Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Psalm 136 verses 5-8

Verses 5-8 of Psalm 136 remind us of where our priorities must lie.

Quómodo cantábimus cánticum dómini * in terra aliéna?

πῶς ᾄσωμεν τὴν ᾠδὴν κυρίου ἐπὶ γῆς ἀλλοτρίας

Quomodo (how) cantabimus (we shall sing) canticum (a/the song) Domini (of the Lord) in terra (on land) aliena (alien/strange)?

quomodo, adv. interrog., how? in what manner? in what way?, how greatly!
alienus i m 1. strange, not one's own  2. a stranger in a hostile, unfriendly sense; a proud or insolent enemy

How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
How should we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? 

The initial response of the exiles is to reject their captors request for a song: how can they, who are so heartsick possibly sing as if they are happy; how can they expose their worship to ridicule?  We as sinners in exile from our heavenly home might similarly feel reluctant to share our faith lest we be thought hypocrites, or made fun of.

Si oblítus fúero tui, jerúsalem, * oblivióni detur déxtera mea.
Si oblitus fuero tui, Hierusalem, in obliuione sit dextera mea.

ἐὰν ἐπιλάθωμαί σου Ιερουσαλημ ἐπιλησθείη ἡ δεξιά μου

Si (if) oblitus fuero (I will forget) tui (you), Jerusalem, oblivioni (forgotten) detur dextera (right hand) mea (my)

ie Should the person give in to his captures and play, let his hand become paralyzed so it cannot play any more.

obliviscor, oblitus sum, oblivisci to forget
oblivio, onis, f oblivion, a state of being forgotten;  forgetfulness, i.e., aptness to forget, or a being forgotten
dexter, tera, terum; the right hand.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill

Some commentators see it as paradoxical, in the light of the previous verses, that the exiles now do indeed sing of Sion.  In reality though this is surely our proper response: even though we may feel far from God, even though the Church around us may seem to be in ruins, we must be more fervent than ever in asserting our attachment to heaven.

Adhæreat lingua mea fáucibus meis, * si non memínero tui.
Adhaereat lingua mea gutturi meo, si non recordatus fuero tui,

 κολληθείη ἡ γλῶσσά μου τῷ λάρυγγί μου ἐὰν μή σου μνησθῶ ἐὰν 

Adhæreat (let it cling/adhere) lingua (the tongue) mea (my) faucibus (jaws) meis (to me), si (if) non (not) meminero (I will remember) tui (you)

adhaereo, haesi, haesum, ere 2, to adhere to, cleave to;  to cling to, hold fast to.
lingua, ae, f., the tongue; language, speech, tongue; plan, council
fauces, ium f.  throat; jaws
guttur, is, n., the throat
memini, nisse  to remember, be mindful of;

Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember you:
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
May my tongue cleave to my throat, if I do not remember thee

The Navarre Commentary notes that there is something of a play on words here:

"To forget Jerusalem would be the same thing as to forget the Lord. The Hebrew has a play on words (not evident here): the psalmist expresses the wish that if he should forget Zion, then "let my right hand wither", that is, be deprived of God's strength and be unable to play the lyre. He also wants to be struck dumb, to be prevented from singing the songs of the Lord, if he was ever to forget the mercy He manifested in the temple. These words remind us of the need to have a lively desire to reach the happiness of heaven; there we will find all the consolation we desire..."

Si non proposúero jerúsalem, * in princípio lætítiæ meæ.
si non praeposuero Ierusalem in capite laetitiae meae.

μὴ προανατάξωμαιτὴν Ιερουσαλημ ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς εὐφροσύνης μου

si (if) non (not) proposuero (I will prefer) Jerusalem in principio (in the beginning/summation) lætitiæ (of the joy) meæ (of me)

propono posui positum ere 3 1. to set or place before 2.  to prefer, give preference to
principium, ii, n.  the beginning; the sum, substance, content; sovereignty, princely, power, dominion
laetitia, ae, f. joy, gladness

If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy.
yea, if I prefer not Jerusalem in my mirth.
if I do not prefer Jerusalem as the chief of my joy.

Joy is our protection against persecution, humiliation, sin and false worship.

Psalm 136 – Super flumina
Psalmus David, Jeremiæ

1 Super flúmina Babylónis, illic sédimus et flévimus: * cum recordarémur Sion:
Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Sion:
2  In salícibus in médio ejus, * suspéndimus órgana nostra.
2 On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments.
3  Quia illic interrogavérunt nos, qui captívos duxérunt nos, * verba cantiónum.
3 For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs.
4  Et qui abduxérunt nos: * Hymnum cantáte nobis de cánticis Sion.
And they that carried us away, said: Sing to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.
5  Quómodo cantábimus cánticum Dómini * in terra aliéna?
4 How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
6  Si oblítus fúero tui, Jerúsalem, * oblivióni detur déxtera mea.
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.
7  Adhæreat lingua mea fáucibus meis, * si non memínero tui.
6 Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember you:
8  Si non proposúero Jerúsalem, * in princípio lætítiæ meæ.
If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy.

9  Memor esto, Dómine, filiórum Edom, * in die Jerúsalem.
7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem:
10  Qui dicunt: Exinaníte, exinaníte * usque ad fundaméntum in ea.
Who say: Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
11  Fília Babylónis mísera: * beátus, qui retríbuet tibi retributiónem tuam, quam retribuísti nobis.
8 O daughter of Babylon, miserable: blessed shall he be who shall repay you your payment which you have paid us.
12  Beátus qui tenébit, * et allídet párvulos tuos ad petram.
9 Blessed be he that shall take and dash your little ones against the rock.

You can find the next part in this series here.

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