Monday, June 17, 2013

Psalm 112 verse 1: Reject the quest for an 'adult' faith!

In the last post I provided a general introduction to Psalm 112.  Now some lectio divina notes on the first verse.

We often hear, these days, about the need to develop an 'adult' faith.  Too often it is code for rejecting the teaching of the Church in favour of our own desires.

Scripture, on the other hand, tends to emphasize the need to cultivate a child-like attitude of trust, as the first verse of Psalm 112 suggests:

Laudate, pueri, Dominum; laudate nomen Domini.
Praise the Lord, you children: praise the name of the Lord.


Laudate (Praise, imperative), pueri (O children/servants (vocative), Dominum (the Lord)

The allusion to children here is interpreted by the Fathers as reflecting the Gospel injunction (and numerous Old Testament allusions) to the need to be childlike in our openness to the faith: Christ, after all, instructs us to pray to God as 'Our Father'.  It is an injunction to cultivate the purity of heart necessary for worship.

It is true, of coures, that in both Greek and Latin the same word can be used to mean both 'servants' and 'children'.  Yet given the line of continuity in the patristic commentaries, as well as the Our Lord's own emphasis on cultivating a childlike faith, the change of the Latin in the Neo-Vulgate to servi seems a poor choice.

laudo, avi, atum, are  to praise, glorify, to boast, glory, rejoice.
puer, eri, m. lit., a boy, child; a servant.


What does a childlike faith entail?

The Fathers variously suggest purity and piety as key components of this state.  But there are other dimensions we need to consider.  First, St Augustine teaches that it lies not in the rejection of an adult understanding of the faith, but rather in the rejection of pride:

"For it is pride that, presuming in false greatness, suffers not man to walk along the narrow path, and to enter by the narrow gate; but the child easily enters through the narrow entrance; and thus no man, save as a child, enters into the kingdom of heaven."

St Robert Bellarmine adds the duty of obedience to the mix, providing a helpful reconciliation of the two possible meanings of pueri, suggesting that the key duty of both children and servants is to obey the will of God:

"Children, here, represent the servants of the Lord who worship him in all sincerity. That is clear from the Hebrew for children. Children and servants, however, are so clearly allied that the term may be applied indiscriminately to both, for ser­vants should be as obedient to their masters as children are to their parents. Hence, St. Paul says, "As long as the heir is a child he differeth nothing from a servant." We are, therefore, reminded by the term "children," that we should be the pure and simple servants of God, and be directed by his will, with­out raising any question whatever about it. "Praise the Lord, ye children; praise ye the name of the Lord." Let it be your principal study, all you who claim to be servants of God, to reflect with a pure mind on the greatness of your Lord, and with all the affections of your heart to praise his infinite name. A similar exhortation is to be found in Psalm 133, "Behold now bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord;" and in Psalm 134, "Praise ye the name of the Lord: O you his ser­vants, praise the Lord."


Teach us Lord to do your will.

To obey your commandments, and accept and do all that your holy Church teaches and instructs us to.

To take up the tasks you have given us at this moment and always to advance your kingdom.


Cassiodorus' commentary reminds us of the fundamental dignity of the child that commends this childlike state to us:

"The label children is known to be applied to the simplest and purest, for the Lord himself is called a Child, as in the passage: Unto us a child is born. Clearly this period of life was chosen by the Lord for its innocence, for He says to His disciples: Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

You can find the next part in this set of notes on Psalm 112 here.

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