Saturday, June 28, 2014

Psalm 150 verses 1-2

The opening verses of Psalm 150 link together God and his people: he has worked on their behalf, and in them.

1
V
Laudáte Dóminum in sanctis ejus: * laudáte eum in firmaménto virtútis ejus
NV
Laudate Dominum in sanctuario eius, laudate eum in firmamento virtutis eius.
JH
Laudate Dominum in sancto eius : laudate eum in fortitudine potentiae eius.

ανετε τν θεν ν τος γίοις ατο ανετε ατν ν στερεώματι δυνάμεως ατο

In Latin sanctis ejus could mean either holy place or holy persons, but the Septuagint really suggests 'the saints'.  The Hebrew Masoretic Text and the psalms tendency to use parallelism (repetition of the same sentiment in two words across the two phrases of a verse), on the other hand, favours the places interpretation, and that is reflected in most of the modern translations.  Most of the Fathers, however, including both St John Chrysostom and St Augustine, take the first phrase as a reference to either the people of the Church, or to Christ (his sanctified one). 

laudo, avi, atum, are  to praise, glorify
sanctus, a, um, adj., holy; a holy place or pious person.
firmamentum, i, n. a support, prop, stay; the firmament, the heavens, the vault or arch of the sky
virtus, iitis, strength, power, might, an army, host; the angel;  the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars.

DR
Praise ye the Lord in his holy places: praise ye him in the firmament of his power.
Brenton
Praise God in his holy places: praise him in the firmament of his power.
MD
Praise the Lord in his holy place, praise him in the fortress of his power
Coverdale
O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.

Chrysostom's interpretation points to the Septuagint version of the verse:

"Praise the Lord in his saints: Another version, "in his saint;" another, "in his sanctified one." Here there is a reference either to the people, or to a holy life and holy men. Now, observe how in turn he brought the book to a close with thanks­giving, teaching us how this ought be both beginning and end of our actions and words. Hence Paul also says, "Whatever you do in word and deed, always give thanks to the God and Father through him." This is the way the opening phrase of our prayer also be­gins: the phrase "Our Father" is said on the part of those giving thanks for favors done and showing them all to be due to this name. In saying "Father," after all, you confessed sonship; but in confess­ing sonship you proclaimed righteousness, sanctification, redemp­tion, forgiveness of sins, involvement of the Spirit. All these had to be present beforehand, you see, for us to enjoy sonship in this way and be deemed worthy to call him Father. Now, he seems to me to be hinting at something else in speak­ing this way: the phrase in his saints means through his saints." 

Cassiodorus provides a possible means of reconciling the two interpretations of the first phrase, as well as the link between this psalm and Psalm 1:

"We must carefully observe the pleasurable sweetness with which this book of psalms ends, and how it looks back to its begin­ning. The prophet says that now that the saints have been received in the heavenly Jerusalem, it is right to praise the Lord, that is, it is right for those to whom He has revealed the shape of right behaviour. Earlier it was said of Him: Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and the rest; for the saints are those who by His generosity have deserved to imitate Him. There is a fitting explanation of the kind of reverence owed to the saints; it is the Lord who is to be praised because they are justified, and not they themselves, for His glory should be hymned first since He permits the deeds which are to be acclaimed. Veneration is however to be accorded to the just, because they have received divine gifts. Next follows: Praise him in the firmament of his power. The strength of his power lies in the fact that He endured destruction for the salvation of all, and by virtue of His power overcame death itself, together with its most wicked founder; He sundered the bars of hell, and led strong believers to the kingdom of heaven."

Pope St John Paul II  also points to the two levels of interpretation possible here:

The "sanctuary" is the first place where the musical and the prayerful theme unfolds (cf. v. 1). The original Hebrew speaks of the pure, transcendent "sacred" area in which God dwells. It is then a reference to the horizon of heaven and paradise where, as the Book of the Apocalypse will explain, the eternal, perfect liturgy of the Lamb is celebrated (cf. for example, Apoc 5,6-14). The mystery of God, in which the saints are welcomed for full communion, is a place of light and joy, of revelation and love. We can understand why the Septuagint translation and the Latin Vulgate use the word "saints" instead of "sanctuary":  "Praise the Lord in his saints!" General Audience, Wednesday 9 January 2002

2
V
Laudáte eum in virtútibus ejus: *laudáte eum secúndum multitúdinem magnitúdinis ejus.
NV
Laudate eum in magnalibus eius, laudate eum secundum multitudinem magnitudinis eius.
JH
Laudate eum in fortitudinibus eius : laudate eum iuxta multitudinem magnificentiae suae.

ανετε ατν π τας δυναστείαις ατο ανετε ατν κατ τ πλθος τς μεγαλωσύνης ατο

In virtútibus ejus=his acts of power, because of his mighty deeds; secúndum multitúdinem magnitúdinis ejus=by reason of the multitude of his power, for the greatness of his power

magnitudo, mis, greatness, power, majesty.
multitudo inis f  a large number, multitude; abundance, greatness; great, mighty.

DR
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to the multitude of his greatness.
Brenton
Praise him on account of his mighty acts: praise him according to his abundant greatness.
MD
Praise Him for His deeds of valor, praise him for the greatness of His might
Cover
Praise him in his noble acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.

The point here is that God is not far away from us, even when in his highest heaven, as St Augustine explains:

Why should not they also be called the works of God's strength, which He has done in them: yea rather, they themselves are the works of His strength; just as it is said, We are the righteousness of God in Him. For what more powerful than that He should reign for ever, with all His enemies put under His feet? Why should not they also be the multitude of His greatness? Not that whereby He is great, but whereby He has made them great, many as they are, that is, thousands of thousands. Just as righteousness too is understood in two ways, that whereby He is righteous, and that which He works in us, so as to make us His righteousness. 

Pope St John Paul II sees the verse as making the link between God's acts in history to the liturgy which helps us ascend to heaven:

Yet he is close to us:  he is present in the "holy place" of Zion and acts in history through his "mighty deeds" that reveal and enable one to experience "his surpassing greatness" (cf. vv. 1-2). Thus between heaven and earth a channel of communication is established in which the action of the Lord meets the hymn of praise of the faithful. The liturgy unites the two holy places, the earthly temple and the infinite heavens, God and man, time and eternity. During the prayer, we accomplish an ascent towards the divine light and together experience a descent of God who adapts himself to our limitations in order to hear and speak to us, meet us and save us. 

Psalm 150: Laudate Dominum
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
Alleluja.
Alleluia
Laudáte Dóminum in sanctis ejus: * laudáte eum in firmaménto virtútis ejus.
Praise the Lord in his holy places: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2  Laudáte eum in virtútibus ejus: * laudáte eum secúndum multitúdinem magnitúdinis ejus.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to the multitude of his greatness.
3  Laudáte eum in sono tubæ: * laudáte eum in psaltério, et cíthara.
3 Praise him with the sound of trumpet: praise him with psaltery and harp.
4  Laudáte eum in tympano, et choro: * laudáte eum in chordis, et órgano
4 Praise him with timbrel and choir: praise him with strings and organs.
5  Laudáte eum in cymbalis benesonántibus: laudáte eum in cymbalis jubilatiónis: * omnis spíritus laudet Dóminum.
5 Praise him on high sounding cymbals: praise him on cymbals of joy: 6 Let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Introduction to Psalm 150

The last psalm of the psalter, and the final psalm of Lauds each day, Psalm 150, serves as a doxology to the whole book, conjuring up an image of the celestial liturgy played out with voices and orchestra, as the universe reverberates with praise for the greatness of God.

Psalm 150: Laudate Dominum
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
Alleluja.
Alleluia
Laudáte Dóminum in sanctis ejus: * laudáte eum in firmaménto virtútis ejus.
Praise the Lord in his holy places: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2  Laudáte eum in virtútibus ejus: * laudáte eum secúndum multitúdinem magnitúdinis ejus.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to the multitude of his greatness.
3  Laudáte eum in sono tubæ: * laudáte eum in psaltério, et cíthara.
3 Praise him with the sound of trumpet: praise him with psaltery and harp.
4  Laudáte eum in tympano, et choro: * laudáte eum in chordis, et órgano
4 Praise him with timbrel and choir: praise him with strings and organs.
5  Laudáte eum in cymbalis benesonántibus: laudáte eum in cymbalis jubilatiónis: * omnis spíritus laudet Dóminum.
5 Praise him on high sounding cymbals: praise him on cymbals of joy: 6 Let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia

The culmination of the Book of Psalms

The psalm consists of ten separate calls to praise God -  a number that the Fathers associated both with the 'ten words' of creation, and the ten commandments.  

The number is moreover, increased to twelve in Scripture (though not in the liturgical version of the text), a number symbolising universality, by the addition of an alleluia at the beginning and end of the psalm.

Many commentators see this psalm as encapsulating the outcome of praying the psalter: in Psalm 1, we are invited to meditate on the law day and night; if we do so, we will reach the state of ecstatic praise described in Psalm 150 that unites together heaven and earth (v1).

God's saving action

The psalm does not linger on the reasons for praising God: verse 2 points simply to his greatness, and 'mighty acts', the most important of which for our salvation is the Resurrection.

Instead, the psalm describes the various instruments that should be devoted to the praise of God, which the Fathers typically interpreted as reflecting different aspects of Christian life, such as obedience to God's commands, suppression of sinful physical desires, of belief, moral excellence and desire for it and his salvation.

Cassiodorus sees the psalm as portraying a gradual ascent towards heaven:
See how once again that herald of salvation is brought back before us, to speak not of bodily sustenance but of heavenly abundance. The city of God is urged to gather from the circumference of the world, and to sing with tongue and heart. So let us sing with total concentration this Alleluia, which through the Lord's ordering has brought the entire corpus of psalmody to its high point. Just as transient earthly fire hastens to the upper regions and raises its ruddy crest to a peak, so this psalm gradually grows and flits upward to the heights of heaven by the steps of the virtues. If with the support of the Lord's right hand we too mount with it in devotion of spirit, we shall be granted access to the End which brings salvation, and which is bounded by no limits.
And it ends, in his view, on a note that signals the Church Triumphant:
It is short, so that it may not induce weariness; it abounds in musical instruments, so that it could be made most suit­able for spiritual marriage, and could be sung with marital joy in the assembly of the heavenly Jerusalem. Its purpose is praise by the saints' gathering to the Lord, who has restored them to His image and caused them to lay aside the frailty of flesh and blood. He has now set them in that blessedness to conform with His glory, so that they may be filled with abundance of all blessings. As Paul says of them: He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings, so that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight…

Liturgical uses of the psalm

NT references
1 Cor 13:1 ; Rev 5:13(5)
RB cursus
daily Lauds
Roman pre 1911
Daily Lauds
Roman post 1911
1911-62:Sat Lauds  . 1970:
Mass propers (EF)
-


You can find verse by verse notes on this psalm starting here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Psalm 149 verses 7-9

There are three possible layers of interpretation of the closing verses of Psalm 149.  First, this is a promise of ultimate victory against the powers and principalities against whom we wage spiritual war in our own lives.  Secondly, we execute justice when we convert others, turning them away from the path of evil.  Finally, they can be read as a reference to the role of the saints in the final judgment. 

7
V
Ad faciéndam vindíctam in natiónibus: * increpatiónes in pópulis.
NV
ad faciendam vindictam in nationibus, castigationes in populis,
JH
ad faciendam uindictam in gentibus, increpationes in populis;

το ποισαι κδίκησιν ν τος θνεσιν λεγμος ν τος λαος

vindicta, ae,  vengeance, punishment; cause, right.
natio, onis, nation, people; in pi., the gentiles; a generation.
increpatio, onis, a chiding, rebuke;  punishment, chastisement

DR
To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:
Brenton
to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments among the peoples
MD
They take vengeance on the heathen, inflict chastisement on the nations
Cover
to be avenged of the heathen, and to rebuke the people
Grail
to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples;

St Augustine sees this verse as a call to action:

"And lest you should think that men are really smitten with the sword, blood really shed, wounds made in the flesh, he goes on and explains, upbraidings among the peoples. What is upbraidings? Reproof. Let the sword twice sharpened go forth from you, delay not. Say to your friend, if yet you have one left to whom to say it, What kind of man are you, who hast abandoned Him by whom you were made, and worshippest what He made? Better is the Workman, than that which He works. When he begins to blush, when he begins to feel compunction, you have made a wound with your sword, it has reached the heart, he is about to die, that he may live.

But it also has an eschatological connotation, as Cassiodorus explains:

So the blessed ones will assume this power and pass judgment in company with the Lord; as Scripture says: You shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel? For note what follows: To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people. This truly takes place when they shall judge in company with the Lord.
   
8
V
Ad alligándos reges eórum in compédibus: * et nóbiles eórum in mánicis férreis.
NV
ad alligandos reges eorum in compedibus et nobiles eorum in manicis ferreis,
JH
ut alhgent reges eorum catenis, et inclitos eorum compedibus ferreis

το δσαι τος βασιλες ατν ν πέδαις κα τος νδόξους ατν ν χειροπέδαις σιδηρας

alligo, avi, atum, are  to bind or make fast, to fetter;  to bind up as a wound.
compes, pedis,  a fetter or shackle for the feet.
nobilis, e, noble, high-born, of noble birth, of distinguished or illustrious ancestors;  
manica, ae, a handcuff, manacle.
ferreus, a, um  iron, made of iron


DR
To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.
Brenton
to bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron
MD
They lay their kings in chains, and their princes in iron fetters.
Cover
to bind their kings in chains, and their nobles with links of iron
Grail
to bind their kings in chains and their nobles in fetters of iron;

Some commentators see a link between this second last psalm of the psalter, and the second (Psalm 2): just as they attempted to bind Christ and is saints, they too will in turn be bound.  Bellarmine comments, for example:

Having said that "the two-edged swords" represent the judiciary power entrusted to the saints on the last day, it will not appear strange they should use such power "to execute vengeance," and "to bind kings in fetters," for such power includes the one as well as the other, and both will be fully exercised on the last day, when, in union with Christ, they will pass sentence on the Antiochuses, the Herods, the Neros, the Diocletians, and the other infidel princes, and will say, "Having bound their hands and feet, cast them into the exte­rior darkness."

9
V
Ut fáciant in eis judícium conscríptum: * glória hæc est ómnibus sanctis ejus.
NV
ad faciendum in eis iudicium conscriptum.Gloria haec est omnibus sanctis eius.
JH
ut faciant in eis iudicium scriptum : decor est omnium sanctorum eius.

το ποισαι ν ατος κρίμα γγραπτον δόξα ατη στν πσι τος σίοις ατο

judicium, i, n.  judgment, decrees; law, commandment; the power, or faculty of judging wisely; justice.
conscriptus, a, um, written.

DR
To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all his saints. Alleluia.
Brenton
to execute on them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints.
Cover
that they may be avenged of them, as it is written, Such honour have all his saints.
Grail
to carry out the sentence pre-ordained: this honor is for all his faithful.

This verse alludes to the idea that God's decrees are as if written in a book (the book of life), also seen in Job 13:26 and Is 65:6 for example.  Chrysostom gives it a less literal meaning:

To execute on them a verdict written (v.9): what is a verdict written. Obvious, manifest, not capable of being consigned to oblivion. God's doings are like that, you see, protracted to all time in the greatness of the achievements and the extraordinary character of the wonder-working. So the victory will be so great and the tro­phy so wonderful as to be clear to all, as obvious as if written on a column and never erased. 

Similarly, he brings the message of the psalm back to our own spiritual lives, and the spiritual warfare waged with the aid of grace: 

This glory is for all his holy ones: which glory? Conquering - or, rather, not simply conquering, but conquering in such a manner, through God's assistance, through grace from on high. Now, ob­serve how he makes mention of the holy ones, stimulating them to give attention to their life and virtue. In my view, however, by glory he refers not only to the victory, but also to the praise, the songs, the hymns, teaching us by every means that by singing praise to God they confer on themselves great glory and present themselves in a creditable light, thanks to the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power, for ages of ages. Amen.

Psalm 149
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
Alleluja.

Cantáte Dómino cánticum novum: * laus ejus in ecclésia sanctórum.
Sing to the Lord a new canticle: let his praise be in the church of the saints.
2  Lætétur Israël in eo, qui fecit eum: * et fílii Sion exsúltent in rege suo.
2 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: and let the children of Sion be joyful in their king.
3  Laudent nomen ejus in choro: * in tympano, et psaltério psallant ei.
3 Let them praise his name in choir: let them sing to him with the timbrel and the psaltery.
4  Quia beneplácitum est Dómino in pópulo suo: * et exaltábit mansuétos in salútem.
4 For the Lord is well pleased with his people: and he will exalt the meek unto salvation.
5  Exsultábunt sancti in glória: * lætabúntur in cubílibus suis.
5 The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.
6  Exaltatiónes Dei in gútture eórum: * et gládii ancípites in mánibus eórum.
6 The high praises of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:
7  Ad faciéndam vindíctam in natiónibus: * increpatiónes in pópulis
7 To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:
8  Ad alligándos reges eórum in compédibus: * et nóbiles eórum in mánicis férreis.
To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron. 
9  Ut fáciant in eis judícium conscríptum: * glória hæc est ómnibus sanctis ejus.
9 To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all his saints. Alleluia.
The next psalm in this series on the repeated psalms of the Office is Psalm 150.