Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Psalm 134 verses 19-21

Reconstruction of the temple of Jerusalem.
From William of Tyre, Histoire d'Outremer.

The last three verses of Psalm 134 are an injunction for all those who know truth to praise God, bringing us back to the liturgical context of the psalm, for above all, God's chosen people are those who worship him through the Church.  Pope Benedict XVI explained:

"...Psalm 135[134] concludes with a liturgical blessing (cf. vv. 19-21) that introduces a series of figures who feature in the cult practised in the temple of Zion (cf. Ps 115[113B]: 9-13). From the whole community gathered in the temple, a blessing rises in unison to God, Creator of the universe and Saviour of his people in history, expressed in their different voices and in the humility of faith. The liturgy is the privileged place in which to hear the divine Word which makes present the Lord's saving acts; but it is also the context in which the community raises its prayer celebrating divine love. God and man meet each other in an embrace of salvation that finds fulfilment precisely in the liturgical celebration. We might say that this is almost a definition of the liturgy:  it brings about an embrace of salvation between God and man."

Verses 19-20

Verses 19 and 20 mirror fairly closely the concluding verses of Psalm 113, as the table below illustrates:

Psalm 113
Psalm 134
17  Domus Israël sperávit in Dómino: * adjútor eórum et protéctor eórum est,
18  Domus Aaron sperávit in Dómino: * adjútor eórum et protéctor eórum est,

19  Qui timent Dóminum, speravérunt in Dómino: * adjútor eórum et protéctor eórum est.
19 Domus Israël, benedicite Domino;

domus Aaron, benedicite Domino.
20 Domus Levi, benedicite Domino; 

qui timetis Dominum, benedicite Domino.

Instead of instructing us to trust in him as our help and protector, though, as Psalm 113 does, this psalm invites us to bless him, or thank him for all he has given us: benedicite is an imperative, an order to 'bless', so the repeated phrase 'benedicite Domino' means literally 'give blessing to the Lord' (bless the Lord).  The three houses named represent all Israel (the whole Church), the priests and ministers (house of Aaron and Levi), and 'all you who fear the Lord'.

Bellarmine links it to the previous verses on false idols saying:

"Having compared the true with the false gods, he now institutes a comparison between their relative worshippers, and , by way of imprecation, predicts that the votaries of the former would be like their idols, dumb, blind and deaf as regards the seeking for and finding, and praising, what is truly good, and he invites the servants of the true God to bless the Lord, for they, as being images of the living God, see, hear, and speak, and therefore bound to exercise their tongue in praising that God, from whom they have the senses of feeling, life, and understanding...."

 Verse 21

Benedíctus Dóminus ex sion, * qui hábitat in Jerúsalem

εὐλογητὸς κύριος ἐκ Σιων ὁ κατοικῶν Ιερουσαλημ

Benedictus (Blessed) Dominus (the Lord) ex Sion (from Sion), qui (who) habitat (lives) in Jerusalem.

benedico, dixi, dictum, ere 3  to bless, to praise, bless, give thanks to (God);  to be well pleased with, to take pleasure in

Blessed be the Lord out of Sion, who dwells in Jerusalem.
Blessed in Sion be the Lord, who dwells in Jerusalem.
Praised be the Lord out of Sion, who dwelleth at Jerusalem.
Here, in Sion his dwelling-place, here, in Jerusalem, let the Lord’s name be blessed.

Verse 21 can, the Fathers point out, can be interpreted as alluding to both this world and the next.

Chrysostom provides an exposition of the importance of the Temple which we can equally apply to our churches today:

"Now once again he makes mention of Sion and Jerusalem: since it was there he developed for them the elements of their way of life, the practice of worship had its basis there, and there they were schooled and kept in order, he wanted to make those places holy with a name of God's giving so that once made venerable they might be more of an object of care at their hands, once an object of care they might be more attractive to them, once attractive they might attach them to worship, and once having attached them they might lead them to greater virtue, which was the reason for everything."

But of course, the verse also invites us to look to heaven, and that future we hope to enjoy through the grace of God.  

Psalm 134 (135) – Laudate nomen Domini
1 Laudáte nomen Dómini, * laudáte, servi Dóminum.
Praise the name of the Lord: O you his servants, praise the Lord:
2  Qui statis in domo Dómini, * in átriis domus Dei nostri.
2 You that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
3  Laudáte Dóminum, quia bonus Dóminus: * psállite nómini ejus, quóniam suáve.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good: sing to his name, for it is sweet.
4  Quóniam Jacob elégit sibi Dóminus, * Israël in possessiónem sibi.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob unto himself: Israel for his own possession.
5  Quia ego cognóvi quod magnus est Dóminus, * et Deus noster præ ómnibus diis.
5 For I have known that the Lord is great, and our God is above all gods.
6  Omnia quæcúmque vóluit, Dóminus fecit in cælo, et in terra, * in mari, et in ómnibus abyssis.
6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased he has done, in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the deeps.
7  Edúcens nubes ab extrémo terræ: * fúlgura in plúviam fecit.
7 He brings up clouds from the end of the earth: he has made lightnings for the rain. He brings forth winds out of his stores:
8  Qui prodúcit ventos de thesáuris suis: * qui percússit primogénita Ægypti ab hómine usque ad pecus.
8 He slew the firstborn of Egypt from man even unto beast.
9  Et misit signa, et prodígia in médio tui, Ægypte: * in Pharaónem, et in omnes servos ejus.
9 He sent forth signs and wonders in the midst of you, O Egypt: upon Pharao, and upon all his servants.
10  Qui percússit gentes multas: * et occídit reges fortes:
10 He smote many nations, and slew mighty kings:
11  Sehon, regem Amorrhæórum, et Og, regem Basan, * et ómnia regna Chánaan.
11 Sehon king of the Amorrhites, and Og king of Basan, and all the kingdoms of Chanaan.
12  Et dedit terram eórum hereditátem, * hereditátem Israël, pópulo suo.
12 And gave their land for an inheritance, for an inheritance to his people Israel.
13  Dómine, nomen tuum in ætérnum: * Dómine, memoriále tuum in generatiónem et generatiónem.
13 Your name, O Lord, is for ever: your memorial, O Lord, unto all generations.
14  Quia judicábit Dóminus pópulum suum: * et in servis suis deprecábitur
14 For the Lord will judge his people, and will be entreated in favour of his servants.
15  Simulácra Géntium argéntum et aurum: * ópera mánuum hóminum.
15 The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the works of men's hands.
16  Os habent, et non loquéntur: * óculos habent, et non vidébunt.
16 They have a mouth, but they speak not: they have eyes, but they see not.
17  Aures habent, et non áudient: * neque enim est spíritus in ore ipsórum.
17 They have ears, but they hear not: neither is there any breath in their mouths.
18  Símiles illis fiant qui fáciunt ea: * et omnes qui confídunt in eis.
18 Let them that make them be like to them: and every one that trusts in them.
19  Domus Israël,  benedícite Dómino: * domus Aaron, benedícite Dómino.
19 Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron.
20  Domus Levi, benedícite Dómino: * qui timétis Dóminum, benedícite Dómino.
20 Bless the Lord, O house of Levi: you that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.
21  Benedíctus Dóminus ex Sion, * qui hábitat in Jerúsalem.
21 Blessed be the Lord out of Sion, who dwells in Jerusalem.

And that concludes this series on Psalm 134. But you can find an introduction to the next psalm of Wednesday Vespers, Psalm 135, here.

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