Monday, October 24, 2016

Psalm 35 - Mercy and truth**updated


Image result for fountain of life
Gospel of Saint-Médard de Soissons

Monday - Lauds, Psalm 35 (36) - Dixit injústus ut delínquat in semetípso
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem. Servo Domini ipsi David.
Unto the end, for the servant of God, David himself.
1. Dixit injústus ut delínquat in semetípso: * non est timor Dei ante óculos ejus.
The unjust has said within himself, that he would sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2  Quóniam dolóse egit in conspéctu ejus: * ut inveniátur iníquitas ejus ad ódium.
For in his sight he has done deceitfully, that his iniquity may be found unto hatred.
3  Verba oris ejus iníquitas, et dolus: * nóluit intellígere ut bene ágeret.
The words of his mouth are iniquity and guile: he would not understand that he might do well
4  Iniquitátem meditátus est in cubíli suo: * ástitit omni viæ non bonæ, malítiam autem non odívit.
He has devised iniquity on his bed, he has set himself on every way that is not good: but evil he has not hated.
5  Dómine, in cælo misericórdia tua: * et véritas tua usque ad nubes.
O Lord, your mercy is in heaven, and your truth reaches even to the clouds.
6  Justítia tua sicut montes Dei: * judícia tua abyssus multa.
Your justice is as the mountains of God, your judgments are a great deep.
7  Hómines, et juménta salvábis, Dómine: * quemádmodum multiplicásti misericórdiam tuam, Deus,
Men and beasts you will preserve, O Lord: O how have you multiplied your mercy, O God!

8  Fílii autem hóminum, * in tégmine alárum tuárum sperábunt.
But the children of men shall put their trust under the covert of your wings.
9  Inebriabúntur ab ubertáte domus tuæ: * et torrénte voluptátis tuæ potábis eos.
They shall be inebriated with the plenty of your house; and you shall make them drink of the torrent of your pleasure.
10  Quóniam apud te est fons vitæ: * et in lúmine tuo vidébimus lumen.
For with you is the fountain of life; and in your light we shall see light
11  Præténde misericórdiam tuam sciéntibus te, * et justítiam tuam his, qui recto sunt corde.
Extend your mercy to them that know you, and your justice to them that are right in heart.

The claims of Psalm 35 to be placed at Lauds seem, on the face of it, to be somewhat strained: there are no real references in it to morning prayer, and only a general reference to God as light in verse 10.

Accordingly, one possible reason for its inclusion is perhaps the need to cut out a few psalms in order to ensure that Tuesday Matins starts at Psalm 45, as much as any inherent claims to appropriateness to the hour.

**St Bede, however, does supply a useful reflection on verse 10 that perhaps assists in understanding why it has been included in Lauds.

Baptism and God's protection of his own

Still, it does have a thematic relationship to the canticle of the day through its reference to the fountain of life, fons vitae, (Isaiah 12 refers to the 'waters with joy out of the saviour's fountains', which, like verse 10 of the psalm, can be interpreted as a reference to baptism, a key theme in the Office on Mondays.

There are some other possible reasons for its selection though.  The second variable psalms of Lauds for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all contain a reference to the shelter offered by God's wings, an image Jesus used when contemplating the coming destruction of Jerusalem:

Matthew 23:37:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, quæ occidis prophetas, et lapidas eos, qui ad te missi sunt, quoties volui congregare filios tuos, quemadmodum gallina congregat pullos suos sub alas, et noluisti? 
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, still murdering the prophets, and stoning the messengers that are sent to thee, how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it!

Psalm 62
8  Et in velaménto alárum tuárum exsultábo, adhæsit ánima mea post te: * me suscépit déxtera tua.
And I will rejoice under the covert of your wings: 9 My soul has stuck close to you: your right hand has received me.

Psalm 35
8  Et in velaménto alárum tuárum exsultábo, adhæsit ánima mea post te: * me suscépit déxtera tua.
And I will rejoice under the covert of your wings: 9 My soul has stuck close to you: your right hand has received me.

Psalm 56
2  Et in umbra alárum tuárum sperábo: * donec tránseat iníquitas.
And in the shadow of your wings will I hope, until iniquity pass away.

All three also have references to evil/lying tongues of the wicked, providing a lead into what seems to be the unifying thread for this set of psalms, God's mercy and truth:

Psalm 62
10  Rex vero lætábitur in Deo, laudabúntur omnes qui jurant in eo: * quia obstrúctum est os loquéntium iníqua.
12 But the king shall rejoice in God, all they shall be praised that swear by him: because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things.

Psalm 35
1. Dixit injústus ut delínquat in semetípso: * non est timor Dei ante óculos ejus.
The unjust has said within himself, that he would sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2  Quóniam dolóse egit in conspéctu ejus: * ut inveniátur iníquitas ejus ad ódium.
For in his sight he has done deceitfully, that his iniquity may be found unto hatred.
3  Verba oris ejus iníquitas, et dolus: * nóluit intellígere ut bene ágeret.
The words of his mouth are iniquity and guile: he would not understand that he might do well

Psalm 56
6  Fílii hóminum dentes eórum arma et sagíttæ: * et lingua eórum gládius acútus.
The sons of men, whose teeth are weapons and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

Mercy and truth

The second of the variable psalms for both Monday and Tuesday were both seen by the Fathers as referring to the events of David and Saul in the cave (I Samuel 24), when David spared Saul's life, though the reference is rather more explicit in the title of Psalm 56.

Both psalms also both contain references to God as a source of both mercy (misercordia) and truth (veritas), something of a theme for the second of the variable psalms at Lauds each day:
  • For your mercy is better than lives: you my lips will praise... because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things (Ps 62, Sunday)
  • O Lord, your mercy is in heaven, and your truth reaches even to the clouds....Extend your mercy to them that know you, and your justice to them that are right in heart (Ps 35, Monday);
  • God has sent his mercy and his truth, and he has delivered my soul...For your mercy is magnified even to the heavens: and your truth unto the clouds (Ps 56, Tuesday);
  • We are filled in the morning with your mercy...(Ps 89, Thursday); and 
  • To show forth your mercy in the morning, and your truth in the night (Ps 91, Friday).
Turn away from evil

The main focus of Psalm 35, though, is a discussion on the nature of evil.  St Athanasius comments: 
And when you see how zealous are the lawless in their evil-doing, think not the evil is innate in them, as some false teachers say, but read Psalm 35 and you will see they are themselves the authors of their sin.
The psalmist points out that the root of sin is a lack of fear of the Lord.  It is not just that the wicked man does evil; it is that he does it with malice aforethought.  He actively rejects the truth, and refuses to turn away from the horror of what he is doing. Others, the psalmist suggests, deceive themselves.

Cultivate humility

St Benedict, it is worth noting, uses these verses to contrast what the monk who seeks humility must do, namely keep the fear of God in front of his eyes, in RB 7.  

As St Ligouri notes, though, the psalm does not end there:
The psalmist here shows how great, on the one hand, is the malice of sinners, and, on the other hand, how great is the mercy of God set forth to convert them. It also at the same time makes known with what goodness our Lord treats the just
The psalm goes on to point out that even in the face of man’s tendency to evil, God offers truth, justice and mercy to all, reaching down from the heavens.  He offers help, refuge and the blessing of prosperity.

**In your light...

Verse 10 can readily be interpreted as meaning that through Christ we are offered the fountain of life, calling to mind the image of baptism, and access to the light. St Bede the Venerable, however, supplies an additional layer of meaning for the verse that will be of interest, in his commentary on Nehemiah 3:15, which talks about rebuilding the walls of the Pool of Siloa.  He says:
The pool of Siloa (which means 'sent'), where the man born blind was given light (John 9:7) stands for the Lord Saviour who was sent by God the Father for our illumination.  The spring of this pool can be very aptly understood as the same Father from whom he was born, about which the psalmist well says: For with you is the spring of life; in your light we shall see light...The walls of the Pool of Siloa are built too when the very firm and invincible testimonies of the Scriptures, in which the mystery of the Lord's incarnation is described, are rooted in the midst of the faithful. trans DeGregorio,  pg 170-1
Humility

The psalm ends with a plea to keep us humble, and to protect us from being led astray, knowing that evil doers come to nothing in the end.

I've previously provided notes on this psalm in the context of the Office of Monday and Tenebrae of Maundy Thursday.


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