Monday, October 31, 2011

Commentaries on the psalms - Cassiodorus/2

c8th Durham Cassiodorus manuscript
Last week I provided some background information on St Benedict's contemporary Cassiodorus.  Today I want to look at the Psalm Commentaries he wrote themselves.

Cassiodorus' Commentary on the Psalms is available in an English translation by P G Walsh, in three volumes of the Ancient Christian Writers series published by Paulist Press, 1990-1. 

Are they worth buying?  Well it depends...

Cassiodorus' commentaries on the psalms, written in the 540s to early 550s, are important for a number of reasons.  First, aside from Augustine's Enarrations, they are the only complete commentary on the psalms written in Latin surviving from the patristic era.  Secondly, they were highly influential throughout the medieval period.  Thirdly, notwithstanding some modest protestations to the contrary, they appear to contain a high degree of originality, making some important pedagogical contributions.  For above all, his commentary is intended to teach: and not just theology and spirituality. 

A theological, spiritual and grammar textbook

Cassiodorus, like many patristic commentators, saw the psalms as the necessary starting point for Scriptural study: one should learn the psalms first, he suggests, and only then move on to the New Testament, for they serve as preparation for it.  For this reason, his interpretations almost invariably focus on the spiritual, or allegorical meaning of the psalm rather than the literal-historical. 

But Cassiodorus was also a key mover in the project that aimed to substitute Christian literature and theory for pagan as the foundation of formal education.  Accordingly, his commentaries are also a textbook on poetry and grammar.

Structure of the commentaries

He provides a general introduction to the psalms, including an introduction to the main categories he assigns each psalm to.  The individual commentaries too, are highly structured: for each psalm he provides an introduction on the title or type of psalm; something on the structure of the psalm 'the division of the psalm'; a verse by verse exposition; and then a section on 'conclusions that be drawn from the psalm', applying the message to contemporary circumstances, particularly to counter current heresies.

Cassiodorus' commentaries draw heavily on the Latin Fathers in particular, particularly St Augustine and St Hilary.  But they go beyond these. 

Much of Cassiodorus' material will seem extremely strained to the modern eye - such as his numerological explanations of particular psalm numbers, and some of this allegorical expositions.  Much of it comes across as heavy-handed didacticism. 

The commentary is not, in my view, in the same 'essential to have' category as that of St Robert Bellarmine.  Nor is it up there with the great commentaries such as those of St Augustine and St John Chrysostom. 

But there are gems embedded in it that make it well-worth wading through for anyone really committed to immersing themselves in the psalms in the same way that medieval monks did. 

Particularly helpful, in my view, are some of his summations of the groupings of psalms.  His is the first text, for example, to list out what became accepted as the Seven Penitential Psalms.

The Gradual Psalms

His summary comments on the Gradual Psalms (Ps 119-133) provide a good example of his style of overview commentary. 

In his overall introduction to the psalms, he describes them as "the psalms of the steps, which lead our minds through chaste and humble satisfaction of the Lord Saviour."

And he summarises the message of them, in the conclusion to Psalm 133, goes as follows:

It is pleasant to recount how these steps have led all the way to the heavenly Jerusalem. 

On the first step [Ps 119] he denotes loathing of the world, after which there is haste to attain zeal for all the virtues.

Secondly, the strength of divine protection is explained, and it is demonstrated that nothing can withstand it.

Thirdly, the great joy of dwelling with pure mind in the Lord's Church is stated.

Fourth [Ps 122], he teaches us that we must continually presume on the Lord's help whatever the constraints surrounding us, until He takes pity and hears us.

 
Fifth, he warns us that when we are freed from dangers, we must not attach any credit to ourselves, but attribute it all to the power of the Lord.

 
In the sixth, the trust of the most faithful Christian is compared to immovable mountains.

In the seventh [Ps 125], we are told how abundant is the harvest reaped by those who sow in tears.

In the eighth, it is said that nothing remains of what any individual has performed by his own will; only the things built by the sponsorship of the Lord are most firmly established.

In the ninth, it is proclaimed that we become blessed through fear of the Lord, and that all profitable things are granted us.

 
In the tenth [Ps 128], he inculcates in committed persons the patience which he commands through the words of the Church.

In the eleventh [Ps 129], as penitent he cries from the depths to the Lord, asking that the great power of the Godhead be experienced by the deliverance of mankind.

In the twelfth [Ps 130], the strength of meekness and humility is revealed; in the thirteenth [Ps 131], the promise of the holy incarnation and the truth of the words spoken are demonstrated.

In the fourteenth [Ps 132], spiritual unity is proclaimed to the brethren, and to them the Lord's benediction and eternal life are shown to accrue.

In the fifteenth [Ps 133], there is awakened in the course of the Lord's praises that perfect charity than which nothing greater can be expressed, and nothing more splendid discovered. As the apostle attests: God is love. So let us continually meditate on the hidden nature of this great miracle, so that by ever setting our gaze on such things, we may avoid the deadly errors of the world.

The number of these psalms contains this further mystery: when the five bodily senses, by which human frailty incurs all sin, are overcome by the power of the Trinity, this leads us to the fifteenth height of the psalms of the steps; thus the body's weakness is eliminated, and eternal rewards are bestowed on those who conquer it.

Further reading

For those interested in learning more about Cassiodorus, there is a surprising amount of material on him available on the web, including in particular James J. O'Donnell, Cassiodorus, University of California Press, 1979; "Postprint" 1995 (the website also includes a very useful bibliography.  There a number of recent journal articles available through JSTOR if you have access to that.  P G Walsh's (the translator) introduction to the Psalm Commentary in the English edition is also very helpful in placing the work in the context of the authro's aims and the times.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Propers for the Feast of Christ the King (EF edition)



Today is the feast of Christ the King in the Extraordinary Form (in the Novus Ordo it is celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent, a date that has a certain logic to it).

There is of course something of an embarrassment of choices when it comes to potential propers for a (relatively recent) feast of this kind, and so the Introit comes from Revelation, and the Alleluia verse from the book of Daniel.  Three psalms are used however: Psalm 2 (Offertory); Psalm 28 (Communio); and Psalm 71 (Introit verse and Gradual).

As Psalm 71 is one of the key psalms prophesying the kingdom, it is worth setting out in full, first the Vulgate, then the Douay-Rheims (I've bolded the verses used in the propers for today):

Deus, judicium tuum regi da, et justitiam tuam filio regis; judicare populum tuum in justitia, et pauperes tuos in judicio.
3 Suscipiant montes pacem populo, et colles justitiam.
4 Judicabit pauperes populi, et salvos faciet filios pauperum, et humiliabit calumniatorem.
5 Et permanebit cum sole, et ante lunam, in generatione et generationem.
6 Descendet sicut pluvia in vellus, et sicut stillicidia stillantia super terram.
7 Orietur in diebus ejus justitia, et abundantia pacis, donec auferatur luna.
8 Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.
9 Coram illo procident Æthiopes, et inimici ejus terram lingent.
10 Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent; reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent:
11 et adorabunt eum omnes reges terræ; omnes gentes servient ei.
12 Quia liberabit pauperem a potente, et pauperem cui non erat adjutor.
13 Parcet pauperi et inopi, et animas pauperum salvas faciet.
14 Ex usuris et iniquitate redimet animas eorum, et honorabile nomen eorum coram illo.
15 Et vivet, et dabitur ei de auro Arabiæ; et adorabunt de ipso semper, tota die benedicent ei.
16 Et erit firmamentum in terra in summis montium; superextolletur super Libanum fructus ejus, et florebunt de civitate sicut fœnum terræ.
17 Sit nomen ejus benedictum in sæcula; ante solem permanet nomen ejus. Et benedicentur in ipso omnes tribus terræ; omnes gentes magnificabunt eum.
18 Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, qui facit mirabilia solus.
19 Et benedictum nomen majestatis ejus in æternum, et replebitur majestate ejus omnis terra. Fiat, fiat.


Give to the king your judgment, O God, and to the king's son your justice:
To judge your people with justice, and your poor with judgment.
3 Let the mountains receive peace for the people: and the hills justice.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, and he shall save the children of the poor: and he shall humble the oppressor.
5 And he shall continue with the sun and before the moon, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth.
7 In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away.
8 And he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
9 Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down: and his enemies shall lick the ground.
10 The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts:
11 And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.
12 For he shall deliver the poor from the mighty: and the needy that had no helper.
13 He shall spare the poor and needy: and he shall save the souls of the poor.
14 He shall redeem their souls from usuries and iniquity: and their names shall be honourable in his sight.
15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Arabia, for him they shall always adore: they shall bless him all the day.
16 And there shall be a firmament on the earth on the tops of mountains, above Libanus shall the fruit thereof be exalted: and they of the city shall flourish like the grass of the earth.
17 Let his name be blessed for evermore: his name continues before the sun.
And in him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed: all nations shall magnify him.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful things.
19 And blessed be the name of his majesty for ever: and the whole earth shall be filled with his majesty. So be it. So be it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Psalm 22/6 - Thy rod and staff; the root of Jesse and the Cross


c3rd, Catacombs of Priscilla
I want to end the week with the last verse of the first half of psalm 22, that closes off the shepherd allegory:

Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
Your rod and your staff, they have comforted me.

Why rod and staff?

I noted yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI’s catechesis on the psalm depicts the person walking under dark shadow, accompanied by the comforting reminder of God's presence in the sound of the shepherd’s staff.

But it is also worth drawing attention to St Alphonsus Liguori’s note that:

Some commentators understand by this the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was called Virga de radice Jesse a rod out of the root of Jesse (Is. xi. i), of whom was born Jesus. In the same mystical sense by baculus is understood the cross, which was the instrument of our salvation...”

Here is where today's verses sit in the context of the whole psalm:

Psalmus David.
Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
Parasti in conspectu meo mensam adversus eos qui tribulant me;
impinguasti in oleo caput meum : et calix meus inebrians, quam præclarus est!
Et misericordia tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitæ meæ;
et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum.

Phrase by phrase

Let’s look at the verses phrase by phrase:

Virga tua =your rod (nominative first declension noun agreeing with adjective)

et báculus tuus =and your staff (nominative second declension noun agreeing with adjective)

ipsa me consoláta sunt =they themelves (ipse, ipsa ipsum, intensive pronoun, referring back to rod and staff) have comforted me/given confidence to (deponent, 3rd person plural, perfect) me (personal pronoun)

That is, Thy rod and thy staff have comforted me.

There is some dispute about the interpretation of rod and staff here: are they two different things, or two aspects of the one?  In any case, rod seems here to mean the shepherd's crook with which he guides the sheep, while the staff is a stout stick used either to defend the sheep or for his own support.   Both are symbols of God’s guidance and loving solicitude.  St Thomas Aquinas, for example, saw the rod as a reference to God's guidance in our life, to corporal punishment to correct us, as well as the sceptre symbolising his kingdom; while a staff is a prop or aid to standing up.

St Robert Bellamine comments:

"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."

Vocab

virga, ae, f., a rod, staff, scepter, a shepherd's crook.
baculus, i, m. a stick, staff, a shepherd's staff, a walking-stick.
consolor, atus sum, ari, Active, to comfort, console, encourage

Next week, I'll look at the second half of the psalm.  Meanwhile, enjoy a lovely setting of the psalm by Carl Nielson.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Psalm 22/5 - Yea though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death


Crimean war photo by Roger Fenton
 
Today I want to look at the verse of Psalm 22, which is probably the most familiar, and most clearly suggests why the psalm is part of the Office for the Dead:

Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for you are with me.

Pope Benedict’s recent catechesis on this psalm (on which more below) focuses here on the imagery of walking in dark shadow, suggesting that the previous verse pointed to God’s guidance of us on the path’s of righteousness. For this reason, Pope Benedict XVI suggests, ‘the Psalmist can declare his calm assurance without doubt or fear’.”

Here is where the verse sits in the first half of the psalm:

Psalmus David.
Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
Nam et si ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

Phrase by phrase

Let’s look at the verses phrase by phrase:

nam, et si ambulávero = for even if I shall walk

in médio umbræ mortis=in the midst (in medio) of the shadow (umbrae) of death

non timébo mala=I will not fear evils

quóniam tu mecum es=for you are with me

Many of the protestant translations of this verse change ‘shadow of death’ to the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, reflecting the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text, and indeed the neo-Vulgate does likewise, making the verse:

Nam et si ambulavero in valle umbrae mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es, or as the Coverdale translation makes it, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.

Pope Benedict on walking in the dark shadows of death

Pope Benedict drew out the imagery in his recent catechesis on the psalm:

“Those who walk with the Lord even in the dark valleys of suffering, doubt and all the human problems, feel safe. You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what supports us. The darkness of the night frightens us with its shifting shadows, with the difficulty of distinguishing dangers, with its silence taut with strange sounds. If the flock moves after sunset when visibility fades, it is normal for the sheep to be restless, there is the risk of stumbling or even of straying and getting lost, and there is also the fear of possible assailants lurking in the darkness.

To speak of the “dark” valley, the Psalmist uses a Hebrew phrase that calls to mind the shadows of death, which is why the valley to be passed through is a place of anguish, terrible threats, the danger of death. Yet the person praying walks on in safety undaunted since he knows that the Lord is with him. “You are with me” is a proclamation of steadfast faith and sums up the radical experience of faith; God’s closeness transforms the reality, the dark valley loses all danger, it is emptied of every threat. Now the flock can walk in tranquillity, accompanied by the familiar rhythmical beat of the staff on the ground, marking the shepherd’s reassuring presence.”

Vocab

nam for
et si, yea, even if, in case that; O that! would that!; if, whether, if perchance;
ambulo, avi, atum, are to walk; the manner in which one orders one's life;
in +abl in, on, among
medius, a, um in the middle, midst
umbra, ae, /., a shadow, a shelter, cover, protection
mors, mortis, /., death
non - not
timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.
malus, a, um, adj., bad, evil, wicked; grievous, sore, severe; subst., malum, i, n., evil, sin; woe, harm, misfortune.
quoniam, conj., for, because, since, seeing that, whereas.
tu – pronoun, you
mecum – with me
es – you are (s)

The next post looks at last verse of the shepherd allegory.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Psalm 22/4 - The paths of righteousness


Today’s verse of Psalm 22 is Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum, which the (updated edition of the) Douay-Rheims translates as ‘He has led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake’.

The Latin

 Taking it phrase by phrase, this is actually a pretty straightforward verse translation-wise:

dedúxit me = he has led me/guided me

super (+accusative) sémitas justítiæ =on the paths of justice/righteousness

propter (+accusative) nomen tuum =according to/on account of/for the glory of his name

Pope Benedict comments on it:

“Dear brothers and sisters, if we follow the “Good Shepherd” — no matter how difficult, tortuous or long the pathways of our life may seem, even through spiritual deserts without water and under the scorching sun of rationalism — with the guidance of Christ the Good Shepherd, we too, like the Psalmist, may be sure that we are walking on “paths of righteousness” and that the Lord is leading us, is ever close to us and that we “shall lack nothing”.”

Psalm 22 so far:

Here is the first half of the psalm with today’s verse highlighted:

Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

St Robert Bellarmine

St Robert Bellarmine interprets the psalm as setting out what the shepherd does for his flock, and thus how this applies to us. So, he suggests:

“Sheep require, first, rich pasture [food, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist] ; secondly, pure water [the spiritual water of grace]; thirdly, one to bring them back when they stray [the grace of conversion when we fall into sin]; fourthly, to be brought through easy passages; fifthly, to be protected from wolves and wild beasts; sixthly, to be supported when tired and weary; sev¬enthly, 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.”

On today’s verse then, he comments:

“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."

Vocab

deduco, duxi ductum, ere 3, to lead or bring down; guide, lead, conduct
me (pronoun) me
super, with, on, upon, for, because of.
semita, ae, f., a path, way; course of life, action, conduct, or procedure.
justitia, ae, f. justice, righteousness, innocence, piety, moral integrity
propter, prep, with acc. on account of, by reason of, because of, from, for, for the sake of.
nomen, inis, n. name; God himself; the perfections of God, His glory, majesty, wisdom, power, goodness,
suus a um his, hers, its

For the next verse, go here

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Psalms verse by verse - Psalm 22/3: Super aquam refectionis


Continuing today with the verse by verse look at Psalm 22, here is the first half of the psalm with today’s verse highlighted.

Psalmus David.
A psalm for David

Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
The Lord rules me: and I shall want nothing. He has set me in a place of pasture

Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
He has brought me up, on the water of refreshment: He has converted my soul.

Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

The imagery of the verse is repeated in Revelation 7:16-17: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Phrase by phrase

Here is verse 3 phrase by phrase:

Super (upon/ to) aquam (the water) refectiónis (of refreshment) = to refreshing/restoring water)

The redundant use of ‘super’ here (super with the accusative case normally means over, upon, above) seems to be a case of translationese, whereby the translator was intent on reproducing the structures of the Greek and Hebrew very literally.

educávit me=he has led me

ánimam meam convértit =he has converted/brought back/revived/refreshed my soul

Green pastures and the refreshing waters of baptism

Pope Benedict XVI comments on this verse:

“The Psalmist refers to this experience by calling God his shepherd and letting God lead him to safe pastures: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps 23[22]:2-3).

The vision that unfolds before our eyes is that of green pastures and springs of clear water, oases of peace to which the shepherd leads his flock, symbols of the places of life towards which the Lord leads the Psalmist, who feels like the sheep lying on the grass beside a stream, resting rather than in a state of tension or alarm, peaceful and trusting, because it is a safe place, the water is fresh and the shepherd is watching over them.

And let us not forget here that the scene elicited by the Psalm is set in a land that is largely desert, on which the scorching sun beats down, where the Middle-Eastern semi-nomad shepherd lives with his flock in the parched steppes that surround the villages. Nevertheless the shepherd knows where to find grass and fresh water, essential to life, he can lead the way to oases in which the soul is “restored” and where it is possible to recover strength and new energy to start out afresh on the journey.

As the Psalmist says, God guides him to “green pastures” and “still waters”, where everything is superabundant, everything is given in plenty. If the Lord is the Shepherd, even in the desert, a desolate place of death, the certainty of a radical presence of life is not absent, so that he is able to say “I shall not want”. Indeed, the shepherd has at heart the good of his flock, he adapts his own pace and needs to those of his sheep, he walks and lives with them, leading them on paths “of righteousness”, that is, suitable for them, paying attention to their needs and not to his own. The safety of his sheep is a priority for him and he complies with this in leading his flock.”

Vocab

super, with, on, upon, for, because of.
aqua, ae, /., water
refectio, onis, a restoring, repairing; refreshment.
educo, duxi, ductum, ere 3, to lead out or forth.
anima, ae, soul, life, me
meus a um my, mine
converto, verti, versum, ere 3, to turn, change, alter, bring back; quicken, refresh; bring back; convert, turn from sin



The next post looks at verse 4 of the psalm.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Psalm 22/2 - Dominus regit me



The first half of Psalm 22 goes as follows:


Psalmus David.
2. Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
The Lord rules me: and I shall want nothing. He has set me in a place of pasture
3. Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
4. Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
5. Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
6. Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

Today I want to look at the second verse, the first said in the Office, highlighted above.

Pope Benedict XVI introduces it as follows:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”: the beautiful prayer begins with these words, evoking the nomadic environment of sheep-farming and the experience of familiarity between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock. The image calls to mind an atmosphere of trust, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows each one of his sheep and calls them by name; and they follow him because they recognize him and trust in him (cf. Jn 10:2-4). He tends them, looks after them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to guarantee their well-being and enable them to live a peaceful life. They can lack nothing as long as the shepherd is with them.”

The Latin phrase by phrase

Here is a look at the Latin, phrase by phrase:

Dominus regit me=the Lord leads/guides/directs me/rules me

Note that the neo-Vulgate changes regere (to rule, guide) to pascuere (to feed or pasture) to more vividly convey the shepherd metaphor.

et nihil mihi=and nothing to me
deerit= will be wanting/lacking

So,  Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit =The Lord guideth me, and nothing is wanting to me.
Or, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want or The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing.

in loco páscuæ=in a place of pasture (land)
ibi me = there me
collocávit =he has placed/set/put

So, in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit = He has placed me in a place of pastureland

The shepherd image

The image of the good shepherd is of course one frequently used in the New Testament as well, and in this context it is worth rereading the Pope alluded to in his General Audience, from St John 10, in full:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”

Vocab for the verse

rego, rexi, rectum, ere 3, to rule, govern, as a shepherd; to lead, guide; to rule..
nihil, n., nothing
me, me
et, and, but
desum, fui esse, to be wanting, lack.
locus, i, m. a place.
pascua, ae, f. a pasture, grass land for cattle to feed upon
colloco, avi, atum, are to set, place, put; to lie down, to rest.
ibi, adv. there, in that place. then

You can find the notes on the next here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 22: Latin learning Hints Part A - vocab and grammar

As promised, a list of key vocab to learn for this week, if you want to get ahead with this psalm!

Words from last week…

Before looking at this week’s new vocabulary, it is worth picking out the words looked at in Psalm 3. So here are the first five verses of Psalm 22 with key words you should know from Psalm 3 bolded:

Dominus (The Lord) regit me (me), et (and) nihil mihi (to me) deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit. Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam (soul) meam (my) convertit. Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen (name) suum (his). Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non (not) timebo (=timeo, timere, timui to fear) mala, quoniam (for/because) tu (you) mecum es (you are). Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

Frequently used words for this week…

And here is a list of very frequently words that are used in this week’s verses, so well worth learning carefully:

ambulo, avi, atum, are to walk; the manner in which one orders one's life;
converto, verti, versum, ere 3, to turn, change; quicken, refresh; bring back; convert, turn from sin;
rego, rexi, rectum, ere 3 to rule, govern, as a shepherd; to lead, guide; to rule..
colloco, avi, atum, are to set, place, put; to lie down, to rest.
educo, duxi, ductum, ere 3, to lead out or forth.
deduco, duxi ductum, ere 3, to lead or bring down; guide, lead, conduct

locus, i, m. a place.
pascua, ae, f. lit., a pasture, grass land for cattle to feed upon
aqua, ae, f., water
semita, ae, f, a path, way; course of life, action, conduct, or procedure.
justitia, ae, /. justice, righteousness, innocence, piety, moral integrity
umbra, ae, /., a shadow, a shelter, cover, protection
mors, mortis, /., death

malus, a, um, adj., bad, evil, wicked; grievous, sore, severe; subst., malum, i, n., evil, sin; woe, harm, misfortune

Grammar

For those looking at the Simplicissimus course, Unit 3 looks at present tense verbs in the passive voice, as well as deponents (verbs that look like they are passive, but are actually active). There are, I’m afraid, no examples of present tense passives or deponents in the psalm but there is a deponent verb to look out for this week, namely consolor: Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt (they consoled/comforted).

Introduction to Psalm 22 - The Lord is my shepherd



Psalm 22: Trust in God

Psalm 22 is one of those psalms everyone should know, and particularly timely as we are running up to November, the month traditionally devoted to prayer for the dead - and Psalm 22 is one of the psalms used in the Office of the Dead (at Matins).

Pope Benedict XVI introduces his catechesis on it by saying:

“Turning to the Lord in prayer implies a radical act of trust, in the awareness that one is entrusting oneself to God who is good, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6-7; Ps 86[85]:15; cf. Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2; Ps 103 [102]:8; 145[144]:8; Neh 9:17). For this reason I would like to reflect with you today on a Psalm that is totally imbued with trust, in which the Psalmist expresses his serene certainty that he is guided and protected, safe from every danger, because the Lord is his Shepherd. It is Psalm 23 [22, according to the Greco-Latin numbering], a text familiar to all and loved by all.”

Psalm 22 has six verses as set out in most Bibles (indicated in brackets), but in the older liturgical ordering which I will use here it is split into ten verses including the title.

Text of the psalm

Here is the full text of it with translation from the Douay-Rheims:

1. Psalmus David.
A psalm for David

2. Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit:in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
The Lord rules me: and I shall want nothing. He has set me in a place of pasture

3. Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
He has brought me up, on the water of refreshment: He has converted my soul.

4 Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
He has led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake.

5 Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for you are with me.

6 Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
Your rod and your staff, they have comforted me.

7 Parasti in conspectu meo mensam adversus eos qui tribulant me;
You have prepared a table before me against them that afflict me.

8 impinguasti in oleo caput meum : et calix meus inebrians, quam præclarus est!
You have anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebriates me, how goodly is it!

9 Et misericordia tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitæ meæ;
And your mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

10 et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum.
And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.

You can listen to it being read here.  Or hear it chanted:



Key themes

This psalm presents two main images: first the sheep in a pasture, being led by the good shepherd; and secondly a vision of the heavenly banquet awaiting us. Pope Benedict comments:

With their richness and depth the images of this Psalm have accompanied the whole of the history and religious experience of the People of Israel and accompany Christians. The figure of the shepherd, in particular, calls to mind the original time of the Exodus, the long journey through the desert, as a flock under the guidance of the divine Shepherd (cf. Is 63:11-14; Ps 77: 20-21; 78:52-54). And in the Promised Land, the king had the task of tending the Lord’s flock, like David, the shepherd chosen by God and a figure of the Messiah (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-2; 7:8 Ps 78[77]:70-72).


Then after the Babylonian Exile, as it were in a new Exodus (cf. Is 40:3-5, 9-11; 43:16-21), Israel was brought back to its homeland like a lost sheep found and led by God to luxuriant pastures and resting places (cf. Ezek 34:11-16, 23-31). However, it is in the Lord Jesus that all the evocative power of our Psalm reaches completeness, finds the fullness of its meaning: Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who goes in search of lost sheep, who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them (cf. Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:4-7; Jn 10:2-4, 11-18). He is the way, the right path that leads us to life (cf. Jn 14:6), the light that illuminates the dark valley and overcomes all our fears (cf. Jn 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).

He is the generous host who welcomes us and rescues us from our enemies, preparing for us the table of his body and his blood (cf. Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25); Lk 22:19-20) and the definitive table of the messianic banquet in Heaven (cf. Lk 14:15ff; Rev 3:20; 19:9). He is the Royal Shepherd, king in docility and in forgiveness, enthroned on the glorious wood of the cross (cf. Jn 3:13-15; 12:32; 17:4-5).

Dear brothers and sisters, Psalm 23 invites us to renew our trust in God, abandoning ourselves totally in his hands. Let us therefore ask with faith that the Lord also grant us on the difficult ways of our time that we always walk on his paths as a docile and obedient flock, and that he welcome us to his house, to his table, and lead us to “still waters” so that, in accepting the gift of his Spirit, we may quench our thirst at his sources, springs of the living water “welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14; cf. 7:37-39).

The next part of this mini-series starts looking at the psalm verse by verse.  And for those focused on learning the Latin I've also put together:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Psalm propers for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Psalm 118



Today's psalm propers in the Extraordinary Form point strongly and obviously to the Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding feast).

I want to look particularly at the Communio, which is from Psalm 118, but first a quick run down of the other psalms set for today.

The parable of the wedding feast

The Introit verse is particularly obvious in its message: the verse we are given is the opening of Psalm 77: Atténdite, pópule meus, legem meam: inclináte aurem vestram in verba oris mei, or Attend, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  But this verse is really a cue for the next in the psalm, which is Apériam in parábolis os meum, or I will open my mouth in parables. The psalm then goes on to point out that God's message to us has not been hidden; the law is laid out for us to follow.

The Gradual (Psalm 140) points to the necessity of the proper, acceptable worship of God (starting with baptism, symbolised by the wedding garment):

Dirigátur orátio mea sicut incénsum in conspéctu tuo: * elevátio mánuum meárum sacrifícium vespertínum.
Let my prayer be directed as incense in your sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.

The Alleluia (Psalm 104) goes to the importance of evangelization (salvation is opened to all, following the refusal of those originally invited to attend the wedding):

Confitémini Dómino, et invocáte nomen ejus: annuntiáte inter Gentes ópera ejus.
Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name: declare his deeds among the Gentiles

The Offertory (Psalm 137) reminds us of God's continuing protection of us as we undertake this mission, and hints at the fate of those cast out from the wedding feast:

Si ambulávero in médio tribulatiónis, vivificábis me: et super iram inimicórum meórum extendes manum tuam, et salvum me faciet déxtera tua.
If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, you will quicken me: and you have stretched forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies: and your right hand has saved me.

(Note: the text here is from the Roman psalter translation, not the Vulgate; I've used the translation from the Douay-Rheims which reflects the Vulgate).

Communio: Psalm 118

But I want to look particularly today at the Communio, which is verses 4 and 5 from the longest psalm in the psalter, Psalm 118. These verses point us back to the Introit psalm, and their basic message is that it is not enough just to turn up, not enough just to turn away from evil if we want to be saved: we also have to strive positively to keep the law and do good.

They also serve as a reminder that the law enjoined on us is not a manmade creation, that can be changed in ways to suit us as so many liberals in the Church appear to believe, but rather something set in stone by God.

The text is:

Tu mandasti mandata tua custodiri nimis. Utinam dirigantur viæ meæ ad custodiendas justificationes tuas. You have commanded your commandments to be kept most diligently.  O that my ways may be directed to keep your justifications. 

Understanding the Latin

Let's look at the Latin phrase by phrase.

Tu mandásti =you, you have commanded (mando, to enjoin, order, command)

mandáta tua =your commandments

custodíri nimis = to be kept in full/diligently (custodire is the passive infinitive of custodire, to keep, maintain, hold steadfastly; nimis literally means greatly, beyond measure)

Utinam = oh that!/would that!/ I wish that!

dirigántur viæ meæ = my life/ways may be directed (dirigere is to direct, guide set aright; via is life, but most translations change it to ‘ways’ given the context)

ad custodiéndas = to the keeping

justificatiónes tuas! = of your justifications/statutes/laws. (The underlying Hebrew word,Huqqim, translated as justificatio, literally means something engraved or cut in stone or a tablet).

Commentary from St Robert Bellarmine

St Robert Bellarmine comments on these verses, ending with a reminder that salvation is not just a matter of our own efforts, but requires the grace that is made available to us through Christ's sacrifice:

"He now draws another argument from the excellence of the legislator, as much as to say: These are not the commands of man, but of God; that God who requires implicit obedience from all his servants. To give greater weight to what he has to say thereon, he addresses God directly, saying, "Thou hast commanded thy commandments to be kept most diligently." O Lord, you who can freely command your servants, and punish them severely if they disobey, and who can neither forgive nor forget the transgressor, "thou hast commanded," not by way of advice, but by strict precept, "thy commandments to be kept," not negligently or carelessly, but "most diligently" and studiously. Who, then, will not, at once, give their mind to a thorough observance of them? God's commands should be most implicitly obeyed...The law for variety's sake gets different names in the Scripture, such as the precept, the command, the discourse, the speech, the word, sometimes the testimony, by reason of its bearing witness to what God's will is, sometimes the justification, as in this passage, because it is through it we are justified; that is, made more just, according to the apostle, who says, "the doers of the law shall be justified;" observe, though, that I said, they who observe the law shall be made more just, because the first justification, through which we are made just, from being sinners, cannot be ascribed to the law, but to grace, as the same apostle has it, "For if justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain."

The chant setting of these verses is well-worth listening to as they are particularly upbeat:


19th Sunday after Pentecost: Communion from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Commentaries on the psalms: Cassiodorus/1


c12th English manuscript
Cassiodorus was a contemporary of St Benedict's, and retired from public life to devote himself to the preservation of Graeco-Latin culture, eventually founding a monastery dedicated to this purpose, the Vivarium, on his family's lands. Many of the books he amassed at the monastery seem to have ended up in England at the time of the seventh century monastic revival there.

Cassiodorus' psalm commentaries were enormously influential throughout the middle ages, not least because they were often attributed, in part or whole, to others, such as St Bede!

Life of Cassiodorus

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on Cassiodorus, along with his other key contemporary, Boethius, in 2008. Here are some extracts from it.

"Today, I would like to talk about two ecclesiastical writers, Boethius and Cassiodorus, who lived in some of the most turbulent years in the Christian West and in the Italian peninsula in particular. Odoacer, King of the Rugians, a Germanic race, had rebelled, putting an end to the Western Roman Empire (476 A.D.), but it was not long before he was killed by Theodoric's Ostrogoths who had controlled the Italian Peninsula for some decades...

Marcus Aurelius Cassiodorus was a contemporary of Boethius, a Calabrian born in Scyllacium in about 485 A.D. and who died at a very advanced age in Vivarium in 580. Cassiodorus, a man with a privileged social status, likewise devoted himself to political life and cultural commitment as few others in the Roman West of his time. Perhaps the only men who could stand on an equal footing in this twofold interest were Boethius, whom we have mentioned, and Gregory the Great, the future Pope of Rome (590-604). Aware of the need to prevent all the human and humanist patrimony accumulated in the golden age of the Roman Empire from vanishing into oblivion, Cassiodorus collaborated generously, and with the highest degree of political responsibility, with the new peoples who had crossed the boundaries of the Empire and settled in Italy. He too was a model of cultural encounter, of dialogue, of reconciliation. Historical events did not permit him to make his political and cultural dreams come true; he wanted to create a synthesis between the Roman and Christian traditions of Italy and the new culture of the Goths. These same events, however, convinced him of the providentiality of the monastic movement that was putting down roots in Christian lands. He decided to support it and gave it all his material wealth and spiritual energy.

He conceived the idea of entrusting to the monks the task of recovering, preserving and transmitting to those to come the immense cultural patrimony of the ancients so that it would not be lost. For this reason he founded Vivarium, a coenobitic community in which everything was organized in such a way that the monk's intellectual work was esteemed as precious and indispensable. He arranged that even those monks who had no academic training must not be involved solely in physical labour and farming but also in transcribing manuscripts and thus helping to transmit the great culture to future generations. And this was by no means at the expense of monastic and Christian spiritual dedication or of charitable activity for the poor. In his teaching, expounded in various works but especially in the Treatise De Anima and in the Institutiones Divinarum Litterarum (cf. PL 69, col. 1108), prayer nourished by Sacred Scripture and particularly by assiduous recourse to the Psalms (cf. PL 69, col. 1149) always has a central place as the essential sustenance for all. Thus, for example, this most learned Calabrian introduced his Expositio in Psalterium: "Having rejected and abandoned in Ravenna the demands of a political career marked by the disgusting taste of worldly concerns, having enjoyed the Psalter, a book that came from Heaven, as true honey of the soul, I dived into it avidly, thirsting to examine it without a pause, to steep myself in that salutary sweetness, having had enough of the countless disappointments of active life" (PL 70, col. 10).

The search for God, the aspiration to contemplate him, Cassiodorus notes, continues to be the permanent goal of monastic life (cf. PL 69, col. 1107). Nonetheless, he adds that with the help of divine grace (cf. PL 69, col. 1131, 1142), greater profit can be attained from the revealed Word with the use of scientific discoveries and the "profane" cultural means that were possessed in the past by the Greeks and Romans (cf. PL 69, col. 1140). Personally, Cassiodorus dedicated himself to philosophical, theological and exegetical studies without any special creativity, but was attentive to the insights he considered valid in others. He read Jerome and Augustine in particular with respect and devotion. Of the latter he said: "In Augustine there is such a great wealth of writings that it seems to me impossible to find anything that has not already been abundantly treated by him" (cf. PL 70, col. 10). Citing Jerome, on the other hand, he urged the monks of Vivarium: "It is not only those who fight to the point of bloodshed or who live in virginity who win the palm of victory but also all who, with God's help, triumph over physical vices and preserve their upright faith. But in order that you may always, with God's help, more easily overcome the world's pressures and enticements while remaining in it as pilgrims constantly journeying forward, seek first to guarantee for yourselves the salutary help suggested by the first Psalm which recommends meditation night and day on the law of the Lord. Indeed, the enemy will not find any gap through which to assault you if all your attention is taken up by Christ" (De Institutione Divinarum Scripturarum, 32: PL 70, col. 1147). This is a recommendation we can also accept as valid. In fact, we live in a time of intercultural encounter, of the danger of violence that destroys cultures, and of the necessary commitment to pass on important values and to teach the new generations the path of reconciliation and peace. We find this path by turning to the God with the human Face, the God who revealed himself to us in Christ."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Psalm 3: Latin Study hints/Part C

Just to finish off on Psalm 3, a little look at the Latin in the light of Unit 2 of the Simplicissimus Latin course (for link see sidebar under Latin resources), together with a complete vocab list. 

Simplicissimus: an overview to the structure of Latin and key vocab

Simplicissimus is intended to give a quick overview of Latin, enough to allow you to follow the Mass and Office (though you will need to learn some additional vocabulary as well for that!).  A look through it would also serve as a good revision tool for those whose Latin is rusty, or who are doing a more thorough course. 

It is particularly useful because the vocabulary and examples it uses are focused on texts of the Mass and Office.

It is also a course that you could build on later if you wished, using a book such as Collins' Ecclesiastical Latin or Whittaker to learn more about the various grammatical constructions and gain fluency. 

Nouns

In any case, Unit 2 introduces the five declensions (groups of endings) of nouns, together with the concept of cases (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative), number (singular and plural) and gender (all words in Latin are either masculine, feminine or neuter).

So here are some examples of nouns with their case noted from Psalm 3.  Note that I haven't necessarily highlighted every noun of the relevant declension here, just the relatively high frequency ones that you will see over and over again.  I've also included some examples where the case of the noun is not necessarily dictated by its function in the sentence but by the meaning of the preposition (in, ad, sine, etc) that comes before it.

First declension nouns in Psalm 3: anima –ae, f (soul, life), gloria –ae, f (glory)

For this declension I've indicated the case and number of the noun.

3.Multi dicunt ánimæ (dative singular: to the soul) meæ: * Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.
4. Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, * glória (nominative singluar) mea, et exáltans caput meum.
8. Quóniam tu percussísti omnes adversántes mihi sine causa (ablative singular, governed by sine, =without cause/reason): * dentes peccatórum contrivísti.

Some second declension nouns: Dominus –i, m (Lord), Deus -i m, (God), populus -i, m (people)

For the second and third declension, I've bolded the key words - have a go at identifying the cases (I've noted them in a couple of cases because they partly go to grammar points not yet covered by Simplicissimus)!  If you want a cross-check on your work, put your answers in the comments box or email them to me...

2. Dómine quid multiplicáti sunt qui tríbulant me? * multi insúrgunt advérsum me.
3.Multi dicunt ánimæ meæ: * Non est salus ipsi in Deo (ablative, governed by in) ejus.
4. Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, * glória mea, et exáltans caput meum.
5. Voce mea ad Dóminum (accusative, note governed by ad+acc) clamávi: * et exaudívit me de monte sancto suo.
6. Ego dormívi, et soporátus sum: * et exsurréxi, quia Dóminus suscépit me.
7. Non timébo míllia pópuli circumdántis me: * exsúrge, Dómine, salvum me fac, Deus (hint: the vocative of this noun is an exception) meus.
8. Quóniam tu percussísti omnes adversántes mihi sine causa: * dentes peccatórum contrivísti.
9. Dómini est salus: * et super pópulum (accusative, governed by super) tuum benedíctio tua.

Third declension: vox, vocis f voice; caput, capitis, n (head); salus, salutis f (salvation); mons, montis, montium, m (mountain, hill); benedictio – onis, f (blessing)

2. Dómine quid multiplicáti sunt qui tríbulant me? * multi insúrgunt advérsum me.
3.Multi dicunt ánimæ meæ: * Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.
4. Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, * glória mea, et exáltans caput meum.
5. Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi: * et exaudívit me de monte (ablative of mons, governed by de) sancto suo.
6. Ego dormívi, et soporátus sum: * et exsurréxi, quia Dóminus suscépit me.
7. Non timébo míllia pópuli circumdántis me: * exsúrge, Dómine, salvum me fac, Deus meus.
8. Quóniam tu percussísti omnes adversántes mihi sine causa: * dentes (acc pl of dens, tooth) peccatórum contrivísti.
9. Dómini est salus: * et super pópulum tuum benedíctio tua.

Vocabulary for Psalm 3

Here is an alphabetical listing of all of the vocabulary given for the psalm, mostly summarised from Britt's Dictionary of the Psalter:

adversor, atus sum, ari to oppose, resist, withstand
adversus -um, against, in the presence of, over against, before.
anima, ae, soul, life
benedictio, onis, f a blessing; a source of blessing for others
caput, itis, n. the head
causa, ae, f cause, reason,
circumdo, dedi, datum, are, to surround, beset, encompass with a hostile intent clamo, avi, atum, are to call, cry out; to call to or upon for aid.
contero, trivi, itum, ere 3, to break, crush, destroy.
dens, dentis, m. a tooth;
dico, dixi, dictum, ere 3, to say, speak; to sing; to think, plan, desire;
dormio, ivi or ii, itum, ire, to sleep, to lie down to rest.
exaudio, ivi, Itum, ire, to hear, listen to, give heed to; regard, answer.
exsulto, avi, atum, are, to spring, leap; to exult, to rejoice exceedingly
exsurgo, surrexi, surrectum, ere 3, to rise up, arise, i.e., to come to the aid of
gloria, ae, f glory, honor, majesty
insurgo, surrexi, surrectum, ere 3 to rise up against, revolt against;
maxilla, ae, f the jawbone, the jaw.
millia,, n., thousands; indefinitely large number, a host, multitude
mons, montis, m., a mountain
multiplico, avi, atum, are to multiply, increase; to grow, flourish.
multus, a, um, much; many, numerous; much, great
obdormio – fallen asleep
omnis, e, all, each, every; subst., all men, all things, everything
peccator, oris, m. a sinner, transgressor; the wicked, the godless.
percuto, cussi, cussum, ere 3 to smite,strike; to kill, slay.
populus, i, ., people. the chosen people; a heathen nation
quia, conj. for, because,that.
quis, quid, interrog, pron., who? which? what? why? wherefore?
quoniam, conj., for, because, since,seeing that, whereas.
salus, utis, f helping, saving; victory; help, deliverance, salvation.
salvus, a, um, safe, saved, salvum facere, to save, keep safe, preserve from harm
sanctus, a, um, holy.
soporor, atus sum, ari to go to sleep
super, with, on, upon, for, because of.
susceptor, oris, m. a protector, helper, defender; a stay, support.
suscipio, cepi, ceptum, ere 3 to guard, protect, uphold, support; receive, accept
timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.
tribulo, avi, atum, are to oppress, afflict, harass.
vox, vocis, f., the voice of a person, or, the sound of an instrument, thunder.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Psalms with Pope Benedict: Psalm 3 (v8) - Salvation is from the Lord



In this post we have reached the last verse of Psalm 3. The second last verse dealt with the fate of God and the psalmist’s enemies. This verse contrasts that fate with the blessing that will come on God’s people.

Psalm 3

Here is the full text of the psalm, with today's verse highlighted:

Dómine quid multiplicáti sunt qui tríbulant me? * multi insúrgunt advérsum me.
Why, O Lord, are they multiplied that afflict me? many are they who rise up against me.

Multi dicunt ánimæ meæ: * Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.
Many say to my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God.

Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, * glória mea, et exáltans caput meum.
But thou, O Lord art my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.

Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi: * et exaudívit me de monte sancto suo.
I have cried to the Lord with my voice: and he hath heard me from his holy hill.

Ego dormívi, et soporátus sum: * et exsurréxi, quia Dóminus suscépit me.
I have slept and taken my rest: and I have risen up, because the Lord hath protected me

Non timébo míllia pópuli circumdántis me: * exsúrge, Dómine, salvum me fac, Deus meus.
I will not fear thousands of the people, surrounding me: arise, O Lord; save me, O my God.

Quóniam tu percussísti omnes adversántes mihi sine causa: * dentes peccatórum contrivísti.
For thou hast struck all them who are my adversaries without cause: thou hast broken the teeth of sinners.

Dómini est salus: * et super pópulum tuum benedíctio tua.
Salvation is of the Lord: and thy blessing is upon thy people.

Verse 8: Domini est salus

First a look at the Latin:

Dómini (of the Lord) est (it is) salus (salvation/deliverance) = Salvation is of the Lord = It is the Lord who gives salvation/Salvation comes from the Lord

et (and) super (upon) pópulum (the people) tuum (your) benedíctio (blessing) tua (your) = ‘and your blessing [is] upon your people’, or perhaps, ‘let your blessings be upon your people’

The psalm concludes its prayer then, as Pope Benedict XVI points out ‘with a sentence with liturgical connotations that celebrates the God of life in gratitude and praise’. St Augustine comments:

“In one sentence the Psalmist has enjoined men what to believe, and has prayed for believers. For when it is said, Salvation is of the Lord, the words are addressed to men. Nor does it follow, And upon Your people be Your blessing, in such wise as that the whole is spoken to men, but there is a change into prayer addressed to God Himself, for the very people to whom it was said, Salvation is of the Lord. What else then does he say but this? Let no man presume on himself, seeing that it is of the Lord to save from the death of sin; for, Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. But bless, O Lord, Your people, who look for salvation from You.” (Enarrations on the Psalms)

The message of Psalm 3

And to conclude this look at the psalm, it is perhaps worth going back to Pope Benedict’s conclusion to his catechesis on it:

“Dear brothers and sisters, Psalm 3 has presented us with a supplication full of trust and consolation. In praying this Psalm, we can make our own the sentiments of the Psalmist, a figure of the righteous person persecuted, who finds his fulfilment in Jesus.

In sorrow, in danger, in the bitterness of misunderstanding and offence the words of the Psalm open our hearts to the comforting certainty of faith. God is always close — even in difficulties, in problems, in the darkness of life — he listens and saves in his own way.

However it is necessary to recognize his presence and accept his ways, as did David in his humiliating flight from his son, Absalom; as did the just man who is persecuted in the Book of Wisdom and, ultimately and completely, as did the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. And when, in the eyes of the wicked, God does not seem to intervene and the Son dies, it is then that the true glory and the definitive realization of salvation is manifest to all believers.

May the Lord give us faith, may he come to our aid in our weakness and make us capable of believing and praying in every anxiety, in the sorrowful nights of doubt and the long days of sorrow, abandoning ourselves with trust to him, who is our “shield” and our “glory”.”

Next psalm

Tomorrow I’ll provide some Latin learning hints on the psalm, linked to Unit 2 of the Simplicissimus reading Latin course (which looks at nouns).

If you have any feedback on the format or content of these posts, do let me know. For example, do you prefer the phrase by phrase translation approach, is the word by word format more helpful? Would you like more alternative translations to be provided? More commentary from the Fathers (or me)? More or less detailed vocab lists? Are the Latin learning hints of any use or not?

Vocabulary

salus, utis, the act of helping, delivering from danger; victory, temporal salvation; help, deliverance
super, with, on, upon, for, because of.
populus, i, ., people. the chosen people; a heathen nation
benedictio, onis, /. a blessing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The psalms verse by verse: Psalm 3 (v7) - now for a bit of smiting!



We’ve reached verse 7, the second last verse, in this verse by verse study of Psalm 3 drawing on the catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI, and its one of those good old-fashioned smiting verses that give modern readers so much trouble. Accordingly, it is worth looking at how to interpret it properly.

Psalm 3 so far...

Here is the psalm so far, with today’s verse highlighted:

Dómine quid multiplicáti sunt qui tríbulant me? * multi insúrgunt advérsum me.
Multi dicunt ánimæ meæ: * Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.
Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, * glória mea, et exáltans caput meum.
Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi: * et exaudívit me de monte sancto suo.
Ego dormívi, et soporátus sum: * et exsurréxi, quia Dóminus suscépit me.
Non timébo míllia pópuli circumdántis me: * exsúrge, Dómine, salvum me fac, Deus meus.

Quóniam tu percussísti omnes adversántes mihi sine causa: * dentes peccatórum contrivísti.
For thou hast struck all them who are my adversaries without cause: thou hast broken the teeth of sinners.

The first point to note is that Pope Benedict XVI, in his catechesis on the psalm, does not back away from the strong message this verse sends to those who oppose Christ and those who stand for him and do his work:

“The enemy’s visible, massive, impressive attack is countered by the invisible presence of God with all his invincible power. And it is to him that the Psalmist, after his trusting words, once again addresses the prayer: “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God!”. His assailants “are rising” (cf. v. 2) against their victim; instead the One who will “arise” is the Lord and it will be to defeat them. God will deliver him, answering his cry. Thus the Psalm ends with the vision of liberation from the peril that kills, and from the temptation that can cause us to perish. After addressing his plea to the Lord to arise and deliver him, the praying person describes the divine victory: the enemies — who with their unjust and cruel oppression are the symbol of all that opposes God and his plan of salvation — are defeated. Struck on the mouth, they will no longer attack with their destructive violence and will be unable to instil evil and doubt in God’s presence and action. Their senseless and blasphemous talk is denied once and for all and is reduced to silence by the Lord's saving intervention.”

Let’s look at the text in more detail, then come back to its message.

Verse 7 phrase by phrase

Quóniam tu percussísti =for you have smitten/struck/slayed

omnes adversántes mihi = all opposing/resisting to me without cause = all who were resisting me/my enemies/adversaries

sine causa = without cause/reason (relates back to the adversantes)

dentes peccatórum = the teeth of sinners  Note that the neo-Vulgate changes the teeth to the jaw (maxilla), following the Hebrew Masoretic Text.

contrivísti = you have broken

God smites the enemy

Psalm 3 is one of those psalms that anthropomorphizes and uses vivid imagery that the modern ear may find uncomfortable. But there is a real message for us here that the stark language is meant to make us notice.   We can take it as read that this is poetry – it isn’t meant to be taken too literally. We can interpret images like ‘break the teeth’ as meaning ‘render harmless’, or as St Thomas Aquinas puts it, ‘you have rendered their lying words ineffectual’ for example.  And in fact, the Vulgate actually softens the Hebrew to some degree.

Still, in this verse God engages in a bit of smiting, striking down the psalmist’s enemies, and breaking their teeth, giving us a vivid imagery of a bar brawl or similar. This isn’t exactly how we tend to think of God acting these days, or encouraging us to act on his behalf! Yet the Fathers and Theologians consistently read this verse as a reminder that error – whether in the form of heresy, paganism or atheism – should not be tolerated, but taken head on. Yes, it will cause enemies to rise up against us and attack.  But just as Our Lord wasn’t backward about using strong words to correct the errors prevalent in his day, and those who propagated them, neither should we, for God will protect and sustain us.

Vocabulary

quoniam, conj., for, because, since, seeing that, whereas.
percuto, cussi, cussum, ere 3 to smite, strike; to kill, slay
omnis, e, all, each, every; subst., all men, all things, everything
adversor, atus sum, ari to oppose, resist, withstand, to be ill-disposed towards any one.
causa, ae,  cause, reason; sine causa, without cause, without good reason, unjustly; in vain, to no purpose.
dens, dentis, m. a tooth
peccator, oris, m. a sinner, transgressor; the wicked, the godless.
contero, trivi, Itum, ere 3, to break, crush, destroy

And now for the last part of this series on Psalm 3.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Psalm 3: Non timebo (v6)


David defeats the Philistines,
Morgan Bible c1240-50
Continuing on with Psalm 3, here are the verses we have looked at so far, together with today’s verse highlighted:

Dómine quid multiplicáti sunt qui tríbulant me? * multi insúrgunt advérsum me.
Multi dicunt ánimæ meæ: * Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.
Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, * glória mea, et exáltans caput meum.
Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi: * et exaudívit me de monte sancto suo.
Ego dormívi, et soporátus sum: * et exsurréxi, quia Dóminus suscépit me.
Non timébo míllia pópuli circumdántis me: * exsúrge, Dómine, salvum me fac, Deus meus.

Verse 6: Non timebo

The Douay-Rheims translates this verse as “I will not fear thousands of the people, surrounding me: arise, O Lord; save me, O my God.”

The previous verse told us that the psalmist was able to lie and down and sleep, confident of the Lord’s protection.  Here he has woken, refreshed and ready to do battle, even against seemingly hopeless odds. Pope Benedict XVI comments:

“And, on reawakening he finds God still beside him, as a custodian who does not fall asleep (cf. Ps 121[120]:3-4), who sustains him, who holds his hand, who never abandons him. The fear of death is vanquished by the presence of One who never dies. And even the night that is peopled by atavistic fears, the sorrowful night of solitude and anguished waiting is now transformed: what evoked death became the presence of the Eternal One.”

Phrase by phrase

Here’s a phrase by phrase literal translation:

Non timébo = I will not fear

míllia pópuli = thousands of people

Millia here is being used as a substantive, meaning a host or multitude.

circumdántis me = surrounding me

The verb circumdare has an implication of hostile intent; in short, the lynch mob is gathering.

exsúrge, Dómine = arise O Lord

Exsurge Domine is a frequently used phrase in the psalms – the Lord of course does not literally arise, as if he had been idle. Rather, this was the ancient battle cry of Israel, which we too can adopt as expressing our hope of the resurrection.

salvum me fac =save me

Salvum facere means to save, keep safe, preserve from harm

Deus meus = my God

Psalm 3 as an invitatory

I mentioned earlier in this series that Psalm 3 is said daily as a second invitatory at Matins in the traditional form of the Benedictine Office, and this verse I suspect particularly encapsulates some of the reasons St Benedict accorded it this privileged position. 

St Benedict in his own life was forced to flee friends and enemies on more than a few occasions: he fled to a religious community in the small town of Affile from the dissipation of the Rome of his time when he was a student; from the suffocating attention he received there after performing a miracle to the wilds of Subiaco; from the monks of the first abbey he led, who tried to poison him; and from the malice of a priest at Subiaco to Monte Cassino, to name but a few instances in his life.

Yet on each occasion, he rose again, strengthened to do God's will and thus bring good out of the bad, whether in the form of necessary solitude and meditation; learning from hard experience; or spreading the message of his spirituality from the mountaintop.

St Benedict's is a very resurrection-oriented, heaven focused spirituality, and this psalm is the quintessential resurrection psalm, as his contemporary Cassiodorus points out:

"Psalm 1 contains the Lord Christ's moral aspect; Psalm 2, His natural aspect, that is, His human and divine being; and Psalm 3, by speaking of His resurrection, His reflective aspect; the rationale of these runs through the whole of the divine Scriptures."

Key vocabulary

timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.
millia, n., thousands; used generally in the sense of an indefinitely large number, a host, multitude.
populus, i, ., people; the chosen people; a heathen nation
circumdo, dedi, datum, are, to surround, beset, encompass with a hostile intent; to gather round
exsurgo, surrexi, surrectum, ere 3, to rise up, arise, i.e., to come to the aid of
salvus, a, um, safe, saved, salvum facere, to save, keep safe, preserve from harm.

The next of this series can be found here.