Monday, November 14, 2011

Psalm 114/5: When shipwrecked, call for help...

Joseph Vernet 1763
Continuing on with this study of Psalm 114 (116), the first psalm of Vespers in the Office of the Dead (and otherwise said at Monday Vespers), here is the complete psalm again with today’s verse highlighted:

Diléxi, quóniam exáudiet dóminus vocem oratiónis meæ.
I have loved, because the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer.

Quia inclinávit aurem suam mihi: et in diébus meis invocábo.
Because he has inclined his ear unto me: and in my days I will call upon him.

Circumdedérunt me dolóres mortis: et perícula inférni invenérunt me.
The sorrows of death have compassed me: and the perils of hell have found me.

Tribulatiónem et dolórem invéni: et nomen Dómini invocávi.
O Dómine, líbera ánimam meam: miséricors Dóminus, et justus, et Deus noster miserétur.
Custódiens párvulos Dóminus: humiliátus sum, et liberávit me.
Convértere, ánima mea, in réquiem tuam: quia Dóminus benefécit tibi.
Quia erípuit ánimam meam de morte: óculos meos a lácrimis, pedes meos a lapsu.
Placébo Dómino in regióne vivórum.

Looking at the Latin

The Douay-Rheims translates ‘Tribulatiónem et dolórem invéni: et nomen Dómini invocávi’ as 'I met with trouble and sorrow: And I called upon the name of the Lord'.

Breaking down the Latin:

Tribulatiónem =anguish/trouble/distress (accusative)

et dolórem =and sorrow

invéni = I have found

et nomen Dómini = and the name of the Lord

invocávi = I have invoked

A slightly looser translation from the Revised Standard Version makes it ‘I suffered distress and anguish: then I called upon the name of the Lord’.

Here is the key vocab:

tribulatio, onis, /. , trouble, distress, anguish, affliction, tribulation
dolor, oris, m. , pain whether of body or of mind, grief, sorrow, affliction, sin
invenio, veni, ventum, ire, to find
invoco, avi, atum, are, to invoke, call upon (God); to put trust in
nomen, mis, n. name

In suffering and trouble we should flee to God

St John Chrysostom uses this verse to offer a brief sermon on why God allows us to be subject to distress at times in order to encourage us to look for him, and on the right dispositions needs to have our prayers heard:

“Now, what he means is this: For me it sufficed for freedom from the encircling evils to call on God. Why, then, does it often occur that we call and are not freed from problems? Because we do not call as we ought call. I mean, for proof that he is always ready to provide, listen to what he says in the Gospels: "Surely there is no one of you who, if their son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

Now, if you, wicked as you are, know how to give good gifts to those who ask you, much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those asking him." Do you see how great is his goodness, when our wickedness is brought to light in comparison with it? Since, then, our Lord is like that, let us have recourse to him and call upon him alone as our helper, and we shall find him ready to save.

After all, if those who fall victim to shipwreck and cling to a plank immediately call upon people at a distance and persuade them to treat them with humanity, though admittedly having nothing in common with them but simply apprised of their calamity, much more will the loving God, whose goodness is natural to him, rescue those in trouble if only they are prepared to have recourse to him and call upon him with a sincere intention, forsaking human hopes.

Accordingly, whenever you fall into some unexpected trouble, do not despair, but at once lift your spirits, and direct your journey to that storm-free haven, that unassailable tower, help from God. This was the reason, you see, that he allowed you to fall victim, that you might call upon him. But that is particularly the time for most people to become despondent and lose their customary reverence, when they should do the opposite: it is because he loves us deeply that he allows us to suffer distress, so that we may be united to him more diligently. For mothers, too, induce their recalcitrant children to fly to their arms by frightening them with various masks, not wanting to cause them pain, but devising these means of encouraging their approach. God, too, in like manner, always anxious to unite us with himself, like some ardent lover - or, rather, being more ardent than any lover - allows you to be brought to such states of need so as to be exercised constantly in prayer, constantly call on him and be concerned with his affairs by letting go of the others.” (St John Chrysostom Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2,  trans Robert Charles Hill, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, MA 1998, pp94).

You can find notes on the next verse here

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