Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Penitential Psalms - Psalm 101/2: verses 1-3

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 52v
Musée Condé, Chantilly

In the last post I gave something of an introduction to Psalm 101. Today I want to take a brief look at the first three verses of it, which ask God to hear the psalmist’s prayer.

The underlying theology of these verses gives them an importance that enables the first verse in particular to be used in many contexts independently of the rest of the of the psalm, and I'll draw out this a little below. All the same, these verses are also integral to the development of one of the psalm's key themes, namely the proper praise of God, as we shall see in the next few parts of this mini-series on it.

Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam: * et clamor meus ad te véniat.
Domine, audi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te ueniat.

This verse should sound very familiar, as it is used in the liturgy multiple times.

exaudio, ivi, Itum, ire, to hear, hearken to, listen to, give heed to; to regard, answer
oratio, onis, f, prayer, supplication
clamor, oris, m. a cry, an earnest prayer for help, a cry of distress; sigh, wailing
veni, veni, ventum, ire,  to come;  come upon

Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to you.
O Lord hear my prayer and let my cry come unto Thee
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee

Non avértas fáciem tuam a me: * in quacúmque die tríbulor, inclína ad me aurem tuam.
Ne abscondas faciem tuam a me in die tribulationis meae : inclina ad me aurem tuam

That is: ‘do not avert, or hide not (non avertas) your face (faciem tuam) from me: in whatever (quacumque) day I am afflicted, incline (inclina) to me (ad me) your ear (aurem tuam). Note the Diurnal translation follows the Hebrew, using ‘do not hide from me’ rather than turn away from me.  Very similar to Psalm 68:21 - Et ne avértas fáciem tuam a púero tuo: quóniam tríbulor, velóciter exáudi me.

averto, verti, versum, ere 3, to turn away, avert; to bring back.
facies, ei, /. face, countenance, appearance;  presence.
quacumque - by whatever way, wherever, wheresoever
dies, ei, m. and /.; fem.   a day, the natural day
tribulo, avi, atum, are  to oppress, afflict, harass.
inclino, avi, atum, are, to bend, incline
auris, is, , the ear.

Turn not away your face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline your ear to me.
Hide not Thy face from me in the day of trouble incline Thy ear to me
Hide not thy face from me in the time of my trouble; incline thine ear unto me when I call.

In quacúmque die invocávero te: * velóciter exáudi me.

In that day (in quacumque die) when I will call to you (invocavero te), quickly (velociter) hear me (exaudi me)’. Cf Psalm 55: 10  In quacúmque die invocávero te: * ecce cognóvi quóniam Deus meus es.

invoco, avi, atum, are, (1) to invoke, call upon (God). (2) to put trust in
velociter, adv. (velox), swiftly, quickly, speedily, rapidly

In what day soever I shall call upon you, hear me speedily.
Whenever I shall cry to Thee, hear me speedily
O hear me, and that right soon

Asking God to hear our prayers

The first verse, which also occurs in three other psalms, will be very familiar to anyone who attends the Latin mass, or prays the Office:

“Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam: * et clamor meus ad te véniat,” or ‘Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to you’.

The first question that occurs is, why do we even need to say it? Can’t we take as read that God does indeed hear our prayers?

The grace to pray well

There does seem to be a common error about these days, to the effect that we shouldn’t pray for our own needs.  Or worse, that God doesn't listen or isn’t willing (or worse, most grievous error, able) to intervene to help us in times of trouble, or when we are in a state of sin.

But in fact Scripture repeatedly stresses, as in this psalm, that these are precisely the occasions when we must beg God’s help.

Accordingly, St Robert Bellarmine interprets this first verse firstly as a request for the grace to pray well:

“This verse is used daily by the Church as a preparation to any other petitions she may need to put up to the Creator; for, she learned from the Prophet that we should ask for an audience from God before we put any petition in particular before him; not that God, as if he were otherwise engaged, needs being roused or having his attention called, but because we need that God should give us the spirit of prayer; nay, even it is "the Spirit himself that asketh for us with unspeakable groanings," Rom. 8…Make me pray in such a manner that my prayer may be the earnest cry of my heart; so full of fire and devotion, that, though sent up from the lowest depth, it may not falter on the way, but ultimately reach you sitting on your lofty throne.”

Blockages to prayer

The psalmist goes on:

Non avértas fáciem tuam a me: * in quacúmque die tríbulor, inclína ad me aurem tuam. In quacúmque die invocávero te: * velóciter exáudi me.

That is: ‘do not avert, or hide not (non avertas) your face (faciem tuam) from me: in whatever (quacumque) day I am afflicted, incline (inclina) to me (ad me) your ear (aurem tuam). In that day (in quacumque die) when I will call to you (invocavero te), quickly (velociter) hear me (exaudi me)’.

God is said to turn his face from us, an image used several times in the penitential psalms, when we are in a state of sin!

And of course, if we were truly conscious of his scrutiny of us we would cower indeed, as St Robert Bellarmine points out:

God's regarding us is both the first grace and the fountain of grace, he, at the very outset, asks God to look on him, saying, "Turn not away thy face from me," however foul and filthy I may be; and if your own image, by reason of my having so befouled it, will not induce you to look upon me, let your mercy prevail upon you, for the fouler I am, the more wretched and miserable I am, and unless you look upon me, I will never be brought to look upon you, but daily wallowing deeper and deeper in my sins, I must, of necessity, be always getting more filthy and more foul.”

Promulgation of the law on Mt Sinai,
Gerard Hoet (1648–1733);
 image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection,
University of Oklahoma Libraries

Yet even in a state of sin, God hears our prayers for help to escape this state:

“Anyone that speaks in such manner begins to be already looked upon by God, but, as it were, with only half his anger laid aside, and still averting his face; however, having got any glimpse of God's light and countenance, he cries out, "Turn not away thy face from me;" cast me not away from thy face; finish what you have begun, by turning yourself to me, that I may be perfectly and completely turned to thee.”

The saint points out that: “Many things prevent our prayers from penetrating the clouds, such as want of faith, of confidence, of humility, desire, and the like.”

But these verses of the penitential psalms remind us that if we ask for the grace of praying well, we are most likely to obtain what we want.

Psalm 101: Domine exaudi orationem meam
Oratio pauperis, cum anxius fuerit, et in conspectu Domini effuderit precem suam.
The prayer of the poor man, when he was anxious, and poured out his supplication before   the Lord.
1 Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam: * et clamor meus ad te véniat.
Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to you.
2  Non avértas fáciem tuam a me: * in quacúmque die tríbulor, inclína ad me aurem tuam.
Turn not away your face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline your ear to me.
In quacúmque die invocávero te: * velóciter exáudi me.
In what day soever I shall call upon you, hear me speedily.
4  Quia defecérunt sicut fumus dies mei: * et ossa mea sicut crémium aruérunt.
4 For my days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire.
5  Percússus sum ut fœnum, et áruit cor meum: * quia oblítus sum comédere panem meum.
5 I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread.
6  A voce gémitus mei: * adhæsit os meum carni meæ.
6 Through the voice of my groaning, my bone has cleaved to my flesh.
7  Símilis factus sum pellicáno solitúdinis: * factus sum sicut nyctícorax in domicílio.
7 I have become like to a pelican of the wilderness: I am like a night raven in the house.
8  Vigilávi, * et factus sum sicut passer solitárius in tecto.
8 I have watched, and have become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop.
9  Tota die exprobrábant mihi inimíci mei: * et qui laudábant me, advérsum me jurábant.
9 All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me.
10  Quia cínerem tamquam panem manducábam, * et potum meum cum fletu miscébam.
10 For I ate ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.
11  A fácie iræ et indignatiónis tuæ: * quia élevans allisísti me.
11 Because of your anger and indignation: for having lifted me up you have thrown me down.
12  Dies mei sicut umbra declinavérunt: * et ego sicut fœnum árui.
12 My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.
13  Tu autem, Dómine, in ætérnum pérmanes: * et memoriále tuum in generatiónem et generatiónem.
13 But you, O Lord, endure for ever: and your memorial to all generations.
14  Tu exsúrgens miseréberis Sion: * quia tempus miseréndi ejus, quia venit tempus.
14 You shall arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time has come.
15  Quóniam placuérunt servis tuis lápides ejus: * et terræ ejus miserebúntur.
15 For the stones thereof have pleased your servants: and they shall have pity on the earth thereof.
16  Et timébunt gentes nomen tuum, Dómine: * et omnes reges terræ glóriam tuam.
16 All the Gentiles shall fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory.
17  Quia ædificávit Dóminus Sion: * et vidébitur in glória sua.
17 For the Lord has built up Sion: and he shall be seen in his glory.
18  Respéxit in oratiónem humílium: * et non sprevit precem eórum.
18 He has had regard to the prayer of the humble: and he has not despised their petition.
19  Scribántur hæc in generatióne áltera: * et pópulus qui creábitur, laudábit Dóminum.
19 Let these things be written unto another generation: and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord:
20  Quia prospéxit de excélso sancto suo: * Dóminus de cælo in terram aspéxit:
20 Because he has looked forth from his high sanctuary: from heaven the Lord has looked upon the earth.
21  Ut audíret gémitus compeditórum: * ut sólveret fílios interemptórum.
21 That he might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that he might release the children of the slain:
22  Ut annúntient in Sion nomen Dómini: * et laudem ejus in Jerúsalem.
22 That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and his praise in Jerusalem;
23  In conveniéndo pópulos in unum: * et reges ut sérviant Dómino.
23 when the people assemble together, and kings, to serve the Lord.
24  Respóndit ei in via virtútis suæ: * Paucitátem diérum meórum núntia mihi.
24 He answered him in the way of his strength: Declare unto me the fewness of my days.
25  Ne révoces me in dimídio diérum meórum: * in generatiónem et generatiónem anni tui.
25 Call me not away in the midst of my days: your years are unto generation and generation.
26  Inítio tu, Dómine, terram fundásti: * et ópera mánuum tuárum sunt cæli.
26 In the beginning, O Lord, you founded the earth: and the heavens are the works of your hands.
27  Ipsi peribunt, tu autem pérmanes: * et omnes sicut vestiméntum veteráscent.
27 They shall perish but you remain: and all of them shall grow old like a garment:
28  Et sicut opertórium mutábis eos, et mutabúntur: * tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non defícient.
And as a vesture you shall change them, and they shall be changed. 28 But you are always the selfsame, and your years shall not fail.
29  Fílii servórum tuórum habitábunt: * et semen eórum in sæculum dirigétur.
29 The children of your servants shall continue and their seed shall be directed for ever.

And for the next part in this series on Psalm 101, continue on here.

And you can find the next part of this series on Psalm 101 here.

No comments:

Post a Comment