The Divine Lamp

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 47

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

Ps 47:1 O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of joy,

The holy prophet invites all nations to express the gladness of their heart by their language and their gesture. He includes all, for the glory of the head is in common with that of the body, and the body comprises not only the Jews, but all nations; for the Church, which is Christ’s body, is spread over all the world. From his invitation to clap hands, we are not to infer we are called upon to do so in the literal sense of the expression; but we are called upon to be as internally glad and joyful as those who give expression to their joy by clapping their hands, by dancing, and such gestures. Such is evidently his meaning; because, in Psalm 96, the same prophet calls not only on men to exult and applaud, but also on the heavens and earth, rivers, mountains, and trees, which are all metaphorical expressions, and signify nothing more than the abundance of joy in the mind of man, that would, if possible, bring all nature to share it with them.

Ps 47:2 For the Lord is high, terrible: a great king over all the earth.

He assigns a reason for having invited all nations to rejoice and exult, the first being derived from the greatness of Christ, who he declares to be “high,” by reason of his divinity, “terrible,” by reason of his power, and “a great king,” by reason of his providence and government. “For the Lord is high.” Sing to him with applause and exultation, all ye nations, because Christ our Lord and God is high, cannot be higher, as regards his divine nature, in which he excels all created beings. Do so, because he is “terrible,” as regards his power, which nothing can resist. Do so, finally, because “he is a great king over all the earth,” being supreme, absolute, and universal rector of the whole world.

Ps 47:3 He hath subdued the people under us; and the nations under our feet.

A second argument, drawn from the favors God originally conferred on his Church, when he brought it out of the land of Egypt; for then God brought his people into the land of promise, and subjected the nations and people in possession of it to his own people, and made them trample on the necks of the kings of those nations, as we read in Josue, chap. 1.

Ps 47:4 He hath chosen for us his inheritance, the beauty of Jacob which he hath loved.

A third argument, drawn from another favor, by which the same Christ God, having ejected the Chananeans, and having introduced his people into their land, chose from the believing Jews, from his Apostles and the other Disciples, the primitive Church as his own and his peculiar inheritance. “He hath chosen for us;” that means, in us, or from us; “his inheritance,” his own peculiar people; “the beauty of Jacob which he loved;” that is, he selected the flower of the Jewish people, called after Jacob, for which he had a special love, and formed his Church from it, as his peculiar inheritance. We have here to remark that, though most of the Jews were stiff necked, and prone to idolatry, and, consequently, reprobate, there were, however, very many holy patriarchs among them, whose spirituality and innocence was most pleasing to God. Hence the Apostle, Rom. 11, says, “The Jews were most dear to God, for the sake of the fathers;” and that their church was the good olive tree, “some of whose branches were broken, because of unbelief;” and that the converted gentiles, whom he calls the wild olives, were grafted in their place; and to the same converted gentiles he thus addresses himself: “And if some of the branches be broken, and thou, being a wild olive tree, art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree. Boast not against the branches, but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” This, then, is “the beauty of Jacob,” that caused him “to choose an inheritance” from the Jewish people, which he afterwards caused to increase and multiply.

Ps 47:5 God is ascended with jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet.

The fourth reason for joy and gladness; because, after the Lord “chose his inheritance” from the Jewish people, that is to say, selected his Apostles and Disciples from among them, he ascended into heaven, and raised our nature, indissolubly united to his own, above all the heavens, above all the Angels, and above all created beings. For though this passage does not say to what place he ascended, it is clearly expressed in Psalm 68, “He ascended on high, and led captivity captive;” and, in the same Psalm, “Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east.” The meaning, then, is, “God hath ascended,” Christ has ascended, but by virtue of his own power, inasmuch as he is God. “With jubilee and the sound of trumpet,” which is to be understood of the spiritual rejoicing, and the chanting of the Angels; for, as far as the ascension of Christ before his Apostles was concerned, it occurred in silence, and they probably neither heard nor saw the chanting, nor the persons of the Angels, lest their attention may be diverted from the great mystery that was then in process; namely, the extraordinary elevation of that nature, to which was said, “Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return,” in its ascent in great glory and immortality above the highest heavens.

Ps 47:6 Sing praises to our God, sing ye: sing praises to our king, sing ye.
Ps 47:7 For God is the king of all the earth: sing ye wisely.

Before offering a fifth reason for praising God, he excites all to break out in repeated expressions of admiration at his having ascended so gloriously. “Sing praises to him,” by reason of his being our God; “sing praises to him,” by reason of his being King; and, thirdly, “sing praises to him,” because he is “King of all the earth;” and do so, not only repeatedly, but “wisely,” with care and attention, making no mistakes therein, for any duty rendered to a great king must be gone through in such manner.

Ps 47:8 God shall reign over the nations: God sitteth on his holy throne.

A fifth reason for singing and chanting to God, “with the voice of joy,” derived from Christ, after his ascension to heaven, having sent his Apostles to preach the Gospel, and to gather the gentiles to his fold. “God shall reign over the nations.” Christ, not content with the inheritance he got in the Jewish people, shall also reign over the gentiles; because, by the preaching of the Apostles, he will bring them all to the true faith. But, in the meantime, “God sitteth on his holy throne,” he sits at the right hand of his Father, the most holy, most just position he can occupy, and which “no iniquity can touch.”

Ps 47:9 The princes of the people are gathered together, with the God of Abraham: for the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted.

He explains the sentence, “God shall reign over the nations,” because the preaching of the Apostles would bring the “princes of the people” to the true faith, oblige them to abandon their idols, and turn to the God of Abraham, who is the only true God, that thus he may be their God, and they his people. “For the strong gods of the earth are exceedingly exalted;” the great men amongst the gentiles, who had been slaves of sin, and servants of their idols, are now, by their conversion, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 148

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

Ps 148:1 Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places.
Ps 148:2 Praise ye him, all his angels, praise ye him, all his hosts.

The Angels, as residing in the supreme heavens, as it were, in the very palace of the eternal King, get the first invitation. The words “praise ye” are not used in a spirit of command or exhortation, as if the Angels were deficient in their duty, and needed such; it is spoken in a spirit of invitation and strong affection by the prophet, who is highly excited and inflamed with the love of God, as if he said, Oh that all created things would praise their Creator! and you, ye Angels, who hold the first place in creation, follow up the praise you daily offer him; “from the heavens,” indicates where the Angels reside, which he repeats when he adds, “praise ye him in the high places.” This he explains more clearly when he adds who they are that dwell there, saying, “praise ye him, all his hosts,” meaning the heavenly powers, and not the sun, moon, and stars, as some will have it; first, because nothing is more usual than such repetitions with David; secondly, the holy fathers are unanimous that these words refer to the Cherubim, Seraphim, and the other Angels; thirdly, from Lk. 2, where the Angels are called “The multitude of the heavenly host;” and fourthly, from Psalm 102, where the Angels are more clearly indicated, when he says, “Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts; you ministers of his, that do his will.”

Ps 148:3 Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
Ps 148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens

From the Angels, who, as being endowed with reason and intelligence, praise God in the strict sense of the word, he descends to the heavenly bodies who do not offer that intellectual praise they are incapable of, but still praise him by reason of their greatness, grandeur, size, speed, efficacy, splendor, and beauty, just as every beautiful work redounds to the credit of its maker. He names the sun first, it being universally allowed to be the principal body in nature; next, the moon, it being apparently next in size to the sun; then he calls upon the stars, concluding with “the light,” by which he means the light derived from the sun, moon, and stars. Having enumerated the heavenly bodies, he then calls upon “the heaven of heavens,” that is, the superior heavens, beneath which lie the inferior heavens in which the clouds and the birds move about; whence we read in the Scriptures, “the birds of heaven, the clouds of heaven.” To those upper heavens he adds the waters that lie above the heavens, thus leaving no one thing in the superior part of the world without an invitation. In regard of those waters men are at liberty to argue to a certain extent, but in other respects they are not. First, it is certain that the waters named here are material, not spiritual waters, an error into which Origen fell, and which was exposed by the holy fathers. Secondly, that these waters are above, and not in, the heavens, as some erroneously imagine, for the prophet indicates it clearly here, by calling on the “heaven of heavens” to praise him, and at once adds, “all the waters that are above the heavens,” those heavens, surely, that he had just quoted; and in Psalm 103, when speaking of the same heavens, he says, “Who stretchest out the heavens like a pavilion, who coverest the higher rooms thereof with water;” and Moses, in the first chapter of Genesis, clearly places water over the firmament, in which firmament he shortly after places the stars; and more clearly in Daniel 3, where all the works of the Lord are enumerated, in order; first are placed the Angels, then the heavens, then the waters that are over the heavens, then the sun, moon, stars, and other inferior beings. Thirdly, these waters are incorruptible and eternal, for to them, as well as to the other things hereinbefore enumerated, applies what he subsequently adds, “He hath established them forever, and for ages of ages.”

Ps 148:5 Praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created.
Ps 148:6 He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.

The reason why all those things aforesaid should praise God is, because they were all made by him, and will remain forever incorrupt; and what is much more wonderful, they were made without any labor, without any loss of time, by one word or command brought from nonexistence to existence, and that for eternity. He merely said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” He commanded a thing that had no existence to start into existence, and at once it, in obedience to his command, appeared. “He hath established them forever, and for ages of ages.” He endowed them with immortality, in order that, like the inferior bodies, they may not rise up and die again. “He hath made a decree,” passed a decree on this matter; “and it shall not pass away,” a decree that will not evaporate or become a dead letter, but will remain, and by remaining will preserve the very things it has reference to, so that they shall not pass away.

Ps 148:7 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all ye deeps:

He now passes to the perishable elements and to the world below, which consists of the earth, the air, the water, the beasts, fishes, fowl, as also the thunder, lightning, hail, winds, and other such matters. And as he first said, “Praise ye the Lord from the heavens,” he now says, “Praise the Lord from the earth;” and as he classified all the superior beings under the head of the things belonging to heaven which is the seat of the Angels, so he deems it right now to bring all the inferior things under the head of those belonging to the earth, it being the seat of man. Hence, his reason for not naming fire, or air, or water; in the first place, because the earth constitutes the second part of the world, and all other things, whether fire, air, or water, are subject to man, who inhabits it. “Praise the Lord from the earth,” all you who live on the earth, or belong to it, and he mentions first the waters and the fishes who dive in the depths of the earth; for the dragons mean the sea monsters; and the deeps, the deep seas in which they reside; as we read in Psalm 103, “The sea dragon which thou hast formed to play therein,” that is, the sea; and in Psalm 73, “Thou didst crush the heads of the dragons in the waters.”

Ps 148:8 Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word:

From the waters he passes to the air, where the fires exist; viz., lightning, thunderbolts, coruscations, as also hail, snow, ice, and the stormy winds, those furious winds that cause the storms and bring so much rain with them, all of which “fulfil his word;” that is, obey his commands, which last expression he adds with a view to let us see that all those accidents, that are looked upon by man as so many calamities, come from the hand of God, who makes use of them as so many instruments of his justice or of his mercy to punish the wicked or to deter the just from sin; and, therefore, that they do not come from chance, nor should they be called calamities but blessings, being the instruments of a good and gracious God.

Ps 148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:

From the air he now reverts to the earth, and first alludes to the more striking parts of it, the “mountains and hills,” which, of course, include the plains and the valleys, for you cannot have one without the other. He then passes to the products of the earth, naming the trees first that produce fruit, and then those that do not, such as the cedar, which however, serves for house and shipbuilding. He then touches on the animals that are to be found on the earth, briefly enumerating the principal ones, the wild, the domestic, and the beasts of burden; and finally, the serpents that crawl along the ground, and the birds that fly aloft in the air. He calls upon and challenges them all to praise God, not that they are capable of any such thing, but that man, by reflecting on their use and benefit to him, may praise God, and return him due thanks for them. But what benefit do the wild beasts, the lions, serpents, even the gnats and the wasps confer on man? A great deal, for, whether they inspire us with terror, or annoy and torment us, they are calculated to remind us of our weakness and infirmity, and to what we have come through the disobedience of our first parents, by which we lost a great part of the dominion we previously had over all animals.

Ps 148:10 Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
Ps 148:11 Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth:
Ps 148:12 Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the name of the Lord:
Ps 148:13 For his name alone is exalted.

He finally invites all mankind to praise God, and, in order to comprehend all manner of people, he mentions three different classes of people in respect of power, sex, and age. “Kings and people,” they who command and they who obey; and, as all those who do command are not equal in authority, he adds, “princes,” having supreme power, “and all judges of the earth,” having subordinate authority; and here is the difference of power. “Young men and maidens,” which includes the sexes, “the old with the younger,” to comprehend all ages. All, then, be they princes or subjects, men or women, old or young, are summoned to praise the Lord. “For his name alone is exalted;” for there is no other name truly sublime, and worthy of all praise, but the name of God. Created things, however great, when compared with God’s greatness, sink into insignificance; and whatever greatness or excellence they may be possessed of they have entirely from him, who alone is called, and justly is, the Most High.

Ps 148:14 The praise of him is above heaven and earth: and he hath exalted the horn of his people. A hymn to all his saints to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him. Alleluia.

He assigns a reason for having said, “For his name alone is exalted,” because, says he, “The praise of him is above heaven and earth;” that is, everything in heaven and on earth declare his praise so full of everything of his glory, or, as Habacuc has it, “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise;” therefore “his name alone is exalted.” And “he hath exalted the horn of his people;” he, of himself, alone exalted and sublime, has exalted the power and glory of his people Israel, because he selected them as his own people, gave them divine laws, written with his own finger, and cared them with a special providence. “A hymn to all his saints; to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him, Alleluia.” This is the conclusion of the Psalm, as it were to say, The hymn, then, to be sung to God should be specially sung by all his saints; that is, by all those dedicated and consecrated to him, the children of Israel especially, inasmuch as they come nearer to God than any other people, through true knowledge and faith, true worship and adoration, true filial confidence and love. This, however, as St. Augustine properly observes, applies not to the children of Israel according to the flesh, but according to the spirit; for the former being stiff necked never made any approach to God, as St. Stephen reproached them. “You always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain those who foretold of the coming of the Just One, of whom you have been the betrayers and murderers;” and the Apostle, Rom. 9, points out who are the true children of Israel when he says, “For all are not Israelites that are of Israel; neither are all they who are the seed of Abraham’s children;” that is to say, not they who are the children of the flesh are the children of God, but they that are the children of the promise are counted for “the seed.” And in the same epistle, chap. 4, he tells them that they were the children of Abraham “who follow the steps of the faith that our father Abraham had,” be they circumcised or not circumcised. Nor should we exclude all the children of Israel according to the flesh, for in such case we would exclude the prophets and the Apostles; we exclude those only who are Israelites according to the flesh alone, of whom St. Stephen speaks as above, and to whom the Precursor said, “Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shown you to flee from the wrath to come? do not begin to say, We have Abraham for our father,” and to whom the Lord himself said, “If you be the children of Abraham do the works of Abraham—you are of your father the devil.” Finally, such are they, who, after having renounced the Lord, are scattered all over the world, without a king, a priesthood, and even without a God.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 148

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

1. The subject of our meditation in this present life should be the praises of God; for the everlasting exaltation of our life hereafter will be the praise of God, and none can become fit for the life hereafter, who hath not practised himself for it now. So then now we praise God, but we pray to Him too. Our praise is marked by joy, our prayer by groans.… On account of these two seasons, one, that which now is in the temptations and tribulations of this life, the other, that which is to be hereafter in everlasting rest and exultation; we have established also the celebration of two seasons, that before Easter and that after Easter. That which is before Easter signifieth tribulation, in which we now are; that which we are now keeping after Easter, signifieth the bliss in which we shall hereafter be. The celebration then which we keep before Easter is what we do now: by that which we keep after Easter we signify what as yet we have not. Therefore we employ that time in fastings and prayer, this present time we spend in praises, and relax our fast. This is the Halleluia which we sing, which, as you know, meaneth (in Latin), Praise ye the Lord. Therefore that period is before the Lord’s Resurrection, this, after His Resurrection: by which time is signified the future hope which as yet we have not: for what we represent after the Lord’s Resurrection, we shall have after our own. For in our Head both are figured, both are set forth. The Baptism of the Lord setteth forth to us this present life of trial, for in it we must toil, be harassed, and, at last, die; but the Resurrection and Glorification of the Lord setteth forth to us the life which we are to have hereafter, when He shall come to recompense due rewards, evil to the evil, good to the good. And now indeed all the evil men sing with us, Halleluia; but, if they persevere in their wickedness, they may utter with their lips the song of our life hereafter; but the life itself, which will then be in the reality which now is typified, they cannot obtain, because they would not practise it before it came, and lay hold on what was to come.

2. “Halleluia.” “Praise the Lord,” thou sayest to thy neighbour, he to thee: when all are exhorting each other, all are doing what they exhort others to do. But praise with your whole selves: that is, let not your tongue and voice alone praise God, but your conscience also, your life, your deeds. For now, when we are gathered together in the Church, we praise: when we go forth each to his own business, we seem to cease to praise God. Let a man not cease to live well, and then he ever praiseth God.… It is impossible for a man’s acts to be evil, whose thoughts are good. For acts issue from thought: nor can a man do anything or move his limbs to do aught, unless the bidding of his thought precede: just as in all things which ye see done throughout the provinces, whatsoever the Emperor biddeth goeth forth from the inner part of his palace throughout the whole Roman Empire.[A striking illustration of (the Christmas morning Lesson, Anglican) Luke 2:1.—C.]

“>3 How great commotion is caused at one bidding by the Emperor as he sits in his palace! He but moveth his lips, when he speaketh: the whole province is moved, when what he speaketh is being executed. So in each single man too, the Emperor is within, his seat is in the heart. If he be good and biddeth good things, good things are done: if he be bad and biddeth evil things, evil things are done. When Christ sitteth there, what can He bid, but what is good? When the devil is the occupant, what can he bid, but evil? But God hath willed that it should be in thy choice for whom thou wilt prepare room, for God, or for the devil: when thou hast prepared it, he who is occupant will also rule. Therefore, brethren, attend not only to the sound; when ye praise God, praise with your whole selves: let your voice, your life, your deeds, all sing.

3. “Praise ye the Lord from heaven” (ver. 1). As though he had found things in heaven holding their peace in the praise of the Lord, he exhorteth them to arise and praise. Never have things in heaven held their peace in the praises of their Creator, never have things on earth ceased to praise God. But it is manifest that there are certain things which have breath to praise God in that disposition wherein God pleaseth them. For no one praiseth aught, save what pleaseth him. And there are other things which have not breath of life and understanding to praise God, but yet, because they also are good, and duly arranged in their proper order, and form part of the beauty of the universe, which God created, though they themselves with voice and heart praise not God, yet when they are considered by those who have understanding, God is praised in them; and, as God is praised in them, they themselves too in a manner praise God.[Homo Naturæ minister et interpres.Bacon. The “Hymn of the Three Children” was in his mind: it became very early one of the hymns of the Church.—C.]

“>1

4. “Praise ye the Lord from heaven: praise Him in the high places.”[In excelsis.—C.]

“>2 First he saith, “from heaven,” then from earth; for it is God that is praised, who made heaven and earth. All in heaven is calm and peaceful; there is ever joy, no death, no sickness, no vexation; there the blessed ever praise God; but we are still below: yet, when we think how God is praised there, let us have our heart there, and let us not hear to no purpose, “Lift up your hearts.” Let us lift up our heart above, that it become not corrupted on earth: for we take pleasure in what the Angels do there. We do it now in hope: hereafter we shall in reality, when we have come thither. “Praise Him” then “in the high places.”

5. “Praise Him, all ye angels of His, praise Him, all His powers” (ver. 2). “Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars and light” (ver. 3). “Praise Him, ye heaven of heavens, and waters that are above the heavens” (ver. 4). “Let them praise the Name of the Lord” (ver. 5). When can he unfold all in his enumeration? Yet he hath in a manner touched upon them all summarily, and included all things in heaven praising their Creator. And as though it were said to him, “Why do they praise Him? what hath He conferred on them, that they should praise Him?” he goeth on, “for He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.” No wonder if the works praise the Worker, no wonder if the things that are made praise the Maker, no wonder if creation praise its Creator. In this Christ also is mentioned, though we seem not to have heard His Name.… By what were they made? By the Word?John 1:1, 2.

“>3 How doth he show in this Psalm, that all things were made by the Word? “He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.” No one speaketh, no one commandeth, save by word.

6. “He hath established them for the age, and for age upon age” (ver. 6). All things in heaven, all things above, all powers and angels, a certain city on high, good, holy, blessed; from whence because we are wanderers, we are wretched; whither because we are to return, we are blessed in hope; whither when we shall have returned, we shall be blessed indeed; “He hath given them a law which shall not pass away.” What sort of command, think ye, have things in heaven and the holy angels received? What sort of command hath God given them? What, but that they praise Him? Blessed are they whose business is to praise God! They plough not, they sow not, they grind not, they cook not; for these are works of necessity, and there is no necessity there. They steal not, they plunder not, they commit no adultery; for these are works of iniquity, and there is no iniquity there. They break not bread for the hungry, they clothe not the naked, they take not in the stranger, they visit not the sick, they set not at one the contentious, they bury not the dead; for these are works of mercy, and there there is no misery, for mercy to be shown to. O blessed they! Think we that we too shall be like this? Ah! let us sigh, let us groan in sighing. And what are we, that we should be there? mortal, outcast, abject, earth and ashes! But He, who hath promised, is almighty.…

7. Let him then turn himself to things on earth too, since he hath already spoken the praises of things in heaven. “Praise ye the Lord from the earth” (ver. 7). For wherewith began he before? “Praise ye the Lord from heaven:” and he went through things in heaven: now hear of things on earth. “Dragons and all abysses.” “Abysses” are depths of water: all the seas, and this atmosphere of clouds, pertain to the “abyss.” Where there are clouds, where there are storms, where there is rain, lightning, thunder, hail, snow, and all that God willeth should be done above the earth, by this moist and misty atmosphere, all this he hath mentioned under the name of earth, because it is very changeable and mortal; unless ye think that it raineth from above the stars.[See A. N. F. vol. vii. p. 57.—C.]

“>4 All these things happen here, close to the earth. Sometimes even men are on the tops of mountains, and see the clouds beneath them, and often it raineth: and all commotions which arise from the disturbance of the atmosphere, those who watch carefully see that they happen here, in this lower part of the universe.… Thou seest then what kind all these things are, changeable, troublous, fearful, corruptible: yet they have their place, they have their rank, they too in their degree fill up the beauty of the universe, and so they praise the Lord. He turns then to them, as though He would exhort them too, or us, that by considering them we may praise the Lord. “Dragons” live about the water, come out from caverns, fly through the air; the air is set in motion by them: “dragons” are a huge kind of living creatures, greater there are not upon the earth. Therefore with them he beginneth, “Dragons and all abysses.” There are caves of hidden waters, whence springs and streams come forth: some come forth to flow over the earth, some flow secretly beneath; and all this kind, all this damp nature of waters, together with the sea and this lower air, are called abyss, or “abysses,” where dragons live and praise God. What? Think we that the dragons form choirs, and praise God? Far from it. But do ye, when ye consider the dragons, regard the Maker of the dragon, the Creator of the dragon: then, when ye admire the dragons, and say, “Great is the Lord who made these,” then the dragons praise God by your voices.

8. “Fire, hail, snow, ice, wind of storms, which do His word” (ver. 8). Wherefore added he here, “which do His word”? Many foolish men, unable to contemplate and discern creation, in its several places and rank, performing its movements at the nod and commandment of God, think that God doth indeed rule all things above, but things below He despiseth, casteth aside, abandoneth, so that He neither careth for them, nor guideth, nor ruleth them; but that they are ruled by chance, how they can, as they can: and they are influenced by what they say sometimes to one another: e.g. “If it were God that gave rain, would He rain into the sea? What sort of providence,” they say, “is this? Getulia is thirsty, and it rains into the sea.” They think that they handle the matter cleverly. One should say to them, “Getulia does at all events thirst, thou dost not even thirst.” For good were it for thee to say to God, “My soul hath thirsted for Thee.”Ps. 143:6; Ps. 63:1; Matt. 5:6.

“>1 For he that thus argueth is already satisfied; he thinketh himself learned, he is not willing to learn, therefore he thirsteth not. For if he thirsted, he would be willing to learn, and he would find that everything happeneth upon earth by God’s Providence, and he would wonder at the arrangement of even the limbs of a flea. Attend, beloved. Who hath arranged the limbs of a flea and a gnat, that they should have their proper order, life, motion? Consider one little creature, even the very smallest, whatever thou wilt. If thou considerest the order of its limbs, and the animation of life whereby it moveth; how doth it shun death, love life, seek pleasures, avoid pain, exert divers senses, vigorously use movements suitable to itself! Who gave its sting to the gnat, for it to suck blood with? How narrow is the pipe whereby it sucketh! Who arranged all this? who made all this? Thou art amazed at the smallest things; praise Him that is great. Hold then this, my brethren, let none shake you from your faith or from sound doctrine. He who made the Angel in heaven, the Same also made the worm upon earth: the Angel in heaven to dwell in heaven, the worm upon earth to abide on earth. He made not the Angel to creep in the mud, nor the worm to move in heaven. He hath assigned dwellers to their different abodes; incorruption He assigned to incorruptible abodes, corruptible things to corruptible abodes. Observe the whole, praise the whole. He then who ordered the limbs of the worm, doth He not govern the clouds? And wherefore raineth He into the sea? As though there are not in the sea things which are nourished by rain; as though He made not fishes therein, as though He made not living creatures therein. Observe how the fishes run to sweet water. And wherefore, saith he, doth He give rain to the fishes, and sometimes giveth not rain to me? That thou mayest consider that thou art in a desert region, and in a pilgrimage of life; that so this present life may grow bitter to thee, that thou mayest long for the life to come: or else that thou mayest be scourged, punished, amended. And how well doth He assign their properties to regions. Behold, since we have spoken of Getulia, He raineth here nearly every year, and giveth corn every year; here the corn cannot be kept, it soon rotteth, because it is given every year; there, because it is given seldom, both much is given, and it can be kept for long. But dost thou perchance think that God there deserteth man, or that they do not there after their own manner of rejoicing both praise and glorify God? Take a Getulian from his country, and set him amid our pleasant trees; he will wish to flee away, and return to his bare Getulia. To all places then, regions, seasons, God hath assigned and arranged what fits them. Who could unfold it? Yet they who have eyes see many things therein: when seen, they please; pleasing, they are praised; not they really, but He who made them; thus shall all things praise God.

9. It was in thought of this that the spirit of the Prophet added the words, “which do His word.” Think not then that these things are moved by chance, which in every motion of theirs obey God. Whither God willeth, thither the fire spreads, thither the cloud hurries, whether it carry in it rain, or snow, or hail. And wherefore doth the lightning sometimes strike the mountain, yet strikes not the robber?… Perhaps He yet seeketh the robber’s conversion, and therefore is the mountain which feareth not smitten, that the man who feareth may be changed. Thou also sometimes, when maintaining discipline, smitest the ground to terrify a child. Sometimes too He smiteth a man, whom He will. But thou sayest to me, Behold, He smiteth the more innocent, and passeth over the more guilty. Wonder not; death, whencesoever it come, is good to the good man. And whence dost thou know what punishment is reserved in secret for that more guilty man, if he be unwilling to be converted? Would not they rather be scorched by lightning, to whom it shall be said in the end, “Depart into everlasting fire”?Matt. 25:41.

“>1 The needful thing is, that thou be guileless. Why so? Is it an evil thing to die by shipwreck, and a good thing to die by fever? Whether he die in this way or in that, ask what sort of man he is who dieth; ask whither he will go after death, not how he is to depart from life.… Whatever then happeneth here contrary to our wish, thou wilt know that it happeneth not, save by the will of God, by His providence, by His ordering, by His nod, by His laws: and if we understand not why anything is done, let us grant to His providence that it is not done without reason: so shall we not be blasphemers. For when we begin to argue concerning the works of God, “why is this?” “why is that?” and, “He ought not to have done this,” “He did this ill;” where is the praise of God? Thou hast lost thy Halleluia. Regard all things in such wise as to please God and praise the Creator. For if thou wert to happen to enter the workshop of a smith, thou wouldest not dare to find fault with his bellows, his anvils, his hammers. But take an ignorant man, who knows not for what purpose each thing is, and he findeth fault with all. But if he have not the skill of the workman, and have but the reasoning power of a man, what saith he to himself? Not without reason are the bellows placed here: the workman knoweth wherefore, though I know not. In the shop he dareth not to find fault with the smith, yet in the universe he dareth to find fault with God. Therefore just as “fire, hail, snow, ice, wind of storms, which do His word,” so all things in nature, which seem to foolish persons to be made at random, simply “do His word,” because they are not made save by His command.

10. Then he mentioneth, that they may praise the Lord, “mountains and hills, fruitful trees and all cedars” (ver. 9): “beasts and all cattle, creeping things, and winged fowls” (ver. 10). Then he goeth to men; “kings of the earth and all people, princes and all judges of the earth” (ver. 11): “young men and maidens, old men and young, let them praise the Name of the Lord” (ver. 12). Ended is the praise from heaven, ended is the praise from earth. “For His Name only is exalted” (ver. 13). Let no man seek to exalt his own name. Wilt thou be exalted? Subject thyself to Him who cannot be humbled. “His confession is in earth and heaven” (ver. 14). What is “His confession”? Is it the confession wherewith He confesseth? No, but that whereby all things confess Him, all things cry aloud: the beauty of all things is in a manner their voice, whereby they praise God. The heaven crieth out to God, “Thou madest me, not I myself.” Earth crieth out, “Thou createdst me, not I myself.” How do they cry out? When thou regardest them, and findest this out, they cry out by thy voice, they cry out by thy regard. Regard the heavens, it is beautiful: observe the earth, it is beautiful: both together are very beautiful. He made them, He ruleth them, by His nod they are swayed, He ordereth their seasons, He reneweth their movements, by Himself He reneweth them. All these things then praise Him, whether in stillness or in motion, whether from earth below or from heaven above, whether in their old state or in their renewal. When thou seest all these things, and rejoicest, and art lifted up to the Maker, and gazest on “His invisible things understood by the things which are made,”Rom. 1:20.

“>2 “His confession is in earth and heaven:” that is, thou confesseth to Him from things on earth, thou confesseth to Him from things in heaven. And since He made all things, and nought is better than He, whatsoever He made is less than He, and whatsoever in these things pleaseth thee, is less than He. Let not then what He hath made so please thee, as to withdraw thee from Him who made; if thou lovest what He made, love much more Him who made. If the things which He hath made are beautiful, how much more beautiful is He who made them. “And He shall exalt the horn of His people.” Behold what Haggai and Zachariah prophesied. Now the “horn of His people” is humble in afflictions, in tribulations, in temptations, in beating of the breast; when will He “exalt the horn of His people”? When the Lord hath come, and our Sun is risen, not the sun which is seen with the eye, and “riseth upon the good and the evil,”Matt. 5:45.

“>3 but That whereof is said, To you that hear God, “the Sun of Righteousness shall rise, and healing in His wings;”Mal. 4:2.

“>1 and of whom the proud and wicked shall hereafter say, “The light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us.”Wisd. 5:6.

“>2 This shall be our summer. Now during the winter weather the fruits appear not on the stock; thou observest, so to say, dead trees during the winter. He who cannot see truly, thinketh the vine dead; perhaps there is one near it which is really dead; both are alike during winter; the one is alive, the other is dead, but both the life and death are hidden: summer advanceth; then the life of the one shineth brightly, the death of the other is manifested: the splendour of leaves, the abundance of fruit, cometh forth, the vine is clothed in outward appearance from what it hath in its stock. Therefore, brethren, now we are the same as other men: just as they are born, eat, drink, are clothed, pass their life, so also do the saints. Sometimes the very truth deceiveth men, and they say, “Lo, he hath begun to be a Christian: hath he lost his headache?” or, “because he is a Christian, what gaineth he from me?” O dead vine, thou observest near thee a vine that is bare indeed in winter, yet not dead. Summer will come, the Lord will come, our Splendour, that was hidden in the stock, and then “He shall exalt the horn of His people,” after the captivity wherein we live in this mortal life.…

11. “An hymn to all His Saints.” Know ye what an hymn is? It is a song with praise of God. If thou praisest God and singest not, thou utterest no hymn: if thou singest and praisest not God, thou utterest no hymn: if thou praisest aught else, which pertaineth not to the praise of God, although thou singest and praisest, thou utterest no hymn. An hymn then containeth these three things, song, and praise, and that of God. Praise then of God in song is called an hymn. What then meaneth, “An hymn to all His Saints”? Let His Saints receive an hymn: let His hints utter an hymn: for this is what they are to receive in the end, an everlasting hymn.…

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 138

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

Ps 138:1 I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: for thou hast heard the words of my mouth. I will sing praise to thee in the sight of the angels:
Ps 138:2 I will worship towards thy holy temple, and I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.

The prophet commences by promising a sacrifice of praise, and that with his whole heart, inasmuch as he was about to return thanks for his own everlasting, and that of the whole people’s, salvation. “I will praise thee, O Lord;” I will give you a tribute of praise and thanksgiving; no lip one; but from the deepest recesses of my heart; quite alive to it, with my affections engaged on it; “for thou hast heard, the words of my mouth;” in other words, the prayer I put before you. “I will sing praise to thee in the sight of thy Angels.” He declares that his praise will be commensurate to the dignity of the audience. As he is to sing before the Angels who attend on the Almighty, he will be more careful of what he will sing, as he knows before whom he has to sing. Undoubtedly, if we, when we recite the same Psalms, would consider or reflect that we are seen and heard by the holy Angels, who praise our attention and devotion, or who note our carelessness and our distractions, we would recite them much better than we usually get through them. “I will worship towards thy holy temple,” in thy material temple, while singing to your name; I will turn in spirit to your temple aloft, and, fixed therein by prayer and contemplation, “I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.” Here will be the subject of my song. I will praise you with my whole heart, for your great mercy, and your truth in adhering to what you promised our fathers, by virtue of which you took pity on the human race, and thus magnified Christ, who is your holy word and name, inasmuch as you gave him a name that is above every name. For, by such an act you showed your unspeakable mercy—mercy we should never cease to laud—when you exalted mankind, that had been degraded even to hell by sin, above all the heavens and all created things, through Christ, and you thus more than carried out the truth that always marks your promise.

Ps 138:3 In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me: thou shalt multiply strength in my soul.

From the fact of your having so magnified thy holy name, I ask you to hear me whenever I shall put my wants before you; for your Holy One has said, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you.” “Thou shalt multiply strength in my soul.” What I earnestly beg of you is to multiply, which means to increase, not the number of my years, nor my wealth, nor my children, nor anything else of the sort; “but strength in my soul,” so as to enable me to resist my evil desires, to bear all crosses with patience, to tread in the path of justice without fatigue, to offer violence to the kingdom of heaven, that thus I may ultimately come to him, “whom thou hast magnified.”

Ps 138:4 May all the kings of the earth give glory to thee: for they have heard all the words of thy mouth.

As he said previously, “Thou hast magnified thy holy name above all,” making use of the past, instead of the future tense, inasmuch as, by the spirit of prophecy, he looked at the future as if it were actually gone by, so he now predicts the conversion of the gentiles, in the imperative mood. Your Holy One having been magnified by his resurrection and ascension, may all the kings of the earth, (as they will,) “give glory to thee;” because, through the preaching of the Apostles, “they have heard all the words of thy mouth;” that is, all you chose to reveal to the world through the prophets and Apostles, words which were at first confined to Judea; “because the words of God were committed to them,” but were afterwards heard by all the kings and people of the world, through the Apostles; “for their sound went all over the earth.”

Ps 138:5 And let them sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.

He goes on with the explanation of the mystery of the calling of the gentiles, “And let them sing in the ways of the Lord;” that is, the kings and people aforesaid will tread in the ways of the Lord, which are mercy and truth; for it is by them that God comes down to man, and man gets up to God; his mercy being exercised by mercifully forgiving the penitent, and justly punishing the impenitent; and our mercy being exercised by freely forgiving those who injure us, by dealing justly with all, and by giving to God and the neighbor what we owe to both. Such people will set about their work in no lazy, grudging manner, but in joy and good spirits; for they will sing, “great is the glory of the Lord.” For they will every other day have a better knowledge of, and will more admire the great things God will have accomplished, and how wonderfully he will have glorified his Christ, who is our head, and the extent of the riches of the glory of the inheritance to the saints.

Ps 138:6 For the Lord is high, and looketh on the low: and the high he knoweth afar off.

The great glory of the Lord consists in this, that high as he is, nay, even the very highest, by reason of his nature, dignity, power, wisdom, and authority; still, “he looketh on the low,” for he came down from heaven to them, for “he was seen upon earth, and conversed with men;” “and the high he knoweth afar off,” because he draws far away from the proud, or casts them far away from him as he cast the devil, the prince of the proud, from heaven into hell. This doctrine of holy humility is most necessary to all, especially to all in any responsible position, for such people run a great risk of being carried away by their pride. But why does God, the High One, love the lowly instead of the high, whereas all love what is similar to themselves? God loves those who are truly raised on high, and not those who place themselves on a false elevation; for the former are very like, the latter most unlike him. And thus, the humble, conscious that they have nothing from themselves, are replenished with all manner of good, and are raised by God to the highest dignity; while the proud, “who thought they were something when they were nothing,” remain empty, and being filled and distended with vanity alone, are utterly discarded.

Ps 138:7 If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, thou wilt quicken me: and thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies: and thy right hand hath saved me.

As God, who is on high, regards the low with the greatest kindness, David, fully cognizant of his own low position, confidently promises himself God’s assistance in every trouble. “If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation,” so as to be surrounded on all sides by it, still “thou wilt quicken me;” you will preserve me alive, unhurt, unharmed. “And thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies;” when my enemies surrounded me, and sought to devour me, you interposed and protected me, “and thy right hand hath saved me;” your strength and power, Christ, hath saved me.

Ps 138:8 The Lord will repay for me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: O despise not the works of thy hands.

He explains how God’s “right hand saves us,” because “the Lord,” who is your right hand, “will repay for me;” will satisfy you, the Father, for my sins; as he says in another place, “then did I pay that which I took not away;” he will also repay my enemies, as I am not able to repay them by punishing them. “Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever;” has no end, and, therefore, I ask you, “do not despise the work of thy hands.” Don’t give up the work you have commenced in your mercy, through the inspiration of faith, hope, and charity, but complete it by preserving, by increasing, by perfecting it. With great propriety he says, “the works of thy hands,” not of our hands, because whatever good we have we have it from God’s bounty, without whom we are not only unable to do anything, but even “we are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves.” 2 Cor. 3:5.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 102

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

A PRAYER FOR ONE IN AFFLICTION: THE FIFTH PENITENTIAL PSALM

The Douay-Rheims translation entitles this psalm: The prayer of the poor man, when he was anxious, and poured out his supplication before the Lord.

Psalm 102:2 Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to thee.

This verse is used daily by the Church as a preparation to any other petitions she may need to put up to the Creator; for, she learned from the prophet that we should ask for an audience from God before we put any petition in particular before him; not that God, as if he were otherwise engaged, needs being roused or having his attention called, but because we need that God should give us the spirit of prayer; nay, even it is “the Spirit himself that asketh for us with unspeakable groanings,” Rom. 8, “Hear, O Lord, my prayer;” that is, make me so pray that I may be worthy of being heard. And, to express his delight, he repeats it by saying, “and let my cry come to thee.” Make me pray in such a manner that my prayer may be the earnest cry of my heart; so full of fire and devotion, that, though sent up from the lowest depth, it may not falter on the way, but ultimately reach you sitting on your lofty throne. Many things prevent our prayers from penetrating the clouds, such as want of faith, of confidence, of humility, desire, and the like; and he, therefore, asks for the grace of praying well, that is, in a manner likely to obtain what we want.

Psalm 102:3 Turn not away thy face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me. In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me speedily.

This is the primary and principal petition of a poor man in trouble, or of a repentant sinner; for “No man can correct whom God hath despised;” and as God’s regarding us is both the first grace and the fountain of grace, he, at the very outset, asks God to look on him, saying, “Turn not away thy face from me,” however foul and filthy I may be; and if your own image, by reason of my having so befouled it, will not induce you to look upon me, let you mercy prevail upon you, for the fouler I am, the more wretched and miserable I am, and unless you look upon me, I will never be brought to look upon you, but daily wallowing deeper and deeper in my sins, I must, of necessity, be always getting more filthy and more foul. Anyone that speaks in such manner begins to be already looked upon by God, but, as it were, with only half his anger laid aside, and still averting his face; however, having got any glimpse of God’s light and countenance, he cries out, “Turn not away thy face from me;” cast me not away from thy face; finish what you have begun, by turning yourself to me, that I may be perfectly and completely turned to thee. “In the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me.” This is a second petition, but a consequence of the first; for, the moment God begins to look upon anyone, that moment man begins to see his own filth and nakedness, and, through it, his real poverty. He then begins to be troubled and afflicted, and to recur to the supreme Physician, who is rich in mercy; for he knows that God never despises an afflicted spirit and a contrite heart. He, therefore, says, with confidence, “In the day when I am in trouble, incline thy ear to me;” whenever, through the influence of your grace, I shall feel troubled for my sins, and, in consequence, cry to you, hear me kindly, I pray you; and he repeats it, “In whatsoever day I shall call upon thee, hear me speedily;” whenever I shall be in trouble, and call upon you, my all powerful Physician, hear me, and that quickly, for fear a delay may lose you the one you seek to heal.

Psalm 102:4 For my days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire.

He assigns a reason for having said, “hear me quickly,” and the reason is, that man’s life draws to a close with the greatest rapidity; and if the wounds inflicted by sin be not cured at once, there is a chance of their never being cured. “For my days are vanished like smoke.” The time I have spent in this world has passed away like a body of smoke, that seems large and bulky on its first ascending, but immediately gets thinner and evaporates altogether; and thus, too, will the remainder of me; my bones, the pillars, as it were, of my whole body, “they are grown dry,” and thus weakened and verging to ruin.

Psalm 102:5 I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread.

He continues deploring his past state, and says, “I am smitten as grass.” The sun so shone on me in my prosperity that I am stricken down like so much withered grass; “and any heart is withered;” for I have been so overwhelmed by the cares of the world that “I forgot to eat my bread;” the bread of heavenly truth, which, strictly speaking, is our bread, and not shared in by the brutes; for the food of the body is not, strictly speaking, our food. Nothing can be truer; and it is a reflection that should be always before those who are well to do in the world; for, if they dwell under the shadow of God’s wings, or constantly bedew themselves with the showers of his grace, they must, of necessity, “be smitten as grass;” and their heart, that so sickens at the food of heaven, must become quite “withered.” “Take heed to yourselves lest, perhaps, your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life;” for such people always forget to eat the true bread, and become dried up of all the grace of devotion.

Psalm 102:6 Through the voice of my groaning, my bone hath cleaved to my flesh.

He now tells how sorry he is for his past life, and shows fruit worthy of penance; for as his flesh formerly reveled in luxuries, and his heart withered by reason of his having forgotten his daily spiritual food, so now, on the contrary, “through the voice of his groaning,” from his constant lamentations, his flesh neglects its daily food; and thus, “my bone hath cleaved to my flesh;” that is, to the skin, being all wasted and worn—an evident approval of fasting and penance, being both the signs and the fruit of true penance.

Psalm 102:7 I am become like to a pelican of the wilderness: I am like a night raven in the house.
Psalm 102:8 I have watched, and am become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop.

To tears and fasting he unites solitude and watching, the marks of true penance. For if one will not seriously withdraw himself awhile from the world, and, in serious watchings, call up the number and the greatness of his sins, it is hardly possible to deplore them sufficiently. He compares the penitent to three birds; the pelican, living exclusively in the desert; the night raven or the owl, an inhabitant of old dismantled houses; and the sparrow, dwelling on, rather than in, houses. For, as St. Jerome remarks, the houses in Palestine were built with flat and not pointed roofs like ours, on which the people were wont to enjoy themselves, to sun themselves, and frequently to have their meals there. Hence, in Mt. 10, we have “Preach ye upon the house tops;” that is, standing on such flat housetops; and in Acts 10, we read of St. Peter, that “He went up to the higher parts of the house to pray.” These three birds represent three classes of penitents. Some repair altogether to the desert, such as Mary Magdalen, Mary of Egypt, Paul the first hermit, Anthony, Hilarion, and many others, who can say with the prophet, Psalm 5, “So I have gone afar off, flying away; and I abode in the wilderness;” and as the pelican wages constant war on noxious animals, especially on serpents, so the Anchorets constantly combat with the demons, and live, as it were, on the victories acquired over them. Others do penance in the cities and towns, cooped up in narrow cells and cloisters, and, separated from the world, come out like the owl in the night, and spend the most of it in chanting the divine praises in hymns and sacred music. Finally, others, encumbered with families, or public duties, who cannot retire from the world, still, like the solitary sparrow on the housetop, manage to rise above the world and its cares. These are they who, while they are in the world, are not of the world; being slaves neither to the wealth nor the honors, nor the cares of the world. They make such things slaves to them; they master, they dispose of, and they dispense them, and they do not suffer themselves to be entangled or ensnared by them; so that their minds can revel freely in solitude here, and thus, enjoy heaven hereafter. To such persons it belongs to watch and preach from the housetops, to watch their own temptations and dangers, and to preach both by word and by example to those over whom they may be placed. No penance can be more valuable than for those in high rank to observe the greatest humility, for those who have the wealth of the world to content themselves with moderate food and clothing, that thereby they may be the better able to help those in want; for those who are prone to concupiscence, to chastise their body, and bring it under subjection, by fasting and spare living; and finally, to serve our neighbors from love, to compassionate their sufferings, and to bear with their annoyances and scandals.

Psalm 102:9 All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me.  

They who seriously turn to penance are always objects of hatred to those sinners who choose to remain in their sins. “He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different,” Wisdom 2; and, though that was said of the just man, it applies to the penitent sinner, seeking to be reconciled also. He, therefore, says, “All the day long my enemies reproached me.” All those who previously, by reason of our union in wickedness, had been my friends, when they saw me become another man, turned out most bitter enemies, and upbraided and reproached me with my conversion, as if I were doing a foolish act; “and they who praised me” as a brave and boon companion, for the wicked are praised for their bad acts, afterwards “did swear against me,” conspired to injure me.

Psalm 102:10 For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.  

He tells why his enemies reproached him: it was because “I eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping;” that is to say, they thought it the height of madness for me to adopt so severe a rule of life of my own accord. The eating of ashes like bread means that the bread he ate was coarse, and rudely baked, being baked in the ashes, which clung to it; such bread being in use with those doing penance. “And mingled my drink with weeping,” wept while I remembered how often I had offended God.

Psalm 102:11 Because of thy anger and indignation: for having lifted me up thou hast thrown me down.

See why the true penitent chooses to begrime himself with ashes and quench his thirst with his tears! He does not do so for want of reason, or because he cannot help it through his poverty, but because he has the Divine anger before his mind, and by such humiliations and signs of true repentance he hopes to satisfy him in some degree. He so punished himself because he saw God’s anger and indignation were lighted up against him for the sins he had committed; and that he saw, because “having lifted me up thou hast thrown me down.” Having, through your grace, raised me to the highest dignity by your friendship and adoption, you afterwards, by reason of my own sins, degraded me from the rank of a friend and a child to that of an enemy or a rebellious fugitive slave. For fear sinners may imagine that the loss they suffer by the commission of sin is a trifling one, the Scripture makes use of a word, translated “thou hast cast me down,” that signifies complete demolition. It alludes to a vessel thrown on the ground from a high place, and thereby shivered into a thousand atoms along with losing its high position. And so with the sinner, who, blinded by the desires of the flesh, does not see the injury done to him, yet truly loses his all when both body and soul are consigned to hell by him who cannot be resisted.

Psalm 102:12 My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.

Our own mortality is a part and a sign of the aforesaid demolition; for, when our first parent was placed in so glorious a position that he might have lived forever, by reason of his sin he “was thrown down,” with all his posterity, and the effect of that was, “that his days declined like a shadow, and he became withered as grass.” The prophet, then, speaking in the person of the penitent, says, I am “thrown down” by you in your anger. Not only by reason of my own sins, but by reason of the old fall, that is, common to us all; “my days have declined like a shadow,” quietly, insensibly, but steadily, until at sunset it disappears and passes into the shadow of night. “And I am withered like grass.” I, who was created to flourish like the palm forever, am now prostrate and withered, like the grass that dries up immediately.

Psalm 102:13 But thou, O Lord, endurest for ever: and thy memorial to all generations.

This is the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet, in the person of a poor penitent, after having recounted his wretchedness, now conceives a hope of reconciliation; and, inspired by the Holy Ghost, predicts the future restoration and renovation of the Church through Christ, as the Apostle explains in the first chapter of the Hebrews. The Apostle, wishing in that chapter to prove the divinity of Christ, first quotes the words in Psalm 44, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;” then those of Psalm 95, “Adore him all you his Angels;” and lastly, the words of this present Psalm, saying, “Thou, O Lord, in the beginning hast founded the earth;” which words are addressed to the same person as those words before us, “But thou, O Lord, endurest forever.” If the former, then, be addressed to the Son, so are the latter. They who say these words apply to God directly, and to Christ indirectly as the Son of God, do not meet the objection; for in that case the Apostle, instead of proving Christ to be God, would be only taking for granted he was God. The meaning of the passage, then, is: I, indeed, have withered away like grass, but thou, O Lord, the Messias we expect, remainest forever; our memory passes away like a sound, but your memorial—that is, your memory—will pass from generation to generation, because, in the succession of ages, there shall be always those to hand down your wonderful doings.

Psalm 102:14 Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time is come.  

The reason why “thy memorial shall be propagated to all generations” is, because you will not forget dealing mercifully with your people; but “thou shalt arise” as if from a long sleep, “and have mercy on Sion,” wilt come in mercy and save us; for in spirit I see “the time is come to have mercy on it;” that is, it is nigh, just at hand, nay, even has already come; for, with the eye of a prophet, I see the future as if it were really present. This is the time of which the Apostle speaks when he says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent his Son,” of whom Isaias says, “In an acceptable time I have heard thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped thee;” in explaining which St. Paul, 2 Cor. 6, says, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Psalm 102:15 For the stones thereof have pleased thy servants: and they shall have pity on the earth thereof.

The prophet foresaw and foretold the renovation of the holy Sion, from the fact of foreseeing God’s servants, his holy Apostles, who hitherto had been devoted to fishing and such humble pursuits, now, after having been instructed by Christ, and filled with the Holy Ghost, inflamed with the most ardent desire of establishing the Church, and having abandoned all the cares of this world, devoting themselves to that one object alone. “For the stones thereof,” the building of the new Jerusalem, the collecting and placing the living stones together that were to be built upon the foundation already laid, “pleased thy servants,” those whom you chose and predestined for the purpose; “and they shall have pity on the earth thereof,” they will foster and cherish the land of the new Jerusalem, as the mother clings to the child in her womb (for such is the force of the Hebrew), as in Isaias, “Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the son of her womb?” By stones are meant in this verse the steady and the perfect, while the earth represents the weak and the infirm of whom the Apostle says, “Him that is weak in faith take unto you;” and again, “Now, we that are stronger ought to bear the infirmities of the weak;” and again, “Who is weak, and I am not weak.”

Psalm 102:16 All the Gentiles shall fear thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory

When the new Sion shall be in progress of building, the gentiles will be converted, and “shall fear” with a holy fear and pious veneration, “thy name, O Lord,” Jesus Christ; “and all the kings of the earth” will also be converted, and will fear “thy glory;” that is, thy majesty, as King of kings and Lord of lords of the earth, sitting at the right hand of the Father, until all your enemies shall be put under the footstool of your feet; and afterwards as the Judge that will come to judge the living and the dead, and render to everyone according to his works.

Psalm 102:17 For the Lord hath built up Sion: and he shall be seen in his glory. 

See why all nations and all their kings shall fear Christ’s glory! “For the Lord hath built up Sion” in the present day, having established his Church in spite of all kings and nations, and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it;” “and he shall be seen in his glory,” in the time to come, when he shall come with all his Angels, in the clouds of heaven, with great power to judge the world. When he began to build up Sion he was seen in his lowliness. “We have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him;” but when he shall come to pass judgment, then “he shall be seen in his glory.”

Psalm 102:18 He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble: and he hath not despised their petition.

This verse alludes to the prayers of the holy martyrs, who in Apocalypse 6, say, “How long, O Lord, dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” The Son of God, then, will be seen in his glory, for he hath “had regard to the prayer” of all the martyrs, and all his other pious servants; “and he hath not despised their petitions;” and, therefore, he will come to judge, and to avenge their blood on those who are still in this world.

Psalm 102:19 Let these things be written unto another generation: and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord:

For fear the Jews may suppose that this prophecy applied to themselves, and take it as in reference to the termination of the captivity of Babylon, and the building of Jerusalem, the Holy Ghost was pleased to remind them distinctly, as St. Peter afterwards clearly explains in his first Epistle, chap. 1, “The prophets who prophesied of the grace to come in you;” and further on, “To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves but to you they ministered those things which are now declared to you by those who have preached the Gospel to you.” The Holy Ghost, then, speaking through David, says, “Let these things be written unto another generation.” These things will be understood hereafter, “and the people that shall be created,” the people then in existence, “shall praise the Lord,” by reason of seeing all those things accomplished.

Psalm 102:20 Because he hath looked forth from his high sanctuary: from heaven the Lord hath looked upon the earth. 

The reason why the people of the New Testament will praise the Lord is, because God has deigned to look down from his holy place on high on this vale of our wretchedness; and that, not with an uninterested or indifferent eye, but with a view to let himself down, to be seen on earth, and to converse with men.

Psalm 102:21 That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain:

God Almighty so humbled himself to have an opportunity in that he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters,” imposed upon them by the prince of darkness, and held in captivity by him; and that he might, on hearing their groans, release them and send them away in freedom. That was accomplished, as the Lord himself testifies, by his own coming, as we read in Lk. 4. By those “that are in fetters,” we are to understand those who are slaves to concupiscence, mastered and fettered by their own passions. “The children of the slain,” are the old children of Adam and Eve, who were slain by the craft of the serpent, for, as we read in Wisdom 2, “By the envy of the devil, death came into the world;” and the Lord himself, speaking of the devil, says, Jn. 8, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and he abode not in the truth.”

Psalm 102:22 That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and his praise in Jerusalem;  

The Lord came to break the bonds of those that were in fetters, and to rescue them from the power of darkness, in that they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion;” that is, that by their conversion to the true and living God, they may glorify the name of the Lord in the Church, which is the spiritual Sion; which he repeats when he says, “and his praise in Jerusalem,” praising and thanking God, and blessing him for the great favor of calling them to the Catholic Church, which is the new Jerusalem, as St. Peter explains in his first Epistle, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his admirable light.”

Psalm 102:23 When the people assemble together, and kings, to serve the Lord. 

He now tells when those who have been delivered from the powers of darkness ought to praise the name of the Lord. “When the people assemble together.” When the various nations all over the world, who hitherto had been worshipping various and different false gods, “shall assemble together,” and be formed into one body, and there shall be one spirit, one God, one faith, one baptism; nay more, when, through charity, there shall be one heart and one soul; when not only the people, but those who are placed over them, shall come together in the one body of the Church, that they, too, may serve God.

Psalm 102:24 He answered him in the way of his strength: Declare unto me the fewness of my days.  

This is a most obscure passage, and the most probable interpretation of it is that which makes it an answer of the prophet to him who commanded him to write those things to another generation. The prophet “answers in the way of his strength;” that is, when he was in the flower of his youth, in robust health: “Declare unto me the fewness of my days.” Make me understand and seriously persuade myself, that my days are numbered, and short is the term of my life, for fear I may be deceived by calculating, from the present vigor of my youth, on a long and hale old age, and be hurried off when I least expect it, unforeseen and unprepared; and thus fail in being numbered among that people that will be created to praise thee forever in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Psalm 102:25 Call me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are unto generation and generation.

The first half of this verse refers to the preceding; the last half to the following verse. Having said, “Declare unto me the fewness of my days,” he adds another prayer, saying, “Call me not away in the midst of my days.” Do not cut my course short by hurrying me off on a sudden, when I may be quite unprepared, and the call most unexpected. “Thy years are unto generation and generation.” A reason why God should allow man to live as long as may be necessary to meet a holy and happy death. In other words, your years, O Lord, are everlasting, from generation to generation, without end; and it is, therefore, only meet that the creature formed to your image should be favored with a life long enough to secure an everlasting life.

Psalm 102:26 In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundedst the earth: and the heavens are the works of thy hands.
Psalm 102:27 They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall grow old like a garment: And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed.
Psalm 102:28 But thou art always the selfsame, and thy years shall not fail.

He proves that God alone is eternal from the fact of his being alone immutable, a proof from first principles. And he proves God to be immutable, from the fact of his having brought the heavens from nonexistence into existence, and will again bring them back to their original nonexistence, while he always remains the same, without any change, and what he says of the heavens applies to all creation, of which the heavens form the noblest part. “In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundest the earth;” you, O Lord, existed in the beginning, before the earth, an inferior part of the world, and you laid its foundations, without any preexisting matter whereon to lay them. “And the heavens are the work of thy hands.” You made not only the earth, but even the heavens, the most excellent part of the world, without any help, from Angels or anyone else, but with your own hands, by your own power and wisdom; and thus brought the whole world from nonexistence into existence. “They (the heavens) shall perish, but thou remainest.” Even though the heavens should grow old, should change and perish, you will always remain the same, as we read in Mt. 5, “Till heaven and earth shall pass, one jot or tittle shall not pass from the law, till all be fulfilled;” which is explained in Lk. 16, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.” Another explanation of this sentence makes it absolutely apply to what he names. For the heavens will perish, will grow old, will be subject to changes, as regards the motion of the heavenly bodies, the influence of heat, the production of inferior bodies; the earth, too, will perish as regards the production of herbs and animals, and the world will be consumed as regards the figure and shape it now has for the Apostle writes, “For the figure of this world passeth away;” and again, “For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Here he gives the name of temporal to everything we see, because the very elements, and the heavens, as we see them, will have an end. We see the earth clothed with trees, full of cattle, ornamented with buildings; the rivers now placidly rolling along, now swollen and muddy; the sky now clouded, now serene; the stars in perpetual motion; all of which are temporal, and sure to come to an end; for, as St. Peter writes, “We look for new heavens and a new earth, according to his promise.”—”And all of them shall grow old like a garment.” All the heavens, as regards their shape and form, shall be consumed. “And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed;” you will remove the external clothing the heavens now have, and put a new one on them, as if you took off a man’s old clothes, and dressed him in a new suit. “But thou art always the self same, and thy years shall not fail.” No length of years will make any impression on you. God can suffer no change, for changes are made with a view to further acquisitions, which does not apply to God, he being most pure, most perfect, nay, even infinitely perfect, and, therefore, can acquire nothing when he wants nothing.

Psalm 102:29 The children of thy servants shall continue and their seed shall be directed for ever. 

Having discussed the eternity of God, the destruction and renovation of the world, he now predicts that God’s servants and children, and the children of his servants forever, would be sharers in his eternity in that world so renovated; not that there would be a propagation of children in that world, but that all the faithful servants of God, with all their posterity, who may share in their piety, will certainly arrive at that happy rest; and such was the promise formerly made to Abraham, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee in their generations, by a perpetual covenant.” The servants of God here represent the patriarchs; their sons represent the Apostles; and their sons again represent all other Christians. “The children of thy servants shall continue.” The Apostles, with their parents the patriarchs, shall continue in thy kingdom, that renewed heaven, that heavenly Jerusalem; “and their seed shall be directed forever;” and it will not be confined to them, but those also begotten by them through the Gospel, if they persevere in faith and love, “shall be directed forever;” will remain to all eternity upright and steady in all prosperity.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 79

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

The church in time of persecution prayeth for relief. It seems to belong to the time of the Maccabees

1 O God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance, they have defiled thy holy temple: they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit.

The prophet, putting himself in the position of the people in the time of the Machabees, addresses God, complaining of the destruction of the temple and of the city. “O God, the heathens are come;” the pagan idolaters, “into thy inheritance;” to that city and province which you have selected from the entire world to be your own. Inheritance and possession are synonymous in the Scriptures. He tells, then, for what purpose the heathens came into his inheritance. “They have defiled thy holy temple,” which they did in the time of Antiochus, when they set up an idol in the temple, and profaned the altars by offering sacrifices to idols on them. “They have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit;” they left the royal city so desolate that it had no longer the look of a city, but looked rather like a hut set up to watch the fruit in a garden or vineyard; that such was the case is stated in 1 Mac. 3, where we read, “And Jerusalem was not inhabited, but was like a desert.”

2 They have given the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat for the fowls of the air: the flesh of thy saints for the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood as water, round about Jerusalem and there was none to bury them.

Having deplored the devastation of the temple and the city, he now deplores the slaughter of the people, and the cruelty and the barbarity of the enemy who would not suffer the corpses of the slain to be buried. “They have given the dead bodies” of the Jews that were killed, not for interment, but exposed them to be eaten by the crows and the dogs. “They hare poured out their blood as water;” in great abundance, without regard to time or person; “and there was none to bury them;” and their bodies, therefore, were left to the birds of the air and the beasts of the fields. This was accomplished several times, and especially in the slaughter of three score of the leading men of the Jews, who were put to death in one day by Alcimus, as we read in 1 Mach. 7, where this very verse is quoted, when speaking of the slaughter.

4 We are become a reproach to our neighbours: a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

He now deplores the infamy attached to them by such persecution. “We are become a reproach to our neighbors,” to the neighboring kingdoms of the Moabites, Ammonites, and others, who despise and mock us as weak and contemptible fellows.

5 How long, O Lord, wilt thou be angry for ever: shall thy zeal be kindled like a fire?

The prophet, seeing God’s anger so terribly excited against his people, that he feared for their total destruction, in deprecation of which he earnestly asks, “How long wilt thou be angry?” and he repeats it, saying, “shall thy zeal be kindled like a fire?” when he compares God’s anger to a fire, which if not extinguished at once, rapidly spreads and consumes everything before it.

6 Pour out thy wrath upon the nations that have not known thee: and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.

He prays here that God’s anger may be turned on the enemies of his people. We thy children, bad as we may be, are still thy children; we know you to be the true God, we worship you, we invoke you; rather, then, “pour forth thy wrath upon the nations that have not known thee;” who have not thee for their God, who do not invoke your name, who do not believe you to be omnipotent. This would seem to contradict the saying of our Savior, Luke 12, “And that servant who knew the will of his Lord, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” St. Augustine replies, that the Gospel speaks of servants belonging to the same family, with whom the fault, and, consequently, the punishment is greater in proportion to their cognizance of the extent of it; but much more grievously do they sin, and much more severe will be the punishment of those who do not belong to the family; nay more, but are sworn enemies, “serving the creature rather than the Creator,” and grievously persecute the entire family; and it is of such persons the following verse speaks.

7 Because they have devoured Jacob; and have laid waste his place.

Not only have they paid no regard to the invocation of the Almighty, but they eat up his people as they would so much bread, robbing them, banishing them, putting them to death, seeking to drive them to apostasy, by threats and torments; “and have laid waste his place,” the city of Jerusalem which they left waste and desolate.

8 Remember not our former iniquities: let thy mercies speedily prevent us, for we are become exceeding poor.

For fear God’s people, in accusing their enemies, and deeming them worthy of punishment, would appear to be justifying themselves, as if their own punishment were not deserved, and that they were afflicted more through the power of their enemies than through the justice of God, in this verse they confess their own sins, and the sins of their fathers, and appeal to the mercy of a Father instead of the justice of a judge. “Remember not our former iniquities.” Punish us not for our old sins, nor for those of our fathers. God sometimes revenges the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation, as we read in Exod. 20. Even the Lord himself says, Mt. 23, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers;” and, in few verses after, “That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias.” Nor does this contradict Ezechiel, who says, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father;” for the son, strictly speaking, is punished for his own sins, but he is said sometimes to be punished for the sins of his parents, for God would not have punished him, though he might have done so in justice, but for the sins of his parents. “Let thy mercies speedily prevent us;” we are rushing to destruction if your mercy will not speedily interfere; and he tells why, when he says, “for we are become exceeding poor;” afflicted, humbled, attenuated, wanting; not only the riches of this world, but also help and assistance.

9 Help us, O God, our saviour: and for the glory of thy name, O Lord, deliver us: and forgive us our sins for thy name’s sake:

The prophet now explains how “God’s mercies prevent us,” which he does in the shape of a prayer rather than an instruction. “Help us, O God, our Savior;” may your mercies prevent us, by helping us in doing what is right, so as to avoid sins of the future, and in doing penance to atone for sins of the past. He says, “help us,” to show that free will, instead of being suspended by grace, is only helped by it; for no one can be said to be helped but he who does something through the cooperation of grace. He then explains both by saying, “And for the glory of thy name, O Lord, deliver us.” Deliver us from the death of future sin, by helping us in doing what is right; not on account of our merits, but for your own glory. “And forgive us our sins, for thy name’s sake;” and for the sake of the same glory, and not for our sake, forgive us our past sins, by helping us to do penance.

10 Lest they should say among the Gentiles: Where is their God? And let him be made known among the nations before our eyes, By the revenging the blood of thy servants, which hath been shed:

Here is the reason why, in the preceding verse, he appealed to God by the glory of his name, “lest they should say among the gentiles: Where is their God?” where is the God that was wont to protect the Jews? He must have deserted them like an imbecile or a coward, or he is quite ignorant of what they have come to. “And let him be made known among the nations before our eyes;” such blasphemies will be uttered not only here, but they will spread among the surrounding nations; and when we hear and see them, we must needs be the more grievously afflicted. “By the revenging the blood of thy servant which hath been shed.” That your name, then, be not blasphemed, revenge the blood of your servants so cruelly spilled.

11 Let the sighing of the prisoners come in before thee. According to the greatness of thy arm, take possession of the children of them that have been put to death.

Let the groans of thy servants in captivity, and even in chains, come before thee. “According to the greatness of thy arm, take possession of the children of them that have been put to death.” The prophet, speaking in the person of God’s people, had previously asked two things, namely, that vengeance may be inflicted for the slain, and that the captives doomed to death may be freed; he now repeats the prayer, but inverts it, first asking for protection for the living, then vengeance for the dead. “According to the greatness of thy arm, take possession of the children of them that have been put to death.” As your arm is most powerful, bravely resist our persecutors, and take possession (it being your peculiar inheritance) of the remnants of your people, to wit, the children of those who have been slain by the enemy. “And render to our neighbors seven fold in their bosom,” punish our neighbors seven fold, and hide it in their bosom, so that it will not be easy for them to get quit of it: “the reproach wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord;” as they reproached you with imbecility and folly, as if you were not the true God, show them that they were the real imbeciles and fools, and, instead of being men, were rather the vermin of the earth, or dust and ashes.

12 And render to our neighbours sevenfold in their bosom: the reproach wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.
13 But we thy people, and the sheep of thy pasture, will give thanks to thee for ever. We will
shew forth thy praise, unto generation and generation.

St. Augustine, writing on the words, “render to our neighbor,” says, with much truth, that such and similar expressions are to be read rather as predictions than imprecations; for the Psalm is concluded by the certain prediction that God’s praise would have no end. They, says he, (and they deserve it) will get seven fold punishment in their bosom; but we will give thanks to thee;” we will praise thee, and preach up thy glory to all ages. That was foreshadowed to the Jews, with whom the Machabees held sway for many years after the persecution of Antiochus; but will be more completely accomplished in the Church of Christ, which, after many and varied persecutions, will, on the day of judgment, see all her persecutors receive in their bosom the reward of their iniquity, while she, with Christ her King, will, in the heavenly Jerusalem, praise her God through ages of ages.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

Christ’s future victory and triumph over the world, and death

1 Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in thee.

Which may be supposed to be said by Christ or by any sincere Christian; that is, guard, protect me from the impending trouble, for in thee alone, and in no created being, have I put my trust, which is evident from what follows: for,

2 I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.

I have confessed to the Lord, and said from my heart: “Thou art my God,” varying the expression from Lord, “for thou hast no need of my goods,” but I rather have need of thine; you, in nowise, depend on me, I entirely depend on you; you are, therefore, my only true and supreme Lord, and, therefore, in thee alone I hope and confide. These expressions proceed from the prophet in the person of Christ; at the time he was not only man, but liable to suffering and death.

3 To the saints, who are in his land, he hath made wonderful all my desires in them.

“As God has no need of my goods,” I will seek to confer them on his elect, and of which friendly intentions God is witness, for “He has made wonderful all my desires in them;” that is, all my benevolence and good will towards his saints and his elect. God is said to have made the benevolence of Christ to the elect wonderful, by declaring it both through the prophets, through the various figures of the Old Testament, as well as by the miracles of Christ and his apostles; and wonderful was Christ’s love for his elect, when he laid down his life for them.

4 Their infirmities were multiplied: afterwards they made haste. I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings: nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips.

The effect of the benevolence of Christ towards his elect; they who, by reason of the grievous wounds of sin, so as to be unable to walk, when healed by the grace of God now began to run in the way of the commandments. “Their infirmities are multiplied;” that is, their spiritual infirmities and diseases; hence the apostle to the Romans, chap. 5, “When we were as yet infirm, Christ suffered for us;” and, in a few verses after, in explanation of the passage, he says: “When we were sinners.” The Hebrew for “infirmity” is made by many translators to stand for “idols;” such is not its signification; it properly means infirmity accompanied with pain, and may be figuratively applied to idols; because idols are infirm and powerless, or because they make sinners of men, and thus infirm. “Afterwards they made haste,” which means the very weakest among them, made so by the multiplicity of their sins, but afterwards, restored by grace, became so strong “as to exult in running their way.” Such was the case in the infancy of the Church, when the converts so hastened to the scaffold. “I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings;” I do not approve of their “meetings for blood offerings;” and, therefore, I will not call them together, “nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips;” I will not only refuse to call such meetings together, but I will not even speak or make mention of such meetings. The connection between this latter part and the beginning of the verse now appears, for he assigns a reason why the elect, after having fallen into a number of sins, and especially idolatry, made such haste “in running in the way of the Lord;” because, in consequence of their having the most thorough abhorrence of idols and of their worship, so much so, as not to allow their name even to be mentioned; he therefore cleansed the elect in Christ from the sin of idolatry, and thus made them saints, “To run in the way of his commandments.”

5 The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.

Having declared his detestation of idols and of sin, he adds his reason for so doing: because he places all his happiness in God alone. An expression most becoming the Redeemer who, entirely “separated from sinners,” and in thorough union with God the Father, places all his happiness in him. A thing we, too, as far as we are able, are bound to. “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance;” that is, the portion which came to me by inheritance, my whole, my all, my everything; “and of my cup;” a repetition of the idea, for the word “cup,” from being divided among the guests, is often made to signify the inheritance which is divided among the children. If you will, “inheritance” may signify substantial wealth, or valuables, and “cup,” delicacies; when the meaning would be, that all my substantial and refined pleasures are fixed in God alone; “it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.” These words are supposed to have been used by Christ, while yet a mortal, before he had got full possession of his inheritance. When we use them, we hold all happiness in God in desire, but not yet in actual possession. That possession is in God’s keeping, and he will hand it over to us on the last day, as he did to Christ on the day of his resurrection. St. Paul alludes to this when he says, “For I know whom I have believed; and I am certain that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day.”

6 The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me.

By a simile drawn from an inheritance in this world, he declares the superiority of that in eternity, for those who seek God and his glory. When an inheritance was divided among a family, the fields were measured with lines, and divided, and lots were cast for the several divisions; and the lines were said to fall in goodly places, when the best part of the land was had by lot. The meaning then is, I have obtained the best part of the inheritance by a most fortunate cast or lot, “for my inheritance is goodly to me;” a mere repetition of the same. He alludes to the division by lot; that he may remind us that the principle of the inheritance comes from predestination, and predestination in our regard is a sort of lot; whence St. Paul, Ephes. 1:11, says, “In whom we are also called by lot;” and Coloss. 1:12, “To be partakers of the lot of the saints.”

7 I will bless the Lord, who hath given me understanding: moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night.

Thanks to God for having inspired him with the thought, and inflamed him with the desire of choosing so valuable an inheritance. “I will bless the Lord.” I will praise him, the author of such a blessing, “who hath given me understanding,” who makes me know, and prudently choose the inheritance; “moreover my reins also have corrected me even till night.” Reins or loins, in the Scriptures signify affections, or desires; whence the expression, “Searching the heart and reins;” and, “prove my heart and my reins;” the heart signifying the thoughts; the reins, the affections: “night” means the time of tribulation; and day, that of prosperity: the expression “correct me,” would be more properly translated by the word “instructed.” Thus the sense will be: not only in prosperity, but in adversity, my whole affections, inflamed to love God, instructed me in a most urgent manner to bear my sufferings patiently, hoping for the best always from Almighty God.

8 I set the Lord always in my sight: for he is at my right hand, that I be not moved.

From the intelligent and affectionate manner in which he praised God, in the preceding verse, it is quite clear God must have been always before his eyes, for the soul is more where it loves, than where it animates. “For he is at my right hand, that I be not moved;” nor was I deceived in having God always before my eyes; that is, the eyes of my heart; for he is really always on my right hand, as if he were protecting my side, and preceding me, like a brave auxiliary; that I may not be disturbed from my path, but persist and persevere to the very end.

9 Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover, my flesh also shall rest in hope.

He now tells what that “great inheritance” is that God is “to restore” to him and to others, who have chosen God. “Therefore,” because the “Lord is on my right hand,” a most faithful helper and protector, “my heart hath been glad,” with that true and solid joy of which our Lord speaks in the gospel, when he says, “Your heart shall rejoice, and nobody shall take your joy from you.” “And my tongue hath rejoiced,” because eternal joy is wont to show itself externally; moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope;” that is, my soul shall rejoice, and my flesh shall sleep in secure and placid death, being in certain expectation of a very speedy resurrection.

10 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption.

This is explained by the apostles Peter and Paul, Acts 2 and 13; and though, strictly speaking; it applies to Christ alone, whose soul was not left in hell, meaning the limbo of the holy fathers; nor did his body in the sepulchre undergo any putrefaction, yet we can all apply it to ourselves, inasmuch as we are members of Christ, and through him, as the apostle has it, “God has raised us up together,” 2 Ephes; and because our souls will not be left in hell, meaning purgatory, nor will our flesh see corruption.

11 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end.

The complete promise of the inheritance is here explained. “Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;” you have “taught me the way” of returning to life from death. A most beautiful metaphor, by which the mode of resurrection is called a way unknown up to that time, because nobody to that time, with the exception of Christ, had truly risen. And he adds, you have not only taught me the way of rising from the dead, but “Thou wilt fill me with joy with thy countenance;” making me glorious, immortal, and happy, by showing me your countenance; because, from the beatific vision, in which consists essential happiness, glory even redounds on the body, which glory was the only one that Christ had not always; for his soul had such glory from the time of his conception, “at thy right hand are delights even to the end.” Not content with conferring glory on me, you will place me on your right hand in heaven, where the glory will be everlasting. All which apply to the elect too, in a certain sense; to whom God shows the road to life when he teaches them that the observance of his law is the way to the kingdom of heaven. “He fills the elect too, with joy,” when he shows himself to them, “face to face;” when, with his right hand he offers them delights even unto the end;” when he places them on his right hand, and with his right hand fills them, as if from an inexhaustible fountain, with delights interminable. We may here note the incredible rashness of Theodore Bera, “You will not leave my soul in hell;” “You will not leave my body in the grave.” If this be not a corruption of the sacred text, we have none. I have demonstrated most clearly in the “Controversies,” that the words in this passage and in Acts 2, signify, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, not “corpse” and “grave,” but “soul” and “hell,” and can signify nothing else.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 23

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2017

1 The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing.

The happiness of the elect, under the figure of sheep in charge of some excellent shepherd, is described in this Psalm. David, one of such sheep, exclaims, “The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing;” I am one of God’s sheep, and he being a most wise, powerful, and good shepherd, I may confidently assert, “I shall want nothing.” This is the language of one of the happy, “on the road,” and “in hope.” For the happy, actually so, and “at home,” do not use the future tense, but the present, because they are done with labor and grief, and have already “entered into the joy of their Lord.” But the blessed on the road, and in hope, cannot say, I want nothing, being subject to many passions; but they can justly say, “I will want nothing;” because, when they will want they will get; when they shall be hungry, they will not fail to be supplied with food; when they shall be sick, they will be sure of a physician. The words, “I shall want nothing,” come to be explained by him after. Sheep require, first, rich pasture; secondly, pure water; thirdly, one to bring them back when they stray; fourthly, to be brought through easy passages; fifthly, to be protected from wolves and wild beasts; sixthly, to be supported when tired and weary; seventhly, if cut or maimed by passing through cliffs or rocks, to be cured; and, lastly, at the close of day, at the end of their journey, to have a home wherein they may securely rest. All these matters God gives in abundance to his elect, and they can, therefore, justly say, “I shall want nothing.” David takes up the first in these words, “He hath set me in a place of pasture;” not in a barren or desert spot, but in prairie land, where an abundance of the choicest and most wholesome grass is to be had; where the sheep have food in abundance; the food, in a spiritual sense, being the knowledge of God, his sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Truth himself, for these are what support, nourish, and increase the spiritual life within us.

2 He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:

The second necessary for the sheep, viz., to have not only plenty of wholesome pasture, but to have plenty of pure water at hand, to be cooled in the heat and the thirst. The spiritual water that extinguishes the thirst of us sheep, is the grace of God, of which Christ himself speaks in the Gospel, Jn. 4, “Whosoever shall drink of the water I will give him, shall not thirst forever.” Nothing is so effectual in curbing our carnal desires, as a taste of the love of God; to the soul who once tastes of it, everything else seems insipid.

3 He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for his own name’s sake.

The third want of the sheep, the being brought back when they stray; for man, though he may by his own strength turn from God, cannot by his own strength return to him. He says then: The good shepherd sought me out when I strayed, brought me back, and, more than that, never allowed me to stray again—a peculiar privilege to the elect. “He hath led me on the paths of justice.” The fourth duty of the shepherd, made me walk in the narrow path of his commandments; and, thereby, lead the life of the just. That he effected by taking from the power and strength of the tempter, by an increase of charity, by additional sweetness, by illuminating with his justice, by enticements, by excitement, by endearment, by terror, and other innumerable ways, on which, if we would only reflect for a moment, we would never cease, during our whole lifetime, to return thanks to so sweet a Pastor; the more so, when all this has been done, not by reason of our previous merits, but “on account of his own name, that he may make known the riches of his mercy to the praise of the glory of his grace.”

4 For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.

The fifth service rendered the sheep, is their protection from wolves and other wild beasts. “For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death;” through dark, dreary places, exposed to all manner of dangers from wild beasts, robbers, precipices, “I will fear no evils, for thou art with me.” And, in truth, no one can well imagine the security a faithful soul feels when they bring to mind that God, who cannot be resisted, accompanies them. “The shadow of death” is of frequent recurrence in the Scripture; the proper meaning of which is that dense darkness, which shuts out all light, and is caused by death. The blind are said to be in darkness, because they see nothing; and with much more reason are the dead said to be so, because they feel nothing. Hence, the poets make the dead to dwell in shady places, wrapped up in darkness; and hence, the Scripture promiscuously uses darkness for the shadow of death, to explain one through the other, as in Job 3, “Let darkness and the shadow of death cover it;” and Job 10, “To a land that is dark, and covered with the mist of death;” Isaias 9, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen;” in each of which passages “dwelling in darkness,” and “dwelling in the region of the shadow of death,” are used to signify the same thing. And as dark places are exposed to a great many dangers, and we generally go through them with no small amount of fear, David, therefore, says, “Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death:” in dense darkness, surrounded by danger, “I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.” The sixth benefit conferred on the sheep, their being supported when weary. He now drops the simile of the sheep, and takes up the shepherd, for sheep are not supported, when weary, by a staff, but are carried on the shoulders of the shepherd; which God is always ready to offer his faithful souls when weary.

5 Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebreateth me, how goodly is it!

The seventh favor, namely, the wonderful consolation extended by God to his elect, in the troubles incidental to them in this world. The meaning of this verse is, not that God has prepared a table, wine and oil, against his enemies, as if they were the weapons wherewith to fight; but the meaning is, that God provides great consolations to meet great tribulations; and, as the enemy seeks to do us much injury, so God pours upon us many consolations, which are pictured as if we were enjoying a feast, where the table was overspread with the choicest meats, with the rarest wines, and the most precious perfumed ointments, such as we read of Mary Magdalen having poured on the head of our Savior. “Against them that afflict me.” This is clearer in the Greek, and the meaning of it is, that out of the persecution and trouble prepared for me by my enemies, you have extracted great consolation—a well furnished table for me. “thou hast anointed my head with oil.” Thou hast poured precious ointment on my head, and thus “made my face cheerful with oil:” nor was there wanting the cup of wine, inebriating me with thy grace, so “goodly,” and so “gladdening to the heart.” Such another passage occurs in Psalm 93, “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” And in 2 Cor. 7, “I am filled with comfort: I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.”

6 And thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.

This is the last good, that brings to the supreme good. “Thy mercy will follow me,” not for a time, but forever, which is the peculiar privilege of the elect. “And that I may dwell;” that is, it will follow me for that purpose, “to dwell in the house of the Lord, unto length of days;” that is, forever.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 31

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2017

PSALM 31
A PRAYER OF A JUST MAN UNDER AFFLICTION

1 King David, in his flight from Absalom, destitute of all earthly assistance, appeals to God, and says, “In thee have I hoped,” and I am therefore confident, as you are all powerful, and most true to me, that you will not disappoint me in my hope. Agreeable to such hope, therefore, “Deliver me in thy justice;” that justice that prompts you to punish the wicked and free the just.

2 The persecution was pressing on him; his friends had sent him word to rest in no one place, to continue his flight, unless he chose to be destroyed; and therefore he prays to be heard at once, and to be delivered from the impending danger. “Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge, to save me.” Be like a well protected strong house to me; for there is no fortified place in this champaign country to which I can fly.

3 You are my stronghold to which I will fly for refuge. “And for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead me, and nourish me,” corresponds exactly with David’s history. His flight was so sudden, that he knew not whither to betake himself, nor whence to obtain the necessaries of life, until Providence directed Siba to him, with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs, and a vessel of wine; and he therefore says, “For thy name’s sake,” for the glory of your name, you will lead me to a safe place, and there supply me with provisions.

4 You will not only bring me to a safe place, and there provide for me, but you will also deliver me from the conspiracy, which, like a hidden snare, they have laid for me; alluding, to the conspiracy got up in Hebron against him by Absalom, when he neither dreaded nor even thought of the like.

5 Though full of hope, when he said, “Thou wilt bring me out of this snare,” being not yet quite secure of his life, he adds, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” to your care I entrust my life. And, as you have at other times frequently “redeemed me,” saved me from death, you who are a most true and most faithful God. These expressions lead many to think that the whole Psalm has reference to Christ, by reason of his having, while hanging on the cross, exclaimed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” But though the Psalm, to the letter, may not be applicable to Christ, the Lord might have taken these words from the Psalm, when he wished to commend his spirit to his Father, just as St. Nicholas, in his last moments, repeated this with the preceding verses; and we, not infrequently, ourselves use them. The words, “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth,” appear to be against the application of the verse to Christ, for, instead of being the redeemed, he is the Redeemer. St. Augustine, attributes the first part of the verse to Christ, the latter to his people; for he is of opinion that the prophet is fond of speaking in the person of different characters—sometimes of Christ, sometimes in that of the people. All right and pious enough, when one is looking for a mystic sense or explanation; but when we look for the literal sense, it does not appear why different persons should be introduced, when there is nothing in the context or the punctuation to call for such change.

6 He assigns another reason for having “commended” his life to the hands of God, because God is wont to hate them who, instead of trusting in him, trust in “vanities,” that can afford them no possible help. “Thou hast hated them that regard vanities to no purpose;” those who regard dreams or omens, or the responses of demons, as Saul did, when he consulted the pythoness. Under the word “vanities,” may also be included those who, relying on human industry, craft, cunning, human aid or help to the exclusion of the divine help and counsel; all of which are vain and useless; and he, therefore, adds the words “to no purpose,” for all such exertions are, in reality, “to no purpose.” “But I have hoped in the Lord:” not so with me, I hoped in none, in nothing but God.

7–8 As “I hoped in the Lord,” I will “be glad and rejoice in thy mercy,” for the Divine mercy never deserts those who hope in him. “For thou hast regarded.” He brings up past favors, in the hope that, by his acknowledgment of them, he may obtain fresh ones. “I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy,” for I have a pledge of it in my deliverance from Saul; for then you “regarded my humility,” my abjection, and affliction; and then you “saved my soul” from the troubles that surrounded me, and from which I could not extricate myself. “And thou hast not shut me up in the hands of the enemy;” you did not allow Saul, who sought my death, to accomplish his purpose; but “thou hast set my feet in a spacious place;” you freed me from the troubles that encompassed me, and placed me, free and disembarrassed, as it were, on an open plain; at liberty to go about at pleasure.

9 Bearing past favors in mind, he prays for future ones, and relates his misfortunes. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” As you have had mercy on me in former tribulations, have mercy now, too; for tribulation has again set in on me; and here they are, “My eye is troubled with wrath.” Whose wrath? God’s or his own? I rather think, with St. Augustine, God’s; for, it is clear, from the First and Second Book of Kings, that David, in all his persecutions, never burst into wrath, but was always most mild and most patient; and I, therefore, take the meaning to be, “in thy wrath,” in which you punish me for my sins, “my eye is troubled;” my corporeal eye has grown dim with my tears; or, the eye of my soul has grown dark: “my soul,” too, is confused, for it has been fearfully frightened; so also has been “my belly,” the very interior of my soul; that is, my memory; the receptacle of my thoughts. Thus the prophet makes brief allusion to the functions of the soul eye representing the intellect; the soul, the will; and the belly, the memory.

10 David, being now an old man, could justly say, “For my life is wasted with grief:” was spent in constant trouble and “sighs.” In the first thirty years of his life his troubles were innumerable. On being made king, for seven years he had to wage war against the descendants of Saul; he then had various wars with neighboring kingdoms; then with his own son. Then, the very care of a kingdom, to one who wishes to govern it conscientiously, is enough to “waste” one, and make them “sigh.” “My strength is weakened through poverty.” In addition to all his other afflictions, he has lost his strength. The first and last members of this sentence are synonymous; they mean the same thing: “my strength is weakened,” is the same as “my bones are disturbed;” for bones stand for health, power, strength. That was literally the case with David. He had to fly, without any provision whatever, to the most desert places; not only on foot, but even barefooted; and there to remain until relieved by his friends.

11 Another misfortune, consequent on his notorious persecution, the neighboring people, “enemies” of his, having heard of his base flight, began to despise him. His “acquaintances,” too began to fear that Absalom, should he succeed, may wreak his vengeance on them for having proved friendly to David. “They that saw me without;” an explanation of a fear to my acquaintance. Many of my acquaintance, when they saw me an outcast and afflicted, “Fled from me,” ran, fearing for their lives, should they be found to have come near me; and thus,

12 Their heart neither remembers me nor thinks of me, no more than if I were dead and buried, for they consider I am just as if such had been the case with me. “I am become as a vessel that is destroyed.” My friends and acquaintances have not only abandoned and forgotten me; but even the people around me despise and look down upon me, as they would upon a broken vessel, of no use or value, which is evident from the abuse they heap upon me. He evidently alludes here to Semei’s abuse, who, not content with abusing him, sought to stone him; looking upon him as an outcast and an exile, and as a broken vessel, that should be thrown into the sewer. And though the Scripture makes mention of Semei alone abusing him, it is probable that others did the same, and that they are here alluded to, when he says, “I have heard the blame of many.”

13 After the abuse of Semei, a conspiracy was entered into, in the presence of Absalom, to take David’s life, which is here alluded to. I am abused to my face; behind my back a conspiracy is entered into at Jerusalem to have my life.

14 The holy soul, in all his troubles, shows he did not despond, because he did not put his trust in the fallacious help of man, but in the all powerful God, whom no one can resist. “But I have put my trust in thee, O Lord.” Why? Because “I said” in my heart, “Thou art my God.” I have a great protector, without whose consent no one can take my life, because,

15 My life does not depend on lot or chance, but depends on your will and power. “Deliver me out of the hands of my enemies.” The meaning is quite plain, and needs no explanation.

16–17 The same petition renewed, but with additional arguments, calculated to move God to mercy. “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;” that means, show me your face, or look on me, which is the same. For as God, when he is angry with us by reason of our sins, is said to turn away his face, or to put a cloud between him and us, and not to look on us; so, on the contrary, when he is reconciled, he is said to turn his face to us to regard us, and make “it shine upon us, so as to make us, too, a mass of light. He, therefore, first asks to be reconciled to God, in case he should have been angry with him; and assigns as a reason, his being a servant most ready at all times to do God’s behest and commands. He then adds, “Save me,” which is only the consequence of reconciliation; and to move him thereto, he adds, “In thy mercy,” not through my merits, but through your own pure mercy; and he adds a third argument, “Let me not be confounded, for I have called upon thee.” For it is the duty of a good and faithful master, who has promised to help those that confide in him, not to suffer one who so unceasingly and so confidently invoked him to be confounded. “Let the wicked be ashamed, and be brought down to hell.”

A prophetic imprecation, and one fulfilled immediately after; for Achitophel, the principal minister of Absalom, who had advised the most impious proceeding against David, was so confused, on his plans being defeated by divine Providence, and being unable to bear up against the confusion consequent thereon, hanged himself; and thus, “The wicked became ashamed, and was brought down to hell.”

18 Achitophel’s lips are called deceitful, because for a long time he pretended to be the fast friend of David; but the moment he got the opportunity, he betrayed his perfidy. “Which speak against the just;” against David, who had offered no injury to either Achitophel or to Absalom; and they spoke “Iniquity;” gave advice full of injustice, “With pride and abuse;” that is, with the greatest contempt and arrogance.

19 The holy prophet, feeling that he had been heard, and having felt a gleam of heavenly consolation, exclaims in admiration, as above. The verse may be thus explained. In the time of tribulation, God conceals the “Multitude of his sweetness;” that is, the unbounded rewards he has in store for the just, in order to prove them; but in a little time after he displays those very prizes and rewards, “In the sight of the sons of men,” that his servants may learn from thence to have greater hope in him. Thus, for a time he concealed his sweetness from David, while he was flying from his son’s persecution; but soon after he displayed the extent of his goodness to him, when he restored his kingdom to him in the greatest triumph. The very same thing happens to all the just, whose reward is now hid, but will appear to all on the day of judgment. It may be interpreted differently; thus, Truly manifold are the consolations, O Lord, that you pour into the inmost recesses of the hearts of those that fear you—that fear you with a filial, fond, and loving, not a servile, fear. For this is “The hidden manna which no man knoweth but he that receiveth it.” Such as was felt by David, when, in Psalm 93, he said, “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” And, as St. Paul, 2 Cor. 7, says, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.” And if, in time of tribulation, such be the “Multitude of the sweetness” in the heart of the exile, who can conceive the amount of the joy in his heart when his triumph shall have been accomplished! “Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men.” The sweetness “Thou hast wrought” for those who refuse all consolation but yours is perfect, most copious, most abundant; and all this “In the sight of the sons of men;” that is, in spite of them all, before their face; because the more pain they inflict externally, the more consolations you multiply internally. This sweetness is infused into the hearts of the just, “In the sight of the sons of men,” in another way, when the sons of men, who persecute the children of God, see what and how they suffer; for, carnal as they are, with the palate of their soul infected by sin, they cannot feel, nor even have an idea of the sweetness, though they see its effects in the meekness, patience, nay, even hilarity and peace of the just; and thus, their sweetness is, to a certain extent, hidden in the sight of the sons of men, though its effects are apparent.

20 He gives a description of the manner in which the just feel the sweetness of God in the day of tribulation; for, by love and contemplation, they are carried up to God; and in him find a house of refuge, as he says in this very Psalm, “Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge;” for those who know how to take refuge in God, think as little of all manner of tribulation as if it did not at all belong to them. “Thou shalt hide them,” those that fear thee, “In the secret of thy face;” in that hidden place, that is, in thy face; for the soul wrapt up in contemplation, feeling that God is attentively looking on it, observant of God’s slightest expression, burning with love at the idea of God’s beauty that is lodged, in dwelling, proof against “The disturbance of men;” that is, from all manner of evil that usually disturbs man. “Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle;” the same just will be protected in the very house in which yourself is lodged, for God has no house capable of containing him, he is his own house; and those who, in love and contemplation, dwell in God, “Make the Most High their refuge. No evil shall come to them, nor shall the scourge come near their dwelling,” as it is beautifully expressed in Psalm 90. In this tabernacle they are protected, not only from evil doers, as was explained in the preceding verse, but also from evil speakers, for such is the meaning of “The contradiction of tongues,” for they who can call upon God as a witness, care little for what man can say. And if the face of the Lord be such a retreat and a refuge to the elect, in the time when he is seen only “Through a glass in an obscure manner,” how will matters be when we shall see him as he really is? Then truly will our dwelling be in Jerusalem, the vision of peace, of which is written, in Psalm 147, “Who hath placed peace in thy borders.”

21 He now applies to himself, as being one of the just, what he had said in general, touching the consolation they feel in their troubles, and thanks God for it. “Blessed be the Lord, for his wonderful mercy to me in a fortified city,” because he “So hid me in the secret of his face,” which is like “a fortified city,” that my enemies could do me no harm.

22 He accuses himself of the despondence he was in when his persecution commenced. When I was almost idiotic through fear, I said to myself, “I am cast away from before thy eyes;” that is, you wish me no longer to govern; or no longer to live, as appears from your withholding that look of benignity and kindness, and that help with which you were wont to countenance me. As we read, in 2 Kings 15, of David, “If I shall find grace in the sight of the Lord, he will bring me again. If he shall say to me, Thou pleasest me not, I am ready, let him do that which is good before him.”

23–24 He now encourages all pious people, similarly suffering, not to cease loving God, and putting their trust in him; for, though the wicked may seem to persecute them with impunity for a while, they will ultimately suffer the bitterest punishment for it.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 146

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2017

PSALM 146
WE ARE NOT TO TRUST IN MEN, BUT IN GOD ALONE

1–2 This Psalm commences in the shape of a dialogue. The exile finding his flesh beginning to groan in the hardships of his exile, exhorts his soul, just beginning to taste of happiness in hope, to praise God, and thereby to refresh the entire man. Addressing his soul; then, he says, “praise the Lord, O my soul.” The soul answers, “In my life I will praise the Lord.” I will praise him when I come to enjoy the true life, because here below, instead of singing and praising him, we must rather weep and pray to him; for though we do praise him, even at present, to some extent, it is not praise properly so called, or full praise, but is mingled with prayers and with tears; but when we come to the true life, then, indeed, will our praise deserve the name of praise, for it will be pure, everlasting, and most delightful. He repeats the same when he adds, “I will sing to my Lord as long as I shall be,” when I shall have come to eternal life I will sing unceasingly to my God. At present I cannot sing while I have so many things to interrupt me, but when I shall have been disengaged and free from all care, “I will sing to my God as long as I shall be,” or during the whole space of that true life; and as I shall never have any fear of dying, I shall sing forever without failing. “Put not your trust in princes,” seeing that many are retarded on the road to salvation by their admiration of place and power. As if such things could confer happiness on those who enjoy such positions, in pity for their blindness, he exclaims, “Put not your trust in princes,” which he explains, by calling them “the sons of men,” mere mortals like yourselves, there being only one true prince, the Creator of mankind, in whom we should put our trust: and he assigns a reason why we should place no trust in them when he adds, “in whom there is no salvation,” because the princes of this world, when they cannot save others, have no salvation in themselves, nor are they saved themselves, but must be saved like all others, if they deserve it. If such be the case, how did Christ, who was man, and the “Son of Man,” as he was wont to style himself, save the whole human race? He saved them through his divinity.

3-4 The prophet might have adduced many arguments to prove that “there is no salvation in the children of men,” inasmuch as they are infirm, variable, deceitful, often aiming at what they are unable to accomplish, and as often refusing to accomplish what they are equal to; but he puts forward one simple reason alone, one that no one can contradict, one taken from death that is common to us all, for how can he save others who cannot save himself? for, beyond aye or nay let him shut himself in a fortified tower, let him surround it with a powerful army for protection, were he even monarch of the universe, “his spirit shall go forth” from his body, and then his body shall “return into his earth,” of which it was composed, and then, “in that day all their thoughts shall perish,” the thoughts of all those who put their hope in him, depended on him, expected riches, places, appointments from him; but the moment God takes away the spirit, that is, the life of him on whom they so depended, all their castle building tumbles to the ground, and thus, “all their thoughts shall perish.”

5-6 The prophet now tells us that the person who will sincerely desire to arrive at true and everlasting salvation will have to place no confidence whatever in the princes of this world, but in the only true God alone. “Blessed is he,” at least in hope, and in the safe and direct road to actual happiness, “who hath the God of Jacob for his helper,” who has the one true God to assist and to protect him in this world. He calls the true God “the God of Jacob,” by reason of Jacob’s people adhering to God, while the Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, and the other surrounding nations, worshipped false gods. And he tells at once whom God will help, when he says, “whose hope is in the Lord his God,” or, God will help all who hope in him, of which there is abundant testimony in the Scriptures, “No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded,” Eccli. 2; and in Psalm 113, “The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord, he is their helper and their protector.” He then proves the advantage of hoping in the Lord, because it was he “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.” Whence it follows that there are no bounds to his power, that he is Lord of all things, and that all things are subject to him, and therefore, that anyone protected by him has no reason for fear from any quarter.

7 As the exile might have said, in reply, I know God is all powerful, and that he can, if he choose, protect and assist me, but how do I know that he will? the prophet takes him up, and proves that God will do it, by reason of his justice, and of his mercy. By reason of his justice, “he keepeth truth forever;” that is to say, he always stands to what he has promised, and he has promised help to those who put their trust in them. In like manner, in consequence of his being supremely just, “he executes judgment for them that suffer wrong;” that is to say, he gives just judgment in favor of the just against the wicked, by punishing the latter, and rewarding the former; and inasmuch as he is merciful, “he gives food to the hungry,” providing for the temporal as well as the spiritual wants of those who trust in him, in a most extraordinary and wonderful manner.

8 As it would not be enough for the exiles, on their return to their country, to be ensured safe conduct from robbers, and wherewithal to support them on the journey, if their feet were not at liberty, and themselves wide awake, besides being in rude health, he therefore, in order to show how determined God is to assist those who put their trust in him, adds, “The Lord looseth them that are in fetters,” the fetters of concupiscence, which he does gradually, by destroying all their evil desires; and as concupiscence always blinds us, “the Lord enlighteneth the blind,” by giving them the light of wisdom and of interior prudence; and as sin was the cause, not only of concupiscence and blindness, but also of human infirmity, man having been brought, by means of sin, to the condition of him, who going down from Jericho, fell in with robbers who despoiled him, and left him more dead than alive, the prophet therefore adds, “he lifteth up them that are cast down,” and finally, he adds, “the Lord loveth the just,” in order, that man, after having been healed, set free, and enlightened through grace, may look forward to perseverance through the goodness of God.

9 He now repeats that God will both help and protect the pilgrims who move along “the narrow way” to their country. “The Lord keepeth the strangers,” they who do not belong to Babylon, nor to this world, but the true pilgrims in a strange land. “He will support the fatherless and the widow.” The fatherless are the just who have no one to protect them, who have no father in this world, and who put their hope in nothing in this world. The widow is the Church, who is truly a widow, so long as she is separated from her spouse, and subject to all the trials and troubles daily pouring in upon her. These orphans and this widow will be all taken into God’s house at the fitting time, and then “he will destroy the ways of sinners,” the prosperous ways in which they walk being so many broad ways that lead to destruction, all of which God will, in the end of the world, thoroughly upset and destroy.

10 Finally, on the termination of the exile, and on the ways of the wicked, as well as the wicked themselves having been exterminated, Christ’s eternal kingdom shall commence, for “the Lord shall reign” with his saints, “forever.” Your God, I repeat, O holy Sion, will reign with his children forever and ever. Amen.

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