Sunday, December 2, 2012

Introduction to Psalm 111 (112): Beatus vir

I'm continuing this series on the psalms of Sunday Vespers today, with an overview of the third psalm of the hour, Psalm 111 (112), Beatus Vir.

Psalm 111 is regarded as something of a twin to its predecessor, Psalm 110.

Both are alphabetical psalms in the original Hebrew.

More importantly, in this psalm, the just man (who fears God) and his works are praised in similar terms to those applied to God in the previous psalm.  In the previous psalm, we praised God for his great works, above all the gift of the Eucharist; in this psalm we are invited to contemplate on how, with the aid of grace, we can participate in the divine life ourselves.

Happy the man...

The opening line of the psalm 'Happy the man' immediately places it with the other 'beatitude' psalms, such as Psalm 1.

Pope Benedict XVI sees the psalmist as posing the question, how can we live well, and find happiness?

"This Psalm answers: happy is the man who gives; happy is the man who does not live life for himself but gives; happy is the man who is merciful, generous and just; happy is the man who lives in the love of God and neighbour. In this way we live well and have no reason to fear death because we experience the everlasting happiness that comes from God."

In the Septuagint and Vulgate, the title of the psalm is given as 'Alleluia, of the returning of Aggeus and Zacharias', which implies that the psalm was sung by the two prophets on returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon as an expression of their joy.  The Christian can feel the same joy at being admitted to the Eucharist each week after being freed from his or her sins.

Psalm 111

Here is the text as a whole.  You can hear the Latin being read out loud at the Boston Catholic Journal website.

1 Beatus vir qui timet Dominum : in mandatis ejus volet nimis
Blessed is the man that fears the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.

2 Potens in terra erit semen ejus; generatio rectorum benedicetur.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed.

3 Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus, et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remains for ever and ever.

4 Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis : misericors, et miserator, et justus.
To the righteous a light is risen up in darkness: he is merciful, and compassionate and just.

5 Jucundus homo qui miseretur et commodat; disponet sermones suos in judicio: quia in æternum non commovebitur.
Acceptable is the man that shows mercy and lends: he shall order his words with judgment: Because he shall not be moved for ever.

6 In memoria æterna erit justus; ab auditione mala non timebit.
The just shall be in everlasting remembrance: he shall not fear the evil hearing.

7 Paratum cor ejus sperare in Domino, confirmatum est cor ejus; non commovebitur donec despiciat inimicos suos.
His heart is ready to hope in the Lord: His heart is strengthened, he shall not be moved until he look over his enemies.

8 Dispersit, dedit pauperibus; justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi : cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.
He has distributed, he has given to the poor: his justice remains for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory.

10 Peccator videbit, et irascetur; dentibus suis fremet et tabescet : desiderium peccatorum peribit.
The wicked shall see, and shall be angry, he shall gnash with his teeth and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

The next part in this series contains more detailed notes on verse 1 of the psalm.

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