Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Psalms verse by verse: Psalm 22/7 - The heavenly banquet

I'm doing a series at the moment looking at the meaning of selected psalms with the aid of traditional commentaries and the Pope's General Audience series.  This includes providing some aids to praying the psalms in Latin for non-Latinists drawing on the excellent introductory Simplicssimus course (see the link in the sidebar under Latin resources). 

Psalm 22 so far...

And, appropriate to the month, at the moment I'm looking at one of the most well-known of all the psalms from the Office of the Dead, Psalm 22(23), The Lord is my shepherd.  Last week, I looked at the first half of the psalm, the shepherd allegory, assuring us of God’s presence and support in this life, even as we walk in the shadow of death:

Psalmus David.

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.

The banquet prepared...

This week, I want to look at the second half of the psalm, which gives us a vision of a splendid banquet prepared for us, which can be viewed as the refreshment offered to us in the Eucharist, and as an allegory of heaven.

Pope Benedict XVI introduces it, in his recent General Audience on the psalm, as follows:

“This comforting image ends the first part of the Psalm, and gives way to a different scene. We are still in the desert, where the shepherd lives with his flock, but we are now set before his tent which opens to offer us hospitality

…. The Lord is now presented as the One who welcomes the person praying with signs of generous hospitality, full of attention. The divine host lays the food on the “table”, a term which in Hebrew means, in its primitive sense, the animal skin that was spread out on the ground and on which the food for the common meal was set out. It is a gesture of sharing, not only of food but also of life in an offering of communion and friendship that create bonds and express solidarity. Then there is the munificent gift of scented oil poured on the head, which with its fragrance brings relief from the scorching of the desert sun, refreshes and calms the skin and gladdens the spirit….

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).”

Here is the second half of the pslam, with today's verses highlighted:

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!
Et misericordia tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitæ meæ;
et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum.

Looking at the Latin

Unit four of the Simplicissimus series looks at adjectives, so I'll particularly focus on examples of those in the notes this week.

Don't forget also to make sure you say it aloud, using one of the recordings such as the Boston Catholic series to help you get it right.

Here is the verse again in the Latin Vulgate:

Parasti in conspectu meo mensam adversus eos qui tribulant me

And here are some definitions of the key words used:

paro, avi, atum, are, to prepare, make ready, furnish, equip, fit out, provide, make firm, establish
meus a um, (adjective) my, mine
conspectus, us, m. sight, presence;
mensa, ae, /., a table.
adversus or adversum, prep, with acc against; in the presence of, over against, before.
eos – them (is ea id: he, she, it)
qui who
tribulo, avi, atum, are to oppress, afflict, harass.
me me

So phrase by phrase:

Parásti =you have prepared/made ready

in conspéctu meo mensam =in my presence/sight a table

Note that parare mensam means to to furnish, lay, or prepare a table, to provide meat, sustenance. Also meo is a second declension adjective agreeing conspectu (fourth declension noun in the ablative governed by in). Mensam, a table is a first declension noun in the accusative.

advérsus eos=against those/in the presence of those

qui tríbulant me= (they) who trouble/are troubling (3rd person present indicative) me

Penetrating the meaning of the psalm: the Eucharist to strengthen us

The Fathers and Theologians offer a number of interpretations of this verse – St Thomas Aquinas for example, suggests that the things provided on the table include diverse spiritual writings to guide us, the law, and the New Testament. Cassiodorus and St Alphonsus Liguori, amongst others, focus on the Eucharistic connotations of the verse, with the later commenting:

“Thou hast prepared before me a table where I shall take a food that will make me strong against my enemies. By this table we may well understand the altar, where we receive as food the body of Jesus Christ, which renders us strong against all the assaults of hell.”

Office of the Dead

In the context of the Office of the Dead, one could also see the verse as alluding to viaticum, the final reception of the Eucharist acting as food for the journey, an interpretation nicely supported by the next verse's reference to anointing with oil, pointing to the sacrament of Extreme Unction.

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