Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Psalms verse by verse - Psalm 22/3: Super aquam refectionis

Continuing today with the verse by verse look at Psalm 22, here is the first half of the psalm with today’s verse highlighted.

Psalmus David.
A psalm for David

Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: in loco pascuæ, ibi me collocavit.
The Lord rules me: and I shall want nothing. He has set me in a place of pasture

Super aquam refectionis educavit me; animam meam convertit.
He has brought me up, on the water of refreshment: He has converted my soul.

Deduxit me super semitas justitiæ propter nomen suum.
Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

The imagery of the verse is repeated in Revelation 7:16-17: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Phrase by phrase

Here is verse 3 phrase by phrase:

Super (upon/ to) aquam (the water) refectiónis (of refreshment) = to refreshing/restoring water)

The redundant use of ‘super’ here (super with the accusative case normally means over, upon, above) seems to be a case of translationese, whereby the translator was intent on reproducing the structures of the Greek and Hebrew very literally.

educávit me=he has led me

ánimam meam convértit =he has converted/brought back/revived/refreshed my soul

Green pastures and the refreshing waters of baptism

Pope Benedict XVI comments on this verse:

“The Psalmist refers to this experience by calling God his shepherd and letting God lead him to safe pastures: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps 23[22]:2-3).

The vision that unfolds before our eyes is that of green pastures and springs of clear water, oases of peace to which the shepherd leads his flock, symbols of the places of life towards which the Lord leads the Psalmist, who feels like the sheep lying on the grass beside a stream, resting rather than in a state of tension or alarm, peaceful and trusting, because it is a safe place, the water is fresh and the shepherd is watching over them.

And let us not forget here that the scene elicited by the Psalm is set in a land that is largely desert, on which the scorching sun beats down, where the Middle-Eastern semi-nomad shepherd lives with his flock in the parched steppes that surround the villages. Nevertheless the shepherd knows where to find grass and fresh water, essential to life, he can lead the way to oases in which the soul is “restored” and where it is possible to recover strength and new energy to start out afresh on the journey.

As the Psalmist says, God guides him to “green pastures” and “still waters”, where everything is superabundant, everything is given in plenty. If the Lord is the Shepherd, even in the desert, a desolate place of death, the certainty of a radical presence of life is not absent, so that he is able to say “I shall not want”. Indeed, the shepherd has at heart the good of his flock, he adapts his own pace and needs to those of his sheep, he walks and lives with them, leading them on paths “of righteousness”, that is, suitable for them, paying attention to their needs and not to his own. The safety of his sheep is a priority for him and he complies with this in leading his flock.”


super, with, on, upon, for, because of.
aqua, ae, /., water
refectio, onis, a restoring, repairing; refreshment.
educo, duxi, ductum, ere 3, to lead out or forth.
anima, ae, soul, life, me
meus a um my, mine
converto, verti, versum, ere 3, to turn, change, alter, bring back; quicken, refresh; bring back; convert, turn from sin

The next post looks at verse 4 of the psalm.

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