Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Psalm 118 (119) Zain: Pray for the conversion of souls

Continuing this series on Psalm 118 (119), today’s stanza of  encourages us to keep God’s promises to us firm in our mind so that we can withstand the assaults of those who attack us in this world, and it has a few verses in it of particular note, so I’ll linger over this stanza for a couple of days in order to draw them out.

He has put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble…

Verses 50 and 51 set a contrast that echoes throughout Scripture, between the proud and the humble:

“This has comforted me in my humiliation: because your word has enlivened me.
The proud did iniquitously altogether: but I declined not from your law.”

As we go about our earthly life, the pilgrimage referred to in verse 54, we will face difficulties and humiliations. We can accept them peaceably, as things to learn and grow from, and stay fast in God’s way knowing that God has promised he will always be with us; this is the path of humility, modeled for us by Our Lady.

Or we can scream and shout, insist that we are in control, and attempt to impose our will on ourselves and others, and in the process, commit to the way of sin. This is the path of the proud.

How should we respond to the attacks of the proud?

The psalm recognizes that those trying to pursue the good will come under attack, and it instructs us on what to do.

First, cling fast to God’s law, stay on the path ourselves no matter the provocation.

Secondly, remember that justice will be served eventually, one way or another. Verse 53 invites us to remember the constant theme of the Old Testament, that evil will be punished, and good rewarded:

“I remembered, O Lord, your judgments of old: and I was comforted.”

Thirdly though, and perhaps most importantly, it reminds us that we should be horrified at the prospect of others going to hell. There is still hope of redemption for even the worst sinner while he remains alive, and thus we must pray for the conversion of such souls:

“A fainting has taken hold of me, because of the wicked that forsake your law.”

A verse by verse analysis

Today I'll provide the notes on Verses 49-53, the rest of the stanza tomorrow.

49 Memor esto verbi tui servo tuo, in quo mihi spem dedisti.

Be mindful of your word to your servant, in which you have given me hope.

Memor esto (imperative future of sum, esse, to be) = Be mindful

God is, of course, always ‘mindful’ of us or we would cease to exist! But he is said to be mindful of one when He is favorably disposed towards him or bestows favors on him.

memor, oris mindful of, thoughtful of. According to Britt, often translated by the verbs, to remember, call to mind, think of, take thought for, recall, recount, etc. God

verbi tui servo tuo= of your word to your servant

verbum, i, n.,word, command, edict, also a promise; saying, speech; Law, the Eternal Son.
servus, i, m., a slave, servant; servants of the Lord, devout men who keep the law; the people, i.e., the Israelites

in quo mihi spem dedisti= in which you have given me hope

spes, spei, f., hope; the object of hope; the thing hoped for; one who or that which furnishes ground for trust, confidence
do, dedi, datum, are, to give,

Bellarmine comments that: “God is not subject to forgetfulness, nor to fickleness, nor to retracting what he says; but he is, by a figure of speech, said to forget when he defers the execution of a promise, as if he had altogether forgotten it. Now, that he does designedly; and, though determined on carrying out his decrees, he still wishes his faithful servants to ask him to carry them out; and thus, prayer becomes one of the means through which God decreed to fulfill his promis¬es.”

50 Hæc me consolata est in humilitate mea, quia eloquium tuum vivificavit me.
This has comforted me in my humiliation: because your word has enlivened me.

Hæc me consolata est= This has comforted me

The ‘this’ here does not, according to St Robert Bellarmine refer back to the previous verse, but rather to the second phrase, God’s reviving word.

hic, haec, hoc, demon, pron., this
consolor, atus sum, ari, Active, to comfort, console, encourage; Passive, to be comforted, etc.

in humilitate mea= in my misery/humiliation/distress/affliction

humilitas, atis, f affliction, humiliation, wretchedness, misery.

quia eloquium tuum vivificavit me = because your word/promise has revived me.

quia, conj. for, because, that. truly, surely, indeed
eloquium, ii, n. , a word, oracle, speech, utterance, promise.
vivifico, avi, atum, are to quicken, give life to, vivify.

In the first verse he had hope, why? Because of God’s promises, a promise to exalt the lowly and humbled.

51 Superbi inique agebant usquequaque; a lege autem tua non declinavi.
The proud did iniquitously altogether: but I declined not from your law.

Superbi inique =The proud wickedly/unjustly

superbus, Subst., the proud, etc., at times connoting the idea of unfriendliness, ambition to subject others.
inique, adv. unjustly, wrongfully, wickedly

agebant usquequaque = they [the proud] were acting utterly [wickedly]

ago, egi, actum, ere 3 , to set in motion;to act, do, deal with inique agere, to act wickedly, to be false or disloyal to.
usquequaque, adv., utterly, altogether, exceedingly

ie Superbi inique agebant usquequaque =The proud acted totally unjustly/with the utmost wickedness

The proud here are portrayed as persecutors of the pious.

a lege autem tua =but from your law.

lex, legis, a law; the Law of God. the will of God
autem, adversative conj., but, on the contrary, however

non declinavi = I have not departed/swerved/turned away

declino, avi, atum, are, to bend from the straight path, to turn aside or away, depart from in a lit. or fig. sense; intransitive, to turn aside, go astray

But despite their evil efforts, the psalmist has stayed the course.

52 Memor fui judiciorum tuorum a sæculo, Domine, et consolatus sum.
I remembered, O Lord, your judgments of old: and I was comforted.

Memor fui (pf of sum) =I have been mindful

memor, oris mindful of, thoughtful of

judiciorum tuorum =of your judgments

judicium, i, n. judgment, decrees; law, commandment; the power, or faculty of judging wisely; justice.

a sæculo, Domine= from of old, O Lord

saeculum, i, n., a lifetime, generation, age; an indefinite period of time; forever, eternity; from of old, i.e., in ages past.

et consolatus sum= and I was comforted

consolor, atus sum, ari, Active, to comfort, console, encourage; Passive, to be comforted, etc.

Here we are told to remember the rewards and punishments meted out through the history chronicled in the Old Testament: so that fear of punishment might draw us back from sin, while hope of heaven draws us on to the good.

53 Defectio tenuit me, pro peccatoribus derelinquentibus legem tuam.
A fainting has taken hold of me, because of the wicked that forsake your law.

Defectio tenuit me= A fainting has seized me

The MT Hebrew suggests hot indignation or horror. The Septuagint Greek (ἀθυμία) however suggests despair or despondency.

defectio, onis, f. a fainting.
teneo, ui, tentum, ere 2, to hold, hold fast, seize.

pro peccatoribus = for the sinners

peccator, oris, m. a sinner, transgressor; the wicked, the godless

derelinquentibus legem tuam =transgressing against your law

delinquo, liqui, lictum, ere 3, to fail, offend, sin, transgress. =on account of sinners

Cassiodorus comments that: “Here the devotion of their holy association is expounded: they say that they are faint with grief because sinners were seen to abandon the Lord's law. Inevitably a holy person feels sorrow at a neighbour's guilt, for the devoted spirit longs for the salvation of all, and is heartbroken on seeing punishment looming over the person who he prays will not sin; he knows that evil gratuitously inflicted is more offensive to his Creator.”


And you can find notes on the rest of this stanza here.

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