Thursday, November 15, 2018

Psalm 4 - verse 6 - The sacrifice of justice

The sacrifice of justice, the subject of today's verse of Psalm 4, is a key concept for that underpins monastic vows and oblation.

Looking at the Latin

The Vulgate of verse 6 of Psalm 4 is:
Sacrificáte sacrifícium justítiæ, et speráte in Dómino, multi dicunt quis osténdit nobis bona?
The key words include:

sacrifico, avi, atum, are to offer something to God in atonement for sin, to procure favors, to express thankfulness and the like; to sacrifice, to make an offering of. 
sacrificium, ii, n. an offering, oblation, sacrifice. 
ostendo, tendi, tertum, ere 3 to show, display; to expose, lay open; to show
quis – who; there is no one, there is scarcely anyone


A very literal, word by word translation of the verse, runs as follows:
Sacrificáte (make an offering, imperative) sacrifícium (sacrifice/justice) justítiæ (of justice) [a due offering, a righteous sacrifice, the offering prescribed by law], et (and) speráte (hope, imperative) in dómino (in the Lord), multi (the many) dicunt (they say) quis (who/there is no one) osténdit (he shows) nobis (to us) bona (the good [things])?
The literal meaning?

The English translations offer a wide spread of interpretations of the first part of this verse, as the table below illustrates.

The Revised Standard Version, along with the Knox translation, for example, interpret it as offering our sacrifices (such as the Office, the sacrifice of praise) correctly, with 'due observance'.  Others, though, suggest that the issue is one of motivation, or doing the right thing.


Douay-Rheims
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who shows us good things?
Monastic Diurnal
Offer a righteous sacrifice and put your trust in the Lord.  Many there are that say: Who will show us good things.
RSV
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. There are many who say, "O that we might see some good!
Brenton
Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. Many say, Who will shew us good things?
Coverdale
Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord. There be many that say, Who will show us any good?
Knox
Offer sacrifices with due observance, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many that cry out for a sight of better times;
Grail
Make justice your sacrifice, and trust in the Lord. "What can bring us happiness?" many say.

Both of these interpretations feature in the commentaries of the Fathers and Theologians, but most put the emphasis on right intention.

Right intention

In the previous verse the psalmist urged repentance, or turning away from evil.  In this verse here he urges us to move to the next stage of holiness, and do good.

The first step needed for this is the right intention to go along with our actions.  Theodoret, for example, comments:
In these words he dismisses as useless the worship according to the Law, and he obliges us to bring the offering of righteousness: the possession of righteousness is more acceptable to God than every sacrifice of a hundred or a thousand beasts...
Similarly, St Augustine argues that the righteous sacrifice can reasonably be interpreted as our contrition, impelling us to offer ourselves up to God:
He says the same in another Psalm Psalm 50, the sacrifice for God is a troubled spirit. Wherefore that this is the sacrifice of righteousness which is offered through repentance it is not unreasonably here understood. For what more righteous, than that each one should be angry with his own sins, rather than those of others, and that in self-punishment he should sacrifice himself unto God?
He also sees the psalm as tracing our path from repentance to renewal in Christ:
Or are righteous works after repentance the sacrifice of righteousness? ...the old man being destroyed or weakened by repentance, the sacrifice of righteousness, according to the regeneration of the new man, may be offered to God; when the soul now cleansed offers and places itself on the altar of faith, to be encompassed by heavenly fire, that is, by the Holy Ghost.
Doing good works

Building on this, St John Chrysostom argues that the instruction to offer the ‘sacrifice of righteousness’ means actively seeking to do good:
Refraining from evil alone, you see, is not sufficient; instead, the practice of good must be there as well. Hence he moves to exhortation in the words, "Move away from evil and do good." Abstaining from virtue, after all, suffices to put one in danger of punishment, not simply committing evil...Seek after righteousness, make an offering of righteousness: this is the greatest gift to God, this an acceptable sacrifice, this an offer­ing of great appeal, not sacrificing sheep and calves but doing righ­teous things...
He also notes that anyone can offer this sacrifice, by acting in the everyday situations of life:
This sacrifice requires no money, no sword, no altar, no fire; it does not dissolve into smoke and ashes and smells - rather, the intention of the offerer suffices. Poverty is no impedi­ment to it, nor indigence a problem, nor the place nor anything else like that; instead, wherever you are, you are fit to offer sacri­fice, you are priest, and altar, and sword, and victim.
Several commentators suggest that the idea of the sacrifice of justice, or righteous sacrifice, also implies a burnt offering, a total offering of our lives.

In the monastic context, it can obviously be taken as a reference to the renunciations the religious makes as a consequence of his or her vows.

The idea of the ‘sacrifice of justice’ is a key theme of several of the psalms, and one picked up by St Benedict in his choice of the Suscipe verse (from Psalm 118) said at profession/oblation.

But it can also, in a more limited way, surely mean fidelity to our marriage vows, our promises at oblation, and saying the Office itself.  Cassiodorus, for example says:
If Christ Himself was sacrificed for us, how much more fitting it is to offer ourselves as sacrifice to Him, so that we can rejoice in imitating our King! The term she used was: Offer up, and in case this was interpreted as sacrificing beasts, she added: The sacrifice of justice. In other words: "Live an upright life, and always offer your hearts pure to God."
Hope in the Lord

St Augustine interprets the injunction to hope in the Lord as our request for the help of grace:
So that this may be the meaning, Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and hope in the Lord; that is, live uprightly, and hope for the gift of the Holy Ghost, that the truth, in which you have believed, may shine upon you. 
The identity of the 'many' seeking good things is ambiguous.  Some commentator see the many as those following the ways of this world, and so linking up to the next verses claim to bounteous harvests.

St Robert Bellarmine summarises the argument thus:
"Many say, Who showeth us good things?" This is a common objection of the carnal, who are numerous, hence "many." When we preach to them the contempt of things here below, and exhort them to innocence and justice, many reply: Who will show us what is good, if the things we see and handle be not good? Who has come up from hell? Who has gone up to heaven?

Psalm 4: Cum invocarem
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, in carminibus. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, in verses. A psalm for David.
1 Cum invocárem exaudívit me deus justítiæ meæ: * in tribulatióne dilatásti mihi.
When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, you have enlarged me.
2 Miserére mei, * et exáudi oratiónem meam.
Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
3 Filii hóminum, úsquequo gravi corde? *  ut quid dilígitis vanitátem et quæritis mendácium?
O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
4 Et scitóte quóniam mirificávit dóminus sanctum suum: * dóminus exáudiet me cum clamávero ad eum.
Know also that the Lord has made his holy one wonderful: the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
5 Irascímini, et nolíte peccáre: * quæ dícitis in córdibus vestris, in cubílibus vestris compungímini.
Be angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
6 Sacrificáte sacrifícium justítiæ, et speráte in dómino, * multi dicunt quis osténdit nobis bona?
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who shows us good things?
7 Signátum est super nos lumen vultus tui, dómine: * dedísti lætítiam in corde meo.
The light of your countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: you have given gladness in my heart.
8 A fructu fruménti, vini et ólei sui * multiplicáti sunt.
By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they rest
9 In pace in idípsum * dórmiam et requiéscam;
In peace in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest
10 Quóniam tu, dómine, singuláriter in spe * constituísti me.
For you, O Lord, singularly have settled me in hope.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Psalm 4 - verse 5: On rash and righteous anger

Verse 5 of Psalm 4 is a call to repentance: night is a time to ponder our personal darkness, and make up our minds to change for the better.

Understanding the Latin

The Vulgate gives the verse as:
Irascímini, et nolíte peccáre: quæ dícitis in córdibus vestris, in cubílibus vestris compungímini
The key words for the verse are:

irascor, iratus sum, irasci , to be angry or wrathful.
nolo, nolui, nolle  to be unwilling, not to wish, to refuse. 
pecco, avi, atum, are, to sin; to sin against, with dat.
dico, dixi, dictum, ere 3, to say, speak;  to sing;  in the sense of to think, plan, desire; to praise.
cor, cordis, n., the heart, regarded as the seat of the faculties, feelings, emotions, passions; the mind, the soul.
cubile, is, n. a bed, couch.
compungo, punxi, punctum, ere 3,  to prick; fig., to wound, hurt; in passive, to feel compunction, sorrow, regret, or remorse, to repent. 

A word by word translation might be:
Irascímini (be angry [at yourself]), et (and) nolíte (be unwilling) peccáre (to sin): * quæ (that which/ what) dícitis (you say) in córdibus (in the heart) vestris (your), in cubílibus (in the beds) vestris (your) compungímini (be sorry/repent)
The literal meaning

The selection of English translations below suggest that the literal meaning of the verse is ambiguous: is it saying, 'when angry don't translate your anger into sinful action', as the Monastic Diurnal's translation suggests; or is it a call to righteous anger, aimed at stirring up our consciences?


Douay Rheims
Be angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
Monastic
Diurnal
When roused to anger, sin not: what you scheme in your hearts, deplore upon your beds.
RSV
Be angry, but sin not; commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
Brenton
Be ye angry, and sin not; feel compunction upon your beds for what ye say in your hearts.
Coverdale
Stand in awe, and sin not; commune with your own heart, and in your chamber, and be still.
Knox
Tremble, and sin no more; take thought, as you lie awake, in the silence of your hearts.
Grail
Fear him; do not sin: ponder on your bed and be still.

In fact the Fathers make clear that both meanings are possible.

Self-control

Anger can of course be a sin, but the point is not to avoid it altogether, but rather to control it appropriately, according to  St Cassiodorus:
The anger which does not effect its indignation is pardonable; in the words of Scripture: He that conquers his anger is better than he that taketh a city.  So the injunction to control it is appended, so that if we are already angry we do not sin through impulsive rashness. Because of human frailty we cannot govern our hot emotions, but with the help of God's grace we contain them with the discipline of reason.
This line of interpretation fits well with St Paul's use of the verse in Ephesians:
Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (4:25-27)
 Anger as a tool in the spiritual life

But in the context of the psalm, the more obvious interpretation goes to the positive uses of anger.  St John Chrysostom, for example, argues that righteous anger as a positive, a way of directing our minds to genuine repentance:
He does not dismiss anger, note, for it is useful, nor does he eliminate wrath, this too proving helpful, after all, in dealing with wrongdoers and the negligent…In other words, it is alright to be angry for good rea­son, as Paul too was angry with Elymas, and Peter with Sapphira...
St Augustine gave a vivid application of this line of interpretation of the verse in his Confessions:
And how was I moved, O my God, who had now learned to be angry with myself for the things past, so that in the future I might not sin! Yea, to be justly angry; for that it was not another nature of the race of darkness which sinned for me, as they affirm it to be who are not angry with themselves, and who treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and of the revelation of Your righteous judgment.
St Benedict instructs us to take a similar approach in the concluding section of the chapter of the Rule on humility:
[the monk] should always have his head bowed and his eyes downcast, pondering always the guilt of his sins, and considering that he is about to be brought before the dread judgement seat of God. 
St Cassiodorus adds:
What is repentance but being angry with oneself, so that one is aghast at one's deeds, and seeks self-torture so that the angry Judge may not afflict us instead?
In the silence of our bedrooms

The particular appropriateness of the night for the renewal of our commitment to continual repentance through anger at ourselves is set out by St Robert Bellarmine:
St. Basil tells us that anger was implanted in us by God, to be a source of merit. "The things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds;" that is to say, in the dead hour of night, when you shall be alone in your bedchamber, free from all cares; then turn over all your shortcomings, and in God's presence be sorry for them, imitat­ing the example of David himself, who in Psalm 6 says, "Every night I will wash my bed; I will water my couch with my tears," thus carrying out the advice he gave to others.
The Holy Ghost having severely reproved and admon­ished mankind, and advised them to repent, tells them now what they ought to do, and instructs them to have a holy hor­ror of sin, to resist their evil desires, and, by such means, to avoid sin; and, should they happen to fall, at once to be sorry and contrite; and not to stop at the doing no harm, but to go fur­ther, by offering the sacrifice of justice in doing good. "Be angry, and sin not;" that is to say, when your wicked and rebellious temper, the top and bottom of all our sins, stirs us up, let your anger vent itself on your own poor corrupt self; contend with it, so that you shall not fall into sin. 
The call to anger here is not to shouting or violent gestures, but rather to inner compunction.  St Cyprian, for example, points us to the example Hannah (Anna), the mother of Samuel:
And this Hannah in the first book of Kings, who was a type of the Church, maintains and observes, in that she prayed to God not with clamorous petition, but silently and modestly, within the very recesses of her heart. She spoke with hidden prayer, but with manifest faith. She spoke not with her voice, but with her heart, because she knew that thus God hears; and she effectually obtained what she sought, because she asked it with belief. Divine Scripture asserts this, when it says, “She spake in her heart, and her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; and God did hear her.” We read also in the Psalms, “Speak in your hearts, and in your beds, and be ye pierced.” The Holy Spirit, moreover, suggests these same things by Jeremiah, and teaches, saying, “But in the heart ought God to be adored by thee.” On the Lord’s Prayer, c242

Psalm 4: Cum invocarem
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, in carminibus. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, in verses. A psalm for David.
1 Cum invocárem exaudívit me deus justítiæ meæ: * in tribulatióne dilatásti mihi.
When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, you have enlarged me.
2 Miserére mei, * et exáudi oratiónem meam.
Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
3 Filii hóminum, úsquequo gravi corde? *  ut quid dilígitis vanitátem et quæritis mendácium?
O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
4 Et scitóte quóniam mirificávit dóminus sanctum suum: * dóminus exáudiet me cum clamávero ad eum.
Know also that the Lord has made his holy one wonderful: the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
5 Irascímini, et nolíte peccáre: * quæ dícitis in córdibus vestris, in cubílibus vestris compungímini.
Be angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
6 Sacrificáte sacrifícium justítiæ, et speráte in dómino, * multi dicunt quis osténdit nobis bona?
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who shows us good things?
7 Signátum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Dómine: * dedísti lætítiam in corde meo.
The light of your countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: you have given gladness in my heart.
8 A fructu fruménti, vini et ólei sui * multiplicáti sunt.
By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they rest
9 In pace in idípsum * dórmiam et requiéscam;
In peace in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest
10 Quóniam tu, Dómine, singuláriter in spe * constituísti me.
For you, O Lord, singularly have settled me in hope.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Psalm 4 - verse 4: Christ opens the way

Verse 4 of Psalm 4 arguably introduces a sharper Christological focus to the psalm, telling us that the way to God is through Christ.

Understanding the Latin

The Vulgate reads:
Et scitóte quóniam mirificávit Dóminus sanctum suum: Dóminus exáudiet me cum clamávero ad eum.
The key vocabulary for the verse are:

scio, ivi and ii, itum, ire, to know.
quoniam, conj.,for, because, since, seeing that, whereas.
mirifico, avi, atum, are  to exalt, to favor wonderfully; to fulfill or accomplish wondrously; to show forth wondrously.

And a literal, a word by word rendering runs as follows:
Et (and) scitóte (know you) quóniam (that) mirificávit (he has exalted) Dóminus (the Lord) sanctum (the only one) suum (his): Dóminus (the Lord) exáudiet (he will hear) me (me) cum (when) clamávero (I shall cry) ad (to) eum (him).
The English translations fall into two camps on this verse: those that view 'sanctum suum' as a reference to Christ (the view mostly taken by the Fathers and Theologians, see below), and those which interpret it as a reference to the saints more generally. 

Douay-Rheims
Know also that the Lord has made his holy one wonderful: 
the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
Monastic Diurnal
…has dealt wondrously…
RSV
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; 
the LORD hears when I call to him.
Brenton
But know ye that the Lord has done wondrous things for his holy one: 
the Lord will hear me when I cry to him.
Coverdale
Know this also, that the Lord hath chosen to himself the man that is godly; 
when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.
Knox
To the souls he loves, be sure the Lord shews wondrous favour; 
whenever I call on his name, the Lord will hear me.
Grail
It is the Lord who grants favors to those whom he loves; 
the Lord hears me whenever I call him.


God's holy one

Who is God's holy one?

The Fathers generally interpret this verse first and foremost as a reference to Christ.

St Augustine, for example, answers the question as follows:
Whom but Him, whom He raised up from below, and placed in heaven at His right hand?
In his Confessions, commenting on this verse he says:
And You, O Lord, had already magnified Your Holy One, raising Him from the dead, and setting Him at Your right hand, whence from on high He should send His promise, the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth.  And He had already sent Him, but I knew it not; He had sent Him, because He was now magnified, rising again from the dead, and ascending into heaven. For till then the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.  
 Similarly, St Robert Bellarmine points to the Gospel reference to Christ as the holy one, recognised by demons, and meant to be our example and guide:
Hence the demon, in Mark 1, exclaimed: "I know you are the Holy One of God." And this Holy One went his way, doing good, suffering perse­cutions, despising the things of this world, holding up those of the other, and by such a new route arrived at eternal happiness, corporally reigning in heaven, and spiritually happy forever. And as he is our guide, and went before us to prepare a place for us, undoubtedly, if we walk in his footsteps, we will come to true and everlasting happiness.
Answers to our prayers

The link between the two parts of this verse, according to St Augustine, is that Christ's mission opened the way for us, and allows us to be heard:
Therefore does he chide mankind, that they would turn at length from the love of this world to Him…I believe that we are here warned, that with great earnestness of heart, that is, with an inward and incorporeal cry, we should implore help of God. For as we must give thanks for enlightenment in this life, so must we pray for rest after this life. Wherefore in the person, either of the faithful preacher of the Gospel, or of our Lord Himself, it may be taken, as if it were written, the Lord will hear you, when you cry unto Him.
There are, however, some conditions we need to meet in order to have our prayers answered.

First, St Cassiodorus points to the need to put our belief into action, to supplicate God with good works:
When I shall cry means "When I shall supplicate the Godhead with good works," for the cry is that which reaches God in silence, and ensures that those who constantly devote themselves to good works are heard. 
 Secondly, our intentions must align with God's will, as St John Chrysostom points out:
So why is it, you ask, that many people are not heard? On ac­count of the inappropriate requests they make…our God, who understands what giving is, when to give, and what to give. Because Paul too asked and did not re­ceive, since his request was inappropriate, as did Moses, and God did not accede even to him. So let us not desist when we are not heard, nor be distraught nor become numb, but persist with en­treaty and request. God, after all, does everything for the best.
Psalm 4: Cum invocarem
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, in carminibus. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, in verses. A psalm for David.
1 Cum invocárem exaudívit me Deus justítiæ meæ: * in tribulatióne dilatásti mihi.
When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, you have enlarged me.
2 Miserére mei, * et exáudi oratiónem meam.
Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
3 Filii hóminum, úsquequo gravi corde? *  ut quid dilígitis vanitátem et quæritis mendácium?
O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
4 Et scitóte quóniam mirificávit Dóminus sanctum suum: * dóminus exáudiet me cum clamávero ad eum.
Know also that the Lord has made his holy one wonderful: the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
5 Irascímini, et nolíte peccáre: * quæ dícitis in córdibus vestris, in cubílibus vestris compungímini.
Be angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
6 Sacrificáte sacrifícium justítiæ, et speráte in dómino, * multi dicunt quis osténdit nobis bona?
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who shows us good things?
7 Signátum est super nos lumen vultus tui, dómine: * dedísti lætítiam in corde meo.
The light of your countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: you have given gladness in my heart.
8 A fructu fruménti, vini et ólei sui * multiplicáti sunt.
By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they rest
9 In pace in idípsum * dórmiam et requiéscam;
In peace in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest
10 Quóniam tu, dómine, singuláriter in spe * constituísti me.
For you, O Lord, singularly have settled me in hope.




You cna find the next part in this series here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Psalm 4: verse 3 - Restoring flesh to our hearts of stone

Verse 3 of Psalm 4 can be interpreted in two ways: firstly as a personal call to repentance for our sins of the day just past, and secondly as  general reproach to those who reject the way of Christ.

Understanding the Latin

The Vulgate of the third verse of Psalm 4 reads:

Fílii hóminum, úsquequo gravi corde? ut quid dilígitis vanitátem et quæritis mendácium?

Key vocabulary:

gravis, e,  heavy; said of the heart, dull, hard. 
ut quid, adv., why? wherefore? for what reason 
diligo, lexi, lectum, ere 3  to love
vanitas, atisemptiness, nothingness, vanity, unreality, falsehood
quaero, sivi, sltum, ere 3, to seek, seek after; to will, desire, think upon. Of seeking God
mendacium, ii, n.  a lie, lying, falsehood

A word by word translation is:
Fílii (sons) hóminum (of men), úsquequo (how long) gravi (hard) corde (with heart)? * ut quid (why) dilígitis (you do love) vanitátem (vanity) et (and) quæritis (you do seek/desire) mendácium (falsehood)?

You can get a better sense of the literal meaning of the verse though, from the selection of English translations below:

Douay-Rheims
O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
Monastic Diurnal
Ye sons of men, how long will you be hard of heart?  Why love vanities and have recourse to lying?
RSV
O men, how long shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
Brenton
O ye sons on men, how long will ye be slow of heart? Wherefore do ye love vanity, and seek falsehood?
Coverdale
O ye sons of men, how long will ye blaspheme mine honour, and have such pleasure in vanity,
and seek after leasing?
Knox
Great ones of the world, will your hearts always be hardened. Will you never cease setting your heart on shadows, following a lie?
Grail
O men, how long will your hearts be closed, will you love what is futile and seek what is false? 


A call to reflect on our sins of the day and repent of them

Each day, St Augustine reminds us, we invariably fall many times; the test of a true Christian is whether, having fallen, we repent and resolve once again to take the correct path.  This verse, particularly in the context of Compline, can be interpreted as a reminder of that reality, and a call to repentance.

St Gregory Nazianzen suggested that it is first and foremost a call to examine our consciences:
But now, laying aside lamentation, I will look at myself, and examine my feelings, that I may not unconsciously have in myself anything to be lamented. O ye sons of men, for the words apply to you, how long will ye be hard-hearted and gross in mind? Why do ye love vanity and seek after leasing, supposing life here to be a great thing and these few days many, and shrinking from this separation, welcome and pleasant as it is, as if it were really grievous and awful? Are we not to know ourselves? Are we not to cast away visible things? Are we not to look to the things unseen? Oration 7
Similarly, St Robert Bellarmine interprets the verse as asking us to reflect on why we have not yet amended our ways and rejected the lure of earthly riches and pleasures:
That is to say, how long will you have a heart of stone, a hard one, inclined to the earth, thinking of nothing but the goods of this world? For, according to the Lord, "The hearts are weighed down by excess, drunkenness, and the cares of this world;" and because hardened hearts are not susceptible of celestial thoughts, but only of terrestrial and transitory, they only love what is terrestrial and transitory; and as we take trou­ble only in seeking for the things we ardently love, the Prophet adds, "Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?" The goods of this world are called vain and fallacious, because they are neither stable nor solid, though they may seem to be so; and are therefore, with justice, designated as false and fallacious, especially when compared to those of eternity.
A prayer for the conversion of the world

The verse though can equally be seen as a reproach to all those who neglect to put Christ first.

St John Chrysostom, for example contrasts the phrase sons of men, referring to those who reject God or lack the gift of grace, with sons of God: 
Whom does he call "children of men?" Those living in sin, those inclined to evil. Why on earth? I mean, are not we children of men? While we are chil­dren of men by nature, yet no longer so by grace - rather, children of God. At least, if we maintain his image in virtue, the gift in our possession will be unsullied; those, after all, who have become children of God through grace must manifest this image also in their way of life.  Commentary on the Psalms.
And St Cassiodorus views it as a prayer for the conversion of sinners:
Whereas in the previous verse she prayed for us, here she vehemently bids the human race not to continue with the most grievous sin of worshipping demons, so that the prayer which she has poured out for us may be heard. 
St Thomas Aquinas similarly adopted this interpretation saying:
Here Psalm 4 addresses itself to an exhortation towards others. So, around this idea two points are made. First, there is the accusation of sinners that is replied to. Second, this Psalm 4 exhorts to reform.... 
Psalm 4: Cum invocarem
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, in carminibus. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, in verses. A psalm for David.
1 Cum invocárem exaudívit me deus justítiæ meæ: * in tribulatióne dilatásti mihi.
When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, you have enlarged me.
2 Miserére mei, * et exáudi oratiónem meam.
Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
3 Filii hóminum, úsquequo gravi corde? *  ut quid dilígitis vanitátem et quæritis mendácium?
O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
4 Et scitóte quóniam mirificávit dóminus sanctum suum: * dóminus exáudiet me cum clamávero ad eum.
Know also that the Lord has made his holy one wonderful: the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
5 Irascímini, et nolíte peccáre: * quæ dícitis in córdibus vestris, in cubílibus vestris compungímini.
Be angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
6 Sacrificáte sacrifícium justítiæ, et speráte in dómino, * multi dicunt quis osténdit nobis bona?
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who shows us good things?
7 Signátum est super nos lumen vultus tui, dómine: * dedísti lætítiam in corde meo.
The light of your countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: you have given gladness in my heart.
8 A fructu fruménti, vini et ólei sui * multiplicáti sunt.
By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they rest
9 In pace in idípsum * dórmiam et requiéscam;
In peace in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest
10 Quóniam tu, dómine, singuláriter in spe * constituísti me.
For you, O Lord, singularly have settled me in hope.



You can find the next post in this series here.