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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. Ferial. As preceding. [Common of Apostles. Thou hast given an heritage * to them that fear Thy Name, O LORD. All Saints. O LORD, Hope of the Saints, and their strong tower, Thou hast given a heritage to them that fear Thy Name * and they shall dwell in Thy tabernacle for ever.]

Parisian. As Psalm 59

Ambrosian. The same.

Mozarabic. From the ends of the earth have I cried unto Thee * O LORD.

1 Hear my crying, O GOD: give ear unto my prayer.

In the double petition of the first Verse, the commentators find a reference to temporal and spiritual, to outer and inner needs. For crying, say they, may be addressed to man, while prayer belongs to GOD only. Hear my crying in such wise, that men may see that Thou deliverest me from evil. (G.) Give ear unto my prayer, by storing within me Thy hidden treasure. Hear my crying, that without, there may be lamps shining with clear light, unquenchable. Give ear unto my prayer, that oil may secretly abound in the vessels within till the coming of the Bridegroom. Hear my prayer, that when seeking abroad for my Bridegroom, Thy SON, I may not turn aside by the flocks of His companions.* Give ear unto my prayer, that when I find Him, I may hold Him and not let Him go.*

2 From the ends of the earth will I call upon thee: when my heart is in heaviness.

Whether these words apply literally to David’s wanderings around En-gedi, (L.) on the very frontier of the kingdom of Israel, or, as the Greek Fathers prefer, (Z.) to the Jews of the Captivity in Babylon, the mystical interpretation is clear. Spoken of the Church, she appears as that Queen who “came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon;”* spoken of Saints, wherever they may be, (C.) they call from the ends of the earth, because of their communion in that Body which is spread everywhere; spoken of penitents, it tells how they turn again when they have come to the end of earthly pleasure and vanity, and have found no peace.* And fitly the ends of the earth, for indulgence in earthly sin puts us far from GOD. When my heart is in heaviness. And thus it is the cry of the persecuted Church, when the Roman empire from India to Spain, (P.) from Syria to Æthiopia, reeked with the blood of martyrs. Again, it is the cry of the soul in time of temptation, for no one can be crowned unless he conquer, nor conquer unless he fight,* nor fight unless he have enemies and temptations.

3 O set me up upon the rock that is higher than I: for thou hast been my hope, and a strong tower for me against the enemy.

Here, as so often, the LXX. and Vulgate read the verse in the past tense. Thou hast set me up upon the Rock. “And that Rock,” says the Apostle, “was CHRIST.”* That is higher than I. For “GOD hath given Him a Name which is above every name.”* Now, (A.) therefore, remarks S. Augustine, we perceive who is crying from the ends of the earth. Let us call to mind the Gospel: “Upon this Rock I will build My Church.”* Therefore she crieth from the ends of the earth whom He hath willed to be builded upon a Bock. Here in the LXX. and Vulgate, and Æthiopic, are the words, Thou hast led me down because Thou hast been my hope. (C.) Down into that future rest which He hath promised to His Saints, out of this present exile, (D. C.) and that by the way of Thy commandments. He leadeth down as being the Leader, and on Himself leadeth as being the Way, (A.) and to Himself leadeth home as being the Country.* For Thou hast been my hope. Because Thou leadest not any save those who hope in Thee. Thou hast been my hope of pardon to release my sins, my hope of grace to do good works henceforward, my hope of glory in winning the prize. With this threefold hope, as a threefold cord, Thou leadest me to Thyself, “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”* And a strong tower for me against the enemy. Because the FATHER hath built a tower, even His SON, in the midst of His fruitful vineyard,* and “the Name of the LORD is a strong tower;* the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” And we are not merely safe there, adds Gerhohus, (G.) but we can hurl the darts of work and prayer from its battlements to destroy our enemy.

4 I will dwell in thy tabernacle for ever: and my trust shall be under the covering of thy wings.

If we take for ever to mean, as it often does, till the end of this world, the promise is that of abiding in the camp of Christian warfare till the battle is won. (B.) Not turning away to the enjoyment of worldly pleasure, but saying with Uriah the Hittite, “The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents, and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.”* If for ever is to be taken in the higher sense of eternity, the reference will then be, as S. Hilary explains it, (H.) to the abiding of the Saints in heaven, as it is written, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My GOD, and he shall go no more out.”* And my trust shall be under the covering of Thy wings. The wings of the LORD, observes S. Albert the Great, are justice and mercy.* Under justice the righteous are sheltered, that they may not presume, under mercy the sinners, that they may not despair. And He, Who hath “healing in His wings,”* desires to gather us under their protection, “even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.”* There is heat in the world, touchingly says S. Augustine, but there is great shade under the wings of GOD.

5 For thou, O LORD, hast heard my desires: and hast given an heritage unto those that fear thy Name.

What was that desire? The prayer of CHRIST for the salvation of the world. “Desire of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession.”* Him then the FATHER “hath appointed heir of all things.”* And because He has mad us joint-heirs with Him, these words are true of all those who fear His Name.* Especialy the Western Church has delighted to use them of the Apostles, who not only inherit with CHRIST the dominion over the Gentiles and the glories of heaven, but whose better heritage is CHRIST Himself. And so Santolius Victorinus, speaking of S. Barnabas:

Quem propter, agro vendito,*

Opes cadueas deseris,

Magno rependens fœnore,

En fundus ipse fit tuus.

6 Thou shalt grant the King a long life: that his years may endure throughout all generations.

The marginal reading of the Bible Version is here more exact, and agrees with the LXX. and Vulgate. Thou shalt add days to the days of the King. (Ay.) To the days of this world Thou shalt add the days of eternity. And they are rightly called days of the King, which shall be formed from His glory. Even here we walk in the light of the King’s days, (G.) those which our King and Sun of Righteousness, shrouded in the cloud of mortality, has enlightened by His teaching and example. He will add yet brighter days to us, which that same Sun and King of Righteousness, now that the cloud of mortality is withdrawn, frames in the calm glory of His supreme Godhead, wherein “the light of the moon is as the light of the sun,”* because assumed Manhood shines in GOD the Son with that glory which He, the Sun of Righteousness, had in His Godhead, before the world was made. The children of night and darkness know not these days, because every one that doeth evil hateth the light. But the Saints long for them, knowing that, as it is written, “One day in Thy courts is better than a thousand,”* and desire that light of which the Cluniac sings:

Luce replebere jam sine vespere, jam sine lunâ,

Lux nova, lux ea, lux erit aurea, lux erit una.*

That his years may endure throughout all generations. Because the Manhood of CHRIST, united to the Godhead of the WORD, shares by virtue of the Hypostatic union in the Divine attributes, and thus fulfils the prophecy of Micah. “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah.… out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”*

7 He shall dwell before GOD for ever: O prepare thy loving mercy and faithfulness, that they may preserve him.

And this is spoken not only of CHRIST’S throne in heaven, but also of every Saint who treads in His steps. Where note, remarks Ayguan, that three things are of the essence of formal blessedness, to wit, (Ay.) clear vision, true fruition, and firm or eternal hold. For who could be truly blessed, if he were not assured of the eternity of his blessedness? Since he would always dread a fall, and as such a dread is in itself a punishment, the blessed would be in a state of punishment, which is a contradiction. So they are made sure of that eternity, by looking on the divine essence in which it shines. That is the reason for adding before God, as though to say, Their inheritance is eternal, and they are sure of it, because they are before GOD, and their “eyes see the King in His beauty.”*

O prepare Thy loving mercy and faithfulness, that they may preserve him. So, it is a prayer for the grace of perseverance, lest any should “come short of the glory of GOD,”* through despair of His mercy, or distrust of His faithfulness. But the LXX. and Vulgate are different from this. They read, Who shall seek His mercy and truth?* And the answer is, No one. For in the sight of GOD there will be no more sorrow, and therefore no more need of mercy, “for GOD shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”* They will not seek for truth, because the Truth Himself will be present to them in open vision,* and in that day they shall ask Him nothing. And thus S. Peter Damiani:

To their first estate return they,* freed from every mortal sore,

And the Truth, for ever present, ever lovely, they adore,

Drawing from that living fountain living sweetness evermore.

8 So will I alway sing praise unto thy Name: that I may daily perform my vows.

And while this verse has been truly interpreted of all Christians, (Lu.) performing their baptismal vows and praising GOD by daily holiness of life; and also of the Heavenly City, of which it is written, (Ay.) “Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody;”* and yet again of the Church on earth, which has daily, through the ages, (L.) sung praise to GOD in the words of David; it is not strange that others should have seen in it the pledge of due fulfilment of the duties of the Religious and priestly life. Wherefore,* says the Master of the Sentences, at the end of the ecclesiastical offices is said, “Bless we the LORD,” figuring this divine praise after the present life, because in that which is to come we shall ever praise GOD for all good works which we do here. And this duty of daily recitation of the Church’s offices is a primary one,* because, as S. Bernard observes, nothing which thou canst offer to GOD pleases Him, if that to which thou art bound be neglected. Therefore, teaches Arvisinet,* Remember thou art doing the work of Angels; believe that thou art standing with them before My throne; and with them worship, praise, bless, love. Imagine that thou art praying with Me in the garden of olives, and if thy mind be drawn to sleep, hear Me. Couldst not thou, my son, watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who hath set me upon the Rock; and to the SON, Who is the Rock; and to the HOLY GHOST, the LORD of loving-mercy and faithfulness.

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

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