Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Psalm 63 - Shield us from the Counsel of the malignant

Image result for psalm 63 exaudi
Eadwine Psalter

The first variable psalm of Wednesday Lauds, Psalm 63, also features in the Office of Tenebrae on Holy Saturday.

St Liguori points to both the literal and Christological senses of the psalm:
Pursued by calumny, David implores the help of God, and proclaims his hope of seeing this persecution turn to the ruin of his enemies and to the advantage of the just. In the mystical sense this psalm applies to the Passion of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 63: Exaudi Deus
In finem. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, a psalm for David.
1 Exáudi, Deus, oratiónem meam cum déprecor: * a timóre inimíci éripe ánimam meam.
Hear O God, my prayer, when I make supplication to you: deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy.
2 Protexísti me a convéntu malignántium: * a multitúdine operántium iniquitátem.
You have protected me from the assembly of the malignant; from the multitude of the workers of iniquity.
3  Quia exacuérunt ut gládium linguas suas: * intendérunt arcum rem amáram, ut sagíttent in occúltis immaculátum.
For they have whetted their tongues like a sword; they have bent their bow a bitter thing, to shoot in secret the undefiled.
4  Súbito sagittábunt eum, et non timébunt: * firmavérunt sibi sermónem nequam.
They will shoot at him on a sudden, and will not fear: they are resolute in wickedness.
5 Narravérunt ut abscónderent láqueos: * dixérunt: Quis vidébit eos?
They have talked of hiding snares; they have said: Who shall see them?
6  Scrutáti sunt iniquitátes: * defecérunt scrutántes scrutínio.
They have searched after iniquities: they have failed in their search.
7  Accédet homo ad cor altum: * et exaltábitur Deus.
Man shall come to a deep heart: And God shall be exalted.
8  Sagíttæ parvulórum factæ sunt plagæ eórum: * et infirmátæ sunt contra eos linguæ eórum.
The arrows of children are their wounds: And their tongues against them are made weak
9  Conturbáti sunt omnes qui vidébant eos: * et tímuit omnis homo.
All that saw them were troubled; and every man was afraid.
10  Et annuntiavérunt ópera Dei, * et facta ejus intellexérunt.
And they declared the works of God, and understood his doings.
11  Lætábitur justus in Dómino, et sperábit in eo: * et laudabúntur omnes recti corde.
The just shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall hope in him: and all the upright in heart shall be praised.

Morning prayer or the betrayal of Judas?

This psalm has, on the face of it, no obvious references to morning prayer or light at all, though some commentators have found some.  Fr Mark over at Vultus Christi has suggested a reference in verse 2:
Hear, O God, my prayer, when I make supplication to thee: deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy.
And the early commentator on the Benedictine Rule Hildemar saw one in verse 7:
In the sixty-third psalm mention is made of light where it says: They have failed in their search, man shall come to a deep heart;  that is, when the night ends, man shall come to a deep heart, that is, to light. 
I have to say that neither seem all that convincing to me - the most obvious reason for highlighting this psalm by placing it at Lauds on Wednesday is its link to the day of the week when Judas' betrayal is remembered, as St Augustine points out:
Thou hast hidden me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity...He was hidden from the secret counsel of the wicked; hidden by God, being Himself God; hidden, as touching the Manhood, by God the Son, and the very Manhood, Which is taken into God the Son; because He is the Son of man, and He is the Son of; God Son of God, as being in the form of God; Son of man, as having taken upon Him the form of a servant, Whose life no man taketh from Him, but Who layeth it down of Himself. He hath power to lay it down, and He hath power to take it again. 
What then was all that they which hated Him could do? They could kill the Body, but they were not able to kill the Soul. Consider this very earnestly. It had been a small thing for the Lord to preach to the Martyrs by His word, if He had not also nerved them by His example.
We know what secret counsel was that of the wicked Jews, and what insurrection was that of the workers of iniquity. Of what iniquity were they the workers? The murder of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many good works, saith He, have I showed you for which of those works go ye about to kill Me? He had borne with all their weaknesses : He had healed all their diseases : He had preached unto them the kingdom of heaven : He had discovered to them their iniquities, that they might rather hate them, than the Physician That came to cure them. And now at last, without gratitude for all the tenderness of His healing love, like men raging in an high delirium, throwing themselves madly on the Physician, Who had come to cure them, they took counsel together how they might kill Him, as if to see if He were a Man and could die, or Something more than a man, and That would not let Himself die....
God's protection

Nonetheless, the psalm does contain one key theme that resonates through the variable psalms of Lauds, and that is God's protection of his elect against the assaults of the wicked: our refuge, even in this world.  All of these references urge us to persevere, even up until death, so that we might ultimately triumph with Christ.

A key verse in this psalm is verse 2:

Protexísti me a convéntu malignántium: * a multitúdine operántium iniquitátem.
You have protected me from the assembly of the malignant; from the multitude of the workers of iniquity.

The other is verse 8 (where the blows and words of the wicked are made weak and useless), an idea also echoed in Psalm 75 on Friday.

Psalm 117 also has several verses on this key theme:

5  De tribulatióne invocávi Dóminum: * et exaudívit me in latitúdine Dóminus.
5 In my trouble I called upon the Lord: and the Lord heard me, and enlarged me.
6  Dóminus mihi adjútor: * non timébo quid fáciat mihi homo.
6 The Lord is my helper: I will not fear what man can do unto me.

7  Dóminus mihi adjútor: * et ego despíciam inimícos meos.
7 The Lord is my helper: and I will look over my enemies.
8  Bonum est confídere in Dómino: * quam confídere in hómine.
8 It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to   have confidence in man.
9  Bonum est speráre in Dómino: * quam speráre in princípibus.
9 It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes.
14  Fortitúdo mea, et laus mea Dóminus: * et factus est mihi in salútem.
14 The Lord is my strength and my praise: and he has become my salvation.

The theme particularly gets a work out in the second psalm of each day, including the beautiful image of God sheltering us under his wings (ala, ae,  a wing; care, protection or patronage):

Psalm 62
8  Et in velaménto alárum tuárum exsultábo, adhæsit ánima mea post te: * me suscépit déxtera tua.
And I will rejoice under the covert of your wings: 9 My soul has stuck close to you: your right hand has received me.

Psalm 35
8  Fílii autem hóminum, * in tégmine alárum tuárum sperábunt.
But the children of men shall put their trust under the covert of your wings.

Psalm 56
2  Et in umbra alárum tuárum sperábo: * donec tránseat iníquitas.
And in the shadow of your wings will I hope, until iniquity pass away.

The next part in this series is on Psalm 87.

You may also care to read my previous notes on the psalm in the context of the Office on Wednesday.. 

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