it leaves the way of strict justice, but yet is not conversant in any deep depravity of crime. For it is a delictum to take one’s food too greedily; to give way to immoderate laughter; to waste time in idle words, and other matters of the same sort, which do not appear to be very heavy sins, but which nevertheless are manifestly prohibited.” Dionysius observes that all sins may be divided into three classes,—the three bands of the Chaldæans again,—the three companies of spoilers that came out from the camp of the Philistines: (D. C.) sins of ignorance, sins of infirmity, and sins of presumption. Sins of ignorance, he says, are especially directed against the Son, as the personification of wisdom; sins of infirmity against the Father, as that of power; sins of presumption against the Holy Ghost, as that of goodness. Hence the expositors take occasion to discuss the question,* how far ignorance exempts from or palliates sin. “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”* Those are noble words of the Second Council of Utrecht, directed against the miserable laxity of later times, that ignorance exempts from sin, properly so called. “The eternal law, naturally implanted in all, can only be matter of ignorance, from the blindness and corruptions of the heart; therefore this ignorance can never, in the case of adults, who have the use of their reason, be properly, fully, and entirely invincible, nor can it excuse from sin. Wherefore the Psalmist saith with tears,* O remember not the sins of my youth and my ignorances. ‘Which class of offences,’ says S. Augustine, ‘unless they were imputed by a just God, would not need the prayers of a faithful man for forgiveness.’ “Euthymius ingeniously asks why he prays especially for forgiveness of ignorances? And replies, (Z.) Because sins of malice are not to be removed by prayer alone. Of my youth. Many do not take it of the literal season of youth, but of those passions which are most common to that season; (Ay.) and so regard it as a prayer for the remission of the sins of concupiscence. Youth. Gerhohus sees in this, as in the preceding verses, (G.) a reference to S. Peter, and refers to that text, “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldst;”* which he ingeniously compares with Ahab’s reprimand of the Syrian’s boast, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness, boast himself as he that putteth it off.”* This accidental resemblance is worked out by him at very great length, and with more ingenuity than probability. Parez sees a reference to the sin of Adam, (P.) which was indeed the sin of the youth of the world: Theodorus of Heraclea, to the sins of the people in Egypt, (Cd.) the youth of the Israelitish Church.* S. Augustine has a noble passage on the blessedness of those whose youth has passed without any special outbreak of mortal sin; and bitterly laments in his Confessions his own crimes at that age, when he was tantillus puer, sed tantus peccator. I will end with a fine passage (though containing a different view of the text) from Vieyra with reference to this verse. He is preaching on S. Augustine’s day,* and telling of the confessions of that saint.

David, when he is asking God’s pardon for the offences of his youth, (such as those of Augustine also were,) makes his prayer after this fashion: O remember not the offences of my youth, nor my ignorances. These, which in the first place he calls offences, in the second he names ignorances: and the reason of his calling sins ignorances, is because he desired to palliate and excuse them under that name. But it seems that it neither ought so to have been, nor ought he so to have spoken. Ignorances are defects of the understanding: sins are defects of the will: and having to excuse one defect by another defect, it seems as if he ought to have charged it on the less noble power, which is the understanding; and not on the more noble, which is the will. And so David would have done, had he spoken and meant like a man; but he spoke and meant like a saint. The saints, as they know the weight and nature of sin, and how much more ugly are the defects of the will than those of the understanding, are more ashamed of being wicked than of being foolish; and had rather seem ignorant than sinners. Wherefore David, confessing his sins, alleges his ignorances as their excuse. Delicta juventutis meœ et ignorantias meas.”

8 Gracious and righteous is the Lord: (ט) therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

Gracious and righteous. Gracious, (Ay.) says one, in respect of the mercy whereby He forgiveth sin; righteous in respect of the justice whereby He will by no means clear the guilty: gracious, in respect of His saying, “Behold, thou art made whole;”* righteous, in respect of His adding, “Go, and sin no more:”* gracious, when we look back to His first Advent, in great humility; righteous, when we look forward to His second Advent, in great justice. Gracious. It is in the Vulgate, sweet. But yet the wise man advises us well: “Say not,* I have sinned, and what harm hath happened unto me? for the Lord is long-suffering; He will in no wise let thee go. And say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins: for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth against sinners.” Will He teach: or, as it is in the Vulgate, Will He give the law to. “God,” says Dionysius, “hath given a threefold law to man: (D. C.) the law of nature, the ceremonial law, and the evangelical law; and every one of these comes of His sweetness and of His love.” Sinners in the way. They understand this expression in many different senses. Some take it to mean, He will teach sinners, who, though they are constantly offending, falling seven times a day, turning to the right hand or to the left hand, nevertheless, and on the whole, are keeping His commandments; and in this sense the Western Church prays by the side of the dying,* “For although he hath sinned, yet he hath not denied the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost, but hath believed; and had a zeal for God, and hath faithfully adored God, Who made all things.” Others, again, (G.) take the way to mean our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Way; so that the sense should be, Therefore will He teach sinners in, or because of, the Way, namely, our Lord. And yet again they take the way, after its common ecclesiastical meaning, (P.) to signify this life, so as to make the signification, (Lu.) Therefore will He teach sinners, while yet there is time and space for repentance, (C.) according to that saying,* “He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.”

9 Them that are meek shall he guide in judgment: (י) and such as are gentle, them shall he learn his way.

Meek. And who are they? Those who do not resist the leading grace of God. As it is written: (Ay.) “So then it is not of him that willeth,* nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” And again: (Cd.) “A man’s heart deviseth his way,* but the Lord directeth his steps.” It is the same command that is given by S. James, “Receive with meekness the engrafted word.”* In judgment. It may be understood in two different ways: either He will direct them by judgment, or prudence, so that they shall not turn to the right hand nor to the left,* which is the usual interpretation of the later commentators; or He shall so direct them, (Lu.) that in the last judgment they shall stand unblamed before Him. We may apply to the Psalmist’s declaration, that the meek shall be guided in judgment, the explanation which S. Augustine gives of a similar passage. When he had written in his book,* De Verâ Religione, the following sentence: “Attend therefore to that which follows as diligently and piously as thou canst; for it is such that God helps,”* he explained it in his Retractations thus: “I do not wish to be understood as if God only helps those that give all their attention with the greatest diligence; for He sometimes so assists those that do not, that they may become among the number of those who do.” So here God does not only guide the meek, but sometimes also He so directs the unmeek and ungentle, as that they may become meek; as S. John, who once demanded, “Wilt Thou that we call down fire from heaven?” was afterwards guided and taught, till he became the Apostle of love. Such as are gentle: or, as S. Augustine will have it,* humble. In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, he tells us, in imitation of the famous saying of Demosthenes about action, that for those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, (Z.) humility is the second, humility is the third. And therefore our Lord Himself says, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.”* Shall He learn His way. Well says S. Gregory: “The preacher can pronounce words which shall enter into the ears,* but he cannot open the heart; and unless by internal grace God, only omnipotent, invisibly causes the spirits of the hearers to receive the words of the preacher, the latter labours in vain.” Them shall He learn His way. Wherefore David proceeds to show us what are God’s ways: saying,

10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth: (כ) unto such as keep his covenant, and his testimonies.

This, (Ay.) then, explains the conclusion of the last verse. The Gloss says, “Although the ways of the Lord, are, as it were, (Gl.) infinite, yet all are included in these two: whereof He exhibits the one by forgiving sin, the other by rewarding according to merit.” All the paths of the Lord. “Those ways,” says S. Bernard, “which are everlasting, and under which, as Habakkuk says,* the perpetual hills did bow: the hills being understood of those evil spirits who are to be cast down at the Coming of the Lord.” Mercy and truth. They are here joined by God Himself; and those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. S. Thomas, treating on this subject with a depth worthy of himself, explains mercy of the free, unmerited forgiveness of sins bestowed on us in Baptism; truth, of the reward given us according to our works, when the grace to do those works has once been put into our power. S. Anselm beautifully says: “Thy mercy springs from Thy justice,* because it is just that Thou shouldest so be good as to manifest Thy goodness by sparing. But if we consider justice, how it awards prizes and punishments according to our merits, mercy comes first: for God is moved by Himself and by the primary act of His will; in giving a reward or a punishment, He takes the occasion from ourselves. And that is a secondary and consequent act of His will.” Rupert understands the two columns that stood before the temple to mean the same thing. “There are,” says he, “but two paths of the Lord;* the whole house leans on two pillars; the whole edifice of Holy Scripture is supported by these two attributes. For whatever we have heard of all the ways of the Lord may be referred either to mercy or to truth.” Again, as in a preceding verse, we may understand mercy and truth of the first and second Advent. And with this verse we may compare the expostulation in Ezekiel, “Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel: is not My way equal? are not your ways unequal?”* Unto such as. Not to all; for as the house of Israel in that text, (G.) there are those who will persist in calling them harsh and unjust. His covenant and His testimonies. Here, again, the commentators differ as to the meaning of these two phrases. Some, as Venerable Bede, will have them to signify the Old and New Testaments: others, as S. Jerome and S. Albertus, by covenant understand the writings, by testimonies the human authors of Holy Scripture. On the whole, this chiefly, (D. C.) as Dionysius the Carthusian tells us, are we to learn from this verse, to pray that we may be kept from presumption, because all the paths of the Lord are truth; to pray that we may be kept away from despair, because all the paths of the Lord are mercy. “But why God chooses justly to have mercy on one evil man rather than on another, cannot be discovered by us: nay,” S. Augustine saith, “do not thou investigate this matter, (A.) if thou wouldst not err.”

11 For thy Name’s sake, O Lord: be merciful (ל) unto my sin, for it is great.

I cannot do better than quote one of those beautiful passages of the great Vieyra, which gave him the character of the first preacher of his age. “I confess, my God,* that it is so; that we all are sinners in the highest degree.” He is preaching on a fast on occasion of the threatened destruction of the Portuguese dominion in Brazil by the Dutch. “But so far am I from considering this any reason why I should cease from my petition, that I behold in it a new and convincing argument which may influence Thy goodness. All that I have said before is based on no other foundation than the glory and honour of Thy most holy Name. Propter Nomen Tuum. And what motive can I offer more glorious to that same Name, than that our sins are many and great? For Thy Name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful unto my sin, for it is great. I ask Thee, saith David, to pardon, not every-day sins, but numerous sins, but great sins: multum est enim. O motive worthy of the breast of God! O consequence which can have force only when it bears on Supreme Goodness! So that, in order to obtain remission of his sins, the sinner alleges to God that they are many and great. “Verily so; and that not for love of the sinner, nor for the love of sin, but for the love of the honour and glory of God; which glory, by how much the sins He forgives are greater and more numerous, by so much the more ennobles and exalts itself. The same David distinguishes in the mercy of God greatness and multitude: greatness,* secundum magnam misericordiam tuam; multitude, et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum. And as the greatness of the Divine mercy is immense, and the multitude of His loving-kindnesses infinite; and forasmuch as the immense cannot be measured, nor the infinite counted, in order that the one and the other may in a certain manner have a proportionate material of glory, it is necessary to the very greatness of mercy that the sins to be pardoned should be great, and necessary to the very multitude of loving-kindnesses that they should be many. Multum est enim. Reason have I, then, O Lord, not to be dismayed because our sins are many and great. Reason have I also to demand the reason from Thee, why Thou dost not make haste to pardon them?”

12 What man is he, that feareth the Lord: (מ) him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

That feareth the Lord. There are three principal effects of the fear of God. It purifies, according to that saying, (Ay.) “The fear of the Lord driveth away sin.”* It fortifies, as it is written,* “Whoso feareth the Lord shall not fear nor be afraid.” Thirdly, it sanctifies, as Cassiodorus says: “The law of God begins in fear, and ends in love.” What man is he? “Is there such a man!” exclaims one of the Fathers, (Z.) “if there be,—but I much fear whether any hearers will be found,—let him attend.” In the way that He shall choose. And here they dispute to whom the pronoun belongs: whether to God, or to him that feareth the Lord. The greater number of interpreters,* headed by S. Jerome, understand it in the latter sense. Thus, for example, when the soldiers demanded of John Baptist, What shall we do? the publicans, What shall we do? and the common people also, he gave them an answer applicable to the way of life which each of them had chosen. Thus, also, there must be special rules for those that have chosen the secular and the religious life. And this affords a very good meaning, and may well teach priests how, in giving their advice, they follow the example of the great High Priest, and teach each man who comes to them in the way that he shall choose. But surely it is better to understand the verse in the other sense: in the way, namely, which God shall choose. Thus Gerhohus and Jansenius expound the clause.

13 His soul shall dwell at ease: (נ) and his seed shall inherit the land.

Shall tarry in good things, (G.) as it is in the Vulgate. Unlike the soul of Adam, who, being put into possession of the delights of Paradise, tarried there but a few days or hours. His soul must indeed at first sojourn in Mesech, and dwell among the tents of Kedar; but it shall tarry for ever in those good things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. S. Ambrose takes it in the sense that the righteous man,* however surrounded by affliction,—nay, however oppressed and encircled by the wicked,—does even at that very moment tarry among good things; because “all things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Cassiodorus, rejecting every idea of a purgatory, applies it to the state of the righteous immediately after death: surrounded, indeed, with good things, but yet tarrying for the completion of happiness, the Beatific Vision. To the same purpose speaks the Eastern Liturgy,* when it asks a place for the departed “in tabernacles of light and gladness, in habitations of shade and quiet, amidst the treasures of happiness, whence all sorrow is banished afar, where the souls of the righteous expect without labour the guerdon of life, and the spirits of the just wait for the end of the promised reward, in that country where the workers and the weary look on to Paradise, and they that are invited to the wedding long for the Celestial Bridegroom, and ardently desire to receive that new state of glory.” Others explain it of the possession of heaven itself,* and its three principal blessednesses—vision, love, fruition. But, taking it in the sense which would see in it a promise on earth,* Hugh of S. Victor says admirably, “He expresses with great sweetness spiritual delectation, where He says, His soul shall tarry in good things. For whatever is carnally sweet yields without doubt a delectation for the time to such as enjoy it, but cannot tarry long with them; because, while by its taste it provokes appetite, by its transit it cheats desire. But spiritual delights, which neither pass away as they are tasted, nor decrease while they refresh, nor cloy while they satiate, can tarry for ever with their possessors.” And his seed shall inherit the land.* Almost all the commentators take his seed to signify his good works;* and S. Albertus collects, in illustration of this sense,* the texts which I append in the margin. And with this may be compared the verse,* “That when ye fail,* they may receive you into everlasting habitations,” if by the they we are to understand the good works we have sent afore.*

Et virtute meritorum*
Illic introducitur
Omnis, qui ob Christi Nomen
Hoc in mundo premitur.

Others, again, (D. C.) will have the earth to mean the body of him of whom the Psalmist speaks; and the sense to be, that his seed, his higher self, his new nature, shall keep that body under subjection, and rule over it with an absolute sway. Others, again, (L.) see in the earth a figurative expression for our Lord’s Body, which the righteous possess in the Blessed Sacrament here, (G.) and shall more gloriously and entirely possess there. And if we apply the whole text to our Lord, His blessed soul, now no more “troubled,” now no more “exceeding sorrowful,” dwells in everlasting ease in the kingdom which His might has won for Him; and His seed—for “now are we the sons of God,”—shall one day possess the earth, the new earth, the ἀντίχθονα, as the Pythagoreans express it, which He Himself has purchased for them.

14 The secret of the Lord is among them that fear him: (ס) and he will show them his covenant.

Here again the Vulgate differs: (R.) The Lord is a strong foundation1 to them that fear Him. For the fear of men weakens, says one;* but the fear of the Lord strengthens. “In the way of God,” says S. Gregory, “we begin in fear, (G.) and we end in fortitude.” Gerhohus takes the firmamentum of the Vulgate, and sees in it a reference to the separation of the waters from the waters, and of the firmament which was called heaven. But, if we take our own translation, we shall find it authorized by the secretum Domini of S. Jerome, the ἀπόῤῥητον of Aquila, and the μυστήριον of Theodotion. And they quote the “Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,”* of our Lord: and again, (L.) His “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what things 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.”* Think again, too, of the declaration in Amos: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret to His servants the Prophets;”* and the equally loving question in Genesis, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation?”* We may take it, if we will, as spoken of Him Who once said, “Why askest thou thus after My Name, seeing it is secret?”* and then, in the next clause, He, He Whose Name is thus wonderful, shall show them His covenant; His Cross, which is to be their crown; His imprisonment in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which is to be their everlasting peace.

[Yet again, the secret of the Lord dwelt within her who feared Him, His lowly handmaiden, to whom He showed His covenant by the voice of the Archangel.

Castæ parentis viscera*
Cœlestis intrat gratia;
Venter puellæ bajulat
Secreta quæ non noverat.

His secret,* the mystery of the Sacrament of the Altar, “latens Deitas,” as the hymn says, abides amongst His faithful ones, to whom He discloses Himself in that bond of the New Covenant, when they feed on Him in faith.

Mary’s womb the folded bloom of Sharon’s Rose contained,* And I may share the load she bare, though not like her unstained: Joy such as hers my spirit stirs, the hungry Thou hast fed, My God, my King, to Thee I sing, Who art the Living Bread.]

15 Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord: for (ע) he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

And this is the same thing which is written in Ecclesiastes: (G.) “The wise man’s eyes are in his head:” that is,* in our True Head, our Lord Jesus Christ. Out of the net, which Satan, that diligent fisher of souls, spreads in the troublesome waters of this world,* “wherein,” as they remind us, “are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts,” all manner of temptation, both in its tremendous and in its meanest forms. “The eye,” says Hugh of S. Victor,* “is the active intention: he therefore hath his eyes ever to the Lord, who directs, by intention to the Law of God, all that he does. And his feet are set loose from the net, because that cannot be an evil action which is set on foot by the law of God.” S. Chrysostom remarks, “Birds, while they cleave the air at a height,* are not easily taken. Thus thou, if thou wilt only fix thine eyes on the things that are above, wilt not easily be taken with any snares. Birds have wings given to them to this end,—that they may avoid snares: men have reason,”—but he should rather have said the power of prayer—“that they may avoid the temptations of the devil.”

16 Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me: (פ) for I am desolate and in misery.

Thou, Who causest mine eyes to turn to Thee, turn Thine also to me. Thou once, when Thou didst create Adam, (G.) didst only see a noble creature, formed after Thine own Image, in Thine own likeness, endued with every glorious power of soul, when man was very good. Now Thou beholdest one of whom Thy Prophet saith well, “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.”* Nevertheless, turn Thee unto me! If Thou turnest from me, who will turn to me?

The Priest beheld,* and passed
The way he had to go:
A careless eye the Levite cast
And left me to my woe:
But Thou, O Good, O Loving One, draw nigh;
Have pity on me! say, Thou shalt not die!

If Thou turn to me, Thine own love will compel Thee to have mercy on me, as on the woman that had had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years:* as on the impotent man that had none to put him into the pool when it had been stirred up by the Angel: have mercy on me as Thou didst on her of old, of whom it is written, “I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.”* Ven. Bede well says, “For God to look upon us is to have mercy upon us: for He looks not only on us when we turn to Him, but looks on us also that we may turn to Him.”* And notice: God is said to look in three ways. There is the glance of His Wisdom, which He throws on all His creatures; “God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good:”* the glance of His anger, which He casts on the ungodly; as it is written,—“His look resteth upon sinners:”* and the glance of His love on the righteous, according to that saying,—“He hath respect unto His elect.”* And this verse well answers the 14th: (C.) for on whom can God look, save on one who is always looking to Him?

For I am desolate: or as it is in the Vulgate, The only one: in the LXX., The Only-begotten. And here, then, we have a key to the true sense. Who is this that cares to be looked upon, and to receive mercy, save He Who is the Only-begotten Son of the Father? Some take it indeed, (Ay.) to mean the only one, as not having a double heart: and that is true also: but far better it is to understand the verse of Him Who, being the Only and Eternal Son, yet became, of His own free will, subject to such misery as none else ever knew: Who was desolate beyond all earthly desolation, when He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And then to Him, as to none else, the verses that follow will apply.

17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged: (צ) O bring thou me out of my distresses.

Enlarged, indeed! From the moment that He was born “in the manger, because there was no room for Him in the inn,” how did they increase, and gather, and multiply, till they found their full accomplishment in the Cross! And He speaks of the sorrows of His heart first, (Ay.) because that Agony in the Garden where they all found vent preceded in time, and—if we may without irreverence compare that which is infinite—exceeded in heaviness, the troubles of Mount Calvary. Out of my necessities, it is in the Vulgate: (G.) and Gerhohus beautifully dwells on the expression. “I know that it is necessary for me to eat, to sleep, to drink, to be clothed, if I desire to live: but, in order that I may be set free from the bonds of such necessities, therefore, ‘to me to die is gain:’ and therefore I ‘desire to depart and to be with Christ.” I ask for a happy death, then, O my God! When I say, Deliver me out of my necessities. That rich man, who died ill, and in hell lift up his eyes being in torments, was not delivered from them, since, being athirst, he desired a drop of water to cool his tongue. But I desire so to die, that I may be with Christ. For if Lazarus, before the Advent of Christ, was free, in the bosom of Abraham, from these necessities, how much more I shall be liberated from them, if when dissolved I am with the Lord?” And then he goes on in a passage, the antithetical beauty of which could not be preserved in a translation: “O Domine! sic de necessitatibus meis eripe me, ut quæ non possunt mihi viventi deesse, non possint obesse: sic insint, ut non obsint: serviant, non dominentur: sint mihi ad usum, non ad abusionem.” The Italic version has dilatatæ1 instead of multiplicatæ: and Cassiodorus, who applies it to the Church, ingeniously observes, (C.) and like a consular as he was,—“Necesse est enim ut copioso fasce depuniatur,* qui pro multis affligitur.” The Saints take occasion from this verse to dwell on the danger of turning what are necessities into sins. Perimus licitis. And S. Augustine in his Confessions sadly complains that he had often sinned in this way. It is surely rather a hard construction put by the same Saint on this verse, where he understands sins to be signified by necessities,* because through the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright. Are enlarged. Many they are in kind, many in species, many in number, says the Biblical S. Albertus. Many in kind: Eccles. 4:4. Many in species: Isa. 38:15, 2 Cor. 11:29, Ecclus. 25:15. And in number: Ps. 120:5, Job 4:20, Ps. 42.

18 Look upon my adversity and misery: (ק2) and forgive me all my sins.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, (G.) my humility and my labour. And what humility ever like His Who left the Throne for the Manger, the utmost bound of the everlasting hills for the womb of the Virgin? And what labour ever like His Who taught the multitude by day, continued all night in prayer to God, fainted under the weight of the Cross on which His own weight was so soon to be hung? Nor must we be afraid of applying the verse to our Lord because of its conclusion: forgive me all my sins. My sins,—those which for our sakes He bare,—those which bearing He atoned for,—those which, (Ay.) more than anything else, wrung from Him the Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? But we may well also take the prayer into our own mouths. Adversity, (G.) every man that has a soul to save must expect from the enemy of that soul: misery is pledged to us by that saying, uttered too by him who was called the Son of Consolation, “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”* S. Augustine ingeniously turns the verse against the Donatists: (A.) “See my humility, whereby I never, through the boasts of righteousness, break off from unity.” Abbat Antiochus tells us, quoting this passage, that labour, undertaken for the sake of God, (L.) is one of the most favourable breezes which can carry us into the everlasting harbour. And S. Bernard affirms that humility and toil are the two uprights of the ladder by which we ascend to Paradise.

19 Consider mine enemies, how many they are: (ר) and they bear a tyrannous hate against me.

Consider: and why? Because,* as Job says, (Ay.) “He looketh upon men; and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profiteth me not: He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” Consider Mine enemies. As He saith, “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.” How many they are. Look upon Me the Only One (ver. 16) on the one side: Mine enemies, banded together on the other: on Pharisees and Scribes, Jewish Rulers and Roman soldiers, Pilate and Herod: and they bear a tyrannous hate against Me, “that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, They hated Me without a cause.”* Or, if we understand the words as uttered by any afflicted Christian soul, (G.) then Gerhohus will explain them for us. “Look upon the demons as the soldiers of Pharaoh, look upon the crowds of malignant men as the chariots and horses of the same devils, look on the concupiscences implanted in my flesh and senses, look upon those undisciplined motives, of which I might well say, ‘A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.’* Consider all these mine enemies. And since I know not what I should wish with regard to each of them, since, as saith Thine Apostle, ‘we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,’* let that good and benign Spirit teach me what I should desire to happen to each of mine enemies; whether to devils, that they may be kept off, or to men, that they may be converted, or to carnal concupiscences, that they may be extinguished, or to those men who will not be converted, and are hardened in their nature like the Pharaoh, (C.) that they may be hindered from their evil effects,” Cassiodorus ingeniously joins the multitude of the enemies with the prayer that they may be considered and so pardoned. The destruction of a few might not have seemed so great a matter: but the greatness of their ruin itself cries out to, and claims, mercy.

20 O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be (ש) confounded, for I have put my trust in thee.

Keep my soul in the first place from sin, and then deliver me, (G.) if it be Thy will, from affliction. If I am cast into the raging sea of this world, deliver me by sending the whale that, however unlikely a minister of safety, shall bear me securely to the shore: If I am thrown into the furnace of Babylon, deliver me, and let the Angel of the Covenant stand by me. If I am cast into the lion’s den, deliver me by sending Thy Angel, who shall shut the mouths of those beasts.* Let me not be confounded. “How should I be confounded?” asks the great hymnographer, Joseph of the Studium: “when Thou didst stretch forth Thine Hands on the Cross, to atone for the ill actions of my hands: when Thy heart was wounded with the spear, to propitiate for the crime of my wicked thoughts: when Thou didst taste of vinegar, to do away the pleasurable sins to which I have yielded?”

21 (20) Let perfectness and righteous dealing wait upon (ת) me: for my hope hath been in thee,1 O Lord.

The Vulgate gives it differently. The innocent and the right adhere to me, because I have waited for Thee. See, they say, (Ay.) the efficacy of prayer! But two verses back, the Psalmist had interceded,—“Consider mine enemies;” and here those very enemies are become the innocent and right. According to Cassiodorus, (C.) it is the Church Triumphant that is speaking. Because in the days of my warfare I waited for Thee, therefore now the innocent, those little ones that have been called from earth in their baptismal purity, and the right, those who have been tried and found true in their many struggles, adhere to me: have a portion and an inheritance with me: are denizens in the “many mansions” prepared for them in the heavenly Jerusalem. There may again be a reference to that 15th verse, (L.) where he describes himself as alone. Now he stands no longer alone, but girt about with the assembly of the innocent and upright.

22 Deliver Israel, O God: out of all his troubles.

As that first Israel, after his compelled flight from his father’s house, after his hard bondage with Laban, (G.) after his marvellous escape from Esau, after the ruin of Dinah, after the loss of his best-beloved Joseph, was at length brought into the best of the land, into the country of Goshen, while that same Joseph was raised to be lord over all Egypt. “Therefore,” cries Gerhohus, “in the same way in which Thou, O God, didst then deliver that Israel, now deliver Thy whole Israel: leave not off consoling him, by showing him the glory of the True Joseph reigning over the Egypt of this world, till that glorious and beautiful sight shall make him cry out, ‘It is enough; I will go and see Him before I die.’* I will see him, in types and riddles, before I die: but face to face, after I die: now I see Him reigning over the whole land of Egypt, but then I shall see Him reigning in Heaven, when the kingdom of Egypt shall have been destroyed. Now I shall see Him in Egypt feeding His brethren, and distributing corn to all people: but then I shall see Him, the Living Bread of Angels, and feeding both Angels and men with the glorious Vision.” The Roman version has, Deliver me, O God of Israel, from all my afflictions: but far nobler is the common reading, which winds up this Psalm of prayer with a supplication, no longer for one, but for the whole Church!

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who is gracious and righteous; and to the Son, the Way in Whom sinners are taught; and to the Holy Ghost, the Secret of the Lord.

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

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Tuesday; originally Sunday: Prime. [Office for the Dead: II. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Monday: Tierce.

Lyons. Wednesday: Prime.

Ambrosian. Tuesday of the First Week: II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Monday: Prime.

Eastern Church. Ferial: Terce. In Lent: Compline.

Benedictine. Sunday: I. Nocturn.

ANTIPHONES

Gregorian. [Office of the Dead: The sins * of my youth and my ignorances, remember not, O Lord.]

Ambrosian. My God, my God, look upon me. K. K. K.

Mozarabic. My God, I have put my trust in Thee: O let me not be confounded.

Benedictine. Mine eyes * are ever looking unto the Lord.

COLLECTS

Deliver us,* O most merciful God, from all our miseries, because we lift up our souls unto Thee; remember not, we pray Thee, the offences of our youth and our former ignorance; and if we have through negligence offended Thee, do Thou, of Thy clemency, pardon us. Through (1.)

To Thee,* O Lord, we raise our soul by the assistance of hope; and we beseech Thee so to embue it with celestial desires, that it may cease to have its conversation upon earth. Let not the enemy deceive it by promising terrestrial pleasures, but do Thou draw it to Thyself by offering celestial joys. Grant to it, O Almighty God, such wisdom, that it may cleave to the truth rather than to a lie: may follow after humility, and be on its watch against pride, and participate Thy rewards with the Saints. Amen. Through (11.)

Remember us, (D. C.) O Lord, according to Thy mercy and goodness, and set free our feet from the nets of our enemies: that, once ready to run in the path of evil, they may at length take hold of the path of righteousness, and constantly and perseveringly follow the same. Through (1.)

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

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 123

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

PSALM TITLE
A Song of Degrees.

ARGUMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ, having pity on us, may deliver us from the contempt of the proud. The Voice of Christ to the Father, or of the Church to Christ, which, like a good servant, seeks the mercy of her Lord. The first step then is Faith, the second Hope, the third Charity; and here now the fourth declares the perseverance of him that prayeth.

Ven. Bede. He who previously lifted his eyes up unto the hills, now hath raised his heart’s eyes to the Lord Himself. The Prophet, fearing to lose what he held, and cautious in the very place where he had advanced, in the first part devoutly engages in persevering prayers, that he may retain the gifts he has acquired by Divine bounty. Unto Thee lift I up mine eyes. In the second place, he beseeches the Lord to give him mercy, because he has been suffering many troubles from those who insult him at the instigation of the devil, in order that as they have been unable to defile him by their fellowship, they may at any rate defile him with their haughty despisings.

Syriac Psalter. Of David, one of the Psalms of going-up. And it is spoken in the person of Zerubbabel, Prince of the Captivity, and is a prayer of supplication.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Of prayer.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm in solitary address.

COMMENTARY

1 Unto thee lift I up mine eyes: O thou that dwellest in the heavens.

There is a great spiritual advance made in this Psalm, (H.) since from merely lifting up the eyes unto the hills, the singer raises them to God Himself. Captivity and the ruin of the Temple had taught this lesson,* that it was not needful to turn to Zion or Moriah in order to find God, but that He could and would hear the cry of a suppliant directed to Him from any quarter.* A Greek commentator understands this whole Psalm of the weariness of the returning exiles, worn out with the toil of their long journey, and exposed to the ridicule of the heathen tribes amongst which they had to pass to their home. It is probable, also, as noted before, that peril of attack from banditti is here expressed and prayed against. (Ay.) They tell us that the two eyes which the faithful soul lifts up to God are the contemplative and the active functions of it, the first to learn His will, the second to do it; and are further careful to note that the words dwellest in the heavens do not imply any localisation of God, (H.) as though limited by place, but mean that He is immanent in all holy persons,* especially the heavenly powers. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also:”* and therefore the Saint, whose treasure is Jesus, will look up to heaven, where He is at the right hand of God,* and thus “wisdom is before him which hath understanding, but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”*

I would I were some bird, or star,
Fluttering in woods or lifted far
Above this inn,
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to Thee!

2 Behold, even as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress: even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us.

The image is taken from the usual attitude of Eastern slaves when in attendance, ranged as they are at the end of the room in which their master is, standing with hands crossed upon the breast, and with their eyes fixed on him, to await the slightest gesture.* Slaves, too, depending on their owners for food, look to their hand, that is, their bounty, when in need of bread, as we depend on God for nourishment. They look, moreover, wistfully and imploringly when they are being chastised for their faults,* that further punishment may be remitted; and besides, if wrong have been done to them by others, they are not empowered to avenge themselves, but must needs appeal to their masters to obtain redress for them. They assign various reasons for the double simile of men-servants and a maiden. (C.) First, literally, that the share of both sexes in the duties and rewards of faithful service may be asserted; then to teach that the strong and the weak are alike called on, and that diligent fidelity and faithfulness in bringing forth the offspring of good works, severally typified by the two sexes, are expected from every Christian soul.* And finally, whereas servants are spoken of in the plural, and the maiden in the singular, we are taught that all the various mighty nations of the world, with all their masculine vigour, are to be united in that one single Church which is the handmaid, before being the Bride, (A.) of the Lamb, and is chastened by Him that she may be made pure. (C.) It is added, Until He have mercy upon us, but that does not mean that we are to cease looking unto Him when He has shown us His pity. The phrase until is used here,* as in other places of Scripture,* not to denote that there is any change subsequent to the time named, but that there is no change before it. Rather the Church, our mistress, will command her servants to look always, in earth or heaven, to the eyes of her and their Master, as the Latin dramatist has it:

Edico tibi
Ut hujus oculos in oculis habeas tuis,*
Quoquo hic spectabit, et tu spectato simul.

I give thee charge
That thou keep His eyes in those eyes of thine,
Whereso He looks, look thou too at that time.

And if we do, He will see His image in our eyes, and we shall be like Him,* for we shall see Him as He is, and behold our own likeness in His glorious face; never removing from it our adoring gaze. (Lu.) Even here on earth we may look to His hand,* by seeking to know His will by careful and assiduous study of those Holy Scriptures which He has given for our learning, that guiding our conduct thereby we may please Him and obtain His mercy.

3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are utterly despised.
4 Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy: and with the despitefulness of the proud.

When Israel returned from exile, with all the hope and gladness inspired by the deliverance, and with the great promises of future glory in the Messianic prophecies to buoy them up; what really lay before them was the scorn and ridicule of Samaritans and Arabians, to be followed, before very long, by the savage persecution under the Seleucid kings. When the Lord came back to His Apostles from the grave,* they looked for a speedy restoration of the kingdom to Israel, yet almost their first experience after the Ascension was the imprisonment and scourging of two of their chiefs;* while several years later the great Apostle of the Gentiles, writing when two centuries and a half more of persecution awaited the followers of the Nazarene, said, “I think that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, (H.) as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day,”* the mark for scorn and oppression from Jews and Gentiles, kings and mobs, pursued with insults, stripes, fire, steel, and every other engine of malice. Well might the Church in that long three hundred years of suffering, cry again and again, “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” (A. V.) And what was true of the collective Church holds good also of individual Saints, (P.) for men of a devout and contemplative temper have no care either to win or to retain earthly riches, and are thus for the most part poor; and are looked down on as dreamy and unpractical by pushing, busy, money-making men; thus incurring the scornful reproof of the wealthy; and as in like manner they have no ambition to attain rank and dignity, they move for the most part in obscure spheres, and are humble and peaceable, whence they are subject to the despitefulness of the proud, who contemn them as sluggish and feeble, and as poor in spirit, not considering that this last reproach is in truth their title-deed to the kingdom of heaven.*

Wherefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who dwelleth in the heavens; glory be to the Son, the Hand of the Lord; glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who hath mercy on the despised.

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

ANTIPHONS

Gregorian.

Monastic.

Ambrosian.

}

Thou that dwellest* in the heavens, have mercy upon us.

Lyons.

Parisian.

Mozarabic

}

Our eyes are unto the Lord our God, till He have mercy upon us.

COLLECTS

O God, (Lu.) dweller in the heavens, unto Thee do we lift up our eyes in prayer, that Thou mayest put to silence the reproaches of the proud, and graciously bestow on us Thy wonted mercy. (1.)

Unto Thee,* O Lord, we lift up our eyes, Whom we confess to dwell in the heavenly places, and to uphold by Thy might the fabric of the earth. Have mercy on us, therefore, O Lord, have mercy, and pardon our sins, by reason of which we fear Thee, that Thou mayest look with merciful loving-kindness on the contempt wherein we are held, and by Thy right hand of power deliver us from the reproach of wickedness. (11.)

As the eyes of servants look unto the hands of their masters,* so do ours unto Thee, O Lord, until Thou pardon the guilt of us sinners, and minister the stripes of the chastised, grant food to the needy, and bestow healing on the wounded. (11.)

Have mercy on us,* O Lord, bestow the help we have sought upon us who wait for it, that we who are filled with the contempt of the proud, may be defended by the aid of Thy defence. (11.)

O Lord our God, (D. C.) Who dwellest in the heavens, we Thy servants lift up our eyes unto Thee; have mercy upon us, and deliver us from the reproach and from the everlasting destruction of the proud. (1.)

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

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 147

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 22, 2016

PSALM 147

Title. LXX.: Alleluia, of Haggai and Zechariah. Vulgate Alleluia.

ARGUMENT

Arg. Thomas. First portion:1 That Christ knows the number and names of the stars, which He Himself first set up. The Voice of the Apostles and the Church to the new people; or the Voice of the Holy Ghost by the Prophet to the Gentiles, that they should strive to praise God, not vain idols. The Voice of Christ to the Church.

Second portion: That Christ may fill His Church with peace, and abundance of spiritual wheat. The Voice of Christ to the Church, that it may praise the Lord the Father; or the Voice of the Holy Ghost by the Prophets to the same, that she may not cease to praise Christ. The Voice of the Holy Ghost to the Church concerning Christ.

Ven. Bede. First portion: The subsequent text explains the words of its title, for Alleluia means Praise ye the Lord. Further, the fifth edition of this Psalm set it down thus, Praise ye Jah, that is, the Lord, because Jah is understood to be one of the ten Names of God. And these Jerome writing to Marcellus thus enumerates. The first name is El, that is, Mighty; then Elohim and Elohé, both of which mean God: whence they are often found doubled, as is the case with “My God, My God,* why hast Thou forsaken Me,”* and “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee,” and other like passages. The fourth is Sabaoth, which is Of Hosts. The fifth Heljon, which we call Most High. The sixth Esér eheie, which is read in Exodus, “I AM hath sent me.”* Seventh, Adonai, which we usually call Lord. Eighth Jah, which is applied to God only, and is heard in the last syllable of Allelu-ia. Ninth is the Tetragrammaton [יהוה] which is called Ineffable. Tenth, Saddai, that is Strong and able to do all things.

In the first place the Prophet exhorts the devout people to praise the Lord, Who setteth up the meek, and breaketh the necks of the proud. O praise the Lord. Secondly, he saith that the Lord ought to be heartily praised, Who granteth benefits which will profit His petitioners, because they who trust in their own strength cannot please Him. O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving.

Second portion: As usual, we come back to Alleluia; but we feel no weariness in repeating it, and there is such honour given to this word, that though it is concealed in the Hebrew tongue, it is a known fact that it has not been translated into any other language, but whatever is dedicated to the Godhead, reverences the dignity of this word with loving devotion.

In the first paragraph, the Prophet accosts Jerusalem, that is the City on high, that now made secure in her citizens, she ought to praise the Lord with continual rejoicing. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem. Secondly, he counts up at more length, in mystical expression, what great kindnesses the loving and merciful One hath bestowed on His people. He sendeth out His Word. These Psalms of the praise of David are so ordered, that they speak first of the laws of divine praise, and then of avoiding the sinfulness of the world. Thirdly, there is mention of the gathering together of the Church. Fourthly, when the Psalm is ended, he bids united Jerusalem celebrate the praises of the Lord, as she is known to be delivered from the divers perils of this world, and stablished in everlasting rest. Wherefore he adds that this most holy choir, gathered out of all parts of the world, should rejoice in threefold gladness, that in this most holy task, the grace of the Trinity might everywhere shine.

Syriac Psalter. First portion: Of Haggai and Zechariah. Concerning Zerubbabel and Joshua the Priest, and Ezra, who were careful for the building of Jerusalem. For us praise with the doctrine of God. Second portion: Of Haggai and Zechariah, when they pressed on the completion of the Temple of Jerusalem. And praise with doctrine of God.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. A hymn with a doctrine of God.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm declaring praise.

COMMENTARY

1 O praise the Lord, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God: yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.

Every work of man asks for payment, (C.) that we may be comforted in the midst of toilsome action with the hope of a fixed reward. In praising God the act has its reward, when that shall be the wages which is now the employment. For since it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God, we are sure that each of us will receive the promised gifts. He does so receive them, when in the fellowship of the angels it is the one reward of the Saints to be occupied in unceasing praise of God. And what can be a happier thing than to practise here what you hope to perform in future blessedness?* And accordingly, in the Preface of the Canon in the Liturgy, when the Priest says to the people, “Let us give thanks to our Lord God;” they answer, “It is meet and right so to do;” and he then takes up the strain again, “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.” A joyful and pleasant thing it is to he thankful. The A. V. reads For it [to sing praises] is pleasant, and praise is comely. The Vulgate, midway between these versions, has Let praise to our God be pleasant and comely. (D. C.) And then the question arises, to whom is the praise to be pleasant? Some few take it of the spiritual delight of the singer himself, according to that saying of the Prophet, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God;”* but the majority, following S. Augustine, (A.) say that praise is pleasant to God, and comely in itself, when it proceeds from a sincere heart in unison with the practical virtues of a holy life; since “praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the Lord.”*

2 The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: and gather together the outcasts of Israel.

There has never been any doubt, from the time of Origen to the present day, that the primary reference of this verse is to the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah,* and the accepted theory now is that the Psalm was composed as an anthem to be sung at the dedication of the walls; as a thanksgiving for the return of the exiles. (H.) But the Christian expositors have naturally looked to the higher spiritual meaning, (A.) of the gradual building of Jerusalem above with living stones, of the assembling together in their country and home of all the pilgrims of Israel who are eagerly waiting to be released from the Babylon of the world; waiting for that signal when “He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,* from the one end of heaven to the other,”* into the unity of faith,* and the bond of love. And the process of building began with His laying the chief corner-stone, even Himself, in His own Blood, “that He should die, not for that nation only, but also that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”* On this foundation He laid the “great stones, the costly stones, and hewed stones”* of the Apostles and Prophets, and yet He still doth build, for “then came the same Sheshbazzar the Prince of Judah, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem, and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished.”* “Ye,” says the great martyr S. Ignatius to the Church of Ephesus,* “are stones of the Temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the engine of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, making use of the Holy Ghost as the rope, while your faith was the means by which ye ascended, and your love the way which led up to God.”

3 He healeth those that are broken in heart: and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.

The story of the building and of the healing are one and the same.* For the breaches of the walls were not due only to the fall of the rebel angels, (G.) but sinful man too went down from Jerusalem to Jericho,* and fell among thieves. Thither the Good Samaritan followed him, to recover the stone which belonged to His city, and replace it in its course; to heal the broken heart by pouring in the oil of grace, to give the medicines of His holy Sacraments, kept in their place by the wholesome bandages of moral precepts, as He bindeth up the wounds (A. V., Vulg.) whereof man was half dead. (A.) Yet as it is not they that are whole that need a physician,* but they that are sick;* it is only on the broken in heart that He can exert His skill. For the hard and stony heart which will not break, there are no medicines available, as for its “wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores, they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”* But the Lord Jesus,* at the very outset of His ministry,* declared in the synagogue of Nazareth that He it was of whom Isaiah spake when he foretold One Who should “heal the broken-hearted,”* and therefore that we may receive that blessing, we must needs break our hearts with penitence for our sins.

4 He telleth the number of the stars: and calleth them all by their names.

The stars are certain lights in the Church, (A.) which comfort our night, all they of whom the Apostle speaks, “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.”* These stars, all those who are to reign with Him, God numbers; all those who are to be gathered together with Him in the Body of the only Begotten Son He hath numbered, and does number; whoso is unworthy, is not numbered amongst them.* These are the stars of which is written, “The stars shined in their watches, and rejoiced:* when He calleth them, they say, Here we be; and so with cheerfulness they showed light unto Him that made them,” (C.) the true spiritual offspring of Abraham,* multiplied as the stars of heaven. And as in this world’s astronomy there are various names for different kinds of stars, so in the heavenly astronomy there are great groups and classes too,* Apostles, Martyrs, Doctors, Confessors, Virgins; each one of whom is separately known to Him. (R.) And not only known, but guarded, (A.) and preserved, since the reason why we number things is lest any should be lost, and therefore it is added He calleth them all by their names, (D. C.) because they are written in the Book of Life. Wherefore the Lord saith Himself, “He calleth His own sheep by name,”* and again, “I know whom I have chosen.”* And of those that He has so chosen, albeit “one star differeth from another star in glory,”* yet each and all “that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament;* and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

5 Great is our Lord, and great is his power: yea, and his wisdom is infinite.

Great in His essence, and not only so, but in operation, for which reason His power, which is the visible manifestation of His Almightiness, is named in the second place, as an effect flowing from its cause. (A.) His wisdom is infinite. Literally, Of His wisdom there is no number. As wisdom is not measured by number, many take the word here as signifying the wonderful works done by God, of all which He is fully cognizant, seeing that He hath “ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight;”* but which man is unable to reckon. (C.) Others, however, explain the word as infinite, because that which can be numbered has an end, however remote. There is a third and mystical sense in which the clause is taken. (A.) There is no number of His Wisdom,* because the Only-Begotten Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity,* is one with the Father in essence of Godhead; since the terms three and one, which we use in endeavouring to express the nature of Deity,* do not imply arithmetical relations, because God cannot be numbered.

6 The Lord setteth up the meek: and bringeth the ungodly down to the ground.

It is not merely helpeth,* but something much better, lifteth up. And what is this? Refreshing, cherishing, carrying. The Psalmist paints God as a tender Father, Who in His unspeakable providence and love, manages His little children and caresses them. There is no fear of harm coming to those in His divine bosom, seeing that the sword of evil fortune must pierce through God’s side and sweet affection before it can reach them.* So too, He bringeth the ungodly down to the ground, with equal tenderness, because while they are lifted up in their pride, they are in danger of a fatal fall, but He puts them where they are safe, down on the ground of humiliation, till He is ready to take them too up in His arms for rest and shelter.* And after all, He does but put them down to the very place whence the others are lifted up. (C.) It is God’s medicine, and the way He deals with those who make a difficulty over the mysteries, types, and hard places of Holy Writ. (A.) The door is shut in order that people may learn to knock; there is no intention of keeping them out. Be not angry therefore at finding it shut, be gentle and meek, and do not say, It would be better if what is hero were said in this other fashion. How can you tell or judge what is the way it ought to have been said? It has been said exactly as it ought to have been. A sick man does not take upon himself to revise his doctor’s prescriptions; it is the doctor who knows how to modify them. Trust Him who cures thee. Be meek,* and He will lift thee up. If you resist, hear what follows: He bringeth the ungodly down to the ground, and intellectual pride ends only too often in carnal sin and degradation, of the earth, earthy, mean and grovelling.

7 O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving: sing praises upon the harp unto our God.

For sing, the LXX. has Begin; the Vulgate, uniting both ideas,* Precent, that is, begin the song. A more literal rendering than any of these would be Answer, which implies the antiphonal response of a double choir, but here may be taken as the reply of the grateful heart of man to God, Who has spoken first by His acts of loving-kindness.* The first answer then, is thanksgiving, or, with the LXX. and Vulgate, confession,* the twofold acknowledgment of God’s glory and man’s sin. (C.) And that beginning made, comes next praises on the harp,* the harmonious music of a life which lacks no string of the ten precepts of God’s decachord, no skilled and tuneful fingering by hands active in His service.

8 Who covereth the heavens with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth: and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the use of men.

Passing over the literal and obvious meaning of these words, as needing no comment, the ancient expositors turn to the spiritual lessons to be drawn from them. (H.) And first, the clouds are the teachers of heavenly wisdom, drawn themselves from evilness and ignorance up into the higher air of divine contemplation by the attracting heat of the Sun of Righteousness, that their “doctrine may drop as the rain, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass,”* to satisfy a parched and thirsty world. So the Eastern Church says,* “The Apostles, appearing like clouds full of divine light, rain down life-giving water upon all.” Again, the clouds which darken the face of heaven, and yet are so profitable to earth and man, may be understood of the types, figures, and mysteries of Holy Writ, which are designed to accommodate to man’s understanding matters which if expressed as they are in the full clearness of God, (A.) would give no refreshment to our souls, just as a clear blue sky yields no rain.* And finally, God causes our sky to be overcast with trouble, that we may rain tears, and He comfort and grace upon our hearts. (Cd.) Grass to grow upon the mountains. Let us begin by noting some of the properties of grass, before entering upon the lesson it teaches here.* In the first place, it is the great laboratory of food for the world, taking up, assimilating, and vitalizing the inorganic matter it draws from the earth, the water, and the air, and making them fit for the support of those animals on which man himself lives. In its highest forms, the cereals, it is directly as well as mediately, human food. Its root is more fibrous and tenacious than any plant of similar size possesses; its growth is thick and clustering; its stem is coated with flint, so as to be of amazing strength, the leaves are formed so as to push their way easily through the soil, and to present the least surface to the winds, and it grows spontaneously and freely upon great mountain heights, far above the level which man’s husbandry can reach. And many of these mountain grasses, instead of producing flowers and seed, bring forth perfectly formed plants, which strike root the moment the parent stem withers and falls to the ground, and become independent grasses. Were it otherwise, the stormy winds on these high levels would blow the seeds away, and the species would perish. (C.) The mountains, then, are the great Saints of God, whose lofty heights of wisdom, of holiness, of contemplation, form the fittests oil for that spiritual teaching which is to be the food for Christ’s flock, the lovely carpet to cover what else would be the bare, hard earth. No creed save that of the Gospel can put life into dead things, can go to everything for Christ, and to every one with Christ. None other is self-sown. All other creeds have had a human author, but this grows on heights which man’s plough will not reach. None other grows on the far heights. A certain level of civilization and learning is fatal to mere human beliefs; the Buddhist, the Brahmin, the Moslem lose their faith with their ignorance, but the Cross surmounts the highest hills. No other creed is so tenacious of life, so strong, so deep-rooted, and vet so flexible, and none is found so widely diffused, ministering under such different aspects to such diverse races and temperaments. And herb for the use of man. These words are not in the Hebrew, and have been added by the LXX.* from Ps. 104:14. Two interpretations are given of the herb, that it signifies simpler and easier teaching than the grass, though produced by the same teachers; while others understand that the mountains mean rich and powerful people, (A.) whose hearts God touches so that they minister support from their wealth to the preachers of His Word.

9 Who giveth fodder unto the cattle: and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.

He gives fodder unto the cattle when He instructs His ministers to adapt their teaching to the needs of beginners, (D. C.) as S. Paul witnesses, saying,* “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat.” (H.) He feedeth the young ravens which call upon Him, (C.) when He gives spiritual instruction to the children of sinners, especially such as have lived in the black darkness of idolatry; (whereby the whole Gentile Church is understood,) but who call upon Him, as did Cornelius the centurion, asking in faith for light. And in the fierceness and gross feeding of the black,* unclean raven, which would not return to the Ark, we have a type of sinners in general. Yet God feeds them. Their evil does not make Him less good, He is not less their Father because they deny that they are His children. And if so, if He “provideth for the raven his food,”* will He, in the day of dearth and calamity,* forsake the meek and harmless dove, that mourneth continually in prayer before Him?

10 He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse: neither delighteth he in any man’s legs.

That is, (Ay.) it is not in the cavalry and infantry of an army, in the display of worldly craft and worldly power, that God takes delight, seeing that it has often been His pleasure to rout a great host with but a handful of men;* so that “he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself, neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself, and he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away in that day, saith the Lord.” (P.) And as the horse is the type of wealth and power, so it is to be noticed that the Lord did not choose kings and rulers for His Apostles, but poor and lowly men; and further, that He did not choose, even amongst these, such as stood on their own merits, relying on their strength and ability to stand,* but lifted up the simple out of the dust, to set him with the princes of the people. Wherefore it follows:

11 But the Lord’s delight is in them that fear him: and put their trust in his mercy.

He joins fear with hope (Vulg.) because fear without hope of pardon is of no use,* nor does hope avail without fear beforehand, for otherwise it would be presumption. Judas the traitor feared, (A.) but did not trust in Christ’s mercy, and therefore he despaired, and departed, and went and hanged himself. If you would as a sinner flee from God’s wrath, fearing Him, flee to His mercy, and sin no more. God puts us to His school, and impresses on us a wholesome awe, not for His glory, but for our profit. To those who will not learn, who are froward and self-willed, who have neither fear nor hope,* He shows Himself stern, but to all those who wish to profit by His lessons, who have faith in the wisdom of their Teacher, to all such He shows that He takes delight in His pupils, and will bring them through their very awe to that perfect knowledge of Himself which casteth out fear,* because it is love.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion.

The two names denote one Church under two aspects. (H.) S. Paul knew the first as the heavenly one,* when he spoke of “Jerusalem above, which is free, and the mother of us all.”* And he knew what Sion meant who saith, “Ye are come unto Mount Sion and to the Church of the first-born which are written in heaven.”* Both of them, (A.) the Triumphant and Militant Church, (Ay.) have the praise of God as their one occupation. But they perform it in different ways. The Church Militant praises Him by persevering in works of mercy; the Church Triumphant by pure enjoyment and delight in Him, an occupation full of sweetness, interrupted by no trouble, weakened by no fatigue, disturbed by no cloud. Our work then will be to praise God and to love Him,* “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, O Lord, they shall be always praising Thee.” Why? unless that they shall be alway loving Thee. Why? unless that they shall be always beholding Thee.

13 For he hath made fast the bars of thy gates: and hath blessed thy children within thee.

The truest bar of these gates,* that by which they are fastened on the right hand and the left, is that Cross to which He Who is the Door was nailed. It is the bar of the heavenly as well as of the earthly Church,* and it was in the might of its strong resistance that the gates of hell did not prevail against the Gospel, when all kings, and nations, and cities, and hosts of evil spirits, endeavoured to sweep it away. The lesser, (B.) but still important bars of the Church on earth are her great Apostles, doctors, and teachers, by whose vigour and watchfulness the assaults of heresy and unbelief are driven back, and of them, as of bolts and bars, it is written, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,* and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven;”* and also the clear, definite statements of divine truth which mark the limits of belief, and guard men from wandering into error.* Faith, hope, and charity, are three good bars against the devil and his angels, but faith faileth, hope grows feeble, and charity waxes cold, unless each and all be strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Ghost.* And hath blessed thy children. That is, not only made them happy, but also (according to a common Scriptural use of the word blessed) made them numerous, granting to the Church that she should increase and multiply,* subdue and replenish the earth. (B.) And in that it is added within thee, we are taught that there is no promise of blessing to those children of Jerusalem who go out of her. But how, if the Lord has indeed strengthened (A. V. and Vulg.) the bars of the gates, does it come to pass that so many scandals and sorrows trouble the Church Militant? (A.) Why do so many foes steal in, why do so many children rush out? Because here the wheat and tares are mingled, this is the threshing floor, not the garner. It is not said that God has shot the bars of the gates, but that He has strengthened them, and that for future use; for the time when the Bridegroom comes,* and they that be ready shall go in with Him to the marriage, and the door shall be shut. Then the foolish virgins will knock in vain, (D. C.) for those strong bars will be put to their predestined purpose. No foe may thenceforward enter in, for the bar of absolute holiness keeps sin aloof, “and there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither worketh abomination, or a lie.”* No friends shall thenceforward pass out, for the bar of the sure confirmation of the blessed in Christ keeps them safe; as Christ Himself hath declared: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out.”* And hath blessed thy children within thee, since “blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates to the city.”*

14 He maketh peace in thy borders: and filleth thee with the flour of wheat.

When a city is beleaguered by enemies, (C.) its borders are war, as is the case with unhappy Babylon, but Jerusalem is too strong to be assailed, and no foe may cross the frontier of her territory. In that City on high, there is peace even in the borders,* for the last and lowest Saint in heaven is filled with tranquil rejoicing. Here, in the Church below, albeit without are fightings and within fears,* which will not cease until the pilgrim’s march is ended,* yet “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”* (A.) Perfect peace we cannot have on earth, for the moment full and entire peace is in the soul of one single man, that instant it will be the possession of all the citizens of Jerusalem. There is another sense in which they explain He maketh peace in thy borders,* that it is a prophecy of the Reunion of Christendom, (R.) when those Christian sects which border on the Church in doctrine and ordinances, shall no longer make war against her, but he reconciled in purest amity. And filleth thee with the fat of wheat (Vulg., A. V., marg.*) There is no doubt of what is intended here, the Sacrament of the Bread of Life, found only within the borders of Jerusalem. And observe, how by the grouping of these two words, (Cd.) peace and wheat, we are taught now truly the Sacrament of the Altar is the bond of union and mutual charity amongst the children of Sion.* Hence the ancient rite of the Kiss of Peace,* which made a part of every Liturgy in the Early Church, from at least the time of S. Justin Martyr;* and therefore it is well asked by Tertullian, “What kind of sacrifice is that from which men depart without peace?”* Hear another ancient Christian writer,* “We know nothing of Communion without peace. It is said in the Gospels, ‘First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’* If we cannot offer our gifts without peace, how much more is this true of receiving the Body of Christ?”

That word filleth,* or as the Vulgate reads, satisfieth, belongs to Jerusalem above, not Sion below. Here we are indeed fed with the fat of wheat, but we feed on the Word of God under the veil of the Sacrament, we drink the water of wisdom, but only from the droppings of Holy Writ, and therefore we are not satisfied yet,* nay, our very blessedness here consists in hungering and thirsting after righteousness. But there the Saints shall taste the sweetness of the Eternal Word with no type nor veil between, there they shall put their lips to the very Source of wisdom, and no longer drink of the mere rills or droppings which come down to water the earth.

15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: and his word runneth very swiftly.

He did indeed send His commandment,* the New Law of His kingdom, (C.) upon earth, when He caused it to be preached to every nation under heaven,* and His Word ran very swiftly, (G.) “rejoicing as a giant to run his race,”* when the Only-Begotten Son, the “Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of Thy royal throne,”* to become Incarnate at Nazareth, to show Himself for a most brief time upon earth, and in the short space of three years’ ministry to renew the world; (C.) and then He spread abroad by the mouth of His Apostles the tidings of salvation with wonderful rapidity, (R.) so that “their sound went out into all lands, (B.) and their words into the end of the world,”* in the power of that Wisdom which “reacheth from one end to another mightily;”* reaching from India in the East to Britain in the West within a few years, whereas the Law had remained fifteen centuries shut up within the limits of one land and people.*

16 He giveth snow like wool: and scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes.

The snow which God sends is not merely like wool in its fleecy texture and delicate whiteness, but because it serves, in despite of its own coldness, as a great coverlet to keep the earth sheltered and warm from the keen frost and bitter blasts of winter, lulling it as it were in healthful and restful sleep, so that the seeds and herbage are saved from blight, and suffered to grow, hidden beneath the pall. So the Latin poet expresses the idea:

Aspice quam densum tacitarum vellus aquarum Defluat.*

See, what a thick fleece of silent waters falls.

The hoar-frost, powdered lightly over the ground everywhere, like ashes, also penetrates below the surface of the earth, and expanding as it does so, breaks up the soil, making it friable, and easier for plants to shoot upwards through; (A.) and kills much of the insect life which would destroy the vegetation if unchecked. So God takes sinners, cold and lifeless, with neither spiritual fervour nor practical activity, and transfigures them, so that as Christ’s raiment when He flashed forth His radiance for a moment on earth, “became shining, exceeding white as snow;”* conversely, this chill snow becomes the raiment of Christ, without spot or wrinkle—do but look at a pure expanse of snow, and see the full beauty of S. Augustine’s figure here—and keeps,* in new-found charity, His members warm. And the frost, which breaks up the hard soil, and does more good the deeper it goes, what is it save those salutary afflictions which God sends, that sinners may be softened, and fitted to receive the seed of His Word, till they themselves, once colder than the snow itself, may, kindled through and through with the fervour of divine love,* become like ashes, tokens alike of fire and of penitence, the relics of a whole burnt-offering upon the altar of God, and are spread abroad as a fertilizing compost over the fields which will one day be ripe for harvest?

17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who is able to abide his frost?

The word פִּתִּים, here translated morsels, means in most of the places where it occurs in the Bible,* pieces of bread,1 exactly the LXX. ψωμούς, for this very ice, this wintry cold, is profitable to the earth, to fit it for bearing, for the future harvests, (A.) and thus matures the morsels of bread which man will yet win from the soil in due season. S. Augustine, who explains that ice, more solid cold than snow or frost,2 denotes the most hardened sinners, not so much coarse and depraved ones, as hard, keen, clear enemies of the truth, not as ignorant of it, but deliberately resisting it, of whom Saul of Tarsus was a perfect type, (C.) when in his stern relentlessness he voted for and assisted at the death of the martyr Stephen, and yet in God’s providence was cast forth to feed the Gentiles hungering for the Bread of Life; himself, as a member of Christ, being a morsel of that Bread. And when God did so send forth the mighty preacher, who was able to abide His frost? None, for the resistless glacier came down from the mountain height of divine contemplation, (Cd.) and levelled in its onward march the idol temples in the plain below. Two other interpretations of the text merit to be set down. Ice is pure and translucent, and that pure and crystalline substance which is sent forth as morsels of bread is the most Holy Sacrament of Christ’s Body, (B.) shining, heavenly, glorious, the pure and wondrous transformation of our earthly body, which He deigned to take as His own. Lastly, the ice, in its stern rigidity and coldness, is an emblem of the Mosaic Law, broken up by God’s grace, since who could abide that frost? It was “a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear,”* is the testimony of the Prince of the Apostles. But now, that all its figures have been made clear, all its shadows lost in the light,* that which was as a stone given us by our Father has become bread, its hardness gone, its digestion easy. (A.) Who can abide His frost? Who is really in love with sin, who can bear to be cold and hard, unwarmed by the genial rays of the Sun of Righteousness? Does any despair because he is snow and ice when he would fain be fire and heat? Let him be of good cheer, for

18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he bloweth with his wind, and the waters flow.

The remedy for sin is at hand,* the prison of winter is unlocked by bright sun and warm breezes, by the Incarnation of Jesus, and the Mission of the Holy Ghost; the south wind blows through the garden of God,* and its spices flow out. The waters flow, when the hard heart melts into penitent tears, the waters flow when all the mighty powers of heart and hand, (A.) but lately frozen up in unbelief, (B.) melt and come down in eloquent torrents of doctrine, and freed from the icy restraints of the Old Testament, irrigate the fields below, and the thankful nations bow them down and drink, as they did when the Word, with His one cry of “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”* melted the stern persecutor;* when the Holy Spirit of God set him apart for the work of evangelizing the Gentiles; wherefore it follows:

19 He showeth his word unto Jacob: his statutes and ordinances unto Israel.

20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: neither have the heathen knowledge of his laws.

The younger people, (A.) the Gentile Church, has had the Word, the Incarnate Son, manifested to it, before its eyes “Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth.”* The Word came first to the literal Jacob, (H.) the carnal Israel, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.”* The new Jacob has supplanted his elder brother, for “blindness in part is happened unto Israel,* until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”* The first part of God’s grace is showing His Word, that we may embrace Him by faith, while we are still struggling as Jacob; the next is the process of sanctification through obedience when, after promising allegiance to our King, He explains to us the laws of His kingdom, and makes us Israel, princes with Him. He hath not dealt so with any nation. As He chose the Hebrews for His own peculiar people, intrusted them with the care of His oracles, (D. C.) was Himself their King and Lawgiver, and later vouchsafed to be born of the tribe of Judah, they were above all nations of the earth bound to hear and obey Him. (Ay.) But now these words, which once described their exalted privileges, are taken away from them, and applied to the Christian Church, gathered out of those very heathens who had no knowledge of His laws; but are now favoured by His grace, while vast tracts of the earth are even still overrun with false creeds, so that those who have been nurtured in the Gospel can only marvel at and bless the great goodness of God, (A.) Who has strengthened the bars of their gates, (P.) blessed them within Jerusalem, made all their borders peace, filled them with the fatness of wheat, sent forth His great preachers for their learning, made the waters of the Old Testament flow down from their icy prison under the influence of the Spirit, and has kept all these mercies for them alone, so that this very election is the seventh of the graces He here bestows.

Wherefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who sendeth forth His Word; glory be to the Son, Himself the Word, Who melteth sinners; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Wind that maketh the waters flow.

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

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian.

Monastic.

Sarum.

Saturday: Vespers. [Second portion: vv. 12–20. Corpus Christi, Comm. B.V.M., Comm. Virg., Dedication: Vespers. Sarum also Christmas Day and Trinity Sunday: I. Vespers.]

Ambrosian. Saturday: Vespers.

Parisian. First portion: vv. 1–11. Wednesday: Lauds. Second portion. Thursday: Lauds.

Lyons. First portion: Saturday: Compline. Second portion: Saturday: Vespers.

Quignon. Saturday: Vespers.

ANTIPHONS

Gregorian.

Monastic.

First portion: To our God * let praise be pleasant. Second portion: Praise Christ the Lord * O Jerusalem. [Corpus Christi: The Lord Who setteth peace in the borders of the Church, filleth us with the flour of wheat. Com. B.V.M.: Thou art fair, and pleasant for delights, O holy Mother of God. Com. Virg.: She is fair * among the daughters of Jerusalem. Dedication: All thy walls are precious stones, and the towers of Jerusalem shall be built up with jewels.]

Ambrosian. First portion: As Gregorian. Second portion: For He hath stablished * the bars of thy gates. K. K. K.

Parisian. First portion: The Lord’s delight is in them that fear Him * and put their trust in His mercy. Second portion: The Lord showeth His Word unto Jacob: His statutes unto Israel, He hath not dealt so with any nation.

Lyons. Second portion: He bloweth with His wind, and the waters flow.

Mozarabic. First portion: Who healeth those that are broken in heart, and bindeth up their bruises * Great is our Lord; and great is His power. Second portion: Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: Praise thy God, O Sion.

COLLECTS

O God, (Lu.) Builder of the heavenly Jerusalem, Who both numberest the multitude of the stars, and callest them all by their names; heal, we pray Thee, them that are broken of heart, gather together the outcasts, and enrich us with Thine infinite wisdom. (1.)

Strengthen, (Lu.) O Lord, the gates of Thy Church, and set peace in her borders, and vouchsafe to give her the fatness of spiritual wheat. (1.)

O God,* Who healest them that are broken of heart, grant medicine for our wound, and Thou Who numberest the multitude of the stars, unite us with them that are predestined unto life, that Thy delight may be in us, and Thou mayest bid us be exalted in everlasting salvation. (11.)

O Lord,* Who hast made Jerusalem the border of peace, bestow abundance of Thy peace on Thy believing people, to rule us in immortality, and possess us in everlasting life. And Thou, O Lord, Who wilt satisfy us with the fulness of wheat, grant that what we now behold as a figure, we may enjoy, even Thee, in all things with the clearness of truth. (11.)

Quell, (D. C.) O Lord, the terrors and wars of spiritual wickedness, graciously make peace in our borders, strengthen the bars of the gates of Thine House, and bless us, the children of new grace, nor suffer the children of darkness to prevail against us any more. (1.)

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

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 111

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 22, 2016

ARGUMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ bestows the spiritual food of His Word on them that suffer hunger. The Voice of the Church concerning Christ, with praise. Of penitence with praise.

Ven. Bede. His people praiseth the Lord, because freed from the destruction of the world, it knows not how to endure the slavery of sins. This is the first Psalm with the Hebrews which goes through the whole course of the Alphabet, although there are many persons who suppose that other previous ones are written in alphabetical order, for in them there are either some missing or some superfluous letters, and sometimes when one verse is short, another is extended to inordinate length.1 Whence I imagine that this arises rather from the observation of readers than the intention of the writer. And further, the Seventy translators, because some scruple arose in them, did not choose to insert the Hebrew letters in their version.

The nation of the blessed gathered from various parts of the world, at the first outset of the Psalm saith that it confesseth unto the Lord in the congregation of the righteous, where laud is everlasting, and praise without end: I will confess unto Thee, O Lord. Secondly, it says that the faithful have been satisfied with an abundant gift, promising at the same time the Advent of the Lord, that they may search after the promised inheritance with most eager intentness: He hath made a memorial of His marvels. Thirdly, it declares that Christians have been redeemed, in the New Testament hallowed by everlasting grace: He sent redemption unto His people. The first part contains six letters: the second ten: the third, six. And just as little children are taught by letters that they may advance to wisdom, so psalms of this kind are given to the uninstructed and beginners, that their first attempts may be guided, as though with certain rudiments.

Syriac Psalter. Anonymous. Concerning the excellency of the works of God, and enjoining us to give thanks unto Christ. Spoken in the person of the Apostles.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. A thanksgiving to Christ.

S. Athanasius. A psalm having a mingled confession, and a narrative with praise.

COMMENTARY

1 [Alleluia.] I will give thanks unto the Lord (א) with my whole heart: secretly among the faithful, (ב) and in the congregation.

That man gives thanks unto the Lord with his whole heart who does so unfeignedly,* and not for any present advantage or gain, but heartily and entirely, for he who praises God with half his heart, is deceitful, and not single-hearted. We ought not then to praise Him with one part of us,* and allow the other to incline to sin; lest while we are lifting one foot of the soul up to holiness, we should suffer the other to remain in the mire of sin. Secretly among the faithful.* This is rather a paraphrase than the precise translation, which is in the council of the upright, but the Hebrew word סו̇ד for council also means secret, implying a small number of trusty advisers distinct from and higher than the general congregation. And thus the notion implied is that of conversing with those of tried piety and wisdom on the deeper mysteries of the Faith, while joining also in the public worship of the less instructed flock. (A.) S. Augustine accordingly explains the former term as denoting the college of the Apostles, (C.) the latter as designating the whole Church; and his exposition is generally followed, with the extension of the council to all able teachers of righteousness. Cardinal Hugo,* looking to the word confess, suggests that we have in this verse a recommendation to choose wise and pious confessors to guide us in holiness, and then to make full and public satisfaction in presence of the Church for any faults we have committed.

2 The works of the Lord are great: (ג) sought out of all them that have pleasure therein (ד).

This is the true sense of the passage,* signifying that eager zeal in the study of the deep things of God which characterizes His true followers.* And that because, as a Saint teaches us, knowledge goes before the cultivation of virtue, because no one can heartily desire that of which he is ignorant, nor can he fear an evil unless it be known. Another interpretation, which comes practically to the same thing, translates the second clause,* sought out because of all their pleasantness,* which may be especially taken of the words and acts of Christ when He was in bodily presence on earth. But the LXX. and Vulgate turn the clause, sought out for all His wills; that is, that every part of creation, everything which exists, has its divinely appointed task and place in working out some purpose of God; and that even in the case of such things as seem most adverse to Him, man’s free-will, sickness, sin, death, and the like,* they do but carry out His higher designs. All God’s works, both of the first and second creation, (A.) of nature and of grace, are great; but a favourite application of every verse of this Psalm to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar,* has made some commentators dwell on it here particularly, as that which has been devised by His love for the sanctification of men. And we then get another sense of for all His wills, (Z.) that such works of God as this and other acts of His grace, dispose all devout and wise persons to do His will with all their might.

3 His work is worthy to be praised, and had in honour: (ה) and his righteousness endureth for ever (ו).

Here the LXX.* and Vulgate read in the first clause, Confession and magnificence are His work. And they take it as well in the literal sense of the glorious beauty of creation, affording matter for our acknowledgment and praise of His power, (C.) as in a more spiritual sense: namely, that the conversion of sinners, leading them to confession of their own sins,* and of the glory of the Holy Trinity (as in the case of S. Paul,) (A.) together with the bright purity of soul (and in some cases the shining gifts of miraculous power) vouchsafed to penitents, are God’s work, not man’s; spring from His love and grace, not from their strength and merit; and then His righteousness, whereby He rewards such confession and magnificence, endureth for ever, in that His promises can never fail, His justifying grace cannot be overruled, His sentence at the Last Day is irrevocable, whether for the doomed or the blessed.

4 The merciful and gracious Lord hath so done his marvellous works: (ז) that they ought to be had in remembrance (ח).

The Prayer Book here misses the force of the Hebrew, nor is the A. V. more exact. The LXX. and Vulgate are precisely right in translating, He hath made a memorial of His wonderful works. Yet this may be taken, if considered apart from the succeeding verse, as denoting much what the Prayer Book version suggests, that God’s dealings with His people and against their enemies were so conspicuous and memorable,* as well in the days of the Patriarchs, Judges, (Z.) and Kings of Israel as in those of the Apostles and Martyrs of Christ, that they became a monument for the gaze and instruction of posterity. But when we carry on our eyes to the succeeding words, we come to a yet deeper meaning:

5 He hath given meat unto them that fear him: (ט) he shall ever be mindful of his covenant (י).

The word memorial in the previous verse is זֵכֶר, that which is used of the Passover in Exodus 12:14 and 13:9, which gives us one reference to the meat here mentioned, while there is, in all probability, a further allusion to the manna in the wilderness; for the word טֶרֶף, here translated meat, is more exactly rendered in the A. V. margin as prey: either spoil in battle, or more probably, the flesh of beasts taken in hunting, of course in uninhabited places like the wilderness. Hence we have, as the idea present to the mind of the Psalmist, the great Festivals of the Jewish Church,* and the feast on the attendant sacrifices, (which may very well be called “prey” in the sense of being the produce of a land conquered by force of Hebrew valour in old time), the food given to the worshippers, whose share in the service proved their fear of God.* And thus we come at once to the sense followed by all the greatest Christian expositors, that we have here a prophecy of the Holy Eucharist, of which its Founder spake, saying, “Offer this for a Memorial of Me;”1* a gift which none could have bestowed save a merciful and gracious Lord. (A.) Nor does the word “prey” make this application less suitable, (L.) for in that adorable mystery we proclaim the death of Christ, remembering how His persecutors pursued Him upon the mountains, and laid wait for Him in the wilderness, till “the breath of our nostrils, the Anointed of the Lord, was taken in their pits,”* and given to us thenceforward to be our food, “for wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”* Or, if we take “prey” as the spoil in battle, so this holy banquet, like the bread and wine Melchizedek gave to victorious Abraham, is meant only for those that overcome their spiritual foes. (Cd.) And as He fulfilled His covenant to Abraham and Moses,* in giving the land of Canaan to the children of Israel,* so, because the cup of this most holy Sacrament is the New Covenant in His Blood, (D. C.) He is reminded of His promises in that Testament every time we celebrate the Christian Sacrifice, of His oath to us to give us a better country, where we shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of our Father, be as the Angels of God, and because servants of Christ, be where He is also.

6 He hath showed his people the power of his works: (כ) that he may give them the heritage of the heathen (ל).

The first reference is to the ejection of the seven nations from Palestine before the face of Israel,* aided by the mighty hand of God; and then, by a simple and obvious transition, (C.) the words denote the subjugation of the heathen to the law of Christ, by the spreading of His Church; and finally, they mean the conquest of heaven by the Saints, and their occupation of those seats whence the rebel angels fell. In connection with the previous verse, and still keeping to the idea of the Holy Eucharist, we may remember, on the one hand,* that the memorial character of that sacred rite causes it to bring before us all the power of the Lord’s work in His Incarnation, (P.) Passion,* Resurrection, and Ascension, besides the spiritual miracle of change wrought upon the elements themselves;* while in its strengthening properties, as conveying to us the grace and might of Christ, it makes us vigorous enough to take the kingdom of heaven by storm. A reference to the power of Christ displayed in the Resurrection, (Ay.) is the probable reason of the Anglican use of this Psalm on Easter Day.

7 The works of his hands are verity and judgment: (מ) all his commandments are true (נ).

Here again the first reference is to the punishment of the Canaanites:* and God’s dealings with them, in depriving them of their settlements and transferring them to another people, are vindicated on the score of justice; because the seven nations had transgressed His plainest commandments,* such as are familiar even to natural religion, and therefore God, after enumerating the horrible crimes which were prevalent amongst them,* spake to Israel by Moses: “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these things the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity of the land upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.”* And in His conquest of the heathen by His Church the same rule holds, (A.) for although He suffered His martyrs to be haled to prison and to judgment, yet His truth prevailed by that very persecution, so as to become known and dear to countless thousands. His work in the soul is truth, in teaching us to love that which is right and holy; it is judgment, in showing us how to sit in trial upon our doings,* and to condemn our sins. And He will show His verity again in the Last Day by rewarding according to His most true promise them that have kept His commandments faithfully, (C.) and His judgment by condemning such as have continued obstinately in rebellion against Him.* One commentator tells us that we have the method of true penitence, which is God’s commandment, set forth plainly in the first clause of this verse: verity, implying candour of the mouth in acknowledgment of our sins; judgment, the genuine contrition which condemns them in the heart, so as to forsake them altogether; works of the hands, the acts of satisfaction in reparation of our past misdoings. And, continuing the Eucharistic gloss, (Ay.) they remind us that the Sacrament is the work of Christ’s hands, as He is its sole Institutor; it is verity, because of the Real Presence, being no mere figure of an absent Person: and judgment, because of the condemnation of unworthy communicants.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever: (ס) and are done in truth and equity (ע).

The vindication of God’s ways continues.* It may not be pleaded by sinners that new laws and conventional statutes can set aside His moral commandments, since these are for ever and ever, and thus, if man’s enactments profess to legalize aught which He has condemned, as adultery and divorce, they are inherently void, and carry no sanction with them. His laws have truth on their side, (C.) because God will most certainly fulfil what He hath spoken concerning them; they have equity, because they are no mere positive and variable rules, but based on the profoundest morality. And because of their efficacy and power, it is well said, that they are done, not spoken, in truth and equity. The Carmelite, (Ay.) continuing his reference to the Blessed Sacrament, declares it to stand fast for ever and ever, by reason of the indelible character of the priesthood, and the impossibility of any other oblation supplementing the Eucharist till the end of time, while he takes truth, as before, to denote the Real Presence; since in the Holy Eucharist an evil priest and an evil communicant can neither of them prevent the power of the Sacrament from being there, whereas in Baptism an insincere catechumen derives nothing whatever from the rite. And equity he goes on to explain as that property of the Holy Eucharist by which it precisely adapts itself to each communicant, being profitable to the devout, and more than perilous to the impenitent.

Bad and good the feast are sharing
O what diverse dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life!
Life to these, to those damnation:
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.

9 He sent redemption unto his people: (פ) he hath commanded his covenant for ever; (צ) holy and reverend is his Name (ק).

The deliverance from Egyptian bondage, the giving of the Law, (L.) the proclamation of the Divine titles to Moses, form the first meaning here. But the Psalmist is looking forward to much more glorious events than these: even to those which God Himself foretold by the mouth of the Prophet: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”* And that was fulfilled when “the Lord God of Israel visited and redeemed His people,”* and “Christ, being come an High Priest of good things to come, (A.) obtained eternal redemption for us;”* (C.) and commanded His new covenant, appointing it by the hands of His Apostles,* after it had been “established upon better promises”* than the former one, which, decayed and waxed old, was then ready to vanish away, whereas this one is to abide for evermore, in the power of that Name which is holy and beloved by the Saints, but terrible (LXX. and Vulg., rightly,) to the wicked, (Ay.) remembering His office and title as Judge of the whole world, (C.) In like manner, as in the previous verse, we are reminded of the perpetual duration of the Holy Eucharist, and its twofold effect on those who eat thereof.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: (ד) a good understanding have all they that do I thereafter; (ש) the praise of it endureth for ever (ת).

As there are two ways of fearing God:* a servile dread and a filial reverence, it is needful to inquire which is here intended. And on this S. Thomas says: The beginning of wisdom is a term which can be used in two ways; one, that it is the beginning, as regards the essence of wisdom; the other, as regards the effect of it. Just so, in any art, its essential beginning consists of the principles whence it is derived; but its effective beginning is that whence the exercise of the art begins. So we may call a foundation the beginning of architecture, because the architect begins to rear his work thereon. But seeing that wisdom is the knowledge of divine things, we look at it in one way and metaphysicians in another. For as the end of our life is the fruition of God, and is guided in accordance with a certain share of divine nature, bestowed on us by grace; we do not consider wisdom merely as having to do with the knowledge of God, as the metaphysicians regard it, but also in so far as it is the guide of human life, which has to be regulated not only by human reasons but by divine ones. As then the beginning of wisdom according to its essence is the first principles of wisdom, which are the articles of faith, in this respect we call faith the beginning of wisdom. But so far as the effect of wisdom is concerned, its beginning is that whence wisdom begins to work, and in this way fear is the beginning of wisdom. But servile fear is this beginning in one fashion, and filial fear in quite another. Servile fear is a kind of outward beginning, urging towards wisdom, in so far as any one departs from sin through fear of punishment, and is in this wise got ready for the operation of wisdom, as it is written in Ecclesiasticus: “The fear of the Lord driveth away sins.”* But pure or filial fear is the beginning of wisdom, as the first effect of wisdom itself. For as it is part of wisdom that human life should be regulated according to divine reasons, it ought to have its beginning from this, that man reverence God, and submit himself to Him.* But even this filial dread is no more than the beginning of wisdom.* Perfect wisdom is love, which casteth out fear.* And because of all the good things which flow from the fear of God, which the Wise Man enumerates for us, including honour, glory, gladness, a crown of rejoicing, long life, peace, and perfect health, with much besides, a good understanding have all they that do thereafter. Not, be it observed, they who know and are learned in the theory, but they that do, for it is written: “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin,”* and, moreover, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”* The praise of it endureth for ever. That is, in this way of reading the words, the praise of such understanding as prompts a man to keep God’s commandments, (A.) and therefore the praise of that man himself,* shall endure for ever,* because he shall dwell in the house of the Lord always, and join in the millenary Song of heavenly praise;* and will, moreover, himself be praised and commended by his Lord as a good and faithful servant, and will hear the words of eulogy echoed by all the Saints and Angels.* But it seems better to take the clause, with A. V., (Z.) His praise endureth for ever; that is, the praise of the Lord, our Redemption, Whose Name is blessed to ages of ages. (C.) His praise can have no end, because His bounties are inexhaustible. We praise Him here on earth, because He rescues sinners; we shall praise Him in the world to come, because He crowns His Saints; and thus this Psalm, which begins with Alleluia, fitly ends with the declaration that this Song of laud shall resound for evermore.

Wherefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who hath sent Redemption unto His people; glory be to the Son, Who hath given us the meat of His new Covenant as a memorial of His wondrous works; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of understanding and of the fear of the Lord.

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

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian and Monastic. Sunday and Festivals: Vespers. [Corpus Christi: Vespers.]

Ambrosian. Sunday: Vespers. [Christmas Day: II. Nocturn.]

Parisan. Sunday: Vespers.

Lyons. Sunday: Vespers.

Quignon. Sunday: Vespers.

COLLECTS

O God, glorious confession of all Saints,* grant us the fear of Thy Name, which Thou hast declared to be the beginning of wisdom, that joined to the councils of Thy servants, we may be filled with the banquet of Thy mercy. (1.)

Great are Thy works, O Lord,* sought out for all Thy wills. Grant us, Thy servants, while we admire the greatness of Thy works, to praise with due confession the glory of the Creator, and search out with reverent wisdom Thy faithful commandments, and achieve with obedient fear the perfect comeliness of understanding. (11.)

O merciful and gracious Lord, (D. C.) Who with Thy wonted goodness hast long spared us sinners; fill us at length with a good understanding, and pour into our minds fear, the beginning of Thy wisdom, and make us to please Thee by living henceforth a sober and godly life. (1.)

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 8

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 17, 2016

MAN S LITTLENESS AND GREATNESS

THE glory of God, as shown forth in nature and in man, is the theme of this poem. God s wondrous greatness can every where be seen. It is reflected especially in the heavens. When it is hymned by infant lips it disarms the enemies of God. Over against the great glory of God, man appears so trifling that it is strange that God should give any thought to him. Yet God has taken such deep interest in him, that He has given him a greatness far above that of nature, a greatness only less than divine. This kindness of God towards man only serves to show forth more fully His greatness. The poem ends with the same awestruck confession of God s glory with which it began.

The song seems to be a song of the vintage season. The glory of the nightly heavens is so emphasised that we may, perhaps, suppose that it was sung in the night time. Possibly it was sung during a night-watch in the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles. It may have been composed by David as a jneditation on the glory of God, without any reference to liturgical use. The appropriation to a vintage-festival, like Tabernacles, implied in Pro torcularibus, is not necessarily Davidic.

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

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 141

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 14, 2016

BETTER TO BE CHASTISED BY GOD THAN TO BE HONOURED BY SINNERS!
An Introduction to Psalm 141

THE psalmist prays that his tongue may be guarded and his heart restrained from evil things—so that he may have no dealings with the wicked. It would seem as if the psalmist and his associates were being tempted towards worldliness and sin. Perhaps there is question of temptations to abandon some of the stricter tenets of Judaism, and the tempters are, possibly, Jews of high rank and great wealth who have made approaches towards heathenism. But the psalmist declares that it is better to be rebuked by the Just One than to be flattered by sinners. He will take no part in the luxuries of sinners, but the gentle words of chiding and warning which come from the Lord he will receive as one receives an anointing on the head with precious ointment. Lest in a moment of weakness he might yield to the seductions of the worldly and wicked, the psalmist prays that their leaders may be cast headlong down the rocks, so that the simpler ones among them may learn that the words which the psalmist speaks are words of power. The psalmist and his comrades are in urgent need of help from the Lord. Like clods scattered over the surface of the ground their bodies are scattered, as it were, close to the greedy mouth of Sheol. If they are not quickly rescued they will be swallowed up. Hence the psalmist declares that his eyes are fixed on the Lord, looking eagerly for a token of coming rescue. Let not Yahweh fail him—lest in spite of his faith and protestations, he become a laughing-stock among the wicked. Let the wicked be entrapped in the snares and nets which they have set for him and his associates. The speedy discomfiture of his foes will have the twofold effect of removing the temptations which are assailing him,, and of setting him right before the world as a loyal servant of the Lord.

The psalm is attributed to David in the superscription, but modern critics are not prepared to accept for it a Davidic origin. It has been inferred (quite wrongly we think) from verse 2 that the daily sacrifices in the Temple were no longer being regularly conducted when the psalm was composed. The psalmist does not, as some writers seem to fancy, hope that his prayer may serve as a substitute for sacrificial offerings that are no longer taking place; he prays that his words of prayer may ascend before the Lord as pleasingly as the odour of the sacrificial incense and the Minhah arises to the throne of Yahweh. The Massoretic text of this psalm is in a very unsatisfactory condition, and it would seem, too, that the Greek translators were here less successful in their rendering than in most of the other psalms. Thus, while the general meaning of the poem is clear enough, the sense of some of the verses is almost hopelessly obscure.

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

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 141

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 14, 2016

1. … The Psalm which we have just sung is in many parts somewhat obscure. When by the help of the Lord what has been said shall begin to be expounded and explained, ye will see that ye are hearing things which ye knew already. But for this cause are they said in manifold ways, that variety of expression may remove all weariness of the truth.…

2. “Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hear Thou me” (ver. 1). This we all can say. This not I alone say: whole Christ saith it. But it is said rather in the name of the Body: for He too, when He was here and bore our flesh, prayed; and when He prayed, drops of blood streamed down from His whole Body. So is it written in the Gospel: “Jesus prayed earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood.”10 What is this flowing of sweat from His whole Body, but the suffering of martyrs from the whole Church? “Listen unto the voice of my prayer, while I cry unto Thee.” Thou thoughtest the business of crying already finished, when thou saidst, “I have cried unto Thee.” Thou hast cried; yet think not thyself safe. If tribulation be finished, crying is finished: but if tribulation remain for the Church, for the Body of Christ, even to the end of the world, let it not only say, “I have cried unto Thee,” but also, “Listen unto the voice of my prayer.”

3. “Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as incense, and the lifting up of my hands an evening sacrifice” (ver. 2). That this is wont to be understood of the Head Himself, every Christian acknowledgeth. For when the day was now sinking towards evening, the Lord upon the Cross “laid down His life to take it again,”1 did not lose it against His will. Still we too are figured there. For what of Him hung upon the tree, save what He took of us? And how can it be that the Father should leave and abandon His only begotten Son, especially when He is one God with Him? Yet, fixing our weakness upon the Cross, where, as the Apostle saith, “our old man is crucified with Him,”2 He cried out in the voice of that our “old man,” “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”3 That then is the “evening sacrifice,” the Passion of the Lord, the Cross of the Lord, the offering of a salutary Victim, the whole burnt offering acceptable to God. That “evening sacrifice” produced, in His Resurrection, a morning offering. Prayer then, purely directed from a faithful heart, riseth like incense from a hallowed altar. Nought is more delightful than the odour of the Lord: such odour let all have who believe.

4. … “Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of restraint around my lips” (ver. 3). He said not a barrier of restraint, but “a door of restraint.” A door is opened as well as shut. If then it be a “door,” let it be both opened and shut; opened, to confession of sin; closed, to excusing sin. So will it be a “door of restraint,” not of ruin. For what doth this “door of restraint” profit us? What doth Christ pray in the name of His Body? “That Thou turn not aside My heart to wicked words” (ver. 4). What is, “My heart”? The heart of My Church; the heart, that is, of My Body.…

5. But when thine heart hath not been turned aside, O member of Christ, when thy heart hath not been turned aside “to wicked words, to making excuses in sins, with men that work in iniquity,” thou shalt also not unite with their elect. For this followeth, “And I will not unite with their elect.” Who are “their elect”? Those who justify themselves. Who are their elect? Those “who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others,” as the Pharisee said in the temple, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.”4 Who are their elect? “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know what manner of woman this is that touched His feet.”5 Here thou recognisest the words of that other Pharisee, who invited our Lord to his house; when the woman of that city, who was a sinner, came and approached His Feet.…

For even this woman herself, “if her heart had turned aside to wicked words,” would not have lacked wherewith to defend her sins. Do not women daily, her equals in defilement, but not her equals in confession, harlots, adulteresses, doers of shameful deeds, defend their sins? If they have not been seen, they deny them: if they have been caught and convicted, or have done their deeds openly, they defend them. And how easy is their defence, how ready, yet how headlong; how common, yet how blasphemous! “Had God not willed it, I had not done it: God willed it: fortune willed it: fate willed it.” … These are the defences of “the elect” of this world. But let the members of Christ, the Body of Christ, say, let Christ say in the name of His Body, “Turn not Thou aside, My Heart, to wicked words,” etc., “and I will not unite with their elect.” …

6. “With men that work wickedness.” What wickedness? Let me mention some sinful wickedness of theirs. Let me tell you one open sinful wickedness, which they acknowledge. They say, it is better for a man to be an usurer than a husbandman. Thou askest the reason, and they assign one.… He vexeth the members of Christ, who cleanseth the earth with a furrow: he vexeth the members of Christ, who pulleth grass from the earth: he vexeth the members of Christ, who plucketh an apple from a tree. To avoid committing their imaginary murders in the farm, he committeth real murders in usury. He dealeth no bread to the needy. See whether there can be greater unrighteousness than this righteousness.6 He dealeth not bread to the hungry. Thou askest, wherefore? Lest the beggar receive the life which is in the bread, which they call a member of God, the substance of God, and bind it in flesh. What then do ye? why do ye eat? Have ye not flesh? Yes; but we, they say, forasmuch as we are enlightened by faith in Manes,7 by our prayers and our Psalms, forasmuch as we are elect, we cleanse thereby that bread, and transmit it into the treasure-house of the heavens. Such are the elect, that they are not to be saved by God, but saviours of God. And this is Christ, they say, crucified in the whole universe. I received in the Gospel Christ a Saviour, but ye are in your books the saviours of Christ. Plainly ye are blasphemers of Christ, and therefore not to be saved by Christ. Therefore lest a crumb be given to the hungry, and in the crumb a member of Christ suffer, is the hungry to die of hunger? False mercy to a crumb causeth true murder of a man. But who are their elect? “Turn not thou aside, my heart, to wicked words, and I will not unite with their elect.”

7. “The righteous One shall amend me in mercy, and convict me” (ver. 5). Behold the sinner confessing. He desireth to be amended in mercy, rather than praised deceitfully.… “Shall convict me,” but “in mercy:” shall convict, yet hateth not: yea, shall all the more convict, because He hateth not. And why doth he therefore give thanks? Because, “rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”1 “The righteous One shall amend me.” Because He persecuteth thee? God forbid. He requireth rather amending himself, who amendeth in hate. Wherefore then doth He amend? “In mercy. And shall convict me.” Wherein? “In mercy. For the oil of a sinner shall not enrich my head.” My head shall not grow by flattery. Undue praise is flattery: undue praise of a flatterer is “the oil of a sinner.” Therefore men too, when they have mocked any one with false praise, say, “I have anointed his head.” Love then to be “convicted by the righteous One in mercy;” love not to be praised by a sinner in mockery. Have oil in yourselves, and ye shall not seek the “oil of a sinner.”2 …

8. Thou sayest to me, What am I doing? I am beset with flatterers; they cease not to besiege me; they praise in me what I would not, that praise in me what I hold in little esteem; what I hold dear they blame in me; flatterers, treacherous, deceivers. For instance, “Gaiuseius3 is a great man, great, learned, wise; but why is he a Christian? For great is his learning, great his reading, great his wisdom.” If great is his wisdom, approve of his being a Christian; if great his learning, learnedly hath he chosen. In fine, what thou revilest, that pleaseth him whom thou praisest. But what? That praise sweeteneth not: it is “the oil of a sinner.” Yet ceaseth be not to speak so. Let him not therewith “fatten thy head;” that is, rejoice not in such things; agree not to such things; consent not to such things; rejoice not in such things; and then, if he have applied to thee the oil of flattery, yet hath thy head remained as it was, it has not been puffed up, it hath not swollen.… “For still shall My word be well-pleasing to them.” Wait awhile: now they revile Me, saith Christ. In the early times of the Christians, the Christians were blamed on all sides. Wait as yet; and “My word shall be well-pleasing to them.” The time shall come when they shall conquer thousands of men, who shall beat their breasts, and say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Even now, how many remain who blush to beat their breasts? Let them then blame us: let us bear it. Let them blame; let them hate, accuse, detract; “still shall My word be well-pleasing to them;” the time shall come when My word shall please them.… O wordy defence of iniquity! Verily now whole nations say this, and the thunder of nations beating their breasts ceaseth not. Rightly do the clouds thunder, wherein now God dwelleth. Where is now that wordiness, where that boasting, “I am righteous; nought of ill have I done”? Verily, when thou hast contemplated in Holy Scripture the law of righteousness, how far soever thou hast advanced, thou shalt find thyself a sinner.… What sort of man am I now speaking of, brethren? I speak of him who worshippeth God alone, who confesseth Christ, who knoweth the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to be one God; who committeth not fornication against Him; who worshippeth not devils; who seeketh him not aid from the devil; who holdeth the Catholic Church; whom no one complaineth of as cheating; under whose oppression no weak neighbour groaneth; who assaileth not another’s wife; who is content with his own, or even without his own, in such wise as is lawful, and as Apostolical discipline permitteth, with consent of both,4 or when she is not yet married. Even he who is such as this, is yet overtaken in such things as I have mentioned. For all these daily sins then what is our hope, save to say with humble heart in the Lord’s Prayer, while we defend not our sins, but confess them, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;”5 and to “have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” that He may be “the propitiation for our sins”?6 See what followeth: “their judges have been swallowed up beside the Rock” (ver. 6). What is, “swallowed up beside the Rock? That Rock was Christ.7 They have been swallowed up beside the Rock.” “Beside,” that is, compared, as judges, as mighty, powerful, learned: they are called “their judges,” as judging about morals, and laying down their opinions. This Aristotle said. Set him beside the Rock, and he is swallowed up. Who is Aristotle? let him hear, “Christ hath said,” and he trembleth among the dead. This Pythagoras said, that Plato said. Set them beside the Rock, compare their authority to the authority of the Gospel, compare the proud to the Crucified. Say we to them, “Ye have written your words in the hearts of the proud; He hath planted His Cross in the hearts1 of kings: finally, He died, and rose again; ye are dead, and I will not ask how ye rise again.” So “their judges have been swallowed up beside” that “Rock.” So long do their words seem somewhat, till they are compared with the Rock. Therefore if any of them be found to have said what Christ too hath said, we congratulate him, but we follow him not. But he came before Christ. If any man speak what is true, is he therefore before the Truth itself? Regard Christ, O man, not when He came to thee, but when He made thee. The sick man too might say, “But I took to my bed before the physician came to me.” Why, for that very reason has He come last, because thou first has sickened.

9. “They shall hear My Words, for they have prevailed.” My Words have prevailed over their words. They have spoken clever things, I true things. To praise one who talketh well is one thing, to praise One who speaketh truth is another. “They shall hear My Words, for they have prevailed.” How have they prevailed? Who of them has been taken offering sacrifice, when such things were forbidden by the law, and has not denied it? Who of them has been taken worshipping an idol, and has not exclaimed, “I did it not,” and feared lest he should be convicted? Such servants hath the devil. But how have the Words of the Lord prevailed? “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Fear not those who kill the body,” etc.2 He gave them fear, He suggested hope, He kindled love. “Fear not death,” He saith. Do ye fear death? I die first. Fear ye, lest a hair of your head perish? I first rise again in the flesh uninjured. Rightly have ye heard His Words, for they have prevailed. They spake, and were slain; they fell, and yet stood. And what was the result of so many deaths of martyrs, save that those words prevailed, and the earth being, so to speak, watered by the blood of Christ’s witnesses, the cross of the Church shot up everywhere? How have they “prevailed”? We have said already, when they were preached by men who feared not. Feared not what? Neither banishment, nor losses, nor death, nor crucifixion: for it was not death alone that they did not fear; but even crucifixion, a death than which none was thought more accursed. It the Lord endured, that His disciples might not only not fear death, but not even that kind of death. When then these things are said by men that fear not, they have prevailed.

10. What then have all those deaths of the martyrs accomplished? Listen: “As the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth, our bones have been scattered beside the pit” (ver. 7). “The bones” of the martyrs, that is, the bodies of the witnesses of Christ. The martyrs were slain, and they who slew them seemed to prevail. They prevailed by persecution, that the words of Christ might prevail by preaching. And what was the result of the deaths of the saints? What meaneth, “the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth”? We know that everything that is refuse is the fatness of the earth. The things which are, as it were, contemptible to men, enrich the earth.… “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”3 As it is contemptible to the world, so is it precious to the husbandman. For he knoweth the use thereof, and its rich juice; he knoweth what he desireth, what he seeketh, whence the fertile crop ariseth; but this world despiseth it. Know ye not that “God hath chosen the contemptible things of the world, and those which are not, like as those which are, that the things which are may be brought to nought”?4 From the dunghill was Peter lifted up, and Paul; when they were put to death, they were despised: now, the earth having been enriched by them, and the cross of the Church springing up, behold, all that is noble and chief in the world, even the emperor himself, cometh to Rome, and whither does he hasten? to the temple of the emperor, or the memorial of the fisherman?

11. “For unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes; in Thee have I hoped, take not Thou away my life” (ver. 8). For they were tortured in persecutions, and many failed. It occurreth to him that many have failed, many have been in hazard, and as it were in the midst of the tribulation of persecution is sent forth the voice of one praying; “For unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes:” I care not what they threaten who stand around, “unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes.” More do I fix mine eye on Thy promises than on their threats. I know what Thou hast suffered for me, what Thou hast promised me.

12. “Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me” (ver. 9). What was the trap? “If thou consentest, I spare thee.” In the trap was set the bait of the present life; if the bird love this bait, it falleth into the trap: but if the bird be able to say, “The day of man have I not desired: Thou knowest:”5 “He shall pluck his feet out of the net,” etc.6 Two things he hath mentioned to be distinguished the one from the other: the trap he said was set by persecutors; the stumbling-blocks came from those who have consented and apostatised: and from both he desires to be guarded. On the one side they threaten and rage, on the other consent and fall: I fear lest the one be such, that I fear him; the other such, that I imitate him. “This I do to thee, if thou consent not.” “Keep me from the trap,” etc. “Behold, thy brother hath already consented.” “And from the stumbling-blocks,” etc.

13. “Sinners shall fall into his nets” (ver. 10). Not all sinners: certain sinners, who are so great sinners, as to love this life to such a degree as to prefer it to everlasting life, “shall fall into his trap.” But what sayest thou? Shall they that are such, thinkest thou, fall into his nets? what of Thy disciples, O Christ? Behold, when persecution was raging, when they all “left Thee alone, and went every one to his own:”1 lo! they who were closest to Thee, in Thy trial and persecution, when Thine enemies demanded Thee to be crucified, abandoned Thee. And that bold one, who had promised Thee that he would go with Thee even unto death, heard from the Physician what was being done in him, the sick man. For being in a fever, he had said he was whole; but the Lord touched the vein of his heart. Then came the trial; then came the test; then came the accusation; and now, questioned not by some great power, but by a humble slave, and that a woman, questioned by a handmaid, he yielded; he denied thrice.… “He wept bitterly,” it saith. Not yet was he fitted to suffer. To him was said, “Thou shalt follow Me afterwards.”2 Hereafter he was to be firm, having been strengthened by the Lord’s Resurrection. Not yet then was it time that those “bones” should be “scattered beside the pit.” For see how many failed, even to those who first hung on His mouth; even they failed. Wherefore? “I am alone, until I pass over:” for this followeth in the Psalm.…

14. Pascha, as they say who know, and who have explained to us what to read, meaneth “Passover.” When then the Lord’s Passion was about to come, the Evangelist, as though he would use this very word, saith, “When the hour was come that Jesus should pass over to the Father.”3 We hear then of Pascha in this verse, “I am alone, until I pass over.” After Pascha I shall no longer be alone, after passing-over I shall no longer be alone. Many shall imitate Me, many shall follow Me. And if afterward they shall follow, what shall be the case now? “I am alone, until I pass over.” What is it that the Lord saith in this Psalm, “I am alone, until I pass over”? What is it that we have expounded? If we have understood it, listen to His own words in the Gospel. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.”4 … Therefore He was alone before He was put to death.… So far was any from dying for the Name, that is, for confessing the Name of Christ, before that Corn of wheat fell into the ground, that even John, who was slain just before Him, being given by a wicked king to a dancing woman, was not put to death because he confessed Christ. Of course he might have been put to death for this, and that by many. If for another reason he was put to death by one man, how much more might he have been put to death by those very men, who put Christ to death? For John gave testimony to Christ. They who heard Christ, wished to slay Him; the man who gave testimony to Him they slew not.… He is not slain by the Jews who gave free testimony to Christ, whom the Jews slew; he is slain by Herod, because he said to him, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”5 For his brother had not died without issue.6 For the law of truth, for equity, for righteousness’ sake, he did die: therefore is he a saint, therefore a martyr; but yet he died not for that Name whereby we are Christians, wherefore, save that the saying might be fulfilled, “I am alone, until I pass over.”

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

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 141

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 14, 2016

1. … The Psalm which we have just sung is in many parts somewhat obscure. When by the help of the Lord what has been said shall begin to be expounded and explained, ye will see that ye are hearing things which ye knew already. But for this cause are they said in manifold ways, that variety of expression may remove all weariness of the truth.…

2. “Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hear Thou me” (ver. 1). This we all can say. This not I alone say: whole Christ saith it. But it is said rather in the name of the Body: for He too, when He was here and bore our flesh, prayed; and when He prayed, drops of blood streamed down from His whole Body. So is it written in the Gospel: “Jesus prayed earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood.”10 What is this flowing of sweat from His whole Body, but the suffering of martyrs from the whole Church? “Listen unto the voice of my prayer, while I cry unto Thee.” Thou thoughtest the business of crying already finished, when thou saidst, “I have cried unto Thee.” Thou hast cried; yet think not thyself safe. If tribulation be finished, crying is finished: but if tribulation remain for the Church, for the Body of Christ, even to the end of the world, let it not only say, “I have cried unto Thee,” but also, “Listen unto the voice of my prayer.”

3. “Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as incense, and the lifting up of my hands an evening sacrifice” (ver. 2). That this is wont to be understood of the Head Himself, every Christian acknowledgeth. For when the day was now sinking towards evening, the Lord upon the Cross “laid down His life to take it again,”1 did not lose it against His will. Still we too are figured there. For what of Him hung upon the tree, save what He took of us? And how can it be that the Father should leave and abandon His only begotten Son, especially when He is one God with Him? Yet, fixing our weakness upon the Cross, where, as the Apostle saith, “our old man is crucified with Him,”2 He cried out in the voice of that our “old man,” “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”3 That then is the “evening sacrifice,” the Passion of the Lord, the Cross of the Lord, the offering of a salutary Victim, the whole burnt offering acceptable to God. That “evening sacrifice” produced, in His Resurrection, a morning offering. Prayer then, purely directed from a faithful heart, riseth like incense from a hallowed altar. Nought is more delightful than the odour of the Lord: such odour let all have who believe.

4. … “Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of restraint around my lips” (ver. 3). He said not a barrier of restraint, but “a door of restraint.” A door is opened as well as shut. If then it be a “door,” let it be both opened and shut; opened, to confession of sin; closed, to excusing sin. So will it be a “door of restraint,” not of ruin. For what doth this “door of restraint” profit us? What doth Christ pray in the name of His Body? “That Thou turn not aside My heart to wicked words” (ver. 4). What is, “My heart”? The heart of My Church; the heart, that is, of My Body.…

5. But when thine heart hath not been turned aside, O member of Christ, when thy heart hath not been turned aside “to wicked words, to making excuses in sins, with men that work in iniquity,” thou shalt also not unite with their elect. For this followeth, “And I will not unite with their elect.” Who are “their elect”? Those who justify themselves. Who are their elect? Those “who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others,” as the Pharisee said in the temple, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.”4 Who are their elect? “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know what manner of woman this is that touched His feet.”5 Here thou recognisest the words of that other Pharisee, who invited our Lord to his house; when the woman of that city, who was a sinner, came and approached His Feet.…

For even this woman herself, “if her heart had turned aside to wicked words,” would not have lacked wherewith to defend her sins. Do not women daily, her equals in defilement, but not her equals in confession, harlots, adulteresses, doers of shameful deeds, defend their sins? If they have not been seen, they deny them: if they have been caught and convicted, or have done their deeds openly, they defend them. And how easy is their defence, how ready, yet how headlong; how common, yet how blasphemous! “Had God not willed it, I had not done it: God willed it: fortune willed it: fate willed it.” … These are the defences of “the elect” of this world. But let the members of Christ, the Body of Christ, say, let Christ say in the name of His Body, “Turn not Thou aside, My Heart, to wicked words,” etc., “and I will not unite with their elect.” …

6. “With men that work wickedness.” What wickedness? Let me mention some sinful wickedness of theirs. Let me tell you one open sinful wickedness, which they acknowledge. They say, it is better for a man to be an usurer than a husbandman. Thou askest the reason, and they assign one.… He vexeth the members of Christ, who cleanseth the earth with a furrow: he vexeth the members of Christ, who pulleth grass from the earth: he vexeth the members of Christ, who plucketh an apple from a tree. To avoid committing their imaginary murders in the farm, he committeth real murders in usury. He dealeth no bread to the needy. See whether there can be greater unrighteousness than this righteousness.6 He dealeth not bread to the hungry. Thou askest, wherefore? Lest the beggar receive the life which is in the bread, which they call a member of God, the substance of God, and bind it in flesh. What then do ye? why do ye eat? Have ye not flesh? Yes; but we, they say, forasmuch as we are enlightened by faith in Manes,7 by our prayers and our Psalms, forasmuch as we are elect, we cleanse thereby that bread, and transmit it into the treasure-house of the heavens. Such are the elect, that they are not to be saved by God, but saviours of God. And this is Christ, they say, crucified in the whole universe. I received in the Gospel Christ a Saviour, but ye are in your books the saviours of Christ. Plainly ye are blasphemers of Christ, and therefore not to be saved by Christ. Therefore lest a crumb be given to the hungry, and in the crumb a member of Christ suffer, is the hungry to die of hunger? False mercy to a crumb causeth true murder of a man. But who are their elect? “Turn not thou aside, my heart, to wicked words, and I will not unite with their elect.”

7. “The righteous One shall amend me in mercy, and convict me” (ver. 5). Behold the sinner confessing. He desireth to be amended in mercy, rather than praised deceitfully.… “Shall convict me,” but “in mercy:” shall convict, yet hateth not: yea, shall all the more convict, because He hateth not. And why doth he therefore give thanks? Because, “rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”1 “The righteous One shall amend me.” Because He persecuteth thee? God forbid. He requireth rather amending himself, who amendeth in hate. Wherefore then doth He amend? “In mercy. And shall convict me.” Wherein? “In mercy. For the oil of a sinner shall not enrich my head.” My head shall not grow by flattery. Undue praise is flattery: undue praise of a flatterer is “the oil of a sinner.” Therefore men too, when they have mocked any one with false praise, say, “I have anointed his head.” Love then to be “convicted by the righteous One in mercy;” love not to be praised by a sinner in mockery. Have oil in yourselves, and ye shall not seek the “oil of a sinner.”2 …

8. Thou sayest to me, What am I doing? I am beset with flatterers; they cease not to besiege me; they praise in me what I would not, that praise in me what I hold in little esteem; what I hold dear they blame in me; flatterers, treacherous, deceivers. For instance, “Gaiuseius3 is a great man, great, learned, wise; but why is he a Christian? For great is his learning, great his reading, great his wisdom.” If great is his wisdom, approve of his being a Christian; if great his learning, learnedly hath he chosen. In fine, what thou revilest, that pleaseth him whom thou praisest. But what? That praise sweeteneth not: it is “the oil of a sinner.” Yet ceaseth be not to speak so. Let him not therewith “fatten thy head;” that is, rejoice not in such things; agree not to such things; consent not to such things; rejoice not in such things; and then, if he have applied to thee the oil of flattery, yet hath thy head remained as it was, it has not been puffed up, it hath not swollen.… “For still shall My word be well-pleasing to them.” Wait awhile: now they revile Me, saith Christ. In the early times of the Christians, the Christians were blamed on all sides. Wait as yet; and “My word shall be well-pleasing to them.” The time shall come when they shall conquer thousands of men, who shall beat their breasts, and say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Even now, how many remain who blush to beat their breasts? Let them then blame us: let us bear it. Let them blame; let them hate, accuse, detract; “still shall My word be well-pleasing to them;” the time shall come when My word shall please them.… O wordy defence of iniquity! Verily now whole nations say this, and the thunder of nations beating their breasts ceaseth not. Rightly do the clouds thunder, wherein now God dwelleth. Where is now that wordiness, where that boasting, “I am righteous; nought of ill have I done”? Verily, when thou hast contemplated in Holy Scripture the law of righteousness, how far soever thou hast advanced, thou shalt find thyself a sinner.… What sort of man am I now speaking of, brethren? I speak of him who worshippeth God alone, who confesseth Christ, who knoweth the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to be one God; who committeth not fornication against Him; who worshippeth not devils; who seeketh him not aid from the devil; who holdeth the Catholic Church; whom no one complaineth of as cheating; under whose oppression no weak neighbour groaneth; who assaileth not another’s wife; who is content with his own, or even without his own, in such wise as is lawful, and as Apostolical discipline permitteth, with consent of both,4 or when she is not yet married. Even he who is such as this, is yet overtaken in such things as I have mentioned. For all these daily sins then what is our hope, save to say with humble heart in the Lord’s Prayer, while we defend not our sins, but confess them, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;”5 and to “have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” that He may be “the propitiation for our sins”?6 See what followeth: “their judges have been swallowed up beside the Rock” (ver. 6). What is, “swallowed up beside the Rock? That Rock was Christ.7 They have been swallowed up beside the Rock.” “Beside,” that is, compared, as judges, as mighty, powerful, learned: they are called “their judges,” as judging about morals, and laying down their opinions. This Aristotle said. Set him beside the Rock, and he is swallowed up. Who is Aristotle? let him hear, “Christ hath said,” and he trembleth among the dead. This Pythagoras said, that Plato said. Set them beside the Rock, compare their authority to the authority of the Gospel, compare the proud to the Crucified. Say we to them, “Ye have written your words in the hearts of the proud; He hath planted His Cross in the hearts1 of kings: finally, He died, and rose again; ye are dead, and I will not ask how ye rise again.” So “their judges have been swallowed up beside” that “Rock.” So long do their words seem somewhat, till they are compared with the Rock. Therefore if any of them be found to have said what Christ too hath said, we congratulate him, but we follow him not. But he came before Christ. If any man speak what is true, is he therefore before the Truth itself? Regard Christ, O man, not when He came to thee, but when He made thee. The sick man too might say, “But I took to my bed before the physician came to me.” Why, for that very reason has He come last, because thou first has sickened.

9. “They shall hear My Words, for they have prevailed.” My Words have prevailed over their words. They have spoken clever things, I true things. To praise one who talketh well is one thing, to praise One who speaketh truth is another. “They shall hear My Words, for they have prevailed.” How have they prevailed? Who of them has been taken offering sacrifice, when such things were forbidden by the law, and has not denied it? Who of them has been taken worshipping an idol, and has not exclaimed, “I did it not,” and feared lest he should be convicted? Such servants hath the devil. But how have the Words of the Lord prevailed? “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Fear not those who kill the body,” etc.2 He gave them fear, He suggested hope, He kindled love. “Fear not death,” He saith. Do ye fear death? I die first. Fear ye, lest a hair of your head perish? I first rise again in the flesh uninjured. Rightly have ye heard His Words, for they have prevailed. They spake, and were slain; they fell, and yet stood. And what was the result of so many deaths of martyrs, save that those words prevailed, and the earth being, so to speak, watered by the blood of Christ’s witnesses, the cross of the Church shot up everywhere? How have they “prevailed”? We have said already, when they were preached by men who feared not. Feared not what? Neither banishment, nor losses, nor death, nor crucifixion: for it was not death alone that they did not fear; but even crucifixion, a death than which none was thought more accursed. It the Lord endured, that His disciples might not only not fear death, but not even that kind of death. When then these things are said by men that fear not, they have prevailed.

10. What then have all those deaths of the martyrs accomplished? Listen: “As the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth, our bones have been scattered beside the pit” (ver. 7). “The bones” of the martyrs, that is, the bodies of the witnesses of Christ. The martyrs were slain, and they who slew them seemed to prevail. They prevailed by persecution, that the words of Christ might prevail by preaching. And what was the result of the deaths of the saints? What meaneth, “the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth”? We know that everything that is refuse is the fatness of the earth. The things which are, as it were, contemptible to men, enrich the earth.… “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”3 As it is contemptible to the world, so is it precious to the husbandman. For he knoweth the use thereof, and its rich juice; he knoweth what he desireth, what he seeketh, whence the fertile crop ariseth; but this world despiseth it. Know ye not that “God hath chosen the contemptible things of the world, and those which are not, like as those which are, that the things which are may be brought to nought”?4 From the dunghill was Peter lifted up, and Paul; when they were put to death, they were despised: now, the earth having been enriched by them, and the cross of the Church springing up, behold, all that is noble and chief in the world, even the emperor himself, cometh to Rome, and whither does he hasten? to the temple of the emperor, or the memorial of the fisherman?

11. “For unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes; in Thee have I hoped, take not Thou away my life” (ver. 8). For they were tortured in persecutions, and many failed. It occurreth to him that many have failed, many have been in hazard, and as it were in the midst of the tribulation of persecution is sent forth the voice of one praying; “For unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes:” I care not what they threaten who stand around, “unto Thee, Lord, are mine eyes.” More do I fix mine eye on Thy promises than on their threats. I know what Thou hast suffered for me, what Thou hast promised me.

12. “Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me” (ver. 9). What was the trap? “If thou consentest, I spare thee.” In the trap was set the bait of the present life; if the bird love this bait, it falleth into the trap: but if the bird be able to say, “The day of man have I not desired: Thou knowest:”5 “He shall pluck his feet out of the net,” etc.6 Two things he hath mentioned to be distinguished the one from the other: the trap he said was set by persecutors; the stumbling-blocks came from those who have consented and apostatised: and from both he desires to be guarded. On the one side they threaten and rage, on the other consent and fall: I fear lest the one be such, that I fear him; the other such, that I imitate him. “This I do to thee, if thou consent not.” “Keep me from the trap,” etc. “Behold, thy brother hath already consented.” “And from the stumbling-blocks,” etc.

13. “Sinners shall fall into his nets” (ver. 10). Not all sinners: certain sinners, who are so great sinners, as to love this life to such a degree as to prefer it to everlasting life, “shall fall into his trap.” But what sayest thou? Shall they that are such, thinkest thou, fall into his nets? what of Thy disciples, O Christ? Behold, when persecution was raging, when they all “left Thee alone, and went every one to his own:”1 lo! they who were closest to Thee, in Thy trial and persecution, when Thine enemies demanded Thee to be crucified, abandoned Thee. And that bold one, who had promised Thee that he would go with Thee even unto death, heard from the Physician what was being done in him, the sick man. For being in a fever, he had said he was whole; but the Lord touched the vein of his heart. Then came the trial; then came the test; then came the accusation; and now, questioned not by some great power, but by a humble slave, and that a woman, questioned by a handmaid, he yielded; he denied thrice.… “He wept bitterly,” it saith. Not yet was he fitted to suffer. To him was said, “Thou shalt follow Me afterwards.”2 Hereafter he was to be firm, having been strengthened by the Lord’s Resurrection. Not yet then was it time that those “bones” should be “scattered beside the pit.” For see how many failed, even to those who first hung on His mouth; even they failed. Wherefore? “I am alone, until I pass over:” for this followeth in the Psalm.…

14. Pascha, as they say who know, and who have explained to us what to read, meaneth “Passover.” When then the Lord’s Passion was about to come, the Evangelist, as though he would use this very word, saith, “When the hour was come that Jesus should pass over to the Father.”3 We hear then of Pascha in this verse, “I am alone, until I pass over.” After Pascha I shall no longer be alone, after passing-over I shall no longer be alone. Many shall imitate Me, many shall follow Me. And if afterward they shall follow, what shall be the case now? “I am alone, until I pass over.” What is it that the Lord saith in this Psalm, “I am alone, until I pass over”? What is it that we have expounded? If we have understood it, listen to His own words in the Gospel. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.”4 … Therefore He was alone before He was put to death.… So far was any from dying for the Name, that is, for confessing the Name of Christ, before that Corn of wheat fell into the ground, that even John, who was slain just before Him, being given by a wicked king to a dancing woman, was not put to death because he confessed Christ. Of course he might have been put to death for this, and that by many. If for another reason he was put to death by one man, how much more might he have been put to death by those very men, who put Christ to death? For John gave testimony to Christ. They who heard Christ, wished to slay Him; the man who gave testimony to Him they slew not.… He is not slain by the Jews who gave free testimony to Christ, whom the Jews slew; he is slain by Herod, because he said to him, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”5 For his brother had not died without issue.6 For the law of truth, for equity, for righteousness’ sake, he did die: therefore is he a saint, therefore a martyr; but yet he died not for that Name whereby we are Christians, wherefore, save that the saying might be fulfilled, “I am alone, until I pass over.”

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

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers

%d bloggers like this: