Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Psalm 1 verse 2 - Pray without ceasing

Verse 2 of Psalm 1 introduces us to two essential concepts: our proper engagement with the law of God; and prayer without ceasing.

Tackling the Latin

Sed in lege Domini voluntas eius, et in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte.

Old Roman (OR)
sed in lege Domini fuit voluntas eius et in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte

ἀλ{L'} ἢ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ κυρίου τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ μελετήσει ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός 

Sed (but) in lege (on the law) Domini (of the Lord) voluntas (will)  eius (his), et (and) in lege (on the law) eius (his) meditabitur (he will meditate) die (day) ac (and) nocte (night).
lex, legis,  a law; the Law of God, the will of God
voluntas, atis, will, wish, desire
meditor, atus sum, ari, to think, plan, devise, meditate
dies, ei, a day, the natural
nox, noctis, nigh

But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
But his pleasure is in the law of the Lord; and in his law will he meditate day and night.
But hath his delight in the law of the Lord and on his law doth meditate day and night.
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law will he exercise himself day and night.
the man whose heart is set on the law of the Lord, on that law, day and night, his thoughts still dwell. 
but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night.

Delighting in the law

In the previous verse we were invited to turn away from evil, following the example of Our Lord; here we turn to the positive, 'do good'.  What is needed, according to Theodoret of Cyrus is not merely to abhor sin, but "to choose what the divine law dictates and to guide one’s life according to its direction." 

St Robert Bellarmine explains it this way:
 …He is truly said to be just or happy, who wishes to do the will of the Lord; because to be in just in this life we are not required to be free from all manner of offense, for, St James says, in chapter 3, “We all offend in many things;” but it suffices for us to be so disposed towards the law of God, that we desire, above all things, to carry it out; and if we happen to fall into any sin, as undoubtedly we often do, that it is against our will we so fall, that is to say, against the love we entertain towards God and his law, thus making the matter a sin, not a crime, a venial one instead of a deadly one…
Pray without ceasing

The phrase meditating on the law day and night poses a problem, as St Jerome points out:
Someone else may object: This is too much for human nature to endure, for one must walk, and drink, and eat, and sleep, and perform all the other necessities of life.  How, then, meditate on the law of God day and night, and especially since the Apostle says: Pray without ceasing?  How can I be praying during the time that I am sleeping?  
The response, most of the Western Fathers agree, is that the injunction to pray without ceasing shouldn't be taken to literally.  Instead, it requires us to ensure that our orientation to God directs all our actions, so that we make our whole lives a prayer.  St Hilary of Poitiers puts it like this:
Meditation in the Law, therefore, does not lie in reading its words, but in pious performance of its injunctions; not in a mere perusal of the books and writings, but in a practical meditation and exercise in their respective contents, and in a fulfilment of the Law by the works we do by night and day, as the Apostle says: Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 
The way to secure uninterrupted prayer is for every devout man to make his life one long prayer by works acceptable to God and always done to His glory: thus a life lived according to the Law by night and day will in itself become a nightly and daily meditation in the Law.
Psalm 1
Douay Rheims translation

Beátus vir, qui non ábiit in consílio impiórum, et in via peccatórum non stetit, * et in cáthedra pestiléntiæ non sedit
Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence:
2  Sed in lege Dómini volúntas ejus, * et in lege ejus meditábitur die ac nocte.
But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
3  Et erit tamquam lignum, quod plantátum est secus decúrsus aquárum, * quod fructum suum dabit in témpore suo:
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
4  Et fólium ejus non défluet: * et ómnia quæcúmque fáciet, prosperabúntur.
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
 Non sic ímpii, non sic: * sed tamquam pulvis, quem prójicit ventus a fácie terræ.
Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind drives from the face of the earth.
6  Ideo non resúrgent ímpii in judício: * neque peccatóres in concílio justórum.
Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.
7  Quóniam novit Dóminus viam justórum: * et iter impiórum períbit.
For the Lord knows the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

The next part of this series can be found here.

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