Friday, September 9, 2016

Psalm 94 - Hold fast!

W83, Digital Walters

Psalm 94 has a unique place in the Office musically as it is the only psalm normally performed responsorially.

In the Benedictine Office it is said at Matins each day with a short refrain, half or all of which is repeated after each group of verses.  There are refrains for each day of the week, and special ones for feasts and particular seasons of the year.  Friday's refrain is 'Let us adore the Lord, *for he himself made us', a reminder that man was created on the 'sixth day' - you can listen to a Cistercian chant setting of the refrain and the psalm sung responsorially below.

The verses themselves have a special set of chants that are used for them.

These chants are very ancient indeed, and explain why the translation of the psalm used is not the Vulgate, but the 'old Roman' that pre-dated it.

All this serves to emphasis the particular importance of this psalm.

 Psalm 94: Daily at Matins

Psalter (Vetus latina)
Laus cantici ipsi David.

Praise of a canticle for David himself.
1 Venite, exsultemus Domino; jubilemus Deo salutari nostro;
1. Veníte, exsultémus Dómino, jubilémus Deo, salutári nostro:
Come let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our saviour.
2 præoccupemus faciem ejus in confessione, et in psalmis jubilemus ei
præoccupémus fáciem ejus in confessióne, et in psalmis jubilémus ei.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.
3 quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et rex magnus super omnes deos.
2. Quóniam Deus magnus Dóminus, et Rex magnus super omnes deos
3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 Quia in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitudines montium ipsius sunt;
: quóniam non repéllet Dóminus plebem suam : quia in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitúdines móntium ipse cónspicit.
4 For in his hand are all the ends of the earth: and the heights of the mountains are his.

5 quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et siccam manus ejus formaverunt
3. Quóniam ipsíus est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et áridam fundavérunt manus ejus
5 For the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
6  Venite, adoremus, et procidamus, et ploremus ante Dominum qui fecit nos:
Veníte, adorémus, et procidámus ante Deum : plorémus coram Dómino, qui fecit nos,
6 Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us.
7  quia ipse est Dominus Deus noster, et nos populus pascuæ ejus, et oves manus ejus.
quia ipse est Dóminus Deus noster ; nos autem pópulus ejus, et oves páscuæ ejus.
7 For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
8 Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra
4. Hódie, si vocem ejus audiéritis, nolíte obduráre corda vestra,
8 Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts:
9 sicut in irritatione, secundum diem tentationis in deserto, ubi tentaverunt me patres vestri : probaverunt me, et viderunt opera mea.
sicut in exacerbatióne, secúndum diem tentatiónis in desérto : ubi tentavérunt me patres vestri, probavérunt et vidérunt ópera mea.
9 As in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, they proved me, and saw my works.
10 Quadraginta annis offensus fui generationi illi, et dixi : Semper hi errant corde.
5. Quadragínta annis próximus fui generatióni huic, et dixi : Semper hi errant corde ;
10 Forty years long was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart.
11 Et isti non cognoverunt vias meas : ut juravi in ira mea : Si introibunt in requiem meam.

ipsi vero non cognovérunt vias meas : quibus jurávi in ira mea : Si introíbunt in réquiem meam.
11 And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest.

Why does St Benedict give it such a prominent place in the Office?

One reason, I would suggest, is the extended exegesis of it provided in Hebrews.  Here is the first section of that, Hebrews 3:7-16:
 Come, then, the Holy Spirit says, If you hear his voice speaking to you this day, do not harden your hearts, as they were hardened once when you provoked me, and put me to the test in the wilderness.  Your fathers put me to the test, made trial of me, and saw what I could do, all those forty years. So I became the enemy of that generation; These, I said, are ever wayward hearts, these have never learned my lessons. And I took an oath in my anger, They shall never attain my rest.
Take care, brethren, that there is no heart among you so warped by unbelief as to desert the living God. 
Each day, while the word To-day has still a meaning, strengthen your own resolution, to make sure that none of you grows hardened; sin has such power to cheat us.  
We have been given a share in Christ, but only on condition that we keep unshaken to the end the principle by which we are grounded in him. That is the meaning of the words, If you hear his voice speaking to you this day, do not harden your hearts, as they were hardened once when you provoked me; those who provoked him were the people (some, though not all of them) whom Moses had rescued from Egypt... 

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