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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. As preceding Psalm.

Monastic. Exult unto GOD, * our Helper.

Parisian. Thy testimonies, * O LORD, are very sure.

Ambrosian. As preceding Psalm.

Mozarabic. First verse of the Psalm.

The most satisfactory explanation amongst the many which have been given as to the date and occasion of this Psalm, is that which represents it as composed after the captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and before that of the Kingdom of Judah. It will thus be a prayer for use in the Temple of Jerusalem for the release of the ten tribes from bondage, for their reunion under the sceptre of the House of David, and for the restoration of the limits reached by the Jewish monarchy in the time of Solomon. The mystical parallel thus afforded is abundantly clear.

1 Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep: show thyself also, thou that sittest upon the cherubims.

Shepherd of Israel. So the LXX., Syriac, and S. Jerome. The Vulgate, less happily, reads, Thou who rulest Israel. He is the Shepherd of His people,* because He pitches their tents as in a green pasture, and feeds them by the waters of comfort; because He is their leader, and champion against wild beasts; because He turns back those which are going astray, recovers the lost sheep, binds up the broken, protects the whole, and gathers them into the heavenly fold. He is Shepherd of Israel, (Z.) as King of the Jews, ruling His people in many ways, as a monarch does his realm, as a pilot steers his ship, as a general marshals a battle,* as a father governs his household, as a teacher directs his pupils, as a guide conducts the blind, as a shepherd leads his sheep, as an abbat rules a cloister, as the soul sways the body, as reason does the heart, as a priest governs his church, or a bishop his diocese. He rules and feeds Joseph also, (B.) the “increase” of the Gentiles, bringing him into the one fold with Israel, and leading him on from strength to strength. (L.) And as He led the patriarch Joseph like a sheep in his innocence, simplicity, purity, meekness, and patience, from prison to a throne; so He led CHRIST, the antitype of Joseph, the Lamb of GOD, from the grave to His own right hand in glory.* He leads still all pure and patient souls by the same path to His own fold. And not only the pure; for here we may see that hundredth sheep which the Good Shepherd brings back on His shoulders to rejoin the ninety and nine.* Our Pastor goes before His flock, for He is the guide into all truth, and He leads the way to Paradise and Heaven.* He goes behind His flock, lest the weary one should halt, or be separated from its companions. And so it is written, “Thy Righteousness shall go before thee: the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.”*

Show Thyself.* By Thine Advent and Thine Incarnation, showing not Thy majesty alone, but Thy lowliness. That sittest upon the Cherubims. “Cherubim is the seat of the glory of GOD, and is interpreted ‘the fulness of knowledge.’ There GOD sitteth in the fulness of knowledge. Though we understand the Cherubim to be the exalted powers and virtues of heavens; yet, if thou desirest, thou wilt be cherubim. For if cherubim be the seat of GOD, (A.) the soul of a righteous man is the seat of wisdom. How shall I, thou sayest, be the fulness of knowledge? Who shall fulfil this? Thou hast the means of doing so; ‘Love is the fulfilling of the Law.’ Run not after many things, nor strain thyself. The spreading size of the branches alarms thee: hold by the Root, and reck not of the greatness of the tree. Let Love be in thee, and the fulness of knowledge must needs follow. For ‘GOD is Love.’ ”* The primary reference is to the cloud hovering over the Ark in the journey in the wilderness, and later to the Shechinah in the Holy of holies in the Temple. And of this passage we have an exceedingly early mystical application to the Four Gospels. S. Irenæus writes:* “The WORD, the Framer of all things, Who sitteth upon the Cherubim, and containeth all things, He Who was manifested to men,* has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. As also David says, when praying for His manifestation, Thou that sittest upon the cherubims, show Thyself.* For ‘the first living creature was like a lion,’ typifying His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; ‘the second was like a calf,’ signifying sacrificial and priestly order; but ‘the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,’ a clear description of His Advent as a human being; ‘the fourth like a flying eagle,’ denoting the gift of the SPIRIT hovering with His wings over the Church.”

Ecce forma bestialis,*

Quam scriptura prophetalis

Notat, Sed materialis

Hæc est impositio.

Currunt rotis, volant alis,

Visus sensus spiritalis;

Rota, gressus est æqualis,

Ala, contemplatio.

Quatuor describunt isti

Quadriformes actus CHRISTI;

Et figurant, ut audisti,

Quisque suâ formulâ.

Natus Homo declaratur,

Vitulus sacrificatur,

Leo mortem deprædatur,

Et ascendit Aquila.

And taking the Ark, as they so often do, to represent her who was the shrine of Godhead, the Greek Fathers delight in describing the Holy Child lying on her bosom as on a throne, borne up by angels.

Παρθένος καθέζεται, τά χερουβὶμ μιμουμένη.*

βαστάζουσα ἐν κόλποις, Θεὸν Λόγον σαρκωθέντα.

Till then, He was sitting upon the Angels, and, in respect of us men, (Ay.) He was, as it were, sleeping and lying down. Then, He arose in His power, and stood up to help us in the battle.

2 Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasses: stir up thy strength, and come, and help us.

These three tribes were marshalled together on the west side of the Tabernacle,* and therefore nearest to the Holy of holies. This circumstance, and the meaning of their names, have given rise to a copious stream of mystical interpretation. And first they take all three as types of CHRIST, the “fruitful” Tree, (C.) which, buried first in the earth, shot up to the highest heavens; the “SON of the Right Hand” of the Almighty FATHER; the “forgetting” One, Who pardoned the sins committed against Himself, and prayed upon the Cross for His murderers. Again, they interpret Ephraim of the laity,* who ought to be fruitful in good works, as they are rich in worldly goods;* Benjamin, of the clergy, (B.) who should be valiant, and do battle for the Church, caring nothing for the heritage of the left hand, mere temporal prosperity;* and Manasseh, of Religious, who leave behind and forget worldly matters, “reaching forth unto those things which are before.” (D. C.) The Carthusian, not dissimilarly,* takes the first to mean those who bring forth worthy fruits of repentance, the second to be the workers of righteousness, the third those who forget the world. They remind us that Benjamin was the tribe whence S. Paul, (P.) the teacher of the Gentiles, sprang, and that it thus denotes the missionary Jewish Church; that Ephraim, the younger and more fruitful child of Joseph, signifies the Gentiles, (Ay.) later called, but more numerous than the Hebrew believers; and that Manasseh, meaning “forgetfulness,” and dwelling half in Bashan and half in Canaan, is the Jewish nation, forgetting CHRIST, but having a remnant which will not abide in unbelief, but will enter into the promises.* Ayguan begins here, but does not finish, a long allegory on the marshalling of the twelve tribes, comparing them to twelve virtues encamped round the tabernacle of the Christian’s body: on the east, its new birth; on the south, its time of wealth; on the north, its season of adversity; and on the west, its setting or death. He does not reach the west; but we may readily fill the blank by noting what he says of the others. The dying Christian, then, should have “fruitfulness,” because his Master has come looking for harvest; he should have trust in his SAVIOUR, for it is written, (A.) “Thou hast holden me by my right hand;” he should forget the things now lying behind him,* reaching forth unto those things which are before. Stir up Thy strength, for Thou wast weak when they said, “If He be the SON of GOD,* let Him come down from the Cross.” Thou didst seem to have no strength, the persecutor had power over Thee; and Thou didst show this of old, for Jacob himself prevailed in wrestling, a man with an Angel. Could he ever have done so, had not the Angel been willing? And man prevailed, and the Angel was conquered; and victorious man holdeth the Angel, and saith, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.”* A great mystery! He both standeth conquered, and blesseth the conqueror. Conquered, because He willed it; weak in flesh, strong in majesty. Stir up, therefore, Thy strength. How long dost Thou seem weak? (Ay.) Having been “crucified through weakness,” arise in power, and come. No longer send,* as before, by the hand of Thy Prophets, but come, in Thine own Person, by the mighty power of Thine Incarnation. And help us. The A. V. and Vulgate,* more truly, save us. First, by delivering us from error; then, by gathering us into unity; finally, by rescuing us from misery. And save us from the guilt of original sin, (D. C.) from mortal and venial offences, and from the power of the evil one.

3 Turn us, again, O GOD: show the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.

Turn us, (L.) as the Targum explains it, back from our captivity to our country, (A.) or, with other Rabbinical authorities, revive us from our faintness, bringing us to ourselves again. Either way it holds good of sinners, (Ay.) turning away first from GOD, and then by His grace, not by their own power, turned back, converted to Him in penitence,* because He first turns to us. (Cd.) Wherefore He saith, “Turn ye unto Me, saith the LORD of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of Hosts.”* And again it is written, “And the LORD turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the Word of the LORD.”* Show the light of Thy Countenance. It is a prayer to the FATHER to make His SON,* “the brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His Person,” manifest in the flesh by His Incarnation; (A.) it is a prayer to the SON, Whose radiance was hid under the cloud of flesh, to show His light by arising from the grave,* and by ascending into heaven.* And we shall be saved, (A. V. and Vulg.,) as they are, who, on the point of perishing in the icy chill of winter, see and feel the bright and genial rays of the sun. Turn us, then, by pouring Thy grace upon us; show us the light of Thy Countenance, by illuming us inwardly with wisdom; and save us, (D. C.) by granting us perseverance in the right way. Show us the light of Thy Countenance after this life in our Country, and we shall be whole from all pain and sorrow; for “in the light of the King’s Countenance is life.”*

4 O LORD GOD of hosts: how long wilt thou be angry with thy people that prayeth?

How long? Let Him answer Himself: “I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me,* and the souls which I have made.”* Thy people. The LXX., Syriac, and Vulgate read, Thy servant. And they contrast the might ascribed to GOD by the invocation in this verse with this lowliness of His suppliant Prophet, (L.) speaking in the name of the people, and fitly calling on the LORD of good angels to save Him from evil ones, on the LORD of armies to deliver from the enemy’s hand. S. Augustine appears to have read here, Thou wast angry at the prayer of Thine enemy; wilt Thou still be angry at the prayer of Thy servant? Till we turned from our wickedness, (A.) we were Thine enemies, and our very prayer was turned into sin; but now that Thou hast converted us,* we know Thee, and wilt Thou still be angry with the prayer of Thy servant? Thou wilt, most plainly, but as a Father correcting, not as a Judge condemning. Thus Thou wilt clearly be angry, because it is written, “My son, if thou come to serve the LORD, prepare thy soul for temptation.”* Think not that GOD’S wrath hath now passed away, because thou art converted. It hath passed away, but only so as not to condemn for ever. But He scourgeth, He spareth not; because He “scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”* If thou refusest to be scourged, why dost thou desire to be received? He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. He scourgeth every one, Who did not spare even His Only SON. But how long? Hear Him again:* “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My Face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.”

5 Thou feedest them with the bread of tears: and givest them plenteousness of tears to drink.

The LXX. and Vulgate read, Thou wilt feed us with the bread of tears, and give us drink of tears in measure. Again we ask, How long? And there is an answer, “Thus saith the King: Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction, and with water of affliction, until I come again in peace.”* Till CHRIST comes in peace to the soul, it must mourn in bondage; till CHRIST comes again to the children of the bride-chamber, they must fast and weep in penitence for their sins. (C.) The bread of tears is a life of sorrows, and GOD feeds us therewith when He teaches us, not destroys us, with affliction; for these tears are for our amendment and perfection, not for our destruction.* With meat and drink of this kind the sinful woman fed her LORD,* when He sat in the house of the Pharisee; for CHRIST hungers after the groans of sinners, and thirsts for their tears, so that Mary, not Simon, truly banqueted Him.* So He fed S. Peter daily, when the crowing of the cock reminded the Prince of the Apostles of his denial. And as the Most Holy Eucharist is a memorial of His Death, Who strove for us here with strong crying and tears, It, as uniting us to His Passion, is the Bread and Water of tears. Cry we then to Him:

JESU Victor, JESU vita,

JESU, vitæ via trita,*

Cujus morte mors sopita,

Ad Paschalem nos invita

Mensam cum fiduciâ!

Vive Panis, verax Unda,

Vera vitis et fœeunda,

Tu nos pasce, tu nos munda,

Ut a morte nos secundâ

Tua salvet gratia!

In measure, however, it is that He gives us tears to drink, according to the degree of our sinfulness;* and yet mercifully even so, “for GOD is faithful, (A.) Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”* In measure,* for observe that there were six times appointed for this feeding of men. First, of rebuke, as when it was said to our first parents, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”* Secondly, of chastisement, when mankind was reduced to eight souls in the Ark. Thirdly, of sacrifice, when circumcision was given to Abraham for a sign. Fourthly, of prohibition, when GOD gave the Law. Fifthly, of declaration, when the Prophets announced the Advent of CHRIST, bringing His reward with Him. Sixthly, of reconciliation, when He came in the flesh. And He says bread, because it is made up of three things: flour, which is good works, whereof is written, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life;”* water, denoting tears of repentance, of which is said, “Pour out thine heart like water before the face of the LORD;”* and fire, which is of love, and of which CHRIST has spoken, “I am come to send fire upon the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?”* This alone consolidates and unites the flour and the water into nourishment of the soul.

6 Thou hast made us a very strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

Strife. (A.) The LXX. and Vulgate read, contradiction, or gainsaying. This plainly came to pass; for out of Asaph were chosen they that should go to the Gentiles, and preach CHRIST, and should have it said of them,* Who is this “setter forth of strange gods?” For a contradiction; for they were preaching Him Who was the subject of the contradiction. What did they preach? That CHRIST, after He was dead, rose again. Who would acknowledge this? It was a new thing. But signs followed, and miracles gave credibility to an incredible thing. He was contradicted, but the gainsayer was overcome, and from a contradictor became a believer. Our neighbours are the Jews, the “gainsaying people;”* but we are further exposed to the heathen, our enemies, who laugh us to scorn as worshipping a crucified malefactor. Even still,* our neighbours, heretical Christians, near the Church, (Ay.) but not of it, contradict; and unbelievers, whether Jews or Pagans, scorn the Catholic Faith.

7 Turn us again, thou GOD of hosts: show the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.

In the former invocation, (L.) CHRIST was besought to come in the flesh, in human weakness; wherefore He is there called GOD simply. Now, He is besought to come in the might of His Resurrection to eternal life, and is therefore given the title of power, God of Hosts.

8 Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.

First, let us take it of the True Vine Himself,* of Whom it was written in mystery,* “Out of Egypt have I called My SON.”* And so it has been explained by some Rabbis. Next,* of the branches collectively, springing from that one Root, and forming the Christian Church. They delight in heaping up similes to show the fitness of this parable. A Saint, writing in the days of martyrdom, allegorizes thus, with a copiousness of mystical allusion very rare at so early a date: “There is first of all a trench to receive the plant; that is the sacramental font of Baptism. Next, there is a pole to support the tendrils, denoting the Cross. The vines are trained up on terraces, signifying the steep ascent of the heavenly way and life. They are bound with cords, which are the answers and vows made when the questions of renunciation, of the world are put at the font. The too luxuriant branches are pruned away with a knife, typifying the work of the HOLY SPIRIT in purging our sins. As the vine, so pruned, weeps happily, so from the baptized man more happily stream rills of heavenly wisdom. When the buds of the vine burst open, and fruit follows the leaves, this denotes the Christian, guarded and nourished alike by obedience to those holy precepts whence comes the fruit of everlasting life. The vine climbs to the top of its pole, and so the Christian, who gives all his goods to the poor, and carries his cross, thus fulfilling all righteousness, follows CHRIST with more alacrity. Tempests, heat, and rain bring the vine to maturity; trial and persecution lead the Christian to his crown. In the time of harvest rough hands pluck off the grapes, and bear them to the wine-press, to be trodden under foot by the vintagers, as martyrs are dragged to the place of execution, and slain with insult and cruelty. And as the grape-juice is squeezed out between two boards, with all the weight of the press; so, at the Last Judgment, vengeance for the blood of the martyrs will be exacted, according to the two tables of the Law, to the last farthing from their persecutors.” S. Ambrose,* dwelling on the same topic, tells us that the Vine of the Church is planted with the root of faith, pruned by humility, hedged about with heavenly precepts and angel guards; that a tower in the vineyard is built up of Apostles, Prophets, and Doctors; that the earth is dug round about the vine, that the care of worldly things may lie less heavily on it; and that the orderly rows signify the equality of rich and poor, gentle and simple, in the Church.

Cardinal Hugo reminds us that the wood of the vine,* once cut away from its root, is good only for burning;* that the tree needs severe treatment to be fruitful; that it is the only source of true wine; that it grows lush and rank in rich soil, but then produces weak and poor wine; that it flourishes best on lofty and rocky ground; that it must needs be exposed to the sun, and be propped up with stakes and poles. And he applies all this to each Christian soul, with sufficiently obvious reference. Of this vineyard, whereof is written, “The vineyard of the LORD of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant,”* the eventful history is now set before us.* GOD brought it out of Egypt, away from the darkness of sin, unto the light of grace. He cast out the heathen, those seven deadly sins which beset the soul, the evil lusts and passions of the unconverted, before it,* and planted it, rooted and grounded in love, that it might not creep on the earth, but rise up, twining round the cedars of GOD, the Prophets and Apostles, with the tendrils of charity.

9 Thou madest room for it: and when it had taken root, it filled the land.

More exactly, with the A. V., Thou preparedst room before it, by clearing away the stones of the vineyard and driving the heathen back. (Cd.) The LXX., Thou madest a way before it, may be taken in this sense, but the Vulgate reads, Thou wast leader of the journey in the sight of it, (Ay.) seeming rather to refer to the pillar of cloud and fire, which went before the Hebrew camp. S. Augustine, (A.) following a reading similar to the LXX., comments: What was the way which was made in the sight of it? “I am,” He said, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So it was in the fulness of time, but first He gave His people the Law, (Z.) that they might walk therein, as it is written, (C.) “This is the way, walk ye therein.”* In the sight of it.* The Vine cannot flourish except it see the Husbandman, and receive from Him the rain of instruction, that it may bear fruit abundantly. The soul must not only be led by CHRIST through this present life to the better country, but must keep Him ever in view by contemplation, if it would follow Him closely. (D. C.) And when it had taken root. The older Versions agree with the A. V. in referring the action still directly to GOD. Thou plantedst its roots, is their reading. In one sense all the princes of the house of Israel, (C.) the heads of tribes, were roots of the Vine, as the progenitors of the Jewish Church.* In a deeper manner, the Lawgivers and Prophets of the earlier Covenant, the Apostles and Doctors of the New Testament, are roots of the Church grounded in love.* Nay, faith, hope, and charity, are the very roots of the life of the soul, without which it can never be fruitful. Most truly of all, you may take the words of Him Who is the Root of Jesse, (L.) and yet a Branch growing out of that root,* going down in His humility to death and hell, ascending in His glory to the highest heaven,* truly that “Plant of renown”

quæ, quantum vertice ad auras

Æthercas, tantum radice in tartara tendit.

It filled the land.* First, with its shoots, as is written, “It grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature.”* Secondly, with its grapes, which are perfumed,* “As the vine brought I forth pleasant savour,” large, abundant, and common to all parts of the world. And this last because, as one Father says: “The earth is the LORD’S,* everywhere GOD the FATHER is served, everywhere CHRIST is worshipped:* this is our vintage;” and as another speaks,* “The banners of the Cross shine throughout the world.” So that Vine began, to fill the land, when three thousand received the Word on one day, and when “Samaria had received the Word of GOD,”* and the prophecy entered on its completion, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”*

10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it: and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedar-trees.

Who are the hills? The Prophets. Why did its shadow cover them? (A.) Because they spake darkly the things foretold as yet to come. Thou hearest from the Prophets, Keep the Sabbath day, on the eighth day circumcise a child, offer sacrifice of a ram, a calf, a he-goat. Be not troubled; its shadow covers the hills of GOD; after the shadow there will come a manifestation.” Again, taking the hills, as often, to imply the proud and mighty, (Ay.) they explain the words of the conquest of mountainous Palestine, of the fall of Sihon and Og, of the sons of Anak, and of all the tribes whom David subdued, and over whom Solomon ruled peacefully. And, most truly of all, taking the hills to denote the heights of Christian love and contemplation, they are said to be under the shadow of that Vine whereof the Bride speaks, “I sat down under His shadow with great delight,* and His fruit was sweet to my taste:” sweet indeed, as the Holy Eastern Church sings of S. Longinus:

Looking on the fruitful Vine

As upon the Tree it hung,*

Streaming life’s and pardon’s wine,

With thy heart’s lips thou hast clung

Closely, Saint, to drink thy fill

Of that joy which knows no ill.

The boughs thereof were like the goodly cedar-trees.* The Targum adds here, “Behold the mighty teachers, who are likened to the stateliest cedars.” (D. C.) And then we shall understand the words to denote the equality or superiority in spiritual things of the humblest Christian to the mightiest Saints of the elder Covenant. “Verily, I say unto you,* Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” The LXX. and Vulgate read here, The boughs thereof [covered] the cedars of God. (C.) That is, observes Cassiodorus, the Church is the home and shelter of the Martyrs whom she hath reared in her bosom.* Or, as another will have it, she has brought the kings and rulers of the earth, lofty and proud though they were, under her sway.

11 She stretched out her branches unto the sea: and her boughs unto the river.

The literal reference is to the furthest limits attained by the Jewish monarchy, when, under Solomon, it extended from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. (Z.) Mystically, they explain the branches to be the Jewish members of the Church;* the boughs, Gentile proselytes. The sea, in like manner,* they take to be the heathen world, barren, unresting, and sinful, to which the branches were stretched out, when the True Vine sent His Apostles to preach the Gospel. And as they for the most part suppose the river to be the Jordan, (C.) they interpret this clause of the Jewish people, to which only the lesser position (boughs as compared with branches) was destined under the new dispensation. (L.) Once more, they explain the sea to denote tears of repentance, and the river the cleansing waters of Baptism.

Besides those tropological interpretations, verses 8–11 have also been explained of the external history of the Christian Church, (P.) brought out of heathen darkness and bondage, victorious over Paganism, filling the whole Roman Empire, subjugating kings and sages, rearing Saints equal to the greatest of the Prophets, spreading from the Eastern to the Western Sea, to the Nile and to the Ganges.

12 Why hast thou then broken down her hedge: that all they that go by pluck off her grapes.

Why? We are not left in doubt as to the reason, for GOD has answered the question Himself: “Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now, go to; I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down.”* What the hedge is which He has thus destroyed, they vary in explaining. The Hebrew נְּדֵרֶיהָ is plural, fences, whence they remind us that there are many such. First and best, they take this hedge to be the Presence of GOD Himself.* “Far be it from us to dread any peril for this vineyard, which the ever-wakeful guard of the LORD of Salvation hath fenced with the wall of eternal life against all the lures of worldly iniquity,* and hath stretched out her branches unto the sea.”* Next, it denotes the Angel guard: Thirdly,* the Saints: then, GOD’S commandments and the virtues which spring from keeping them,* especially obedience. Or it may be taken of Holy Scripture. After this,* prayer, according to that saying of a Saint: “Prayer is the wall of the Church,* which cannot be breached, an unshaken bulwark, terrible to evil spirits, but safe and sheltering to the holy.” Lastly, prelates, doctors, and preachers are the wall of the congregation. “When the tower falls,” observes Cardinal Hugo,* “it is not for its own ruin alone, but for that of the whole city. For if the tower be taken or razed, the entire city is easily stormed. So when the assembly of the Doctors falls into sin, the city of the Church lies exposed and defenceless before its enemies.” They dwell on the Vulgate word maceria, (C.) which denotes a dry stone wall, built without mortar, and thus easily pulled down, and draw thence the inference that no barrier of prayer, of good works, or the like, can stand firmly, unless cemented with the Blood of CHRIST.* S. Bonaventura, looking at the word from a somewhat different point of view, says that there is no maceria whatever except CHRIST, and that this name is given to Him Who is the chief corner-stone, as Begotten by GOD only, and in no human manner.

Non ex virili semine,*

Sed mystico spiramine,

Verbum DEI factum est earo

Fructusque ventris floruit.

All they that go by. The A. V. more fully, with LXX. and Vulgate, All they that pass by the way. Those who pass by the Way are the heathen and unbelievers, who serve idols of their own framing, and neglect the worship of CHRIST. (C.) Or it may be taken of heretics, who, after they have pulled down the wall of Holy Scripture by their false interpretation of it, lay waste the Church. Pluck off her grapes.* They note that this phrase shows that unfaithful labourers in the vineyard, (L.) hypocrites, and false Christians are intended. They do not destroy the vine, but turn it to their own profit alone, seeking fruit for themselves, and not for GOD.

13 The wild boar out of the wood doth root it up: and the wild beasts of the field devour it.

The destroyer is called a wild boar, (A.) not only to denote his savage fury, but also his unclean Gentilism, an abomination, like the flesh of swine, to the Jews. He comes out of the wood, because the Gentiles, uncultured by the Divine Husbandman, are thus contrasted with the sedulously tended vineyard of Israel. But when they at length believed, what was said? “Then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the LORD.”* They dispute about the literal application. (C.) S. Jerome, (B.) followed by many others, interprets the passage of the Roman devastation under Vespasian and Titus.* But though the boar was once included amongst the military ensigns of the Romans, (R.) it was laid aside in the time of Marius. If we are to see a reference to the Romans here at all, we should therefore apply the words to Hadrian, whose crowning insult to the Jews was carving a boar’s head over the chief gate of Ælia Capitolina, that they might shrink from so much as entering it. The Carthusian aptly points out that a far earlier date must be assigned, (D. C.) because the Jewish nation, after the rejection of CHRIST, had no further claim to the title of GOD’S vine. (Ay.) The Carmelite, while mentioning the view of S. Jerome, ingeniously suggests that Nebuchadnezzar is meant, and called the boar of the wood, because he was driven from men,* and had his dwelling with the beasts of the field.* Others, again, take it of Antiochus Epiphanes. But in truth, the most satisfactory explanation is that which sees here the captivity of the northern kingdom under Shalmaneser,* not only from the express mention of tribes (Ephraim, Benjamin,1 and Manasses) which formed part of it, but because of the absence of any hint of the profanation and destruction of the Temple, such as occurs in Psalm 74, and certain to be here repeated if any sack of Jerusalem were referred to. The wild beasts of the field. The reading of the LXX. and Vulgate is, The singular wild beast. (B.) They who refer this Psalm to the Roman conquest say here, that Vespasian, because of his strength and his foul and sordid life, is styled the wild boar; and that Titus, who devoured what his father had merely uprooted, is the singular beast. (Ay.) The Carthusian, basing his objection on the apostasy of the Jews, declares that the latter epithet is merely emphatic and iterative of the former, and must refer to some much earlier oppressor. Mystically, the truest reference is that of Arnobius, (D. C.) who sees here the slaying of CHRIST, the True Vine, by the combination of Roman soldiers and Jewish Priests; so that the FATHER might truly say of Him,* “It is My SON’S coat; an evil beast hath devoured Him.” Next, (L.) they take the words of the Church, vexed by the devil, typified by the boar, as the emblem of brutal passions, and by Antichrist,* the singular beast. The Chaldee Targum reads, (Cd.) instead of the latter phrase, The cock of the woods shall feed on it, wherein they note the fierceness, pride, and boastfulness of the bird, as fit emblems of the sin which drove Lucifer, Adam, and Nebuchadnezzar from their high estate.

Quasi rex in capite gallus coronatur;*

In pede calcaribus, ut miles, armatur;

Quanto plus fit senior pennis deauratur;

In nocte dum concinat leo perturbatur.

More specifically, (D. C.) they refer the boar to Mohammed, uprooting the Eastern Church in so many places, and threatening even the West till comparatively recent times. Or, going back to earlier times, they remind us of the slaughter of the martyrs, the living wall of the Church Militant, (R.) and the consequent devastation wrought by tyrants like Valerian and Diocletian. And another commentator sees in the singular beast the type of a king, nominally Catholic, oppressing and plundering the Church.1 One lesson of comfort, however,* underlies the sorrow of these verses. The wild beast cannot make its way in so long as the wall stands; the wall will stand so long as we are desirous that it should. Then we are safe, as the heathen poet sings, under the protection of an ever-wakeful Guard, Who tells us:

Ipse seram vites, pangamque ex ordine colles,

Quos carpent nullæ,* me vigilante, feræ.

14 Turn thee again, thou GOD of Hosts, look down from heaven: behold, and visit this vine;

Here is set forth the perfect state of the Church after the Advent of CHRIST. And it is divided into six parts, in accordance with which the Psalmist utters six prophecies. First; that the Church shall be reconciled to GOD. Secondly; that it shall be founded on CHRIST. Thirdly; that the Synagogue shall come to an end. Fourthly; that the SON of GOD shall be Incarnate. Fifthly; that faith shall be confirmed. Sixthly; that the Church shall be made blessed. Turn Thee. Observe that GOD is said in Holy Writ to turn in many ways. First; by converting sinners, as when He turned and looked on Peter. Secondly; by delivering the afflicted, as it is written,* “O what great troubles and adversities hast Thou showed me! and yet didst Thou turn and refresh me, yea, and broughtest me from the deep of the earth again.” Thirdly; by raising up the dead, first the souls from the death of sin,* and then their bodies from the death of nature, of which turning is said, “I am my Beloved’s,* and His desire [Vulg. turning] is toward me.” And also, “Wilt thou not turn again, and quicken us, O LORD?”* Fourthly; by comforting the sorrowful. “O LORD, I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me.”* Lastly; by punishing the obstinate, for then “the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood.”* Look down, that is, call us to repentance and grace, because “a King that sitteth on the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.”* From heaven, (B.) that is, in the Person of the Mediator CHRIST JESUS, behold, that it may see and know Thee,* and then learn to see and know its own sins, and visit,* in Thine own Person, as the great Physician coming to a patient, (Ay.) this vine. And note,* that to a wise man, his own life, his own mind, his own conscience, is a vineyard. In this vineyard the LORD planted every good seed, but the devil turns it into a garden of potherbs. “Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs.”* He makes the soul a garden of herbs, when he plants there the wisdom of the world, the flesh, and the devil, herbs which will quickly wither. Some are only too ready to yield over this vineyard to the devil, so that it is turned into a desert. “I went by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.”*

15 And the place of the vineyard that thy right hand hath planted: and the branch that thou madest so strong for thyself.

The word כַּנָּה, here and in A. V. translated vineyard, (as also by the Syriac Psalter) is taken by the LXX., Vulgate, and all the chief modern critics, as a verb in the imperative. The first reads κατάρτισαι, the second perfice, the remainder protect or shelter this vine. Perfect, then, O LORD, this vine. (A.) Plant not any other, but make this one perfect. For she is the very seed of Abraham, she is the very seed in whom all nations shall be blessed; there is the root whereon the grafted wild olive is borne. The branch. The Hebrew is and the old versions are agreed in translating it more literally, the Son of man, wherein they are confirmed by the Targum, which reads here, “Messiah the King.” The metaphor, however, comes to the same thing, for He is spoken of Who is the “rod out of the stem of Jesse, the branch out of his roots.”* He thus grows out of that very vine which His own right hand had planted, as He grows Himself, the Tree of Life, in the midst of His garden the Church, (A.) which He hath planted in faith and love. Whom Thou madest so strong for Thyself. A mighty stronghold, build as you may, (D. C.) “for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS CHRIST.”* And because He came to fulfil, (A.) expand, and glorify the Law, (Ay.) not to destroy it, the Psalmist calls on Him to perfect His vine, on Him Whom the FATHER hath made so strong by the hypostatic union of Godhead and Manhood, so that “the Branch of the LORD” is “beauty and glory.”*

16 It is burnt with fire, and cut down: and they shall perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

Let us take it still of the Only-begotten, and we shall see His Passion shadowed here, the burning with fire in the wood for the burnt-offering of Abraham,* the cutting down in the knife which he lifted against Isaac. And as GOD the FATHER sware by Himself for this thing to stablish Isaac, that in him all the nations of the earth should be blessed, so we beseech Him now to remember His oath, for the sake of the One Sacrifice, consumed with the fire of Divine love, cut down by the hands of sinners, that we may never go back from Him. So taking it, they who pierced Him, when they look on Him again, shall perish at the rebuke of His countenance. But the Vulgate reading, from its ambiguity, has led to a different interpretation: Things burnt with fire and dug up shall perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance.1 The most general gloss on these words is, (A.) that sins are denoted, some kindled by ardent desire, others dug by grovelling fear. These perish and disappear in the souls of penitents, who bow before the rebuke of God’s countenance, that is, at the preaching of the Gospel of CHRIST, whether they be open sins of passion,* hot and conspicuous as fire, or hidden sins of fear, (B.) lying, as it were, in a trench. Again, it is explained of the fall of the Jewish dispensation.* Things burnt with fire, the holocausts of the Temple, things dug up, the ashes and offal flung into pits and trenches,* perished and ceased after CHRIST, the Countenance of GOD, appeared to the world.* Yet again, you may take it of the spiritual temple, burnt and dug up by ghostly foes. The digging can be countermined by the might of the five wounds wherewith CHRIST’S Sacred Body was dug; the fire may be quenched with the water from His pierced side.

17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand: and upon the son of man, whom thou madest so strong for thine own self.

And surely His hand was on that Man, so that He might say, with holy Job, in His Passion: “Have pity upon me. have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of GOD hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as GOD, and are not satisfied with my flesh?”* In that Passion He was at first Benoni, the Child of mourning, (L.) “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,”* but the hand of the LORD was still on Him to strengthen Him, like Elijah, to run His course, so that by His Resurrection and Ascension, He became Benjamin, the SON of the Right Hand of GOD. (Ay.) Ayguan prefers to see here the Incarnation, rather than the Passion, of CHRIST, and sees the miraculous nature of that mystery implied in the phrase the hand, of God. (C.) He was confirmed by His FATHER when, at His Baptism in Jordan there was heard, “a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved SON, in Whom I am well-pleased.”* He is the Man of God’s right hand for three reasons. First; He is inseparably united with the FATHER.* Next; He has perfect fruition of Him, as is written, “At Thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore.”* Lastly; He is seated on the FATHER’S right,* for “the LORD said unto my LORD, Sit Thou on My right hand,”* where His Proto-martyr beheld Him in the glory of GOD.

18 And so will not we go hack from thee: O let us live, and we shall call upon thy Name.

We will not go back,* but when others do so because He utters some hard saying which they cannot hear, we shall say with S. Peter, (Ay.) “LORD, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”* We, strengthened by the HOLY GHOST, will not fall away from Thee, but will abide as did Thine Apostles,* for “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, (C.) nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of GOD, which is in JESUS CHRIST our LORD.” O let us live. The LXX. and Vulgate take it in the future, (A.) Thou shall quicken us, in the regenerating waters of baptism, wherein our sins are remitted. Thou shall quicken its, by lifting us from love of earthly things, wherein we were dead, and love of Thee, by conversion, turning our faces to Thine, wherein is the light of life; by giving us the true Bread from heaven;* with the life of grace here, and that of glory hereafter; with Thyself, Who art alone the Life of all things. (D. C.) And we shall call upon Thy Name.* Cassiodorus explains it of the daily recitation of the Our FATHER by all Christians, but the majority take it of that Name which is dearest of all to the Saints of GOD, the Name which is ever on their lips, the Name of their Brother, their Teacher, their King, their Ransom, their Be ward. O most beloved Name, let us call on Thee with the passionate cry of Thy servant in days long past:

JESU, JESU, JESU, JESU, cortese,


JESU, JESU, JESU, d’ amor m’ accese;*

JESU, JESU, sì m’ ha furato ’l cuore,

JESU, JESU, JESU, mi fa le spese,

JESU, JESU, sie ’l mio salvatore,

JESU, JESU, JESU, desideroso,

JESU, JESU, sie ’l mio riposo.

19 Turn us again, O LORD GOD of hosts: show the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.

The triple repetition of this verse denotes the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. (B.) It sums up all Christian prayer, (A.) for it asks first for conversion, next for the light of GOD’S countenance, which is His loving-kindness, and then for salvation. It is triply uttered for another reason, that as the first cry was for the Nativity of CHRIST, (Lu.) and the second for His Passion and Resurrection, (D. C.) so the third is for His Second Advent to Judgment. Let Him come, that we may see the King in His beauty. “For what is so good, so lovely, so sweet, so fair, so healthful, so pleasant, and so noble, as to look on the Face of GOD? O beauteous Face, O boundless loveliness, O measureless bliss! Blessed then are the pure in heart, for they shall see GOD.”*

Wherefore: Glory be to the FATHER, the LORD GOD of Hosts; and to the SON, the Shepherd of Israel, the Man of His right hand; and to the HOLY GHOST, the Sevenfold Light of the Countenance of GOD.

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

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