Friday, August 8, 2014

Psalm 120 v1-4

In the previous post I provided a general introduction to Psalm 120.  Today a look at verses 1-4 of the psalm in more detail.
Levávi óculos meos in montes, * unde véniet auxílium mihi.
Levabo oculos meos in montes: unde veniet auxilium mihi?

ᾠδὴ τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν ἦρα τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου εἰς τὰ ὄρη πόθεν ἥξει ἡ βοήθειά μου

Text notes: Although it is isn't usually translated this way (the RSV aside), the unde of the second phrase suggests that this verse takes the form of a question, ie will help (auxilium) come to me (veniet ad me) from the mountains (in montes) that I lift up (levavi) my eyes (oculos meos) towards?  This reflects a certain ambiguity in the verse - modern commentators are divided over whether the speaker looking towards Mt Sion and hence help that comes from God, or is in fact looking at the forbidden pagan 'high places' and rejecting them in the next verse.

Perhaps reflecting this ambiguity, the Vulgate and Jerome’s from the Hebrew make the first phrase perfect (I have lifted up) and the second phrase future (it will come); the neo-Vulgate makes it future tense in both cases; while the Diurnal and RSV make it present tense for both phrases.  Presumably the neo-Vulgate is trying to suggest here the idea of the psalm as the song as being of a pilgrim travelling from afar, and straining their eyes to get that first glimpse of the hills of Jerusalem, and being concerned in the meantime for the dangers and temptations of the journey. Either way, the idea of help ‘coming’ is one of several images in the psalm that conjure up the notion of a journey.

levo, avi, atum, are, to rise, lift up, elevate.
oculus, i, , the eye.
mons, montis, m., a mountain; unde – denotes a direct question
venio, veni, ventum, ireto come.
auxilium, ii, n. help, aid, assistance

I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.
I lift up mine eyes to the mountains : whence cometh help to me
I lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, whence my help shall come. 
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come?
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
I lift up my eyes to the hills, to find deliverance;
I lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall come my help?

Whichever way your read the verse, the essential message is clear: trust in God and look to him only.  Chrysostom comments:

Observe a soul at a loss and bewildered from being in trouble, and wishing to attain comfort from God, who is not unaware. This again is a good effect and advantage of temptations, exciting and stirring up the soul, making it look for influence from on high and sever connections with everything of this life.

Auxílium meum a Dómino, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
Auxilium meum a Domino, factore caeli et terrae. 

ἡ βοήθειά μου παρὰ κυρίου τοῦ ποιήσαντος τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν 

This verse comes as an answer to the first, and can be interpreted either as a dialogue amongst the group of travelers, or the internal thought processes of the psalmist.  In any case the reply is of reassurance: My help (Auxilium meum) [is ] from the Lord (a domino), who made (qui fecit) heaven (caelum) and earth (terram). 

caelum, i, n., or caeli, orum, m.  heaven, the abode of God; the heavens as opposed to the earth; the air;
terra, ae, f the earth

 My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
My help shall come from the Lord, who made the heaven and the earth.
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
My help cometh even from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth.
from the Lord deliverance comes to me, the Lord who made heaven and earth.
My help shall come from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

If one reads the previous verse as pointing to the idolatrous high places, then this verse affirsm, in line with other psalms such as 113 and 135, the contrast between lifeless impotence of false idols and God the creator of all things, as Chrysostom affirms:

"…all that came from the hands of human beings was missing, all gone, all failed. One way to salvation was now left them, he is saying, that from God... he means also, If he made heaven and earth, he is able also to bring help in foreign parts, raise his hand even in the land of savages, and save those driven from their own country. After all, if he produced these elements by word alone, much more will he be able to free us from the savages."

Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI sees this verse as a warning to reject the temptations put before us:

There are also similar things in our pilgrimage through life. We see the high places that spread out before us as a promise of life: wealth, power, prestige, the easy life. These high places are temptations, for they truly seem like the promise of life. But with our faith we realize that this is not true and that these high places are not life. True life, true help, comes from the Lord. And we turn our gaze, therefore, to the true high places, to the true mountain: Christ.  General Audience Wednesday, 4 May 2005 

Non det in commotiónem pedem tuum: * neque dormítet qui custódit te.
Non dabit in commotionem pedem tuum neque dormitabit, qui custodit te.
Non det in commotionem pedem tuum, nec dormitet qui custodit te. 

μὴ δῷς εἰς σάλον τὸν πόδα σου μηδὲ νυστάξῃ ὁ φυλάσσων σε 

Text notes:  Dare in commotionem said of the feet (pes, pedis) means to be moved, stumble or fall, conjuring up again the imagery of a journey.  Note the interesting set of tense choices: the Vulgate and Jerome make it subjunctive (May he not let/suffer); while the Neo-Vulgate changes it from a request to a definite promise in the future tense, ‘he will not…’  Overall, the Vulgate maintains more of the feel of a dialogue between two speakers. In the second phrase dormitare is a derivative of dormire, meaning to be sleepy; thus ‘he that guards you (qui custodit te) does not slumber (neque dormitet).  Custodire is the key verb in this psalm, used six times in the course of eight verses!

do, dedi, datum, are, to give,
commotio, onis, f said of the feet, to be moved, i.e., to stumble, slip, fall.
pes, pedis, m.  the foot
dormito, avi, atum, are  to be sleepy, to slumber.
custodio, ivi or li, itum, ire to guard, watch, keep; to maintain, to hold steadfastly.

May he not suffer your foot to be moved: neither let him slumber that keeps you.
He will not suffer thy foot to stumble, He slumbereth not Who keepeth thee.
Let not thy foot be moved; and let not thy keeper slumber. 
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.
Never will he who guards thee allow thy foot to stumble; never fall asleep at his post!
May he never allow you to stumble! Let him sleep not, your guard.

The image of a person stumbling because they are tired is all too apt for most of us - but the psalmist assures us that our God our protector never sleeps: as the Knox translation puts it, he never falls asleep at his post!

Ecce, non dormitábit neque dórmiet, * qui custódit Israël.

ἰδοὺ οὐ νυστάξει οὐδὲ ὑπνώσει ὁ φυλάσσων τὸν Ισραηλ 

Text notes: Literally, ‘For/behold (Ecce) he will not slumber (non dormitabit) nor sleep (neque dormiet), who guards Israel (qui custodit Israel)’.

ecce, see! behold
dormio, ivi or li, Itum, ire, to sleep, to lie down to rest.

Behold he shall neither slumber nor sleep, that keeps Israel.
No, He slumbereth not, nor sleepeth, Who watcheth over Israel.
Behold, he that keeps Israel shall not slumber nor sleep.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Such a guardian has Israel, one who is never weary, never sleeps;
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers, Israel's guard.

The reference to Israel here can be taken two ways.  Firstly, it means the Church: the protection God affords us is not just as individuals, but rather as members of his chosen people.  Secondly, though, membership of the Church requires an active commitment on our part.  St Augustine, for example comments that Israel means 'Seeing God', which we do in this life by faith. 

Cassiodorus builds on this thought, suggesting that we must cultivate this sight through meditation on Christ's humanity and divinity:  

...the Lord is said not to slumber over those who see God, for the truth is that His gaze is focused on us to the degree that our attention is riveted on Him. But God is seen most truly by those who contem­plate not only His humanity but also the power of His divinity with­out uncertainty. On the one hand there is His incarnation as expressed in the gospel-words: The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us; on the other, His divinity attested by the same evangelist: In the begin­ning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' The person who believes these statements will be in very truth an Israel, and the Lord shall neither slumber nor sleep in watching over him.

Psalm 120: Levávi óculos meos in montes
Canticum graduum.

1  Levávi óculos meos in montes, * unde véniet auxílium mihi.
I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.
Auxílium meum a Dómino, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
2 My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Non det in commotiónem pedem tuum: * neque dormítet qui custódit te.
3 May he not suffer your foot to be moved: neither let him slumber that keeps you.
Ecce, non dormitábit neque dórmiet, * qui custódit Israël.
4 Behold he shall neither slumber nor sleep, that keeps Israel.
5  Dóminus custódit te, Dóminus protéctio tua, * super manum déxteram tuam.
5 The Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your protection upon your right hand.
6  Per diem sol non uret te: * neque luna per noctem.
6 The sun shall not burn you by day: nor the moon by night.
7  Dóminus custódit te ab omni malo: * custódiat ánimam tuam Dóminus.
7 The Lord keeps you from all evil: may the Lord keep your soul.
8  Dóminus custódiat intróitum tuum, et éxitum tuum: * ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum.
8 May the Lord keep your coming in and your going out; from henceforth now and for ever.

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