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Posts Tagged ‘notes on Psalms’

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

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

ARGUEMENT

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

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

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

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

COMMENTARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Saturday: Lauds.

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

Ambrosian. Thursday of Second Week: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Monday: Lauds.

Lyons. Saturday: Lauds.

Quignon. Thursday: Terce.

Eastern Church. Mesorion of Prime.

ANTIPHONS

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

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

COLLECTS

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

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

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

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

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

 

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

PSALM 92
God is to be praised for his wondrous works 

Ps 92:1 It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to thy name, O most High.

An exhortation to praise God with instrumental and vocal music. He says it is right, useful, delightful, and honorable to give God his need of praise; right, because it is due to him; useful, because we save ourselves by it; delightful, for the lover always delights in praising the beloved; and honorable, because the office belongs to the celestial spirits; “and to sing to thy name, O Lord.” It is good to praise you, not only with our hearts and lips, but also to use musical instruments, such as the psaltery, whereon to make your praises resound, O Most High God.

Ps 92:2 To shew forth thy mercy in the morning, and thy truth in the night:

Such must be the subject of our praise, to announce and proclaim to all the mercy in which you created the world, and the truth or the justice with which you rule it. And, as the work of mercy appears to every one, let it be announced in the day; for who is there that does not know that the heavens and the earth, and all things in them were created by God, through his goodness and mercy, and not from necessity or compulsion. And, as the works of justice are occult; for, through God’s secret designs, the just are often afflicted, and the wicked exalted; let such works be announced at night, in the darkness of faith, and not in the light of knowledge. In like manner, let mercy be announced in the morning, and justice at night, that men may, in the light of their prosperity, return thanks to God for his mercy, and in the darkness of tribulation for his justice; for, as St. Augustine observes on this passage, the father loves his children no less when he threatens than when he caresses them; nor should we be less grateful to God when he chastises us in the time of trouble, than when he heaps favors on us in our prosperity. We should imitate the prophet, who says, in another Psalm, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.”

Ps 92:3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, upon the psaltery: with a canticle upon the harp.

As well as he explained the subject of his praise, when he said, “It is good to give praise to the Lord,” he now explains the second part of the same verse; “and to sing to thy name;” for he says he is to sing with the harp and psaltery, but not without the sweet sounds of the human voice.

Ps 92:4 For thou hast given me, O Lord, a delight in thy doings: and in the works of thy hands I shall rejoice.

He now opens on the work of creation, one of God’s mercies. I have been studying the beauty, variety, excellence, strength, and the uses of your works; of the heavens, the earth, the waters, the stars, animals, and plants: I have been delighted beyond measure with them; but it was not your works that delighted me, for I did not dwell upon them, but it was in yourself I delighted; for your works led me to reflect on your own infinite beauty; and, carried away by the love of such extraordinary beauty, I was delighted and lost in admiration; and will, therefore, daily exult and praise thee “in the works of thy hands.”

Ps 92:5 O Lord, how great are thy works! thy thoughts are exceeding deep.

Having said that he was delighted so much with the works of God, for fear he should be supposed to have comprehended them thoroughly, or to have an intimate knowledge of the excellence of all God’s works, he now adds, that the works of the Lord are too great, and his wisdom in producing them too profound for any one in this life to comprehend. “How great are thy works!” I am lost in admiration at the greatness and the excellence of your works; I cannot comprehend the magnitude of them, for truly did Ecclesiasticus say, “Who hath numbered the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of the world? Who hath measured the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss?” yet however great they may be, greater beyond comparison is the wisdom that created them; of which the same inspired writer immediately adds, “Who hath searched out the wisdom of God, that goeth before all things;” and David here adds, “thy thoughts are exceeding deep;” that is to say, those thoughts of yours so full of wisdom, through which you have devised so many wonderful things, and so perfect that nothing can be added to or taken from them, are so occult as to surpass all human understanding. To give an instance of it in most trifling and common things. Who can comprehend how in one small seed is contained an enormous tree with large and numerous branches, verdant foliage, beautiful blossoms, and its own seed for its own propagation? Who can comprehend by what art God contrived to infuse life, sense, and motion into the minutest insects, and with it endowing the ant with such prudence, the spider with such cunning, and the gnats and the fleas with such a power of incision with so poor an instrument?

Ps 92:6 The senseless man shall not know: nor will the fool understand these things.

He concludes this part of the Psalm, that treats on creation, by asserting, that it is only the wise, and not the senseless or the fool, that can know how great and inscrutable are the works of the Lord. For fools never look for anything in things created but the pleasure or the advantage they derive from them, just as the brute beasts do, who have no understanding, and know not their own ignorance. But the wise, though they do not comprehend the greatness of God’s works, still, they feel they are unequal to comprehending them, and are sensible of their ignorance therein; and the more they are sensible of it, the more they admire God’s works, and come near true wisdom. “The senseless man shall not know” how wonderful are the works of the Lord; “nor will the fool understand” how profound are his thoughts; for a knowledge of one’s own ignorance is only to be met with in the wise.

Ps 92:7 When the wicked shall spring up as grass: and all the workers of iniquity shall appear: That they may perish for ever and ever:

He now passes to direction and the providence of God, in which his justice or his truth is most conspicuous, and especially so in the fact of the wicked being allowed to flourish for a time, that they may be condemned to eternal punishment; while the just, on the contrary, suffer here for a while, that they may be crowned hereafter. “When the wicked shall spring up as grass;” when they shall flourish and multiply as quickly as the grass grows and in as great abundance; “and all the workers of iniquity shall appear” most conspicuous, in high situations, and abounding in riches, “that they may perish forever and ever.” All this prosperity of theirs will be suffered by God as a reward for some of their works, while they are sure to be punished with everlasting death for their crimes.

Ps 92:8 But thou, O Lord, art most high for evermore.

Your position, O Lord, is quite different from that of the wicked, for their elevation is only temporary, but you are “Most High” forever and ever.

Ps 92:9 For behold thy enemies, O lord, for behold thy enemies shall perish: and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.

He proves that the wicked will prosper for a time only, and that a short one. The word “behold,” implies the suddenness of the change, as if he said, They that so thrived and flourished will perish all at once; and the repetition of the expression is with a view to express his execration of them; just as a similar repetition is used by him in Psalm 124, to express his devotion, “O Lord, for I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.” Worthy of all execration is he who fears not becoming an enemy to God, that he may be a friend to the world; for thus writes St. James, “whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” What an amount of perversity to despise the friendship of the Creator for that of the creature. “And all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.” This is but a repetition and explanation of the first part of the verse. Those he called “enemies” there, he calls “workers of iniquity” here; and those he said there “shall perish,” he says here “shall be scattered;” for men become enemies to God by the fact of their contradicting his will that has been made known to us through his law; and they who “work iniquity,” contradict his law; for the law of God is most direct and straight, and the rule of rectitude; but iniquity is nothing else than crookedness, and a departure from that rule. The wicked “shall be scattered” like the dry grass, to which he compared them; for as the dry grass is hurried away and scattered by the wind, and no trace of it found after; thus, the wicked, when they shall have prospered and flourished for a while, by God’s will, are sure to be cut down and carried off, leaving not even a trace of their memory.

Ps 92:10 But my horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn: and my old age in plentiful mercy.

He now contrasts the lot of the just with that of the wicked, and shows that they will one day be exalted by the divine providence and justice; and he speaks in his own person, piously hoping he will one day be numbered among them. “My horn;” that is, my power, happiness, and glory will rise aloft; not like the frail grass, but like the horn of the unicorn, an animal having only one horn, but that a large, straight, and powerful one, “and my old age in plentiful mercy;” that is, not only will my power, happiness, and glory be great, but it will be continued and constant, following me to my old age, for my “old age will be in plentiful mercy” before God.

Ps 92:11 My eye also hath looked down upon my enemies: and my ear shall hear of the downfall of the malignant that rise up against me.

He now contrasts the lot of the just with that of the wicked, and shows that they will one day be exalted by the divine providence and justice; and he speaks in his own person, piously hoping he will one day be numbered among them. “My horn;” that is, my power, happiness, and glory will rise aloft; not like the frail grass, but like the horn of the unicorn, an animal having only one horn, but that a large, straight, and powerful one, “and my old age in plentiful mercy;” that is, not only will my power, happiness, and glory be great, but it will be continued and constant, following me to my old age, for my “old age will be in plentiful mercy” before God.

Ps 92:12 The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.

The prophet now applies to other just men what he had said of himself, gracefully comparing them to the palm and cedar trees, in contrast to the wicked he had compared to grass. Grass springs up in the morning, withers during the day, or is cut down by the mowers, is a thing of no permanence or endurance; whereas the palm tree lives a long time, and gives forth its fruit and its leaves for a long time; so does the cedar, the highest and the longest lived among trees, and in great request for the ornamentation of royal palaces and ceilings. Thus the wicked thrive and prosper for a while, and are then thrown into the fire; but the just, like the palm tree, will flourish and hold verdant, and bear the sweetest fruits forever; nor will they sink under any burden, but will overcome all difficulties, and, furthermore, “shall grow up, like the cedar of Libanus,” to an enormous height, sending out its branches of good works and roots of perseverance, which will enable them to resist any storm, however great, of temptation, and in the end, like the cedars, will be an ornament in the heavenly palace of the new Jerusalem.

Ps92:13 They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

He assigns a reason for having compared the just to the palm and the cedar, because they will not be planted in the woods or the wild mountains, but will be planted in God’s own house, and will flourish in God’s own courts; that is to say, they will be planted in his Church by true faith, watered by his sacraments and his word, fixed and rooted in charity, they will not fail to give out in abundance the flowers of virtue and the fruit of good works. For, outside the Church, and without the foundation of faith, every plantation will be rooted up, inasmuch as it was not planted by the Heavenly Father.

Ps 2:14 They shall still increase in a fruitful old age: and shall be well treated,

What the prophet previously promised himself, viz., “that his old age should be in plentiful mercy,” he now promises to all the other just; that they will prosper, not only in their youth and vigor, but that they will have a long and happy old age. “They shall still increase in a fruitful old age;” and, furthermore, “they shall be well treated;” enjoying the blessings of this life, and hoping for the next.

Ps 92:15 That they may shew, That the Lord our God is righteous, and there is no iniquity in him.

All this will turn up, that the just may show and make known to all by word or by example, “that the Lord our God is righteous;” for, though he suffers the wicked to prosper for a while, he will, in his own time, exercise the judgments of his justice, by rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 17, 2018

 

To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul.

Having found no rest in creatures, but on the contrary, “briers and thorns” everywhere; disgusted with my former mode of life, and having torn my soul from the affections that tied it down to the earth, “I lifted it up” to thee. Through constant reflection, and love inspired by you, to you I began to cling, hoping for help from you in my temptations; and since “I put my trust in you, let me not be ashamed;” that is, I will not go from you in confusion, without having obtained the help I need, and thus be made “to blush” before my enemies.

2 In thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed (blush before my enemies).
3 Neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded.

Verse 3 provides an explanation of the words, “To blush before my enemies,” in the preceding verse, for he should blush if his “enemies were to laugh at him” for having vainly trusted in God. By “my enemies,” may be understood, both the wicked in this world, and the evil spirits, whose rejoicing and scoffing would produce intolerable confusion, were we seriously to reflect on it. He then gives a reason for his hope “of not being confounded,” because “none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded;” that means, because we have learned by long experience, from the examples of our ancestors, and from your own promises, that those who put their trust in you, and patiently expect your help, were never disappointed in their “waiting on you.” To “wait on the Lord” is a very common expression in the Scriptures, and means to expect him in the certain hope of assistance.

4 Let all them be confounded that act unjust things without cause. Shew, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.

This verse may be interpreted in two ways; first, to signify that those who sin without cause, meaning those who sin through malice, and not through infirmity or ignorance, “would he confounded.” Such persons think neither of doing penance, nor of abandoning sin, and if they hope for anything from God, their hope is presumption. Another more literal meaning may be offered, viz., that both the visible and invisible enemies of the just would be confounded, for their persecutions of the just will be all in vain, because they will not accomplish the end they propose to themselves, the ruin of the just, and the bringing them to hell; whereas, on the contrary, such persecution becomes only an occasion to the just of exercising their virtue, and a source of everlasting merit. The prophet then throws back the confusion on his enemies, saying, Lord, do not allow me to be confounded, as I will, if my enemies laugh at me, and exult in my ruin; but, on the contrary, let them be confounded, when they see they have been persecuting me, and provoking me to impatience, without effecting their object, and in vain.

“Show, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.” By “thy ways,” we understand his law, which is really the way to God. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” and the prophet having asked the Lord’s help against temptations, explains what help he specially wishes for, and says, “Show, O Lord, thy ways to me,” make me tread in the way of your commandments—“and teach me thy paths;” that is, show me that most narrow road of thy most just law, for thus will I escape the mocking of all my enemies, and instead of being confounded, all they who, by their temptations, sought to harass me, will be confounded. He asks to be taught the paths of the Lord, not speculatively, but practically; that is to say, he asks for such grace as may move his will to observe the commandments cheerfully.

5 Direct me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art God my Saviour; and on thee have I waited all the day long.

A repetition of the foregoing, and a reason assigned for it. “Direct me in thy truth.” If left to myself, I will at once turn aside to the right or to the left, deserting the path of your commandments, on account of the prosperity or the adversity of this world: do you, therefore, take me by the hand, and direct me by the help of thy grace in the right path, “in thy truth;” namely, in thy law, which is the truest of all paths. “For all thy commands are truth,” Psalm 118.—“For thou art God my Savior;” of thee I ask this help, because you alone, being God, can save my soul; for there is no other physician that understands the diseases of the soul; and, therefore, there is no one able to cure them but God alone, much less is there one able to restore them to perfect health; and I specially ask this favor, which I hope, too, to obtain, because “On thee have I waited all the day long;” that is, with perseverance and patience I have waited for thy medicine, and look for relief from nobody else. It is a source of great merit with God never to give up the hope of his help in temptations, or to look to human consolation.

6 Remember, O Lord, thy bowels of compassion; and thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world.

When God allows the soul to be harassed by temptation, or to wallow in sin, he seems to have forgotten his mercy; and thus the just man, after a long struggle with temptation, and seeing that, however he may desire it, he cannot guard against relapsing into sin, cries out to God to remember his former compassion and mercies. Between compassion and mercy there is this difference only, that the former seems to be the actual exercise or practice of mercy, the latter the habit of the virtue in the mind; and the same difference is observable in the Hebrew, though the words are much more dissimilar. The meaning then is—Remember, O Lord, that you were compassionate “from eternity,” and not only compassionate, but in the habit of showing mercy, and the most paternal tenderness to thy children; and, therefore, mercy is thy distinguishing, as well as thy natural, tendency.

7 The sins of my youth and my ignorances do not remember. According to thy mercy remember thou me: for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

He places forgetfulness in beautiful opposition to remembrance. Remember thy mercy, but forget my sins; for one is the cause of the other, for God then remembers his mercy when he does not wish to remember our sins any longer, but so remits and blots them out, as if they were consigned to eternal oblivion. He remembers, however, the sins and ignorance of youth; that is, the sins committed through human infirmity and ignorance, because to those more than any others does his mercy lend itself, according to the apostle, 1 Tim. 1, “But l obtained the mercy of God, because I did it ignorantly;” and, perhaps, David had no other sins to account for; and this certainly is the prayer of a just man, who seems to have had to contend with such sins only; and with that, sins committed through malice are not forgiven through prayer alone, but need “Fruits worthy of penance.” “According to thy mercy, remember thou me.” He declares what he said in the words, Remember thy bowels of compassion;” and forget my sins; for all this takes place when “God remembers the sinner according to his mercy.”

8 The Lord is sweet and righteous: therefore he will give a law to sinners in the way.

He assures himself of the certainty of obtaining the object of his hope, by reason of God’s goodness and justice; and thus, that he is wont to correct delinquents freely, because thereby he exercises his mercy towards man, and his justice towards sin; and the meaning is, “The Lord is sweet and righteous;” and, therefore, loves man, and hates sin; and, therefore, “gives a law;” that is, declares and points it out “to sinners in the way,” to persuade them to abandon the old path, and, from being bad and wicked, to become good and just.

9 He will guide the mild in judgment: he will teach the meek his ways.

A qualification of the expression in the last verse, “He will give a law to sinners;” which he says here does not apply to all sinners, but only to the mild and the meek, who do not resist God’s teachings, but rather covet instruction. “We will guide the mild in judgment;” that means, he will lead the humble and the mild through the straight path of his law, (for law and judgment appear to be synonymous, as we explained in Psalm 18,) which he then explains in other words, “He will teach the meek his ways,” that is, to the meek he will give the grace of knowing and loving, and thus fulfilling his law. Observe that the proud are not altogether excluded from the grace of God, but have their place assigned them. The proud, to be sure, are incapable of perfection, of which this Psalm principally treats, until, from the influence of fear, they do penance, and then, having shaken off the fear, become mild and humble. The grace of God, then, first softens and subdues the proud and the obstinate, and when thus humbled and contrite, “It guides them in judgment,” and “teaches them his ways.”

10 All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth, to them that seek after his covenant and his testimonies.

 Having stated that not only were the meek guided by God, but that all God’s dealings with such souls were acts of mercy and justice, justice meaning the honor and truth that oblige men to perform their promises. “The ways of the Lord,” mean here his works, they being, in some respect, the “way” in which he comes to us; unless we prefer to understand the expression as meaning the Lord’s rules or customs, and, as it were, the law he uses. Thus, the “Ways of the Lord;” the law he gives us, by means of which, as by a straight road, we ascend direct to God, is sometimes intended by the expression; at other times, it signifies the law he uses himself, when, through his works, he descends to us. And as David had previously spoken at great length on the former, he now speaks of the latter, that is, of the law he made for himself, and which he observes towards us; and he, therefore, lays down, “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” that is, his law, his custom, his mode of dealing with us, are all in mercy and truth; so that whatever he promises in his mercy, he invariably carries out in his truth. Who doth God so deal with? “With those that seek after his covenant and his testimonies.” He gives the name of testament, or “covenant,” to that bargain he made with man, when he gave him the law, that they should be his people, and he should be their God; which bargain is called a testament in the Scripture, because it contains a promise of inheritance, and require to be confirmed by the death of the testator, as it really was by the death of Christ, as a sign of which Moses sprinkled the whole people with blood, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you,” Exod. 24, and Heb. 9. He calls the law that God gave us “His testimonies,” because, as we have already stated, through the law God testifies his will to us. With those, then, who seek for the compact entered into by God with man to observe it, and, in like manner, seek for the law of God to carry it out, that is, with men of good will, fearing and loving God, he deals with such in the law of mercy and truth.

11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord, thou wilt pardon my sin: for it is great.

From the general law in which God deals with those that fear him, the prophet infers that he has a fair hope of his sins being forgiven. “For thy name’s sake, O Lord,” to make known thy mercy and thy truth, “Thou wilt pardon my sin, for it is great.” The word great may signify numerous, as a great people, in which sense St. James uses it, when he says, “We all offend in many things:” or, on account of the magnitude and the grievousness of the sins, for holy souls look upon trifles as grievous, which trifles are really grievous, if we consider the greatness of the person offended.

12 Who is the man that feareth the Lord? He hath appointed him a law in the way he hath chosen.

The prophet is now like one in love, now sighing for what he loves, now praising it, again sighing and longing for it. The just man was in love with the grace of God, ardently longed for the forgiveness of his sins, for the grace of living well, and pleasing God, and, therefore, now asks God’s grace thereto; at one time he praises the grace, and declares the happiness of those that fear God, that is, of those who have got such a grace; and again he returns to desire and to ask for it. Thus, in this verse and the two following, he declares the advantages those who fear God enjoy. “Who is the man that feareth the Lord?” Let such a man come forward and learn from me what a fortunate man he is. The next sentence, “He hath appointed him a law in the way he hath chosen.” Many think this a part of the happiness hereinbefore alluded to; that is to say, that man, fearing the Lord, will, in the first place, have the privilege of being instructed by God “in the way he hath chosen;” that is, in the state of life he may select. Not a bad interpretation, but I prefer another. The prophets are very much in the habit of repeating the same idea twice in the same verse, sometimes for explanation; and I imagine the meaning of the passage, “Who is the man that feareth the Lord?” to be, who, I say, is the man that God has instructed in his law, in the way that man has selected; that is, in the direct path of living a holy life, and moving to God, which he has already chosen of his free will. One part of the verse thus explains the other, for that is he who fears God, who, by his grace, chooses the road to him, which road is none other than the observance of the commandments.

13 His soul shall dwell in good things: and his seed shall inherit the land.

The happiness of the man fearing God consists in this, that “his soul,” the man fearing the Lord, “shall dwell in good things,” shall enjoy those good things, not for a while, or in a transitory way, but forever, permanently. Nothing can be more true, for “To them that love God, all things work together unto good,” as the apostle, in his Epistle to the Romans, has it. Therefore, he that fears God must be always happy. In prosperity he will know how to enjoy it; in adversity, patience and the hope of a great reward in the kingdom of heaven will come to his help. Thus, he will always be glad, and rejoice. And himself will not only dwell in good things, but even his children; “His seed shall inherit the land;” inheritance and possession signifying the same thing, as we have already explained in Psalm 15. The children of those who fear God will possess the land, because they will live in peace therein, without any one to injure them, in the sense we have alluded to; because to the good “All things work together unto good;” and their very tribulations become a source of joy and merit.

14 The Lord is a firmament to them that fear him: and his covenant shall be made manifest to them.

The reason why those who fear God shall always “Dwell in good things,” is, because they do not depend on perishable and transitory things, but God himself is “their firmament;” that is, their hope is based on the friendship and help of God. Firmament means foundation, on which they rest, that foundation being God himself; and their reason for depending on him is, because “his covenant” makes it “manifest to them.” They who fear God know right well, and often call to mind, the treaty he entered into with man, to be their God, and to be a most loving parent to them, on the condition of their observing his laws; and they can, therefore, understand how, by reason of this compact, they can depend upon God, as upon a most solid foundation.

15 My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare.

Having enlarged for a while on the happiness of those that fear the Lord, he now returns to wish and to pray for it: “My eyes are ever towards the Lord.” My mind’s eye has God ever before it, as being entirely dependent on him. The most effectual mode of prayer is, for one to place themselves in a most abject position, before the one from whom help is expected, and to propitiate the benignity of the great, rather by modestly, silently, and quietly pointing to our poverty, than by stunning them with our clamor. As we have in Psalm 122, “As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress; so are our eyes unto the Lord our God until he have mercy on us.” “For he shall pluck thy feet out of the snare.” I have my eyes so intently fixed on God, because he will, as I trust, deliver me from all danger of temptations, which, like snares, beset us on all sides while here below. The expression may also mean, that I always keep up the intention of pleasing God, and of doing nothing opposed to his will. It may also mean the contemplation of the divine beauty, which is always before the mind’s eye of those that seriously love God; but, I consider the first explanation the most literal.

16 Look thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor.

As he is always looking to God, he justly asks to be looked upon by him. Such was his silent prayer when he had his “eyes ever toward the Lord,” hoping he may regard with mercy his loneliness and his poverty. He says he is “alone,” lonely and desolate, or (which is better) because he had in spirit detached himself from the whole world, and attached himself to God alone. He calls himself “poor,” because in his humility he looked upon himself as destitute of all virtues and merits.

17 The troubles of my heart are multiplied: deliver me from my necessities.

I am more inclined to think the temptations of sin are referred to here, rather than temporal troubles. David was one of those who, with the apostle, Rom. 7, groaned and said, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” “The necessities,” from which he seeks to be delivered, seem to be those most troublesome motions of concupiscence, which, in spite of us, will sometimes torment us, and even lead us to sin.

18 See my abjection and my labour; and forgive me all my sins.

He follows up the prayer, and asks forgiveness for the sins into which he may have fallen by the force of temptation. For, though a soul fearing God may be grievously afflicted, and take great pains in resisting concupiscence, still the just man falls seven times; and yet, from his fall, he may be proved to be just; because, at once, by his tears, his prayers, and his contrition, he quickly wipes away the filth and dirt into which he had incautiously fallen. By “abjection,” we are not to understand the virtue of humility; but his abjection, properly speaking, his meanness. For the just man, when he means to become quite perfect, looks down thoroughly on himself, and still does not escape sin. Instead of “Forgive me my sins,” the Hebrew has “bear my sins,” expressive of the trouble of the true child of God, for fear God may be displeased by the great number of them; and he, therefore, exclaims, “bear them.” Do not be fatigued in carrying them, and supporting my weakness.

19 Consider my enemies for they are multiplied, and have hated me with an unjust hatred.

He argues now from the number and the cruelty of his enemies. Lord, says he, you have seen “My abjection and my labor;” behold, now, the multitude, the cruelty, and the iniquity of my spiritual enemies. The enemies who seek to draw us to sin, and incessantly inflame our concupiscence with red hot weapons, are the demons whom St. Paul calls “The spirits of wickedness;” that they are innumerable is well known; and that they burn with the worst sort of hatred, with “An unjust hatred” against us, is equally well known. Hatred is said to be unjust, or most unjust, when one hates another without cause, without any provocation. The hatred may also be said to be unjust, when one seeks to harm another; not for any lucre or benefit, to be derived therefrom, but, from the mere spirit of mischief. Such is the hatred of the devil towards the human race, especially towards the elect; for mankind never did any harm to the devil, but he, blinded by envy, was the ruin of man. “By the envy of the devil, death came into the world,” Wisd. 2. The same evil one now harasses the faithful by temptations, not for the purpose of deriving any benefit therefrom, but to gratify his delight in the ruin of the just.

20 Deep thou my soul, and deliver me: I shall not be ashamed, for I have hoped in thee.

Surrounded as I am by so many enemies, especially invisible ones, to resist whom I feel my own strength unequal, I have, therefore, recourse to you “to keep my soul,” and by your care of it, to free and deliver me from them. For freeing and delivering from the enemy does not suppose that a capture has been made, it equally applies when a capture is prevented. “Thou hast delivered my soul out of the lower hell,” Psalm 85, which means, as it does here, you have prevented my falling into it. The meaning may be also, Keep my soul in the prison of this body, in which I am detained a captive, “For the law of my members holds me a captive in the law of sin,” and afterwards, in the fitting time, deliver me.

21 The innocent and the upright have adhered to me: because I have waited on thee.

Having said, in the preceding verse, that “I shall not be ashamed, for I have hoped in thee,” he gives a reason why he would fear to be ashamed at being deserted by God, and the reason is, that “many innocent and upright,” through the force of his example, especially from seeing him hope in God alone, “adhered to thee,” who certainly would cause him to blush and to be confounded were they to see him disappointed. “I shall not be ashamed,” then, has quite a different meaning in the end of the Psalm from what it had in the beginning of it. In the beginning the meaning was, “I will not be ashamed” before my enemies in their insolence; here it is, “I will not be ashamed” before my friends in their kind condolence.

22 Deliver Israel, O God, from all his tribulations.

David, being not only one of God’s people, but also the prince and head of others, having prayed at sufficient length for himself, he now adds a prayer for his people; a general one, as being unable to enter into the peculiar wants and difficulties of each individual.

 

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 51

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2018

THE CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE OF DAVVID AFTER HIS SIN
THE FOURTH PENITENTIAL PSALM

1 The prophet begins with a prayer, asking forgiveness of his sins assigns his first reason for asking forgiveness, thinks he can move God to forgive; and afterwards assigns other reasons. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” In Psalms 111 and 123, David acknowledges and declares himself miserable, on account of the sin he committed, notwithstanding the abundance of the gifts of nature he was then enjoying; as, on the contrary, he declares those only happy “who fear the Lord,” and not those who abound in honors and riches; from which we may learn how erroneously the children of this world judge of misery and happiness. “According to thy great mercy.” I dare to ask your mercy because I am a wretch, for mercy looks upon misery to remove it. He calls it “great mercy,” because sin is a great misfortune; and because the mercy, through which God gives us temporal blessings, is but a trifling mercy compared to the forgiveness of sin; for God often confers temporal favors on his enemies, even on those he will condemn on the last day; but the grace of the remission of sin he only gives to those whom he intends to adopt as his children, and the heirs of his kingdom. David, then, not content with the small amount of mercy, through which he had got a noble kingdom, immense wealth, a large family, and dominion over his enemies, and the like, asks for the “great mercy,” which he knew consisted in the forgiveness of his sins, and the restoration of grace. “And, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my iniquity.” He repeats and explains the same expression; “Blot out my iniquity” being a mere repetition of “Have mercy on me, O God;” and, “According to the multitude of thy tender mercies” being a repetition of “According to thy great mercy;” inverting the order of the expressions, and thereby giving a certain elegance to the verse. Those words, then, “According to the multitude of thy tender mercies,” give us to understand how unbounded is the mercy shown by God to his beloved children; for the Hebrew word, strictly speaking, signifies the tender love of a father, which the Scripture is wont to express by, “The bowels of mercy;” and the Church, in the Collect of the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, thus expresses, “O God, who, through the excess of your love, go farther than even the merits and even the prayers of your supplicants.” For, in fact, so great is the love of God for us, that he not only grants much more than we deserve, but even more than we dare to hope for. He shows that in the parable of the prodigal son. The father not only forgives the penitent but he runs to meet him, embraces him, kisses him, orders the most valuable clothes, and a precious ring for him, kills the fatted calf in compliment to him; and, finally, shows more marks of favor and love to him, after squandering all his property, than if he had returned after having achieved a signal victory over his enemies. “Blot out my iniquity,” refers to the sin and the stain left after it. David knew that he had not only incurred the punishment of everlasting death by his sin, but that it also left a stain on his soul that rendered it dark, deformed, and hateful to God; and the expression, “Blot out,” refers to both. When a debt is forgiven, the deeds are said to be cancelled, or blotted out; and stains are said to be blotted, when the thing stained is washed and purified. David, then, begs of God not to deal with him in the rigor of his justice, but with the mercy of a father, to forgive the sin, and wash away the stain left by it, by restoring the brightness of his grace.

2 Though the sin may be forgiven, and grace restored, there still remain in man the bad habits of vice, and the very concupiscence of the flesh, that make a man infirm and weak, just as he would be after having recovered from a heavy fit of sickness. The bad habits are gradually corrected by the practice of acts of virtue; but concupiscence, though it can be lessened, ordinarily speaking, is totally eradicated by death alone. And though our own earnest desires and endeavors go a great way to root out our vices, and to diminish our concupiscence, the grace of God, without which we can do nothing, with which we can do everything, is the principal agent therein. David was fully aware of all this, having written in Psalm 102, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee, who forgiveth all thy iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” And, in this passage, after he had asked for the forgiveness of his sins, and, through Nathan the prophet, got this answer, “The Lord also hath taken away thy sin, thou shalt not die,” again begs to be washed and cleansed, to be more and more justified by additional graces; that, by the victory over his bad habits, and the repression of his concupiscence, his soul may become more fair and beautiful, and better able to resist temptation. He, therefore, says, “Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin;” that is to say I confidently hope my sins are blotted out through your grace, and that my soul is washed and cleansed from the filth and stains left upon it by the action of sin; but I ask, beg, and desire to be washed again and again by a fresh infusion of grace, that my soul may thereby be both purified and strengthened. A simpler explanation would be, to make this second petition turn on the magnitude of his sins; as if he said, Had my sin been an ordinary one, a simple ablution would suffice; but being a great, grievous, enormous one, I need additional ablutions to wash away every vestige of my sins.

3 The second reason assigned by him for obtaining forgiveness is, that he admits it, confesses it, and punishes himself by keeping it constantly before him. Pardon me, “For I know my iniquity;” I neither excuse nor deny it, I freely acknowledge it, and I am constantly grieved in thinking of it; for it “is always before me,” staring me in the face, and piercing me like a javelin. An example for us in the recitation of the penitential Psalms. We should be able truly to say, “My sin is always before me.” This we can do by keeping up a recollection of the sins that, through God’s goodness, have been forgiven, for thus we will be constantly reminded of our great ingratitude to so great a benefactor.

4 The third reason for his asking pardon of God is, that he has no other judge to fear. “To thee,” not against thee, he says, “have I sinned.” He had sinned against Urias, whose death he caused. He had sinned against Bethsabee, with whom he had committed adultery, and against the people, whom he scandalized; yet he says, “To thee only have I sinned;” as being the only judge before whom he could be convicted. There was no one else to sit in judgment on him, and if there were even, he could not be convicted, for want of evidence; for, though common report condemned him, there was no judicial proof of his guilt; still, he stood convicted before God, for his own conscience bore testimony against him before that God who searches the reins and heart; and he, therefore, candidly avows, “And I have done evil before thee;” for, though he did the evil in private, in the darkness of a closed chamber, he could not evade the all seeing eye of his Maker. “That thou mayest be justified in thy words.” I confess myself a sinner, thereby acknowledging the justice of the words you pronounced upon me by Nathan the prophet, when he accused me of murder and adultery. “And mayest overcome when thou art judged,” a repetition of the same idea; as if he said, There is no use in denying my crimes, for, if put upon my trial, I must acknowledge them; you will gain the cause, I will be cast therein.

5 The fourth reason is derived from our first origin, and the transmission of original sin, making us infirm and prone to sin; and, thereby, the more worthy of mercy and pity. The iniquities and the sins alluded to could not have been the sins of David’s parents, for his parents were pious and devout people; he alludes to the sins of our first parents, as is evident from the Hebrew.

6 The fifth reason, derived from the truth and simplicity of heart for which David was remarkable; God, being truth himself, has a special regard for men of truth, and, by reason of it, revealed many of the future mysteries to David, for there is scarcely a mystery appertaining to Christ or the Church, that he did not foresee and foretell in the Psalms. He, therefore, draws upon his own truthfulness now, to which he still adheres in confessing his sins, and by reason of such adherence to it he asks God to forgive him. “Behold, thou hast loved truth;” you have loved truth and sincerity of heart, as well as you hate duplicity and wickedness. “The uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made known to me” Loving truth as you do, and having formed me most truthful, you have rewarded me by revealing to me the most secret, profound mysteries, proofs of your infinite wisdom. The word “uncertain” does not imply any of the divine mysteries to be uncertain, in the sense that there is a probability of their not coming to pass; but they are “uncertain” to us, in regard of the time of their fulfillment; thus, we say the day of judgments or of our death, is uncertain, though nobody questions the certainty of both one and the other.

7 He now discloses one of the: “Uncertain and hidden things of his wisdom,” namely, that in the new dispensation men would be sprinkled with water in baptism, and thereby perfectly justified, alluding to the ceremony described in Numbers 19, where three things are said to be necessary to expiate uncleanness: the ashes of a red heifer, burnt as a holocaust; water mixed with the ashes; and hyssop to sprinkle it. The ashes signified the death of Christ; the water, baptism; and hyssop, faith; for hyssop is a stunted plant, generally growing on a rock. In the typical expiation, the water purified, but by virtue of the ashes of the slain heifer, and the aspersion with the hyssop; thus, the baptismal water purifies, by the application of the death and merits of Christ, through faith. It is, then, to the real, as well as the figurative expiation, that David refers when he says, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed;” for he asks for the cleansing which he knew was only emblematic, that by hyssop, which, however, he knew would be converted into the reality of the institution of baptism. To show God was the primary author of such purification, he does not say, let the priest sprinkle me, but, sprinkle me yourself; to show the perfection of the thorough cleansing to be had in baptism, destroying sin most effectually, and giving additional grace.

8 The effect and sign of perfect justification is, when “The Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” The prophet having known this by experience, asks for it again, saying, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness.” When you shall have perfectly cleansed me, you will, moreover, light up my interior with that spiritual joy and gladness that will make me feel my sins have been forgiven, and that I have been restored to your favor, and then “The bones that have been humbled shall rejoice;” “the bones” mean the powers of his mind, not the limbs of his body; for he says, immediately after, “A contrite and humbled heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise;” and the meaning is, my mind, now dejected and weighed down, will then recover its strength, and rejoice when we learn that the fear that saddens and humbles us comes from God, and that it disposes the soul to the spirit of love that justifieth.

9 He now prays for the immediate accomplishment of what he predicted. He said previously, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed;” and also, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness;” and he now asks for them at once; first, for the remission of his sins; “Turn away thy face from my sins.” Do not look on my sins with a view to punish me, as Tobias said, “Lord, do not remember my sins.” Such expressions are purely figurative, for God, from whom nothing can be hidden, can neither turn away his face from, nor forget, our sins; but he is said “to turn away his face” or to forget, when he acts as those do, who do not reflect or remember, and such people do not punish; “And blot out all my iniquities;” to make the pardon a lasting, permanent one, for he that turns his face away from a piece of writing, may look on it again and consider the matter of it, but when the writing is destroyed, “blotted out,” it can no longer be read, a proof that when sin is forgiven it is thoroughly forgiven.

10 This verse corresponds with, “Thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow;” for he asks not only for a remission of his sins, but for such an infusion of grace as may renew his soul, and make it bright and beautiful, a petition, telling against those who make justification to consist solely in the remission of sin. We are not to take it that a new heart is asked for, when he says, “Create;” the expression merely expresses a wish that his heart may be thoroughly cleansed and purified, and made, as it were, a new heart. The meaning, then, is, create cleanness in my heart; and there is a certain point in the word “Create,” to imply that God finds nothing in the heart of a sinner, whence to form cleanness in it; but that entirely, through his own great mercy, without any merit on their part, it is, that he justifies men; for, even though sinners are disposed to justification by faith and penance, still, faith, penance, and all such things are purely the gift of God. “And renew a right spirit within my bowels,” an explanation of the preceding sentence, for, to let us see that the meaning of “Creating a new heart,” is nothing more than creating cleanness in the heart, he now adds, “And renew a right spirit in my bowels,” instead of renew my bowels. The bowels mean, the interior affections of the soul; that is, the will, which was just now called the heart; a “right spirit” means, a right affection, in other words, charity; for by avarice or cupidity the affections of the heart become distorted, turn to creatures, especially to self, while charity or love directs them to the things above, especially to God. “A right spirit,” then, “is renewed in the bowels;” when the heart having been cleansed by grace, an ardent love of God, that had been displaced by sin, is renewed in the soul.

11 He now, mindful of his frailty, asks for the grace of perseverance; lest, being too much raised up by grace, he may happen to fall again. The expression, “Cast me not away from thy face,” is used in the Scripture to designate those who are cast off by God, without any hope or chance of reconciliation. Thus, in 1 Kings 15, the Lord said to Samuel, “How long wilt thou mourn over Saul whom I have rejected?” and 2 Kings 7, “But my mercy I will not take away from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before my face;” and in 4 Kings 24, “For the Lord was angry against Jerusalem, and against Juda, till he cast them out from his face.” He, therefore, says, “Cast me not away from thy face.” Allow me not to lapse again into sin, for fear you should deprive me of your grace forever. My having been washed, and made white as snow, and having had a right spirit renewed within me, would be of little value, if I were ultimately to be “cast away from your face,” with the reprobate. That such may not be the case, that it may not come to pass, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me,” give me the grace of perseverance, causing, through your grace, to make the Holy Spirit constantly abide in me, and thus preserve a “right spirit in my bowels.” Hence we learn, that God deserts nobody, until himself is first deserted; and that he does not withdraw his Holy Spirit from the just, until they extinguish it in themselves by sin; still, man must get the gift of perseverance, to enable him to avoid sin, and extinguish thereby the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle says, “Pray that you may do no evil;” and it is to such gift this passage of the Psalm refers, for when David says, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me;” he does not mean, don’t take it if I shall fall into sin; but, don’t take it, that I may not fall into sin.

12 This verse corresponds with the words, “To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness;” for, as he had predicted that an interior joy, borne testimony to by the Spirit speaking within him, would be the consequence of true and perfect justification, he now, after having asked for remission of his sins, and the infusion of grace with the gift of perseverance, asks for the sign and effect of such justification, saying, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” Through sin I have lost grace, and the joy consequent on it; and as I asked for the restoration of grace, I now, consequently, ask for the “joy of thy salvation;” the joy that arises from the salvation you bestow on me; and for fear he should be over joyful, and thereby lulled into a dangerous security, he adds, “And strengthen me with a perfect spirit.” I ask you to strengthen and confirm me in my good purposes by an inspiration of your perfect Spirit.

13 The fruit of his justification, tending to the glory of God and the benefit of many. Having been taken into favor after so many grievous offenses, “I will teach,” by word and example, “thy ways,” mercy, and justice; “For all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” and the consequence will be, that the wicked, following my example, will be converted to thee. David was a signal example to all posterity of God’s justice and mercy; of his mercy, because, notwithstanding his grievous crimes, the moment he exclaimed, “I have sinned before the Lord,” they were all forgiven; and of his justice, for the Lord inflicted most grievous temporal punishments on him, not only in the death of the son born in adultery, but soon after, in his expulsion from the kingdom, the public violation of his wives by his own son, and the slaughter of his sons Amon and Absalom. His example was useful, not only to the people of his own time, but to all unto the end of the world; for this Psalm, composed by him, is in use, and will be in use: so long as the Church militant shall be in existence. David, then, carried out what he promised in this Psalm, for he taught the wicked the ways of the Lord, thereby bringing many sinners to God, and will, doubtless, bring many more. It is also most likely that David, upon his repentance, did preach up the mercy of God to many, and that, through his exhortations, many sinners were converted to God.

14 Having prayed shortly before for his sins to be washed away, and having promised that he would teach sinners the ways of the Lord, he now prays to be freed from the punishment which Urias’s blood, unjustly spilt, called for, and promises to praise God’s justice. “Deliver me;” save me from the voice of Urias’s blood, which, unjustly spilled by me, cries out to thee and calls for vengeance; “Deliver me,” for he fancied he saw the blood, like a soldier in arms, staring him in the face; and, therefore, with great propriety, he adds, “O God, the God of my salvation;” for to deliver from imminent danger is the province of a Savior; and this, too, is a reason for his adding, “and my tongue shall extol thy justice;” for true deliverance and salvation was then had through the merits of Christ in prospective, as the same is had now through the same merits as of the past. The merits of Christ have in them the very essence of justice, and deserve the most unbounded praises both of lips and of heart on our part.

15 The consequence of the perfect justification and salvation of the sinner is, that his lips, which were wont to praise God, but were closed by sin, through his pardon should be opened again to praise and thank his Redeemer. He, therefore, says, “O Lord, thou wilt open any lips,” by forgiving and pardoning my sins, and restoring my joy and confidence; you will open my lips, and then “my mouth shall declare thy praise,” by proclaiming your mercy and justice, not only to the present but to all future ages.

16 He assigns a reason for offering the sacrifice of praise, because sacrifices of cattle are not pleasing to God; as if he said, “My mouth shall announce thy praise,” because I know you to prefer such sacrifice to that of brute animals; and if such sacrifices were pleasing to you, I would not hesitate in offering them. It is not to be inferred from this, that sacrifices of brute animals were in no respect pleasing to God, when it is clear, from the book of Leviticus, that they were instituted and ordered to be offered by him; but they are said to be of no value essentially, as if the slaughter of cattle were, in itself, a thing agreeable, or useful, or necessary to God. They are also said to be of no value in comparison with the sacrifice of the Eucharist, as appears from Malachias 1, where the old sacrifices, it is said, will cease, when “The clean oblation will be offered in all nations.” Sacrifices are also said to be of no value when they are offered by sinners, as we have in Isaias 1, “Obedience being more pleasing to God than the offering of victims.” Finally, sacrifices are said to be of no value as regards the expiation of sin; for, as the Apostle says, “It is impossible that sins could be taken away by the blood of bulls and goats;” and it is in such sense that David says here, “If thou hadst desired sacrifice,” for the remission of my sins, “I would indeed have given it;” but because “with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted,” so as to forgive me my sins through them, therefore “My mouth shall declare thy praise;” for, as we said in the explanation of the last Psalm, such sacrifice is the one most acceptable to God, being lighted on the altar of the heart with the fire of charity.

17 He explains more fully how acceptable to God is the sacrifice of praise; that sacrifice that springs from a contrite and humbled heart, when man, acknowledging his own misery and God’s mercy, humbles himself before his power, attributing all honor and glory to him, and confusion and disgrace to himself, as we read in Daniel 9, “Justice to thee, O Lord, but to us confusion of face;” and a little further on, “To us, O Lord, confusion of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers who have sinned, but to you, our Lord God, mercy and propitiation.” The expressions, “afflicted spirit” and “contrite heart,” are the same, and the one Hebrew expression is only given for both, but the interpreter chose to vary the words, and the meaning is the same. The spirit is said to be afflicted when the soul is affected with grief, and thus placed in trouble, by reason of the sin committed against God; so also, the heart is said to be contrite when the soul, full of grief for the sin committed, is, as it were, torn asunder, and reduced into powder, from its strong hardness and insensibility. Such contrition is the sacrifice most acceptable to God, for as well as he is offended by our sins, he is appeased by our repentance; and very properly is now added, “A contrite and humbled heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise;” for God despises the proud, and resists them; but to the humble (who willingly submit to him) he always gives his grace, James 4.

18 The last reason assigned by David to appease God, to obtain perfect justice, and to make reparation after so grievous a fall; for he says, that as well as his fall proved an injury to the whole people, his recovery will be now a source of edification to them; and he, therefore, begs this favor for himself and for the whole city of Sion. “Deal favorably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion.” If I am not worthy of being heard, have regard to the city of which I am the head, and confer a favor on it by healing its head, “in thy good will;” in the good will, in which you were pleased to select this city as your own peculiar city. “That the walls of Jerusalem may be built up,” meaning himself, who, like a wall, guarded and defended the entire people.

19 The works of justice that please God as true spiritual sacrifices are the effect of justification, according to the Apostle, Heb. 13, “And do not forget to do good, and to impart, for by such sacrifices God’s favor is obtained;” and 1 Pet. 2, “Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—“Then,” when I shall have been thoroughly renewed and justified, “shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice;” all the good works of mine and my people, “oblations and whole burnt offerings.” All which good works will be so many spiritual oblations, so many spiritual holocausts. Spiritual oblations are the offering of one’s substance or property in alms for the love of God; and spiritual holocausts is the dedication of one’s self entirely to do God’s will and commands, according to Rom. 11, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable service.”—“Then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.” When it shall be seen that such sacrifices of justice are the most acceptable to you, people will vie with each other in loading your altar, not with the ordinary sacrifices, but with the most precious; for that of the calf was considered the sacrifice most valuable; and thus the “laying calves upon the altar” means the offering of works of the most perfect justice to the Lord God.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2017

Psalm 12

Title. To the chief musician upon Sheminith: a Psalm of David.

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ rose for our miseries and necessities. Spoken by Christ concerning the Passion of His Saints.

Eusebius. The insurrection of the ungodly, and the expectation of Christ.

Ven. Bede: To the end: for the eighth. The eighth pertains to eternal rest; for there is no eighth day in the week of this world, but when the seventh is over, the first comes round again. The prophet, therefore, asks that the iniquity of this world may be destroyed, and that the reality of good things to come may be made manifest. Rightly, therefore, is this Psalm appropriated to the eighth day, since it speaks of leaving the evil customs of this, and of aspiring to the innocence of the next, world. In the first part, the Prophet makes supplication that he may be delivered from the perversity of this world, since the crafty and the proud denied the power of the Lord by their wicked speeches. In the second, he foretells that the promise of the Father is to be accomplished by the Omnipotent Son, briefly praising the words of God, as he had before rebuked the words of the wicked.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. An accusation of the wicked, and a prophecy concerning the Advent of Christ.

Arabic Psalter. Concerning the end of the world, which will happen in the Eighth Age, and a prophecy of the Advent of Christ.

S. Jerome. This Psalm is sung concerning the Passion of Christ.

1 Help me, Lord, for there is not one godly man left: for the faithful are minished from among the children of men.

There is not one godly man left. Rather, The righteous hath failed. He, the only Righteous, hath failed,—not in making good His promises, not in loving His own to the end, not in humbling Himself for us unto death, even the death of the Cross; but hath failed in the weakness of death; those blessed Hands, nailed to the Cross, and no more able to cast out devils, (G.) to heal the sick, to raise the dead: those dear Feet, in like manner fastened to the same tree, now no more able to go forth on their missions of love. The faithful are minished. They are indeed. Of the twelve that had so vehemently said, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,”* but one only, and he at a distance, remains faithful: one betrays, and one denies with an oath. And well may the Church, therefore, pray, Help, Lord. “We trusted, that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.”* The Prince of Life dying the death of a malefactor: the King of Ages suffering the punishment of a slave: the One Star of a dark night, as S. Chrysostom beautifully says, blotted out by the wintry clouds. Help, Lord: for human help is here indeed vain. “If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? Out of the barn floor, or out of the wine-press?”*

[The faithful. The LXX. and Vulgate render the Hebrew literally, truths. The Uncreated Truth is One, but created truth is threefold,* that of life, of doctrine, and of righteousness, and may be minished by error, which makes light darkness, and sweet to be bitter. It is true also of heretics, explaining away one Christian tenet after another, and thus minishing the truths of the Creed.]

2 They talk of vanity every one with his neighbour: they do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble in their double heart.

So they talked on that first Easter Eve. “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, After three days will I rise again.”* “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” Miserable flattery indeed, whereby they brought themselves to think that the Omnipotent God could be “made sure” by a little wax; (Ay.) that the four soldiers could avail against the mission, if need were, of more than twelve legions of Angels! And dissemble in their double heart. And well they fulfilled this prophecy, when they gave large money to the soldiers, and sent them forth with the tale that that precious Body had been stolen while they slept. And the wise man may well say, “Woe be to the sinner that goeth two ways:”* the Apostle may well teach us, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”* For it follows,

3 The Lord shall root out all deceitful lips: and the tongue that speaketh proud things.

All deceitful lips. And oh, how many they were! that spake concerning the Passion, “I am innocent of the blood of this Just Person;”* and the Catholic Creed replies, from one end of the world to the other, (Ay.)—replies by the baptismal font, in the village school, in the assembly of the faithful, by the bed of the dying, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate:”* “Himself He cannot save:” “I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and hell.”* Yes: Pilate, Herod, Pharisees, Elders, Scribes, people, deceitful lips have they all; and of all of them long since has it been said,* “So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord.” “Let the Jews say,” exclaims the exulting office of the Oriental Easter, “let the Jews say how the soldiers lost the King Whom they were appointed to guard. Either let them exhibit the Body that was interred, or worship the Monarch that has arisen.”1 And the tongue that speaketh proud things. For what prouder saying than that spoken in the hall of most unrighteous judgment, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?”* What more arrogant decree than that, the dogmatic decree of the whole Jewish Sanhedrim, “Give God the praise, we know that this man is a sinner!”* Truly they have been rooted out. Disperdet: that is, as Cardinal Hugo, with a mediæval play upon words, observes, Bis perdet: with the double destruction of body and soul.

4 Which have said, With our tongue will we prevail: we are they that ought to speak; who is lord over us?

So it was: twelve poor and unlearned men on the one side, all the eloquence of Greece and Rome arrayed on the other. From the time of Tertullus to that of Julian the Apostate, every species of oratory, learning, wit, lavished against the Church of God: and the result like the well-known story of that dispute between the Christian peasant and the heathen philosopher, when the latter, having challenged the assembled Fathers of a synod to silence him, was put to shame by the simple faith of the former, “In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I command thee to be dumb.” Who is lord over us? “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?”* “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?”* “Who is that God that shall deliver you?”*

5a (5) Now for the comfortless troubles’ sake of the needy: and because of the deep sighing of the poor,

5b (6) I will up, saith the Lord: and will help every one from him that swelleth against him, and will set him at rest.

Comfortless! Yes, they were indeed comfortless, those poor trembling ones, when they were waiting for the departure of that long, weary Sabbath; when their one poor longing was to anoint for its burial the Body that they had fondly hoped to see exalted upon the throne of Israel. Comfortless indeed, when Peter was despairing of pardon; (Ay.) when James had bound himself by a great oath that he would neither eat nor drink till he had seen the Lord; when, go which way they might, everywhere was there the exultation of the Pharisees over their fallen enemy, everywhere taunts and jeers at “that Deceiver!” Deep sighing: for they dared not openly to lament; the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews. And poor they were, if ever any one could be called poor. They had lost Him That was altogether lovely: (G.) they had lost that one Pearl of countless value; and what had they left but the faint remembrance of His Words, and the shaken and shattered faith, that was yet not wholly destroyed?

And therefore, I will up, saith the Lord. “Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”* Easter has come at last: “destruction,” as the Eastern Church joyfully exclaims, “has been exiled, immortality has blossomed forth: the long galling chain has been broken in sunder: let the heavens rejoice: let the earth and the things under the earth be glad: for Christ hath arisen, and death is spoiled.”1 From him that swelleth against him. For as the serpent had no sooner triumphed over the woman than the promise of salvation was given to the human race; so Satan no sooner seemed to have completed his victory, (C.) on the Cross, than his power was crushed for ever, and they over whom he had tyrannized set at rest, by the sure and certain support of a Risen Lord in this world, and the hope of a perfect and unending rest in the next. Notice that the reading of the Vulgate gives quite a different sense: I will place him in My salvation, I will act faithfully (or as the Septuagint has it, παῤῥησιάσομαι) in him. And set in God’s salvation we are, when, as doves, we take refuge in the “Great Rock:” faithfully He has dealt with us in accomplishing all the promises, all the types, all the sayings “that He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began.”*

6 (7) The words of the Lord are pure words: even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.

Pure. They fail not to remind us that they are pure in three ways: (L.) as cleansing us from impurity, properly so called, from pride, from avarice. And no sooner had the Lord risen from the tomb, than His words were spoken and written by His servants for the support of the Church to the end of time: no sooner had this true Naphtali, this stricken and persecuted Hind, been “let loose” from the chains of death, than He gave goodly words to His Apostles and Evangelists. And notice how in this very first sermon, His words were emphatically pure words, when He proclaimed the blessedness of the pure in heart, and restored marriage to its first and original purity. Well says S. Ambrose,* “Let us beware not to mingle anything earthly, anything secular, anything corporeal, anything light and mutable, in these celestial sentences. For the words of the Lord are chaste words: that in these, the immaculate and modest sincerity of celestial mysteries may shine forth by a spiritual interpretation. Let us not mingle earthly with Divine things, and injure that inviolable Sacrament of the prophetic vision, or the everlasting oracles by the false estimation of our nature. Therefore he adds, Even as silver, &c., to the end that we, like good money-changers, may examine the coin of prophetic writings, separating the Lord’s money, and purging it from every earthly pollution.” Seven times. As infusing in us the sevenfold graces of the Spirit; set forth both in the words of Isaiah, and in those of the Sermon on the Mount.

[From the earth. Because all the prophecies and types of the Old Testament are now purged from the earthly and carnal surroundings of the ceremonial Law, (P.) and set in their true light and beauty. Modern critics agree in turning the words thus,* in the earth; that is, in a crucible or furnace of clay;* not very dissimilarly from S. Chrysostom, who explains it of running the molten ore into clay moulds.* And then we are reminded, taking the words still of Holy Writ, of that passage, “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.”* The oracles of God, prophecy fulfilled and unfulfilled, evidence of our ransom, that we may be our Master’s “purchased possession,”* confided first to the Jews and then to the Church Militant, were indeed in a vessel of earth. And as regards each of us, the Apostle warns us that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels,”* so that we must undergo stern probation that “the Word of God may have free course”* within our hearts, which it cannot till the fire of Divine love frees it from all dross. Seven times in the fire. So, in the Beatitudes, after seven blessings have been pronounced on the poor, the mournful, the meek, the righteous, the merciful, the pure, and the peacemakers, the eighth, summing up all these into one, pronounces a blessing on those who are persecuted, and have thus reached the final stage of purification from things of the earth, (A.) because the eighth Beatitude, as the octave of eternal life, does but repeat the first note in a higher interval.]

7 (8) Thou shalt keep them, O Lord: thou shalt preserve him from this generation for ever.

Keep them: that is, not as the passage is generally taken, (Ay.) Keep or guard Thy people, but Thou shalt keep, or make good, Thy words: and by so doing, shalt preserve him—him, the needy, him, the poor—from this generation. Thou shalt keep Thy word,*—“Cast Thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall nourish thee;” Thy word,—“I will inform thee, and teach thee in the way wherein thou shalt go;”* Thy word,—“Fear not, little flock; it is My Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom;”* and so, preserving him from this generation, shall hereafter give him a portion with that happier generation, the general assembly of the First-born which are written in heaven.

8 (9) The ungodly walk on every side: when they are exalted, the children of men are put to rebuke.

And we are reminded of the Lord’s own words, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;”* and of the Apostle’s warning, “That ye may be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”* But starting from the literal sense of the Vulgate, The ungodly walk in a circuit, it is a favourite idea of S. Bernard’s to contrast their crooked ways with the straight-going path of the servant of God; their turning aside from the right straight road, with the “I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed”* of the follower of Christ.1 Walk on every side. Compare it with S. Peter’s warning, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour;”* and say with S. Cyril, in his extreme peril before the Council of Ephesus, “That wicked one, the sleepless beast, walketh about, plotting against the glory of Christ; from whom He only can deliver us, from whom we know that He will deliver us.” When they are exalted. The ten persecutions may witness to the truth of this saying. When the children of men, fearing man rather than God; dreading them that killed the body, rather than Him that hath power to destroy the soul; fell away from the faith, and denied the Lord that bought them: while the children of God, standing firm against seductions and threats, obtained the glory of martyrs as their reward. Notice that here again the Vulgate widely differs from our translation,—According to Thy loftiness, Thou hast multiplied the sons of men: or as it is better in the LXX.,—Thou hast made much of the children of men. And they remind us how the human race has been indeed made much of, in that it has been exalted in the Person of our Lord, to a height far above all height, and to a participation in the very Throne of God.

[The sons of men were minished,* observes Arnobius, when the Lord descended to the grave, for His disciples forsook Him and fled, but they were multiplied by His Ascension, because He sent down the Holy Spirit, through Whom three thousand souls were in a moment added to the Church.]

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who is our help when godly men fail; and to the Son, of Whom it is written, “I will up, saith the Lord;” and to the Holy Ghost, Whose words are pure words.

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

Various Uses

Gregorian. Sunday: I. Nocturn.

Monastic. Wednesday: Prime.

Parisian. Thursday: Compline.

Lyons. Tuesday: Prime.

Ambrosian. Monday in the First Week: II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Friday: Prime.

Antiphons

Gregorian. Thou shalt keep * us, O Lord, Thou shalt preserve us.

Parisian. Help me, Lord, * for the faithful are minished from among the children of men.

Mozarabic. For the comfortless troubles of the needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor, I will up, saith the Lord.

Collects

Have mercy,* most holy Father, on our infirmity, and grant to us to receive and to hold fast Thy words in a pure heart, that we may be able to turn away from the guileful speeches of Thine enemies. Through (1.)

Deliver us,* O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue, Thou, Who wast Thyself weighed on the balance of the Cross; and grant that neither the accuser may have any inlet to our accusation, nor Thy people acquiesce in the deceit of his words. Overthrow him that lies in ambush against us by Thine Almighty spear, and rise up for the comfortless troubles’ sake of the needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor. (11.)

[O Lord, Keeper of the faithful, ever preserve and keep us from the generation of the ungodly, (D. C.) and unite us to the generation of the righteous who keep Thy pure words, that we may alway abide in Thy love, and by the help of Thine aid, rejoice in everlasting salvation. Through (1.)]

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2017

2 Save me, O Lord, for there is now no saint: truths are decayed from among the children of men.

Save me, O Lord, from all dangers, for there is nobody else in whom I can confide; “For there is now no saint;” for there is scarce in the world to be found any one truly “Pious and merciful,” (for such is the real meaning of the Hebrew word,) and not merciful only, but truthful. For “truths are decayed among the children of men;” that is, scarce one can be found to speak the simple truth.

3 They have spoken vain things, every one to his neighbour: with deceitful lips, and with a double heart have they spoken.

He proves that “there is now no saint;” that is, “No pious and merciful man;” since men in general, instead of speaking in a good and useful manner to their neighbor, “Speak vain things” only; things that cannot rescue them from dangers, whence they speak in vain.

He also proves that truth has failed since “deceitful lips,” that is, the lips of man, “Have spoken with a double heart,” saying one thing, and doing another; and thus seeking to deceive.

4 May the Lord destroy all deceitful lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things.

An imprecation, but in the spirit of prophecy. By way of imprecation, he predicts that it will come to pass, that all who seek to deceive, will be deceived themselves; and while they imagine they are profiting much by their dishonesty, will lose everything, and themselves along with it, for all eternity. “The tongue that speaketh proud things;” he that boasts of his frauds and deceits, as appears from the following verse.

5 Who have said: We will magnify our tongue: our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?

He explains the connection, “The tongue that speaketh proud things,” and “the deceitful lips:” inasmuch as all deceitful people confide mostly in their tongue, so as to imagine they want nothing else, nor should they be subject in any way to the Lord. “We will magnify our tongue;” when we make it boast of all its frauds in procuring for us the happiness we enjoy: “Our lips are our own,” a very ambiguous phrase in the Latin text, but very clear in the Hebrew and Greek; and the meaning is, our lips are with us; that is, prove for us, stand up for us. The prophet proceeds to explain the confidence the wicked place in their lips, as if they were the most powerful weapon they could use against others; and, therefore, he makes them add, “Who is Lord over us?” As if they said, we acknowledge no superior, when through our tongue we hold all in subjection.

6 By reason of the misery of the needy, and the groans of the poor, now will I arise, saith the Lord. I will set him in safety: I will deal confidently in his regard.

Having taught that confidence was not to be put in man, he now teaches that confidence is to be placed in God, whose promises are most faithful; by a figure of speech, making God himself speak and promise his assistance to the humble, and to the afflicted. “By reason of the misery of the needy,” who groan under the deceits and the oppressions of the wicked, I will not defer helping them, but “now will I arise,” as if from sleep, and will stand by them. “I will set him in safety: I will deal confidently in his regard.” He explains what he will do upon rising: “I will set him in safety;” I will place them in safety, I will so establish them in safety, that they must forever be safe. “I will deal confidently in his regard,” that is, no one shall prevent, I will act boldly and freely in the matter. The Greek word implies confidence, freedom, and boldness.

7 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried by the fire, purged from the earth, refined seven times.

The prophet now teaches that the foregoing promises are not like the promises of deceitful man, but most certain and true. “The words of the Lord are pure words;” that is, pure, chaste, and, as the Hebrew implies, not dyed, or counterfeit, but sincere and trustworthy, as “Silver tried by the fire;” that is, like the purest silver in sound, weight, and color, such as “Silver tried in the fire,” and not only in the fire, “But purged from the earth;” that is, approved of by the most versed in the trade of gold and silver; and finally, not once, “But seven times refined.” In the Hebrew, the expression, “Purged from the earth,” is very obscure.

8 Thou, O Lord, wilt preserve us: and keep us from this generation for ever.

He infers from the preceding, that God will fulfill his promises. You, our Redeemer and Lord, will guard us, for the Greek, as well as the Hebrew word, implies, not only salvation, but, furthermore, an extension of it in guarding and preserving.

9 The wicked walk round about: according to thy highness, thou hast multiplied the children of men.

As if one asked, what will become of the wicked, while you protect us? He replies, “The wicked will walk round about,” (while we are quietly reposing under your wings,) constantly running after the things of this world, yet never coming at the enjoyment of their desires; and they will be forever thus “Walking round about,” while the world lasts, because, “According to thy highness, thou hast multiplied the children of men,” and “the number of fools is infinite,” and in such a multitude there must be forever an immense number of those “Walking round about,” straying from God.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 119:67-76

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2017

67 Before I was humbled I offended; therefore have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good; and in thy goodness teach me thy justifications.

He explains the necessity of the three gifts aforesaid, stating he had good reason for asking for them, inasmuch as it was through the want of them he transgressed, and for his transgressions was humbled by God in his justice. “Before I was humbled,” by being visited with tribulations, “I offended,” through ignorance; “therefore have I kept thy word,” the promise I made of thenceforward observing your law more attentively; but do “thou who art good,” that is, sweet and kind, “in thy goodness,” in conformity with your mildness, “teach me thy justifications,” that I may sin no more.

69 The iniquity of the proud hath been multiplied over me: but I will seek thy commandments with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is curdled like milk: but I have meditated on thy law.

He now explains the necessity of the second gift, discipline, or prudence. “The iniquity of the proud hath been multiplied;” proud sinners told me lies without end, to try and make me break your law; hence the necessity for prudence, through which “I will seek thy commandments with my whole heart.” “Their heart is curdled like milk;” those proud sinners have a heart hard as cheese formed of curdled milk, and I, therefore, dismissed them, and “have meditated on thy law.”

71 It is good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may learn thy justifications.
72 The law of thy mouth is good to me, above thousands of gold and silver.

From the abundance of the first gift that had been conferred on him, he now declares, “It is good for me that thou hast humbled me,” no one but one truly meek and humble of heart, and thus truly good, and who from experience could form an opinion of what is good, could give expression to such a sentiment. For he that is truly good looks upon any humiliation, arising from tribulation, as a great good, inasmuch as it leads to a better observance of God’s law, the value of which he expresses, when he says, “The law of thy mouth is good to me above thousands of gold and silver,” and so it is, because through the observance of the law we acquire life everlasting, to which no treasures can be compared.

73 Thy hands have made me and formed me: give me understanding, and I will learn thy commandments.

In the next eight verses he assigns many reasons for asking the grace to observe the law; and first, from the fact of his being one of God’s creatures, and, therefore, owing him implicit obedience. “Thy hands have made me and formed me.” Thy power and wisdom, like a pair of hands, “made me,” when I had no existence, “and formed me,” by working, out of the shapeless mass, my members and my senses, or made me as to my soul, and formed me as to my body. Being thus entirely yours, and owing you the most profound obedience, I ask you “to give me understanding and I will learn thy commandments,” that I may not only know them but practice them.

74 They that fear thee shall see me, and shall be glad:because I have greatly hoped in thy words.

The second reason, derived from the edification of the neighbor, “they that fear thee shall see me” keeping your commandments, “and shall be glad,” because they shall see that I have “greatly hoped in thy words,” in the promises contained in your law.

75 I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are equity: and in thy truth thou hast humbled me.

Reason the third, his having confessed his faults. “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are equity,” that your judgments are essentially just, and if “you have humbled me,” by depriving me of your grace, I know you have done so “in truth,” because I deserved it, I therefore complain not of your justice, but I throw myself on your mercy, saying—

76 O! let thy mercy be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.

The comfort he asks for is grace to observe the law; for he who grieves for his humiliation, by reason of having been deprived of grace, and thus having fallen into sin, will get great consolation, if a profusion of grace will enable him to observe God’s laws perfectly and thoroughly.

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St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture o Psalm 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 21, 2017

The following post contains the Latin text of Aquinas’ lecture with an English translation. The translation was done by Hugh McDonald and is made available throuth the Aquinas Translation Project. Copyright Statement: The copyright for these translations are held by the individuals who have translated them. They are offered for public use with the provision that, if copied, they not be altered from their present form, and that the copyright notice remain at the bottom of each translation to ensure that appropriate credit be given to both individual and the Project. Links should be established to this index page. All Biblical translations are taken from the Douay-Rheims version.

Psalm 1 

(a) Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum et in via peccatorum non stetit, et in cathedra pestilentiae non sedit; sed in lege Domini voluntas eius, et in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte. (a) Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
(b) Et erit tamquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo. Et folium eius non defluet. (b) And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off:
(c) Et omnia quaecumque faciet, prosperabuntur. Non sic impii, non sic; sed tamquam pulvis quem proiicit ventus a facie terrae. Ideo non resurgent impii in iudicio, neque peccatores in consilio iustorum. Quoniam novit Dominus viam iustorum; et iter impiorum peribit. (c) and all whatsoever he shall do shall propser. Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth. Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just. For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish
(a) Hic Psalmus distinguitur contra totum opus: non enim habet titulum, sed est quasi titulus totius operis. (a) This psalm stands out distinctly from all the rest of the work: for it does not have a title, but it is, as it were, the title of the entire work.
Sed et David Psalmos composuit per modum orantis, qui non servat unum modum, sed secundum diversas affectiones et motus orantis se habet. But David also composed the Psalms by the mode of one who is praying, which does not hold to one mode, but is varied according to the diverse feelings and movements of the one who prays.
Hic ergo primus Psalmus exprimit affectum hominis elevantis oculos ad totum statum mundi, et considerantis quomodo quidam proficiunt, quidam deficiunt. Thus this first psalm expresses the feeling of a man who is lifting his eyes to the entire state of the world and considering how some do well, while others fail.
Et inter beatos Christus fuit primus; inter malos Adam. And Christ is the first among the blessed ones; Adam the first among the evil ones.
Sed notandum, quod in uno omnes conveniunt, et in duobus differunt. But it should be noted, that in one all come together, and in two they differ.
Conveniunt in beatitudine, quam omnes quaerunt; different autem in processu ad beatitudinem, et in eventu huius, quia quidam perveniunt, et quidam non. They agree in happiness, which all seek; they differ in the way to happiness, and in the outcome, because some reach it, and others do not.
Dividitur ergo Psalmus iste in partes duas. Thus this psalm is divided in two parts.
In prima describitur processus omnium ad beatitudinem. In the first part is described the way of all to happiness.
In secunda eventus, ibi Et erit tamquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursum etc. In the second part is described the outcome, where it says, And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters etc.
Circa primum duo facit. With respect to the first he does two things.
Primo tangitur processus malorum. First he touches upon the way of evil men.
Secundo bonorum, ibi, Sed in lege Domini voluntas eius etc. Second, the way of good men, where he says, But his will is in the law of the Lord etc.
In processu malorum tria consideranda sunt. In the way of evil men, three things are to be considered.
Primo deliberatio de peccato, et hoc in cogitatione. First, deliberation about sin, and this is in cogititation.
Secundo consensus et executio. Second, there is consent and execution.
Tertio inductio aliorum ad simile, et hoc est pessimum. Third, inducing others to something similar, and this is the worst.
Et ideo primo ponit consilium malorum, ibi Beatus vir etc. First he presents the counsel of evil men, where he says Blessed is the man etc.
Dicit autem, Qui non abiit, quia quamdiu homo deliberat, est in eundo. He says, Who hath not walked, because as long as a man is deliberating, he is going.
Secundo ponit consensum, et executionem dicens, Et in via peccatorum, idest in operatione: Prov. 4. Via impiorum tenebrosa, nesciunt ubi corruant; Second. he presents consent and execution, where he says: And in the way of sinners, that is, in operation; Proverbs 4:19 “The way of the wicked is darksome: they know not where they fall”;
non stetit scilicet consentiendo, et operando. nor stood, that is, in consenting and operating.
Dicit autem, impiorum, quia impietas est peccatum contra Deum, et peccatorum, contra proximum, et in cathedra; He says of the ungodly, because impiety is a sin against God, and of sinners, as against one’s neighbour, and in the chair;
ecce tertium, scilicet inducere alios ad peccandum. behold the third, namely to induce others to sin.
In cathedra ergo quasi magister, et alios docens peccare; et ideo dicit, pestilentia, quia pestilentia est morbus infectivus. In a chair thus as an authoritative teacher, and teaching others to sin and therefore he says, pestilence, because a pestilence is an infective disease.
Prov. 29. Homines pestilentes dissipant civitatem. Proverbs 29:8 “Corrupt men bring a city to ruin.”
Qui ergo sic vadit non est beatus, sed qui contrario modo. Thus he who walks in this way is not happy, but only he who walks in the contrary way.
Beatitudo autem hominis in Deo est. Ps. 143. Beatus populus cuius est Dominus Deus eius etc. The happiness of man is in God. Psalm 143:15 “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord” etc.
Et ergo processus rectus ad beatitudinem, primo ut subdemus nos Deo, et hoc dupliciter. Thus there is the right way to happiness, first that we should submit ourselves to God, and this is in two respects.
Primo per voluntatem obediendo mandatis eius; et ideo dicit: Sed in lege Domini; et hoc specialiter pertinet ad Christum. First by the will to obey his commands; and thus he writes: But (his will is) in the law of the Lord; and this pertains in a special way to Christ.
Ioan. 8. Descendi de caelo non ut faciam voluntatem meam, sed voluntatem eius qui misit me. John 6:38 “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
Convenit similiter et cuilibet iusto. The same may be said of each just person.
Dicit, in lege, per dilectionem, non sub lege per timorem. He says, in the law, meaning because of love, not as under the law because of fear.
I Timoth. 1. Iusto non est lex posita etc. I Timothy 1:9 “The law is not made for the just man” etc.
Secundo per intellectum iugiter meditando; et ideo dicit: in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte, idest continue, vel certis horis diei et noctis, vel in prosperis et adversis. Second, through the understanding, by always meditating; and so he says: and on his law he shall meditate day and night, that is, continuously, or at certain hours of the day and night, or in prosperity and adversity.
(b) Describitur in hac parte felicitatis eventus: et primo ponit diversitatem eius; secundo assignat rationem, ibi, Quoniam novit Dominus etc. (b) In this part he describes the outcome of happiness: and first he sets forth its diversity; second he assigns the reason for it, where he says: For the Lord knoweth etc.
Circa primum duo facit. Concerning the first he does two things.
Primo ponit eventum bonorum, secundo malorum, ibi non sic impii etc. First he sets forth the outcome of good men, second, that of evil men, where he says: not so the wicked, etc.
Circa eventum bonorum utitur similitudine; et primo proponit eam, secundo adaptat, ibi, Et omnia quaecumque faciet etc. Concerning the outcome of good men he uses a similarity; and first he sets it forth, then he shows how it is appropriate, where he writes: And all whatsoever he shall do etc.
Similitudo namque sumitur a ligno, in quo tria considerantur, scilicet plantatio, fructificatio, et conservatio. The similarity is taken from a tree, in which three things are considered, namely, planting, bearing of fruit, and conservation.
Ad plantationem, vero necessaria est terra humectata ab aquis, alias aresceret; et ideo dicit: Quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, idest iuxta fluenta gratiarum, Ioan. 7. Qui credit in me flumina de ventre eius fluent aquae vivae. For planting, one needs earth moistened by the waters, otherwise the tree dries up, and so he says: which is planted near the running waters, that is, next to the streams of graces, John 7:38 “He that believeth in me (as the scripture saith) out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
Et qui iuxta hanc aquam radices habuerit fructificabit bona opera faciendo; et hoc est quod sequitur: Quod fructum suum dabit. Gal. 5. Fructus autem spiritus est charitas, gaudium pax, et patientia, longanimitas, bonitas, benignitas, etc. And he who has roots next to this water will bear fruit in doing good works; and this is what follows: which shall bring forth its fruit. Galatians 5:22 “The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, and patience, long-suffering, goodness, benignity” etc.
In tempore suo, scilicet modo quando est tempus operandi. Galat. ultimo. Dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum ad omnes. In due season, that is, just when it is time to act. Galatians 6:10 “Whilst we have time, let us work good to all men.”
Sed nec arescit, immo conservatur. But it does not dry up, but rather is kept alive.
Quaedam arbores conservantur in substantia, sed non in foliis, quaedam etiam in foliis conservantur: sic et iusti, unde ait: Et folium eius non defluet idest nec in minimis operibus et exterioribus deseruntur a Deo. Some trees are kept alive in their underlying substance, but not in the leaves, and others are also kept alive in their leaves: so also the just, whence he says: and his leaf shall not fall off that is, he will not be deserted by God even in the smallest exterior works.
Proverbia 11. Iusti autem quasi virens folium germinabunt. Proverbs 11:28 “But the just shall spring up as a green leaf.”
(c) Deinde cum dicit, Et omnia, adaptat similitudinem: quia beati in omnibus prosperabuntur, et hoc quando consequentur finem intentum quantum ad omnia quae desiderant, quia iusti perveniunt ad beatitudinem. (c) Then when he says, And all, he shows how the similarity applies: because the blessed prosper in all things, and this is when they achieve the intended end with respect to all that they desire, because the just attain blessedness.
Psal. 117. O Domine, salvum me fac, o Domine, bene prosperare etc. Psalm 117:25 “O Lord, save me: O Lord, give good success” etc.
Eventus malorum contrarius est, qui describitur ibi, Non sic etc. Et circa hoc duo facit. Primo ponit similitudinem, secundo ad adaptat, ibi, Non resurget. Sed nota quod hic praemittit non sic et non sic bis, propter maiorem certitudinem. Gen. 41. Quod secundo vidisti, iudicium firmitatis est. The outcome of evil men is the contrary, and this is described where he says: Not so etc. He does two things with regard to this. First he sets forth a similarity, then he shows its fittingness, where he says: The (wicked) shall not rise again. But note that here he repeats the words “not so” twice, for the sake of greater certainty. Genesis 41:32 “That thou didst see the second time…is a token of the certainty.”
Vel non sic faciunt in processu, ideo non sic recipiunt in eventu. Or not so do they act in their way, and so not so do they receive in their outcome.
Luc. 16. Recepisti bona in vita tua, et Lazarus similiter mala: nunc autem hic consolatur, tu vero cruciaris. Luke 16:25 “Thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented.”
Comparantur vero proprie pulveri, qui tria habet contra ea quae de viro iusto sunt dicta; quia non adhaeret terrae pulvis, sed est in superficie: lignum vero plantatum est radicatus. They are compared properly to dust, because dust has three things that are said of the just man; that dust does not stick to the earth, but it is on the surface, but a planted tree has roots.
Item lignum in se compactum est, item humidum est; sed pulvis in se divisus, siccus, et aridus est; per quod signatur, quia boni adunati sunt caritate sicut lignum: Again a tree is held together in itself, and it is moist; but dust is divided, dry and arid; through this we have a sign that good men are united like a tree by charity.
Psalm. 117. Constituite diem solemnem in condensis, usque ad cornu altaris: mali vero divisi: Proverba 13. Inter superbos semper iurgia sunt. Psalm 117:27 “Appoint a solemn day, with shady boughs, even to the horn of the altar”: but evil men are divided: Proverbs 13:10 “Among the proud there are always contentions.”
Item boni inhaerent radicatus in spiritualibus et bonis divinis, sed mali in exterioribus bonis sustentantur. Again, good men cling as with roots in spiritual things and divine goods, but evil men are sustained in exterior goods.
Item sunt sine aqua gratiae, Gen. 3. Pulvis es etc. Again, they are without the water of grace, Genesis 3:19 “For dust thou art” etc.
Et ideo omnis malitia eorum defluet. And so all their malice flows away.
Luc. 21. Capillus de capite vestro non peribit. Luke 21:18 “A hair of your head shall not perish.”
Sed de istis malis dicitur, quod totaliter proiiciuntur a facie, idest bonis superficialibus, quos ventus, idest tribulatio, proiiciet a facie terra. But of these evil men it is said that they are totally driven from the face, that is, from superficial goods; the wind, that is tribulation, driveth them from the face of the earth.
Iob. 4. Vidi eos qui operantur iniquitatem, et seminant dolores, et metunt eos, flante Deo periisse, et spiritu irae eius esse consumptos. Job 4:8 “I have seen those who work iniquity, and sow sorrows, and reap them, perishing by the blast of God, and consumed by the spirit of his wrath.”
Deinde adaptat similitudinem ibi, Non resurgent, quia sicut pulvis sunt. Then he makes the similarity fit, where he says, The wicked shall not rise again, because they are dust.
Sed contra 2. Corin. 2. Omnes nos manifestari oportet ante tribunal Christi. But, on the other hand, 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Item 1. Cor. 15. Omnes quidem resurgemus. Again, 1 Corinthians 15:51 “We shall all indeed rise again.”
Ad quod dicendum, quod dupliciter hoc potest legi. In this regard, we should say that this can be read in two ways.
Resurgere enim proprie in iudicio dicitur homo, quando causa sua sublevatur per sententiam iudicis. A man is properly said to rise in judgment, when his cause is supported by the sentence of a judge.
Isti ergo non resurgunt, quia sententia pro eis in iudicio non fertur, sed potius contra: unde alia littera habet, Non stabilentur. Those men, then, do not rise, because in judgment the sentence is not in their favor, but rather against them: hence another reading says: They will not be made to stand.
Boni vero sic: quia licet afflicti sint ex peccato primi parentis, tamen habebunt sententiam pro se. With good men it is thus: although they are afflicted by the sin of the first parent, yet they have a sentence in their favor.
Neque peccatores, congregabuntur, in consilio iustorum: quia boni congregabuntur in vitam aeternam, ad quam mali non admittentur. Nor (do) sinners congregate in the council of the just: because good men are gathered together for eternal life, to which evil men are not admitted.
Vel dicendum, quod hoc intelligitur de reparatione iustitiae, ad quam reparantur proprio iudicio. Or it may be said, that this is understood of the reparation of justice, to which they make reparation in their own judgment.
1 Cor. 11. Si nosmetipsos iudicaremus, non utique iudicaremur. 1 Corinthians 11:31 “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”
Et quantum ad hoc dicit: Non resurgent in iudicio, scilicet proprio, de quo dicitur Ephe. 5. Surge qui dormis, et exurge a mortuis, et illuminabit te Christus. And in this respect he says: The wicked will not rise again in judgment, that is in the proper judgment, of which it is said in Ephesians 5:14 “Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten you.”
Quidam vero reparantur consilio bonorum, et isto modo etiam mali non resurgunt a peccato. Some men are restored by the advice of the good, and in this respect evil men still do not rise from sin.
Vel impii, idest infideles, non resurget in iudicio, discussionis, et examinationis, quia secundum Gregorium quidam condemnabuntur, et non iudicabuntur, ut infideles. But the wicked, that is unfaithful men, shall not rise again in judgment, that of discussion, and examination, because according to Gregory some are condemned without being judged, such as the unfaithful.
Quidam non iudicabuntur, nec condemnabuntur, scilicet Apostoli, et viri perfecti. Some will not be judged, nor will they be condemned, namely the Apostles and perfect men.
Quidam iudicabuntur, et condemnabuntur, scilicet mali fideles. Some are judged and condemned, namely evil men who have faith.
Sic ergo fideles non resurgent in iudicio discussionis, ut examinentur. In this way, then, men with faith do not rise in the judgment of discussion to be examined.
Ioan. 3. Qui non credit, iam iudicatus est. John 3:18 “He that doth not believe, is already judged.”
Peccatores vero non resurgent in concilio iustorum, ut scilicet iudicentur, et non condemnentur. Sinners, however, will not rise in the council of the just, that is, to be judged and yet not condemned.
Deinde ratio redditur quare huiusmodi non resurgent in iudicio: Quoniam novit etc. Et proprie loquitur: quia quando aliquis scit quod perditum est, reparatur; quando vero nescit, non reparatur. Then he gives the reason why such do not rise in judgment: For the Lord knoweth etc. In proper terms he is saying: because when someone knows that something is lost, he has it replaced; when he does not know, he does not have it replaced.
Iusti autem per mortem dissolvuntur, sed tamen Deus novit eos. 2. Tim. 2. Cognovit Deus qui sunt eius. The just are dissolved by death, but still God knows them; 2 Timothy 2:19 “God knoweth who are his.”
Novit scilicet notitia approbationis, et ideo reparantur. He knows them with a knowledge of approval, and so they are restored.
Sed quia non novit viam impiorum notitia approbationis, ideo iter impiorum peribit. Psal. 118. Erravi sicut ovis quae periit: quaere servum tuum, quia mandata tua non sum oblitus. But because he does not know the way of the wicked by a knowledge of approval, therefore the way of the wicked shall perish. Psalm 118:176 “I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost: seek thy servant, because I have not forgotten thy commandments”.
Psal. 34. Fiant viae illorum tenebrae et lubricum etc. Psalm 34:6 “Let their way become dark and slippery” etc.

© Hugh McDonald
(hyoomik@vaxxine.com)

Latin Text according to the Venice Edition of MDCCLXXV



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

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 27

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 19, 2017

Title. A Psalm of David. In the LXX.: A Psalm of David before he was anointed.1

ARGUMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ is the illumination, protection, and safety of His servants that put their trust in Him. To those who for the first time enter into the Lord’s house. Concerning the love of the Law. The voice of them that are baptized. To them that first enter into the faith of the Lord. To be read with the lection of Isaiah the Prophet, “Behold, they that love Thee shall eat good things.” The voice of the Prophet crying to God.

Ven. Bede. David was thrice anointed: once at Bethlehem, in the house of his father, by Samuel; secondly, in Hebron, by the Tribe of Judah, after the death of Saul; thirdly, in the same place, by all Israel, after that the son of Saul was slain. But since we read not that he composed any Psalm before his first unction, it follows that the second is that to which this title refers; before which, while he was yet an exile because of the snares of Saul, he is recorded to have written a Psalm. Note, that before he was anointed is not found in the Hebrew.

Since frequently before he ascended the throne David was troubled by his bitter enemies, the Prophet speaks (with reference to these his escapes) through the whole Psalm. In the opening he declareth himself to fear the Lord, and to tremble at none else: he testifieth that, in the adversities of the world, one refuge remains to him,—that, though he be tempest-tossed by corporeal dangers, he dwelleth in the house of the Lord by the unchangeable devotion of his soul: The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. Next, delivered from manifold destruction in divers manners, he returneth thanks; and in the spirit of prophecy promiseth to himself the reward of future beatitude, Hear my voice, O Lord.

Syriac Psalter. David, on account of the sickness which had fallen on him.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm of boasting in the Lord.

(It is manifest, on careful consideration, that this Psalm consists, properly speaking, of two: the first, a hymn of triumph, ends at the seventh verse; the other, a penitential ode, is clearly in a different metre, as well as on a different subject.)

1 The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom then shall I fear: the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

The anointings of David were three:* in Bethlehem, in Hebron over Judah, and again in Hebron over all Israel. So were those of Christ: in His Mother’s womb, in His Baptism, and after His Resurrection, when all power was given unto Him in heaven and in earth. Cardinal Hugo1 sees the same triple unction in us: (1) in free grace, in our first vocation; (2) in sanctifying grace, after which we have to fight,* as David with his enemies, and our Lord with the devil in the wilderness; (3) in heaven, for a blessed immortality.

My Light. (L.) And as Baptism is illumination, and so spoken of both in Scripture and the Primitive Church, my Light is well put before all other titles of the Lord. Then comes the salvation in all those battles to which we are, as it were, girded in Baptism. Notice the paronomasia between או̇רִי my light, and אִירָא shall I be afraid? And, as in the first clause, at the word light, we have the Sacrament of Baptism, so in the second, at the phrase, the Strength of my life, we have that of Confirmation.

Or,* again, you may take it as S. Albertus does: The Lord is my Light against the curse of ignorance, (A.) and my Salvation against the impotence of infirmity. Well says S. Augustine: “The Emperor is protected by his guards, and is safe; mortal is shielded by mortal, and feels secure; the Immortal defends a mortal, and do you dare to tremble?” The Lord is my Light.* And how so? Pseudo-Dionysius explains it well. First, as being the Source of all physical light and brightness; secondly, because all spiritual light and illumination, whether in angels or men, comes from Him, Who is the Father of lights. Thirdly, (Cd.) because He is the Comforter of them that are in mists and darkness; as it is written, “Unto the godly there ariseth up light in the darkness; He is merciful, loving, and righteous.”* Fourthly, because He is the Source, the one only Fountain of that Light of Glory, (G.) which forms the Beatific Vision. Or again: The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. The Law was a light, showing what must be done, and what must be avoided; but in no sense a salvation, for it gave no power to do that which it enjoined, or to keep from that which it forbade. “The Law made nothing perfect; but the coming in of a better hope did.”* And we may boldly put the verse into our Lord’s own mouth; for, speaking according to His Manhood, (D. C.) it was from God that He increased, as S. Luke testifies, in wisdom; of God, that He was enlightened and upheld in the darkness and struggles of His thirty-three years’ life on earth. And now, O Lord Jesu, Thou art our Light! If Thou be our guard, who can harm us? If Thou be our illumination, what can darken us? So lead us on through the dim twilight of this world by the light of Thy grace, that hereafter we may attain, in heaven, to the unclouded light of Thy glory!

2 When the wicked, even mine enemies, and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh: they stumbled and fell.

In the first and most natural sense, our Lord would tell us of that night, when His enemies, as soon as He had said, “I am He,”* went backward and fell to the ground. Gerhohus not inelegantly refers to the speech of S. Laurence on the gridiron, when it was indeed as though his enemies would eat up his flesh: “Assatus sum; jam versa, et manduca.” They stumbled: (G.) or, as it is in the Vulgate, they became weak:* and so we are reminded of that long war between the House of Saul and the House of David, which must be carried on during the whole course of every individual Christian life; and, in a still higher sense, between the Church of the Living God and the legions of Satan, until the consummation of all things. But we must see a far deeper mystery in the verse. “When the wicked.”—thus speaks the Immaculate Lamb, Whose Flesh is meat indeed, and Whose Blood is drink indeed—“came to eat up My Flesh at the altar, came unworthily, came profanely, they stumbled and fell: this was the key-stone of their iniquities, this put the finishing stroke to their punishment.” The story is well known of the younger infidel, during the epoch of Voltaire, inquiring of his more hardened and older friend, how to get rid of the prickings of conscience by which he was even still sometimes annoyed. “Take the Sacrament,” replied the hoary sinner. The advice was followed, and God’s Spirit strove no more with that man: he stumbled and fell.* Others understand my flesh of the fleshly failings and infirmities of every true servant of God; and the complaint to be of the joy and eagerness with which the Lord’s enemies hunt them out: just as Job speaks, “If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied.”* (D. C.) Or we may take they stumbled and fell in a good sense. “Whoever shall fall on that stone, shall be broken.”* While they came, as Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter, they fell to the earth at the voice of the Lord Himself; while they came, as another Saul, to destroy David at Naioth in Ramah,* the Spirit descends upon them, and they lie down and prophesy.

3 Though an host of men were laid against me, yet shall not my heart be afraid: and though there rose up war against me, yet will I put my trust in him.

So the Jewish King fulfils the commandment of the Jewish Lawgiver. (L.) “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies,* and seest horses and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them; for the Lord thy God is with thee.”* These are the words that, together with the first verse of this same Psalm, have been in the mouths of many a martyr:* and S. Cyprian, in that heart-thrilling exhortation, adduces them nobly. They say that, when S. Antony, after one of those strange physical assaults of the Enemy by which the Divine love permitted him to be exercised, remained victor, but through very exhaustion prostrate on the ground, he chanted lustily,* Though there rose up war against me, yet will I put my trust in Him. “He,” says S. Augustine, “will give victory to the contester Who inspired boldness for the contest.* Let us not fear then the multitude of the enemy, nor the shining armour, nor that mighty and terrible Goliath. One David shall prostrate him with one stone; one youth shall put to flight the whole army of the aliens.” And the confidence of the King and of the Apostle was the same; for what is this verse but, in other words, that saying of S. Paul? “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,”*—and the rest of that catalogue so trying to faith,—“shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But let us rather put the words into our dear Lord’s mouth,* in the same night in which He was betrayed, or rather offered Himself for the life of the world, and when the band of men and officers, under the command of Judas, were already drawing nigh to take Him. An host of men indeed: Jews and Romans,—Pharisees, puffed up in their boasted holiness; soldiers, the very outcasts of humanity: the fickle multitude that, at the beginning of that same week, proclaimed Him King of the Jews, and now are about to say, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Then there rose up war, (G.) such as never had been since the foundation of the world, such as never can be till the consummation of all things,—a war, the prize whereof was the whole human race,—a contest, where, on the arms of the Cross, as on scales, hung the eternal joy or misery of all generations. Yet shall not my heart be afraid. Yea, and though it were for an hour,—“If it be possible, let this cup pass;” that hour went by, and then it was “the day of His joy, and the day of the gladness of His heart:”* it was “the Baptism that He had to be baptized with, and how was He straitened till it was accomplished!”*—it was the season when He was reigning “in Mount Sion and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously!”* In this will I be confident. They dispute to what the word1 this refers; but let us take it in its fullest and most glorious sense; for never was there, never can there be, such a this as Calvary. A this, for Him That endured it; in this mortal agony, in this putting forth of all the powers of all infernal spirits, in this accomplishment of all prophecies, in this fulfilment of all types, in this the ark of a shipwrecked world,* in this the True and Eternal Tree of Life, in this will I, the God of confidence, be confident Myself. And clinging to this, O Lord Jesus, crucified to this together with Thee, grasping this as the anchor of our souls, dying if it must be so at the foot of this, this “the place where valiant men are,”* this the dying bed of the martyrs, the strength of the confessors, in this will I be confident!

4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require: even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit his temple.

However we may apply the words in a lower sense, (L.) their own real meaning can rest satisfied with nothing short of that “house not made with hands,* eternal in the heavens;” (A.) and of this the principal among the Latin Fathers understand the petition. This is indeed the one thing needful; this is indeed the joy to be required, ay, and to be taken by violence. Have I desired: by prayer. I will require, not by prayer only, but by self-denial, fasting, almsgiving, everything which may cause God to bow down His ear to my petition. Gerhohus puts the sentence into the mouth of our Lord, (G.) and paraphrases it with even more than his ordinary beauty: “I, in that night in which I was to be betrayed to death, to the end that I might overcome death, desired one thing of the Lord; which I will require, I, the True Unity, by interceding for the unity of them that are Mine even till the consummation of all things. And this was My prayer: ‘Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me.’* Thus I then asked that one thing from the Lord, when I was about to die for that people; and not for that people only, but that I might gather together in one the sons of God that were scattered abroad. This one thing I then once asked, namely, in My death; but I will daily require it in the Sacrament which I have commanded My Priests to offer for My holy Church continually. By My own mouth I desired it once; by the lips of My Priests I still require it continually, as long as My death shall be set forth in the Sacrament of the Altar, until I shall come at the end of the world, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord in peace: all war at an end, all My members completely united to their Head, all the stones banded together in the everlasting building, by the grace of Me, Corner and Top stone, Author and Finisher of Faith.”

O how many a soul, now set free from carnal struggles, now liberated from earthly darkness, desired that one thing in the days of her pilgrimage here! in the time of that life which is not life,* that they might stand all the days of their true life in the House of the Lord! “O blessed region of Paradise!” cries one; “O blessed region of delights, to* which I yearn from the valley of ignorance, from the valley of tears, where is wisdom without ignorance, where is memory without oblivion, where is intellect without error, where is reason without obscurity! Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be alway praising Thee! The kingdom of God is bestowed, promised, manifested, received; bestowed in predestination, promised in vocation, manifested in heaven.”—We may also, if we will, take the verse in a lower sense,—lower only comparatively with the highest,—of the religious, as contrasted with the secular, life. In this signification, over and over again have the great masters of spiritual life preached from it to their followers; in this signification S. Bernard impressed it on his Cistercians, Peter the Venerable on his Cluniacs, S. Francis de Sales on his Sisters of the Visitation. Or,* again, as most of the Greek Fathers,* we may understand it of the visible and material House of God,* the symbol and foretaste of that eternal dwelling. That I may see the fair beauty of the Lord. The Vulgate has it voluptatem;1 (G.) but Gerhohus, following the Italic, reads voluntatem, and shows how fully our Lord’s prayer in this respect was fulfilled. And they may well take occasion, hence to dwell on the two wills of the Lord,—as Perfect God and Perfect Man. Never let it be conceived that Monothelism was an abstract heresy, which has no relation to the inward Christian life. It is everything for us, whether our dear Lord, as man, had to utter this prayer, “that I may see the will of the Lord,”—whether He suffered, and therefore can sympathise with, that bitter struggle against our own wills; or whether, by the so-called Theandric operation, that struggle was in name only, not in reality. Well did S. Sophronius labour and suffer for this, the engrafting in the Catholic Creed that precious doctrine of our Lord’s Sympathy. Let the Scriptural Albert explain the verse to us:* “That I may dwell. Here is what he seeks and requires; that celestial habitation which is the House of God. O Israel, how great is the House of God,* and how large is the place of His possession. And this all the days of my life! As if he said, I will never cease. And in these words we are taught that there should be unity in our prayers; that we should not ask for many things, but for one. ‘When ye pray, use not vain repetitions.’* There must be diuturnity,—have I desired; and continually,—which I will require all the days of my life. ‘Be not thou hindered to pray continually.’* ‘Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.’* It must be spiritual, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord: all the days of our present life, laboriously, in the Church Militant: and after that, for ever and ever, gloriously, in the Church Triumphant. First, of the first: ‘Neither death nor life.… shall separate us.’* Of the second: ‘Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out.’* That I may see the will of the Lord. According to that glorious petition, ‘Thy will be done.’ And to visit the Temple. Christ the Man, the Temple of the Divinity. ‘The Lord God Almighty,* and the Lamb, are the Temple of it.’ ”1 Thus far S. Albert.

5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his tabernacle: yea, in the secret place of his dwelling shall he hide me, and set me up upon a rock of stone.

Or,* as the Vulgate gives it, He hath hid me. That tabernacle, of which Isaiah says, “Come, My people, enter thou into thy chamber, and shut the doors about thee:”* the Rock which is to be the hiding-place for the persecuted and feeble conies: that safe cleft, opened by the spear in the day of Calvary, and since then, and to the end of all things, affording a refuge for all troubled souls until the indignation be overpast. His tabernacle, won for us when with His own Right Hand and with His Holy Arm He gat Himself the victory: but yet “our chamber” also, because belonging to each of us as much as if none other had a right to that hiding-place.

Here let my Lord hang up His conquering lance,*

And bloody armour, with late slaughter warm;

And looking down on His weak militants,

Behold His Saints, amidst their hot alarm,

Hang all their golden hopes upon His arm:

And, in this lower field dispacing wide,

Through windy thoughts that would their sails misguide,

Anchor their fleshly ships fast in His wounded Side!

Venerable Bede,* connecting this with the preceding verse, says very well that, it is as though some one, amazed at the boldness of David’s desire “to visit the Temple,” had asked: Do you, spotted with sin, do you, from the sole of whose foot to the crown of whose head there is no soundness, venture on such a request? Yes: for in the time of trouble He hath already hid me in His tabernacle; in the time of glory, therefore, (D. C.) He may well give me a place in His mansion. In the secret place of His dwelling. “The Lord said, that He would dwell in the thick darkness.”* And, no doubt, here we have a reference to the Incarnation; our only defence in the time of trouble,* our only hiding-place from the just wrath against sin. Upon a Rock. “What is there of good,” cries S. Bernard, “that is not to be found in the Rock? On the Rock I am exalted; on the Rock I am secure; on the Rock I stand firmly. Secure from the enemy; brave, as regards accident: and this because lifted up from the earth; for changeable and perishable is everything earthly.” And no doubt there is a reference in this to that magnificent vision in Exodus: “Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock;* and it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by,* that I will put thee in a cleft of the Rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by.”* And thus is God’s glory seen in the Incarnation. They take it, again, of the religious life; those holy men who, in the midst of those tempests of iniquity, those frightful storms of violence and ungodliness, had experienced this strong Tower; where they, in the deep secret place of the Tabernacle, communed with their Lord, leaving their converse with Him as the teaching and the delight of all ages. O happy and holy tabernacles—ἀθάναται κάλυβαι—of Citeaux,* Prémontré, Cluny, Monte Casino, Fontevraud, S. Gall, how, while studying the Psalms which so gloriously echoed among you, how do we still feel the influence, how do we still drink into the learning, how may we still taste of the holiness, of those night-watches, of those fasts, of those vigils, which made your Saints that which they were, and you the nursing mothers of religion in the midst of floods of ungodliness!

6a (6) And now shall he lift up mine head: above mine enemies round about me.

S. Bernard names three ways in which our heads are lifted up:* by disenchaining our hearts from earthly affections; by conferring on us Divine knowledge; by kindling in us the love of heavenly things. But let us rather take our Head in the sense of Him Who is our only and our True Head, Jesus Christ. Now, whatever happens to me, (G.) my Head, shall be exalted; now, whatever sufferings are appointed for me, my Head shall be honoured. “Now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.”* Lifted up. But how? He was lifted up on the Cross, as well as to the Throne: and in that sense also may we take it,—that when we are suffering from our enemies round about, our Head makes those sufferings His own. If we are crucified, (A.) He shares our cross; “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” If Stephen is stoned on earth, Jesus is standing in heaven. He hath exalted my Head is the reading of the Vulgate; and well does S. Augustine remind us that, our Head being already there, we, His members, ought to be with Him now in thought and desire, as hereafter in joyful reality.

Sic nobis cum cœlestibus

Commune manens gaudium,*

Illis, quod se præsentavit,

Nobis, quod se non abstulit.

6b (7) Therefore will I offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness: I will sing, and speak praises unto the Lord.

Or as it is in the Vulgate, I have gone round, (G.) and offered the sacrifice of vociferation. And this going round, if fancifully, is at least beautifully applied to the Litanies of the Church; which, beginning from the Blessed Trinity itself, the Source of all being, go round or through the economy of the Christian dispensation, commencing at the Incarnation, continuing through the Life and Passion, culminating in the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, and the sending down of the Paraclete; and then again returning to that glorious Trinity whence the office began. And the sacrifice of vociferation gloriously describes the one and completed oblation of the Cross, that most precious Blood, which cried aloud for better things than that of Abel. Or the going round may be the going through the world with the glad tidings of salvation: “So that from Jerusalem,* and round about unto Illyricum, (L.) I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ.”* Ambrosius Ansbertus refers us to the going round Jericho,* the devoted city: and thence gathers that it is when the sins and temptations of our corrupt nature are devoted to God,* then a true sacrifice of peace is offered. Albertus reminds us here, when we go round this lower world, and all its beauty and glory, we shall find it nothing but a book full of the praise of God;* and “marvellous is it,” cries Gregory, “that man is not always praising, since everything amidst which he dwells is continually inviting praise.” Or, finally, we may take it,* with others, of a soldier diligently going his rounds, keeping a diligent look-out on the enemy, and fulfilling the last command, delivered to the multitudes, of the Captain of his salvation: “And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.”* I will sing and speak praises. But how is this? to begin with singing, and to descend to speaking? Yes; for as he that was not rich enough to bring the bullock or the goat, was allowed to offer the pair of turtle doves, or the two young pigeons, so here the meanest, as well as the highest praise, is not rejected from the service of God.

[There is yet another offering, when he whose “life is hid with Christ in God,”* offers the oblation of self-denial and holiness, according to those words of a Saint:

Nec Christi exemplo suavior exit odor

Quam cum homo castorum profert libamina morum,*

Et de virtutum munere sacra litat.]

7 (8) Hearken unto my voice, O Lord, when I cry unto thee: have mercy upon me, and hear me.

My Voice: that Voice which the precious Blood of Calvary utters from the ground. Remark, (G.) he saith not, words; for this is a mute voice, not articulated into phrases, but none the less mighty, yea rather, none the less Almighty, to bring down God’s pardon. The Voice of that Blood, whether on the Cross or in the chalice: “one thing have I desired of the Lord,” the pardon of man. It has been well observed, that this verse contains nine necessaries to prayer. It must be,1 for a worthy matter;* vocal; rational; proper; devout; right; humble; necessary; continuous. S. Gregory well says,* with a turn that can best be given in its original idiom: “Æternam etenim vitam si ore petimus, non tamen ore desideramus, clamantes tacemus. Si vero desideramus deramus ex corde cum etiam ore conticescimus, tacentes clamamus.”

I said, in the introduction to this Psalm, that this eighth verse manifestly began a new composition; the triumphal thanksgiving of the former having been succeeded by penitential deprecation. The two Psalms, however, seem to have been joined into one long before any historical evidence.

8 (9) My heart hath talked of thee, Seek ye my face: thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, To Thee my heart hath spoken: Thee my face sought out: Thy face, O Lord, will I seek. “This,” says Vieyra,* “is the discreet energy wherewith David repeats to God that which he had already said to Him, To Thee my heart spake. He saith not, ‘To Thee, O Lord, I spoke;’ because to God the heart alone speaks, and with God the heart alone holds converse. And as the heart is the instrument and the tongue which speaks to God; thus, as men understand only that which the tongue says, and comprehend not that which the heart speaks, so God hears only that which the heart speaks, and pays no attention to that which the tongue says. Hence it follows that, if the heart speak not, though the man may say the same thing a hundred and fifty times, yet, so far as God is concerned, he speaks not one word, and is dumb. Voce sonant, corde muti sunt.”

The Hebrew in itself presents considerable difficulty; and hence the very different reading of the Prayer Book and of the Bible version, which, amplifying that of Tremellius and Jerome, gives, When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face. But this is clear: that whatever the Psalmist had done in past times, (L.) that he now stirs himself up to do manifold times more.* Thy face, Lord, will I seek. As Moses did in the Mount, when he partly, but not fully, obtained that which he desired; and as the same Moses, nearly fifteen hundred years after, did on the holy hill of Tabor. “The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, for the soul that seeketh Him,”* says Jeremiah. “And if good,” asks S. Bernard,* “to them that seek Him, what to them that find Him?” Or, as the Saint says in that most precious rhythm:

“Quam pius te quærentibus!

Sed quid invenientibus?”

S. Gregory complains that,* after his elevation to the Pontifical dignity, he had so much less opportunity for this most sweet search after God than had been possible to him before. Others, again, take the word face in the same sense in which S. Paul speaks of the brightness of the Father’s glory,* and the express image of His Person, namely, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here,* it has been well said, in seeking for the glory and manifest vision of God, he asks, in fact, for two things: 1, for the end itself, in this verse; 2, for the means requisite to that end, in the next. And he prayed as the mother of his master did: “Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart.”* Notice that there are some who in their prayers speak, (Ay.) not to God, but to man; who seek not God’s face, but man’s: and these are the hypocrites. And then, the bold, fearless declaration, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. It is needful, indeed, that he who makes it should have that perfect confidence in God, of which we before read, “Though an host of men were laid against me, yet shall not my heart be afraid;” for let but once this calm, unflinching resolution be expressed, and their name will be legion who attack us.

9a (10) O hide not thou thy face from me: nor cast thy servant away in displeasure.

Three times is that expression, (L.) the face of God,* repeated; whence they gather the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. But God’s face may be hid for other causes besides that of displeasure; (G.) whence the second clause of this verse. It may be in pure love; it may be for our own preservation, as was the case with Moses in the rock; it may be only that we may seek more earnestly, and find more gloriously. And this whole verse shows how God worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. He had said in the verse above, (C.) “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” But of himself he could never find; therefore the second petition, I seek: O hide not Thou. S. Augustine breaks out into a fervour of rapture in his second exposition: “O hide not Thou Thy face from me. Magnificent! nothing can be more divinely spoken! This is the feeling of those that truly love. Another man would be blessed and immortal in the pleasures of those earthly lusts which he loves, and peradventure for this reason would worship God, and pray, that he may long live here in his delights, and that nothing should fail him, which earthly desire has in possession, neither gold, nor silver, nor any estate that charms his eyes; that his friends, his children, his wife, his dependents, should not die: in these delights would he live for ever. But since he cannot for ever, for he knows that he is mortal, for this haply does he worship God, and for this pray to God, and for this sigh to God, that all these things may last even to old age. And if God should say to him, Lo, I make thee immortal in these things, he would accept it as a great boon, and in the exultation of his joy and congratulation would be unable to contain himself. Not so doth the man act, who hath made one petition of the Lord.”

9b (11) Thou hast been my succour: leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

My succour: and what does that prove save that the petitioner is at work for himself? One may move a stock or a stone, (A.) that do nothing for themselves; one cannot be said to succour, unless the thing succoured try with its own strength. And not less true is the remark of S. Jerome:* He that remembers so gratefully, shall certainly be assisted most hopefully. Leave me not: and so he attributes all his past good actions to God; for, unless the Lord had been with him before, He could not be asked not to forsake him now.* Leave me not, neither forsake me. And thence they draw an argument for the difference between mortal and venial sins. Leave Me not: not even for one moment; not even so that I may commit one folly, may be guilty of the least and most trivial fault.* Neither forsake me. For, if Thou shouldest leave me to myself for any time, there is no depth of guilt into which I may not fall. It is no merit of mine, but simply Thine own watchfulness, which has hitherto preserved me. And remember, says one earnestly, (Ay.) that though none ought to despair while yet in the Way, because till the very end the grace of God stands open, yet none can feel secure, because, till the very end, the devices of Satan will not be concluded. If, on the one hand, He is able to save unto the uttermost; on the other, “he that is dead”—and therefore none but he that is dead—“hath ceased from sin.”1 Or, if we put the verse into our Lord’s mouth, we must understand it: “Be Thou My helper, O Lord, (D. C.) My Father, co-operating with Me in all things: leave Me not in the hand of the wicked, on the Cross: leave Me not to the guardianship of the soldier, in the sepulchre: nor forsake Me, that is, My mystical Body, for which I lived, for which I suffered, for which I died, for which I rose again from the dead: leave Me not, neither forsake Me, O God of My salvation.”

“One of the things,” says Vieyra,* “which I have much noted in David, is the great frequency with which he beseeches God not to leave him; and the many and divers ways in which he repeats and urges this same petition: ‘O go not from me, for trouble is at hand;’* ‘Leave me not, neither forsake me;’ ‘Go not from me, O Lord;’ ‘Cast me not away from Thy Presence;’ ‘Go not far from me, O God;’ ‘O let me not go wrong;’ and five times2 in the same words, ‘Forsake me not.’ If God for a sin of David’s left him once, and afterwards restored His Grace with so much certainty and efficacy, why does he so often, and in such different ways, beseech God not to leave him? Certain it is that the Prophet would not discover so many ways of supplicating, unless God had as many ways of leaving. And why? The reason depends equally on His mercy, and on our misery. God never leaves man, unless man first leaves Him; and because we have so many ways of leaving God, therefore God has so many ways of leaving us. Thus wrote God in an express law: ‘This people will forsake Me.… and I will forsake them;’* and in another place drew a consequence from it: ‘Because ye have forsaken the Lord, He hath also forsaken you.’* So that to leave and to be left is, between God and man, a reciprocal condition. If God were to be the first to leave, never should we be left; but because we are the first to leave, therefore it is that so often, and in so many different ways, we are forsaken by God.”

10 (12) When my father and my mother forsake me: the Lord taketh me up.

Look for a moment at King David, (L.) when he gave his father and his mother to the care of the King of Moab;* and thus, in the midst of his dangers and wanderings, was forsaken by them. And then consider the Son of David, forsaken and rejected by His own relations,—“for neither did His brethren believe in Him,”—and yet taken up by that Father, of Whom He said, “I knew that Thou hearest Me always.” But mystically, (G.) human nature was forsaken by its general father1 and mother at the very beginning: when, forgetful of the misery and destruction they thus entailed on their race, they ate of the forbidden fruit; and God took it up, by the promise given as soon as the sentence was pronounced, that “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” It is a singular explanation of S. Augustine, (A.) that by the father, the devil, by the mother, corrupt human nature, is signified; both of whom forsake us when we earnestly and with purpose of heart turn to God. Others, again, see in this verse the complaint of our Lord of His rejection by His father, the Jewish nation, and by His mother, the synagogue,—that mother who platted for Him so cruel a diadem in the day of His Passion. And notice: (D. C.) when David complains that his father and mother had forsaken him,—(and compare the text, “Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittitc,”*)—in the person of Adam and Eve, it was his Son, as well as his Lord, Who, taking him up, was to repair his loss: “Instead of thy fathers, thou shalt have children.” There is a Hebrew tradition, to which the verse may refer, that God had bound Himself by oath to be the Father and Mother of the orphan, (Cd.) who with all his heart and soul had resort to Him.

11 (13) Teach me thy way, O Lord: and lead me in the right way, because of mine enemies.

And it may still be the Son of David Who, according to the flesh, (G.) speaks. For He knew the malice and bitterness of His enemies: He saw how they “watched Him;” He knew how they would entangle Him in His talk. And what, in so far as He was Man, He in the days of His flesh prayed for Himself, that He still prays for those that, being His, are Himself: “Why persecutest thou Me?” And this verse well connects itself with that which precedes: (L.) for, if the Lord has taken us up as our Father, then it is His to lay down the laws by which we are to be governed and guided. And David had good occasion to offer this prayer: he, of whom, on account of one unhappy deed, it is written, “Thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.”* Teach me Thy way. And who is the way, save He That said,* (A.) “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life?” Him we have to learn as the Way;* Him we have to strive after, as the end. Teach me: or, as others have rendered it, Enlighten me: in Him and by Him Who is the Light as well as the Way. Or take it as the voice of Christ Himself: Lead Me in the right way, namely, from darkness to light, (Lu.) from the sepulchre to the palace, from the darkness of Joseph’s cave to the ineffable light of heaven. And this because of Mine enemies: for they have set the seal, and appointed the guard, lest “the last error should be worse than the first.”

12 (14) Deliver me not over to the will of mine adversaries: for there are false witnesses risen up against me, and such as speak wrong.

Of David, no need to show how he was persecuted by the false witnesses who chased him from city to city, (L.) from wilderness to wilderness: how Doeg, how the Ziphites, how the men of Keilah rose up against him with their falsehoods: and how, but by God’s perpetual love, this “morning hind” must have been taken in the toils. And so of the Son of David: “There arose certain, and bare false witness against Him, saying, We heard Him say, I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.”* Well says Vieyra:* “If we read the Gospel of S. John, we shall find that Christ had of a truth said the aforesaid words. If, then, Christ in reality had said that He would rebuild the temple in three days, and this is the very thing that the witnesses deposed to, how can the Evangelist call them false witnesses?.… They were false, because Christ spake in one sense, and they reported in another; and to report the words of God in a different sense from that in which they were spoken, is to bear false witness against God. Ah, Lord, how many bear false witness against Thee now! how many times do preachers make Thee say that which Thou never saidst! how many times I hear, not Thy words, but the preacher’s imaginations!” The latter part of the verse thus runs in the Vulgate, and it has probably been as often quoted as any clause of the Psalms: “and iniquity hath lied to itself.” It is confessedly one of the most difficult verses in the Psalms; whether one ends the meaning with the conclusion of the clause, or, with Tremellius, carries it on into the next verse, “and they that breathe out violence would have carried me off, unless I had believed to see,”* &c. And iniquity hath lied to itself since the beginning of the world; but never so as when that old Leviathan swallowed the bait of the Lord’s Humanity, and perished by the hook of His Divinity. Let the Eastern Church tell us so in her own glorious language:* διὰ θανάτου τὸ θνητὸν, διὰ ταφῆς τὸ φθαρτὸν, μεταβάλλεις• ἀφθαρτίζεις γὰρ θεοπρεπέστατα, ἀπαθανατίζων τὸ πρόσλημμα• ἡ γὰρ σάρξ σου διαφθορὰν οὐκ εἶδε, Δεσπότα, οὐδὲ ἡ ψυχή σου εἰς ᾅδου ξενοπρεπῶς ἐγκαταλέλειπται. Iniquity lied to itself, (A.) when the Jews were pursuing the Spotless Lamb with their “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” but Satan (now too late discovering his mistake) had stirred up Procla to send the message, “Have thou nothing to do with that Just man.” It has been imagined, but surely without sufficient cause,* that this verse was corrupted by the Jews, in order to obscure the reference to the false witnesses against our Lord.

13 (15) I should utterly have fainted: but that I believe verily to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Oh,* happy verse, comfort and support of so many travellers in the vale of Baca! Oh, blessed words, the last that have been pronounced by so many Christian lips before they were hushed by death! Fainted! Yes: who would not? Fainted utterly! Yes, and that a thousand times, but for that very belief, the Land of the Living! O my land! true Land of the Living,* true Land of Life! life, blessedly eternal, eternally blessed; where there is certain security, secure tranquillity, tranquil jucundity, happy eternity, eternal felicity; where perfect love, nevermore fear, everlasting day, agile motion,* one spirit in all! O Land of the Living, though the eye hath not seen thee, yet the heart can long for thee, can groan for thee, can yearn after thee, can aspire to thee. Yes; if for a time we give way to the faintheartedness of Hezekiah, “I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord in the Land of the Living,”* that I believe verily of David comes in to be our comfort and our strength. In the Land of the Living. It is but little we see of Him here, in the land of the dying, (G.) in the land of types and symbols, in the land of figures and enigmas, in the land where “the days of darkness shall be many;”* and “few and evil are the days of the years of”* every “pilgrimage.” (L.) Of this Land of the Living S. Jerome collects and explains many and many a happy passage of Scripture:* the earth that the “meek shall inherit;”* the “delightsome land;”* the “place of broad rivers and of streams;”* the city, whose “foundation is upon the high hills;” the earth that is “visited and blessed by God,” that is “made very plenteous;”* the land “that floweth with the true milk and honey.” Yes: however, in a low and unreal sense, we may apply this verse to our life in this world,—however much, beholding the multitude of life that goes on, and is supported and kept up here, this globe may be called the land of the living,*—yet the united testimony of the Saints calls by that name the kingdom of heaven, and that kingdom only. Hear S. Albert, as always, Scriptural: “The Land of the Dead is Hades; ‘a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.’* The Land of the Dying is this world; ‘For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.’* The Land of the Living is Paradise; ‘Ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: … a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth.’ ”* Even the Pythagoreans had their ἀντίχθονα,—their Land of the Living;* and God forbid that a Christian soul should use the word in a lower signification than they did!

O qui sidereas habitas,* Rex maxime, sedes,

Quam tua præ terris invidiosa domus!

Exulat æthereis longe nox horrida terris,

Et nitet excelso lumine clara dies.

Clara dies, æterna dies, septemplice Phœbi

Fulmineum nostro lampada, luce premens!

[Note, too, how the Western Church, by taking the latter clause of this verse as the Antiphon to the Psalm both for Easter Eve and the Office for the Dead, leads us from the thought of Christ’s victory over the grave to ours in Him.

Fear’st thou the death that comes to all,*

And knows no interceder?—

O glorious struggle, thou wilt fall,

The soldier by the Leader!

Christ went with death to grapple first,

And vanquished him before thee:

His darts, then, let him do his worst,

Can win no triumph o’er thee!]

14 (16) O tarry thou the Lord’s leisure: be strong, and he shall comfort thine heart; and put thou thy trust in the Lord.

O blessed words, that have comforted so many a mourner’s heart,—that have braced so many a trembling spirit,—that have gone to the prison or to the place of torture with the Church’s heroes! Yes,* it matters not in what sense we take the words—whether as said by David to himself,* or by David to another, or by God to David. Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure. But how long? The people whom the Lord fed in the wilderness tarried His leisure three days; the inhabitants of Bethulia five days, and their heroine said, “And now who are ye that have tempted God this day? For if He will not help us within these five days, He hath power to defend us when He will: … do not bind the counsels of the Lord our God.”* It is written, indeed,—and blessed be God for that promise,—“Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “But he,”* says S. Peter Chrysologus, “who, when he hath once knocked, is angry, because he is not forthwith heard, is not a humble petitioner, but an imperious exactor. However long He may cause thee to wait, do thou patiently tarry the Lord’s leisure. If He suffer thee to be imperilled on the sea until the fourth watch of the night, (L.) He doth it to teach thee trust in Him, and patience in time of adversity.” Be strong: viriliter age it is in the Latin,—a fair translation of the LXX.’s ἀνδρίζου,—but the Hebrew word חֲזַק has no reference to man. And rightly,* they say: some women have so often stirred up men in faith and love. So Deborah,—so the wife of Manoah,—so Judith,—so the holy women who returned from the Tomb while the Apostles doubted, (C.)—so S. Blandina and S. Ponticus in the amphitheatre of Lyons,—so S. Faith and S. Caprais in the fire at Agen. A saying of Gerhohus, though not so intended, will make an admirable proverb for the daily use of a Christian:

“Non putes negatum,

Quod sentis dilatum.”

And the Lord will undoubtedly say to every faithful waiter, (G.) what He said to the multitudes of old, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now waited on Me three days:”* the three days that remind of the threefold promise, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock,* and it shall be opened unto you.” “In this verse,” says S. Albert, “he touches on four difficulties which suffer us not to enter into eternal life. The first, the dilation of God’s answer; against the which he saith, Tarry. The second, the difficulty of doing well; against the which he saith, Be strong. The third, the danger of pusillanimity; against the which he saith, He shall comfort your heart. The fourth, the bitterness of trouble; against the which he addeth, and put your trust in the Lord.”

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, in Whose house we desire to dwell all the days of our life; and to the Son, the right Way in which we are led: and to the Holy Ghost, in Whose tabernacle we are hid.

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

COLLECTS

O God, Which art the Helper of all,* defend us from the camps and the battles of the enemy; so that we, dwelling in the eternity of Thy House, may merit to behold Thy Face by spiritual contemplation. Through (1.)

Deliver not,* O Lord, Thy Church into the bloody hands of her enemies: grant that, when false witnesses rise up against her, they may be put to confusion as soon as the banner of the Cross is set up in her. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)

O God,* our Light and Defence, remove from us the night of sorrow and ignorance; give us the light of truth and knowledge, that all our hope may remain fixed on Thee, and that all the assembly of them that would seek to hurt us may be brought to nought. Grant that we may be set on the rock, that, being made strong in Christ, in Him we may be lifted up in charity, by Whom we are edified in faith. Amen. Through Thy (11.)

[Almighty God, Helper and Strength of our life, defend us from the snares of our enemies, (D. C.) and from all perils of soul and body, that, by the gift of Thy lovingkindness, we, steadfastly persevering in works pleasing to Thee, may be found worthy to behold Thy goodness in the land of the living. Through (1.)]

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 107

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2017

All are invited to give thanks to God for his perpetual providence over men

1 GIVE glory to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy: and gathered out of the countries.
3 From the rising and from the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea.

This is the preface of the Psalm, in which David exhorts all who have experienced the mercies of the Lord to declare his praise, and especially to give glory to the Lord himself; because he is truly good and merciful, and his mercy never fails. He specially invites the faithful, redeemed by the blood of his only begotten from the bondage of a most powerful enemy, the prince of darkness, who held them in bonds at his own discretion, whom he afterwards collected and gathered together to be one people, one Church, one kingdom, children of his delight, not from Egypt or Babylon, as formerly were the Jews, but “from the rising and the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea;” that is, from the four quarters of the world, as we read in Jn. 10. “And other sheep I have that are not of the fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd;” and in chap. 11, “For Jesus should die for the nation, and not only for the nation but to gather together into one the children of God that were dispersed.” Though all the faithful, whether Jew or gentile, are specially invited, still the invitation applies in general to all men who may have been at any time, or in any place whatever, delivered by the Lord from any manner of trouble; for redemption is frequently used in the Scripture for any manner of delivery or salvation, without any price having been paid for it. It also applies to those who may have been delivered from the hand—that is, from the power of any enemy; and, finally, to those who may have been delivered from any exile or dispersion in any extremity of the world, and brought back to their country and reunited to their people. The whole world is included in the verse, “from the rising and from the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea;” in other words, from east to west, from north to south.

4 They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water: they found not the way of a city for their habitation.
5 They were hungry and thirsty: their soul fainted in them.
6 And they cried to the Lord in their tribulation: and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7 And he led them into the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
8 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him: and his wonderful works to the children of men.
9 For he hath satisfied the empty soul, and hath filled the hungry soul with good things.

This is the first part of the Psalm, containing an explanation of the first affliction. There are four afflictions of the body common to all, and there are also four spiritual afflictions. The corporeal afflictions are hunger and thirst, caused by the infecundity of the earth, or by want of rain; that is to say, from some natural cause extrinsic to the sufferers; secondly, captivity, caused by the violence of others, that is, from some voluntary, extrinsic source; thirdly, disease or sickness, which arises from some intrinsic source, from bad constitution; and fourthly, the danger of shipwreck, caused by an external, natural cause, as also by an internal and voluntary cause, namely, man’s curiosity, which, not content with the solidity of the earth, must needs make trial of the liquid deep. There are also four spiritual afflictions, called by theologians natural wounds, wounds left in us through original sin; they are ignorance, concupiscence, bad temper, and malice; to which are opposed prudence, temperance, patience, and justice, which are called the four cardinal virtues. In this first division of the Psalm, then, the prophet sings of God’s mercy in delivering us from the first of these afflictions, including both corporal and spiritual; and though he appears to allude barely to the hunger and thirst the Jews suffered in the desert, still, the principles laid down by him are universal, and are applicable to all; and thus, he says, “They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water.” Many, in quest of their country, have wandered through a pathless country, and one without water, as occurred to the Jews for forty years. “They found not the way of a city for their habitation,” after straying for a long time, and in all directions, they found no way leading to a city where they may safely rest and dwell. “They were hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” In their wanderings they met with neither meat nor drink, and they in consequence, all but gave up the ghost. “And they cried to the Lord in their tribulation;” when all human aid failed them they appealed to God, “and he delivered them out of their distresses.” He was not found wanting when they appealed to him, but with that mercy that characterizes him, he delivered them. And he led them into the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation;” the mode he chose for delivering them was to show them the shortest possible way to the city where he dwelt himself. “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him.” It is, therefore, only right and just that such benefits conferred on man by God in his mercy, should be praised and acknowledged by all, as true favors from God; “and his wonderful works to the children of men;” the wonderful things he did for the liberation of mankind should also be duly praised and acknowledged. “For he hath satisfied the empty soul.” Because he provided the most extraordinary food, prepared by the hands of the Angels, for a lot of hungry people in the desert, nigh exhausted for want of food. This, as we have already said, is most applicable to the food provided for the Jews; but there can be no doubt but the prophet meant, by this example, to teach all those who have been rescued from ignorance and from the misery of thirst and hunger, that they owe their deliverance to God, and that they should, therefore, thank his mercy. And there can be no doubt but the prophet had specially before his mind that ignorance of the way of salvation, under which so many labor, and who stray about, as it were in a desert, hungering and thirsting for the knowledge of truth, the source of wisdom and of prudence. We naturally look for happiness. There is no one that does not look for it, and, therefore, for the way that leads to it; however, many, preoccupied by the thoughts and the desires of passing good, look for happiness where it is not to be found; nay, even look upon that to be happiness which is anything but happiness; and when they know not in what it consists, naturally know not the way that leads to it. Thus, in their strayings and wanderings, they never find, though they are always hungering and thirsting for the city of their true habitation; because the longings of an immortal soul, capable of appreciating supreme happiness, can never be content with the things of this world, miserable and transitory as they are; while those whom God “hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy,” and “gathered out of the countries,” beginning to feel their own blindness, through the great gift of God’s mercy, “they cry to the Lord,” and are heard by him; they are “led into the right way, that leads to the city;” they know that the kingdom of God is their ultimate end, and that justice is the means of acquiring it; “hungering and thirsting,” then, for justice, they run to the fountain of grace, and, refreshed from that fountain, they arrive at the heavenly city, where they are filled and satisfied with all manner of good things, so that they never hunger or thirst again for all eternity.

10 Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death: bound in want and in iron.
11 Because they had exasperated the words of God: and provoked the counsel of the most High:
12 And their heart was humbled with labours: they were weakened, and there was none to help them.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and he delivered them out of their distresses.
14 And he brought them out of darkness, and the shadow of death; and broke their bonds in sunder.
15 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.

This is the second part of the Psalm, in which he reviews the deliverance from the second affliction, corporal as well as spiritual. The second corporal affliction consists in captivity, through which poor creatures are shut up in dark prisons, bound with chains, and loaded with manacles. He seems to allude to the captivity of the Jews, under various persecutors, in the time of the judges, or perhaps under Pharao; for David does not seem to have taken much trouble in relating matters chronologically; the more so as what he states here is applicable to all captives, to all in chains and fetters, who may at any time have been liberated through the mercy of the Lord. “Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in want and in iron;” that is to say, I have known others who were taken by the enemy and were shut up in loathsome prisons and dense darkness, and were loaded with chains and reduced to beggary, “because they had exasperated the words of God, and provoked the counsel of the Most High.” These were justly afflicted and punished in that manner, because they disregarded God’s precepts and despised his advice. “Exasperating God’s words” means provoking him to anger when he speaks or commands, which is done by those who do not keep his commandments. They, too, may be said to “exasperate God’s words” who provoke his very commandments to anger; for, as the commandments of God crown those that observe them, so they punish those that transgress them; and in this manner they who transgress the commandments provoke them against themselves. There is a certain amount of figurative language in the whole; for “God’s words” mean God, in his discourse or his commands; and the word “exasperating” means God’s punishment being as grievous as if he were capable of being exasperated. A similar figure of speech appears in the following sentence: “and provoked the counsel of the Most High;” for the “counsel of the Most High” must be understood as applying to God in his goodness, with the best intentions, irritated by those who opposed them; or “provoked” may be rendered as condemning or despising, for those who do either provoke, that is, excite to anger. “And their heart was humbled with labor;” their pride was brought down by captivity, chains, and fetters. They are just the things to do it. “They were weakened, and there was none to help them.” They were not able to resist their enemies; and thus, having no one to help them, were led off in captivity. “Then they cried to the Lord” etc.; then they began to implore the divine assistance, to free them as well from their dark prisons as from their chains and fetters; and, to show the extent of their obligations to him, he adds, “he broke gates of brass and burst iron bars,” to show how firmly secured they bad been, and what power is required to liberate them; and thus, on the whole, they are proved to have been delivered from a most severe and wretched captivity. Now, the second spiritual affliction consists in the concupiscence of this world—such as its goods, its wealth, its pleasure, which, like so many chains and fetters, so tie a man down that, though he is fully aware of true happiness existing in God alone, and that, while he remains here below, he must mortify his members, still he remains a captive, without being able to stir, if the grace of God will not set him free. The beginning of his freedom must have its source in his own humility. He must feel that he is a captive, that he has no strength in him, that his heart has been humbled in his labors, and, satisfied of there being no one able to help him but the one heavenly Father, he must, with a contrite and humble heart, with much interior sorrow, exclaim, Lord, I suffer violence; look on me, and have mercy on me. “Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The mercy of the Father will most surely be at hand to bring the captive from his prison, to burst his fetters, so that, on gaining his liberty, he can with joy exclaim, “Lord, thou hast broken my bonds, I will sacrifice to thee the sacrifice of praise.”

16 Because he hath broken gates of brass, and burst iron bars.
17 He took them out of the way of their iniquity: for they were brought low for their injustices.
18 Their soul abhorred all manner of meat: and they drew nigh even to the gates of death.
19 And they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and he delivered them out of their distresses.
20 He sent his word, and healed them: and delivered them from their destructions.
21 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him: and his wonderful works to the children of men.
22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifice of praise: and declare his works with joy.

The third part of the Psalm, treating of the third corporeal affliction, which is a most severe disease and languor, such as that of the children of Israel, when God afflicted them with a great plague, through the fiery serpents, so that numbers of them were constantly dying; but no sooner did they cry out to God than they were delivered; and, in like manner, no matter how anyone, or to what extent they may be struck down by sickness or disease, if they will seriously, from the bottom of their heart, in firm faith, and with the other requisites, invoke the Almighty, they will most assuredly be delivered. To enter into particulars, especially as regards expressions not explained before. “He took them out of the way of their iniquity; for they were brought low for their injustices.” We must, of necessity, supply something here; for instance, God saw some of them lying prostrate, “and took them,” that is, raised them up, “out of the way of their iniquity,” in which they were miserably plunged; “for they were brought low for their injustices,” even to the very earth; “their soul abhorred all manner of meat; and they drew nigh even to the gates of death.” The disease must have been very severe when they refused the food necessary to support life, so that death must have, in consequence, been actually at their doors. “He sent his word, and healed them.” And he explains how, by the will or by the command of God alone, without the brazen serpent, or any other created thing; not that things created, such as drugs and medicines, are of no use, but that they have their virtue and efficacy from God, and without his cooperation they are of no value; but God, of himself, without their intervention or application, by his sole word and command, can heal and cure all manner of diseases; in which sense we are to understand that passage in Wisdom, “For it was neither herb nor mollifying plaster that healed them, but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things;” and, in a few verses before, speaking of those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and were cured by looking on the brazen one, he says, “For he that turned to it was not healed by that which he saw, but by the Savior of all.” David speaks figuratively when he says, “He sent his word, and healed them;” as if his word were a messenger or an ambassador on the occasion; unless, perhaps, he alludes to the mission of the Word incarnate, through whom many were healed of their corporeal diseases, and without whom nobody could be healed of their spiritual diseases. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” The third spiritual affliction consists in the infirmity or weakness and frailty of human nature, corrupted by sin. There are many who understand thoroughly what they ought to do, and are anxious to do it; but they either have no strength, or have not sufficient strength to do it, until they get it from on high. They are also, not infrequently, so affected by a sort of languor or listlessness, that their soul loathes all manner of food; not that they are led into any error, or seduced by any evil concupiscence, but they take no delight in God’s word, they know not what it is to feel any heavenly aspirations, and they run the risk of suffering from hunger, not for want of wherewith to satisfy themselves, but from sheer fastidiousness; and such temptations are neither trifling nor uncommon. They have great need of “crying to the Lord,” to rectify their bad taste, and bring them to have a desire for the milk of divine consolation; and when they shall have begun to relish the things that are from above, and to taste how sweet is the Lord, let them not take the merit of it to themselves; but “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him; let them sacrifice the sacrifice of praise, and declare his works with joy;” for it clearly is the work of God, and not of man, to make man, accustomed to nothing but the things of this earth, and to what he sees, to have an ardent desire for and feel a sweet relish in the things of the other world, that are hidden from him.

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, doing business in the great waters:
24 These have seen the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
25 He said the word, and there arose a storm of wind: and the waves thereof were lifted up.
26 They mount up to the heavens, and they go down to the depths: their soul pined away with evils.
27 They were troubled, and reeled like a drunken man; and all their wisdom was swallowed up.
28 And they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and he brought them out of their distresses.
29 And he turned the storm into a breeze: and its waves were still.
30 And they rejoiced because they were still: and he brought them to the haven which they wished for.
31 Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.
32 And let them exalt him in the church of the people: and praise him in the chair of the ancients.

This is the fourth part of the Psalm, in which God is praised for his care of those that are in danger at sea. No example of such danger, previous to David’s time, occurs in the Scriptures, but subsequent to David, we have that of Jonas, of the Apostles, and of St. Paul. “They that go down to the sea in ships.” They who cross the deep, and are engaged either in rowing, reefing, or setting the sails, know from experience many wonderful works of God, that many know nothing whatever of, or if they do, have it only from hearsay; for instance, the fury of the storm, the raging and roaring of the waves, the immense extent and depth of the sea, the constant and imminent danger that surrounds them, and the fear that will so lay hold on them betimes, as to make the hearts of the bravest quail. “He said the word and there arose a storm of wind;” God spoke, and the storm, in obedience to its Creator, at once arose, sprung up, and, in consequence, “the waves were lifted up;” so that they seemed almost to touch the skies; and, ultimately, to expose the lowest depths of the sea; “their soul pined away with evils;” fear so laid hold on them, that they became incapable of any manner of exertion; nay more, “They were troubled and reeled like a drunken man and all their wisdom was swallowed up;” a most natural description of the state of those in danger from shipwreck; they lose all presence of mind, can adopt no fixed counsel, and, consequently, cannot act upon any; “and all their wisdom,” in steering and righting a ship, if ever they had any, seems to have entirely taken leave of them. “And they cried to the Lord in their affliction.” This verse, occurring now for the fourth time, has been already explained, and the other verses do not seem to need any.—Now, the fourth spiritual affliction is that malice of the will, which principally consists in pride, that is the queen of vice. And, in fact, when the blasts of pride begin to play upon the sea of the human heart then the billows of its desires are raised up even to the very heavens. We are all acquainted with the language of the prince of the sons of pride, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” It was by him the giants of old were inspired to set about building the tower of Babel, that was to have reached the sky. The descendants of those people are they who seek to add kingdoms to kingdoms, and empires to empires; and to whose ambition there is no bounds; whereas, if they would enter into themselves and carefully consider the fearful storms of reflection, suspicion, fear, desires, presumption and despair, that continually harass them, and must, finally, overwhelm them, they would undoubtedly have cried to God, who would in his pity and mercy have delivered them from such a mass of evils; for he would have infused the spirit of his Son into their hearts, to teach them meekness and humility, that the raging billows of their desires, being thus composed, they may find rest for their souls, and be brought into the harbor of his good will; into that harbor of peace and tranquillity that is naturally coveted by all mankind. And this being the greatest favor of God’s mercy, they would naturally chant, “Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.”

33 He hath turned rivers into a wilderness: and the sources of waters into dry ground:
34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

This is the second part of the Psalm. After having sung of the mercy of God in warding off the four afflictions, he now praises him for the omnipotence and providence through which he sometimes changes the nature of things, proving himself thereby to be their Maker and Ruler. He first says that God sometimes “turned rivers into a wilderness, and the sources of waters into dry ground,” that is, that when it pleased him, he dried up entire rivers, and caused the places inundated by them to become perfectly dry; “a fruitful land into barrenness,” which is intelligible enough, “for the wickedness of them that dwell therein,” as a punishment for the wickedness of its inhabitants; an example of which we have in Genesis, where we read, “And Lot lifting up his eyes saw all the country about the Jordan, which was watered throughout, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as the paradise of the Lord,” and yet this beautiful and fertile country, a paradise in itself, was dried up by sulphur and fire from heaven, and condemned to everlasting sterility.

35 He hath turned a wilderness into pools of waters, and a dry land into water springs.
36 And hath placed there the hungry; and they made a city for their habitation.
37 Anti they sowed fields, and planted vineyards: and they yielded fruit of birth.
38 And he blessed them, and they were multiplied exceedingly: and their cattle he suffered not to decrease.

On the other hand, God, when he chose, “turned a wilderness into pools of waters;” caused rivers to flow in desert lands, where they were unknown, and made streams of pure water to run where they never ran before. That made the land habitable; men began to build there, to till the land, and to reap its fruits; and thus man and beast began to multiply thereon. It is not easy to determine what land the prophet alludes to; for, though God brought water from the rock for his people, they did not tarry nor settle there, nor build houses there; and when he brought them into the land of promise, there were rivers, cities, houses, and fields all ready for them. I am, therefore, of opinion that the prophet refers to some early colonization subsequent to the deluge; for, as well as he turned the fertile plains of Sodom and Gomorrah into a wilderness, so he also caused rivers to run, and cities to spring up in places that were previously waste and desolate. Isaias seems to have this passage in view when he says, “I will turn the desert into pools of waters and the impassable land into streams of waters;” and St. Jerome says that he therein alludes to the condition of the gentiles, who were at one time desert and uncultivated, without faith, without the law, without the prophets or the priesthood; but were afterwards to be highly nourished, through Christ, with the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and, therefore, St. Augustine very properly applies this passage to the synagogue, as contrasted with the Church. The synagogue, that one timed abounded in the waters of the word of God, and like a fertile soil, produced its prophets and priests, had its altars, sacrifices, miracles, and visions, now desert and barren, is turned into dry ground, with not one of those things; while, on the other hand, the Church of the gentiles, from having been dry and barren, is turned into pools of water, is become most fertile, replete with the choicest fruit, and has come to be the people of the Lord, the Church of the living God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, where alone is to be found the true sacrifice, true priests, true miracles, true holiness, true wisdom, and, finally, all the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

39 Then they were brought to be few: and they were afflicted through the trouble of evils and sorrow.
40 Contempt was poured forth upon their princes: and he caused them to wander where there was no passing, and out of the way.
41 And he helped the poor out of poverty: and made him families like a flock of sheep.
42 The just shall see, and shall rejoice, and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
43 Who is wise, and will keep these things; and will understand the mercies of the Lord?

The prophet now teaches us that there is nothing on earth stable or permanent, for they who have been at one time blessed by God, and multiplied through his blessing, in a little time after have been, by reason of their sins, cut away and reduced to nothing; and they who abound in all the good things of this world have, for the same reason, been driven to the direst extremities; and such has proved to be the case, not only with ordinary mortals, but even with princes whose sins have caused God to bring them to be condemned, by his having deprived them of wisdom and prudence, and thus, in consequence, making many and grievous mistakes in all their affairs. However, at the same time, men of honor and virtue were to be found, raised up by God from poverty, and fed and nourished by him as his own sheep. Hence, ultimately, divine providence caused the just to rejoice, and the wicked to be confounded. What has been said, in general, regarding God’s providence towards mankind, applies also to his special providence in regard of the Church, which grew up in a short time; and soon after was lessened, harassed, and afflicted by heresy and schisms; “her princes,” that is, her bishops and priests, were held in contempt, for numbers of them fell back from the path of their predecessors, who had set such an example of holiness and piety to the people over whom they had been placed. However, the Church was not abandoned to such an extent altogether as not to leave a considerable number of princes, and bishops, and priests, and holy laics, whom God enriched with spiritual favors, and whom, as being his own sheep, he led to the choicest pastures, and made them increase and multiply. To come now to the text. “Then they were brought to be few,” after increasing to such an extent, their numbers began to be reduced “and they were afflicted with the troubles of evil and sorrow;” after having had such a flow of prosperity they began to feel sad reverses. “Contempt was poured forth upon their princes.” One of the greatest misfortunes that could befall any people is to have their rulers, whether secular or ecclesiastical, objects of contempt. “And he caused them to wander where there was no passing, and out of the way.” The reason why they were despised was, because the princes aforesaid, having been deserted by the light of grace, in consequence of their own sins, as well as those of their people, did not walk in the right way; that is to say they led a bad and immoral life, scandalized the people by their bad example, and made bad laws in favor of the wicked, and against the just. Observe, that when God is said to procure those things, he does not do it directly: he does it indirectly, by withdrawing the light of his grace. “And he helped the poor out of poverty.” As well as he suffered the proud and haughty princes to fall, and rendered them objects of contempt, so, on the contrary, he raised up the poor and the humble, “and made him families like a flock of sheep;” multiplied his posterity, blessed and protected them as a shepherd would his own sheep. “The just shall see and shall rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.” The consequence of this providence of God will be, that the just will rejoice and express their joy in praising and glorifying God; and “all iniquity,” all the malicious and the wicked will be struck dumb, and will not presume to offer the slightest opposition. This we sometimes see in partial instances; but it will be fully developed and made apparent only on the day of general judgment.

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