Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tenebrae/20 - Psalm 53

Today's psalm, Psalm 53, actually gets two runs at Tenebrae: the first half of it is perhaps most applicable to Good Friday; the final triumphant note to Holy Saturday.

Dom Gueranger's commentary on it in his Liturgical Year puts it in the context of today's Gospel, Our Lord weeping for the coming destruction of Jerusalem that mirrors the destruction of the bodily Temple of Our Lord:

"Israel had made himself the enemy of the Church; and God, as He had warned him, punishes and disperses his children.  The Church takes occasion, from the fulfilment of the divine judgments, to profess the humble confidence she has in her Spouse's aid."

The virtue of justice

This psalm, like many, asks for deliverance from enemies, and asks for them to be punished.  In the version used in the liturgy, the final plea is to be freed from his enemies; in the Vulgate, the word 'judged' is used instead of 'free'.  They come to the same thing, as Robert Bellarmine observes in his commentary on the Psalm: "...that is, be my judge, defend me as I deserve, and avenge me of my enemy..."

Over and over Scripture tells us that the righteous man can call on God and be confident of his help, while the unjust man's pleas will go unheeded.  Over and over we are told that what we do now will either store up for us treasure in heaven, or punishment in hell.

Yet this basic concept of justice - the idea that sooner or later there will be consequences for our actions unless we repent - is one we tend to shy away from these days, to the destruction of society.

Modern theologians promote the idea of an empty hell (an idea completely at odds with the repeated warnings of Our Lord); too often the punishments meted out by the courts fall well short of fitting the crime; and in too many countries the State works to undermine the authority and bonds of the family rather than promote it.

Psalm 53:

Deus, in nomine tuo salvum me fac, et in virtute tua judica me.
Deus, exaudi orationem meam; auribus percipe verba oris mei.
Quoniam alieni insurrexerunt adversum me, et fortes quæsierunt animam meam, et non proposuerunt Deum ante conspectum suum.
Ecce enim Deus adjuvat me, et Dominus susceptor est animæ meæ.
Averte mala inimicis meis; et in veritate tua disperde illos.
Voluntarie sacrificabo tibi, et confitebor nomini tuo, Domine, quoniam bonum est.
Quoniam ex omni tribulatione eripuisti me, et super inimicos meos despexit oculus meus.

For the translation:

Save me, O God, by your name, and judge me in your strength.
O God, hear my prayer: give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen up against me; and the mighty have sought after my soul: and they have not set God before their eyes.
For behold God is my helper: and the Lord is the protector of my soul.
Turn back the evils upon my enemies; and cut them off in your truth.
I will freely sacrifice to you, and will give praise, O God, to your name: because it is good:
For you have delivered me out of all trouble: and my eye has looked down upon my enemies.

Tenebrae of Good Friday

Nocturn I: Psalms 2, 21, 26*
Nocturn II: Psalms 37, 39, 53*
Nocturn III: Psalms 58, 87*, 93
Lauds: 50*, 142, 84, [Hab], 147

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

You can find more on this psalm here.  And you can find the next post in the series, on Psalm 58, here.  Alternatively, if you are looking at this psalm in the context of Holy Saturday, you can go straight to the next psalm for that day, Psalm 75.

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