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. My heart * is inditing a good matter.

Ambrosian. Thy seat, O GOD * is for ever and ever. K. K. K.

Little Office of B. V. M. Hail, full of grace * the LORD is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Christmas Day. Full of grace are Thy lips, * because GOD hath blessed Thee for ever.

Common of Apostles. Thou shalt make them princes over all lands; they shall remember Thy Name, O LORD.

Common of Virgins. According to Thy worship * and renown ride on.

1a (1) My heart is inditing of a good matter: I speak of the things that I have made unto the king.

Auster veni, perfla mentem,

Et accende torpescentem

Aquilonis frigore!

Surge tepor Aquilonis,

Novo rore, novis donis

Fœcundato pectore!

So he may well pray, who takes in hand this most marvellous, most mysterious, most burning of all Psalms to interpret.

My heart is inditing. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum. Here, more clearly than ever yet, we have the ineffable Name of the Logos bestowed by the FATHER on the Only-Begotten SON. O insuperable clause,* proof sword of the Church against all heresies on the Incarnation! So Tertullian hews down Marcion and Praxeas: so S. Cyril of Alexandria,* his Arian opponent; so S. Ambrose: so again and again and again S. Athanasius1 fought and conquered. Hence that great saint shows the Worda to be Only-Begotten; hence Nazianzen demonstrates Himb to be Consubstantial; hence Augustine and Jerome speak at length on the Only FATHER of the Only SON. That the saying is from the FATHER is the teaching of by far the larger part of Ecclesiastical doctors; (C.) yet there are not wanting those who assign it to David.c It is almost impossible to enter into the very strict explanations of the Eructation of the good word, without falling into coarseness that modern taste will not endure. “Confert ruetus externi generatio, quæ necessitate quâdam fit, ad intelligendum quomodo generatio divina sit omnino necessaria et naturalis, (L.) et ex fœcunditate divinitatis: et quasi ex plenitudine intra ventrem Patris absque projectione, divisione, sectione, diminutione, aut aliâ quâpiam ejusmodi ratione, cujusmodi cernitur in aliorum viventium generationibus.” A good Word indeed: That same Word That spake and it was done; That commanded, and it stood fast: That Word That was in the beginning, and was with GOD, and was GOD: That Word which was preached by the Angel Gabriel in the cottage at Nazareth, and has from that time to this been proclaimed to every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. I speak of the things I have made unto the King, (G.)—or, as the Vulgate,—I tell my works to the King. And so the FATHER tells all the secrets of His own eternity to that King anointed by Him upon the holy hill of Sion;* told Him the plan of human redemption; laid out before Him the mystery of death destroyed by death, and the Tree atoned for by the Tree. And do thou in another sense,* O Christian,* tell thy works also to the King; thy works of sin and misery to the King That suffered for them on the Cross; thy works of weakness, to the King Omnipotent; thy works that have any sweet savour of His grace in them to the King That will unite them with His Own Royal Merits, and plead these merits for thine.

My heart hath produced a good Word. And therefore:* Βηθλεὲμ ἑτοιμάζου• εὐτρεπιζέσθω ἡ φάτνη• τὸ σπήλαιον δεχέσθω. Ἡ Ἀλήθεια ἦλθεν• ἡ σκιὰ παρέδραμε• καὶ Θεὸς ἀνθρώποις ἐκ Παρθένου πεφανέρωται, μορφωθεὶς τὸ καθʼ ἡμᾶς, καὶ θεώσας τὸ πρόσλημμα. Διὸ Ἀδὰμ ἀνανεοῦται σὺν τῇ Εὔᾳ, κράζοντες• ἐπὶ γῆς εὐδοκία ἐπεφάνη, σῶσαι τὸ γένος ἡμῶν.

1b (2) My tongue is the pen: of a ready writer.

And still they refer it to the Divinity of the SON of GOD.* In itself a word may sound and pass; but this good WORD is lasting1 as the sentence graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever. It is the FATHER, then, Who continues; it is the SON Who is the Tongue by Whom the FATHER speaks to the world,—the enduring Voice, one jot or tittle of which can never pass away. And this is the more ordinary explanation of primitive commentators; and the ready writing of this Divine Pen,* they say,* pierced three thousand to the heart in one sermon of S. Peter’s; in one moment converted Saul the Persecutor into S. Paul the Apostle; writes its laws on the fleshly tables of innumerable hearts,* daily and hourly,* from East to West,* and from pole to pole. But others will have it that David now speaks; he the pen held by GOD, he the ready writer, to chronicle the glories of the heavenly nuptials to which we are invited to draw near. And S. Augustinea that, just as the tongue, when it speaks, must pass between the two lips, so the prophetic tongue speaks under the guidance of the Two Testaments. They are rich in their references to these two portions of Holy Scripture. The twob points of a pen,* that form any one letter,—that verse, “The LORD spake once, and these two things we have heard,”—the didrachm found for tribute money in the mouth of the fish,—the two pence given by the good Samaritan to the host,*—the rod and the staff of which David tells,—the ladder of Jacob, with its two uprights, and many rundles,—the tongs of Isaiah,* which between them held the burning coal of the HOLY GHOST. And again, in the double split of the pen,* they see the Divine and Human Natures of our LORD: the ink is the Blood of Calvary; the pen, expressing the meaning of the holder,* sets forth Him Who is the Express Image of the FATHER’S Person, and renders Him visible to human eyes. Or,* if we take the words as said by David of himself, most fully do they stand forth, as the true theory of inspiration, in these days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy. The human author merely the pen; GOD the writer. A faultless pen,* too, as Albertus says, writing so quickly, so clearly, without blots, without erasures. Yes: let who will talk of the human element in the composition of Scripture, not so did those holy men of GOD, who spake as they were moved by the HOLY GHOST, teach of themselves.

2 (3) Thou art fairer than the children of men: full of grace are thy lips, because GOD hath blessed thee for ever.

Salve Jesu, Candor Lucis,

Thronum tenens summi ducis!

Qui es passus pœnas crucis,

Nobis sis propitius!

Salve Jesu, Fons amoris!

Qui es totus, intus, foris,

Plenus maximi dulcoris

Et superni luminis.

Yes: in spite of the whole phalanx of Eastern Doctors, take this verse of that dear LORD’S external beauty as Man. If with one voice, and basing their opinion on Isaiah’s “He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him,” S. Cyril of Alexandria,a S. Athanasius,b S. Basil, Hesychius, Euthymius, S. Gregoryc Nazianzen, followed by Remigius and Arnobius, deny that the Incarnate WORD possessed human beauty, let us rather follow the more pious opinion of all the great teachers of the West, that of this Son of David also is that saying true, “in all Israel there was none so much to be praised for His beauty: from the sole of His Feet even to the crown of His Head there was no blemish in Him.”* It is the general tradition of the Church; it is the almost1 universal representation of the schools of Christian art. S. Bernard,d in many and many a passage of ravishing beauty, tells us of the exquisite glory of our LORD’S Humanity. S. Anselm expressly blames a vision of S. Bridgete for denying it. S. Isidoref breaks forth with a rapture of admiration at the earthly glory of the Incarnate WORD: and S. Thomas seems almost to claim such a belief as partg of the Catholic Faith. I pass over the most uncertain authority of the Epistle to Abgarus, and that of Lentulus. But yet I firmly believe, that a certain type of the Face of our Blessed LORD would not have been so universally received in Eastern, and early Western art, unless it had possessed some real foundation. Every one must be acquainted with the general idea of That Countenance as given in Byzantine icons, and crystallized, if we may so speak, in the West under the name of the Dieu d’ Amiens.2 But, even towards the end of that weary thirty-three years, His Face was so marred more than any man’s, that the Jews asked, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” And then, when it had been smitten by the soldiers,—when that Divine Head had been crowned with thorns,—when it was brought into the dust of death, then was not that prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled: “And when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him?”* Full of grace are Thy lips. “Thy Lips, O my Spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under Thy Tongue.” Blessed Lips indeed, that spake as never man spake; that said to the poor paralytic, “Thy sins are forgiven thee;” that comforted the woman taken in adultery with “Neither do I condemn thee;” that on the evening of a stormy day again showed to the longing eyes of man the Eden whence he had been banished for four thousand years,* saying, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise;” that by one word made Himself known to her that loved most, “Mary!” that first gave a blessing to the little band of Apostles, ere they said aught further, “Peace be unto you!” But how full for us of grace, how blessed for us beyond all power of conception, if those lips shall one day, after all our errors, in spite of all our sins, notwithstanding all our wanderings, pronounce to us the Venite, benedicti! Because God hath blessed Thee for ever. (L.) They inquire what is the force of the διὰ τοῦτο, the propterea; and there seems an equal difficulty in the because of our English Version. It were better to take it, Verily, God hath blessed Thee. “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed.” “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.”* Blessed, even in those hours of Agony on the Cross: for then the LORD of Hosts was reigning on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His Ancients gloriously: blessed even when reduced by the Ecce Homo to the lowest condition of earthly misery; for in the precious Blood that then poured from Him the great multitude that no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, were afterwards to wash their robes, and make them white, even as His own raiment had been white on Mount Tabor. They dispute whether this blessing is spoken of our LORD according to His Divinity or His Humanity. But,* though some Greek Fathers apply it to Him as Man, the general voice of the Church takes it of that ab eterno benediction which by right of inheritance pertained to the Co-Eternal Word. And thus David, having in a rapture of holiness unveiled the King of kings as He is in His own eternity, now proceeds to arm Him for His wars on earth, saying:

3 (4) Gird thee with thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most Mighty: according to thy worship and renown.

4 (5) Good luck have thou with thine honour: ride on, because of the word of truth, of meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

The sword of the SPIRIT, which is the Word of GOD,” says S. Paul. And though there,* no doubt, in the highest and noblest sense, that Word is the Co-eternal and Consubstantial Word, yet here,* most of the commentators agree in applying to the message of the Gospel this sword of which the Psalmist speaks. And in that this sword is bound on the thigh,* they see that these glad tidings, wherewith, as by a mighty weapon, the enemies of the human race are to be hewn down, are the doctrine of the Incarnation. With this they compare the adjuration of Abraham to his faithful servant, “Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh;”* and that of Jacob in his last command to Joseph. And to the same effect we read,* in the Apocalypse, that He—He, the King to Whom this psalm is indited—“hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings and LORD of lords.”* Here also they take the “vesture” of the glory of His Divinity; the “thigh” of the humility of His Humanity: in both, evermore to be victorious. With Thy sword. There are not wanting those who would see in this sword the Cross; that bitter pang which, as it pierced the heart of His Blessed Mother, so His own, when He cried, “Oh, My FATHER, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!” yet still in reference to the Incarnation,* because, had He not first been true Man to suffer, He could not thus have proved Himself True GOD to save. And of this Cross He said Himself, “I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword;”* when the son shall be divided against the father, (A.) and the daughter against the mother. S. Augustine works these sayings out to a marvellous extent: how our LORD Himself is the son, the Christian Church the daughter, and the Synagogue the mother. But according to what worship and renown? What is the chief glory of Him Who has just before been addressed as Most Mighty? And, (Ay.) as the Carmelite well replies, the Church teaches us, where she says, “O GOD, Who declarest Thy Almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity.” It is this sword, then, the proclamation of His mercy, whereby He makes His way among His enemies; not in the storm, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the still small voice. Good luck have Thou with Thine honour: ride on, because of the Word of truth, of meekness, and righteousness. Remarkable are the varieties of translation here. The LXX., καὶ ἔντεινον καὶ κατευοδοῦ καὶ βασίλευε: the Gallican and Roman, Intende, prospere procede et regna: the Chaldaic, He shall multiply children, therefore shalt thou be prosperous: as horsemen upon the throne of the kingdom: our Bible version, And in Thy Majesty ride prosperously, which is the nearest to the original. The sense of ἔντεινον, intende, made out of the Hebrew הַדְרֵךְ,* was taken by mediæval writers of intense care and strife,* which it cannot possibly signify. And the variety of ways in which, under that idea, it has been interpreted, (L.) are more puzzling than profitable. To me, the best commentary on this most noble verse is that much misunderstood passage in the Apocalypse,* where the Four Living Creatures address1 their LORD in four different characters, with COME! and He accordingly appears successively as the Rider, on the White Horse; as the Conqueror, on the Red Horse; as the Warrior, on the Black Horse; as the Judge, on the Pale—or rather, Ghastly (χλωρὸς) Horse, with Death and Hell led in triumph behind Him. This is indeed riding on in His Majesty. And why? Because of the Word of truth, of meekness, and righteousness. Here they find a glorious application to the three orders of saints: the truth, of the martyrs; the meekness, of the confessors; the righteousness, of just men. The truth, of the martyrs; they, faithful and true witnesses to Him—He, the true and faithful Witness to them:

Testis tuus est in cœlis,

Testis verax et fidelis,*

Testis innocentiæ:

the meekness, of the confessors; as the Church sings—

The day that crowns with deathless fame

This meek confessor of Thy Name:

and the righteousness, of the just; “for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” These, then, fill the ranks of that heavenly city:* ἡ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλὴμ, ἡ μὴ βλεπομένη, νοουμένη δὲ πόλις, ἐν ᾗ πολιτευόμεθα καὶ πρὸς ἣν ἐπειγόμεθα, ἧς πολίτης Χριστὸς, καὶ συμπολῖται πανήγυρος καὶ ἐκκγησία πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς, καὶ περὶ τὸν μέγαν πογιστὴν ἑορταζόντων τῇ θεωρίᾳ τῆς δόξνς. And Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things. So also S. Jerome; but the LXX. and the Vulgate, and so the Slavonic, Thy right hand shall lead Thee wondrously; it should rather be, teach Thee wonders. Both senses are true, according to the many-sided fulness of the Hebrew. Terrible things indeed that Right Hand suffered on the Cross:

Manus sancta, te complector,

Et gemendo condilector:*

Grates ago plagis tantis,

Clavis diris, guttis sanctis

Dans osculum cum lacrymis.

Terrible things that Right Hand inflicted on its foes: “Thy right hand,* O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.” In the other sense: Thy right hand—that is, the works of Thy right hand—shall lead Thee wondrously; from the form of a Servant and the Death of the Cross to the express Image of the FATHER, and the participation of the Throne. For here the Psalmist gives as it were the summary of that most Divine theology of S. Paul,* where he shows how the sufferings of the Incarnate WORD merited the elevation of the consubstantial Humanity.

5 (6) Thy arrows are very sharp, and the people shall be subdued unto thee: even in the midst among the King’s enemies.

And here, too, the versions widely differ. The LXX., after very sharp, add δυνατέ, O Thou puissant! So does the Slavonic,   with the same meaning. The Roman gives potentissime,* which S. Augustine recognises, and S. Gregory quotes. S. Jerome, in onea place, observes that it is a mere addition from verse 2; but in another he quotes the insertion.b Our version is the only one which translates in the midst: instead of the heart, which is the undoubted meaning. The Bible Version: Thy arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies. The Vulgate, following the LXX., reads in corde; the Gallican, better, in corda, except that the Hebrew is not plural.

And verily sharp are those arrows of love, which subdue the hardest heart among the people that “imagine a vain thing against the LORD’S Anointed.” “O glorious wound,” cries Nyssen, “O sweet stroke, whereby life and love penetrate into the inner man!”* Thy arrows in very deed: Thou art the true Elisha, that must command to take bow and quiver; Thou must lay Thy Hands, Thy Wounded Hands, on his to strengthen them, before each Joash among Thy Priests can shoot the arrow of the LORD’S deliverance. And all their virtue comes from Thy bed of death, the hard bed of the Cross. These were the arrows that pierced the hearts of the martyrs,

Nec quisquam ex illo vulnere sanus abit:*

and therefore “we fools counted their life madness,* and their end to be without honour.” S. Cyril explains the properties of these Divine arrows, and how the people fell under them; and Cardinal Hugo gives their mystical characteristics neatly enough:—

Lignea (1), recta (2), rigens, gracilis (3), capitata (4), rotunda,

Ferro (5) barbato lato, pennata (6) secante,

Arcu (7) jacta rotat, volat (8) eminus, et pharetratur (9):

characteristics which, as applied to the message of the Gospel, the reader may work out at his leisure with the texts in the note:1 the “verba,”* as S. Jerome says, “cor transfigentia, amorem excitantia.” And it is because wounded with these arrows that the Bride says, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.”

6 (7) Thy seat, O GOD, endureth for ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.

Unto the SON He saith” it: the HOLY GHOST, therefore, teaches Who it is That addresses, as well as Who it is That is addressed. It is not wonderful that the Jews and the Arians should have been perpetually pressed with the commencement of the verse:* a formal proof of the MESSIAH’s Divinity which no art of the devil or man can gainsay. So Tertullian,a so Eusebius,b so S. Cyril of Alexandria,c so S. Athanasius,d so S. Gregory Nazianzen,e and S. Cyril of Jerusalem.f They dispute of what throne the Prophet speaks; whether of that Judiciary Seat which, at the consummation of all things, the SON, according to that most deep theology of S. Paul, will resign to the FATHER,—or the seat of Kingly authority, which will last for ever and ever. And of this latter it seems better to take it. “He shall reign over the house of Jacob, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” The sceptre of Thy kingdom: or rod, as it is in the versions. This is the rod that devoured the serpents of the spiritual Pharaoh, itself esteemed as one of them, when they said, “He hath a devil.” This is the rod which divided the Red Sea into two parts, and made its depths a way for the ransomed to pass over. This is the rod which stretched out against Pharaoh and his hosts, overwhelmed them in the mighty waters. This is the rod that smote the stony rock, and the waters gushed out, and the streams flowed withal. This is the rod that, (L.) laid up in the Tabernacle, bloomed blossoms and yielded almonds. This is the sceptre which every trembling Esther, if she can only venture to touch, shall live. This is the rod that we must hold in our hands while we eat the spiritual passover. This is the rod wherewith we must pass, with Jacob, over the Jordan. This is the rod that breaks “the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor;”* that shatters the “Assyrian, the rod of his anger,”* through which the “rod of the ungodly shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous;”* that causes the wicked to exclaim, concerning the spiritual Moab, “How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod!”* that overthrows the “rod of pride” in the mouth of the foolish.

7 (8) Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: wherefore GOD, even thy GOD, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Thou hast loved righteousness. “Dilexi justitiam, et odivi iniquitatem,” (they were the last words of S. Gregory VII.,) “et ideo morior in exilio.” But it was well answered by one that stood by, though whether the reply was understood by the parting spirit is not certain, “In exile, servant of CHRIST, thou canst not die,* seeing that GOD hath given thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” The Chaldee paraphrast applies the verse thus: “Thou, (L.) O CHRIST the King, hast loved righteousness;” and to Whom else should we address it? And how dearly He loved it He showed by the fulfilment of the promise made as soon as the earthly Paradise was lost, that the heavenly Eden should be won by His own sufferings; that promise on which so many prophets and righteous men so strongly and so securely anchored their golden hopes; that promise which, tested so fearfully in Gethsemane, in the Pavement, at Calvary, (W.) was triumphant over all agony, endured all shame, lived through and prevailed by death. Therefore. And that, S. Thomas says, either as a final or effective cause. Therefore hast Thou wrought righteousness, that GOD might anoint Thee: or, To this end GOD anointed Thee, both as King, Priest, and Prophet, that Thy sceptre might be the golden sceptre of mercy, or the iron one of severity; that Thy rod, as the True Aaron’s, might everlastingly blossom; that Thy staff might bring forth living waters for Thy people,* as did that of Moses; and, as did not that of Elisha, raise the corpse—the human race, dead in trespasses and sins—to a better life. The oil of gladness. We may take this clause in two senses. The first, Wherefore,1 O God, Thy God hath anointed Thee; where we have a manifest reference to the Blessed TRINITY: the address being to the SON, O God; the action from the FATHER,* Thy God; and the HOLY GHOST represented by the oil of gladness: as it is written, “How GOD anointed JESUS of Nazareth with the HOLY GHOST;”* and as the Church says,

Tu spiritalis Unctio.

But others see in the redoubled nominative the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, taking the oil of gladness rather for the grace of that Blessed SPIRIT than Himself; and considering our LORD’S Person sufficiently expressed,* though not absolutely named. But how are we to take the unction itself? Are we to understand it of that manifestation of the Grace and Divinity of the Hypostatic Union, when, in His Baptism, the Three Glorious Persons were revealed together? If we do, we shall follow S. Chrysostom,a S. Hilary,b S. Ambrose.c S. Augustine sees a type of this in the stone which Jacob anointed; an unction which clearly possessed some deep mystical meaning, since it was repeated by Jacob on the occasion of his second visit to Bethel. Or shall we rather take it of the sanctifying grace bestowed on the Human Nature of the LORD, both by Himself,—“For their sakes I sanctify Myself,”—and by the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST? Then we follow S. Athanasius.d Or we may, if we will, understand this unction of the glory of His Resurrection and Ascension; and then we have S. Jerome on our side. They who take it of the sanctifying,* inherent grace which CHRIST, so far as Man, received,—so far as GOD, gave,—see in another Psalm a lovely type of this interchange: “it is like the precious ointment upon the Head”—the Divinity—“that went down the beard, (A.) even Aaron’s beard, and ran down to the skirts of his clothing”*—His Humanity. Hence they proceed to discuss the difficult question, whether the soul of CHRIST can be said to have merited the Incarnation and the Hypostatic Union. And they reply, Not in an ordinary and strict sense, because the Human Soul of CHRIST had no existence before the very moment of the Hypostatic Union, which was the exact instant of the Conception; and before its existence could have merited nothing. Yet still they allow that, in a certain sense, GOD willed to bestow on that Soul the grace of the Union, in prevision of the merits that it would thereafter acquire. And this is the general opinion of the Schoolmen,* based on the deepest teaching of S. Augustine. S. Hilary,* indeed,* in one place seems to speak of antecedent merit in the Human Nature; but it is probably rather from an obscurity of language than from obscurity of thought. Observe, too, that the blessed company of heaven ascribe to the Death of our LORD His principal merit,—“Worthy is the Lamb That was slain to receive glory,” &c.; and this is exactly according to the Pauline theology in Phil. 2:1–9. Above Thy fellows. Thy participators—præ participulis tuis, S. Jerome reads; and so does the Vulgate in the quotation to the Hebrews; and the Council of Frankfort, and Lactantius. And who are these fellows or peers? And it is better to take it in the sense of a comparison of the Human Nature of our LORD with that of all those who have been made partakers of the same grace,* angels as well as men; they partly and imperfectly, He in plenitude from the beginning; though its manifestation grew more and more glorious, as S. Luke formally teaches. S. Cyril of Alexandria even goes so far as to say that the title of Christotocos,* which only would Nestorius allow to the Blessed Virgin, is common to the mothers of all that have GOD’S grace.

8 (9) All thy garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia: out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.

Myrrha, et gutta, et cassia—so the Gallican and Italic: σμύρνα καὶ στακτὴ κάσσια—so the LXX. and the Slavonic. We need not here enter into the precise nature of these gums: it is enough to observe that מִנִּי, which our Version translates, without any particular sense, whereby, should rather be Armenian, as in Jer. 51:27. From palaces—or rather cabinets—of Armenian ivory they—the garments there laid up—have rendered Thee glorious.

And what is myrrh but the bitterness of self-mortification and self-denial? “A bundle of myrrh is my Beloved unto me,” (Ay.) exclaims the Church: “He shall lie all night”—all the night of this world—“betwixt my breasts.” Count up this bundle, O Christian, and reckon all the sufferings, all the rejections, the fasts, the vigils, the doing good and bearing ill of thy LORD: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;” “Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say?” Aloes, good, say the physicians, against tumours and swellings, what should they set forth but the humility which is indeed the antidote to the swelling of pride? “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart.”* And cassia, a reed that grows by running brooks, and increases to an immense size, is a type of that faith which begins at Baptism, and fills the whole world. Not that our Bridegroom, in the strict sense, possessed or could possess that faith, because that cannot be believed which is known and seen; but, as being the Author and Finisher of our faith, He may be said thus to set it forth to us. And it is well said, All Thy garments. For the garments represent the Humanity of the LORD: and it was from His Humanity that we are to take the example of self-mortification, of humility, of faith. Out of the ivory palaces. Hear S. Augustine: “Would you understand the spiritual sense of ivory palaces? Understand by them those magnificent houses and tabernacles of GOD, (A.) the hearts of the saints.” He, however, joins the commencement of the next verse with the conclusion of this: whereby Thy daughters have made Thee glad. The Carmelite commentator takes the word palaces, (Ay.) as I have translated it above,* in the sense of caskets, or cabinets.1 Then he sees in the King’s daughters the ointment-bearers that were very early at the scpulchre; and in the casket the vessel in which they brought the precious ointments to anoint the Body of that dear LORD. Gloriously does the Eastern Church exclaim,* τὰ μύρα τῆς ταφῆς σου αἱ Γυναῖκες κομίσασαι λαθραίως, πρὸς τὸ Μνῆμα παρεγένοντο ὄρθριαι, τῶν Ἰουδαίων δειλιῶσαι τὴν αὐθάδειαν, καὶ στρατιωτῶν προορῶσαι τὴν ἀσφάλειαν• ἀλλὰ φύσις ἀσθενὴς τὴν ἀνδρείαν ἐνίκησεν• ὅτι γνώμη συμπαθὴς τῷ Θεῷ εὐηρέστησε• προσφόρως οὖν ἐκραύγαζον• Ἀνάστα, Κύριε, βοήθησον ἡμῖν, καὶ λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς, ἕνεκεν τοῦ Ὀνόματός σου!

9 (10) Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold, wrought about with divers colours.

On the whole, I believe this to be the correct division, though that which connects the first clause of this verse with the last verse is the more common. The Western Church,* S. Augustine, the Italic Version, S. Jerome, and many of the Greek Fathers take that view: our Prayer Book and Bible Versions follow the Hebrew and Chaldee. However, as Lorinus very truly says: “Ad sensum parum refert.” We lose the beauty however of the original: Kings’ daughters were among Thy jewels בִּיקְרוֹתֶיךָ and compare the promise; “And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.”* The gold of Ophir: the Vulgate, less exactly, in vestitu deaurato. But both in the LXX. and the Vulgate is the singular addition, not in the Hebrew, περιβεβλημένη, πεποικιλμένη circumdata varietate. They are quoted by S. Basil, S. Clementa of Alexandria, S. Ambrose,b S. Augustine, S. Cyprian, and are in the Ethiopic and Arabic Versions. Where could they have come from?

Kings’ daughters were among Thy honourable women.

Lüstlich, solt du spazieren

Mit froïd und jubilieren

In gruner hymels ow,

In gilgen und in rosen

Solt du mit gotte kosen

Dz er dich freuntlich schow.

Gar warm solt du dich halten

Und dich nit lon erkalten

Noch diser mynne bad.

Din baden bulen sye

Die allerschönst Marie;

Ein Gott und namen drye

Mit andoch zu der lad.*

As the mediæval poet says so lovingly, if a little too rapturously for our cooler taste, (A.) in his quaint Platt-Deutsch. But Kings’ daughters? Because if He Whom they follow is King of kings and LORD of Lords, the Apostles are the Kings over and by whom He rules,* as it is written, All kings shall fall down before Him. And it was through their preaching that these lovely ones were gathered into the Church; first heard of the place and the name better than of sons and daughters; were appointed to seek a portion among the hundred and forty and four thousand, and sharers in the New Song. Upon Thy Right Hand did stand the Queen. And to whom are we to give that glorious title? Some will behold the Church Triumphant,* the Jerusalem that is the Mother of us all, the Happy Assembly, so glorious with the blood of the Martyrs,* so illustrious with the Confessions of snow-white Virginity! O former humility, present sublimity! O once earthly tabernacle, now celestial palace! O house once of clay, now temple of light! O slave,* once defiled and miserable with Egyptian bondage, now glorious, now peerless, now beautiful, now all beauty, now onely! Yet the tide of mediæval commentators, and primitive writers also, runs strongly in here beholding not the Church, but the Blessed Mother of GOD. So Athanasius,a so Hugh of S. Victor,b so the angelic Doctor, so S. Peter Damiani.c

O Maria, tu cœlorum

Intrans sedes, angelorum

Sociata es sanctorum,

Regina, agminibus:

Vidisti, quem diligebas,*

Ad quem ire cupicbas,

Et quo frui sitiebas

Angelis cantantibus.

But S. Gregory and others in this Queen behold every faithful soul, but more especially those blessed ones who having embraced the religious life here, are nearest to the Bridegroom of the Virgins there. So S. Ambrose,* so S. Jerome also, who, from his hard struggle at Rome in defence, or rather in the foundation, of that life,* had cause enough to study and to quote this Psalm. Upon Thy Right Hand. O happy estate, cries a mediæval writer, which we know is incapable of change! O most blessed place, which so many saints have gone through fire and water to attain; which so many martyrs have, after the manner of men, fought with beasts at Ephesus to come at, which so many Confessors have wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins if they might but possess at last. And behold, by one effort of virginal purity, it is held at last. Or, to return again to that interpretation which here beholds the Church, well says Richard of S. Victor, “O most sweet light of the purified mind, O wisdom of all the sciences, which are, as it were, honourable women to the Queen, that queen who always standeth on the right hand of GOD in a vesture of gold. Sometimes as a herald before a king, sometimes as a sound before the articulate word, sometimes as righteousness before the face of GOD, sometimes as the law in the presence of the Judge, so are these her handmaids to her, the Queen. But thou, O Queen, art thyself the immaculate law, the faithful testimony of the LORD, the lucid precept, the right judgment, the holy fear of GOD, the sweet meditation, herald and interpreter of the entire GOD.”*

10 (11) Hearken, O daughter, and consider, incline thine ear: forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house.

And they see two persons who speak: they who interpret the daughter of Mary. It may be David, speaking according to the flesh, to her who was his last descendant except the greater Son of David: or it may be GOD the FATHER, speaking to her,* the Immaculate Bride. But truly this is one of the passages which, above all others, show how utterly boundless are the meanings of the Psalter. Take it of the Church; and you see the exhortation to forget her Judaic origin,* to cast behind her the oldness of the letter, and to enter into the liberty of the spirit. (A.) They who see in it every penitent soul, find a magnificent exhortation to the same effect as that of the Apostle,—“Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new:” the old desires, the old pleasures, the old hopes; and after the struggle such as S. Paul tells us of,* arrayed with that beauty in which the King delights. S. Chrysippus calls this verse and the following the bridal song of the Mother of GOD. S. Athanasius, comparing the words of the Archangel Gabriel with those of David, dwells on the daughter of the one contrasted with the Mary of the other. “Yes,” as a mediæval saint exclaims, “as Abraham forgot Ur of the Chaldees with its dangers; as the Jews returning from Babylon thought no more of the house of bondage; as Lot, delivered from the hand of Chedorlaomer, entered into the companionship of Abraham; so now,* O once afflicted Church, in Babylon is nothing but confusion; in Egypt is the darkness, and the terror, and the storm; in Sodom is the fulness of sin: in Canaan only is there liberty, and light, and abundance. In thy former habitation were the husks that the swine did eat; in thy father’s house bread enough and to spare: there the mighty famine; here the Angels’ food.” Forget also thine own people. It is well said by S. Bernard,* that the Christian soul must not take pattern by the tribe of Manasseh: half that tribe, enticed by the pasture lands and corn-fields of the eastern side of Jordan, petitioned to remain there; only half pressed on into the Land of Promise. And that petition to be allowed to remain among the good things of this life is almost always heard in wrath; just as when the Gadarites, having lost their swine, requested the destroyer of them to depart out of those coasts, He yielded at once, and never returned.

11 (12) So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty: for he is thy LORD GOD, and worship thou him.

And here they take occasion to dwell—those mediæval writers, who lived in the times of our LORD as in their native home—about the beauty, according to the flesh, of the Incarnate WORD and His Blessed Mother. But, undoubtedly, there is a certain type of beauty handed down, from whatever original source derived, which has been retained in the East to this day; and which, as I have said before, completely refutes the idea held by some of the Fathers that the prophecy in the 53rd of Isaiah signifies that our LORD, in external appearance, had no beauty in Him. It would seem that, in the twelfth century, the latter interpretation obtained almost everywhere: whence we have those crucifixes in which our LORD is, in a way to us now scarcely comprehensible, represented as deformed. But we shall have a better occasion of entering on this question when we come to the 98th Psalm. It is a singular interpretation which many mediæval writers have entertained, (Ay.) that thy beauty means the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of all beauty as well as of all love. And truly it is a very loving thought, that that which is given to the Bride is so much her own, that He Who gave it should, as it were, desire it and have pleasure in it. So they compare the two texts: “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you;” and So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty. That is, this Passover, this better than Passover, which is the source of every great act of endurance or of daring,—this Passover, which has prepared every elect soul for the marriage supper of the LAMB,—this belonging now rather to the Bridegroom to be His special beauty,—this I have pleasure in. As how should He not, when such a multitude of petitions, arising from every corner of the earth,—petitions for earthly help and for spiritual aid, petitions against evil and for good, petitions alike for the whole and for the wounded, for the quick and for the dead, are accepted in heaven by the beauty of that Sacrifice in which, though CHRIST being risen from the dead, dieth no more, yet He still vouchsafes to offer Himself under the hands of sinful priests, and as the great High Priest to offer that same Sacrifice at the Throne of GOD the FATHER.

12a (13) And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift: like as the rich also among the people shall make their supplication before thee.

First notice that in the Septuagint and the Vulgate, though not in the Hebrew, it is, ALL the rich among the people. Omnes divites plebis. And so is our LORD’S prophecy fulfilled, (A.) “It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for thee:” far more than fulfilled, when here, she that in the one passage is the type of all iniquity, in the other is to be the first-fruits of the Gentiles. And the whole verse turns on the same contrast. Our LORD teaches,* “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of GOD.” It is not the poor, of whom, speaking generally, is the kingdom of heaven; but the rich, the very class to whom its entrance is so hard, that, as the LORD’S greatest glory, shall make their supplications to Thee. It is worth quoting, (A.) the use S. Augustine makes of this passage: “They,” he says, “who came from the East to bring their offerings to CHRIST, were not its daughters, but its sons. Why, then, here does it speak of the daughter of Tyre, the meaning being the same? Because, as the Apostle teaches, ‘In CHRIST there is neither male nor female.’ ” And again, (Ay.) Why the daughter of Tyre? Because Tyre, as the empress of the sea, is a type of the powers of this world, seeing that in the next there shall be no more sea. So says the great Carmelite expositor; but more truly, I think, the Carthusian, who beholds in the daughter of Tyre, famous for its purple, (D. C.) the self-oblation of the martyrs; according to that saying, “The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet.”* And again, why the gift, when, as we know, there were three gifts that were offered to the infant King? Let the seraphic doctor answer: “Because,* in addition to the ordinary sense, these three gifts are to be interpreted of the three cardinal virtues, which every faithful soul, made a king as well as a priest to GOD, must offer to its LORD,—faith, hope, and charity; which yet may all, in another sense, be resolved into one—charity—the sum as well as the source of all graces.”

12b (14) The King’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.

And first observe how the King, who made the marriage for His Son, here calls the bride of that Son His daughter. “O happy soul,” so speaks Psellus, “who, raised from the dust of carnal affection, lifted above the miserable cares of this world, changed from Leah into Rachel, having the inheritance of Israel instead of the toils of Jacob, is received in the loving arms of such a Bridegroom, is made partaker of the inheritance of such a Father! And why should it be said that the King’s daughter, rather than the King’s bride, is all-glorious? Truly, because that most loving Bridegroom wooed and obtained His Bride, not on the throne of His glory, but in the depth of His humility: this new Ere was created from the side of an Adam, Who slept no sleep of rest but the hard slumber of the Cross.” S. Chrysostom lays his emphasis on the word within: he contrasts the glorious earthly buildings reared in his time,* when the Church was being corrupted by contact with the world,—their jewels, their vestments, their outward array,—with the poverty and simplicity of those who were serving GOD in countries which were yet given to the worship of idols. And mediæval writers see in this verse a prophecy of the history of the Church, The King’s daughter is all glorious within: there you have the original purity of the Church, (Ay.) when she was so glorious with her martyrs, so illustrious with her confessors, so resplendent with her ascetics. Her clothing is of wrought gold: and there you have the more dangerous age, in which the world forced her treasures on the Church, and the Church by receiving them became in part infused with the spirit of the world. Never to be forgotten is that speech of S. Gregory of Tours: “In the days of old there were wooden chalices and golden priests; now there are chalices of gold and priests of wood.” Her clothing is of wrought gold. And thus one is sent to the character of the virtuous woman: “She maketh herself coverings of tapestry, her clothing is silk and purple.” For consider what is that glorious outside of the Church militant, which is not only the typical representation of her triumphant sister, but also the safeguard of her own internal graces; as it is written, “Upon all the glory shall be a defence.” Call to mind all the beauty of her buildings made after the pattern of heavenly things, her marvellous cathedrals, her abbeys, her countless parish churches, her chapels, hallowing every corner of the earth, the peaks of desolate mountains, the recesses of woody valleys, imprinting her own holiness on bridges, and castles, and lonely sea rocks; then her music, which we may piously believe to be but the echo of the Song of Moses and the Lamb; further, her marvellous system of antiphons, transfiguring the Psalms of the Jewish Synagogue to her own more celestial meaning. And if we are to take the Vulgate translation, surrounded about with a variety, there is nothing more glorious than the difference in oneness, and the unity in multiplicity of the Liturgies, and Offices, and Hours, of the whole Catholic Church. And, on the contrary, they observe that the chief glory of the synagogue was not from within, but from without; the symbols of her worship looked forward to better things than she herself possessed: whether you look at the tabernacle or the temple, the case is the same, (A.)—the Law had a shadow, not of good things present, but of good things to come. (Ay.) And they further contrast the clothing of wrought gold,—that is, of such gold as will pass current in the judgment of the King,—with the phylacteries of the Pharisees,* which have no balm except in the eyes of the world. S. Basil explains the text in a different way still. If the King’s daughter is all glorious within, and also her clothing is of wrought gold, then the inside and the outside are in accordance with each other. As a much later hymn says,

Voci vita non discordet;

Cum vox vitam non remordet

Dulcis est symphonia.

14 (15) She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework: the virgins that be her fellows shall bear her company, and shall be brought unto thee.

And,* as S. Peter Damiani observes, every word of the sentence has to be pondered. In the first place, She shall be brought. What? she, the King’s daughter, not able to come of herself? Surely not. You might as well ask, when David says, “Turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity,” what? could not the man after GOD’S own heart turn away his own eyes from beholding that which displeased GOD? Truly, no. All is from Him, and of Him both first and last: unless she be brought to the King, she will never go to the King of herself: unless our LORD after His Resurrection say, “Peace be unto you,” He will never be asked to say it. Of needlework. That is, that the preparation which is to make her fit to appear before her LORD is not the work of a moment, (Ay.) but is to be precept after precept, line upon line; just as it is stitch after stitch makes up needlework. The virgins that be her fellows. “O LORD,” exclaims S. Bernard,* “how am I to interpret this fulness of meaning?” (He was then preaching to a set of Cistercian sisters.) “Am I to say that these my children are her fellows, her equals, who is the fulness of Him That filleth all in all? Or, how can I say that they are equals of her who is the Mother of my LORD and my GOD? So let us rather take that she to be the type and representative of every faithful soul; the likeness and pattern of them, as Abraham is called the Father of the faithful. The virgins, then, and what a multitude they are, who follow her, as she follows the King and LORD of the Virgins, shall bear her company. O sweet society of them that are called by the same name! of them that profess the same desire! O most foul reproach and ignominy of them who, while they profess the same wish, are yet torn asunder by the various lusts of this world, of their own hearts, or of him that is the father and founder of all division, namely, Satan! Consider this, then, ye that live doing no good works; ye that live disjointed amongst each other, and insomuch as his is the operation of division, obeying Satan; how is that needlework which is not the patient labour of every day, every hour, every minute? How is that Tyrian needlework, for so it is promised a little above, unless this daily work would be sealed by her blood, if need be? How should her fellows bear her company, unless they and she were at one in Him Who hath made all things one?”

15 (16) With, joy and gladness shall they be brought: and shall enter into the King’s palace.

And oh,* what joy will that be, says a mediæval writer, when they who have so struggled among the thorns here, shall be so transfigured by Him Who now wears the Crown of gold there! What, when they who have trod in the King’s footsteps below, shall be received to the King’s embraces above! What, when they who have thought it so much but to see the prints of His Feet upon earth, shall be kissed with the kisses of His Lips in the heavenly kingdom! What words can express, what heart can devise, those good things which the true Solomon hath prepared for the soul that, like another Queen of Sheba, comes from a far country to behold His glory! And, brethren, what shall we say of them who, because of the six miserable lions that wait on this side and on that, according to the six footsteps of the throne, shall be afraid to approach to His excellency, Who, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Himself sitteth upon the Throne!

16 (17) Instead of thy fathers thou shalt have children: whom thou mayest make princes in all lands.

Here we have the comparison of the Synagogue with the Church, (A.) the Law with the Gospel, the letter with the spirit. Thy fathers, the types, the prophecies, the histories, the miracles; everything that might lead forward to Him in Whom all types find their antitypes; in Whom all histories find their fulfilment; in Whom all miracles are turned into that chief of all miracles, (Ay.) GOD Incarnate. Or, if you take it in another way, the Apostolical succession is here set forth. As the Wise Man says. One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; and all these are princes to carry on the government of the Church, chiefs to extend its dominion among those that serve other gods; and yet children obedient to the immutable faith, and carrying out the unchangeable liturgies of the Church. It has been well said by S. Augustine, “Think not thyself deserted because thou canst not behold Paul, because thou canst not behold Peter, because thou seest not those through whom thou wast born. Out of thine own offspring has a multitude of Fathers been raised up to thee. See how widely diffused is the Temple of the King, of which we read before. This is the universal Church; this is she whose children so go forth; whose children go to the uttermost islands of the seas, call men to come to the one body, and be led to the glorious Temple of the King.” Fathers. And on this they raise a question in connection with the command of our LORD, “Call no man your father upon earth.” Hence they ask, how can that title be rightly attributed to Bishops? S. Augustine writing against the Donatists,* They answer once for all; and if the authority of a Western doctor be not sufficient, S. Chrysostom will tell the same thing. Princes in all lands. In the first and lowest sense,* of the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles, through the different provinces of the civilised world that then fell out to them. But it is curious to observe how, as the physical knowledge of the earth increased, the interpreters of the Church spread also their sphere,—“enlarge,” as the prophet speaks, “the place of their tents, and stretch forth the curtains of their habitations;”* how lands of which mediæval missionaries never heard they by degrees brought into the fold of CHRIST; how, when the petition in the Litanies of so many centuries was, “From the fury of the Tatars, good LORD, deliver us,” those very Tatars, joined with the people among whom they are mixed, form nearly a third part of the Catholic Church. It is marvellous, too, to see how the newly-discovered capes, and islands, and bays, of lands unknown to the earlier Church, have received the name of her saints and of her festivals; nay, and not only so, but whereas the constellations of the Northern and first-known hemisphere are dedicated, as it were, to all the gods of the heathen, which are but idols; so the Southern, discovered by expeditions sent forth with the blessing and under the patronage of the Church, have the names which she gave, culminating in the glorious Southern Cross.

17 (18) I will remember thy Name from one generation to another: therefore shall the people give thanks unto thee, world without end.

Thy Name. And so all the ascetic writers take it: that Name which was prefigured in Joshua, (D. C.) who led the children of Israel into the promised land; still further honoured by Joshua the son of Josedech, him who stood before the LORD, Satan standing at his right hand to resist him; and lastly, as foretold by the Angel to Joseph, as of Him Who should save His people from their sins. It is of this that the bride speaks in the Canticles, “Let me hear Thy voice: for pleasant is Thy Name.” Often and often have we already heard of it in the Psalms; and the only difficulty seems to be,* under which of all the dear verses which teach of it they should pour forth their full love of its attributes, and their full knowledge of its mysteries. The people: that is, the ransomed people,—the people who are wholly the LORD’S people, (Ay.)—the people who have cast off the dross and the dregs of this world. Here is fulfilled that which is written of the wise man: “The remembrance of Jesus is like the composition of a perfume that is made by the art of the apothecary: it is sweet as honey in all mouths, and as music at a banquet of wine.”* Or, in the same chapter, “This was Jesus, who in his time builded the house, and set up an holy Temple to the LORD, which was prepared for everlasting glory.”

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, the GOD Who anoints the CHRIST; and to the SON, the King that has pleasure in the beauty of His Bride: and to the HOLY GHOST, the Spirit of Whom the “Good WORD” was Incarnate;

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

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com