Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Psalm 64 - You have visited the earth O Lord

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Psalm 64: Te Decet hymnus Deus in Sion - Lauds, Wednesday
In finem. Psalmus David, canticum Jeremiæ et Ezechielis populo transmigrationis, cum inciperent exire.
To the end, a psalm of David. The canticle of Jeremiah and Ezechiel to the people of the captivity, when they began to go out.
1 Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion: * et tibi reddétur votum in Jerúsalem.
A hymn, O God, becomes you in Sion: and a vow shall be paid to you in Jerusalem
2  Exáudi oratiónem meam: * ad te omnis caro véniet.
3 O hear my prayer: all flesh shall come to you.

3  Verba iniquórum prævaluérunt super nos: * et impietátibus nostris tu propitiáberis.
4 The words of the wicked have prevailed over us: and you will pardon our transgressions.
4  Beátus quem elegísti et assumpsísti: * inhabitábit in átriis tuis.
5 Blessed is he whom you have chosen and taken to you: he shall dwell in your courts.
5  Replébimur in bonis domus tuæ, sanctum est templum tuum: *  mirábile in æquitáte.
We shall be filled with the good things of your house; holy is your temple, 6 wonderful in justice.
6  Exáudi nos, Deus salutáris noster: * spes ómnium fínium terræ et in mari longe.
Hear us, O God our saviour, who is the hope of all the ends of the earth, and in the sea afar off
7  Præparans montes in virtúte tua, accínctus poténtia: * qui contúrbas profúndum maris sonum flúctuum ejus.
7 You who prepares the mountains by your strength, being girded with power: 8 Who troubles the depth of the sea, the noise of its waves.
8  Turbabúntur Gentes, et timébunt qui inhábitant términos a signis tuis: * éxitus matutíni, et véspere delectábis.
The Gentiles shall be troubled, 9 and they that dwell in the uttermost borders shall be afraid at your signs: you shall make the outgoings of the morning and of the evening to be joyful.
9  Visitásti terram, et inebriásti eam: * multiplicásti locupletáre eam.
10 You have visited the earth, and have plentifully watered it; you have many ways enriched it.
10  Flumen Dei replétum est aquis; parásti cibum illórum: * quóniam ita est præparátio ejus.
The river of God is filled with water, you have prepared their food: for so is its preparation.
11  Rivos ejus inébria multíplica genímina ejus: * in stillicídiis ejus lætábitur gérminans.
11 Fill up plentifully the streams thereof, multiply its fruits; it shall spring up and rejoice in its showers.
12  Benedíces corónæ anni benignitátis tuæ: * et campi tui replebúntur ubertáte.
12 You shall bless the crown of the year of your goodness: and your fields shall be filled with plenty.
13  Pinguéscent speciósa desérti: * et exsultatióne colles accingéntur.
13 The beautiful places of the wilderness shall grow fat: and the hills shall be girded about with joy,
14  Indúti sunt aríetes óvium et valles abundábunt fruménto: * clamábunt, étenim hymnum dicent.
14 the rams of the flock are clothed, and the vales shall abound with corn: they shall shout, yea they shall sing a hymn.

The claim for this psalm's place at Lauds presumably comes from verse 8's reference to morning; although Hildemar's commentary on the Rule also sees a reference to dawn in the poetic image of verse 13.  It also contains multiple allusions to heaven (Sion, Jerusalem, the house of God, the halls of God), though instead of the 'leading us in' motif, it highlights God's choice and action in bringing ys up to him.

The psalm though, has much stronger resonances with the overall themes of the day, viz Judas' betrayal paving the way for the establishment of the Church.  Accordingly, perhaps Christ's mission of bringing truth and mercy can be seen as being referred to implicitly in the psalm, in the promises of the new Jerusalem described here.

The new Jerusalem

St Augustine, for example, explains the psalm's, 'Unto the end, a Psalm of David, a song of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, on account of the people of transmigration when they were beginning to go forth' as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem following our Lord's crucifixion, and the promise of its being rebuilt in the form of the Church Triumphant in heaven:
...For the captive people Israel from the city of Jerusalem was led into slavery unto Babylon.  But holy Jeremiah prophesied, that after seventy years the people would return out of captivity, and would rebuild the very city Jerusalem, which they had mourned as having been overthrown by enemies. But at that time there were prophets in that captivity of the people dwelling in Babylon, among whom was also the prophet Ezekiel. But that people was waiting until there should be fulfilled the space of seventy years, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. 
It came to pass, when the seventy years had been completed, the temple was restored which had been thrown down: and there returned from captivity a great part of that people. But whereas the Apostle says, these things in figure happened unto them, but they have been written for our sakes, upon whom the end of the world has come: we also ought to know first our captivity, then our deliverance: we ought to know the Babylon wherein we are captives, and the Jerusalem for a return to which we are sighing. For these two cities, according to the letter, in reality are two cities... 
That they might not lose their place, they killed the Lord; and they lost it [Jerusalem], even because they killed. Therefore that city, being one earthly, did bear the figure of a certain city everlasting in the Heavens: but when that which was signified began more evidently to be preached, the shadow, whereby it was being signified, was thrown down: for this reason in that place now the temple is no more, which had been constructed for the image of the future Body of the Lord. We have the light, the shadow has passed away....
The psalm then, according to Cassiodorus, tells us that:
The people who have abandoned worldly sinning and returned to the Lord Saviour are liberated, and at the outset of the psalm acknowledge their Creator. They ask that their prayer be heard, and say that only he who has deserved to attain God's courts is blessed.
 In the second section they call the Lord the hope of all the ends of the earth. They enunciate His various praises and His power by allegorical comparison. They say that His holy ones rejoice in hymns of joy sung to Him...With remarkable brevity he has described the glory of His incarnation. This faithful teacher has informed us what Christ conferred on the world. Finally he tells us that at the future resurrection all His saints will rejoice in Him with joyful hymns of praise. Thus the psalmist has recounted the present with marvellous brevity and has promised us future rewards to rouse the greatest hope. Heavenly King, grant that we too may be rescued from the barrenness of sin and more abundantly watered by the river of Your mercy. May we deserve to grow fat, so that in the company of Your saints we can sing continually to You a hymn of praise.
The heavenly harvest

 Some have suggested that today’s psalm was originally a hymn used for the harvest festival.  In Christian usage, however, that harvest has become the heavenly one, for verses 1 and 2 are used in the Introit of the Requiem Mass.

The harvest theme is appropriate though, for it is on Holy Wednesday that Our Lord is traditionally said to have prophesied his death to his disciples, reminding them that the seed has to die in order for new life to grow (Jn 12: 24).  Similarly this psalm tells us that the Lord has ‘visited the earth, and have plentifully watered it; you have many ways enriched it’, such that the streams are full, and everything is set for a ripe harvest.

In the weekly mini-cycle on the life of Christ, Wednesday marks the end of Our Lord's three year period of preaching, and the beginning of the Passion cycle.  This fits neatly with St John Chrysostom's interpretation of the rain provided here as Christ’s teaching, and Cassiodorus’ interpretation of verse 7 as suggesting that the ‘prepared mountains’ here refers to the apostles:
So we fittingly interpret allegorically the prepared mountains as the apostles who were chosen to proclaim the word. They had strength of faith and height of sanctity; they were lowly in style of life, but deservedly ranked higher. The Lord prepared them by His strength because He performed great miracles through them, so that by the greatness of the Word they could convert unbelievers, and admiration at their deeds could soften the hardest hearts.
Word study: coronasti

In terms of words to look at more closely, I want to focus today on corona, meaning a crown or wreath or garland:

12  Benedíces corónæ anni benignitátis tuæ: * et campi tui replebúntur ubertáte.
12 You shall bless the crown of the year of your goodness: and your fields shall be filled with plenty.

The related verb corono, (avi, atum, are, to crown, to bestow some thing on as a mark of honor, to adorn; to surround, encompass) is used in the last verse of Psalm 5:

15  Dómine, ut scuto bonæ voluntátis tuæ * coronásti nos.
O Lord, you have crowned us, as with a shield of your good will.

The verb also occurs in Psalm 8:

6  Minuísti eum paulo minus ab Angelis, glória et honóre coronásti eum: * et constituísti eum super ópera mánuum tuárum.
Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour:
And hast set him over the works of thy hands.

Most often, though, it is used in Scripture to mark those blessed with gifts from God, such as wisdom, or the saints in heaven in Revelation 4:4:
Et in circuitu sedis sedilia viginti quatuor: et super thronos viginti quatuor seniores sedentes, circumamicti vestimentis albis, et in capitibus eorum coronæ aureæ.
Round it were twenty-four seats, and on these sat twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with crowns of gold on their heads.

You can read more on the psalm in the context of the Office on Wednesday and the Office of the Dead.

Or you can can go on to the next part in this series, on Psalm 89.

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