Sunday, November 25, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 10: A liturgy of gratitude

The previous verse of Psalm 110 spoke of the importance of cultivating a healthy fear of the Lord.  

This final verse of the psalm verse points to the importance of putting this right attitude into action, providing a nice link to the next psalm of Vespers: Psalm 110 focuses on God's wonderful works; Psalm 111 shifts the emphasis to man's participation in the divine through good works.  

Here is the verse:

Intelléctus bonus ómnibus faciéntibus eum: * laudátio ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continues for ever and ever


The Douay-Rheims renders this verse ‘A good understanding to all that do it’.  Brenton’s translation from the Septuagint, however, is rather clearer, making it ‘And all that act accordingly have a good understanding’.  

The sense is, all who practice fear of the Lord acquire a good understanding or insight of the good things God gives us, such as the Eucharist.

intellectus, us, m.  understanding, insight.
bonus, a, um, good; pleasant; upright  good things, possessions, prosperity
omnis, e, all, each, every; subst., all men, all things, everything
facio, feci, factum, ere 3,  to make, do, cause, bring to pass

laudátio (the praise) ejus (his) manet (continues) in sæculum sæculi (forever and ever).

This good understanding in turn generates a response of a continuous prayer of praise.  

laudatio, onis, f. praise.
maneo, mansi, mansum, ere 2 to abide, remain, continue, endure


The psalm opened with a commitment to praising God for his great works, and it ends with an explanation of just why we should praise God.  It teaches that our faith is not just a passive thing, a mere belief, but rather must translate into action to be real.  St John Chrysostom comments:

Faith, you see, is not sufficient if a way of life in keep­ing with faith is not forthcoming.’

Just as God acts, manifesting himself in his great works, so too must we.


Deepen our faith, O Lord, that we may always see your goodness, and thereby act rightly.

Help us to pray ceaselessly, that we may praise you thus in heaven.


Pope Benedict comments:

“And if the very first word of the hymn is a word of thanksgiving, the last word is a word of praise: just as the Lord's saving justice "[stands] firm for ever" (v. 3), the gratitude of the praying person knows no bounds and re-echoes in his ceaseless prayer (cf. v. 10). To sum up, the Psalm invites us, lastly, to discover the many good things that the Lord gives us every day. We more readily perceive the negative aspects of our lives. The Psalm invites us also to see the positive things, the many gifts we receive, and thus to discover gratitude, for only in a grateful heart can the great liturgy of gratitude be celebrated: the Eucharist.”

Psalm 110

Here is the whole psalm again for reference purposes.

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.

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.

Memor erit in sæculum testaménti sui: * virtútem óperum suórum annuntiábit pópulo suo:
He will be mindful for ever of his covenant:  He will show forth to his people the power of his works.

Ut det illis hereditátem géntium: * ópera mánuum ejus véritas, et judícium.
That he may give them the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hands are truth and judgment.

Fidélia ómnia mandáta ejus: confirmáta in sæculum sæculi, * facta in veritáte et æquitáte. All his commandments are faithful: confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity.

Redemptiónem misit pópulo suo: * mandávit in ætérnum testaméntum suum.
He has sent redemption to his people: he has commanded his covenant for ever.

Sanctum, et terríbile nomen ejus: * inítium sapiéntiæ timor Dómini.
Holy and terrible is his name: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Intelléctus bonus ómnibus faciéntibus eum: * laudátio ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continues for ever and ever.

This is the final part in this series on Psalm 110.  But for a look at the next psalm of Sunday Vespers, click on the link here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 9: Fear of the Lord

Moses and the burning bush, c1450

Verse 9 of Psalm 110 reminds us of the fear and awe we should feel at the divine:

Sanctum, et terríbile nomen ejus: inítium sapiéntiæ timor Dómini.
Holy and terrible is his name: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.


Sanctum (holy) et (and) terríbile(terrible) nomen (name) ejus (His)

sanctus, a, um,  holy, holy person
terribilis, terrible, dreadful, fearful. Often used of God and of His works
nomen, mis, n. name; God himself; the perfections of God, His glory, majesty, wisdom, power, goodness,

inítium (the beginning) sapiéntiæ (of wisdom) timor (fear) Dómini (of the Lord) 

initium, ii beginning, commencement.
sapientia, ae, f wisdom.
timor, oris, m. fear; an object of fear.

‘Beginning’ here doesn’t literally mean elementary wisdom, but rather the chief part, basis or foundation of it, hence St Jerome’s from the Hebrew translation uses ‘principium’ instead of initium here.    

Pope Benedict XVI notes: 

Next, quoting a sapiential saying (cf. Prov 1: 7; 9: 10, 15: 33), the Psalmist invites every member of the faithful to cultivate "fear of the Lord" (Ps 111[110]: 10), the beginning of true wisdom. It is not fear and terror that are suggested by this word, but serious and sincere respect which is the fruit of love, a genuine and active attachment to God the Liberator.”


The Incarnation of Our Lord poses for us a tension.  

On the one hand, God becomes man, making him more approachable to us, someone with whom we can have a genuine personal relationship.

Yet he remains always omnipotent God, someone who invokes a sense of awe, as numerous stories in the Gospels attest.  St John Chrysostom summarises it thus:

“Holy and fearsome is his name, that is, instilling amazement, com­plete wonder. Now, if his name has that effect, how much more so his being? But in what way is his name holy and fearsome? De­mons tremble at it, ailments quail before it, the apostles invoked this name to set all the world at rights…


Pope Benedict XVI comments: 

The end of Psalm 111[110] is sealed by contemplation of the divine face, the Lord's very person, symbolized by his holy and transcendent "name".”

And for the final part in this series on Psalm 110, click the link here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 8: Redemption

Verse 8 of Psalm 110 is a high point of the psalm, offering us hope:

Redemptiónem misit pópulo suo: mandávit in ætérnum testaméntum suum.

He has sent redemption to his people: he has commanded his covenant for ever.


Redemptiónem (Redemption, deliverance) misit (he has sent) pópulo (to the people) suo (his)

The key words in it are:

redemptio onis f a buying back, ransoming, deliverance, redemption
mitto, misi, missum, ere 3, to send
populus, i, people; the chosen people

This is one of those phrases with a double meaning: it refers firstly to the Old Testament liberation of the Jews from Egypt, and their being given the earthly Jerusalem. But it also of course refers to the coming of Jesus and the promise of the heavenly Jerusalem, as Luke 1:68 makes clear: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.

mandávit (he has commanded) in ætérnum (in eternity, forever) testaméntum suum (His covenant)

The key words are:

mando, avi, atum, are to enjoin, order, command
aeternus, a, um eternal. forever
testamentum, i, n. a covenant, testament


This verse is the climax of the psalm, the making of the new covenant, which unlike the Old, lasts forever as St Robert Bellarmine explains:

Now, Christ redeemed his people from the captivity and the slavery of sin and from the powers of darkness, by the price of his blood, and in such manner he really and truly "hath commanded his covenant forever;" that is, he ordered and settled it finally, that his covenant or his compact regarding true, real salvation, and the enjoyment of the kingdom of heaven, should be everlasting, and not like that of the possession of Palestine, which was only temporary, as we know from experience; and therefore, Jer. 31 has, "Behold, the days will come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda. Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: the covenant which they made void, and I had dominion over them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."


We should thank God for the sacrifice of Christ, which reopened the way to heaven for us, and ask for the grace to take up his invitation and live as good Christians.


In this new covenant the law still has a key role, as St John Chrysostom explains:

“Here he refers to the New Testament: since he mentioned precept and Law, which were broken and aroused his wrath, he says, He sent redemption to his people, as he said in person, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." When the Law was transgressed, you see, it dealt punishment: "The Law in fact brings wrath; that is, where there is no law, there is no transgression;" and, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified by his grace as a gift." Hence the psalmist spoke that way, The Lord sent redemption to his people. Yet it is not redemption pure and simple: after redemption there is law as well, so that we may give evidence of a way of life that is worthy of grace."

And you can find the next part of the series here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Psalm 110 vs 7 - The immutable law

Today's verse of Psalm 110 reminds us that the judgments of God alluded to in the previous verse are based on the immutable laws that he has put in place:

Fidélia ómnia mandáta ejus: confirmáta in sæculum sæculi, facta in veritáte et æquitáte
All his commandments are faithful: confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity.


Fidélia ómnia mandáta ejus = trustworthy/sure/faithful [are] all his commandments/precepts/laws

confirmáta in sæculum sæculi = established/confirmed forever and ever

facta in veritáte et æquitáte = made/done in truth and fairness/equity/uprightness


Chrysostom draws attention to the fairly standard juxtaposition in the psalms, between the wonder of creation and the wonder of the law:

“As he often does, he does here too, moving from the wisdom in his richly varied creation and from his care to his lawmaking, and discussing in turn this part of his providence. I mean, he corrected the human race not only by creating a creation of this kind and extent but by laying down laws...In the same way here, too, after speaking about his marvels and wonders and works, he shifts his attention to the subject of his precepts, speaking this way…”

He goes on to explain the significance of ‘all’ in the phrase. By the law, he means firstly the laws of science, that govern the operation of the world around us. He points secondly to the natural law, written on men’s hearts. And finally there is the written law of the Old Testament and the New.


We are invited to delight in the commands or laws of God.


Chrysostom invites us to adopt Christ’s teaching on fulfilling not just the letter of the law, but also its spirit:

“There are also laws that are in writing. And all these remain in force. If some have been abrogated, however, they have been changed not for the worse but for the better. That one, for example, "You shall not kill," has not been abrogated but extended; and that one, "You shall not commit adultery," has not been cancelled but has become more comprehensive. Hence he also said, "I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfil them." That is to say, the person who does not give way to rage will be far more likely to abstain from murder, and the one not giving free rein to a roving eye will keep a greater distance from adultery. Consequently, law has this particular character, special, immortal, invariable - the law of creation, the law of nature, the law of sound values, and the law of the New Testament.” Hence he says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away," indicating their immovable character.”

You can find the next part of this series here.