Sunday, September 30, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 3: God's judgment deferred

St Alban's psalter

So far in this series we've looked at the first two verses of Psalm 110, the second psalm of Sunday Vespers:

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.

Magna ópera Dómini: exquisíta in omnes voluntátes ejus.
Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.

Today a look at Verse 3:

Conféssio et magnificéntia opus ejus: et justítia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continues for ever and ever.
Neo-Vulgate: Decor et magnificentia opus eius, et iustitia eius manet in saeculum saeculi
Lectio: looking at the text
Conféssio et magnificéntia opus ejus = Splendour and majesty his work = splendid and magnificent/glorious his work

The first issue with this verse is the omitted words!  The Douay-Rheims makes opus (work) the subject, so translates this phrase as 'His work is praise and mangificence'.  A more obvious translation though would be 'his work is splendid and glorious'.  A third possibility, followed by a number of translations, is to interpret the phrase along the lines ‘his work is worthy of thanksgiving and honour’.  

The problem arises from the use of two nouns (confessio et magnificentia) as adjectives, in imitation of the Hebrew; the Neo-Vulgate has accordingly changed the first to an actual adjective (décor), reflecting a translation approach is less concerned with conveying the linguistic flavour of the original text.

et justítia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi = and his justice abides forever and ever

The Greek translated as justitia here is actually δικαιοσύνη, which is more often translated as righteousness in English, and this is reflected in the RSV and other translations.

Meditatio: What is the text saying to us?
St John Chrysostom sees this verse as reminding us of the praise and thanksgiving that naturally pours out from us when we are conscious of the wonder of creation, and the working out of God’s providential plan in history:

“Each of the visible realities, in fact, is sufficient to prompt the observer to thanksgiving, to hymnody, to praise, to giving glory. You are not allowed to ask, "Why is this?" "For what purpose is this?" Instead, both darkness and daylight, famine and feast, desert and wilderness, fertile fields and productive, life and death, and all visible things are for those studying them with precision sufficient and capable of prompting them to thanksgiving.”

The Fathers argue that even the exercise of his justice contains a kind of terrible beauty, evident above all in his saving redemption through the Cross, and even in his punishments, such as the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah.

Help us to see the greatness of God's work in the Government of the world, including the exercize of his justice.  Help us O Lord, to learn well the lesson you set in all that happens to us; help us say with Solomon: "The one the Lord loves, you see, he disciplines; he chas­tises every son he welcomes. His righteousness endures for ages of ages."


St Benedict instructs us God withholds his judgment for a time, allowing us the grace to repent:

"Having given us these instructions, the Lord daily expects us to make our life correspond with his holy admonitions.  And the days of our life are lengthened and a respite allowed us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways."

And the next part in the series can be found here.

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