Sunday, December 11, 2011

Propers for the Third Sunday of Advent: Psalm 84

Creation and the expulsion from paradise
Giovanni di Paulo 1445

The verse for today’s Introit, as well as the Offertory come from Psalm 84, which prophesies our redemption. St Alphonsus Liguori explains:

“The psalmist goes to show us, on the one hand, the Jewish people delivered from slavery; on the other hand, mankind redeemed from the slavery of Satan. He enumerates, moreover, the fruits of the Redemption.”

A cause for rejoicing indeed!

Introit and Offertory text

The verses used in the propers for the Third Sunday of Advent are:

Benedixísti, Dómine, terram tuam: avertísti captivitátem Jacob (Introit, Offertory).
Lord, you have blessed your land: you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Remisísti iniquitátem plebis tuæ (Offertory only)
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people

Through Christ comes forgiveness of sins

As is often the case with the propers, the full significance of it depends on knowing what comes next.

Though the psalm can in part be taken as a reference to God leading his people out of Exile in Egypt, and numerous other deliverances, it is clear from the text here that the liberation talked about is primarily spiritual.

In fact the second half of the second verse is the key: ‘you have covered all their sins’, as Our Lord did through the Cross.  St Augustine explains this verse as follows:

"Behold how He has turned away their captivity, in that He has remitted iniquity: iniquity held them captive; your iniquity forgiven, you are freed. Confess therefore that you are in captivity, that you may be worthy to be freed: for he that knows not of his enemy, how can he invoke the liberator? You have covered all their sins. What is, You have covered? So as not to see them. How did You not see them? So as not to take vengeance on them. You were unwilling to see our sins: and therefore You saw them not, because You would not see them: You have covered all their sins."

The psalm goes on to explain the context for the Incarnation, albeit in a rather anthropomorphic way:

You have mitigated all your anger: you have turned away from the wrath of your indignation.

Advent is a call to conversion

The psalm then reminds of the purpose of Advent, namely the call to continuing conversion:

“Convert us, O God our saviour: and turn off your anger from us.
Will you be angry with us for ever: or will you extend your wrath from generation to generation?”

Yet through we wait and prepare, we know the outcome:

“You will turn, O God, and bring us to life: and your people shall rejoice in you."

Show us, O Lord, your mercy; and grant us your salvation.”

The psalm then speaks of Christ and the fruits of his redeeming mission more directly:

I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me: for he will speak peace unto his people:
And unto his saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart.
Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him: that glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.
Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice has looked down from heaven.
For the Lord will give goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit.
Justice shall walk before him: and shall set his steps in the way.

Here is the Latin:

1 Benedixísti, Dómine, terram tuam: * avertísti captivitátem Jacob.
2 Remisísti iniquitátem plebis tuæ: * operuísti ómnia peccáta eórum.
3 Mitigásti omnem iram tuam: * avertísti ab ira indignatiónis tuæ.
4 Convérte nos, Deus, salutáris noster: * et avérte iram tuam a nobis.
5 Numquid in ætérnum irascéris nobis? * aut exténdes iram tuam a generatióne in generatiónem?
6 Deus, tu convérsus vivificábis nos: * et plebs tua lætábitur in te.
7 Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam: * et salutáre tuum da nobis.
8 Audiam quid loquátur in me Dóminus Deus: * quóniam loquétur pacem in plebem suam.
9 Et super sanctos suos: * et in eos, qui convertúntur ad cor.
10 Verúmtamen prope timéntes eum salutáre ipsíus: * ut inhábitet glória in terra nostra.
11 Misericórdia, et véritas obviavérunt sibi: * justítia, et pax osculátæ sunt.
12 Véritas de terra orta est: * et justítia de cælo prospéxit.
13 Etenim Dóminus dabit benignitátem: * et terra nostra dabit fructum suum.
14 Justítia ante eum ambulábit: * et ponet in via gressus suos.

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