Monday, October 31, 2016

Psalm 99 - Serve the Lord with gladness

Psalm 99 - Jubiláte Deo, omnis terra - Festal Lauds/Matins Friday II, 5 
Psalmus in confessione.
A psalm of praise.
1 Jubiláte Deo, omnis terra: * servíte Dómino in lætítia.
Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve the Lord with gladness.
2  Introíte in conspéctu ejus, * in exsultatióne.
Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy.
3  Scitóte quóniam Dóminus ipse est Deus: * ipse fecit nos, et non ipsi nos.
3 Know that the Lord he is God: he made us, and not we ourselves
4  Pópulus ejus, et oves páscuæ ejus: * introíte portas ejus in confessióne, átria ejus in hymnis: confitémini illi.
We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Go into his gates with praise, into his courts with hymns: and give glory to him.
5  Laudáte nomen ejus: quóniam suávis est Dóminus, in ætérnum misericórdia ejus, * et usque in generatiónem et generatiónem véritas ejus.
Praise his name: 5 For the Lord is sweet, his mercy endures for ever, and his truth to generation and generation.

The second of the festal psalms of Lauds is Psalm 99, which is the last of the set of psalms focusing on Christ's kingship that started with Psalm 92, the first of the festal psalms of Lauds.

As St Augustine points out, the psalm is reasonably straightforward in its meaning: is short, and not obscure: as if I had given you an assurance, that you should not fear fatigue....The title of this Psalm is, A Psalm of confession. The verses are few, but big with great subjects; may the seed bring forth within your hearts, the barn be prepared for the Lord's harvest.
Similarly, St Liguori summarises it as:
The royal prophet exhorts the faithful to praise God and to thank him first for having created us; then for having given us for our mother this holy Church which nourishes her children as young and tender sheep.
The whole psalm is very upbeat, urging us to joy, and Cassiodorus therefore alludes to the use of the imagery of the sheep of his pasture in Psalm 94 (the Matins invitatory) and the instruction to serve the Lord with gladness in verse 2:
Though service to the Lord is seen to be discharged by the various functions of ecclesiastical orders, monasteries of the faithful, solitary hermits, and devoted laity, all are appropriately associated with these five words, serve the Lord with gladness, and not with murmuring or mental bitterness, as happened in the desert when the Jewish people murmured against the Lord.  This gladness is none other than charity...So those who server the Lord with gladness are those who love Him above all else and show brotherly charity to each other.
Cassiodorus' interpretation of the gates reflects the theme of charity reflected in works:
The Lord's gates are humble repentance, sacred baptism, holy charity, almsgiving, mercy and the other commands by which we can attain his presence.  So the prophet urges us first to enter the gate's of the Lord's mercy by means of this humble confession...
Place in Lauds

Once again it doesn't contain any overt references to morning or light, but it does have a strong connection to the key themes of Lauds they we have noted in this series.

In particular it fits perfectly with the 'entering into heaven' and 'truth and mercy' memes of the Lauds group, in which position it has been placed in the festal office.  And this in turn perhaps suggests that as in a number of other cases, St Benedict was not, in his Lauds selections, starting from nothing, but rather taking an existing theme and amplifying it, making it more explicit.

It also suggests that St Benedict's decision not to use this psalm at Lauds may perhaps have been dictated by factors such as the design of the Matins cursus as much as the content of this particular psalm.  Still, the focus of the psalm is primarily on the kingship of Christ rather than his priesthood, so that too may have been a factor.

And that ends this series on the variable psalms of Lauds.

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