|c15th Matthias Gradual|
Today, a look at the last verse of the Lord is my shepherd, Psalm 22:
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.
He has led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake.
Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for you are with me.
Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
Your rod and your staff, they have comforted me.
Parasti in conspectu meo mensam adversus eos qui tribulant me;
You have prepared a table before me against them that afflict me.
impinguasti in oleo caput meum : et calix meus inebrians, quam præclarus est!
You have anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebriates me, how goodly is it!
Et misericordia tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitæ meæ;
And your mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum.
And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.
A pilgrimage to heaven
On yesterday’s verse, Pope Benedict commented that ‘The goodness and faithfulness of God continue to escort the Psalmist who comes out of the tent and resumes his journey’. Today's verse makes clear where that journey is to, namely the ‘house of the Lord’ (domo Domini), the Temple, or heaven. For, Pope Benedict points out:
“This is what every believer yearns and longs for: truly to be able to live where God is, close to him. Following the Shepherd leads to God’s house, this is the destination of every journey, the longed for oasis in the desert, the tent of shelter in escaping from enemies, a place of peace where God’s kindness and faithful love may be felt, day after day, in the serene joy of time without end.”
A look at the Latin
Here it is again:
et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum.
The verb here is inhabitem, from inhabito, avi, atum, are to dwell, abide; to inhabit, dwell in. Pope Benedict XVI notes in his commentary on the psalm that the (later) Hebrew Masoretic Text interprets the (ambiguous) ancient text as meaning ‘to return’ rather than to live. The older texts, and most translations, he notes make it ‘dwell’. He suggests that, “Both meanings may be retained: to return and dwell in the Temple as every Israelite desires, and to dwell near God, close to him and to goodness.” So,
Et ut inhábitem =and that I may live/dwell
ut, adv. and conj., as, like. wherefore, so, so, why. that, in order that, to the end that.
The Vulgate (following the Septuagint) here uses a (ut+subjunctive) construction in order to mimic the structure of the Hebrew phrase as closely as possible. The neo-Vulgate changes it to the much simpler ‘et inhabitabo’ (and I will dwell) of St Jerome’s ‘from the Hebrew’ translation.
in domo Dómini=in the house of the Lord
in+ablative = with, in, on among, by means of
domus, us, f. a house, structure; a house, abode, dwelling place; Temple;
dominus, i, m. a master, lord, ruler, owner, possessor
in longitúdinem diérum =for length of days = for a long life/fullness of days/forever
in+acc=into, onto, against, for (the purpose of)
longitudo, inis, /. lit., length, forever
dies, ei, m. and /.; fem. a day
The Douay-Rheims translates the verse fairly literally as “And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.” A more idiomatic rendering would be, ‘and I will live in the house of the Lord forever’.
Trust in God
Pope Benedict XVI concluded his recent General Audience on this psalm as follows:
“With their richness and depth the images of this Psalm have accompanied the whole of the history and religious experience of the People of Israel and accompany Christians. The figure of the shepherd, in particular, calls to mind the original time of the Exodus, the long journey through the desert, as a flock under the guidance of the divine Shepherd (cf. Is 63:11-14; Ps 77: 20-21; 78:52-54). And in the Promised Land, the king had the task of tending the Lord’s flock, like David, the shepherd chosen by God and a figure of the Messiah (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-2; 7:8 Ps 78:70-72).
Then after the Babylonian Exile, as it were in a new Exodus (cf. Is 40:3-5, 9-11; 43:16-21), Israel was brought back to its homeland like a lost sheep found and led by God to luxuriant pastures and resting places (cf. Ezek 34:11-16, 23-31). However, it is in the Lord Jesus that all the evocative power of our Psalm reaches completeness, finds the fullness of its meaning: Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who goes in search of lost sheep, who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them (cf. Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:4-7; Jn 10:2-4, 11-18). He is the way, the right path that leads us to life (cf. Jn 14:6), the light that illuminates the dark valley and overcomes all our fears (cf. Jn 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).
He is the generous host who welcomes us and rescues us from our enemies, preparing for us the table of his body and his blood (cf. Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25); Lk 22:19-20) and the definitive table of the messianic banquet in Heaven (cf. Lk 14:15ff; Rev 3:20; 19:9). He is the Royal Shepherd, king in docility and in forgiveness, enthroned on the glorious wood of the cross (cf. Jn 3:13-15; 12:32; 17:4-5).
Dear brothers and sisters, Psalm 23 invites us to renew our trust in God, abandoning ourselves totally in his hands. Let us therefore ask with faith that the Lord also grant us on the difficult ways of our time that we always walk on his paths as a docile and obedient flock, and that he welcome us to his house, to his table, and lead us to “still waters” so that, in accepting the gift of his Spirit, we may quench our thirst at his sources, springs of the living water “welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14; cf. 7:37-39).”
For those learning or brushing up their Latin, the last set of study hints on this psalm, including a complete vocab list, can be found here.