Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Psalms of Tenebrae/1: Psalm 50: Have mercy on us, O Lord



I thought I'd start this Lenten series on the psalms of Tenebrae with the first psalm not of Matins, but of Lauds, namely Psalm 50, given its particular appropriateness for Ash Wednesday.

Psalm 50 in Tenebrae

Psalm 50 is of course, the most famous of the penitential psalms, and I've previously provided an introduction to it in that context that you can find here and (for Part II) here.  It opens Lauds on each of the three days that Tenebrae is said.  The most famous setting of the psalm is by Allegri, a version almost certainly composed specifically for Tenebrae.

This is a psalm that surely needs no exposition: rather, we should turn King David's plea for forgiveness and cleansing of his sin into our own:

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. 
And according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my iniquity. 
Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 
For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me....
Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. 
Cast me not away from your face; and take not your holy spirit from me.

I have to admit, though, that my favourite verse of the psalm comes around the middle of it, and might usefully serve as a reminder that a penitential season need not be one devoid of joy:

"Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit."

The key to this restoration is our contrition, our offering of our Lenten sacrifices in the right spirit:

"O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise. 
For if you had desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings you will not be delighted. 
A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise.




Psalm 50

Miserére mei Deus, * secúndum magnam misericórdiam tuam.
2  Et secúndum multitúdinem miseratiónum tuárum, * dele iniquitátem meam.
3  Amplius lava me ab iniquitáte mea: * et a peccáto meo munda me.
4  Quóniam iniquitátem meam ego cognósco: * et peccátum meum contra me est semper.
5  Tibi soli peccávi, et malum coram te feci: * ut justificéris in sermónibus tuis, et vincas cum judicáris.
6  Ecce enim in iniquitátibus concéptus sum: * et in peccátis concépit me mater mea.
7  Ecce enim veritátem dilexísti: * incérta et occúlta sapiéntiæ tuæ manifestásti mihi.
8  Aspérges me hyssópo, et mundábor: * lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor.
9  Audítui meo dabis gáudium et lætítiam: * et exsultábunt ossa humiliáta.
10  Avérte fáciem tuam a peccátis meis: * et omnes iniquitátes meas dele.
11  Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: * et spíritum rectum ínnova in viscéribus meis.
12  Ne projícias me a fácie tua: * et spíritum sanctum tuum ne áuferas a me.
13  Redde mihi lætítiam salutáris tui: * et spíritu principáli confírma me.
14  Docébo iníquos vias tuas: * et ímpii ad te converténtur.
15  Líbera me de sanguínibus, Deus, Deus salútis meæ: * et exsultábit lingua mea justítiam tuam.
16  Dómine, lábia mea apéries: * et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
17  Quóniam si voluísses sacrifícium dedíssem útique: * holocáustis non delectáberis.
18  Sacrifícium Deo spíritus contribulátus: * cor contrítum, et humiliátum, Deus non despícies.
19  Benígne fac, Dómine, in bona voluntáte tua Sion: * ut ædificéntur muri Jerúsalem.
20  Tunc acceptábis sacrifícium justítiæ, oblatiónes, et holocáusta: * tunc impónent super altáre tuum vítulos.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. 
And according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my iniquity. 
Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 
For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. 
To you only have I sinned, and have done evil before you: that you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged. 
For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me. 
For behold you have loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of your wisdom you have made manifest to me. 
You shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: you shall wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. 
To my hearing you shall give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice. 
Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 
Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. 
Cast me not away from your face; and take not your holy spirit from me. 
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. 
I will teach the unjust your ways: and the wicked shall be converted to you. 
Deliver me from blood, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol your justice. 
O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise. 
For if you had desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings you will not be delighted. 
A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise. 
Deal favourably, O Lord, in your good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shall you accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon your altar.

The antiphons

At Lauds on Maundy Thursday it comes with the antiphon Justificeris, Domine, in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum iudicaris (You are justified Lord, in your words and just in your judgment).  It is sung below by the monks of Solesmes with a couple of verses of the psalm to give you a feel for the psalm tone, just in case you are practicing for Tenebrae...



On Good Friday the antiphon is, 'God has not spared even his own Son, but has delivered him for us all' (Proprio Filio); while on Holy Saturday it is 'O death, I will be your death; O hell, I will be your bite' (O mors).

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