Thursday, June 19, 2014

Psalm 149: verses 1-3

The first verse of Psalm 149 picks up where the last verse of Psalm 148 ends, with the praise of the faithful, or the 'saints'.

Cantáte Dómino cánticum novum: * laus ejus in ecclésia sanctórum.
Cantate Domino canticum nouum; laus eius in congregatione sanctorum.

σατε τ κυρί σμα καινόν  ανεσις ατο ν κκλησί σίων

Cantate (sing) Domino (to the Lord) canticum (song) novum (new) laus (praise) ejus (his) in ecclésia (in the assembly/church/congregation) sanctórum (of the saints).

canto, avi, atum, are to sing, to praise in song
canticum, i, n. a song, canticle.
novus, a, um,  new.
laus, laudis,f, praise.
ecclesia, ae,  an assembly, congregation,Church  esp. a gathering of the people for religious worship
sanctus, a, um, adj., holy, a holy or pious person ,saints, faithful

Sing to the Lord a new canticle: let his praise be in the church of the saints.
Sing to the Lord a new song: his praise is in the assembly of the saints.
Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the just
Sing the Lord a new song; here, where the faithful gather, let his praise be heard. 
O sing unto the lord a new song; let the congregation of saints praise him
Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.

The phrase 'sing a new song' is invariably interpreted, whenever it occurs in the psalms, by the Fathers in the light of Revelation 14:2-3, to mean the new creation of the world through Christ's death and Resurrection.  Cassiodorus, for example, comments:

"The new canticle is the secret of the holy incarnation, the wondrous nativity, the saving teaching, the suffering which is the mistress of endurance, the resur­rection which is the most certain proof of our hope, the seat at the right hand of the Father which denotes strength and unique power."

Chrysostom makes the contrast between the Old and the New:

The old man has an old song, the new man a new song. The Old Testament is an old song, the New Testament a new song. In the Old Testament are temporal and earthly promises. Whoso loves earthly things sings an old song: let him that desires to sing a new song, love the things of eternity. Love itself is new and eternal; therefore is it ever new, because it never grows old...

But whereas the previous psalm invites the whole universe to join in with God's praises, this one restricts the call to those within the Church, as Cassiodorus explains:

Let his praise be in the church of the saints. You can say that this denotes the Catholic Church, which is indeed the Church of saints, or the heavenly Jerusalem which is also undoubtedly the abode of the saints; for church (ecclesia) means assembly, and there is no doubt that this can refer to one or the other.

Haydock's commentary makes an unfashionable point about 'acceptable worship': 

Though all creatures are bound to praise the Lord, he accepts only praises of those who live in the Church. (Worthington)
Lætétur Israël in eo, qui fecit eum: * et fílii Sion exsúltent in rege suo.
Laetetur Israhel in factore suo : filii Sion exultent in rege suo.

εφρανθήτω Ισραηλ π τ ποιήσαντι ατόν κα υο Σιων γαλλιάσθωσαν π τ βασιλε ατν

laetor, atus sum, ari, to rejoice, be joyful, take delight in
filius, ii, m. a son, child
rex, regis, m.  a king, ruler, lawgiver
exsulto, avi, atum, are to spring, leap, or jump up; to exult, to rejoice exceedingly

Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: and let the children of Sion be joyful in their king.
Let Israel rejoice in him that made him; and let the children of Sion exult in their king.
Let Israel rejoice in him that made him, and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker, let Zion's sons exult in their king.

The reason for rejoicing here is not just that God created us, but also that he chose us to be members of his Church, as Chrysostom explains:

...Give thanks to God because he brought you into being when you did not exist, and breathed life into you. This, too, is no little part of beneficence, after all. Here, however, he shows something more important: he not simply men­tions creation but highlights relationship by expressing himself this way, and he bids them give thanks not because God made them but because he also made them his own people. 

The reference to being 'children of Sion' is important here, as St Augustine points out:

The sons of the Church are Israel. For Sion indeed was one city, which fell: amid its ruins certain saints dwelt after the flesh: but the true Sion, the true Jerusalem (for Sion and Jerusalem are one), is eternal in the heavens, 2 Corinthians 5:1 and is our mother. Galatians 4:26 She it is that has given us birth, she is the Church of the saints, she has nourished us, she, who is in part a pilgrim, in part abiding in the heavens. 

Laudent nomen ejus in choro: * in tympano, et psaltério psallant ei.
Laudent nomen eius in choro, in tympano et cithara psallant ei,
Laudent nomen eius in choro : in tympano et cithara cantent ei.

ανεσάτωσαν τ νομα ατο ν χορ ν τυμπάν κα ψαλτηρί ψαλάτωσαν ατ

laudo, avi, atum, are   to praise, glorify
nomen, mis, n. name; God himself; the perfections of God, His glory, majesty, wisdom, power, goodness,
chorus, i, m.   a choral dance; a dancing and singing troop or band, a chorus, a choir.
tympanum, i, n. timbrel, tabret, small hand drum or tambourine.
psalterium, ii, n. a stringed instrument, a psaltery, harp, zither.
psallo, ere 3 to sing to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument,; to sing the praises of God.

Let them praise his name in choir: let them sing to him with the timbrel and the psaltery.
Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sings praises to him with timbrel and psaltery.
Let them praise His Name with a dance, with timbrel and harp let them play before him
Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with timbrel and lyre!
let there be dancing in honour of his name, music of tambour and of harp, to praise him.
Let them praise his Name in the dance; let them sing praises unto him with tabret and harp.
Let them praise his name with dancing and make music with timbrel and harp.

Is this verse a justification for the use of  'liturgical dancing' (also mentioned in Ex 15:20; Judith 11:34; Jer 31:4; &Ps 117:27).  St John Chrysostom doesn't seem to think so, seeing the use of the dancing and instruments mentioned as a concession particular to the Old Testament:

Some com­mentators also take the mention of these instruments in a spiritual sense and say that the drum implies the mortification of our flesh, while the harp has reference to heaven, this instrument being played on high, not here below, like the lyre. I would say this, on the other hand, that in ancient times they were led by these instru­ments owing to the dullness of their thinking and their recent con­version from idols. So, just as he permitted them sacrifices, in like manner he also let them have these things, out of consideration for their limitations. Accordingly, here he requires singing with pleasure: this is the meaning of Let them praise his name in choir, in harmony, with a pure life.

St Augustine on the other hand, does interpret the choir, instruments and dancing spiritually:

...A chorus is the union of singers. If we sing in chorus, let us sing in concord. If any one's voice is out of harmony in a chorus of singers, it offends the ear, and throwes the chorus into confusion. If the voice of one echoing discordantly troubles the harmony of them who sing, how does the discord of heresy throw into confusion the harmony of them who praise...When timbrel and psaltery are taken, the hands harmonize with the voice. So too do thou, whenever you sing, Halleluia, deal forth your bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger: then does not only your voice sound, but your hand sounds in harmony with it, for your deeds agree with your words...On the timbrel leather is stretched, on the psaltery gut is stretched; on either instrument the flesh is crucified. How well did he sing a psalm on timbrel and psaltery, who said, the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world? Galatians 6:14
This psaltery or timbrel He wishes you to take up, who loves a new song, who teaches you, saying to you, Whosoever wills to be My disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 


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.
And for the next set of notes on this psalm, continue on here.

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