Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Psalm 148: verses 7-10

Having spoken of God as creator, the next set of verses of Psalm 148 call on the various parts of creation to praise him.  Each of these verses should be read both literally and allegorically.

Laudáte Dóminum de terra, * dracónes, et omnes abyssi.

ανετε τν κύριον κ τς γς δράκοντες κα πσαι βυσσοι

Most of the modern translations take the view that dracones here probably means sea monsters given the second phrase (cf Gen 1:6, 21); Haydock suggests as an alternative whales, but the older commentaries take the word literally as dragons.

draco, onis, m., a dragon, by which is meant a great land or sea monster, a whale, crocodile, venomous serpent (Britt, Dictionary of the Psalter)
abyssus, i, the deep, i.e., the primitive chaos mentioned in Gen. 1,2; the depths of the sea

Praise the Lord from the earth, you dragons, and all you deeps:
Praise the Lord from the earth, ye serpents, and all deeps.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
Praise the Lord upon the earth, ye dragons and all deeps
 Give praise to the Lord on earth, monsters of the sea and all its depths;

St Augustine discusses the praises of dragons:

"Let him then turn himself to things on earth too, since he has already spoken the praises of things in heaven. Praise ye the Lord from the earth Psalm. For wherewith began he before? Praise ye the Lord from heaven: and he went through things in heaven: now hear of things on earth. Abysses are depths of water: all the seas, and this atmosphere of clouds, pertain to the abyss… Dragons live about the water, come out from caverns, fly through the air; the air is set in motion by them: dragons are a huge kind of living creatures, greater there are not upon the earth. Therefore with them he begins, Dragons and all abysses. There are caves of hidden waters, whence springs and streams come forth: some come forth to flow over the earth, some flow secretly beneath; and all this kind, all this damp nature of waters, together with the sea and this lower air, are called abyss, or abysses, where dragons live and praise God. What? Think we that the dragons form choirs, and praise God? Far from it. But do ye, when you consider the dragons, regard the Maker of the dragon, the Creator of the dragon: then, when you admire the dragons, and say, Great is the Lord who made these, then the dragons praise God by your voices."

Cassiodorus draws out the allegorical meaning of the text further:

"Observe the order of the expressions. The first substance mentioned is that of creatures with feeling, the second is that of objects bereft of it, so that the Lord is to be praised in virtue of all created things. However, as we have said on the authority of the Fathers that this psalm is a hymn of the blessed to be sung when this world is transformed, we must inter­pret dragons and abysses here as abrasive and strong-minded characters who are converted in this world, and honoured by offering praises to the Lord in the native land to come."
Ignis, grando, nix, glácies, spíritus procellárum: * quæ fáciunt verbum ejus:
ignis, grando, nix, fumus, spiritus procellarum, qui facit verbum eius,
ignis et grando, nix et glacies uentus, turbo, quae facitis sermonem eius :

πρ χάλαζα χιών κρύσταλλος πνεμα καταιγίδος τ ποιοντα τν λόγον ατο

The NV’s funes (smoke) comes from the Hebrew MT – but given that it doesn’t really fit the list well, surely a corruption of the text?  Certainly St Jerome, trnalsating form the Hebrew text available in his day, made it glacies instead.

ignis, is, m. fire; lightning
grando, inis,, hail, a hailstorm
nix, nivis, snow.
spiritus, us, m.  breath;  wind;  breath of life, vital spirit; the soul; spirit, disposition; Divine assistance, grace
procella, ae,.a storm, tempest.

Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word
Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy wind; the things that perform his word
fire and hail, snow and vapours, wind and storm, fulfilling his word

This verse makes an important point, often rejected today, namely that God's providence includes 'natural' events (and the consequences of man's mismanagement of nature!), as Bellarmine comments:

"From the waters he passes to the air, where the fires exist; viz., lightning, thunderbolts, coruscations, as also hail, snow, ice, and the stormy winds, those furious winds that cause the storms and bring so much rain with them, all of which "fulfil his word;" that is, obey his commands, which last expression he adds with a view to let us see that all those accidents, that are looked upon by man as so many calamities, come from the hand of God, who makes use of them as so many instruments of his justice or of his mercy to punish the wicked or to deter the just from sin; and, therefore, that they do not come from chance, nor should they be called calamities but blessings, being the instruments of a good and gracious God."

Cassiordorus again also supplies an allegorical meaning for the verse:

"Fire, hail, snow and ice denote by the allegory previously mentioned men who in this world have passed from the wild conduct of extreme wickedness to the most tranquil enthusiasm of devotion. Note what finally fol­lows: Stormy winds which fulfil his word. Who are they who fulfil his word but those who have ceased to be storm-tossed and evil, and have deserved to attain the grace of confessing Him?"

Montes, et omnes colles: * ligna fructífera, et omnes cedri.
montes et omnes colles, lignum fructiferum et uniuersae cedri:

τ ρη κα πάντες ο βουνοί ξύλα καρποφόρα κα πσαι κέδροι

mons, montis, m., a mountain (mons sanctus = Zion)
collis, is, a hill.
lignum, i, n., a tree; fructifer, a, um , fruitful, fruit-bearing. ligna fructifera, fruit-bearing trees

Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars;

This verse points us to the inanimate world.  Cassiodorus on the allegorical meaning here:

"Mountains denotes men raised high with swollen power, hills, moderate men who handle affairs evenly, fruitful trees, those converted from the hardness of sins who have brought forth most sweet fruits of good manners. Cedars denotes totally arrogant and proud people; beasts, the cruel and unrestrained; all cattle, the common, boundless crowd; serpents, the poisonous and crafty; feathered fowls, the philosophers whose custom it is to speed with the swiftness of their thought through the natures of objects in the world. From all these kinds of men Christ prepares His chosen, so that they can be gathered at the resurrection by troops of angels."
Béstiæ, et univérsa pécora: * serpéntes, et vólucres pennátæ:
bestiae et omnia iumenta, reptilia et aues uolantes:

τ θηρία κα πάντα τ κτήνη ρπετ κα πετειν πτερωτά

bestia, ae, a beast, wild beast.
universus, a, um,  all, whole, entire;
pecus, oris, n.,, cattle, beasts
serpens, entis,  a creeping thing, a reptile; a snake, serpent
volucris, is,  bird.
pennatus, a, um feathered, winged.  

Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
wild beasts, and all cattle; reptiles, and winged birds:
beasts and all cattle; worms and feathered fowls

Bellarmine sees this verse as a reminder that all of nature has value to us:

"He then touches on the ani­mals that are to be found on the earth, briefly enumerating the principal ones, the wild, the domestic, and the beasts of bur­den; and finally, the serpents that crawl along the ground, and the birds that fly aloft in the air. He calls upon and challenges them all to praise God, not that they are capable of any such thing, but that man, by reflecting on their use and benefit to him, may praise God, and return him due thanks for them. But what benefit do the wild beasts, the lions, serpents, even the gnats and the wasps confer on man? A great deal, for, whether they inspire us with terror, or annoy and torment us, they are calculated to remind us of our weakness and infirmity, and to what we have come through the disobedience of our first par­ents, by which we lost a great part of the dominion we previ­ously had over all animals."

Psalm 148: Laudate Dominum de caelis

1 Laudáte Dóminum de cælis: * laudáte eum in excélsis.
Praise the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the high places.
2  Laudáte eum, omnes Angeli ejus: * laudáte eum, omnes virtútes ejus.
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his hosts.
3  Laudáte eum, sol et luna: * laudáte eum, omnes stellæ et lumen.
3 Praise him, O sun and moon: praise him, all you stars and light
4  Laudáte eum, cæli cælórum: * et aquæ omnes, quæ super cælos sunt, laudent nomen Dómini.
4 Praise him, you heavens of heavens: and let all   the waters that are above the heavens 5 praise the name of the Lord.
5 Quia ipse dixit, et facta sunt: * ipse mandávit, et creáta sunt.
For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created
6  Státuit ea in ætérnum, et in sæculum sæculi: * præcéptum pósuit, et non præteríbit.
6 He has established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he has made a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7  Laudáte Dóminum de terra, * dracónes, et omnes abyssi.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you dragons, and all you deeps:
8  Ignis, grando, nix, glácies, spíritus procellárum: * quæ fáciunt verbum ejus:
8 Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word:
9  Montes, et omnes colles: * ligna fructífera, et omnes cedri.
9 Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:
10  Béstiæ, et univérsa pécora: * serpéntes, et vólucres pennátæ:
10 Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
11  Reges terræ, et omnes pópuli: * príncipes, et omnes júdices terræ.
11 Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth:
12  Júvenes, et vírgines : senes cum junióribus laudent nomen Dómini: * quia exaltátum est nomen ejus solíus.
12 Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the name of the Lord: 13 For his name alone is exalted.
13  Conféssio ejus super cælum et terram: * et exaltávit cornu pópuli sui.
14 The praise of him is above heaven and earth: and he has exalted the horn of his people.
14  Hymnus ómnibus sanctis ejus: * fíliis Israël, pópulo appropinquánti sibi.
A hymn to all his saints to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him. Alleluia

For the next set of verse by verse notes, continue on here.

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