Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Psalm 3: Non timebo (v6)

David defeats the Philistines,
Morgan Bible c1240-50
Continuing on with Psalm 3, here are the verses we have looked at so far, together with today’s verse highlighted:

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.
Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi: * et exaudívit me de monte sancto suo.
Ego dormívi, et soporátus sum: * et exsurréxi, quia Dóminus suscépit me.
Non timébo míllia pópuli circumdántis me: * exsúrge, Dómine, salvum me fac, Deus meus.

Verse 6: Non timebo

The Douay-Rheims translates this verse as “I will not fear thousands of the people, surrounding me: arise, O Lord; save me, O my God.”

The previous verse told us that the psalmist was able to lie and down and sleep, confident of the Lord’s protection.  Here he has woken, refreshed and ready to do battle, even against seemingly hopeless odds. Pope Benedict XVI comments:

“And, on reawakening he finds God still beside him, as a custodian who does not fall asleep (cf. Ps 121[120]:3-4), who sustains him, who holds his hand, who never abandons him. The fear of death is vanquished by the presence of One who never dies. And even the night that is peopled by atavistic fears, the sorrowful night of solitude and anguished waiting is now transformed: what evoked death became the presence of the Eternal One.”

Phrase by phrase

Here’s a phrase by phrase literal translation:

Non timébo = I will not fear

míllia pópuli = thousands of people

Millia here is being used as a substantive, meaning a host or multitude.

circumdántis me = surrounding me

The verb circumdare has an implication of hostile intent; in short, the lynch mob is gathering.

exsúrge, Dómine = arise O Lord

Exsurge Domine is a frequently used phrase in the psalms – the Lord of course does not literally arise, as if he had been idle. Rather, this was the ancient battle cry of Israel, which we too can adopt as expressing our hope of the resurrection.

salvum me fac =save me

Salvum facere means to save, keep safe, preserve from harm

Deus meus = my God

Psalm 3 as an invitatory

I mentioned earlier in this series that Psalm 3 is said daily as a second invitatory at Matins in the traditional form of the Benedictine Office, and this verse I suspect particularly encapsulates some of the reasons St Benedict accorded it this privileged position. 

St Benedict in his own life was forced to flee friends and enemies on more than a few occasions: he fled to a religious community in the small town of Affile from the dissipation of the Rome of his time when he was a student; from the suffocating attention he received there after performing a miracle to the wilds of Subiaco; from the monks of the first abbey he led, who tried to poison him; and from the malice of a priest at Subiaco to Monte Cassino, to name but a few instances in his life.

Yet on each occasion, he rose again, strengthened to do God's will and thus bring good out of the bad, whether in the form of necessary solitude and meditation; learning from hard experience; or spreading the message of his spirituality from the mountaintop.

St Benedict's is a very resurrection-oriented, heaven focused spirituality, and this psalm is the quintessential resurrection psalm, as his contemporary Cassiodorus points out:

"Psalm 1 contains the Lord Christ's moral aspect; Psalm 2, His natural aspect, that is, His human and divine being; and Psalm 3, by speaking of His resurrection, His reflective aspect; the rationale of these runs through the whole of the divine Scriptures."

Key vocabulary

timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.
millia, n., thousands; used generally in the sense of an indefinitely large number, a host, multitude.
populus, i, ., people; the chosen people; a heathen nation
circumdo, dedi, datum, are, to surround, beset, encompass with a hostile intent; to gather round
exsurgo, surrexi, surrectum, ere 3, to rise up, arise, i.e., to come to the aid of
salvus, a, um, safe, saved, salvum facere, to save, keep safe, preserve from harm.

The next of this series can be found here.

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