Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Psalm 132: verses 3b-4

Psalm 132

Canticum graduum David.
A gradual canticle of David.
Ecce quam bonum, et quam jucúndum * habitáre fratres in unum.
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity:
2  Sicut unguéntum in cápite, * quod descéndit in barbam, barbam Aaron.
Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron,
3  Quod descéndit in oram vestiménti ejus: * sicut ros Hermon, qui descéndit in montem Sion.
which ran down to the skirt of his garment: As the dew of Hermon, which descends upon mount Sion.
4  Quóniam illic mandávit Dóminus benedictiónem, * et vitam usque in sæculum
For there the Lord has commanded blessing, and life for evermore.

Verse notes

sicut ros Hermon, qui descéndit in montem Sion.
sicut ros Hermon, qui descendit in montes Sion,
sicut ros Hermon qui descendit super montana Sion:
ς δρόσος Αερμων καταβαίνουσα π τ ρη Σιων
Sicut (like) ros (the dew) Hermon (of Hermon) qui (which) descendit (descends) in montem (on Mount) Sion

There is some debate amongst the commentators over whether the Mt Sion in verse 3 is actually meant to be a reference to Jerusalem, or to another mountaintop with a similar name in the same range as Mt Hermon.  But verse 4 surely only makes sense if it is an allusion to the heavenly Jerusalem. Either way, we can assume that this dew was, as many commentators have suggested, proverbially heavy.

mons, montis, m., a mountain
ros, roris, m.  dew 

As the dew of Hermon, which descends upon mount Sion.
As the dew of Aermon, that comes down on the mountains of Sion
like as the dew of Hermon, which fell upon the hill of Sion

The commentaries on this verse see dew as signifying variously calmness, visual delight, freshness and fertility.  Cassiodorus provides a mystical explanation of the verse:

"Dew is thin and light rain which does not fall as drops, but soaks the hard, dry earth with the tiniest particles. It is the means by which all seeds strike root, and thanks to the temperature grow into various plants. Herman is the Hebrew name for the mountain which lies beyond the river Jordan; the meaning of the name, as the Fathers recount it, is anath­ema. So the dew of this mountain, which nurtures the sinners who lay under a solemn curse, descended on mount Sion when those sin­ners through the Lord's generosity attained the remedy of conversion; for Sion denotes the Catholic Church, which welcomes the Gentiles exposed to the danger of anathema."

Quóniam illic mandávit Dóminus benedictiónem, * et vitam usque in sæculum
Jerome Hebrew
quoniam ibi mandauit Dominus benedictionem, uitam usque in aeternum.
τι κε νετείλατο κύριος τν ελογίαν κα ζων ως το αἰῶνος

Quóniam (for) illic (in that place/there) mandávit (he has commanded) Dóminus (the Lord) benedictiónem (a blessing) et (and) vitam (life) usque (until) in sæculum (forever)

The most elegant translation of this verse is perhaps that by Knox: Here where the Lord grants benediction and life everlastingly.

quoniam, for, because, since, seeing that, whereas
illic, adv.  Of place: there, in that place; Of time: then
mando, avi, atum, are to enjoin, order,
benedictio, onis, f a blessing; a source of blessing for others; the object of natural desire
usque, adv., to, up to, as far as; till, as far as; to express an extreme degree.
vita, ae, f life, esp. a happy life
saeculum, i, n., a lifetime, generation, age; an indefinite period of time; forever, eternity

For there the Lord has commanded blessing, and life for evermore.
for there, the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for ever.
For there the Lord promised his blessing, and life for evermore

The image of the heavenly Jerusalem, where we find eternal blessing and life, is mirrored for us and made visible through communities of Christians on earth.  Above all, of course, in monasticism, that mirror of the angelic life that proclaims heaven to the world, as Pope John Paul II explained in Vita Consecrata (32):

"The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery, will be achieved, and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, but will be like the angels of God (cf. Mt 22:30)."

Yet that image of living together in unity for the sake of kingdom is mirrored also in all Christian communities to some degree, including the family and the parish, for as Cassiodorus points out, it is for this purpose that Christ came:

"There (that is, on mount Sion, which is the Church and which com­prises the unity of the brethren) he hath commanded blessing, in other words, has sent the Lord Saviour, who is the life and enduring bless­edness of all believers. We have repeatedly said that the name Sion denotes the heavenly Jerusalem, the image of which is embodied in the Jerusalem on earth."

And this completes our consideration of the psalms of Vespers on Tuesday in the Benedictine Office.  I hope you have found it of use.  

I'll be taking a short break from posting over Christmas, but will be back in the new year...may you have a happy and holy Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all your work and a Merry Christmas to you, too.