Thursday, October 13, 2011

Psalm 3: Tu autem Domine (v3)

Continuing on with this series on Psalm 3, we are now up to verse 3:

Dómine quid multiplicáti sunt qui tríbulant me? multi insúrgunt advérsum me.
Multi dicunt ánimæ meæ: Non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.
Tu autem, Dómine, suscéptor meus es, glória mea, et exáltans caput meum.

The Douay-Rheims translates the verse as: "But thou, O Lord art my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.

The one God repels many enemies...

This verse is an emphatic contradiction of the previous verse (many say to me, God will not help him), as Pope Benedict XVI's commentary makes clear

"Thus in our Psalm the person praying is called to respond with faith to the attacks of the wicked: his foes — as I said — deny that God can help him; yet he invokes God, he calls him by name, “Lord”, and then turns to him with an emphatic “thou/you” that expresses a solid, sturdy relationship and implies the certainty of the divine response: “But you, O Lord are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill” (vv. 4-5). The vision of the enemies then disappears, they have not triumphed because the one who believes in God is sure that God is his friend. Only the “thou/you” of God is left. Now only One opposes the “many”, but this One is far greater, far more powerful, than many adversaries. The Lord is help, defence and salvation; as a shield he protects the person who entrusts himself to him and enables him to lift his head in the gesture of triumph and victory."

Phrase by phrase

Now let's take a look at the Latin phrase by phrase:

Tu (you) autem (but) Domine (O Lord) = But you O Lord

suscéptor (protector/defender/helper) meus (my) es (you are) = you are my protector

It is worth noting that the Masoretic Hebrew Text here, which the Neo-Vulgate uses as its basis (and the English version of Pope Benedict's talk quotes using the RSV translation), is rather more vivid and anthropomorphic than the Vulgate, suggesting that 'God is a shield about me'.

glória (the glory) mea (my)= my glory

This could perhaps be expanded out as ‘the one I glory in’.

et (and) exáltans (lifting up) =and lifting up

caput (head) meum (my) =my head

‘exaltare caput’, while literally meaning lifting up my head really means to give confidence.

Reflection on the verse

St Augustine comments on this verse in the City of God (Bk I, ch 28), putting it in the context of the choice we must all make for or against God:

"Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”

Vocabulary list

Here's the word list for the verse:

tu- you
autem – but
dominus i m – Lord
susceptor, oris, m. a protector, helper, defender, guardian; a stay, support
meus mea meum – my, mine
gloria, ae, glory, honor, majesty
et - and
exsulto, avi, atum, are to spring, leap, or jump up; to exult, to rejoice exceedingly
caput, itis, n. the head, caput exaltare, to lift up the head of another is to honor or exalt him

For the next part in this series, go here.

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