Thursday, December 12, 2013

Psalm 131 verse 16

Verse 16 of Psalm 131 takes us to the Scriptural foundations of the social teachings of the Church.

Notes on the verses

Víduam ejus benedícens benedícam: * páuperes ejus saturábo pánibus.
Cibaria eius benedicens benedicam, pauperes eius saturabo panibus.
Uenationem eius benedicens benedicam: pauperes eius saturabo pane.

τν θήραν ατς ελογν ελογήσω τος πτωχος ατς χορτάσω ρτων

Víduam (the widow) ejus (her) benedícens (blessings) benedícam (I will bless) páuperes (the poor) ejus (her/his/its) saturábo (I will fill) pánibus (with bread)

The Masoretic Text here has provisions or food supply instead of widows, and the Neo-Vulgate therefore assumes that the Septuagint/Vulgate ‘widows’ is the result of a scribal error.  But talking about 'the poor and widows' is fairly common in Scripture, as St Augustine points out in his commentary on the verse, and makes just as much sense.   Moreover the next verse echoes the pattern of talking about a subset of a group.  Either way, the sense is that God will ensure that the city will be suitably provisioned so that poor of the city have plenty of food.

vidua, ae, . a widow.
 benedico, dixi, dictum, ere 3  to bless, to praise, bless, give thanks to (God);  to be well pleased with, to take pleasure in
pauper, eris, adj., poor, needy, indigent, helpless, destitute, wretched.
saturo, avi, atum, are  to fill, sate, satisfy.
panis, is, m. bread, food in general

Blessing I will bless her widow: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will surely bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Its widows I will bless abundantly; its poor will I satisfy with bread
I will bless her victuals with increase, and will satisfy her poor with bread.
Trust me, I will bless her with abundant store, the poor shall have bread to their heart’s content;

This verse has both a literal and spiritual meaning. First, as Chrysostom points out, God does frequently promise, in the Old Testament, material prosperity when the Jewish nation is faithful to him:

"The Jews, you see, had such a lifestyle in olden times, unaffected by needs of nature, provided they had God on their side: they had no shortage of food, no hunger, no pestilence, no untimely death, nothing else of the kind that is habitual with human beings. In­stead, everything flowed in abundance for them as though from fountains, God's hand making up for the limitations of human doings. So this is what he says here: Promise to bless its spoils, that is, to provide the abundance of what is needed with full security."

But the Fathers also offer various spiritual interpretations for the word widow, two of which are summarised by Cassiodorus.  First:

"The Church is called Christ's widow, because she is stripped of all worldly help, and places her hope solely in the Lord. Like a widow, she suffers the shameful actions of evil men, the most cruel plunderings of the wicked. Like a woman deprived of a husband's aid, she always grieves and is always worn out, yet she enjoys the unchanging steadfastness of a most chaste mind."


"An alternative view which some prefer is that widow denotes the synagogue which is now the Church; for the law under which she was kept subject as under a husband is now at an end, and with the accession of grace she is undoubtedly joined to Christ. She has been freed, one might say, from her former state, and has merited a heavenly marriage without loss of virginity."

In this spiritual reading of the verse, the promise is, of course, for spiritual nourishment, a St Robert Bellarmine points out:

“Now, this abundance, as applied to the Church, means an abundance of spiritual food, of the food of the word of God and of the sacraments, an abun­dance of which is enjoyed by the children of the Church, espe­cially by those who are poor in spirit.”

Psalm 131 (132) – Memento Domine
Canticum graduum.
A gradual canticle.
1 Meménto, Dómine, David, * et omnis mansuetúdinis ejus :
O Lord remember David, and all his meekness.

2  Sicut jurávit Dómino, * votum vovit Deo Jacob
2 How he swore to the Lord, he vowed a vow to the God of Jacob:
3  Si introíero in tabernáculum domus meæ, * si ascéndero in lectum strati mei :
3 If I shall enter into the tabernacle of my house: if I shall go up into the bed wherein I lie:
4  Si dédero somnum óculis meis, * et pálpebris meis dormitatiónem :
4 If I shall give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids,
5  Et réquiem tempóribus meis : donec invéniam locum Dómino, * tabernáculum Deo Jacob.
5 or rest to my temples: until I find out a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
6. Ecce audívimus eam in Ephrata: * invénimus eam in campis silvæ.
6 Behold we have heard of it in Ephrata: we have found it in the fields of the wood.
7  Introíbimus in tabernáculum ejus: * adorábimus in loco, ubi stetérunt pedes ejus.
7 We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood. .
8  Surge, Dómine, in réquiem tuam, * tu et arca sanctificatiónis tuæ.
8 Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified
9  Sacerdótes tui induántur justítiam: * et sancti tui exsúltent.
9 Let your priests be clothed with justice: and let  your saints rejoice.
10  Propter David, servum tuum: * non avértas fáciem Christi tui.
10 For your servant David's sake, turn not away the face of your anointed.
11  Jurávit Dóminus David veritátem, et non frustrábitur eam: * de fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam.
11 The Lord has sworn truth to David, and he will not make it void: of the fruit of your womb I will set upon your throne
12  Si custodíerint fílii tui testaméntum meum: * et testimónia mea hæc, quæ docébo eos.
12 If your children will keep my covenant, and these my testimonies which I shall teach them:
13  Et fílii eórum usque in sæculum: * sedébunt super sedem tuam.
Their children also for evermore shall sit upon your throne.
14  Quóniam elégit Dóminus Sion: * elégit eam in habitatiónem sibi.
13 For the Lord has chosen Sion: he has chosen it for his dwelling.
15  Hæc réquies mea in sæculum sæculi: * hic habitábo, quóniam elégi eam.
14 This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.
16  Víduam ejus benedícens benedícam: * páuperes ejus saturábo pánibus.
15 Blessing I will bless her widow: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
17  Sacerdótes ejus índuam salutári: * et sancti ejus exsultatióne exsultábunt.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice with exceeding great joy.
18  Illuc prodúcam cornu David: * parávi lucérnam Christo meo.
17 There will I bring forth a horn to David: I have prepared a lamp for my anointed
19  Inimícos ejus índuam confusióne: * super ipsum autem efflorébit sanctificátio mea.
18 His enemies I will clothe with confusion: but upon him shall my sanctification flourish.

And for the next set of notes on the psalm, continue on to here.

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