Thursday, 1 March 2012

Psalm 118 (119): Daleth, Part I - The importance of confession



Today we have reached the fourth stanza of Psalm 118, marked by the Hebrew letter Daleth, and I want to linger over this set of verses for two days, because the last verse is particularly important to Benedictine spirituality, which I happen to favour! 

Accordingly, today I'll provide some notes on verses 25 to 31, and tomorrow I'll focus in on Verse 32 of the psalm.

As usual you can find a more detailed set of notes on these verses over at my Psalms Blog.

Cling to God’s ways!

Today we have reached the fourth stanza of Psalm 118, marked by the Hebrew letter Daleth, and I want to linger over this set of verses for two days, because the last verse is particularly important to Benedictine spirituality, which I happen to favour! Accordingly, today I'll provide some notes on verses 25 to 31, and tomorrow I'll focus in on Verse 32 of the psalm.

St Robert Bellarmine summarises this stanza as follows:

“In the next eight verses David [the psalmist] still assumes the person of one imperfect, who is kept back by the concupiscence of the flesh from the perfect observance of the commandments, and asks for grace and help to observe them.”

Daleth

Here are the verses:

25 Adhæsit pavimento anima mea : vivifica me secundum verbum tuum.
26 Vias meas enuntiavi, et exaudisti me; doce me justificationes tuas.
27 Viam justificationum tuarum instrue me, et exercebor in mirabilibus tuis.
28 Dormitavit anima mea præ tædio : confirma me in verbis tuis.
29 Viam iniquitatis amove a me, et de lege tua miserere mei.
30 Viam veritatis elegi; judicia tua non sum oblitus.
31 Adhæsi testimoniis tuis, Domine; noli me confundere.
32 Viam mandatorum tuorum cucurri, cum dilatasti cor meum.

25 My soul has cleaved to the pavement: quicken me according to your word.
26 I have declared my ways, and you have heard me: teach me your justifications.
27 Make me to understand the way of your justifications: and I shall be exercised in your wondrous works.
28 My soul has slumbered through heaviness: strengthen me in your words.
29 Remove from me the way of iniquity: and out of your law have mercy on me.
30 I have chosen the way of truth: your judgments I have not forgotten.
31 I have stuck to your testimonies, O Lord: put me not to shame.
32 I have run the way of your commandments, when you did enlarge my heart.

Clinging to God and the importance of confession

Today's  section of Psalm 118 effectively traces the path we must take if we wish to attain happiness with God.

First consider the starting and end points. If you look at the Latin of verses 25 and 31 of this psalm, both begin with the same verb, ‘adherere’, to cling, cleave or adhere to. But the two verses contrast two different states of being. In verse 35, the speaker clings to the dust of the earth, weighed down by fleshly concupiscence, and pleading to be rescued from this state. In verse 31, by contrast, the soul is now clinging desperately to God’s testimonies, and pleading to be kept in that happy state by the aid of grace.

In between comes confession of our sins (v. 26, I have declared my ways); openness to instruction and penance (v27); contrition and a genuine commitment to perseverance even in the face of difficulties and our natural tendancy to lukewarmness (v28); absolution (v29); and a positive choice for Christ, who is the way, the truth and life (v30).

Here is a version of the Offertory for Passion Sunday, which uses the second half of verse 25.

No comments: