Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Psalm 6/3: Verse 2** - God the physician

The first verse of Psalm 6 alluded to God as a judge, expressed as showing his 'anger' as a response to sin. But today’s verse, verse 2, points to the side of God we are brought to know especially through Our Lord’s mission on earth, namely, God as the physician of our souls.

Verse 2: Have mercy on me Lord...heal me


Miserére mei, Dómine, quóniam infírmus sum: * sana me, Dómine, quóniam conturbáta sunt ossa mea.

λέησόν με κύριε τι σθενής εμι ασαί με κύριε τι ταράχθη τ στ μου

misereor, sertus sum, eri 2 (miser), to pity, have mercy on.
infirmo, avi, atum, are  to make physically weak, deprive of strength; to weaken, enfeeble.
conturbo, avi, atum, are, to trouble, disquiet, discomfit, dismay; to disturb in mind, cause anxiety
sano, avi, atum, are to heal, cure, restore to health; to aid, help.
os, ossis, n., a bone, a member of the body, or, the members, one's whole being, one's spirit, strength

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
Pity me, O Lord; for I am weak: heal me, O Lord; for my bones are vexed.
Have mercy on me, Lord for I am weak, heal me Lord for my bones are grown frail
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed.
Lord, pity me; I have no strength left; Lord, heal me; my limbs tremble;

The verb misereri, familiar to us perhaps from the start of the Psalm 50, means to pity, have mercy on, so the first phrase is ‘have pity on me, Lord’.

King David then gives the reason why he is asking for mercy: because he is ill (infirmare, to make physically weak, deprive of strength; to weaken, enfeeble). He asks to be healed (sanare, to heal, cure, restore to health; to aid, help) because his bones, or indeed whole spirit (os, ossis) are troubled (conturbare, to trouble, disquiet, discomfit, dismay; to disturb in mind, cause anxiety). The Hebrew here is actually stronger than the Latin, suggesting more than just troubled or disturbed bones, but positive agony.  The psalmist is making a link in these first two verses between the health of mind, soul and body.

Illness as a path to redemption

King David refers to aching bones in several of the psalms so I suspect there is a good case for taking this literally: sometimes illnesses and other providential events in our lives which can serve to bring about conversion, and which if accepted willingly can remit some or all of the ‘temporal’ punishments due to sin (noting of course that illnesses occur for many reasons, not just sin, as the book of Job makes clear). Anyone who has had a fracture, or suffers from arthritis, will emphasize with the psalmist's pain!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1502) comments on this:

"The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing. Illness becomes a way to conversion; God's forgiveness initiates the healing. It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: "For I am the Lord, your healer." The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others. Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness"

God the physician

Nonetheless, many of the Fathers and Theologians also interpret this verse metaphorically. St Augustine for example says: "that is, the support of my soul, or strength: for this is the meaning of bones. The soul therefore says, that her strength is troubled, when she speaks of bones. For it is not to be supposed, that the soul has bones, such as we see in the body."

What the soul is asking for then, as St Robert Bellarmine explains, is for God not to: "punish me not as a judge, but as a physician heal me."

The two verses of this psalm then, remind us to keep in mind that God is both judge and healer, and we must keep both these aspects in mind: for if we only repent now, he is ready to send his saving grace.

Psalm 6 (Prime Monday): Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me 
Magistro chori. Fidibus. Super octavam. PSALMUS. David.
Unto the end, in verses, a psalm for David, for the octave.
Dómine, ne in furóre tuo árguas me, * neque in ira tua corrípias me.
O Lord, rebuke me not in your indignation, nor chastise me in your wrath.
2  Miserére mei, Dómine, quóniam infírmus sum : * sana me, Dómine, quóniam conturbáta sunt ossa mea.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3  Et ánima mea turbáta est valde : * sed tu, Dómine, úsquequo?
And my soul is troubled exceedingly: but you, O Lord, how long?  
4  Convértere, Dómine, et éripe ánimam meam : * salvum me fac propter misericórdiam tuam.
Turn to me, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me for your mercy's sake.
5.  Quóniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui : * in inférno autem quis confitébitur tibi?
For there is no one in death that is mindful of you: and who shall confess to you in hell?
6  Laborávi in gémitu meo, lavábo per síngulas noctes lectum meum : * lácrimis meis stratum meum rigábo.
I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed: I will water my couch with my tears
7  Turbátus est a furóre óculus meus : * inveterávi inter omnes inimícos meos.
My eye is troubled through indignation: I have grown old amongst all my enemies.
8  Discédite a me, omnes, qui operámini iniquitátem : *  quóniam exaudívit Dóminus vocem fletus mei.
Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity: for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
9  Exaudívit Dóminus deprecatiónem meam, *  Dóminus oratiónem meam suscépit.
The Lord has heard my supplication: the Lord has received my prayer.
10  Erubéscant, et conturbéntur veheménter omnes inimíci mei : * convertántur et erubéscant valde velóciter.
Let all my enemies be ashamed, and be very much troubled: let them be turned back, and be ashamed very speedily.

And you can find the next set of notes here.

**Reposted from Australia Incognita

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