Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

A Commentary On The Psalms From Primitive and Mediæval Writers Volumes 1 To 4 by Rev. J.M. Neale D.D.

Gregorian. Ferial. It becometh well * the just to be thankful. [Michaelmas Day: Glorious * hast thou appeared in the presence of GOD: therefore the LORD hath clothed thee with beauty. All Saints: O fear the LORD, ye that are His Saints, for they that fear Him lack nothing; the eyes of the LORD are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers. Common of Apostles: The righteous cry, * and the LORD heareth them. Common of Many Martyrs: They delivered up * their bodies unto death, that they should not serve idols: therefore they are crowned, and possess the palm.]

Monastic. Ferial. It becometh well * the just to be thankful.

Parisian. Come, ye children, * hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Ambrosian. As the preceding Psalm.

Mozarabic. (First Diapsalma.) O praise the LORD with me, and let us exalt His Name together.1

1 I will alway give thanks unto the LORD: (א) his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

Taking the clue which S. Augustine has given us, we shall find that our True David “changed His countenance” before “the Kingdom of His FATHER”* twice: at His Incarnation, once for ever; in the Holy Eucharist, again. Therefore in the Apostolic Constitutions this Psalm is ordered to be recited during the whole of the Communion. Cassiodorus tells us that it has so many mysteries, (C.) that we can hardly believe that it was not written during the Christian dispensation. Hence also it is recited at a time whichat first sight—would seem less applicable, (L.) namely, Good Friday. S. Theodore the Martyr,* when so scourged that the flesh hung down from his sides in strips, sang this verse. I will give thanks: but how? In many ways. By the earnest keeping His commandments. Hence, (Ay.) when the Psalmist says, “O praise the LORD, all ye His hosts,”* he forthwith continues, “that do His pleasure.” By patience under adversity: hence Job, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away: blessed be the Name of the LORD.”* Then, by believing Him: as it is written, “Then believed they His words, and sang praise unto Him.”* Then, by doing good to our neighbours: “Blessed be GOD, even the FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST.… that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.”* Alway give thanks. What? when we are asleep, (D. C.) or in recreation, or taking our food? Verily, yes; for it is written, “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of GOD.”* S. Basil tells us that the praise of GOD,* once rightly impressed as a seal on the mind, though it may not always be carried out into action, yet in real truth causes us perpetually to praise GOD. There cannot be a more beautiful practical commentary on the subject than the letter in which S. Jerome comforts S. Paula for the loss of her Blæsilla. Or, again,* if we take the Psalm to refer to the Holy Eucharist, this verse answers to the initial hymn, anthem, introit, ingressa, missa, or whatever else it may be called:—certainly, in every known ancient Liturgy,* praise is the commencement. Then the fifth verse tells us of our LORD’s Presence, invisible in one sense, visible in another, on the holy Altar. In the seventh we are told of the mystical communion there is, at the time of celebration more than in any other, between the holy Angels and ourselves: “the Angel of the LORD tarrieth round about them that fear Him.” Then the Communion itself, “O taste and see how gracious the LORD is!” And so I shall have occasion to point out the similarity between the structure of the Psalm and that of the Office, as I continue its exposition.

2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: (ב) the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

There is a most excellent sermon on this verse by Philip Greve,* Chancellor of the University of Paris, deserving of special mention. In the Vulgate it is, (L.) My soul shall be praised in the Lord, which, though only a rude way of representing the Hithpahel conjugation,1 is yet worked out into a very beautiful sense: I am then praised, when my LORD is praised: as every good thing I do by His grace redounds to Him, so, since He has vouchsafed to be incorporated with me, and to incorporate me with Himself, I have a right to partake in His glory; not the less a right, because given, S. Augustine is marvellously struck with the beauty of these two words, (A.) to be said in every time and place,* Deo gratias, as a true making our boast in the LORD. The humble, or as it were better, the afflicted. Here the Man of Sorrows speaks: He Who said, “I knew that Thou hearest Me always,”—how better could He make His boast in the LORD? And, as they see His confidence in the midst of such sufferings, all the train of His afflicted servants may well be glad. And thus it was that our LORD said, “I seek not Mine own glory;” and again, “If I honour Myself, (Ay.) My honour is nothing.” S. Gregory, therefore, teaches very well how we are herein to follow the example of our LORD: not to do any work for the sake of our own praise, as a final end, though we may for the fruit or effect of our own praise, as the glory of GOD, or the salvation of souls.* The humble you may, if you will, take of the Apostles,—exulting, as they must have done, when they saw their dear LORD making His boast in the FATHER, (Ay.) in His ineffable union with Him, the Oneness of their wills, in the intercommunication of their power. S. Bernard says, “It is good consolation, when, trying to do well,* we are blasphemed by sinners, if the righteous love us. Against the mouth of them that speak lies, the good opinion of the good, and the testimony of our conscience is amply sufficient.” “My soul shall be praised in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof,* and be glad.2 Let me please the humble, and I can bear with equanimity whatever the envy of the evil may object against me.” My soul shall be praised in the Lord: as it is written, “The glory of a man is from the honour of his father:”* much more, then, from the honour of our FATHER Which is in heaven.

3 O praise the LORD with me: and let us magnify (ג) his Name together.

Here with one accord, and most naturally, they dwell on the public worship of GOD. This verse, indeed, is the parent of all ritual. Hear S. Augustine: “If ye love GOD, (A.) hurry away to the service of GOD all who are united to you, or are in your house. If ye love the Body of CHRIST, that is, the Unity of the Church, hurry them away to that delight. Excite in yourselves love, my brethren, and cry to each one of those that belong to you, and say, O praise the Lord with me.”1 We must bear in mind, however, that this verse is not rightfully to be separated from the next: and then we have the ever-blessed Trinity clearly enough set forth to us. O praise the Lord—the FATHER—with me: and let us magnify His Name together. And what Name, as I have so often said, save the Name that is above every name? “I sought the LORD, and He heard me:” that LORD, Who has promised to give the clean heart, and to renew the right spirit, whenever invoked in Holy Baptism. O magnify with me: as it is written in the Apocalypse, “Let him that heareth say, (L.) Come.” And so, in the framing of the earthly tabernacle, “the curtains shall be coupled one to another:”* “and they shall make fifty taches,”—namely for the couplings—“of gold:” for what joins one Christian to another—save the gold of charity? V. Bede will have us lay great emphasis on that* together: as showing the unity that ought to subsist between all our LORD’s members. And hence it was, says he, that His own bones were not broken on the Cross: to show that neither are His people, who are His Flesh and His Bones, to be severed from each other by any assault or violence of the enemy. And hence we learn this great truth, that without union there can be no true praise.

4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me: yea, he (ד) delivered me out of all my fear.

We may take it in two ways. In the first place, of our Blessed LORD Himself in His Sacramental Presence:* I sought Him, and He heard. Most indubitably, most perpetually. The words are pronounced which He pronounced; the actions are performed which He performed; and the gracious promise is fulfilled—“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”* And how delivered me out of all my fear? Thus. He encourages us to draw nigh, yes, and to feed upon Him, by manifesting Himself, not, as in the glory of His corruptible Body, He did to the three Apostles on Mount Tabor—not, as in the glory of His incorruptible Body, He did to the four soldiers in the garden of S. Joseph; but under the form of Bread and Wine, without terror, without fear, without devouring and overwhelming Majesty. Or we may take the LORD here, as I said just now, of the Ever-Blessed Spirit, so as to see the Consubstantial Trinity set forth to us, in these two verses. And then again, in the other great sacrament, He heard me: let Priest, parent, bystander, every one be servants of Satan, still the promise of GOD stands sure—still GOD is true, though every man be a liar: the HOLY GHOST heard and came down into the heart. I sought the Lord. But how? “I sought Him,” (D. C.) says the Carthusian, “faithfully contemplating, ardently loving, well living, and affectionately praying.” And notice: he saith not, “I sought from the LORD,” (Ay.) but I sought the Lord: to teach us, that GOD Himself, in and by Himself, is to be the end of all our desires. Remember the beautiful legend about S. Thomas, (A.) when he had finished that part of the* Summa Theologiæ which regards the Person of our SAVIOUR: the miraculous voice, “Bene scripsisti de Me, Thoma; quid ergo habebis?” “Domine, nil postulo præter teipsum.* Some of the heathen philosophers knew as much as this by theory: O marvellous “feeling after Him,” and almost “finding Him!” And, if the words are by us put into our dear LORD’s mouth, then, He delivered Me out of all My fear,1 is a parallel clause with the Apostle’s “was heard in that He feared.”*

5 They had an eye unto him, and were lightened: (ה) and their faces were not ashamed.

The Vulgate has, as the more natural sense of the Hebrew is, “Draw ye nigh unto Him, and be ye illuminated.” And in the first place, we naturally think of Baptism: the “illumination” of the early Church. And here let me deviate from the immediate literal force of the text, to make a remark which will augment its spirit. Every one must see that the verse, “Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and CHRIST shall give thee light,”* may be referred to Baptism. But few comparatively may have noticed, that the quotation is part of a Baptismal Hymn:

Διὸ λέγει• ἔγειραι ὁ καθεύδων,

καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν•

[καὶ] ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός.

This would be nearly certain in itself, but when we observe the Anacreontic march of these lines  , and then find that the Baptismal Hymn of the Gregorian Antiphonary was actually, in the Antiphonary of S. Gregory,* in that metre, the truth is clenched. No commentary on our text can be better than this beautiful little hymn:

Audite voces hymni, Et vos, qui estis digni,

In hac beatâ nocte Descendite ad fontes.

Currite sicut cervi Ad fontes vivos Verbi:

Bibite aquam vivam: Habetis plenam vitam.

Donatur vobis signum Ad Salvatorem dignum;

Qui pependit in ligno Tradidit nos baptismum.

Gaudete baptizati, A CHRISTO coronati:

Albam habetis vestem, Chrismâ peruncti estis.

Candidati estis: Chrismâ peruncti estis:

Hyssopo emundati, Ad vivos fontes renati.

Mundate corda vestra, Ut crescat fides vestra:

In ipsum permanete Semper; Deum timete.

Ex Egypto venerunt, Qui mare transierunt;

Virtues cognoverunt, Et laudes cantaverunt.

Gloria tibi, CHRISTE, Qui regis hanc benigne;

Miserere nobis, Qui passus es pro nobis.

In this sense also are the words of Isaiah to be understood: “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.”* S. Augustine beautifully takes these words in another sense: (A.) that illumination which is conferred by the Holy Eucharist, and which he compares to the illumination of Jonathan’s eyes, by the honey which he took with his stick from the wilderness:* the honey, the Holy Mysteries; the rod, the Cross. Draw nigh unto Him. Well says the Doctor of Grace, in another passage, “If then by drawing nigh ye are illuminated,* and by departing ye are darkened, the light was not in you, but in your GOD. Draw ye nigh, that ye may rise: if ye shall depart, ye shall die. If, then, by drawing near, ye live, and by going away, ye die, your life was not in you; for He is your life, Who is given by CHRIST:” “for with Thee is the Well of Life, and in Thy Light shall we see Light.”* Again: they observe on three effects of the Blessed Eucharist: (Ay.) Faith; (here,) Draw nigh: Hope, (v. 8,) Taste; Love, (v. 9,) Fear. And take care, Hugh of S. Victor says, how ye* draw nigh. Peter drew nigh: true:—but so did Judas; so did the Chief Priests: so did Pilate; so did the Jews to crucify Him. Thou, therefore, O Priest, beware how thou approachest the Altar, that thou drawest not near to that Body and that Blood to thine own damnation,* but to thy blessed1 and everlasting enlightenment. And your faces shall not be ashamed: not like him who drew to the wedding feast, not having on the wedding garment: and who inherited the shame and everlasting contempt of, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?”* Draw nigh. Up to this time, says Cassiodorus, (C.) he has been constituting his choir, forming his procession;—now comes the actual approachnow comes the reality of that to which all before has been but preparation. Draw nigh. But how can we draw nigh that we may be enlightened by that light which no man can approach unto? Even, while in this life, as Moses, to whom it was promised, “Thou shalt see My back parts, but My face shall not be seen.”* S. Laurence Justiniani has a beautiful reference to the Epiphany, (Cd.) when the Wise Men did indeed draw nigh, and were of a truth enlightened by that star which when, after a temporary loss, they saw again, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy: he says:—“The Grace which makes us gracious is that glorious morning star,* which preceding every one of the elect, leads his heart to GOD. For without any manner of doubt, the human heart has been overthrown: is no longer in possession of its own rights; never loveth wisdom, is never faithful to GOD. But by the light the rational mind is made wise, is taught concerning heavenly things, is imbued with faith: things without which the pilgrim can never reach JESUS.”

22 The LORD delivereth the souls of his servants: and all they that put their trust in him shall not be destitute.

(I have here taken the liberty of inserting the Vau verse: which, from whatever cause, is now read at the end of the Psalm.)

Delivereth. Or, as it is in the Vulgate, shall redeem. It is most marvellous to see, through the whole of the Psalter, how, when any phrase seems more immediately to refer to the Passion, the commentators pour out their heart’s love in exalting the glory of that Passion. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. They cannot pass it by. They lose sight of context, analogy, sequence; they forget everything but Calvary. O happy writers, who now have entered into the fruit of that Cross to which, in the time of your pilgrimage, you clung so closely! GOD grant—and you, dear reader, must pray for it too—that he who is now endeavouring, feebly and afar off, to follow in their steps, to see the impress of the Passion, to set up the standard of the Cross everywhere, may one day be counted worthy to enter into the Land where the LORD of the Passion is the King of the Redeemed! And here they proceed to discuss the old question, whether CHRIST died for all; (Ay.) and are ready with their answer,—Yes; so far as sufficiency: No; (Cd.) so far as efficiency. Shall not be destitute. They look on to the hour of death and see in it a prediction of a blessed euthanasy. A grace that GOD seems more especially to give where He will and how He will; but yet, as a general rule, rather bestowed on those who have surrendered their will habitually and perfectly to their LORD.

6 Lo, the poor crieth, and the LORD heareth him: (ז) yea, and saveth him out of all his troubles.

The poor,—made poor for us—crieth. But how? He cries by the sweet words of His midnight prayers, (L.) He cries by the Almighty supplication of His Blood on Calvary, “FATHER, forgive them!” “LORD,* lay not this sin to their charge!” And He is heard for this very reason, namely, because He is poor; because He emptied Himself of all that He had. And in this sense also that prophecy is fulfilled, and because He was poor in His life, therefore He made His grave with the rich in His death: for how is he not rich, who has all the desires of his heart granted him?* Poor! yes, indeed. His mother was so poor, that she was compelled to bring Him to the temple with the alternative offering of a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons: He had not where to lay His head; forsaken by His Apostles He hung naked on the Cross: He chose poor disciples, and as He came into the world in a dwelling,—so when He went out of it, He was laid in a sepulchre,—that was not His own. S. Jerome, citing this very place,* calls Him the Prince of the Poor. The Poor. “For ye know the grace of our LORD JESUS CHRIST that, though He were rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.” Well says S. Ambrose: O happy poverty, which, if it hath no treasure of money,* yet hath treasures of wisdom and knowledge! Despise not, my sons, poverty as ignominious; The poor cried, and the Lord heard him. Envy not riches, as something of great value: (C.) “The rich have tasted and suffered hunger.” This1 poor. That is, not any poor: many a Lazarus in this world, has never entered into Abraham’s bosom in the next; but he that has the true poverty of self-denial, he that really and verily follows, as a poor subject, the poor King. And hence they naturally take occasion to dwell on the advantages and privileges of religious poverty. This poor. And remember what He further was, and what He did. “There was found in the little city”* of the world “a Poor Wise Man, and He by His wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.”

7 The angel of the LORD tarrieth round about them that fear him: (ח) and delivereth them.

Custodes hominum psallimus Angelos;*

Humano generi quos Pater addidit

Cœlestis comites, insidiantibus

Ne succumberet hostibus.

This is the first time that, in the Psalter, we read of the ministrations of Angels. But many Fathers rather take this passage of the “Angel of the Great Counsel:” and gloriously to Him it applies. In that case, the promise applies to the same Angel: He tarrieth round about them that fear Him. We shall have occasion hereafter, when we shall have S. Bernard’s assistance, in Psalm 91, to speak at length of these blessed spirits, and the work they perform for us. If one especial and created Angel is here to be understood, then Michael is named by all; and Pantaleon, the martyr,* quotes this verse in particular of him. It is with difficulty that I can restrain myself from entering on so lovely a subject at length now; but I will defer till it shall please GOD to bring us all that distance,—which at present looks so formidable,—on in our course. Here therefore I will only observe,* that S. Jerome beautifully refers to the present verse in explaining that prophecy of Zechariah: “I will encamp about Mine house because of the enemy,* because of him that passeth by, and of him that returneth.”2

8 O taste, and see, how gracious the LORD is: (ט) blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

We cannot but take it, in the first place, of the blessed Eucharist: and the Vulgate, that the Lord is sweet, will help us better to understand that signification. Let me quote the words of Vieyra:* “Taste, and see how sweet is the Lord. He saith not, Taste, and see how sweet is the Bread,—but—the LORD: for the LORD is the Bread, that is there eaten. And forthwith he exclaims, Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him. In this exclamation, and in its consequence, we may observe, If David invites us to eat the LORD’s Flesh in the Sacrament, and in it to taste the sweetness of that Flesh, it would seem that he ought to continue,—Blessed is the man that eateth Him; not, trusteth in Him. Why doth he not then? Because the Prophet desired not only to reveal the mystery, but to declare the motive. In the first clause, O taste, he revealed the mystery, which is the Sacrament: in the second, he declared the motive, which is Hope. And with reason did he so exclaim, as if he were even more astonished at the motive than at the mystery. For what can be more admirable than this; that GOD, making Himself an universal blessedness for the reward and satisfaction of all other virtues, should, as regards Hope, make Himself an especial and particular blessedness. For all other virtues, a blessedness in heaven; for Hope, a blessedness on earth; for all other, a blessedness which consists in GOD seen; for Hope, a blessedness which consists in GOD received.”* Pseudo-Dionysius speaks with equal verity of “that ravishing feast, full of all delights.” S. Basil says: “Since our LORD then is the True Bread, and His Flesh is Meat indeed,* it is needful that the joy of receiving that bread should be conceived in us by spiritual taste. For as the nature of many may be spoken and written about for ever, while yet the sweetness is not so understood as it would be by our tastes, so neither can the sweetness of the celestial Word be made manifest by words of human learning, unless, by our own experience, we understand what is the delight of that banquet.” Well says the Gloss: “Attend to the LORD’s words;* ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ Draw nigh therefore to the Way, see the Truth, taste the Life.”

[It is no marvel that this verse, so plainly foretelling the Holy Eucharist, should have caused the whole Psalm in which it occurs to be used in the Altar Service of the early Church.* The Clementine Liturgy directs it to be sung during the communion of the people,* and the use was known at Jerusalem in the days of S. Cyril.]

9 O fear the LORD, (י) ye that are his saints: for they that fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions do lack and suffer hunger: (כ) but they who seek the LORD shall want no manner of thing that is good.

We heard of the sweetness: (L.) we must not forget the fear. The lions do lack is, in the Vulgate, the rich have stood in need: but ours is manifestly the correct translation. And now we may conceive that dear LORD, the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, making proclamation from the pulpit of His Cross,* There is no lack. “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with Mine own hand.” “Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” No lack of love, when Calvary was the very throne of love: no lack of wisdom, when the Cross was the spot where the mystery, hid from ages and generations, was now at length explained: no lack of might, when here the strong man was bound and spoiled by the stronger. Shall want no manner of thing that is good. Not like that which was said to Dives:* “Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things;” but such good as comes from the source of all goodness and beauty; such good as is derived from Him Who is the Chief Good. And no manner.* Whether it come in a fair or in an unpleasing shape; whether as prosperity or adversity; whether as the gentle dews from heaven or the pruning of the careful gardener; neither the one nor the other shall be kept back from him. “He That spared not His own SON, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”* But they who seek the Lord. How principally but in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar? And what good things can they look for there, (Ay.) which they shall not abundantly receive? “For when we seek the LORD, what is there which we do not find? One is He that is sought: (C.) but in that One all things are contained. O marvellous grace! O singular compendium of blessedness! Why should we fatigue ourselves in divers inquiries? Let us rather with one accord hasten to Him, Whom when we have gained, we seek not further for any, because we now already possess all good things.”

11 Come, ye children, (ל) and hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

S. Hilary remarks that,* whenever the fear of GOD is mentioned in Scripture, it is not spoken of barely, and there an end; but much either precedes, or follows, its mention, of the steps by which it is to be gained, of its excellence, or of its cause. So it is here. David only proposes his subject in this verse: he proceeds to dilate on it in those which follow. Here we must, say the commentators,* rather understand by the fear of the LORD, that initial fear which is the stepping-stone to filial love, than that especial grace called by the same name,* one of the seven gifts of the HOLY GHOST, and which Isaiah foretold as about to rest on our LORD. Come, ye children,1 and hearken unto me, says David here: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not,” said the Son of David at another time. The Master of Sentences dwells, from this verse,* on the four kinds of fear: mundane, servile, initial, filial. Mundane, when we fear to commit sin, simply lest we should lose some worldly advantage, or incur some worldly inconvenience. Servile, when we fear to commit sin, simply because of hell torments due to it. Initial, when we fear to commit it, lest we should lose the happiness of heaven. Filial, when we fear, only and entirely because we dread to offend that GOD Whom we love with all our hearts. I will teach. Whence notice; that this fear is not a thing to be learnt all at once; it needs careful study and a good master.* S. Chrysostom compares the Psalmist’s school here with the resort of heathen students to the academy:* and S. Ephraem, referring to this passage, calls the fear of GOD itself the school of the mind. “As if He proclaimed,” says S. Laurence Justiniani, “I will teach you not the courses of the stars, not the nature of things, not the secrets of the heavens; but the fear of the Lord. The knowledge of such matters, without fear, puffs up: but the fear of the Lord, without any such knowledge, can save.” “Here,” says Cassiodorus, “is not fear to be feared, but to be loved. Human fear is full of bitterness: Divine fear, (C.) of sweetness: the one drives to slavery; the other allures to liberty; the one dreads the prison of Gehenna, the other opens the kingdom of heaven.” They notice that, up to this verse, we have been, as it were, led through the different steps of the Blessed Eucharist; now the Catechumens are, as it were, addressed. S. Augustine, (A.) preaching no doubt to a congregation which contained many such, fails not to dwell on this. We read of old time that “Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.” Even so do Thou, Whose Name is love, be the Fear of Thy people; that which they fear with all their heart; that,* beside which they fear nothing.

12 What man is he that lusteth to live: (מ) and would fain see good days?

A sermon on this text is extant among those of S. Chrysostom, (L.) though apparently written by a Latin writer, an imitator of S. Augustine. He represents mankind as interrogated, and unanimously replying in the affirmative to the question contained in this verse; but immediately, as soon as the way in which these good days are to be obtained is made known to them, drawing back from it. To live: and there is but one kind of life that is worthy of that name. The life which we live, says S. Bernard, is rather death than life,—a deadly life;* and from the very moment in which we begin to lead it, we do nothing but approach death, and begin to die: there only is true life, where life is lifelike and vital. Good days. Shall we hear a description of these good days, from one who, by the rough road of martyrdom has long since entered into them? “The saints shall exult in glory; they shall see GOD and shall be glad: they shall rejoice, shall be satiate with glory,* shall be replenished with eternal felicity. There they shall not taste by broken fragments how sweet is GOD, but shall be imbued, and fulfilled, and satiate, with that wondrous deliciousness: nothing lacking, nothing attacking: all their desire, CHRIST, present among them, shall fulfil. They shall never grow old, they shall never pine away, they shall never grow sick: perpetual satiety, happy eternity, shall confirm the sufficiency of their beatitude. No concupiscence shall then be in their members; no carnal rebellion shall ever, ever more arise: but the whole condition of redeemed man shall be chaste and pacific: nature shall be made whole in its very essence, and thenceforth shall remain so, without any spot or wrinkle. Lastly, GOD shall be all in all; and His presence shall satisfy all the appetites of soul and body: and for the future, the ministrating operations of angelic virtues towards us shall die: and the city of GOD, filled with inhabitants, governed by its perfect statutes, shall never again be changed from the fixed state of consummate blessedness.” Good days. Moses never saw them; Paul never saw them; our LORD Himself, according to the flesh, never saw them; never,* in the land of the dying: it was necessary that they should wait, till they could enter on the Land of the Living. Or, as Augustine neatly expresses it, “It is folly and madness for us to seek good days here, when the LORD and Creator of days had none such.”

13 Keep thy tongue from evil: (נ) and thy lips, that they speak no guile.

14 Eschew evil, and do good: (ס) seek peace, and ensue it.

Oh how they all dwell—those masters of the spiritual life, (L.) on the well keeping of the tongue as the first step to Paradise! From Pambo in the desert, who, asking advice of the aged monk what were the chief duties of an ascetic, and the old man beginning, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue,” replied, “That is enough, let me go home and practise it”—to the teachers of this day, all dwell on S. James’s exhortation, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”* But none has written more strikingly, more eloquently, more attractively, than Drexelius in his little book with that quaint title, Orbis Phaeton. Read that work, study its deep engravings—and, so far as knowledge goes, O Priest, thou wilt be well qualified to preach on one of the most important subjects which can ever occupy thy pulpit.1 “Man,” exclaims S. Augustine,* “can tame the wild beast: can he not tame the wild tongue? subdues the lion, but subdues not the course of talk; himself tames, but tames not himself; tames that which he fears, and not that which he ought to fear, so as to tame himself.” Where shall we look then for the remedy against this evil,—where for a lesson in this hard kind of wisdom, save to the pulpit of the Cross, compared with the silence at the Pavement? The spotless Lamb in the one taught us that there is a time to keep silence: in the other, He made it no less manifest that there is a time to speak.* That tongue indeed was not only kept, in its last earthly accents on the Cross, from the very mention of evil, but how did it scatter blessings everywhere around it!* Eschew evil and do good. The old command, so constantly repeated in different words; “Cease to do evil, learn to do well.” “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” The child’s lesson “to renounce the devil and all his works,” first: then “to keep GOD’s holy will and commandments and walk in the same all the days of my life.” Seek peace and ensue it: or, (Cd.) as the Syriac version has it, run after it. Well says an ancient writer, “He saith not, If peace follow thee, receive it: but, even if it flies from thee, follow it. For example: if (which is possible, for thou art a man) thou shouldest have quarrelled with any, if he first invites thee to peace,* then peace follows thee: with joy receive it. But if he, being evil, persevere in evil, then peace is hidden from thine eyes; but do thou, as a son of peace, knock at the door of peace—and this is to seek peace. Say not, He was the first to do the wrong, and ought to be the first to make the apology; thou art more glorious, if, though injured, thou ensuest peace, than if thou endeavourest after vengeance. Seek therefore peace, that thou mayest find the reward of peace.” Those who have been tracing, in the former part of the Psalm, the details of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, see here the frequent mention of peace, whether in the Episcopal Pax vobis, the giving the kiss of peace, (L.) or the Dona nobis pacem. And they quote very well two passages from Propertius, which might have been written by a Christian poet:—

Pacis amor Deus est: pacem veneremur amantes:*

Pax juvat: et mediâ pace repertus amor.

And again:

Si Deus est et Amor, pacem meditatur, amatque

Quæ bona sunt,—cur hunc non celebrabo Deum?

He is our Peace. And in that sense, too, seek peace, and ensue it. So He is typified by Solomon, the Pacific King, but more especially in the Canticles. S. Jerome sums up the whole of these verses very well: “Unless we hate evil, we cannot love good; nay, rather, we must do good,* that we may decline from evil: we must seek peace, that we may flee war; nor is it sufficient to seek it, unless when we have found it and it flies from us, we follow that up with all care, which passeth all understanding: that in which the habitation of GOD is set, as the Prophet writes: ‘His place is made in peace.’ And it is well said, ensue peace, according to that of the Apostle, ‘ensuing hospitality;’ that not with any commonplace and every-day language, with any lip-words, we invite guests; but retain them with all the ardour of our minds, as offering themselves for our gain and profit.”

15 The eyes of the LORD are over the righteous: (ע) and his ears are open unto their prayers.

16 The countenance of the LORD is against them that do evil: (פ) to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

These two verses exactly respond to the preceding couplet. The present verses tell why we should do that which the former command.* The eyes of the Lord. For it is better, says S. Ambrose, to have an approving glance than a laudatory word. But in the highest sense, those blessed eyes, so heavily then pressed by the Crown of Thorns, and dimmed with the blood thence pouring down over the mystical vestments of the true Aaron, were over all the generations from the Day of Pentecost till the Day of Judgment: watching all their struggles, sympathising with all their defeats, rejoicing in all their victories: marking and acknowledging each little work done for Him; and looking past the light afflictions for the moment,* to that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Here, as so often, when the wicked are spoken of, the great Commentators of the Church are almost silent.

17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth them: (צ) and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

And this verse, no doubt, is one reason why the Psalm in which it occurs is appropriated to the Commemoration of Martyrs. Delivered out of all their troubles they are, not in the earthly sense of liberation; but, as the ancient poem says,

By one short hour of death and pain,

Life everlasting they obtain.

And this is, oh how far! the truer deliverance: as Peter, (A.) crucified on the Janiculan Hill, obtained a more glorious liberty than he found when, having passed through the streets, the Angel left him. And it is truly said, Out of all their troubles: when not from bodily pain only—not from sin and its temptations only—not from fatigue of body or soul only, but from all of these together, all at once, the intended cruelty of the persecutors frees them for ever. The righteous cry and the Lord heareth: but why? Because once the Righteous cried and the LORD did not hear: when the time of our Captain was come, that He should be delivered into the hands of wicked men: when the threefold prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane,* though heard indeed in the spirit, was refused according to the letter. And therefore hence, O true servant of GOD! thy prayers must be heard, thy supplications must be accepted. He was forsaken and disregarded from Calvary, that to them the ears of GOD might ever be open, the answer of GOD might always be ready. From all His troubles!

For Thee all pangs they bare:*

Fury and mortal hate;

The cruel scourge to tear;

The hook to lacerate.

But vain their foes’ intent;

For, every torment spent,

Their valiant spirit stood unbent.

They cry to Him,” says the Eastern Church,* “for strength—and from Him that was wounded to the Death, and weak with mortal weakness, on the Cross, they obtain might. They cry to Him for Wisdom—and from Him that condescended to the ignorance of childhood they receive counsel that cannot fail. They cry unto Him for riches—and from Him that had not where to lay His Head, that was born in the poor Inn-Manger, and buried in a given grave, they receive the pearl of great price. They cry to Him for joy—and from the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief they receive the pleasures that are on His Right Hand for evermore.”

18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart: (ק) and will save such as be of an humble spirit.

Oh glorious promise of the Incarnation,* to them that sat in darkness and in the shades of death! After all the miseries and clouds of the four thousand years, the LORD drew nigh—nigh, to heal a world sick to death—nigh, to give hope to the hopeless—nigh, to rise, the Sun of Righteousness, on the night of error! And not then only, but now, now to every repenting sinner, He is nigh, Who came, not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance: He Who, while He tabernacled in the flesh, was so ready with His “Neither do I condemn thee.” And notice the repetition of these words, (A.) heart, and spirit: as if on them the whole virtue of the promise depended. Not a contrite exterior: “they disfigure their faces,* that they may appear unto men to fast”—not troubled lips: “Many shall say in that day, LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in Thy Name,* and in Thy Name cast out devils?” But sorrow of the heart, not of the mouth; humility of the spirit, not of the expressions. As it is written, “The soul which is greatly vexed, which goeth stooping and feeble, and the eyes that fail,* and the hungry soul will give Thee praise and righteousness, O LORD.” Cassiodorus says, (C.) “The custom of men and GOD’s work are different in this matter. For he who desires to get nearer to those who are higher than himself stands on tiptoe: he stretcheth himself out if he would reach a lofty building. But the LORD Most High cannot be reached save by those who are bowed down by humility, nor can we attain to His sweet joys, save by bitter tears.”

19 Great are the troubles of the righteous: (ר) but the LORD delivereth him out of all.

Even the Jews see in this a prophecy of the Messiah; and how shall we not, then, O blessed JESUS,* apply the verse altogether to Thee? to Thee, so prefigured in it, as that Thy Saints may only follow afar off, filling up that which is behindhand of Thy affliction in the Flesh for Thy Body’s sake, which is the Church?

Caput JESU, cor, mens, manus,*

Vulnus, livor, sanguis planus,

Pedes, corpus, vigor sanus

Parantur hominibus:

Hæc torquentem passa dura

His læsura et natura

Reparantur piâ curâ

Purgatis criminibus.

Many are the troubles. “Each Limb of Thy Holy Flesh,” exclaims the Eastern Church,* “endured ignominy for our sakes, Thy Head, the Thorns; Thy Face, the Spittings; Thy Cheek, the Buffets; Thy Mouth, the Gall mingled with Vinegar for Thy Taste; Thine Ears, the blasphemies of the Wicked; Thy Back, the Scourges; Thy Hand, the Reed: Thy whole Body was stretched on the Cross; Thy Hands and Feet endured the Nails, and Thy Side the Spear; Thou That didst suffer for us, and by Thy Sufferings didst set us free.” Many are the troubles. And in that He bare them as Man, worship His longsuffering as GOD.

Admirabilior quia mundum morte redemit,*

(Sic placuit) quam quod condidit a nihilo.

Credere namque Deo facile est quæcumque volenti,—

Credere difficile est sed voluisse mori.

Hoc voluit tamen, ingenti percussus amore:

Et postquam voluit, quis potuisse neget?

Dat cœlum, et perfert fanda atque nefanda.—Quid ergo?

Flecte genu; mentem surrige: Numen Homo est.

Aspice luctantem cum Morte Hominemque Deumque:

At vincit moriens: et tibi Victor ovat.

And, if we turn from the Head to the Members, the proper commentary on this verse would be such a work as that of Gallonius, De Martyrum Cruciatibus: where are set forth the racks, the scorpions, the plumbatæ, the crosses, the furnaces, the wild horses, the stocks, the bent trees, the furious beasts, the wasps, the precipices, the scaphœ,* whereby CHRIST’S constant Martyrs were tried. But the Lord delivereth him out of all. No better explanation of these words than those with which that writer concludes his task: “These, then, O unconquered soldiers of GOD, O gallant Chieftains of CHRIST, these are the glorious trophies of your victory, the most manifest proof of your faith and your gratitude. Death, O ye noble warriors of GOD, which ye so ardently desired, hath ever for you the eternal and happy life. Blessed are ye indeed: delivered of a verity out of all your troubles! And do all not say so, when, as your earthly sufferings were increased, so ye, beholding with your mortal eyes the heavenly reward, spake thus to the LORD in your hearts without any motion of your lips: Here, O most merciful GOD, let our bodily sufferings be increased, if only hereafter our peace and our rest may be augmented!” Or, if you prefer the ancient hymn:

Dum sic torti cedunt morti Carnis per interitum,*

Ut electi sunt adepti Beatorum præmium.

Per contemptum mundanorum Et per bella fortia,

Meruerunt Augelorum Victores consortia.

But if so with them. what of their Head?* How was He delivered out of all His troubles when the cloud received Him out of the sight of the Apostles, when the everlasting gates were commanded to lift up their Heads, that the King of Glory might come in? How was He delivered from all His miseries when this Royal Pilgrim, having returned from the far country that He had redeemed, sat down at the Right Hand of the FATHER, “from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool?”

20 He keepeth all his bones: (ש) so that not one of them is broken.

Marvellous prophecy of this true Paschal Lamb! As it is written under the old law: “neither shall ye break a bone thereof.”*

Quapropter grex carnificum*

Os tibi non confregit:

Longinus sed deificum

Tuum latus impegit.

It is remarkable, however, how slight is the allusion made to this, the literal sense, in the commentators. They rather dwell on the marvellous care with which GOD watches the bones of His Saints: so that,* though their framework be taken to pieces for a while, they are not really broken—not really injured, but guarded safely till the voice of the Archangel shall reunite them. So, again,* they understood the words of those valiant men, those heroes of the Church, whom GOD raises up from age to age to do His mighty works, and who may well be called its bones. Or, better still, S. Gregory understands it of those valiant acts themselves: that let Satan oppose them as he will,* let all the powers of hell draw out their array against a single deed of GOD’S chosen warriors, they shall not be able to gainsay or to prevent it: whence S. Bernard may well encourage every Christian man to fight his battles with courage, to run his race with ardour, since not one of the bones, or the noble actions which he contemplates, shall fail of its purpose. Again, the same S. Gregory, in another place,* takes the bones of the Church to be its ecclesiastics, and thus the promise comes to the same thing as those most glorious words uttered to the Disciples: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”* S. Albert well connects this promise with the afflictions of the righteous which have just been spoken of; because thus they suffer,* therefore their bones, that is their faith and hope, and the actions springing from these, shall not be broken or decay. And so it is written: “Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”*

21 But misfortune shall slay the ungodly: (ת) and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate—The death of sinners is most evil. Hear S. Peter Damiani:

All come round him! Cogitation,* Habit, thought, and word are there:

All, though much and long he struggle, Hover round him in the air.

Turn he this way, turn he that way, On his inmost soul they glare.

Conscience’ self the culprit tortures, Gnawing him with pangs unknown:

For that now amendment’s season Is for ever past and gone,

And that late repentance findeth Pardon none for all her moan.

Hear Dionysius the Carthusian:

Conscience bearing attestation

To her own prevarication,*

Can in final condemnation

Nought but even justice find.

Then such forms of wrath address her,

And with pains so sore distress her,

That the soul—such griefs oppress her—

Maddens into fury blind.

By the blessed reprobated,

And to hopeless sorrow fated,

Ruined, blighted, desolated,

Down she sinks for ever lost.

Fire and frosty tempest roaring,

Dark and sulphury vapour soaring,

Damned souls their fate deploring,

And the gulf that is not crossed.

They that hate the Righteous. Take it in its highest sense, and then think of the deaths of Spinosa, of Robespierre, of Voltaire, whose motto of Ecrasez l’i ***** my pen shrinks from writing, of Julian, casting his blood into the air, and exclaiming with his dying voice, THOU HAST CONQUERED, O GALILEAN! and then say, with all the heart and soul,

A pœnis inferi Libera nos, Domine!

And now:

Glory be to the FATHER, the LORD in Whom we make our boast; and to the SON, the Angel That tarrieth round about them that fear Him: and to the HOLY GHOST, Who is near unto them that are of a contrite heart;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com