Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Psalm 5: verses 4b-7a


Psalm 5 is used in several different contexts in the Office, but the message of verses 4 to 7 is simple and important at all times: repent, and turn away from sin lest we perish.  A suitable message to ponder before the start of the New Year!

Verse by verse notes

The second section of Psalm 5 warns us of the necessity of conversion.

4b: Quóniam non Deus volens iniquitátem tu es because you are not a God that wills iniquity
5: Neque habitábit juxta te malígnus: neque permanébunt injústi ante óculos tuos.  Neither shall the wicked dwell near you: nor shall the unjust abide before your eyes.
4b: quóniam (because) non (not) Deus (God) volens  (wishing) iniquitátem (iniquity/wickedness) tu (you) es (you are) 5 Neque (neither) habitábit (he will live/dwell) juxta (near) te (you) malígnus (the wicked [man] neque (neither) permanébunt (they will endure/abide/remain) injústi (the unjust) ante (before) óculos (eyes) tuos (your)

Knox translates this rather poetically as: No evil thing claims thy divine assent; with thee baseness cannot dwell; nor rebellion hold its ground at thy coming. 

volo, volui, velle, to will, wish, desire; to have pleasure or delight in, to love, hold dear, desire
iniquitas, atis, f iniquity, injustice, sin.
juxta, prep, with acc, near, close to, at hand. according to; adv., near, close to, by the side of.
malignus, a, um adj.,evil, malicious, malignant; subst., malignus, i, m., an evil-doer, a malicious or wicked person
permaneo, mansi, mansum, ere 2, to remain, abide, continue, endure.
injustitia, ae, f (injustus), injustice, iniquity, sin..

What are we to meditate on during this early watch?  Surely the necessity of conversion.  In this life, both good and evil flourish within the Church (and without it) and we are encouraged to love the sinner even while hating the sin, in the hope that the sinner will yet repent. Cassiodorus, for example, quotes Ezekiel as saying "On whatever day the wicked man turns from his wickedness, all his wickedness will be forgotten."  All the same, the moment of judgment does ultimately come, for is perfect good and evil cannot co-exist with him.


6. Odísti omnes, qui operántur iniquitátem: perdes omnes, qui loquúntur mendácium. You hate all the workers of iniquity: you will destroy all that speak a lie
Odísti (you hate) omnes (all) qui (who) operántur (they have worked) iniquitátem (iniquity) perdes (you will destroy) omnes (all) qui (who) loquúntur (they have spoken) mendácium (a lie).

odi and odivi, odisse; other forms, odirem, odiens; to hate. 
operor, atus sum, are, to work, do, carry inot effect, cause, administer
perdo, didi, ditum, ere 3, to destroy.
loquor - to speak, talk, say, tell, mention, utter
mendacium, ii, n. a lie, lying, falsehood


There are two kinds of sins that are specifically mentioned here, as the object of God's hatred - evil actions, and pernicious lies.  For these sins, the consequence of God's justice is not just exclusion from his presence but also punishment.

7a: Virum sánguinum et dolósum abominábitur Dóminus: The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.
Virum (the man) sánguinum (blood/bloody/bloodthirsty) et (and) dolósum (treacherous/deceitful) abominábitur  (he will detest/abhor) Dóminus (The Lord)

Vir sanguinum is a very literal reproduction of the Hebrew phrase, and means a bloodthirsty man, a man of bloody deeds.

vir, viri, m., a man, any human being
sanguis, mis, m., blood. .
dolosus, a, um  full of craft or guile, deceitful, treacherous; deceiving, lying.

The other category of sinner singled out here is those who live a lie - saying one thing, giving our commitment to it in words, but then maliciously or through sloth and neglect failing to follow through. St John Chrysostom warns us to be particularly on the look out for wolves in sheep's clothing: 

"He refers here to the murderer, the schemer, the fraud, the one who has one thing on his lips and other things in his heart, the one who is a wolf in sheep's clothing, than whom nothing could be worse. In other words, while measures could be taken against an enemy in the open, the one who conceals his wickedness and yet practices evil is not easily detected and commits many crimes. Hence Christ too bids us be on the alert when they come: "They come to you in sheep's cloth­ing, but inwardly they are rapacious wolves."

Psalm 5: Verba mei auribus

Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, pro ea quæ hæreditatem consequitur. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, for her that obtains the inheritance. A psalm for David.
1 Verba mea áuribus pércipe, Dómine, * intéllege clamórem meum.
Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry
2. Inténde voci oratiónis meæ: * Rex meus et Deus meus
Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God
3  Quóniam ad te orábo: * Dómine, mane exáudies vocem meam.
For to you will I pray: O Lord, in the morning you shall hear my voice
4  Mane astábo tibi et vidébo: * quóniam non Deus volens iniquitátem tu es.
In the morning I will stand before you, and I will see: because you are not a God that wills iniquity.
5  Neque habitábit juxta te malígnus: * neque permanébunt injústi ante óculos tuos.
Neither shall the wicked dwell near you: nor shall the unjust abide before your eyes.
6  Odísti omnes, qui operántur iniquitátem: * perdes omnes, qui loquúntur mendácium.
You hate all the workers of iniquity: you will destroy all that speak a lie
7  Virum sánguinum et dolósum abominábitur Dóminus: * ego autem in multitúdine misericórdiæ tuæ.
The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.  But as for me in the multitude of your mercy,
8  Introíbo in domum tuam: * adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum in timóre tuo.
I will come into your house; I will worship towards your holy temple, in your fear.
9  Dómine, deduc me in justítia tua: * propter inimícos meos dírige in conspéctu tuo viam meam.
Conduct me, O Lord, in your justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in your sight.
10  Quóniam non est in ore eórum véritas: * cor eórum vanum est.
For there is no truth in their mouth: their heart is vain.
11  Sepúlcrum patens est guttur eórum, linguis suis dolóse agébant, * júdica illos, Deus.
Their throat is an open sepulchre: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues: judge them, O God
12  Décidant a cogitatiónibus suis, secúndum multitúdinem impietátum eórum expélle eos, * quóniam irritavérunt te, Dómine.
Let them fall from their devices: according to the   multitude of their wickednesses cast them out: for they have provoked you, O Lord.
13  Et læténtur omnes, qui sperant in te, * in ætérnum exsultábunt: et habitábis in eis.
But let all them be glad that hope in you: they shall rejoice for ever, and you shall dwell in them.
14  Et gloriabúntur in te omnes, qui díligunt nomen tuum: * quóniam tu benedíces justo.
And all they that love your name shall glory in you. For you will bless the just.
15  Dómine, ut scuto bonæ voluntátis tuæ * coronásti nos.
O Lord, you have crowned us, as with a shield of   your good will.
You can find the next set of verse by verse notes on the psalm here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Psalm 5 and the Incarnation: verses 1-4a


Our Lady Gate of Dawn
I've separately provided an introduction to Psalm 5, so now a look at the psalm verse by verse.

The first few verses set the scene, explaining why this is a psalm suitable for celebrating the Incarnation, but yet also features in the Office of the Dead.

Verse by verse notes

1. Verba mea áuribus pércipe, Dómine, intéllege clamórem meum Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry
Verba (words) mea (my) áuribus (with ears) pércipe (hear), Dómine (O Lord) intéllege (listen/understand/consider) clamórem (the cry/prayer) meum (my).

auris, is, f  the ear.
percipio, cepi, ceptum, ere 3 to perceive;  Auribus percipe, hear, hearken, give ear to.
intelligo, lexi, lectum, ere 3  understand, give heed to something, to consider
clamor, oris, m. a cry, an earnest prayer for help. a cry of distress

Chrysostom sees this verse as the cry of prudent bride, the Church, to Christ the bridegroom; we can also view it as the call of the religious, the bride of Christ, to her husband for aid this day and henceforth, or the cry of the Christian to our heavenly Father, especially as we face death or danger.

2. Inténde voci oratiónis meæ: * rex meus et Deus meus Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God
Inténde (give heed) voci (to the voice) oratiónis (of the prayer) meæ (of my) rex (king) meus (my) et (and) Deus (God) meus (my)

intendo, tendi, tentum, ere 3,  stretch or bend a bow; direct one's steps, betake one's self; give heed to, pay attention to
vox, vocis, f, the voice of a person, or, the sound of an instrument, thunder. 
oratio, onis, f. prayer, supplication
rex, regis, m.  a king, ruler, lawgiver

St Benedict instructs to be humble when approaching God for help: If we wish to prefer a petition to men of high station, we do not presume to do it without humility and respect; how much more ought we to supplicate the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion (RB 20).  This verse, calling God not friend, but rather King and God ,reminds us how to approach Christ with our supplications.  In the context of recalling the Incarnation, these titles resonate with those listed by Isaiah in the Christmas Canticle extracted from Chapter 9: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Father to the world to come, Prince of peace.

3. Quóniam ad te orábo: * Dómine, mane exáudies vocem meam. For to you will I pray: O Lord, in the morning you shall hear my voice
Quóniam (for) ad (to) te (you) orábo (I will pray) Dómine (O Lord), mane (in the morning/early) exáudies (you will hear) vocem (the voice) meam (my)

oro, avi, atum, are to pray, supplicate, pray to, offer petition to.
mane, adv. (prop, an indecl. subst.), early, morning
exaudio, ivi, Itum, ire, to hear, hearken to, listen to, give heed to; to regard, answer.

The person praying the Office will be reminded, here, of the absolute priority of the Opus Dei, the dedication of the first-fruits of the day to God in Matins and Lauds.  St John Chrysostom warns: "Let those heed this who come to prayer only after countless activities. Not she, on the contrary: from the dawn of day she gave the first-fruits. "One must precede sunrise in giving you thanks," Scripture says, remember, "and entreat you before the dawning of the day."  Similarly, St Thomas Aquinas sees in this verse the necessity of our preparation for the making of vows in prayer.

4a. Mane astábo tibi et vidébo: In the morning I will stand before you, and I will see
Mane (early/in the morning) astábo (I will stand) tibi (to you) et (and) vidébo (I will see/consider/keep watch) 

asto stand,  to stand at, by, or near; stand by the side of to help, to assist; to wait upon;  be, remain.
video, vidi, visum, ere 2,  to see, behold; consider; experience, undergo, suffer, realize; keep watch, look for, meditate on
volo, volui, velle, to will, wish, desire; to have pleasure or delight in, to love, hold dear, desire
iniquitas, atis, f iniquity, injustice, sin.

I noted above that the references to the early morning can be interpreted literally.  There is, however, a less literal meaning of morning here though that I think is also worth pondering, and that lies in the idea of the dawning of the age of the new heaven and new earth that will follow the final judgment.

The Old Testament is for us, a time when we as a people walked in darkness, as Isaiah points out in Chapter 9.  The Incarnation changes that, for Christ is the light of the world.  All the same, Christ's work in this world is not yet complete, and will not be until the Second Coming.  Accordingly, the age ushered in by the New Testament is, as Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, an inbetween time, a time of 'already and not yet' when darkness and light are intermingled, for the City of God is not here yet.

In this time, the liturgy, Pope Benedict argued, provides an image of what is yet to come, standing between shadow and reality.  And those who pray the Office - monks and nuns, above all - play a key role in keeping us fixed on that light.  They are those that keep watch, standing before God to dispel the darkness of the world.  Cassiodorus, for example, comments: 

"Hence one who prays in the morning is recognised as en­gaged in bright conversation, for we speak of morning when darkness is dispelled and the clear daylight gleams. The Church, which ac­knowledges that she has embraced the darkness of sinners, and that she is composed of the darkness of this world, rightly believes that she is heard when she bursts into the light of conversation with heaven. Moreover she repeated the word, morning, because she felt that through God's kindness her mind was inevitably shining whenever in her prayers she stood before God."

It is this verse, perhaps that makes this psalm particularly appropriate for Monday Lauds, a day when we particularly recall the Incarnation.  But its place in the Office of the Dead reflects the fact at the end of our lives everyone of us must face the light of the day, all of us must stand before God awaiting judgment.

Psalm 5: Verba mei auribus
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, pro ea quæ hæreditatem consequitur. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, for her that obtains the inheritance. A psalm for David.
Verba mea áuribus pércipe, Dómine, * intéllege clamórem meum.
Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry
2. Inténde voci oratiónis meæ: * Rex meus et Deus meus
Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God
3  Quóniam ad te orábo: * Dómine, mane exáudies vocem meam.
For to you will I pray: O Lord, in the morning you shall hear my voice
4  Mane astábo tibi et vidébo: * quóniam non Deus volens iniquitátem tu es.
In the morning I will stand before you, and I will see: because you are not a God that wills iniquity.
5  Neque habitábit juxta te malígnus: * neque permanébunt injústi ante óculos tuos.
Neither shall the wicked dwell near you: nor shall the unjust abide before your eyes.
6  Odísti omnes, qui operántur iniquitátem: * perdes omnes, qui loquúntur mendácium.
You hate all the workers of iniquity: you will destroy all that speak a lie
7  Virum sánguinum et dolósum abominábitur Dóminus: * ego autem in multitúdine misericórdiæ tuæ.
The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.  But as for me in the multitude of your mercy,
8  Introíbo in domum tuam: * adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum in timóre tuo.
I will come into your house; I will worship towards your holy temple, in your fear.
9  Dómine, deduc me in justítia tua: * propter inimícos meos dírige in conspéctu tuo viam meam.
Conduct me, O Lord, in your justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in your sight.
10  Quóniam non est in ore eórum véritas: * cor eórum vanum est.
For there is no truth in their mouth: their heart is vain.
11  Sepúlcrum patens est guttur eórum, linguis suis dolóse agébant, * júdica illos, Deus.
Their throat is an open sepulchre: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues: judge them, O God
12  Décidant a cogitatiónibus suis, secúndum multitúdinem impietátum eórum expélle eos, * quóniam irritavérunt te, Dómine.
Let them fall from their devices: according to the   multitude of their wickednesses cast them out: for they have provoked you, O Lord.
13  Et læténtur omnes, qui sperant in te, * in ætérnum exsultábunt: et habitábis in eis.
But let all them be glad that hope in you: they shall rejoice for ever, and you shall dwell in them.
14  Et gloriabúntur in te omnes, qui díligunt nomen tuum: * quóniam tu benedíces justo.
And all they that love your name shall glory in you. For you will bless the just.
15  Dómine, ut scuto bonæ voluntátis tuæ * coronásti nos.
O Lord, you have crowned us, as with a shield of   your good will.

You can find the next set of verse by verse notes on Psalm 5 here.

An introduction to Psalm 5**



Psalm 5 is said at Monday Lauds in the traditional form of the Benedictine Office, as well as at Matins in the Office of the Dead.

In the context of Lauds, it is a morning prayer for help that speaks of the longing to be in the Temple, and asks for guidance in the face of the lies and snares of enemies.  In the context of the Office of the Dead, the Temple is surely interpreted as heaven.

The psalm ends with a reassurance of God’s protection and favour to those who trust him.

The psalm invites us, at the start of the week, or when faced with death, to renew our personal commitment to turn away from evil and do good; to choose the way to heaven reopened by the Incarnation of Our Lord, over the path to hell.

Psalm 5: Verba mei auribus

Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, pro ea quæ hæreditatem consequitur. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, for her that obtains the inheritance. A psalm for David.
1 Verba mea áuribus pércipe, Dómine, * intéllege clamórem meum.
Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry
2. Inténde voci oratiónis meæ: * Rex meus et Deus meus
Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God
3  Quóniam ad te orábo: * Dómine, mane exáudies vocem meam.
For to you will I pray: O Lord, in the morning you shall hear my voice
4  Mane astábo tibi et vidébo: * quóniam non Deus volens iniquitátem tu es.
In the morning I will stand before you, and I will see: because you are not a God that wills iniquity.
5  Neque habitábit juxta te malígnus: * neque permanébunt injústi ante óculos tuos.
Neither shall the wicked dwell near you: nor shall the unjust abide before your eyes.
6  Odísti omnes, qui operántur iniquitátem: * perdes omnes, qui loquúntur mendácium.
You hate all the workers of iniquity: you will destroy all that speak a lie
7  Virum sánguinum et dolósum abominábitur Dóminus: * ego autem in multitúdine misericórdiæ tuæ.
The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.  But as for me in the multitude of your mercy,
8  Introíbo in domum tuam: * adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum in timóre tuo.
I will come into your house; I will worship towards your holy temple, in your fear.
9  Dómine, deduc me in justítia tua: * propter inimícos meos dírige in conspéctu tuo viam meam.
Conduct me, O Lord, in your justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in your sight.
10  Quóniam non est in ore eórum véritas: * cor eórum vanum est.
For there is no truth in their mouth: their heart is vain.
11  Sepúlcrum patens est guttur eórum, linguis suis dolóse agébant, * júdica illos, Deus.
Their throat is an open sepulchre: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues: judge them, O God
12  Décidant a cogitatiónibus suis, secúndum multitúdinem impietátum eórum expélle eos, * quóniam irritavérunt te, Dómine.
Let them fall from their devices: according to the multitude of their wickednesses cast them out: for they have provoked you, O Lord.
13  Et læténtur omnes, qui sperant in te, * in ætérnum exsultábunt: et habitábis in eis.
But let all them be glad that hope in you: they shall rejoice for ever, and you shall dwell in them.
14  Et gloriabúntur in te omnes, qui díligunt nomen tuum: * quóniam tu benedíces justo.
And all they that love your name shall glory in you. For you will bless the just.
15  Dómine, ut scuto bonæ voluntátis tuæ * coronásti nos.
O Lord, you have crowned us, as with a shield of your good will.

Psalm 5 in the Benedictine Office

Psalm 5 is one of several psalms said in the course of the day that can arguably be seen as focusing on the mystery of the Incarnation and our response to it, including being part of a weekly meditation on and renewal of the monastic vows.

The imagery of the Incarnation can be found particularly in verses 3 to 4, with the references to the light of the day that is Christ. These verses are also key to the theme of the renewal of monastic vows.  Indeed, St Thomas Aquinas' commentary on verse 3 of the psalm notes that:

"Hence, Jerome has for Verse 3:"I shall prepare." Because: "Before making a vow, prepare yourself, and do not be like a man who tempts the Lord." (Sir 18:23)." 

Turn away from sin

In the Prologue to his Rule, St Benedict, quoting Psalm 14, poses the question 'who shall dwell in God’s tabernacle, who shall dwell on God’s holy hill'?  The answer is one not just particular to monks though, but one that must be given by all Christians.  It requires us, St Benedict instructs, to make a positive choice in favour of faith and good works, aided by the grace that comes from prayer.

Psalm 5 restates that theology: it is the prayer of the person who has chosen, as its the title suggests ('to the end.  For her that obtains the inheritance'), who wishes to obtain the inheritance of heaven.

The psalm opens with a plea for God’s help, and an affirmation that the psalmist will ask God to perfect his work at its start, in the literal and metaphorical morning. The psalmist notes that God will not tolerate sin in those dwelling near him: destruction awaits sinners and liars. By contrast, the psalmist seeks to enter the Temple, the image of heaven, and worship in godly fear, confident of God’s protection.

The need for grace

The central verse is the plea for guidance and grace: Dómine, deduc me in justítia tua: propter inimícos meos dírige in conspéctu tuo viam meam, or Conduct me, O Lord, in your justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in your sight.

The temple spoken of here can be taken literally, but also as a reference to Christ the true Temple, and to heaven (presumably the reason the psalm is used at Matins in the Office of the Dead). Its references to final judgment and heaven similarly account for its place in several Lent Mass propers.

You can find the first set of verse by verse notes on this psalm here.

Office of the Dead



I thought it might be helpful to bring together a list of the posts from a previous series on the Office of the Dead, as well as relevant notes I've posted since.  I'll also post a few notes to fill in the remaining gaps.

On saying the Office of the Dead

Saying the Office of the Dead for the souls in purgatory is one of those good works that all Catholics can undertake.

In the middle ages it became extremely popular, and it was a standard to arrange to have the 'placebo et dirige' (the opening words of Vespers and Matins respectively) said for the deceased on the day of their funeral, as well as on subsequent anniversaries.

The Office of the Dead is a votive Office that can be said on any day for a particular person who has died.  In accordance with a Bull of Pope St Pius V, monasteries used to say it for the souls in purgatory on a available ferial day of the month, as well as on Mondays in Advent and Lent.

Its origins are unclear - there certainly were prayers that formed a Mass and Office for the Dead in the earliest years of Christianity, however the version of this Office we use today probably dates from the seventh century.  Its form is identical in the traditional forms of the Benedictine and Roman breviary, and it consists of I Vespers, Matins (of one or three nocturns) and Lauds.

Links to notes on the psalms of the office can be found below.

Vespers

Psalm 114 (and in context of Monday Vespers)
Psalm 119
Psalm 120
Psalm 129 (and in the context of Tuesday Vespers)
Psalm 137

Matins

Nocturn I (Sunday, Monday and Thursday)

Psalm 5
Psalm 6
Introduction to Psalm 7

Nocturn II (Tuesday and Friday)

Psalm 22
Psalm 24&here
Psalm 26

Nocturn III (Wednesday and Saturday)

Psalm 39 in the context of Tenebrae
Introduction to Psalm 40
Introduction to Psalm 41 (St Bellamine's commentary on Ps 41)

Lauds

Psalm 50
Introduction to Psalm 64
Psalm 62
Canticle: Isaiah 38 & here
Psalm 150

Blog tidy up!

I'm doing a little tidying up of the blog at the moment, so expect a few posts over the next few days out of the sequence of notes on Vespers, on semi-random things I've had sitting around for a while, or that seem relevant.

But I will resume the series on Vespers shortly!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A canticle for Christmas - Isaiah 9:2-7



At Matins at Christmas, including Sunday within the Octave, the third Nocturn is made up of three canticles from Isaiah, the first of which is from Chapter 9, and forms the basis of two pieces from Handel's Messiah.

Sunday Matins canticles - Isaiah 9:2-7  
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
1. Populus qui ambulabat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam;
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light
2. habitantibus in regione umbræ mortis, lux orta est eis. 
to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen
3. Multiplicasti gentem, et non magnificasti lætitiam.
Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy.
4. Lætabuntur coram te, sicut qui lætantur in messe; sicut exsultant victores capta præda, quando dividunt spolia. 
They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils. 
5. Jugum enim oneris ejus et virgam humeri ejus, et sceptrum exactoris ejus superasti, sicut in die Madian.  
For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor thou hast overcome, as in the day of Median
6. Quia omnis violentia prædatio cum tumultu, et vestimentum mistum sanguine, erit in combustionem, et cibus ignis. 
For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

7. Parvulus enim natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us
8. et factus est principatus super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus, Admirabilis, Consiliarius,
and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor
9. Deus, Fortis, Pater futuri sæculi, Princeps pacis. 
God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. 
10. Multiplicabitur ejus imperium, et pacis non erit finis;
His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace
11. super solium David, et super regnum ejus sedebit, ut confirmet illud et corroboret in judicio et justitia,
he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice
12. amodo et usque in sempiternum: zelus Domini exercituum faciet hoc.
from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this

Who walked in darkness?

The first verse of the canticle proclaims that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  But who is it referring to? According to Robert Wilkens commentary on Isaiah, there were various views amongst the Fathers.  Pope Leo the Great followed St Matthew (9:1-2) in seeing this as a reference to the Gentiles.  St John of Damasus, however, he points out, suggests instead that it refers to those in Hades, unable to enter heaven until Jesus' descent into hell after the Crucifixion (cf 1 Peter 3:19).


The titles of Jesus

A second point of note is that the Septuagint omits the titles popularised by Handel (Wonderful Counsellor...), calling the Christ-child only 'messenger of great counsel', a term whose meaning was much debated in the early Church.

Canticles at Matins

One of the unique features of the traditional Benedictine Office is the use of three canticles - psalms from Scriptures outside the book of psalms - as the third Nocturn at Matins.

The number of nocturns and canticles on Sunday is not an accident, but rather a use of the numerological symbolism of which the Fathers were so fond.

Sundays are, above all, a celebration of the Resurrection, which occurred 'on the third day' after Christ's death on the Cross.  The inclusion of a the third nocturn 'resurrection vigil' to reinforce this idea may have been something taken over by St Benedict from the early Eastern cathedral tradition.

In the modern form of the Office, there are sets of canticles for use on particular feasts, as well as for the Commons of saints.

CANTICLES FOR THE TEMPORAL CALENDAR

The most often used canticles though, are for the liturgical season, and are as follows:

Advent

Isaiah 40:10-17
Isaiah 42:10-16
Isaiah 49:7-13

Nativitytide (and Epiphanytide)

Introduction to Isaiah 9:2-7
Introduction to Isaiah 26:1-12
Introduction to Isaiah 66:10-16

Time throughout the year

Introduction to Isaiah 33:2-10
Introduction to Isaiah 33:13-18
Introduction to Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 36:14-19

Lent and Passiontide

Jeremiah 14:17-21
Lamentations 5:1-7, 15-17, 19-21
Ezekiel 36:24-28

Eastertide

Isaiah 63:1-5
Hosea 6:1-6
Zephaniah (Sophronias) 3:8-13

CANTICLES FOR THE SANCTORAL CALENDAR

In addition to the canticles for the liturgical seasons, particular sets of canticles are also used on Class I&II feasts.

Common of the BVM

Sirach 39:17-21
Isaiah 61:10-11, 62:1-3
Isaiah 62:4-7.

Common of Apostles/Evangelists

Isaiah 61:6-9
Wisdom 3:7-9
Wisdom 10: 17-21

Common of Popes/one martyr/confessor bishop/confessor

Ecclesiasticus 14:22, 15:3-4, 6
Jeremiah 17:7-8
Ecclesiasticus 31:8-11

Common of several martyrs

Wisdom 3:1-6
Wisdom 3:7-9
Wisdom 10: 17-21

Common of Virgins/Holy women

Ecclesiasticus 39:17-21
Isaiah 61:10-11, 62: 1-3
Isaiah 61:4-7