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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. O LORD GOD, * haste Thee to deliver me. [Maundy Thursday. The zeal of Thine house hath even eaten me, * and the rebukes of them that rebuked Thee are fallen upon me.]

Monastic. Ferial. Alleluia. [Septuag. Seek ye after GOD, * and your soul shall live. Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Parisian. In Thy sight * are all mine adversaries: my heart hath waited for reproach, and misery.

Lyons. Ferial. Seek ye after GOD, * and your soul shall live. [Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Ambrosian. Ferial. Draw nigh unto my soul, * and save it. [Maundy Thursday. I am become a stranger * unto my brethren, even an alien unto my mother’s children.]

1 Save me, O GOD: for the waters are come in, even unto my soul.

2 I stick fast in the deep mire, where no ground is: I am come into deep waters, so that the floods run over me.

This Psalm, observes Cassiodorus, is the fourth of those which speak at length of the LORD’S Passion and Resurrection. (C.) And the fact of its being thrice cited in the New Testament in this sense, (A.) by the Apostles Peter, John, and Paul, does not permit us to doubt that its primary intention was Messianic prophecy. Save Me, O God. When CHRIST utters these words to His FATHER, (D. C.) He does not pray, as we must, to be delivered from sin, but from the sufferings of body and soul endured in His Passion. The waters are come in. And they may come in three ways: (P.) as a river torrent swollen with rains, as in a deep and muddy pool,* or as in a storm at sea. The first will denote the Jewish people, lashed into sudden fury by the secret instigations of the priests; the second the still, deadly hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees; the third, the fierce wrath of kings and rulers. Applied to the servants instead of to the Master, these waters denote temptations and persecutions threatening the very life of the Church, or of single members thereof. Even unto my soul. Of the Church, (L.) as when a ship has sprung a leak, or been filled by waves, and is sinking; of a man, when the waters have risen to his lips, and threaten suffocation. I stick fast in the deep mire. Yes; for if He had not taken upon Him the nature of man, a creature of clay, (G.) He would have been free from danger and pain; but because He had stuck fast therein, joining His Godhead for ever to it, therefore He endured suffering. And He came into the mire in another sense when, laid in the tomb, (D. C.) He gave His Body to the earth. Where no ground is. The Vulgate has it, where there is no substance. And they take it variously. It may be the poverty of CHRIST in His human life, when He stripped Himself of His glory; or it tells us of His death, (A.) when His soul was parted for a time from the substance of His Body; or, (G.) again, it may refer to the utter exhaustion of His wounded Form as He hung dying on the Cross. Spoken in the person of sinners, (D. C.) the deep mire most fitly denotes the slough of carnal sin into which men sink ever deeper by mere continuance, without any fresh volition on their own part, (Cd.) where there is no ground, no certain point of stoppage, and no real or lasting pleasure. I am come into deep waters. Like Jonah, (A.) He suffered Himself to be cast into the sea, for the salvation of those in His ship, and after three days came forth again, after the floods ran over Him. And He says deep waters, (D. C.) as contrasting with the height from which He descended into them, when He came down from heaven; nay, denoting that He penetrated down to hell itself. (Ay.) This peril of deep waters, wisely observes the Carthusian, (D. C.) may well be that of high rank and office, so that the storm and noise of worldly cares and duties, overwhelm peace of mind, clearness of devotion, and guard over the heart. And when the ship of any human soul is in peril through the waves and storm, if CHRIST be there, the terrified mariner has but to call on Him; if He be not there, then let the waters be baled out with holy fear and confession of sin,* lightened with almsgiving, and steadied with the anchor of hope, till He come to save. (L.)

3 I am weary of crying; my throat is dry: my sight faileth me for waiting so long upon my GOD.

Or, (G.) with the LXX. and Vulgate, I have toiled in crying. Not only in the Seven Words from the Cross, but in the long and thankless labour of preaching the kingdom of heaven to a gainsaying people; (Cd.) and in the prayer of His Agony, whereof the Apostle says, “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.”* My throat is dry. We nowhere read that this prophecy was literally fulfilled, though the Carthusian says that it must have been, from the toil, (D. C.) pain, and loss of blood which CHRIST endured, drying up the natural moisture of His Body; but we may well take it with S. Augustine, and those who follow him, (A.) that as the voice of one that is hoarse is scarcely audible or intelligible, so the Voice of CHRIST was unheard and misunderstood by the Jews. (Ay.) Ayguan, comparing that passage of the Apocalypse wherein it is said that a mighty angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth.”* explains this crying as that of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and dwells at length on the ideas prevalent in his day touching the king of beasts, to find lessons of CHRIST in them. My sight faileth Me for waiting so long upon My God. The Vulgate: While I hope in My God. That is, as we may best take it, (L.) My bodily powers are weakened by the near approach of death, while my soul remains steadfast in its trust.

How fast His hands and feet are nailed,*

His blesséd tongue with thirst is tied,

His failing eyes are blind with blood,

JESUS, our Love, is crucified!

The LXX. reading, followed in some Latin Psalters, is, from hoping in My God. (A.) And this, observes S. Augustine, cannot be spoken by the Head of Himself, but in the person of His members only, of those Apostles whose faith and courage failed. So too the Body toils in crying when lamenting its own sins, (D. C.) when eagerly preaching the Gospel to others, when calling on GOD for pardon, for grace, for illumination, for amendment. And the Church becomes hoarse when her preaching, like her LORD’S, is unheeded, or when she is exhausted by toil or suffering; or again, when GOD tires her, by remaining long without giving an answer to her prayers.

4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head: they that are mine enemies, and would destroy me guiltless, are mighty.

Which teaches that the enemies of the Saints are ever more numerous than the Saints themselves, (Ay.) who are, as it were, the hairs adorning the great Head of the Church, Who, like Samson,* placed His strength therein, and like Absalom, His beauty. And when these hairs were plucked out and shorn away by the martyrdoms of countless athletes, then the mocking Jews and heathen said, as the children to Elisha, “Go up, thou bald head,”* and were speedily punished for their sin. Of the latter clause in the verse S. Augustine observes that it is the very voice of martyrs, (A.) not in the punishment, but in the cause; for the mere suffering of persecution or death is not in itself praiseworthy, but to endure such things for a good cause. CHRIST’S enemies were mighty, (D. C.) for there were united against Him the religious influence wielded by the chief priests, and the civil power in the hands of Herod and Pilate. Mighty, too, are the enemies of the Church,—heathen emperors and persecutors in time past; unbelievers, heretics, schismatics, and false brethren in the present. Mighty are the enemies of our souls; “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”*

5 I paid them the things that I never took: GOD, thou knowest my simpleness, and my faults are not hid from thee.

Or, with the Vulgate, that I never robbed. For He paid the penalty of sin by His Death upon the Cross, (A.) being Himself without sin. And yet more, whereas the devil’s power is the produce of robbery, and Adam’s knowledge of good and evil came from robbery too, the power and wisdom of CHRIST are His own by Divine right, for “all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth;”* so that He, “being in the form of GOD, thought it not robbery to be equal with GOD.”* And He shares His glory with His members, as it is written, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My FATHER in His throne.”* My simpleness. Rather, with the LXX., Vulgate, and A. V., My foolishness. It is the Eternal Wisdom Who speaks. But “the foolishness of GOD is wiser than men.”* What was so much like foolishness as, when He had it in His power with one word to lay low the persecutors, (A.) to suffer Himself to be held, scourged, spit upon, buffeted, to be crowned with thorns, to be nailed to the Tree? It is like foolishness, but this foolish thing excelleth all wise men. And it is true of every Saint who has given up all for CHRIST, of whom the wicked shall one day exclaim, “This was he whom we had some time in derision, and a proverb of reproach: we fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour: how is he numbered among the children of GOD, and his lot is among the Saints!”* But the words also are true of sinners, (D. C.) who are wise in their own conceits, with that wisdom which is foolishness with GOD, disobeying His commandments, serving the vices of the body, neglecting the salvation of their souls. My faults are not hid from Thee. It is the Most Holy Who speaks. (R.) He speaks as He was judged by man: This Man is not of GOD, because He keepeth not the Sabbath day;”* “We know that this Man is a sinner;” and again, “Who is this which speaketh blasphemies?”* It is spoken of Saints also, who do not attempt to hide their sins from GOD, (Ay.) but confess them openly with hearty repentance and humility. Of sinners, moreover, because their refusal to confess and amend cannot shelter them from the all-seeing eyes of GOD.

6 Let not them that trust in thee, O LORD GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my cause: let not those that seek thee be confounded through me, O LORD GOD of Israel.

Herein CHRIST prays against that which was the great peril of weak souls in the first days of the Church,* the offence of the Cross, the scorn heaped upon those who worshipped the Crucified; to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness. The Vulgate, however, reads, them that wait for Thee. (Ay.) And they take it of the Fathers waiting in Hades till CHRIST should come to set them free, on whose behalf He prays that He may rise again from death, that they may not be disappointed of their hope. And as in the first part of the verse He intreats that His people may not fail from weakness within, so, in the latter clause, (G.) His petition is that they may not be overcome by revilings and persecutions from without, but that, when they look for Him with prayer and holiness, it may be said to them as to the women at the sepulchre, “Fear not, for I know that ye seek JESUS.”*

7 And why? for thy sake have I suffered reproof: shame hath covered my face.

For Thy sake. Where note, that all CHRIST’S words and works were to the end of increasing the honour of His FATHER in the hearts of men; (Ay.) wherefore He reproved sin, preached holiness, and worked miracles, that they might believe His sayings. And He indeed suffered reproof, for they said of Him, “Behold a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber,”* and “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.”* Shame covered His Face when He was buffeted, and blindfolded, and spit upon, and at last dragged to the most ignominious of deaths. (G.) And this is the cry of the Bride also. For His sake the Martyrs contended to the death; for His sake the Confessors bore not only spoiling of their goods, chains, and torture, but what was harder, the reproach of worshipping with foul and sanguinary orgies, rather than reveal to the mockery of the heathen the mystery of the Holy Eucharist; for His sake the Virgins bore to be dragged to dens of infamy, to stand, stripped of their garments, a mark for the insulting and cruel stare of eighty thousand spectators.

8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren: even an alien unto my mother’s children.

It was bitterly true when the chief of His brethren, (B.) the Prince of His Apostles, “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this Man of whom ye speak,”* It was true also on the way to Emmaus, when the eyes of His two disciples were holden, and Cleopas said, “Art Thou only a stranger in Jerusalem?”* An alien unto My mother’s children.* As Joseph’s brethren sold him into Egypt, and knew him not when he became ruler of the land, (G.) so the children of the Synagogue rejected CHRIST, giving Him over to the Gentiles, and confessed Him not when He became Head of the Church gathered from the heathen. And the Jews did not even admit His Hebrew descent. They said to Him, “Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan?”* They said of Him, “As for this fellow, we know not from whence He is.”* More literally still, we read, “Neither did His brethren believe in Him.”*

9 For the zeal of thine house hath even eaten me: and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee are fallen upon me.

We have the comment of the Apostles themselves on the first part of this verse; for we read, that when JESUS drove the sellers of oxen, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers out of the temple with a scourge of small cords, then “His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.”* And therefore it was that He became an alien to His Mother’s children, (Ay) because they would not endure His severity, but rejected Him for interfering with their gains, as did also the Gergesenes, when He suffered the devils to destroy their swine.* The latter clause has also an inspired gloss, for S. Paul says, “For even CHRIST pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.”* And that, (A.) because whoso knoweth CHRIST knoweth the FATHER also; (G.) because whoso insults an ambassador, dishonours also the King from whom he comes: a King, moreover, Who hath said, “They will reverence My SON.”* There is another sense in which it may be truly said that CHRIST is eaten up with zeal for His FATHER’S House. (L.) For in His great love for the Church He desires to edify it in all ways, and especially by giving Himself in the Holy Eucharist to be the Food of believers, so that He is therein eaten up. (D. C.) The whole verse may well be applied, as by the Carthusian, to those who have been raised up at different times as reformers of abuses in the Church, and especially in the Religious Life, and who, like S. Gregory VII.,—and in far later days S. Teresa, and the not less holy Mère Angelique of Port Royal,—have been subjected to all manner of hostility and slander in consequence.

10 I wept, and chastened myself with fasting: and that was turned to my reproof.

The LXX. (in some copies) and Vulgate here read, I covered my soul with fasting.* David did so, observes a Saint, that he might clothe it with true abundance; for in this wise we learn that such fasting, as is abstinence from sin, is a garment of the soul.* Gluttony, observes another, makes men naked; fastings clothe even the stripped, and that is a good covering which shelters the soul from the tempter. (L.) Where note, that it is not spoken of mere bodily or external abstinence, for that does not cover the soul. Our Blessed LORD covered His soul with fasting, (Ay.) when His continual abstinence of forty days caused the devil to doubt if He were Very Man Who could so endure.* And He covered His Godhead from men, by abstaining from putting out His strength to punish His enemies, (B.) and that for the purpose of giving an example of patience. And He had a yet sorer fast than either of these,—His unappeased hunger and thirst for the salvation of sinners, (R.) whom He yet found to reject His offers, and even to deliver Him over to death. And His fasting was turned to His reproof when it encouraged the devil, (D. C.) seeing Him so destitute of all succour, to tempt Him to vain confidence and idolatry; and when His human enemies cried out, “He saved others, let Him save Himself, if He be CHRIST, the Chosen of GOD.”*

11 I put on sackcloth also: and they jested upon me.

That sackcloth was the form of a servant, (A.) the Manhood of poverty and suffering, which men scorned and derided. And as sackcloth is the garb of mourning, (C.) it tells also of His sorrows Who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus.* Beda, following the Vulgate reading, haircloth, observes that goats, (Ay.) of whose hair such texture is made, (P.) are the symbol of guilt; and that CHRIST, by taking sinners close to His side, (D. C.) and joining them in one body, does, as it were, clothe Himself with them. And many recount a legend that the seamless coat was of haircloth, and the customary garb of CHRIST.* Agellius declares that it was customary to wrap a piece of coarse sackcloth round the loins of those about to be crucified, that they might be fastened more securely, and that this passage is thus a prophecy of the last stage of the Passion. They jested upon Me. LXX. and Vulgate, I became a parable unto them; or better, as A. V., a proverb. Whereupon some take occasion to point out, that as the LORD taught chiefly by parables, (C.) so He may be said to have been Himself a parable to His disciples. But the plainer sense, an object of ridicule, is more generally followed.

12 They that sit in the gate speak against me: and the drunkards make songs upon me.

The sitters in the gate, according to primeval Eastern usage, are the elders and rulers of the city, (G.) and here, as all the commentators agree, it is used of the chief priests. The drunkards are variously explained. Some apply it to those Jews who, having just been quaffing the Paschal wine-cups on the night of Maundy Thursday, hastened from their feast to the house of Annas, to join in reviling CHRIST. Again, it is said by another, following literally the Vulgate, they who drank the wine, (Ay.) to refer to a brutal jest of the soldiers employed at the Crucifixion, swallowing themselves the spiced wine prepared for the sufferers to deaden their sense of pain, and substituting vinegar in its stead. The prophecy was true in another sense at a later day, when not only was the Arian heresy encouraged by the chiefs of the State, but the ribald songs of the heresiarch’s own Thalia, directed against the Consubstantial, were trolled in the wine-shops of Alexandria.

13a (13) But, LORD, I make my prayer unto thee: in an acceptable time.

13b (14) Hear me, O GOD, in the multitude of thy mercy: even in the truth of thy salvation.

That acceptable time was when the good seed which had fallen into the ground, and was lying buried, (A.) should spring up again in the new life of the Resurrection. (G.) Or it may be taken of CHRIST’S prayer in His Passion, because in that Passion were three things well pleasing to GOD: first, the absolution of sinners, in CHRIST’S Blood, (Ay) for “to depart from wickedness is a thing pleasing unto the LORD;”* secondly, union and love between neighbours, also brought about by the Cross, for “in three things was I beautified—the unity of brethren, the love of neighbours, a man and his wife that agree together;”* thirdly, the faith of the devout, which He in His Passion prayed might not fail; for “faith and meekness are His delight.”* And the Carthusian will not limit it even thus, but declares that the acceptable time, (D. C.) the day of salvation, was the whole period of CHRIST’S sojourn upon earth. In the multitude of Thy mercy, (Ay.) whereby Thou hast sent Me into the world to save it, hear Me in the promised truth of Thy salvation, that My Atonement may redeem mankind, and My Resurrection justify all believers, and the sayings of the prophets thus be fulfilled.

14 (15) Take me out of the mire, that I sink not: O let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

Out of the mire. That is, (G.) deliver Me from the ungodly and treacherous Jews, from the sorrows and cares of My weary life, from the corruptibility of My human Body, (D. C.) from the depth of the grave. Out of the deep waters, from the troubles and persecutions which encompass Me. When the sinner utters these same words, his prayer is to be delivered from carnal sin and worldly greed within his own soul, and from outward troubles and sufferings which may shake his faith. He saith this, because of the infirmity of His members. “Whenever thou art seized by one that urgeth thee to iniquity, (A.) thou art in body fixed in the deep clay; but so long as thou consentest not, thou hast not stuck.

15 (16) Let not the water-flood drown me, neither let the deep swallow me up: and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

He had said already in the beginning of the Psalm that the floods run over Him. (A.) It hath drowned after the flesh, let it not drown after the spirit. And it is thus throughout a prayer for the Resurrection. Let not the water-flood drown Me, but rather be a wall to Me on each side as I pass over Jordan with the staff of My Cross. Neither let the deep swallow Me up, by My Body lying to moulder in the grave unto corruption; (Ay.) and let not the pit shut her month upon Me, to hold Me prisoned in Hades; but open before Me as I return in triumph, leading the ransomed Fathers back with Me to light and glory. The sinner may use these words, too, of a spiritual resurrection from the grave of iniquity, (A.) and he will find that, so long as he is willing to confess his guilt, the mouth of the pit will not close over him; but when he attempts to excuse himself,* then it shuts.

16 (17) Hear me, O LORD, for thy loving-kindness is comfortable: turn thee unto me according to the multitude of thy mercies.

The Head herein teaches His members how to pray, (C.) namely, that they are to plead with GOD His loving-kindness, (A.) and not their own merits; to deal with them according to the multitude of His mercies, not according to that of their sins. And it is the reason given by the prophet Joel, “Turn unto the LORD your GOD, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil.”* Ayguan, not unwilling to show his learning, (Ay.) cites here various examples from Roman history, as parables of GOD’S loving-kindness in CHRIST. The aptest of them is the story of Panopion’s slave, who, learning that his master was proscribed, and the soldiers come to find him, changed clothes with him, let him out by a private door, lay down on Panopion’s bed, and was stabbed in his place.* Who, asks Ayguan. is that proscribed Panopion, but man exiled from Paradise by the sin of our first parents? Who is that faithful and loving slave, but the SON of GOD, Who emptied Himself of His glory, and took on Him the form of a servant? That He might save us from the pains of hell, He changed His garb with us, and was found in fashion as a man, and suffered Himself to be slain for us.

17 (18) And hide not thy face from thy servant, for I am in trouble: O haste thee and hear me.

The word in the LXX. and Vulgate may be rendered not only servant, but child. (D. C.) And it thus points at once to Him Who is the Only-begotten of His FATHER, and Who is also pure and meek as a little child. (C.) Most truly a servant also, not only by His having taken on Him the nature of man, and being, so far, inferior to the FATHER, but by His perfect obedience. (G.) He then, Who only can look on the Face of GOD, before which even the Seraphim must veil theirs, prays that it may not be hidden from Him, (A.) Who merits to be heard because of His unstained holiness. And every penitent who has become as a little child in humility may use these words too, for though “GOD resisteth the proud, He giveth grace to the humble.”*

18 (19) Draw nigh unto my soul, and save it: O deliver me, because of mine enemies.

These words form the Versicle and Response prefixed to the Lauds of Passiontide in the Sarum Breviary. (A.) It is not for Himself that He asks to be delivered, but for His enemies; (G.) for the thief who reviled Him, for the soldier who pierced Him, for the nation that rejected Him, that by His being delivered from the grave, they may be converted and believe in Him. And for those who harden themselves also, that they may be weakened and confounded when they find all their plottings vain. (D. C.) And observe, that whereas the priests were His chief enemies, yet after the day of Pentecost we read that a great company of them became obedient unto the Faith. (A.) GOD, however, delivers in two ways: sometimes He delivers the soul alone from, the peril of sin, allowing the body to perish, as with the Seven Maceabees and the Christian martyrs—this is hidden deliverance; sometimes He delivers from bodily dangers also, as the three children from the fiery furnace,—and this is open deliverance. And both these deliverances are for the sake of the enemies as well as for that of the faithful, that they may see, like Antiochus, that the constancy of the saints cannot be overcome; that they may worship, like Nebuchadnezzar, the GOD Who can save to the uttermost.

19 (20) Thou hast known my reproof, my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all in thy sight.

My reproof, (Ay.) in the words of insult addressed to Me by the Jews, calling Me a demoniac, a glutton, and a winebibber. My shame, outer, indeed, and before men only, not of the soul before GOD, in that I have been bound, scourged, condemned, and crucified as a robber. My dishonour, the stripes and spitting. Or, with the Vulgate rendering, My reverence, (G.) the mock coronation, and jeering homage of the soldiery. Mine adversaries are all in Thy sight. And unless Thou deliver Me openly, they will not know why I suffer these things, (A.) and will neither be confounded nor corrected; though they have increased their sin by committing it before Thee.

20 (21) Thy rebuke hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness: I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me.

There is no authority whatsoever for the word Thy in the Prayer Book Version here. It is not in the Hebrew, nor in any other translation, and is quite out of keeping with all the context. In the true reading, that of the A. V., Reproach hath broken My heart, we may well see a reference to that notion, so often upheld by Saints, that the immediate cause of the Redeemer’s death was not the Crucifixion, but a heart broken by man’s ingratitude; whence it was that the soldiers marvelled at finding Him dead before His fellow-sufferers. And at the least we may take it, with the old Dutch poet, of the spear-wound in His side:

Doc gî anc t-cruce gestorven waert,

Quam dacr een ridder ongespaert,*

Die u met ênen spere stac

Ene wonde, dat u t-herte brae

In uwe sîde, ende ût-en steke

Ran bloet ende water als een beke.

The Vulgate, however, (G.) reads, My heart hath expected rebuke and misery. Not only did that loving Heart foresee and expect its coming sorrows, but longed for them, saying, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover,”* although the weakness of our human nature was such as to make the expectation bring on the Agony and Bloody Sweat. (D. C.) The Syriac Psalter here reads, beautifully, if inexactly, Heal the breaking of My heart, and bind it up. And we may take it either as a prayer of CHRIST to His FATHER, intreating for the joy of the Resurrection, or of the sinner seeking refuge with the SAVIOUR. I looked for some one to hare pity on Me, but there was no man. The Hebrew, followed by the Vulgate, goes deeper than this, and reads, to be sorrowful with Me. (A.) That is, it was not merely pity, but sympathy, for which the SAVIOUR looked in vain. Sorrow there was, and that abundantly, amongst His disciples, but not the closer bond of fellow-feeling. They mourned for His death, whereas their mourning should have been, as His was, for His murderers slaying their Healer. Even His Mother, though the sword of grief passed through her heart, (G.) and His Apostles, whose sorrow, because true and praiseworthy, was soon to be turned into joy, did not rise to this height, nor attain to the likeness of His sorrow. Neither found I any to comfort me. By repenting at the sight of My patient suffering, and coming to Me, the Physician, to be healed. Nay, observes another, His very Godhead, because impassible, was no help to His Manhood in the Passion,* and did not comfort It nor suffer with It, any more than the sunshine suffers when a piece of wood on which its rays are falling is chopped up.

21 (22) They gave me gall to eat: and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.

The literal fulfilment of this double prediction in the successive acts of the soldiers who, before the Crucifixion, “gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall, and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink;”* and again when He, upon the Cross, said, “I thirst,” “filled, a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth,”* has been most justly dwelt on by all commentators. But they find spiritual mysteries underlying the letter. (G.) In the refusal of the mingled cup first offered, they see His rejection of the double-minded, whose good is corrupted by evil. Such were Judas, whose confession, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,”* though wine, was mingled with the gall of bitterness and despair; and Simon Magus, whose request for the prayers of the Apostles was also uttered in the “gall of bitterness.”* But in His acceptance of the vinegar offered on the sponge is discerned His welcome to the bitter penitence of a contrite heart, like that of Peter weeping for his fall: where note, that one who drinks from a sponge, does not drain it like a cup, but leaves some of the contents behind. And so CHRIST, in accepting a sinner’s penitence, does not drain his heart of it, but takes only so much as He knows to be profitable. Why it should be said, They gave Me gall to eat, rather than to drink, (seeing that no solid food was offered to the LORD,) is a question which the early commentators discuss at length. They accept, for the most part, the explanation of S. Augustine, who, translating literally, They gave gall into My food, glosses thus: Because already the LORD GOD had taken food, (A.) and into it there had been thrown gall. But He Himself had taken pleasant food when He ate the Passover with His disciples: therein He showed the Sacrament of His Body. Unto this Food, so pleasant, so sweet, of the Unity of CHRIST, of which the Apostle makes mention, saying, “For we being many, are one bread, and one body,”*—unto this pleasant Food who is there that addeth gall, except the gainsayers of the Gospel, like those persecutors of CHRIST? For the Jews sinned less in crucifying Him Who walked on earth, than they that despise Him seated in heaven. That which the Jews did there, in giving above the food which He had already taken that bitter draught to drink, the same do they that by evil living bring scandal upon the Church,—the same do embittered heretics. They give gall after such, pleasant meat.

22 (23) Let their table be made a snare to take themselves withal: and let the things that should have been for their wealth be unto them an occasion of falling.

And they note, (G) that as CHRIST’S table was made a snare for Him by those who bribed one of them who dipped with Him in the dish at the Paschal Supper, so the horrors of the siege (Ay.) of Jerusalem by Titus were mainly due to the blockade beginning just as the city was thronged for the Passover, * so that not only the ordinary population, but crowds of Jews from all parts of the Empire, were taken as in a snare. The words hold good also of the spiritual table of Holy Writ, (L.) which proved a snare to the Jews by their misinterpretation of its Messianic prophecies. (P.) Where observe further that every chastisement which fell on the Jews corresponded exactly to some one of their outrages against CHRIST. They rebelled against Him, the promised King and Messiah, saying, “We have no King but Cæsar.”* It as the harsh rule of Cæsar’s soldiers which drove them into the rebellion which was their destruction. They betrayed CHRIST at the Passover: it was at the Passover they were besieged.* They crucified CHRIST at Paschaltide itself, and gave Him vinegar and gall: they suffered all the tortures of famine themselves, and ate their Passover in bitterness. They blindfolded CHRIST, smote Him, and bade Him prophesy: they were blinded themselves in ignorance, and unable to behold the mysteries of Scripture. They laid the Cross on His shoulders: on their own was laid the yoke of slavery. And as they raged against CHRIST, crying, “Crucify, crucify,” so almost every year the people are excited against them, rob and murder them.1 They cast CHRIST out of the city to crucify Him, and were cast out of their own city themselves, and scattered over the world. We may add, as Josephus says, that such of them as attempted to escape from the city were crucified in such numbers, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses for the bodies.

23 (24) Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not: and ever bow thou down their backs.

Blinded to the true meaning of Scripture, (L.) bowed down under the weight of the Law. And S. Augustine compares the attitude of Jews and Christians towards the truth to the spies carrying the grapes on the pole.* The Jews go first, counting themselves to have the pre-eminence, but not seeing the precious freight, and even turning their backs upon it; while the Christian, coming behind, beholds and worships.

They who were grace-expectant, they who lived and died in grace,

They who saw CHRIST far off, and they who see, though veiled,

His Face—

Those went before: these follow, they are all one brotherhood,

And in the midst the True Vine hangs upon the Holy Rood.

Like the men of Sodom, whom the angels smote with blindness when they endeavoured to break into the house of Lot, the Jews, under the curse, were unable to find CHRIST, Who is the Door. (G.) We see the prayer fulfilled in mercy when Saul was blinded on his way to Damascus, and that stiff neck was bowed beneath the yoke of his Conqueror.

24 (25) Pour out thine indignation upon them: and let thy wrathful displeasure take hold of them.

25 (26) Let their habitation be void: and no man to dwell in their tents.

Pour out, not drop by drop, but in a flood of vengeance. And they note the difference between indignation, (G.) (ira,) which GOD always shows against sin, when He corrects the offender with His chastisements, and wrathful displeasure, (Ay.) (furor iræ,) which is the punishment dealt out to hardened impenitence. Let their habitation be void. It is taken first by S. Peter of the traitor Judas, in whose person the prophecy was first accomplished, since the field bought with the price of blood was inhabited only by the dead.* (L.) For a yet wider fulfilment we must look not merely to the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and the raising of Ælia Capitolina on another site, but to the decree of Hadrian, after the suppression of Bar-Cochab’s revolt, forbidding all Jews to approach near enough to Jerusalem even to behold its former site from any neighbouring hill.* In their tents. Not only so far as they are a community is ruin to fall on them, (G.) but even solitary dwellings are to share the fate of the city, that the vengeance may be at once universal and particular. Or the habitation may well refer to the Temple, left void when the mysterious sound of an unseen departing multitude was heard, saying, “Let us go hence.” And as the Feast of Tabernacles, when tents or booths were erected by the Jews, was no more to be kept in the Holy City, it is well said that no man should dwell in their tents.* Ayguan, interpreting the tents or tabernacles of the souls of the unbelieving Jews, well says, (Ay.) that as the Man was not suffered to dwell therein, they were given over to evil spirits of darkness and sin. “Owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”*

26 (27) For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten: and they talk how they may vex them whom thou hast wounded.

What then was their sin, (A.) asks S. Augustine, if they did but carry on, as it were, GOD’S work? The Master of the Sentences answers the question well: CHRIST was delivered up by the FATHER, delivered up by Himself, by Judas, and by the Jews.* What then is the difference between the cases? It is that the FATHER and SON acted out of love, Judas from treachery, (B.) the Jews from hate. And it is truly said, Whom Thou hast smitten, for GOD smote the SAVIOUR first in giving Him a mortal and passible Body, and then by giving Him up as a Sacrifice for us; as it is written, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief;”* and again, “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”* They talk how they may vex them whom Thou hast wounded. The Hebrew is rather, They talk of the grief of Thy wounded. That is, they gloat over the details of the sufferings of Him Whom they “did esteem stricken, smitten of GOD, and afflicted,”* and of those indicted on the martyrs who trod in His steps. But the LXX. and Vulgate have, They added unto the pain of My wounds, (doubtless reading חֲלָלָי יָסְפוּ instead of חֲלָלֶיךָ יְסַפֵּרוּ,) and this by blasphemy and the insults of the soldiery in My own Person, (Lu.) and by afflicting the faithful of My Church, so that I suffer in My members also. And note, observes S. Albert, that we may crucify the SAVIOUR afresh in four ways. First, by afflicting His poor, according to His own saying in S. Peter’s vision, “I go to Rome to be crucified again,” because “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”* Next, by depriving His ministers of their due assistance. “Ye have robbed [Vulg., ye pierce] Me, even this whole nation.* But ye say, Wherein have we robbed [Vulg., do we pierce] Thee? In tithes and offerings.” Thirdly,* by making light of the Sacrament, “seeing they crucify to themselves the SON of GOD afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”* Fourthly, by apostatizing from the right way, and especially from the promise, “before whose eyes JESUS CHRIST hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.”*

27 (28) Let them fall from one wickedness to another: and not come into thy righteousness.

28 (29) Let them be wiped out of the book of the living: and not be written among the righteous.

From the wickedness of slaying the messengers of the LORD of the vineyard to that of killing His SON; (A.) from the wickedness of killing that SON, (D. C.) counting Him a mere man, to that of outraging the SON of GOD. And not come into Thy righteousness, because the only door into that is faith, from which in their perversity they turn away to their sins. (A.) Let them be wiped out of the book of the living. Had they ever been written therein? Brethren, we must not so take it as that GOD writeth any one in the Book of Life, and blotteth him out. If a man said, “What I have written, I have written,”* concerning the title where it had been written “King of the Jews,” doth GOD write any one, and blot him out? He foreknoweth. He hath predestined all before the foundation of the world that are to reign with His SON in life everlasting. These He hath written down; these same the Book of Life doth contain. Lastly, in the Apocalypse, what saith the Spirit of GOD, when the Scripture is speaking of Antichrist’s oppressions? “All shall worship him whose names are not written in the Book of Life.”* So then, doubtless, they who are written will not do so. How, then, are these men blotted out of that book wherein they were never written? It hath been said of their hopes, because they thought themselves to be written. Let it be plain even to themselves that they are not therein. And then to be written among the righteous will mean to be numbered amongst the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Others refer the verse to temporal chastisements, so that the book of the living means simply the muster-roll of those yet upon earth, (H.) out of which death blots each man in his turn; and the number of the righteous such a catalogue of illustrious men as that contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus.* Bellarmine, objecting to S. Augustine’s view as merely evading the difficulty of reconciling the blotting out with eternal predestination, and to the merely temporal explanation as involving a contradiction between the members of the verse, explains it of the Book of the people of GOD,* wherein His true worshippers are enrolled; once filled with the name of the Jewish nation, but now, on its erasure, containing the Gentiles instead. And he aptly cites Ezekiel’s prophecy, “They shall not be in the assembly of My people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel.”*

29 (30) As for me, when I am poor and in heaviness: thy help, O GOD, shall lift me up.

Poor, in taking on Himself our human nature, thus emptying Himself of His glory, in heaviness, (or with the LXX. and Vulgate, suffering,) upon the Cross.* Shall lift Me up, (Z.) in the might of My Resurrection, in the glory of My Ascension. And not in My own Person alone, (G.) but lifting up with Me the members whose Head I am.

31 I will praise the Name of GOD with a song: and magnify it with thanksgiving.

32 This also shall please the LORD: better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

They see in these words the joy of the Resurrection, and the greater pleasure felt by GOD in the voluntary praise of a rational being, (A.) than in the sacrifice of a brute animal, incapable of self-dedication. (G.) The Vulgate reading in the latter clause is, A young steer, putting forth its horns and hoofs; that is, not yet fully ready for the yoke of CHRIST, (A.) but going on in obedience, and having horns for His violent enemies, and hoofs to tread under those who grovel in earthly desires. (G.) Gerhohus dwells at length on this simile, and instances Moses in his early efforts in favour of his countrymen in Egypt; Peter, in his smiting of Malchus; Saul, in his first persecuting zeal; and even our LORD Himself, while yet increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with GOD and man, as when He sat in the midst of the doctors, and again, when He purged the temple at the beginning of His ministry. (B.) S. Bruno the Carthusian adopts this last view for another reason. In the steer he sees the Victim for the Sacrifice; in the epithet young or new (novellus) he recognises the New Man, (Ay.) the Second Adam. Ayguan, going yet deeper, sees in this sacrifice of thanksgiving, attended with song, and preferable to animal victims, the Oblation of the Gospel, the most Holy Eucharist, dearer to GOD than all sacrifice besides. And because this is so—

Tantum ergo Sacramentum

Veneremur cernui,*

Et antiquum documentum

Novo cedat ritui;

Præstet fides supplementum,

Sensuum defectui.

32 (33) The humble shall consider this, and be glad: seek ye after GOD, and your soul shall live.

The humble, (Ay.) that is, in the first place, the Apostles, and then all that are poor in station and lowly in heart since their day; and they will be glad, because the abolition of the old sacrifices, and the acceptance of a spiritual service in their stead, has removed one advantage which the rich had over the poor under the Law. They can seek God directly in the Eucharist, and feeding there on Him, their soul shall live. Wherefore we cry to Him—

O panis dulcissime,

O fidelis animæ

Vitalis refectio!

O Paschalis Victimæ

Agne mansuetissime,

Legalis oblatio.

33 (34) For the LORD heareth the poor: and despiseth not his prisoners.

And as He had pity on the children of Israel, (G.) and brought them out of the bondage of Egypt, so He looks on sinners even now, and looses them from the chains of their sins. (Ay.) Those who are willing so to be freed by Him are His prisoners, because they are held captive by the devil against their will. And all Saints who submit themselves to His commandments, keeping them strictly, are, in another sense, His prisoners also. Yet, again, we may take it of all men who are tied down on earth by their bodies. Or it may be fitly taken of the Fathers who waited in Hades for the Coming of CHRIST, whom Zechariah styles by this same: title.* We may extend the application of the verse, and its connection with the two preceding ones, yet further, and explain it of the Holy Eucharist, as a propitiation for the living and the dead. And so the Missal of Liege:

King of Glory, hear our voices,*

Grant Thy faithful rest, we pray;

We have sinned, and may not bide it,

If Thou mark our steps astray;

Yet we plead that saving Victim

Which for them we bring to-day.

So far, the confession of sin is a prayer to the LORD, Who heareth the poor. Then follows:

That which Thou Thyself hast offered

To the FATHER, offer we;

Let it win for them a blessing,

Bless them, JESU, set them free:

They are Thine, they wait in patience,

Merciful and gracious be.

That is, He despiseth not His prisoners.

34 (35) Let heaven and earth praise him: the sea, and all that moveth therein.

The heaven, (P.) because the ranks of the angelic hierarchies, left incomplete by the fall of the rebels, have been filled up; the earth, because man is ransomed; the sea, because the glad tidings of salvation have spread to the islands afar. (B.) Let the heaven of His chief Saints, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, praise Him; (G.) let the earth of believing Jews, less exalted, do the like: let the sea of Gentiles, coming from the ends of the earth, and compassing the Jews round as a sea, join in the hymn. All creeping things therein, is the Vulgate reading; and they take it of weak and imperfect Christians, who, nevertheless, are encouraged to add their voices to swell the praises of GOD.* Let heaven praise CHRIST, for He ascended; let earth praise Him, for He rose again; let the sea praise Him, for He walked upon its surface.

35 (36) For GOD will save Sion, and build the cities of Judah: that men may dwell there, and have it in possession.

36 (37) The posterity also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his Name shall dwell therein.

It is spoken first of the Church Militant, saved by its Founder, (C.) so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; and of the various local Churches forming parts of that one, (as the branching chapels of a great cathedral are portions of one harmonious whole, (Ay.)) and fitly styled cities of Judah, as springing out of the Hebrew dispensation. Men shall dwell there, as not being mere sojourners or temporary worshippers, and have it for a possession, enjoying full membership as their very own, instead of the imperfect position allowed to proselytes of Gentile race by the Jews. The posterity of His servants, not necessarily their literal offspring, but those spiritually begotten in the Gospel, and continuing in the same belief and zeal as the first Fathers of the infant Church.

And we may also take the verses of the Church Triumphant, saved by the constant addition of new names to its roll-call, new stones to its buildings. Then the cities of Judah will denote those orders of angels who serve the Lion of the tribe of Judah, whose ranks, thinned by the fall of Lucifer and his hosts, will be filled up with redeemed mortals; and thus the cities shall be built, the waste places repaired, while the eternal tenure of blessedness in heaven is expressed by the words, They shall have it for a possession.


Glory be to the FATHER, to Whom the GOD-Man cried, Save Me, O God; and to the SON, JESUS CHRIST, praying for Himself and His members to be saved and delivered from the floods; and to the HOLY GHOST, Who is that love and salvation wherewith GOD shall save Sion, and whereby all that love His Name shall dwell therein.

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

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