Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Psalms of Compline (Short summaries)/2 - Psalm 90, Qui habitat

St Albans Psalter Temptation of Christ.jpg
Temptation of Christ, St Alban's Psalter
 Psalm 90: Qui habitat
Laus cantici David.
The praise of a canticle for David
Qui hábitat in adjutório Altíssimi, * in protectióne Dei cæli commorábitur.
He that dwells in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.
2  Dicet Dómino : Suscéptor meus es tu, et refúgium meum: * Deus meus sperábo in eum.
He shall say to the Lord: You are my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.
3 Quóniam ipse liberávit me de láqueo venántium, * et a verbo áspero.
For he has delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word.
4  Scápulis suis obumbrábit tibi: * et sub pennis ejus sperábis.
He will overshadow you with his shoulders: and under his wings you shall trust.
5  Scuto circúmdabit te véritas ejus: * non timébis a timóre noctúrno.
His truth shall compass you with a shield: you shall not be afraid of the terror of the night.
6  A sagítta volánte in die, a negótio perambulánte in ténebris: * ab incúrsu et dæmónio meridiáno.
Of the arrow that flies in the day, of the business that walks about in the dark: of invasion, or of the noonday devil.
7  Cadent a látere tuo mille, et decem míllia a dextris tuis: * ad te autem non appropinquábit.
A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand: but it shall not come near you.
8  Verúmtamen óculis tuis considerábis: * et retributiónem peccatórum vidébis.
But you shall consider with your eyes: and shall see the reward of the wicked.
9  Quóniam tu es, Dómine, spes mea: * Altíssimum posuísti refúgium tuum.
Because you, O Lord, are my hope: you have made the most High your refuge.
10  Non accédet ad te malum: * et flagéllum non appropinquábit tabernáculo tuo.
There shall no evil come to you: nor shall the scourge come near your dwelling.
11  Quóniam Angelis suis mandávit de te: * ut custódiant te in ómnibus viis tuis.
For he has given his angels charge over you; to keep you in all your ways.
12  In mánibus portábunt te: * ne forte offéndas ad lápidem pedem tuum.
In their hands they shall bear you up: lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13  Super áspidem et basilíscum ambulábis: * et conculcábis leónem et dracónem.
You shall walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and you shall trample under foot the lion and the dragon.
14  Quóniam in me sperávit, liberábo eum: * prótegam eum quóniam cognóvit nomen meum.
Because he hoped in me I will deliver him: I will protect him because he has known my name.
15  Clamábit ad me, et ego exáudiam eum : * cum ipso sum in tribulatióne : erípiam eum et glorificábo eum.
He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.
16  Longitúdine diérum replébo eum: * et osténdam illi salutáre meum.
I will fill him with length of days; and I will show him my salvation.

Pronouncing the words

You can heard the psalm read aloud slowly in Latin over at the Boston Catholic Journal.

Once you are confident of the pronunciation, try singing it with the monks - the videos below are one option, alternatively, listen to one of the archived audio files of Compline sung by the monks of Le Barroux, since Psalm 90 is used in the Benedictine Office at Compline each night.

But it also features in the (traditional) mass as the longest of the Tracts, sung on the first Sunday of Lent, so I've included a wonderful old Roman Chant version of the Tract below so you can get a taster.

Short summaries of Psalm 90

Pick the summary of your choice and learn it, or copy it to create a cheat sheet to have handy for when you say the Office.

St Augustine:
This Psalm is that from which the Devil dared to tempt our Lord Jesus Christ: let us therefore attend to it, that thus armed, we may be enabled to resist the tempter, not presuming in ourselves, but in Him who before us was tempted, that we might not be overcome when tempted... 
Verses 11 and 12 are directed at the Lord Saviour Himself by the devil after he has tempted Him. We always confront demons with this psalm in devoted trust, so that they may be overcome by us by the same means by which they sought craftily to make observations against their Creator.  In the first part David claims that every person of high fidelity is enclosed by divine protection. The second part hymns praise to the Lord Saviour. The third consists of words spoken by the Father to all faithful individuals, who as He knows hope in Him with the greatest devotion. He promises them protection in this world and rewards in the next… 
This psalm has marvellous power, and routs impure spirits. The devil retires vanquished from us through the very means by which he sought to tempt us, for that wicked spirit is mindful of his own presumption and of God's victory. Christ by His own power overcame the devil in His own regard, and likewise conquers him in ours. So this psalm should be recited by us when night sets in after all the actions of the day; the devil must realise that we belong to Him to whom he remembers that he himself yielded. 
St Alphonsus Liguori:
The psalmist here exhorts those that have put all their hope in God to fear no danger. This psalm is somewhat in the form of a dialogue; for the psalmist, the just man, and God himself speak successively. The prophet, v. i, announces his proposition, and says, v. 2, part first, how one enters this asylum of divine protection. The just man, v. 2, 3, declares that he is in this disposition. Then, v. 4 to 13, the prophet describes to him the favors that he will enjoy. Finally, God confirms and completes this picture by magnificent promises.
Fr Pius Pasch:
Safely sheltered - This psalm breathes a spirit of perfect confidence in God through the perils of life.  The image is of a battlefield where the soul of the just man is facing his enemies.
My summary in the context of the Benedictine office:
A psalm speaking of God’s protection of the just against all the dangers that can arise.  The first section of the psalm sets out the promise of divine protection that God grants to the faithful.  It closes with words put in the mouth of God.  In the Benedictine Office it can be seen as a prayer for and assurance of God’s protection of us against the power of the dark forces symbolized by the darkness of the night.  Verse 7 has a particular poignancy in the context of the Office as it echoes and responds to the other psalm of the spiritual warfare said each day in the Office, the first psalm of the day at Matins, Psalm 3, which says, also in (the sacred number of) verse 7: I will not fear thousands of the people, surrounding me: arise, O Lord; save me, O my God.


  1. Hi Kate:
    At first I did not care for this style called Old Roman, but as I went back and listened a second time I could hear the single word pronunciations much better and began to get use to it. The time it takes however to say a psalm seems quite tedious.
    Yet it is a good way to hear and read the pronunciation which is a good learning tool.
    Thank you for this lesson!

    1. Yes very different isn't it!

      I think it is good to know that the version of chant we are most familiar with isn't the only one, and I actually find it fascinating. But doubt we are going to see a massive revival of it any time soon!