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

Gregorian. Monastic.

              }

              Septuagesima. Heal my soul, * O LORD, for I have sinned against Thee.

 

Parisian. When I am in my health * Thou upholdest me, and shalt set me before Thy face for ever.

Ambrosian. Haste Thee to help me, * O LORD GOD of my salvation. Kyr. Kyr. Kyr.

Mozarabic. But Thou, O LORD, * have mercy upon me: raise Thou me up again, and I shall reward them.

1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy: the LORD shall deliver him in the time of trouble.

We may take it in either sense: Blessed is he that, as the plague-struck Israelite the brazen serpent,—as the warrior fighting against Ai the outstretched spear of Joshua,—as the thirsting wanderer in the wilderness the rod of Moses, uplifted to smite the rock,—considereth the poor and needy: Him that was so poor in His lifetime as not to have where to lay His head; Him that was so needy in His death, (D. C.) as that they parted His garments between them,* and for His vesture they did cast lots. For who would not thus consider Him, the Fountain of all consolation, the Source of all strength; Him, from Whom to turn away the eye is as surely to perish, as they that were bitten by the fiery flying serpents, and would not fix their gaze on the brazen serpent, left their carcases in the wilderness. (A.) Or—and it is the higher and nobler sense—the GOD blessed for evermore is here more blessed. (B.) Blessed is He That, (Z.) amidst the songs of the angels, from the beatitude of His own eternity, considereth the poor and needy,—namely, us, of whom it is written, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, … and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”* Blessed is He That so considered them, as to leave the Throne of the FATHER, and to come into a world that was to despise and reject Him; according to the hymn:

Egressus ejus a Patre:*

Regressus ejus ad Patrem:

Excursus usque ad inferos;

Recursus in thronum Dei.

And compare this with the 1st Psalm, that commences with the benediction, “Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.” See there,* His holiness; here, His compassion. He, the eternally rich, had mercy on us, the poor; He, the all-sufficient in all things, undertook the salvation of us, the needy in everything. But then, how shall that be fulfilled, (Cd.) The Lord shall deliver Him in the time of trouble? “O, My FATHER, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!” But it was not possible; and how then can it be said, The LORD shall deliver Him? For this reason: He and His are one. For Himself, He was not delivered; in His people He was. Nay, (Ay.) rather, as the great Carmelite says, “To this very end He was not delivered in Himself, that He might be in His people.” He asked life of Thee, “Let this cup pass,” and Thou gavest Him a long life,—the eternity of His Church. He asked deliverance, and the cup had to be swallowed; but He was delivered in His martyrs from them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; in His confessors, from a flesh that lusted against the Spirit, into that happiness where—

Freed from every stain of evil,*

All their carnal wars are done;

For the flesh made spiritual

And the soul agree in one:

in His virgins, from the lures and pleasures of this world, into that blessing.* where more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife. And in them He will be delivered till the end of all things; till that most glorious and perfect jubilee, which shall introduce the sometime captives of sin and prisoners of Satan into that Jerusalem which is free, (D. C.) which is the mother of us all. And notice that in the Vulgate it is, Blessed is he that understandeth the poor and needy. And there we are brought at once to the length and breadth and depth and height of the love of CHRIST, which passeth knowledge. For this is the true understanding that Poor and Needy, which we must do if we would be transformed, as the Apostle says, into the likeness of His sufferings. And furthermore, observe how true that is, that they who have most entirely devoted themselves to the contemplation of the LORD’S Passion, have been most completely delivered in the evil day; how they, like S. Bonaventura, S. Bernard, Luiz de Granada, Gretser, and others, who wrote most lovingly, and studied most deeply, the LORD’S death, were themselves most notably blessed with the grace of euthanasy. This has passed almost into a proverb.

2 The LORD preserve him, and keep him alive, that he may be blessed upon earth: and deliver not thou him into the will of his enemies.

3 The LORD comfort him, when he lieth sick upon his bed: make thou all his bed in his sickness.

They see a sixfold blessing in these promises to him who “considers” the LORD’S Passion. 1. Eternal life,* which is indeed being delivered from all trouble. 2. Preserving grace; The Lord preserve him. 3. Quickening grace: and keep him alive. 4. Consummating grace: that he may be blessed. 5. Deliverance from temptation: deliver not him into the will of his enemies. 6. Deliverance from temptations of the flesh: The Lord comfort him when he lieth sick upon his bed. But much meeter is that interpretation which sees a distinct promise for each work of temporal mercy:

Visit; give meat; give drink; redeem the slave; (L.)

Clothe; house the stranger; lay the dead in grave.

He is preserved, who clothes; he is kept alive,* who gives food; he is not delivered into the hands of his enemies, who redeems; he is blessed, who visits; he is comforted, who takes in the stranger; he has the sick bed made, who makes the last bed of death. Or, if we take the blessing as pronounced on our LORD, He had the seven works of mercy exercised on Him.

He had food given Him:

              “There they made Him a great feast.” (P.)

 

He had drink given Him:

              The woman of Samaria.

 

Visited when sick

              This they explain by the unction of His feet, when He was weary and distressed.

 

Redeemed

              Gamaliel undertaking the defence of the Apostles before the Council.

 

Clothed

              In the grave-clothes, by Nicodemus.

 

Housed

              A certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.

 

Buried

              In Joseph of Arimathea’s new tomb.

 

Deliver not Thou him into the will of his enemies. Hesychius quaintly says,* that the soul, anointed with the oil of mercy, slips from and eludes, like a practised athlete, the hands of those that could wrestle with it. Make Thou all his bed in his sickness. They point to the bed of agony of S. Laurence, (P.) which yet was so marvellously made, that he uttered no word of complaint; and to Tabitha, whom GOD’S Apostle raised, not from the bed of sickness, but from the bed of death. The Chaldee has it, That God may appear to him on his bed of sickness. May appear to him first by the influx of the Paraclete in the sufferer’s heart; and afterwards,* as his eyes close to this world, by opening them to the more true and more glorious visions of the next. Again, they explain it of the paralytic: and that very beautifully. He indeed “understood the Poor and Needy,” acknowledging His power as GOD Who took upon Him the form of man; and therefore his bed was made for him in his sickness: “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk.”* I very much prefer these interpretations to that (it seems to me) unnecessarily harsh explanation of S. Jerome and S. Augustine,* which would turn a most sweet promise of relief into a prophecy of affliction. The Lord,* they explain it, shall turn over, that is, make uneasy, all his bed in his sickness: that is, shall not allow those things to which he looks for rest really to be any comfort; and this to the end that he may more earnestly desire the better rest of Paradise. Certainly, the words of the LXX. and Vulgate are capable of that sense: ὅλην τὴν κοίτην αὐτοῦ ἔστρεψας ἐν τῇ ἀῤῥωστίᾳ αὐτοῦ, universum stratum ejus versasti in infirmitate ejus. But how1 much more loving is the other sense! and how prettily expressed by Apollinarius

δέμνια οἱ μετέθηκεν, ἔλυσε δε κήδεα νούσων.

Nor does Duport turn it badly:

πᾶν δʼ οἱ πορσυνέεις λέχος, ἤν μιν νοῦσος ἔχῃσιν

In referring, (G.) as is natural, to the case of Hezekiah, and the promise, “I will add unto thy days fifteen years,”* the great German commentator sees in it a promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come: 15 = 8 + 7: in the number seven we have the seven days of this worldly life; in the number eight we have the octave of eternal blessedness. (Cd.) Corderius very prettily turns the text into an encouragement to Sisters of Charity to persevere in their holy work, in which they are so manifestly fellow-workers with GOD. S. Albert says,* in words not very easily translated: “In hoc lecto doloris gemunt sancti. ‘Infelix ego homo, quis me liberabit de corpore mortis hujus?’ … Quod si quæris, Undo hæc miseria? Causam reddit: Omne stratum ejus, sensibilem et vegetabilem carnem, O Domine, versasti ipsam rationem supponendo, et ipsam quodammodo subjiciendo, in infirmitate ejus, quando homo primo est infirmatus.”

4 I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.

Here our true Judah declares how He took upon Himself to be surety for us, (C.) His poor little Benjamin. “I will be surety for him; of My hand shalt Thou require him. If I bring him not unto Thee, and set him before Thee, then let Me bear the blame for ever!”* This has formed the versicle and response at Tierce at least from the time of S. Gregory; because, (L.) as S. Thomas says,* it is only through faith in the Blessed Trinity that sins can be remitted. Heal my soul. Observe that it is said without any restriction, as is even the case in the chapter which goes along with this versicle at Tierce, “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved.”* That is, “Cost it what it may—be the cure as painful to flesh and blood as it will—yet heal me, yet save me!” They quote the old physician Avicenna, who says that,* to preserve good health in a city, it is necessary that the windows and doors should face towards the east. And so, (Ay.) if the city of our heart is to be healed,—if it is to be healthy,—we must keep all its outlets open to the Man Whose “Name is the East.”* As it is written, “O Jerusalem, look about thee to the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from GOD.”* And again: “Open the window eastward, and shoot.”* I said, Lord be merciful. Mercy, not justice! The extreme of mercy,* for the extreme of misery. Righteousness as filthy rags,—a flesh in which dwelleth no good thing,—on the one side; on the other, it is “neither herb nor mollifying plaster that restored”* to health; “but Thy WORD, O LORD, which healeth all things.” “O quam affectuosa,” cries out the holy Carthusian, “et sententiosa ac efficax est oratio hujus versiculi, (D. C.) quam utinam dicamus non ore tantum sed interno corde et penitentia humili!” It is a wretched translation of Symmachus, Heal my soul, albeit I have sinned against Thee: running counter to the whole system of pleading which is the glory of David—penitence. “Be merciful unto my sin,* for it is great.” And so constantly is that the basis of supplication; never such glory for GOD’S forgiveness, because never such an abyss of man’s sins; deep calling unto deep.2 Heal my soul. Yet once again, see in this the petition of our LORD, speaking as bowed down with the sins of the whole world. And well says S. Augustine: “If He were lanced, (A.) Who rottenness had none,—if He, our very Medicine, despised not the medicinal fire,—ought we impatiently to bear the Physician burning and cutting; that is, by every tribulation exercising us, and from sin healing us? Wholly let us commit ourselves to the Physician’s Hand, for He errs not, to cut the sound for the gangrened; He knoweth whereon He looketh; He knoweth what is vicious, because Himself made our nature; what Himself created, what by our lust hath been added, He discerneth.”

5 Mine enemies speak evil of me: when shall he die, and his name perish?

For if the Just Man be the SON of GOD, He will help Him, and deliver Him from the hands of His enemies. Let us examine Him with despitefulness and tortures, that we may know His meekness and prove His patience. Let us condemn Him with a shameful death, (L.) for by His Own saying He shall be respected.”* So said that Court, in which Caiaphas, speaking not of himself, prophesied it expedient that One Man should die for the people. When shall He die, and His Name perish? Notice the twofold attack. He die, on the Cross. His Name perish, in the Church. And they thought that the latter question had once been answered, and the medal of Diocletian, which boasted of Christianitas devicta,* still remains, as if to bear witness to the prayer, “So let all Thine enemies perish, O LORD!” This verse, no doubt, is one reason why this Psalm has been appropriated for the dead. When shall He die? And the answer is, (G.) Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall I shall also rise; when I lay me down to my last long sleep, it will not last for ever: the name which thou desirest to perish, if it be but written in the Book of Life, all thy malice, all thy rage, all thy enmity, cannot destroy it. Well says S. Ambrose,* “Mine enemies speak evil of me. Fools, who thought that the Author of Life could die! The Church laughs them to scorn, believing that, though, according to the predetermination of GOD, He submitted for a while to the law of death, that very death would but increase His fame and glory; and therefore she turns to Him and saith, ‘I will remember Thy Name from one generation to another.’ And again: ‘Thy Name is as ointment poured forth.’ ” And so the German commentator, (G.) not less beautifully, “Wherefore they hung Me, the Righteous, between two thieves, that together with My life they might also end My remembrance. But it fell out to the contrary. For, as a grain cast into the earth perisheth not, but, if cast into good ground, produceth a large increase; so also My Name, after My death, increased into a harvest of believers in Me.… Yet the devil still continueth to stir up a persecution against the Church, that, even so, My Name may perish in that. But the bones of martyrs, committed to the ground, will bud and blossom, so that the faith, strengthened and nourished by their fertility, may bring forth the finer bloom and the riper fruit.”

6 And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: and his heart conceiveth falsehood within himself, and when he cometh forth he telleth it.

And thus it was when that great enemy came to see Him, an hungred in the wilderness, and said, “Command that these stones be made bread;” for truly his heart conceived falsehood within himself, when he thought so to tempt by his three great snares for man Him Who alone was without sin; and when he cometh forth he telleth it, for he put into the hearts of his servants the Pharisees to “speak evil” of Him when they said, “Behold a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber, the friend of publicans and sinners.”

S. Ambrose takes the verse more especially of Judas. He did come to see the LORD: he did speak vainly,* if not by the words, at least by the kiss of the lips; and when he had gone forth before, he told that which the most familiar and loving converse of his Master had taught him. For it is a very ancient tradition that the LORD was accustomed to salute His disciples when they returned from their different missions with a kiss; whence it was simple and natural, so to speak, of the traitor, so far as the Apostles were concerned, to say, “Hail, Master!” when he gave that kiss. The same S. Ambrose, dwelling on the contrast of David within, and the multitude to whom David’s secret enemies went forth without, reminds us of Zachariah in the temple,* the Jews waiting outside: Moses and Elias in the cloud with our LORD; the unbelieving scribes and elders at the bottom of the mountain without; he tells us of Cain, who said to his brother, “Let us go out into the field;”1 of Dinah, who went forth to see the daughters of the land; and so he exhorts us to act up to that commandment of GOD, “Come, My people, enter thou into thy closet, shut thy doors upon thee, hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment, until the calamity be overpast;”* and so he warns us to be at home in the depth of our own hearts; to be at home with none but JESUS for our companion: to be at home as the poor and faint shadow and foretaste of that eternal dwelling which only and truly and everlastingly is Home.

7 All mine enemies whisper together against me: even against me do they imagine this evil.

8 Let the sentence of guiltiness proceed against him: and now that he lieth, let him rise up no more.

First let us take the Vulgate as it stands, so far as the last verse is concerned: They devised an evil word against Me: what, shall he that sleepeth not add again that he shall rise? And next, consider the literal sense, because it leads on to the mystical. David, an exile because of Absalom, receiving news every moment of fresh defections from his cause: as Ahithophel, as Shimei, as the whole band of those that afterwards would have been called Sadducees, the half infidel multitude to whom He so often refers, e.g., “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no GOD;” and then again those, like Sheba, the son of Bichri, and Nebat, the father of Jeroboam, who desired to bring about the separation of the ten tribes from the house of David. And so in the hour of His deepest earthly humiliation, those that had, after a certain sort, followed our LORD while He was working His miracles, and going about doing good, fell off and joined themselves to His adversaries. Otherwise of the multitudes whom the Evangelists testify to have believed in Him after all His great miracles: “Many believed in Him there;” “The whole world is gone after Him:” “If we let Him alone, all men will believe on Him;” how could the numbers have so dwindled down, that when He manifested Himself on the mountain of Galilee, there should have been but five hundred of His followers, and many of them doubting; that after His Ascension the number of names together should have been but a hundred and twenty. Then one may well say, What, shall he that is asleep not add again to arise? And, so explaining the passage, many see in it the reason given by our LORD, why, just before, He said, They devised an unjust word against Me,* the unjust word being, “That Deceiver said:” “So the last error shall be worse than the first;” and the proof of its injustice being the fact of the Resurrection.

9 Yea, even mine own familiar friend, whom I trusted: who did also eat of my bread, hath laid great wait for me.

The man of my peace,* as the Vulgate more literally and beautifully gives it. And Judas was indeed the man of His peace, Who on the same night of His betrayal said, “Peace I leave you, My peace give I unto you.”* And remember, that this is no accommodation or mystical reference: it is the explanation given by our LORD Himself, and that in the strongest possible way, with a “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Whom I trusted. Trusted with the gift of the keys; trusted with power over devils,* and to cure all manner of diseases: trusted, (A.) in a more especial manner, in that he alone dipped with Me in the dish: trusted, to the end My people, in all ages, might learn to despair of none, however far gone in sin: and trusted, finally, when grace was quite quenched, with that awful commission, by which the salvation of man was assured,—THAT THOU DOEST, DO QUICKLY!—Warning, as it were, against this, the Prophet had written long before: “Take ye heed every one of his neighbour; and trust ye not in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.”* Who did also eat of My bread. And this very expression might be enough in itself to settle the disputed question, whether Judas did or did not receive our LORD’S Body and Blood. The exhortation of the English Church manifestly assumes it; perhaps the general sense of the Primitive and Mediæval Church, though with many exceptions, (L.) is for it. It is a formidable list which they give of the authorities which take such a view: Pseudo Dionysius,1 Origen, S. Chrysostom, Ven. Bede, S. Cyprian, S. Leo, S. Bernard, S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Cyril of Alexandria, Hugh of S. Victor, Euthymius Zigabenus, S. Hrabanus Maurus. To these we may add the public offices of both East and West. In the West:

Cibum turbæ duodenæ

Se dat suis manibus.

And again:

Turbæ fratrum duodenæ

Datum non ambigitur.

The Eastern still more plainly:

νόμου φιλίας ὁ δυσώνυμος Ἰσκαριώτης γνώμῃ ἐπιλαθόμενος, οὓς ἐνίψατο ηὐτρέπισε πρὸς προδοσίαν πόδας• καὶ σοῦ ἐσθιῶν ἄρτον, Σῶμα θεῖον, ἐπῇρε πτερνισμὸν ἐπὶ σὲ, Χριστὲ, καὶ βοᾷν οὐ συνῆκε• Τὸν Κύριον ὑμνεῖτε τὰ ἔργα, καὶ ὑπερυψοῦτε εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας!*

I cannot help giving, as the best commentary on this part of the Psalm, the Stichoi of Great Thursday with their Stichera;—and I purposely do so in Greek, rather than in a translation, in order to tempt my brethren to study those glorious hymns for themselves, by—where I can—snowing them the beauty of Eastern hymnology.

Idiomelon.* Σήμερον τὸ κατὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ πονηρὸν συνήχθη συνέδριον, καὶ κατʼ αὐτοῦ κενὰ ἐβουλεύσατο, παραδοῦναι Πιλάτῳ εἰς θάνατον τὸν ἀνεύθυνον•.2 Σήμερον τὴν τῶν χρημάτων ἀγχόνην Ἰούδας ἑαυτῷ περιτίθησι, καὶ στερεῖται κατʼ ἄμφω, ζωῆς προσκαίρου, καὶ θείας. Σήμερον Καϊάφας ἄκων προφητεύει• συμφέρει, λέγων, ὑπὲρ τοῦ λαοῦ ἕνα ἀπολέσθαι• ἦλθε γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν τοῦ παθεῖν, Ἱνα ἡμᾶς ἐλευθερώση̣ ἐκ τῆς δουλείας τοῦ Ἐχθροῦ, ὡς ἀγαθὸς καὶ φιλάνθρωπος.

Stichos. Ὁ ἐσθίων ἄρτους μου, ἐμεγάλυνεν ἐπʼ ἐμὲ τὸν πτερνισμόν.

Idiomelon. Σήμερον δ Ἰούδας τὸ τῆς φιλοπτωχείας κρύπτει προσωπεῖον, καὶ τῆς πλεονεξίας ἀνακαλύπτει τὴν μορφήν• οὐκέτι τῶν πενήτων φροντίζει• οὐκέτι τὸ μύρον πιπράσκει τὸ τῆς ἁμαρτωλοῦ• ἀλλὰ τὸ οὐράνιον μύρον, καὶ ἐξ αὐτοῦ νοσφίζεται τὰ ἀργύρια. Τρέχει πρὸς Ἰουδαίους, λέγει τοῖς παρανόμοις• Τί μοι θέλετε δοῦναι, κἀγὼ ὑμῖν παραδώσω αὐτόν; Ὤ φιλαργυρίας προδότου! εὔωνον ποιεῖται τὴν πρᾶσιν• πρὸς τὴν γνώμην τῶν ἀγοραζόντων τοῦ πωλουένου τὴν πραγματείαν ποιεῖται• οὐκ ἀκριβολογεῖται πρὸς τὴν τιμὴν, ἀλλʼ ὡς δοῦλον φυγάδα ἀπεμπωλεῖ• ἔθος γὰρ τοῖς κλεπτουσι ῥίπτειν τὰ τίμια• νῦν ἔβαλε τὰ ἅγια τοῖς κυαὶν ὁ μαθήτης• ἡ γὰρ λύσσα τῆς φιλαργυρίας κατὰ τοῦ ἰδίου Δεσπότου μαίνεσθαι ἐποίησεν αὐτόν• ἧς τὴν πεῖραν φύγωμεν, κράζοντες• Μακρόθυμε Κύριε, δόξα σοι.

Stichos1. Ἐξεπιρεύετο ἔξω καὶ ἐλάλει ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό.

Idiomelon. Ὁ τρόπος σου δολιότητος γέμει, παράνομε Ἰούδα• νοσῶν γὰρ φιλαργυρίαν, ἐκέρδησας μισανθρωπίαν• εἰ γὰρ πλοῦτον ἠγάπας, τί τῷ περὶ πτωχείας διδάκοντι ἐφοίτας; εἰ δὲ καὶ ἐφίλεις, ἵνα τί ἐπωλεῖς τὸν ἀτίμητον, προδιδοὺς εἰς μιαιφονίαν; Φρίξον, ἥλιε• στέναζον, ἡ γῆ, καὶ κλονουμένη βόησον• Ἀνεξίκακε Κύριε, δόξα σοι.

Stichos. Λόγον παράνομον κατέθεντο κατʼ ἐμοῦ.

However, there are not wanting those,* who denying that Judas did eat of our LORD’S Body, see in the Bread here merely a metaphor of having been a listener to the words of CHRIST; as do some of those even who agree in the usual belief. Lorinus rather understands, by the eating of the bread, the dipping of the morsel in the dish; which, by the general consent of the Fathers, (Ay.) was not the Holy Eucharist. So again the great Carmelite expositor. But yet I must think that the more beautiful explanation, which understands My Bread, of the Blessed Eucharist: My Bread most truly, as not only Mine, but Myself.

Verbum Caro panem verum

Verbo carnem efficit.

Others see in the man of my peace a plain reference to Absalom,* whose name is,* by interpretation, the peace of the father. And there is yet another sense in which it is very beautifully taken; namely, as the complaint of the new nature against the old Adam: in fact as a mystical amnesty in the struggle which S. Paul describes in Romans 7. The flesh is the one familiar friend of the spirit; the friend in whom it trusted too much, and great wait indeed does the one lay against the other. “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” One remark yet remains to be made with reference to the Vulgate close of the verse: hath magnified his supplantation against me. Other sins may indeed to a certain extent be the betrayal of CHRIST: but the profanation of the Blessed Eucharist in a most emphatic and most enormous degree; this indeed is not to betray only, (Cd.) but to magnify our betrayal.

10 But be thou merciful unto me, O LORD: raise thou me up again, and I shall reward them.

Hitherto,” says the great Carmelite, (Ay.) “the Psalm hath spoken of the Passion of CHRIST, it now goes on to tell of His Resurrection. And this Psalm is divided into four clauses. In the first, He prayeth that He may be raised: raise Thou Me up again. Next, He expresseth His certain assurance of being heard: ‘By this I know.’ Thirdly, He showeth that He hath been heard: ‘Mine enemy doth not triumph.’ And finally, from all that has gone before, He resteth to praise: ‘Blessed be the LORD GOD of Israel.’ ” Raise Thou Me up. Here is an example of a prayer offered for that which we have a promise of, whether we pray or not,* like “Thy kingdom come.” But yet it was a belief of some of the Fathers, and of more mediæval writers, that whereas, when the prophecy was made, how the Son of Man should be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, it was intended to be taken in its fullest and most natural sense, according to which our dear LORD could not have risen till three in the afternoon of the Monday, yet, in the mercy of the FATHER, and in compliance with the prayer of the SON, the time was shortened, as much as it could be, while the words of prediction remained sure.1 And I shall reward them. How? How, (A.) but by giving them a crown of gold for a Crown of Thorns; by bestowing on them the manna of His quickening Body for the gall which they presented to Him that He might eat; by refreshing them with the River of Water of Life instead of the vinegar that they held to His dying lips: by writing their names in the Book of Life,* whereas His was only written by them as the title of His accusation on the Cross. How, but by fulfilling His own prayer, “FATHER, forgive them?” when the preaching of the Rock of the Church brought in three, (Z.) and then five thousand to the True Rock. And notice how in this our LORD speaks both as GOD and as Man: raise Thou Me up;* so He prays as Man: and I shall reward them; so He promises as GOD. This verse is one of the causes why the present Psalm forms a part of the Office for the Dead. Raise Thou Me up again,* exclaims the corpse from which the spirit has gone forth, that we are now about to sow in dishonour, in weakness, in corruption; and I shall reward them: I shall have my revenge over those enemies who, during my sojourn upon earth, sought to make me the instrument of pollution and hindrance to the soul, by becoming in turn its great assistance, its everlasting helpmeet, in the unceasing service of GOD.

11 By this I know thou favourest me: that mine enemy doth not triumph against me.

12 And when I am in my health, thou upholdest me: and shalt set me before thy face for ever.

In the literal sense, probably, the meaning is, that the success given to the stratagem of Hushai, and the period thus put to the immediate hopes of Absalom, were sufficient to show the ultimate success of the enterprise; for no Saint ever seems so thoroughly, (Ay.) as David, to have trusted for the future because he had been blessed for the past: “Because Thou hast been my help, therefore under the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.”* And thou, too, poor trembling Christian, ready to give up all for lost, because thou art not always successful, ready to say, “I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the Land of the Living,”* because He sometimes seems to shut His eyes from thee,—what are the triumphs of the enemy over thee? Are they more frequent than in times past? When he obtains for a while the victory, dost thou arm more quickly from the defeat? When thou hast truly fallen, art thou more grieved for the sin? Then say it with confidence, say it with truth, say it whatever may appear on the other side: By this I know Thou favourest me: that mine enemy doth not triumph against me.

And when I am in my health. As the hymn says:

O how glorious and resplendent,

Fragile body, shalt thou be,

When endued with so much beauty,

Full of health, and strong, and free,

Full of vigour, full of pleasure,

That shall last eternally!

And where is it we can only truly say, when I am in my health, but in that city, whose inhabitant, as Isaiah speaks, “shall no more say, I am sick?” Thou upholdest me. Upholdest me that I can never more fall into sin which first brought pain and sickness into the world: upholdest me, or otherwise how should I ever support the glorious Beatific vision which is promised in the next clause, and shalt set me before Thy face for ever? Or we may take it of that dear LORD, Who after His death, rose again to life, never more to suffer pain or weariness, as when He “being weary with His journey sat upon the well, or slept through the storm on the Lake of Gennesaret, when His disciples took Him even as He was into the ship, but now in the same Body has ascended into heaven; Thou upholdest Me, and shalt set Me before Thy face for ever: when the FATHER said unto Him, “Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool;”* and “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”* But then also we may take this, if in a lower, (Cd.) still in a comforting sense. When I am in my health. Why my health? Because He speaks of the health, vigour, actual keeping of GOD’S commandments, into which every Christian is put by Baptism: MY health, because Thou gavest it to me; but still even so, even then, taking it at its best, when I am in MY health; it is not by my own power, I have no strength to hold, firm my position, much less to advance on in it; When I am in my health, THOU UPHOLDEST ME. It teaches us the same thing as that other Psalm, “Blessed be the LORD my strength.… Who subdueth my people that is under me.”* And again they take it in a nobler sense. When I am in my health; that is,* when I shall have overcome all Mine enemies, when I shall have passed through all My tribulation, when the crooked shall have been made straight, and the rough places plain, then Thou upholdest Me: that is, Thou hearest My petition. “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always.”* And therefore here we have a prophecy, and an invaluable prediction it is, of the everlasting Priesthood of CHRIST. And the Vulgate answers such a meaning still more strikingly. (L.) But Me hast Thou upheld because of Mine enemies.* And what can we add, O innocent, O gentle, O immaculate Lamb of GOD, to this, save the dying speech of the poor thief? “We indeed justly.” I have no other plea, save Thy spotlessness, and mine own guilt. But Thou wast heard because, of Thine innocence, (D. C.) and as for me, Thou wilt hear me because of my guilt: “pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” Shalt set Me before Thy face. And they tell us the blessing of such a presentation before GOD; how it enlightens our understanding, (Ay.) how it purifies our will, how it humbles and keeps us humble before Him, in Whose sight not even the heavens are pure.

13 Blessed be the LORD GOD of Israel: world without end. Amen.

Here we end the first book of the Psalms. Of this division I shall have to speak at length in the First Dissertation of this volume. And here, too, in this Psalm we have for the first time the word Amen: the word which from that time to this has been the seal of so many prayers, (Ay.) long since heard, long since fulfilled, and the many occasions of which have long since been forgotten in that land where mortality is swallowed up of life. As Gerhohus says, (G.) Who can add to such a plain and simple ascription of praise which comes in as the closing harmony after all the discord of a Psalm so equally divided between triumph and depression?

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who raiseth up the SON again that He may reward His enemies; and to the SON, Who considereth the poor and needy: and to the HOLY GHOST, Who upholdeth us when we are in our health;

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








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