Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Psalm 118 (Jod): Why we should ask for grace

Continuing my series on Psalm 118, Cassiodorus says of today’s stanza that:

“The splendid troop advances to the tenth letter, in which they ask that understanding of the commandments be granted them so that they may enjoy the benefit of truly genuine life. They pray that the Lord's mercy may be without stain, so that they may not be confounded at the Judgment.”

St Robert Bellarmine supplements this summation by suggesting that it advances a number of reasons for asking from God the grace to observe the law, namely:

 he created us, made us one of his creatures, and, therefore, we owe him implicit obedience;
 for the edification of others;
 because he has confessed his faults, and now throws himself on God’s mercy;
 to stop evildoers from succeeding in their schemes, prevent them from leading others astray by their bad example, and convert them; and
 so that he may not have to fear the disgrace of being confounded here or hereafter.

Truth and mercy

Two verses particularly worth focusing on are 75&76, in particular:

and in your truth you have humbled me O! let your mercy be for my comfort

Truth and mercy are often depicted as two angels in iconography. By truth we learn the reality of our sinful state: if God was truth alone we would stand forever condemned. But through his mercy, he offers us redemption through Christ’s resurrection, and invites us to share in eternal life.


73. Manus tuæ fecerunt me, et plasmaverunt me: da mihi intellectum, et discam mandata tua.
Your hands have made me and formed me: give me understanding, and I will learn your commandments.

manus, us, f, hand
facio, feci, factum, ere 3, to make, do, cause, bring to pass
plasmo, avi, atum, are to form, make, fashion
intellectus, us, m. understanding, insight.
disco, didici, ere 3, to learn
mandatum, i, n. law, precept, command, commandment (of God); commandments, precepts, decrees

Manus tuæ fecerunt me = Your hands have made/created me

God does not of course literally have hands (unless one is referring to Christ alone), but the metaphor is intended to help convey God’s creative power: without it we would not exist.

et plasmaverunt me= and they shaped/formed/fashioned me

da mihi intellectum= give me understanding

Through Adam’s sin we lost our uncorrupted knowledge of God’s la, the knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God; but it can be restored through grace.

et discam mandata tua= and I will learn your commandments

74 Qui timent te videbunt me et lætabuntur, quia in verba tua supersperavi.
They that fear you shall see me, and shall be glad: because I have greatly hoped in your words.

qui who
timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.
video, vidi, vlsum, ere 2, to see, behold; consider; experience, undergo, suffer, realize; keep watch, look for, meditate on
laetor, atus sum, ari, to rejoice, be joyful, take delight in
quia, conj. for, because, that. truly, surely, indeed; nisi quia, unless, if not
verbum, i, n., words
superspero, avi, atum, are, with prep, in with the ace. or abl., to hope or trust in greatly.

Qui timent te = Those who fear you

Again we are reminded that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

videbunt me et lætabuntur =[they] will see me and they will rejoice

The Church rejoices in the conversion of sinners and the spiritual progress of members of her flock.

quia in verba tua supersperavi= because I have trusted greatly in your word

75 Cognovi, Domine, quia æquitas judicia tua, et in veritate tua humiliasti me.
I know, O Lord, that your judgments are equity: and in your truth you have humbled me.

cognosco, gnovi, gnitum, ere 3, to know, see, learn, perceive, be come acquainted with.
aequitas, atis, f, justice, fairness, uprightness, goodness
judicium, i, n. judgment, decrees; law, commandment; the power, or faculty of judging wisely; justice.
veritas, atis, f truth.
humilio, avi, atum, are to humble, bring low.

Cognovi (pf), Domine =I have known (I know) O Lord

The perfect tense in Latin is better translated by the present in English, since the clear meaning is, I know and continue knowing; the Greek makes it aorist. Indeed, the Neo-Vulgate makes it ‘scio’. Either way, ‘I know’ here means, I have experienced: through the humiliations we have experienced, we arrive at the truth about ourselves and God.

quia æquitas (acc) judicia tua =because of the fairness [of] your judgments

et in veritate tua humiliasti me = and with your truth you have humbled me

76 Fiat misericordia tua ut consoletur me, secundum eloquium tuum servo tuo.
O! let your mercy be for my comfort, according to your word unto your servant.

fio, factus sum, fieri , to be made or done, to become, happen
misericordia, ae, f, mercy, kindness, favor, compassion, loving-kindness.
consolor, atus sum, ari, Active, to comfort, console, encourage
secundus, a, um following in time or order; the next, the second.
eloquium, li, n. a word, oracle, speech, utterance, promise.
servus, i, m., a slave, servant; servants of the Lord, devout men who keep the law; the people, i.e., the Israelites

Fiat misericordia tua = May your mercy be [done/made]

ut consoletur me = in order that it encourage/comfort me

=May/let your mercy comfort me

secundum eloquium tuum servo tuo= according to your word to your servant

The previous verse spoe of truth; here comes its ever-present companion, mercy. Through truth we are humbled; through mercy saved.

77 Veniant mihi miserationes tuæ, et vivam, quia lex tua meditatio mea est.
Let your tender mercies come unto me, and I shall live: for your law is my meditation.

venio, veni, ventum, ire, to come.
miseratio, onis, f kindness, compassion, mercy
vivo, vixi, victum, ere 3 to live, to have life, be alive,
lex, legis, a law; the Law of God
meditatio, onis, f, thought, reflection, musing, meditation.

Veniant mihi = May they/let them come to me

miserationes tuæ = your mercies

et vivam = and I will live

Life here means everlasting life, St Augustine says: nor is any life save that which is everlasting and blessed understood, as though it alone were to be called life, compared with which that which we now lead ought rather to be called death than life..

quia lex tua meditatio mea est = because your law is my meditation.

78 Confundantur superbi, quia injuste iniquitatem fecerunt in me; ego autem exercebor in mandatis tuis.
Let the proud be ashamed, because they have done unjustly towards me: but I will be employed in your commandments.

confundo, fiidi, fiisum, ere 3, to put or bring to shame, to discomfit, confounded
superbus, a, um , raising one's self above others, proud, haughty, arrogant, insolent.
injuste, adv. unjustly, unrighteously; wrongfully, without cause
iniquitas, atis, f iniquity, injustice, sin.
facio, feci, factum, ere 3, to make, do, cause, bring to pass
ego , pers. pro., I.
autem, adversative conj., but, on the contrary, however
exerceo, cui, citum, ere 2 , to exercise ;ponder to meditate on, be occupied or employed
mandatum, i, n. law, precept, command, commandment (of God); commandments, precepts, decrees

Confundantur superbi= Let the godless be put to shame/confounded

Confounded here has several layers of meaning: firstly, Haydock suggests, it means not accomplishing their wicked designs; but also it suggests that they ‘may they be induced to entertain that shame for sin which bringeth life’, and hence cease to offend.

quia injuste iniquitatem fecerunt in me= for unjustly have they done wickedness to me

ego autem exercebor in mandatis tuis= but I will practice/meditate on your commandments

Bellarmine notes that: The fourth reason assigned for getting grace to observe the law, is derived from the confusion it will prove to the wicked, just as the second reason was derived from the satisfaction it would afford to the just. "Let the proud be ashamed." Grant me grace to observe your law to the letter, that those proud sinners, who by their persecutions and oppressions seek to make others follow their example, on seeing me, may be thus confounded and ashamed; and while they are thus confounded and ashamed, I will, with increased zeal and vigor, "be employed in thy commandments," in meditating on them and observing them.

79 Convertantur mihi timentes te, et qui noverunt testimonia tua.
Let them that fear you turn to me: and they that know your testimonies.

converto, verti, versum, ere 3, to turn, change, alter, bring back, quicken, refresh, restore, convert, turn from sin
timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.
nosco, novi, notum, ere 3 to know, to be acquainted with., regard with
testimonium, ii, n. testimonies, commands, decrees; commandments, ordinances, statutes, judgments, testimonies

Convertantur mihi timentes te= Let them turn to me who fear you

Cassiodorus notes that: It is right to interpret those who turn to the Lord as those who have begun to take their place in the gathering of the Church; at this stage they had begun to fear but had not yet been converted with full commitment of mind.

et qui noverunt testimonia tua= and those who know your testimonies

Cassiodorus continues: The additional phrase, And they that know thy testimonies, refers to those already steeped in the divine reading but not yet instructed in the work of salvation. Let them be converted could not refer to those made perfect who were radiant with both sacred reading and devoted activity.

80 Fiat cor meum immaculatum in justificationibus tuis, ut non confundar.
Let my heart be undefiled in your justifications, that I may not be confounded.

fio, factus sum, fieri , to be made or done, to become, happen
cor, cordis, n., the heart, regarded as the seat of the faculties, feelings, emotions, passions; the mind, the soul.
immaculatus, a, um undefiled, stainless, blameless, perfect.
justificatio, onis, f precepts, decrees, statutes, ordinances;
confundo, fudi, fusum, ere 3, to put or bring to shame, to discomfit.

Fiat cor meum =May my heart be [made]

immaculatum in justificationibus tuis= undefiled/perfect/immaculate in [through] your justifications

ut non confundar= so that I may not be put to shame/be confounded/be ashamed

Bellarmine comments that: He concludes by asking again for the grace he had so often asked for, to enable him to observe the commandments of God with a perfect heart, so that he may not have to fear the disgrace of being confounded here or hereafter.

And for notes on the next stanza of the psalm, go here.

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