Sunday, November 20, 2011

De Profundis in the Office and the Mass

Over the last few weeks I've been looking at Psalm 114, the first psalm of Vespers of the Dead. 

One of the other psalms from this Office features heavily in today's propers in the Extraordinary Form, namely Psalm 129 (130), Out of the Deep.  The first verse of Psalm 129, actually gets two guenseys in the Propers of the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, as the Alleluia and the Offertory.

Psalm 129

First the full text of the psalm:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine; Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus: speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem, speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If you, O Lord, will mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it.
For with you there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of your law, I have waited for you, O Lord. My soul has relied on his word: My soul has hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities

In the context of the Mass, the psalm clearly looks forward to the dark days of the end of the world (Out of the deep) but also suggests the promise of redemption in the Second Coming.

The medieval exegetes, Dom Gueranger points out in Liturgical Year, saw it as particularly referring to the promised conversion of the Jews in the last days. It is therefore not altogether surprising therefore that this is one of those psalms where the (pre-Christian) Septuagint Greek (and thus Vulgate) and the (medieval) Hebrew Masoretic Text are in places very different, in ways impossible to reconcile by looking for alternative readings of the Hebrew. In particular, from verse 4 onwards, the Hebrew puts much more emphasis on fear of God, and omits two references to the hope of the Christ’s redemption.

Psalm 129 is one of the most heavily used psalms liturgically and quasi-liturgically, showing its applicability not only as a collective hymn, but also as an individual prayer. As well as featuring in Vespers of the dead, it is one of the Gradual psalms and one of the seven penitential psalms. In this context, Cassiodorus suggests that in this psalm, “as penitent he cries from the depths to the Lord, asking that the great power of the Godhead be experienced by the deliverance of mankind.”

You can find some notes I've previously written on this psalm in the context of the penitential psalms, starting here.  And you can find notes on it in the context of Tuesday Vespers here.

Here is the Alleluia:

And to listen to the Offertory:

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