Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Psalm 114/7 - Towards a truly adult faith!

Today’s verse of Psalm 114 (116) calls to mind the Gospel injunction that ‘unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 18:3).  Here it is:

Custódiens párvulos Dóminus: humiliátus sum, et liberávit me.
The Lord is the keeper of little ones: I was humbled, and he delivered me.

Looking at the Latin

Custódiens párvulos Dóminus = the Lord keeping/protecting/guarding the little ones/children/the guileless/simple = the Lord is the keeper of little ones = The Lord protects/keeps little ones

Brenton’s translation from the Septuagint makes this “The Lord preserves the simple”; the Collegeville translation is “The Lord protecteth little ones”.

humiliátus sum = I was humbled/brought low

et liberávit me = and he has freed/delivered me

Note that the neo-Vulgate changes this last phrase to use ‘salvum facere’ – to save, or preserve from harm. I’m not entirely sure that I see what this adds but…

Key words:

custodio, ivi or li, itum, ire to guard, watch, keep; to maintain, to hold steadfastly.
parvulus, a, um , small, little. Of age: little, youthful, young. children, little ones, the simple, the guileless,
humilio, avi, atum, are to humble, bring low.
libero, avi, atum, are to free, set free, deliver

An adult faith and becoming like little children

All too often these days we hear of the need for Catholics to develop an “adult faith”, which seems to be code for a supposed right of dissent from the Church’s teachings. Yet in reality, a truly adult faith is the exact reverse of this: a truly adult faith is sufficiently robust to accept the ‘hard sayings’ of the faith with docility; it is one that is fed on the meat of orthodoxy, not the sour milk of modernist-liberalism.

And this verse stands as a reminder of the path to such an adult faith: we must be humble, so that we realize our total dependence on God, and shed the illusion that we can control our lives and our world. St John Chrysostom comments:

“…'It is good for me that you brought me low so that I might learn your right judgements’. The grounds for thanks here are twofold: he allowed him to fall into danger, and he did not abandon him once fallen. Each is in some fashion a kind of favor, and the former not less than the latter but even greater, strange to say: while one rescued him from danger, the other imbued his soul with sounder values.”

Similarly, St Augustine gives the image of the father correcting a son, and the surgeon:

“For how should not The Lord, who keeps little ones, scourge those whom, when of mature age, He seeks to be heirs; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? Hebrews 12:6-7 : I was in misery, and He helped me. He helped me, because I was in misery; for the pain which the physician causes by his knife is not penal, but salutary.”

Only once we have been through this process of purification through hardship can we accept the means God uses to free us from the delusions, false doctrines, and temptations that surround us. As St Basil the Great comments:

“When I was turned and became as a little child and received the kingdom of heaven as a child and through innocence brought myself down to the humility of children, the Lord, the keeper of little ones, since I was humbled, he delivered me.”

Psalm 114

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.
I met with trouble and sorrow: And I called upon the name of the Lord.
O Dómine, líbera ánimam meam: miséricors Dóminus, et justus, et Deus noster miserétur.
O Lord, deliver my soul. The Lord is merciful and just, and our God shows mercy.
Custódiens párvulos Dóminus: humiliátus sum, et liberávit me.
The Lord is the keeper of little ones: I was humbled, and he delivered 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.

You can find the next part in this series on Psalm 114 here.

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