Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Psalm 134 verses 3-4

Blake: Jacob's Ladder
Verses 3&4 of Psalm 134 explain why we should praise God, namely his goodness to us, reflected in his election of his Church.  Verse 4 in particular takes us to the central theme of Wednesday in the Benedictine Office: God's deliberate choice of us as his people.

Laudáte Dóminum, quia bonus Dóminus: * psállite nómini ejus, quóniam suáve.
Laudate Dominum ; quoniam bonus Dominus : cantate nomini eius ; quoniam decens.

αἰνεῖτε τὸν κύριον ὅτι ἀγαθὸς κύριος ψάλατε τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ ὅτι καλόν

 Laudate (praise) Dominum (the Lord), quia (for/because) bonus (good) Dominus (the Lord); psallite (sing) nomini (to the name) ejus (his), quoniam (because) [it is] suave (kind/good/sweet)

Note that the object of the sweetness is slightly ambiguous: it could either be the name of God, as most translations propose, or the act of praising him.  St Robert Bellarmine, however, adopts the second interpretation.

suavis, e , kind, good, gracious

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good: sing to his name, for it is sweet.
Praise ye the Lord; for the Lord is good: sing praises to his name; for it is good.
O praise the Lord, for the Lord is gracious; O sing praises unto his Name, for it is lovely.
Praise to the Lord, a Lord so gracious, praise to his name, a name so well beloved.

We are now presented with a number of reasons why we should praise God, starting with one of his key attributes, namely his goodness.  Bellarmine explains that God is absolute good, and to the extent that we experience goodness, it is through him:

"Now, God is so good, that he alone is absolutely good, and so good in every respect, because he does not derive his goodness from anyone or anything  but himself, and nothing can be good except by his gift and favour.  Other things are good to a certain extent, such as a good man, house, or clothes; but God is goodness itself, having in him all the attributes of goodness." 

To the extent that we experience this good, this sweetness, we should give thanks for it then.  Nut Bellarmine's alternative reading of the text draws out an important issue in relation to the act of singing God's praises, and the reasons we have difficulty visualising the happiness of heaven:

"The saints in heaven know how sweet it is to sing to the Lord, and thus, they never desist a moment from his praise, and that by reason of their constantly tasting of his sweetness at the very source of it; we find it sometimes sweet enough, and at other times irksome enough, because it is not always that we taste of God's sweetness; it is only, when through the grace of God, and previous meditation, we come to know him, and burn to love him."

Quóniam Jacob elégit sibi Dóminus, * israël in possessiónem sibi.
Quoniam Iacob elegit sibi Dominus, Israel in peculium sibi.
Quia lacob elegit sibi Dominus, Israhel in peculium suum

ὅτι τὸν Ιακωβ ἐξελέξατοἑαυτῷ ὁ κύριος Ισραηλ εἰς περιουσιασμὸν αὐτοῦ

Quoniam (for) Jacob elegit (he has chosen) sibi (to himself) Dominus (the Lord); Israël in possessionem (for the possession) sibi (to himself).

eligo, legi, lectum, ere 3  to choose, pick out, select.
possessio, onis, f  possession, property, substance. creatures, creations

For the Lord has chosen Jacob unto himself: Israel for his own possession.
For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
For why? the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his own possession.
Has not the Lord made choice of Jacob, claimed Israel for his own?

cf Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15 Exodus 19:5

St Robert Bellarmine points out that God guides all nations and peoples; gifts all with the light of reason and the natural law written on their hearts; entrusts every soul with a guardian angel.  All in other words, are invited to accept salvation.  Alas, the majority do not respond to this invitation.  Yet through no merits of our won God has chosen a special people for himself.  He has given us a law and instructions for his worship; sent prophets to guide us; and continues to guide us still through his Church.

Pope John Paul II's Redemptionis Donum reminds us how grateful we should be:

"...renew...your awareness of your special sharing in the Redeemer's death on the cross--that sharing through which you have risen with Him, and continually rise with Him to a new life. The Lord speaks to each of you, just as He once spoke through the prophet Isaiah: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." 

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 you can find the next set of notes on this psalm here.

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