The Divine Lamp

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

Archive for the ‘NOTES ON THE PSALMS’ Category

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 121

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 20, 2016


Arg. Thomas. That Christ, unsleeping, may overshadow and guard Jerusalem. The Voice of the Church to the Apostles. The Voice of the Church concerning the Prophets or the peoples to Christ.

Ven. Bede. At the first step the Prophet, set in trouble, after the example of that publican who beat his breast and dared not lift up his eyes to heaven, besought that he might be delivered from unrighteous lips and a deceitful tongue. But now, taking breath on the second step, he lifted up his eyes unto the hills; that is, to the interceding Saints, by whose prayers he hoped to attain heavenly gifts. The Prophet speaks thus in his own person, being nevertheless himself a mountain and a wondrous patriarch, but for that very reason he has narrated how he successfully climbed up by these steps, to show us in clear recital the kinds of heavenly virtues of which we are ignorant.

The Prophet, as we have said, ascending to the heavenly Jerusalem, in the first clause saith that he hath lifted up his eyes to the merits of the Saints, that he might be helped by their prayers; lest his soul should give way to the attack of the enemy. I have lifted up mine eyes. In the second place he undoubtingly promises himself what he knows he has fittingly asked for; teaching us that what good things soever we ask for with a steady heart, we are to believe without doubt will be given to us. The Lord is my keeper, &c.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. The Return from Babylon and from the dispersion.

Syriac Psalter. Anonymous. One of the songs of the going-up from Babylon, and promises of good things.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm of thanksgiving.


1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills: from whence cometh my help.

2 My help cometh even from the Lord: who hath made heaven and earth.

This Psalm, as already noted, is a song for the march of the caravan of pilgrims to Jerusalem, as they lift their eyes from the plains of Babylon to the mountain-ranges which gird their native land. The meaning of the two verses is best brought out by reading the latter clause of the first verse as an interrogation;* and the force will then be, I will make the needful effort to reach my home, I will survey the mountains which are interposed between it and me, looking round for aid, and will breast and climb them from the valley below, be they never so high and steep, till I find a pass, and reach the other side. But the task is a hard one, Whence shall come my help to fulfil it? And then the second verse supplies the answer. The mountains thus denote the kingdoms and mighty ones of this world, attempting to bar the way of the Church, or of the individual Saint, but doomed to be made low in order to prepare the way of the Lord.* And so it is written, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”* Or the mountains may be looked at not in the light of obstacles,* but refer to the hills about Jerusalem itself, including Zion and Moriah;* and the verses will then allude indirectly to the Temple, out of which, on its mountain site, the help of God will come to the aid of His servant.* And in this second sense the mystical import will be given us by the words of the Apostle, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God,”* and by the words of the Priest in the beginning of the Canon in the Liturgy, “Lift up your hearts,” whereupon we answer, in the spirit of the Psalmist, “We lift them up unto the Lord.” S. Hilary takes the mountains in two senses: (H.) of the books of prophecy, or, as a later writer will have it, the two Testaments, with their lofty and difficult secrets, admirably fitted to raise the soul from earth, and likened to rich veins of precious metal, for which men toil eagerly; and of the holy angels,* as subjects for thought and imitation in their purity and obedience; (Cd.) but adds that not even from these, as mere ministers of another’s will, does our help come, but from the Lord Himself. S. Augustine, (A.) on the other hand, takes the mountains as the Apostles, and explains that help did come from them, on whom the light of heaven shone first, to those in the valleys below them, by their preaching of the Gospel, itself sent directly from God to them, that God who made those Apostolic heavens themselves,* whence the refreshing rains of doctrine came down upon the parched and sterile earth of the Gentile world below, not less the work of His hands. The far inferior sense of confidence in the intercession of the Saints,* as the secondary sources of our help, given by Venerable Bede, (G.) is followed by several of the mediæval commentators;* though Richard of Hampole is careful to add, after saying that the Psalmist lifts up his eyes to contemplate that glory of the Saints which he yearns to share, “But it is not from these mountains that my help shall come, since my hope is not to be placed in them, for my help is from the Lord,* the Mountain of mountains Himself, from Whom alone comes the light which shines on those lofty summits, (A.) dark without Him, the True Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world,”* Who hath made heaven to be the reward of His valiant soldiers,* and earth to be the lists for their combat.

3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.

4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel: shall neither slumber nor sleep.

As the foot is that member of the body which carries it about to the scenes of its actions, (H.) so its spiritual signification is the motions and advances of the mind. (A.) And pride was the motion which moved Satan from heaven and man from Paradise. God keeps the feet of His Saints safe from this, but gives them the motion of love, that instead of falling they may walk, (Ay.) advance, and go up in the right way. He kept the feet of His Apostles, that no toils or terrors might daunt them from preaching His Gospel in all lands. He that keepeth thee will not sleep. As in the previous clause there is probably a reference to God’s guidance of the pilgrim in the right road to Jerusalem, so here is the night-watch around the sleeping caravan.* God does not slumber, as one fatigued, nor sleep, as needing, like man, nightly rest and refreshment of the frame. Spiritually, they tell us that God sleeps in the heart of His servants when their faith grows cold and languid,* and that we have here the promise of the Holy Spirit that no such calamity shall come upon the steadfast pilgrim. (G.) And in the next clause we have the Godhead and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus shadowed out. He, the true Keeper of Israel, did indeed sleep in the grave, but He did not remain sleeping, but arose again, waking in the morn of the Resurrection, so that “death hath no more dominion over Him.”* And not only so, but even when the Manhood slept in that brief slumber, the ever-wakeful Godhead kept watch over Israel still. There is thus a peculiar fitness in the embodiment of the idea of this verse in the Compline Hymn of the Western Church at Eastertide:

Jesu, Redeemer of the earth,*

Eternal Word of God most High,

Light which from Light Unseen hast birth,

Our Keeper of unsleeping eye:

Thou Who the universe hast made,

Who rulest change of time and tide,

Our toil-worn, weary bodies aid,

And peaceful rest by night provide.

That whilst in earthly forms below

A little time our stay we mate,

Our flesh may take its slumber so

That unto Christ the soul may wake.

“It is necessary,”* observes S. Bernard, “that He who keepeth Israel should neither slumber nor sleep, for he who assails Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. And as the One is anxious about us, so is the other to slay and destroy us, and his one care is that he who has once been turned aside may never come back.”* There is a stress, they remind us, on Israel, (D. C.) to whom alone this unceasing ward is given, teaching us that it is he who sees God, and wrestles with Him in prayer, who may surely look for His protection. “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and on the Israel of God.”*

5 The Lord himself is thy keeper: the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;

6 So that the sun shall not burn thee by day: neither the moon by night.

The force and beauty of the connection between these two verses is obscured by the rendering defence,* which ought to be shade, and the mention of the right hand points to the geographical sense of that term in the Old Testament, where it denotes the south, the quarter from which the burning rays of the midday sun pour their heat and glare. The full force of these words can only be known by those who hare had to make forced marches across a bare Syrian plain in the midst of the summer heats. Some, however, separate the two clauses, and treat them independently, The Lord is thy shade, and the Lord is at thy right hand as a defence, but the continued reference to the sun and moon disposes of this view, since sun-stroke, with its frequent result of death, and moon-stroke, often credited in the East with causing ophthalmia and madness, keep before the mind the thought of the need of shelter, and do not bring in any other idea. God’s standing at the right hand, to the apparent exclusion of the left, (H.) is variously explained of His strengthening our power of action, and therefore of resistance in spiritual combat against the enemies of our soul, or to His gift of things eternal, denoted by the right hand, (A.) while the left holds only the temporal bounties of this life. Of the next clause S. Hilary remarks that it is impossible to take it literally, (H.) because so long as our bodies continue what they are, and the laws of nature remain unchangeable as we see them, the sun and moon will produce their usual effects upon us; and that we must therefore look forward to the blessedness of that heavenly country, wherein there will be no bodily infirmity, no cold or heat, no night and change, but perpetual mildness under the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, typified of old by the pillar of fire and cloud which tempered severally the heat of day and the darkness of night. S. Augustine, more boldly, tells us that the Sun is Christ’s Godhead, the moon, the Church, deriving all its light from Him, and waxing and waning here, while the night is that Flesh of Christ wherein the Sun is hid, and wherein the Moon shines, because faith in the Incarnation is the very life and sphere of the Church; so that the verse is a promise to the faithful that they shall not be offended either in Christ or in the Church; in Christ by making difficulties, as heretics do, in accepting the true doctrine of His Person; or in the Church, as schismatics do, by refusing to acknowledge her unity or obey her precepts. Several commentators, however,* prefer to understand the moon in the night as Christ’s bodily presence in the world, and explain these words therefore of doubt as to His being Very Man;* while others again follow the more obvious allegory of protection amidst the prosperity and adversity of mortal life.

7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: yea, it is even he that shall keep thy soul.

It is no promise, comments S. Hilary, (H.) of warding off the common evils of the body, want, weakness, death, since were that so, we should not read of Abel’s slaughter, of Job’s sufferings, of Peter’s lack of silver and gold for alms. But these are no real evils, and it is the faithful soul which the Lord will keep, that the moth of the evil one may not corrupt it, the thief not creep upon it, the wolf not tear it, the bear not rage against it, the leopard not spring upon it, the tiger not fly at it, the lion not destroy it. For all these are instruments of the evil one, all these are works of his in this life, to eat the soul away with sin, to creep upon it with flattery, to tear it with allurements, to spring upon it with ambition, to fly upon it with lusts, to destroy it with all his power. It is against evils such as these that we are to look for defence from God. (A.) Thus it was that again and again He kept the souls of His martyrs safe, while suffering their bodies to be the prey of the torturer. And God’s ways of keeping are fourfold;* as a watchman, seeing that no enemy approaches the city which He guards; as a defender, standing with shield and sword in the battle at the right hand of His warriors; as a porter, opening the gate of mercy to every one that knocks; as a physician, tending and binding up the wounds of a sufferer.

8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in: from this time forth for evermore.

God keeps the going out of His Saints from sin, or from bondage, in an enemy’s country, as He kept Abraham in his quitting the heathen land of Haran, (H.) and Abraham’s distant posterity in their exodus from Egypt, and also keeps their coming in to the Land of Promise. And therefore the words may be most truly taken of His protection of the soul in its hour of departure from the prison of this world, and in its happy entrance into the Paradise of rest. “Therefore,” prays the Western Church over her dying children,* “as thy soul goeth forth from the body, let the bright host of angels meet thee; let the Apostles who shall judge the world come unto thee; let the conquering army of white-robed martyrs welcome thee; let the lily-crowned band of shining Confessors compass thee; let the choir of rejoicing Virgins greet thee; let the Patriarchs receive thee to rest happily in their bosom; let Christ Jesus look upon thee in gentleness and joy, and set thee for ever amongst them who stand before Him.” Yet another sense of going out and coming in, very frequent in Scripture,* is the march of a hostile expedition into an enemy’s country,* and the safe return of the army home; so that the meaning in that case will be God’s aid in enabling us to overcome temptations boldly, and to avoid the faults of pride or dangerous security after the victory and the quiet which follows it. (G.)

The Vulgate inverts the order of the words,* putting coming in first and going out last, and this has occasioned some difference in the mode of interpretation. (A.) Coming in, they tell us, is entering into battle in the Church Militant, going out, returning from it into the Church Triumphant, and God keeps our coming in when He takes care that we are not exposed to a temptation too powerful for us to overcome, (for it is written, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,”*) and our going out by granting us perseverance and means of escape, for “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation make a way to escape, (ἔκβασιν, exitum,) that ye may be able to bear it.”* He kept the coming in of His martyrs when they were brought for His sake before kings and governors,* giving them boldness and speech which their enemies could not gainsay or resist;* He kept their going out when they were led to their death,* and continued in the confession of the faith to the very end. He keeps the first beginnings of our yet weak faith when we are entering in to a knowledge of Him, and preserves it to the close, that at our going out of the world we may die as true subjects of His,* in the confession of His Name. (G.) And the words have also a special meaning for those who take upon them any office in the Church, and hearken to that saying of the Lord, “I am the door; by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”* Entering in to thy closet, and shutting the door, in prayer thou wilt find pasture, the affection and influence of prayer itself, when thy Father which heareth in secret will give thee unspeakable consolations for thine unspeakable groans; and then going out for the discharge of any ministry, whether thou teachest with doctrine,* or rulest with diligence, or showest mercy with cheerfulness, or givest with simplicity, thou wilt find pasture in such goings out, namely, such effects of thy ministry, that men seeing thee will glorify the Father in Heaven, the glorifying of whose Name, not praise for thyself, nor human favour, nor any desire of gain or honour, is the true food of thy soul.


Glory be to the Father, Who made heaven and earth; Glory be to the Son,* Who is the shade upon our right hand; Glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who shall keep our soul.

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


Gregorian. Monday: Vespers. [Prayer on Mount of Olives: II. Noct. Office of Dead: Vespers. Little Office B.V.M.: Terce.]

Monastic. Week-days: Terce.

Ambrosian. Monday: Vespers.

Parisian. Monday: Vespers. [Maundy Thursday: Vespers.]

Lyons. Monday: Vespers.

Quignon. Tuesday: Sext.


Gregorian. Whence shall come * my help? [Prayer on Mount of Olives: It came to pass in those days that Jesus went up into a mountain to pray, and was all night in prayer to God. Office of Dead: The Lord shall keep thee from all evil * yea it is even the Lord that shall keep thy soul.]

Monastic. As Psalm 120.

Ambrosian. Thy right hand shall help us, O Lord.

Parisian. I have lifted up mine eyes unto the hills * my help is from the Lord. [Maundy Thursday: He was offered, because He willed it, and He will bear the sin of many.]




My help is from the Lord * Who hath made heaven and earth.


O Lord God, (Lu.) Keeper of Israel, Who neither slumberest nor sleepest, keep Thy people, and that we be not burned by day, defend us from the scandals of this world. (1.)

Unwearied Keeper of Israel, (D. C.) God, Who neither slumberest nor sleepest, be, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our constant protection, keeping us from all evil, and ordering the coming in of our faith and the going out of our life for evermore. (1.)

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 111

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 13, 2016

1. The days have come for us to sing Allelujah.2 … Now these days come only to pass away, and pass away to come, again, and typify the day which does not come and pass away, because it is neither preceded by yesterday to cause it to come, nor pressed upon by the morrow to cause it to pass.… For as these days succeed in regular season, with a joyful cheerfulness, the past days of Lent, whereby the misery of this life before the Resurrection of the Lord’s body is signified; so that day which after the Resurrection shall be given to the full body of the Lord, that is, to the holy Church, when all the troubles and sorrows of this life have been shut out, shall succeed with perpetual bliss. But this life demandeth from us self-restraint, that although groaning and weighed down with our toil and struggles, and desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven,3 we may refrain from secular pleasures: and this is signified by the number of forty, which was the period of the fasts of Moses, and Elias,4 and our Lord Himself.… But by the number fifty after our Lord’s resurrection, during which season we sing Allelujah, not the term and passing away of a certain season is signified, but that blessed eternity; because the denary5 added to forty signifieth the reward paid to the faithful who toil in this life, which our Father hath prepared an equal share of for the first and for the last. Let us therefore hear the heart of the people of God full of divine praises. He representeth in this Psalm some one exulting in happy joyfulness, he prefigureth the people whose hearts are overflowing with the love of God, that is, the body of Christ, freed from all evil.

2. “I will make confession unto Thee, O Lord,” he saith, “with my whole heart” (ver. 1). Confession is not always confession of sins, but the praise of God is poured forth in the devotion of confession. The former mourneth, the latter rejoiceth: the former showeth the wound to the physician, the latter giveth thanks for health. The latter confession signifieth some one, not merely freed from every evil, but even separate from all the ill-disposed. And for this reason let us consider the place where he confesseth unto the Lord with all his heart. “In the counsel,” he saith, “of the upright, and in the congregation:” I suppose, of those who shall “sit upon the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”6 For there will be no longer an unjust man among them, the thefts of no Judas are allowed, no Simon Magus is baptized, wishing to buy the Spirit, whilst he designeth to sell it;7 no coppersmith like Alexander doth many evil deeds,8 no man covered with sheep’s clothing creepeth in with feigned fraternity; such as those among whom the Church must now groan, and such as she must then shut out, when all the righteous shall be gathered together.

“These are the great works of the Lord, sought out unto all His wills” (ver. 2): through which mercy forsaketh none who confesseth, no man’s wickedness is unpunished.9 … Let man choose for himself what he listeth: the works of the Lord are not so constituted, that the creature, having free discretion allowed him, should transcend the will of the Creator, even though he act contrary to His will. God willeth not that thou shouldest sin; for He forbiddeth it: yet if thou hast sinned, imagine not that the man hath done what he willed, and that hath happened to God which He willed not. For as He would that man would not sin, so would He spare the sinner, that he may return and live; He so willeth finally to punish him who persisteth in his sin, that the rebellious cannot escape the power of justice. Thus whatever choice thou hast made, the Almighty will not be at a loss to fulfil His will concerning thee.

3. “Confession and glorious deeds are His work” (ver. 3). What is a more glorious deed than to justify the ungodly? But perhaps the work of man preventeth that glorious work of God, so that when he hath confessed his sins, he deserveth to be justified.… This is the glorious work of the Lord: for he loveth most, to whom most is forgiven.10 This is the glorious work of the Lord: for “where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound.”11 But perhaps a man would deserve justification from works. “Not,” saith he, “of works, lest any man boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works”12 For a man worketh not righteousness save he be justified: but by “believing on Him that justifieth the ungodly,”13 he beginneth with faith; that good may not by preceding show what he hath deserved, but by following what he hath received.…

4. “He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered” (ver. 4): by abasing this man, exalting that. Reserving unusual miracles for a fit season, that thus human weakness, intent upon novelty, may remember them, although His daily miracles be greater. He created so many trees throughout the whole earth, and no one wondereth: He dried up one with a word, and the hearts of mortals were thunderstruck.14 For that miracle, which hath not through its frequency become common, will cling most firmly to the heart. But of what use were the miracles, save that He might be feared? What too would fear profit, unless “the gracious and merciful Lord” gave “meat unto them that fear Him”? (ver. 5). meat that doth not spoil, “bread that cometh down from heaven,”1 which He gave to no deservings of ours. For “Christ died for the ungodly.”2 No one then would give such food, save a gracious and merciful Lord. But if He gave so much to this life, if the sinner who was to be justified received the Word made flesh; what shall he receive when glorified in a future world? For, “He shall ever be mindful of His covenant.” Nor hath He who hath given a pledge, given the whole.

5. “He shall show His people the power of His works” (ver. 6). Let not the holy Israelites, who have left all their possessions and have followed Him, be saddened; let them not be sorrowful and say, “Who then can be saved?” For “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” For “with men these things are impossible, but with God all things are possible.”3 “That He may give them the heritage of the heathen.” For they went to the heathen, and enjoined the rich of this world “not to be high-minded, nor to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God,”4 to whom that is easy which is difficult for men. For thus many were called, thus the heritage of the heathen has been occupied, thus it hath happened, that even many who have not abandoned all their possessions in this life in order to follow Him, have despised even life itself for the sake of confessing His Name; and like camels humbling themselves to bear the burden of troubles, have entered as it were through a needle’s eye, through the piercing straits of suffering. He hath wrought these effects, unto whom all things are possible.

6. “The works of His hands are verity and judgment” (ver. 7). Let verity be held by those who are judged here. Martyrs are here sentenced, and brought to the judgment-seat, that they may judge not only those by whom they have been judged, but even give judgment on angels,5 against whom was their struggle here, even when they seemed to be judged by men. Let not tribulation, distress, famine, nakedness, the sword, separate from Christ. For “all His commandments are true;”6 He deceiveth not, He giveth us what He promised. Yet we should not expect here what He promised; we should not hope for it: but “they stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and equity” (ver. 8). It is equitable and just that we should labour here and repose there; since “He sent redemption unto His people” (ver. 9). But from what are they redeemed, save from the captivity of this pilgrimage? Let not therefore rest be sought, save in the heavenly country. God indeed gave the carnal Israelites an earthly Jerusalem, “which is in bondage with her children:” but this is the Old Covenant, pertaining unto the old man. But they who there understood the figure, even then were heirs of the New Covenant; for “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our everlasting mother in heaven.”7 But that transitory promises were given in that Old Testament is proved by the fact itself: however, “He hath commended His covenant for ever.” But what, but the New? Whosoever dost wish to be heir of this, deceive not thyself, and think not of a land flowing with milk and honey, nor of pleasant farms, nor of gardens abounding in fruits and shade: desire not how to gain anything of this sort, such as the eye of covetousness is wont to lust for. For since “covetousness is the root of all evils,”8 it must be cut off, that it may be consumed here; not be put off, that it may be satisfied there. First escape punishments, avoid hell; before thou longest for a God who promiseth, beware of one who threateneth. For “holy and reverend is His Name.

7. … “The fear of the Lord,” therefore, “is the beginning of wisdom.” “Understanding is good” (ver. 10). Who gainsayeth? But to understand, and not to do, is dangerous. It is “good,” therefore, “to those that do there after.” Nor let it lift up the mind unto pride; for, “the praise of Him,” the fear of whom is the beginning of wisdom, “endureth for ever:” and this will be the reward, this the end, this the everlasting station and abode. There are found the true commandments, made fast for ever and ever; here is the very heritage of the New Covenant commanded for ever. “One thing,” he saith, “I have desired of the Lord, which I will require: even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”9 For, “blessed are they that dwell in the house” of the Lord: “they will be alway praising”10 Him; for “His praise endureth for ever.”

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Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 119:66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 7, 2016

Ps 119:66. “O learn me sweetness, and understanding, and knowledge,” he saith, “for I have believed Thy commandments” (ver. 66). He prayeth these things may be increased and perfected. For they who said, “Lord, increase our faith,”6 had faith. And as long as we live in this world, these are the words of those who are making progress. But he addeth, “understanding,” or, as most copies read, “discipline.” Now the word discipline, for which the Greeks use παιδεία, is employed in Scripture, where instruction through tribulation is to be understood: according to the words, “Whom the Lord loveth He disciplineth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”7 In the literature of the Church this is usually called discipline. For this word, παιδεία,8 is used in the Greek in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the Latin translator saith, “No discipline for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous,” etc.9 He therefore toward whom the Lord dealeth in sweetness, that is, he in whom He mercifully inspires delight in that which is good, ought to pray instantly, that this gift may be so increased unto him, that he may not only despise all other delights in comparison with it, but also that he may endure any amount of sufferings for its sake. Thus is discipline healthfully added to sweetness. This discipline ought not to be desired, and prayed for, for a small measure of grace and goodness, that is, holy love; but for so great, as may not be extinguished by the weight of the chastening: … so much in fact as to enable him to endure with the utmost patience the discipline. In the third place is mentioned knowledge; since, if knowledge in its greatness outstrips the increase of love, it doth not edify, but “puffeth up.”1 …

But in that he saith, not, Give unto me; but, “O learn me;” how is the sweetness taught, if it be not given? Since many know what doth not delight them, and find no sweetness in things of which they have knowledge. For sweetness cannot be learnt, unless it please. Also discipline, which signifieth the tribulation which chasteneth, is learnt by receiving; that is, not by hearing, or reading, or thinking, but by feeling.…

He addeth, “for I have believed Thy commandments,” and herein we may justly enquire, why he said not, I obeyed, rather than, I believed. For commandments are one thing, promises another. We undertake to obey commandments, that we may deserve to receive promises. We therefore believe promises, obey commandments.… Teach me therefore sweetness by inspiring charity, teach me discipline by giving patience, teach me knowledge by enlightening my understanding: “for I have believed Thy commandments.” I have believed that Thou who art God, and who givest unto man whence Thou mayest cause him to do what Thou commandest, hast commanded these things.

Ps 119:71. “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me: that I might learn Thy righteousnesses” (ver. 71). He hath said something kindred to this above. For by the fruit itself he showeth that it was a good thing for him to be humbled; but in the former passage he hath stated the cause also, in that he had felt beforehand that humiliation which resulted from his punishment, when he went wrong. But in these words, “Wherefore have I kept Thy word:” and again in these, “That I might learn Thy righteousnesses:” he seemeth to me to have signified, that to know these is the same thing as to keep them, to keep them the same thing as to know them. For Christ knew what He reproved; and yet He reproved sin, though it is said of Him that “He knew not sin.”5 He knew therefore by a kind of knowledge, and again He knew not by a kind of ignorance. Thus also many learn the righteousnesses of God, and learn them not. For they know them in a certain way; and again do not know them from a kind of ignorance, since they do them not. In this sense the Psalmist therefore is to be understood to have said, That I might learn Thy righteousnesses,” meaning that kind of knowledge whereby they are performed.

But that this is not gained, save through love, wherein he who doeth them hath delight, on which account it is said, “In Thy sweetness teach me Thy righteousnesses:”

Ps 119:75. “I know,” she saith, “O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in Thy truth Thou hast humbled me” (ver. 75). “O let Thy merciful kindness be my comfort, according to Thy word unto Thy servant” (ver. 76). Mercy and truth are so spoken of in the Divine Word, that, while they are found in many passages, especially in the Psalms, it is also so read in one place, “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.”11 And here indeed he hath placed truth first, whereby we are humbled unto death, by the judgment of Him whose judgments are righteousness: next mercy, whereby we are renewed unto life, by the promise of Him whose blessing is His grace. For this reason he saith, “according to Thy Word unto Thy servant:” that is, according to that which Thou hast promised unto Thy servant. Whether therefore it be regeneration whereby we are here adopted among the sons of God, or faith and hope and charity, which three are built up in us, although they come from the mercy of God; nevertheless, in this stormy and troublesome life they are the consolations of the miserable, not the joys of the blessed.

Ps 119:91. “Day continueth according to Thy ordinance” (ver. 91). For all these things are day: “and this is the day which the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it:”4 and “let us walk honestly as in the day.”5 “For all things serve Thee.” He said all things of some: “all” which belong to this day “serve Thee.” For the ungodly of whom it is said, “I have compared thy mother unto the night,”6 do not serve Thee.

Ps 119:125. “I am Thy servant. O grant me understanding, that I may know Thy testimonies” (ver. 125). This petition must never be intermitted. For it sufficeth not to have received understanding, and to have learnt the testimonies of God, unless it be evermore received, and evermore in a manner quaffed from the fountain of eternal light. For the testimonies of God are the better and the better known, the more understanding a man attaineth to.

Ps 119:130. “When thy word goeth forth,” he saith, “it giveth light, and maketh His little ones to understand” (ver. 130). What is the little one save the humble and weak? Be not proud therefore, presume not in thine own strength, which is nought; and thou wilt understand why a good law was given by a good God, though it cannot give life. For it was given for this end, that it might make thee a little one instead of great, that it might show that thou hadst not strength to do the law of thine own power: and that thus, wanting aid and destitute, thou mightiest fly unto grace, saying, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak.”2 … Let all be little ones, and let all the world be guilty before Thee: because “by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified” in Thy sight; “for by the Law is the knowledge of sin,” etc.3 These are Thy wonderful testimonies, which the soul of this little one hath searched; and hath therefore found, because he became humbled and a little one. For who doth Thy commandments as they ought to be done, that is, by “faith which worketh through love,”4 save love itself be shed abroad in his heart through the Holy Spirit?5

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 36

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 18, 2016


THE psalmist contrasts with the scheming of the godless against the just, the ever protecting mercy and goodness of God. However astute is the planning of the wicked, it is futile when set against the grace and mercy of God.

The psalm seems at first sight, to consist of two quite distinct poems the first (2-5) describing the doings of the godless, and the second (6-10), hymning the praise of God’s graciousness, which are held together artificially by a redactional passage (11-13). But the psalm is really a unit composition, the distinctness of whose sections is due to the vigour of the contrast drawn between the godless and the pious. The poem is not a dirge dealing with the sufferings of the just, but a song of triumph and of thanksgiving inspired, by the sense of God’s presence and protection.

Occasion and date are here also unknown.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 69

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 2, 2016


A = St. Augustine.

Ay = Michael Ayguan.

B = St. Bruno of Aste.

C = Cassiodorus.

Cd = Balthazar Corderius.

D. C. = St. Dionysius the Carthusian.

G = Gerhohus.

H = St. Hilary.

L = Lorinus.

Lu = Ludolphus.

P = Parez.

R = Remigius of St. Germanus.

Z = Euthymius Zigabenus.


To the Chief Musician upon Shoshannim, a Psalm of David. LXX. and Vulgate: To the end, for them who shall be changed, a Psalm of David. Chaldee Targum: For praise; of the Captivity of the Sanhedrim, by the hands of David. Or, To the Supreme, for the Lilies, a Psalm of David.


Arg. Thomas. That Christ was given bitter gall and sharp vinegar to drink for our salvation. The Voice of Christ at the time of the Passion. This Psalm is to be read at the reading of the Prophet Jonah, and at the Gospel of S. John. The Voice of Christ to the Father, when He was suffering. Of the Passion of Christ, and the rejection of the Jews. A prayer for the Church.

Ven. Bede. To the end, every one knows, refers to Christ, “Who, by the very testimony of the Gospel, is about in this Psalm to narrate His Passion, by which believers shall he changed, putting off the old man, and putting on the new.

Throughout the Psalm Christ speaks in the form of a servant. In the first section He intreats that He may be saved by the Father, seeing that He is hated by the Jews without a cause. Save Me, O God, &c. In the second lie asks, on behalf of His members, that the hope of the faithful trusting in His Resurrection be not baulked, saying that He hath patiently borne whatever the ungodly laid on Him. God, Thou knowest My simpleness, &c. In the third place, He intreats that His prayer may be heard, so that His spotless conversation may be delivered from the mire of this world, saying that the Lord knoweth by what snares of the enemies He is beset, that He may arrive at the issue of His Passion, having overcome the peril. But, Lord, I make My prayer unto Thee. In the fourth place, through the power of His foreknowledge, He declares things to come, which may happen to His enemies. Let their table be made a snare to lake themselves withal, &c. Fifthly, in the form of a servant He calls Himself poor, whence He says that He will give thanks to His Father’s mercy, encouraging the faithful to trust in the Lord, Who hath delivered His Church from the adversity of this world, and hath provided therein for the eternal happiness of His Saints. When I am poor and in heaviness, Thy help, O God, shall lift Me up.

Syriac Psalter. Of David. Literally, when Sheba son of Bichri sounded with a trumpet, and the people refrained from going after David. And it is said to be a prophecy of Christ’s sufferings, and the reprobation of the Jews.

Eusebius Of Cæsarea. The sufferings of Christ, and the rejection of the Jews.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm in address alone.


1 Save me, O God: for the waters are come in, even unto my soul.

2 I stick fast in the deep mire, where no ground is: I am come into deep waters, so that the floods run over me.

This Psalm, observes Cassiodorus, is the fourth of those which speak at length of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. (C.) And the fact of its being thrice cited in the New Testament in this sense, (A.) by the Apostles Peter, John, and Paul, does not permit us to doubt that its primary intention was Messianic prophecy. Save Me, O God. When Christ utters these words to His Father, (D. C.) He does not pray, as we must, to be delivered from sin, but from the sufferings of body and soul endured in His Passion. The waters are come in. And they may come in three ways: (P.) as a river torrent swollen with rains, as in a deep and muddy pool,* or as in a storm at sea. The first will denote the Jewish people, lashed into sudden fury by the secret instigations of the priests; the second the still, deadly hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees; the third, the fierce wrath of kings and rulers. Applied to the servants instead of to the Master, these waters denote temptations and persecutions threatening the very life of the Church, or of single members thereof. Even unto my soul. Of the Church, (L.) as when a ship has sprung a leak, or been filled by waves, and is sinking; of a man, when the waters have risen to his lips, and threaten suffocation. I stick fast in the deep mire. Yes; for if He had not taken upon Him the nature of man, a creature of clay, (G.) He would have been free from danger and pain; but because He had stuck fast therein, joining His Godhead for ever to it, therefore He endured suffering. And He came into the mire in another sense when, laid in the tomb, (D. C.) He gave His Body to the earth. Where no ground is. The Vulgate has it, where there is no substance. And they take it variously. It may be the poverty of Christ in His human life, when He stripped Himself of His glory; or it tells us of His death, (A.) when His soul was parted for a time from the substance of His Body; or, (G.) again, it may refer to the utter exhaustion of His wounded Form as He hung dying on the Cross. Spoken in the person of sinners, (D. C.) the deep mire most fitly denotes the slough of carnal sin into which men sink ever deeper by mere continuance, without any fresh volition on their own part, (Cd.) where there is no ground, no certain point of stoppage, and no real or lasting pleasure. I am come into deep waters. Like Jonah, (A.) He suffered Himself to be cast into the sea, for the salvation of those in His ship, and after three days came forth again, after the floods ran over Him. And He says deep waters, (D. C.) as contrasting with the height from which He descended into them, when He came down from heaven; nay, denoting that He penetrated down to hell itself. (Ay.) This peril of deep waters, wisely observes the Carthusian, (D. C.) may well be that of high rank and office, so that the storm and noise of worldly cares and duties, overwhelm peace of mind, clearness of devotion, and guard over the heart. And when the ship of any human soul is in peril through the waves and storm, if Christ be there, the terrified mariner has but to call on Him; if He be not there, then let the waters be baled out with holy fear and confession of sin,* lightened with almsgiving, and steadied with the anchor of hope, till He come to save. (L.)

3 I am weary of crying; my throat is dry: my sight faileth me for waiting so long upon my God.

Or, (G.) with the LXX. and Vulgate, I have toiled in crying. Not only in the Seven Words from the Cross, but in the long and thankless labour of preaching the kingdom of heaven to a gainsaying people; (Cd.) and in the prayer of His Agony, whereof the Apostle says, “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.”* My throat is dry. We nowhere read that this prophecy was literally fulfilled, though the Carthusian says that it must have been, from the toil, (D. C.) pain, and loss of blood which Christ endured, drying up the natural moisture of His Body; but we may well take it with S. Augustine, and those who follow him, (A.) that as the voice of one that is hoarse is scarcely audible or intelligible, so the Voice of Christ was unheard and misunderstood by the Jews. (Ay.) Ayguan, comparing that passage of the Apocalypse wherein it is said that a mighty angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth.”* explains this crying as that of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and dwells at length on the ideas prevalent in his day touching the king of beasts, to find lessons of Christ in them. My sight faileth Me for waiting so long upon My God. The Vulgate: While I hope in My God. That is, as we may best take it, (L.) My bodily powers are weakened by the near approach of death, while my soul remains steadfast in its trust.

How fast His hands and feet are nailed,*

His blesséd tongue with thirst is tied,

His failing eyes are blind with blood,

Jesus, our Love, is crucified!

The LXX. reading, followed in some Latin Psalters, is, from hoping in My God. (A.) And this, observes S. Augustine, cannot be spoken by the Head of Himself, but in the person of His members only, of those Apostles whose faith and courage failed. So too the Body toils in crying when lamenting its own sins, (D. C.) when eagerly preaching the Gospel to others, when calling on God for pardon, for grace, for illumination, for amendment. And the Church becomes hoarse when her preaching, like her Lord’s, is unheeded, or when she is exhausted by toil or suffering; or again, when God tires her, by remaining long without giving an answer to her prayers.

4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head: they that are mine enemies, and would destroy me guiltless, are mighty.

Which teaches that the enemies of the Saints are ever more numerous than the Saints themselves, (Ay.) who are, as it were, the hairs adorning the great Head of the Church, Who, like Samson,* placed His strength therein, and like Absalom, His beauty. And when these hairs were plucked out and shorn away by the martyrdoms of countless athletes, then the mocking Jews and heathen said, as the children to Elisha, “Go up, thou bald head,”* and were speedily punished for their sin. Of the latter clause in the verse S. Augustine observes that it is the very voice of martyrs, (A.) not in the punishment, but in the cause; for the mere suffering of persecution or death is not in itself praiseworthy, but to endure such things for a good cause. Christ’s enemies were mighty, (D. C.) for there were united against Him the religious influence wielded by the chief priests, and the civil power in the hands of Herod and Pilate. Mighty, too, are the enemies of the Church,—heathen emperors and persecutors in time past; unbelievers, heretics, schismatics, and false brethren in the present. Mighty are the enemies of our souls; “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”*

5 I paid them the things that I never took: God, thou knowest my simpleness, and my faults are not hid from thee.

Or, with the Vulgate, that I never robbed. For He paid the penalty of sin by His Death upon the Cross, (A.) being Himself without sin. And yet more, whereas the devil’s power is the produce of robbery, and Adam’s knowledge of good and evil came from robbery too, the power and wisdom of Christ are His own by Divine right, for “all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth;”* so that He, “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”* And He shares His glory with His members, as it is written, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.”* My simpleness. Rather, with the LXX., Vulgate, and A. V., My foolishness. It is the Eternal Wisdom Who speaks. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”* What was so much like foolishness as, when He had it in His power with one word to lay low the persecutors, (A.) to suffer Himself to be held, scourged, spit upon, buffeted, to be crowned with thorns, to be nailed to the Tree? It is like foolishness, but this foolish thing excelleth all wise men. And it is true of every Saint who has given up all for Christ, of whom the wicked shall one day exclaim, “This was he whom we had some time in derision, and a proverb of reproach: we fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour: how is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the Saints!”* But the words also are true of sinners, (D. C.) who are wise in their own conceits, with that wisdom which is foolishness with God, disobeying His commandments, serving the vices of the body, neglecting the salvation of their souls. My faults are not hid from Thee. It is the Most Holy Who speaks. (R.) He speaks as He was judged by man: “This Man is not of God, because He keepeth not the Sabbath day;”* “We know that this Man is a sinner;” and again, “Who is this which speaketh blasphemies?”* It is spoken of Saints also, who do not attempt to hide their sins from God, (Ay.) but confess them openly with hearty repentance and humility. Of sinners, moreover, because their refusal to confess and amend cannot shelter them from the all-seeing eyes of God.

6 Let not them that trust in thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my cause: let not those that seek thee be confounded through me, O Lord God of Israel.

Herein Christ prays against that which was the great peril of weak souls in the first days of the Church,* the offence of the Cross, the scorn heaped upon those who worshipped the Crucified; to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness. The Vulgate, however, reads, them that wait for Thee. (Ay.) And they take it of the Fathers waiting in Hades till Christ should come to set them free, on whose behalf He prays that He may rise again from death, that they may not be disappointed of their hope. And as in the first part of the verse He intreats that His people may not fail from weakness within, so, in the latter clause, (G.) His petition is that they may not be overcome by revilings and persecutions from without, but that, when they look for Him with prayer and holiness, it may be said to them as to the women at the sepulchre, “Fear not, for I know that ye seek Jesus.”*

7 And why? for thy sake have I suffered reproof: shame hath covered my face.

For Thy sake. Where note, that all Christ’s words and works were to the end of increasing the honour of His Father in the hearts of men; (Ay.) wherefore He reproved sin, preached holiness, and worked miracles, that they might believe His sayings. And He indeed suffered reproof, for they said of Him, “Behold a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber,”* and “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.”* Shame covered His Face when He was buffeted, and blindfolded, and spit upon, and at last dragged to the most ignominious of deaths. (G.) And this is the cry of the Bride also. For His sake the Martyrs contended to the death; for His sake the Confessors bore not only spoiling of their goods, chains, and torture, but what was harder, the reproach of worshipping with foul and sanguinary orgies, rather than reveal to the mockery of the heathen the mystery of the Holy Eucharist; for His sake the Virgins bore to be dragged to dens of infamy, to stand, stripped of their garments, a mark for the insulting and cruel stare of eighty thousand spectators.

8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren: even an alien unto my mother’s children.

It was bitterly true when the chief of His brethren, (B.) the Prince of His Apostles, “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this Man of whom ye speak,”* It was true also on the way to Emmaus, when the eyes of His two disciples were holden, and Cleopas said, “Art Thou only a stranger in Jerusalem?”* An alien unto My mother’s children.* As Joseph’s brethren sold him into Egypt, and knew him not when he became ruler of the land, (G.) so the children of the Synagogue rejected Christ, giving Him over to the Gentiles, and confessed Him not when He became Head of the Church gathered from the heathen. And the Jews did not even admit His Hebrew descent. They said to Him, “Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan?”* They said of Him, “As for this fellow, we know not from whence He is.”* More literally still, we read, “Neither did His brethren believe in Him.”*

9 For the zeal of thine house hath even eaten me: and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee are fallen upon me.

We have the comment of the Apostles themselves on the first part of this verse; for we read, that when Jesus drove the sellers of oxen, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers out of the temple with a scourge of small cords, then “His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.”* And therefore it was that He became an alien to His Mother’s children, (Ay) because they would not endure His severity, but rejected Him for interfering with their gains, as did also the Gergesenes, when He suffered the devils to destroy their swine.* The latter clause has also an inspired gloss, for S. Paul says, “For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.”* And that, (A.) because whoso knoweth Christ knoweth the Father also; (G.) because whoso insults an ambassador, dishonours also the King from whom he comes: a King, moreover, Who hath said, “They will reverence My Son.”* There is another sense in which it may be truly said that Christ is eaten up with zeal for His Father’s House. (L.) For in His great love for the Church He desires to edify it in all ways, and especially by giving Himself in the Holy Eucharist to be the Food of believers, so that He is therein eaten up. (D. C.) The whole verse may well be applied, as by the Carthusian, to those who have been raised up at different times as reformers of abuses in the Church, and especially in the Religious Life, and who, like S. Gregory VII.,—and in far later days S. Teresa, and the not less holy Mère Angelique of Port Royal,—have been subjected to all manner of hostility and slander in consequence.

10 I wept, and chastened myself with fasting: and that was turned to my reproof.

The LXX. (in some copies) and Vulgate here read, I covered my soul with fasting.* David did so, observes a Saint, that he might clothe it with true abundance; for in this wise we learn that such fasting, as is abstinence from sin, is a garment of the soul.* Gluttony, observes another, makes men naked; fastings clothe even the stripped, and that is a good covering which shelters the soul from the tempter. (L.) Where note, that it is not spoken of mere bodily or external abstinence, for that does not cover the soul. Our Blessed Lord covered His soul with fasting, (Ay.) when His continual abstinence of forty days caused the devil to doubt if He were Very Man Who could so endure.* And He covered His Godhead from men, by abstaining from putting out His strength to punish His enemies, (B.) and that for the purpose of giving an example of patience. And He had a yet sorer fast than either of these,—His unappeased hunger and thirst for the salvation of sinners, (R.) whom He yet found to reject His offers, and even to deliver Him over to death. And His fasting was turned to His reproof when it encouraged the devil, (D. C.) seeing Him so destitute of all succour, to tempt Him to vain confidence and idolatry; and when His human enemies cried out, “He saved others, let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the Chosen of God.”*

11 I put on sackcloth also: and they jested upon me.

That sackcloth was the form of a servant, (A.) the Manhood of poverty and suffering, which men scorned and derided. And as sackcloth is the garb of mourning, (C.) it tells also of His sorrows Who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus.* Beda, following the Vulgate reading, haircloth, observes that goats, (Ay.) of whose hair such texture is made, (P.) are the symbol of guilt; and that Christ, by taking sinners close to His side, (D. C.) and joining them in one body, does, as it were, clothe Himself with them. And many recount a legend that the seamless coat was of haircloth, and the customary garb of Christ.* Agellius declares that it was customary to wrap a piece of coarse sackcloth round the loins of those about to be crucified, that they might be fastened more securely, and that this passage is thus a prophecy of the last stage of the Passion. They jested upon Me. LXX. and Vulgate, I became a parable unto them; or better, as A. V., a proverb. Whereupon some take occasion to point out, that as the Lord taught chiefly by parables, (C.) so He may be said to have been Himself a parable to His disciples. But the plainer sense, an object of ridicule, is more generally followed.

12 They that sit in the gate speak against me: and the drunkards make songs upon me.

The sitters in the gate, according to primeval Eastern usage, are the elders and rulers of the city, (G.) and here, as all the commentators agree, it is used of the chief priests. The drunkards are variously explained. Some apply it to those Jews who, having just been quaffing the Paschal wine-cups on the night of Maundy Thursday, hastened from their feast to the house of Annas, to join in reviling Christ. Again, it is said by another, following literally the Vulgate, they who drank the wine, (Ay.) to refer to a brutal jest of the soldiers employed at the Crucifixion, swallowing themselves the spiced wine prepared for the sufferers to deaden their sense of pain, and substituting vinegar in its stead. The prophecy was true in another sense at a later day, when not only was the Arian heresy encouraged by the chiefs of the State, but the ribald songs of the heresiarch’s own Thalia, directed against the Consubstantial, were trolled in the wine-shops of Alexandria.

13a (13) But, Lord, I make my prayer unto thee: in an acceptable time.

13b (14) Hear me, O God, in the multitude of thy mercy: even in the truth of thy salvation.

That acceptable time was when the good seed which had fallen into the ground, and was lying buried, (A.) should spring up again in the new life of the Resurrection. (G.) Or it may be taken of Christ’s prayer in His Passion, because in that Passion were three things well pleasing to God: first, the absolution of sinners, in Christ’s Blood, (Ay) for “to depart from wickedness is a thing pleasing unto the Lord;”* secondly, union and love between neighbours, also brought about by the Cross, for “in three things was I beautified—the unity of brethren, the love of neighbours, a man and his wife that agree together;”* thirdly, the faith of the devout, which He in His Passion prayed might not fail; for “faith and meekness are His delight.”* And the Carthusian will not limit it even thus, but declares that the acceptable time, (D. C.) the day of salvation, was the whole period of Christ’s sojourn upon earth. In the multitude of Thy mercy, (Ay.) whereby Thou hast sent Me into the world to save it, hear Me in the promised truth of Thy salvation, that My Atonement may redeem mankind, and My Resurrection justify all believers, and the sayings of the prophets thus be fulfilled.

14 (15) Take me out of the mire, that I sink not: O let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

Out of the mire. That is, (G.) deliver Me from the ungodly and treacherous Jews, from the sorrows and cares of My weary life, from the corruptibility of My human Body, (D. C.) from the depth of the grave. Out of the deep waters, from the troubles and persecutions which encompass Me. When the sinner utters these same words, his prayer is to be delivered from carnal sin and worldly greed within his own soul, and from outward troubles and sufferings which may shake his faith. He saith this, because of the infirmity of His members. “Whenever thou art seized by one that urgeth thee to iniquity, (A.) thou art in body fixed in the deep clay; but so long as thou consentest not, thou hast not stuck.

15 (16) Let not the water-flood drown me, neither let the deep swallow me up: and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

He had said already in the beginning of the Psalm that the floods run over Him. (A.) It hath drowned after the flesh, let it not drown after the spirit. And it is thus throughout a prayer for the Resurrection. Let not the water-flood drown Me, but rather be a wall to Me on each side as I pass over Jordan with the staff of My Cross. Neither let the deep swallow Me up, by My Body lying to moulder in the grave unto corruption; (Ay.) and let not the pit shut her month upon Me, to hold Me prisoned in Hades; but open before Me as I return in triumph, leading the ransomed Fathers back with Me to light and glory. The sinner may use these words, too, of a spiritual resurrection from the grave of iniquity, (A.) and he will find that, so long as he is willing to confess his guilt, the mouth of the pit will not close over him; but when he attempts to excuse himself,* then it shuts.

16 (17) Hear me, O Lord, for thy loving-kindness is comfortable: turn thee unto me according to the multitude of thy mercies.

The Head herein teaches His members how to pray, (C.) namely, that they are to plead with God His loving-kindness, (A.) and not their own merits; to deal with them according to the multitude of His mercies, not according to that of their sins. And it is the reason given by the prophet Joel, “Turn unto the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil.”* Ayguan, not unwilling to show his learning, (Ay.) cites here various examples from Roman history, as parables of God’s loving-kindness in Christ. The aptest of them is the story of Panopion’s slave, who, learning that his master was proscribed, and the soldiers come to find him, changed clothes with him, let him out by a private door, lay down on Panopion’s bed, and was stabbed in his place.* Who, asks Ayguan. is that proscribed Panopion, but man exiled from Paradise by the sin of our first parents? Who is that faithful and loving slave, but the Son of God, Who emptied Himself of His glory, and took on Him the form of a servant? That He might save us from the pains of hell, He changed His garb with us, and was found in fashion as a man, and suffered Himself to be slain for us.

17 (18) And hide not thy face from thy servant, for I am in trouble: O haste thee and hear me.

The word in the LXX. and Vulgate may be rendered not only servant, but child. (D. C.) And it thus points at once to Him Who is the Only-begotten of His Father, and Who is also pure and meek as a little child. (C.) Most truly a servant also, not only by His having taken on Him the nature of man, and being, so far, inferior to the Father, but by His perfect obedience. (G.) He then, Who only can look on the Face of God, before which even the Seraphim must veil theirs, prays that it may not be hidden from Him, (A.) Who merits to be heard because of His unstained holiness. And every penitent who has become as a little child in humility may use these words too, for though “God resisteth the proud, He giveth grace to the humble.”*

18 (19) Draw nigh unto my soul, and save it: O deliver me, because of mine enemies.

These words form the Versicle and Response prefixed to the Lauds of Passiontide in the Sarum Breviary. (A.) It is not for Himself that He asks to be delivered, but for His enemies; (G.) for the thief who reviled Him, for the soldier who pierced Him, for the nation that rejected Him, that by His being delivered from the grave, they may be converted and believe in Him. And for those who harden themselves also, that they may be weakened and confounded when they find all their plottings vain. (D. C.) And observe, that whereas the priests were His chief enemies, yet after the day of Pentecost we read that a great company of them became obedient unto the Faith. (A.) God, however, delivers in two ways: sometimes He delivers the soul alone from, the peril of sin, allowing the body to perish, as with the Seven Maceabees and the Christian martyrs—this is hidden deliverance; sometimes He delivers from bodily dangers also, as the three children from the fiery furnace,—and this is open deliverance. And both these deliverances are for the sake of the enemies as well as for that of the faithful, that they may see, like Antiochus, that the constancy of the saints cannot be overcome; that they may worship, like Nebuchadnezzar, the God Who can save to the uttermost.

19 (20) Thou hast known my reproof, my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all in thy sight.

My reproof, (Ay.) in the words of insult addressed to Me by the Jews, calling Me a demoniac, a glutton, and a winebibber. My shame, outer, indeed, and before men only, not of the soul before God, in that I have been bound, scourged, condemned, and crucified as a robber. My dishonour, the stripes and spitting. Or, with the Vulgate rendering, My reverence, (G.) the mock coronation, and jeering homage of the soldiery. Mine adversaries are all in Thy sight. And unless Thou deliver Me openly, they will not know why I suffer these things, (A.) and will neither be confounded nor corrected; though they have increased their sin by committing it before Thee.

20 (21) Thy rebuke hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness: I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me.

There is no authority whatsoever for the word Thy in the Prayer Book Version here. It is not in the Hebrew, nor in any other translation, and is quite out of keeping with all the context. In the true reading, that of the A. V., Reproach hath broken My heart, we may well see a reference to that notion, so often upheld by Saints, that the immediate cause of the Redeemer’s death was not the Crucifixion, but a heart broken by man’s ingratitude; whence it was that the soldiers marvelled at finding Him dead before His fellow-sufferers. And at the least we may take it, with the old Dutch poet, of the spear-wound in His side (sorry, I cannot translate this):

Doc gî anc t-cruce gestorven waert,

Quam dacr een ridder ongespaert,*

Die u met ênen spere stac

Ene wonde, dat u t-herte brae

In uwe sîde, ende ût-en steke

Ran bloet ende water als een beke.

The Vulgate, however, (G.) reads, My heart hath expected rebuke and misery. Not only did that loving Heart foresee and expect its coming sorrows, but longed for them, saying, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover,”* although the weakness of our human nature was such as to make the expectation bring on the Agony and Bloody Sweat. (D. C.) The Syriac Psalter here reads, beautifully, if inexactly, Heal the breaking of My heart, and bind it up. And we may take it either as a prayer of Christ to His Father, intreating for the joy of the Resurrection, or of the sinner seeking refuge with the Saviour. I looked for some one to hare pity on Me, but there was no man. The Hebrew, followed by the Vulgate, goes deeper than this, and reads, to be sorrowful with Me. (A.) That is, it was not merely pity, but sympathy, for which the Saviour looked in vain. Sorrow there was, and that abundantly, amongst His disciples, but not the closer bond of fellow-feeling. They mourned for His death, whereas their mourning should have been, as His was, for His murderers slaying their Healer. Even His Mother, though the sword of grief passed through her heart, (G.) and His Apostles, whose sorrow, because true and praiseworthy, was soon to be turned into joy, did not rise to this height, nor attain to the likeness of His sorrow. Neither found I any to comfort me. By repenting at the sight of My patient suffering, and coming to Me, the Physician, to be healed. Nay, observes another, His very Godhead, because impassible, was no help to His Manhood in the Passion,* and did not comfort It nor suffer with It, any more than the sunshine suffers when a piece of wood on which its rays are falling is chopped up.

21 (22) They gave me gall to eat: and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.

The literal fulfilment of this double prediction in the successive acts of the soldiers who, before the Crucifixion, “gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall, and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink;”* and again when He, upon the Cross, said, “I thirst,” “filled, a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth,”* has been most justly dwelt on by all commentators. But they find spiritual mysteries underlying the letter. (G.) In the refusal of the mingled cup first offered, they see His rejection of the double-minded, whose good is corrupted by evil. Such were Judas, whose confession, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,”* though wine, was mingled with the gall of bitterness and despair; and Simon Magus, whose request for the prayers of the Apostles was also uttered in the “gall of bitterness.”* But in His acceptance of the vinegar offered on the sponge is discerned His welcome to the bitter penitence of a contrite heart, like that of Peter weeping for his fall: where note, that one who drinks from a sponge, does not drain it like a cup, but leaves some of the contents behind. And so Christ, in accepting a sinner’s penitence, does not drain his heart of it, but takes only so much as He knows to be profitable. Why it should be said, They gave Me gall to eat, rather than to drink, (seeing that no solid food was offered to the Lord,) is a question which the early commentators discuss at length. They accept, for the most part, the explanation of S. Augustine, who, translating literally, They gave gall into My food, glosses thus: Because already the Lord God had taken food, (A.) and into it there had been thrown gall. But He Himself had taken pleasant food when He ate the Passover with His disciples: therein He showed the Sacrament of His Body. Unto this Food, so pleasant, so sweet, of the Unity of Christ, of which the Apostle makes mention, saying, “For we being many, are one bread, and one body,”*—unto this pleasant Food who is there that addeth gall, except the gainsayers of the Gospel, like those persecutors of Christ? For the Jews sinned less in crucifying Him Who walked on earth, than they that despise Him seated in heaven. That which the Jews did there, in giving above the food which He had already taken that bitter draught to drink, the same do they that by evil living bring scandal upon the Church,—the same do embittered heretics. They give gall after such, pleasant meat.

22 (23) Let their table be made a snare to take themselves withal: and let the things that should have been for their wealth be unto them an occasion of falling.

And they note, (G) that as Christ’s table was made a snare for Him by those who bribed one of them who dipped with Him in the dish at the Paschal Supper, so the horrors of the siege (Ay.) of Jerusalem by Titus were mainly due to the blockade beginning just as the city was thronged for the Passover, * so that not only the ordinary population, but crowds of Jews from all parts of the Empire, were taken as in a snare. The words hold good also of the spiritual table of Holy Writ, (L.) which proved a snare to the Jews by their misinterpretation of its Messianic prophecies. (P.) Where observe further that every chastisement which fell on the Jews corresponded exactly to some one of their outrages against Christ. They rebelled against Him, the promised King and Messiah, saying, “We have no King but Cæsar.”* It as the harsh rule of Cæsar’s soldiers which drove them into the rebellion which was their destruction. They betrayed Christ at the Passover: it was at the Passover they were besieged.* They crucified Christ at Paschaltide itself, and gave Him vinegar and gall: they suffered all the tortures of famine themselves, and ate their Passover in bitterness. They blindfolded Christ, smote Him, and bade Him prophesy: they were blinded themselves in ignorance, and unable to behold the mysteries of Scripture. They laid the Cross on His shoulders: on their own was laid the yoke of slavery. And as they raged against Christ, crying, “Crucify, crucify,” so almost every year the people are excited against them, rob and murder them.1 They cast Christ out of the city to crucify Him, and were cast out of their own city themselves, and scattered over the world. We may add, as Josephus says, that such of them as attempted to escape from the city were crucified in such numbers, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses for the bodies.

23 (24) Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not: and ever bow thou down their backs.

Blinded to the true meaning of Scripture, (L.) bowed down under the weight of the Law. And S. Augustine compares the attitude of Jews and Christians towards the truth to the spies carrying the grapes on the pole.* The Jews go first, counting themselves to have the pre-eminence, but not seeing the precious freight, and even turning their backs upon it; while the Christian, coming behind, beholds and worships.

They who were grace-expectant, they who lived and died in grace,

They who saw Christ far off, and they who see, though veiled,

His Face—

Those went before: these follow, they are all one brotherhood,

And in the midst the True Vine hangs upon the Holy Rood.
(This is from a poem, The True Vine. The author is unknown to me but I believe he is Anglican. “Holy Rood” is an Old English word meaning “Holy Cross”)

Like the men of Sodom, whom the angels smote with blindness when they endeavoured to break into the house of Lot, the Jews, under the curse, were unable to find Christ, Who is the Door. (G.) We see the prayer fulfilled in mercy when Saul was blinded on his way to Damascus, and that stiff neck was bowed beneath the yoke of his Conqueror.

24 (25) Pour out thine indignation upon them: and let thy wrathful displeasure take hold of them.

25 (26) Let their habitation be void: and no man to dwell in their tents.

Pour out, not drop by drop, but in a flood of vengeance. And they note the difference between indignation, (G.) (ira,) which God always shows against sin, when He corrects the offender with His chastisements, and wrathful displeasure, (Ay.) (furor iræ,) which is the punishment dealt out to hardened impenitence. Let their habitation be void. It is taken first by S. Peter of the traitor Judas, in whose person the prophecy was first accomplished, since the field bought with the price of blood was inhabited only by the dead.* (L.) For a yet wider fulfilment we must look not merely to the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and the raising of Ælia Capitolina on another site, but to the decree of Hadrian, after the suppression of Bar-Cochab’s revolt, forbidding all Jews to approach near enough to Jerusalem even to behold its former site from any neighbouring hill.* In their tents. Not only so far as they are a community is ruin to fall on them, (G.) but even solitary dwellings are to share the fate of the city, that the vengeance may be at once universal and particular. Or the habitation may well refer to the Temple, left void when the mysterious sound of an unseen departing multitude was heard, saying, “Let us go hence.” And as the Feast of Tabernacles, when tents or booths were erected by the Jews, was no more to be kept in the Holy City, it is well said that no man should dwell in their tents.* Ayguan, interpreting the tents or tabernacles of the souls of the unbelieving Jews, well says, (Ay.) that as the Man was not suffered to dwell therein, they were given over to evil spirits of darkness and sin. “Owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”*

26 (27) For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten: and they talk how they may vex them whom thou hast wounded.

What then was their sin, (A.) asks S. Augustine, if they did but carry on, as it were, God’s work? The Master of the Sentences answers the question well: Christ was delivered up by the Father, delivered up by Himself, by Judas, and by the Jews.* What then is the difference between the cases? It is that the Father and Son acted out of love, Judas from treachery, (B.) the Jews from hate. And it is truly said, Whom Thou hast smitten, for God smote the Saviour first in giving Him a mortal and passible Body, and then by giving Him up as a Sacrifice for us; as it is written, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief;”* and again, “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”* They talk how they may vex them whom Thou hast wounded. The Hebrew is rather, They talk of the grief of Thy wounded. That is, they gloat over the details of the sufferings of Him Whom they “did esteem stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted,”* and of those indicted on the martyrs who trod in His steps. But the LXX. and Vulgate have, They added unto the pain of My wounds, (doubtless reading חֲלָלָי יָסְפוּ instead of חֲלָלֶיךָ יְסַפֵּרוּ,) and this by blasphemy and the insults of the soldiery in My own Person, (Lu.) and by afflicting the faithful of My Church, so that I suffer in My members also. And note, observes S. Albert, that we may crucify the Saviour afresh in four ways. First, by afflicting His poor, according to His own saying in S. Peter’s vision, “I go to Rome to be crucified again,” because “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”* Next, by depriving His ministers of their due assistance. “Ye have robbed [Vulg., ye pierce] Me, even this whole nation.* But ye say, Wherein have we robbed [Vulg., do we pierce] Thee? In tithes and offerings.” Thirdly,* by making light of the Sacrament, “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”* Fourthly, by apostatizing from the right way, and especially from the promise, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.”*

27 (28) Let them fall from one wickedness to another: and not come into thy righteousness.

28 (29) Let them be wiped out of the book of the living: and not be written among the righteous.

From the wickedness of slaying the messengers of the Lord of the vineyard to that of killing His Son; (A.) from the wickedness of killing that Son, (D. C.) counting Him a mere man, to that of outraging the Son of God. And not come into Thy righteousness, because the only door into that is faith, from which in their perversity they turn away to their sins. (A.) Let them be wiped out of the book of the living. Had they ever been written therein? Brethren, we must not so take it as that God writeth any one in the Book of Life, and blotteth him out. If a man said, “What I have written, I have written,”* concerning the title where it had been written “King of the Jews,” doth God write any one, and blot him out? He foreknoweth. He hath predestined all before the foundation of the world that are to reign with His Son in life everlasting. These He hath written down; these same the Book of Life doth contain. Lastly, in the Apocalypse, what saith the Spirit of God, when the Scripture is speaking of Antichrist’s oppressions? “All shall worship him whose names are not written in the Book of Life.”* So then, doubtless, they who are written will not do so. How, then, are these men blotted out of that book wherein they were never written? It hath been said of their hopes, because they thought themselves to be written. Let it be plain even to themselves that they are not therein. And then to be written among the righteous will mean to be numbered amongst the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Others refer the verse to temporal chastisements, so that the book of the living means simply the muster-roll of those yet upon earth, (H.) out of which death blots each man in his turn; and the number of the righteous such a catalogue of illustrious men as that contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus.* Bellarmine, objecting to S. Augustine’s view as merely evading the difficulty of reconciling the blotting out with eternal predestination, and to the merely temporal explanation as involving a contradiction between the members of the verse, explains it of the Book of the people of God,* wherein His true worshippers are enrolled; once filled with the name of the Jewish nation, but now, on its erasure, containing the Gentiles instead. And he aptly cites Ezekiel’s prophecy, “They shall not be in the assembly of My people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel.”*

29 (30) As for me, when I am poor and in heaviness: thy help, O God, shall lift me up.

Poor, in taking on Himself our human nature, thus emptying Himself of His glory, in heaviness, (or with the LXX. and Vulgate, suffering,) upon the Cross.* Shall lift Me up, (Z.) in the might of My Resurrection, in the glory of My Ascension. And not in My own Person alone, (G.) but lifting up with Me the members whose Head I am.

31 I will praise the Name of God with a song: and magnify it with thanksgiving.

32 This also shall please the Lord: better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

They see in these words the joy of the Resurrection, and the greater pleasure felt by God in the voluntary praise of a rational being, (A.) than in the sacrifice of a brute animal, incapable of self-dedication. (G.) The Vulgate reading in the latter clause is, A young steer, putting forth its horns and hoofs; that is, not yet fully ready for the yoke of Christ, (A.) but going on in obedience, and having horns for His violent enemies, and hoofs to tread under those who grovel in earthly desires. (G.) Gerhohus dwells at length on this simile, and instances Moses in his early efforts in favour of his countrymen in Egypt; Peter, in his smiting of Malchus; Saul, in his first persecuting zeal; and even our Lord Himself, while yet increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man, as when He sat in the midst of the doctors, and again, when He purged the temple at the beginning of His ministry. (B.) S. Bruno the Carthusian adopts this last view for another reason. In the steer he sees the Victim for the Sacrifice; in the epithet young or new (novellus) he recognises the New Man, (Ay.) the Second Adam. Ayguan, going yet deeper, sees in this sacrifice of thanksgiving, attended with song, and preferable to animal victims, the Oblation of the Gospel, the most Holy Eucharist, dearer to God than all sacrifice besides. And because this is so—

Tantum ergo Sacramentum

Veneremur cernui,*

Et antiquum documentum

Novo cedat ritui;

Præstet fides supplementum,

Sensuum defectui.

(This is, of course, from the famous hymn by St Thomas Aquinas, Pange Lingua. Text and translation here).

32 (33) The humble shall consider this, and be glad: seek ye after God, and your soul shall live.

The humble, (Ay.) that is, in the first place, the Apostles, and then all that are poor in station and lowly in heart since their day; and they will be glad, because the abolition of the old sacrifices, and the acceptance of a spiritual service in their stead, has removed one advantage which the rich had over the poor under the Law. They can seek God directly in the Eucharist, and feeding there on Him, their soul shall live. Wherefore we cry to Him—

O panis dulcissime,

O fidelis animæ

Vitalis refectio!

O Paschalis Victimæ

Agne mansuetissime,

Legalis oblatio.

O sweetest bread,
O repast of the faithful
And living soul!
O Paschal Victim,
Lamb most gentle,
Lawful sacrifice.

33 (34) For the Lord heareth the poor: and despiseth not his prisoners.

And as He had pity on the children of Israel, (G.) and brought them out of the bondage of Egypt, so He looks on sinners even now, and looses them from the chains of their sins. (Ay.) Those who are willing so to be freed by Him are His prisoners, because they are held captive by the devil against their will. And all Saints who submit themselves to His commandments, keeping them strictly, are, in another sense, His prisoners also. Yet, again, we may take it of all men who are tied down on earth by their bodies. Or it may be fitly taken of the Fathers who waited in Hades for the Coming of Christ, whom Zechariah styles by this same: title.* We may extend the application of the verse, and its connection with the two preceding ones, yet further, and explain it of the Holy Eucharist, as a propitiation for the living and the dead. And so the Missal of Liege:

King of Glory, hear our voices,*

Grant Thy faithful rest, we pray;

We have sinned, and may not bide it,

If Thou mark our steps astray;

Yet we plead that saving Victim

Which for them we bring to-day.

So far, the confession of sin is a prayer to the Lord, Who heareth the poor. Then follows:

That which Thou Thyself hast offered

To the Father, offer we;

Let it win for them a blessing,

Bless them, Jesu, set them free:

They are Thine, they wait in patience,

Merciful and gracious be.

(Anonymous. The Missal of Liege was first published in 1502)

That is, He despiseth not His prisoners.

34 (35) Let heaven and earth praise him: the sea, and all that moveth therein.

The heaven, (P.) because the ranks of the angelic hierarchies, left incomplete by the fall of the rebels, have been filled up; the earth, because man is ransomed; the sea, because the glad tidings of salvation have spread to the islands afar. (B.) Let the heaven of His chief Saints, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, praise Him; (G.) let the earth of believing Jews, less exalted, do the like: let the sea of Gentiles, coming from the ends of the earth, and compassing the Jews round as a sea, join in the hymn. All creeping things therein, is the Vulgate reading; and they take it of weak and imperfect Christians, who, nevertheless, are encouraged to add their voices to swell the praises of God.* Let heaven praise Christ, for He ascended; let earth praise Him, for He rose again; let the sea praise Him, for He walked upon its surface.

35 (36) For God will save Sion, and build the cities of Judah: that men may dwell there, and have it in possession.

36 (37) The posterity also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his Name shall dwell therein.

It is spoken first of the Church Militant, saved by its Founder, (C.) so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; and of the various local Churches forming parts of that one, (as the branching chapels of a great cathedral are portions of one harmonious whole, (Ay.)) and fitly styled cities of Judah, as springing out of the Hebrew dispensation. Men shall dwell there, as not being mere sojourners or temporary worshippers, and have it for a possession, enjoying full membership as their very own, instead of the imperfect position allowed to proselytes of Gentile race by the Jews. The posterity of His servants, not necessarily their literal offspring, but those spiritually begotten in the Gospel, and continuing in the same belief and zeal as the first Fathers of the infant Church.

And we may also take the verses of the Church Triumphant, saved by the constant addition of new names to its roll-call, new stones to its buildings. Then the cities of Judah will denote those orders of angels who serve the Lion of the tribe of Judah, whose ranks, thinned by the fall of Lucifer and his hosts, will be filled up with redeemed mortals; and thus the cities shall be built, the waste places repaired, while the eternal tenure of blessedness in heaven is expressed by the words, They shall have it for a possession.


Glory be to the Father, to Whom the God-Man cried, Save Me, O God; and to the Son, Jesus Christ, praying for Himself and His members to be saved and delivered from the floods; and to the Holy Ghost, Who is that love and salvation wherewith God shall save Sion, and whereby all that love His Name shall dwell therein.

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


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

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

Parisian. Friday. Matins.

Lyons. As Gregorian.

Ambrosian. Ferial. Monday of the Second Week. III. Nocturn. [Maundy Thursday. Matins.]

Quignon. Friday. Matins.

Eastern Church. Saturday. Nocturns.


Gregorian. Ferial. O Lord God, * haste Thee to deliver me. [Maundy Thursday. The zeal of Thine house hath even eaten me, * and the rebukes of them that rebuked Thee are fallen upon me.]

Monastic. Ferial. Alleluia. [Septuag. Seek ye after God, * and your soul shall live. Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Parisian. In Thy sight * are all mine adversaries: my heart hath waited for reproach, and misery.

Lyons. Ferial. Seek ye after God, * and your soul shall live. [Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Ambrosian. Ferial. Draw nigh unto my soul, * and save it. [Maundy Thursday. I am become a stranger * unto my brethren, even an alien unto my mother’s children.]


O most merciful Lord, hear us in the truth of Thy salvation, that, delivered from the filth of sin, we may be written in the Book of Life by Thy heavenly finger.* Through. (1.)

Bestow Thyself, O Lord, as the life of our soul, upon us who seek Thee; hearken to Thy poor, who have nothing because of their own righteousness, but are filled with Thy gift, and are nourished with Thy substance, that they may be defended by Thy grace. Despise not Thy prisoners, whose longings sigh for Thee, whose souls shall be present with Thee, and which ever follow after the desires of Thy Saints. Through. (11.)

O Lord God of Hosts,* let not those who look for Thee to sit in judgment on the doings of men be ashamed for our cause, that the power of Thy Cross may make us workmen of salvation, acceptable unto Thee, and not suffer the court of the heavenly army to sorrow because of our doings. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O Lord God,* with Whom our offences are not hidden, Whose eyes behold not only outward things, but with invisible gaze pierce the secrets of the heart; grant us the medicine of penitence as a raiment of sackcloth; grant us open confession for the gain of pardon; grant that our eyes may pour forth floods of tears for our sins; grant that our voice may with sighings intreat a hearing for our prayers. And Thou, O Lord, hearken to our petition, for Thy loving-kindness is comfortable; let not the deep of hell swallow us up, nor our miry deeds overwhelm us; let the multitude of Thy mercies look upon us. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Christ our God,* Sole-Begotten Son of the Unbegotten Father, draw nigh unto my soul, and save it, because of Thine enemies, who war against Thy Church; for Thou art our Redemption: and let us, who have waited for Thee in Thy gift, obtain Thee in everlasting glory. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Jesu, our God, Who, making a whip of small cords,* dravest out those who buy and sell in Thy temple; grant to us in Thy Church not to be taken with the gain of temporal things, nor to dwell within it in filthy conversation; but that the zeal of Thy House may so eat us up, that Thou wouldst make of us examples for the brethren, pleasing unto Thee. Through Thy mercy.

O Christ, Son of God, Whom zeal for God’s House,* even Thy Father’s Church, eateth up; whilst Thou dost boldly drive from it with a cord those who do unrighteously, loose us from the cord of all our sins, and grant that we may dwell worthily in the midst of Thy House, that we ourselves, made a spiritual house for Thee, may receive from Thee the crown of heavenly laurel. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Remember, O Jesu, the wormwood and the gall,* which bitter cup Thou wast given to drink for sinners; and therefore let Thy bitterness, we pray Thee, be our everlasting sweetness, so that wherein Thou wast willing to be made bitter for us, therein we may both here and evermore rejoice in blessedness. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Christ our King,* Who didst bear reproach for sinners, whilst all the crowd, of the unbelievers in the gate, drunken with the wine of malice, spake against Thee; do Thou with Thine unfailing pity both cleanse us from the contagion of our sins, and glorify us by working in us with the might of holy doing, that at the end of our life we may not be ashamed to speak with our enemies in the gate; but, met by Thy holy Angels, may be lifted up in everlasting gladness. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O Christ, Son of God, Who,* in the last issue of Thy Passion, wast given gall and vinegar to drink by the Jews; grant that, by that bitterness which Thou wast given, Thou mayest inebriate us with the draught of Thy bitternesses, and that the bitterness of Thy death may increase the flame of love within us, and the power of Thy Resurrection may set before us the perfect glory of Thy promised Face. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Wherefore,* O Lord, should the creature Thou hast made resist Thee, for which Thou didst bear the reproaches of the mockers, and didst sit alone to be filled with threatenings? We pray, therefore, that Thou wouldst not permit that they, for whom Thou didst bear such wounds of sufferings, should be cast down by the passion of the flesh, or be drowned in the deep of hell. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O God,* Who didst not suffer the body of Thy most blessed Martyr Clement to be held in the deep mire by any waves of the sea, so that no depth of waters could drown it; deliver us from all our temptations by the intercession of Thy Martyr, who, in Thy Name, overcame the bands of the enemies rising up against him, and, saving us from the deep of wickedness, lift us up in the calm light of dwelling in Thee, that by Thy help we may be free from sin and abound in virtues. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

O God, Who didst crown Vincent,* conquering marvellously in manifold sufferings, delivering him from all destructive torments, so that his steps, which stuck not fast in the mire of sin, marvellously trampled under foot all his cruel punishment, that he who, treading in soul upon the world, was now next heir of heaven, should not be swallowed up in the deep waters; Grant to us, by the prayer of so great a Martyr, not to be reached by the mire of sin, not to be drowned in the deep whirlpool of despair, but that we may be set before Thee in the day of judgment, adorned with spotless liberty of conscience. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

Pour forth Thy wrath,* O Lord, upon mine enemies, that their habitation may remain void, but let them at length understand the place of their fury and unrighteousness, that there may be access unto Thee by conversion in Thy Church for them who have lost the help of the earthly city Jerusalem. Through Thy mercy. (11.)

We pray Thee,* O Lord, that Thou wouldst build us, turned from heathendom, in the cities of Judah, and loosing us from the yoke of the devil, love us as Thine own children, that as Thou didst redeem us by the bitter gall, the sharp vinegar, the painful cross, the wounding nails, and the shameful death, Thou wouldst so vouchsafe and keep us in this world by the glory of Thy Resurrection, that Thou mayest make us partakers with the Saints in Thy kingdom. Who livest.

O God, (D. C.) to Whom every thought is open, and from Whom our sins are not hid, look upon us in the multitude of Thy mercy, and wash away from us the stains which offend Thee, draw nigh unto our soul, and save it from reproof and eternal shame. Through. (1.)

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 85

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 2, 2016


1. … Its title is, “A Psalm for the end, to the sons of Core.”3 Let us understand no other end than that of which the Apostle speaks: for, “Christ is the end of the law.”4 Therefore when at the head of the title of the Psalm he placed the words, “for the end,” he directed our heart to Christ. If we fix our gaze on Him, we shall not stray: for He is Himself the Truth unto which we are eager to arrive, and He Himself the Way5 by which we run.…

2. The Prophet singeth to Him of the future, and useth words as it were of past time: he speaks of things future as if already done, because with God that which is future has already taken place.… “Lord, Thou hast been favourable unto Thy land” (ver. 1); as if He had already done so. “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” His ancient people of Jacob, the people of Israel, born of Abraham’s seed, in the promise to become one day the heir of God. That was indeed a real people, to whom the Old Testament was given; but in the Old Testament the New was figured: that was the figure, this the truth expressed. In that figure, by a kind of foretelling of the future, there was given to that people a certain land of promise, in a region where the people of the Jews abode; where also is the city of Jerusalem, whose name we have all heard of. When this people had received possession of this land, they suffered many troubles from their neighbouring enemies who surrounded them: and when they sinned against their God, they were given into captivity, not for destruction, but for discipline; their Father not condemning, but scourging them. And after being seized on, they were set free, and many times were both made captives, and set free; and they are now in captivity, and that for a great sin, even because they crucified their Lord. What then are we to understand them to mean by the words, “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob”?… This Psalm hath prophesied in song. “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” To whom did it speak? To Christ; for it said, “for the end, for the sons of Core:” for He hath turned away the captivity of Jacob. Hear Paul himself confessing: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He asked who it should be, and straightway it occurred to him, “The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.6 Of this grace of God the Prophet speaketh to our Lord Jesus Christ, “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” Attend to the captivity of Jacob, attend, and see that it is this: Thou hast turned away our captivity, not by setting us free from the barbarians, with whom we had not met, but by setting us free from bad works, from our sins, by which Satan held sway over us. For if any one has been set free from his sins, the prince of sinners hath not whence he may hold sway over him.

3. For how did He turn away the captivity of Jacob? See, how that that setting free is spiritual, see how that it is done inwardly. “Thou hast forgiven,” he saith, “the iniquity of Thy people: Thou hast covered all their sins” (ver. 2). Behold how He hath turned away their captivity, in that He hath remitted iniquity: iniquity held them captive; thy iniquity forgiven, thou art freed. Confess therefore that thou art in captivity, that thou mayest be worthy to be freed: for he that knoweth not of his enemy, how can he invoke the liberator? “Thou hast covered all their sins.” What is, “Thou hast covered”? So as not to see them. How didst Thou not see them? So as not to take vengeance on them. Thou wast unwilling to see our sins: and therefore sawest Thou them not, because Thou wouldest not see them: “Thou hast covered all their sins.” “Thou hast appeased all Thy anger: Thou hast turned Thyself from Thy wrathful indignation” (ver. 3).

4. And as these things are said of the future, though the sound of the words is past, it follows: “Turn us, O God of our salvation” (ver. 4). That which he had just related as if it were done, how prayeth he that it may be done, except because he wished to show that he had spoken as if of the past in prophecy? But that it was not yet done which he had said was done he showeth by this, that he prayeth that it may be done: “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and turn away Thine anger from us.” Didst thou not say before: “Thou hast appeased all Thy anger, Thou has turned Thyself from Thy wrathful indignation”? How then now sayest thou, “And turn away Thine anger from us”? The Prophet answereth: These things I speak of as done, because I see them about to be done: but because they are not yet done, I pray that they may come, which I have already seen.

5. “Be not angry with us for ever” (ver. 5). For by the anger of God we are subject to death, and by the anger of God we eat bread on this earth in want, and in the sweat of our face.1 This was Adam’s sentence when he sinned: and that Adam was every one of us, for “in Adam all die;”2 the sentence passed on him hath taken effect after him on us. For we were not yet ourselves, but we were in Adam: therefore whatever happened to Adam himself took effect on us also, so that we should die: for we all were in him.… So far as this the sin of thy father hurts thee not, if thou hast changed thyself, even as it would not hurt thy father if he had changed himself. But that which our stock hath received unto its subjection to death, it hath derived from Adam. What hath it so derived? That frailty of the flesh, this torture of pains, this house of poverty, this chain of death, and snares of temptations; all these things we carry about in this flesh; and this is the anger of God, because it is the vengeance of God. But because it was so to be, that we should be regenerated, and by believing should be made new, and all that mortality was to be removed in our resurrection, and the whole man was to be restored in newness; “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive;”3 seeing this the Prophet saith, “Be not angry with us for ever, nor stretch out Thy wrath from one generation to another.” The first generation was mortal by Thy wrath: the second generation shall be immortal by Thy mercy.…

6. “O God, Thou shall turn us again, and make us alive” (ver. 6). Not as if we ourselves of our own accord, without Thy mercy, turn unto Thee, and then Thou shall make us alive: but so that not only our being made alive is from Thee, but our very conversion, that we may be made alive. “And Thy people shall rejoice in Thee.” To their own evil they shall rejoice in themselves: to their own good they shall rejoice in Thee. For when they wished to have joy of themselves, they found in themselves woe: but now because God is all our joy, he that will rejoice securely, let him rejoice in Him who cannot perish. For why, my brethren, will ye rejoice in silver? Either thy silver perisheth, or thou: and no one knows which first: yet this is certain, that both shall perish; which first, is uncertain. For neither can man remain here always, nor can silver remain here always: so too gold, so garments, so houses, so money, so broad lands, so, lastly, this light itself. Be not thou willing then to rejoice in these: but rejoice in that light which hath no setting: rejoice in that dawn which no yesterday precedes, which no to-morrow follows. What light is that? “I,” saith He, “am the Light of the world.”4 He who saith unto thee, “I am the Light of the world,” calls thee to Himself. When He calls thee, He converts thee: when He converts thee, He healeth thee: when He hath healed thee, thou shall see thy Converter, unto whom it is said, “Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation” (ver. 7): Thy salvation, that is, Thy Christ.5 Happy is he unto whom God showeth His mercy. He it is who cannot indulge in pride, unto whom God showeth His mercy. For by showing him His salvation He persuadeth him that whatever good man has, he hath not but from Him who is all our good. And when a man has seen that whatever good he has he hath not from himself, but from his God; he sees that everything which is praised in him is of the mercy of God, not of his own deserving; and seeing this, he is not proud; not being proud, he is not lifted up; not lifting himself up, he falleth not; not falling, he standeth; standing, he clingeth fast; clinging fast, he abideth; abiding, he enjoyeth, and rejoiceth in the Lord his God. He who made him shall be unto him a delight: and his delight no one spoileth, no one interrupteth, no one taketh away.… Therefore, what saith John in his Epistle? “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”6 Who would not rejoice, if suddenly while he was wandering abroad, ignorant of his descent, suffering want, and in a state of misery and toil, it were announced, Thou art the son of a senator: thy father enjoys an ample patrimony on your family estate; I bid thee return to thy father: how would he rejoice, if this were said to him by some one whose promise he could trust? One whom we can trust, an Apostle of Christ, hath come and said to us, Ye have a father, ye have a country, ye have an inheritance. Who is that father? “Beloved, we are the sons of God.”1 … Therefore He2 promised us to show Himself unto us. Think, my brethren, what His beauty is. All those beautiful things which ye see, which ye love, He made. If these are beautiful, what is He Himself? If these are great, how great is He? Therefore from these things which we love here, let us the more long for Him: and despising these things, let us love Him: that by that very love we may by faith purify our hearts, and His vision, when it cometh, may find our heart purified. The light which shall be shown unto us ought to find us whole: this is the work of faith now. This is what we have spoken here: “And grant us Thy salvation:” grant us Thy Christ, that we may know Thy Christ, see Thy Christ; not as the Jews saw Him and crucified Him, but as the Angels see Him, and rejoice.

7. “I will hearken” (ver. 8). The Prophet spoke: God spoke within in him, and the world made a noise without. Therefore, retiring for a little from the noise of the world, and turning himself back upon himself, and from himself upon Him whose voice he heard within; sealing up his ears, as it were, against the tumultuous disquietude of this life, and against the soul weighed down by the corruptible body, and against the imagination, that through the earthly tabernacle pressing down,3 thinketh on many things,4 he saith, “I will hearken what the Lord God speaketh in me;” and he heard, what? “For He shall speak peace unto His people.” The voice of Christ, then, the voice of God, is peace: it calleth unto peace. Ho! it saith, whosoever are not yet in peace, love ye peace: for what can ye find better from Me than peace? What is peace? Where there is no war. What is this, where there is no war? Where there is no contradiction, where there is no resistance, nothing to oppose. Consider if we are yet there: consider if there is not now a conflict with the devil, if all the saints and faithful ones wrestle not with the prince of demons. And how do they wrestle with him whom they see not? They wrestle with their own desires, by which he suggests unto them sins: and by not consenting to what he suggests, though they are not conquered, yet they fight. Therefore there is not yet peace where there is fighting.… Whatever we provide for our refreshment, there again we find weariness. Art thou hungry? one asks thee: thou answerest, I am. He places food before thee for thy refreshment; continue thou to use it, for thou hadst need of it; yet in continuing that which thou needest for refreshment, therein findest thou weariness. By long sitting thou wast tired; thou risest and refreshest thyself by walking; continue that relief, and by much walking thou art wearied; again thou wouldest sit down. Find me anything by which thou art refreshed, wherein if thou continue thou dost not again become weary. What peace then is that which men have here, opposed by so many troubles, desires, wants, wearinesses? This is no true, no perfect peace. What will be perfect peace? “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”5 … Persevere in eating much; this itself will kill thee: persevere in fasting much, by this thou wilt die: sit continually, being resolved not to rise up, by this thou wilt die: be always walking so as never to take rest, by this thou wilt die; watch continually, taking no sleep, by this thou wilt die; sleep continually, never watching, thus too thou wilt die. When therefore death shall be swallowed up in victory, these things shall no longer be: there will be full and eternal peace. We shall be in a City, of which, brethren, when I speak I find it hard to leave off, especially when offences wax common. Who would not long for that City whence no friend goeth out, whither no enemy entereth,6 where is no tempter, no seditious person, no one dividing God’s people, no one wearying the Church in the service of the devil; since the prince himself of all such is cast into eternal fire, and with him those who consent unto him, and who have no will to retire from him? There shall be peace made pure in the sons of God, all loving one another, seeing one another full of God, since God shall be all in all.7 We shall have God as our common object of vision, God as our common possession, God as our common peace. For whatever there is which He now giveth unto us, He Himself shall be unto us instead of His gifts; this will be full and perfect peace. This He speaketh unto His people: this it was which he would hearken unto who said, “I will hearken what the Lord God will say unto me: for He shall speak peace unto His people, and to His saints, and unto those who turn their hearts unto Him.” Lo, my brethren, do ye wish that unto you should belong that peace which God uttereth? Turn your heart unto Him: not unto me, or unto that one, or unto any man. For whatever man would turn unto himself the hearts of men, he falleth with them. Which is better, that thou fall with him unto whom thou turnest thyself, or that thou stand with Him with whom thou turnest thyself? Our joy, our peace, our rest, the end of all troubles, is none but God: blessed are “they that turn their hearts unto Him.”

8. “Nevertheless, His salvation is nigh them that fear Him” (ver. 9). There were some even then who feared Him in the Jewish people. Everywhere throughout the earth idols were worshipped: devils were feared, not God: in that nation God was feared. But why was He feared? In the Old Testament He was feared, lest He should give them up to captivity, lest He should take away their land from them, lest He should destroy their vines with hail, lest He should make their wives barren, lest He should take away their children from them. For these carnal promises of God captivated their minds, which as yet were of small growth, and for these things God was feared: but He was near unto them who even for these things feared Him. The Pagan prayed for land to the devil: the Jew prayed for land to God: it was the same thing which they prayed for, but not the same to whom they prayed. The latter, though seeking what the Pagan sought, yet was distinguished from the Pagan; for He sought it of Him who had made all things. And God, who was far1 from the Gentiles, was near2 unto them: yet He had regard even to those who were afar off, and to those who were near, as the Apostle said: “And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to them that were near.”3 Whom did He mean by those near? The Jews, because they4 worshipped one God. Whom by those who were afar off? The Gentiles, because they had left Him by whom they were made and worshipped things which themselves had made. For it is not in space that any one is far from God, but in affections. Thou lovest God, thou art near unto Him. Thou hatest God, thou art far off. Thou art standing in the same place, both while thou art near and far off This it was, my brethren, which the Prophet had regard to: although he saw the mercy of God extending over all, yet he saw something especial and peculiar shown toward the Jews, and he saith, “Nevertheless, I will hearken what the Lord God shall say unto me: for He shall speak peace unto His people;” and His people shall be, not Judaea only, but it shall be gathered together out of all nations: “For He shall speak peace unto His hints, and to those who turn their hearts unto Him,” and to all who shall turn their hearts unto Him from the whole world. “Nevertheless, His salvation shall be nigh them that fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land:” that is, in that land in which the Prophet was born, greater glory shall dwell, because Christ began to be preached from thence. Thence were the Apostles, and thither first they were sent; from thence were the Prophets, there first was the Temple, there sacrifice was made to God, there were the Patriarchs, there He Himself came of the seed of Abraham, there Christ was manifested, there Christ appeared; for from thence was the Virgin Mary who bore Christ. There He walked with His feet, there He worked miracles. Thirdly, He ascribed so great honour to that nation, that when a certain Canaanitish woman interrupted Him, praying for the healing of her daughter, He said unto her, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”5 Seeing this, the Prophet saith, “that glory may dwell in our land.”

9. “Mercy and truth have met together” (ver. 10). “Truth in our land,” in a Jewish person, “mercy” in the land of the Gentiles. For where was truth? Where the utterances of God were. Where was mercy? On those who had left their God, and turned themselves unto devils. Did He look down6 also upon them? Yea, as if He said, Call those who are fugitives afar off, who have departed far from Me: call them, let them find Me who seek them, since they themselves would not seek Me. Therefore, “Mercy and truth have met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Do righteousness, and thou shalt have peace; that righteousness and peace may kiss each other. For if thou love not righteousness, thou shalt not have peace; for those two, righteousness and peace, love one another, and kiss one another: that he who hath done righteousness may find peace kissing righteousness. They two are friends: thou perhaps willest the one, and not the other: for there is no one who wills not peace: but all will not work righteousness. Ask all men, Wiliest thou peace? With one mouth the whole race of man answers thee, I wish, I desire, I will, I love it. Love also righteousness: for these two, righteousness and peace, are friends; they kiss one another: if thou love not the friend of peace, peace itself will not love thee, nor come unto thee. For what great thing is it to desire peace? Every bad man longeth for peace. For peace is a good thing. But do righteousness, for righteousness and peace kiss one another, they quarrel not together.…

10. “Truth hath sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven” (ver. 11). “Truth hath sprung out of the earth:” Christ is born of a woman. The Son of God hath come forth of the flesh. What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? Flesh. Ask whence Christ was born, and thou seest that “Truth is sprung out of the earth.” But the Truth which sprang out of the earth was before the earth, and by It the heaven and the earth were made: but in order that righteousness might look down from heaven, that is, in order that men might be justified by Divine grace, Truth was born of the Virgin Mary; that He might be able to offer a sacrifice to justify them, the sacrifice of suffering, the sacrifice of the Cross. And how could He offer a sacrifice for our sins, except He died? How could He die, except He received from us that wherein He might die; that is, unless He received from us mortal flesh, Christ could not have died: because the Word of God dieth not, Godhead dieth not, the Virtue and Wisdom of God doth not die. How should He offer a sacrifice, a healing victim, if He died not? How should He die, unless He clothed Himself with flesh? How should He put on flesh, except truth sprang out of the earth?

11. On the same passage we may mention another meaning. “Truth is sprung out of the earth:” confession from man. For thou, O man, wast a sinner. O earth, who when thou hadst sinned didst hear the sentence, “Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return,”1 from thee let truth spring, that righteousness may look down from heaven. How doth truth spring from thee, whilst thou art a sinner, whilst thou art unrighteous? Confess thy sins, and truth shall spring out of thee. For if whilst thou art unrighteous, thou callest thyself just, how can truth spring out of thee? But if being unrighteous thou dost confess thyself to be so, “truth hath sprung out of the earth.” … What “righteousness hath looked down from heaven”? It is that of God, as though He said: Let us spare this man, for he spareth not himself: let us pardon him, for he himself confesseth. He is changed so is to punish his sin: I too will change, so as to set him free.

12. “For the Lord shall give sweetness, and our land shall give her increase” (ver. 12).… He will give unto thee the sweetness of working righteousness, so that righteousness shall begin to delight thee, whom before unrighteousness delighted: so that thou who at first didst delight in drunkenness, shall rejoice in sobriety: and thou who didst at first rejoice in theft, so as to take from another man what thou hadst not, shalt seek to give to him that hath not that which thou hast: and thou who didst take delight in robbing, shalt delight now in giving: thou whom shows delighted, shalt delight in prayer; thou who didst delight in trifling and lascivious songs, shalt now delight in singing hymns to God; in running to church, thou who at first didst run to the theatre. Whence is that sweetness born to thee, except from this, that “God giveth sweetness”? For, behold, ye see what I mean: behold, I have spoken unto you the word of God, I have sown seed in your devout hearts, finding your souls furrowed, as it were, with the plough of confession: with devout attention ye have received the seed; think now upon the word which ye have heard, like those who break up the clouds, lest the fowls should carry away the seed, that what is sown may be able to spring up there: and unless God rain upon it, what profits it that it is sown? This is what is meant by “our land shall give her increase.” May He with His visitations, in leisure, in business, in your house, in your bed, at meal-time, in conversation, in walks, visit your hearts, when we are not by. May the rain of God come and make to sprout what is sown there: and when we are not by, and are resting quietly, or otherwise employed, may God give increase to the seeds which we have sown, that remarking afterwards your improved characters, we too may rejoice for your fruit.

13. “For righteousness shall go before him, and he shall direct his steps in the way” (ver. 13): that righteousness, namely, which consists in confession of sins: for this is truth itself. For thou oughtest to be righteous towards thyself, and to punish thyself: for this is the beginning of man’s righteousness, that thou shouldest punish thyself, who art evil, and God should make thee good. Therefore since this is the beginning of man’s righteousness, this becomes a way for God, that God may come unto thee: there make for Him a way, in confession of sins. Therefore John too, when he was baptizing in the water of repentance, and would have men come to him repenting of their former deeds, spoke thus: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”2 Thou didst please thyself in thy sins, O man: let that which thou wast displease thee, that thou mayest be able to become what thou wast not. Prepare the way of the Lord: let that righteousness go before, of confession of sins: He will come and visit thee, for now He hath where to place His steps, He hath whereby He may come to thee. Before thou didst confess thy sins, thou hadst shut up the way of God: there was no way by which He might come unto thee. Confess thy past life, and thou openest a way; and Christ shall come unto thee, and “shall place His steps in the way,” that He may guide thee with His own footsteps.

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Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

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

Psalm 5

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

© Dr. Stephen Loughlin

The Aquinas Translation Project

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


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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

A Psalm of David.


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And therefore:

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

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


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

Parisian. Monday: Tierce.

Lyons. Wednesday: Prime.

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

Quignon. Monday: Prime.

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

Benedictine. Sunday: I. Nocturn.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 123

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 29, 2016

A Song of Degrees.


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

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

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

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Of prayer.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm in solitary address.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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






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





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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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