Thursday, August 28, 2014

Psalm 122 verses 1-3

The opening verses of Psalm 122 instruct us to cultivate a sense of our total dependence on God.

Ad te levávi óculos meos, * qui hábitas in cælis.
πρς σ ρα τος φθαλμούς μου τν κατοικοντα ν τ οραν

Text notes: ‘Ad te’ (To you) is emphatic, that is, ‘to you only’.  Lifting the eyes (levavi oculos) suggests an attitude of prayer.

levo, avi, atum, are  to rise, lift up, elevate.
oculus, i, , the eye.
habito, avi, atum, are  to dwell, abide, live.
caelum, i, n., or caeli, orum, m.  heaven, the abode of God; the heavens as opposed to the earth; the air;

To you have I lifted up my eyes, who dwell in heaven.
Brenton’s Septuagint
Unto thee who dwellest in heaven have I lifted up mine eyes.
Unto Thee I lift up mine eyes, Who art enthroned in heaven
To thee I lift up my eyes, O thou who art enthroned in the heavens!
Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the

St Augustine puts the text in the context of the pilgrimage of life:

"What makes the heart of a Christian heavy? Because he is a pilgrim, and longs for his country. If your heart be heavy on this score, although you have been prosperous in the world, still thou dost groan: and if all things combine to render you prosperous, and this world smile upon you on every side, thou nevertheless groanest, because you see that you are set in a pilgrimage; and feelest that you have indeed happiness in the eyes of fools, but not as yet after the promise of Christ: this you seek with groans, this you seek with longings, and by longing ascendest, and while you ascend dost sing the Song of Degrees..."

The saint pictures our ascent in terms of Jacob's ladder:

"Where then are the ladders? For we behold so great an interval between heaven and earth, there is so wide a separation, and so great a space of regions between: we wish to climb there, we see no ladder; do we deceive ourselves, because we sing the Song of Degrees, that is, the Song of ascent? We ascend unto heaven, if we think of God, who has made ascending steps in the heart. What is to ascend in heart? To advance towards God. As every man who fails, does not descend, but falls: so every one who profits does ascend: but if he so profit, as to avoid pride: if he so ascend as not to fall: but if while he profits he become proud, in ascending he again falls. But that he may not be proud, what ought he to do? Let him lift up his eyes unto Him who dwells in heaven, let him not heed himself…

Our ascent is, of course, spiritual, not literal.   Though we only truly dwell in heaven after we die, there is a sense in which heaven can dwell in us even now:

"If, my brethren, we understand by heaven the firmament which we see with our bodily eyes, we shall indeed so err, as to imagine that we cannot ascend there without ladders, or some scaling machines: but if we ascend spiritually, we ought to understand heaven spiritually: if the ascent be in affection, heaven is in righteousness. What is then the heaven of God? All holy souls, all righteous souls. For the Apostles also, although they were on earth in the flesh, were heaven; for the Lord, enthroned in them, traversed the whole world. He then dwells in heaven. How?...How long are they the temple according to faith? As long as Christ dwells in them through faith; as the Apostle says, That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. But they are already heaven in whom God already dwells visibly, who see Him face to face; all the holy Apostles, all the holy Virtues, Powers, Thrones, Lordships, that heavenly Jerusalem, wanderers from whence we groan, and for which we pray with longing; and there God dwells."

Ecce sicut óculi servórum, * in mánibus dominórum suórum.
Ecce sicut oculi servorum ad manus dominorum suorum,
Ecce sicut oculi seruorum ad manum dominorum suorum, 
δο ς φθαλμο δούλων ες χερας τν κυρίων ατν

ecce, adv.  lol see! behold
sicut, adv., as, just as, like.
servus, i, m., a slave, servant; servants of the Lord, devout men who keep the law; the people, i.e., the Israelites
in+abl - into , onto, against, for (the purpose of)
manus, us, ,  hand
Dominus, i, m. a master, lord, ruler, owner, possessor

Behold as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters,
Behold, as the eyes of servants are directed to the hands of their masters,
Behold, even as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters,

Pope Benedict XVI sought to explain the analogy for modern readers:

The gaze of the Most High who "looks down on the sons of men to see if any are wise, if any seek God" (Ps 14[13]: 2), is often mentioned in the Psalter. The Psalmist, as we have heard, uses an image, that of the servant and slave who look to their master, waiting for him to make a decision that will set them free. Even if this scene is connected with the ancient world and its social structures, the idea is clear and full of meaning: the image taken from the world of the ancient East is intended to exalt the attachment of the poor, the hope of the oppressed and the availability of the just to the Lord. The person of prayer is waiting for the divine hands to move because they will act justly and destroy evil. This is why, in the Psalter, the one praying raises his hope-filled eyes to the Lord. "My eyes are always on the Lord; for he rescues my feet from the snare" (Ps 25[24]: 15), while "My eyes are wasted away from looking for my God" (Ps 69[68]: 4).

Sicut óculi ancíllæ in mánibus dóminæ suæ: * ita óculi nostri ad Dóminum, Deum nostrum, donec misereátur nostri.
sicut oculi ancillae ad manus dominae suae, ita oculi nostri ad Dominum Deum nostrum,

donec misereatur nostri.
sicut oculi ancillae ad manum dominae suae, sic oculi nostri ad Dominum Deum nostrum, donec misereatur nostri. 
ς φθαλμο παιδίσκης ες χερας τς κυρίας ατς οτως ο φθαλμο μν πρς κύριον τν θεν μν ως ο οκτιρήσαι μς

Text notes: The sense is of complete dependence – just as the female slave (ancilla) is dependent (in the hands of) her mistresses’ whims, so we wait for God to have mercy on us.

ancilla, ae, a handmaid, maidservant.
ita – so, thus, even, in this manner
donec, conj., till, until
misereor, sertus sum, eri 2 to pity, have mercy on.

As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress: so are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us.
and as the eyes of a maidservant to the hands of her mistress; so our eyes are directed to the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us.
and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our
God, until he have mercy upon us.

St John Chrysostom points to the importance of the reference to mercy:

Note how those who had previously been summoned to direct their steps to God, and had been halfhearted and recalcitrant, now were made so much better by the experience of disaster as to be unwilling to desert him, and instead persisted in his service and sought his interests until he has pity on us. The psalmist did not say, "Until he pays," or "Until he gives a reward," but until he has mercy. You for your part, then, human being that you are, persist without fail, whether you receive or do not receive, and if you do not re­ceive, do not give up and you will receive. After all, if the importu­nity of a widow wore down that inflexible official, what excuse would you have for giving in, losing heart and becoming supine? Do you not see how the maidservants hang on the words of their mistresses, not permitting thought or eye to be distracted? Do like­wise in your case, too: follow God alone, ignore everything else, be one of his, and in every respect you will receive everything you ask to your advantage.

Cassiodorus provides an interesting commentary on the feminine imagery:

Some com­mentators wish to attach this verse too to the Lord, to the point of identifying the mistress with the Lord God, because of the text: Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. But in case the difference of sex may alienate some people, the passage can perhaps be understood like this: earlier he made the comparison with servants and masters, and so that the female sex should not consider itself excluded, another parallel is provided for them, for the handmaid attends on the hands of her mistress as do male servants on the hands of their masters. Then follows the statement embracing both sexes, So are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us. The preceding parallel is clarified by the use of so. Whether we seek some success from the Lord, or when we bear torments of mind or body, we always raise our eyes to the Lord. He also added our to eyes, so that both sexes could interpret this as spoken of themselves. He appended: Until he have mercy on us, to show that both men and women should patiently seek divine blessings, and continually make entreaty to Him. 

Psalm 122 - Ad te levavi
Canticum graduum

Ad te levávi óculos meos, * qui hábitas in cælis.
To you have I lifted up my eyes, who dwell in heaven.
2  Ecce sicut óculi servórum, * in mánibus dominórum suórum.
2 Behold as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters,
3  Sicut óculi ancíllæ in mánibus dóminæ suæ: * ita óculi nostri ad Dóminum, Deum nostrum, donec misereátur nostri.
As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress: so are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us.
4  Miserére nostri, Dómine, miserére nostri: * quia multum repléti sumus despectióne:
3 Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us: for we are greatly filled with contempt.
5  Quia multum repléta est ánima nostra: * oppróbrium abundántibus, et despéctio supérbis.
4 For our soul is greatly filled: we are a reproach to the rich, and contempt to the proud

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