Friday, December 16, 2016

Psalm 50 and building up the walls of Jerusalem

Those of you who read my other blogs, most notably Australia Incognita (which I've recently revived) will know that I am currently reading St Bede's commentary On Era and Nehemiah.

This commentary is filled with allusions to both the Rule and Office of St Benedict, and indeed I think the whole commentary can be interpreted as a meditation on St Benedict's framing of the Office around the idea of rebuilding the walls of the Church through the use of verse 16 of Psalm 50 each day to open the Office at Matins, and its links to key themes in the Rule.

The relevant verses are:

16  Dómine, lábia mea apéries: * et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise.
17  Quóniam si voluísses sacrifícium dedíssem útique: * holocáustis non delectáberis.
For if you had desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings you will not be delighted.
18  Sacrifícium Deo spíritus contribulátus: * cor contrítum, et humiliátum, Deus non despícies.
A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise.
19  Benígne fac, Dómine, in bona voluntáte tua Sion: * ut ædificéntur muri Jerúsalem.
Deal favourably, O Lord, in your good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.
20  Tunc acceptábis sacrifícium justítiæ, oblatiónes, et holocáusta: * tunc impónent super altáre tuum vítulos.
Then shall you accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon your altar.

I may say more on this anon, but for the moment I just wanted to share St Bede's commentary on Verse 19 of Psalm 50 since it seems particularly pertinent advice to attend to as we enter the final days of Advent:
For the fiftieth psalm - in which the prophet prays specifically for the construction of this city, saying Deal favourably, Oh Lord, in your good will with Zion, that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up - is one of repentance and forgiveness.   
On the fiftieth day of the Lord's resurrection, the Holy Spirit; through which not only the desire to repent is poured into us but also the gift of pardon is conferred on those who repent, came to the primitive Church.   
Now there are two precepts concerning charity, namely love of God and of neighbour, in which, once pardon for sins has been granted to us by the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to endeavour to attain eternal life.   
It is therefore most appropriate that, when rebuilding the wall of the holy city that has been destroyed by the enemies, its citizens restore it in fifty-two days, because this, undoubtedly, is the perfection of the righteous in this life - namely that they should not only, by repenting through the grace of divine inspiration, set aright whatever sins they have committed, but afterwards adorn themselves with good works in love of God and neighbour. (On Ezra and Nehemiah, trans DeGregorio, pg 189)

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