Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Masterpost: The daily psalms of the Benedictine Office





St Benedict, in his Rule, makes it clear that he wanted all of the psalms to be said every week by his monks.  The vast majority of the psalms are, of course, said but once each week.  

A select few, however, are given a more privileged place in his Office, and it is at some of those that I propose to take a look at over the next few weeks.

This post will provide something of an overview; I will then look go back and take a more detailed look at each of them (skipping fairly quickly past those I've previously discussed in detail).  

I plan to get through those for Matins and Lauds over May and June.  At that point I'll decide whether to take a break from the repeated psalms (and perhaps look at Thursday Vespers), or continue on (feel free to provide me with feedback on your preferences at any point).  

THE REPEATED PSALMS

It is worthwhile, firstly, just to list out what the repeated psalms of the Benedictine Office are.

First, some individual verses (Psalm 50:16 and Psalm 69:1) are used as opening prayers for the hours, and are thus repeated every day, or even, in the case of the Deus in adjutorium verse, at almost every hour for most of the year.  

Secondly, a number of psalms repeated every day at particular hours, namely:
  •  Matins (Ps 3 & 94)
  •  Lauds (Ps 66, 50, 148-150); and 
  • Compline (Ps 4, 90 & 133). 
And thirdly, nine of the Gradual Psalms (Psalms 119-127) are said on five days of the week from Terce to None.

History, speculation and spirituality

In the Western monastic tradition of St Benedict's time (and long after it; St Benedict's Office was slow to gain general acceptance) it was actually more common to start at Psalm 1 and say them in their Scriptural order.  St Benedict, however, evidently took is cue from alternative traditions that existed at the same time both in the East and the West, which saw certain psalms as particularly fitted to particular hours, and thought some so important as to warrant daily repetition.  Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume that the particular choices he made of repeated psalms are significant.

One popular theory is that St Benedict actually started from the ordering of the psalter used by Roman Churches of his time, adjusting it to give it more variety.  It is certainly a plausible theory, but essentially unprovable since there are no surviving Office books or psalter schemas that survive from that era.   Nonetheless, the Roman Office as it has come down to us shares at least some of the repeated psalms of the Benedictine Office in common, namely Psalm 94 at Matins; Psalms 66, 50 and 148-150 at Lauds; and Psalms 4, 90 and 133 at Compline.  The Roman Office, however, at least until it was thoroughly 'updated' under Pope St Pius X in 1911, contained far more repetitions than the Benedictine, for Psalms 118, 53 and 30 were all said daily in the older form of the Roman Office.

These differences, I would suggest, are important, for what things are or aren't regularly repeated surely help develop a particular spiritual mindset.  Some modern Benedictines, though retaining the weekly psalter, have sought to eliminate many of the repetitions, taking their permission from Chapter 18.  It seems to me, however, more consistent with the Vatican II direction to retain the patrimony of religious orders (Perfectae Caritatis 2b), to devote some consideration to just why St Benedict decided that certain psalms (and certain verses) were so important and/or so appropriate to a particular hour that they should be repeated frequently.

The comments below consider the reasons for the repetitions in the context of the particular hours in which they occur.  

MATINS: A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

"At midnight I rose to give praise to thee." (Psalm 118:62, quoted in RB 16)

St Benedict made it clear, in his Rule, that the symbolism of light and darkness were extremely important to him.  In particular, he devotes an entire chapter to the timing of the Divine Office at night (Matins, or Vigils), in order to ensure that the monks rose early enough to enable Lauds to be said at first light.   

The long night Vigil, however, in which the monk keeps watch through the darkness of the literal and metaphorical night, reflects the particular Office of the monk in dispelling the darkness on behalf of us all.  Unsurprisingly then, Matins is the workhorse of the Benedictine Office, easily the longest 'hour' of the day, almost as long,  most days of the week, as all the other hours combined due to its twelve variable psalms to be said each day.

St Benedict manages to pack a lot of symbolism though, into the repeated psalmody of the hour.  Firstly, the start of Matins marks the end of the overnight 'great silence' that starts after Compline.  How appropriate then, that the first words the monk or nun says each day is a plea for God to allow him to speak in praise of him:


16  Dómine, lábia mea apéries: * et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise.

The first full psalm of the hour, Psalm 3, also includes a verse that can be taken very literally - though it also has an important spiritual meaning as we shall see  - in a reference to waking from sleep:

6  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

Psalm 3, though, is primarily a call to take up the spiritual warfare at the start of the new day, a reminder that the battle will not end until we are in heaven.  It is not accidental, in my view, that St Benedict's Rule also opens with a call to become spiritual warriors for Christ.

The second invitatory, Psalm 94, is a joyful invitation to worship our creator, redeemer and protector, but also contains an important warning not to put off repentance, but to respond to God’s call here and now should we here it.  It is worth noting that this psalm features heavily in the Prologue to St Benedict's Rule, so it's appearance here too, is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Psalm 3

Five reasons why St Benedict makes Psalm 3 a daily invitatory
Introduction to Psalm 3
Psalm 3:v1
Psalm 3:v2
Psalm 3:v3
Psalm 3:v4
Psalm 3:v5
Psalm 3:v6
Psalm 3:v7 
Psalm 3:v8

Notes on the Latin:
Notes on Psalm 3 grammar and vocab Pt 1
Notes on Latin of Psalm 3 Pt 2
Notes on the Latin of Psalm 3, Pt 3

LAUDS: THE HOUR OF LIGHT

"May God cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us" (Psalm 66)

 In the Roman Office, Lauds is very closely linked to Matins, and often said effectively as one hour.  In the Monastic Office, however, St Benedict envisages there being a break between the two hours.  In winter he envisages this break being quite long, providing time for study of the psalms and lessons for those who needed it (RB8); in summer it is just a break for 'the necessities of nature'. The reason for the break is simple: Lauds was to be carefully timed so that it begins at first light, and thus take in dawn.  The rising of the sun, then, symbolises the Resurrection of the Son.  So important is the connection with the time of day for this hour that St Benedict even instructs his monks to cut short the readings of Matins if necessary in order to ensure that Lauds is said at its proper time.

In keeping with this symbolism, both the psalms and the proper canticle for the hour, the Benedictus (from St Luke), link the hour symbolically to the 'almost/but not yet' time we live in - after the Coming of Our Lord, but before the Kingdom is fully realised on earth with his return in glory to judge the earth. 

The hymns and psalms of Lauds focus on preparing for and rejoicing at the coming of the sun/Son, and its hymns and psalms contain many references to the dawn and the morning, and the coming light.  Overall, the flavour of the hour is one of anticipation and joy at the coming dawn. 

Lauds is the longest of the day hours in the Benedictine Office, with seven psalms and two canticles assigned to it.  The hour itself is somewhat unusual compared to the rest of the Office in that five of those psalms - Psalms 66, 50, 148, 149 and 150 - are repeated every day.  The fixed psalms are, therefore, obviously very important in setting the flavour of this hour.

The repeated psalms of Matins, I would suggest, are essentially ones of preparation, seeking to inculcate the right attitude to the coming day in us.  The repeated psalms of Lauds, though, have more of a focus on action.

The hour always starts (after the Deus in Adjutorium) with Psalm 66, a beautiful psalm asking for God's blessing to come upon us.   Psalm 66 is though, above all a prayer for the mission of the Church, the blessing requested is for our work so that 'all peoples may confess God's name'.

The second psalm, the Miserere acknowledges our sinful state, and begs God's forgiveness of our sins.  The Miserere is the most famous of the penitential psalms, and also the most beautiful, not least for its glimmers of light as it begs God to 'give us back the joy of salvation'.  But again, as well as being a call to repentance it also has a focus on mission, for example asking for the grace to 'teach thy ways to evil-doers'.

The psalmody of Lauds always ends on a joyful note, with the Laudate or ‘rejoicing’ psalms, from the very end of the psalter, which have always been interpreted by Christians as our response to the Resurrection.  The really key verse, I would suggest, comes right in the middle, in Psalm 149:6, which teaches that the mission of the faithful is twofold: firstly to worship God, and secondly to advance the Gospel in the world (the sword is the word of God, its two edges the Old and New Testaments):


6  Exaltatiónes Dei in gútture eórum: * et gládii ancípites in mánibus eórum.
6 The high praises of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:

Psalm 66

Introduction to Psalm 66
Psalm 66 v1-2
Psalm 66 v3-4
Psalm 66 v5-6

Psalm 50

Psalm 50 in the daily Office (with links to verse by verse notes)

Psalm 148

Introduction to Psalm 148
Psalm 148 v1-4
Psalm 148 v5-6
Psalm 148 v7-10
Psalm 148 v11-12
Psalm 148 v13-14

Psalm 149

Introduction to Psalm 149
Psalm 149 v1-3
Psalm 149 v4-6
Psalm 149 v7-9

Psalm 150

Introduction to Psalm 150
Psalm 150 v1-2
Psalm 150 v3-5a
Psalm 150 v5b


TERCE TO NONE: THE ASCENT OF GRACE

One of the most distinctive features of the Benedictine Office is the use of nine of the Gradual Psalms (Psalm 119-127) at Terce to None from Tuesday to Saturday.  St Benedict's use of the Gradual Psalms is interesting, because they fit particularly well with the other psalmody of Tuesday, the first day of the week on which they are said, but also form part of the repeated framework of the day hours.

These psalms are thought to have been sung liturgically as the pilgrims ascended the fifteen steps of the Temple in Jerusalem on major feasts, as well as being pilgrim songs.  The Fathers saw them, though, as tracing the mystical ascent of the Christian in the spiritual life in imitation of Christ, who shows us how to climb Jacob’s ladder to heaven and grow in virtue.

COMPLINE: INTO GREAT SILENCE

Compline is the only hour in the Benedictine Office that remains the same every day (the Marian antiphon aside).  Said last thing in the evening, it teaches us how to deal with the darkness that inevitably surrounds us in this world, as well as the darkness and dangers of the literal night itself.

The structure of Compline is described in St Benedict’s Rule in Chapters 17 and 18, however over time the hour has been elaborated somewhat with the addition at the beginning of a new ‘opening section’ that includes a short reading warning of the dangers of the night and an examination of conscience and confession of sins; at the end with a Marian antiphon and prayer.   The three psalms set for it are Psalms 4, 90 and 133.  

Like Psalm 3 that opens the day, Psalm 4 contains verses that makes it particularly appropriate to the hour, indeed one that is in effect response to the verse on rising from sleep in Psalm 3:

9 In pace in idípsum * dórmiam et requiéscam;
In peace in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest
10 Quóniam tu, dómine, singuláriter in spe * constituísti me.
For you, O Lord, singularly have settled me in hope.

The psalm calls upon us to repent of the sins of the day; asks God to grant us forgiveness and the grace to do better in future; and asks for God’s blessing on our sleep.  

Psalm 90 is most commonly associated with Our Lord's temptation in the desert in the Gospels, and provides reassurance of God’s protection of the just against all the dangers that can arise.  The first section of the psalm sets out the promise of divine protection that God grants to the faithful.  It closes with words put in the mouth of God.  One particular reason its use may have appealed to St Benedict is the allusion to God as our 'susceptor' or sustainer, upholder, a word (which also appears in Psalm 3) that was particularly important in the monastic tradition, not least for its associations with the Suscipe verse (Psalm 118:116) used in the monastic profession ceremony.

The last psalm of the each day, Psalm 133 is also the last of the Gradual psalms, and at the literal level, this psalm is a summons to worship at night, and give God thanks for the blessings of the day.  Spiritually though, it points to our ultimate destination in heaven, where the worship of God never ends.   It concludes by requesting a blessing from God on us. 

In a monastery, the hour is traditionally followed by the abbot or abbess sprinkling the monks or nuns with holy water, usually while verses of Psalm 50 (from ‘Asperges me…’) are chanted.  And then the Great Silence falls, lasting until those first words of Matins are spoken again.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Coming soon...

This is just a quick note to let readers know that I plan to resume my psalm notes series this week, with a look at some of the psalms that are frequently repeated in the Benedictine Divine Office.

The repeated psalms of the Office

Before Easter someone asked me if I'd take a look at Psalm 94, one of the two invitatory psalms for Matins in the Benedictine Office, also said daily in the older forms of the Roman Office.

I've also previously indicated that I plan to look at the Gradual Psalms.

Accordingly, I thought that this might in fact be a timely point to look at the full set of daily (or frequently said) psalms in the Benedictine Office.  My plan then, subject to my own time constraints, is to look first at those psalms said daily in the Office, viz:
  • Psalm 3 (just one post on this as I've previously provided verse by verse notes); 
  • Psalm 94 at Matins;
  • Psalms 66 said daily at Lauds;
  • Psalm 50 (recently covered in the penitential psalms series);
  • Psalms 148-150 at Lauds; 
  • Psalms 4 and 90 said each day at Compline.
My thinking is then to take a look at the Gradual Psalms, particularly focusing on Psalms 119-127 said at Terce to None on Tuesday to Saturday; and Psalm 133 said at Compline each day.

Feedback

Before I get started though, please do feel free to provide any feedback on anything to do with the blog.

I'd particularly appreciate any comments on things like:
  • Frequency of posts - I'm thinking of posting every second day for example, does that sound about right?
  • Are there any particular things you'd like to see included in the notes (or left out/less of)?
  • Any explanatory notes on my approach needed?
  • Any particular psalms (or sets of psalms) you'd like me to consider looking at in future?  My plan at the moment is to get back, eventually, to the psalms of the day hours from Thursday to Saturday, focusing particularly on Vespers, but I'm open to other suggestions (for example going back to fill in verse by verse notes on some of the psalms I've only provided overviews of).
And in the meantime...

You might also find my series on lectio divina this week over at my other blog of interest, not least because it includes some examples on the psalms.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Matins canticles for Eastertide: Isaiah 63

Every Sunday, Matins in the Benedictine Office is celebrated as something of a mini-Easter Vigil, with a set of psalms focused on the Resurrection, and a third nocturn consisting of three canticles.  In Eastertide, the celebration of the Resurrection becomes even more intense, with the canticles particularly focused on that subject.  Accordingly, this post takes a look at the first of the three, which comes from Isaiah 63.

Easter canticle 1: Isaiah 63:1-5 
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
1. Quis est iste, qui venit de Edom, tinctis vestibus de Bosra?
Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra
2. iste formosus in stola sua, gradiens in multitudine fortitudinis suæ?
this beautiful one in his robe, walking in the greatness of his strength.
3. Ego qui loquor justitiam, et propugnator sum ad salvandum.
I, that speak justice, and am a defender to save. 
4. Quare ergo rubrum est indumentum tuum, et vestimenta tua sicut calcantium in torculari?
Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress? 
5. Torcular calcavi solus, et de gentibus non est vir mecum;
I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me
6. calcavi eos in furore meo, et conculcavi eos in ira mea:
I have trampled on them in my indignation, and have trodden them down in my wrath
7. et aspersus est sanguis eorum super vestimenta mea, et omnia indumenta mea inquinavi.  
and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my apparel. 
8. Dies enim ultionis in corde meo;
annus redemptionis meæ venit.  
For the day of vengeance is in my heart, the year of my redemption is come. 
9. Circumspexi, et non erat auxiliator; quæsivi, et non fuit qui adjuvaret:
I looked about, and there was none to help: I sought, and there was none to give aid:
10. et salvavit mihi brachium meum,
et indignatio mea ipsa auxiliata est mihi.
and my own arm hath saved for me, and my indignation itself hath helped me.

 This is one of those texts whose connections to the Resurrection looks, at first glance at least, obscure to modern eyes.  

Yet its association with it is attested to by Scripture itself, for Revelation 19 draws heavily on this canticle (see also Rev 14:19-20):

"11 Then, in my vision, heaven opened, and I saw a white horse appear. Its rider bore for his title, the Faithful, the True; he judges and goes to battle in the cause of right. 12 His eyes were like flaming fire, and on his brow were many royal diadems; the name written there is one that only he knows. 13 He went clad in a garment deep dyed with blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God;14 the armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses, and clad in linen, white and clean. 15 From his mouth came a two-edged sword, ready to smite the nations; he will herd them like sheep with a crook of iron. He treads out for them the wine-press, whose wine is the avenging anger of almighty God. 16 And this title is written on his cloak, over his thigh, The King of kings, and the Lord of lords." (Knox translation)

Decoding the canticle

Unsurprisingly then the passage was the subject of numerous commentaries by the Fathers, including Tertullian (d. 220), Origen (d. 254), Cyprian (d. 258), Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) as well as many of the later Fathers.  Accordingly, it is worth drawing on their decoding of the key references.

In verse 1, Edom was taken not as a reference to the place, but as meaning both red or bloody, and 'of the earth' - so who is it who comes from the earth is a reference to the Resurrection of Christ. 

The 'dyed garments' of verse 1 (red in verses 3&7) are Christ's bloodstained clothing.

The references to his beauty in strength in verse 2 were generally interpreted as references to the attributes of his risen body (cf 1 Cor 15:44).

The justice that saves of verse 3 is the Gospel, and Christ's intervention on our behalf.

The image of the winepress (v5) gives us the image of Christ alone working to achieve the hard-fought victory: he was abandoned by all of his disciples (v5, 9). 


The final verse, then, takes us to the victory of the Resurrection. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Masterpost: The Seven Penitential Psalms





The Seven Penitential Psalms

The listing of the penitential psalms - Psalm 6, Psalm 31 (32), 37 (38), 50 (51), 101 (102), 129 (130) and 142 (143) - was firmed up by Cassiodorus, a sixth century contemporary of St Benedict.  You can find the full text of all of the set here.

The Penitential Psalms were traditionally prayed communally each day during Lent - indeed, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) ordered them to be prayed at this time.

You can find them with the antiphon normally used in most missals, or in the Monastic Diurnal.

Introduction to the series

Psalm 6
Psalm 6 as a penitential psalm
Introduction to Psalm 6
Psalm 6 Pt 2: On God's anger (v1)
Psalm 6 pt 3: God the physician (v2)
Psalm 6 pt 4: In death no man remembers you (v3-5)
Psalm 6 pt 5: A baptism of tears (v6)
Psalm 6 pt 6: praying for our enemies (v7-10)

Psalm 31

Introduction to Psalm 31
Psalm 31 Pt 2: The grace of forgiveness (v1)
Psalm 31 Pt 3: Admitting our faults (v6)
Psalm 31 Pt 4: On being as stubborn as a mule (v11-12)

Psalm 37

Introduction to Psalm 37
Psalm 37 verse 6
Psalm 37 v14&15
Psalm 37 v18

Psalm 50

Introduction to Psalm 50
Psalm 50: verses 1-4
Psalm 50: verses 5-6
Psalm 50: verses 7-9
Psalm 50: verses 10-12
Psalm 50: verses 13-15
Psalm 50: verse 16
Psalm 50: verses 17-18
Psalm 50: verses 19-20

Psalm 101

Introduction to Psalm 101
Psalm 101 verses 1-3
Psalm 101 v7-8
Psalm 101 v12-14
Psalm 101 v 26-29

Psalm 129

Introduction to Psalm 129 as a penitential psalm pt 1
Intro to Psalm 129 Pt 2
Psalm 129: Hear my plea (verses 1-2)
Psalm 129: God's great mercy (v3-5a)
Psalm 129: The virtue of hope (v5b-6)
Psalm 129: The promise of redemption (v7-8)

Psalm 142

Introduction to Psalm 142 as a penitential psalm
Psalm 142: verses 1-4
Psalm 142 v5
Psalm 142: verses 6-7
Psalm 142: verses 8-9
Psalm 142 v10-12
Psalm 142 v13-14

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Psalm 142 pt 4: verses 13&14

Verses 13&14
The procession of St Gregory seeking an end to the plague
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 71v
the Musée Condé, Chantilly

In the previous part of this mini-series, I looked at verses 11&12 of Psalm 142, and suggested that the psalmist’s pleas to be delivered from his enemies was to be accomplished in large part by his learning to do God’s will, and guidance by the Holy Spirit. Those verses provide some context for the verses I want to look at today by way of conclusion of this Lent series, namely the last two verses of the psalm – and thus of all of the penitential psalms – which contain a further plea for God’s help.

At first glance, verses 13 and 14 present problems to the modern reader, since they sound awfully like a request for God to do some smiting! And while we might all feel the desire for that to occur from time to time, we know full well that in fact we are called on to forgive our enemies, and to return good for evil. So how should we reconcile these seemingly conflicting messages?

The text

First let’s take another look at the verses themselves. Here is the Vulgate (which is identical to the neo-Vulgate):

13
V/NV
Edúces de tribulatióne ánimam meam: * et in misericórdia tua dispérdes inimícos meos.
JH
educes de angustia animam meam ;  et in misericordia tua dissipabis inimicos meos,

The key verbs here are all in the subjunctive, making them a pleas or request: educare means to lead out, bring or draw forth; disperdere means to destroy, or destroy utterly.  Hence a literal translation of this verse would be something like: ‘may you bring my soul (animam meam) out of distress/trouble (de tribulatione), and in your mercy/kindness/compassion (misericordia) destroy my enemies (inimicos meos) 
educo, duxi, ductum, ere 3,  to lead out or forth.
disperdo, didi, ditum, ere 3, to destroy, destroy utterly.

DR
You will bring my soul out of trouble: And in your mercy you will destroy my enemies.
Brenton
thou shalt bring my soul out of affliction.  And in thy mercy thou wilt destroy mine enemies,
MD
In thy justice save me from distress, and in Thy mercy disperse my enemies
Cover
bring my soul out of trouble. And of thy goodness slay mine enemies,

14
V/NV
Et perdes omnes, qui tríbulant ánimam meam, * quóniam ego servus tuus sum.
JH
et perdes omnes ligantes animam meam; ego enim sum seruus tuus.

ie: And (et) you will destroy (perdes) all (omnes) those who trouble/afflict (qui tribulant) my soul, because (quoniam) I am (ego sum) your servant (servus tuus)’.

perdo, didi, ditum, ere 3, to destroy

DR
And you will cut off all them that afflict my soul: for I am your servant.
Brenton
and wilt destroy all those that afflict my soul; for I am thy servant.
MD
And destroy all who afflict my soul: because I am Thy servant
Cover
And destroy all them that vex my soul; for I am thy servant.

Who are our enemies?

We shouldn't, in my view, back away from the idea of praying for the defeat of actual physical enemies here, whether they be personal, enemies of the Church, or of our country. The harsh reality is that evil can and does get worked through others. We shouldn’t be afraid to pray that someone who is hurting us or others be stopped from doing so!

Of course, our prayer must be, first and foremost, that they be converted.

And we must genuinely seek to forgive them for what they do to us and others.

Forgiving someone though, doesn’t mean letting them continue to sin! Accordingly, it is important to keep in mind that praying for the defeat of evil and those who oppress us by whatever direct or indirect means God chooses to employ, or helps us to employ, is perfectly legitimate.

David's Victory
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 95r
Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Victory over sin

Nonetheless, in the context of the penitential psalms, our primary focus should be first and foremost on the mote in our own eye! The enemy in this context is not so much others: for we can accept bear their attacks as part of our penance, or offer up our sufferings at their hands for others.

But we must also focus, especially during this Lenten season, on overcoming our own weaknesses, bad habits, faults and sins. And we shouldn't hesitate to ask God's help in this most personal of battles.

The previous psalms, as well as the earlier verses of this psalm teach us the other weapons we must employ: work to develop a strong and deep sense of contrition; go to confession, tell all of our sins, and be absolved; do our penance and more; study, meditate and contemplate God's works; and submit ourselves to God's will and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, in this battle, it is also important to keep in mind that not all of our faults come from within ourselves: we are also engaged in a spiritual warfare waged against powers and principalities; so call too for God's help in the form of our own guardian angel's interventions.

We should pray too, for final perseverance, for above all, these verses reminds us of God’s promise that evil will eventually be defeated and good vindicated, if not in this life, then in the next.

Psalm 142: Domine, exaudi orationem meam
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
Psalmus David, quando persequebatur eum Absalom filius ejus.
A psalm of David, when his son Absalom pursued him
1 Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam: áuribus pércipe obsecratiónem meam in veritáte tua : * exáudi me in tua justítia.
Hear, O Lord, my prayer: give ear to my supplication in your truth: hear me in your justice.

2  Et non intres in judícium cum servo tuo: * quia non justificábitur in conspéctu tuo omnis vivens.
And enter not into judgment with your servant: for in your sight no man living shall be justified.
3  Quia persecútus est inimícus ánimam meam: * humiliávit in terra vitam meam.
For the enemy has persecuted my soul: he has brought down my life to the earth.
4  Collocávit me in obscúris sicut mórtuos sæculi : * et anxiátus est super me spíritus meus, in me turbátum est cor meum.
He has made me to dwell in darkness as those that have been dead of old: And my spirit is in anguish within me: my heart within me is troubled.
5  Memor fui diérum antiquórum, meditátus sum in ómnibus opéribus tuis: * in factis mánuum tuárum meditábar.
I remembered the days of old, I meditated on all your works: I meditated upon the works of your hands.
6  Expándi manus meas ad te: * ánima mea sicut terra sine aqua tibi.
I stretched forth my hands to you: my soul is as earth without water unto you.
7  Velóciter exáudi me, Dómine: * defécit spíritus meus.
Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit has fainted away.
8  Non avértas fáciem tuam a me: * et símilis ero descendéntibus in lacum.
Turn not away your face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
9  Audítam fac mihi mane misericórdiam tuam: * quia in te sperávi.
Cause me to hear your mercy in the morning; for in you have I hoped.
10  Notam fac mihi viam, in qua ámbulem: * quia ad te levávi ánimam meam.
Make the way known to me, wherein I should walk: for I have lifted up my soul to you.
11  Eripe me de inimícis meis, Dómine, ad te confúgi: * doce me fácere voluntátem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu.
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, to you have I fled: Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
12  Spíritus tuus bonus dedúcet me in terram rectam: * propter nomen tuum, Dómine, vivificábis me, in æquitáte tua.
Your good spirit shall lead me into the right land: For your name's sake, O Lord, you will quicken me in your justice.
13  Edúces de tribulatióne ánimam meam: * et in misericórdia tua dispérdes inimícos meos.
You will bring my soul out of trouble: And in your mercy you will destroy my enemies.
14  Et perdes omnes, qui tríbulant ánimam meam, * quóniam ego servus tuus sum.
And you will cut off all them that afflict my soul: for I am your servant.

Ne reminiscaris Domine...

I want to conclude this series not with another version of the psalm for you to listen to, but with the antiphon used at the end of the penitential psalms.  Here, it is in an English setting by Purcell.

The first half of the setting is simply a translation of the Catholic liturgical text:

Remember not, Lord, our offences,
nor the offences of our forefathers;
neither take thou vengeance of our sins:

The second part is an addition from the Book of Common Prayer, but it is so catholic in content that I strongly suspect it actually has its quasi-liturgical origins in the Sarum Rite:

spare us, good Lord, spare thy people,
whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood,
and be not angry with us for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

And that concludes this Lenten series.  I do hope you have enjoyed this series and found something in it to stimulate your prayer.

May you have a happy and holy Easter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Penitential Psalms - Psalm 142: verses 10-12

The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Fresco Borgia Apartments,
Hall of the Mysteries of the Faith, 1492-4

Today's verses of Psalm 142 deal with how to be effective in meditation and contemplations.

Verses 10-12: Knowledge of God enkindled by his spirit

 In verse 10, the psalmist asks that God make known his ways to the genuine seeker after truth:

10
V/NV
Notam fac mihi viam, in qua ámbulem: * quia ad te levávi ánimam meam.
JH
notam fac mihi uiam in qua ambulo; quoniam ad te leuaui animam meam.

 notum facere, to make known.

DR
Make the way known to me, wherein I should walk: for I have lifted up my soul to you.
Brenton
make known to me, O Lord, the way wherein I should walk; for I have lifted up my soul to thee.
MD
Make known to me the way which I must go, for to Thee have I lifted up my soul.
Cover
Show thou me the way that I should walk in; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

David Tenier the Younger, 1610-90,
Rocky Landscape with pilgrims

In verse 11, he asks for God to teach him the virtue of obedience:

11b
V/NV
doce me fácere voluntátem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu.
JH
Doce me ut faciam uoluntatem tuam, quia tu Deus meus

confugio, fugi, ere 3, to flee for refuge or succor, to take sanctuary.

DR
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
Brenton
Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God;
MD
Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God
Cover
Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth thee; for thou art my God.

 Finally, and most crucially, in verse 12 he asks for the help of the Holy Ghost:

12
V
Spíritus tuus bonus dedúcet me in terram rectam: * propter nomen tuum, Dómine, vivificábis me, in æquitáte tua.
NV
Spiritus tuus bonus deducet me in terram rectam; propter nomen tuum, Domine, vivificabis me. In iustitia tua 
JH
spiritus tuus bonus deducet me in terra recta. Propter nomen tuum, Domine, uiuificabis me: in iustitia tua

DR
Your good spirit shall lead me into the right land: For your name's sake, O Lord, you will quicken me in your justice.
Brenton
thy good Spirit shall guide me in the straight way. Thou shalt quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake; in thy righteousness
MD
May Thy good spirit lead me on the right path, for Thy name’s sake O Lord, preserve my life.
RSV
Let thy good spirit lead me on a level path! For thy name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
Cover
Let thy loving Spirit lead me forth into the land of righteousness. Quicken me, O Lord, for thy
Name’s sake; and for thy righteousness’ sake

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Hildegarde von Bingen, creation
The existence of the Holy Ghost is of course foreshadowed in the Old Testament: in the spirit that hovers over the waters at the time of creation. The clearest prophesy of the life of grace that the psalmist is asking for here though, is surely those famous verses from Ezekiel, featured at the last World Youth Day.

St Robert Bellarmine comments:

“That good Spirit is the Holy Ghost, who is essentially good, and through whom "the charity of God is poured out into our hearts;" and this it is that makes us wish to work and carry out our wishes; and it is of it Ezechiel speaks when he says, "And I will put my Spirit in the midst of you, and I will cause you to walk in my commandments." This good Spirit "shall lead me into the right land;" in that plain and direct road, the Lord's law, which is most plain and direct The "right land" may also mean our country above, where all is right and straight, and nothing distorted or crooked. "For thy name's sake thou wilt quicken me in thy justice." To show us that justification, which is a sort of spiritual resuscitation, is not to be had from our own merits, but from the gratuitous gift of God, he adds, "For thy name's sake," for the glory that will accrue to you by the gift of so much grace, "thou wilt quicken me in thy justice."

Indeed, each of the seven penitential psalms can readily be associated with one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, no doubt one of the reasons why the Catechism of the Catholic Church in fact cites this verse in relation to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

CCC 1831: “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

Defeating our enemies with the help of grace

I deliberately skipped over the first half of verse 11 above, which is the lead in to the request to be taught obedience and given the guidance of the Holy Ghost. In fact, it says:

11a
V/NV
Eripe me de inimícis meis, Dómine, ad te confúgi:
JH
Libera me de inimicis meis, Domine: a te protectus sum. 

confugio, fugi, ere 3, to flee for refuge or succor, to take sanctuary.

DR
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, to you have I fled: 
Brenton
Deliver me from mine enemies, O Lord; for I have fled to thee for refuge. 
MD
Deliver me from my enemies of Lord to Thee I fly for refuge.  
Cover
Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies; for I flee unto thee to hide me. 

These gifts of the spirit, then, together with the virtues, most especially hope, are the key to escaping sin and defeating the temptations that beset us in the spiritual war that we must wage.

Psalm 142: Domine, exaudi orationem meam
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
Psalmus David, quando persequebatur eum Absalom filius ejus.
A psalm of David, when his son Absalom pursued him
1 Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam: áuribus pércipe obsecratiónem meam in veritáte tua : * exáudi me in tua justítia.
Hear, O Lord, my prayer: give ear to my supplication in your truth: hear me in your justice.

2  Et non intres in judícium cum servo tuo: * quia non justificábitur in conspéctu tuo omnis vivens.
And enter not into judgment with your servant: for in your sight no man living shall be justified.
3  Quia persecútus est inimícus ánimam meam: * humiliávit in terra vitam meam.
For the enemy has persecuted my soul: he has brought down my life to the earth.
4  Collocávit me in obscúris sicut mórtuos sæculi : * et anxiátus est super me spíritus meus, in me turbátum est cor meum.
He has made me to dwell in darkness as those that have been dead of old: And my spirit is in anguish within me: my heart within me is troubled.
5  Memor fui diérum antiquórum, meditátus sum in ómnibus opéribus tuis: * in factis mánuum tuárum meditábar.
I remembered the days of old, I meditated on all your works: I meditated upon the works of your hands.
6  Expándi manus meas ad te: * ánima mea sicut terra sine aqua tibi.
I stretched forth my hands to you: my soul is as earth without water unto you.
7  Velóciter exáudi me, Dómine: * defécit spíritus meus.
Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit has fainted away.
8  Non avértas fáciem tuam a me: * et símilis ero descendéntibus in lacum.
Turn not away your face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
9  Audítam fac mihi mane misericórdiam tuam: * quia in te sperávi.
Cause me to hear your mercy in the morning; for in you have I hoped.
10  Notam fac mihi viam, in qua ámbulem: * quia ad te levávi ánimam meam.
Make the way known to me, wherein I should walk: for I have lifted up my soul to you.
11  Eripe me de inimícis meis, Dómine, ad te confúgi: * doce me fácere voluntátem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu.
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, to you have I fled: Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
12  Spíritus tuus bonus dedúcet me in terram rectam: * propter nomen tuum, Dómine, vivificábis me, in æquitáte tua.
Your good spirit shall lead me into the right land: For your name's sake, O Lord, you will quicken me in your justice.
13  Edúces de tribulatióne ánimam meam: * et in misericórdia tua dispérdes inimícos meos.
You will bring my soul out of trouble: And in your mercy you will destroy my enemies.
14  Et perdes omnes, qui tríbulant ánimam meam, * quóniam ego servus tuus sum.
And you will cut off all them that afflict my soul: for I am your servant.


And you can find the final post in this series on Psalm 142 and the Penitential Psalms here.