Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lectio notes on the propers for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Psalm 47 (48)/1

I want to start a series today providing notes to support lectio divina on some of the psalm texts used in the Mass propers.

The Mass propers tend to be relatively neglected when it comes to sermons and Mass preparation.  But they are a rich source for lectio, particularly as the Gregorian chant settings of them provide an interesting supplement to the writings of the Fathers and Theologians as to their interpretation.

Psalm 47

Both the Introit and the Alleluia for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost in the Extraordinary Form use verses from Psalm 47 (48 in the Hebrew Masoretic Text numbering) point to a theme of the heavenly city of God, presented to us in Christ; realized for us in the Church and her saints, especially Our Lady; and prefigured by the Temple.  In the Benedictine Office it is said on Tuesday at Matins as part of a group of psalms focused on the Temple and foreshadowing the revelation of Christ and his Church as the true Temple.

c16th Russian icon, the Church Militant
The text of  the Alleluia verse

The Alleluia uses the first verse of the psalm (which is also the verse of the Introit):

Magnus Dóminus, et laudábilis valde [nimis] * in civitáte Dei [nostri], in monte sancto ejus.

The Douay-Rheims translates it as 'Great is the Lord (magnus Dominus), and exceedingly to be praised (et laudabilis valde) in the city of God (in civitate Dei), in his holy mountain (in monte sancto ejus)'. Note that the Vulgate substitutes 'nimis' for 'valde' (both of which mean exceedingly) and adds 'nostri' (our) as indicated in square brackets. The Neo-Vulgate sticks with the Vulgate text for this verse.


St Robert Bellarmine writes:
"The Prophet, being about to praise a certain edifice, commences by praising the architect, and says that in the holy city the wonderful skill and wisdom of God, who built it, is truly displayed. "Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised;" and so he is, whether we look at his essence, his power, his wisdom, his justice, or his mercy, for all are infinite, everlasting, and incomprehensible; and thus, so much is God "exceedingly to be praised," that all the angels, all men, even all his own works would not suffice thereto; but of all things we have revealed, there is no one thing can give us a greater idea of his greatness, or for which we should praise and thank him more, than the establishment of his Church; and, therefore, the Prophet adds, "in the city of our God, in his holy mountain;" that is to say, the greatness of God, and for which he deserves so much praise, is conspicuous in the foundation and construction of his Church, which is "the city of our God, in his holy mountain;" that is, made as perfect as possible. For, it is said in Isaias 2, "The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on top of mountains." And the Lord himself calls his Church "a city placed on a mountain." To touch briefly on the remarkable points of this edifice, just consider, first, the incredible variety of nations, differing in language, manners, customs, and laws, so uniting in the profession of one faith, and the use of the same sacraments, as to form one people, nay, even one family. Consider, secondly, the same Church, founded on Peter, a poor, ignorant, rude fisherman; and yet founded so firmly, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; for, in spite of that world in which Christ's Church is spending its exile, in spite of all the powers of darkness, in spite of all the persecutions of the wicked, she will ultimately arrive in safety at the land of promise; and, placed, at length, above the highest heavens, will reign undisturbed in everlasting happiness. Such things, certainly, could not be accomplished, but by the great God; that is, by a most powerful and skillful architect who, therefore, "is exceedingly to be praised," or, rather, is beyond all praise."
You can find more on this psalm here.

There are also some excellent commentaries on the psalm online, including:

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