Monday, March 5, 2012

Psalm 118 Vau: The duty to speak up for Christ

Today’s section of Psalm 118 (119), verses 41 to 48, enjoin us to move beyond merely contemplating the law to action: in particular, to testifying publicly to our faith.

The stanza opens by reminding us of the promise of salvation: it prophesies firstly the coming of Christ, to fulfill God’s promises in the Old Testament, and secondly invites us individually to make it our own. It should remind us of Christ’s promise to be with us always, able to draw on grace when we are confronted by those speaking heresy or otherwise attacking us.

We all, be we laymen or laywomen, priests, bishops or religious, have a duty to speak up, these verses instruct. As Cassiodorus comments:

“We must not be silent before those able to listen to reason, but we must respond bravely so that the audacity of men of ill-will does not appear victorious in their eyes…. They spoke of the Lord's testimonies because they had sought and accepted them so as to reply to those who reproached them with the word. With the strength of this support, they say that they were not confused in the presence of earthly kings who could inspire terror with their proud power, but with fearless speech uttered the truth which they had conceived in mind. It is the person whose words are refuted by reasoning who is confounded, whereas no-one can be embarrassed who is strengthened by the testimony of truth. Whatever the pressure of circumstances, we must not deny Him who says: He that shall deny me before men, I will deny him also before my Father who is in heaven.”


41 Et veniat super me misericordia tua, Domine; salutare tuum secundum eloquium tuum.
Let your mercy also come upon me, O Lord: your salvation according to your word

Et veniat (subj) super me = And let it [your mercy] come over me

venio, veni, ventum, ire, to come.
super +acc=above, upon, over, in, on;+abl= about, concerning; with, on, upon, for, because of.

misericordia tua, Domine = your mercy O Lord

misericordia, ae,, mercy, kindness, favor, compassion, loving-kindness.

salutare tuum =your salvation

salutaris, e Savior, Helper, used of God; help, saving help, rescue, salvation,

secundum eloquium tuum = according to your word/promise

secundus, a, um following in time or order; the next, the second.
eloquium, ii, n. , a word, oracle, speech, utterance, promise.

We are, the Fathers point out, the children of God’s promise: his promise first to send salvation to his people in the form of a Messiah, and secondly, of the promise of his saving help offered to anyone who prays in the name of Christ. Here we are once more invited to make the salvation God offers our own.

42 Et respondebo exprobrantibus mihi verbum, quia speravi in sermonibus tuis.
So shall I answer them that reproach me in anything; that I have trusted in your words.

Et respondebo= And/So I will respond/answer

respondeo, spondi, sponsum, ere 2, to answer, respond

exprobrantibus mihi verbum = reviling/upbraiding/reproach to me to me the word = to those who reproach me a word/answer

These two phrases are difficult to translate. The use of the ‘verbum’ (and λόγον in the Greek, making it accusative) suggests that the correct translation is “And I will give an answer to those who revile me”.

St Augustine, however, comments: “It is doubtful whether it be ‘reproach me with a word’; or, ‘I will answer with a word’; but either signifies Christ. The Douay-Rheims favours the first interpretation; Brenton, the New English Translation of the Septuagint, and translations based on the Hebrew the second. The RSV, for example, translates the phrase as “then shall I have an answer for those who taunt me”.

exprobo are avi atum – to upbraid, reproach, revile

quia speravi in sermonibus tuis = that I have hoped/trusted in your words

verbum, i, n.,word, command, edict, also a promise; saying, speech
spero, avi, atum, are, to hope or trust in
sermo, onis, m. words; a command, edict word, speech, saying, discourse; scheme, plan, proposal

Those ignorant of Christ are not content just to tolerate; rather they attack. But we are told not to keep silent, but to respond, for we have Christ with us to help us do so. Cassiodorus insists that when confronted by heresy and error, when we are confronted by the guile of adversaries:“We must not be silent before those able to listen to reason, but we must respond bravely so that the audacity of men of ill-will does not appear victorious in their eyes.”

43 Et ne auferas de ore meo verbum veritatis usquequaque, quia in judiciis tuis supersperavi.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth: for in your words, I have hoped exceedingly

Et ne auferas = And do not destroy/take away

aufero, abstuli, ablatum, auferre to take or bear away; to destroy.

de ore meo = from my mouth

os, oris, n., the mouth.

verbum veritatis = the word of truth

verbum, i, n.,word, command, edict, also a promise; saying, speech; Law
veritas, atis, truth. grace, kindness ,goodness, fidelity to promises, Faithfulness

usquequaque = utterly

usquequaque, adv., utterly, altogether, exceedingly

quia in judiciis tuis supersperavi = because in your justice I have hoped greatly

quia, conj. for, because, that. truly, surely, indeed;
judicium, i, n. judgment, decrees; law, commandment; the power, or faculty of judging wisely; justice.
superspero, avi, atum, are, with prep, in with the ace. or abl., to hope or trust in greatly.

This verse is a prayer for constancy: that we may not fail for a want of courage or pride that causes God to withdraw his grace.

44 Et custodiam legem tuam semper, in sæculum et in sæculum sæculi.
So shall I always keep your law, for ever and ever.

Et custodiam legem tuam semper= And I will keep your law always

custodio, ivi or li, itum, ire to guard, watch, keep;to maintain, to hold steadfastly.
lex, legis, a law; the Law of God. the will of God
semper, adv., ever, always, at all times.

in sæculum et in sæculum sæculi = forever and ever into eternity

saeculum, i, n., a lifetime, generation, age; an indefinite period of time; forever, eternity; from of old, i.e., in ages past.

Bellarmine comments: “He now tells us the effect of the mercy that so heals the soul, and that is the perpetual observance of God's law.”

45 Et ambulabam in latitudine, quia mandata tua exquisivi.
And I walked at large: because I have sought after your commandments

Et ambulabam (impf) = And I was walking

Note that the neo-Vulgate changes the verb to future tense (ambulabo)

ambulo, avi, atum, are to walk; the manner in which one orders one's life;

in latitudine = in freedom/at liberty/at large

latitudo, inis, f breadth, wideness, spaciousness, freedom, gladness With verbs of motion it implies freedom from restraint, and conveys the additional idea of gladness.

quia mandata tua exquisivi = because I have sought your commandments

mandatum, i, n. law, precept, command, commandment (of God); commandments, precepts, decrees
exquiro quaesivi itum ere 3, to seek, seek after

Here we come to the true sense of the term ‘freedom’: true freedom means not the option of rejecting of God’s way, but through the power of love, the ability to do God’s will easily.

46 Et loquebar in testimoniis tuis in conspectu regum, et non confundebar.
And I spoke of your testimonies before kings: and I was not ashamed.

Et loquebar = And I spoke

loquor, locutus sum, loqui, to speak, utter, tell

in testimoniis tuis = in your testimonies

testimonium, ii, n. witness, testimony; the Law; precepts, commandments, ordinances, statutes, judgments, testimonies.

in conspectu regum = in the presence of kings

conspectus, us, m. sight, presence;
rex, regis, m. a king, ruler, lawgiver

et non confundebar (impf passive) = and I was not discomforted

confundo, fudi, fiisum, ere 3, to put or bring to shame, to discomfit.

Haydock’s Catholic Commentary notes that: “Thus many even of the female sex have professed their faith boldly, with St. Agnes, St. Catharine, St. Winefrid, &c., answering the reproachful objections that were put to them, as if it were dishonourable to be a Christian, Catholic or Papist.”

47 Et meditabar in mandatis tuis, quæ dilexi.
I meditated also on your commandments, which I loved.

Et meditabar = and I was meditating/thinking

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

in mandatis tuis = on your commandments

mandatum, i, n. law, precept, command, commandment (of God); commandments, precepts, decrees

quæ dilexi= which I have loved

Note that the Septuagint adds ‘exceedingly’ to the phrase, to reinforce the sense of fervour suggested here.

diligo, lexi, lectum, ere 3 to love;

Cassiodorus comments:

“A person can never neglect what he loves. Then, in case you perhaps regarded even this love as lukewarm, they added: Exceedingly; no love can be found greater than this. Love of the Lord's commandments cannot be modest like any other love; it must be enthusiastic, as is the aim here. So they rightly loved the Lord's commandments exceedingly, for they walked trustingly in breadth of heart.”

48 Et levavi manus meas ad mandata tua, quæ dilexi, et exercebar in justificationibus tuis.
And I lifted up my hands to your commandments, which I loved: and I was exercised in your justifications.

Et levavi manus meas = And I lifted up my hands

The commentaries suggest that lifting up hands means taking on an active role. Cassidorus for example says:

“In the previous verse they said I meditated on thy commandments, which relates to contemplative virtue, but now they say: I will lift up my hands, which relates to the active role, for raising the hands denotes being occupied in good works, whereas the person detained in evil actions lowers rather than raises his hands.”

levo, avi, atum, are to rise, lift up, elevate.
manus, us, f, the hand

ad mandata tua quæ dilexi =to your commandments which I loved

mandatum, i, n. law, precept, command, commandment (of God); commandments, precepts, decrees
diligo, lexi, lectum, ere 3 to love;

et exercebar in justificationibus tuis =and was pondering your precepts

exerceo, cui, citum, ere 2 to exercise, work at, employ one's self about a thing; ponder, to meditate on, be occupied or employed
justificatio, onis, f precepts, decrees, statutes, ordinances;

We are called upon here to put our meditation into action, through good works: we must join together heart, mind, word, and deed.

And you can find notes on the next stanza of the psalm here.

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