Thursday, January 4, 2018

Psalm 2: 11 Work out your salvation in fear and trembling

Today's verse of Psalm 2 is particularly important, not least because St Benedict cites it in chapter 19 of the Rule on our proper comportment when saying the Divine Office.  Possibly for that reason it also features as the antiphon for the psalm at Monday Prime.

Servíte Dómino in timóre: * et exsultáte ei cum tremóre. 
δουλεύσατε τῷ κυρίῳ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε αὐτῷ ἐν τρόμῳ

Servíte (serve) Dómino (to the Lord) in timóre (fear): * et (and) exsultáte (rejoice) ei (to him) cum (with) tremóre (tembling)

servio, ivi, itum, ire  to serve, worship, to obey, do service to.
Dominus, i, m. a master, lord, ruler, owner, possessor
timor, oris, m. (1) fear. (2) an object of fear.
exsulto, avi, atum, are , prop., to spring, leap, or jump up; to exult, to rejoice exceedingly.
tremor, oris, m. trembling

Serve the Lord with fear: and rejoice to him with trembling
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice in him with trembling.
Serve ye the Lord in fear, and rejoice before Him with trembling
Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling
Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto him with reverence.
Tremble, and serve the Lord, rejoicing in his presence, but with awe in your hearts.
serve the Lord with awe and trembling,

St Benedict 

St Benedict cites this verse to instruct us on how we should be behave when saying the Office:
WE believe that God is present everywhere and that the eyes of the Lord in every place behold the good and the evil; but let us especially believe this without any doubt when we are assisting at the Divine Office. Therefore let us ever remember the words of the prophet: Serve ye the Lord in fear; and again, Sing ye wisely; and, I will sing to thee in the sight of the angels.  Let us then consider how we ought to behave ourselves in the presence of God and his angels, and so sing the psalms that mind and voice may be in harmony. (Chapter 19)
Cassiodorus' commentary on the psalm fits nicely with this take on the verse, seeing as pointing to the need to apply ourselves to our tasks with care:
A short but full warning, through which we serve the Lord God with the fear of love, for just as careless complacency incurs faults, so loving fear always keeps sins at bay.
Fear vs rejoicing

This verse presents us with an odd juxtaposition: on the one hand we are enjoined to serve God with fear and trembling; on the other to rejoice.  So which is it?

St John Chrysostom highlights the fear and trembling side of the equation, seeing the verse as an injunction against 'unreasonable laughter', jesting and so forth.  The saint, he says, out to be gentle, meek, sorrowful, mournful, contrite'.

St Augustine, on the other hand, sees the injunction to rejoice as a reminder that we shouldn't be too sorrowful about our fear of the Lord:
Very excellently is rejoice added, lest serve the Lord with fear should seem to tend to misery. 
The verse is a warning not to go too far in our exuberance, he suggests, less we fall into the sin of pride, but ultimately we rejoice because we look to our future happiness in heaven:
But again, lest this same rejoicing should run on to unrestrained inconsiderateness, there is added with trembling, that it might avail for a warning, and for the careful guarding of holiness. It can also be taken thus, And now you kings understand; that is, And now that I am set as King, be not sad, kings of the earth, as if your excellency were taken from you, but rather understand and be instructed. For it is expedient for you, that you should be under Him, by whom understanding and instruction are given you. And this is expedient for you, that you lord it not with rashness, but that you serve the Lord of all with fear, and rejoice in bliss most sure and most pure, with all caution and carefulness, lest you fall therefrom into pride.
The point, Cassiodorus argues, is that holy fear 'leads not to wretchedness but joy', yet it would be easy for joy to turn into negligence, so both emotions are needed to appropriately convey our proper sense of reverence for the divine.

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.

And for notes on verse 12 of the psalm, continue on here.

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