Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Psalm 111 vs 3: The promise of heavenly glory

Verse 3 of Psalm 111 continues the beatitude, explaining the good that (eventually) comes to the just man:

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.

Looking at the words

Glória (glory), et (and) divítiæ (riches) in (in) domo (house) ejus (his) = glory and riches [are/shall be] in/with his house

gloria, ae, f glory, honor, majesty
divitiae, arum, f riches, wealth, abundance.
in+abl = with, in, on among, by means of

et (and) justítia (justice/righteousness) ejus (his) manet (it abides) in sæculum sæculi (forever)  = and his justice abides forever/for ever more

Note that the underlying Greek (dikaiosune) and Hebrew can also be translated as meaning ‘righteousness’, so one could interpret this phrase as saying that the just man will remain forever in a state of grace (ie once in heaven).

justitia, ae, f justice, righteousness, innocence, piety, moral integrity
maneo, mansi, mansum, ere 2 to abide, remain, continue.
saeculum, i, n., a lifetime, generation, age; an indefinite period of time; forever, eternity; from of old, i.e., in ages past.

Penetrating the meaning

Interpreting this verse overly literally is obviously problematic: as Pope Benedict XVI’s commentary on the verse points out, the optimistic vision of wealth and acclaim in the here and now are often not the reality in this life, as the figure of Job illustrates:

“However, to this optimistic vision are opposed the bitter observations made by Job, a just man who experiences the mystery of sorrow, feels himself unjustly punished and subjected to apparently senseless trials. Job represents many people who suffer harshly in the world. It is necessary then to read this Psalm in the global context of Revelation, which embraces the reality of human life under all its aspects. At any rate, the trust the Psalmist wishes to communicate and be lived by those who have chosen to follow the path of morally irreprehensible conduct remains valid, rejecting every other alternative of illusory success gained through injustice and immorality.”

The second half of the verse is a repeat of verse 3 of the previous psalm.  In the previous psalm, though, it was clearly applied to God alone; while Christ is the ultimate 'just man', here it can also be interpreted as applying to any just man.

Cultivating our spiritual life

The core of the verse is, I think, is best captured by Cassiodorus, who views our inner life as the ‘house’ in question here:

“The house of the blessed man is the inner sanctum of the mind, in which all who fulfil the Lord's precepts store their sacred riches and enduring glory. That glory has no end; those riches do not vanish by malevolent theft, but emanate from the Lord's commands, and whatever is gained from them is preserved undamaged for ever.”

The verse is a reminder then, to store up our treasure in heaven, rather than in the material things of this world.

For notes on the next verse, continue on here.

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