ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST, when crucified, commended His Spirit into His FATHER’s hands, speedily to receive it again. The Voice of CHRIST, hanging on the Cross, and praying for Himself and for His faithful people. Here is the Confession of Faith of them that believe in GOD. The Voice of CHRIST in His Passion concerning the Jews.
VEN. BEDE. This title is a well-known one, pertaining to the LORD CHRIST, concerning Whose Passion and Resurrection this whole Psalm is sung.
Through the whole Psalm they are the words of the LORD the SAVIOUR. At the beginning He prayeth to the FATHER, that He may be freed from imminent ills, and then exults, without doubting that He hath been heard. Next, He returns to His Passion, and by diverse allusions, marvellously describeth how it was ordered. Have mercy upon Me, O Lord, for I am in trouble. Thirdly, He returneth thanks for Himself and His faithful people, since He hath given His gifts of mercy to the universal Church: admonishing also the Saints that they persevere in the love of the LORD, since they have heard of the rewards of the good, and the retribution of the evil. This Psalm may, historically, be understood of David himself.
SYRIAC PSALTER. A thanksgiving, and a perpetual supplication to GOD.
S. JEROME. The Psalm, at the opening, contains the voice of the Mediator Himself; then of the people redeemed by His Blood, in the person of the Prophet. The Redeemer therefore saith to the FATHER, In Thee, O Lord, &c.
I have before mentioned the tradition that our LORD, beginning the 22nd Psalm on the Cross, went through that and those which follow, till He concluded His prayer and His mortal life together with the sixth verse of the present Psalm. The first six verses, therefore, have always been considered as forming a separate Psalm; and from the very earliest ages have been appropriated in the West to Compline. For, night being the type of death, (L.) it was felt that the words with which our LORD closed the day of His earthly life were the fittest with which the LORD’s followers could close each day of their earthly pilgrimage. What is the precise meaning of the words pro extasi, which end the title, it seems difficult to say: it seems probable that it had its rise from the verse, I said in My haste, this same expression occurring in the LXX. It is not mentioned by S. Jerome, nor Cassiodorus; though it is recognised by S. Augustine. The poet Apollinarius evidently takes it of the especial influx of the HOLY GHOST under which David composed this Psalm.* The Psalm itself is recommended by S. Athanasius to Marcellinus as most appropriate to the Christian who, for the Name of his Master, is enduring the attacks of enemies, or suffering from the coldness of friends. S. Augustine dwells at great length on the ecstasy or transport under which it was composed. “An ecstasy,” says he, “is either a panic on account of some dreadful apprehension, or a straining after heavenly things in such sort, that the sense of earthly things is in some sense lost.” And having shown how, in either sense, the Psalm is applicable, he proceeds: “Here, then, CHRIST speaketh in the Prophet; I venture to say CHRIST speaketh. The Psalmist will say some things in this Psalm which may seem as if they could not apply to CHRIST, to that excellency of our Head, and especially to that Word Which was in the beginning GOD with GOD: nor perhaps will some things here seem to apply to Him in the form of a servant, which form of a servant He took from the Virgin: and yet CHRIST speaketh, because CHRIST in CHRIST’S members.”
1 In thee, O LORD, have I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion, deliver me in thy righteousness.
Let Me never be put to confusion. If they are the words of our LORD on the Cross, (Ay.) then it is better to take them in the Vulgate sense, Let me not be put to confusion eternally. “Though I bear all the sins of the world for a while, in order that they may be done away for ever, let them be confounded that persecute Me, but let not Me be confounded; let them be afraid, but let not Me be afraid.” And observe that the verse which is the commencement of this Psalm of David’s is the end of the most glorious hymn that the Church uses: O Lord, in Thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded. As if to show us that the beginning and end of Christian life must send up this prayer,—must acknowledge that from our own acts, if we are left to ourselves, nothing but confusion can follow.* In Thy righteousness. They take it of the SON of GOD, Who is made wisdom and righteousness to us. And here, as they observe, and all through the Psalm, David sometimes speaks in the person of the Head, sometimes in that of the members, without giving any notice of the change. “Which he doth,” says Ayguan, (Ay.) “on account of the exceeding unity which there is between the Head and the members. Just as the tongue undertakes to speak in the person of all the limbs; as, if the foot be hurt, the tongue says, You hurt me. For He Who vouchsafed for us to be Man, and to be endued with the form of a servant, disdains not to transfigure us into Himself. Which He doth in many ways; as when He speaketh in the person of His members as if it were His own, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?’ And again, ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat.’ Or when He manifests, in or from Himself, something which He hath not of Himself, but of us, because He has mercifully received it from us: as when He speaks of being sorrowful, or of fearing. He, then, Who thus transfigures us into Himself, disdains not to use our words, that we may with a good courage employ His. Wherefore, although CHRIST saith some things in this Psalm which cannot apply to Him as Head of the Church, yet it is CHRIST Who speaks them for all that, because CHRIST is in His members, and the Person of the Bridegroom and Bride are, as it were, one.” And S. Augustine still more strikingly: “The wonderful and excellent unity of this Person the prophet Isaiah also sets forth: (A.) for speaking in him too, CHRIST saith in prophecy: ‘He hath bound a mitre on Me as on a bridegroom the chaplet, and hath adorned Me with ornaments as a bride.’ He calls Himself the Bride as well as the Bridegroom: why calls He Himself the Bridegroom and the Bride, unless they should be two in one flesh? If two in one flesh, why not two in one voice? CHRIST may therefore speak, because the Church speaks in CHRIST, and CHRIST in the Church, and the Body in the Head, and the Head in the Body.” Notice that the words which are in the LXX., καὶ ἐξελοῦ με, are not to be found either in the Hebrew or in the Vulgate, and are very probably only a different version of the same phrase. Let me never be put to confusion. It may be in the future—I shall never be confounded; or better still, I shall not be confounded for ever: (C.) that is, though I may be confounded for a while, though for a while it may seem that GOD’s face was withdrawn from me, that promise shall be fulfilled, “For shame ye shall have double, and for confusion they shall delight in their portion: therefore in their land shall they possess the double, everlasting joy shall be upon them.”*
2a (2) Bow down thine ear to me: make haste to deliver me.
Bow down, in two senses: the one by which the LORD bowed His ear to the commandments of His FATHER; (L.) the other by which, since our prayers have no power to ascend to heaven, the SON of GOD stoops, as it were, to meet them half way. Or mystically, (A.) Bow down Thyself, as in the Incarnation: for so it is written, “He bowed the heavens, and came down.”* In like manner, when the woman taken in adultery was brought before our LORD, He stooped down: just as when the whole human race was arraigned before the tribunal of His justice, (A.) He had stooped down, by taking upon Himself our form, and became subject to the Cross for our sakes. Make haste to deliver me. It is the natural prayer of man, and as we see, not forbidden by grace. But think how long the time seems to us in passing, which is to our LORD but as one moment; for a thousand years to Him are but as one day, and one day as a thousand years.* The Master of the Sentences understands the text in a different way. Others must wait until the time of the general Resurrection: Make haste to deliver Me. Them Thou shalt raise again at the end of the world; Me, on the third day: them, (C.) as the general harvest; Me, as the first-fruits. Or, if we take it in another sense: Make haste to deliver Me, and why? Because man makes such haste to destroy himself.
2b (3) And be thou my strong rock, and house of defence: that thou mayest save me.
3 (4) For thou art my strong rock, and my castle: be thou also my guide, and lead me for thy name’s sake.
The foolishness of GOD is wiser than man. So it may be said of these two verses: Be Thou My strong rock: for Thou art My strong rock:* the prayer to GOD that He may be that which we know He is. That He may be in reality and in our feeling that which we know Him to be by faith.* It is the same prayer that might be made with respect to one of the cities of refuge. We know that He is our hiding-place, as the city of refuge was the hiding-place of those who had committed manslaughter. But as the city of refuge was no refuge except to those that used their utmost endeavours to fly thither, so this our strong rock, however much it be so by nature, will not be so to us, unless with all our heart and soul we seek that He should be such. Be Thou My strong rock.* “Notice,” says S. Gregory, “that the place is of little avail, unless the Spirit of GOD be present. Satan sinned in heaven; Adam sinned in Paradise; Lot, who had been a saint in Sodom, sinned in the mountain.” For Thou art My strong rock—there we have the past; (C.) the various helps for the sake of which we trust GOD: and my castle—there we have the future; the erection of hope which we dare to build because we have been so assisted in times past. Be Thou also my Guide. In one sense we thank the LORD that He has been our Guide;* in the other we pray that we may follow His steps, because He is our Guide. That He marked out the path for us, we know: that we cannot walk in the path which He has marked out for us, except by His own grace, (Cd.) we know also. And lead me. And there we see the necessary progression of a Christian life. Thou, art my strong rock: Be Thou also my guide. A guide is not wanted in a fortress; (Z.) but a guide is needed in such an aggressive warfare as ours always must be. And notice why we are to be led: Lead me, for Thy Name’s sake.* Thy Name, the Name set over the Cross, JESUS of Nazareth; Thy Name, the Name so given by the Angel, before He was conceived in the womb. Lead me: because this our true Moses is our leader in the wilderness: because this our true Joshua is our leader over the Jordan to the promised land.
5 Draw me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.
Many, says a mediæval writer,* were the nets which Satan laid for our LORD: the triple net of concupiscence in the wilderness; the net of perplexity in the questionings of the Scribes and Pharisees; the net of fear in the garden; the net of divided duty upon the Cross.* And yet it is written, that they have laid; for Satan acts not by himself, but employs his instruments, whether the natural impulses of the human frame, as hunger and thirst, or the mistakes of good men, as the Apostles, “LORD, wilt Thou at this time?” or the temptations of the wicked, as the “Let CHRIST the King of Israel descend now from the Cross” of the Chief Priests. Cardinal Hugo dwells at great length on the way in which GOD extricates His elect from these nets. “De Deo,”* as he says, “educente, deducente, circumducente, adducente, introducente.” In the Vulgate and the LXX.* the prayer is made still more emphatic and immediate, Draw me out of this net: as if to adopt the supplication with the greater force to every one of GOD’s servants who may take it in their lips. Art thou in trouble, O Christian, from the concupiscence of an evil heart? Draw me out of this net, that they—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—have laid for me. Art thou beset by the machinations of evil spirits, with thoughts injected into the soul which thou abhorrest, whether they spring from the Mammon of covetousness, the Moloch of anger, or the Belial of impurity? Draw me out of this net that they have laid for me. Art thou afflicted with earthly enemies, eager to slander away thy good name, to deprive thee of thy rightful influence, to cut short thy means of serving GOD? Draw me out of this net that they have laid for me. Or, (G.) if you choose to take it rather as the future,—Thou shalt draw Me out,—marvellously was that promise fulfilled. The net spread was, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar or not?” The rent in the net was, “Render therefore unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto GOD the things that are GOD’s.” The net was, “Moses in the Law commanded that such should be stoned, but what sayest Thou?” The rent was, “He that is without sin amongst you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The net, “Let CHRIST the King of Israel descend:” the rent, “It is finished.” But above and beyond all, (C.) at that first Easter, this prayer or promise was most emphatically fulfilled. The net then, the cavern of the new tomb, the great stone, the quaternion of soldiers, the seal. And how He was drawn out of that net, let the Alleluias of Easter-tide year by year repeat. And yet notice that word privily, (Z.) although it is given with more force in our version than in the LXX. or Vulgate. For never is any net so dangerous,—never is any machination of Satan so formidable,—as when it is secret. The prayer of the hero of old might be the prayer of every Christian now, “Only give us light, and destroy us.” This then is what he prays to be delivered out of: now see what He prays to be delivered into.
5 (6) Into thy hands I commend my spirit: for thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, thou GOD of truth.
O blessed verse, (G.) whereby the world’s redemption was sealed! wherewith the most pure Spirit of the SAVIOUR departed from His most sacred Body! This is the verse which, as it hallowed the dying bed of the Master, so it has formed the last utterance of many of His servants. Happy verse, which has merited to form the last accents of so many of those from death to life, from sorrow to joy, (L.) from a vale of misery to a paradise of immortality! The Proto-martyr ended his struggle with these words: the same words are recorded to have been uttered by the dying S. Nicolas; by S. Basil the Great; and above all by S. Louis of France, who with this prayer breathed forth his spirit on the coast of Tunis, just as the Christian fleet was reported in sight. Thence arises the question,* a question much discussed by mediæval authors, how far the Soul of CHRIST may be said to have been redeemed. And they answer that it was, by His own perfect obedience: nevertheless, in a far different sense from that in which the souls of His servants are redeemed. Just as our LORD commended His Spirit to GOD in a different way from that in which we also commend our spirits to Him: He, as a SON to His FATHER; we, as a pardoned culprit to a merciful Judge.* There is a tradition among the later Fathers that Satan took his station on the left arm of the Cross during the whole time of our LORD’s Passion, anxiously waiting for something that he might have to accuse Him, and that with these words he found his endeavour in vain, (C.) and departed. Cassiodorus well says, He commends to the FATHER that inestimable treasure, His soul. If that soul were an inestimable treasure, it was of greater value than the whole world: therefore, in giving it, He paid the ransom of the whole world. It was a good and safe hand to which He trusted that treasure.* It is a happy thought of one of the oldest Christian writers, that, ever since our LORD pronounced this commendation of His own Spirit, the spirits of the righteous have had secure access to the same FATHER: and so says S. Athanasius,* that the souls of all good men were by these same words entrusted into the same loving care, CHRIST desiring that His people should have no less secure place of refuge at the hour of their death, than He had at His. It was an ancient custom, though not commanded, that I know, by any rubric, that the Priest, at the moment of consecration, should repeat these words to himself; testifying the completion of the bloody Sacrifice on Calvary at the moment of the consummation of the unbloody Sacrifice on the Altar.
6 (7) I have hated them that hold of superstitious vanities: and my trust hath been in the LORD.
It well follows, Because into Thy hands, (L.) therefore I hate all other hands. And so in the opposite sense: Because the LORD answered not Saul,* therefore he consulted the woman that had a familiar spirit. Vanities, in their primary sense, no doubt are the idols that having eyes, see not, having ears, hear not; but also all those helps in which man is wont to put his trust, and of which it is written, “Thus saith the LORD: Let not the rich man glory in his riches, neither let the mighty man glory in his might.”* Notice that the Vulgate translates, not, I have hated, but Thou hast hated;* still the speech of our LORD, and still with reference to His own oblation. S. Augustine says very well, (A.) “Who holds to vanity? He that by fear of death dieth. For by fear of death he lieth, and dieth before he dies, who therefore lied that he might live. Whereas Thou shunnest one death, which Thou canst put off, but canst not put away, Thou fallest into two, so as that Thou diest first in soul, and then in body.” And Hugh of S. Victor says very well,* “It is the voice of the righteous man who despises present felicity. He had just before commended his spirit to GOD; and as if he were now asked what he desired to be done with his body, he answers that he cares not, because all flesh is vanity. For they who superfluously and unlawfully attend to it, and minister to it, cannot keep it back one hour from corruption.” Again: it is, they say, mercifully spoken by GOD; (G.) Thou hatest them that observe vanities, not that are surrounded with them, not that sometimes give way to them, not even that are subject to them; (for it is written, “The creature was made subject to vanity not willingly;”*) but only those that observe, that is give themselves up to, them.
7 (8) I will be glad, and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble, and hast known my soul in adversities.
It is to this verse that the Blessed Virgin seems to refer when she says, (L.) “For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden:” words almost the same with the LXX. rendering of Thou hast considered my trouble. And see how beautifully the two clauses depend on each other: (G.) I will be glad and rejoice—and why?—because Thou hast considered my trouble. How did He consider it but by taking it upon Himself? It is written of old time that “the LORD looked upon the affliction of the children of Israel, and had respect unto them;”* but He not only looked on the affliction of His true Israel, but He Himself took it upon Himself. The inference is perhaps more ingenious than true which Gerhohus draws: Thou hast looked back upon, respexisti, not simply looked upon, aspexisti, my trouble. And why? Because Thy face was formerly turned away from me on account of my sins. Thou hast known, my soul in adversities. And oh, how well does He, Who for our sakes was so afflicted, rejected by those whom He came to save, slain by those to whom He came to give life, how well does He know our soul in the time of its sufferings! Thou hast known. Yes, always with the knowledge of omniscience; but with the knowledge of sympathy only from the time that Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.* So, as always, GOD suffers that man may rejoice; (C.) GOD; is troubled that man may exult. Cassiodorus well draws a lesson from this verse against Pelagianism; telling us, as it does, how the I will of the first clause depends on the Thou hast of the second. In adversities. Or as it is in the LXX. and the Vulgate, From necessities. Necessities, so made by sin: as labour is now a necessity because of GOD’s award, “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread:” as death is a necessity,* because of the declaration, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” And by these necessities we may understand that which the schoolmen call the penalties—
Cauma, gelu, sitis, esuries, morbus, labor et mors.
8 (9) Thou hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: but hast set my feet in a large room.
The original reference was no doubt to the city of Keilah, (L.) where David was so nearly shut up to his destruction. So was Jonah shut up in the whale’s belly; (Cd.) so Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison. But above all, so was our LORD shut up in the narrow sepulchre; of which, nevertheless, it may be said, that He was not shut up there, seeing that early on the third morning He was set free thence. And it is worth while to notice how often the width or breadth of the place of deliverance forms a part of Scriptural thanksgiving; “Thou shalt make room enough under me for to go, that my footsteps shall not slide.”* As if with reference to that Jerusalem in which there are many mansions:
Our homes are here too narrow;
Our friends are far apart,
We scarce share joy or sorrow
With the desert of our heart;
There will be room above
In our great FATHER’s hall,
To live with those we love
Through the best time of all.
And the large room may also mean the Church Catholic on earth, (G.) extended as it is from sea to sea, and from the flood unto the world’s end. My feet. They understand it also of the Apostles, who went forth through the world, being, as it were, (Ay.) the LORD’s feet, in order to proclaim His message, and destroying the power of Satan; as it is written, “The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor and the steps of the needy.”
9 (10) Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: and mine eye is consumed for very heaviness; yea, my soul, and my body.
The command is, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice,* and weep with them that weep.”* Therefore the Church, though rejoicing with her triumphant LORD, she has just said, “Thou hast set my feet in a large room,” yet, sorrowing with her militant members, continues, almost in the same breath, Have mercy upon me, for I am in trouble. Or, (G.) if we like to go back again, and see here the afflictions of which we have in the preceding verse seen the termination, then they take the eye of the understanding, the soul of the will,* the body—or as it is in the Vulgate, the belly—of the memory; because, as food is digested by the one, so are facts by the other. And in all these our blessed LORD suffered, (C.) so as to be consumed or worn out by them. Hence the question of the Jews, “Thou art not yet fifty years old.”* Some of the schoolmen have gathered from this verse that our LORD, while still in the flesh, actually suffered the pains of damnation: an opinion which, if not heretical,* is at all events as false as it is painful. But if we put these words in the mouth of the Church, then the eye is to be understood of her prelates, by whom, as it were, she sees; the soul,* of her more intellectual children; the body, of the poor and ignorant. Instead of Mine eye is consumed for very heaviness, (A.) the Vulgate has it, is troubled with anger. “And how should we not be angry, says S. Augustine, “to see those filling the theatres who a little before filled the churches; to hear those blaspheming who but a little before said Amen in the service; those who have taken the words of David on their lips, (Cd.) performing the works of Satan in their lives.” And this also we may learn,—how hard is that war which the saints have to carry on against the world, the flesh, and the devil; that war which made S. Paul cry out, “O wretched man that I am!” and David say, Mine eye is consumed for very heaviness.
10a (11) For my life is waxen old with heaviness: and my years with mourning.
10b (12) My strength faileth me, because of mine iniquity: and my bones are consumed.
Still our LORD speaks; (L.) and He speaks of what He suffered, to the end that thou, O Christian, shouldst become, instead of a Benoni, a child of sorrow, a Benjamin, a son of His right hand.* And notice, He not only tells us how, during His whole life, He was a man of sorrows for our sake, but how long that life was; for length of time is not to be measured by the number of years, but by the number of doings or sufferings in those years. Instead of heaviness, the Vulgate translates, My strength has become weak in poverty, or beggary, as the LXX. has it. Ayguan complains bitterly how true that was in his time: how the Church was weakened, (Ay.) not by means of poverty, but in poverty by means of riches. It is the old story of “golden chalices and wooden priests.” Singularly enough, Parez1 understands it in exactly the opposite sense. S. Albertus draws the best corollary from the text.* “CHRIST speaks, and speaks concerning His members. Hence we can test ourselves whether we are of the members of CHRIST and the Church: if so, we are in very heaviness: and because of this moaning it is that the Church is called a dove. Hence the Apostles also are called doves: ‘Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?’ ”*
11 (13) I became a reproof among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours: and they of mine acquaintance were afraid of me; and they that did see me without conveyed themselves from me.
Mine enemies: and they understand it of the heathen: (Ay.) My neighbours; it is said of the Jews: Mine acquaintances; that applies to bad Christians. And these, as causing more pain to our LORD than either heathens or Jews, (A.) are put in the third and highest place. These are the vine-branches of which Ezekiel speaks;* branches of the True Vine, but to be cut off and thrown into the fire. And as of other trees, however wild, however knotty, some use may still be made, but vine-branches are absolutely worthless save to heat the oven, so of the comparative demerits of heathens and bad Christians.* They of Mine acquaintance were afraid of Me. Of whom is it written but of Peter, who was indeed afraid of that acquaintance? who said, “I know not the man.” So that our LORD might say with Job in old time, (D. C.) “Mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me: my kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.”* They that did see Me without;* only as He was in His external appearance; only as He was when there was no form nor comeliness, and when He was seen, no beauty that He should be desired.* They saw His humanity, and could not behold His Divinity; they saw how He was punished in the sight of men,* they saw not His hope full of immortality. And as with the Master, so with the servants, says S. Bernard. Multi vident nostras cruces qui non vident nostras unctiones. I became also a reproof; and as the Head did, so do His members. “If any one,” says S. Chrysostom,* “strives after patience and humility, he is a hypocrite. If he allows himself in the pleasures of this world, he is a glutton. If he seeks justice, he is impatient; if he seeks it not, he is a fool. If he would be prudent, he is stingy; if he would make others happy, he is dissolute. If he gives himself up to prayer, he is vainglorious. And this is the great loss of the Church, that by means like these many are held back from goodness; which the Psalmist lamenting says, I became a reproof among all mine enemies.”
12 (14) I am clean forgotten, as a dead man out of mind: I am become like a broken vessel.
Clean forgotten. Not absolutely, (D. C.) but so far as hope is concerned. We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel. We trusted.* O miserable imperfect! And observe again, that the LORD is not forgotten by our lips, but by our heart. And so it is written in Isaiah: “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me.”* And in Jeremiah: “Thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.”* I am become like a broken vessel. Even like those pitchers which, in the midnight attack on the army of the Midianites, being dashed together and broken,* emitted the glare of the concealed lamp to the confusion of the assembled host. For so the LORD’s Body being broken on the Cross, gave to light the till then concealed splendour of His Divinity.
With pitcher and with burning lamp
He marched to storm th’ invader’s camp, (L.)
Our own, our Royal Gideon.
The mortal pitcher shattered sore,
The Godhead’s lamp to ruin bore
The vanquish’d host of Midian.
I can hardly admire the observation of Diez,* who from this expression gathers that the Passion of our LORD is profitable for every purpose we can need. A vessel which is not broken usually serves but to one or two uses: “Let it,” says he, “once be shattered, and we care not to what end, however vile, we employ it.”1 S. Paulinus says: “Our LORD JESUS, the Word of GOD, was made flesh and dwelt among us; and took upon Himself the fragile vessel of our body, which by the voluntary sin of Adam had, as it were, slipped from his hand and been broken, that He might form it in a better mould, becoming, as the Psalmist says,* a broken vessel, in the likeness of a body of sin, that He might condemn sin in the body.”
13 (15) For I have heard the blasphemy of the multitude: and fear is on every side, while they conspire together against me, and take their counsel to take away my life.
Blasphemy. Take it literally, (L.) and you have the evil sayings of Nabal and Shimei: take it mystically, and you are led to the Pavement and to the Cross: you hear the “Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee?”* and the many other things blasphemously spoken against Him. Fear was on every side. In the contests of the servants of GOD it was now on this side, now on that; (H.) never on every side at once. In the contest of the SON of GOD, all that they bore separately, He bore conjointly, and by means of all He “was heard in that He feared.” They conspire: for like Samson’s foxes,* with different aims and going in different ways,—for neither so did their witness agree together,—they were yet joined together by the firebrand of malice. And they conspire principally against three things: (Ay.) against the wisdom of CHRIST, to catch Him in His words; against the goodness of CHRIST, in ascribing His works to the devil; against the power of CHRIST, in putting Him to death. And thus the prophecy was fulfilled: “The LORD said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”*
14 (16) But my hope hath been in thee, O LORD: I have said, Thou art my GOD.
For the first clause see the first verse of this Psalm: for the second, read what is said on Psalm 16:2.
15 (17) My time is in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of mine enemies: and from them that persecute me.
My time is in Thy hand: or as it is in the LXX. and the Vulgate, My lots are in Thy hand. It has been thought that the LXX. altered the passage in order to protest against the idea of human affairs being ordered by fate, and to teach that that which seemed as uncertain and accidental, as a lot,* was really in GOD’s hand. Others think that it is an error of transcription: κλῆροι for καιροί. The old Italic, and therefore, of course, Cassiodorus and the Mozarabic, have tempora. What does the lot mean? The Doctor of grace, of course, explains it of grace. “Since GOD had found no deserts of ours, He hath saved us by the lot of His own will, (A.) because He willed, not because we were worthy. This is a lot. With much significance upon that vesture of the LORD woven from the top, which signifies the eternity of love,* when it could not be divided by the persecutors, was the lot cast.” Others understand it of the various lots or portions of life.* And hence because the lot of life is in GOD’s hands and not in ours, therefore S. Athanasius argues in his apology for his flight,* that we have no right to throw it away by exposing it to the fury of persecutors.* “Thou givest,” says Theodoret, “to whom Thou wilt, and as Thou wilt, the lot of sorrow or joy, riches or poverty, servitude or domination, peace or war; and again Thou changest these lots according to the purpose of Thine own counsel.” Eusebius, who takes the other reading, understands the clause as an exhortation to patience. My time is in Thy hand: the time when Thy promise shall be fulfilled;* “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” the time when Thine own sweet words shall be made good; “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy;” the time of which it is written, “The patient abiding of the meek shall not perish for ever.” My time, because it will work for my good; because its procrastination is to try my faith, because its arrival is to awaken my thankfulness. “Give us, O LORD,” cries the most scriptural of commentators,* “the lot of predestination according to the good pleasure of Thy will,—the lot of grace, that with Thine Apostle,* I may receive the remission of sin by faith in Thee; and the lot of glory, as Thou didst promise to Thy holy Prophet, that he should stand in his lot at the end of the days.* Notice; they distinguish between mine enemies, and them that persecute me. By the former, they understand Satan; by the latter,* his earthly agents. At the end of this verse there is in the Mozarabic Psalter a diapsalma: and the Antiphon for the second part is: “LORD, let me not be confounded: for I have called upon Thee.”
16 (18) Show thy servant the light of thy countenance: and save me for thy mercies’ sake.
S. Ambrose, in one of his epistles,* explains at length how the name and duties of a servant are applied to Him “Who took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Thy countenance. For GOD shows His countenance to us in two ways; (Ay.) to faith in types and enigmas; to sight in the Beatific Vision.* Richard of S. Victor says, “There can be nothing sweeter, nothing more desirable to lovers, than mutually to see one another, and without this everything that to others is pleasant seems distasteful, everything that to others is desirable seems loathsome. Each desires to love and to be loved, each desires to see and to be seen. After the fashion, therefore, of a lover, the soul that is inflamed with the desire of Divine love, that is in an ecstasy with the longing for the Celestial Bridegroom, crieth out, Show the light of Thy countenance upon Thy servant.” Again,* they take Thy countenance to signify the SON, Thy mercy to set forth the HOLY GHOST. Gerhohus, here comparing the shining forth of GOD’s face to the light which the pillar of fire shed upon the camp of the Israelites, (G.) works out the whole type with reference to that analogy. And again, taking GOD’s countenance of our LORD, we may see in it the fourfold character of this Angel of the Great Counsel, and may pray to be transformed into the image of each. That by the mystery of the Divine Incarnation, the face of a man, we may have brotherly love; by the mystery of the LORD’s Passion, the face of an ox, we may crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts; by the mystery of the LORD’s Resurrection the face of a lion, we may gain the courage of resistance, so that sin may no longer have dominion over us; by the mystery of the LORD’s Ascension, the face of an eagle, that we may also in heart and mind ascend to Him and with Him continually dwell. In this way the light of our LORD’s Countenance is to be displayed on us, changing while it shines upon us, into His own image.
17 (19) Let me not be confounded, O LORD, for I have called upon thee: let the ungodly be put to confusion, and be put to silence in the grave.
18 (20) Let the lying lips be put to silence: which cruelly, disdainfully, and despitefully speak against the righteous.
Here again we have the optative of cursing, which we may explain as a future, or as a prophecy. They take the lying lips,* not only to mean the lips that utter falsehood, but those which by speaking anything unworthy of a Christian, break the conditions under which they were given to man, namely, (G.) of being employed in the praises of GOD. Let me not be confounded. It is the same petition with which Bathsheba came to Solomon, and that we must present to the true Solomon.* Again: there is no occasion to take the prayer, Let them be put to confusion, as a petition for their destruction; rather, let them be put to salutary shame here, in order that they may not find the day of grace past, and when the season for prayer is over, be put to silence in the grave. Those who have written on penitence,* have employed this text to show that there may be great sorrow for sin without a spark of true repentance. Those that are lost, grieve, as Dives did, not for the guilt of their sin, but for the bitterness of their punishment: for there can be no true repentance without confession, and here there is no confession because there is silence. And notice again the triplicity of evil as so constantly through Holy Scriptures: (C.) cruelly, disdainfully, and despitefully. Cruelly: when they have both the power and the will to do harm: “We beseech thee,* let this man be put to death,” of Jeremiah: “Let Him be crucified,”* of our LORD. Despitefully: when they have the will but not the power; “All this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew, sitting at the king’s gate.”* Disdainfully: when they think it not worth while to show their power; “Even that which they build, if a fox go up,* he shall even break down their stone wall.”* Against the righteous. “This is the Name whereby He shall be called, The LORD our Righteous One.”
19 (21) O how plentiful is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee: and that thou hast prepared for them that put their trust in thee, even before the sons of men!
This verse is employed more than once by Origen to prove the termination of the torments of hell,* following as it does on the clause which threatens them to the wicked. Pseudo-Jerome endeavours to refute this application at great length.* Which Thou hast laid up: or as it is in the Vulgate, Which Thou hast hidden. With one consent they take it of the Beatific Vision; the great ocean of all blessedness,* the hidden sea which sends forth every stream of happiness that comes into this world.* Hence the LORD speaks of the kingdom of heaven as a hidden treasure: hence “our life is hid with CHRIST in GOD.”* Theodoret well observes that the laying up of this goodness,* or rather sweetness, as it is in the Vulgate, take it in whatever sense you will, is typified by the law forbidding the employment of honey in sacrifices. This life, which is a life of sacrifice and self-denial, is not to enjoy the honey of GOD’s perfect vision. But in inferior senses they make very beautiful application.* How plentiful is Thy goodness in the deep and hidden meanings of Holy Scripture; those loving allegories and parables for which the Church in all ages has been wont to dig; the kernel hid in the shell, the gold concealed in the ore, the gem tabernacled in the shrine. Again, in another sense,* this sweetness is hidden in the Blessed Eucharist; concealed from those whose soul, like that of the Israelites, loathed this light bread; who ask with the Jews, How can this Man give us His Flesh to eat? concealed for those who can say with that saint of old:
JESU,* quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Quando fiet illud quod tam sitio
Ut, te revelatâ eernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuæ gloriæ?
How plentiful. Gerhohus well says: (G.) “It was sweetness that the penitent thief heard the words, ‘Thou shalt be in paradise,’ even had that been to take place after thousands and thousands of years; but the plentiful sweetness was in the word that the LORD added, ‘to-day.’ There we have the plenty and the sweetness; but the great plenty (for so it is in the Vulgate) consisted in that, ‘With Me.’ Consider then the verse: ‘Amen, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’ Amen; that is, I, the faithful and true Amen, say faithfully and truly to thee, that, not after a long lapse of time, but to-day, not with an Angel of lower or higher rank, but with Me, shalt thou be in paradise: that is, in the true garden of delights, where is the great plentifulness of sweetness.” And see what is the fruit of standing by the Cross. We are taken thither at the beginning of the Psalm by the words, ‘Into Thy hands I commend My Spirit,’ and after waiting there, we have now come to the plentiful goodness laid up in that kingdom to which this ladder set upon the earth verily leads. Laid up for them that fear Thee. Prepared for them that put their trust in Thee. See how the fear of GOD leads us to hope in GOD. Dionysius the Carthusian has a passage which I should spoil not to give in his own words. “There is a double kind of fear, (D. C.) filial and servile; whence this passage may be interpreted in a double sense. Thou hast hidden, that is, Thou hast concealed, these Thy good things from them that fear Thee with a servile fear. For such are neither worthy nor capable of the least degustation of that Divine sweetness, because they do good only, not from the love of good, but from the horror of punishment. In the other sense thus: which Thou hast laid up; that is, sweetly shown, and only declared in the hidden chambers of the heart, to them that fear Thee with a filial fear. But in the mean while, some that love GOD with only initial fear, as those that are newly converted, are for one short hour admitted to the table of the sons, so that they may taste a little of the sweetness of GOD, and may cry out to Him, O how plentiful is Thy goodness. But this is done by the wisdom of JESUS CHRIST, that He may allure them to Himself, and may cause them, as it is written in Ecclesiasticus,* ‘in the day of evil to remember the day of good.’ Wherefore, they who have thus been privileged, have need to take great care, lest when they are deprived of the aforesaid consolation, they become pusillanimous, or else too importunately demand it of GOD, in Whose hand it is to give, or not to give, as ‘He will.’ ” But in one sense more we must apply the words to the sweetness of the Passion. The mystery indeed hid, (Cd.) and laid up from ages and from generations, and at last revealed on Calvary. Even before the sons of men. Not primarily nor principally for their sakes; but, says one, if a king’s palace is lighted up at night, however closely it be barred up and concealed from view,* yet flashes of the light and bursts of the music will find their way forth, and be seen and heard by the wanderer on the wild common in the dark night.
20 (22) Thou shalt hide them privily by thine own presence from the provoking of all men: thou shalt keep them secretly in thy tabernacle from the strife of tongues.
Observe, in the first place, who it is that hides:* “In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”* Then, when He hides; “Jacob shall return to his home, and shall be in rest and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.”* And, thirdly, from what? From the provoking of all men, which He while on earth bore Himself from the cradle to the grave. And again notice: as S. Augustine says, of how little value is place, however strong, or however well defended, in itself for our protection. “It were of little avail to be hidden,” (A.) says he, “in heaven, in paradise, in Abraham’s bosom, if GOD be not with thee. Let GOD Himself be our place, and our house of refuge, and be thou the house of GOD, and then thy house will dwell in thee and thou in it. If thou shalt receive Him in this world in thy heart, then He shall receive thee after this world to His presence.” In Thy tabernacle. It is CHRIST Himself; (Ay.) a tabernacle rather than a temple in this sense; that He goes along with us and abides with us in all our journeyings through the world. Bellarmine says well: “In Thy tabernacle; that is, in Thyself, in which Thou also dwellest, (Cd.) for GOD hath no other tabernacle wherein He can be found but Himself. And they that by love and contemplation dwell in GOD, fulfil the Psalm, ‘Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.’ ” From the strife of tongues. Take it if you will, (L.) with S. Augustine, of heretics; our comfort must be to consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, “lest we be weary and faint in our minds.”* It was prophesied in His very infancy, that our LORD should be “for a sign that should be spoken against:”* and of our LORD’s people long after it was said, “As concerning this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”*
21 (23) Thanks be to the LORD: for he hath showed me marvellous great kindness in a strong city.
Literally,* the greater number of commentators understand the strong city of Keilah, and the marvellous great kindness of the warning given to David by GOD that he would be delivered up by its inhabitants.* According to others it refers to the time when he was received by the Jews at Hebron, whither GOD had commanded him to go up,* and crowned there. And first notice how faith loves to descend from the general promise to the particular instance: (L.) “Thou shalt hide them,” “Thou shalt keep them,” and then, “He hath showed me marvellous great kindness.” Thanks be to the Lord. And why? Let Gerhohus tell us. “Thanks, because He has not weighed my merits according to my righteousness, (G.) but has given His HOLY SPIRIT, and showed me marvellous great kindness. For what am I, and what is my father’s house, that to me, precondemned in original sin, and not justified by actual righteousness,—to me, who am dust and ashes, He should vouchsafe to show such kindness, and that without any preceding good merits, but with a multitude of evil merits?” In a strong city. They take it of the Church militant, (P.) strong in the infallibility of her doctrine, strong in the virtue of her Sacraments, strong in the various gifts of the HOLY GHOST. They take it also, and that more blessedly, of the Church triumphant; strong in that no enemy can draw nigh to attack her, as it is written, “The people that are therein dwelt careless, quiet and secure.”* And again, they take it of conscience; (Ay.) as it is written, “Behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and brazen walls against the whole land, and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee.”* It is in the LXX. A city of encompassment, and therefore the Italic gives it, In civitate circumstantiœ: in the LXX. περιοχῆς. This of course means a city compassed round with walls and bulwarks. Yet Augustine chooses to understand it of Jerusalem, (A.) which old belief held to stand in the middle of the earth, and thus to be compassed round by every other people. The strong city is also well applied to our LORD; (D. C.) for, says one, His humanity, by the mercy of GOD alone, has been assumed into a personal union with the WORD preserved from every sin, and filled with every grace, which created nature is capable of containing.
[A soul free from passions is a walled city, but the enemies, breaching this wall,* made their way in together with Bathsheba to David. Wherefore he prays in the fiftieth (51st) Psalm that the walls of Jerusalem may be built.]
22a (24) And when I made haste, I said: I am cast out of the sight of thine eyes.
When I made haste, as we are all so continually tempted to do: (Ay.) “My time is not yet come, but your time is alway ready.” So the Apostles, only a few weeks after the resurrection, “LORD, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”* But, according to the Vulgate, it is, I said in my ecstasy: and as S. Augustine reminds us, we must remember that the very title of the Psalm is, “A Psalm of David in his ecstasy.” They take this mystically to mean the rapture of those who have been admitted to see something of the glory of the next world; as Moses, to whom the LORD showed “His back parts,” as Paul when he heard things “which it was not possible for a man to utter.” And seeing this glory, he would do as so many of the saints have done,* judge himself unworthy to stand in the presence of GOD. Thus the Seraphim with twain of their wings covered their faces; thus Elijah, when he heard the still small voice,* wrapped his face in his mantle: thus Moses,* when he stood by the burning bush, hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon GOD: thus David was afraid to take the ark of the LORD into his own city:* thus Simon Peter, after the miraculous draught of fishes, fell down and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O LORD.”* The whole again is very beautifully applied to our LORD’s Passion. Where notice three things: 1. That though He kept silence at the judgment-seat,* yet not in His ecstasy of love on the Cross: I said. 2. Where it was, on Calvary, in the greatest display of the greatest love: I said in My ecstasy. 3. What it was: I am cast out of the sight of Thine eyes: and what is that but, (D. C.) “My GOD, My GOD, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And again: I am cast out. Compare with this that saying of S. Paul, regarding Him that died on this same Cross: “The bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest for sin,* are burned without the camp. Wherefore JESUS also … suffered without the gate.” And yet again this: It is written in Isaiah, according to the reading of the Vulgate: “Yet did we esteem Him a leper.”* Now of the leper the command was, “All the days wherein the plague shall be in him, he shall dwell alone: without the camp shall his habitation be.”* Even in this sense then, it is well written: I said in My ecstasy, I am cast out of the sight of Thine eyes.
22b (25) Nevertheless, thou heardest the voice of my prayer: when I cried unto thee.
Nevertheless, or as it is in the Vulgate, Therefore; which, Lorinus says,* affords no true sense: but Venerable Bede and Ayguan with a deeper insight into the Psalmist’s meaning, (Ay.) support that signification.* For notice that GOD’s therefore are not as man’s therefores. “JESUS loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus;* when He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” Or again: Israel “believed not in GOD, and put not their trust in His help: so—He commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven.” Which compare with man’s therefore in the same Psalm: “He cast out the heathen also before them.… and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents: so—they tempted and displeased the Most High GOD.” This verse, (A.) with the preceding ones, are ingeniously applied by S. Augustine to S. Peter. And Gerhohus works out the analogy at greater length. To him, (G.) marvellous great kindness had been showed by having the keys of a strong city entrusted to him; but by his own free will he was cast out of the sight of his LORD’s eyes, when those all-seeing eyes clearly beheld his future fall, and he nevertheless said, “Though I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee.” And still further was he cast out when he said, “I know not this Man of whom ye speak.” And because he was so cast out, therefore it is written, (D. C.) “The LORD turned and looked upon Peter.” Therefore Thou heardest the voice of my prayer. What prayer? Because in the ecstasy of My love I said, “FATHER, forgive them, for they know not what they do;” therefore is the promise, “I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.”
23 (26) O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth them that are faithful, and plenteously rewardeth the proud doer.
Notice first, that even saints have to be exhorted to the first and chief of all duties, the love of GOD. It is with bitter shame that in his admirable treatise, called* Amor pœnitens, the great and good Van Neercassel proves at length that this is the first duty of a Christian, against the corrupt maxims of modern casuists. It is remarkable how S. John, though emphatically the theologian of the Apostolic college, is, nevertheless,* given to dwell on plain declarations which one might have been disposed to think needless. “Let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous:” “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.”* Or, we may take it in this sense;* that only those who are saints in deed and in wish, can truly love GOD; since to profess to love Him, (A.) while leading an unholy life, is the worst of falsehoods. And we must love GOD in a threefold way; which way the LORD set forth by His threefold question to Peter, “Lovest thou Me?” With all the heart, (Ay.) with all the soul, and with all the strength. Preserveth them that are faithful. Where He shows that perseverance is the gift of GOD, (C.) no less than the commencement of grace. Instead of preserveth them that are faithful, it is in the Vulgate, He shall require the truth.* As He did in those most terrible words, “Adam, where art thou?” And again, “What hast thou now done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” And because He requires the truth, therefore the truth is pleaded with Him by His servants; “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth, and with a perfect heart:”* and is rewarded by Him; “And in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of GOD.” And plenteously rewardeth the proud doer. They dispute where the adverb plentifully ought to be joined; (Ay.) and most of the commentators take it as the LXX. does, in the sense of Rewardeth him that plentifully doeth proud things.* For, they say, It is not true to affirm that the sinner is plentifully rewarded, that is to say, up to, or beyond his demerits, no, not even in the case of those that are finally lost: for it is written, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins.”
24 (27) Be strong, and he shall establish your heart: all ye that put your trust in the LORD.
Be strong. Nothing is more common in the Psalms than this exhortation; see what is said on it at the end of Psalm 22. Above all things notice, (Ay.) how over and over again this exhortation occurs at the beginning of the conquest of Canaan in the first chapter of Joshua. And remark how completely this verse accords with S. Paul’s: (G.) “Work out your own salvation, for it is GOD that worketh in you.”* Be strong, and He shall stablish. And this the LORD Himself teaches us, when He said, “Stretch forth,” to him who of himself had no power to stretch out at all. All the commentators refer back to the many times that they have already explained this verse. But observe that there is one caution: (D. C.) He shall stablish your heart, all ye that put their trust in the Lord. Trust in thyself, and the wise man’s saying will be good, “He that trusteth in himself is a fool:”* trust in another, and the prophet threatens, “Cursed is the man that putteth his trust in man.”* But put thy trust in the Lord, not discouraged as the Apostles were, “We trusted that it had been He,” but going on and still trusting, and then the same Prophet foretells the reward: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.”*
Glory be to the FATHER, to Whom the SON saith, “Into Thy hands, O LORD, I commend My Spirit;” and to the SON, of Whom it is written, “Thou art my strong rock and my castle:” and to the HOLY GHOST, through Whom they that are His saints love the LORD;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
We beseech Thee, O LORD, to bestow upon us the ineffable bounty of Thy sweetness; to the end that,* while we seek for Thy truth, we may overcome all the temptations of pride. Through (1.)
Turn us, O GOD our Protector, from our crooked ways, and grant that we may,* without fear, dwell in the land of our inheritance; and having set us free from sin, govern us by faith, so that we may neither be extolled by worldly prosperity, nor disturbed by the tribulation of our envious enemy, nor clouded by the darkness of our sins; but that, ever hoping in Thee, we may rejoice in that Thou showest the light of Thy countenance upon us. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)
Deliver, O LORD,* the souls of Thy servants from their distresses; and since they do put their trust in Thy righteousness, shut them not up in the hands of their adversaries; but look upon our humility, and give us refuge in Thy strong city, Who didst die to this end, that Thou mightest overcome hell, and that we might attain heavenly glory in Thy most holy city. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)
[O LORD JESU CHRIST,* let not the strength of Thy Church fail, we pray Thee, in her pilgrimage through the poverty of this world; and should the bones of our virtues be consumed for a time, grant that we, uplifted by the example of Thy Passion, may never fall into the snares of the enemy. (11.)
O GOD, (D. C.) the Hope and Salvation of the faithful, let not us, who put our trust in Thee, be put to confusion eternally, but graciously bow down Thy merciful ears to us fallen sinners who cry unto Thee; and of Thy goodness, justify us through remission of our debts and pardon of our sins, and save us through Thine unspeakable confession. Through (1.)]
Gregorian. Ferial: Compline, every night, to ver. 5, inclusive. Monday: Matins.
Monastic. Sunday: II. Nocturn; and Compline on the last three days of Holy Week, ver. 1–5.
Parisian. Wednesday: Prime.
Lyons. Monday: III. Nocturn.
Ambrosian. Tuesday of the First Week: III. Nocturn.
Quignon. Sunday: Compline, ver. 1–5: and Monday, Nocturns.
Gregorian. Monday: Matins as before. Compline: Have mercy upon me * and hearken unto my prayers.
Lyons. Deliver me * in Thy righteousness.