Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Psalm 118 (119) qof: Keeping vigil

Pope John Paul II gave two General Audiences on this stanza of Psalm 118 in his series on the psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours (it is used at Lauds on Saturday of Week I), so today some extracts from his catechesis.

The first of his talks (November 2001) focuses on the ideal of keeping vigil that the psalm alludes to:

“In fact the scene at the centre of this set of 8 verses is nocturnal, but open to the new day. After a long night of waiting and of prayerful vigil in the Temple, when the dawn appears on the horizon and the liturgy begins, the believer is certain that the Lord will hear the one who spent the night in prayer, hoping and meditating on the divine Word. Fortified by this awareness and facing the day that unfolds before him, he will no longer fear dangers. He knows that he will not be overcome by his persecutors who besiege him with treachery (cf. v. 150) because the Lord is with him. The strophe expresses an intense prayer: "I call with all my heart, Lord; answer me.... I rise before the dawn and cry for help; I hope in your word ..." (vv.145.147). In the Book of Lamentations, we read this invitation: "Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands toward him" (Lam 2,19). St Ambrose repeated: "O man, know you not that every day you should offer God the first fruits of your heart and voice? Make haste at dawn to carry to the Church the first fruits of your devotion" (Exp. in ps. CXVIII; PL 15, 1476 A). At the same time our strophe is also the exaltation of a certainty: we are not alone because God listens and intervenes. The one who prays, says: "Lord, you are near" (v. 151). The other psalms confirm it: "Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies!" (Ps 68,19); "The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit" (Ps 33,19)”

The second (January 2003) starts by looking at the stanza as an example of prayer as a dialogue:

“The stanza we have just heard is a strophe marked by the Hebrew letter qôf, that portrays the person at prayer who expresses his intense life of faith and prayer to God (cf. vv. 145-152). The invocation of the Lord is relentless because it is a continuing response to the permanent teaching of the Word of God. On the one hand, in fact, the verbs used in prayer are multiplied: "I cry to you", "I call upon you", "I cry for help", "hear my voice". On the other hand, the Psalmist exalts the word of the Lord that proposes decrees, teachings, the word, promises, judgment, the law, the precepts and testimonies of God. Together they form a constellation that is like the polar star of the Psalmist's faith and confidence. Prayer is revealed as a dialogue that begins when it is night before the first gleam of dawn (cf. v. 147), and continues through the day, particularly in the difficult trials of life. In fact, at times the horizon is dark and stormy: "In betrayal my persecutors turn on me, they are far from your law" (v. 150). But the person praying has a steadfast certainty: the closeness of God, with his word and his grace: "But you, O Lord, are close" (v. 151). God does not abandon the just in the hands of persecutors.”


145 Clamávi in toto corde meo, exáudi me, Dómine: * justificatiónes tuas requíram.
I cried with my whole heart, hear me, O Lord: I will seek your justifications.

146 Clamávi ad te, salvum me fac: * ut custódiam mandáta tua.
I cried unto you, save me: that I may keep your commandments.

147 Prævéni in maturitáte, et clamávi: * quia in verba tua supersperávi.
I prevented the dawning of the day, and cried: because in your words I very much hoped.

148 Prævenérunt óculi mei ad te dilúculo: * ut meditárer elóquia tua.
My eyes to you have prevented the morning: that I might meditate on your words.

149 Vocem meam audi secúndum misericórdiam tuam, Dómine: * et secúndum judícium tuum vivífica me.
Hear my voice, O Lord, according to your mercy: and quicken me according to your judgment.

150 Appropinquavérunt persequéntes me iniquitáti: * a lege autem tua longe facti sunt.
They that persecute me have drawn near to iniquity; but they have gone far off from your law.

151 Prope es tu, Dómine: * et omnes viæ tuæ véritas.
You are near, O Lord: and all your ways are truth.

152 Inítio cognóvi de testimóniis tuis: * quia in ætérnum fundásti ea.
I have known from the beginning concerning your testimonies: that you have founded them for ever.

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