Thursday, June 22, 2017

The fruit of the Passion: Psalm 126 v5

Image result for maciejowski bible

Verse 5 of Psalm 126 is traditionally interpreted as being about the spread of the Gospel: though Christians are often outcasts, persecuted for their views, yet the Church grows from this.

Sicut sagíttæ in manu poténtis: * ita fílii excussórum.
Sicut sagittae in manu potentis, ita filii iuventutis.
Sicut sagittae in manu potentis, ita filii iuuentutis. 

σε βέλη ν χειρ δυνατο οτως ο υο τν κτετιναγμένων

Sicut (like) sagíttæ (arrows) in manu (in the hand) poténtis (strong): * ita (so) fílii (the sons) excussórum (of outcasts)

Note that the Vulgate and neo-Vulgate versions of the second phrase are quite different. This one of those cases where modern translations, changed to reflect an alternate meaning of the Hebrew word underlying excussorum  - admitted to be ambiguous by expert exegetes – renders the traditional Western commentaries impossible to understand.

sagitta, ae, f., an arrow.
manus, us,   hand
potens, entis, p. adj.  powerful, mighty, strong.
ita – so, thus, even, in this manner
excussus, a, um, part. adj. cast out, thrown out; robust, able to shake enemies off.  

As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.
As arrows in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of those who were outcasts.
As arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the sons of vigorous youth.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth.
Like as the arrows in the hand of the giant, even so are the young children.
Crown of thy youth, children are like arrows in a warrior’s hand.
Indeed the sons of youth are like arrows in the hand of a warrior.

The first half of the verse is depicted by St Augustine as referring firstly to the spread of the people through the whole earth, and secondly, the spread of the Gospel:
Some have been shot out from the Lord's hand, as arrows, and have gone far, and have filled the whole earth, whence the Saints spring. For this is the heritage whereof it is said, Desire of Me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession...From His bow He sends forth His Apostles: there could not be a spot left where an arrow shot by so strong an arm would not reach; it has reached unto the uttermost parts of the earth. 
The second half of the verse is where the differences come into play.  The 'sons of youth' in the neo-Vulgate perhaps is unproblematic in a very literal interpretation of the text, pointing to the virtues of strong and large families.  St John Chrysostom's commentary is not inconsistent with it:
Now, what he means is something like this: not only will they en­joy the security of walls, or a fortified city, or numbers of children, but they will also be fearsome to their enemies - as fearsome as arrows.  Now, he did not say simply arrows but in the hands of strong men: arrows are fearsome, not in themselves, but when held by a strong man, dealing death to his attackers; so will these people be, then. 
St Robert Bellarmine, though points to the Vulgate translation as referring to something quite different, namely the inevitable persecution of Christians:
But why are those brave children called "the children of them that have been shaken?" Because they are the children of the outcasts and the wretched, the children of the prophets and the apostles; and of the former, the apostle writes,"Others had trial of mockeries and stripes, moreover also of bonds and prisons; they were stoned, they were cut asunder, they were tempted, they were put to death by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being in want, distressed, afflicted; of whom the world was not worthy;" and, speaking of the apostles, the same apostle says, "For I think that God hath set forth us, apostles, the last, as it were, men destined to death; because we are made a spec­tacle to the world, and to angels, and to men. Even unto this hour, we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffet­ed, and have no fixed abode; and we labor, working with our own hands; we are reviled and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it; we are ill spoken of, and we entreat: we are made as the refuse of this world; the off-scouring of all even till now." 
And St Aloysius Liguori brings together the two parts of the verse nicely, pointing to the triumph of the Church:
These children, tormented by persecutions, shall be against their enemies as so many arrows in the hand of a strong man. The holy souls, fruit of the Passion of Jesus Christ, and children of the Church, always persecuted as their divine Spouse, are the arms that the Almighty employs to combat and to overcome the errors and bad passions of the world.
Psalm 126: Nisi Dominus 
Canticum graduum Salomonis.
A gradual canticle of Solomon.
1.  Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum:*
 in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
2.  Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem:*
frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it.
3.  Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere:*
surgite, postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
2 It is vain for you to rise before light, rise after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow.

4.  Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum:*
ecce hereditas Domini, filii merces, fructus ventris.
When he shall give sleep to his beloved, 3 behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb.
5.  Sicut sagittae in manu potentis:* ita filii excussorum.
4 As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.
6.  Beatus vir, qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis:* non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.
5 Blessed is the man that has filled the desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate

The final part of this series on Psalm 126, cover verse 6.

No comments:

Post a Comment