Sunday, September 16, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 1: In the midst of the Church

Church Militant and Triumphant
Andrea di Bonaiuto, c1365
The opening verse of Psalm 110 places us in the midst of both the Church Militant here on earth, and the Church Triumphant in heaven:

Confitébor tibi, Dómine, in toto corde meo: in consílio justórum, et congregatióne

I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart; in the council of the just, and in the congregation.

Lectio: What does the text mean?
Confitébor (deponent: 1st person fut Confiteor, to praise, give thanks, confess) tibi, Dómine = I will give praise to you O Lord
Confitebor, comes from confiteor, a deponent verb is an ambiguous word: it can mean both to confess our sins, but also to let out our praises for God. The following verses, however, make it clear that praise is what is meant here.

in (in +abl) toto (totus, -a -um whole, entire) corde (cor, cordis n heart) meo = with all my heart/with my whole heart

The speaker is giving this praise his total attention. 
in (in+abl) consílio (consilium, ii, n counsel) justórum (gen pl) = in the company of the just et congregatióne (congregation, onis f gathering, assembly, congregation) = and in the congregation/assembly

The Hebrew for consilio (cowd) implies an intimate circle of friends, thus contrasting the ‘congregation’ below (edah) meaning a large group, publicly. Cassiodorus interprets these respectively as the elect in heaven, and the Church of all regions here below.

Meditatio: What does the text say to us?

This opening verse of Psalm 110 places us immediately in the midst of the Church, both visible and invisible, for when we pray liturgically, we pray joined both horizontally to those on earth who also pray this hour of Vespers, but also with the angels and saints in heaven.

What does this then imply for us?  Well surely our wholehearted attention, as St Robert Bellarmine's commentary on this verse suggests:

"Holy David begins the hymn by an invocation, and tells us at the same time how God should be praised with advantage to ourselves. "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart." Praise, in order to be of any value, must spring from the heart, and not only from the heart, but from the entire heart; that is, with all the affections of the heart, that praises nothing, loves nothing, so much as the thing in question. "With my whole heart;" also implies the greatest attention, thinking of nothing else, for it does not become one who is praising that God whom the Cherubim and Seraphim adore in fear, to let his mind down to unworthy matters."

Oratio: What do we say to the Lord?

The first word of this psalm states that we will confess, or praise God. 

Accordingly, let us seek to praise God as we pray this psalm.  And ask for the grace that we continue to do so in the future, not just as part of the assembly or congregation here below, but in the company of the elect hereafter.

Contemplatio: What conversion of mind, heart and life is God asking of us?

The psalm calls on us to adopt an attitude of thankfulness.  St John Chrysostom argues that the ability to praise God at all time, even in the face of constant tribulations as Job did, is something we must cultivate:

"God looks for nothing as much as this, after all: this sacrifice, this offering, this sign of a grateful spirit, this is a blow against the devil. For this Job was crowned and cel­ebrated, for not being swayed despite countless trials besetting him and despite his wife's obstructing him; instead, he persisted in thanking the Lord for everything, not when he was rich but also when poor, not when he was well but also when stricken in body, not when things went smoothly for him but also when that violent storm fell upon his whole house and his whole person. This, you see, is a particular mark of a thankful attitude, to give heartfelt thanks to God in tribulations and hardship, and remain thankful throughout - which is therefore what the psalmist him­self suggested obliquely in what follows. I mean, many people give thanks when all goes well for them, but are displeased when the contrary occurs, some even finding fault with the way things turn out."

And on to the next part in this series here.

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