Thursday, 23 February 2012

Our Lady, model for believers: Introduction to Psalm 118/2

Yesterday I provided some extracts from Pope Benedict XVI’s General Audience on Psalm 118 by way of introduction to the psalm, and I’d like to continue with that approach today, again picking out a few verses from the psalm that go one of its key themes, namely the path to happiness, and the way to get there, viz meditation.

The importance of meditation

Most people are used to reading this psalm sequentially in the Office, though they may also have heard verses extracted out from it in Mass propers.

But in reality its sapiential statements are only loosely connected together in the text, and aren’t really developed sequentially so pulling a few verses out of order in order to flag in advance some of the key ideas it keeps coming back to is a worthwhile exercize I think.

You can find an extended version of this post, putting the psalm in the context of Psalm 1, over at Psallam Domino blog.

Our Lady, model for believers

Pope Benedict’s comments on the psalm today focus first on the idea of meditation on God’s word, pondering it in our hearts, following the model of Our Lady:

“The Psalmist’s faithfulness stems from listening to the word, from pondering on it in his inmost self, meditating on it and cherishing it, just as did Mary, who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart”, the words that had been addressed to her and the marvellous events in which God revealed himself, asking her for the assent of her faith (cf. Lk 2:19, 51).

And if the first verses of our Psalm begin by proclaiming “blessed” those “who walk in the law of the Lord” (v. 1b), and “who keep his testimonies” (v. 2a). It is once again the Virgin Mary who brings to completion the perfect figure of the believer, described by the Psalmist. It is she, in fact, who is the true “blessed”, proclaimed such by Elizabeth because “she... believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). Moreover it was to her and to her faith that Jesus himself bore witness when he answered the woman who had cried: “Blessed is the womb that bore you”, with “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk 11:27-28). Of course, Mary is blessed because she carried the Saviour in her womb, but especially because she accepted God’s announcement and because she was an attentive and loving custodian of his Word.

Psalm 119 is thus woven around this Word of life and blessedness. If its central theme is the “word” and “Law” of the Lord, next to these terms in almost all the verses such synonyms recur as “precepts”, “statutes”, “commandments”, “ordinances”, “promises”, “judgement”; and then so many verbs relating to them such as observe, keep, understand, learn, love, meditate and live.”

Verses for the day

2 Blessed are they that search his testimonies: that seek him with their whole heart.
15 I will meditate on your commandments: and I will consider your ways.
16 I will think of your justifications: I will not forget your words.
34 Give me understanding, and I will search your law; and I will keep it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me into the path of your commandments; for this same I have desired.
66 Teachme goodness and discipline and knowledge; for I have believed your commandments
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths.
130 The declaration of your words gives light: and gives understanding to little ones.

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