Sunday, October 7, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 4 - Our heavenly food

Sant'Angelo in Formis (Capua)

Today's verse of Psalm 110 is deeply Eucharistic, and perhaps explains to us what this psalm is particularly focusing in on when it talks about God's wonderful works.
First, here are the verses we have looked at so far in this series once again:
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.

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.

And today's verse:

Memóriam fecit mirabílium suórum, miséricors et miserátor Dóminus: escam dedit timéntibus se.
He has made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: He has given food to them that fear him.

Lectio: What does the text mean

Memóriam fecit mirabílium suórum = he has made/caused/effected a remembrance of his wonderful works

The word memoria is important here, as the Decree on the Eucharist from the Council of Trent explains:

“Our Savior, therefore, when about to depart from this world to the Father, instituted this sacrament in which He poured forth, as it were, the riches of His divine love for men, "making a remembrance of his wonderful works", and He commanded us in the consuming of it to cherish His "memory", and "to show forth his death until He come" to judge the world….

miséricors et miserátor Dóminus = merciful and gracious/compassionate is the Lord

St Thomas Aquinas explains that mercy and graciousness, in reference to God, are not emotions:

“Mercy is especially to be attributed to God, as seen in its effect, but not as an affection of passion. In proof of which it must be considered that a person is said to be merciful [misericors], as being, so to speak, sorrowful at heart [miserum cor]; being affected with sorrow at the misery of another as though it were his own. Hence it follows that he endeavors to dispel the misery of this other, as if it were his; and this is the effect of mercy.”

escam dedit timéntibus se = he has given food to those [who fear] fearing him

The food referred to here is generally interpreted as the Eucharist, foreshadowed by the gift of manna in the desert, as St Robert Bellarmine explains:

“He now discusses a special work of divine providence, the raining of manna from heaven, which was a work of great mercy, not only to those who were then fed by it in the desert, but also to those who succeeded them, to whom he left an urn full of it as a memorial of the miracles he performed in the desert, see Exod. 16, and Heb. 9. That manna was a type of the Eucharist, that he gave Christians for their spiritual food, and in memory of the wonderful things Christ did while on earth, the most wonderful of which was his glorious passion, that destroyed death itself by death, and triumphed over the prince of this world; and he, therefore, says, "He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord." The food named here is the manna that God rained from heaven, and gave, "to them that fear him;" to the Jews who worship him; for; though there were many sinners among them, still they worshipped the true God, and fearing and worshipping signify the same thing in the Scriptures. And as he wished the people to bear in mind the wonderful things he did when he brought them out of Egypt, and led them through the desert to the land of promise…”


Pope Benedict XVI sees this verse as referring to the signs of the covenant between a compassionate and loving God and his people:

“Therefore, the heart of the Psalm becomes a hymn to the covenant (cf. vv. 4-9), that intimate bond which binds God to his people and entails a series of attitudes and gestures. Thus, the Psalmist speaks of "compassion and love" (cf. v. 4) in the wake of the great proclamation on Sinai: "The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity" (Ex 34: 6). "Compassion" is the divine grace that envelops and transfigures the faithful, while "love" is expressed in the original Hebrew with the use of a characteristic term that refers to the maternal "womb" of the Lord, even more merciful than that of a mother (cf. Is 49: 15).”


We must ask that God's love transfigure us, particularly as we receive the sign of the New Covenant, the Eucharist.


Yet there is a sting in the tail of this verse, in the reference to those who fear God.  It should perhaps, call to mind the dire warnings of Scripture on those who presume to receive the blessed Sacrament while not in a state of grace, or without the proper dispositions.  It is a reminder that while the grace available for the reception of Holy Communion is infinite, the actual effect on us depends on our receptivity.  We must therefore cultivate fervour!


memoria, ae, f memory, remembrance
mirabilis, e wonderful, marvelous; subst., mirabilia, mm, wonders, wonderful works, marvellous things.
misericors, cordis merciful, abounding in mercy.
miserator, oris, m. merciful, one who shows mercy
esca, ae, f food for men or beasts.
timeo, ere 2, to fear, be afraid of.

Notes on the next verse can be found here.

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