Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Psalm 112, verses 4-5: Between God and man

The next section of Psalm 112 emphasizes the chasm between God and man, yet reminds us to that God bridges it, for he cares about us:

4 Excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus, et super cælos gloria ejus. 
The Lord is high above all nations; and his glory above the heavens. 

5 Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster, qui in altis habitatet humilia respicit in cælo et in terra?
 Who is as the Lord our God, who dwells on high: And looks down on the low things in heaven and in earth? 


Excelsus (high) super (above) omnes (all) gentes (nations/peoples) Dominus (the Lord)

et (and ) super (above) cælos (the heavens) gloria (glory) ejus (his) =and his glory above the heavens

Quis (who) sicut ( [is] like) Dominus (the Lord) Deus (God) noster (our), qui (who) in (in) altis (the heights)  habitat (he lives)

et (and) humilia (the humble) respicit (he takes thought for/looks down on) in cælo (in heaven) et (and) in terra (on earth)?   

excelsus, a, um  high, august, sublime, towering aloft ; uplifted; heights, high places; billows, high waves
gens, gentis, f  sing., people, nation, the chosen
caelum, i, n., or caeli, orum, m.  heaven, the abode of God; the heavens as opposed to the earth; the air;
gloria, ae, f. glory, honor, majesty
quis, quid, interrog, pron., who? which? what? why? wherefore?
sicut, adv., as, just as, like.
altus deep,  high
habito, avi, atum, are  to dwell, abide, live.
humiliathe lowly, God's people and their affairs.
respicio, spexi, spectum, ere 3  to look upon, behold, consider; take thought for, heed, have regard to;  


Many of the psalms emphasize the immense distance that stands between man and God: and it is an important point, for the root of original sin is man's attempt to make himself into a god.  True humility starts from the realisation that between God and man lies an immense chasm.

Indeed, the chasm extends even to heaven, for it too is part of creation, and God therefore stands outside and above it and the angels too, as St Robert Bellarmine points out in his commentary on the verse:

"Matter for God's praise is to be found not only through the length and breadth, but even through the height of the world; for, though there may be many great kings and power­ful princes therein, God far out-tops them all, and he lords it over, not only "all the nations," but even over all the angels, for "his glory is above the heavens," and all who dwell therein."


Lord help us to serve you in fear, to cultivate respectful humility always, that our prayers may be worthy and ascend to you.

Through your son you have sent down that ladder of humility, that we might climb out of the chasm and be transformed in you, and so arrive at that heavenly exaltation you have promised.

How wonderful you are Lord, above all the earth.


Who is like God, in his divinity so high above us?  And yet he is not in fact a distant God, but one who cares: and cares not for the great, but the humble and lowly!

In Christ he humbled himself, in Christ he shares with us a nature, and infuses our humanity with his divinity, lifting all humanity up to him.

The Psalm so far

1 Laudate, pueri, Dominum; laudate nomen Domini.
2 Sit nomen Domini benedictum ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
3 A solis ortu usque ad occasum laudabile nomen Domini.
4 Excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus, et super cælos gloria ejus. 
5 Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster, qui in altis habitat

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

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