Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tenebrae/30 - Psalm 15

Church of St Apollonia, c1447

Today's psalm moves us along in the narration to the harrowing of hell, for its key verse is: "Because you will not leave my soul in hell; nor will you give your holy one to see corruption."

Indeed, both SS Peter and Paul cite this psalm in sermons reported in Acts (Chapter 2&13), in preaching about Christ’s crucifixion, descent into hell, and resurrection:

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know -- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, `I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope.  For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.  Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,  he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Acts 2:22-32

This psalm is one of several Scriptural references for the statement we regularly affirm in the Apostle’s Creed, that Christ descended into hell.  It is worth teasing out briefly what it actually means, not least because it has been the subject of considerable theological debate in recent years.

It is important to understand what is meant by the term hell in this context.  Before the resurrection, due to Original Sin, no one could enter heaven: so Sheol or Hades included dimensions for both the condemned and the just.  The Old Testament saints, in other words, had to wait in a kind of limbo, often called the limbo of the Fathers.

The harrowing of hell, in essence, refers to the descent of Our Lord’s human soul (unified to his divine person) into this limbo.

You can find more on this psalm here.

Psalm 15 (16): Conserva me Domine 
Tituli inscriptio, ipsi David.
The inscription of a title to David himself
Consérva me, Dómine, quóniam sperávi in te. * Dixi Dómino : Deus meus es tu, quóniam bonórum meórum non eges.
Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in you. I have said to the Lord, you are my God, for you have no need of my goods.
2  Sanctis, qui sunt in terra ejus, * mirificávit omnes voluntátes meas in eis.
To the saints, who are in his land, he has made wonderful all my desires in them.
Multiplicátæ sunt infirmitátes eórum : * póstea acceleravérunt.
Their infirmities were multiplied: afterwards they made haste.
4  Non congregábo conventícula eórum de sanguínibus, *  nec memor ero nóminum eórum per lábia mea.
I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings: nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips.
5  Dóminus pars hereditátis meæ, et cálicis mei : * tu es, qui restítues hereditátem meam mihi.
The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is you that will restore my inheritance to me.
6  Funes cecidérunt mihi in præcláris : * étenim heréditas mea præclára est mihi.
The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me.
7  Benedícam Dóminum, qui tríbuit mihi intelléctum : * ínsuper et usque ad noctem increpuérunt me renes mei.
I will bless the Lord, who has given me understanding: moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night.
8  Providébam Dóminum in conspéctu meo semper : * quóniam a dextris est mihi, ne commóvear.
I set the Lord always in my sight: for he is at my right hand, that I be not moved.

9  Propter hoc lætátum est cor meum, et exsultávit lingua mea : * ínsuper et caro mea requiéscet in spe.
Therefore my heart has been glad, and my tongue has rejoiced: moreover, my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10  Quóniam non derelínques ánimam meam in inférno : * nec dabis sanctum tuum vidére corruptiónem.
Because you will not leave my soul in hell; nor will you give your holy one to see corruption.

11  Notas mihi fecísti vias vitæ, adimplébis me lætítia cum vultu tuo : * delectatiónes in déxtera tua usque in finem.
You have made known to me the ways of life, you shall fill me with joy with your countenance: at your right hand are delights even to the end.

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 you can find the next part of this series here.

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