Friday, September 30, 2016

Psalm 1 verse 4 - The healing of nations

Mausoleum M in the pre-fourth-century necropolis under St Peter's Basilica in Rome

4.
V/NV
Et folium eius non defluet et omnia quaecumque faciet, prosperabuntur.
OR
et folium eius non decidet et omnia quaecumque fecerit prosperabuntur
JH
et folium eius non defluet ; et omne quod fecerit prosperabitur. 

κα τ φύλλον ατο οκ πορρυήσεται κα πάντα σα ν ποι κατευοδωθήσεται

Et (and) folium (foliage) eius (its) non (not) defluet (it falls off) et (and) omnia (all) quaecumque (whatsoever) faciet (he does/makes), prosperabuntur (it will prosper).

folium, ii, n. , a leaf, coll., foliage.
defluo, fluxi, ere 3, to flow down;  to fall, as a leaf
prospero, avi, stum, are,  to succeed, prosper , flourish, thrive

DR
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
Brenton
and its leaf shall not fall off; and whatsoever he shall do shall be prospered.
MD
And whose leaves shall not wither: and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper
RSV
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Cover
His leaf also shall not wither; and look, whatsoever he doeth, it shall prosper.
Knox
not a leaf faded; all that he does will prosper.
Grail
and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.

The previous verse focused on the fruit of the tree, but as Jerome puts it, 'The leaves of this tree are by no means useless'.

The leaves as 'the healing of nations'

Many of the explanations of this verse refer back to the image of the tree in Revelation 22, whose leaves bring health to all the nations.

St Hilary, for example, sees the leaves as the teaching of Christ, the fruit the product of its application:
Now the spiritual significance of the leaves is made clear by a comparison based upon material objects. We see that leaves are made to sprout round the fruits about which they cluster, for the express purpose of protecting them, and of forming a kind of fence to the young and tender shoots. What the leaves signify, then, is the teaching of God's words in which the promised fruits are clothed. For it is these words that kindly shade our hopes, that shield and protect them from the rough winds of this world. These leaves, then, that is the words of God, shall not fall: for the Lord Himself has said: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away, for of the words that have been spoken by God not one shall fail or fall.
Jerome takes a similar line but suggests that the fruit is the spiritual meaning of Scripture, and the leaves are the literal meaning.  He then argues that even this alone is useful:
Even if one understands Holy Writ only as history, he has something useful for his soul.
Other of the Fathers though, offer I think, rather richer interpretations.

Words and actions

St Augustine interprets the leaves as words (since the words of the Lord last forever) and the fruit as deeds, an interpretation that Cassiodorus explains as follows:
In other words, under no circumstance does his word abandon the truth.  Just as the leaves of a palm-tree are evergreen, so these words implanted in the truth abide with unfailing promises, as the gospel says: Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words will not pass.
Evagrius, on the other hand, sees it going the other way around, with the leaves as the daily tasks and signs of the just person, including a smiling face:
The trees brings forth leaves, and the just one his daily tasks.  And the leaves are tokens of a good soul achieved by means of the body, like the appearance of clothes,  a foot’s stride,  a smiling face.
Similarly, Theodoret of Cyrus stresses cheerfulness as a virtue represented by the foliage of the tree:
You see, champions of virtue reap the fruit of their labours in the future life; but like a kind of foliage they bear sound hope constantly within them, flourishing and exulting, and by their cheerfulness they overcome the rigours of their labours.  They have the generous Lord constantly abetting their enthusiasm: To those who love God, says the divine Apostle, all things work together unto good.  
The promise of God's help

St Thomas Aquinas sees this verse as a promise of God's assistance:
Some trees are kept alive in their underlying substance, but not in the leaves, and others are also kept alive in their leaves: so also the just, whence he says: and his leaf shall not fall off that is, he will not be deserted by God even in the smallest exterior works. "But the just shall spring up as a green leaf." The blessed prosper in all things, and this is when they achieve the intended end with respect to all that they desire, because the just attain blessedness.  
Vulgate
Douay Rheims translation


Beátus vir, qui non ábiit in consílio impiórum, et in via peccatórum non stetit, * et in cáthedra pestiléntiæ non sedit
Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence:
2  Sed in lege Dómini volúntas ejus, * et in lege ejus meditábitur die ac nocte.
But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
3  Et erit tamquam lignum, quod plantátum est secus decúrsus aquárum, * quod fructum suum dabit in témpore suo:
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
4  Et fólium ejus non défluet: * et ómnia quæcúmque fáciet, prosperabúntur.
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
 Non sic ímpii, non sic: * sed tamquam pulvis, quem prójicit ventus a fácie terræ.
Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind drives from the face of the earth.
6  Ideo non resúrgent ímpii in judício: * neque peccatóres in concílio justórum.
Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.
7  Quóniam novit Dóminus viam justórum: * et iter impiórum períbit.
For the Lord knows the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

The next part of this series can be found here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Psalm 1 verse 3 - Christ as the tree of life


Cod St Peter perg 139 Scherenberg-Psalter 8r.jpg
Badische Landesbibliothek, Cod. St. Peter perg. 139, Blatt 8r
c1260


Continuing this series on Psalm 1, with a look at verse 3.

3.
V/NV/OR
Et erit tamquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo.
JH
Et erit tamquam lignum transplantatum iuxta riuulos aquarum, quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo,

καὶ ἔσται ὡς τὸ ξύλον τὸ πεφυτευμένον παρὰ τὰς διεξόδους τῶν ὑδάτων ὃ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ δώσει ἐν καιρῷ αὐτοῦ

Et (and) erit (he will be) tamquam (like/just as) lignum (a tree) quod (that) plantatum est (is established) secus (beside) decursus (the downward course/running) aquarum (of waters), quod (that) fructum (fruit) suum (his) dabit (it will give) in tempore (in time) suo (his).

tamquam adv. of comparison,  as, just as, like, as it were.
lignum, i, n., a tree; wood
planto, avi, atum, are, to plant; to establish 
secus, prep, with ace by, beside, along, near, on
decursus, us, m.  a running down. Of water, a downward course, descent
fructus, us, m. fruit, produce; the fruit of the soil, trees, etc;  reward;  the fruit of the womb, children, posterity.
tempus, oris, n.  time; in tempore suo, in due season. 

DR
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
Brenton
And he shall be as a tree planted by the brooks of waters, which shall yield its fruit in its season
MD
And he shall be as a tree that is planted by running waters, that yieldeth its fruit in due season.
RSV
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season,
Cover
And he shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that will
bring forth his fruit in due season.
Knox
He stands firm as a tree planted by running water, ready to yield its fruit when the season comes
Grail
He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season


The literal meaning

The literal meaning of the verse is, as St Jerome, explains, that "just as a tree, if planted near water, will take root and grow and not wither away because it has enough moisture, so in like manner one who meditates on the law of God will derive strength and life from his meditation."  Jerome goes on to explain though, that there is an important additional spiritual level of interpretation that needs to be extracted here.

Christ is the tree of life

The Fathers invariably interpret the tree as Christ.  They point to a number of key connections between the image of the tree of life in Paradise (Genesis 2:9) and in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22), and the wood of the cross.

St Hilary, for example, sees the tree as depicting the tree of life in Paradise, beside which flow out the four rivers (ie the Gospels): 
In the book of Genesis, where the lawgiver depicts the paradise planted by God, we are shown that every tree is fair to look upon and good for food; it is also stated that there stands in the midst of the garden a tree of Life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil; next that the garden is watered by a stream that afterwards divides into four heads.
The Prophet Solomon teaches us what this tree of Life is in his exhortation concerning Wisdom: She is a tree of life to all them that lay hold upon her, and lean upon her.  This tree then is living; and not only living, but, furthermore, guided by reason; guided by reason, that is, in so far as to yield fruit, and that not casually nor unseasonably, but in its own season. 
And this tree is planted beside the rills of water in the domain of the Kingdom of God, that is, of course, in Paradise, and in the place where the stream as it issues forth is divided into four heads...
He goes own to note that Jesus compares himself to a tree in various places in Scripture and notes that:
 This tree is planted in that place whither the Lord, Who is Wisdom, leads the thief who confessed Him to be the Lord, saying: Verily I say unto you, today shall you be with Me in Paradise. And now that we have shown upon prophetic warrant that Wisdom, which is Christ, is called the tree of Life in accordance with the mystery of the coming Incarnation and Passion...
Running waters

St Augustine points to the running water as referring both to baptism, as well to Christ's teaching:
In another Psalm, "the river of God is full of water." Or by the Holy Ghost, of whom it is said, "He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost;" and again, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink;" and again, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that asketh water of thee, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water, of which whoso drinketh shall never thirst, but it shall be made in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
The fruit

Evagrius Ponticus suggests that the fruit refers to the fruits of the spirit, that is love,  joy and peace  and so on (Galatians 5:22 lists them as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, and purity), and St Thomas Aquinas takes the same view.  St Jerome suggests it refers to understanding Scripture.  Many of the other Fathers though, suggest that the fruits refer to Christ's establishment of churches.

Due season

The key point here is that fruit does not appear at all times, but at the proper time, when it is time to act.  St Augustine, for example, suggests, it means the establishment of churches "after He hath been glorified by His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven."  An alternative view is that it refers to the harvest that will be brought in on the day of judgment.

The imitation of Christ 

Patrick Reardon, in Christ in the Psalms nicely draws out a key application of the text to us:
The habit of prayer, this incessant meditation on God’s law, is not supposed to be something immediately useful. Trees do not bear fruit right away. They first must eat amply of the earth and drink deeply of its water. Such nourishment must serve first to build up the tree. The fruit will come later on, when it is supposed to. The life of Christian prayer and meditation knows nothing of instant holiness; it is all a matter of perseverance and patience. Some trees do not even begin to bear fruit for many years….(pg 2)
Vulgate
Douay Rheims translation


Beátus vir, qui non ábiit in consílio impiórum, et in via peccatórum non stetit, * et in cáthedra pestiléntiæ non sedit
Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence:
2  Sed in lege Dómini volúntas ejus, * et in lege ejus meditábitur die ac nocte.
But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
3  Et erit tamquam lignum, quod plantátum est secus decúrsus aquárum, * quod fructum suum dabit in témpore suo:
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
4  Et fólium ejus non défluet: * et ómnia quæcúmque fáciet, prosperabúntur.
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
 Non sic ímpii, non sic: * sed tamquam pulvis, quem prójicit ventus a fácie terræ.
Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind drives from the face of the earth.
6  Ideo non resúrgent ímpii in judício: * neque peccatóres in concílio justórum.
Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.
7  Quóniam novit Dóminus viam justórum: * et iter impiórum períbit.
For the Lord knows the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

The next part in this series can be found here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Psalm 1 verse 2 - Pray without ceasing


Verse 2 of Psalm 1 introduces us to two essential concepts: our proper engagement with the law of God; and prayer without ceasing.

Tackling the Latin

2.
Vulgate
/NV/JH
Sed in lege Domini voluntas eius, et in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte.

Old Roman (OR)
sed in lege Domini fuit voluntas eius et in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte


ἀλ{L'} ἢ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ κυρίου τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ μελετήσει ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός 

Sed (but) in lege (on the law) Domini (of the Lord) voluntas (will)  eius (his), et (and) in lege (on the law) eius (his) meditabitur (he will meditate) die (day) ac (and) nocte (night).
  
lex, legis,  a law; the Law of God, the will of God
voluntas, atis, will, wish, desire
meditor, atus sum, ari, to think, plan, devise, meditate
dies, ei, a day, the natural
nox, noctis, nigh

DR
But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
Brenton
But his pleasure is in the law of the Lord; and in his law will he meditate day and night.
MD
But hath his delight in the law of the Lord and on his law doth meditate day and night.
RSV
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Cover
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law will he exercise himself day and night.
Knox
the man whose heart is set on the law of the Lord, on that law, day and night, his thoughts still dwell. 
Grail
but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night.

Delighting in the law

In the previous verse we were invited to turn away from evil, following the example of Our Lord; here we turn to the positive, 'do good'.  What is needed, according to Theodoret of Cyrus is not merely to abhor sin, but "to choose what the divine law dictates and to guide one’s life according to its direction." 

St Robert Bellarmine explains it this way:
 …He is truly said to be just or happy, who wishes to do the will of the Lord; because to be in just in this life we are not required to be free from all manner of offense, for, St James says, in chapter 3, “We all offend in many things;” but it suffices for us to be so disposed towards the law of God, that we desire, above all things, to carry it out; and if we happen to fall into any sin, as undoubtedly we often do, that it is against our will we so fall, that is to say, against the love we entertain towards God and his law, thus making the matter a sin, not a crime, a venial one instead of a deadly one…
Pray without ceasing

The phrase meditating on the law day and night poses a problem, as St Jerome points out:
Someone else may object: This is too much for human nature to endure, for one must walk, and drink, and eat, and sleep, and perform all the other necessities of life.  How, then, meditate on the law of God day and night, and especially since the Apostle says: Pray without ceasing?  How can I be praying during the time that I am sleeping?  
The response, most of the Western Fathers agree, is that the injunction to pray without ceasing shouldn't be taken to literally.  Instead, it requires us to ensure that our orientation to God directs all our actions, so that we make our whole lives a prayer.  St Hilary of Poitiers puts it like this:
Meditation in the Law, therefore, does not lie in reading its words, but in pious performance of its injunctions; not in a mere perusal of the books and writings, but in a practical meditation and exercise in their respective contents, and in a fulfilment of the Law by the works we do by night and day, as the Apostle says: Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 
The way to secure uninterrupted prayer is for every devout man to make his life one long prayer by works acceptable to God and always done to His glory: thus a life lived according to the Law by night and day will in itself become a nightly and daily meditation in the Law.
Psalm 1
Vulgate
Douay Rheims translation


Beátus vir, qui non ábiit in consílio impiórum, et in via peccatórum non stetit, * et in cáthedra pestiléntiæ non sedit
Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence:
2  Sed in lege Dómini volúntas ejus, * et in lege ejus meditábitur die ac nocte.
But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
3  Et erit tamquam lignum, quod plantátum est secus decúrsus aquárum, * quod fructum suum dabit in témpore suo:
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
4  Et fólium ejus non défluet: * et ómnia quæcúmque fáciet, prosperabúntur.
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
 Non sic ímpii, non sic: * sed tamquam pulvis, quem prójicit ventus a fácie terræ.
Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind drives from the face of the earth.
6  Ideo non resúrgent ímpii in judício: * neque peccatóres in concílio justórum.
Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.
7  Quóniam novit Dóminus viam justórum: * et iter impiórum períbit.
For the Lord knows the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

The next part of this series can be found here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Psalm 1: verse 1 - Christ the perfect man



Miniatore di S Alessio in Bigiano - Leaf from Bentivoglio Bible - Walters W151250V - Reverse Detail.jpg
leaf from Bentivoglio Bible, c1270

Today I want to take a look at the first verse of Psalm 1.

Today's post will be a bit longer than most - of the rest of the series on this psalm I'll be using the same methodology and abbreviations, but without the detailed explanations.  I'm also providing somewhat more detailed notes on this psalm than I plan to in future, in order to illustrate how to make use of the material I provide such as the assorted translations.

Saying and understanding the Latin


Pronouncing and singing the Latin

First of all I want to focus on the pronunciation of the Latin.

The sound file below provides a recording of verse 1 of the psalm said slowly with lots of repetitions of phrases so you can learn it; then sung on one note; then sing it using tone 8, which is used for most Mondays in the Office at Prime.

Note: my accent and singing is far from perfect, but I've included it as a learning tool on the basis that something is (probably) better than nothing, as I've had numerous requests from those still struggling with Latin pronunciation and who find the assorted podcasts I've previously pointed to a little too fast.  Hopefully over time those concerned will graduate to better models!

The recording uses the Vulgate translation from the Greek Septuagint (also included below for those to whom it may be of interest).  For this verse, it is identical to the Old Roman version of the psalter that pre-dated the Vulgate, and continued to be used in many places until around 1000 AD.

Versions of the Latin

There are two other versions of the Latin of the psalm you may encounter and are worth noting.

The first is the 1979 neo-Vulgate, used by many monasteries who have adopted the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

In this case it follows the important version, St Jerome's translation from the Hebrew (I'm afraid I haven't quite worked out how to get the Hebrew to copy in correctly or I would have added that too, for reference purposes, but you can look at it here if you are interested).

Personally I think the move away from 'cathedra pestilentiae' (seat of pestilence) to 'conventu derisorum' (gathering of scoffers) is unfortunate, as the word cathedra has a lot more resonances for Catholics, and the notion of a pestilential infection is rather more vivid to my mind.


Vulgate (V)
Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum et in via peccatorum non stetit, et in cathedra pestilentiae non sedit.
Neo-Vulgate (NV)
Beatus vir, qui non abiit in consilio impiorum
et in via peccatorum non stetit et in conventu derisorum non sedit
Jerome from the Hebrew (JH)
Beatus uir, qui non abiit in consilio impiorum, et in uia peccatorum non stetit, et in cathedra derisorum non sedit.
Septuagint
μακάριος ἀνήρ ὃς οὐκ ἐπορεύθη ἐν βουλῇ ἀσεβῶν καὶ ἐν ὁδῷ ἁμαρτωλῶν οὐκ ἔστη καὶ ἐπὶ καθέδραν λοιμῶν οὐκ ἐκάθισεν

Breaking down the Latin

Secondly, let's look at the Latin with a word by word literal translation:

Beatus (the happy/blessed/fortunate) vir (the man)  qui (who) non (not) abiit (he walked) in consilio (in the council) impiorum (of the wicked) et (and) in via (in the way) peccatorum (of the sinners) non (not) stetit (he stood), et (and) in cathedra (in the seat) pestilentiae (of pestilence)  non (not) sedit (he sat)

The key vocab for the verse is set out below (mainly taken from Britt's Dictionary of the psalter):

beatus, a, um  happy, blessed, fortunate.  Hebrew equiv to ‘O happiness of’
vir, viri, m., a man, any human being,
abeo, ii, itum, ire, to go away, depart;  die; flow;  walk,  to bear, conduct, or deport one's self
consilium, ii, n.   a taking counsel, a deliberation, consultation; His plan, counsel, design.  
impius, ii, m. sinners, the wicked, the godless,
peccator, oris, m.  a sinner, transgressor; the wicked, the godless.
sto, steti, statum, are, to stand, stand up, remain standing. continue.
cathedra, ae. F a chair, seat.
pestilentia, ae, f pestilence, plague 
sedeo, sedi, sessum, ere 2, to sit; dwell, live;  consult with others of a like mind;  to sit on a throne, to rule, reign

The box below provides a number of English translations for comparison purposes.  Note that the Monastic Diurnal and Knox essentially follow the Hebrew Masoretic Text (gathering of scoffers) rather than the Septuagint/Vulgate text tradition.

Douay-Rheims (DR)
Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence.
Brenton’s
Septuagint (Brenton)
Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of evil men.
Monastic Diurnal (MD)
Blessed is the man that followeth not the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the path of sinners, nor sitteth in the company of scoffers.
RSV
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Coverdale
Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of the scornful.
Knox
Blessed is the man who does not guide his steps by ill counsel, or turn aside where sinners walk, or, where scornful souls gather, sit down to rest;


Interpreting the psalm


The first two verses of Psalm 1 can essentially be seen as another way of presenting to us the injunction, 'Turn away from evil and do good'.

True happiness

The psalter opens by asserting that the key reason for turning away from evil is to obtain happiness.

This is counter-intuitive for many: most sins are about self-indulgence and the pursuit of what people falsely perceive as sources of happiness, such as wealth and pleasure.  The Christian view, though, is different.  St Robert Bellarmine, for example, tells us that:
 …happiness, as far at is attainable in this world, is only to be had in conjunction with true justice…”For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  For the truly just alone are the friends of God...happy is he who is really just...that is to say, who has not followed the counsel, laws, or opinions of the wicked, which are altogether at variance with the way, that is, the Law of God…
Christ as the perfect man who we must imitate

The Fathers (with a few notable exceptions such as SS Hilary and Jerome) generally agree that the blessed man of the psalm should be understood as meaning Christ, since perfect happiness for sinful man is only perfectly attainable in heaven.  St Augustine, for example, explains that: 
This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man. For He came indeed in the way of sinners, by being born as sinners are; but He "stood" not therein, for that the enticements of the world held Him not. He willed not an earthly kingdom, with pride, which is well taken for "the seat of pestilence;" for that there is hardly any one who is free from the love of rule, and craves not human glory... "the seat of pestilence" may be more appropriately understood of hurtful doctrine; "whose word spreadeth as a canker." For he "went away," when he drew back from God. He "stood," when he took pleasure in sin. He "sat," when, confirmed in his pride, he could not go back, unless set free by Him.
But of course it also applies to those who would imitate him, as Cassiodorus makes clear:
But in Psalm 143 the prophet reminds us that the adjective has two senses: They have called the people blessed that have these things: but blessed is that people whose god is the Lord. So in the worldly sense the blessed man is he who thinks that he is supported by the greatest security, and who continues in abiding joy and worldly abundance. But the psalmist splendidly appended man to the second sense of blessed, which is deterred from its purpose by no opposition. Vir (man) derives from vires, strength.' In his endurance he admits of no failure, and in his prosperity of no proud self-inflation. Rather, he is immovable and steadfast in mind, strengthened by contemplation of heavenly things, and abidingly fearless…
He sees the rest of the verse as excluding Christ from the three faults man is prone to, viz
failings of thought, word, and deed.

The path to perdition

Several of the Fathers and Theologians provide extended explanations of the significance of the walk/stood/sit progression of the verse.

St Thomas Aquinas, for example, points to three stages in the progression of sin in relation to making the choice we all have to make between the path of good and the path of evil: 
As long as a man is deliberating, he is going; second, consent and execution, that is, in operation; He says of the ungodly, because impiety is a sin against God, and of sinners, as against one's neighbour, and in the chair; behold the third, namely to induce others to sin. In a chair thus as an authoritative teacher, and teaching others to sin and therefore he says, pestilence, because a pestilence is an infective disease…Thus there is the right way to happiness, first that we should submit ourselves to God.
St Liguori developed this 'triple gradation of sinfulness' as follows:

  • Abiit, one turns away from good - consilio means temptation and impiorum bad principles;
  • Stetit, one takes part in evil  - via means going astray, while peccatorum bad conduct; and 
  • Sedit, one settles down in it through habit - with cathedra, the giving of scandal, and pestilentia, utter corruption.

Theodoret of Cyrus ties all these ideas together nicely, I think, explaining that the title blessed refers to Christ's divinity, but is one he offers to share with the just:
Very appropriately did mighty David set forth a beatitude as the beginning of his composition, imitating him who is both his son and his Lord – I mean Christ the Saviour – who began his teaching to the holy disciples with the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, he said, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   
Now, Christ the lord is son of David in his humanity according to that verse of the holy Gospels, Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of Abraham.  But as God he is his Lord and Creator: his own words are as follows, The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right.  So he blesses the person who neither shared the way with the ungodly, nor took seriously the counsel of sinners…but shunned the abiding contagion of the corrupt.   
Now the epithet blessed is a divine title; the divine Apostle is witness to this in his exclamation, O blessed and sole rule, King of kings and Lord of lords.  But the Lord God shared this, too, with human beings, as he did other things
Vulgate
Douay Rheims translation


Beátus vir, qui non ábiit in consílio impiórum, et in via peccatórum non stetit, * et in cáthedra pestiléntiæ non sedit
Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence:
2  Sed in lege Dómini volúntas ejus, * et in lege ejus meditábitur die ac nocte.
But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
3  Et erit tamquam lignum, quod plantátum est secus decúrsus aquárum, * quod fructum suum dabit in témpore suo:
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
4  Et fólium ejus non défluet: * et ómnia quæcúmque fáciet, prosperabúntur.
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
Non sic ímpii, non sic: * sed tamquam pulvis, quem prójicit ventus a fácie terræ.
Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind drives from the face of the earth.
6  Ideo non resúrgent ímpii in judício: * neque peccatóres in concílio justórum.
Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.
7  Quóniam novit Dóminus viam justórum: * et iter impiórum períbit.
For the Lord knows the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

You can find the next set of notes in this series here.