Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Penitential Psalms: Psalm 37/4: verse 18

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 144r
The Flagellation the Musée Condé, Chantilly.
In the last part of this series on Psalm 37, I looked at our proper response to sin and the attacks of others, as articulated in the previous verse.

But one of the key themes of this psalm is the necessity of accepting, even embracing, the trials and tribulations of life as a way of discharging the accumulated debt due to our sins. It is not a very fashionable approach these days.  But more than one saint has seen this as the fastest path to sanctity.  Today's verse is one of the clearest statements of this idea.

The psalm itself relates to someone who is guilty of serious sin.  The Christological connotations of the psalm, and particularly of today’s verse, however, also point to our duty to pray and do penance on behalf of others as well, particularly the souls in purgatory.

The text

Verse 18 of the psalm says:

“Quóniam ego in flagélla parátus sum: * et dolor meus in conspéctu meo semper,” or “For I am ready for scourges: and my sorrow is continually before me.”

Flagellum, means a scourge or whip, punishment, sting of conscience. Parare means to prepare, make ready. Dolor means pain, whether of body or of mind, grief, sorrow or affliction. Conspectus means sight or presence.

So the speaker is saying he is ready to accept the punishment before him.

The psalmist goes on to acknowledge that he deserves punishment.

But the psalm can also be applied to Our Lord’s voluntary acceptance of the punishment for our sins.

Better now than in purgatory or hell!

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry
folio 113v: Purgatory

Quóniam ego in flagélla parátus sum: * et dolor meus in conspéctu meo semper.
Quoniam ego in lapsum paratus sum, et dolor meus in conspectu meo semper.
Quia ego ad plagas paratus, et dolor meus contra me est semper.

Flagellum, means a scourge or whip, punishment, sting of conscience. Parare means to prepare, make ready. Dolor means pain, whether of body or of mind, grief, sorrow or affliction. Conspectus means sight or presence. So the speaker is saying he is ready to accept the punishment before him.

flagellum, i, n.  a scourge, whip; by meton., sorrow, punishment, sting of conscience. 31,10 Multa flagella peccatoris. Many are the scourges of the sinner; a plague, affliction.
paro, avi, atum, are, to prepare, make ready; part, and part, adj., paratus, a, um, ready, fixed, steadfast. 56,8 Paratum cor meum, Deus. My heart is steadfast, 0 God
dolor, oris, m. (doleo), pain whether of body or of mind, grief, sorrow, affliction.
conspectus, us, m. (conspicio), sight, presence; very common and nearly always with one of the prepositions a, ante, or in. 

St Augustine’s commentary on this psalm makes the point that it is far better to take correction and punishment now, in this life, then to suffer it in the next.

That might seem obvious in the case of hell.

But these days we tend to downplay the suffering of purgatory, and perhaps to underestimate the extent of the punishment our sins actually incur, at least if the judgment of previous centuries is correct.

St Augustine for example suggests that the pain of purgatory is worse than anything we can experience in this life.

Personally I tend to put more weight on the testimony of the saints over nearly two millennia of tradition than on the last forty or so years of denial of unpleasant realities!

So embrace the difficulties life sends us and strive to conquer sin!

St Augustine comments on the verse, that it is as if:

“...He were saying, It was even for this that I was born; that I might suffer. For He was not to be born, but from Adam, to whom the scourge is due. But sinners are in this life sometimes not scourged at all, or are scourged less than their deserts: because the wickedness of their heart is given over as already desperate.

Those, however, for whom eternal life is prepared, must needs be scourged in this life: for that sentence is true: My son, faint not under the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary when you are rebuked of Him. Proverbs 3:11 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. Hebrews 12:6 Let not mine enemies therefore insult over me; let them not magnify themselves; and if my Father scourges me, I am prepared for the scourge; because there is an inheritance in store for me. You will not submit to the scourge: the inheritance is not bestowed upon you. For every son must needs be scourged. So true it is that every son is scourged, that He spared not even Him who had no sin. For I am prepared for the scourges…For the scourge is a remedy against sins.

Be not free from anxiety when you have confessed your sin, as if always able to confess your sin, and to commit it again. Do thou declare your iniquity in such a manner, as to have a care for your sin. What is meant by having a care of your sin? To have a care of your wound. If you were to say, I will have a care of my wound, what would be meant by it, but I will do my endeavour to have it healed. For this is to have a care for one's sin, to be ever struggling, ever endeavouring, ever exerting one's self, earnestly and zealously, to heal one's wound. Behold! You are from day to day mourning over your sins; but perhaps your tears indeed flow, but your hands are unemployed. Do alms, redeem your sins, let the poor rejoice of your bounty, that you also may rejoice of the Grace of God...”

Psalm 37: Domine, ne in furore
Psalmus David, in rememorationem de sabbato.
A psalm for David, for a remembrance of the sabbath.
1 Dómine, ne in furóre tuo árguas me, * neque in ira tua corrípias me.
1 Rebuke me not, O Lord, in your indignation; nor chastise me in your wrath.
2  Quóniam sagíttæ tuæ infíxæ sunt mihi: * et confirmásti super me manum tuam.
2 For your arrows are fastened in me: and your hand has been strong upon me.
3  Non est sánitas in carne mea a fácie iræ tuæ: * non est pax óssibus meis a fácie peccatórum meórum.
3 There is no health in my flesh, because of your wrath: there is no peace for my bones, because of my sins.
4  Quóniam iniquitátes meæ supergréssæ sunt caput meum: * et sicut onus grave gravátæ sunt super me.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head: and as a heavy burden have become heavy upon me.
5 Putruérunt et corrúptæ sunt cicatríces meæ, * a fácie insipiéntiæ meæ.
5 My sores are putrefied and corrupted, because of my foolishness.
6  Miser factus sum, et curvátus sum usque in finem: * tota die contristátus ingrediébar.
6 I have become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end: I walked sorrowful all the day long.
7  Quóniam lumbi mei impléti sunt illusiónibus: * et non est sánitas in carne mea.
7 For my loins are filled with illusions; and there is no health in my flesh.
8  Afflíctus sum, et humiliátus sum nimis: * rugiébam a gémitu cordis mei.
8 I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly: I roared with the groaning of my heart.
9  Dómine, ante te omne desidérium meum: * et gémitus meus a te non est abscónditus.
9 Lord, all my desire is before you, and my groaning is not hidden from you.
10  Cor meum conturbátum est, derelíquit me virtus mea: * et lumen oculórum meórum, et ipsum non est mecum.
10 My heart is troubled, my strength has left me, and the light of my eyes itself is not with me.

11  Amíci mei, et próximi mei * advérsum me appropinquavérunt, et stetérunt.
11 My friends and my neighbours have drawn near, and stood against me.
12  Et qui juxta me erant, de longe stetérunt: * et vim faciébant qui quærébant ánimam meam.
12 And they that were near me stood afar off: And they that sought my soul used violence.
13  Et qui inquirébant mala mihi, locúti sunt vanitátes: * et dolos tota die meditabántur.
13 And they that sought evils to me spoke vain things, and studied deceits all the day long.
14  Ego autem tamquam surdus non audiébam: * et sicut mutus non apériens os suum.
14 But I, as a deaf man, heard not: and as a dumb man not opening his mouth.
15  Et factus sum sicut homo non áudiens: * et non habens in ore suo redargutiónes.
15 And I became as a man that hears not: and that has no reproofs in his mouth.
16  Quóniam in te, Dómine, sperávi: * tu exáudies me, Dómine, Deus meus.
16 For in you, O Lord, have I hoped: you will hear me, O Lord my God.
17  Quia dixi: Nequándo supergáudeant mihi inimíci mei: * et dum commovéntur pedes mei, super me magna locúti sunt.
17 For I said: Lest at any time my enemies rejoice over me: and whilst my feet are moved, they speak great things against me.
18  Quóniam ego in flagélla parátus sum: * et dolor meus in conspéctu meo semper.
18 For I am ready for scourges: and my sorrow is continually before me.
19  Quóniam iniquitátem meam annuntiábo: * et cogitábo pro peccáto meo.
19 For I will declare my iniquity: and I will think for my sin.
20  Inimíci autem mei vivunt, et confirmáti sunt super me: * et multiplicáti sunt qui odérunt me iníque.
20 But my enemies live, and are stronger than I: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

21  Qui retríbuunt mala pro bonis, detrahébant mihi: * quóniam sequébar bonitátem.
21 They that render evil for good, have detracted me, because I followed goodness.
22  Ne derelínquas me, Dómine, Deus meus: * ne discésseris a me.
22 Forsake me not, O Lord my God: do not depart from me.
23  Inténde in adjutórium meum, * Dómine, Deus, salútis meæ.
23 Attend unto my help, O Lord, the God of my salvation.

And the next part in this series on the Penitential Psalms, is on Psalm 50.

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