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.

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