Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tenebrae/14 - Psalm 146 (147a): On building up the Church

Codex Egberti, c980-993

Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday ends, so far as the psalms go, on a rather upbeat note that reminds us that everything will come out all right in the end!

In the Hebrew Masoretic Text Psalm 146 becomes the first half of Psalm 147, but that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, for the two are clearly quite distinct psalms.

Building up the Church

The emphasis of this (part of the) psalm is on all the things we should praise God for in the hear and now - particularly his work of Creation; his ongoing providential care of his creation; and especially his care for the downtrodden and brokenhearted.

Above all, this psalm reminds us of the purpose of Christ's mission and that of the Church in this period following the Resurrection: though the body of his Temple is about to be destroyed, yet "The Lord builds up Jerusalem: he will gather together the dispersed of Israel."

In the previous Canticle, the Eucharist was presented as the key to this task.  This psalm points to the things that flow from it, necessary to bring the message of hope and God's mercy to all.

We are all called to lend our hands to God for this task in our own way.  We can help buildup the Church through our prayers and offerings, and especially participation in the liturgy; through our works of charity in aiding the downtrodden; and through our preaching and teaching conveyed both in words, and more importantly action.

Psalm 146

Laudáte Dóminum quóniam bonus est psalmus: * Deo nostro sit jucúnda, decóraque laudátio.
Ædíficans Jerúsalem Dóminus: * dispersiónes Israël congregábit.
Qui sanat contrítos corde: * et álligat contritiónes eórum.
Qui númerat multitúdinem stellárum: * et ómnibus eis nómina vocat.
Magnus Dóminus noster, et magna virtus ejus: * et sapiéntiæ ejus non est númerus.
Suscípiens mansuétos Dóminus: * humílians autem peccatóres usque ad terram.
Præcínite Dómino in confessióne: * psállite Deo nostro in cíthara.
Qui óperit cælum núbibus: * et parat terræ plúviam.
Qui prodúcit in móntibus fœnum: * et herbam servitúti hóminum.
Qui dat juméntis escam ipsórum: * et pullis corvórum invocántibus eum.
Non in fortitúdine equi voluntátem habébit: * nec in tíbiis viri beneplácitum erit ei.
Beneplácitum est Dómino super timéntes eum: * et in eis, qui sperant super misericórdia ejus.

Praise the Lord, because psalm is good: to our God be joyful and comely praise. The Lord builds up Jerusalem: he will gather together the dispersed of Israel.
Who heals the broken of heart, and binds up their bruises.
Who tells the number of the stars: and calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and great is his power: and of his wisdom there is no number.
The Lord lifts up the meek, and brings the wicked down even to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with praise: sing to our God upon the harp.
Who covers the heaven with clouds, and prepares rain for the earth.
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains, and herbs for the service of men.
Who gives to beasts their food: and to the young ravens that call upon him.
He shall not delight in the strength of the horse: nor take pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him: and in them that hope in his mercy.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And you can find the next part in this series, on the psalms of Tenebrae for Good Friday, here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tenebrae/13 - Exodus 15

We come today to one of the 'psalms', or  Office canticles, not actually from the book of psalms, but rather from Exodus 15:1-19.

Up until now the psalms of Tenebrae have largely focused on Our Lord's prayer in the Garden, and his arrest.  This canticle, though, takes us back to the Last Supper as the ninth century commentator Hrabanus Maurus tells us in his commentary on the Office canticles:

 “For on Thursday justly is sung the song of the Israelites, which they sung after the pasch celebrating being freed from Egypt and conveyed through the Red Sea dry foot.  For on the same day our saviour figuratively celebrating the pasch with his disciples, he offered the paschal mystery continuing in the sacrament of his body and blood and in this immolation of the lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.”

A psalm of victory

The whole canticle is actually a rather joyously upbeat hymn of victory.

But why then a victory psalm for Maundy Thursday?

We have become accustomed, I think, to dwelling, perhaps unduly, on the sufferings of Christ in considering the Triduum.

By contrast, the Fathers often tended to see the events of Easter more as the triumphant fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption to his people, foreshadowed in these Old Testament events.

Scriptural context

The Scriptural context around this Canticle is important.

Before the Canticle, in Exodus Chapter 12-13, we read of the people of Israel celebrating that first Pasch, marking the doors of their houses with the blood of the lamb to protect them against the avenging angels who slew the first-born of Israel.  Moses then leads the people out of Egypt, but the Egyptians pursue.  The people are terrified, wishing that they had not followed Moses (Exodus 14) – until he miraculously parts the Red Sea to let them cross, and then lets the waters flow back drowning the pursuing Egyptians.

The people rejoice, and this canticle (and the attribution formula suggests that it was actually Miriam, sister of Aaron rather than Moses) is then sung (Chapter 15).

Yet no sooner is this song sung than Exodus records that the people are once more murmuring against Moses, this time complaining at the lack of food and water, foreshadowing perhaps those dark and desolate days of Good Friday and Holy Saturday when the Mass is not celebrated.  But then in Chapter 16, the miracle of the manna in the desert, that second foreshadowing of the Eucharist, of the Resurrection, is recorded.

The Lord is a man of war

This canticle perhaps points us to consider a slightly different emphasis to our meditations on the Cross for the moment.  It should remind us that the sufferings of Christ are part of the eternal battle against sin and its effects; against those whose hearts have been so hardened that they plot against God and his people.

It should be a reminder that our own sins put Christ on the Cross, and that we must war against them, led by the God who is a man of war, yet paradoxically also the Prince of Peace; and strengthened by the Paschal sacrifice he offers for us.

Exodus 15:1-19

Cantémus Dómino: glorióse enim magnificátus est, * equum et ascensórem dejécit in mare.
Fortitúdo mea, et laus mea Dóminus, * et factus est mihi in salútem.
Iste Deus meus, et glorificábo eum: * Deus patris mei, et exaltábo eum.
Dóminus quasi vir pugnátor, Omnípotens nomen ejus. * Currus Pharaónis et exércitum ejus projécit in mare.
Elécti príncipes ejus submérsi sunt in mari Rubro: * abyssi operuérunt eos, descendérunt in profúndum quasi lapis.
Déxtera tua, Dómine, magnificáta est in fortitúdine: déxtera tua, Dómine, percússit inimícum. * Et in multitúdine glóriæ tuæ deposuísti adversários meos.
Misísti iram tuam, quæ devorávit eos sicut stípulam. * Et in spíritu furóris tui congregátæ sunt aquæ:
Stetit unda fluens, * congregátæ sunt abyssi in médio mari.
Dixit inimícus: Pérsequar et comprehéndam, * dívidam spólia, implébitur ánima mea:
Evaginábo gládium meum, * interfíciet eos manus mea.
Flavit spíritus tuus, et opéruit eos mare: * submérsi sunt quasi plumbum in aquis veheméntibus.
Quis símilis tui in fórtibus, Dómine? * quis símilis tui, magníficus in sanctitáte, terríbilis atque laudábilis, fáciens mirabília?
Extendísti manum tuam, et devorávit eos terra. * Dux fuísti in misericórdia tua pópulo quem redemísti:
Et portásti eum in fortitúdine tua, * ad habitáculum sanctum tuum.
Ascendérunt pópuli, et iráti sunt: * dolóres obtinuérunt habitatóres Philísthiim.
Tunc conturbáti sunt príncipes Edom, robústos Moab obtínuit tremor: * obriguérunt omnes habitatóres Chánaan.
Irruat super eos formído et pavor, * in magnitúdine bráchii tui:
Fiant immóbiles quasi lapis, donec pertránseat pópulus tuus, Dómine, * donec pertránseat pópulus tuus iste, quem possedísti.
Introdúces eos, et plantábis in monte hereditátis tuæ, * firmíssimo habitáculo tuo quod operátus es, Dómine.
Sanctuárium tuum, Dómine, quod firmavérunt manus tuæ. * Dóminus regnábit in ætérnum et ultra.
Ingréssus est enim eques Phárao cum cúrribus et equítibus ejus in mare: * et redúxit super eos Dóminus aquas maris:
Fílii autem Israël ambulavérunt per siccum * in médio ejus.

And the translation:

Let us sing to the Lord: for he is gloriously magnified, the horse and the rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my praise, and he has become salvation to me: he is my God, and I will glorify him: the God of my father, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is as a man of war, Almighty is his name.
Pharao's chariots and his army he has cast into the sea: his chosen captains are drowned in the Red Sea.
The depths have covered them, they are sunk to the bottom like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, is magnified in strength: your right hand, O Lord, has slain the enemy.
And in the multitude of your glory you have put down your adversaries: you have sent your wrath, which has devoured them like stubble.
And with the blast of your anger the waters were gathered together: the flowing water stood, the depths were gathered together in the midst of the sea.
The enemy said: I will pursue and overtake, I will divide the spoils, my soul shall have its fill: I will draw my sword, my hand shall slay them.
Your wind blew and the sea covered them: they sunk as lead in the mighty waters.
Who is like to you, among the strong, O Lord? Who is like to you, glorious in holiness, terrible and praise-worthy, doing wonders?
You stretched forth your hand, and the earth swallowed them. In your mercy you have been a leader to the people which you have redeemed: and in your strength you have carried them to your holy habitation.
Nations rose up, and were angry: sorrows took hold on the inhabitants of Philisthiim.
Then were the princes of Edom troubled, trembling seized on the stout men of Moab: all the inhabitants of Chanaan became stiff.
Let fear and dread fall upon them, in the greatness of your arm: let them become immoveable as a stone, until your people, O Lord, pass by: until this your people pass by, which you have possessed.
You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in your most firm habitation, which you have made, O Lord;
your sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.
For Pharao went in on horseback with his chariots and horsemen into the sea: and the Lord brought back upon them the waters of the sea:
but the children of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst thereof

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And for the next part in this series go here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tenebrae Psalms/12 - Psalm 35

The opening lines of today's psalm, Psalm 35 (36) are words those in the Church whose past misdeeds are still to come fully to light, should especially ponder:

"Deep in his heart the sinner hears the whispering of evil, and loses sight of the fear of God; flatters himself with the thought that his misdoings go undiscovered, earn no reproof.(Knox translation)

Yet though those guilty of the most vile crimes should especially heed this lesson of this psalm, St Paul points out that we are all, to some degree, evil men at times, standing in need of grace through Christ's redeeming action to save us and help us persevere in the Christian life.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

The reason for the psalm's inclusion in the post 1911 version of the hour is presumably that the psalm's discussion on the nature of evil can be seen as alluding to the arrest and coming Passion of Our Lord, but it obviously has a broad applicability.

Too often today, modern 'theology' confuses God's love for us with his approval of our actions, regardless of their actual merit.  By contrast this psalm reminds us that true evil occurs when man acts with malice aforethought: when we actively reject the truth, and refuse to turn away from the horror of what we are doing. Self-deception, the psalmist suggests, is all too easy.

Yet for such men, for all those Judas' in the Church, great and small, a time of reckoning will come:

"See what a fall awaits the wrong-doers, how they are cast down to earth, and can keep their feet no more!

The psalm goes on to point out that even in the face of man’s tendency to evil, God offers truth, justice and mercy to all, reaching down from the heavens.  Through Christ's sacrifice on the Cross we are offered the fountain of life, and access to the light.  The psalm ends with a plea to keep us humble, and to protect us from being led astray, knowing that evil doers come to nothing in the end.

Psalm 35

Dixit injustus ut delinquat in semetipso: non est timor Dei ante oculos ejus.  Quoniam dolose egit in conspectu ejus, ut inveniatur iniquitas ejus ad odium. Verba oris ejus iniquitas, et dolus; noluit intelligere ut bene ageret.
Iniquitatem meditatus est in cubili suo; astitit omni viæ non bonæ : malitiam autem non odivit.
Domine, in cælo misericordia tua, et veritas tua usque ad nubes.
Justitia tua sicut montes Dei; judicia tua abyssus multa.
Homines et jumenta salvabis, Domine, quemadmodum multiplicasti misericordiam tuam, Deus.
Filii autem hominum in tegmine alarum tuarum sperabunt.
Inebriabuntur ab ubertate domus tuæ, et torrente voluptatis tuæ potabis eos:  quoniam apud te est fons vitæ, et in lumine tuo videbimus lumen.
Prætende misericordiam tuam scientibus te, et justitiam tuam his qui recto sunt corde.
Non veniat mihi pes superbiæ, et manus peccatoris non moveat me.
Ibi ceciderunt qui operantur iniquitatem; expulsi sunt, nec potuerunt stare.

The unjust has said within himself, that he would sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes.
For in his sight he has done deceitfully, that his iniquity may be found unto hatred.
The words of his mouth are iniquity and guile: he would not understand that he might do well.
He has devised iniquity on his bed, he has set himself on every way that is not good: but evil he has not hated.
O Lord, your mercy is in heaven, and your truth reaches even to the clouds.  Your justice is as the mountains of God, your judgments are a great deep.
Men and beasts you will preserve, O Lord: O how have you multiplied your mercy, O God!
But the children of men shall put their trust under the covert of your wings.
They shall be inebriated with the plenty of your house; and you shall make them drink of the torrent of your pleasure.
For with you is the fountain of life; and in your light we shall see light.
Extend your mercy to them that know you, and your justice to them that are right in heart.
Let not the foot of pride come to me, and let not the hand of the sinner move me. There the workers of iniquity are fallen, they are cast out, and could not stand.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, [35,] [Ex 15], 146

And for the next part in this series go here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tenebrae/11 - Psalm 89

The arrest of Jesus, c1500

Today we move to the Lauds proportion of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday.  We've already looked at Psalm 50, the Miserere, that opens up this hour, so today a brief look at Psalm 89.

One could also see the psalm as recapitulating the purpose of the Passion and Resurrection, for there is a progression in what the psalmist is asking for here: first for God to relent in his punishment of mankind (v3-12); secondly, to reveal his power and teach us wisdom (v14); and finally to fill his people with grace and blessings (v14-17).

A psalm of Moses

Psalm 89 is the only psalm attributed to Moses in the psalter, and he is also the author of the canticle that forms part of this Lauds (from Exodus 15).  Some interpret this psalm as having been written at the end of Moses’ life, gazing into the Promised Land, yet not allowed to enter it himself, and begging for God to have mercy on the remnant that still survived of those who came out of Egypt.  Thus Moses stands on our behalf, begging Christ to save us through his Passion.

The psalm points first to the divinity of Christ, reminding us that: “Before the mountains were made, or the earth and the world was formed; from eternity and to eternity you are God.” (v2)  Thus, it reminds us of the two natures of the Christ, so critical to what is to come.

The next verse, at least in the Septuagint/Vulgate version (yet curiously reversed in meaning in the later Hebrew Masoretic Text!), continues the plea set up in the previous psalms for God not to abandon man: Turn not man away to be brought low (v3).  Certainly the Fathers saw the following plea for God to have pity and convert men, and v15’s ‘Return, O Lord, how long? And be entreated in favour of your servants’, in the context of the discussion on the shortness of man’s life, in verses 6-11, as allusions to the consequences of Adam’s sin: we too would be immortal but for it.

Have we made a difference?

One can also take the discussion on the shortness of man’s life in contrast to the eternity of God (vv 2, 4&5) as part of a kind of dialogue between the human and divine natures of the Saviour, pointing to the shortness of Christ’s life on earth, a time that he was obviously reluctant to cut short, the divine plan notwithstanding.

Some commentaries on this psalm see it as in part the lament of a man facing death and wondering whether he has really made a difference with his life.  That is obviously not an issue that faced Our Lord, but the psalm's emphasis on the transient nature, and shortness of human life on earth should serve as a reminder to keep our focus on eternity and what matters.

Christ's public ministry was short, and so far as the world viewed it, cut off ignominiously.  Yet the effects of his ministry resound to the ends of the universe.  In our own small way we too each have a mission to carry out, a difference to make in ways that may not be obvious to anyone, including ourselves.   So let us head the words of the psalm, ignore the perceptions of the world, and 'be converted'!

Psalm 89 (90)

Domine, refugium factus es nobis a generatione in generationem.
Priusquam montes fierent, aut formaretur terra et orbis, a sæculo et usque in sæculum tu es, Deus.
Ne avertas hominem in humilitatem : et dixisti : convertimini, filii hominum.
Quoniam mille anni ante oculos tuos tamquam dies hesterna quæ præteriit:
et custodia in nocte, quæ pro nihilo habentur, eorum anni erunt.
Mane sicut herba transeat; mane floreat, et transeat; vespere decidat, induret, et arescat.
Quia defecimus in ira tua, et in furore tuo turbati sumus.
Posuisti iniquitates nostras in conspectu tuo; sæculum nostrum in illuminatione vultus tui.
Quoniam omnes dies nostri defecerunt, et in ira tua defecimus.
Anni nostri sicut aranea meditabuntur; dies annorum nostrorum in ipsis septuaginta anni.
Si autem in potentatibus octoginta anni, et amplius eorum labor et dolor;
quoniam supervenit mansuetudo, et corripiemur.
Quis novit potestatem iræ tuæ, et præ timore tuo iram tuam dinumerare? Dexteram tuam sic notam fac, et eruditos corde in sapientia.
Convertere, Domine; usquequo? et deprecabilis esto super servos tuos.
Repleti sumus mane misericordia tua; et exsultavimus, et delectati sumus omnibus diebus nostris.
Lætati sumus pro diebus quibus nos humiliasti; annis quibus vidimus mala.
Respice in servos tuos et in opera tua, et dirige filios eorum.
Et sit splendor Domini Dei nostri super nos, et opera manuum nostrarum dirige super nos, et opus manuum nostrarum dirige.

And the translation:

Lord, you have been our refuge from generation to generation.
Before the mountains were made, or the earth and the world was formed; from eternity and to eternity you are God.
Turn not man away to be brought low: and you have said: Be converted, O you sons of men.
For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, which is past.
And as a watch in the night, things that are counted nothing, shall their years be.
In the morning man shall grow up like grass; in the morning he shall flourish and pass away: in the evening he shall fall, grow dry, and wither.
For in your wrath we have fainted away: and are troubled in your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before your eyes: our life in the light of your countenance.
For all our days are spent; and in your wrath we have fainted away. Our years shall be considered as a spider: The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years.
But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow.
For mildness has come upon us: and we shall be corrected.
Who knows the power of your anger, and for your fear can number your wrath? So make your right hand known: and men learned in heart, in wisdom.
Return, O Lord, how long? And be entreated in favour of your servants.
We are filled in the morning with your mercy: and we have rejoiced, and are delighted all our days.
We have rejoiced for the days in which you have humbled us: for the years in which we have seen evils.
Look upon your servants and upon their works: and direct their children.
And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us: and direct the works of our hands over us; yea, the work of our hands do you direct.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And for the next part in this series, go here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tenebrae/10 - Psalm 76

This final psalm of the Matins segment of Maundy Thursday Tenebrae opens by depicting the Lord, still keeping vigil in the Garden as he waits for his arrest, devoid of comfort:

"I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted... I am so troubled that I cannot speak." (RSV)

The problem he is struggling with is the fate of mankind, which hangs now in the balance:

"Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love for ever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"

Yet, the psalm reminds us, this is the God who saves, who parted the Red Sea to lead his people out of Egypt, and will do so again in the baptism of the Cross.  We can have no doubt of the answer, for God's love for us is infinite.

The real question is whether we in turn can respond to this great love poured out as grace for us, and take up the path of sanctity and salvation.

Psalm 76

Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi : * voce mea ad Deum, et inténdit mihi.
In die tribulatiónis meæ Deum exquisívi, mánibus meis nocte contra eum : * et non sum decéptus.
Rénuit consolári ánima mea, * memor fui Dei, et delectátus sum, et exercitátus sum : et defécit spíritus meus.
Anticipavérunt vigílias óculi mei : *  turbátus sum, et non sum locútus.
Cogitávi dies antíquos : * et annos ætérnos in mente hábui.
Et meditátus sum nocte cum corde meo, * et exercitábar, et scopébam spíritum meum.
Numquid in ætérnum projíciet Deus : * aut non appónet ut complacítior sit adhuc?
Aut in finem misericórdiam suam abscíndet, * a generatióne in generatiónem?
Aut obliviscétur miseréri Deus : * aut continébit in ira sua misericórdias suas?
Et dixi : Nunc cœpi : * hæc mutátio déxteræ Excélsi.
Memor fui óperum Dómini : * quia memor ero ab inítio mirabílium tuórum.
Et meditábor in ómnibus opéribus tuis : * et in adinventiónibus tuis exercébor.
Deus, in sancto via tua : quis Deus magnus sicut Deus noster? * tu es Deus qui facis mirabília.
Notam fecísti in pópulis virtútem tuam : * Redemísti in bráchio tuo pópulum tuum fílios Jacob et Joseph.
Vidérunt te aquæ,  Deus, vidérunt te aquæ : * et timuérunt et turbátæ sunt abyssi.
Multitúdo sónitus aquárum : * vocem dedérunt nubes.
Etenim sagíttæ tuæ tránseunt : * vox tonítrui tui in rota.
Illuxérunt coruscatiónes tuæ orbi terræ : *  commóta est, et contrémuit terra.
In mari via tua, et sémitæ tuæ in aquis multis : * et vestígia tua non cognoscéntur.
Deduxísti sicut oves pópulum tuum, *  in manu Móysi et Aaron.

And the English:

I cried to the Lord with my voice; to God with my voice, and he gave ear to me.
In the days of my trouble I sought God, with my hands lifted up to him in the night, and I was not deceived.
My soul refused to be comforted: I remembered God, and was delighted, and was exercised, and my spirit swooned away.
My eyes prevented the watches: I was troubled, and I spoke not.
I thought upon the days of old: and I had in my mind the eternal years.
And I meditated in the night with my own heart: and I was exercised and I swept my spirit.
Will God then cast off for ever? Or will he never be more favourable again?
Or will he cut off his mercy for ever, from generation to generation?
Or will God forget to show mercy? Or will he in his anger shut up his mercies?
And I said, Now have I begun: this is the change of the right hand of the most High.
With your arm you have redeemed your people the children of Jacob and of Joseph.
The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you: and they were afraid, and the depths were troubled.
Great was the noise of the waters: the clouds sent out a sound.
For your arrows pass: The voice of your thunder in a wheel.
Your lightnings enlightened the world: the earth shook and trembled.
Your way is in the sea, and your paths in many waters: and your footsteps shall not be known.
You have conducted your people like sheep, by the hand of Moses and Aaron

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And for the next part in the series, on Psalm 89, go here.  Alternatively, if you want to look at the notes on Psalm 50, covered previously, go here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tenebrae/9 - Psalm 75

Today's psalm, Psalm 75 (76), continues the of God's intervention in history, and the coming warfare of the Cross.

The Old Testament historical context it suggested its title is the victory over the king of the Assyrians, Sennacherib described in 2 Kings 19: 35 and Isaiah 37:36. The language of fear and awe is an appropriate reaction to the scene described there:

“And it came to pass that night, that an angel of the Lord came, and slew in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand. And when he arose early in the morning, he saw all the bodies of the dead.”

Both Isaiah and this psalm imply that the attack of Sennacherib foreshadows the dawning of the Messianic era, reminding us of God’s stupendous power: Tu terríbilis es, et quis resístet tibi? ex tunc ira tua’, or You are terrible, and who shall resist you? From that time your wrath (verse 8).

In the context of Triduum, the accompanying antiphon encourages us to particularly think of the earthquake that at the moment of Our Lord’s death, rending the temple veil in two, with the verse 'De caelo auditum fecisti judicium: terra tremuit et quievit (From heaven you have pronounced your judgment: the earth trembled and was still).

Despite God's 'anger' as exprssed in the psalm, we are reminded that Christ died on the cross for a reason, namely ‘to save all the meek of the earth’ (v9).  And in the light of this, the opening references to God being known in Judaea, and in the Temple in (Jeru)salem, in verses 1-2, have, the Fathers point out, a layer of irony attached to them: when the people denied God the Son, the veil of the Temple was pierced, the earth trembled, and the true Judaea, where God is really known, became the Church.

Jerusalem too is transfigured into the heavenly Jerusalem, from which judgment comes, causing the earth to fear and stand still.

This psalm is a fierce reminder of God’s justice, power and might before which we should tremble.

No wonder then that it ends in a call to persevere in our vows and offerings.

Psalm 75

Notus in Judæa Deus; in Israël magnum nomen ejus.
Et factus est in pace locus ejus, et habitatio ejus in Sion.
Ibi confregit potentias arcuum, scutum, gladium, et bellum.
Illuminans tu mirabiliter a montibus æternis;  turbati sunt omnes insipientes corde.
Dormierunt somnum suum, et nihil invenerunt omnes viri divitiarum in manibus suis.
Ab increpatione tua, Deus Jacob, dormitaverunt qui ascenderunt equos.
Tu terribilis es; et quis resistet tibi? ex tunc ira tua.
De cælo auditum fecisti judicium : terra tremuit et quievit cum exsurgeret in judicium Deus, ut salvos faceret omnes mansuetos terræ.
Quoniam cogitatio hominis confitebitur tibi, et reliquiæ cogitationis diem festum agent tibi.
Vovete et reddite Domino Deo vestro, omnes qui in circuitu ejus affertis munera:
terribili, et ei qui aufert spiritum principum : terribili apud reges terræ.

In Judea God is known: his name is great in Israel.
And his place is in peace: and his abode in Sion:
There has he broken the powers of bows, the shield, the sword, and the battle.
You enlighten wonderfully from the everlasting hills. All the foolish of heart were troubled.
They have slept their sleep; and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, they have all slumbered that mounted on horseback.
You are terrible, and who shall resist you? From that time your wrath.
You have caused judgment to be heard from heaven: the earth trembled and was still,
when God arose in judgment, to save all the meek of the earth.
For the thought of man shall give praise to you: and the remainders of the thought shall keep holiday to you.
Vow and pay to the Lord your God: all you that are round about him bring presents.
To him that is terrible, even to him who takes away the spirit of princes: to the terrible with the kings of the earth.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75*, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

Tenebrae of Holy Saturday

Nocturn I: Psalms 4, 14, 15
Nocturn II: Psalms 23, 26, 29
Nocturn III: Psalms 53*, 75*, 87*
Lauds: 50*, 91, 63, [Is 38], 150

And for the next part in this series, on Psalm 76, go here.  Alternatively, if you are looking at this psalm in the context of Holy Saturday, you can skip straight to Psalm 87.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tenebrae/8 - Psalm 74: Judgment is coming...

Today's psalm, Psalm 74 (75), marks the start of the third Nocturn of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday, and though we are still dealing with the prayer in the Garden, the focus broadens somewhat.

In this Nocturn, rather than just focusing on Judas' betrayal, we are invited also to contemplate the plotting of the Jewish authorities, and the rejection of Christ by the people of Jerusalem.

And there is a clear message for those within God's Church who plot for its downfall: each of these three psalms points to the weight of God's anger that will fall upon the guilty: this is the God who causes rockfalls, earthquakes, lightening; the God who parted the waters of the Red Sea, and we should fear his wrath.  Above all though, these three psalms give us reasons for perseverance and endurance in times of difficulty.

The bitter cup

Psalm 74 is particularly appropriate as a prayer of the Garden, for in the central verses at least, it is clear that God is speaking; offering something of a dialogue with those who persecute and reject him, and pleading once more for repentance:

"I said to the wicked: Do not act wickedly: and to the sinners: Lift not up the horn.  Lift not up your horn on high: speak not iniquity against God."

And indeed we know from the Acts of the Apostles that many did indeed repent, did indeed realise that it was against God himself they were rebelling.

Soon in this Easter story, Christ will drink the bitter cup for our salvation, so that the just may be saved.  Yet the psalm also points us towards that final time of judgment, when, 'all the sinners of the earth shall drink'  from the cup of strong wine that he pours out.  It is a warning not to fall off the right path.

Seek God through Scripture

The psalm is a reminder too, as Cassiodorus comments, that we shouldn't need the great natural signs so often used in the Old Testament to keep us on track, for God has given us all the means we need to find him:

"We have heard the words of the Lord uttered not from the heights of heaven but from the sacred writings of the Psalter. We must obey Him all the more readily as He has deigned to offer advice to us all together. When the Lord spoke to Moses, the lightning flashed, the thunder crashed, the whole of Mount Sinai smoked, and fear of death penetrated all men; the command which brings life reached mankind in a manner which made them believe that they would perish through great hazard. So see how we must continually marvel at the kindnesses of the Lord Saviour if only we can understand them, for we carry His words every day in our hands. The Lord's wishes are revealed to us enclosed in the divine writings; He makes them available by His bodily appearance, so that the inner eye of the heart may be schooled for our welfare. He is never silent if we have recourse to Him in His writings. He is always ready to offer a vital response, and He is never at any time found to be absent if we seek Him with pure hearts. So let us, as the psalm urges us, renounce the pride which secludes the wicked from Him, and let us love the humility which joins the saints to Him in heavenly love."

All the same, don't altogether discount the possibility that those fires, earthquakes, floods or cyclones were indeed a sign!

Psalm 74

Confitébimur tibi, Deus: *  confitébimur, et invocábimus nomen tuum
Narrábimus mirabília tua: * cum accépero tempus, ego justítias judicábo.
Liquefácta est terra, et omnes qui hábitant in ea: * ego confirmávi colúmnas ejus.
Dixi iníquis: Nolíte iníque ágere: * et delinquéntibus : Nolíte exaltáre cornu : 
Nolíte extóllere in altum cornu vestrum: * nolíte loqui advérsus Deum iniquitátem.
Quia neque ab Oriénte, neque ab Occidénte, neque a desértis móntibus: * quóniam Deus judex est.
 Hunc humíliat, et hunc exáltat: * quia calix in manu Dómini vini meri plenus misto.
Et inclinávit ex hoc in hoc: verúmtamen fæx ejus non est exinaníta: * bibent omnes peccatóres terræ.
Ego autem annuntiábo in sæculum: * cantábo Deo Jacob.
Et ómnia córnua peccatórum confríngam: * et exaltabúntur córnua justi.

And I normally use a version of the Douay-Rheims as the translation, but today a small taster from the excellent Ronald Knox translation, in honour of the anniversary of his birth, and the new Baronius Press edition of it.  Note that I've rearranged the verses to line up with the liturgical divisions of the text.

We praise thee, O God, and, praising thee, call upon thy name,
tell the story of thy wondrous deeds. When the time is ripe, I will judge strictly;
earth rocks to its fall, and all that dwell on it; I alone support its fabric.
Rebel no more, I cry to the rebels, Abate your pride, to the transgressors;
would they match themselves against the most High, hurl defiance at God?
Look east, look west, it will avail you nothing; no help comes from the desert, or the high hills;
it is God who rules all, humbling one man and exalting another. In the Lord’s hand foams a full cup of spiced wine;
he holds it to men’s lips, that must empty it to the dregs, sinners everywhere must drink them.
Evermore will I triumph, singing praises to the God of Jacob;
mine to crush the pride of every sinner, and raise high the courage of the just.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And for the next part in this series go here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tenebrae psalms/7 - Psalm 73: Judas' in the Church today

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 147v
- Judas Hangs Himself the Musée Condé, Chantilly.

Today's psalm deals with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, as evildoers and those who hate God plot to eliminate true worship of God.

The destruction of the Temple

Opinions are split on just which particular destruction of the Temple this psalm refers to, but its role in this Nocturn is nicely explained by Cassiodorus' note on the three psalms of this second Nocturn of Maundy Thursday:

"Psalm 71 promised that the Lord's incarnation would come. In 72 Asaph [the psalms' author] put his transgressions behind him, and chose the course to follow. In this psalm there is lamentation for the destruction of the city, so that the Jews' extreme hardness of heart should at least feel fear at the disasters to their city. The good Physician has done all he could, if the sick man wished to recover his health. Let us remember, however, that the authority of the Church relates that Jerusalem was ravaged in the days when the most cruel people of the Jews crucified Christ the Lord, so that there can be no doubt what temporal evil that obstinate transgression sustained."

In the context of Maundy Thursday, the psalm is a plea to God to preserve the faithful remnant of his people in the face of pride and persecution.

The evil within the Church

More generally, as Fr Pius Pasch explains in words so very pertinent to the state of the Church today, it is an instruction not to lose hope, even in the fgace of those Judas' who pretend to be priests and bishops:

"The destruction of the temple was one of the saddest phases of Jewish history, and pre-figured both the death of Christ on the Cross, and in these latter days the destruction of our churches by the enemy within. In the midst of the Church's apparent destruction, its humiliation by enemies who pretend to be our shepherds, we cry out in our impatience that God will put a stop to this madness.  But we never lose our trust in God.  These verses remind us not to lose faith―God is our powerful Saviour."

Psalm 73 (74)

1 Ut quid, Deus, repulisti in finem, iratus est furor tuus super oves pascuæ tuæ? 
2 Memor esto congregationis tuæ, quam possedisti ab initio. 
3 Redemisti virgam hæreditatis tuæ, mons Sion, in quo habitasti in eo. 
4 Leva manus tuas in superbias eorum in finem : quanta malignatus est inimicus in sancto!
5 Et gloriati sunt qui oderunt te in medio solemnitatis tuæ; 
6 posuerunt signa sua, signa: et non cognoverunt sicut in exitu super summum. 
7 Quasi in silva lignorum securibus exciderunt januas ejus in idipsum; in securi et ascia dejecerunt eam. 
8 Incenderunt igni sanctuarium tuum; in terra polluerunt tabernaculum nominis tui. 
9 Dixerunt in corde suo cognatio eorum simul: Quiescere faciamus omnes dies festos Dei a terra. 10 Signa nostra non vidimus; jam non est propheta; et nos non cognoscet amplius. 
11  Usquequo, Deus, improperábit inimícus: * irrítat adversárius nomen tuum in finem?
12  Ut quid avértis manum tuam, et déxteram tuam, * de médio sinu tuo in finem?
13  Deus autem Rex noster ante sæcula: * operátus est salútem in médio terræ.
14  Tu confirmásti in virtúte tua mare: * contribulásti cápita dracónum in aquis.
15  Tu confregísti cápita dracónis: * dedísti eum escam pópulis Æthíopum.
16  Tu dirupísti fontes, et torréntes * tu siccásti flúvios Ethan.
17  Tuus est dies, et tua est nox: * tu fabricátus es auróram et solem.
18  Tu fecísti omnes términos terræ: * æstátem et ver tu plasmásti ea.
19  Memor esto hujus, inimícus improperávit Dómino: * et pópulus insípiens incitávit nomen tuum.
20  Ne tradas béstiis ánimas confiténtes tibi, * et ánimas páuperum tuórum ne obliviscáris in finem.
21  Réspice in testaméntum tuum: * quia repléti sunt, qui obscuráti sunt terræ dómibus iniquitátum.
22  Ne avertátur húmilis factus confúsus: * pauper et inops laudábunt nomen tuum.
23  Exsúrge, Deus, júdica causam tuam: * memor esto improperiórum tuórum, eórum quæ ab insipiénte sunt tota die.
24  Ne obliviscáris voces inimicórum tuórum: * supérbia eórum, qui te odérunt, ascéndit semper.

The translation:

God, why have you cast us off unto the end: why is your wrath enkindled against the sheep of your pasture? 
2 Remember your congregation, which you have possessed from the beginning. 
The sceptre of your inheritance which you have redeemed: mount Sion in which you have dwelt. 
3 Lift up your hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy has done wickedly in the sanctuary. 
4 And they that hate you have made their boasts, in the midst of your solemnity. 
They have set up their ensigns for signs, 5 and they knew not both in the going out and on the highest top. 
As with axes in a wood of trees, 6 they have cut down at once the gates thereof, with axe and hatchet they have brought it down. 
7 They have set fire to your sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling place of your name on the earth. 8 They said in their heart, the whole kindred of them together: Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the land. 
9 Our signs we have not seen, there is now no prophet: and he will know us no more. 
10 How long, O God, shall the enemy reproach: is the adversary to provoke your name for ever?
11 Why do you turn away your hand: and your right hand out of the midst of your bosom for ever? 12 But God is our king before ages: he has wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. 
13 You by your strength made the sea firm: you crushed the heads of the dragons in the waters. 
14 You have broken the heads of the dragon: you have given him to be meat for the people of the Ethiopians. 
15 You have broken up the fountains and the torrents: you have dried up the Ethan rivers. 
16 Yours is the day, and yours is the night: you have made the morning light and the sun. 
17 You have made all the borders of the earth: the summer and the spring were formed by you. 18 Remember this, the enemy has reproached the Lord: and a foolish people has provoked your name. 19 Deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to you: and forget not to the end the souls of your poor. 
20 Have regard to your covenant: for they that are the obscure of the earth have been filled with dwellings of iniquity. 
21 Let not the humble be turned away with confusion: the poor and needy shall praise your name. 22 Arise, O God, judge your own cause: remember your reproaches with which the foolish man has reproached you all the day. 
23 Forget not the voices of your enemies: the pride of them that hate you ascends continually.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And for the next part in this series, go here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tenebrae psalms/6 - Psalm 72: The grace of salvation

Today's psalm, Psalm 72, is generally interpreted as an attempt to answer the age-old problem of why the good so often suffer, and why those who do evil flourish.

The temptations of the world

Yet in the context of Maundy Thursday it takes on another level of meaning, and can first and foremost be seen as another prayer of the Garden.  It deals with the struggle of a man who sees evildoers flourishing, and is accordingly tempted to desert, rather than subject himself to redemptive suffering:

"But my feet were almost moved; my steps had well near slipped.
Because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners...
They have set their mouth against heaven: and their tongue has passed through the earth...Behold these are sinners; and yet, abounding in the world they have obtained riches..."

The moment of temptation passes, as the speaker moves beyond mere human knowledge, to that inner sanctum of God, where God directs the heart and mind:

"I studied that I might know this thing, it is a labour in my sight:
Until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends...For my heart has been inflamed, and my reins have been changed...
You have held me by my right hand; and by your will you have conducted me, and with your glory you have received me."

Thirty pieces of silver

The answer to the problem of why Christ had to suffer and endure the Cross, and why we too must embrace it, is not fully given in this psalm, but it does point out that those thirty pieces of silver are not redeemable in hell:

"But indeed for deceits you have put it to them: when they were lifted up you have cast them down.
How are they brought to desolation? They have suddenly ceased to be: they have perished by reason of their iniquity.
As the dream of them that awake, O Lord; so in your city you shall bring their image to nothing."

Could Judas have yet repented?

It is a teaching of our faith that repentance is always possible, short of death.  Yet there are some people whose crimes are so extreme that their minds are so hardened as to fail to do so.  In the Old Testament we are told that God hardened Pharoah's mind; in the New we have the terrible fate of Judas set before us.  And no I don't subscribe to the modern - and modernist - view that Judas may have made it to heaven, or that hell may be empty; it runs counter to centuries of teaching and tradition!

We must hope and pray then, for the grace of repentance and final endurance that only God can grant, as the early monastic writer Pachomius comments:

"If someone speaks like this: "If ever someone is deceived or snatched away in one of these abysses, is he already lost and has he no longer repentance," I will tell him that a person who has repentance and a true understanding regarding the faith and God's commandments, with a zeal for this, even if he comes close to falling through negligence, yet the Lord will not let him be lost altogether. As it is written, "My feet were on the point of stumbling."

He shows him his grace through the scourge of a sickness or a grief or the shame of his offense that becoming conscious of his negligence he may walk in the middle of the narrow path until he arrives and may not wander a single foot because the path is four cubits wide.

He who wanders off is like Judas, who after receiving benevolence from the Lord and seeing great signs—even the resurrection of the dead— having the purse, was not aware of grace. Because of this he was completely lost through love of money and betrayal.

But the good, although as people with free will they may somehow have neglected what is fitting, are still "refined through fire like silver" casting away rust. This why blessed David says, "I, in the abundance of your mercy, will enter your house." If he says this, how much more we wretches!"

Psalm 72

Quam bonus Israël Deus, his qui recto sunt corde!
Mei autem pene moti sunt pedes, pene effusi sunt gressus mei:
quia zelavi super iniquos, pacem peccatorum videns.
Quia non est respectus morti eorum, et firmamentum in plaga eorum.
In labore hominum non sunt, et cum hominibus non flagellabuntur.
Ideo tenuit eos superbia; operti sunt iniquitate et impietate sua.
Prodiit quasi ex adipe iniquitas eorum; transierunt in affectum cordis.
Cogitaverunt et locuti sunt nequitiam; iniquitatem in excelso locuti sunt.
Posuerunt in cælum os suum, et lingua eorum transivit in terra.
Ideo convertetur populus meus hic, et dies pleni invenientur in eis.
Et dixerunt : Quomodo scit Deus, et si est scientia in excelso?
Ecce ipsi peccatores, et abundantes in sæculoobtinuerunt divitias.
Et dixi : Ergo sine causa justificavi cor meum, et lavi inter innocentes manus meas,
et fui flagellatus tota die, et castigatio mea in matutinis.
Si dicebam : Narrabo sic; ecce nationem filiorum tuorum reprobavi.
Existimabam ut cognoscerem hoc; labor est ante me:
donec intrem in sanctuarium Dei, et intelligam in novissimis eorum.
Verumtamen propter dolos posuisti eis; dejecisti eos dum allevarentur.
Quomodo facti sunt in desolationem? subito defecerunt : perierunt propter iniquitatem suam.
Velut somnium surgentium, Domine, in civitate tua imaginem ipsorum ad nihilum rediges.
Quia inflammatum est cor meum, et renes mei commutati sunt; et ego ad nihilum redactus sum, et nescivi:
ut jumentum factus sum apud te, et ego semper tecum.
Tenuisti manum dexteram meam, et in voluntate tua deduxisti me, et cum gloria suscepisti me.
Quid enim mihi est in cælo? et a te quid volui super terram?
Defecit caro mea et cor meum; Deus cordis mei, et pars mea, Deus in æternum.
Quia ecce qui elongant se a te peribunt; perdidisti omnes qui fornicantur abs te.
Mihi autem adhærere Deo bonum est; ponere in Domino Deo spem meam :
ut annuntiem omnes prædicationes tuas in portis filiæ Sion.

And the English:

How good is God to Israel, to them that are of a right heart!
But my feet were almost moved; my steps had well near slipped.
Because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners.
For there is no regard to their death, nor is there strength in their stripes.
They are not in the labour of men: neither shall they be scourged like other men.
Therefore pride has held them fast: they are covered with their iniquity and their wickedness.
Their iniquity has come forth, as it were from fatness: they have passed into the affection of the heart. They have thought and spoken wickedness: they have spoken iniquity on high.
They have set their mouth against heaven: and their tongue has passed through the earth. Therefore will my people return here and full days shall be found in them.
And they said: How does God know? And is there knowledge in the most High?
Behold these are sinners; and yet, abounding in the world they have obtained riches.
And I said: Then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent. And I have been scourged all the day; and my chastisement has been in the mornings.
If I said: I will speak thus; behold I should condemn the generation of your children.
I studied that I might know this thing, it is a labour in my sight:
Until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends.
But indeed for deceits you have put it to them: when they were lifted up you have cast them down.
How are they brought to desolation? They have suddenly ceased to be: they have perished by reason of their iniquity.
As the dream of them that awake, O Lord; so in your city you shall bring their image to nothing.
For my heart has been inflamed, and my reins have been changed:
And I am brought to nothing, and I knew not.
I have become as a beast before you: and I am always with you.
You have held me by my right hand; and by your will you have conducted me, and with your glory you have received me.
For what have I in heaven? And besides you what do I desire upon earth?
For you my flesh and my heart has fainted away: you are the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.
For behold they that go far from you shall perish: you have destroyed all them that are disloyal to you.
But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: That I may declare all your praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion

And for the next part in the series, go here.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tenebrae Psalms/5: Psalm 71 and the kingship of Christ

The responsories for the second Nocturn of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday, which we start on today with a look at Psalm 71 (72), focus on Judas' betrayal and subsequent horrible fate.

Today's psalm, though, first invites us to reflect on just how terrible a crime that betrayal was by reminding us just who Christ is, and why he came as man to us.

Who is Christ?

The sixth century commentator Cassiodorus provides a nice summary of the progression of the psalm in the light of the New Testament:

"The prophet speaks throughout the psalm, pointing to the coming of the Lord Saviour, and clearly manifesting alternately His humanity and His divinity in one and the same person. In the first section he addresses the Father, begging for His Son the role of judging the nations which is known to have been predestined before time began. In the second part he says that at the Lord's judgment the sons of the poor will be saved, and the pride of the devil undoubtedly brought low. He is also seen to indicate in marvellous fashion the birth from the Virgin, by means of certain parallels. In the third part he recounts what blessings have accrued from the holy Spirit and from the Lord Christ born of the virgin Mary. In the fourth section he says that He is to be adored by all kings because He has freed the human race from the power of the devil. In the fifth he proclaims that once seen by human eyes He was the mainstay of believers and an undoubted Source of progress for the just. In the sixth he relates that praises are to be delivered to the eternal Lord with the unanimity of the whole world. In the seventh he delivers with the sweetest devotion a hymn to the Lord Christ.  It is thus obvious that a clear and manifest beginning to the New Testament has been fashioned in the course of this psalm."

Meditation on the kingship of Christ should surely help us to put our own actions in perspective, and help dissuade us from those small betrayals of his we make each day.

Psalm 71

Deus, judicium tuum regi da, et justitiam tuam filio regis;
judicare populum tuum in justitia, et pauperes tuos in judicio.
Suscipiant montes pacem populo, et colles justitiam.
Judicabit pauperes populi, et salvos faciet filios pauperum, et humiliabit calumniatorem.
Et permanebit cum sole, et ante lunam, in generatione et generationem.  Descendet sicut pluvia in vellus, et sicut stillicidia stillantia super terram.  Orietur in diebus ejus justitia, et abundantia pacis, donec auferatur luna.
Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.
Coram illo procident Æthiopes, et inimici ejus terram lingent.
Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent; reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent: et adorabunt eum omnes reges terræ; omnes gentes servient ei.
Quia liberabit pauperem a potente, et pauperem cui non erat adjutor.
Parcet pauperi et inopi, et animas pauperum salvas faciet.
Ex usuris et iniquitate redimet animas eorum, et honorabile nomen eorum coram illo.
Et vivet, et dabitur ei de auro Arabiæ; et adorabunt de ipso semper, tota die benedicent ei.
Et erit firmamentum in terra in summis montium; superextolletur super Libanum fructus ejus, et florebunt de civitate sicut fœnum terræ.
Sit nomen ejus benedictum in sæcula; ante solem permanet nomen ejus.
Et benedicentur in ipso omnes tribus terræ; omnes gentes magnificabunt eum.
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, qui facit mirabilia solus.
Et benedictum nomen majestatis ejus in æternum, et replebitur majestate ejus omnis terra. Fiat, fiat.

And for the translation:

Give to the king your judgment, O God, and to the king's son your justice:
To judge your people with justice, and your poor with judgment.
Let the mountains receive peace for the people: and the hills justice.
He shall judge the poor of the people, and he shall save the children of the poor: and he shall humble the oppressor.
And he shall continue with the sun and before the moon, throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth.
In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away.
And he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down: and his enemies shall lick the ground.
The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts:
And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.
For he shall deliver the poor from the mighty: and the needy that had no helper.
He shall spare the poor and needy: and he shall save the souls of the poor.
He shall redeem their souls from usuries and iniquity: and their names shall be honourable in his sight.
And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Arabia, for him they shall always adore: they shall bless him all the day.
And there shall be a firmament on the earth on the tops of mountains, above Libanus shall the fruit thereof be exalted: and they of the city shall flourish like the grass of the earth.
Let his name be blessed for evermore: his name continues before the sun.
And in him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed: all nations shall magnify him.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful things.
And blessed be the name of his majesty for ever: and the whole earth shall be filled with his majesty. So be it. So be it.

And for the next part in this series, go here.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And for the antiphon and a few verses of the psalm to listen to (note that it goes on with a setting of the responsories).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Psalms of Tenebrae/4 - Psalm 70

Today's psalm concludes the first Nocturn of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday.

Like its two predecessors it is a plea for help at a time when our strength threatens to fail us, and thus clearly belongs with this set of psalms representing the prayer in the Garden.

The call to obedience

But the other key to its inclusion in the psalms selected for Maundy Thursday surely lies in the title of the psalm given in the Septuagint, which lauds the pure obedience of a good son, as St Augustine's commentary on it explains:

"The title then of this Psalm is, as usual, a title intimating on the threshold what is being done in the house: To David himself for the sons of Jonadab, and for those that were first led captive.

Jonadab (he is commended to us in the prophecy of Jeremiah) was a certain man, who had enjoined his sons not to drink wine, and not to dwell in houses, but in tents. But the commandment of the father the sons kept and observed, and by this earned a blessing from the Lord. Now the Lord had not commanded this, but their own father. But they so received it as though it were a commandment from the Lord their God; for even though the Lord had not commanded that they should drink no wine and should dwell in tents; yet the Lord had commanded that sons should obey their father... God then blessed the sons of Jonadab because of their obedience, and thrust them in the teeth of His disobedient people, reproaching them, because while the sons of Jonadab were obedient to their father, they obeyed not their God..."

The call to mission

It is this perfect obedience to the will of God that we must strive to imitate.

Yet obedience is surely the hardest of the evangelical counsels for us to follow.

Pope Benedict XVI commented a few days ago we are not the authors of our own vocation.  It is an important point: God ordains where and when we were born; and into what family and circumstances.  He also calls each of us individually, firstly to a state of life, and secondly to particular missions within that life.

We can of course choose not to listen to those calls in the first place, not to discern what we are meant to be doing with our lives, what we are meant to be doing here and now.  Indeed, few today are taught to properly discern their vocation in life, or to listen to the breath of the Holy Spirit as it blows in our hearts and minds.

And even if we do listen, we are left free to reject those calls - and most of us do many times a day, through sin or failure to act.

Yet the psalmist reminds us that it is never too late, that we must over and over again ask for God's aid to persevere, for God wants to save us: 'for turning you have brought me to life, and have brought me back again from the depths of the earth".

Psalm 70

In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in æternum.
In justitia tua libera me, et eripe me : inclina ad me aurem tuam, et salva me.
Esto mihi in Deum protectorem, et in locum munitum, ut salvum me facias : quoniam firmamentum meum et refugium meum es tu.
Deus meus, eripe me de manu peccatoris, et de manu contra legem agentis, et iniqui:
quoniam tu es patientia mea, Domine; Domine, spes mea a juventute mea.
In te confirmatus sum ex utero; de ventre matris meæ tu es protector meus;
in te cantatio mea semper. Tamquam prodigium factus sum multis; et tu adjutor fortis.
Repleatur os meum laude, ut cantem gloriam tuam, tota die magnitudinem tuam.  Ne projicias me in tempore senectutis; cum defecerit virtus mea, ne derelinquas me.
Quia dixerunt inimici mei mihi, et qui custodiebant animam meam consilium fecerunt in unum,
dicentes : Deus dereliquit eum : persequimini et comprehendite eum, quia non est qui eripiat.
Deus, ne elongeris a me; Deus meus, in auxilium meum respice.
Confundantur et deficiant detrahentes animæ meæ; operiantur confusione et pudore qui quærunt mala mihi.
Ego autem semper sperabo, et adjiciam super omnem laudem tuam.
Os meum annuntiabit justitiam tuam, tota die salutare tuum.
Quoniam non cognovi litteraturam, introibo in potentias Domini; Domine, memorabor justitiæ tuæ solius.
Deus, docuisti me a juventute mea; et usque nunc pronuntiabo mirabilia tua.
Et usque in senectam et senium, Deus, ne derelinquas me,
donec annuntiem brachium tuum generationi omni quæ ventura est,
potentiam tuam, et justitiam tuam, Deus, usque in altissima; quæ fecisti magnalia, Deus : quis similis tibi?
Quantas ostendisti mihi tribulationes multas et malas! et conversus vivificasti me, et de abyssis terræ iterum reduxisti me.
Multiplicasti magnificentiam tuam; et conversus consolatus es me.
Nam et ego confitebor tibi in vasis psalmi veritatem tuam, Deus; psallam tibi in cithara, sanctus Israël.
Exsultabunt labia mea cum cantavero tibi; et anima mea quam redemisti.
Sed et lingua mea tota die meditabitur justitiam tuam, cum confusi et reveriti fuerint qui quærunt mala mihi.

And for the translation:

In you, O Lord, I have hoped, let me never be put to confusion:
Deliver me in your justice, and rescue me. Incline your ear unto me, and save me.
Be unto me a God, a protector, and a place of strength: that you may make me safe. For you are my firmament and my refuge.
Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the sinner, and out of the hand of the transgressor of the law and of the unjust.
For you are my patience, O Lord: my hope, O Lord, from my youth.
By you have I been confirmed from the womb: from my mother's womb you are my protector.
Of you I shall continually sing: I have become unto many as a wonder, but you are a strong helper.
Let my mouth be filled with praise, that I may sing your glory; your greatness all the day long.
Cast me not off in the time of old age: when my strength shall fail, do not forsake me.
For my enemies have spoken against me; and they that watched my soul have consulted together, saying: God has forsaken him: pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.
O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste to my help.
Let them be confounded and come to nothing that detract my soul; let them be covered with confusion and blame that seek my hurt.
But I will always hope; and will add to all your praise.
My mouth shall show forth your justice; your salvation all the day long.
Because I have not known learning, I will enter into the powers of the Lord: O Lord, I will be mindful of your justice alone.
You have taught me, O God, from my youth: and till now I will declare your wonderful works.
And unto old age and grey hairs: O God, forsake me not,
Until I show forth your arm to all the generation that is to come:
Your power, and your justice, O God, even to the highest great things you have done: O God, who is like to you?
How great troubles have you shown me, many and grievous: and turning you have brought me to life, and have brought me back again from the depths of the earth:
You have multiplied your magnificence; and turning to me you have comforted me.
For I will also confess to you your truth with the instruments of psaltery: O God, I will sing to you with the harp, you holy one of Israel.
My lips shall greatly rejoice, when I shall sing to you; and my soul which you have redeemed.
Yea and my tongue shall meditate on your justice all the day; when they shall be confounded and put to shame that seek evils to me.

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And you can find the next part in this series here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Psalms of Tenebrae/3 - Psalm 69

Today's psalm, the second of the First Nocturn of Matins for Maundy Thursday, is very short, and the first verse at least will be very familiar, as the prayer 'O God come to my aid, O Lord make haste to help me' is frequently used in the liturgy.  In fact it is one of those verses that can be usefully said all through the day!

Psalm 69 is actually more or less a repeat of the second half of Psalm 39 (the main difference is in the Hebrew word used for God, here Adonai instead of Elohim).

In the Benedictine Office, it is normally said at Matins on Wednesday; in the pre-1911 Roman Office, it was said at Matins on Thursday, the 1962 Roman Office has it at Compline on the same day.

In the context of Maundy Thursday

In the context of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday, it is first an intensification of that prayer for deliverance from what must come.  More importantly though, it is a prayer for what is to come: for in the Resurrection, Our Lord's enemies were indeed confounded, as the verse used for the antiphon (v 3) reminds us.

In the Septuagint and Vulgate, the psalm is given the title 'Unto the end, a psalm for David, to bring to remembrance that the Lord saved him'.  Cassiodorus suggests that this is to differentiate the context for the two versions of the psalm:

"So in Psalm 39 where these words occur there is fear of future judgment and recollection of sins; but in the present passage hope of liberation and the promised trust in our future reward are maintained. To demonstrate that he remembered this, he added: That the Lord saved me, so that it could be shown that this recollection was born not of fear but of the kindness which had been received. It was fitting that, since in the previous psalm the Lord Christ had recounted His passion, and had added the hope of resurrection, so here His members should speak in similar vein after their Head, so that they might proclaim their faithful sufferings, and entertain hope of the resurrection for which they prayed."

Lent as spiritual warfare

For us today, the plea for help in the face of our enemies should serve as a reminder that Lent is a period when the spiritual warfare waged against us will tend to intensify.  We should make our own, then, the plea 'But I am needy and poor; O God, help me'.

Psalm 69

Deus, in adjutórium meum inténde : * Dómine ad adjuvándum me festína.
2  Confundántur et revereántur, * qui quærunt ánimam meam.
3  Avertántur retrórsum, et erubéscant, * qui volunt mihi mala.
4  Avertántur statim erubescéntes, * qui dicunt mihi : Euge, euge.
5  Exsúltent et læténtur in te omnes qui quærunt te, * et dicant semper : Magnificétur Dóminus : qui díligunt salutáre tuum.
6  Ego vero egénus, et pauper sum : * Deus, ádjuva me.
7  Adjútor meus, et liberátor meus es tu : * Dómine, ne moreris.

O God come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul:
Let them be turned backward, and blush for shame that desire evils to me:
Let them be presently turned away blushing for shame that say to me: 'Tis well, 'tis well.
Let all that seek you rejoice and be glad in you; and let such as love your salvation say always: The Lord be magnified.
But I am needy and poor; O God, help me.
You are my helper and my deliverer: O lord, make no delay.

And here is a lovely polyphonic setting of the psalm by the Mexican Jan de Padilla

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

And you can find the next post in this series here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Psalms of Tenebrae/2 - Psalm 68: On holy zeal

Today in this Lenten series on the psalms of the Tenebrae of Holy Week, I want to start on the first Nocturn for Maundy Thursday, which focuses on the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and provides us with three psalms depicting the suffering servant.

The first of these psalms, Psalm 68 (69), Salvum me fac Deus, is not a short one!

But it is an important psalm, for it provides a summary of Our Lord's prayers as he faced his coming Passion.  As such, it is is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament.

The prayer in the Garden

Psalm 68 is truly the prayer of the Garden, opening with a plea for salvation from the waters of his coming baptism of blood, and lamenting the numbers of those who hate him without cause.  It describes his coming fate on the Cross, with its references to drinking vinegar and gall; and deals also with the fate of Judas and those who persecuted him.

But above all, it points to Our Lord's alienation from those around him, reflected in the failure of the apostles with him to stay awake, and their coming flight and disowning of him:

"And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none".

Zeal for your house has consumed me..

The antiphon for the psalm at Tenebrae, though, is Verse 10 of the psalm (when it is arranged liturgically), and Coverdale translates it thus:

"For the zeal of thine house hath even eaten me; and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee are fallen upon me."

This is a supremely important verse, for, as the Gospels remind us, it reminds us of the cleansing of the Temple, that act that Pope Benedict XVI argues in Volume 2 of Jesus of Nazareth is about opening the Temple truly to the whole world: 'it announces the coming of the new Temple, the Temple that Jesus came on earth to build', and reveals Christ's self-giving love, 'the zeal of the Cross' (pp22-23).

It should serve as a reminder to us, perhaps, that we, too, must always exhibit that good zeal for the faith that Our Lord models, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

You can hear the antiphon sung as it is set for Tenebrae, along with a couple of verses to give you the feel of the psalm tone, in the video below.

Psalm 68 (69)

1 Salvum me fac, Deus: * quóniam intravérunt aquæ usque ad ánimam meam.
2  Infíxus sum in limo profúndi: * et non est substántia.
3  Veni in altitúdinem maris: * et tempéstas demérsit me.
4  Laborávi clamans, raucæ factæ sunt fauces meæ: * defecérunt óculi mei, dum spero in Deum meum.
5  Multiplicáti sunt super capíllos cápitis mei, * qui odérunt me gratis.
6  Confortáti sunt qui persecúti sunt me inimíci mei injúste: * quæ non rápui, tunc exsolvébam.
7  Deus, tu scis insipiéntiam meam: * et delícta mea a te non sunt abscóndita.
8  Non erubéscant in me qui exspéctant te, Dómine, * Dómine virtútum
9  Non confundántur super me * qui quærunt te, Deus Israël.
10  Quóniam propter te sustínui oppróbrium: * opéruit confúsio fáciem meam.
11  Extráneus factus sum frátribus meis, * et peregrínus fíliis matris meæ.
12  Quóniam zelus domus tuæ comédit me: * et oppróbria exprobrántium tibi cecidérunt super me.
13  Et opérui in jejúnio ánimam meam: * et factum est in oppróbrium mihi.
14  Et pósui vestiméntum meum cilícium: * et factus sum illis in parábolam.
15  Advérsum me loquebántur, qui sedébant in porta: * et in me psallébant qui bibébant vinum.
16  Ego vero oratiónem meam ad te, Dómine: * tempus benepláciti, Deus.
17 In multitúdine misericórdiæ tuæ exáudi me, * in veritáte salútis tuæ:
18  Eripe me de luto, ut non infígar: * líbera me ab iis, qui odérunt me, et de profúndis aquárum.
19  Non me demérgat tempéstas aquæ, neque absórbeat me profúndum: * neque úrgeat super me púteus os suum.
17 Exaudi me, Domine, quoniam benigna est misericordia tua; secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum respice in me.
18 Et ne avertas faciem tuam a puero tuo; quoniam tribulor, velociter exaudi me.
19 Intende animæ meæ, et libera eam; propter inimicos meos, eripe me.
20 Tu scis improperium meum, et confusionem meam, et reverentiam meam;
21 in conspectu tuo sunt omnes qui tribulant me. Improperium exspectavit cor meum et miseriam : et sustinui qui simul contristaretur, et non fuit; et qui consolaretur, et non inveni.
22 Et dederunt in escam meam fel, et in siti mea potaverunt me aceto.
23 Fiat mensa eorum coram ipsis in laqueum, et in retributiones, et in scandalum.
24 Obscurentur oculi eorum, ne videant, et dorsum eorum semper incurva.
25 Effunde super eos iram tuam, et furor iræ tuæ comprehendat eos.
26 Fiat habitatio eorum deserta, et in tabernaculis eorum non sit qui inhabitet.
27 Quoniam quem tu percussisti persecuti sunt, et super dolorem vulnerum meorum addiderunt.
28 Appone iniquitatem super iniquitatem eorum, et non intrent in justitiam tuam.
29 Deleantur de libro viventium, et cum justis non scribantur.
30 Ego sum pauper et dolens; salus tua, Deus, suscepit me.
31 Laudabo nomen Dei cum cantico, et magnificabo eum in laude:
32 et placebit Deo super vitulum novellum, cornua producentem et ungulas.
33 Videant pauperes, et lætentur; quærite Deum, et vivet anima vestra:
34 quoniam exaudivit pauperes Dominus, et vinctos suos non despexit.
35 Laudent illum cæli et terra; mare, et omnia reptilia in eis.
36 Quoniam Deus salvam faciet Sion, et ædificabuntur civitates Juda, et inhabitabunt ibi, et hæreditate acquirent eam.
37 Et semen servorum ejus possidebit eam; et qui diligunt nomen ejus habitabunt in ea.

The English

2 Save me, O God: for the waters have come in even unto my soul.
3 I stick fast in the mire of the deep and there is no sure standing.
I have come into the depth of the sea, and a tempest has overwhelmed me.
4 I have laboured with crying; my jaws have become hoarse, my eyes have failed, whilst I hope in my God.
5 They are multiplied above the hairs of my head, who hate me without cause.
My enemies are grown strong who have wrongfully persecuted me: then did I pay that which I took not away.
6 O God, you know my foolishness; and my offences are not hidden from you:
7 Let not them be ashamed for me, who look for you, O Lord, the Lord of hosts.
Let them not be confounded on my account, who seek you, O God of Israel.
8 Because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face.
9 I have become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to the sons of my mother.
10 For the zeal of your house has eaten me up: and the reproaches of them that reproached you are fallen upon me.
11 And I covered my soul in fasting: and it was made a reproach to me.
12 And I made haircloth my garment: and I became a byword to them.
13 They that sat in the gate spoke against me: and they that drank wine made me their song.
14 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord; for the time of your good pleasure, O God.
In the multitude of your mercy hear me, in the truth of your salvation.
15 Draw me out of the mire, that I may not stick fast: deliver me from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.
16 Let not the tempest of water drown me, nor the deep water swallow me up: and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.
17 Hear me, O Lord, for your mercy is kind; look upon me according to the multitude of your tender mercies.
18 And turn not away your face from your servant: for I am in trouble, hear me speedily.
19 Attend to my soul, and deliver it: save me because of my enemies.
20 You know my reproach, and my confusion, and my shame.
21 In your sight are all they that afflict me; my heart has expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none.
22 And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
23 Let their table become as a snare before them, and a recompense, and a stumbling block.
24 Let their eyes be darkened that they see not; and their back bend down always.
25 Pour out your indignation upon them: and let your wrathful anger take hold of them.
26 Let their habitation be made desolate: and let there be none to dwell in their tabernacles.
27 Because they have persecuted him whom you have smitten; and they have added to the grief of my wounds.
28 Add iniquity upon their iniquity: and let them not come into your justice.
29 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; and with the just let them not be written.
30 But I am poor and sorrowful: your salvation, O God, has set me up.
31 I will praise the name of God with a canticle: and I will magnify him with praise.
32 And it shall please God better than a young calf, that brings forth horns and hoofs.
33 Let the poor see and rejoice: seek God, and your soul shall live.
34 For the Lord has heard the poor: and has not despised his prisoners.
35 Let the heavens and the earth praise him; the sea, and everything that creeps therein.
36 For God will save Sion, and the cities of Juda shall be built up. And they shall dwell there, and acquire it by inheritance.
37 And the seed of his servants shall possess it; and they that love his name shall dwell therein.

And here is the whole psalm sung in Latin:

Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146

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