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.
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.
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.