The Divine Lamp

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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 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 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 79

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 23

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 31

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2017

PSALM 31
A PRAYER OF A JUST MAN UNDER AFFLICTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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