Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Psalm 137/5: God's saving help

Death before his judge, c15th

Today a look at the last two verses of Psalm 137, which take us back to the central themes of the Office of the Dead. Pope Benedict comments on them:

“After calling into question national leaders worldwide, not only those of that time but of all times, the person praying returns to his personal prayer of praise. Turning his gaze to his future life, he implores God for help also for the trials that existence may still have in store for him. And we all pray like this, with this prayerful person of that time. He speaks in concise terms of the "anger of the foes", a sort of symbol of all the hostilities that may spring up before the righteous person on his way through history. But he knows, and with him we also know, that the Lord will never abandon him and will stretch out his hand to save and guide him.”

Here are the two verses in question:

8. Si ambulávero in médio tribulatiónis, vivificábis me: * et super iram inimicórum meórum extendísti manum tuam, et salvum me fecit déxtera tua.
If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, you will quicken me: and you have stretched forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies: and your right hand has saved me.

9. Dóminus retríbuet pro me: * Dómine, misericórdia tua in sæculum: ópera mánuum tuárum ne despícias.
The Lord will repay for me: your mercy, O Lord endures for ever: O despise not the works of your hands.

In the midst of trouble

Verse 8 very much echoes that famous verse of Psalm 22, ye though I walk in the shadow of death:

Si ambulávero in médio tribulatiónis = if I [will] walk in the midst of tribulations

ambulo, avi, atum, are to walk; the manner in which one orders one's life;
medius, a, um in the middle, midst
tribulatio, onis, f. , trouble, distress, anguish, affliction, tribulation

vivificábis me = you will revive me (ie restore/keep me alive spiritually and/or physically)

vivifico, avi, atum, are to quicken, give life to, vivify.

et super iram =and upon/against the anger

super +acc=above, upon, over, in, on
ira, ae, f., anger, wrath

inimicórum meórum =of my enemies

inimicus, i, m., a foe, enemy

extendísti manum tuam = you have extended/stretched out your hand

extendo, tendi, tentum, ere 3, to stretch out or forth; to extend, prolong, protract, continue;
manus, us, f, the hand

et salvum me fecit déxtera tua = and your right hand saves me [=has saved me]

salvum facere, to save, keep safe, preserve from harm..
dexter, tera, terum; the right hand.

St John Chrysostom notes on this verse that the promise here is rescue, not freedom from trouble in the first place! He says:

“He did not say, You will get rid of the tribulation, but You will give me life while remaining in the very midst of troubles, you will succeed in rescuing me after falling into the dangers themselves - something really remarkable and unexpected, when harm is pressing and circumventing, to establish the one beset by it in a state of security…You will be able, in other words, he is saying, both to rescue me while in the midst of troubles, and also to humble and repress those seething and raging and breathing fire…that is, your power, your strength: God is well equipped with ways and means, and capable of leading to salvation from a desperate situation.”

The Lord redeems us

The final verse of the psalm reminds us that we can never merit salvation, but only be granted it through God’s goodness and mercy, and thus Christ’s saving sacrifice.

Dóminus retríbuet pro me = the Lord will make payment for me

retribuo, tribui, tributum, ere 3, to repay, requite, reward, recompense, render; give back, return; make requital for
pro + abl., for; instead of, in lieu of; because of, on account of

Dómine, misericórdia tua in sæculum = O Lord your mercy [is/endures] forever

misericordia, ae,, mercy, kindness, favor, compassion, loving-kindness.
saeculum, i, n., a lifetime, generation, age; an indefinite period of time; forever, eternity; from of old, i.e., in ages past.

ópera mánuum tuárum ne despícias =the works of your hands you will not despise

opus, eris, n., work.
despicio, spexi, spectum, ere 3 to look away from, not to look at, to slight; to despise; to look down upon

Psalm 137

1. Confitébor tibi, Dómine, in toto corde meo: * quóniam audísti verba oris mei.
2. In conspéctu Angelórum psallam tibi: * adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum, et confitébor nómini tuo.
3. Super misericórdia tua, et veritáte tua: * quóniam magnificásti super omne, nomen sanctum tuum.
4. In quacúmque die invocávero te, exáudi me: * multiplicábis in ánima mea virtútem.
5 Confiteántur tibi, Dómine, omnes reges terræ: * quia audiérunt ómnia verba oris tui.
6. Et cantent in viis Dómini: * quóniam magna est glória Dómini.
7. Quóniam excélsus Dóminus, et humília réspicit: * et alta a longe cognóscit.
8. Si ambulávero in médio tribulatiónis, vivificábis me: * et super iram inimicórum meórum extendísti manum tuam, et salvum me fecit déxtera tua.
9. Dóminus retríbuet pro me: * Dómine, misericórdia tua in sæculum: ópera mánuum tuárum ne despícias.

And that's the end of this mini-series, and indeed of this November series on the Office of the Dead.

There is one tag to the series still to come - tomorrow I'll put some more Latin learning notes on Psalm 137, including a consolidated vocabulary list for it.

But if you have any comments on the substance, content or other aspects of these notes, please do let me know.

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