The Divine Lamp

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

Posts Tagged ‘notes on Psalms’

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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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 11

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 3, 2017

The just man’s confidence in God, in the midst of persecutions

1 Unto the end. A psalm to David. In the Lord I put my trust: how then do you say to my soul: Get thee away from hence to the mountain, like a sparrow.

The cry of the just man, who, under the weight of calumny is nigh tempted to despair and to desert his calling. “In the Lord I put any trust.” He is everywhere, and all powerful. “How then do you say to my soul,” that is to me—the phrase being much in use among the Hebrews—that is, why seek to persuade me? He addresses either the demons tempting him, or his own internal concupiscence stirred up by the devil. “Get thee away hence to the mountain like a sparrow;” that means, give up your calling, and man’s society, and go where there are no temptations, no dangers; for sparrows, when they dread the birds of prey, fly to the tops of mountains, where such birds cannot follow them. In regard of temptations, such mountains offer no protection, save in man’s imagination; who, when subject to grievous temptations, imagine change of place will save them from such trouble; and who, in a fit of desperation, will put an end to their existence, as if it were the mountain to save them; while the just man is patient, and stands his ground—knowing these temptations to exist in all places—with God’s help there to meet them.

2 For, lo, the wicked have bent their bow: they have prepared their arrows in the quiver, to shoot in the dark the upright of heart.

A reason for flying to the mountains for deserting one’s vocation from an excess of fear, suggested by temptations: namely, the just being daily persecuted by the wicked, whether by calumny or in any other shape. Calumny is compared “to the arrows that shoot in the dark;” to give us to understand that they not only inflict a grievous wound, but that it is nigh impossible to guard against them. The two verses taken together may be thus interpreted. One cannot now be upright of heart, seeing the number of snares daily laid for them on all sides; they must therefore fly away to an inaccessible mountain, shun the company of man altogether; a thing impossible: or succumb to custom, by deserting the paths of justice. The just man thus replies to the temptation, “I will confide in the Lord,” and will, therefore, neither fly to an inhabitable mountain, nor will desert the path of justice.

3 For they have destroyed the things which thou hast made: but what has the just man done?

By an appeal to Heaven, he confirms the truth of the just being persecuted by the wicked; for the wicked “have destroyed the things which thou hast made;” that is, your most perfect laws, counsels, and the commands you gave your people: and, instead of doing good for evil, as you wish, they do evil for good, calumniating and persecuting the just without any pretence or reason. “But what has the just man done?” Nothing whatever; he has given them no provocation, “But they hated without cause.”

4 The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes look on the poor man: his eyelids examine the sons of men.

He begins to assign a reason for confiding in God, and disregarding the threats of men, inasmuch as he is a judge sitting in heaven, whence he can see all things and has all men under control. “The Lord is in his holy temple;” by his holy temple he means the highest heavens, the temple not made by human hands; which he expresses more clearly when he adds, “The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes look upon the poor.” From that highest throne, from which nothing can be hid, God beholds the poor; and, therefore, they cannot be harmed without God’s knowledge or permission, a matter of the greatest consolation to them. What follows is more declaratory of the providence of God. For God not only sees men, but by a glance discerns and distinguishes the good from the bad, and all their works. The expression, “His eyelids examine,” means nothing more than he sees distinctly; such figurative expressions occur very often in the Psalms. The eyelids then here mean the eyes; the eyes, the mind: to interrogate means to know with as much exactness as if he previously interrogated and examined with the greatest minuteness.

5 The Lord trieth the just and the wicked: but he that loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul.

God not only knows exactly the just and the sinner, but he also rewards or punishes them according to their merit. Therefore, “He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul;” that is to say, himself; for he will be most grievously punished for his iniquity, a beautiful and most elegant sentence. For he who loves iniquity, in seeming to love his soul, that is, himself, by gratifying himself, commits sin; and thereby, in reality hates his soul, and destroys it, as our Savior, John 12, has it, “Who loves his soul shall lose it;” in other words, who wrongfully loves himself truly hates himself.

6 He shall rain snares upon sinners: fire and brimstone, and storms of winds, shall be the portion of their cup.

A proof of the wicked “having hated their own souls,” because God will rain upon them in this life snares in the greatest abundance, as numerous as drops of rain; that is to say, will permit them daily to fall into fresh and greater sins, striking them with blindness, and “giving them up to a reprobate sense,” one of the most dreadful and severe punishments. And as to the next life, “Fire and brimstone, and storms of winds;” that is, the most burning and scorching blasts in hell, “will be the part of their chalice;” meaning their portion and inheritance. We have to observe that the word “chalice” signifies inheritance, a usual meaning for it in the Scripture, as, “The Lord is the part of my inheritance, and of my chalice;” when the two expressions mean the one thing, viz., his inheritance as he immediately explains by adding, “You will restore my inheritance unto me.” Inheritance is called a cup, because as the cup at a feast, at least at the paschal feast, was divided among the guests, whence the expression of Lk. 22, “Take and divide it between you;” so an inheritance is divided between the sons of the same father. The same word inheritance is sometimes called, part or portion, as, “The Lord is my part;” in another place, “The Lord is my portion;” sometimes, “The part of my inheritance;” which does not mean that the Lord is a part of his inheritance, but that the Lord is the part that came to him by inheritance; so that inheritance and part of the inheritance mean the same: so, with regard to chalice and part of the chalice, which means the portion of the chalice that came to one upon a division. In very nice language he gives the children of the devil, to whom the Lord, in Jn. 8, said, “You are from your father the devil,” the inheritance belonging to him, namely, the horrible punishment designated by “Fire, brimstone, and the spirit of winds.”

7 For the Lord is just, and hath loved justice: his countenance hath beheld righteousness.

God, being strictly just in himself, must, of necessity, punish the wicked with great severity. “For God is light, and there is no darkness in him; And hath loved justice,” that is, good works in all those he created to his likeness, he repeats the same when he says, “His countenance hath beheld righteousness;” by righteousness is meant a declaration of justice. For the justice alluded to here is not the virtue that regulates the mutual dealings or intercourse of man and man; but a universal justice, that embraces all virtues, the summary of which is the love of God and of the neighbor. “For the end of the commandment is love.” 1 Tim. 1; and, “Who loveth hath fulfilled the law.” Rom. 13. The expression, “his countenance hath beheld righteousness,” implies more than simply seeing; it means to see with a look of approbation, as the words in Ps. 1. “The Lord knoweth the way of the just.” Thou hast loved justice and seen righteousness, mean the same thing.

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St Robert Bellarmines’ Commentary on Psalm 68

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 3, 2017

Note: the verse numbering here may differ from more modern translations.

The glorious establishment of the church of the New Testament, prefigured by the benefits bestowed on the people of Israel

1 Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face.

Such were the words used by Moses on the raising of the ark when the people were about to proceed on their journey, containing a prayer to God, that as the ark was raised and was carried before the people, he too may deign to rise up and defend and protect his people on their journey. David, then, in imitation of Moses, and having a prophetic knowledge of Christ’s resurrection, through which his human nature was to be raised, and to make him the future leader of all the elect to the land of promise, exclaims, “Let God arise.” Let Christ, who is God, arise from the dead, and precede his people to the heavenly Jerusalem. “Let his enemies be scattered;” that is, the Jews, who said, “We will not have this man to reign over us;” which has been literally carried out; for no nation was ever so scattered over the world as that of the Jews. “And let them that hate him flee from before his face.” Let his enemies, the demons now conquered and routed, fly before the face of God, now in triumph, and proving by his resurrection that he is the real true God.

2 As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

The celerity and facility with which the presence of Christ scatters sinners could not be more expressively conveyed than by comparing them to the smoke that is dispelled by the wind, or wax that melts before the fire, and is consumed by it. If we understand the “wicked” here to apply to the demons, then we must not take it that they “perish,” strictly speaking; but, that they are so deprived of all strength and power as to render them perfectly harmless. If we apply the word “wicked” to men, the meaning will be, that the oppressors of the just will be quickly and severely punished by God.

3 And let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness.

The consequence of this signal punishment of the wicked will be, that the just, who have been so supported by God, “will feast;” will be refreshed in soul and body, and will “rejoice before God;” will give full vent to their joy; but, with such modesty and gravity, as becomes those who know that God’s eyes are always on them; “and be delighted with gladness;” will find such pleasure in their gladness, that they will have no occasion to turn to any carnal or dangerous pleasure.

4 Sing ye to God, sing a psalm to his name, make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west: the Lord is his name. Rejoice ye before him: but the wicked shall be troubled at his presence,

These words are addressed to the Apostles and the first converts to Christianity. “Sing ye to God,” ye the first of the believers. “Sing a psalm to his name;” praise God by works and words for having deigned to make you cognizant of such mysteries; “make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west.” By your preaching prepare the way of the Lord, so that he who has already ascended upon the west, and has risen above all corruption and mortality, and is about to take up his abode, through faith, in the hearts of all nations, may, through your preaching, find the way prepared and open. “The Lord is his name;” and, therefore, has a right to rule; and he is Lord by right of creation, as well as of redemption. The words, “make a way,” do not mean, retire, but they mean, to make a road, a passage, where there was none before; by removing every obstacle, as it is said in Isaias, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord;” which he explains when he adds, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be lowered;” thereby inspiring the timid with confidence to raise themselves up in the hope of salvation; and taking down the proud through the fear of God’s judgments. The word “ascendeth” does not mean to ascend or rise up, but to be carried along on an exalted, elevated place, as appears from the Hebrew, from which, too, we learn that the words, “upon the west,” signify darkness, or a desert; to signify the corruption of human nature, that is full of drought and darkness. Christ, then, in his resurrection, is said “to ascend upon the west;” because, to a certain extent he is carried along, and rides triumphantly over death, darkness, and the desert of this world below. Such is the explanation of most of the holy fathers. “Rejoice ye before him;” you who have prepared his way, do not fear your persecutors, for “they shall be troubled;” at the fitting time, on the day of judgment, or, perhaps before, when God shall see it fit and opportune, “they shall be troubled,” and that severely.

5 Who is the father of orphans, and the judge of widows. God in his holy place:

No wonder they should be punished severely, for God has special charge of the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, and all afflicted; but especially the orphan and the widow; in a spiritual sense, that is, those who acknowledge no father, no spouse, in this world, but God alone, confide in him alone, love him alone, and long for the day when they shall see him; and, therefore, it is with them that he mostly dwells, and their hearts are “his holy place.”

6 God who maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house: Who bringeth out them that were bound in strength; in like manner them that provoke, that dwell in sepulchres.

Such as the primitive Christians, of one mind, one will, one faith, hope, and love, of whom the Acts say, they were “One soul, one heart;” “who bringeth out them that were bound in strength.” Behold God’s great love, who not only “maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house,” but he also “bringeth out them that were bound in strength;” that is, by the strength of his arm brings from captivity those that were bound in the chains of sin; and, what is more wonderful, “them that provoke” God by their incredulity; “that dwell,” as if they were dead, “in sepulchres” of the deepest iniquity; even such people, by the power of his grace, he brings out of their sepulchres, restores them to life, and “makes them to dwell of one manner in a house.” St. Augustine notes a difference between the bound and the buried. The bound are they who are caught in the chains of concupiscence; but, are anxious to be loosed, and pray for help thereto. The buried are they who come to the very lowest grade of iniquity, and when they do, despise salvation altogether, and exasperate God greatly thereby; and still God’s great love sometimes softens both one and the other, brings them to penance, and frees them from the slavery of the devil, the greatest ever known or thought of.

7 O God, when thou didst go forth in the sight of thy people, when thou didst pass through the desert:
8 The earth was moved, and the heavens dropped at the presence of the God of Sina, at the presence of the God of Israel.

To make the benefits of the redemption of Christ more credible, he reminds them of past benefits, which were only types of the future. “O God, when thou didst go forth in the sight of thy people;” when you went before your people as a pillar of cloud by day, and as a pillar of fire by night; when you were going through the desert, after having passed the Red Sea, then “the earth was moved, and the heavens dropped.” It was moved when it began to tremble at the sight of God descending on mount Sinai, as we read in Exodus 19, where it is said, “And all the mount was terrible,” the Hebrew for which means trembling, or leaping. He is God of Sinai, by reason of his having appeared thereon. “The heavens dropped,” when manna fell from them; “at the presence of the God of Israel,” to show it was for the use of the people that the heavens did so drop.

9 Thou shalt set aside for thy inheritance a free rain, O God: and it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.

The heavens dropped a certain rain, the manna, to our fathers in the desert; but you “have set aside a free rain;” a rain that descends freely; the grace of the Holy Ghost, which is called free or voluntary, because it does not descend by reason of our merits, as the rain is collected through exhalations from the earth; but is freely poured into the hearts of the faithful by the influence of the Holy Ghost; and it is said to be “set aside for thy inheritance,” because temporal blessings are common to all, faithful and infidels; but the grace of the Holy Ghost is set aside that it may be imparted to the faithful only, members of the Church, out of which there is no salvation. “And it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.” The word “and” has the force of the word “because;” and thus, the meaning is, because your inheritance was weakened through ignorance, and through concupiscence, in the worship of idols, and in the indulgence in all manner of vice, you have, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, confirmed and strengthened it by a salutary rain.

10 In it shall thy animals dwell; in thy sweetness, O God, thou hast provided for the poor.

In that inheritance, the Church, which is irrigated by the water of heaven, “shall thy animals dwell;” the sheep of your flock, that you undertook to provide for and to feed; for you, O God, “hast provided” food, for instance, “for the poor,” for your people in want; “in thy sweetness,” agreeable to your goodness and mercy, that is always most sweet to the wretched and the needy.

11 The Lord shall give the word to them that preach good tidings with great power.

He informs them what sort is the food that the Lord had prepared for his poor people; and says the food is his word. “The Lord shall give the word to them that preach good tidings;” the Lord will confer fluency of speech on those who preach his word, which is the food of souls; “with great power;” with such strength and efficacy that their adversaries will not be able to resist or to contradict them.

12 The king of powers is of the beloved, of the beloved; and the beauty of the house shall divide spoils.

The king of great armies is also the king of the beloved of the beloved; that means of the most beloved, meaning Christ, most beloved by God and man; “and the beauty of the house,” in order to decorate and beautify his house, the Church; “shall divide spoils,” the spoils of the gentiles, brought to the true faith by the preaching of the Apostles.

13 If you sleep among the midst of lots, you shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and the hinder parts of her back with the paleness of gold.

A most obscure verse; but the general opinion of the fathers seems to be, that “lots” mean an inheritance, a possession; and that he thus addresses the Apostles, “If you,” who preach the Gospel, “sleep,” that is, rest between the two Testaments, the Old and New; acknowledging the authority of the prophets, as well as of the Apostles; then the “wings of the dove,” the faith and morals of the Church, shall “be covered with silver,” in the purity of wisdom, and “gilded” with the fervor of charity.

14 When he that is in heaven appointeth kings over her, they shall be whited with snow in Selmon.
15 The mountain of God is a fat mountain. A curdled mountain, a fat mountain.
16 Why suspect, ye curdled mountains? A mountain in which God is well pleased to dwell: for there the Lord shall dwell unto the end.

The prophet having compared the preachers of the Old and New Testament to “those who sleep among the lots,” and having compared the Church to a silvered and gilded dove, now compares the same preachers to a number of princes appointed by the supreme King, and the Church to a very high mountain, whitened with snow, and abounding in cattle giving milk. Mount Selmon is a very high mountain, having its summit always covered with snow, but in the bottom exceedingly rich and fertile. He therefore says, “When he that is in heaven,” Christ, who is God, the celestial, all powerful King, “appointeth,” divides and separates the provinces, appointing a prince over each; “kings over her;” the Apostles, who were placed over the Church, called previously the silvered dove; for, as he said in Psalm 44, “Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth,” to guide and govern the people. “They shall be whited with snow in Selmon;” then many people will be converted, and the darkness of their sins having been changed into the brightness of virtue, they shall be made more white than the snow on mount Selmon, the type of the Church. The same mount Selmon is “the mountain of God, a fat mountain;” for the Church, by reason of its dignity is like a mountain, it is the “mountain of God,” for God dwelleth in her, and chose a habitation for himself in her, and she is “a fat mountain,” abounding in the graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost. She is also “a curdled mountain,” because the milk of divine grace never fails or flows away, but remains as it were, curdled in her. “Why suspect, ye curdled mountains?” Why do ye suspect or imagine that there are any other mountains equally rich or curdled? There are no mountains as rich or as curdled as Selmon. For this is the only “mountain in which God is well pleased to dwell;” for his abode in it will not be temporary, as it was in Sinai, but “There the Lord shall dwell unto the end;” that is, forever. Hence it is vain for other mountains to rival, or to contend with it, or to envy it. Of this mountain we read in Isaias, chap. 2, “And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it: and many people shall go and say: Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths;” all of which certainly applies to the Church.

17 The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands; thousands of them that rejoice: the Lord is among them in Sina, in the holy place.
18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts in men. Yea for those also that do not believe, the dwelling of the Lord God.

The prophet now draws a comparison between God’s descent on mount Sinai, to give the old law to the Jewish people; and Christ’s ascension to heaven, to send from thence the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the new law to Christians; with a view to show the source of so much milk and brightness in the Church. “The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands.” The chariot in which God rode when he descended on Sinai was drawn by an infinite number of Angels, not groaning or laboring under the load, but, “of them that rejoice,” delighted at having the honor of bearing their Master; “for the Lord is among them;” he was sitting “in Sinai in the holy place.” Of those holy Angels who descended with him, Moses speaks more plainly in Deut. 33, when he says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and from Seir he rose up to us; He hath appeared from mount Pharan, and with him thousands of saints.” The Angels are frequently called God’s chariot in the Scriptures, as in Psalm 79, “Who sittest on the Cherubim.” “Thou hast ascended on high.” St. Paul, Ephes. 4, applies this passage to Christ’s ascension; and the meaning is, the Lord formerly descended on Sinai, accompanied by many millions of Angels; but thou, the Messias, is forever ascended on high,” to the highest heavens; “hast led captivity captive;” made those who had been captives to the devils captives to yourself, commuted a most miserable captivity into a most glorious one; and thus, in triumph, accompanied by the countless myriads of the saints so redeemed, you entered into your kingdom. “Thou hast received gifts in men;” you have got the gifts of the Holy Ghost from your Father, for the men so redeemed, to whom you have given them. Such is the explanation of St. Paul, who thus quotes the passage, “Ascending on high, he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men;” and this explanation agrees with the Gospel; for in John 14, we read, “I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Paraclete;” and, in chap. 15, “When the Paraclete shall come, whom I shall send you from the Father.” Now, among the gifts conferred by Christ on mankind the principal is charity, in which, according to the Apostle, consists the new law, Rom. 5, “Because the charity of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.” And, in Gal. 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, chastity.” “For those also that do not believe, the dwelling of the Lord God,” means that unbelievers even were converted through those gifts of the Holy Ghost, and got to be numbered among the happy captives.

19 Blessed be the Lord day by day: the God of our salvation will make our journey prosperous to us.
20 Our God is the God of salvation: and of the Lord, of the Lord are the issues from death.

Having described the ascension of Christ, who was our guide, to the kingdom of heaven, he gives thanks to God, saying, “Blessed be the Lord day by day,” which means every day. We bless God every day, because he blesses us every day, and showers his favors on us. “The God of our salvation;” the God on whom our salvation depends; for it is not simple protection we need, exposed, as we are, to a multiplicity of dangers. “Will make our journey prosperous to us;” will bless us every day; for he will not desert us on the road that we daily travel, until we shall have come to the day of eternity. We are thus promised daily, constant, protection from God while here below on our pilgrimage. “Our God is the God of salvation.” I had reason to say, God would make our journey prosperous, and protect us in more ways than one; for such are his characteristics, such is his nature; for our God is a God of salvation, of mercy, and of love. “And of the Lord, of the Lord, are the issues of death;” and through him we evade, or come out from, death; God alone can help us to escape everlasting death.

21 But God shall break the heads of his enemies: the hairy crown of them that walk on in their sins.

Having told what the Lord would do for his friends, he now tells us how he will deal with his enemies, who remained incredulous and refused to be subject to him. “God shall break the heads of his enemies;” he will humble their pride when he shall condemn them to hell to be punished with everlasting torments. “The hairy crown of them that walk in their sins.” The same idea, in different language; the “hairy crown” here being synonymous with the “heads,” and his “enemies” being called here “those that walk in their sins,” for they alone are enemies of God, who, instead of walking in his law, walk in their own sins; that is to say, spend their whole life in the commission of sin.

22 The Lord said: I will turn them from Basan, I will turn them into the depth of the sea:
23 That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thy enemies; the tongue of thy dogs be red with the same.

God here confirms the sentence pronounced by the prophet on the destruction of the wicked. I will turn them out of Basan, a rich and fertile country, and I will cast them into the depths of the sea, as I formerly did to Pharao. I will turn the wicked from their enjoyment and pleasure to final destruction; and such will be the carnage of the enemy, “that thy foot,” my people, “may be dipped in their blood, and the tongue of thy dogs be red with the same;” with their blood shed by the enemy.

24 They have seen thy goings, O God, the goings of my God: of my king who is in his sanctuary.

Having related Christ’s victory and triumph over his enemies, he now informs us that they who witnessed such wonders began to publish them to the whole world, with great joy and acclamation. “They have seen thy going, O God;” that is, many witnessed what you did, your battles and your victories. “The goings (I say) of you who are my God and my king, who are now in your sanctuary;” whether that be heaven or the Church, for it may apply to either, Christ being visibly present in the one, and in the other, through faith and providence.

25 Princes went before joined with singers, in the midst of young damsels playing on timbrels.

He alludes to the conduct of the children of Israel on their delivery from Pharao, when Moses, their leader, with other sons of Israel, sung the canticle, “Let us sing to the Lord for he is gloriously magnified. So Mary, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went after her with timbrel and with dances.” Thus, too, when the princes of the Church saw the triumph and victory of Christ, that freed us from the power of Satan, they “went before” other nations and people in proclaiming and announcing the praises of Christ. “Joined with singers;” in union with the holy Angels in heaven, singing God’s praises, by reason of the same victory, “in the midst of young damsels;” in the midst of the holy souls who ascended with Christ, and so are named, by reason of their being so lately admitted to eternal life, and to the society of the Angels, so chanting God’s praises.

26 In the churches bless ye God the Lord, from the fountains of Israel.

This verse is to be read as if in a parenthesis. The prophet, foreseeing the future joy of the princes of the Church, exhorts them, “Bless ye God the Lord in the churches” they were about to establish, taking the subject of their praise “from the fountains of Israel;” namely, the promises of God to the patriarchs, and the prophecies that we now see fulfilled, and for which we rejoice.

27 There is Benjamin a youth, in ecstasy of mind. The princes of Juda are their leaders: the princes of Zabulon, the princes of Nephthali.

He now returns to the former narration, and tells who are the princes he alluded to when he said, “Princes went before,” and says they were “Benjamin a youth,” the princes of Juda, of Zabulon, and of Nephthali, which, by the general consent of the fathers, mean the Apostles, who “are appointed princes over all the earth.” Benjamin, the youth, is named first, by whom the Apostle Paul is meant; he being of the tribe of Benjamin, and the last in point of call, labored more than all the rest in preaching, and praising the victories of Christ; and he, “in excess of mind,” was so united with the singers in the third heaven as not to know “whether he was in the body or out of the body,” as he testifies himself. By the princes of Juda are meant the Apostles, who belonged to that tribe, and are called Christ’s brethren in the Gospel, by reason of their being the Sons of Cleophas, the brother of Joseph the spouse of the Blessed Virgin; they were James and Simon. The other Apostles, are included in the princes of Zabulon and Nephthali, such as Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Matthew, who were from Bethsaida or Capharnaum, and the neighboring towns that belonged to Zabulon and Nephthali, as may be inferred from the passage in Mat. 4, “Now when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee, and leaving the city of Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the confines of Zabulon and Nephthalim, that what was said by Isaias the prophet might be fulfilled. The land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthali, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles. The people that sat in darkness saw great light, and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death light is sprung up;” but, as the ten tribes did not return from captivity, as we read in the first book of Esdras, Juda and Benjamin, with the Levites, the Apostles are called princes of Zabulon and Nephthali, either because they were natives of the country of those two tribes, or because, perhaps, a few of those tribes did return in the company of the other Jews, which must have been the case, for Anna the prophetess was of the tribe of Asser.

28 Command thy strength, O God confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us.

The prophet now, after having described the victory of Christ, and the consequent joy of the Apostles, asks of God that the power so exercised by him in conquering his enemies, and founding his Church, may still be exercised in protecting and preserving his work. “Command thy strength” to look after the work you commenced, to strengthen and fortify it; which he explains more clearly when he says, “Confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us;” as much as, to say, you have delivered us from the power of Satan, you have brought us into the kingdom of your Son, you have planted the Church with the blood of the same Son, you have poured on us “the spirit of adoption of sons;” “confirm” all these things, the works of thy mercy.

29 From thy temple in Jerusalem, kings shall offer presents to thee.

This verse may apply to those who reign in heaven; because, in the temple of heaven, the saints offer God perpetual presents of praise; or it may apply to the spiritual kings, the priests of the Church, who daily offer their “presents,” the sacrifice of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of praise and prayer; and, finally, that of the conversion of souls; or it may apply to the temporal kings of the earth, who, to maintain public worship, and to support the ministers thereof, generously contribute thereto from their own revenue, of which the Prophet Isaias, chap. 60 and 66, spoke at length.

30 Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds, the congregation of bulls with the kine of the people; who seek to exclude them who are tried with silver. Scatter thou the nations that delight in wars:
31 Ambassadors shall come out of Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.

He now directs his prayer against the enemies of the Church, who seek to disturb its peace, and to impede the offerings of praise and the sacrifices of good works; and first, against her invisible enemies, saying, “Rebuke,” frighten, coerce, restrain “the wild beasts of the reeds;” the wild beasts that usually shelter themselves among the reeds, the demons, who are usually found among vain and light headed people, and in most places where rank weeds, the type of luxury, abound. In such terms does the Lord speak of the devil, under the title of Behemoth, in the Book of Job, chap. 40, where he says, “He sleepeth under the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places.” Then he adds concerning the enemies to be found among men, “The congregation of bulls, with the kine of the people,” meaning the assemblage of wicked princes raging like so many bulls, “with the kine of the people;” among a people without guile, and running wanton, like so many young heifers, “to exclude them who are tried with silver;” meaning that those impious princes and people, at the instigation and under the impulse of Satan, assembled to exclude, reject, and reduce to nothing the preachers of the Gospel, who had been proved like silver in a furnace, and found most faithful and pure. Here is clearly foreshown the grievous persecutions both by Jews and Pagans, after the ascent of Christ to heaven. “Scatter thou the nations that delight in wars.” He now foretells the victory they were to gain over their persecutors. “Scatter,” you will scatter all those who shall wage war against your people; and then “Ambassadors shall come out of Egypt,” asking for peace, and proffering submission. “Ethiopia,” which is farther off, “shall soon stretch out her hands to God;” will get before Egypt in the tender of her offerings and her homage to God. He specifies Egypt and Ethiopia, the former as being very hostile to the true religion, and the latter as being a very remote country. The fathers think that in the expression, “Ethiopia stretching out her hands,” he alludes to the eunuch of Queen Candace, who was converted to the Christian religion long before any one from Egypt, or any other country of the gentiles. Read Acts, chap. 8

32 Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing ye to the Lord: Sing ye to God,

He proceeds to foretell, in the shape of an exhortation, the conversion of the gentiles to the Christian religion. “Ye kingdoms of the earth,” of the whole world irrespective of Israel or Juda; “sing to God,” in faith acknowledging him as the true God, sing his praises. “Sing ye to the Lord,” not only in words but by good works.

33 Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, to the east. Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power:

He who, after his ascension on high, sits on the highest heaven, the fountain of light, whence all light has its source and origin. The words “who mounteth above the heaven of heavens,” do not imply ascent, but the act of sitting on them, as on a throne; such is the force of the Hebrew word, as we explained in regard of the words, “who ascendeth upon the west.” The prophet then means to convey that Christ our Lord, after his ascension to heaven, of which he spoke when he said, “Thou hast ascended on high,” came to be higher and more elevated than heaven itself, sitting thereon as a man would on a horse or a chariot, or as a king upon his throne. The words, “to the east,” correspond exactly with what he said before, “who ascendeth upon the west;” that is, because he has all darkness beneath him, while he is himself in light, in light inaccessible, the source of all light that is communicated to Angels and to men. “Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power.” He that appeared so humble and “was dumb as a lamb before his shearer,” now sits on the heaven of heavens, and will shortly “give to his voice the voice of power;” make it most powerful and effective, which shall come to pass, “when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” No more powerful voice can be imagined. It was the voice of power that said, “Young man, I say unto thee, arise;” as also, “Lazaras, come forth.” Imagine, then, if possible, the power of that voice that will, on the last day, in one moment, bring together, animate, and raise up the ashes of all the dead from the beginning of the world! It will also be a voice of power that will on that day pronounce, “Go, ye cursed, into eternal fire;” and “Come, ye blessed, possess the kingdom prepared for you;” Which voice, in both cases, will be obeyed without the slightest effort at resistance. In truth, when compared to such a voice, all the laws, edicts, and commands of the rulers of this world sink into insignificance. Hence he most properly adds,

34 Give ye glory to God for Israel, his magnificence, and his power is in the clouds.
35 God is wonderful in his saints: the God of Israel is he who will give power and strength to his people. Blessed be God.

“Give ye glory to God for Israel.” Glorify God for the favors conferred on his elect; “all things for the elect;” “his magnificence and his power is in the clouds;” a reason for glorifying him, for God’s magnificence and power will be especially displayed to Israel; when they shall be “caught up together in the clouds to meet Christ in the air;” and shall sit on the clouds, like so many princes on splendid and elevated thrones, on the right and on the left of the Almighty Judge. Then may it well be said, “God is wonderful in his saints;” for then will the whole world clearly understand that God, in raising his saints from the lowest depths to the greatest height, from profound abasement to the highest and most exalted glory, was truly “wonderful;” for “the God of Israel,” of his chosen people, will then “give power and strength to his people,” will endow his elect with true and real immortality. “Blessed be God.” The consequence of what he related, for with great justice all should bless that God whose mercy, justice, power, and wisdom so wonderfully appear in so many mysteries.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 47

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

1. The title of the Psalm goeth thus. “To the end: for the sons of Korah: a Psalm of David himself.” These sons of Korah have the title also of some other Psalms, and indicate a sweet mystery, insinuate a great Sacrament: wherein let us willingly understand ourselves, and let us acknowledge in the title us who hear, and read, and as in a glass set before us behold who we are. The sons of Korah, who are they?Numb. 16:1. [See p. 155, note 8, supra.—C.]

“>6 … Haply the sons of the Bridegroom. For the Bridegroom was crucified in the place of Calvary. Recollect the Gospel,Matt. 27:33.

“>7 where they crucified the Lord, and ye will find Him crucified in the place of Calvary. Furthermore, they who deride His Cross, by devils, as by beasts, are devoured. For this also a certain Scripture signified. When God’s Prophet Elisha was going up, children called after him mocking, “Go up thou bald head, Go up thou bald head:” but he, not so much in cruelty as in mystery, made those children to be devoured by bears out of the wood.2 Kings 2:23, 24.

“>8 If those children had not been devoured, would they have lived even till now? Or could they not, being born mortal, have been taken off by a fever? But so in them had no mystery been shown, whereby posterity might be put in fear. Let none then mock the Cross of Christ. The Jews were possessed by devils, and devoured; for in the place of Calvary, crucifying Christ, and lifting on the Cross, they said as it were with childish sense, not understanding what they said, “Go up, thou bald head.” For what is, “Go up”? “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”Luke 23:21.

“>9 For childhood is set before us to imitate humility, and childhood is set before us to beware of foolishness. To imitate humility, childhood was set before us by the Lord, when He called children to Him,Matt. 18:2.

“>10 and because they were kept from Him, He said, “Suffer them to come unto Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matt. 19:14.

“>11 The example of childhood is set before us to beware of foolishness by the Apostle, “Brethren, be not children in understanding:” and again he proposeth it to imitate, “Howbeit in malice be ye children, that in understanding ye may be men.”1 Cor. 14:20.

“>1 “For the sons of Korah” the Psalm is sung; for Christians then is it sung. Let us hear it as sons of the Bridegroom, whom senseless children crucified in the place of Calvary. For they earned to be devoured by beasts; we to be crowned by Angels. For we acknowledge the humility of our Lord, and of it are not ashamed. We are not ashamed of Him called in mystery “the bald” (Calvus), from the place of Calvary. For on the very Cross whereon He was insulted, He permitted not our forehead to be bald; for with His own Cross He marked it. Finally, that ye may know that these things are said to us, see what is said.

2. “O clap your hands, all ye nations” (ver. 1). Were the people of the Jews all the nations? No, but blindness in part is happened to Israel, that senseless children might cry, “Calve,” “Calve;” and so the Lord might be crucified in the place of Calvary, that by His Blood shed He might redeem the Gentiles, and that might be fulfilled which saith the Apostle, “Blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”Rom. 11:25.

“>2 Let them insult, then, the vain, and foolish, and senseless, and say, “Calve,” “Calve;” but ye redeemed by His Blood which was shed in the place of Calvary, say, “O clap your hands, all ye nations;” because to you hath come down the Grace of God. “O clap your hands.” What is “O clap”? Rejoice. But wherefore with the hands? Because with good works. Do not rejoice with the mouth while idle with the hands. If ye rejoice, “clap your hands.” The hands of the nations let Him see, who joys hath deigned to give them. What is, the hands of the nations? The acts of them doing good works. “O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of triumph.” Both with voice and with hands. If with the voice only it is not well, because the hands are slow; if only with the hands it is not well, because the tongue is mute. Agree together must the hands and tongue. Let this confess, these work. “Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”

3. “For the Lord Most High is terrible” (ver. 2). The Most High in descending made like one ludicrous, by ascending into Heaven is made terrible. “A great King over all the earth.” Not only over the Jews; for over them also He is King. For of them also the Apostles believed, and of them many thousands of men sold their goods, and laid the price at the Apostles’ feet,Acts 4:34.

“>3 and in them was fulfilled what in the title of the Cross was written, “The King of the Jews.”Matt. 27:37.

“>4 For He is King also of the Jews. But “of the Jews” is little.[Isa. 49:6.—C.]

“>5 “O clap your hands, all ye nations: for God is the King of all the earth.” For it sufficeth not Him to have under Him one nation: therefore such great price gave He out of His side, as to buy the whole world.

4. “He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet” (ver. 3). Which subdued, and to whom? Who are they that speak? Haply Jews? Surely, if Apostles; surely, if Saints. For under these God hath subdued the people and the nations, that to-day are they honoured among the nations, who by their own citizens earned to be slain: as their Lord was slain by His citizens, and is honoured among the nations; was crucified by His own, is adored by aliens, but those by a price made His own. For therefore bought He us, that aliens from Him we might not be. Thinkest thou then these are the words of Apostles, “He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet”? I know not. Strange that Apostles should speak so proudly, as to rejoice that the nations were put under their feet, that is, Christians under the feet of Apostles. For they rejoice that we are with them under the feet of Him who died for us. For under Paul’s feet ran they, who would be of Paul, to whom He said, “Was Paul crucified for you?”1 Cor. 1:13.

“>6 What then here, what are we to understand? “He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet.” All pertaining to Christ’s inheritance are among “all the nations,” and all not pertaining to Christ’s inheritance are among “all the nations:” and ye see so exalted in Christ’s Name is Christ’s Church, that all not yet believing in Christ lie under the feet of Christians. For what numbers now run to the Church; not yet being Christians, they ask aid of the Church;[See (A. N. F. vol. v. p. 563) the noble charities of early Christians.—C.]

“>7 to be succoured by us temporally they are willing, though eternally to reign with us as yet they are unwilling. When all seek aid of the Church, even they who are not yet in the Church, hath He not “subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet”?

5. “He hath chosen an inheritance for us, the excellencySpeciem.

“>8 of Jacob, whom He loved” (ver. 4). A certain beauty of Jacob He hath chosen for our inheritance. Esau and Jacob were two brothers; in their mother’s womb both struggled, and by this struggle their mother’s bowels were shaken; and while they two were yet therein, the younger was elected and preferred to the elder, and it was said, “Two peoples are in thy womb, and the elder shall serve the younger.”Gen. 25:23.

“>1 Among all nations is the elder, among all nations the younger; but the younger is in good Christians, elect, godly, faithful; the elder in the proud, unworthy, sinful, stubborn, defending rather than confessing their sins: as was also the very people of the Jews, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness.”Rom. 10:3.

“>2 But for that it is said, “The elder shall serve the younger;” it is manifest that under the godly are subdued the ungodly, under the humble are subdued the proud. Esau was born first, and Jacob was born last; but he who was last born, was preferred to the first-born, who through gluttony lost his birthright. So thou hast it written,Gen. 25:30–34.

“>3 He longed for the pottage, and his brother said to him, If thou wilt that I give it thee, give me thy birthright. He loved more that which carnally he desired, than that which spiritually by being born first he had earned:Merucrat.

“>4 and he laid aside his birthright, that he might eat lentils. But lentils we find to be the food of the Egyptians, for there it abounds in Egypt. Whence is so magnified the lentil of Alexandria, that it comes even to our country, as if here grew no lentil. Therefore by desiring Egyptian food he lost his birthright. So also the people of the Jews, of whom it is said, “in their hearts they turned back again into Egypt.”Acts 7:39.

“>5 They desired in a manner the lentil, and lost their birthright.

6. “God is gone up with jubilation” (ver. 5). Even He our God, the Lord Christ, is gone up with jubilation; “the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.” “Is gone up:” whither, save where we know? Whither the Jews followed Him not, even with their eyes. For exalted on the Cross they mocked Him, ascending into Heaven they did not see Him. “God hath gone up with jubilation.” What is jubilation, but admiration of joy which cannot be expressed in words? As the disciples in joy admired, seeing Him go into Heaven, whom they had mourned dead; truly for the joy, words sufficed not: remained to jubilate what none could express. There was also the voice of the trumpet, the voice of Angels. For it is said, “Lift up thy voice like a trumpet.” Angels preached the ascension of the Lord: they saw the Disciples, their Lord ascending, tarrying, admiring, confounded, nothing speaking, but in heart jubilant: and now was the sound of the trumpet in the clear voice of the Angels, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? this is Jesus.”Acts 1:11.

“>6 As if they knew not that it was the same Jesus. Had they not just before seen Him before them? Had they not heard Him speaking with them? Nay, they not only saw the figure of Him present, but handled also His limbs. Of themselves then knew they not, that it was the same Jesus? But they being by very admiration, from joy of jubilation, as it were transported in mind, the Angels said, “that same is Jesus.” As though they said, If ye believe Him, this is that same Jesus, whom crucified, your feet stumbled, whom dead and buried, ye thought your hope lost. Lo, this is the same Jesus. He hath gone up before you, “He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.” His Body is removed indeed from your eyes, but God is not separated from your hearts: see Him going up, believe on Him absent, hope for Him coming; but yet through His secret Mercy, feel Him present. For He who ascended into Heaven that He might be removed from your eyes, promised unto you, saying, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”Matt. 28:20.

“>7 Justly then the Apostle so addressed us, “The Lord is at hand; be careful for nothing.”Phil. 4:5, 6.

“>8 Christ sitteth above the Heavens; the Heavens are far off, He who there sitteth is near.…

7. “Sing praises to our God, sing praises” (ver. 6). Whom as Man mocked they, who from God were alienated. “Sing praises to our God.” For He is not Man only, but God. Man of the seed of David,Rom. 1:3.

“>9 God the Lord of David, of the Jews having flesh. “Whose” (saith the Apostle) “are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.”Rom. 9:5.

“>10 Of the Jews then is Christ, but according to the flesh. But who is this Christ who is of the Jews according to the flesh? “Who is over all, God blessed for ever.” God before the flesh, God in the flesh, God with the flesh. Nor only God before the flesh, but God before the earth whence flesh was made; nor only God before the earth whereof flesh was made, but even God before the Heaven which was first made; God before the day which was first made; God before Angels; the same Christ is God: for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”John 1:1.

“>11

8. “For God is the King of all the earth” (ver. 7). What? And before was He not God of all the earth? Is He not God of both heaven and earth, since by Him surely were all things made? Who can say that He is not his God? But not all men acknowledged Him their God; and where He was acknowledged, there only, so to say, He was God. “In Judah is God known.”Ps. 76:1.

“>12 Not yet was it said to the sons of Korah, “O clap your hands, all ye nations.” For that God known in Judah, is King of all the earth: now by all He is acknowledged, for that is fulfilled which Isaiah saith, “He is thy God who hath delivered thee, the God of the whole earth shall He be called.”Isa. 54:5.

“>1 “Sing ye praises with understanding.” He teacheth us and warneth us to sing praises with understanding, not to seek the sound of the ear, but the light of the heart. The Gentiles, whence ye were called that ye might be Christians, adored gods made with hands, and sang praises to them, but not with understanding. If they had sung with understanding, they had not adored stones. When a man sensible sang to a stone insensible, did he sing with understanding? But now, brethren, we see not with our eyes Whom we adore, and yet correctlyCorrecti. ms. Vat. ap. Ben. corde recti, “right in heart.”

“>2 we adore.[The adoration of the Host was unknown to the ancient Church.—C.]

“>3 Much more is God commended to us, that with our eyes we see Him not. If with our eyes we saw Him, haply we might despise. For even Christ seen, the Jews despised; unseen, the Gentiles adored.

9. “God shall reign over all nations” (ver. 8). Who reigned over one nation, “shall reign” (saith He) “over all nations.” When this was said, God reigned over one nation. It was a prophecy, the thing was not yet shown. Thanks be to God, we now see fulfilled what before was prophesied. A written promise God sent unto us before the time, the time fulfilled He hath repaid us. “God shall reign over all nations,” is a promise. “God sitteth upon His Holy Seat.” What then was promised to come, now being fulfilled, is acknowledged and held. “God sitteth upon His Holy Seat.” What is His Holy Seat? Haply saith one, The Heavens, and he understandeth well. For Christ hath gone up,Acts 1:2.

“>4 as we know, with the Body, wherein He was crucified, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; thence we expect Him to come to judge the quick and the dead.2 Tim. 4:1.

“>5 “God sitteth upon His Holy Seat.” The Heavens are His Holy Seat. Wilt thou also be His Seat? think not that thou canst not be; prepare for Him a place in thy heart. He cometh, and willingly sitteth. The same Christ is surely “the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God:”1 Cor. 1:24.

“>6 and what saith the Scripture of Wisdom Herself? The soul of the righteous is the seat of Wisdom.Wisd. 7:27.

“>7 If then the soul of the righteous is the seat of Wisdom, be thy soul righteous, and thou shalt be a royal seat of Wisdom. And truly, brethren, all men who live well, who act well, converse in godly charity, doth not God sit in them, and Himself command? Thy soul obeyeth God sitting in it, and itself commandeth the members. For thy soul commandeth thy members, that so may move the foot, the hand, the eye, the ear, and itself commandeth the members as its servants, but yet itself serveth its Lord sitting within. It cannot well rule its inferior, unless its superior it have not disdained to serve.

10. “The princes of the peoples are gathered together unto the God of Abraham” (ver. 9). The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.Exod. 3:6.

“>8 True it is, God said this, and thereupon the Jews prided themselves, and said, “We are Abraham’s children;”John 8:33.

“>9 priding themselves in their father’s name, carrying his flesh, not holding his faith; by seed cleaving to Him, in manners degenerating. But the Lord, what said He to them so priding themselves? “If ye are Abraham’s children, do the works of Abraham.”John 8:39.

“>10 Again … “The princes of the peoples:” the princes of the nations: not the princes of one people, but the princes of all people have “gathered together unto the God of Abraham.” Of these princes was that Centurion too, of whom but now when the Gospel was read ye heard. For he was a Centurion having honour and power among men, he was a prince among the princes of the peoples. Christ coming to him, he sent his friends to meet Him, nay unto Christ truly passing over to him he sent his friends, and asked that He would heal his servant who was dangerously sick. And when the Lord would come, he sent to Him this message: “I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof, but say in a word only, and my servant shall be healed.” “For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers.”Luke 7:6, 7.

“>11 See how he kept his rank! first he mentioned that he was under another, and afterwards that another was under him. I am under authority, and I am in authority; both under some I am, and over some I am.… As though he said, If I being set under authority command those who are under me, Thou who art set under no man’s authority, canst not Thou command Thy creature, since all things were made by Thee, and without Thee was nothing made. “Say,” then, said he, “in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof.” … Admiring at his faith, Jesus reprobates the Jews’ misbelief. For sound to themselves they seemed, whereas they were dangerously sick, when their Physician not knowing they slew. Therefore when He reprobated, and repudiated their pride what said he? “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west,” not belonging to the kindred of Israel: many shall come to whom He said, “O clap your hands, all ye nations;” “and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” Abraham begat them not of his own flesh; yet shall they come and sit down with him in the kingdom of heaven, and be his sons. Whereby his sons? Not as born of his flesh, but by following his faith. “But the children of the kingdom,” that is, the Jews, “shall be cast into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”Matt. 8:12.

“>1 They shall be condemned to outer darkness who are born of the flesh of Abraham, and they shall sit down with him in the kingdom of heaven, who have imitated Abraham’s faith.

11. And what they who belonged to the God of Abraham? “For the mighty gods of the earth are greatly lifted up.” They who were gods, the people of God, the vineyard of God, whereof it is said, “Judge betwixt Me and My vineyard,”Isa. 5:3.

“>2 shall go into outer darkness, shall not sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, are not gathered unto the God of Abraham. Wherefore? “For the mighty gods of the earth;” they who were mighty gods of the earth, presuming upon earth. What earth? Themselves; for every man is earth. For to man was it said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”Gen. 3:19.

“>3 But man ought to presume upon God, and thence to hope for help, not from himself. For the earth raineth not upon itself, nor shineth for itself; but as the earth from heaven expecteth rain and light, so man from God ought to expect mercy and truth. They then, “the mighty gods of the earth, were greatly lifted up,” that is, greatly prided themselves: they thought no physician necessary for themselves, and therefore remained in their sickness, and by their sickness were brought down even to death. The natural branches were broken off that the humble wild olive tree might be grafted in.Rom. 11:17.

“>4 Hold we fast then, brethren, humility, charity, godliness: since we are called, on their proving reprobate, even by their example let us fear to pride ourselves.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 47

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 148

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 148

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

“>1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 138

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 102

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

A PRAYER FOR ONE IN AFFLICTION: THE FIFTH PENITENTIAL PSALM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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