Because I’ve looked in some detail elsewhere at the three middle psalms of Vespers of the Dead, Psalms 119, 120 and 129, I’m not going to give them the verse by verse treatment here, but instead just an overview.
Yesterday I posted on Psalm 129, the fourth psalm of this Office.
Today I want to take a quick look at Psalm 119, then tomorrow I’ll look at Psalm 120, before moving to a verse by verse look at the last Psalm of Vespers of the Dead, Psalm 137.
In the traditional Roman Office, Psalm 119 is said on Monday at Vespers; in the Benedictine Office at Terce from Tuesday to Saturday.
First, here is the whole psalm, in the Vulgate and Douay-Rheims translations:
Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi, et exaudivit me.
In my trouble I cried to the Lord: and he heard me.
Domine, libera animam meam a labiis iniquis et a lingua dolosa.
O Lord, deliver my soul from wicked lips, and a deceitful tongue.
Quid detur tibi, aut quid apponatur tibi ad linguam dolosam?
What shall be given to you, or what shall be added to you, to a deceitful tongue?
Sagittæ potentis acutæ, cum carbonibus desolatoriis.
The sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals that lay waste.
Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est! habitavi cum habitantibus Cedar; multum incola fuit anima mea.
Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged! I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar: My soul has been long a sojourner.
Cum his qui oderunt pacem eram pacificus; cum loquebar illis, impugnabant me gratis.
With them that hated peace I was peaceable: when I spoke to them they fought against me without cause.
Our earthly pilgrimage draws to a close…
Psalm 119 (120), like Psalm 120 and 129, is one of the gradual psalms or pilgrim songs.
In the daily Office, it serves as a reminder that we are all on a journey towards heaven.
In the context of the Office of the Dead, the realization that the exile has been living too long far from his true home takes on a more immediate application to the situation of the dying soul. In this context, it teaches us that a key step for our spiritual progress is to detach ourselves from earthly things and remember that our true hope is not the extension of this life, but to dwell in heaven.
And it is surely a plea for protection from all the temptations as we make this final journey that might prevent us from final perseverance.