Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When Christ freed his people - Psalm 125 v1 (Gradual Psalm No 7/2)

c586, Syriac rabbula Gospels

The first verse of Psalm 125 announces that when God freed his people from captivity the captivity of sins, he also comforted them in their distress.  We can perhaps best view this as epitomised by Christ's action in entrusting his mother to St John's care while on the cross.

In converténdo Dóminus captivitátem Sion: * facti sumus sicut consoláti:
In convertendo Dominus captivitatem Sion, facti sumus quasi somniantes.
Cum conuerteret Dominus captiuitatem Sion, facti sumus quasi somniantes.

ἐν τῷ ἐπιστρέψαι κύριον τὴν αἰχμαλωσίαν Σιων ἐγενήθημεν ὡς παρακεκλημένοι

Text notes: St Jerome’s use of a cum clause here is perhaps easier for English speakers to translate than the gerund of the Vulgate, but most translations use ‘When’ in any case.  

There is some debate about the appropriateness of the word ‘captivitatem’ here – the Hebrew Massoretic Text implies more ‘lot’ or ‘fortunes’, and the RSV translates it accordingly as ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Sion’.  Others, however, see the word as a direct reference to the Babylonian captivity, thus, ‘When the Lord ended the captivity of Sion’.  

In the second phrase, the Masoretic text (followed by the Diurnal) is ‘like people dreaming’ – in the first half of the psalm, the people are perhaps waking from a joyous dream, or seeing a vision of what it will be like.  The Septuagint-Vulgate version though presents us with the idea of God as comforter, an image of the Holy Spirit and on the face of it reflects an alternative, and arguably better, manuscript tradition.

converto, verti, versum, ere 3,  to turn, change, alter, bring back, quicken, refresh, restore,  convert, turn from sin
captivitas, atis,   captivity,  captives;[ lot, fortunes]
consolor, atus sum, ari, to comfort, console, encourage

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion, we became like men comforted.
When the Lord turned the captivity of Sion, we became as comforted ones.
When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream.
When the Lord ended the captivity of Sion, were then as in a dream.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion, then were we like unto them that dream.
When the Lord gave back Sion her banished sons, we walked like men in a dream;

Sion here is best interpreted as the Church, the people of God, held captive to sin.  Cassiodorus, for example, summarises St Augustine's take on the verse as follows:
It is clearly the captivity of the devil, under which the world was kept subject... But it gained the transformation of freedom when at the Lord's coming the bars of hell were burst asunder. 
That captivity, though, is always a threat to us, for in this life there is always the danger of falling into sin.  St John Chrysostom draws out the warning contained in the verse:
The one taken captive by sin, on the other hand, is in thrall to a pitiless and savage mistress, who im­poses the most menial of tasks; this form of tyranny is not accus­tomed to spare or to show mercy. Listen, for example, to how it took captive the wretched and miserable Judas without sparing him, turning him instead into a sacrilegious traitor; after he com­mitted his sin, it made a public display of him before the Jews and revealed his fault, not allowing him to reap the benefit of repen­tance, but snatching him from repentance to lead him to the noose. It is, you see, a harsh tyrant, imposing wicked commands, and shaming its subjects.
Hence, I beseech you, let us avoid its sway with great earnest­ness, fight against it without ever being reconciled to it, and once liberated from it remain at liberty. After all, if these people on being freed from savages were consoled, much more should we rejoice and exult on being liberated from sin, and maintain this undying joy instead of impairing and distorting it by becoming involved in the same vices,
We, though, have the promise of freedom from that captivity by virtue of Christ's sacrifice, the hope of salvation.  For that reason we can be filled with joy and relief even now.  As St Augustine puts it: 
Walk therefore in Christ, and sing rejoicing, sing as one that is comforted; because He went before you who has commanded you to follow Him.

Psalm 125 (126)
Canticum graduum.

 In converténdo Dóminus captivitátem Sion: * facti sumus sicut consoláti:
When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion, we became like men comforted.
2  Tunc replétum est gáudio os nostrum: * et lingua nostra exsultatióne
2 Then was our mouth filled with gladness; and our tongue with joy.
3  Tunc dicent inter Gentes: * Magnificávit Dóminus fácere cum eis.
Then shall they say among the Gentiles: The Lord has done great things for them.
4  Magnificávit Dóminus fácere nobíscum: * facti sumus lætántes.
3 The Lord has done great things for us; we have become joyful.
5  Convérte, Dómine, captivitátem nostram, * sicut torrens in austro.
4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south.
6  Qui séminant in lácrimis, * in exsultatióne metent.
5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

7  Eúntes ibant et flebant, * mitténtes sémina sua.
6 Going they went and wept, casting their seeds.
8  Veniéntes autem vénient cum exsultatióne, * portántes manípulos suos.
7 But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

And continue on for notes on verse 2.

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