This final psalm of the Matins segment of Maundy Thursday Tenebrae opens by depicting the Lord, still keeping vigil in the Garden as he waits for his arrest, devoid of comfort:
"I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted... I am so troubled that I cannot speak." (RSV)
The problem he is struggling with is the fate of mankind, which hangs now in the balance:
"Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love for ever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"
Yet, the psalm reminds us, this is the God who saves, who parted the Red Sea to lead his people out of Egypt, and will do so again in the baptism of the Cross. We can have no doubt of the answer, for God's love for us is infinite.
The real question is whether we in turn can respond to this great love poured out as grace for us, and take up the path of sanctity and salvation.
Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi : * voce mea ad Deum, et inténdit mihi.
In die tribulatiónis meæ Deum exquisívi, mánibus meis nocte contra eum : * et non sum decéptus.
Rénuit consolári ánima mea, * memor fui Dei, et delectátus sum, et exercitátus sum : et defécit spíritus meus.
Anticipavérunt vigílias óculi mei : * turbátus sum, et non sum locútus.
Cogitávi dies antíquos : * et annos ætérnos in mente hábui.
Et meditátus sum nocte cum corde meo, * et exercitábar, et scopébam spíritum meum.
Numquid in ætérnum projíciet Deus : * aut non appónet ut complacítior sit adhuc?
Aut in finem misericórdiam suam abscíndet, * a generatióne in generatiónem?
Aut obliviscétur miseréri Deus : * aut continébit in ira sua misericórdias suas?
Et dixi : Nunc cœpi : * hæc mutátio déxteræ Excélsi.
Memor fui óperum Dómini : * quia memor ero ab inítio mirabílium tuórum.
Et meditábor in ómnibus opéribus tuis : * et in adinventiónibus tuis exercébor.
Deus, in sancto via tua : quis Deus magnus sicut Deus noster? * tu es Deus qui facis mirabília.
Notam fecísti in pópulis virtútem tuam : * Redemísti in bráchio tuo pópulum tuum fílios Jacob et Joseph.
Vidérunt te aquæ, Deus, vidérunt te aquæ : * et timuérunt et turbátæ sunt abyssi.
Multitúdo sónitus aquárum : * vocem dedérunt nubes.
Etenim sagíttæ tuæ tránseunt : * vox tonítrui tui in rota.
Illuxérunt coruscatiónes tuæ orbi terræ : * commóta est, et contrémuit terra.
In mari via tua, et sémitæ tuæ in aquis multis : * et vestígia tua non cognoscéntur.
Deduxísti sicut oves pópulum tuum, * in manu Móysi et Aaron.
And the English:
I cried to the Lord with my voice; to God with my voice, and he gave ear to me.
In the days of my trouble I sought God, with my hands lifted up to him in the night, and I was not deceived.
My soul refused to be comforted: I remembered God, and was delighted, and was exercised, and my spirit swooned away.
My eyes prevented the watches: I was troubled, and I spoke not.
I thought upon the days of old: and I had in my mind the eternal years.
And I meditated in the night with my own heart: and I was exercised and I swept my spirit.
Will God then cast off for ever? Or will he never be more favourable again?
Or will he cut off his mercy for ever, from generation to generation?
Or will God forget to show mercy? Or will he in his anger shut up his mercies?
And I said, Now have I begun: this is the change of the right hand of the most High.
With your arm you have redeemed your people the children of Jacob and of Joseph.
The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you: and they were afraid, and the depths were troubled.
Great was the noise of the waters: the clouds sent out a sound.
For your arrows pass: The voice of your thunder in a wheel.
Your lightnings enlightened the world: the earth shook and trembled.
Your way is in the sea, and your paths in many waters: and your footsteps shall not be known.
You have conducted your people like sheep, by the hand of Moses and Aaron
Tenebrae of Holy Thursday
Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76