Sunday, September 18, 2016

Psalm 20 - Our king will reign forever

Image result for basilica of the national shrine of the immaculate conception

Psalm 20: Sunday Matins I, 1 
In finem. Psalmus David.
Unto the end. A psalm for David.
1 Dómine, in virtúte tua lætábitur rex: * et super salutáre tuum exsultábit veheménter.
In your strength, O Lord, the king shall joy; and in your salvation he shall rejoice exceedingly.
2  Desidérium cordis ejus tribuísti ei: * et voluntáte labiórum ejus non fraudásti eum.
3 You have given him his heart's desire: and have not withholden from him the will of his lips.
3  Quóniam prævenísti eum in benedictiónibus dulcédinis: * posuísti in cápite ejus corónam de lápide pretióso.
4 For you have prevented him with blessings of sweetness: you have set on his head a crown of precious stones.
4  Vitam pétiit a te: * et tribuísti ei longitúdinem diérum in sæculum, et in sæculum sæculi.
5 He asked life of you: and you have given him length of days for ever and ever.
5  Magna est glória ejus in salutári tuo: * glóriam et magnum decórem impónes super eum.
6 His glory is great in your salvation: glory and great beauty shall you lay upon him.
6  Quóniam dabis eum in benedictiónem in sæculum sæculi: * lætificábis eum in gáudio cum vultu tuo.
7 For you shall give him to be a blessing for ever and ever: you shall make him joyful in gladness with your countenance.
7  Quóniam rex sperat in Dómino: * et in misericórdia Altíssimi non commovébitur.
8 For the king hopes in the Lord: and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved
8  Inveniátur manus tua ómnibus inimícis tuis: * déxtera tua invéniat omnes, qui te odérunt.
9 Let your hand be found by all your enemies: let your right hand find out all them that hate you.
9  Pones eos ut clíbanum ignis in témpore vultus tui: * Dóminus in ira sua conturbábit eos, et devorábit eos ignis.
10 You shall make them as an oven of fire, in the time of your anger: the Lord shall trouble them in his wrath, and fire shall devour them.
10  Fructum eórum de terra perdes: * et semen eórum a fíliis hóminum.
11 Their fruit shall you destroy from the earth: and their seed from among the children of men.
11  Quóniam declinavérunt in te mala: * cogitavérunt consília, quæ non potuérunt stabilíre.
12 For they have intended evils against you: they have devised counsels which they have not been able to establish.
12  Quóniam pones eos dorsum: * in relíquiis tuis præparábis vultum eórum.
13 For you shall make them turn their back: in your remnants you shall prepare their face.
13  Exaltáre, Dómine, in virtúte tua: * cantábimus et psallémus virtútes tuas.
14 Be exalted, O Lord, in your own strength: we will sing and praise your power.

St Benedict's selection of Psalm 20 to open Matins each Sunday was a radical one: starting at Psalm 1 was the norm for all of the traditional forms of the Office, monastic or otherwise.  So why did he do it?

In the Rule, St Benedict explicitly makes a link between this starting point and Prime.  After explaining how the psalms of Prime are to be divided and allocated to each day of the week, he says St Benedict's Rule says:
'Thus it comes about that the Night Office on Sundays will always begin with the twentieth psalm.' (RB18).  
 The Resurrection

 The most obvious reason for the linkage is the Resurrection, a fitting opening prayer for the 'Lord's Day' when we celebrate that event afresh each week.

The variable psalmody of Saturday in the Office's mini-Triduum ends with Psalm 19, which, you will recall, is a prediction of the Resurrection and sings the praises of the triumphant king.  Cassiodorus explains its concluding verse, O Lord save the king...' as meaning, 'Let Christ the Lord rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and intercede for us'.

As St Liguori reminds us, Psalm 20 is a song of the Resurrection:
Hymn of thanksgiving which the people address to God for the victories granted to the arms of David. According to Bellarmine, this psalm is understood in the spiritual sense of the victory which Jesus Christ gained through the merits of his Passion over sin and over hell.
Verse 4 is the key to this interpretation as St Augustine makes clear:
He asked life; and You gave Him: He asked a resurrection, saying, Father, glorify Your Son; and You gave it Him, Length of days for ever and ever. The prolonged ages of this world which the Church was to have, and after them an eternity, world without end.
Life of Christ in a week

The link between Psalm 19 and Psalm 20 also provides a link between that theme and the weekly program around the life of Christ that St Benedict sets out in Matins above all.

St Benedict makes Prime above all about Christ the King, the first and last, who fulfils the law and leads us into heaven.  But the psalms of that hour also link to the schema that I think is traces out each week the life of Christ from the Incarnation on Monday to the Resurrection on Sunday.

Against the denial of the divinity of Christ

The third reason for St Benedict's approach may have been to make a strong statement against the Arian heresy which was widespread in Italy in his time, and denied the true divinity of Christ.

Cassiodorus saw Psalms 18, 19 and 20 as setting out Christ's two natures, human and divine, and his discussion of Psalm 20 provides a strong exposition of its applicability in countering the Arian heresy (reborn in our time, above all in those who claim Christ was unaware of his divine nature and mission, acted in ways conditioned by the times, and so forth).  He comments:
Here a kind of panegyric is recited about His incarnation, and later the deeds of His divinity are recounted so that all may understand that the Son of Mary ever a virgin is identical with the Word of the Father. Our belief which is conducive to salvation is that there are two natures, divine and human, in Jesus Christ, and they continue in one Person unchangeably for ages without end. This statement should be repeated frequently, because regularly hearing and believing it brings life...
Accordingly, starting with Psalm 20 each week may have been a firm statement against that heresy, consistent with the many other anti-Arian features of the Benedictine Office (the addition of the Gloria to each psalm, for example, and the closing 'litany', Kyrie eleimson, Christie eleison, Kyrie eleison' for example were all adopted in Gaul in the early sixth century to this end).

The eighth day

Above all though, the choice of the psalm surely reflects the eschatological character St Benedict gives Matins.  He sets out his instructions for Matins in the eighth chapter of the Rule; says it should be started at the eighth hour on what was in early Christian parlance the 'eighth day', the dawn of the first day of the new creation ushered in by the Resurrection.

And St Athanasius summarises the psalm as revealing:
Christ’s kingdom, and the power of his judgment, and his coming again in the flesh to us and the summoning of the nations.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Psalm 101 - That Christ might release those in fetters

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry,
Folio 34r - the Musée Condé

Psalm 101: Penitential psalm no 5/ Saturday Matins I, 1
Oratio pauperis, cum anxius fuerit, et in conspectu Domini effuderit precem suam.
The prayer of the poor man, when he was anxious, and poured out his supplication before   the Lord.
1 Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam: * et clamor meus ad te véniat.
Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to you.
2  Non avértas fáciem tuam a me: * in quacúmque die tríbulor, inclína ad me aurem tuam.
Turn not away your face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline your ear to me.
3  In quacúmque die invocávero te: * velóciter exáudi me.
In what day soever I shall call upon you, hear me speedily.
4  Quia defecérunt sicut fumus dies mei: * et ossa mea sicut crémium aruérunt.
4 For my days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire.
5  Percússus sum ut fœnum, et áruit cor meum: * quia oblítus sum comédere panem meum.
5 I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread.
6  A voce gémitus mei: * adhæsit os meum carni meæ.
6 Through the voice of my groaning, my bone has cleaved to my flesh.
7  Símilis factus sum pellicáno solitúdinis: * factus sum sicut nyctícorax in domicílio.
7 I have become like to a pelican of the wilderness: I am like a night raven in the house.
8  Vigilávi, * et factus sum sicut passer solitárius in tecto.
8 I have watched, and have become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop.
9  Tota die exprobrábant mihi inimíci mei: * et qui laudábant me, advérsum me jurábant.
9 All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me.
10  Quia cínerem tamquam panem manducábam, * et potum meum cum fletu miscébam.
10 For I ate ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.
11  A fácie iræ et indignatiónis tuæ: * quia élevans allisísti me.
11 Because of your anger and indignation: for having lifted me up you have thrown me down.
12  Dies mei sicut umbra declinavérunt: * et ego sicut fœnum árui.
12 My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.
13  Tu autem, Dómine, in ætérnum pérmanes: * et memoriále tuum in generatiónem et generatiónem.
13 But you, O Lord, endure for ever: and your memorial to all generations.
14  Tu exsúrgens miseréberis Sion: * quia tempus miseréndi ejus, quia venit tempus.
14 You shall arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time has come.
15  Quóniam placuérunt servis tuis lápides ejus: * et terræ ejus miserebúntur.
15 For the stones thereof have pleased your servants: and they shall have pity on the earth thereof.
16  Et timébunt gentes nomen tuum, Dómine: * et omnes reges terræ glóriam tuam.
16 All the Gentiles shall fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory.
17  Quia ædificávit Dóminus Sion: * et vidébitur in glória sua.
17 For the Lord has built up Sion: and he shall be seen in his glory.
18  Respéxit in oratiónem humílium: * et non sprevit precem eórum.
18 He has had regard to the prayer of the humble: and he has not despised their petition.
19  Scribántur hæc in generatióne áltera: * et pópulus qui creábitur, laudábit Dóminum.
19 Let these things be written unto another generation: and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord:
20  Quia prospéxit de excélso sancto suo: * Dóminus de cælo in terram aspéxit:
20 Because he has looked forth from his high sanctuary: from heaven the Lord has looked upon the earth.
21  Ut audíret gémitus compeditórum: * ut sólveret fílios interemptórum.
21 That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain:
22  Ut annúntient in Sion nomen Dómini: * et laudem ejus in Jerúsalem.
22 That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and his praise in Jerusalem;
23  In conveniéndo pópulos in unum: * et reges ut sérviant Dómino.
23 when the people assemble together, and kings, to serve the Lord.
24  Respóndit ei in via virtútis suæ: * Paucitátem diérum meórum núntia mihi.
24 He answered him in the way of his strength: Declare unto me the fewness of my days.
25  Ne révoces me in dimídio diérum meórum: * in generatiónem et generatiónem anni tui.
25 Call me not away in the midst of my days: your years are unto generation and generation.
26  Inítio tu, Dómine, terram fundásti: * et ópera mánuum tuárum sunt cæli.
26 In the beginning, O Lord, you founded the earth: and the heavens are the works of your hands.
27  Ipsi peribunt, tu autem pérmanes: * et omnes sicut vestiméntum veteráscent.
27 They shall perish but you remain: and all of them shall grow old like a garment:
28  Et sicut opertórium mutábis eos, et mutabúntur: * tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non defícient.
And as a vesture you shall change them, and they shall be changed. 28 But you are always the selfsame, and your years shall not fail.
29  Fílii servórum tuórum habitábunt: * et semen eórum in sæculum dirigétur.
29 The children of your servants shall continue and their seed shall be directed for ever.

Psalm 101 as a Penitential psalm

The first psalm of Matins each week is Psalm 101, probably best known as the fifth of the penitential psalms. As St Liguori says:
In this psalm, which is one of the seven penitential psalms, we see one humbling himself before God, praying for himself and for all the people.
The first half of the psalm (verses 1-18) in particular paints a picture of the penitent person who fasts and prays, shedding tears of penitence while hoping for God's mercy.

The second half reminds us that Christ calls us to penitence that we might live with him forever.

Christ as the poor man

There is another interpretation to the psalm though, as St Liguori goes on to point out:
According to St. Augustine, it is Jesus Christ who prays for us; in fact, it cannot be denied that in certain verses the Messias and his coming are spoken of. The very title of the psalm in the Hebrew as well as in the Greek and the Latin clearly indicates its subject: Prayer of the poor man when he is in anxiety, and when he pours out his prayer in the presence of the Lord.
Indeed, St Augustine develops the Christological dimension of the psalm at length:
Behold, one poor man prays, and prays not in silence. We may therefore hear him, and see who he is: whether it be not perchance He, of whom the Apostle says, Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich. 
If it is He, then, how is He poor? For in what sense He is rich, who sees not? What then is richer than He, by whom riches were made, even those which are not true riches? For through Him we have even these riches, ability, memory, character, health of body, the senses, and the conformation of our limbs: for when these are safe, even the poor are rich. Through Him also are those greater riches, faith, piety, justice, charity, chastity, good conduct: for no man has these, except through Him who justifies the ungodly... 
Reflect also upon these words: I am Your servant, and the Son of Your handmaid. Observe, this handmaid, chaste, a virgin, and a mother: for there He received our poverty, when He was clothed in the form of a servant, emptying Himself; lest you should dread His riches, and in your beggarly state should not dare approach Him. There, I say, He put on the form of a servant, there He was clothed with our poverty; there He made Himself poor, and us rich....
Read in this light, the contrast between earthly mortality and God's unchanging state drawn out in the psalm becomes a commentary on the two natures of Christ.
Christ and the harrowing of hell

In the context of the weekly mini-Triduum of the Office, the key focus St Benedict is perhaps pointing us to is surely the contrast between the mortality of sinful man, and the promise of eternal life.  

In verse 14 we hear that the time for the Resurrection has come:

14  Tu exsúrgens miseréberis Sion: * quia tempus miseréndi ejus, quia venit tempus.
14 You shall arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time has come.

The climax of the psalm, though, is verse 21, which in the context of Holy Saturday can perhaps be seen as referring to the harrowing of hell: 

21  Ut audíret gémitus compeditórum: * ut sólveret fílios interemptórum.
21 That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain:

In the verses that follow, psalm looks forward to the new creation that will replace the old, an age whose first light is seen with the Resurrection.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Psalm 85 Inclina Domine - Say nothing without Christ

Psalm 85: Friday matins I, 1
Oratio ipsi David.
A prayer for David himself.
Inclína, Dómine, aurem tuam, et exáudi me : * quóniam inops, et pauper sum ego.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am needy and poor.
2  Custódi ánimam meam, quóniam sanctus sum : * salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperántem in te.
2 Preserve my soul, for I am holy: save your servant, O my God, that trusts in you.
3  Miserére mei, Dómine, quóniam ad te clamávi tota die : * lætífica ánimam servi tui, quóniam ad te, Dómine, ánimam meam levávi.
3 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I have cried to you all the day. 4 Give joy to the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I have lifted up my soul.
4  Quóniam tu, Dómine, suávis et mitis : * et multæ misericórdiæ ómnibus invocántibus te.
5 For you, O Lord, are sweet and mild: and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon you.
5  Auribus pércipe, Dómine, oratiónem meam : * et inténde voci deprecatiónis meæ.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer: and attend to the voice of my petition
6  In die tribulatiónis meæ clamávi ad te : * quia exaudísti me.
7 I have called upon you in the day of my trouble: because you have heard me.
7  Non est símilis tui in diis, Dómine : * et non est secúndum ópera tua.
8 There is none among the gods like unto you, O Lord: and there is none according to your works.
8  Omnes gentes quascúmque fecísti, vénient, et adorábunt coram te, Dómine : * et glorificábunt nomen tuum.
9 All the nations you have made shall come and adore before you, O Lord: and they shall glorify your name.
9  Quóniam magnus es tu, et fáciens mirabília : * tu es Deus solus.
10 For you are great and do wonderful things: you are God alone.
10  Deduc me, Dómine, in via tua, et ingrédiar in veritáte tua : * lætétur cor meum ut tímeat nomen tuum.
11 Conduct me, O Lord, in your way, and I will walk in your truth: let my heart rejoice that it may fear your name.
11  Confitébor tibi, Dómine, Deus meus, in toto corde meo, * et glorificábo nomen tuum in ætérnum.
12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name for ever:
12  Quia misericórdia tua magna est super me : * et eruísti ánimam meam ex inférno inferióri.
13 For your mercy is great towards me: and you have delivered my soul out of the lower hell.
13  Deus iníqui insurrexérunt super me, et synagóga poténtium quæsiérunt ánimam meam : * et non proposuérunt te in conspéctu suo.
14 O God, the wicked are risen up against me, and the assembly of the mighty have sought my soul: and they have not set you before their eyes.
14  Et tu, Dómine, Deus miserátor et miséricors, * pátiens, et multæ misericórdiæ, et verax.
15 And you, O Lord, are a God of compassion, and merciful, patient, and of much mercy, and true.
15  Réspice in me, et miserére mei, * da impérium tuum púero tuo : et salvum fac fílium ancíllæ tuæ.
16 O look upon me, and have mercy on me: give your command to your servant, and save the son of your handmaid.
16  Fac mecum signum in bonum, ut vídeant qui odérunt me, et confundántur : * quóniam tu, Dómine, adjuvísti me, et consolátus es me.
17 Show me a token for good: that they who hate me may see, and be confounded, because you, O Lord, have helped me and have comforted me.

In Jewish tradition this psalm is said as part of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) ceremonies; in Christian tradition it has long been interpreted as a psalm of the Passion hence its particular appropriateness to start off Friday in the Office.  

Cassidorus, for example suggests it as a source for meditation on the sacrifice of the cross: 
Let us ponder the humility of the prayer poured out to the Father by the Lord Saviour in His passion. He was wholly without sin, but in representing our weakness He asked to be delivered from the dangers of this world. So men's rashness should blush to be arrogant, for they have no doubt of their guilt. Christ prayed for His enemies, and patiently accepted death, whereas we wish to avenge our injuries if attacked by the comments of detractors. May He who afforded an example grant the gift of patience, so that by following His footsteps we may be able to avoid the errors which bring death.
Similarly, St Alphonsus Liguori suggests that we use this prayer ourselves in times of trouble:
We have in this psalm one of those fervent prayers that the royal prophet addressed to God in the midst of his tribulations. For, according to the common opinion, David is the author of this psalm.
Moreover, he initiates us into the sentiments that filled the soul of Jesus Christ during his Passion, and he prophesies the conversion of the Gentiles. Afflicted souls may use it during their trials to implore the help of God.
St Augustine's introduction to the psalm, though, I think is the most powerful, providing a mini-treatise on the relationship between the priesthood of Christ and our prayer:
No greater gift could God have given to men than in making His Word, by which He created all things, their Head, and joining them to Him as His members: that the Son of God might become also the Son of man, one God with the Father, one Man with men; so that when we speak to God in prayer for mercy, we do not separate the Son from Him; and when the Body of the Son prays, it separates not its Head from itself: and it is one Saviour of His Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us, and prays in us, and is prayed to by us.  He prays for us, as our Priest; He prays in us, as our Head; He is prayed to by us, as our God. 
Let us therefore recognise in Him our words, and His words in us. Nor when anything is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in prophecy, implying a degree of humility below the dignity of God, let us hesitate to ascribe it to Him who did not hesitate to join Himself unto us....He is prayed to in the form of God, in the form of a servant He prays; there the Creator, here created; assuming unchanged the creature, that it might be changed, and making us with Himself one Man, Head and Body. Therefore we pray to Him, through Him, in Him; and we speak with Him, and He speaks with us; we speak in Him, He speaks in us the prayer of this Psalm, which is entitled, A Prayer of David. 
For our Lord was, according to the flesh, the son of David; but according to His divine nature, the Lord of David, and his Maker....Let no one then, when he hears these words, say, Christ speaks not; nor again say, I speak not; nay rather, if he own himself to be in the Body of Christ, let him say both, Christ speaks, and I speak. Be thou unwilling to say anything without Him, and He says nothing without you....

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Psalm 73 - The destruction of the true temple

Psalm 73: Thursday Matins I, 1 
Intellectus Asaph.
Understanding for Asaph.
Ut quid, Deus, repulísti in finem: * irátus est furor tuus super oves páscuæ tuæ?
God, why have you cast us off unto the end: why is your wrath enkindled against the sheep of your pasture?
2  Memor esto congregatiónis tuæ: * quam possedísti ab inítio.
2 Remember your congregation, which you have possessed from the beginning.
3  Redemísti virgam hereditátis tuæ: * mons Sion, in quo habitásti in eo.
The sceptre of your inheritance which you have redeemed: mount Sion in which you have dwelt.
4  Leva manus tuas in supérbias eórum in finem: * quanta malignátus est inimícus in sancto!
3 Lift up your hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy has done wickedly in the sanctuary.
5  Et gloriáti sunt qui odérunt te: * in médio solemnitátis tuæ.
4 And they that hate you have made their boasts, in the midst of your solemnity.
6  Posuérunt signa sua, signa: * et non cognovérunt sicut in éxitu super summum.
They have set up their ensigns for signs, 5 and they knew not both in the going out and on the highest top.
7  Quasi in silva lignórum secúribus excidérunt jánuas ejus in idípsum: * in secúri et áscia dejecérunt eam.
As with axes in a wood of trees, 6 they have cut down at once the gates thereof, with axe and hatchet they have brought it down.
8  Incendérunt igni sanctuárium tuum: * in terra polluérunt tabernáculum nóminis tui.
7 They have set fire to your sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling place of your name on the earth.
9  Dixérunt in corde suo cognátio eórum simul: * Quiéscere faciámus omnes dies festos Dei a terra.
8 They said in their heart, the whole kindred of them together: Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the land.
10  Signa nostra non vídimus, jam non est prophéta: * et nos non cognóscet ámplius.
9 Our signs we have not seen, there is now no prophet: and he will know us no more.
11  Usquequo, Deus, improperábit inimícus: * irrítat adversárius nomen tuum in finem?
10 How long, O God, shall the enemy reproach: is the adversary to provoke your name for ever?
12  Ut quid avértis manum tuam, et déxteram tuam, * de médio sinu tuo in finem?
11 Why do you turn away your hand: and your right hand out of the midst of your bosom for ever?
13  Deus autem Rex noster ante sæcula: * operátus est salútem in médio terræ.
12 But God is our king before ages: he has wrought salvation in the midst of the earth.
14  Tu confirmásti in virtúte tua mare: * contribulásti cápita dracónum in aquis.
13 You by your strength made the sea firm: you crushed the heads of the dragons in the waters.
15  Tu confregísti cápita dracónis: * dedísti eum escam pópulis Æthíopum.
14 You have broken the heads of the dragon: you have given him to be meat for the people of the Ethiopians.
16  Tu dirupísti fontes, et torréntes * tu siccásti flúvios Ethan.
15 You have broken up the fountains and the torrents: you have dried up the Ethan rivers.
17  Tuus est dies, et tua est nox: * tu fabricátus es auróram et solem.
16 Yours is the day, and yours is the night: you have made the morning light and the sun.
18  Tu fecísti omnes términos terræ: * æstátem et ver tu plasmásti ea.
17 You have made all the borders of the earth: the summer and the spring were formed by you.
19  Memor esto hujus, inimícus improperávit Dómino: * et pópulus insípiens incitávit nomen tuum
18 Remember this, the enemy has reproached the Lord: and a foolish people has provoked your name.
20  Ne tradas béstiis ánimas confiténtes tibi, * et ánimas páuperum tuórum ne obliviscáris in finem.
19 Deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to you: and forget not to the end the souls of your poor.
21  Réspice in testaméntum tuum: * quia repléti sunt, qui obscuráti sunt terræ dómibus iniquitátum.
20 Have regard to your covenant: for they that are the obscure of the earth have been filled with dwellings of iniquity.
22  Ne avertátur húmilis factus confúsus: * pauper et inops laudábunt nomen tuum.
21 Let not the humble be turned away with confusion: the poor and needy shall praise your name.
23  Exsúrge, Deus, júdica causam tuam: * memor esto improperiórum tuórum, eórum quæ ab insipiénte sunt tota die.
22 Arise, O God, judge your own cause: remember your reproaches with which the foolish man has reproached you all the day.
24  Ne obliviscáris voces inimicórum tuórum: * supérbia eórum, qui te odérunt, ascéndit semper.
23 Forget not the voices of your enemies: the pride of them that hate you ascends continually.

This psalm is generally interpreted as dealing with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, as evildoers and those who hate God plot to eliminate true worship of God.

Opinions are divided on just which particular destruction of the Temple this psalm refers to, but its role in kicking off the mini-Triduum in the Office each week is nicely explained by Cassiodorus, who follows St Augustine on this:
...In this psalm there is lamentation for the destruction of the city...The good Physician has done all he could, if the sick man wished to recover his health. Let us remember, however, that the authority of the Church relates that Jerusalem was ravaged in the days when the most cruel people of the Jews crucified Christ the Lord, so that there can be no doubt what temporal evil that obstinate transgression sustained.
Cassiodorus summarises the content of the psalm as follows:
The people of the Israelites, embracing in figure the most devoted synagogue, speaks throughout the psalm. In the first part she laments that she has been consigned to the Gentiles, so that the reckless behaviour of the enemy had polluted the Lord's sanctuary, and she mentions that the unrepentant hearts of certain Jews had provoked the judgment of the Lord; however, she prophesies that as the outcome of all this they will be converted at the end of the world. The second part states that at the coming of Christ human superstitions and acts of wickedness were destroyed, and recounts that He has done great and various deeds, incidentally asking that the erring Jews should be lent help. In the third section she asks that mindful of His promises He should rescue the seed of Israel from extinction, and that the arrogance of the Romans, who puffed themselves up insufferably, should mount to His sight. Let us listen to this psalm with attentive minds, for it is a wonderful lamentation for the destruction of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Psalm 59: For them that shall be changed through Christ

Psalm 59: Wednesday Matins I, 1 
In finem, pro his qui immutabuntur, in tituli inscriptionem ipsi David, in doctrinam, cum succendit Mesopotamiam Syriæ et Sobal, et convertit Joab, et percussit Idumæam in valle Salinarum duodecim millia
1 Unto the end, for them that shall be changed, for the inscription of a title, to David himself, for doctrine, 2 when he set fire to Mesopotamia of Syria and Sobal: and Joab returned and slew of Edom, in the vale of the saltpits, twelve thousand men.
Deus, repulísti nos, et destruxísti nos: * irátus es, et misértus es nobis.
3 O God, you have cast us off, and have destroyed us; you have been angry, and have had mercy on us.
2  Commovísti terram, et conturbásti eam: * sana contritiónes ejus, quia commóta est.
4 You have moved the earth, and have troubled it: heal the breaches thereof, for it has been moved.
3  Ostendísti pópulo tuo dura: * potásti nos vino compunctiónis.
5 You have shown your people hard things; you have made us drink the wine of sorrow.
4  Dedísti metuéntibus te significatiónem: * ut fúgiant a fácie arcus :
6 You have given a warning to them that fear you: that they may flee from before the bow:
5  Ut liberéntur dilécti tui: * salvum fac déxtera tua, et exáudi me.
That your beloved may be delivered. 7 Save me with your right hand, and hear me.
6  Deus locútus est in sancto suo: * lætábor, et partíbor Síchimam : et convállem tabernaculórum metíbor.
8 God has spoken in his holy place: I will rejoice, and I will divide Sichem; and will mete out the vale of tabernacles.
7  Meus est Gálaad, et meus est Manásses: * et Ephraim fortitúdo cápitis mei.
9 Galaad is mine, and Manasses is mine: and Ephraim is the strength of my head.
8  Juda rex meus: * Moab olla spei meæ.
Juda is my king: 10 Moab is the pot of my hope.
9  In Idumæam exténdam calceaméntum meum: * mihi alienígenæ súbditi sunt.
Into Edom will I stretch out my shoe: to me the foreigners are made subject
10  Quis dedúcet me in civitátem munítam? * quis dedúcet me usque in Idumæam?
11 Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom?
11  Nonne tu, Deus, qui repulísti nos? * et non egrediéris, Deus in virtútibus nostris?
12 Will not you, O God, who have cast us off? And will not you, O God, go out with our armies?
12  Da nobis auxílium de tribulatióne: * quia vana salus hóminis.
13 Give us help from trouble: for vain is the salvation of man.
13  In Deo faciémus virtútem: * et ipse ad níhilum dedúcet tribulántes nos.
14 Through God we shall do mightily: and he shall bring to nothing them that afflict us.

The first psalm of Wednesday Matins is not an easy one.

The betrayal of Judas

Traditionally the day is associated with the betrayal of Judas (the reason for the Wednesday fast in the Rule), and St Basil's explanation of the opening lines of the psalm points to the psalm as taking us from Adam's expulsion from Paradise and the tribulations of the people thereafter, but now moving towards salvation.  On the opening lines he comments:
You have cast off those who in proportion to their sins removed themselves to a distance from You. 
You have destroyed the accumulations of our wickedness, doing good to us because of our weakness. 
You were angry, since we were by nature children of wrath having no hope, and being without God in the world. 
You had mercy on us when You set forth Your only-begotten Son as a propitiation for our sins in order that in His blood we might find redemption. We would not know that we were having these kindnesses done to us, unless 'Thou hast made us drink the wine of sorrow'... 
Cassiodorus' explanation of the title to the psalm points to the people poised at the edge of the decision to accept or reject Christ:
Those changed unto the end are persons who lay aside the sin of the old man and serve the Lord Saviour with spotless devotion of heart.  Of them Scripture says: For you were at one time darkness, but now light in the Lord.  He next explains how they were changed: On the inscription of the title to David himself, for teaching.  The inscription of the title denotes Christ the King; so they must be changed by abandoning the devil and acknowledging Christ as their king.  We have often stated that David denotes the Lord.  To teaching add "Christian." for it is not sufficient for anyone to call him King without being eager to obey His precepts.  
When he set fire to Mesopotamia in Syria, and the rest.  The history of the Kings recounts that David won these victories after he succeeded Saul in the kingship, and it seems inappropriate to introduce them into our ordered arrangement here since they are known to be recounted in extenso there.  But we must realise that these wars are a description in figure of the Lord Saviour's victories which He wins throughout the whole world over pagans and the faithless.  It is their words which this psalm will utter, so that when truly dislodged from their old superstition they may deserve to be changed through the grace of the new man.
The people who were in thrall to ancient errors are passing into the new grace of the holy religion.  In the first section they entreat that after the affliction which they have suffered in making satisfaction, they may be refreshed by their new blessing.  In the second part after the break of a diaspalm they also ask that after the hardships they have endured they may be led by the Lord into the heavily fortified city.  They ask that they may be granted aid from their affliction, the aid which God alone is known to be able to give.