Friday, March 24, 2017

God's blessing on us - Psalm 133 v4

Paris, Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève, 1124

The final verse of Psalm 133 is a blessing that is similar to that of the priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24.

Benedícat te Dóminus ex sion, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
Benedicat tibi Dominus ex Sion,  factor caeli et terrae.

εὐλογήσει σε κύριος ἐκ Σιων ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

benedico, dixi, dictum, ere 3, to bless
Sion, Mt Zion, one of the hills on which Jerusalem was built.
facio, feci, factum, ere 3,  to make, do, cause, bring to pass
caelum, i, n., or caeli, orum, m.  heaven, the abode of God; the heavens as opposed to the earth
terra, ae, the earth, in both a lit. and a fig. sense. (a) orbis terrae, the world;  a country, esp. the Land of Israel

May the Lord out of Sion bless you, he that made heaven and earth
May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless thee out of Sion.
May the Lord bless thee from Sion: He Who made heaven and earth!
The Lord that made heaven and earth give thee blessing out of Sion.
May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!
May the Lord who dwells in Sion bless thee, the Lord who made heaven and earth!
May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made both heaven and earth.

He blesses you, individually

The Latin here conveys something that the English cannot, namely the shift to you singular in this verse (te).  Cassiodorus, following St Augustine, sees it as a reference back to the previous psalm:
Earlier he used the plural throughout, but he now ended the psalm in the singular, so that once he had gathered his faithful brethren in unity, the gifts of blessing could be bestowed on the people who now loved the Lord. So if we wish to be blessed, the love of the holy Trinity and the unity of the blessed Church must enfold us.
St Augustine expands on this theme:
He exhorts many to bless, and Himself blesses one, because He makes one out of many, since "it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in one." It is a plural number, brethren, and yet singular, to dwell together in one. Let none of you say, It comes not to me. Do you know of whom he speaks, "the Lord bless you out of Zion." He blessed one. Be one, and the blessing comes to you.
Creator and redeemer

 The final blessing, which can also be interpreted as that from the priests over the departing pilgrims at the literal level, serves as a reminder that God alone is our creator and redeemer.  Cassiodorus comments:
So if we wish to be blessed, the love of the holy Trinity and the unity of the blessed Church must enfold us. Observe too how aptly a perfect conclusion has enclosed this psalm; the person who has mounted up to the heavenly Jerusalem has received as reward a heavenly blessing.
St Jerome is more expansive on the image of Jerusalem:
You bless the Lord, the Lord blesses you….from the watchtower, from the Church, from true Christian doctrine, from devout faith….from the heavenly Jerusalem; in the mother of the first born, where the joys of the future are; where the archangels are; where the rest of the heavenly powers are; where the apostles, the prophets, the saints, the martyrs are; where throngs of angels and saints follow the Lamb wherever he goes…
Continuing the ascent

St Jerome though, also interprets the final words  as an exhortation to further effort, with heaven a reference to the saints, and earth to sinners.  Those who have reached the heights, he suggests, must not become complacent, for they can still fall.  And those who have not yet made the ascent, still have time to repent and reach heaven.

And so, let us resume our climb!

Image result for cathedral of monreale

 Psalm 133: Compline daily; Gradual Psalm No 15
Canticum graduum
A gradual canticle
1 Ecce nunc benedícite Dóminum, * omnes servi Dómini
Behold now bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
2 Qui statis in domo Dómini, * in átriis domus Dei nostri.
Who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God
3 In nóctibus extóllite manus vestras in sancta, * et benedícite Dóminum.
In the nights lift up your hands to the holy places, and bless the Lord.
4 Benedícat te Dóminus ex Sion, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
May the Lord out of Sion bless you, he that made heaven and earth.

And for the next part in this series on the Gradual Psalms, continue on here, to Psalm 125.

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