The Divine Lamp

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

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 20, 2018

Sorry, I did not have time to edit in Scripture references; authors alluded to or quoted from. Here is a key to the following initials: (A) = St Augustine; (L) = Lorinus; (D.C.) = Dionysius the Carthusian; (C) = Cassiodorus; (Ay) = Michael Ayguan; .

PSALM 6

Title. English Version: To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.
Vulgate: To the end, in the Songs, A Psalm of David for the Eighth.
Modern writers: To the Supreme, for the stringed instruments, in concert with the chorus.

ARGUMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ is the Conqueror of our enemies. The voice of Christ to the Father. That the creature may praise the Creator, and it has to do with penitence. Read it with the resurrection of Lazarus.

Ven. Bede. For the eighth1 signifies the coming of the Lord, when the work of the world being finished, He shall come to judge the earth, whence this Psalm begins with the greatest trembling. He that composed this Psalm prays in a fourfold manner. In the beginning he excites the good-will of the Judge, speaking of His power of judgment, of His wont to spare, and of his own infirmity. In the second division he relates his own miseries. In the third he separates himself from evil men, which separation he knows to be likely to win the favour of the good Judge. Lastly, he repudiates all the wicked, with whom he refuses to have any portion.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. A pattern of confession.

COMMENTARY

This is the first of the seven Penitential Psalms: the seven weapons wherewith to oppose the seven deadly sins: the seven prayers inspired by the sevenfold Spirit to the repenting sinner: the seven guardians for the seven days of the week: the seven companions for the seven Canonical Hours of the day.

1 O Lord, rebuke me not in thine indignation: neither chasten me in thy displeasure.

Rebuke me not in this life;* neither chasten me in the next. Where note: he saith not absolutely, Rebuke me not, but adds, in Thine indignation: “For if we be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are we bastards and not sons.”* And so David himself testifies in another place: “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord.”* As if he said, Rebuke me as a Father, chasten me as a Master.

[Rebuke me not. This is the first step of the seven in the ladder of repentance,* denoted by the seven Penitential Psalms, and marks fear of punishment. Next is sorrow for sin, “I will confess my sins unto the Lord.”* Thirdly; the hope of pardon, “Thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God.”* Fourthly; the love of a cleansed soul, “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.”* Fifthly; longing for the heavenly Jerusalem, “When the Lord shall build up Sion, and when His glory shall appear.”* Sixthly; distrust of self, “My soul fleeth unto the Lord.”* Seventhly; prayer against final doom, “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant.”*]

2 Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak: O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed.

Have mercy. God has mercy in many ways. By waiting, as it is written: “And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you.”* By long-suffering, as He saith: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”* By calling: “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”* By helping: “He, remembering His mercy, hath holpen His servant Israel.”* By upholding: “When I said, My foot hath slipped, Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.”* I am weak: (C.) there is nothing like a confession of weakness to move the Heavenly Physician to compassion. Weak, from the sin of Adam; so that “of myself I cannot do the things that I would.” Weak, from actual transgression: for no soul can fall into sin without losing some of the strength that it received at Baptism.* Weak: for if even the intellect were not enfeebled, how could it be so easily overcome by passions? Yes: weakness is indeed the first and best argument for God’s mercy. Whence S. Gregory, writing on this very Psalm: “Adest miseria: adsit et misericordia.” “What,” asks S. Ambrose,* “is David weak, and dost thou profess to be strong? Did Solomon fall, and dost thou stand firm?” Note: bodily weakness is sometimes spiritual strength; yet even against that also we may cry to Him Who “healeth all our infirmities.” But here, spiritual weakness is also included, and we cry for grace that “when we are weak, then we may be strong.” My bones are vexed: therefore we pray, heal me, remembering the promise, “He keepeth all His bones, not one of them is broken.”* Well, therefore,* asks S. Peter Chrysologus: “What is weaker than man, whom sense beguiles, ignorance deceives, judgment surrounds, pomp injures, time deserts, age changes, infancy softens, youth precipitates, old age destroys?”

[Heal me. The Psalmist calls on the Great Physician for help, but does not presume to tell Him how He is to heal.* Use Thy sharpest remedies,* fire and steel, on me in this life, so that Thou spare me in that which is to come.* My bones. It is not merely the weaker part of my nature which fails me, but the very strongest, my understanding, will, and firmness,* (D. C.) my spiritual might, all that is, or may be, virtue, is enfeebled by my sin.]

3 My soul also is sore troubled: but, Lord, how long wilt thou punish me?

Troubled. Not with passion, nor anger, nor with temporal fears only: nor with the afflictions of this world only, but with sorrow for sin. For of the former it is written, that “man disquieteth himself in vain.”* How long? If God delays to be gracious, it is not without love to incite us to more fervent prayer, to make us more vigilant against sin; (A.) for that which is easily cured, we take little care to prevent: to try our faith, and to make us feel, if the penitent suffers much, how far more grievous is the lot of the impenitent. Note: God hears, though He answers not. The verb is in the present, to show the readiness with which God gives: “Unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”* Here it is in the future, to teach us that the visible effects of God’s gifts do not always at once appear.

4 Turn thee, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me for thy mercy’s sake.

Turn Thee. For the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, before he went out and wept bitterly. He that has turned from us for our sins, must turn to us that we may repent. For it is written: “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.” “How long,”* cries S. Peter Chrysologus, “wilt Thou endure, how long wilt Thou not assist, where is Thy Christ so often promised? Let Him come, let Him come, before the world shall have perished altogether, and nothing be found in it that He can preserve.” Turn Thee, O Lord, From what? From God into man, from the Lord into the servant, from the Judge into the Father.

5 For in death no man remembereth thee: and who will give thee thanks in the pit?

In death. It may be understood either of temporal or eternal death. For how can we remember Him to Whom we are dead in trespasses and sins?* They are solemn words of Salvian’s, in which he describes—commenting on the Vulgate, “And who shall confess to Thee in the grave?”—the utter uselessness of a too late repentance; the limit beyond which the keys of Absolution have no power.

6 I am weary of my groaning; every night wash I my bed: and water my couch with my tears.

Every night. For repentance is not a thing to be done once and then left alone; but to be practised day by day as long as we live, more especially in the dark night of affliction. Couch, may be understood mystically of those sins which have plunged the soul in security, (Ay.) and have withdrawn from it the light of God’s presence. Of which couch the Bride speaks in the Canticles, saying: “By night on my bed I sought Him Whom my soul loveth; I sought Him, but I found Him not.”* Wash, lamenting past sins: water, so as to bring forth good fruits for the future.

[My bed. The bed on which the soul lies sick, is the flesh, weakened and wounded by Adam’s fall. That bed the great Physician touched, (P.) by taking flesh Himself and suffering therein, and when He touched it, the sick man was healed. Wherefore is said to the repentant sinner, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house,”* that soul and body may be together in the heavenly mansions.* My tears. This is the second of the seven liquors which God gives us to wash the soul. First come the waters of Baptism: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean.”* Secondly; tears, as here. Thirdly; the milk of pure doctrine: “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk.”* Fourthly; the precious Blood of Christ, Who “loved us and washed us from our sins with His own Blood.”* Fifthly; the wine of compunction: “He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of the grape.”* Sixthly; the butter of rich devotion: “I washed my steps in butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil,”* Seventhly; the oil of spiritual gladness: “Bring me oil, that I may wash me.”*]

7 My beauty is gone for very trouble: and worn away because of all mine enemies.

My beauty. That is the beauty wherewith we were arrayed in Holy Baptism, when, as Ezekiel speaks,* We were girded about with fine linen and covered with silk, when there was neither spot, nor wrinkle nor any such thing in us. Worn away: lost, little by little, through the assaults of our ghostly enemies. The Vulgate gives it rather differently: (L.) “I have grown old among all mine enemies.” Where Lorinus observes that Holy Scripture mentions eight kinds of age. 1. That of natural condition: “They all shall wax old as doth a garment.”* 2. Of human corruption: “Put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”* 3. Of ignorance: “Ancient error hath departed.”* 4. Of character and disposition: “Neither do men put new wine into old bottles.”* 5. Of sin:* “O thou that art waxen old in wickedness.” 6. Of friendship: “Forsake not an old friend.”* 7. Of the law: “That we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”* 8. Of eternity: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down and the Ancient of Days did sit.”*

[My beauty. All the old versions, mine eye. This is the eye whereof the Lord saith in the Gospel, “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.”* This eye is the Catholic understanding of the Church, which is troubled because of wrath (Vulg.) against heretics, oppressors, and evil spirits. It is also the reasoning power of each man, confused by the attacks of his ghostly foes. Worn away. The A. V., rightly, waxeth old. Because it has not “put off the old man;”* because “Israel, (D. C.) thou art in thine enemies’ land,* thou art waxen old in a strange country.”* And so, even a heathen poet has truly said:

αἶψα γὰρ ἐν κακότητι βροτοὶ καταγηράσκουσι.]*

8 Away from me, all ye that work vanity: for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.

After declaring his repentance, he proceeds to speak of its effects. Away from me. “For what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” In the Canticles: “I have washed my feet, (Ay.) how shall I defile them?”* That work. Not that have worked, lest he should seem to exclude penitents like himself. Note: all the Psalms which treat of penitence, one only excepted, the 88th, end with the expression of joyful hope.

[They that work vanity always are the evil spirits,* who are most readily driven away by penitential weeping, for as has been well said,* Satan can better endure his own fire than our tears, and he is more racked by the weeping of a contrite heart than by the flame of the burning of hell. That flame can absorb all rivers, but cannot dry up the waters of tears. Nay, rather, observes a Saint, writing on this very Psalm,* tears can extinguish the fire which is not quenched.]

9 The Lord hath heard my petition: the Lord will receive my prayer.

My petition. Like Jeremiah’s, That I should not be caused to go into the pit to die there.* My prayer: for grace for the future. It is not enough to a truly joyful heart to express its gladness once; whence S. Paul also says, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice:”* hence its repetition here.* S. Hilary prettily enough represents penitential tears as going on an embassy to the throne of grace: S. Ambrose works out the idea at greater length,* and says that such an embassy can never fail of its aim. “The most honourable embassy,” writes another Saint, “which can be sent to God, is the shower of tears which fell from a penitent eye.” “The prayers of tears are more useful,”* says S. Maximus of Turin, “than those of words. Words of prayer often deceive: tears of prayer deceive not. A word is often unable to express its own meaning: a tear can always say that it would.”* S. Anselm of Laon says neatly enough, “Oratio Deum lenit, lacryma cogit; hæc pungit, illa ungit.”

10 All mine enemies shall be confounded, and sore vexed: they shall be turned back, and put to shame suddenly.

This is not so much a prayer against, as an intercession for, (Ay.) his enemies. Confounded at their past folly; sore vexed by true repentance; put to salutary shame in this world, (A.) that they may escape everlasting contempt in the next. Suddenly. For though the day of the Lord tarry long, yet that which is not expected at the time, (C.) comes suddenly after all. And note: it is fit that after crying for mercy himself, he should ask it for others: according to that saying, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”*

[Confounded. This is the very same word יֵבשׁוּ which is rendered put to shame, in the last clause of the verse, and much of the force is lost by diversity of translation. Let them be ashamed, after my example, for their past sins, (D. C.) sore vexed by the fear of judgment to come, turned backward from their sins, and to God, and ashamed, not of their sins alone, but of all in which they once boasted, and that suddenly, that they may not delay repentance till it is too late. And note that shame is twice mentioned, the shame before conversion which leads to repentance, the shame from the memory of past sins, which guards against relapse.]

[Wherefore:

Glory be to the Father, the Lord Who hath heard the voice of my weeping; glory be to the Son, the Lord Who hath heard my petition; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Lord Who will receive my prayer.

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Sunday: I. Nocturn. [Office for the Dead: I. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Monday: Compline.

Lyons. Monday: Compline.

Ambrosian. Monday of the First Week: Matins.

Quignon. Wednesday: Prime.

Eastern Church. Great Compline.

ANTIPHONS

Gregorian. Serve the Lord, &c. [Office for the Dead: Turn Thee, * O Lord, and deliver my soul, for in death no man remembereth Thee.]

Parisian. My just help is from the Lord, * Who preserveth those that are true of heart.

Mozarabic. Rebuke me not in Thine anger.

This is the first of the seven Penitential Psalms: the seven weapons wherewith to oppose the seven deadly sins: the seven prayers inspired by the sevenfold Spirit to the repenting sinner: the seven guardians for the seven days of the week: the seven companions for the seven Canonical Hours of the day.

COLLECTS

O Christ,* Son of the Living God, Whose beauty in Thy Passion departed for very heaviness and was worn away because of all Thine enemies, heal the wounds of our hearts, that Thy grace being confirmed in us, we may so put our trust in Thy Passion as to find our glory in Thy Resurrection. (11.)

We know,* O Lord Jesu Christ, that whilst Thou wast on earth, Thou didst every night water Thy couch with tears for us men: grant us so to repent for our iniquities, that we may hereafter attain to that place where all tears are wiped from all eyes. (11.)

Regard,* we beseech Thee, O Lord, the supplications of Thy people; and, as Thou inflictest on us the severity of just correction, give us also the assistance of merciful consolation. (11.)

[Almighty God, we humbly intreat for Thy most loving mercy, that Thou mayest not rebuke in Thine indignation, (D. C.) nor chasten in Thy displeasure us who have offended Thee by our many transgressions, but turn Thee and deliver our souls from everlasting damnation, and save us for Thy mercy’s sake. Through. (1.)]

 

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St augustine’s Notes on Psalm 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 20, 2018

PSALM 6
to the end, in the hymns of the eighth, a psalm to david

1. “Of the eighth,” seems here obscure. For the rest of this title is more clear. Now it has seemed to some to intimate the day of judgment, that is, the time of the coming of our Lord, when He will come to judge the quick and dead. Which coming, it is believed, is to be, after reckoning the years from Adam, seven thousand years: so as that seven thousand years should pass as seven days, and afterwards that time arrive as it were the eighth day. But since it has been said by the Lord, “It is not yours to know the times, which the Father hath put in His own power:” and, “But of the day and that hour knoweth no man, no, neither angel, nor Power, neither the Son, but the Father alone:” and again, that which is written, “that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief,” shows clearly enough that no man should arrogate to himself the knowledge of that time, by any computation of years. For if that day is to come after seven thousand years, every man could learn its advent by reckoning the years. What comes then of the Son’s even not knowing this? Which of course is said with this meaning, that men do not learn this by the Son, not that He by Himself doth not know it: according to that form of speech, “the Lord your God trieth you that He may know;” that is, that He may make you know: and, “arise, O Lord;” that is, make us arise. When therefore the Son is thus said not to know this day; not because He knoweth it not, but because He causeth those to know it not, for whom it is not expedient to know it, that is, He doth not show it to them; what does that strange presumption mean, which, by a reckoning up of years, expects the day of the Lord as most certain after seven thousand years?

2. Be we then willingly ignorant of that which the Lord would not have us know: and let us inquire what this title, “of the eighth,” means. The day of judgment may indeed, even without any rash computation of years, be understood by the eighth, for that immediately after the end of this world, life eternal being attained, the souls of the righteous will not then be subject unto times: and, since all times have their revolution in a repetition of those seven days, that peradventure is called the eighth day, which will not have this variety. There is another reason, which may be here not unreasonably accepted, why the judgment should be called the eighth, because it will take place after two generations, one relating to the body, the other to the soul, For from Adam unto Moses the human race lived of the body, that is, according to the flesh: which is called the outward and the old man, and to which the Old Testament was given, that it might prefigure the spiritual things to come by operations, albeit religious, yet carnal. Through this entire season, when men lived according to the body, “death reigned,” as the Apostle saith, “even over those that had not sinned.” Now it reigned “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” as the same Apostle saith; for it must be taken of the period up to Moses, up to which time the works of the law, that is, those sacraments of carnal observance, held even those bound, for the sake of a certain mystery, who were subject to the One God. But from the coming of the Lord, from whom there was a transition from the circumcision of the flesh to the circumcision of the heart, the call was made, that man should live according to the soul, that is, according to the inner man, who is also called the “new man” by reason of the new birth and the renewing of spiritual conversation. Now it is plain that the number four has relation to the body, from the four well known elements of which it consists, and the four qualities of dry, humid, warm, cold. Hence too it is administered by four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter. All this is very well known. For of the number four relating to the body we have treated elsewhere somewhat subtilly, but obscurely: which must be avoided in this discourse, which we would have accommodated to the unlearned. But that the number three has relation to the mind may be understood from this, that we are commanded to love God after a threefold manner, with the whole heart, with the whole soul, with the whole mind:5 of each of which severally we must treat, not in the Psalms, but in the Gospels: for the present, for proof of the relation of the number three to the mind, I think what has been said enough. Those numbers then of the body which have relation to the old man and the Old Testament, being past and gone, the numbers too of the soul, which have relation to the new man and the New Testament, being past and gone, a septenary so to say being passed; because everything is done in time, four having been distributed to the body, three to the mind; the eighth will come, the day of judgment: which assigning to deserts their due, will transfer at once the saint, not to temporal works, but to eternal life; but will condemn the ungodly to eternal punishment.

3. In fear of which comdemnation the Church prays in this Psalm, and says, “Reprove me not, O Lord, in Thine anger” (ver. 1). The Apostle too mentions the anger of the judgment; “Thou treasurest up unto thyself,” he says, “anger against the day of the anger of the just judgment of God.” In which he would not be reproved, whosoever longs to be healed in this life. “Nor in Thy rage chasten me.” “Chasten,” seems rather too mild a word; for it availeth toward amendment. For him who is reproved, that is, accused, it is to be feared lest his end be condemnation. But since “rage” seems to be more than “anger,” it may be a difficulty, why that which is milder, namely, chastening, is joined to that which is more severe, namely, rage. But I suppose that one and the same thing is signified by the two words. For in the Greek θυμὸς, which is in the first verse, means the same as ὀργὴ, which is in the second verse. But when the Latins themselves too wished to use two distinct words, they looked out for what was akin to “anger,” and “rage” was used. Hence copies vary. For in some “anger” is found first, and then “rage:” in others, for “rage,” “indignation” or “choler” is used. But whatever the reading, it is an emotion of the soul urging to the infliction of punishment. Yet this emotion must not be attributed to God, as if to a soul, of whom it is said, “but Thou, O Lord of power, judgest with tranquillity.” Now that which is tranquil, is not disturbed. Disturbance then does not attach to God as judge: but what is done by His ministers, in that it is done by His laws, is called His anger. In which anger, the soul, which now prays, would not only not be reproved, but not even chastened, that is, amended or instructed. For in the Greek it is, παιδεύσῃς, that is, instruct. Now in the day of judgment all are “reproved” that hold not the foundation, which is Christ. But they are amended, that is, purged, who “upon this foundation build wood, hay, stubble. For they shall suffer loss, but shall be saved, as by fire.” What then does he pray, who would not be either reproved or amended in the anger of the Lord? what else but that he may be healed? For where sound health is, neither death is to be dreaded, nor the physician’s hand with caustics or the knife.

4. He proceeds accordingly to say, “Pity me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled” (ver. 2), that is, the support of my soul, or strength: for this is the meaning of “bones.” The soul therefore says, that her strength is troubled, when she speaks of bones. For it is not to be supposed, that the soul has bones, such as we see in the body. Wherefore, what follows tends to explain it, “and my soul is troubled exceedingly” (ver. 3), lest because he mentioned bones, they should be understood as of the body. “And Thou, O Lord, how long?” Who does not see represented here a soul struggling with her diseases; but long kept back by the physician, that she may be convinced what evils she has plunged herself into through sin? For what is easily healed, is not much avoided: but from the difficulty of the healing, there will be the more careful keeping of recovered health. God then, to whom it is said, “And Thou, O Lord, how long?” must not be deemed as if cruel: but as a kind convincer of the soul, what evil she hath procured for herself. For this soul does not yet pray so perfectly, as that it can be said to her, “Whilst thou art yet speaking I will say, Behold, here I am.” That she may at the same time also come to know, if they who do turn meet with so great difficulty, how great punishment is prepared for the ungodly, who will not turn to God: as it is written in another place, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly appear?”

5. “Turn, O Lord, and deliver my soul” (ver. 4). Turning herself she prays that God too would turn to her: as it is said, “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord.” Or is it to be understood according to that way of speaking, “Turn, O Lord,” that is, make me turn, since the soul in this her turning feels difficulty and toil? For our perfected turning findeth God ready, as says the Prophet, “We shall find Him ready as the dawn.” Since it was not His absence who is everywhere present, but our turning away that made us lose Him; “He was in this world,” it is said, “and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” If, then, He was in this world, and the world knew Him not, our impurity doth not endure the sight of Him. But whilst we are turning ourselves, that is, by changing our old life are fashioning our spirit; we feel it hard and toilsome to be wrested back from the darkness of earthly lusts, to the serene and quiet and tranquillity of the divine light. And in such difficulty we say, “Turn, O Lord,” that is, help us, that that turning may be perfected in us, which findeth Thee ready, and offering Thyself for the fruition of them that love Thee. And hence after he said, “Turn, O Lord,” he added, “and deliver my soul:” cleaving as it were to the entanglements of this world, and suffering, in the very act of turning, from the thorns, as it were, of rending and tearing desires. “Make me whole,” he says, “for Thy pity’s sake.” He knows that it is not of his own merits that he is healed: for to him sinning, and transgressing a given command, was just condemnation due. Heal me therefore, he says, not for my merit’s sake, but for Thy pity’s sake.

6. “For in death there is no one that is mindful of Thee” (ver. 5). He knows too that now is the time for turning unto God: for when this life shall have passed away, there remaineth but a retribution of our deserts.“But in hell who shall confess to Thee?”7 That rich man, of whom the Lord speaks, who saw Lazarus in rest, but bewailed himself in torments, confessed in hell, yea so as to wish even to have his brethren warned, that they might keep themselves from sin, because of the punishment which is not believed to be in hell. Although therefore to no purpose, yet he confessed that those torments had deservedly lighted upon him; since he even wished his brethren to be instructed, lest they should fall into the same. What then is, “But in hell who will confess to Thee?” Is hell to be understood as that place, whither the ungodly will be cast down after the judgment, when by reason of that deeper darkness they will no more see any light of God, to whom they may confess aught? For as yet that rich man by raising his eyes, although a vast gulf lay between, could still see Lazarus established in rest: by comparing himself with whom, he was driven to a confession of his own deserts. It may be understood also, as if the Psalmist calls sin, that is committed in contempt of God’s law, death: so as that we should give the name of death to the sting of death, because it procures death. “For the sting of death is sin.” In which death this is to be unmindful of God, to despise His law and commandments: so that by hell the Psalmist would mean that blindness of soul which overtakes and enwraps the sinner, that is, the dying. “As they did not think good,” the Apostle says, “to retain God in” their “knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” From this death, and this hell, the soul earnestly prays that she may be kept safe, whilst she strives to turn to God, and feels her difficulties.

7. Wherefore he goes on to say, “I have laboured in my groaning.” And as if this availed but little, he adds, “I will wash each night my couch” (ver. 6). That is here called a couch, where the sick and weak soul rests, that is, in bodily gratification and in every worldly pleasure. Which pleasure, whoso endeavours to withdraw himself from it, washes with tears. For he sees that he already condemns carnal lusts; and yet his weakness is held by the pleasure, and willingly lies down therein, from whence none but the soul that is made whole can rise. As for what he says, “each night,” he would perhaps have it taken thus: that he who, ready in spirit, perceives some light of truth, and yet, through weakness of the flesh, rests sometime in the pleasure of this world, is compelled to suffer as it were days and nights in an alternation of feeling: as when he says, “With the mind I serve the law of God,” he feels as it were day; again when he says, “but with the flesh the law of sin,” he declines into night: until all night passeth away, and that one day comes, of which it is said, “In the morning I will stand by Thee, and will see.” For then he will stand, but now he lies down, when he is on his couch; which he will wash each night, that with so great abundance of tears he may obtain the most assured remedy from the mercy of God. “I will drench my bed with tears.” It is a repetition. For when he says, “with tears,” he shows with what meaning he said above, “I will wash.” For we take “bed” here to be the same as “couch” above. Although, “I will drench,” is something more than, “I will wash:” since anything may be washed superficially, but drenching penetrates to the more inward parts; which here signifies weeping to the very bottom of the heart. Now the variety of tenses which he uses; the past, when he said, “I have laboured in my groaning;” and the future, when he said, “I will wash each night my couch;” the future again, “I will drench my bed with tears;” this shows what every man ought to say to himself, when he labours in groaning to no purpose. As if he should say, It hath not profited when I have done this, therefore I will do the other.

8. “Mine eye is disordered by anger” (ver. 7): is it by his own, or God’s anger, in which he maketh petition that he might not be reproved, or chastened? But if anger in that place intimate the day of judgment, how can it be understood now? Is it a beginning of it, that men here suffer pains and torments, and above all the loss of the understanding of the truth; as I have already quoted that which is said, “God gave them over to a reprobate mind”? For such is the blindness of the mind. Whosoever is given over thereunto, is shut out from the interior light of God: but not wholly as yet, whilst he is in this life. For there is “outer darkness,” which is understood to belong rather to the day of judgment; that he should rather be wholly without God, whosoever whilst there is time refuses correction. Now to be wholly without God, what else is it, but to be in extreme blindness? If indeed God “dwell in inaccessible light,” whereinto they enter, to whom it is said, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” It is then the beginning of this anger, which in this life every sinner suffers. In fear therefore of the day of judgment, he is in trial and grief; lest he be brought to that, the disastrous commencement of which he experiences now. And therefore he did not say, mine eye is extinguished, but, “mine eye is disordered by anger.” But if he mean that his eye is disordered by his own anger, there is no wonder either in this. For hence perhaps it is said, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath;” because the mind, which, from her own disorder, is not permitted to see God, supposes that the inner sun, that is, the wisdom of God, suffers as it were a setting in her.

9. “I have grown old in all mine enemies.” He had only spoken of anger (if it were yet of his own anger that he spoke): but thinking on his other vices, he found that he was entrenched by them all. Which vices, as they belong to the old life and the old man, which we must put off, that we may put on the new man, it is well said, “I have grown old.” But “in all mine enemies,” he means, either amidst these vices, or amidst men who will not be converted to God. For these, even if they, know them not, even if they bear with them, even if they use the same tables and houses and cities, with no strife arising between them, and in frequent converse together with seeming concord: notwithstanding, by the contrariety of their aims, they are enemies to those who turn unto God. For seeing that the one love and desire this world, the others wish to be freed from this world, who sees not that the first are enemies to the last? For if they can, they draw the others into punishment with them. And it is a great grace, to be conversant daily with their words, and not to depart from the way of God’s commandments. For often the mind which is striving to go on to God-ward, being rudely handled in the very road, is alarmed; and generally fulfils not its good intent, lest it should offend those with whom it lives, who love and follow after other perishable and transient goods. From such every one that is whole is separated, not in space, but in soul. For the body is contained in space, but the soul’s space is her affection.

10. Wherefore after the labour, and groaning, and very frequent showers of tears, since that cannot be ineffectual, which is asked so earnestly of Him, who is the Fountain of all mercies, and it is most truly said, “the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart:” after difficulties so great, the pious soul, by which we may also understand the Church, intimating that she has been heard, see what she adds: “Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping” (ver. 8). It is either spoken prophetically, since they will depart, that is, the ungodly will be separated from the righteous, when the day of judgment arrives, or, for this time present. For although both are equally found in the same assemblies, yet on the open floor the wheat is already separated from the chaff, though it be hid among the chaff. They can therefore be associated together, but cannot be carried away by the wind together.

11. “For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping; The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord hath received my prayer” (ver. 9). The frequent repetition of the same sentiments shows not, so to say, the necessities of the narrator, but the warm feeling of his joy. For they that rejoice are wont so to speak, as that it is not enough for them to declare once for all the object of their joy. This is the fruit of that groaning in which there is labour, and those tears with which the couch is washed, and bed drenched: for, “he that sows in tears, shall reap in joy:” and, “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

12. “Let all mine enemies be ashamed and vexed” (ver. 10). He said above, “depart from me all ye:” which can take place, as it has been explained, even in this life: but as to what he says, “let them be ashamed and vexed,” I do not see how it can happen, save on that day when the rewards of the righteous and the punishments of the sinners shall be made manifest. For at present so far are the ungodly from being ashamed, that they do not cease to insult us. And for the most part their mockings are of such avail, that they make the weak to be ashamed of the name of Christ. Hence it is said, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me before men, of him will I be ashamed before My Father.” But now whosoever would fulfil those sublime commands, to disperse, to give to the poor, that his righteousness may endure for ever; and selling all his earthly goods, and spending them on the needy, would follow Christ, saying, “We brought nothing into this world, and truly we can carry nothing out; having food and raiment, let us be therewith content;” incurs the profane raillery of those men, and by those who will not be made whole, is called mad; and often to avoid being so called by desperate men, he fears to do, and puts off that, which the most faithful and powerful of all physicians hath ordered. It is not then at present that these can be ashamed, by whom we have to wish that we be not made ashamed, and so be either called back from our proposed journey, or hindered, or delayed. But the time will come when they shall be ashamed, saying as it is written, “These are they whom we had sometimes in derision, and a parable of reproach: we fools counted their life madness, and their end to be without honour: how are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints? Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of rightousness hath not shined into us, nor the sun risen upon us: we have been filled with the way of wickedness and destruction, and have walked through rugged deserts, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us, or what hath the vaunting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.”

13. But as to what he says, “Let them be turned and confounded,” who would not judge it to be a most righteous punishment, that they should have a turning unto confusion, who would not have one unto salvation? After this he added, “exceeding quickly.” For when the day of judgment shall have begun to be no longer looked for, when they shall have said, “Peace, then shall sudden destruction come upon them.” Now whensoever it come, that comes very quickly, of whose coming we give up all expectation; and nothing makes the length of this life be felt but the hope of living. For nothing seems more quick, than all that has already passed in it. When then the day of judgment shall come, then will sinners feel how that all the life which passeth away is not long. Nor will that any way possibly seem to them to have come tardily, which shall have come without their desiring, or rather without their believing. Although it can too be taken in this place thus, that inasmuch as God has heard, so to say, her groans, and her long and frequent tears, she may be understood to be freed from her sins, and to have tamed every disordered impulse of carnal affection: as she saith, “Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity, for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping:” and when she has had this happy issue, it is no marvel if she be already so perfect as to pray for her enemies. The words then, “Let all mine enemies be ashamed, and vexed,” may have this meaning; that they should repent of their sins, which cannot be effected without confusion and vexation. There is then nothing to hinder us from taking what follows too in this sense, “let them be turned and ashamed,” that is, let them be turned to God, and be ashamed that they sometime gloried in the former darkness of their sins; as the Apostle says, “For what glory had ye sometime in those things of which ye are now ashamed?” But as to what he added, “exceeding quickly,” it must be referred either to the warm affection of her wish, or to the power of Christ; who converteth to the faith of the Gospel in such quick time the nations, which in their idols’ cause did persecute the Church.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 13

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 13, 2018

PSALM 13
A prayer in tribulation

Ps 13:1 How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me unto the end? how long dost thou turn away thy face from me?

When the sinful desires are very powerful, God seems to forget and to desert the soul; when the understanding is obscured by darkness, he seems to turn from the soul. He, being the light, illuminates, when he shows his face, and leaves all in darkness when he turns it away. The man under temptation then exclaims, in reference to the first, “how long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me unto the end?” And in reference to the second, “How long dost thou turn away thy face from me?”

Ps 13:2 How long shall I take counsels in my soul, sorrow in my heart all the day? 

Inverting the order, he complains, first, of the darkness he is wrapt in; secondly, of the sinful desires he is unwillingly subject to. In consequence of the obscurity of my understanding, “How long shall I take counsels in my soul?” That is to say, devise various plans to deliver myself from the evil; and, again, looking at these wicked desires that infest my heart, “How long shall I have sorrow in my heart all the day?” How long shall I have sorrow and grieve, for fear I may have offended God; and do so daily, that is, the whole day, without intermission.

Ps 13:3 How long shall my enemy be exalted over Me? 

Both evils are here comprehended. For the “Enemy is then exalted” over man, when he oppresses him, both by the suggestion of sinful thoughts, which he cannot banish; and by involving him in darkness he cannot dissipate; and thus, as if he were suffering grievously, he cries to God, “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

Ps13:4 Consider, and hear me, O Lord, my God. Enlighten my eyes, that I never sleep in death: 

He next invokes the divine assistance against both evils. “Consider,” that is, turn your face, “and hear me,” that is, don’t forget, don’t desert, help me; I entreat you, “Enlighten my eyes.” The same prayer more clearly expressed and repeated, “Enlighten:” banish the darkness of my mind, by turning to, and regarding me, “That I may never sleep in death:” that by consenting to my evil desires, my soul may not be lost. The death of the soul or body is not uncommonly called sleep in the Scriptures, because God can as easily wake one from either, as we can wake the sleeping. The words that “I may never sleep,” signify that man, when he yields to temptation, sleeps as it were, and feels no further torment from the temptation: but as rest of that sort, so far from being wholesome, is fatal, the words “In death” are appended. Man, then, may be freed from temptation in two ways, either by banishing the tempter, through the grace of God; or by indulging his passions, by consenting to the sin: he prays here to be freed in the first manner, for fear, to his serious cost, he may be freed in the second manner; that is, by sleeping in the consent to sin, and he gives a reason for desiring to be freed from temptation in the next verse.

Ps 13:5 Lest at any time my enemy say: I have prevailed against him. They that trouble me, will rejoice when I am moved: 

The devil certainly would exult on having conquered a servant of God, a thing that would tend to lessen God’s glory. A reason assigned for his praying, “Lest at any time my enemy say: I have prevailed against him.” For “They that trouble me will rejoice when I am moved;” that is, they will do so, not only on my entire prostration, but even on my appearing to be slightly shaken; for, as “there is joy in heaven, for one sinner that does penance, more than for ninety nine just that do not need penance;” so the evil spirits more exult in even the approach to sin of one perfect man, than they would in the reveling of confirmed sinners in the most grievous sins. Hence it would appear that David, in writing this Psalm, had merely in view the delivery of the just man from the temptation of the devil; and not, as some would have it, his own delivery from Saul’s persecution. During that persecution, he was daily obliged to move about, in which case the words, “They will rejoice when I am moved,” as if he considered it of great importance not to move, would be quite inapplicable.

Ps 13:6 But I have trusted in thy mercy. My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation: I will sing to the Lord, who giveth me good things: yea, I will sing to the name of the Lord, the most high.

Another reason why the just man should be helped by God, because, “trusting in his mercy,” and not relying on his own strength, he resisted the tempter. The last reason he assigns for moving God to help him, is a promise that when freed from the temptation, he will not prove ungrateful to his liberator, but will thank God for the benefit, in heart, words, and deeds. “My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” My heart shall bound with joy, on attaining salvation, attributing the whole to you, and praising you for it. The mouth will do its duty, for, “I will sing to the Lord, who giveth me good things.” Deeds are comprehended in the expression, “I will sing;” for the word sing properly means in the Hebrew, to strike the harp. Hence the Scripture says, “David sang with his hands,” 1 Sam 18, and in Psalm 145:9, “With a psaltry of ten strings will I sing unto thee.” He therefore promises, that he will exult in his heart, will sing with his mouth and strike the harp with his hands, that his entire body and soul may be engaged in celebrating God’s praises. “I will sing to the name” means, to chant the praises of God.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 80

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2018

Note: verse numbers may be one behind some modern translations due to the fact that some of these assign a verse number to the psalm titles. The psalm titles (or superscriptions) given by the psalmist are not treated by St Robert. He dealt with the titles in his  individual introductions to the psalms (not reproduced here).

PSALM 80
An invitation to a solemn praising of God

1 Rejoice to God our helper: sing aloud to the God of Jacob.

The prophet exhorts us, when we praise God, that we should do it with great interior joy; “for God loveth a cheerful giver;” and if he loves the one who gives cheerfully, much more does he love him who praises cheerfully. Cheerfulness comes from love and from desire; and, therefore, he who sings moodily, and who looks upon the divine office as an intolerable burden, rather than a sweet canticle, gives to understand that he has very little affection for him whose praises he chants. “Rejoice to God our helper.” Praise God in great exultation, for it is he who can help us on all occasions. “Sing aloud to the God of Jacob;” give your mind to it, and sing his praises with a loud voice.

2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel: the pleasant psaltery with the harp.
3 Blow up the trumpet on the new moon, on the noted day of your solemnity.

He tells them when they are especially to sing their hymns of praise, at the time of new moon; for then the Jews began the month, and held their festivals. “On the noted day of your solemnity,” which some will have to be the new moon of September, the most solemn feast of the Jews, while others will have it to be the first of each month; but it matters little which, as the sense is the same.

4 For it is a commandment in Israel, and a judgment to the God of Jacob.
5 He ordained it for a testimony in Joseph, when he came out of the land of Egypt: he heard a tongue which he knew not.

He assigns a reason for singing with such joy, and bringing in the aid of musical instruments, and that is, because God himself commanded it, when he brought the people out of Egypt. For God, who needs nothing, still wishes for such tribute of praise, and that we should keep up the memory of his benefits. “For it is a command in Israel.” We must sing and play on musical instruments, as a mark of joy and thanksgiving, because it has been commanded by God, and the commandment is kept in Israel by God’s people, who are so called from their parent Israel. “And a judgment to the God of Jacob;” a repetition of the same idea, for judgment and commandment, and Israel and Jacob, are frequently used in the Scriptures, to express the same idea. He ordained it for a testimony in Joseph, “when he came out of the land of Egypt;” another repetition, testimony, commandment, and judgment, signifying the same thing, as is also the case with Israel, Jacob, and Joseph. “He heard a tongue which he knew not;” for, up to the delivery of the commandments on mount Sinai, the people never heard the voice of God speaking to them.

6 He removed his back from the burdens: his hands had served in baskets.

Another favor conferred by God on the Jews in their departure from Egypt. They had been compelled by the Egyptians to the severest labor, in making and burning brick; that was “removed from their backs,” they were no longer obliged to bear the heavy loads they had been subjected to in brick making. “His hands had served in baskets,” fetching the clay, from which slavery God delivered them.

7 Thou calledst upon me in affliction, and I delivered thee: I heard thee in the secret place of tempest: I proved thee at the waters of contradiction.

From this verse to the end, God alternately puts before them his own kindness and their ingratitude. “Thou callest upon me in affliction; and I delivered thee;” when you were laboring under most grievous persecutions in Egypt you called upon me, and I heard you, and I delivered you from such slavery, and brought you out of the country. “I heard thee in the secret place of tempest.” I heard you, not only when you dreaded Pharao’s anger; but also when you dreaded the tempests and plagues you saw inflicted on the Egyptians, for then I put you in a secret place, and protected you, so that the plagues did not harm you. Others will apply it to the invisible protection afforded by God in their passage through the Red Sea, and afterwards in the desert. “I proved thee at the waters of contradiction.” After such great favors I tried you, in order to prove your patience and fidelity, by depriving you of water, and I found you impatient and unfaithful, see Num. 17 and 20, where God deprived them of water for a short time, and, when they murmured and became seditious, brought an abundance of it from the rock for them. The place was called “The waters of contradiction,” the people having rebelled against Moses, and contradicted him there.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify to thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken to me,
9 there shall be no new god in thee: neither shalt thou adore a strange god.
10 For I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.

The prophet, speaking in the person of God, relates what fair conditions he offered, and what ample promises he made his people, if they would adhere to their promises, from which we can judge of the unspeakable goodness of God. “Hear,” you Jews, who are “my people,” and I will tell you plainly, “I will testify to thee” what I require of you, and what I will give you in return. This much I require of you, and beyond and above all things command, “There shall be no new god in thee,” no god who was not worshipped by your fathers. “Neither shalt thou adore a strange god;” a repetition of the same thing. “For I am the Lord God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” No better reason could be assigned for the Jewish people not worshipping strange gods, for it was he who redeemed them from captivity, and transferred them from the bondage of Pharao, to be his own servants. A consideration that should weigh much more powerfully with Christians and attach them to that God who delivered them from the slavery of the devil, and brought them into the kingdom of his beloved Son. “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” A most ample promise, on the part of God, to those who serve him. “Open your mouth” as wide as you can, and the jaws of your desires, and I will satisfy the cravings of your hunger with most delicious food. God alone could make such promise, for nothing created can satisfy the cravings of man’s heart. The sight and enjoyment of God, who is the infinite good, and comprehends all good, can thoroughly satisfy us.

11 But my people heard not my voice: and Israel hearkened not to me.

God now complains of the ingratitude of his people, in not accepting such favorable offers. And how truly wonderful is it not, that slaves in this world will fawn to such an extent upon their masters, and think it great condescension on his part to speak to them, or even to look upon them; and yet, Israel, dust and ashes, will not condescend to hear or to attend to the Lord of Lords? How truly, then, he said, in Lk. 16, “For the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.”

12 So I let them go according to the desires of their heart: they shall walk in their own inventions.

A dreadful, but most just, scourge is here held out by God, to those who despise him; and that is, that sin shall be the punishment of sin to them; that means, they will be suffered continually to lapse into greater sins, until they shall have, at length, come to the lowest depths of misery, of which the Apostle thus speaks, Rom. 1, “Wherefore, God gave them up to the desires of their hearts;” and immediately after he adds, “For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections;” and again, “God delivered them up to a reprobate sense to do those things which are not convenient.” This is the hardness of heart, of which Eccli. chap. 7, speaks, “Consider the works of God, that no man can correct whom he hath despised.” “So I let them go according to the desires of their own hearts.” I let them walk and work, in accordance with their own concupiscence; gave them no discipline, as I would to a child; but, as strangers, I allowed them to tumble down the precipice and be destroyed. “They shall walk in their own inventions.” They will not follow the paths of their fathers, nor the straight ways of my law, but they will follow whatever their own inventions or human curiosity may suggest, in the worship of false gods, and will thus fall into all the vices that disgrace human nature, when they are not directed by God’s light, supported by his hand, or assisted by his efficacious grace.

13 If my people had heard me: if Israel had walked in my ways:
14 I should soon have humbled their enemies, and laid my hand on them that troubled them.

To show the abundance of the innate mercy of God, he returns now to the promises he made them, which, in the Hebrew, are accompanied by a wish, as if he said, Oh, that my people had heard me; for truly God is “the Father of mercies, and the God of all consolation.” Had they heard me, I would have humbled and cast down all those that now afflict her, in such a way that they would never be able to raise their heads again.

15 The enemies of the Lord have lied to him: and their time shall be for ever.

The prophet speaks here, and confirms what God had asserted, “But my people heard not my voice.” By his enemies he means the Jews, who from children became enemies, especially when they denied, in presence of Pilate, that Christ was their king; on which Daniel distinctly says, chap. 9, “And the people that shall deny him shall not be his.”—“The enemies of the Lord (the rebellious, incredulous Jews) have lied to him;” for they promised, at the foot of mount Sinai, that they would carry out all his commands; for “the people answered with one voice: We will do all the words of the Lord, which he hath spoken,” Exod. 24; and yet they did not do one of them; “and their time shall be;” their punishment will be everlasting, for the fire of hell will never be extinguished.

16 And he fed them with the fat of wheat, and filled them with honey out of the rock.

Behold the great ingratitude of the Jews, who had received so many favors from God, and still “have lied to him.” These words may have reference, to the manna that rained down to them in the desert, and the water that gushed from the rock; for that food might have been properly called “the fat of wheat;” because it was the bread of Angels, as it is called in Psalm 78; and it had, as we read in Wisdom 16, “The sweetness of every taste;” the honey out of the rock may have been the water; which, to the thirsty Hebrews, was then sweeter than any honey. The whole verse may refer to the land of promise, which, though rocky and mountainous, abounded in wheat, wine, and oil; so Moses writes, Deut. 32, “He sat him upon the high land, that he might eat the fruits of the fields, that he might suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the hardest stone.” The fat of wheat and the honey out of the rock are, however, in much more esteem with Christians, who have, under the appearance of bread, the body of the Redeemer, and the honey of heavenly wisdom from the rock, no other than the same Christ; and yet, how many, after renouncing the devil, his works, and his pomps in baptism, prove false to God, by returning to those very things they renounced; and, after partaking of bread from heaven, and honey from the rock, returns like unclean dogs, to their vomit. They ought to fear the eternity of the punishment in store for them, of the fire that will never be extinguished, of the worm that will never die.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 145

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2018

PSALM 145
A psalm of praise, to the infinite majesty of God

1 I will extol thee, O God my king: and I will bless thy name for ever; yea, for ever and ever.
2 Every day will I bless thee: and I will praise thy name for ever; yea, for ever and ever.

The two first verses contain a preface, in which the prophet tells us what he proposes singing of in this Psalm, and he does so in a poetical manner by addressing himself directly to God. “I will extol thee;” I will celebrate thee in these my verses, in order that, supreme as you are, you may be looked upon and considered as the most supreme by men. He styles God “his King,” either to show that, king as he was himself, he still had God as a King, who rules all, and is ruled by none over him, or because he was about to praise God for the works and attributes that pertained to him as King and Governor of mankind and of all created things. “And I will bless thy name,” which is no more than a repetition of the previous sentence; and he adds, “forever, yea, forever and ever,” to give us to understand that his praise would be everlasting, commencing with himself and continued by the succeeding generations, who were to chant his Psalms to the end of the world, and after that without end in the country above, as he says in Psalm 84, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord; they shall praise thee forever and ever.” This is more clearly repeated and explained in verse 2, where he says, “Every day will I bless thee;” I will praise thee forever, whether in prosperity or in adversity, while I am here below, and hereafter in heaven. “I will praise thy name forever and ever.”

3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: and of his greatness there is no end.

Greatness consists in breadth, length, height, and depth, which, to a certain extent, exist in God, according to the Apostle, “That you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth, and height, and depth,” etc. The prophet then commences by praising God by reason of his greatness, and if we apply it to his divine essence, he is great therein in breadth, because it is immense; in length, because it is everlasting; in height, because it is most sublime; and in depth, because it is incomprehensible. Or if you will have the prophet call him great by reason of his sovereign power, he is great as to breadth or extent, inasmuch as all created things, from the highest Angel to the crawling insect, are subject to him; as to length, because his kingdom is to last forever; as to height, because he rules everything with supreme and absolute power; and as to depth, because he not only rules our bodies, but also our hearts with its most intimate and secret thoughts and affections; and, finally, there is nothing so secret or so hidden, that the scepter of his kingdom does not reach. Therefore, “great is the Lord,” and on that account, “greatly to be praised,”—“and of his greatness there is no end.” Whether as to length, breadth, height, or depth. God’s greatness, then, is infinite, and therefore, quite incapable of being investigated by us, who are finite beings; which does not imply that we are thoroughly ignorant of God’s greatness, for we know him to be great, and that there is no end of his greatness, though we cannot take it in or comprehend it. This infinite greatness of God admonishes us, that as well as his greatness has no end, so our praises should have no end. It also reminds us that we should not be satisfied with moving in the narrow limits in which we are placed here below, but that we should daily endeavor to increase in that real greatness that arises from virtue, as Psalm 84, has it. “In his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps in the vale of tears; they shall go from virtue to virtue,” for they who seek to increase in riches and in power, that they may get above others, they, instead of being great, are only swollen; instead of being full of juice, they are only distended with wind, for pride and magnanimity are two very different things.

4 Generation and generation shall praise thy works: and they shall declare thy power.
5 They shall speak of the magnificence of the glory of thy holiness: and shall tell thy wondrous works.

He passes now from the essence of the great king, which is inscrutable, to his wonderful works, that convey some idea of his power; and he does not say, I will praise thy works, but, “generation and generation shall praise thy works.” I, of myself, am inadequate to praise your works, but generations unborn will praise them, for there never will be wanting souls to reflect on them, admire them, and praise them, “and they shall declare thy power.” The unborn generations who shall study your works, will constantly proclaim the power that shines forth in them.

6 And they shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and shall declare thy greatness.

Having spoken, in general, of the wonderful works of God, he now distinguishes three sorts of his works, some of them glorious and beautiful, and therefore, wonderful, by reason of their surpassing beauty and splendor; some of them terrible, and therefore, very wonderful, by reason of the great terror inspired by them; and some of them most lovely, and from their being the channels of conveying God’s kindness to us, no less wonderful than the others. In this verse, then, the works that are wonderful, by reason of their splendor and beauty, are praised, such as the heavens, than which nothing more beautiful can be imagined, and speaking of which he says in another Psalm, “The heavens show forth the glory of God,” as also the sun, moon, and the other heavenly bodies, whose number, variety, splendor, and perpetual motion, without fatigue or labor, are truly wonderful. “They shall speak of the magnificence of the glory of thy holiness.” All future generations shall speak in praise of the excellence of the glorious works of your magnificence, and in thus praising them, “shall tell thy wondrous works,” that appear so numerous and so conspicuous therein.

7 They shall publish the memory of the abundance of thy sweetness: and shall rejoice in thy justice.

This is the second sort of God’s works, in which the fear of the divine majesty, in punishing the wicked, is shown, “And they shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts,” they shall be talking of the dreadful and severe scourges with which you chastised the wicked, such as the deluge, the destruction of whole cities by fire from heaven, the plagues of Egypt and of Pharao, the opening of the earth to swallow Dathan and Abiron alive; and finally, the earthquakes, plagues, thunderbolts, inundations, and storms, which frequently express God’s anger to man.

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful: patient and plenteous in mercy.

Here is the third sort of God’s works that appertain to mercy, which is expressed at greater length, and more redolent of gratitude, as all God’s faithful servants should be. “They shall publish the memory of the abundance of thy sweetness;” that is to say, all generations having been filled with the abundance of the sweetness and the kindness of thy mercy, for “the earth is full of God’s mercy,” such abundance will cause them to publish the memory of the sweetness that so abounds, or in other words, they will hand down to posterity the record of so many and so great favors conferred on them; and they will not confine themselves to so publishing the memory of these favors, but they will, themselves, “rejoice in thy justice,” by reason of your having so faithfully carried out what you promised. To this class of favors belong the innumerable gifts of providence bestowed so bountifully on man, such as the alternations of night and day, the rains of heaven, the fruitfulness of the earth, the countless multitude of cattle, birds, and fish, designed for the use and behoof of man, the verdant groves and beautiful gardens, the seas and the rivers, that serve for transport, and many other blessings beside. And all those, nothing, positively nothing, as compared with the gifts of grace; for instance, the Incarnation of the Divine Word, the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the sending of the Holy Ghost, the calling of the gentiles, the preaching, the promise, and the publication of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone devoutly meditate on these points, and it will be truly wonderful, if in his fullness he will not “publish the memory of the abundance of the sweetness” of God.

9 The Lord is sweet to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
10 Let all thy works, O lord, praise thee: and let thy saints bless thee.

Not content with having said that such was the abundance of God’s sweetness that all generations would publish the memory of it, he comes out the first to publish and to proclaim it, saying, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, patient, and plenteous in mercy.” He is the Lord because he removes all troubles, by forgiveness, by justification, by glorification; and he is not only “gracious,” but he is “merciful,” as merciful as a father; and, furthermore, he is “patient,” which means that his mercy is continuous; for no matter how often we may provoke him, he will not turn to anger at once, but rather waits to see would we do penance; and finally, such mercy is not small, confined, or illiberal, but on the contrary, “most plenteous.” That is most fully explained in the next verse, where he says, “The Lord is sweet to all;” and so he is to those who can appreciate his sweetness; and he is not only sweet and kind to all, and merciful too, but “his tender mercies, are over all his works;” for there is no one of his works, however insignificant, to which he does not extend his mercy. The expression, “The Lord is sweet to all,” is absolutely true, because God “maketh his sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust;” and in Psalm 86, we read, “For thou, O Lord, art sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy, to all that call upon thee;” and again, in Psalm 103, “For according to the height of the heaven above the earth, he hath strengthened his mercy to those that fear him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear him. But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity and unto eternity upon them that fear him;” which the blessed Virgin also expressed, when she said, “And his mercy is from generation to generation to them that fear him.”

11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom: and shall tell of thy power:
12 To make thy might known to the sons of men: and the glory of the magnificence of thy kingdom.
13 Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages: and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words: and holy in all his works.

Having hitherto sung of the glorious, terrible, and lovely works of God, he now comes to describe his kingdom, and then the virtues peculiar to the King himself. “Let all thy works, O Lord, praise thee.” Let all the works for which I have been hitherto praising you, now unite with me in praising you; for the productions of an artist, when they are beautiful, redound to his praise and glory, and God’s works are such as to admit of no improvement, either by adding or taking from them. “And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good;” and in Psalm 111, “Great are the works of the Lord sought out according to all his wills.” These words may be considered as a conclusion to the first part of the chapter, as he now enters on a different subject with the words, “and let thy saints bless thee;” that is to say, generations unborn will praise thee by reason of the works that are visible to all, but it is the saints alone, through the revelation of the Holy Ghost, that are aware of the nature of your kingdom I am now about to speak of; and, therefore, “let thy saints,” to whom it has been revealed by the Holy Ghost, “bless thee,” which means praise thee; and he tells for what, when he adds, “They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and shall tell of thy power.” The glory of a kingdom is synonymous with its power. The power of a kingdom consists in the number of its subjects, and the sufficiency of its revenue, to maintain them. Now, the glory, or the power of God’s kingdom, may be inferred from the difference between it and that of man. There are four points of difference. First, the kings of this world have but few subjects, without much wealth; not more than the population and wealth of one kingdom, or one province, while God reigns over all Angels, all men, all demons, and all the wealth on land, in the sea, or in the air, belong to him. There is another difference, that while the kings of this world rule their subjects, they are still ruled by them, they are dependent on them, can do nothing without them; and, however, abundant their revenues may be, they are generally in want, nay even in debt, and, consequently, always calling for fresh tributes and taxes; but God, while he governs all, is subject to none, because he needs nobody’s help or assistance; instead of being in want, he abounds in everything, because he could, in one moment, bring from nothing much more than he now beholds or enjoys. The third difference is a consequence of the second, while the kings of this world seem so to enjoy their honors and dignities, they are, at the same time, suffering acutely from interior fears, doubts, and cares, which have sometimes been so burdensome, as to cause them to abdicate altogether. God never suffers such pressure, is subject to no fear, no misgivings, but reigns absolutely in perfect tranquillity. The fourth difference, an essential one, is, that the kings of this world reign but for a time; but God reigneth forever. Now, the first difference is touched upon in the verse, “They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and shall tell of thy power;” your saints will proclaim the power and the glory of your kingdom, which consists in the number of your subjects, and the inexhaustible abundance of your wealth. The second and third are included in the words, “To make thy might known to the sons of men, and the glory of the magnificence of thy kingdom,” which indicate an immense difference between the kingdom of God and any human kingdom, for he says, “To make known to the sons of men,” to make them understand that their kingdoms are a mere nothing as compared with that of God, and not content with having said, “To make thy might known,” he adds, “and thy glory;” and not content with that even, he adds again, “of the magnificence of thy kingdom,” or the glory of your most magnificent kingdom. The fourth difference is apparent in the verse, “thy kingdom,” etc. “The Lord is faithful in all his words, and holy in all his works.” He now enters on the virtues that belong to a king, that are so conspicuous in God, and in Christ, as man, and which all kings, and all in power, should constantly look to and seek to imitate. The first virtue that should distinguish a king is uprightness, with a strict adherence to truth, for the king’s example is all powerful, and of Christ, the King, we read, “Who did no sin, neither was guilt found in his mouth,” nearly word for word with what the prophet says here, “The Lord is faithful in all his words;” that is to say, truthful, no liar, no deceiver, observing all his promises most faithfully; “and holy in all his works;” or in other words, “Innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,” and immaculate in all his actions.

14 The Lord lifteth up all that fall: and setteth up all that are cast down.

Here is the second virtue that should adorn a king and a pastor, for both should rule in such a manner that their subjects may not fall; and if they chance to fall, that they should be prompt in raising them. That virtue is called mercy, and one essential to all in power. The expression “lifteth up,” in the Hebrew, conveys the idea not only of lifting up, but enabling the person so lifted to keep up, as we read in another Psalm, “Being pushed I was overturned, that I might fall, but the Lord supported me.” But is it true that God lifts up all that fall, when we daily see many falling without being lifted, either as regards soul or body? God is said to lift up all that fall, inasmuch as those who fall not when tempted, keep up, through God’s grace; and they who rise after falling, are set up by God’s grace; while they who fall, or do not rise after falling, must blame themselves for it, and not God, which Osee expresses in different language, when he says, “Destruction is thy own, O Israel, thy help is only in me.” That David did not mean to say absolutely that all, without any exception, that may chance to fall would be raised, is clear from the following expression, where he says, “And setteth up all that are cast down.” For if God were to support all that were about to fall, he would have no occasion to set up anyone, or nobody would fall; how, then, is it true that he “setteth up all that are cast down”? These words are to be taken in a spiritual sense. As to the actual falling of anyone, it remains to be said that God is naturally inclined to raise and to set up all; and if he does not do so by all, nay, more, if he sometimes precipitates and brings them down, he does so either with a view to prove them and to crown them, as he does to the just, in which case it proves a raising up rather than a taking down, or he does so in order to punish and chastise, and that when the sins of the parties themselves call for it, and thus the very first root of the evil springs from ourselves, and thus what Osee said, “Destruction is thy own, O Israel, thy help is only in me,” will always be true.

15 The eyes of all hope in thee, O Lord: and thou givest them meat in due season.
16 Thou openest thy hand, and fillest with blessing every living creature.

Liberality is the third virtue that should adorn a king. Kings should not fleece their subjects, and seek to squeeze money out of them under various pretences, and thus, perhaps, reduce them to poverty; on the contrary, they should deal liberally with them, supporting them, as if they were their own children; but, yet, taking care not to allow them to eat to excess, or spend whole days in feasting. “The eyes of all hope in thee, O Lord.” The eyes of all living things look to thee, expecting food from thee, that they may be supported by it, and keep up their life, “and thou givest them meat;” and you, through the agency of the creatures subject to you, the earth, the sun, and the rain, produce fruits in abundance, as meat for all living creatures, and that “in due season,” when they have need of it, for they should not be always eating; and thus, they who eat to excess, have not their meat from God, but from their own gluttony. “In due season” also implies when hunger calls for it, when it is useful or necessary; and therefore, they who accumulate and hoard up their superfluities, steal so much from the community; and it cannot be a matter of surprise to find so many in dire necessity. He also gives it “in due season,” when it is right to give it, because sometimes it is better to withhold it, because man’s sins deserve it, as the physician will sometimes prescribe total abstinence from food and strong drink; and hence God, not infrequently, visits sinners with dearth and famine, in punishment of their sins. “In due season” also expresses the variety of food that God provides for us in the various seasons. That we may carry with us the fact of God’s liberality, being the primary source of all our blessings, he next adds, “Thou openest thy hand, and fillest with blessing every living creature,” every word of which is expressive of profuse liberality. “Thou openest thy hand.” It is not with a closed but an open hand that you give to your creatures; it is with extreme liberality; “and fillest,” satisfy to the fullest extent of their desires, “every living creature,” not only man, but all living things; “with blessing,” in the most abundant manner; such is the sense in which St. Paul uses the word blessing, when he writes to the Corinthians to have the alms collected, “to be ready, so as a blessing, not as covetousness;” that is, that their alms should be liberal. But if God fills every living thing so abundantly, whence have we so many beggars, so many poor, hungry, thirsty? We have already observed that a good deal of it arises from the injustice of the rich, who either hoard up, or sinfully squander, what they should share with the poor; and we added, that such often arises from the just punishment of God, that is called for by the sins of the parties themselves; and finally, we may add, that the very poor in question are often themselves the cause of it, either because they depend more on their scheming than they do on God, or because they cannot content themselves with the food and raiment befitting their station in life, or because they will often spend in one day’s debauch what they may have been earning for an entire week.

17 The Lord is just in all his ways: and holy in all his works.

Justice is the fourth virtue befitting a sovereign, and one of absolute necessity, in order to ensure peace and tranquillity among the people. “The Lord is just in all his ways.” The Lord displays extreme justice in his external acts, by which alone we can form an idea of his justice; for he renders to all what is due to them, and he repeats the same in the next sentence when he says, “and holy in all his works.”

18 The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him: to all that call upon him in truth.

The fifth virtue becoming a king consists in his being easy of access to all who come to him looking for assistance. This God does to a wonderful extent, for “he is nigh unto all them that call upon him;” no matter how high above the heavens he may be, he comes nigh at once to all that call upon him, never refusing an audience to anyone. Hence, Moses boasts in Deuteronomy, “Neither is there any other nation so great, that hath gods so nigh them, as our God is present to all our petitions;” and he tells us how we are to understand the expression, “to all that call upon him,” when he repeats it with the addition of “in truth,” for that expression comprehends all the conditions that are necessary for prayer. He that prays without faith does not pray “in truth,” because, instead of calling on God, he calls on the idol of his own brain. He that prays without hope does not pray “in truth,” because, he cannot be serious in praying to anyone by whom he does not hope to be heard. And he who prays without charity, or, at least, without inchoate love, does not invoke God “in truth,” because nobody will seriously pray to one whom he hates, and who, he has reason to think, hates him. They, too, who pray without affection and desire, such as those who recite the Psalms or any other prayers, without any desire of obtaining what they ask, though they appear to do so, “do not invoke God in truth.” They also who pray without attention, without knowing what they are saying, pray merely with their lips, and they also “do not call upon him in truth,” because, instead of calling on him, they only show an empty appearance of calling on him.

19 He will do the will of them that fear him: and he will hear their prayer, and save them.

Benignity, or kindness, is the sixth royal attribute, by virtue of which the king not only admits his subjects to an audience, but graciously grants all their petitions, provided it be right for him to grant them. “He will do the will of them that fear him;” on having heard their prayer, he will do what they want, but he qualifies it by adding, “of them that fear him,” for it is but fair that God should do the will of those only that do his will; and those who have a holy horror of offending God, and would lose the whole world rather than his grace, are the people that do his will. That, as usual, he repeats, when he says, “and he will hear their prayer.” He finally adds, “and save them,” to give us to understand how God always hears the prayers of those that fear him. God frequently appears not to hear the prayers of such people, as when he would not deliver St. Paul from “the sting of his flesh,” though he had prayed three times to be delivered from it; and still he really hears the principal desire of such people, which consists in a desire of eternal salvation. For, as the Lord ordered to “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” or in other words, his glory and his grace; thus all they who fear God with the holy fear becoming him, will first and principally, in every prayer of theirs, ask for inchoate salvation or grace; and then for perfect salvation which is glory. God, then, always hears those that fear him, for “he will save them;” that is to say, he hears them in the time and the mode most conducive to their salvation.

20 The Lord keepeth all them that love him; but all the wicked he will destroy.

The last but most necessary virtue for a king is that of providence, by virtue of which he protects the just from oppression on the part of the wicked, and prevents the wicked, if not from injuring the just, at least from injuring them to the extent of their wishes. For though he sometimes allows the just to suffer much from sinners, still he so protects them, that such suffering cannot harm them; nay more, that it turns to their advantage. God suffered the holy martyrs to be flogged and to be slain, but he “kept them,” by the gift of constancy, in their faith, and patience in their sufferings, with a view to securing glory to their souls, and a glorious and immortal body, and thereby realizing the truth of the promise, “A hair from your head shall not be lost.” As to the sentence, “but all the wicked he will destroy;” the truth of that will appear either because the wicked will be converted, and will then not be there, as wicked, for destruction; or because they persevere in final wickedness, and will then be scattered by being consigned to hell, so that they can never again come near the just.

21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name forever; yea, for ever and ever.

He now concludes the Psalm by uniting the first and last verses, as if he said, In consequence of all I have stated regarding the greatness of God, of his works, of the perpetuity of his kingdom, of his royal qualities that are so numerous and so perfect in him, “My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord” forever. And I not only mean to do so myself, but I earnestly desire that “all flesh,” that every human being, everything that lives and breathes, should praise the name of the Lord forever.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 85

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2018

PSALM 85
The coming of Christ to bring peace and salvation to man

1 Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.

The prophet, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, discloses the eternal decree of God regarding the future salvation of man, in the beginning of the Psalm, telling us the first cause and ultimate effect of such salvation. Love was the first cause—that love through which God loved mankind. For no reason can be assigned why “God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son,” John 3, through whom we may be redeemed, “and blessed with all spiritual blessings,” Ephes. 1, but the will of God alone, or, rather, his good pleasure and mercy. The ultimate effect of such salvation will consist in complete delivery from captivity, which will be thoroughly accomplished in the resurrection only, when we shall arrive at the liberty of the glory of the children of God. We are at present only partially free; but we are in expectation of the redemption of our bodies that is to set us free from all corruption and necessity. He, therefore, begins by saying, “Lord, thou hast blessed thy land;” you cursed the land you created and gave to man to inhabit, on account of the sin of the first man; but I know, from revelation, that you also, in your own mind, by your own decree, “blessed thy land;” decreed in your own good pleasure to visit and bless it with all manner of blessings and graces, by sending your only begotten, “full of grace and truth,” into that land which you created. “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” In the same eternal decree, having been appeased by the death of your Son, which you foresaw, thou hast turned away, or put an end to the captivity of Jacob, your people, so that they may thenceforth enjoy the liberty of the glory of the children of God. By Jacob the prophet means, not only the people of Israel, but the whole human race, “who are, like the branches of the wild olive tree, engrafted into the good olive tree;” and, like “living stones, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets.”

2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people: thou hast covered all their sins.

He now explains the manner in which God, by his blessing the land, put an end to the captivity of Jacob, and says it was by remitting the sins of his people. For, as sin was the cause of their being held in bondage, the remission of the sin procured their liberty. “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people.” In your own mind, and by your own decree, thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, for which iniquity you had given them up to the devil, as you would to the minister of justice. “Thou hast covered all their sins;” the same idea repeated; “thou hast covered;” hidden them, wrapt them up, so that you may not see and punish them: but, as nothing can be hid or concealed from God, when he, therefore, forgives sin, he extinguishes it altogether; so that it has no longer any existence whatever; and when God is said to cover sin, he does so, not as one would cover a sore with a plaster, thereby merely hiding it only; but he covers it with a plaster that effectually cures and removes it altogether. “All their sins;” to show it was not one sin, such as original sin, common to all, that was forgiven, but that the personal and peculiar sins of each individual were included

3 Thou hast mitigated all thy anger: thou hast turned away from the wrath of thy indignation.

He now assigns a reason for God’s having forgiven the iniquity of his people, and says it arose from his having been appeased, and having laid aside his anger. For, as it was anger that prompted God thus to revenge himself, so, when he was appeased, he was led to forgive us; and that was effected “by the lamb that was slain from the beginning of the world;” and that immaculate Lamb was given to us through the good pleasure and mercy of him “who so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son for it.” Here, then, is the order of our redemption. The benediction, or the good pleasure of God, gave us his Son as a Savior; the son, by his death, appeased God’s anger, and made satisfaction to his justice for the sins of the whole world; God, having been thus appeased, forgave the sins, and the remission of the sins put an end to the captivity; and the Holy Ghost revealed the whole of this mystery, so concealed in the mind of God, to his prophet; and he describes it to us in those three verses. The expression, “all thy anger,” signifies that the redemption effected by our Savior was all sufficient and most effectual, and it also conveys that the liberty we shall enjoy hereafter will be most full, complete, and entire, leaving not a trace of punishment or misery, for such proceed from God’s anger. “Thou hast turned away from the wrath of thy indignation,” is a repetition of the same idea.

4 Convert us, O God our saviour: and turn off thy anger from us.

The prophet, speaking in the person of God’s people, begins now to pray for the execution and completion of the divine decree, and first begs of God to mitigate his anger; the first effect of which would be the beginning of our salvation; that is to say, his divine assistance, through which our conversion to God commences; for we cannot be converted to God, unless his grace go before us, and by calling, enlightening, assisting, and moving, convert us. He, therefore, says, “Convert us, O God our Savior.” O God our Savior, begin the work of our salvation, by inspiring us with the holy desire of conversion. And that, in your mercy, you may commence it, “turn off thy anger from us.” Be reconciled to us, and forget the offences that have estranged us from you.

5 Wilt thou be angry with us for ever: or wilt thou extend thy wrath from generation to generation?

He perseveres in the petition, saying, we have borne your anger long enough; do not defer the gift of your mercy, and the restoration of your peace. “Wilt thou be angry with us?” Will your enmity to the human race be everlasting? “or wilt thou extend thy wrath from generation to generation?” a thing that does not accord with your infinite clemency.

6 Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life: and thy people shall rejoice in thee.

He tells us the effects that will follow from being reconciled with God; to man will come life, to God praise. “Thou wilt turn, O God;” by laying aside your anger, and on being reconciled, will “bring us to life;” for “the wages of sin is death; but the grace of God everlasting life, in Christ Jesus our Lord;” “and thy people,” come to life and strength through so great a favor, “shall rejoice in thee,” and joyously chant your praise.

7 Shew us, O Lord, thy mercy; and grant us thy salvation.

Having asked that the divine wrath may be mitigated; and having asked for that reconciliation and regeneration that always accompanies remission of sin, he now asks for the coming of the Savior, through whom we were brought clearly to see and to behold God’s kindness and mercy to us, of which the Apostle says, “The grace of God hath appeared to all men;” and again, “the goodness and kindness of our Savior God appeared.” For who can for a moment doubt of the care that God has for mankind, and the extent of his warmest love, when he sent his only begotten Son to redeem us by his precious blood from the captivity of the devil? “Show us, O Lord, thy mercy;” make us plainly see and feel by experience, that mercy through which you determined in your mind, from eternity, to bless thy land; “and grant us thy salvation.” Send us your Son for a Savior, for then you will clearly show unto all the extent of your mercy, goodness, and grace. St. Augustine, taking a moral view of this passage, says that God shows us his mercy when he persuades us, and makes us see and understand that we are nothing, and can do nothing, of ourselves; but that it is through his mercy we exist at all, or can do anything we go through; we thus are neither proud nor puffed up, but are humble in our own eyes; and it is to such people the Savior gives his grace.

8 I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me: for he will speak peace unto his people: And unto his saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart.

To convince us of the truth of what he now means to express, the prophet here reminds us that he speaks not from himself, but what has been revealed to him, and that he is only announcing what he has heard from the Lord. “I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me;” that is, I will tell whatever I shall hear; and, therefore, having laid my petition before him, I will hear his answer to make it known to others. “What he will speak in me;” to give us to understand that when God speaks to the prophet, he does it interiorly, and spiritually. For the Holy Ghost, who abides in the prophets, speaks to them through their heart, and then, through their tongues, to the ears of mankind. The expression, “I will hear,” besides attention, signifies a desire to hear as it were, to say, I will most willingly and attentively hear; for God usually says nothing but what is good and useful; “for he will speak peace unto his people.” The reason I have for hearing him with pleasure and with attention is, because I know he will speak peace to his people. The summary, then, of God’s message to his people is the announcement and promise of peace through the coming of the Messias, for which the prophet asked when he said, “Show us, O Lord, thy mercy, and grant us thy salvation.” God, then, will grant a Savior, and through him, will announce and establish a most perfect peace; hence he is styled “the Prince of Peace;” and, as the Apostle says, “making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven.” Now peace comprehends all God’s favors; and we shall never be in perfect possession of it until we shall have arrived at the heavenly Jerusalem, which is interpreted the vision of peace. Peace is opposed to war, in which we shall be mixed up, until “death is swallowed up in victory, and this mortal shall have put on immortality.” Then there will be an end to that war with our vices and concupiscences, with the princes of darkness, with all our difficulties and necessities. For, while we live here below, “the life of man is a warfare upon earth,” however we may desire, as far as in ourselves lies, to be at peace with all men. “And unto his saints, and unto them that are converted to the heart. He now explains the expression, “to his people;” God promised peace to his people, but not to the whole of them; for they are composed of good and bad, and the bad can have no peace. For, “much peace have they that love thy law;” while, “the wicked have no peace, saith the Lord;” and, when he says, “unto them that are converted to the heart,” he tells us who the saints are to whom peace is promised. For sanctity, and consequently peace, then begins when man turns from exterior to interior matters; and, therefore, Isaias says, “Return ye transgressors to the heart;” and of the prodigal son is said, “and returning to himself, he said.” Man begins to return to himself, or to return, if you will, to his heart, when he begins to reflect within himself on the vanity of all things here below, and how trifling and how short lived is the pleasure to be derived from sin; and on the contrary, how noble virtue is, and of what value are the goods of eternity. In a little while man begins to advance by degrees, when he comes to consider and judge of externals, not by the aid of his own sense, or the discourses of the children of the world; but, “returning to his heart,” he consults sound reason on everything, consults the faith that has been divinely inspired, consults the truth itself, which is God. Finally, that man is truly converted to the heart, and begins to taste that peace “that surpasses all understanding,” who raises a tabernacle in his heart to God, and, on the wings of contemplation, rises from the image, the soul of man, to the reality, God himself; and there, beholding the infinite beauty of his Creator, is so inflamed and carried away by his love as to despise the whole world beside, and unite himself to God exclusively in the bonds of love, totally indifferent to, and forgetful of, the whole world. No pressure from abroad can disturb one so disposed.

9 Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him:that glory may dwell in our land.

On the coming of the Messias peace will be preached, but the establishment will be delayed for some time. However, salvation, which means the power of healing and of performing other miracles, will be always at hand, and available to those who believe in him, and have a pious and reverential fear of him. Hence, great glory will accrue to God, for all who see his wonderful works will praise and magnify him; many proofs of which can be read in the Gospels; and it is to it the prophet alludes when he says, “Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him;” that is to say, the salvation of God, or Christ himself, the Savior, will be at hand to save, through his power, all that fear him; all that worship him with a holy fear; “that glory may dwell in our land;” those numerous miracles will be performed with a view to make God’s glory known, and to dwell in that land of promise to which the Savior will be sent specially. And if the salvation of the body be near to them that fear him, and God’s glory be thereby greatly augmented, with much more reason will the salvation of the soul be near to those that fear him. “For to those who will receive him, he will give power to become sons of God,” 1 John; and thence his glory will be made manifest, “as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

10 Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.

He now reveals another mystery that will be accomplished on the coming of the Messias; that is, the union of mercy and justice, which seem so opposed to each other; the one prompting to punish, the other to forgive; for Christ’s passion and suffering was meant to deliver the human race in mercy, while it made the fullest satisfaction to the divine justice. “Mercy and truth have met each other.” They met in the time of the Messias, whereas at other times they seemed to move in contrary directions. “Justice and peace have kissed;” the justice that inflicts punishment, previously called truth and peace, which then was called mercy, will be joined in the bonds of the strictest friendship; and, as it were, kissed each other.

11 Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven.

He now touches on the mystery of the Incarnation, making use of the past for the future tense, as is usual with the prophets. “Truth is sprung out of the earth.” Christ, who is the truth, will be born of the Virgin Mary, “and justice hath looked down from heaven.” Then also justice from heaven will be made manifest, because, on the birth of Christ, true justice began to come down from heaven, and man began to be justified by faith in Christ; as also, because by the coming of Christ, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all impiety and injustice,” for the extent of God’s anger and hatred of sin would never have been thoroughly known, had not God decreed that it should be expiated by the death of his only Son; and, even, we should never have known the extent of God’s anger to the sinner on the day of judgment, had we not seen the amount and the extent of Christ’s sufferings in atoning for the sins of others, “For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?” says our Lord, Luke 23.

12 For the Lord will give goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit.

He still treats of the mystery of the Incarnation, showing that truth could spring out of the earth; not in the manner of the seed that we sow and cultivate, but in the manner of the natural flowers that grow spontaneously, with no other culture than the beams of the sun, and the rains of heaven. “For the Lord will give goodness,” he will send his Holy Spirit from heaven, who will overshadow a virgin, and thus our land, which was never ploughed nor sown, and was altogether an untouched virgin, will yield her fruit. Hence, he says, in the canticle of canticles, “I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys.”

13 Justice shall walk before him: and,shall set his steps in the way.

The prophet concludes by showing that Christ would be so replete with justice and sanctity, that the rays of his justice would go before him, and by their light shed the way to complete progress in this gloomy valley of our mortality. “Justice shall walk before him.” Christ, the sun and true light of the world, will send the rays of his justice and wisdom before him, as it is in Psalm 89, “Mercy and truth shall go before thy face;” and in Isaias 58, “And thy justice shall go before thy face;” and thus “shall set his steps in the way,” shall enter on his pilgrimage to bring many pilgrims back to their country.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 126

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2018

PSALM 126
The people of God rejoice at their delivery from captivity

1 When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion, we became like men comforted.

When we first heard of the decree of our emancipation, and of our return to our country, we could, through joy, hardly believe it; and we were like those who, when in great affliction and trouble, get some comforting news, becoming, all at once blithe and merry, from being grave and sad. And this self same unspeakable consolation is always felt by those who are seriously converted to God, and, despising the hopes of this world, and abandoning all desire for the goods of this world, “direct their steps in the path of peace.” They know the value of being rescued from the captivity of the devil, from the depths of the pit, and the being prepared for the enjoyment of true liberty and everlasting peace, through the call and the guidance of the Almighty. Interior joy will not fail to show itself externally, which it does by the expression of joy on the countenance and gladness on the tongue. “Then,” when we got the good news of our delivery, “was our mouth filled with gladness,” our face appeared blithe and merry, and “our tongue, with joy,” burst out into expressions of joy and gladness. “Then shall they say among the gentiles.” The news of said emancipation not only gladdened the hearts of the emancipated, but it even astonished the gentiles when they heard it, and they could not help exclaiming, “The Lord hath done great things for them;” the Lord has behaved most magnificently to his people; for though it was Cyrus that liberated the Jews after so long a captivity, we can easily understand that he was prompted thereto by God, for he did it at the very time Jeremias prophesied it would be done, after seventy years; and Cyrus himself avowed that he got his power and command from heaven, and that he got an order from heaven to let the people go, and to build the temple in Jerusalem; and, finally, it could not be expected that any king would let so many thousand captives go free without the smallest ransom, and not only so dismiss them, but load them with presents on their departure, had he not felt himself constrained thereto from above. The gentiles, then, could not help attributing the whole to divine interposition.

2 Then was our mouth filled with gladness; and our tongue with joy. Then shall they say among the Gentiles: The Lord hath done great things for them.
3 The Lord hath done great things for us: we are become joyful.

The emancipated, quite pleased with the gentiles’ notions on the matter being only in accordance with the facts, thus reply. It is the fact that the Lord dealt nobly with us, beyond our merits and our expectations, when he brought us from a miserable captivity to this our sweetest native land; and thus “we are become joyful;” we who had hitherto been groaning in sorrow, captives as we were.

4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south.

As all the captives did not come home together—for some came, in the first instance, with Esdras, and then another party with Nehemias—the first party, then, pray to God for the return of all the captives, and they take up the simile of a torrent that is wont to run with great force and violence in a southerly gale; hence they say, “Turn again, O Lord, our captivity.” Bring back our captives, the majority of whom are still in the land of the stranger; and bring them back at once, as quickly “as a stream in the south;” for when the wind blows from the south, the rain falls, the streams and the rivers rise, and the great flood rolls rapidly on to the ocean, and that without delay or obstruction. If the exiles, on their return, prayed to God so earnestly, what amount of earnestness will not be required of us, still exiles as we are? For though some have got home, have come to their country, yet many are still in exile, on the road, nay more, many are quite reconciled to the captivity, and have become so attached to the things of this world that they don’t bestow even a thought on their country; it was, then, absolutely necessary that the Lord, with all the violence of a torrent, when the south wind blows, should force them and compel them to ascend. In conclusion, then, the former, as well as the latter, are, to a certain extent, captives; for “all expect that every creature shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption;” and even the blessed in heaven included. It is for this perfect liberty of the children of God, of which St. Paul treats in Rome, chap. 8, that we most properly pray when we say, “Turn again our captivity as a stream in the south.” The south means the south wind that usually preceded rain, and caused the streams and rivers to fill and run with rapidity; most expressive of the tide of captives returning back again in crowds and in haste to their beloved country.

5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Having asked God to bring back all the captives to their country, he now addresses the captives themselves, and exhorts them not to be deterred by the labor of the journey, or to be detained by regard for any property they may have acquired in a foreign land, as they were sure to have much more and more valuable property in their own; and most happily compares them to the sower and the reaper; the one ordinarily does his work in grief and sorrow, being obliged to put his corn into the ground without having any certainty of ever getting the smallest return from it; and, therefore, seems to labor and to tire himself in order to lose what he has; but when the harvest comes, he reaps with great joy when he sees the corn that, to all appearance, was lost, is now, instead of being lost, returned to him with an enormous increase. This applies peculiarly to us, pilgrims as we are; for those who are content with their captivity, and are so engaged by the love of this world as never to think on their country, heaven; they look upon the road adopted by the just to be nothing better than a positive loss and an injury. While the true exiles make all the haste they can to their country above; they freely give to the poor, who will never return what is given; they labor, without fee or reward, in teaching their brethren, as did the Apostles; they freely renounce all manner of pleasure; all which seems the height of folly to those who know not what is to come of it, while, in reality, it is “sowing in tears,” that they may afterwards, in due time, “reap in joy.” And if they who are still so attached to their captivity, would seriously reflect on this, they certainly would change their mind, would begin to go up, and, no matter what it may cost them, they would sow the seed, that they may soon after reap it in joy in the kingdom of heaven.

6 Going they went and wept, casting their seeds.
7 But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.

He now describes, at greater length, the process of sowing and reaping. “Going they went;” the laborers and farmers went from their house to the field; “and wept, casting their seeds;” had much pain and trouble while shaking the seed, from the uncertainty of their ever having any return. But, in harvest time, when coming home, “they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves;” bringing back whole armsfull in return for a few grains. This so peculiarly applies to the virtue of almsgiving that it cannot but be of use to consider in what respect the seed may be compared with alms, in the hope that they “who have in their heart disposed to ascend by steps” may be more encouraged to divide freely with the poor. The grain that is sown is very small, and yet produces such a number of grains as to seem almost incredible; thus it is with alms, a small thing, a poor thing as being a human act; but when properly sown, produces, not money, nor food, nor clothes, but an eternal kingdom; Just as if the grain of wheat that we sow should produce an ear of gold instead of an ear of wheat, studded with precious stones instead of grains of wheat. Then, the grain put into the ground must corrupt and die or else it will not sprout, as our Lord has it in the Gospel, “Unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, itself remaineth alone;” thus alms must be freely bestowed as a right, and not as a loan, and to those only who cannot return it; and it must be given to corrupt and perish, that is, without the slightest hope of getting it back in this world; for when thus lost and corrupted, it will not fail to shoot out again, and produce much fruit in life everlasting. Again, the grain put into the ground needs both sun and rain to germinate; and so with alms, which, as well as all other good works, needs the sun of divine grace, and the showers of the blood of the Mediator; that is, in order to become meritorious, they must spring from the grace of God, that has its source in the blood of Christ; for then a matter of the greatest insignificance becomes one of the greatest value, by reason of the stamp impressed upon it by grace; and thus merits, not only as a favor, but as a right, the grace of life everlasting. There is this difference between the sowing of the seed and the distribution of alms, that many things may occur to the former that may prevent the reaping in gladness, though they may have sowed in tears; because the seed may not sprout for want of rain; or it may be cut down, after sprouting, by slugs and worms; or, even after ripening, it may he stolen or burned. But alms, when given with a proper intention, is always safe; for it is stored up in heaven, where neither moths, nor flies, nor thieves can come near it. They, then, who sow such spiritual seed in tears, will unquestionably reap fruit in great joy.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 147

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2018

PSALM 147
The church is called upon to praise God for his peculiar graces and favors to his people. In the Hebrew this psalm is joined to the foregoing

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

Jerusalem is a holy city, the more noble part of which is mount Sion, where the temple of the Lord was built, and is often used to express the city itself; and, therefore, “praise the Lord, O Jerusalem,” and “praise thy God, Sion,” signify one and the same thing. If it be referred to the Jerusalem above, nothing more appropriate could be applied to it; for in that heavenly city no one need be occupied in it providing for their personal wants, or those of their neighbors, there being no poor, no needy, to be found therein, and can, therefore, devote their whole time, as they really do, in praising God. Most justly, then, does he address the city, saying, “Praise the Lord,” for you have nothing else to do; for you are specially bound thereto by reason of the signal favors he has conferred on you; and, finally, because it has been your great good fortune to get so close a view of the beauty and the excellence of the Lord. The Church, in her exile, should also praise the Lord; but the whole Church cannot, nor can the Church at all times do it, in the midst of the cares and troubles that frequently disturb her. And if the Church cannot accomplish it, much less can the synagogue.

2 Because he hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates, he hath blessed thy children within thee.

The reason why Jerusalem should bless the Lord arises from the fact of his having conferred on her that abundance and security of which human happiness consists. Security, without abundance, is no better than poverty, and abundance, without security, is replete with fear and danger. God, therefore, so strengthened the bolts of the gates of Jerusalem that they could not possibly be stormed, and those inside are quite safe, inasmuch as no enemy can enter, no friend will be excluded; nothing bad can come in, nothing good will go out; and the divine blessing brought an abundance of all good things into this highly fortified city; for it was not a particular blessing that God gave the holy city, but a general, an absolute one, to use the expression of the Apostle, “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” These two things perfectly apply to the Jerusalem above, where the security is eternal, and the blessing consists in the enjoyment of the supreme good. They also apply, to a certain extent, to the Church in her exile, though not so entirely; “for the gates of hell will not prevail against her,” and she has many blessings within her; but, meanwhile, many wicked enter into her, and good revolt from her; she has the chaff mixed with the grain, the good with the bad fish, the kids with the lambs. There are other points of agreement also with the earthly Jerusalem, inasmuch as by reason of her being situated in the mountains, she appeared to be well fortified, and abounded, at one time, with inhabitants and with wealth; but, as she was more than once sacked and destroyed, it does not appear that the expression, “he hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates,” is quite applicable to her. One would rather say the expression in Lament. 2 was, “Her gates are sunk into the ground: he hath destroyed and broken her bars; and the bulwark hath moved; and the wall hath been destroyed together.” Nor was there such an abundance in the city at the same time, when we read, “They said to their mothers, where is corn and wine? when they fainted away as the wounded in the streets of the city, when they breathed out their souls in the bosoms of their mothers.”

3 Who hath placed peace in thy borders: and filleth thee with the fat of corn.

Not only is the holy city of Jerusalem highly fortified, but it is even exempt from the dangers of war, hence its name, Jerusalem, which signifies “The vision of peace,” and the first that attempted to disturb that peace was expelled with such violence as to cause the Lord to say, “I saw Satan as lightning falling from heaven.” “Who hath placed peace in thy borders;” who hath established universal peace through the length and breadth of Jerusalem. And further, not only does this city enjoy abundance, but even the most exquisite dainties, as conveyed in the expression, “the fat of corn;” and these without limit, as we can infer from the expression, “who filleth.” All this applies to our heavenly country in the strict sense of the words, for there alone will our inferior be in strict peace with our superior parts, and our superior parts with God; and there, too, will be strict peace between the citizens of all grades, high and low; for there will be one heart, one soul, and as the Lord expresses it, Jn. 7, “Made perfect in one.” There, too, “will all be filled with the fat of corn,” for truth and wisdom being the food of the soul, they will have actual truth as it is in itself, and not in figures or enigmas, and they will taste of the sweetness of the Word Eternal without being enveloped by the sacraments or the Scriptures; they will drink of the fountain of wisdom, instead of applying to the streams that flow from it, or to the “showers falling gently upon the earth.” They will be so filled that they will never again hunger nor thirst for all eternity. In the Church militant also, which, to a certain extent, is the Jerusalem, we have peace with God, though we, at the same time, suffer pressure from the world. We do what we can to keep in peace with all; but we are in the midst of those who hate peace, and, therefore, “Combats without, fears within,” are never wanting, and though we may feed on “the fat of corn,” it is enveloped by too many coverings. We have the Word of God, but in the flesh; and though we eat of the flesh it is covered by the sacrament. We drink of the waters of wisdom, but it is from the shower of the Scriptures, and we are, therefore, never so satiated with those blessings as to make our happiness consist in hungering and thirsting for more. Much less applicable is all this to the earthly Jerusalem, the old synagogue of the Jews, to which it was applicable in a figurative sense only.

4 Who sendeth forth his speech to the earth: his word runneth swiftly.

Having exhorted the holy city to thank God for the favors conferred on itself, he now exhorts it to praise God for the favors conferred on other nations, from which they may learn how much more liberal he has been in their regard. He, therefore, exhorts them to praise that God, “who sendeth forth his speech to the earth,” who issues the precepts and decrees of his providence to the whole world; and “his word runneth quickly;” such precepts and decrees are borne with the greatest expedition to all created beings, penetrate all things, and are put into immediate execution. These words explain the order of divine providence that extends itself to everything, and that with the greatest velocity because God is everywhere, “upholding all things by the word of his power,” Heb. 1; and “reaches from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly,”—Wisdom 8. Hence, David says, in Psalm 119, “All things serve thee.”

5 Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes.
6 He sendeth his crystal like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold?

From God’s universal providence he now takes up one particular effect of it, in which the admirable power and wisdom of God are most conspicuous, and for which he deserves merited praise, even from the citizens above, exempt as they are from such changes. The wonderful effects of God’s power and wisdom, which, however, are most familiar and visible to us all, are to be found in his creation of heat and cold in the air. In certain countries, snow, frost, and ice will so abound, at certain times, that lakes, rivers, and even seas will become so congealed, that wagons, heavily laden, will be carried over them, as they would through so many roads or fields. The ice becomes so hard that bars of iron will hardly break it; and yet, God, when it pleaseth him, by a simple change in the wind, in one instant causes all to melt, and streams of water flow down from the housetops, from the hills, and the mountains. Thus, God, in one moment, converts the extreme cold into a most agreeable warmth. To enter into particulars. “Who giveth snow like wool;” who rains down snow in such abundance, that every flake of it looks like flocks of wool, not only by reason of its whiteness, but also of its size. “Scattereth mists like ashes;” raises mists so dense, that they seem more like a cloud of ashes than of vapor. “He sendeth his crystal like morsels;” who congeals the water when forming it into hail, so as to appear in small crystals like crumbs of bread. “Who shall stand before the face of his cold?” An apostrophe of the prophet in admiration of God’s great power in producing so much cold; as much as to say, who can stand or bear so much cold?

7 He shall send out his word, and shall melt them: his wind shall blow, and the waters shall run.

Having described the extreme cold caused by the snow, frost, and ice, he now shows with what ease and celerity God causes them all to disappear. “He shall send out his word,” his simple command, “and shall melt them,” the snow, frost, and ice, and, at once, the cold disappears; and he explains how simply God effects that, when he adds, “His wind shall blow, and the waters shall run;” at his command the wind shifts to the south, causing the snow and the ice to thaw, and thus converting them into water.

8 Who declareth his word to Jacob: his justices and his judgments to Israel.
9 He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them. Alleluia.

He concludes by showing how differently God, in his providence, deals with his own people, and with other nations, because he instructed other nations, merely by natural causes and effects, so as to know their Creator through the things created by him; but he taught his own people through the prophets. “Who declareth his word to Jacob;” that is to say, Jerusalem praise that Lord, “who declared his word to his people Jacob,” by speaking to them through Moses, and the prophets, and who pointed out “his justices and his judgments to Israel,” through the same Moses, to whom he gave the law, in order to hand it over to his people of Israel, and from it you will be able to understand “that he hath not done in like manner to every nation,” because to you alone, and to none others, “hath he made manifest his judgments,” meaning his laws. All this applies literally to the Jerusalem on earth, to whom God sent his prophets to announce his words, and explain his laws; but it is much more applicable to the spiritual Jerusalem, the Church, that received the incarnate word of God himself, through the preaching of the Apostles, and learned a much more sublime law, judgments and justifications. It is more applicable, again, to the Jerusalem above, to which God openly announces his word; and in his word all its inhabitants behold the judgments of God, the order, disposition, and secrets of his divine providence, that to us are a great abyss.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 118

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2018

PSALM 118
The psalmist praises God for his delivery from evils; puts his whole trust in him, and foretells the coming of Christ

1 Give praise to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

David invites all to praise God, and assigns a reason for their doing so, “for he is good;” nothing more brief, and at the same time more sublime, could be said of him, for God alone can be said to be intrinsically good, and it is such goodness only that deserves to be praised; he adds, “for his mercy endureth forever;” to show that God, even in his actions, is good, and as such, is deserving of praise; for the wretched have no better way of coming at a knowledge of God’s goodness than through his mercy. For it was his mercy that created, redeemed, protects, and will crown us; and, thus, “his mercy endureth forever.”

2 Let Israel now say, that he is good: that his mercy endureth for ever.
3 Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
4 Let them that fear the Lord now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

He tells who he had invited to praise God, namely, the people of Israel first, from whom the Apostles were descended, and who were the first believers in Christ. He names the house of Aaron in the second place, next to the Apostles, “A great multitude of the priests obeyed the faith,” Acts 6; and all the gentiles, finally, who believed and united with the rising Church. He thus invites the whole Church, formed of Jews and gentiles, to praise God.

5 In my trouble I called upon the Lord: and the Lord heard me, and enlarged me.

He now begins to tell what he is going to praise God for, and it is for his having been in trouble, or, as the Hebrew has it, angustiated, or compassed in a narrow place, and that when he prayed to God he was heard at once, and was enlarged. “In my trouble I called upon the Lord;” without boasting of my own merits, or complaining of being unjustly persecuted, I had recourse to God’s mercy; “and the Lord heard me, and enlarged me,” by delivering me from all the dangers that encompassed me. Anyone reading Psalms 17 and 33, will at once see how applicable all this was to David himself; and it is equally so to the Church, because in its infancy, when Herod threw St. Peter, the chief head and pastor of the Church into prison, “and when prayer was made without ceasing by the Church to God for him,” it was heard at once, and by a most wonderful miracle it was enlarged from the depth of tribulation to the fullest extent of peace and consolation; and as often as the same Church was delivered from the persecutions of Nero, Decius, and Diocletian, and such persecutors, it might exclaim with David, “In my trouble I called upon the Lord; and the Lord heard me, and enlarged me.”

6 The Lord is my helper: I will not fear what man can do unto me.
7 The Lord is my helper: and I will look over my enemies.

David, or God’s people, if you will, being taught by experience, exults in great confidence, but does not say, the Lord is my helper, and I shall suffer no more, knowing that while he is a pilgrim here below he will have much to suffer from his daily enemies; but be says, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me.” I will not be troubled in regard of any annoyance I may meet with from man, because the Lord will turn all such things to good, for so he reminded us when he said, “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do;” and again, “A hair from your head shall not perish;” and the Apostle tells us, “For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure, exceedingly, an eternal weight of glory.” He, therefore, justly adds, “and I will look over my enemies;” for their persecutions only tend to increase my glory.

8 It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man.
9 It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes.

He draws a useful admonition from what he has said, on placing all our hope in God, and not in man, however powerful. For God is always both able and willing to help those who put their trust in him; while men are very often unable, or when they are able, being influenced by various passions, are unwilling to offer any help. David knew that by experience, for he confided in Saul his king, at another time in Achis, the Certhean, at another time in Achitophel, his own most prudent minister, besides several others, and they all failed him, but he never confided in God, without feeling the benefit of it. He, therefore, says, strongly advising all, “It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in men.” Such a comparison is just suited to man’s infirmity, as we are well acquainted with the power of man, and especially of princes; while God’s power is hidden to many, who neither see it, nor reflect upon it; perhaps, even disbelieve God’s greatness, otherwise he should have had to say, it is good to hope in the Lord, and evil to hope in man. So Jeremias says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” It is not, however, sinful to put our trust, to a certain extent, in the help of the Angels, or of pious people, because such hope has reference to God, who helps those who trust in him, not only directly through himself; but also indirectly through others.

10 All nations compassed me about; and, in the name of the Lord I have been revenged on them.
11 Surrounding me they compassed me about: and in the name of the Lord I have been revenged on them.
12 They surrounded me like bees, and they burned like fire among thorns: and in the name of the Lord I was revenged on them.

From his own example, he shows the advantage of putting one’s trust in God; for it was not once, but several times, that he was beset by a most powerful enemy on all sides, and was most miraculously so rescued by God, as to behold them all laid prostrate about him. If we refer the passage to David, everyone knows how often he was overpowered by Saul with a numerous army, and most unexpectedly and miraculously rescued; and it is better known how often God’s people have suffered the direst persecutions from powerful kings and innumerable people, and seen God’s vengeance wreaked on the instigators of such persecutions. To show it was no ordinary persecution, he adds, “Surrounding me, they compassed me about,” so as to leave no chance of escape, “They surrounded me like bees,” to show their number and their fury; for bees surrounding a hive can scarcely be numbered; and to show their fury, he says, “They burned like fire among thorns,” that can scarcely be checked or extinguished once it gets a hold of them, and destroys them in a minute.

13 Being pushed I was overturned that I might fall: but the Lord supported me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my praise: and he is become my salvation.

Having hitherto expatiated on the multitude and the atrocity of his enemies, he now acknowledges his own weakness, as being quite unable to compete with them, that God may thus have greater glory in the matter. I was unable to resist such violence; and thus these attacks of the enemy had nigh accomplished my ruin, had not the Lord, coming in at the proper time, “supported me.” This may have reference to the various dangers David had from time to time to encounter; and it may also refer to the spiritual dangers of temptation, to which the early Christians were subject when they suffered so much persecution, under which they would have succumbed, had they not been imbued with the spirit of those verses, “The Lord is my strength and my praise.” “The Lord is my strength;” because it is through him I conquer; “and my praise,” because I am always bound to praise him; “and he is become my salvation;” has been my Savior.

15 The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just.

The just who heard of David’s liberation rejoiced much thereat; but much more so, on the delivery of the early Christians from persecution, was there the voice of rejoicing and the voice of salvation announcing, in the tabernacles of the just, the joyful news of salvation.

16 The right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength: the right hand of the Lord hath exalted me: the right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength.

The voice of rejoicing and salvation that resounded in the tabernacles of the just is that “the right hand of the Lord,” the might and power of the Son of God, “hath wrought strength;” has done its work bravely and powerfully; for the Son of God is called in Scripture the arm, or the right hand of the Lord, because it is through the Son that the Father has done, and still does, everything. “All things were made by him,” Jn. 1; “By whom also he made the world,” Heb. 1; “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Isaias 53; “He hath shown might in his arm,” Lk. 1; “The right hand of The Lord hath exalted me.” Herein hath the right hand of the Lord wrought strength, inasmuch as it exalted me, and lowered my enemies, which is just as applicable to the Church as to David. The repetition of “the right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength,” is for the sake of expressing his joy and gladness.

17 I shall not die, but live: and shall declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord chastising hath chastised me: but he hath not delivered me over to death.

The same David, or, if you will, God’s people, goes on in recording God’s mercy, who permits them to suffer persecution as a father; and not as an enemy, for the purpose, not of destroying, but of purging them. As much as to say, however great the persecutions I have suffered, and am still suffering, “I shall not die but live.” I will not be utterly exterminated, as my enemies desire; but I will hold out, “and shall declare the works of the Lord,” “who chastising, chastised me” with the rod of a father; “but he hath not delivered me to death.”

19 Open ye to me the gates of justice: I will go in to them, and give praise to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter into it.

The favors he received having inspired him with the courage of aiming at higher ones, he demands an introduction to the heavenly Jerusalem, where no sinners are to be found. “Open ye to me the gates of justice,” the gates of the kingdom of heaven which is all justice, for justice is the gate of glory: “Seek (says our Lord) just the kingdom of God and his justice.”—“I will go into them, and give praise to the Lord,” because, according to Psalm 83, “They that dwell in thy house, O Lord, shall praise thee forever and ever.”—“This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter into it.” This gate of justice is the true gate, the only gate that leads to the Lord, and, therefore, it is only the just shall enter by it.

21 I will give glory to thee because thou hast heard me: and art become my salvation.

He now explains the expression, “I will go into them and give praise to the Lord,” for he says, “I will give glory to thee,” when I shall have entered the heavenly Jerusalem, through the gates of justices, “because thou hast heard me;” for though the just ask for many and various things in this world, they all tend to one petition, of which Psalm 26, says, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Concerning this petition, then, he says, “I will give glory to thee because thou hast heard me,” which be explains more fully when he adds, “and art become my salvation;” you that were my hope have become my salvation; you who fed me on the way are now my reward in heaven.

22 The stone which the builders rejected; the same is become the head of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.

Christ having repeatedly quoted this passage in reference to himself, St. Peter having done the same, in which he has been followed by St. Paul, there can be no doubt of its applying solely and exclusively to Christ. David, then, having sung of his own delivery, and of the delivery of God’s people from their temporal calamities, and having asked for his own and their admission to eternal happiness, explains now how God opened the way to it; and, undoubtedly, hurried away by an increased light of prophecy, exclaims, “The stone which the builders rejected the same is become the head of the corner;” that is to say, God sent a living, precious, chosen stone on earth, but the Jews, who then had the building of the Church, rejected that stones and said of it, “This man, who observeth not the sabbath is not of God;” and “We have no king but Caesar;” and, “That seducer said, I will rise after three days;” and many similar things beside. But this stone, so rejected by the builders as unfit for raising the spiritual edifice, “Is become the head of the corner;” has been made by God, the principal architect, the bond to connect the two walls and keep them together, that is to say, has been made the head of the whole Church, composed of Jews and Gentiles; and such a head, that whoever is not under him cannot be saved; and whoever is built under him, the living stone, will certainly be saved. Now all this “is the Lord’s doing,” done by his election and design, without any intervention on the part of man, and, therefore, it is wonderful in our eyes.” For who is there that must not look upon it as a wonderful thing, to find a man crucified, dead and buried, rising, after three days, from the dead, immortal, with unbounded power, and declared Prince of men and Angels, and a way opened through him for mortal man, to the kingdom of heaven, to the society of the Angels, to a happy immortality?

24 This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein.

“This day” on which such a thing was accomplished, is really the day “which the Lord hath made.” and, therefore, for such a favor “let us be glad and rejoice therein.” The day of the resurrection, beyond doubt, for, though from his very conception, the Lord Jesus was the Christ, and the head of the Church, hence we find the Angel saying to the shepherds—“I bring you tidings of great joy, for this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord, in the city of David;” still, it was necessary for him, first, to be rejected by men, to be humbled, even to the death of the cross; then to be exalted, through his resurrection, then to be declared the chief corner stone, and to have it preached through all nations, “that there was salvation in none other;” hence, he said, “All power is given me in heaven, and on earth, go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The day of the resurrection is called “the day which the Lord hath made,” either because Christ, by his resurrection, as a Sun of Justice, made that day in a new manner, or because he specially consecrated that day to his service, or because he set it aside, “that we may be glad and rejoice therein.”

25 O Lord, save me: O Lord, give good success.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord. We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

These are the very praises that the crowd saluted our Savior with on the day of the palms, with the exception of their making use of the word “Hosanna,” instead of, “O Lord, save me,” as we have it here. Thus, the Lord on that day wished to make a visible exhibition of, and to anticipate the invisible triumph he was about to enjoy on the day of his resurrection. Nor could it be fairly objected to him that he was enjoying a triumph before he obtained the victory, because he was most certain of the victory, and the Prophet, as well as he, foresaw and foretold that Christ would be rejected as the corner stone at the time of his passion, and that he would be afterwards exalted in his resurrection, so as to become the head of the corner, so he also foresaw and foretold the very words the crowd would make use of on the day of Christ’s triumph, the day of the palms by which the triumph of the resurrection was signified, and turns to account the fact of both having occurred on the same day, namely, the Lord’s day. He, therefore, says, “Let us be glad, and rejoice on this day,” saying, “O Lord, save me, O Lord, give good success” in the commencement of your reign. “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord;” may the Messias, our King, now become the head of the corner, be blessed by all, “that cometh in the name of the Lord,” that does not come of himself, an usurper like Antichrist, but comes, having been sent by his Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, as Christ himself explains, in Jn. 5. “We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.” Having explained the whole prophecy regarding the coming of Christ and his triumph, the Prophet now addresses the people, and exhorts them to celebrate a solemn festival in thanksgiving, “We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.” We, prophets, have blessed you, a faithful people, by announcing to you those divine mysteries that lead to your salvation.

27 The Lord is God, and he hath shone upon us. Appoint a solemn day, with shady boughs, even to the horn of the altar.

This is, as it were, a summary of all, as much as to say, our Lord is the true God, and he hath shone upon us by showing us the light of his mercies. Therefore, appoint a solemn shady day, by bringing in lots of green branches to ornament the temple to the very horn of the altar. That is variously interpreted, according to the ceremonies of the Jews, that do not concern us at present.

28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, and I will exalt thee. I will praise thee, because thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
29 O praise ye the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

These verses are only a repetition of the preceding, in order to express the vehement affections of the prophet.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

TITLE
A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.
Chaldee Targum: A Praise and Song which the first man spake for the Sabbath Day.

ARGUEMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ hath caused the conquerors to flourish as though with the gift of the heavenly palm. The Voice of the Church. The Voice of the Church to God concerning her enemies. The Doctrine of Confession, and concerning the glory of the righteous in the world to come.

Ven. Bede. A Psalm denotes spiritual works, which tend upwards towards the Lord; in these all ought always to sing, that is, give thanks to the Lord our Helper. The Sabbath Day is interpreted Rest, whereby we are warned to cease from every evil deed, and likewise to hope with most sure devotion for the rest to come. Arnobius saith thus: On the Sabbath Day the Lord’s enemies perish, that on the Sunday the Lord’s friends may be glad; for on the Sabbath Day the Lord lieth dead in the grave, and on the Sunday is worshipped living among the Angels. In this matter His thoughts are very deep, which an unwise man doth not well consider. At the first outset, the Church speaks, declaring that it is a good thing to utter praises to the Lord; which it asserts to be a thing whereof the unwise and ungodly are ignorant. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. In the second part she asserts that sinners will perish quickly like the grass. When the ungodly are green, &c. Thirdly; she saith that the righteous flourish like a palm-tree, and spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus; to the end that fear may correct the obstinate, and the blessed promise sustain the devout. The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree.

Syriac Psalter. Anonymous; Concerning the ministry of the Priests, and their Morning Sacrifices. It also foretells rest in the Lord.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Concerning that rest which is according unto God.

COMMENTARY

1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord: and to sing praises unto thy Name, O most Highest;

A good thing for these reasons: (Bellarmine) because it is just, and due from us to God our King; it is useful, as being one of those works which are profitable to the soul; it is delightful, for it is pleasant for one that loves, to praise the object of his affection; it is ennobling, giving man a share in the office of the heavenly spirits. (Cassiodorus) The LXX. and Vulgate, according to their wont, put the term confess instead of give thanks, and the commentators note that such confession, to be adequate, (Euthymius Zigabenus) must be two-fold; acknowledgment of our own weakness and guilt, as the first step, on the one hand, and of God’s might and holiness on the other, after we have fitted ourselves, by this preliminary cleansing of the heart, to celebrate His praises. Unto Thy Name. (Honorius): They tell us that this title especially applies to Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, by Whom God is fully revealed to us, so that we know Him, while the name Lord denotes the Holy Spirit, and Most Highest the Father Himself. The word here translated sing is by LXX. and Vulgate rendered play (ψάλλειν, psallere), (Cassiodorus) and is mystically explained as the activity of devotion in good works, whereby the notes of our souls, as of a psaltery when struck, ascend to the ears of God. And we may fitly apply here the old Leonine saw as to the recitation of the Divine office:

Rite canis horas, si Biblia evolvis et oras,
Tuneque placent horæ, cum corde canuntur et ore.

Thou singest the Hours aright, if in Scripture and prayer thou delight,
The Hours are accepted when sung by the heart in accord with the tongue.

2 To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy truth in the night-season.

There is a singular Rabbinical legend that this Psalm was the song of praise uttered by Adam as the first Sabbath dawned upon the world (Genebrardus), and that it descended by tradition as the special hymn for that day (Talmud). More consonant with actual history is the fact that it was sung in the Temple on the Sabbath at the offering of the first lamb in the morning (Kiddushim) when the wine was poured out (Num 28:4, 7), and continues still in use as a Sabbatical psalm in the rites of the Synagogue, and that the Roman Church, amongst other tokens of the powerful Jewish influence which affected its earliest days, retains it as part of the Saturday Lauds in the Breviary. Further, there is a distinct reference in this second verse to the morning and evening sacrifice (Rabbi Shelomo); while more than one Rabbi is careful to point out that the happy Sabbath of which the Psalmist sings is not one of the present time (Rabbi Ataia), but belongs to the future revelation of Messiah in His glory (Cardinal Hugo). Observe, then, how fitly it succeeds Psalm 91, wherein we hear of the victory over temptation, (Remegius of St Germainus) now followed by restful peace of mind, figured by the Lord’s repose in the grave when He, as at the beginning of creation, rested from all His work that He had done; and figuring in its turn the Sabbath of eternity (Augustine). And as the clear morning denotes the sunshine of prosperity, we thank God, while it lasts, for His mercy and bountifulness towards us. But we do not on that account charge Him with harshness and cruelty when the night-season of adversity arrives; rather we praise His truth, that is, the justice with which He weighs our faults and metes out His fatherly chastisements. And as the night always precedes the morning (Pseudo-Jerome) so it is not till we have been tried by suffering and darkened by sin and trouble, that we thoroughly realize and can fittingly praise the mercy of God in that glad morning when the Sun of Righteousness begins to arise in our hearts. We tell of His truth in the night-season, because our eyes are unable to bear the dazzling glory of His full revelation, for it is written, “He made darkness His secret place” (Ps 18:11). Therefore the Law was given amidst clouds and darkness on Mount Sinai, therefore the Prophets spake in enigmas, therefore too the Lord Himself hid the mysteries of His kingdom in parables, therefore we too, here in the night-time of the world, “see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12); then, in the morning of the everlasting Sabbath, when all secrets shall be revealed:

For when the Sole-Begotten
Shall render up once more
The kingdom to the Father,
Whose own it was before,—
Then glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
An endless Sabbath Day.

3 Upon an instrument of ten strings (decachord), and upon the lute: upon a loud instrument, and upon the harp.

There is some variation of opinion as to whether we have two, three, or four musical instruments named in this verse. The first is the view taken by the Syriac and Arabic versions, which make the lute to be the decachord, and the harp the mere accompaniment to a song. The second view is that of the Chaldee, LXX., Vulgate, and A. V.; as well as of most modern critics, who are divided as to the precise mode of rendering the second clause, some taking it to be “a song to the harp,” and others, “a loud (or a solemn) strain upon the harp” itself. The third opinion, which makes the word Higgaion, here occurring, that of a separate musical instrument, is supported by Aben-Ezra, and does, no doubt, preserve more fully the balance of parallelism in the two strophes of the verse. As to the mystical meaning of the decachord, it is only necessary to add a little to what has been already said under Psalm 33:2, namely, that one ancient Father (St Clement of Alexandria) tells us that it means the Lord Jesus Himself, seemingly because the initial letter of that holy Name stands for the number ten both in Hebrew and Greek, (Lorinus) while, as the Latin X marks the Cross, and is also the Egyptian sign of life to come, it may well denote Him too. Nay more, our modern way of writing it, with the figure 1 followed by a cipher, itself nothing, tells of the One sole sufficient godhead united by the Incarnation to the nothingness of man. Again, the decachord’s ten strings denote the ten precepts of the moral law; by compliance with which our lives make music to God (St Bruno the Carthusian), while they take the song and harp (Vulg.) to be the cheerful acceptance of bodily mortification, and the readiness of almsgiving. And that because, as was noted before, a mystical distinction is always drawn between the psaltery, whose strings are struck from above, and which is therefore taken to denote divine contemplation, and the harp, played from below, and therefore typical of humility, (Augustine) and the active service of the body. And S. Augustine here observes: Our business here is not merely to carry the psaltery but to sing to it. Even the Jews have the Law; they carry it, but they do not play upon it. Who then do play? They who put it into action. That is not enough. They who act with dejection are not yet playing. Who are they that play? They who do well with cheerfulness. For there is cheerfulness in playing. And what saith the Apostle? “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). And the same Apostle, in counting up the afflictions of mind and body which habitually befell himself in the course of his ministry (1 Cor 4:11-13), puts another decachord of suffering into our hands, wherewith we, by striking its strings boldly and cheerfully (St Clement of Alexandria), can make melody well-pleasing to the Lord. For, as one has well said, God speaks to man, saying, Thou art My harp, and flute, and temple; a harp, by reason of harmony; a flute, because of breath; a temple, because of the Word. (Note: the decachord of suffering mentioned in reference to 1 Cor 4:11-13 is a reference to the ten (deca) types of affliction mentioned there).

4 For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.
5 O Lord, how glorious are thy works: thy thoughts are very deep!

These verses appear to have suggested the Rabbinical legend already cited; that this was Adam’s morning hymn on the day after his creation (St Robert Bellarmine). And we may observe that the phrase in the first verse does not run, Thy works have made me glad, for if there be no more than that, then the beauties and marvels of creation are snares to draw us from the thought of God. But here it runs Thou hast made me glad, and that through Thy works as an instrument to declare Thy love and power. And thus John Milton, in Paradise Lost, in the hymn he puts into Adam’s mouth in Eden writes:

These are Thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty, Thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; Thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, Who sittest above these heavens,
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these Thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.

And that because, as the Apostle says, “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead” (Rom 1:20). Wherefore S. Basil the Great aptly calls creation the “school and lecture-room of souls.” But there are some marvels which lessen by experience and knowledge, and therefore the Psalmist adds here that such is not the case with God’s works, because their wonderful character, in greatest and least alike, and the whole mystery of creation is very deep, lying far below the longest plummet with which man would fain sound the abysses. But if the creation of nature be wonderful, far exceeding it in beauty and marvels is the creation of grace; and they tell us truly that the way God made us most glad through the work of His hands was when He stretched forth those hands upon the Cross, there to work out our redemption, when His thoughts were very deep, looking forward to the whole constitution and history of His Church, and the coming of the nations into the fold.

6 An unwise man doth not well consider this: and a fool doth not understand it.

They give several explanations of the distinction between the two classes of persons here named (St Bruno the Carthusian), some telling us that the first denotes unbelievers, who know nothing of the wisdom of God, and the second evil Christians, who, knowing the outer facts of His truth, are unable to comprehend them by reason of perversity. Others see, not dissimilarly, the man who is incurious of heavenly things (Cardinal Hugo), and him who is eager about earthly matters. Or again, the Jew who rejects, and the Gentile who has never learnt the Gospel. Once more, it is explained to denote the man endowed with worldly wisdom, but who is destitute of spiritual knowledge (Haymo) and the man who has neither wisdom of this world nor of the next. But the most satisfactory account seems to be that by the first are meant simply those who are deficient in understanding, and dull in observation (Pieter Titelman), as a mere mental deficiency; and by the second those who have blunted all their powers by perversity and wickedness. And we may draw one lesson from this verse, that the so-called “sacrifice of intellect” is not an oblation well-pleasing to God, for it stunts our faculty of admiration for His glory, and folds in a napkin of specious purity of intention the talent He gives us to put out at interest for Him. Wherefore Lactantius says very well: “Religion cannot be separated from Wisdom, nor Wisdom from Religion, for it is one and the same God Who ought to be understood, which is Wisdom, and honoured, which is Religion.

7 When the ungodly are green as the grass., and when all the workers of wickedness do flourish: then shall they he destroyed for ever; 8 but thou, Lord, art the most Highest for evermore.
9 (8) For lo, thine enemies, O Lord, lo, thine enemies shall perish: and all the workers of wickedness shall he destroyed.

This is one of the deep thoughts of God which are not considered nor understood by the unwise and foolish (Agellius, Michael Ayguan), namely, that there is no Sabbath rest of mind or of future happiness awaiting the wicked. It is the consolation given to the servants of God, that their enemies, who are His enemies too, will fade and disappear in the very moment of their apparent strength and triumph; while He, Who is His people’s stay, is untouched by any change, is not as the grass of the field, lying low or rank, but Most Highest, (Cassiodorus) is not one that can perish, but is for evermore. And thus, though His enemies counted Him a mere man, who could be slain, and His memory blotted out, yet His very death itself was the overthrow of both His ghostly and human foes. They give several explanations of the repetition of the words Thine enemies; (Dionysius the Carthusian) for the most part taking it as denoting some special emphasis, either as increasing the terror of the threat (St Bruno the Carthusian), or fixing the certainty of retribution; (Remigius of St Germainus) but others prefer to see a reference to the great variety of sinners (Cardinal Hugo), and one will have it that two classes of offenders are here distinguished, those who break the positive law, specially enjoined by God, and those who transgress the natural law, familiar even to heathens. Shall be destroyed. Rather, with LXX., Vulgate, and A. V., scattered. And so the Chaldee takes it, shall be separated from the congregation of the righteous; a meaning which most of the Christian expositors transfer to the division between the sheep and goats at the Day of Judgment (Haymo, St Bruno the Carthusian). There is, however, a gentler reading of the verses, which deserves citation. The sinners, observes a Greek Father (Dorotheus Abbas), who spring up like the grass, are impure thoughts, for grass is a weak and frail thing, possessing no vigour. When the evil thoughts arise in the mind, then all the workers of wickedness appear (LXX.) which mean actual sins, that they may perish for ever. For when sins appear before warriors and athletes, they are at once slain by them. Note then the order of the language; first evil thoughts spring up; then sins appear, thereupon all of them perish. All this has to do with athletes. We, who carry sin into action, and always fulfil our vices, are unable to know when bad thoughts spring up, or when sins appear, but we are still in Lower Egypt, making bricks under Pharaoh.

10 (9) But mine horn shall be exalted like the horn of an unicorn: for I am anointed with fresh oil.

Whether Christ be here the speaker, or one of His members, the horn is the same, that mighty horn of salvation raised up in the House of David, the Lord strong in His own power, or His disciple strong in His co-operation. He is a horn (Lorinus), for springing from flesh, He hath nothing of the passions of flesh, but grows out beyond the carnal nature from which He derives Himself, (Euthymius Zigabenas), and rises up on high, in strength and honour, a terror to all His foes, specially in the Judgment. He is anointed, with fresh oil, not with that old traditional oil of the decrepit Mosaic dispensation, wherewith the Aaronic Priesthood was set apart, wherewith in former days kings and prophets had been consecrated. His unction was fresh, a new thing in creation, the direct anointing of the Holy Ghost Himself, of which that elder rite was but a faint symbol, fresh, as knowing no corruption, as ever new and young, though eternal before and after all worlds; a new anointing which He sent on the Apostles in the fiery tongues of Pentecost. (Augustine) Of an unicorn (see note below). Those who take this whole speech to be that of the Church (Cassiodorus), see here in the unicorn the type of Catholic unity (St Basil, Theodoret, Jansenius, Gandolph) or as the Greek Fathers take it, the worship of One God; while a third view is that the singleness of future glory, in which no foreign elements can mingle, is denoted (Remigius of St Germainus); and a fourth sees here those who rejoice in the one hope of reaching that one glory.

Note: Of an unicorn. This rendering follows the LXX. μονοκέρως. But there is nothing to suggest the idea of one horn in the Hebrew רְאֵים, which is probably the now extinct Aurochs, urus, or wild bull.

In the latter strophe of the verse, the LXX. and Vulgate read, (Augustine) And my old age in rich mercy And this they take of the old age of the Church, (Cassiodorus) in the late evening of the world, when her beauty will be as snowy as the hair of an aged man: or again, of the future life itself (St Bruno the Carthusian), an old age in the sense of its late arrival and its tranquillity, although in itself a perpetual youth; or yet again, the gravity and calmness of life and demeanour to be observed in Saints, even in their early years, all which are blessed with the rich mercy of God. And the Carmelite, citing Aristotle, (Michael Ayguan) urges that there are five good qualities of old men which make them apt types of the Church in the time of wisdom, as of individual Saints also; namely, that their passions have cooled, they have more pity for suffering than the young, they are not given to such strong assertion of doubtful matters, and they are discreet and temperate in action.

11 (10) Mine eye also shall see his lust of mine enemies: and mine ear shall hear his desire of the wicked that rise up against me.

They take it in a threefold sense (Parez), first, of the victory of the Church, by no physical act of her own, over the Jews and the Pagans who oppressed her in the earliest days of Christianity; next, (Dionysius the Carthusian) of the inner eye of the soul beholding the victory of faith over temptation; and lastly, of the final overthrow of sinners in the Judgment.

12 (11) The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree: and shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.

Here is the forcible contrast to the lowly and fading grass of a previous verse, taken from the stateliest and most valuable trees of Palestine. There are many reasons given for the comparison of a Saint to a palm-tree, which have no lack of aptness. The palm grows in a barren soil, as the Saint in this world’s desert, and yet needs constant moisture, as he needs the fountains of the Word. It grows to a great height, and perfectly straight, denoting aspiration to heavenly things and uprightness of life; it grows as long as it lives, is an evergreen, and always fruitful, denoting spiritual improvement and continuous vitality of holiness; its leaves spread out above as high as possible from the ground, and its fruit is amongst those leaves, denoting loftiness of aim and action; it is slender and without bark, denoting the absence of all grossness of habit, or superfluity of possessions; it has wonderful elasticity of fibre, rising up from under heavy weights, a type of that buoyancy of confidence in God which makes His Saints cheerfully cast off troubles, and every part of it is good for some purpose, showing that in a holy life no faculty, talent, or opportunity is suffered to go to waste; and in its symbolical use, both amongst Jews and Pagans, because it never bends before the storm, it is the emblem of victory. The cedar, again, in its mountainous abode, in its vast spreading bulk and majesty, in its deep roots, its sweet perfume, its incorruptible wood, and its great longevity, serves as a type of other endowments of the Saints. They are cedars of Libanus, the “white” mountain, because washed clean from their sins in the waters of Baptism (Cardinal Hugo, Balthazar Corderius), and the precious Blood of Christ, and they also denote the Gentile Martyrs, because Lebanon was outside the actual limits of the Holy Land.

13 (12) Such as are planted in the house of the Lord: shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

As the cedar and palm both played their part in Solomon’s temple (Pseudo-Jerome) the one in actual timbers and beams, the other carved everywhere as an ornament; so the Saints of God, likened to these trees, can flourish only when planted within His Church, not merely inside its visible limits, but rooted in its doctrine. St Robert Bellarmine: They have been transplanted thither out of Jewish unbelief, out of Gentile idolatry, out of worldly carelessness, by the agency of God’s servants, for it is written, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God giveth the increase” (1 Cor 3:6). Only there, and only so, can they flourish, for it is written, “Every plant which My Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up (Mt 13:15, Cardinal Hugo). We may take this house and courts of the Lord to be either the Church Militant (St Albert the Great), especially in the Religious Life, or the Church Triumphant after the Resurrection, in both of which the righteous flourish, though in different fashion. And one who prefers the former interpretation remarks that the courts are in front of the house (Hugo of St Victor), and outside it, and that they denote in this place renunciation of secular things, so that he who gives up the world, plants his palm in the courts of God’s house. It is curious to find it said that they who are planted in the house shall flourish in the courts; (Michael Ayguan), but it is well answered that the righteous are planted by their inner faith in heaven itself, while the outward token of that holy rooting in love is visible in the Church below by their good works and devout conversation, or, as another tells us, (Dionysius the Carthusian) their own hearts are those outer courts of God’s house which are blooming with the trees and flowers of His inner dwelling (Roman Breviary) This verse is in use as a . and . in the Breviary Office for Martyrs.

14 (13) They also shall bring forth more fruit in their age: and shall be fat and well-liking.

Here reference is made to that distinguishing property of the palm-tree, already mentioned, that it never ceases to bear fruit, however old it may be, till its actual death, nay, that its produce is more abundant in its latter years; while the cedar, though not a fruit-bearing tree, continues to spread in bulk and foliage to a vast age (Agellius), thus signifying the undying vitality and productiveness of the Church Universal and of the holy soul to the end of their earthly time (Dionysius the Carthusian). And so the Wise Man, after telling us how “the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting,” adds that “honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that which is measured by number of years; but wisdom is the grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age” (Wis 4:3, 8; St Bruno of Aste). The Vulgate reading in the latter clause is, They shall be right patient; that is, not merely holding out sternly against suffering, as criminals often do when being punished, but with that patience which is born of love and faith (Michael Ayguan), the endurance of the Martyrs; right patient, because while they preach of heavenly things they bear adversity bravely and cheerfully (Pope St Gregory the Great), that by such endurance they may obtain yet more blessings for their souls. And this notion brings us back to the well-liking, for Tertullian says of patience, that it is “beautiful in every sex and every age.”

15 (14) That they may show how true the Lord my strength is: and that there is no unrighteousness in him.

That is (Honorius), that here in all troubles, and especially when the persecution of Antichrist falls upon the Church, they may continue steadfastly to profess their unshaken faith in the justice and promises of God, their belief that He causes them to suffer only that patience may bring forth her perfect work, and increase the glory of that crown which He, the righteous Judge, our firm Rock, hath promised to bestow upon them, when He brings them into the Sabbath which remaineth for the people of God (St Bruno the Carthusian, Euthymius Zigabenus. See Heb 4:9).

Wherefore: Glory be to the Father, the Most Highest; glory be to the Son, the Lord our Rock; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the fresh Anointing of the Lord. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Saturday: Lauds.

Monastic. Friday: Lauds. [Comm. of One Martyr: II. Nocturn.]

Ambrosian. Thursday of Second Week: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Monday: Lauds.

Lyons. Saturday: Lauds.

Quignon. Thursday: Terce.

Eastern Church. Mesorion of Prime.

ANTIPHONS

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.

Monastic. [Comm. of One Martyr: The righteous shall flourish as a palm-tree, and spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.]

COLLECTS

Ludolphus of Saxony: O God, the eternal rejoicing of the Saints, Who makest the righteous, strengthened with divers gifts of good things, to flourish unfadingly in the palm-bearing courts; we beseech Thee, that putting away the weight of our sins, Thou mayest vouchsafe to bestow upon us fellowship with them. (Note: If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen).

Mozabaric Liturgy: It is a good thing for us to give thanks unto Thee, O Lord: and to sing unto Thy most high Name; that our confession may deliver us from peril, and our zeal in singing make us more acceptable in Thy sight. (Note: The Mozarabic ending is—at the conclusion of the prayer, without any other termination: Amen. Through Thy mercy, O our God, Who art blessed, and livest and governest all things, to ages of ages. Amen.)

Mozabaric Liturgy for the Memorial of St Juliian: Thy Saints, O Lord, flourish as a palm-tree in Thy sight, and stand planted and rooted in Thy holy courts, who, when set in the conflict of martyrdom, won from their torture the palm of victory, and for death everlasting glory in Thine house. We therefore beseech Thee, O glorious God, that for their great merits Thou mayest grant us pardon for the wickedness of our sins. (see previous note)

Pseudo-Jerome: We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may fulfil in deed that which we have heard, and turn our words into works, that we who are planted here in Thy house may flourish in the court of Christ. (Note: If the prayer be addressed to God the Son: Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Dionysius the Carthusian: Plant us in Thine house, O Lord, with virtues, and make us as good seed bear fruit in all loveliness of religion, that growing up like a palm-tree in the flower of righteousness, and perfected therein by Thee, we may flourish in joy in Thy sight for evermore. (Note: If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen.)

 

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