Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Penitential Psalms - Psalm 50/3 - verses 5-6

Verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 50 deal with the question of why sin is an offence against God, not just against the people directly affected by our actions.

Tibi soli peccávi, et malum coram te feci: * ut justificéris in sermónibus tuis, et vincas cum judicáris.
Tibi, tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci, ut iustus inveniaris in sententia tua et aequus in iudicio tuo.

σο μόν μαρτον κα τ πονηρν νώπιόν σου ποίησα πως ν δικαιωθς ν τος λόγοις σου κα νικήσς ν τ κρίνεσθαί σε

Text notes: Ladouceur notes that the purpose clause (ut…) should probably not be linked to the previous phrase.  Instead, ‘Ut justificeris’ should be translated something like, ‘I am confessing’ (or as Britt gives it, ‘This I confess…’) so that...  The Greek version of ‘vincas cum judicaris’ seems to reflect a (possible) Aramiac interpretation of the Hebrew; the NV changes the text to follow the MT.  This may however be one of those deliberate changes to the MT text, because, as Ladouceur notes, the passive sense of ‘judicaris’ was given a Christological interpretation, seen as an allusion to Christ’s trial before Pilate.

solus, a, um, alone, only.
pecco, avi, atum, are, to sin; to sin against, with dat.
malum, i, n., evil, sin; woe, harm, misfortune.
coram prep, with abl., in the presence of, before the face of, before.
facio, feci, factum, ere 3, to make, do, cause, bring to pass
justifico, avi, atum, are  to do justice to
sermo, onis, m.  a command, edict; word, speech, saying, discourse; scheme, plan, proposal
vinco, vici, victum, ere 3, to conquer, overcome.
judico, avi, atum, are (jus and dico), to judge,  rule,  punish,  do justice to, to relieve from wrong.

To you only have I sinned, and have done evil before you: that you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged. 
Against thee only have I sinned, and done evil before thee: that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged
Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified in thy
saying, and clear when thou shalt judge.

Why does David say  he has sinned only against God, when surely both the man he had killed (Urias) and Bethsheba were also his victims?  Bellarmine responds:

The third reason for his asking pardon of God is, that he has no other judge to fear. "To thee," not against thee, he "have I sinned." He had sinned against Urias, whose death he caused. He had sinned against Bethsabee, with whom he committed adultery, and against the people, whom he scandalized; yet he says, "To thee only have I sinned;" as being the only judge before whom he could be convicted. There was no one else to sit in judgment on him, and if there were even, he could not be convicted, for want of evidence; for, though common report condemned him, there was no judicial proof guilt; still, he stood convicted before God, for his conscience bore testimony against him before that God who searches the reins and heart; and he, therefore, candidly avows, I have done evil before thee;" for, though he did the evil in private, in the darkness of a closed chamber, he could not evade the all-seeing eye of his Maker. 

The Catechism uses this verse to explain why we have to seek forgiveness through the sacrament of confession:

Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight."Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods, "knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. (CCC 1850)

Ecce enim in iniquitátibus concéptus sum: * et in peccátis concépit me mater mea.
Ecce enim in iniquitate generatus sum, et in peccato concepit me mater mea.
Ecce in iniquitate conceptus sum, et in peccato peperit me mater mea.

δο γρ ν νομίαις συνελήμφθην κα ν μαρτίαις κίσσησέν με μήτηρ μου

concipio, cepi, ceptum, ere 3 , to conceive, become pregnant; conceive mentally, receive into the mind

For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.
For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me.

St Thomas points out that the root of all actual guilt is original sin, which is transmitted to us by our parents.  As Pope John Paul II pointed out in his Catechesis on the psalm, our personal sins have a communal direction by virtue of our inherited weakness:

"At this point the Psalmist introduces an angle that is more directly connected with human reality. It is a sentence that has given rise to many interpretations and has been linked with the doctrine of original sin: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps 50[51],7). The praying person wants to indicate the presence of evil in our whole being, as is evident in his mention of conception and birth, as a way of expressing the entirety of existence, beginning with its source...evil is rooted in man's innermost depths, it is inherent in his historical reality, so the request for the mediation of divine grace is crucial."

Psalm 50: Miserere me Deus 
In finem. Psalmus David cum venit ad eum Nathan propheta, quando intravit ad Bethsabee.
Unto the end, a psalm of David, 2 when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had sinned with Bethsabee.
1 Miserére mei Deus, * secúndum magnam misericórdiam tuam.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy.
2  Et secúndum multitúdinem miseratiónum tuárum, * dele iniquitátem meam.
And according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my iniquity.
3  Amplius lava me ab iniquitáte mea: * et a peccáto meo munda me.
Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
4  Quóniam iniquitátem meam ego cognósco: * et peccátum meum contra me est semper.
For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.
5  Tibi soli peccávi, et malum coram te feci: * ut justificéris in sermónibus tuis, et vincas cum judicáris.
To you only have I sinned, and have done evil before you: that you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged.
6  Ecce enim in iniquitátibus concéptus sum: * et in peccátis concépit me mater mea.
For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.
7  Ecce enim veritátem dilexísti: * incérta et occúlta sapiéntiæ tuæ manifestásti mihi.
For behold you have loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of your wisdom you have made manifest to me.
8  Aspérges me hyssópo, et mundábor: * lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor.
You shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: you shall wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
9  Audítui meo dabis gáudium et lætítiam: * et exsultábunt ossa humiliáta.
To my hearing you shall give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.
10  Avérte fáciem tuam a peccátis meis: * et omnes iniquitátes meas dele.
Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
11  Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: * et spíritum rectum ínnova in viscéribus meis.
Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels.
12  Ne projícias me a fácie tua: * et spíritum sanctum tuum ne áuferas a me.
Cast me not away from your face; and take not your holy spirit from me.
13  Redde mihi lætítiam salutáris tui: * et spíritu principáli confírma me.
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.
14  Docébo iníquos vias tuas: * et ímpii ad te converténtur.
I will teach the unjust your ways: and the wicked shall be converted to you.
15  Líbera me de sanguínibus, Deus, Deus salútis meæ: * et exsultábit lingua mea justítiam tuam.
Deliver me from blood, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol your justice.   
16  Dómine, lábia mea apéries: * et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise.
17  Quóniam si voluísses sacrifícium dedíssem útique: * holocáustis non delectáberis.
For if you had desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings you will not be delighted.
18  Sacrifícium Deo spíritus contribulátus: * cor contrítum, et humiliátum, Deus non despícies.
A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise.
19  Benígne fac, Dómine, in bona voluntáte tua Sion: * ut ædificéntur muri Jerúsalem.
Deal favourably, O Lord, in your good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.
20  Tunc acceptábis sacrifícium justítiæ, oblatiónes, et holocáusta: * tunc impónent super altáre tuum vítulos.
Then shall you accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon your altar.

You can find the next part in this series on Psalm 50 here.

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