Saturday, February 25, 2012

Receptive listening: Introduction to Psalm 118/4

The last section of Pope Benedict XVI’s catechesis on Psalm 118 that I want to share with you by way of introduction to the psalm deals with the idea of the ‘receptive listening’ that leads to obedience.

It’s a very Benedictine sentiment, reflecting not just the current Pope’s spirituality, but that of his namesake St Benedict, who starts his rule with the word 'listen':

“The Law of the Lord, the object of the passionate love of the Psalmist as well as of every believer, is a source of life. The desire to understand it, to observe it and to direct the whole of one’s being by it is the characteristic of every righteous person who is faithful to the Lord, and who “on his law... meditates day and night”, as Psalm 1 recites (v. 2). The law of God is a way to be kept “in the heart”, as the well known text of the Shema in Deuteronomy says: “Hear, O Israel: And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (6:4, 6-7).

The Law of God, at the centre of life, demands that the heart listen. It is a listening that does not consist of servile but rather of filial, trusting and aware obedience. Listening to the word is a personal encounter with the Lord of life, an encounter that must be expressed in concrete decisions and become a journey and a “sequela”. When Jesus is asked what one should do to inherit eternal life he points to the way of observance of the Law but indicates what should be done to bring it to completion: “but you lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me! (Mk 10: 21ff.). Fulfilment of the Law is the following of Jesus, travelling on the road that Jesus took, in the company of Jesus.

Psalm 119 thus brings us to the encounter with the Lord and orients us to the Gospel.”

Preparing the Latin

By way of vocabulary preparation for tackling the psalm, a few words the psalmist frequently uses to talk about meditation/contemplation:

abscondo, condi, conditum, ere 3, to hide, conceal; to lay up, to treasure, guard jealously

considero, avi, atum, are, (1) to look at closely, to observe with the eyes or mind, to regard, contemplate (2) to lie in wait for, to watch for with hostile intent.

exerceo, cui, citum, ere 2 to exercise, work at, employ one's self about a thing; in the Psalter it is used only in the passive with in, signifying to meditate on, be occupied or employed

exquiro –ere –sivi –situm 3, to seek, inquire diligently, seek after

meditatio, onis, f thought, reflection, musing, meditation.

meditor, atus sum, ari, to think, plan, devise, meditate

obliviscor, oblitus sum, oblivisci to forget; frequent with both the gen. and acc; non obliviscor, I will not forget, I will not be unmindful of Thy law, precepts, etc. I will strictly observe.

perspicio, spexi, spectum, ere 3, to look into, look at attentively, examine.

scrutor, atus sum, ari, (1) to search, examine, scrutinize. (b) With regard to the Law of God: to search out, examine carefully, with the additional idea of to keep, to obey.

And now, onto the psalm itself! 

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