Thursday, December 28, 2017

Psalm 2 - Verse 3 the yoke of grace

Today's Christmas offering looks at verse 3 of Psalm 2, on the breaking of bonds:

Dirumpámus víncula eórum: * et projiciámus a nobis jugum ipsórum.
disrumpamus vincula eorum  et proiciamus a nobis laqueos eorum

διαρρήξωμεν τοὺς δεσμοὺς αὐτῶν καὶ ἀπορρίψωμεν ἀ{F'} ἡμῶν τὸν ζυγὸν αὐτῶν

Dirumpámus (let us break = hortatory subjunctive) víncula (chains, fetters, bonds) eórum (of them): * et (and) projiciámus (let us cast away) a (from) nobis (us) jugum (the yoke) ipsórum (itself; their).

Di(s)rumpo, riipi, ruptum, ere 3, to rend, burst, break or dash to pieces; to cleave
vinculum, i, n. (vincio), a bond, fetter, chain.
is, ea, id, he, she, it.
projicio, jeci, jectum, ere 3 to cast away,off, or forth;  to cast;  to cast upon, i.e., commit to the care of; to drive away, scatter, or sweep away, as wind does dust; to cast down; to cast off, reject.
jugum, i, n. (root jug, whence also jungo), a yoke; fig., bonds, fetters, slavery; MT uses ropes, cords
ipse, a, um, demon, pronoun., himself, herself, itself; weak demonstrative or definite article

Let us break their bonds asunder: and let us cast away their yoke from us.
Let us break through their bonds, and cast away their yoke from us.
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast off from us their yoke
"Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us."
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
crying, Let us break away from their bondage, rid ourselves of the toils!
"Come, let us break their fetters, come, let us cast off their yoke."

The bonds of Christ

There is an interesting duality in Scripture, in the references to breaking bonds, that comes into play in the Patristic and later interpretations of this verse.

On the one hand, the speakers in this verse would seem to be the angry leaders of verse 1 and 2, who reject the law of God in favour of pursuing their own desires.  They shout the ancient cry of Satan: non serviam (I will not serve).  Instead of welcoming Christ and his teaching, they seek to destroy him.

At the same time, though, Christ came to break our bonds, the bonds of sin, alluded in Psalm 115:

7  Dirupísti víncula mea: * tibi sacrificábo hóstiam laudis, et nomen Dómini invocábo.
You have broken my bonds: I will sacrifice to you the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.

The law of God v the law of man

St Thomas Aquinas pointed out that 'yoke' (jugum) in Scripture is generally a symbol of kingly power.  In 1 Kings 12, for example, the people complain about the heavy yoke imposed on them by King Solomon, and urge Roboam to take a less stringent approach; he, taking an extreme view of divine right, refuses, saying his yoke will be even heavier, whereupon they refuse to acknowledge him as king, splitting the kingdom.  For this reason, some of the Fathers suggest that this verse can be read as a call for us to reject the unjust laws and mores of the world, and conform ourselves only to Christ.  This is perhaps a message particularly apt for our time given the increasingly radical secularisation of most states.

The old law and grace

By the time of Christ, rabbinical literature had come to view the Mosaic law as a yoke, and this view is reflected in the New Testament.  Christ takes this starting point for his teaching, instructing that his yoke, by virtue of the grace he offers, is light:
Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt 11:29-30)
This theme is further developed in Acts, where at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) St Peter  questions the calls for Jewish dietary and other laws to be imposed on gentile converts saying:
God, who can read men’s hearts, has assured them of his favour by giving the Holy Spirit to them as to us. He would not make any difference between us and them; he had removed all the uncleanness from their hearts when he gave them faith.  How is it, then, that you would now call God in question, by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as we and our fathers have been too weak to bear? It is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we hope to be saved, and they no less.
For us then, St Thomas instructs, 'Spiritually, the yoke is the law of charity, bonds are the theological virtues'.

The nations that increasingly reject God, are, as Cassiodorus explains:
...totally deceived by their most vain desire, for though the Lord Saviour’s yoke is sweet, and his burden light, they considered his control most oppressive.  

Psalm 2: Quare fremuérunt Gentes
Douay Rheims
Quare fremuérunt Gentes: * et pópuli meditáti sunt inánia?
Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?
2  Astitérunt reges terræ, et príncipes convenérunt in unum * advérsus Dóminum, et advérsus Christum ejus.
The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord, and against his Christ.
3  Dirumpámus víncula eórum: * et projiciámus a nobis jugum ipsórum.
Let us break their bonds asunder: and let us cast away their yoke from us.
 4. Qui hábitat in cælis, irridébit eos: * et Dóminus subsannábit eos.
He that dwells in heaven shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them.
5  Tunc loquétur ad eos in ira sua, * et in furóre suo conturbábit eos.
Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and trouble them in his rage.
6  Ego autem constitútus sum Rex ab eo super Sion montem sanctum ejus, * prædicans præcéptum ejus.
But I am appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain, preaching his commandment.
7  Dóminus dixit ad me: * Fílius meus es tu, ego hódie génui te.
The Lord has said to me: You are my son, this day have I begotten you.
8  Póstula a me, et dábo tibi Gentes hereditátem tuam, * et possessiónem tuam términos terræ.
Ask of me, and I will give you the Gentiles for your inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for your possession
9  Reges eos in virga férrea, * et tamquam vas fíguli confrínges eos.
You shall rule them with a rod of iron, and shall break them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10  Et nunc, reges, intellígite: * erudímini, qui judicátis terram.
And now, O you kings, understand: receive instruction, you that judge the earth.
11  Servíte Dómino in timóre: * et exsultáte ei cum   tremóre.
Serve the Lord with fear: and rejoice unto him with trembling.
12  Apprehéndite disciplínam, nequándo irascátur Dóminus, * et pereátis de via justa.
Embrace discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the just way.
13  Cum exárserit in brevi ira ejus: * beáti omnes qui confídunt in eo.
When his wrath shall be kindled in a short time, blessed are all they that trust in him.

You can find the next part in this series here.

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