Thursday, October 20, 2016

Psalm 87 - Entering into Christ

File:Ely Cathedral Rood Screen, Cambridgeshire, UK - Diliff.jpg
Ely Cathedral rood screen

Thursday - Psalm 87: Domine Deus salutis meae 
Canticum Psalmi, filiis Core, in finem, pro Maheleth ad respondendum. Intellectus Eman Ezrahitæ.
A canticle of a psalm for the sons of Core: unto the end, for Maheleth, to answer understanding of Eman the Ezrahite.
1 Dómine, Deus salútis meæ : * in die clamávi, et nocte coram te.
O Lord, the God of my salvation: I have cried in the day, and in the night before you.
2  Intret in conspéctu tuo orátio mea : * inclína aurem tuam ad precem meam :
Let my prayer come in before you: incline your ear to my petition.
3  Quia repléta est malis ánima mea : * et vita mea inférno appropinquávit.
For my soul is filled with evils: and my life has drawn near to hell.
4  Æstimátus sum cum descendéntibus in lacum : * factus sum sicut homo sine adjutório, inter mórtuos liber.
I am counted among them that go down to the pit: I have become as a man without help, free among the dead.
5  Sicut vulneráti dormiéntes in sepúlcris, quorum non es memor ámplius : * et ipsi de manu tua repúlsi sunt.
Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres, whom you remember no more: and they are cut off from your hand.
6  Posuérunt me in lacu inferióri : * in tenebrósis, et in umbra mortis.
They have laid me in the lower pit: in the dark places, and in the shadow of death.
7  Super me confirmátus est furor tuus : * et omnes fluctus tuos induxísti super me.
Your wrath is strong over me: and all your waves you have brought in upon me.
8  Longe fecísti notos meos a me : * posuérunt me abominatiónem sibi.
You have put away my acquaintance far from me: they have set me an abomination to themselves
Tráditus sum, et non egrediébar : * óculi mei languérunt præ inópia.
I was delivered up, and came not forth: My eyes languished through poverty.
10  Clamávi ad te, Dómine, tota die : * expándi ad te manus meas.
All the day I cried to you, O Lord: I stretched out my hands to you.
11  Numquid mórtuis fácies mirabília : * aut médici suscitábunt, et confitebúntur tibi?
Will you show wonders to the dead? Or shall physicians raise to life, and give praise to you?
12  Numquid narrábit áliquis in sepúlcro misericórdiam tuam, * et veritátem tuam in perditióne?
Shall any one in the sepulchre declare your mercy: and your truth in destruction?

13  Numquid cognoscéntur in ténebris mirabília tua, * et justítia tua in terra obliviónis?
Shall your wonders be known in the dark; and your justice in the land of forgetfulness?
14 Et ego ad te, Dómine, clamávi : * et mane orátio mea prævéniet te.
But I, O Lord, have cried to you: and in the morning my prayer shall prevent you.
15  Ut quid, Dómine, repéllis oratiónem meam : * avértis fáciem tuam a me?
Lord, why do you cast off my prayer: why do you turn your face from me?
16  Pauper sum ego, et in labóribus a juventúte mea : * exaltátus autem, humiliátus sum et conturbátus.
I am poor, and in labours from my youth: and being exalted have been humbled and troubled.

17  In me transiérunt iræ tuæ : * et terróres tui conturbavérunt me.
Your wrath has come upon me: and your terrors have troubled me.
18  Circumdedérunt me sicut aqua tota die : * circumdedérunt me simul.
They have come round about me like water all the day: they have compassed me about together.
19  Elongásti a me amícum et próximum : * et notos meos a miséria.
Friend and neighbour you have put far from me: and my acquaintance, because of misery.

The first of the variable psalms of Lauds on Thursday is Psalm 87, which if read literally is perhaps the darkest in the psalter.  Its references to morning prayer and light mostly come in a negative context, with the speaker despairing of being heard, and asking 'shall your wonders be known in the dark'?

The agony in the garden

There is, though, a reason for this since the subject of today's psalm, the Fathers agree, is the agony in the garden.  St Liguori says:
The coming Passion of Jesus Christ is the subject of this psalm, according to St. Augustine, who says: Domini hic Passio prophetatur. 
Here, then, under the figure of a soul overwhelmed with sufferings, insults, tribulations, which prays to God to come to its aid, we see Jesus Christ in the midst of his most bitter sufferings and in his total dereliction addressing himself as man to his heavenly Father to ask his help. 
This is the explanation given by Bellarmine and many others, with St. Jerome and St. Augustine, who makes this remark: Oravit enim et Dominus non secundttin formam Dei, sed secundiini formani servi : secunduni hanc enim passus est For the Lord, too, prayed : not according to the form of God, but according to the form of a servant ; for according to this, too, he suffered. Every soul in desolation can profitably use this psalm to obtain relief from God.

In the previous psalms of this group we have seen a series of references not just to heaven but to entering into heaven, including:

intro avi are atum to enter, go into; go in, pierce; 

Psalm 117 (Sunday)
19  Aperíte mihi portas justítiæ, ingréssus in eas confitébor Dómino: * hæc porta Dómini, justi intrábunt in eam.
19 Open to me the gates of justice: I will go in to them, and give praise to the Lord 20 This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter into it.

introeo, ivi or li, Itum, ire, to go into, to enter. 

Psalm 5 (Monday)
8  Introíbo in domum tuam: * adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum in timóre tuo.
I will come into your house; I will worship towards your holy temple, in your fear.

Psalm 42 (Tuesday)
4  Et introíbo ad altáre Dei: * ad Deum, qui lætíficat juventútem meam.
And I will go in to the altar of God: to God who gives joy to my youth.

The theme is continued in Psalm 63 on Wednesday, using the verb accedo (cessi, cessum, 3), which according to the Lewis and Short dictionary can mean to go to, come to, come near, draw near, approach, enter:

7  Accédet homo ad cor altum: * et exaltábitur Deus.
Man shall come to a deep heart: And God shall be exalted.

And in today's psalm, the opening verse of Psalm 87 uses the verb intro with respect to prayer:

2  Intret in conspéctu tuo orátio mea : * inclína aurem tuam ad precem meam :
Let my prayer come in before you [into your presence]: incline your ear to my petition.

The theme also continues on Saturday.  Psalm 142 opens with another use of the verb into:

2  Et non intres in judícium cum servo tuo: * quia non justificábitur in conspéctu tuo omnis vivens.
And enter not into judgment with your servant: for in your sight no man living shall be justified. 

It then goes on to plead for God to show the psalmist the right and way to walk, teach him to do God's will so that:

Psalm 142
12  Spíritus tuus bonus dedúcet me in terram rectam: * propter nomen tuum, Dómine, vivificábis me, in æquitáte tua.
Your good spirit shall lead me into the right land: For your name's sake, O Lord, you will quicken me in your justice.

But first the harrowing of hell...

This psalm, though, seems to dwell on the prior step, namely the prospect of being condemned to hell, picking up a meme from Psalm 62 on Sunday:

9  Ipsi vero in vanum quæsiérunt ánimam meam, introíbunt in inferióra terræ: * tradéntur in manus gládii, partes vúlpium erunt.
10 But they have fought my soul in vain, they shall go into the lower parts of the earth: 11 They shall be delivered into the hands of the sword, they shall be the portions of foxes.

The references to hell in this psalm, though, can be read as applying to Christ and the harrowing of hell though.

Accordingly, the answer to the questions it poses - Will you show wonders to the dead? Or shall physicians raise to life, and give praise to you? Shall any one in the sepulchre declare your mercy: and your truth in destruction? Shall your wonders be known in the dark; and your justice in the land of forgetfulness?"  - is a resounding yes!

Cassiodorus, for example, suggests that:
Throughout the whole psalm the Lord Saviour speaks from His experience of the dispensation by which lie suffered. In the first narration He begs the Father's help, recounting by means of various similes the contempt which the Jewish people was to manifest to Him. The second part recounts His future sufferings, maintaining that the dead cannot be roused by physicians so as to be able to confess to the Lord. In the third narration He states that those who are buried do not proclaim God's mercy, and that the abandoned do not sound forth the Lord's praises. So He prays that the resurrection will come with all speed. As He continues on this course of His prayer, He is the Spokesman of His members, recounting the various sufferings which He endured commensurately with the devoted people.
It is worth noting that St Benedict quotes verse 16 in chapter 7 of the Rule, on humility:
The seventh degree of humility is that he consider himself lower and of less account than anyone else…."After being exalted, I have been humbled and covered with confusion". 
My previous notes on this psalm can be found here, and more in the context of Tenebrae. 

And the next part in this series on the variable psalms of Lauds can be found here.

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