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. 

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…
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; 
the LORD hears when I call to him.
But know ye that the Lord has done wondrous things for his holy one: 
the Lord will hear me when I cry to him.
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.
To the souls he loves, be sure the Lord shews wondrous favour; 
whenever I call on his name, the Lord will hear me.
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
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.

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