Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lectio notes on the Propers: Psalm 24 (25), Offertory

St Albans Psalter, c12th

Today's meditation notes focus on the Offertory for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Ad te Domine levavi.

This text actually gets several runs at Mass during the liturgical year: as an Offertory it is also used on the first Sunday of Advent, the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, on Wednesday during the second week of Lent; the text also gets a few runs as an Introit and in a tract.

A paradoxical text

The opening verse of the Offertory, 'Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam', or 'To you, O Lord, I have lifted up my soul', actually seems at first blush an odd choice to go with a Gospel that honours keeping one's eyes looking at the ground, as St Benedict instructs in his Rule, to show one's humility, in contrast to the over-bold Pharisee.

But in fact the line reflects the idea that the just man lifts up his soul, conscious of his sinfulness, rather than thinking, as some protestant sects do, that once saved always saved!

The text then goes on to make the connection to the Gospel clearer, pointing to the fact that though the Pharisee may sneer at the publican now, in the future, when our hope is realized in heaven things will be different: 'Deus meus, in te confido' (My God, I put my trust), non erubescam, neque irrideant me inimici mei (let me not be ashamed, neither let my enemies laugh at me), etenim universi, qui te expectant non confundentur (for none of them that wait on you will be confounded). Our faith, in other words, may bring forth derision now, but we must persevere in the hope of ultimate vindication.

The verses of the Offertory point to the whole psalm...

The longer setting of the Offertory in the Offertoriale Triplex offers a few extra thoughts to consider: first a plea for God to direct us in truth and teach us (Dírige me in veritáte tua, et doce me: quia tu es, Deus, salutaris meus, et te sustínui tota die), and secondly to look down upon us and have mercy (réspice in me, et miserére mei Domine...).

The really key verse of this psalm though in the context of today's Gospel is one not actually included in the chant setting, namely, 'Vide humilitátem meam, et labórem meum: et dimítte univérsa delícta mea', or 'See my abjection and my labour; and forgive me all my sins'.

The message of today's Gospel, and of this psalm, is that the difference between the just and unjust man is acknowledgement of our continuing sinful state, and willingness to keep trying to do better. St Robert Bellarmine comments:

"...For, though a soul fearing God may be grievously afflicted, and take great pains in resisting concupiscence, still the just man falls seven times; and yet, from his fall, he may be proved to be just; because, at once, by his tears, his prayers, and his contrition, he quickly wipes away the filth and dirt into which he had incautiously fallen..."

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