Thursday, 29 March 2012

Psalm 118 (119) Resh: Why we must seek truth and fight the good fight

We are on the home stretch now in our Lenten study of Psalm 118: this is the first of the three psalm sections said at None on Monday in the Benedictine Office that close the psalm as a whole.

Today’s verses can be seen as about why we must wage the spiritual warfare, both against our own weaknesses and against the forces of evil.

Truth and everlasting life

The last verse of this stanza presents us with the reason we must fight:

160 Princípium verbórum tuórum, véritas:  in ætérnum ómnia judícia justítiæ tuæ.
The beginning of your words is truth: all the judgments of your justice are for ever.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (215) quotes this verse and comments:

"God is Truth itself, whose words cannot deceive. This is why one can abandon oneself in full trust to the truth and faithfulness of his word in all things. The beginning of sin and of man's fall was due to a lie of the tempter who induced doubt of God's word, kindness and faithfulness."

And each of us make a decision for or against that truth, as St Augustine points out:

"From truth, he says, Your words do proceed, and they are therefore truthful, and deceive no man, for in them life is announced to the righteous, punishment to the ungodly. These are the everlasting judgments of God's righteousness."

Many arise against us

The path we must follow is not an easy one, though, but rather a narrow one. Verse 157, echoes Psalm 3, used daily as a Matins Invitatory in the Benedictine Office:

Multi qui persequúntur me, et tríbulant me: Many are they that persecute me and afflict me

In Psalm 3 the speaker expresses confidence that no matter how many rise up against him, God will protect him in the daily battle. Here, the psalmist is similarly confident that he will not depart from God’s testimonies:

a testimóniis tuis non declinávi. but I have not declined from your testimonies

The verse can be read as of the individual speaker, as St Robert Bellarmine applies it:

"It is not without reason that I ask you to quicken me; for the visible enemies, and the invisible ones who outnumber them, and seek to destroy me, are very numerous, yet nevertheless, through the help I have had from you, "I have not declined" to one side or the other, "from thy testimonies;" from thy commandments, the only straight and direct road."

But it can also be interpreted collectively, as speaking of the Church grounded on the rock that is Christ, and growing through the blood of the martyrs, as St Augustine points out:

“The whole earth has been crimsoned by the blood of Martyrs; heaven is flowery with the crowns of Martyrs, the Churches are adorned with the memorials of Martyrs, seasons distinguished by the birthdays of Martyrs, cures more frequent by the merits of Martyrs.”

Yet why is he so confident of God’s help for him individually?

The psalmist contrasts himself with sinners here who cannot expect salvation unless they amend on several grounds. First, he has grounded himself in humility (v153) and strived to do the good:

Vide humilitátem meam, et éripe me: quia legem tuam non sum oblítus.
See my humiliation and deliver me for I have not forgotten your law.

Secondly, he may not be perfect, but he can legitimately distinguish himself from those who have failed to find out and tried to do what God wants, and cut themselves off from salvation through their contempt for the law:

155 Longe a peccatóribus salus: quia justificatiónes tuas non exquisiérunt.
Salvation is far from sinners; because they have not sought your justifications.

Thirdly, he has already the gift of charity:

159 Vide quóniam mandáta tua diléxi, Dómine: in misericórdia tua vivífica me.
Behold I have loved your commandments, O Lord; quicken me in your mercy.

But above all, he is confident that God will grant him the grace he needs, will revive or quicken him because of God’s mercy, manifested in the Word that is Christ:

156 Misericórdiæ tuæ multæ, Dómine: secúndum judícium tuum vivífica me.
Many, O Lord, are your mercies: quicken me according to your judgment.

154 Júdica judícium meum, et rédime me: propter elóquium tuum vivífica me.
Judge my judgment and redeem me: quicken me for your word's sake.

Resh

153 Vide humilitátem meam, et éripe me: * quia legem tuam non sum oblítus.
See my humiliation and deliver me for I have not forgotten your law.

154 Júdica judícium meum, et rédime me: * propter elóquium tuum vivífica me.
Judge my judgment and redeem me: quicken me for your word's sake.

155 Longe a peccatóribus salus: * quia justificatiónes tuas non exquisiérunt.
Salvation is far from sinners; because they have not sought your justifications.

156 Misericórdiæ tuæ multæ, Dómine: * secúndum judícium tuum vivífica me.
Many, O Lord, are your mercies: quicken me according to your judgment.

157 Multi qui persequúntur me, et tríbulant me: * a testimóniis tuis non declinávi.
Many are they that persecute me and afflict me; but I have not declined from your testimonies

158 Vidi prævaricántes, et tabescébam: * quia elóquia tua non custodiérunt.
I beheld the transgressors, and pined away; because they kept not your word.

159 Vide quóniam mandáta tua diléxi, Dómine: * in misericórdia tua vivífica me.
Behold I have loved your commandments, O Lord; quicken me in your mercy.

160 Princípium verbórum tuórum, véritas: * in ætérnum ómnia judícia justítiæ tuæ.
The beginning of your words is truth: all the judgments of your justice are for ever.

2 comments:

Dionysius said...

A small typo Kate. You goofed! May I use this comment to express my deep gratitude for your excellent blog which is truly inspirational!

Kate said...

Ahh! A goof indeed, thank you Dionysius for the catch and the kind comments - I'll blame this one on the antihistamines etc I'm currently loaded up on for sinusitis!