Nov. 27. Commentaries for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A. Broken links on this page have been fixed
Dec. 24-25. Commentaries for All Christmas Masses. Vigil; Mass during the night; Mass at dawn; Mass during the morning.
Nov. 27. Commentaries for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A. Broken links on this page have been fixed
Dec. 24-25. Commentaries for All Christmas Masses. Vigil; Mass during the night; Mass at dawn; Mass during the morning.
COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: Numbers 6:22-27.
COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm 67.
COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Galatians 4:4-7.
St John Chrysostom on Galatians 4:4-7. Actually, the post is on verses 1-7, the reading used in the Extraordinary Form.
Aquinas’ Lectures on Galatians 4:1-7. Links below. Not lite reading.
Bernardin De Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 4:4-7. Actually, the post is on verses 1-7, the reading used in the Extraordinary Form.
Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians 4:4-7. Actually, the post is on verses 1-7, the reading used in the Extraordinary Form.
COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Luke 2:16-21.
Father Callan’s Commentary on Luke 2:16-21. This post actually begins with verse 15.
Lk 2:16 And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
“With haste,” from a burning desire, inspired by the grace of God, to see their infant Saviour, and then to return at once to their flocks.
“They came.” The cave, it is supposed, was a mile distant. “They came in haste.”
“They found Mary”—who brought Him forth in full vigour of health—“and Joseph,” the guardian of His birth, both spending the night in holy contemplation and prayer, “and the infant lying in the manger,” as they had been told beforehand by the Angel. What a consoling spectacle, to behold, for the first time, the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How the souls of the shepherds must be inflamed with divine love, at beholding this Trinity of persons on earth, who most faithfully represented the Trinity of the Godhead in heaven. Happy we, if in spirit, we often visit the Holy Family, and merit to be visited by them, at the awful and decisive moment of death.
Lk 2:17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
“And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them.” “Understood,” may mean, they saw, with their own eyes, that the “word,” or announcement, made to them by the Angel was literally true, just as St. John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon,” &c. (1 John 1:1).
The Greek word for “understood,” εγνωρισαν (egnorisan), may also mean to divulge, to noise abroad, which sense accords well with what follows. The shepherds, doubtless, told, not only Mary and Joseph, of the Angel’s announcement, and the hymns of celestial melody chanted in the skies by multitudes of angels, but others also, as appears from the words of following verse, “And all that heard wondered,” &c.
Lk 2:18 And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
“And all that heard wondered.” It is likely, that many on hearing the accounts given of what occurred, went themselves to the stable, and saw with their own eyes, the truth of what was narrated. Some, probably, believed whom God enlightened; others, probably, remained in their incredulity, offended by the lowly appearance and condition of the Divine Infant.
“And at those things that were told them,” &c. The Greek and Syriac have not “and.” Of those who retain it, some understand it to mean, “that is,” at the things, &c. Others, understand it literally, and interpret the words thus, they admired the event of the birth of the Son of God, and, the other circumstances connected with it, which had been told them by the shepherds, such as the announcement made to them by the Angel, and the appearance of multitudes of angels praising God, &c.
Lk 2:19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
“Mary kept all these words.” While all others were loud in speaking of the wonderful things they saw and heard, and, probably, Joseph too spoke of what he himself knew, as well from the declaration of the Angel regarding the Divinity of the child, as also from what he himself knew in connexion with His birth, thus strengthening the faith of the shepherds, and others who came to the crib; “Mary,” as modest in regard to her tongue, as she was in body, displaying consummate prudence and humility,
“Kept all these words,” that is to say, things spoken of in her heart. “Pondering them,” putting them together (Bloomfield), comparing the past with the present, the oracles of the prophets regarding the birth of the Saviour from a virgin, and in a determinate place, and other oracles regarding Him, with their full accomplishment; the announcement made to herself by the Angel, regarding the Son to be born of her, with that made to the shepherd, regarding His actual birth. These things she pondered over, and derived from them fresh arguments, to confirm her faith, and “kept them in her heart,” treasured them up in her memory, to be disclosed, at God’s appointed time, to the world, to be made known to His Apostles, and especially to the Evangelist, St. Luke, by whom they are here recorded in detail.
Lk 2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
“The shepherds,” after being fully satisfied from the testimony of their own senses of the truth of the announcement made by the Angel, now “returned” to the discharge of their duty of tending their flocks, “praising and glorifying God, for all the things they had heard,” and had not only heard, but “seen as it was told to them.” These latter words, “as it was told,” &c., affect the words, “had seen.”
Lk 2:21 And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
“And after eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised.” The words, “after eight days,” do not convey, that the period of eight days had elapsed; and after that, circumcision took place. For, it was on the eighth day, after the birth of a child, this was to take place according to the law of Moses; and here, the words, “that the child should be circumcised,” or, as was appointed by law for His circumcision, show, there is reference to the eighth day commenced but not ended. It is usual in SS. Scripture, to describe as happening after a time, what took place towards the close of it, and before the time had expired. Thus, of our Lord it is said, that “He was to rise after three days;” although, from the context, it is clear it was meant, that this would happen on the third day. So also (Genesis 41:18, 19, 20), where a thing is said to occur “after three days” (18, 19), which occurred “on the third” (v. 20). Here, then, the words mean, after seven days had passed and the eighth had arrived, on which, according to law, the child was to be circumcised. The Evangelist does not expressly say, He was circumcised; but, he implies it, by a reference to the time and law of circumcision, which He submitted to, who came “to fulfil all justice.” Our Lord voluntarily submitted to the painful rite of circumcision; although, not bound to do so, being Himself the legislator; and moreover, the reason of its application to Him did not exist at all, as He was free from all sin, of which circumcision was the type. He submitted to it, however, for several reasons, viz., to give an example of obedience; to take away every pretext from the Jews of rejecting Him, as not being a true son of Abraham; to show, that He assumed a real body on this earth; to approve of the rite of circumcision; to submit to the law, that being “made under the law, He would redeem those who were under the law.” (Gal. 4)
It is likely, He was circumcised in the stable, not by Joseph, but by some Priest or Levite, so that there would be an authentic record of the fact. See Lk 1:59.)
“His name was called Jesus,” by Mary and Joseph, according to the command given from Heaven to both (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31.) The Greek has, “And His name was called Jesus.” “And” may mean, also, or then. It is omitted by the Vulgate interpreter as superfluous. “Which was called by the Angel,” enjoined on them by the Angel to bestow on Him.
“Before He was conceived in the womb.” It was only after the close of the Annunciation, and the consent of the Virgin, that our Lord was conceived in her sacred womb. It was also given Him after He was conceived (Matthew 1:21).
For the meaning and derivation of the word “Jesus” (see Matthew 1:21). The rite of circumcision was most painful to the Divine Infant, who began to suffer thus early for our sakes. It was also most humiliating, even more so still, than His birth in a stable. In the latter case, He took on Himself the form of a man; in the former, of a sinner. But, in reward for this humiliation, He received an exalted name, at the sound of which every knee in heaven, earth, and hell, must bend. And, indeed, in almost every case, where our Lord endured any signal humiliation, His Heavenly Father bestowed on Him some compensation and mark of honour. In the stable, the angels sang hymns of praise; here, He received the most exalted of names; when the Scribes blasphemed His Divine works, the people would exalt Him; at His final humiliation and death, all nature, the sun, the rocks, the very dead, did Him honour, to convey to us, that if we wish to be exalted, we must first be humbled. Such is the disposition of Divine economy established in the present order of things. It is only in the adorable Sacrament of His abiding love on our altars, when He is truly a hidden God, and where He permanently submits to the greatest outrages for our sakes to the end of time, that He receives no proportionate sensible compensation from His Heavenly Father. Hence, the obligation on the part of His faithful, to whom His Heavenly Father intrusts Him, to make, as far as possible, some reparation to Him in this Divine institution, where He is our food during life, our solace at death, the last friend we hope to accompany us, when all others must leave us, our Viatic, guide and support when entering the gates of Eternity, whence we are never to return.
Text in red are my additions.
15. And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.
This word that is come to pass. The term “word” here, as in other places, simply means thing, i.e., this event which the angels had announced. Cf. on Luke 1:37.
Which the Lord hath showed to us; i.e., hath “revealed” to us. These words indicate that the shepherds had received an interior revelation from God to know the importance of the angelic announcement.
16. And they came with haste ; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
They came with haste. The shepherds were perhaps some little distance from the stable, some say about a mile.
17. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
They understood of the word; i.e., they understood the meaning of the announcement.
18. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
And at those things, etc. The “and” at the beginning of this clause is not found in the Greek and Syriac texts of St. Luke; hence there should be no stop after “wondered.” And all that heard wondered at those things & c.
19. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
Pondered them in her heart. While others wondered and talked about the marvellous things that had occurred in connection with the birth of our Lord, Mary remained silent, quietly revolving in her mind the great mystery of the Redemption, and the ancient prophecies, which had foretold it.
20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Father Callan offers not notes on this verse.
21. And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.
After eight days; i.e., on the eighth day, when it was required, according to the Law, that the child should be circumcised.
Circumcised. Our Lord submitted to this painful operation, not because He stood in any need of it, since He was spotless; but in order: (a) to show respect and obedience to the existing Law; (b) in order that the Jews might have no pretext for accusing and rejecting Him; (c) to give sanction to the rite of circumcision. The ceremony of circumcision was performed, according to Jewish custom, not in the Temple, but at the home of the family, — in the case of our Lord— in the cave. It was ordinarily performed by the father, or head of the family, and in the presence of ten witnesses, who attested the child’s enrollment among the theocratic people.
Ver 15. And it came pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them. (For verse 21 see below).
GREEK EX. The shepherds were filled with astonishment at the things that they saw and heard, and so they left their sheepfolds, and set out by night to Bethlehem, seeking for the light of the Savior; and therefore it is said, They spoke one to another, &c.
THEOPHYL; As men who were truly watching, they said not, Let us see (the child; but) the word which has come to pass, i.e. the Word which was from the beginning, let us see how it has been made flesh for us, since this very Word is the Lord. For it follows, Which the Lord has made, and has shown to us; i.e. Let us see how the Lord has made Himself, and has shown His flesh to us.
AMBROSE; How remarkably Scripture weighs the import of each word. For when we behold the flesh of the Lord, we behold the Word, which is the Son. Let not this seem to you a slight example of faith, because of the humble character of the shepherds. For simplicity is sought for, not pride. It follows, And they came in haste. For no one indolently seeks after Christ.
ORIGEN; But because they came in haste, and not with loitering steps, it follows, They found Mary, (i.e. her who had brought Jesus into the world,) and Joseph, (i.e. the guardian of our Lord’s birth,) and the babe lying in the manger, (i.e. the Savior Himself.)
THEOPHYL; It seems to succeed in due order, that after having rightly celebrated the incarnation of the Word, we should at length come to behold the actual glory of that Word. Hence it follows: But when they saw it, they made known the word which had been spoken to them.
GREEK EX. Beholding with hidden faith indeed the happy events which had been told them, and not content with marveling at the reality of those things which at the very first they saw and embraced when the Angel told them, they began to relate them not only to Mary and Joseph, but to the others also (and what is more they impressed them on their minds,) as it follows, And all who heard it marveled. For how could it be otherwise, at the sight of one of the heavenly host upon earth, and earth in peace reconciled to heaven; and that ineffable Child binding together in one, by His divinity, heavenly things, by His humanity, earthly things, and by this conjunction of Himself ejecting a wonderful union!
GLOSS. Not only do they marvel at the mystery of the incarnation, but also at so wonderful an attestation of the shepherds, men who could not have devised these unheard of things, but were with simple eloquence proclaiming the truth.
AMBROSE; Esteem not the words of the shepherds as mean and despicable For from the shepherds Mary increases her faith, as it follows: Mary kept all these sayings, and pondered them in her heart. Let us learn the chastity of the sacred Virgin in all things, who no less chaste in her words than in her body, gathered up in her heart the materials of faith.
THEOPHYL; For keeping the laws of virgin modesty, she who had known the secrets of Christ would divulge them to no one, but comparing what she had read in prophecy with what she now acknowledged to have taken place, she did not utter them with the mouth, but preserved them shut up in her heart.
GREEK EX. Whatever the Angel had said to her, whatever she had heard from Zacharias, and Elisabeth, and the shepherds, she collected them all in her mind, and comparing them together, perceived in all one harmony. Truly, He was God who was born from her.
ATHANAS. But every one rejoiced in the nativity of Christ, not with human feelings, as men are wont to rejoice when a son is born, but at the presence of Christ and the luster of the Divine light. As it follows: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for every thing they had heard, &c.
THEOPHYL; That is to say, from the Angels, and had seen, i.e. in Bethlehem, as it was told them, i.e. they glory in this, that when they came they found it even as it was told them, or as it was told them they give praise and glory to God. For this they were told by the Angels to do, not in very word commanding them, but setting before them the form of devotion when they sung glory to God in the highest.
THEOPHYL; To speak in a mystery, let the shepherds of spiritual flocks, (nay, all the faithful,) after the example of, these shepherds, go in thought even to Bethlehem, and celebrate the incarnation of Christ with due honors. Let us go indeed casting aside all fleshly lusts, with the whole desire of the mind even to the heavenly Bethlehem, (i.e. the house of the living bread,) that He whom they saw crying in the manger we may deserve to see reigning on the throne of His Father. And such bliss as this is not to be sought for with sloth and idleness, but with eagerness must we follow the footsteps of Christ. When they saw Him they knew Him; and let us haste to embrace in the fullness of our love those things which were spoken of our Savior, that when the time shall come that we shall see with perfect knowledge we may be able to comprehend them.
THEOPHYL; Again, the shepherds of the Lord’s flock by contemplating the life of the fathers who went before them, (which preserved the bread of life,) enter as it were the gates of Bethlehem, and find therein none other than the virgin beauty of the Church, that is, Mary; the manly company of spiritual doctors, that is, Joseph; and the lowly coming of Christ contained in the pages of Holy Scripture, that is, the infant child Christ, laid in the manger.
ORIGEN; That was the manger which Israel knew not, according to those words of Isaiah, The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib.
THEOPHYL; The shepherds did not hide in silence what they knew, because to this end have the Shepherds of the Church been ordained, that what they have learned in the Scriptures they might explain to their hearers.
THEOPHYL; The masters of the spiritual flocks also, while others sleep, at one time by contemplation enter into the heavenly places, at another time pass around them by seeking the examples of the faithful, at another time by teaching return to the public duties of the pastoral office.
THEOPHYL; Every one of us, even he who is supposed to live as a private person, exercises the office of shepherd, if, keeping together a multitude of good actions and pure thoughts, he strive to rule them with due moderation, to feed them with the food of the Scriptures, and to preserve them against the snares of the devil.
Ver 21. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
THEOPHYL; Having related our Lord’s nativity, the Evangelist adds, And after that eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child.
AMBROSE; Who is this Child, but He of whom it was said, Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given? For He was made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law.
EPIPH. Now the followers of Ebion and Cerinthus say, “It is enough for a disciple if he be as his Master. But Christ circumcised Himself. Be you therefore circumcised.” But herein do they deceive themselves, destroying their own principles; for if Ebion should confess that Christ as God descended from heaven and was circumcised on the eighth day, it might then afford the ground of an argument for circumcision; but since he affirms Him to be mere man, surely as a boy he cannot be the cause of Himself being circumcised, as neither are infants the authors of their own circumcision. But we confess that it is God Himself who has descended from heaven, and that enclosed in a virgin’s womb, He abode there the whole time necessary for her delivery, until He should perfectly form to Himself of the virgin’s womb a human body; and that in this body He was not in appearance but truly circumcised on the eighth day, in order that the figures having come to this spiritual fulfillment, both by Himself and His disciples, might now be spread abroad no longer the figures but the reality.
ORIGEN; As we have died with Him at His death, and risen together with Him at His resurrection, so with Him have we been circumcised, and therefore need not now circumcision in the flesh.
EPIPHAN. Christ was circumcised for several reasons. First indeed to show the reality of His flesh, in opposition to Manichaus and those who say that He came forth in appearance only. Secondly, that He might prove that His body was not of the same substance with the Deity, according to Apollinaris, and that it descended not from heaven, as Valentinian said. Thirdly, to add a confirmation to circumcision which He had of old instituted to wait His coming. Lastly, to leave no excuse to the Jews. For had He not been circumcised, they might have objected that they could not receive Christ uncircumcised.
THEOPHYL; He was circumcised also that He might enjoin upon us by His example the virtue of obedience and might take compassion on them who being placed under the law, were unable to bear the burdens of the law, to the end that He who came in the likeness of sinful flesh might not reject the remedy with which sinful flesh was wont to be healed. For circumcision brought in the law the same assistance of a saving cure to the wound of original sin which Baptism does in the time of the grace of revelation, except that as yet the circumcised could not enter the gates of the heavenly kingdom, but comforted after death with a blessed rest in Abraham’s bosom, they waited with a joyful hope for their entrance into eternal peace.
ATHAN. For circumcision expressed nothing else, but the stripping off of the old birth, seeing that part was circumcised which caused the birth of the body. And thus it was done at that time as a sign of the future baptism through Christ. Therefore as soon as that of which it was a sign came, the figure ceased. For since the whole of the old man Adam is taken away by baptism, there remains nothing which the cutting of a part prefigures.
CYRIL; It was the custom on the eighth day to perform the circumcision of the flesh. For on the eighth day Christ rose from the dead, and conveyed to us a spiritual circumcision, saying, Go and teach all nations, baptizing them.
THEOPHYL; Now in His resurrection was prefigured the resurrection of each of us both in the flesh and the Spirit, for Christ has taught us by being circumcised that our nature must both now in itself be purged from the stain of vice, and at the last day be restored from the plague of death. And as the Lord rose on the eighth day, i.e. the day after the seventh, (which is the Sabbath,) so we also after six ages of the world and after the seventh, which is the rest of souls, and is now carrying on in another life, shall rise as on the eighth day.
CYRIL; But according to the command of the law, on the same day He received the imposition of a name, as it follows, His name was called Jesus which is interpreted Savior. For He was brought forth for the salvation of the whole world, which by His circumcision He prefigured, as the Apostle says to the Colossians, “you are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, to wit, the circumcision of Christ.”
THEOPHYL; That upon the day of His circumcision He also received the imposition of the name was likewise done in imitation of the old observances. For Abraham, who received the first sacrament of circumcision, was on the day of his circumcision thought worthy to be. blessed by the increase of his name.
ORIGEN; But the name of Jesus, a glorious name and worthy of all honor, a name which is above every other, ought not first to be uttered by men, nor by them be brought into the world. Therefore significantly the Evangelist adds, which was called of the Angel, &c.
THEOPHYL; Of this name the elect also in their spiritual circumcision rejoice to be partakers, that as from Christ they are called Christians, so also from the Savior they may be called saved, which title was given them of God not only before they were conceived through faith in the womb of the Church, but even before the world began.
This post includes Father Callan’s brief summary of Galatians 4:1-7, followed by his notes on those verses. Text in red are my additions.
UNDER THE LAW THE JEWS WERE, LIKE MINORS, IN AN INFERIOR POSITION; BUT CHRIST’S COMING HAS MADE THEM ADOPTED SONS OF GOD WITH FULL RIGHTS TO THE INHERITANCE
A Summary of Galatians 4:1-7~St. Paul here returns to the discussion broken off at 3:25, namely, the opposition between the promise and the Law. Already he has likened the former to a testament and the latter to a pedagogue; and now he asks what was the condition of mankind during the period that intervened between the giving of the promise and its realization. The answer is that, until the coming of Christ, the Jews, although in reality sons and heirs to the inheritance, were like minors, under guardians and stewards, enslaved by the elementary rules that pertained to things merely external. And if such was the inferior state of the Jews, how much worse was that of the Gentiles! All, therefore, Jews and Gentiles, were, like children who had lost their father, waiting for the expiration of the time of their minority and the entrance upon the possession of their inheritance. And when the fulness of the time fixed by the Father arrived, God sent His Son, that He might redeem those in bondage, making through His grace all believers to become His adopted sons and thus heirs of the promised inheritance.
1. Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
As long as the Jews were under the tutelage of the Law they were like young children, minors, who were heirs indeed to the inheritance bequeathed them by their Father, but, so far as regarded the free use and disposition of their inheritance, differing nothing from servants who have no right to the property.
The figure supposes the father to be dead, but St. Paul is making only a comparison, and every comparison is imperfect. The figure need not suppose this, though it can be taken in this way. Note that in his comment on the word “tutors” in the next verse Fr. Callan defines them as guardians, adding the caveat “if the father is supposed to be dead.”
2. But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father:
Tutors, i.e., guardians, if the father is supposed to be dead.
Governors (οικονομους) , i.e., administrators, as of property, whether material or spiritual; here, perhaps, the term simply means attendants. The plural, tutors and governors, is used to signify the various guardians and attendants appointed by the father at the same time, or, more probably, in succession.
Until the time, etc. In Roman Law ordinarily a minor was under a tutor till fourteen, and under a curator till twenty-five (cf. Ramsay, Gal., p. 392). See Lagrange, h. 1.
3. So we also, when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world.
Application of the foregoing comparison is now made. See on verse 1.
We, i.e., St. Paul and the Jewish Christians only (St. Chrys., Theod., St. Thomas, Cornely, etc.). Others say there is question here of Gentile, as well as Jewish converts, (a) because, instead of speaking of the Law, St. Paul here uses terms that apply to both Jews and Gentiles (“elements of the world”), and (b) because, according to the Apostle’s uniform teaching, carnal descent from Abraham gave no right to the inheritance which was promised to those who would have faith like Abraham (Lagr., Light., Bousset, etc.).
When . . . children, i.e., before the coming of Christ and the Gospel, when mankind were all in a state of infancy and helplessness described above.
Elements of the world. The meaning is the same as in Col 2:8, 20, namely, the elementary principles of natural conduct, such as the religious laws and rites of the Jews, and the various ceremonies of the heathen, all of which inspired fear and servitude, rather than love and a sense of freedom which have come with the Gospel (St. Jerome, Lagr., Light., etc.). The phrase does not mean (a) the four material elements of the ancients: water, fire, earth and air (against Zahn, Toussaint); nor (b) the celestial bodies (against Bousset, Lipsius); nor (c) spiritual beings, such as angels, directing heavenly bodies and physical elements (against Loisy).
4. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law:
With the coming of Christ all was changed regarding our relations with God.
The fulness of time, i.e., the time fixed from eternity by the Eternal Father when the servitude and fear of the Law should give way to the liberty and love of the Gospel. There is no hint here of what brought about this fulness of time.
God sent his son (εξαπεστειλεν) . The compound of the verb in Greek indicates close union between the Father and the Son, and consequently the eternal preexistence of the latter, one in nature with the Father (John 1:1 ff.; 10:30). The word “son” also implies the eternal procession of the Second Person from the Father (John 3:16; 8:42).
Made of a woman, i.e., born of a woman with our human nature, and under the Mosaic Law, like other Jews. St. Paul wishes to show here the abasement of the Son of God who took upon Himself our human nature and subjected Himself to the Law. There does not seem to be any proof in the present passage of our Lord’s virginal conception (Lagr.).
The reading “made of woman” is that of all the best MSS., (εκ γυναικος γενομενον).
5. That he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Here we have stated the purpose of the Son’s supernatural mission in this world: He was born under the Law that he might redeem them, i.e., the Jews, who were under the law; He was born of a woman that, by assuming our nature, He might become our brother, and thus elevate us all to the dignity of adopted sons of God.
We refers to all believers, Jews and Gentiles.
Might receive (απολαβωμεν) , as a right conferred by God Himself.
6. And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father.
Because you are, etc., i.e., as a proof that you Galatians, pagans as well as Jews, are now adopted sons of the Father God hath sent, etc. The connective on is probably demonstrative rather than causal.
The Spirit, etc., i.e., the Holy Ghost, who, as sent by the Father, is distinct from Him, and as the Spirit of the Son, is distinct also from the Son. This text affords a proof that the Holy Ghost proceeds alike from the Father and the Son.
Your hearts should be “our hearts,” as in the Greek.
Crying is attributed to the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the faithful.
Abba, Father is expressive of deepest feeling. This was perhaps a consecrated formula handed down from our Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani (Mark 14:36). The Jews were a bilingual people in the time of Christ, and this would explain why our Lord should use the two synonymous terms (Abba, ο πατηρ) in His prayer. However, see on Rom 8:15. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote in Rom 8:15~Abba is an Aramaic word which the Apostle here tells us means Father, ο πατηρ (cf. Mark 14:36; Gal 4:6). Some think the term pertained to an official prayer, but more probably it was only an expression of tenderness toward God, the Father.
The vestra of the Vulgate should be nostra, in conformity with the Greek.
7. Therefore now he is not a servant, but a son. And if a son, an heir also through God.
The conclusion is now drawn that if, as has been proved above, the Galatians are adopted sons of God, they have the rights of sons, and so are heirs to the inheritance through God’s goodness and mercy.
1. And I say as long as the heir is a little child, he nothing differs from a slave, though he is lord of all;
2. But is under guardians and agents, up to the time appointed by his father.
As long as the heir is a child. The Apostle takes up the word heirs, which is the concluding word of the last chapter, in the Greek and in the Vulgate, and makes it the subject of the reflections and illustrations by which he expands and develops the idea, in this chapter. The heir when a child, and though the real possessor of all things round him, has nevertheless to be treated as if he were a servant, as regards the control of himself and choice of his movements and proceedings, on account of his inexperience of life. He himself is controlled by his guardians, and his property managed by agents and factors, under their superintendence, until his arrival at full age.
3. So we also, when were little children, were in service under the elements of the world.
So we, the Jews, though heirs of the promise, were like little children, and treated as such. Children in intelligence, we saw only outward signs, without understanding their significance, or understanding it imperfectly. Children in affection, we regarded only the temporal promises of the law, the gifts of God for this mortal life. We were instructed by the law of Moses, which God gave to the world as conveying the first elements or rudiments of piety and religion, the alphabet of faith, the elementa, or elevamenta, as Ambrose says, the first rudiments of education : like the first lessons given to infancy. We were in bondage or service to the ritual of the Hebrew religion, not perceiving that these things were only signs of something else; and controlled by threats or fear of punishment, to obedience to the commands of God.
4. And when the fulness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under law,
The fulness of the time. When the time came which was marked out and appointed by God the Father, for the fulfilment of the great promise made to Abraham, and when the race of man were ready to enter upon the inheritance then pledged to them, which was to be the benediction of all the nations: He sent Christ, the promise, the benediction, the inheritance, his only-begotten Son, born of woman, like all other men who have come into this world, and therefore human, but with no sire but his heavenly Father, because he was divine.
Made under the law, that is born of a Hebrew mother, and therefore subject to the obligation of the law, in consequence of which he received circumcision and practised the requirements of the Mosaic institutions, by his own free will.
5. To redeem us who were under law, that we might receive the adoption of the sons of God.
Not to be cleansed by the law, says St. Anselm, but to set at liberty those who were subject to the pressure of its claims. And that both Jews and Gentiles might receive the adoption 0f the sons of God. The Greek, receive the sonship. Recover that adoption as sons of God which was lost by the fall of Adam, and the restoration of which was promised to the sons of Abraham.
6. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba Father.
Because you are sons. Because you, Galatians, who were originally pagans and not Jews, have become by adoption sons of God, equally with those who were Jewsbefore they received the faith of Christ, therefore God has sent his Holy Spirit into your hearts, that is into your souls, into which you receive the grace of God, and by this filial love you are enabled and encouraged to say to God in Christ’s words, Our Father. See some further observations on this subject in the commentary on Rom 8:15. (I’ve appended the commentary on 8:15 to the end of this post).
7. Therefore now there is not a servant, but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.
The Greek has: therefore thou art no more a servant, but a son. The Vulgate has the verb est for es. The spirit of God is called indifferently the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son. The Apostle says in this place the Spirit of his Son, because he is engaged in proving the adoption of Christian believers to be the sons of God. The fact that the Galatian Christians had received the Spirit of God, was one that required no proof, because the miracles which had been wrought, and were even then wrought continually, among them, afforded an unanswerable demonstration of it. The Apostle’s argument is that you have undoubtedly received the Holy Spirit, and that spirit is the Spirit of the Son, therefore you have received the adoption of sons. If a son, you are an heir of God. A father will sometimes distribute to his sons, when of full age, a portion of his inheritance, as a pledge and earnest for the remainder which they are one day to inherit. God is our eternal inheritance, to be enjoyed in heaven; in pledge and earnest of which, and as a portion of it given in advance, he has sent ihe Spirit of his Son into our souls, the pledge of our sonship, and earnest of our inheritance, to be received in full hereafter.
Commentary on Romans 8:15:
15. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, in which we cry, Abba (Father).
You have not received the spirit of bondage again. Again, because the spirit of the law of Moses was a spirit of servitude and fear. Holy men under the old law were sons of God only in an imperfect manner, and in a lesser degree, like slaves, differing in nothing from servants, Gal 4:1. What you have received is the spirit of sonship or adoption, entitling you to say with Christ, and with all confidence, Our Father. As the divine Word gave himself to Christ, the Man, so that the Man named Christ, is the Son of God: so in proportion the Holy Spirit is given us in Baptism in such way as to make us Sons of God. Cornel, a Lap. in loc.
The Apostle contrasts the spirit of bondage not with the spirit of freedom, but the spirit of adoption; not merely free, but free as sons.
He does not say, we say Abba, but we cry; boldly, loudly, confidently, publicly. Instructed by holy precepts, and formed by divine institution, we venture to say, OurFather. Abba is the Hebrew or Syriac word for father, and to it he joins the Greek word with the same meaning, to signify that Jews and Gentiles are together called to the adoption of the sons of God. Saint Augustine, lib. de Spiritu et litcra, 32 de Cons. Evan. 4.
It is also possible that Saint Paul refers to the prayer of our Lord in the garden, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; as an encouragement to address him by the same title, with the same confidence in his affection, under similar circumstances of trouble or despondency.
Before the coming of Christ the people of God were undoubtedly entitled in a certain sense to speak of God as their father, but only in a metaphorical sense, and on the ground of creation. “Now, Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our Maker” (Isa 64:8. In some translations, 64:7). This is clearly applicable to all the race of men. And on the ground of providence: “Thy Providence, Father, governs the world” (Wis 14:3). But not on the ground and by right of adoption, an honour reserved for those who are sons of God in Christ, and which is expressed in the formula of the Apostle, Abba, Father.
Gal 4:1-3. “But I say, that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards, until the term appointed of the father. So we also when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world.”
The word “child” in this place denotes not age but understanding; meaning that God had from the beginning designed for us these gifts, but, as we yet continued childish, He let us be under the elements of the world, that is, new moons and sabbaths, for these days are regulated by the course of sun and moon. If then also now they bring you under law they do nothing else but lead you backward now in the time of your perfect age and maturity. And see what is the consequence of observing days; the Lord, the Master of the house, the Sovereign Ruler, is thereby reduced to the rank of aservant.
Gal 4:4-5. “But when the fulness of the time came God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, under the Law that he might redeem them which were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
Here he states two objects and effects of the Incarnation, deliverance from evil and supply of good, things which none could compass but Christ. They are these; deliverance from the curse of the Law, and promotion to sonship. Fitly does he say, that we might “receive,” “[be paid,]” implying that it was due; for the promise was of old time made for these objects to Abraham, as the Apostle has himself shown at great length. And how does it appear that we have become sons? he has told us one mode, in that we have put on Christ who is the Son; and now he mentions another, in that we have received the Spirit of adoption.
Gal 4:6-7. “And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Had not we been first made sons, we could not have called Him Father. If then grace hath made us freemen instead of slaves, men instead of children, heirs and sons instead of aliens, is it not utter absurdity and stupidity to desert this grace, and to turn away backwards?
The verse numbering in this commentary may differ from that of modern versions.
The perpetuity of the Church of Christ, in consequence of the promises of God: which, notwithstanding, God permits her to suffer sometimes most grievous afflictions
1 God’s mercy is the entire subject of this Psalm. The prophet at once tells us that he is about to sing of the sure and certain mercies of God; that is, the favors that were promised in his mercy, and which will never fail, which are called in Isaias 55, “the faithful mercies of David.” The word forever is not to be connected with the verb sing, but with the noun mercies; for David, who was then near his end, could not say he would sing forever; but he could say that he would sing of the mercies of the Lord that were to endure forever. “I will show forth with my mouth thy truth to generation and generation.” A repetition and an explanation of the first part of the verse; for “to generation and generation” signifies the same as “forever.” “I will sing” and “show forth” are clearly the same, and “the mercies of the Lord” seem to be the same as “his truth.” In the first part of the verse he says he will sing of the mercies of the Lord that will exist forever; in the second part of the verse he says he will sing of the truth of the Lord; that is, his observance of what he promises, which will remain from generation to generation. The words, “to generation and generation,” like the word “mercies,” in the first part of the verse, are to be connected with the noun, “thy truth,” and not with the verb “show forth,” as is clear from his adding “with my mouth,” unless we will have it, that David meant to convey that his Psalms would be chanted by the faithful to the end of time; and therefore, that through the faithful he may be said “to sing forever,” and “to show forth his truth.”
2 He proves that God’s mercy and truth will be everlasting, God, who cannot speak a falsehood, having said so; I will sing of your truth and mercy which will be everlasting, “for thou hast said so,” and revealed it to me your prophet. “Mercy shall be built up forever in the heavens,” the favors mercifully promised to David will rise up like an everlasting edifice in heaven; that is, will be as firm and stable as an immoveable edifice, that no time can damage. And this edifice of mercy will be “in heaven,” where everything is eternal. For the event will not depend on the caprice of mortals, nor on mutable counsels and decrees, but will have its foundations in heaven. “Thy truth shall be prepared in them.” In the same heavens your faithful accomplishment of your promises will be prepared. The Hebrew for prepared implies direction and adjustment, and thus the meaning of the sentence is, the pledges you have given are certain, can be tampered with by no inferior authority, because they will be confirmed and strengthened in heaven and will be like unto heaven, which endureth forever and ever.
3 He now begins to unveil the faithful mercy he proposed to sing of in the beginning of the Psalm. That mercy was a certain promise, confirmed by an agreement and an oath, regarding David’s posterity, and the supreme power to be continued in his family; an account of which we have in 2 Kings 7, where David desired to build a house for the Lord, that is, a temple for the reception of the Ark, and for divine sacrifice; and God, through Nathan the prophet, rewarded David for his good intentions, by a promise of raising his house; that is, by the propagation of his posterity, and establishing the sovereignty in his family. This he conveys when he says, “I have made a covenant with my elect;” I have entered into a treaty with my chosen people; “I have sworn to David my servant;” I have made a promise, an oath, to David the prince of my people elect. “Thy seed will I settle.” I have sworn to establish his descendants, so that a son of David shall never be wanted. “And I will build up thy throne unto generation and generation.” I will keep up your kingdom, which is the meaning of from generation to generation. There can be no doubt but all these things apply to Christ alone, who was to come from the family of David, and whose reign was to be everlasting. Isaias alludes to it when he says, chap. 9, “His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace; he shall sit upon the throne of David and on his kingdom, to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever.” The Angel Gabriel announced the same when he said, “And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” These prophecies cannot possibly apply to a temporal kingdom that has long ceased to exist, and of which there is now no trace, but to a spiritual, and an eternal kingdom; and hence, the Jews, who still look out for the Messias, who, they expect, will rule yet in Jerusalem, are grievously mistaken.
4–5 Before he enters into detail of the promises of God, a summary of which he had already given, he digresses for the purpose of praising him, and offering him a sacrifice of thanksgiving. And first of all, the holy man, seeing himself incompetent to return adequate thanks for all the favors conferred on him, calls upon the Angels to do it for him, to praise and thank God for him. “The heavens shall confess thy wonders, O Lord.” I am not equal to the task, I am unable to praise them as they merit, but the “heavens,” the Angels dwelling therein will do it for me, will recount “thy wonders,” the extent of your wonderful mercy, “and thy truth in the Church of the saints.” The same Angels, who surround your throne in such numbers, will praise and glorify your mercy and your truth. They know the extent of that “mercy” that is built up forever in the heavens, better than we do who lie groveling on the earth.
6 He proves that the Angels will not object to such an office, because they are inferior to God. “For who in the clouds can be compared to the Lord?” Not one of those in heaven, which is over the clouds, can be compared to him who created them and heaven. They are all subjects, all servants, which he repeats by asking, “Or who among the sons of God shall be like to God?” which of the sons of God who are his Angels is like to God in point of equality, he alone being essentially God, and not by participation.
7 He now proves that none of the Angels can be compared to God, because God is “glorified in the assembly of the saints;” he is acknowledged by the saints themselves in their assembly as worthy of all glory, and he is “great” in power and wisdom; and therefore, more dreaded and revered, than all the Angels who surround his throne like so many soldiers or servants.
8 He had hitherto narrated God’s praises, he now continues the subject, by addressing God, and descanting more at length on his praise. “Lord God of Ghosts, who is like to thee?” You, O Lord, are the Lord of armies, of many thousands of Angels, and so outshine them all that no one is like you. “Thou art mighty, O Lord, and thy truth is round about thee;” the reason why nobody is perfectly like you arises from your being alone all powerful, able to do not this one thing, or that one thing, but to do every, all things, and nothing can resist your power; and you are not only able to do all things, but you actually do what you promise, for you are faithful in all your promises. Truth, or veracity, the faithful carrying out what was promised, is said to be “round about” God, because it is like a cincture to him, according to Isaias, “And justice shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins;” for, as a cincture ties up one’s robes, and binds them firmly to his person; so truth binds one to his promise, so that he will not swerve from it, but carry it out; and as a cincture adjusts one’s clothes, and fits him for a journey, whence the Angel Raphael is said to have appeared to Tobias in the shape of a young man, with his robes tied up and prepared for a journey, so truth or veracity, causes a man to remove every obstacle, and proceed without delay to carry out what he may have promised.
9 Having said that God was both powerful and faithful, he now proves the former by the fact of his ruling the sea, and calming its billows. The sea is sometimes dreadfully agitated and uproarious, being of immense length and breadth, and sometimes raising its billows, apparently to the very skies; and, therefore, nowhere is God’s omnipotence more clearly manifested than when he quiets and composes it. The Lord himself, speaking hereon, says, Job 38, “I set my bounds round about it, and made it bars and doors. And I said: Hitherto shalt thou come, and shalt go no further; and here thou shalt break thy swelling waves;” and, in Jeremias 5, “Will you not, then, fear me saith the Lord, and will you not repent at my presence? I have set the sand a bound for the sea, an everlasting ordinance, which it shall not pass over; and the waves thereof shall toss themselves, and shall not prevail: they shall swell, and shall not pass over it.” But God especially showed his command of the sea, when he dried up the Red Sea, and stayed its billows, so that the water stood up like a wall on each side, while the children of Israel were passing through.
10 This verse is to be literally understood of Pharao and his army, and is justly connected with the preceding verse; for, at one and the same moment, God thoroughly dried up the sea, and destroyed Pharao the proud and his army, leaving him as one that is slain, and the enemies of God’s people scattered; which is more fully expressed in Isaias 51, “hast thou not struck the proud one, and wounded the dragon? Hast thou not dried up the sea, the water of the mighty deep, who madest the depth of the sea a way, that the delivered might pass over.” He, therefore, says, “Thou hast humbled the proud one,” by stretching him in the depth of the sea, and that without any trouble, as easily as “one that is slain; with the arm of thy strength;” with your most powerful arm you have “scattered your enemies,” Pharao’s army, in the Red Sea.
11 He now informs us that it is no wonder that God so easily calmed the sea, and humbled the proud one; for he is the Lord of all, and that by reason of his having created everything. “Thine are the heavens,” and every one in them; “thine is the earth,” and everything in it; “the world and the fullness thereof thou hast founded;” you are the absolute owner of the world and everything in it, because it is your creation, without the help or assistance of any other person.
12 You have made the foundations of the globe, north, south, east, and west. The north requires no comment; the sea means the south, for the greater part of the sea lay in that direction. Thabor and Hermon signify the east and west, those mountains lying east and west of Jerusalem; and they, that is, their inhabitants, will rejoice in the great goodness and mercy of the Lord.
13 That your hand is a strong one, in nowise feeble or weak, but full of strength and power, can be inferred from your dominion over the sea, from your humiliation of the proud, and the scattering of your enemies. “Let thy hand be strengthened, and thy right hand exalted.” The holy prophet had spoken of two of God’s attributes, power and truth, in verse 7; he discussed his power in the five following verses, and he now has to speak of and to extol his truth, which is also called justice and judgment, and is usually united to mercy. “Let thy hand be strengthened;” I sincerely pray and rejoice that your hand may be strengthened, and become most powerful; “and thy right hand exalted;” praised and magnified by all, as is right it should; but, at the same time,
14 Let your throne be prepared, decorated, and founded on mercy and justice. I consider that justice means here goodness and mercy, in the sense it is taken in Mat. 5, “Unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees;” and again, chap. 6, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men;” in both of which justice means the giving of alms; and, in the same chapter, we read, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his justice;” for he repeats it when he says, “Mercy and truth shall go before thy face;” that is to say, justice shall go before thy face to prepare your throne when you are about to come to administer justice; which means, we are quite certain that you will not judge but with the greatest justice, tempered with mercy, administering as little punishment as possible, and faithfully rendering to every one according to their works. We have here a metaphor taken from the king’s throne. Before the king seats himself thereon for judgment, the servants usually precede him, in order to dust, arrange, and dispose in order everything connected with it. Mercy and justice are supposed here to do the same, for they cause God’s decisions to be most just, and, by no possibility, unjust. For God, in the first instance, exhibits great mercy to all men, by teaching them through his laws, by helping them through his grace, by encouraging them to virtue through the promise of reward, by deterring them from sin through the threats of punishment, and afterwards proves his justice by rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked; for, had not his mercy preceded his justice, we would have been all lost. Hence, the rulers and authorities of this world may learn that their thrones are more highly ornamented, and more firmly established by mercy and justice than by gold and precious stones; and that they are bound to prevent rather than to punish crime. If not the princes themselves, at least many deriving authority under them, will glory in having crime committed, that they may have an opportunity of showing their zeal in bringing the offenders to justice; and they will feel indignant at the efforts of the pious in devising means for the diminution of crime, as if the lawyers or the judges were to suffer thereby; but where mercy and justice prepare the throne, avarice and iniquity have no room whatever.
15 Having explained the union of God’s power and truth with his mercy, he applies them to the people of Israel, and particularly to himself, showing that he and they fully experienced God’s power, mercy, and justice. “Blessed is the people that knoweth jubilation.” Truly happy, beyond all others, are the people of Israel, who know by experience and practice, how to praise God, and “jubilation,” to praise him with great affection. Hence, we can infer that he is not blessed who with his lips alone praises God unless he also truly understands and thinks that God is most worthy, nay, even more worthy than can be expressed, of all praise and glory; and therefore, that the whole feelings of our heart must accompany the motion of our lips and of our voice, when we turn to praise or to pray to him. “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” He tells us why they who “know jubilation” are happy; it is because they do not walk in darkness, like the gentiles who know not God; but, having been converted to God, “in the light of his countenance,” walk the way of this life. The light of God’s countenance comprehends the enlightenment of the understanding by the knowledge of the law and of the will of God, as well as the gift of grace, that inflames the affections. The joy of a good conscience and thanksgiving, is the consequence of such walking in the light of God’s countenance; and therefore,
16 That means they will daily exult praising and thanking God for his mercies. And, as they who tread in such a path will daily advance more and more, and come to a closer friendship with, and more intimate knowledge of God and will be, consequently, favored with fresh gifts, he therefore adds, “and in thy justice they shall be exalted;” will arrive at greater perfection, and afterwards come to eternal glory, through the justice that causes God to keep his promises, or through the justice he gives us when he daily justifies us more and more, or makes us more just. And here we are reminded that we are not to confide either in our own strength, or in our learning; either when we begin to walk, or when we have made a proficiency in walking.
17 He now proceeds to humble man’s pride that is so ready to assume to itself what belongs to God, thereby deserving to lose what it already had received. I had reason for saying “that it is in thy justice they shall be exalted,” because “thou art the glory of their strength.” Whatever power and strength they have is from you, and not from themselves; and, therefore, it is in you, and not in themselves, they should glory; and that you do, not because they deserve it, but because you will it; for it is through “thy good pleasure” your pure will and pleasure, that “our horn shall be exalted,” we shall be rendered valiant and brave, to meet and confound our enemies.
18 Herein appeared the good pleasure of God, that out of all the people on the face of the earth it pleased him to select the people of Israel for his own. “Our protection is of the Lord.” The Lord, through his good pleasure, and not from our own merits, selected us as his own people, and deigned to become our king, in order to protect us. God is called “the Holy One of Israel” by David, as well as by the other prophets, because his name was regarded by the Israelites with peculiar veneration, and was strictly forbidden to be taken in vain, blasphemed, or dishonored.
19 He now begins to descend to himself, as the head of a people specially beloved by God. A serious question, however, arises here, viz., whether this and the following verses apply to Christ or to David, or partly to Christ, and partly to David. St. Augustine applies them to Christ; but the words of the Apostle, Acts 13, “I have found David the son of Jesse, man according to my own heart,” apply those words to David, which are partly taken from this passages and partly from 1 kings 13; with that, the expression, “I will make his seed to endure forevermore,” ver. 29, can hardly be applied to Christ; while it is most applicable to David, to whom God promised, that he would place his seed on his throne, and that his kingdom would endure. Others apply the whole to David himself; but verse 27, “I will make him my first born,” forbids that. Others will have it apply partly to Christ, and partly to David; but the continuity of the subject, and the connection of the language and of the ideas, clearly indicate that one or either only was intended. My opinion is, that the whole was intended for David himself, but that a great part was to be fulfilled only in Christ, so that David may be called the first born, high above the kings of the earth, but only inasmuch as he was the type of Christ, his son. If this explanation be not approved of, we must adopt St. Augustine’s, who applies it exclusively to Christ, thus: When you adopted the Jewish people as your own you gave them a king highly agreeable to yourself, for you spoke in a vision or revelation to your saints to Samuel, and afterwards to Nathan, and you said “I have laid help upon one that is mighty.” I have given my people, as a helper, one that is stout and resolute in mind and body, “and have exalted one chosen out of my people.” I have set up a powerful help for my people, because I have exalted him whom I have chosen from among them to be a king and a protector and a defender of my people.
20 He now tells us who the powerful man is, and says it was David himself, whom he had found worthy to be elected and anointed king, and thus, this verse can be literary applied to David, who was anointed by Samuel. However, St. Augustine maintains that Christ was intended here, though named as David, as is the case in chaps. 34 and 37 of Ezechiel; and of whose anointing we read in Psalm 44, where he says, “Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee.” The expression, “I have found David,” is purely metaphorical; for God, who sees everything, however secret, at one glance, has no need of seeking after any one; hut he is said to seek, because he does not choose at random, nor take the next to hand; but he finds without the labor and trouble that mortals must have recourse to, and chooses him who is most fit for, and worthy of, the position in question.
21–23 However true all this may be of David, who, through God’s assistance had many victories over his enemies, they apply much more forcibly to Christ, “for the enemy had an advantage over” David, when he induced him to commit the sin of murder and adultery; and his enemy Absalom, had an advantage over him, when he banished and drove him out of his kingdom. Such was not the case with Christ, for “the hand and the arm” of the Lord, which means the very Word of God, the power and wisdom of the Father, so strengthened the human nature of Christ, hypostatically united to it, that no enemy could possibly “have an advantage over him,” nor deceive nor circumvent him in any shape; but, on the contrary, all who hated him “were cut down before his face,” and were conquered and routed. For, though Christ was scourged and crucified by his enemies, yet, it was with his own consent, and it was through that passion of his that he conquered the devil, rescued those who were captives to him, and had a most glorious triumph over him; and we see the Jews, his enemies, dispersed through the whole world, like a routed and scattered army.
24 This was rather obscurely foreshadowed in David but accomplished most fully in Christ; for the truth and mercy of God always remained with Christ. The hypostatic union, that could never be dissolved, was the effect of his mercy; and his truth appeared from having faithfully carried out what the Angel promised, Luke 1, “He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” And, from the fact of truth and mercy always remaining with him, “in my name shall his horn be exalted;” his power will be extended until, “at his name, every knee shall bend of those that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell.” Christ’s power is said to be exalted in the name of God, because his glory is “as that of the only begotten of the Father;” and he is adored by all as the Son of the eternal Father, and he came in the name of the Father, and “God the Father also hath exalted him, and hath given him name which is above every name.”
25 From this verse to the end cannot possibly be applied to any but Christ, or to David, through his descendant Christ, so that David may be named, while Christ, his son, was understood; for David never had any power at sea, his power was limited to the land, and that confined enough, for the land of promise lay between the sea and the river Euphrates; while the king spoken of here is to have “his hand set in the sea;” to have the command of the sea, and “his right hand in the rivers,” and, consequently, all over the world; for the sea surrounds the land, and the rivers intersect it, so that the sea and the rivers comprehend the globe, which is expressed in other words in Psalm 71, where he says “He shall rule from sea to sea;” from one extremity of the world to the other.
26 He now speaks more plainly of Christ, and not of himself, unless these words may be applied to David as representing his Son, Christ; for David, throughout the Psalms, never addresses God as his Father; and, therefore, he cannot mean himself when he says, “He shall cry out to me: Thou art my Father.” And, perhaps, it was by God’s special providence that David should never have invoked God by the name of Father, in order to show that this passage could not possibly apply to David, save and except through Christ. Now, Christ commenced his labors by referring to his Father, for, in Luke 2, he says, “Did you not know that I must be about the things that are my Father’s;” and his last words upon earth were, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;” and, through his whole life, he most constantly addressed God as his Father. “He shall cry out to me: Thou art my Father,” as far as my divinity is concerned. “My God,” as far my humanity is concerned; “the support of my salvation,” as regards my mortality.
27 He now speaks of Christ in the plainest manner; for Christ, who, as regards the divinity, is only begotten, as regards the humanity, is first born among many brothers; and there are three reasons for calling him first born. First, because he is first in the order of predestination, for it is through him, as through the head, that we are predestinated, as we read in Ephes 1. Secondly, because he is first in the second generation to life everlasting, whence he is called, Colos. 1, “the first born from the dead;” and in Apoc. 1, “the first begotten of the dead;” and, thirdly, because he had the rights of the first born; for “he was appointed heir of all things;” and he was made not only first born, but also “high above the kings of the earth;” that is, Prince of the kings of the earth, and King of kings.
28 As well as he had before predicted the excellence of the kingdom of Christ, he now predicts its eternity, which does not apply to David, nor to Solomon, nor to his posterity for the kingdom had an end under Jechonias. “I will keep my mercy for him; the mercy through which I promised David a son, through him his kingdom should be everlasting, shall always keep and remain to him; for “my covenant,” my agreement and promise made to Nathan, shall be observed most faithfully. But, if we are to apply this verse to Christ, the meaning would be, “I will keep my mercy for him forever;” that is, the mercy, through which I predestinated and chose him from eternity to be the Son of God in power, and high above the kings of the earth, will always be kept with him; for the hypostatic union of the humanity with the Word will never be dissolved, and, through it, the man Christ will always be the Son of God, “first born,” and “high above the kings of the earth;” “and my covenant faithful to him;” my agreement to establish his kingdom forever will be always faithfully observed, which promise the Angel Gabriel expressed when he said, “And of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
29 He now explains how God intends to keep his mercy forever for David; for he will give him seed, that is, a son, meaning Christ, who “will endure forevermore;” and thus, “his throne,” his kingdom, will never have an end, but will be “as the days of heaven,” as long as there shall be a heaven, which God “has established forever and for ages of ages.”
30–34 He answers an objection that may be made, and says, that if the sons of David should provoke the anger of the Lord by their evil doings, that he will punish the delinquents, but that it will not cause him to break his promise, a promise that he made upon oath. “And if his children forsake my law.” If David’s posterity should break my laws, whether judicial, ceremonial, or moral, “and walk not in my judgements;” if they break even the judicial law alone. “If they profane my justices,” if they even infringe on the ceremonial law, “and keep not my commandment;” if they fail in observing my moral code, “I will visit their iniquities with a rod, and their sins with stripes;” I will not let their crimes go unpunished, but I will chastise them as a father would his children. “But my mercy I wall not take away from him.” The sins of the children, however, will not cause me to withdraw the favors I promised, in my mercy, to the father. “Nor will I suffer my truth to fail.” I will not go against the truth, a thing I should do were I to injure him after the promises I made him. There are two observations to be made here; one is, that David’s children may be read literally; and the opinion of St. Augustine, who understands the passage as applying to Christ, is also admissible; and, in such case, the children of David must be taken to represent all Christians regenerated in Christ. The second is, that we are not to infer from this passage that the children of David, whether Jews or Christians, however wicked they may be, can never be lost; for God does not say, through the Psalmist, “My mercy I will not take” from them, but from him. If the wicked, then, upon being paternally corrected, choose to reform, they will not lose the inheritance; nay, even like the prodigal child, they will be taken back to favor most affectionately; but, if they obstinately persevere in sin, they will certainly lose the inheritance; but the truth of the Lord will hold; nor will the kingdom of Christ fail; for “he is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham,” although those, who are previously known and predestined in Christ before the constitution of the world, will, most unquestionably, persevere to the end in faith, hope and charity.
35–37 He assigns a reason for his wishing to fulfill the promise he made of establishing David’s kingdom, even though his children should not observe his commandments; and the reason is, because he swore thereto; promised firmly, without the power of retracting. “Once have I sworn by my holiness.” I have irrevocably and solely sworn by my holiness. The word “once,” implies immutability, for one oath of God’s is equivalent to innumerable oaths of others. “I will not lie unto David;” as he says in Psalm 131, “the Lord hath sworn truth to David, and he will not make it void.” A similar expression occurs in Isaias 22, “Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you till you die, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Here are the words of the oath. “His seed shall endure, and his throne as the sun before me.” I have sworn, and I will not deceive David, that his son, Christ, shall live forever; and that his kingdom will be everlasting; and he illustrates this sworn promise of his by three comparisons; with the sun, the full moon, and the rainbow. “His throne as the sun before me; and as the moon, perfect forever; and a faithful witness in heaven;” which signify that the kingdom of Christ, and through it, his Church, would be always visible and conspicuous; for nothing is brighter or more beautiful than the sun by day, or the rainbow betimes in the clouds, that has been given by God as a faithful witness to man, of the earth being nevermore to be destroyed by a deluge,
38 This is the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet, speaking in the person of the people in their captivity, asks that God’s promises may be fulfilled; for, though God may have solemnly, and even with an oath, made a promise; still, he wishes to be asked to do what he so promised; thus, “Isaac besought the Lord for his wife, because she was barren,” though God had promised a numerous progeny to Abraham through his son Isaac. “I will multiply your seed; as the stars of heaven” and again, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” In his prayer the prophet seems to give a gentle hint to the Almighty, that if he defer the fulfillment of his Promise so long, he will appear to have no idea of observing this bargain and his oath. The meaning, then, of this and the following verses is: You have promised, O Lord, with an oath, that the son of David would reign, but now we see the kingdom taken from the children of David, and seized upon by the king of the Assyrians; to carry out your promise, then, send that son of David you promised, and give him that everlasting kingdom you swore to give him, for otherwise, our enemies will laugh at us, and our disgrace will be attributed to you. “But thou hast rejected and despised;” you promised all manner of favors, but now you only heap misery on us, for you have “rejected us” from your protection, “and despised” those you previously made so much of; “thou hast been angry with thy anointed;” you have in your anger allowed your anointed kings Jechonias and Sedecias, to be led away captives to Babylon.
39 He now explains how God did reject and despise his people; and first he lays down, that God “overthrew the covenant of his servant,” backed out of the bargain he entered into with his servant David, which must be understood as if he did so in appearance, and not in reality; for God, in suffering the city of Jerusalem, as well as all Palestine, to fall into the hands of the king of the Assyrians, would seem to be unwilling that David’s kingdom should be everlasting; whereas the promise applied to the spiritual and celestial kingdom of David, and not to his kingdom of this world. “Thou hast profaned his sanctuary on the earth,” you have brought to the ground and thus profaned his holy diadem, which happened when David’s kingdom terminated, Jechonias and Sedecias having beep deposed, and the royal diadem carried away.
40–41 He compares the Jewish People, represented by David, to a vineyard, whose fences are broken down and plundered indiscriminately by every passer by; a thing of frequent occurrence to the Jews, who were more than once conquered and despoiled by the Assyrians, when God withdrew his protection from them. Read the 4th book of Kings hereon. “Thou hast broken down all his hedges,” you have deprived us, O Lord, of your help and protection so that, like a vineyard whose fences are destroyed, we have been indiscriminately plundered by the enemy. “Thou hast made his strength fear.” In David’s kingdom his soldiers, who were full of life and courage, and were the strength of his kingdom, now became so timid, so full of fear, that they could not for a moment withstand the enemy, and the people attribute all this to God, because they knew such could not befall them without God’s will, and that he might, had he so willed, easily have prevented the entire. “All that passed by the way have robbed him,” all the enemies of God’s people have plundered and pillaged them, just as the passersby plunder a vineyard they see without a wall or a hedge, or any one in care of it. “He is become a reproach to his neighbors.” Hence, all the neighboring people mock and jest at the people of God, now become so feeble, as to be incapable of resisting any one.
42–43 He continues to describe the calamities into which the people fell, when they were deserted by God. “Thou hast set up the right hand of them that oppress him,” you have assisted the enemies of your people to obtain a more easy victory over them. The enemies’ joy, then, was unbounded on so cheap a victory, and he, therefore, adds, “Thou hast made all his enemies rejoice,” while, on the other hand “thou hast turned away the help of the sword,” or rather you have withdrawn your own help from his, the king’s sword, and from his people, which he expresses more plainly when he adds, “and hast not assisted him in battle,” and hence the kings of Juda were unable to resist their enemies the Assyrians.
44 An obscure passage, but the end of the verse seems to indicate that he alludes to the king being deprived of that regal splendor and mode of living princes are usually accustomed to; and the meaning would seem to be, you have deprived the king of his royal apparel, you have made his cleanness and his purification to disappear, by compelling him to submit to filthy and uncared for garments; and “you have so cast his throne to the ground” that there is no trace either of it, or of the respect and submission due to the king himself.
45 The last and principal calamity was, that though God had promised David that his kingdom would be everlasting, it would now appear that the everlasting term so promised had been reduced to a very limited period, for that temporal kingdom of David, that he hoped would have had no end, was terminated in the time of Jechonias and Sedecias; and, from such “shortening of the days of his time,” David, through his posterity, “was covered with confusion.”
46 He now begins a prayer for the acceleration of the Messias, in order that the sworn promises of God nay be fulfilled. “How long, O Lord, turnest thou away unto the end?” How long will you turn away your face from us? Will it be to the end, until we shall have been totally ruined and swept away? “Shall thy anger burn like fire?” that never ceases until it consumes everything within its reach.
47–48 Those verses have been variously interpreted, but, in my mind, the true interpretation is as follows: The prophet being an extremely spiritual person, from reflecting on the extreme shortness of human life, and the uncertainty of human affairs, was carried away by a burning desire for life everlasting in the world to come, and prayed to God to send the Messias, the Father of the world to come, who was to open the kingdom of heaven to believers, at once; for if some part, at least, of the human race were not to come to a happy and eternal life, through Christ, in fact, God would seem to have made all the children of men in vain. He, therefore, says, “Remember what my salvation is,” how brief, how frail, how full of troubles is my existence on earth. “For hast thou made all the children of men in vain?” Have you made and created mankind to enjoy this life alone, and that a life of such short duration, and so full of misery? that would amount to the creation of man in vain, when no part of mankind would have arrived at its ultimate end. “Who is the man that shall live and shall not see death?” The shortness and the misery of this life is clear from the fact, that no one can escape death, “or deliver his soul from the hand of hell.” For the other world hurries all men, without exception, to itself.
49 He now openly prays to God to send that king, from the seed of David, who was to rule over his people, saying, where are those promises you formerly made in your mercy to David, promises you confirmed by an oath, when you swore, “And I will make his seed to endure more, and his throne as the days Heaven.”
50 He assigns another reason for asking so urgently for the coming of the Messias, because the infidels were constantly reproaching God’s people with the folly of their expecting a king from the seed of David, who was to reign. “Be mindful, O Lord, of the reproach of thy servants,” of the constant reproaches heaped upon them by the infidels, “which I have held in my bosom,” which your people have been obliged to bear in silence, having no reply to make, when “many nations” reproached them, and not being able to show that God’s promises were either fulfilled, or would be fulfilled in any given time, or with any certainty.
51 Here is the reproach he carried in his bosom, that the enemies of the Lord upbraided God’s people with having exchanged the anointed, that is, with David having received no compensation whatever for the loss of his kingdom, notwithstanding all the ample promises.
52 This conclusion of the Psalm clearly shows that the prophet understood the promise made to David was sure and certain, and would be accomplished in the proper time, however unlikely it may have appeared to have been in the time of Nabuchodonosor. Nay, even this very conclusion shows that David knew that it was a part of the divine policy to allow that temporal kingdom to be abolished, for fear the carnal Jews may suppose that the divine promises were accomplished in Solomon or any of the kings of Juda. He, therefore, says, “Blessed be the Lord forevermore. So be it, so bet it.” May praise and thanks be always given to God, for he does everything well, is just in all his words, and holy in all his acts. “So be it; so be it.” I earnestly pray it may be so, viz., that the Lord may be blessed evermore. This is the end of the third book, according to the Hebrews.
Title. Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. Chaldee Targum: A good understanding, spoken at the hand of Abraham, who came from the East. LXX. and Vulg.: Understanding of Ethan the Israelite (LXX.) or Ezrahite (Vulg.)
Arg. Thomas. That Christ rules in equal power with the Father and the Comforter. The Voice of Christ to the Father touching the Jews. The Voice of the Prophet, touching Christ, to the Father, or the Voice of the Son or of the Church to the Father touching the Jews. The Voice of Christ to the Father. The story is sung of the time when the people were numbered.
Ven. Bede. Ethan is interpreted the Strong, and as this Psalm is about to tell of the praises and promises of the Lord, the unchangeable firmness of its faithful words is indicated by the name Strong. And here Understanding is necessarily prefixed, no doubt because an everlasting throne is promised to David, which meanwhile we can see was destroyed long ago historically. This Ethan, like Heman, was either one of the singers of David the king, whom the Words of Days mention, to wit, the son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, of the family of Merari, son of Levi: or one of those wise men to whom the wisdom of Solomon is preferred in the Book of Kings, “Wiser,” it saith, “than Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman.” This song is of such wisdom that it deserves to be ascribed to the name of that very wise man. This Ethan the Strong, who was filled with such mental enlightenment that he is most truly styled an Israelite, at the first outset of the Psalm declares that he will sing of the mercies of the Lord, because He hath promised many things that will profit the faithful people. My song shall be alway of the lovingkindness of the Lord. In the second part he describes in various ways the praises and power of the Lord. O Lord, the very heavens shall praise Thy wondrous works. Thirdly, he counts up the promises of the Father to Christ, Thou spakest sometime in vision unto Thy saints. In the fourth place, the Lord Himself declares, by reason of the Passion which He endured, that He was delivered up to His enemies. But Thou hast abhorred. Fifthly, he prays for help for human weakness, because God hath not made the children of men for nought: Lord, how long wilt Thou hide Thyself, for ever? Sixthly, he asks the Lord to fulfil His promises, which He declares that He made to David His servant, and to remember what reproaches His servants bore from the ungodly. Lord, where are Thy old lovingkindnesses?
Syriac Psalter. Concerning the people which was in Babylon.
Eusebius of Cæsarea. He teacheth the Kingdom of Christ from the seed of David.
S. Athanasius. A Psalm of narration.
1 My song shall be alway of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be showing thy truth from one generation to another.
This noble Psalm, contrasting forcibly in much of its hopefulness with its sad predecessor, nevertheless implies distinctly the visitation of the House of David with severe chastisement, and the author is clearly the King of Judah himself, or some one speaking in his name, and putting words into his mouth. It has thus been conjectured, not without much plausibility, that it refers to the captivity of Manasseh, or, more probably still, from the mixture of thanksgiving and hope, to the release of King Jehoiachin from his prison, after a captivity of seven and thirty years, and his restoration to royal precedence and honours at the court of Evil-Merodach,* King of Babylon.
The opening of the Psalm, observes the Carthusian, (D. C.) is truly most sweet, and far, far pleasanter than any worldly, carnal, or idle pleasure. He does not say the mercy of the Lord, but His mercies (Heb., LXX., Vulg., A. V.,) for according to the multitude of our miseries the mercies of the Lord are multiplied upon us. And that sevenfold; first, in that He guards us from sinning, as it is written,* “I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall;”* secondly, that He awaits the penitence of the sinner, “Thou winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend;”* thirdly, He calls after waiting, because “God is patient with them,” and then “poureth forth His mercy upon them;”* fourthly, because He is so swift and tender in welcoming the penitent, for “He hath mercy upon them that receive discipline;” fifthly, that He corrects us for our sins, and amends our lives, “Thou, because Thou art gracious,* have mercy upon us, or punish our iniquities with Thy scourge;” sixthly, comes the bestowal of grace for the attainment of everlasting life, for, “He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them;”* and seventhly, He inspires us with hope of obtaining eternal blessedness whereof the Psalm itself speaks.
The Psalmist saith,* I will sing (Vulg., A. V.,) whence we may gather the joy that is in his heart. They who seek the Lord here in the Church Militant, and they who have found and hold Him fast in the Church Triumphant, alike raise in His honour the song of Holy, Holy, Holy. Alway, or as it is in LXX. and Vulg., for ever. Bellarmine,* following several of the earlier commentators, attaches these words to mercies, not to sing, for the somewhat jejune reason that the Psalmist, as a mortal, must cease his singing, but that the Lord’s mercies are for ever. But there is no question as to the collocation of the words in the Hebrew, nor will the succeeding clause allow us to explain alway as only to the end of the singer’s earthly life. We may rather take it, on the one hand, as a prophecy of the continual use of this Psalm in the public worship of God, from one generation to another, (C.) from the generation of the Jews to that of the Gentiles, throughout the long ages that have elapsed since its notes were first heard, so that the Psalmist, “being dead, yet speaketh;” while, on the other hand, it may denote the hope of joining, after death has silenced the voice here for a time, in the unceasing melodies of heaven; where the generation of man joins in fellowship with the generation of angels.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,*
Then, in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save.
S. Gregory the Great raises the question here as to how a perpetual singing of the mercies of God is compatible with unalloyed bliss in heaven,* inasmuch as the thought of mercy connotes the memory of sin and sorrow, which needed mercy, whereas Isaiah saith that “the former troubles are forgotten,”* and “the former things shall not be remembered, nor come upon the heart.” And he replies that it will be like the memory of past sickness in time of health, without stain, without grief, and serving only to heighten the felicity of the redeemed, by the contrast with the past, and to increase their love and gratitude towards God. And so sings the Cluniac:
Their breasts are filled with gladness,*
Their mouths are tuned to praise,*
What time, now safe for ever,*
On former sins they gaze:
The fouler was the error,
The sadder was the fall,
The ampler are the praises
Of Him who pardoned all.
Note, too,* that he says, with my mouth, not with that of any deputy; I will be showing, not secretly or timidly, not in a whisper, but boldly preach, Thy truth, not my own opinion, far less my own falsehood,* but Thy Truth, which is Thine Only-begotten Son.
2 For I have said, Mercy shall be set up for ever: thy truth wilt thou stablish in the heavens.
The LXX. and Vulgate read, For Thou hast said. There is no practical difference, (L.) for the I is here God Himself, Whose words are given directly by the Psalmist just as in 81:6, and Job 42:1–5. It is God’s answer to the first verse,* as though He were saying, The reason, O man, why thou promisest to show forth My praise for ever, is because I, for My part, have said that the mercy, which I will stablish, shall be for ever. And if we read the clause in the second person, then the Prophet declares himself to be merely God’s instrument, and that he will show forth what God has spoken and dictated to him. I will be showing forth, I speak for this reason, (A.) observes the Doctor of Grace, because Thou hast spoken first; I, a man, may safely say what Thou, O God, hast said, for even should I waver in mine own word, I shall be stablished by Thine. Mercy shall be set up for ever. More exactly,* with A. V., and the early renderings, built up. For not only will this mercy of God be strong and unshaken by any earthly vicissitudes or any counsel of man, (D. C.) but the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, in the act of redeeming mankind, will repair the wastes and build up anew the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem with living stones, so as to make good the breaches caused by the fall of the rebel Angels; a view of this verse common to some Rabbinical authorities. For ever,* not merely because God’s mercy proceeds from an everlasting decree, and because its effects have no end, but because throughout all time it is poured out upon fresh objects,* and daily swells the ranks of penitents and saints. There are not wanting some to remind us that this mercy so eternally built up is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, (Z.) Whose Sacred Body was compacted of the holy flesh of Mary, whereof is written, “Wisdom hath builded her house.”* Thy truth, shalt Thou stablish in the heavens. Whether these words be those of the Psalmist to God,* or of God the Father to His Son, we may draw the same lesson from them, (L.) that He Who is very Truth had His throne set up above the heavens at the Ascension, (A.) and that He hath established His Word and Gospel in the mouths of His holy Apostles, of whom is written, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”* For stablished the Vulgate reads prepared, whence they draw the lesson that God makes ready the foundations of His mercy by first destroying those of sin, and builds up His temple on the very site of an idol shrine.* So He enjoined His Prophet “to throw down, and build.”
3 I have made a covenant with my chosen: I have sworn unto David my servant;
4 Thy seed will I stablish for ever: and set up thy throne from one generation to another.
S. Augustine, (A.) leaving the literal sense here as too obvious to need discussion, turns at once to the mystical meaning. What covenant is this that God has made, save the New Covenant or Testament, which brings us into our new heritage, which we welcome with the new song? And they point out further that the double promise here cannot possibly be interpreted literally. There is, on the one hand, a promise of an unbroken line of descendants, and on the other, the maintenance of the royal dignity in that line. It is, to say the very least, supremely improbable that any lineal descendants of the House of David now survive, (L.) after the measures taken by Domitian and Trajan to root them out for political reasons,* and the long break in the genealogical records; it is certain that the last Davidic prince who exercised even a titular sovereignty over the chosen people was Zerubbabel, as the power after his death lay between the Persian satraps of Syria and the High Priests. And we are therefore compelled here, as in Psalm 72, to seek for a deeper meaning, a more glorious promise than the temporal prosperity of a single race. (A.) Most truly then shall we see here not merely the everlasting Kingdom of Christ, but the aspect of that Kingdom upon earth, the great company of the faithful who are the spiritual seed of Abraham, who, united to their kingly Head, as members of the body, are kings in and through Him, palaces wherein His throne as Lord and Master is set up even in the generation of our mortal life, and much more in that other generation of resurrection and immortality. It is to be noted that the word chosen,* though singular in the Hebrew text, is translated as plural by LXX. and Vulgate, and may thus be referred literally to the whole Jewish nation, or to David and his sons, while mystically these elect will denote the whole company of the redeemed,* and especially the Apostles and Doctors of the Church. A Greek Father points out very well how the final settlement of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy City under David, after its prolonged wanderings from one place to another, forms an apt type of the firmness and universality of the Catholic Church set up by Christ in the terms of this promise of the Father.* And we may take the whole promise as referring to each righteous soul, which is like David, the friend and beloved of God, which is strong in the battle of good works against sin, and comely in aspect by reason of inward holiness, and for which an everlasting crown is laid up in heaven.
5 O Lord, the very heavens shall praise thy wondrous works: and thy truth in the congregation of the saints.
We here on earth,* tied and bound with the chains of our sin, feeble through our mortal frailty, cannot praise Thee aright; but the glorious skies with their bright constellations, lifted far above us, the shining hosts of the Angels, will do what we cannot. (Ay.) And we may bear in mind how often the heavens bore their witness to Christ, how a new Star announced His birth, how the Angels sang carols over His cradle, how the heavens were opened above Him at His Baptism, when the Voice of the Father was heard; how the sun was darkened as He hung upon the Cross, how an Angel sate upon the empty sepulchre to declare the glad tidings of His Resurrection. (A.) There are no works of God more wondrous than the Incarnation of His Son,* and His marvellous conversion of sinners by His grace, making the heavens to praise Him; and so those especial heavens, the holy Apostles and other great preachers of the Gospel, pour down the refreshing rains of doctrine on the thirsty and eager soil of the Church of the Saints, which alone lies so beneath those clouds as to drink in their showers freely. Such preachers are likened to the heavens,* because they are raised high above the earth, are starry with virtues, shining with the lights of grace, honoured by the indwelling of God, and compassed with the circle of perfection.
6a (6) For who is he among the clouds: that shall be compared unto the Lord?
6b (7) And what is he among the gods: that shall be like unto the Lord?
Here the Psalmist gives the reason why the heavens will take up the song of praise which is too great a theme for human lips.* They will not refuse the office, for they are themselves, however high above men, unspeakably below the throne of God, are His servants and ministers, not His equals, nor even like to Him. And though He Who is the Lord became man, and took upon Him the form of a servant, yet even in His utter humiliation,* in His lowest estate, no Angel might be compared to Him in majesty, in wisdom, or in love. Observe that whereas the heavens were named in the fifth verse, we have the clouds in the sixth. (A.) And what the mystical force of this term is, we may learn from the Prophet, when speaking of the judgments on the vineyard of God he says, “I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”* And as the “vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,” we understand by this threat the turning of the Apostles to the Gentiles, after their message had been rejected by the Jews. The Apostles were clouds in their human weakness, in their passiveness, as they were heaven in the mightiness of truth; (Cd.) but they were also clouds in that they were charged with that Gospel whereof God spake by Moses: “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as showers upon the grass.”* (R.) They are clouds, too, because their holiness is veiled by their flesh, as a cloud, so that we cannot see that which lies within. We see what comes from the cloud, but not what happens in the cloud, so we receive the rain of Divine teaching from the Apostles, but cannot observe the process of Divine revelation within them. So runs the hymn for Apostles in the Paris Breviary:
Like clouds are they borne
To do Thy great will,*
And swift as the winds
About the world go;
All full of Thy Godhead
While earth lieth still,
They thunder, they lighten,
The waters o’erflow.
Yet, with all their gifts and graces, there is none of them, none of any of those eminent for holiness, those gods,* or sons of God (LXX., Vulg.) that can be compared to the Lord Jesus; for He is Son of God by eternal generation, (Ay.) and naturally; they are sons of God only by adoption and grace.
7 (8) God is very greatly to be feared in the council of the saints: and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.
In the literal sense,* the council of the Saints may most probably denote the Jewish nation, which from its small numbers, and from being alone possessed of the secret oracles of God, is fitly styled His council, while those that are round about are the Gentile nations encompassing the Hebrews on every side. (C.) Or, if the reference be to the heavenly service, the words depict for us that scene of the Apocalypse: “And all the Angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God.”* They raise the question as to how the Angels can be said to be round about God, seeing that He is infinite and omnipresent, filling all the universe. Cardinal Bellarmine answers that it is because God gives Himself to the view of His Angels,* in such wise that they all behold Him simultaneously, as though they did in fact encircle Him; (A.) but the great Bishop of Hippo reminds us that He, when made man, was in truth circumscribed by a body and local boundaries, to be born, to dwell, to be crucified, buried, and to rise again within the limits of one narrow territory, and yet to be so preached by His Apostles as to be had in reverence of all those nations which lay round about it.* The word council is, they say, emphatic, as denoting in the case of the Angels, not that they give advice to God, for as Isaiah and S. Paul alike ask,* “Who hath been His counsellor?”* but that He reveals His measures to them, and sends them as messengers to execute them; while the phrase, as applied to the Saints on earth, denotes the reason, thoughtfulness,* and deliberate nature of their service and devotion. And whereas he that has a retinue round about him,* must have some before, (Z.) some behind, some on his right hand, some on his left; so the Lord Jesus is followed behind by those who attempt to imitate His actions by the pursuit of holiness, they are on His left hand who turn secular learning and natural philosophy to spiritual purposes and the vindication of religion; they are on the right who busy themselves in pure meditation on divine things only; while those who have been made perfect in love of God’s beauty, are suffered to have full enjoyment of the Beatific Vision, and see Him face to face.
8 (9) O Lord God of hosts, who is like unto thee: thy truth, most mighty Lord, is on every side.
The Psalmist has been hitherto directing his words to human listeners,* but fired with love and wonder at the thought of God’s marvels, (D. C.) he suddenly breaks into an apostrophe to Him. Who is like unto Thee? he exclaims, for there is no ratio between the finite and the infinite, and though His truth and power are already exerted and manifested in His works of nature and of grace, yet His mightiness is not exhausted thereby, for “hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding?”* And thus His truth is on every side, because He is the centre of all creation, and His divine power and truth pour their rays on all His works, that we may behold them and worship Him, for, as the Wise Man saith, “by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seen.”* (R.) His truth is round about Him also, (Z.) because He has it perfectly and of Himself as His attribute, and does not derive it from any other source. It clothes Him as a garment, for “righteousness is the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins,”* for as the girdle binds the garments closely round the body, so the truth of Christ binds the words of His promises, so that they cannot be changed, but must be fulfilled, and that too with speed and readiness, as a man who is girt up is able to run swiftly.* These promises of Christ are round about Him, in that Church of which He is the centre,* as it is the creation of grace whose midmost part He is.* On every side, too, because this Church is spread all over the earth, and even in it He is specially confessed by His Saints, the chosen guard closest about their Monarch, (Ay.) as the tents of the great encampment of Israel once compassed the Tabernacle round about. (L.) And note that when the truth of the Lord, the Gospel of the Kingdom, at first hidden in the central shrine of Judæa, began to be made known amidst the Gentiles round about, (A.) then the rage of the powers of evil and of this world broke out in fierce storms of persecution; wherefore is added:
9 (10) Thou rulest the raging of the sea: thou stillest the waves thereof when they arise.
10 (11) Thou hast subdued Egypt, and destroyed it: thou hast scattered thine enemies abroad with thy mighty arm.
Here the literal sense recalls the passage of the Red Sea,* and its reflux upon the horsemen and chariots of Pharaoh.* The word here rendered Egypt is Rahab, the “proud one,” of whom we read in Psalm 87:4a, and it is so translated by LXX. and Vulgate,* which agree in reading Thou hast humbled the haughty as wounded, which closely agrees with a similar apostrophe in Isaiah, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art not Thou it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art Thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”* (A.) And S. Augustine, preaching on the festival of certain Martyrs, observes that when the Gentiles came to the knowledge of the Truth, the enemy rushed upon them like a raging lion, but was overcome by the Lord, who rent him as Samson did his type. “What,” he asks, “did the sea effect by its raging, save to bring about the holy day which we are keeping? It slew the Martyrs, it sowed the seed of blood, and the crops of the Church shot up abundantly.”* That mighty Arm of God, the Only-Begotten Son, Who wounded the proud one,* as Jael did Sisera, with the nail which fastened Himself to the Cross, scattered His enemies, the Jewish nation which rejected Him, (C.) abroad in the terrible captivity and dispersion that followed on the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. (A.) He, by humbling Himself, hath wounded and humbled the pride of man, and made him lowly, so that we, wounded in turn by love of Him, are scattered abroad,* and parted from our native errors and sins, as well as from the fellowship of the ungodly, so as to be made no longer the enemies, (R.) but the servants of God, and citizens of the heavenly country, when He has stilled the wild passions of our stormy and unstable hearts,* and made in them a great calm, on whose surface the rays of His glory may be eternally mirrored.
11 (12) The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: thou hast laid the foundation of the round world, and all that therein is.
Christ is Lord of the teaching Church of the Apostles, (A.) those heavens which send down the dews of holy doctrine, and also of the Church which is taught, the earth which drinks in the rain and dew, (Ay.) and in its humility brings forth abundant fruit. The contemplative Saints are His, busied as they are with divine things, of which He is the source and goal;* the active Saints are His no less, for He inspires and guides their good works. The heavens and the earth are His, (R.) for by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and without Him was not anything made that was made. He laid not only the foundation of the round world of visible nature,* but also of that Church Universal which embraces all nations,* founded on the Rock, stablished in Him alone, and He claims as His own not the mere space,* but all living things therein, the entire body of His elect, rooted and founded in love, destined to enter into the fulness of the Saints.* And note that the phrase round world is suitably typical of the Church, because the circle alone of linear figures is equidistant at all points from the centre of the space it encloses, and is thus a type of the perfect life, because, according to the old philosophic definition, “Virtue is the equality of a life which converges towards reason on every side.” And thus Christ, as the Supreme Wisdom, is the centre of the Church, and the rays of His divine love and grace touch on all sides the circumference of the Church with equal radii, infinite in number.1
12 (13) Thou hast made the north and the south: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy Name.
As Tabor and Hermon lie east and west of each other in the Lebanon chain,* this verse is the assertion of God’s creative and governing power over the four quarters of the earth. But the LXX. and Vulgate read the north and the sea.1 Mystically, the North in Holy Writ is usually taken as the symbol of evil, because on the one hand we read of Lucifer, “I will sit also in the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north;”* and in Jeremiah we find the threat, “I will bring evil from the north, and great destruction,”* and as a literal fact, the great empire of Assyria and much of that of Babylon, by which the Jewish nation were so grievously chastised, lay to the north of the Holy Land. (C.) And as the north wind is cold and biting,* so they will have it that it is an apt type of Satan or of Antichrist himself, lacking the fire of divine love,* and nipping with his sharp frosts the blossoms and fruits of holiness in the hearts of men; while the sea, (Ay.) bitter, barren, and stormy, is taken of Satan’s instruments in the world, the restless and cruel persecutors of the Church, of whom is written, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”* Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice. The former of these mountains, noted in early Jewish history as the scene of Barak’s victory over Sisera,* and believed to be the special mountain from whose summit it was the wont of the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar to give notice of the Paschal moon,* had a greater claim to rejoice in the latter days, for from its heights,* nestling in the plain but a few miles off, Nazareth is still to be seen.* And Christian legend, albeit with no sufficient warrant, has named it as the scene of the Transfiguration; while Hermon, less famous,* nevertheless so rises up above the plain of Esdraelon as to have within sight the part of Jordan made renowned first by the passage of Joshua, (P.) and then by the baptisms of John, including the greatest of all, (L.) and Nain, the scene of one of Christ’s greatest miracles, (A.) so that both mountains had full right to rejoice in His Name. S. Augustine, supposing Tabor to mean coming light,* explains it as mystically denoting Christ, the true Light that cometh into the world; while Hermon, which he interprets his cursing, implies the overthrow and punishment of Satan as the result of that coming. Others, accepting this etymology, will yet have it that Tabor denotes the Jews, illuminated with the light of the law and of grace, and Hermon the Gentiles, aliens from God and buried in the sin of idolatry,* which it learns to curse and abandon when the light from Tabor reaches it. But in truth no such meaning can be extracted at all from the first or certainly from the second of these names. Tabor is “lofty,” and Hermon “desolate,” so named from its barren and snow-clad summit.1 We may therefore see here types of two classes of the righteous, both pleasing to God, and rejoicing in His Name, but differing in vocation and dignity. Tabor, a mere hill, with its gentle slope and rounded summit,* whence the name is sometimes conjectured to mean “heaped like a navel”) studded with trees, and green with shade and sward to its very summit, on which once stood a little town, fitly typifies the Saints of secular life, fruitful in good works, gracious and gentle, pleasant to God and man. But Hermon, the desolate, soars above Tabor with yet greater beauty and far more striking grandeur. The lonely summit, pure and cool with snow, when all the plain beneath is parched with the blazing sun of a Syrian autumn, denotes the contemplative Saints of the Religious Life, towering upward to God in chastity and lovely contemplation, rejoicing not less, but more than Tabor, in spite of their seeming ruggedness and austerity of life.
13 (14) Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
That mighty arm of God is Christ the Saviour; mighty, (C.) because with Him being and power are identical, and His strength never wanes, inasmuch as He doth whatsoever He pleases in heaven and earth. (P.) Limited to Himself, the mighty arm of Christ is that Humanity which He took of Blessed Mary, (L.) and wherein He wrought such marvellous works, so that, as she herself exclaims, “He hath showed strength with His arm,”* and was manifested to be the Son of God with power.* Strong is Thy hand, comments the Chaldee paraphrase,* to redeem Thy people; high is Thy right hand, to build up the house of Thy sanctuary. This thought is worked out further by the Christian expositors, who point out that the hand, by itself, denotes mere power and efficacy, but the right hand implies favour, grace, and protection.* Hence the explanation that the hand of Christ is His power exerted against His enemies, (A.) to repress their persecution of His members, (C.) while His right hand is the justifying grace wherewith He strengthens and lifts up His elect,* that He may set them at His right hand in the Judgment, when He will indeed be exalted and high in majesty. And this comes back to the deepest spiritual meaning of the Targum, inasmuch as these elect are the living stones wherewith Messiah builds the temple of God in the heavens. (L.) Lorinus, accepting the less beautiful interpretation of several commentators, who see here two degrees of divine strength exerted to punish, (D. C.) ingeniously suggests that the strength of the left hand is exerted in holding a vanquished enemy in a firm grasp,* while the right hand is lifted on high to deliver the fatal blow with sword or axe. But nearly all agree that the Judgment is referred to as the special manifestation of God’s right hand, whether in punishment or reward, and therefore follows:
14 (15) Righteousness and equity are the habitation of thy seat: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
For habitation, LXX.* and Vulgate read preparation, but the true rendering is basis. (Cd.) (Aquila.) Righteousness, as more than one commentator points out,* often appears in Scripture as a term including kindliness, while equity, or rather judgment, bears a sterner sense, and thus the two bases of Christ’s throne are reward and punishment. These connote in us fear and hope, to begin our justification, to inspire our devotion. And therefore S. Bernard says very well,* “Which of you is there, brethren, who desires to make ready a throne for Christ in his soul? Lo, what silks or carpets, what cushions, ought to be prepared? Righteousness and equity are the preparation of His seat. Righteousness is that virtue which giveth every man his own. Give, then, to each what is his, pay your superior, pay your inferior, pay your equal, pay every one that which you owe, and thus you fittingly celebrate the Advent of Christ, preparing for Him a seat in righteousness.” But lest the thought of the strict judgment of God should overwhelm and crush us with its terror, we are comforted by the next clause, (A.) Mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.* These are the heralds through whom the Lord announces His coming: mercy, whereby He blots out our sins, truth, whereby He performs His promise of saving to the uttermost those who trust in Him.* These are the two disciples whom Christ sends before His face into every city and place whither He Himself will come; yea,* into every heart in which He offers to take up His abode, (D. C.) to each of which, before it can rise to pure contemplation of Him, He sends pardon and grace. And because our King is preceded by such messengers, His true subjects have no cause to dread His coming, for
15 (16) Blessed is the people, O Lord, that can rejoice in thee: they shall walk in the light of thy countenance.
That can rejoice in Thee. The A. V., far more forcibly, and closer to the ancient renderings, that know the joyful sound.* Literally, that is, the blowing of the trumpets of the Jubilee1 on the evening of the Great Day of Atonement, when ushering in the year of release,* when all debts were cancelled, all Hebrew bondsmen set free, and every man returned to his own family, and to the enjoyment of his inheritance and possession. So the Christian, knowing the saving grace of Christ, (A.) rejoices in that, and cannot rejoice unless he knows it, and understands the source of that joy which is too deep for him to express in words. Thus we sing of that first coming of His, when He ransomed man from the bondage of sin,
Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes,*
The Saviour promised long,
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
He comes the prisoners to release
In Satan’s bondage held,
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The iron fetters yield.
And they who do so rejoice in the Incarnation of their Lord, in having Him for brother and friend, walk in His ways, Who is the True Light of the world, the countenance and express image of the Father,* and that they will do, guided by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.* Progressively, moreover, not resting in the one grade of holiness, but going on towards perfection, as the word walk denotes.* And so it is written, “Thy Word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths.”* But there is another year of release more perfect in its bounty and restoration than even the first Advent of Christ, and unspeakably blessed are the people who will know the sound of the Archangel’s trumpet to be indeed a joyful sound, to whom it will be the note of victory, before which the walls of the spiritual Jericho fall down for ever, the summons to the marriage banquet of the Lamb, (L.) for they shall then learn the Unknown Song of gladness ineffable, and walk for evermore in rapt contemplation of the adorable Trinity,* in the full light of the Beatific Vision.
16 (17) Their delight shall be daily in thy Name: and in thy righteousness shall they make their boast.
And that because the Name of Christ has been their salvation,* because the glory is not theirs, but is given to Him. (L.) This delight shall be daily, or all the day of this mortal life, and much more in the unending noontide of heaven.* In Thy righteousness, because of Thy merits, they who here have been humbled for their sins, and who have cast themselves down in penitence, shall be exalted,* (A. V., Vulg., &c.) In Thy righteousness, when Thou comest to judgment, they shall be exalted to Thy right hand in glory.* They shall be exalted, even before that time, by gradual ascent in holiness, by conquering the world, the flesh, and the devil, and treading them under foot; they shall be exalted ever afterwards by the continual growth of the spiritual capacity and blessedness of the soul in heaven itself, a growth that hath no end, since it is a continual striving unto Him Who is infinite. And note the progress indicated by the terms used, walk being spoken of the body, naturally sluggish, delight, of the soul grasping at bliss,* exalted of soul and body rejoined to reign with Christ and in Christ, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness,* and sanctification, and redemption;” wherefore, “according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”*
17 (18) For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy loving-kindness thou shalt lift up our horns.
Christ is the glory of their strength not merely because He bestows the grace and power by which they shun evil and effect good,* but because that strength itself,* or virtue (Vulg.) which they exercise, is put forth for His honour by His saints, and not for the sake of any worldly praise or favour. They have it from Him, (C.) and they give it to Him, since not of their own free-will or personal holiness, but of His loving-kindness and mercy, He, by humbling Himself to us, and bearing a “horn of salvation in the house of His servant David,”* hath by that Incarnation of His, lifted up the horn of our human nature, and exalted it, (Z.) in bodily substance and in spiritual might, to the heavens above. Wherefore the Holy Eastern Church breaks out in song:
Slaves are set free, and captives ransomed:*
The Nature that He made at first
He now presenteth to the Father,*
The chains of her damnation burst:
This the cause that He was born,
Adam’s race restored,
Thou that liftest up our horn,
Holy art Thou, Lord!
And note how glory and virtue are here united in one phrase.* On this S. Bernard teaches us, “The glory which is without virtue comes, surely, without being due, is too hastily desired, is perilously grasped. Virtue is the step to glory, virtue is the mother of glory. Glory is deceitful and beauty is vain, when she has not given them birth, it is she alone to whom glory is justly due and may be safely paid.”* And with this we may compare the wise saying of a heathen writer: “Glory is the shadow of virtue, and will accompany even those that desire it not. But as our shadow sometimes precedes and sometimes follows us, so glory is sometimes in front of it, and suffers itself to be seen, and sometimes is behind us, and greater, because later, when envy has passed away.”
18 (19) For the Lord is our defence: the Holy One of Israel is our King.
Our defence.* More exactly, our shield. And that because the Only-begotten Son protected us with His Body as with a shield, and drew the darts of the enemy away from us upon Himself, procuring our salvation by His death. And the Father is our defence too, in that He gives us this Holy One of Israel to be our King, after the carnal Israel had rejected Him, gives Him to us, Whom we did not choose and appoint of our will. The Vulgate wording,* Our taking-up (assumptio) is of the Lord,* has given rise to various comments. Some will have it that the word specially points to the assumption of human nature by Christ; (R.) others of our being taken up out of mortality and passibility unto salvation; a third view is that it denotes the choosing out the elect from the mass of sinners. And in remembering that the Holy One is our King, we may be taught even by Pagan writers what are His qualifications for His office, what our hopes from His exercise of it.* “To be strong, just, severe, grave, high-souled, bounteous, beneficent, liberal, these virtues befit a king.”* “He is no real king,” observes the greatest of ancient philosophers, “for whom his own possessions are not enough, and who does not surpass others in the abundance of all good things. For he who is of this kind, desires nothing further, and will look to, and set before himself, not his own interest, but that of those over whom he rules.… The friendship of a king consists in the excellence of his well-doing towards his subjects, for he bestows benefits upon them, at any rate if he be a good king, and has a care for them, that they may prosper, as a shepherd has for his sheep.”
19 (20) Thou spakest sometime in visions unto thy saints, and saidst: I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
In the part of the Psalm which opens with this verse,* type and antitype are presented with such close fitness of expression for each, that a dispute has arisen amongst the commentators, whether to take the whole in the bare literal sense, as spoken of David son of Jesse, or the wholly mystical sense, as referring to Christ alone, (A.) as S. Augustine will have it, or yet again, as referring in one part to David, (Z.) and in another to Christ. But the truest explanation seems to be that which admits the full validity of both methods, for here, unlike the partially similar cases of Psalms 45. and 72, it is possible to accommodate each phrase to David or to Christ, according as we are looking at the type or the fulfilment. And in this very outset of the narrative an example is given, for the prophecies which foretold the mighty kingdom of David and his house were not the utterance of one seer, but of three, Samuel, Gad, and Nathan, (L.) Saints to whom God spake in visions, while it is no less true of Christ,* that “to Him give all the Prophets witness,” a truth which He enforced when, on the way to Emmaus,* “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” I have laid help, that is, not only I have given help and strength to one that is mighty,* but I have laid on Him the office and duty of helping them that are weak,* and of saving them out of the hand of the enemy. And as David was so helped that he might deliver Israel from Goliath first, and then, as King, from all the enemies round about, and was therefore chosen out of the people, from his humble rank as a shepherd, and exalted to a throne; so Christ, the Mighty One of God, mighty even in His weakness and humility, was chosen by the Father out of His people Israel, born of a poor woman, (P.) to fulfil the promise made to Abraham and his seed, and was exalted first upon the Cross, then in the Resurrection, and finally in His Ascension.
20 (21) I have found David my servant: with my holy oil have I anointed him.
Found implies seeking,* and it may be asked how the All-seeing can need to look for anything as though ignorant of its whereabouts. They answer diversely, that the word denotes the care and providence of God in the matter, (D. C.) in that He knew fully what He desired to have, as a man does when he seeks eagerly after aught; or again,* that it signifies the approval with which God regarded His choice, as we say, “I have found something,” when we light on an object of value in the midst of trifles of no worth. (L.) But the truest interpretation sees here that same tender, seeking love which drew down the Good Shepherd to seek and find the sheep which had gone astray, a word which paints to us His diligent care, without hinting that He did not know the precise spot where the wanderer lay. With My holy oil have I anointed Him. And as the literal David was thrice anointed king, once by Samuel in Jesse’s house at Bethlehem, once at Hebron after the death of Saul, as king over Judah; and again at seven years’ end as ruler over all Israel: so also “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power”* in His Nativity at Bethlehem; a second time over His Church at His Resurrection, when the tyrant who sought His life was overcome, and then only over the small “confederation” (which Hebron means) of His Jewish disciples, but a third time in His Ascension to the heavenly Jerusalem, the Vision of Peace, where He, now crowned as King of Glory, was anointed over all heaven and earth, supreme over the Princes of God.* He was thrice anointed in another sense also, once as Prophet, once as Priest, and once as King. Observe, the unction is called by God My holy oil, by reason of the set directions given to Moses in the Law for its composition and hallowing.* But as this oil was strictly limited, under pain of utter destruction, to the consecration of Aaron and his descendants for the Priesthood, and there is no other oil which can be understood by these words, the Rabbins allege that by special revelation and permission Samuel and the other prophets were suffered to anoint David and his posterity therewith, but no other kings. That the fact was so is plain enough,* for “Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon.” Next, whereas kings had the unction applied in the form of a crown,* priests received it in that of an X, or decussate cross. And in these two traditions we may see, first, the Priestly character foreshadowed which a King sprung out of Juda,* and not of the tribe of Levi (as the Asmonæan princes were), should exercise; while we may note in the second place, that His earthly inauguration as Monarch was with a crown of thorns, His earthly consecration as a Priest with the bloodshedding on the Cross.
21 (22) My hand shall hold him fast: and my arm shall strengthen him.
They take these words, when applied to our Lord, of the hypostatic union of the Eternal Word with the humanity of Christ Jesus, (L.) whereby it was impossible for Him, as man, to fall into any sin. And after pointing out how God’s favour caused David’s one tribe to draw over to itself the eleven tribes which had ranged themselves under the banner of the house of Saul, (Ay.) albeit the chances seemed overwhelmingly against the weaker party; they remark that the prophecy was not the less fulfilled in Christ because He was persecuted to the death, because His whole intention of gathering and establishing His Church was amply fulfilled. And if we take the David of the Psalm, as we may well do, tropologically of any faithful soul, or of God’s friends and people in general, we shall then see here the promise of help to all such through and from Christ,* “for in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.”
And then the Carmelite goes on with a quaint minuteness of detail to tell us how He is fitly called the Hand of God, for as the hand has five fingers, so He has five especial attributes answering to the special qualities of each finger. He has power, denoted by the thumb, the strongest and most muscular of the digits. He is our guide, directing our judgment, and pointing us the way, as the index, or forefinger is used by men. By the middle finger, the longest of all, is typified His patience and long-suffering. The third finger is that on which rests the wedding-ring, unending, unbroken, the token of abiding love, that love which caused Him to lay down His life to save His enemies. And the little finger, shorter and weaker than the rest, betokens His humility and His suffering for us, when He stretched out His hands upon the Cross.
22 (23) The enemy shall not be able to do him violence: the son of wickedness shall not hurt him.
Historically, we may note that, on the one hand,* David never lost a battle, even to such a mere skirmish as that in which Asahel was slain; and on the other that the attempts made against his life and throne by single agents of evil, Goliath, Saul, Doeg, Ahithophel, Absalom, Sheba, all ended in failure, though in two cases he was driven into temporary exile.* This sense agrees with the address of Nathan to David when foretelling the reign of Solomon and the building of the temple. But the force of the Hebrew seems more fully brought out in the A. V.* The enemy shall not exact upon him, that is, shall not deal with him as a creditor deals with a defaulting debtor, reduce him to poverty, and bring him into bondage. So runs that conditional promise to Israel, “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, but shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.”* But in the highest spiritual sense we cannot take the verse as true of David, (C.) in view of his terrible fall in the matter of Bathsheba, and must needs turn to Christ in order to find its fulfilment. Accordingly,* Origen, explaining the first clause (with LXX. and Vulg.) The enemy shall get no help out of Him, comments, “We help our enemies when we sin, and thus it is that Christ helped them in no respect.… For although they said, Come, let us kill Him, and have His inheritance to ourselves, yet this counsel was useless to Satan and the Jews, and their effort fell vainly to the ground, for the Saviour rose again the third day, and trampling upon death, spoiled hell.” And whereas, by reason of our sins, the devil can prove some claims against each of us, Christ alone, on the other hand, saith truly, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.”* Wherefore, (C.) neither Judas, nor the false witnesses before the Sanhedrim, nor the chief priests before Pilate, were able to bring any charge of guilt home to Him, but were forced to acknowledge His innocence; for “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” They lay stress, moreover, on the LXX. (D. C.) and Vulgate phrase here, “The son of wickedness shall not add to hurt Him,” pointing out that David’s enemies were often given one chance, so to speak, against him, and a temporary measure of success, as in the case of Absalom, but they could never repeat it. Applying this to Christ, they remind us that similarly an apparent victory was granted to His enemies against Him, in that they did succeed in compassing His death, but that His Resurrection put Him finally out of the reach of harming.* So, too, one reminds us seasonably, in the interpretation of this Psalm of any righteous soul, that when any one has overcome the devil in a spiritual conflict, by resisting temptation to some particular sin, he thereby weakens the devil’s power for all time as regards that special weapon, not only as regards himself, but as regards others also.* They will not be totally freed from all trial and temptation thereby, but they will be encouraged, and the devil disheartened by the victories of the Saints, so that they cannot be fatally hurt without their own consent, as it is written,* “I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more,* as beforetime.” Not that the malice of the enemy is lessened by such triumphs of the Saints,* for it is rather increased, and his desire to overcome his conqueror is whetted; so that, as S. Thomas warns us, he will return again and again to the attack as long as he sees any remains of sin within us, yet that he grows feebler, and we stronger, after each repulse he suffers.
23 (24) I will smite down his foes before his face: and plague them that hate him.
This holds literally of David, (Ay.) especially where we read that “he smote Moab,* and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive.”* But it holds much more perfectly of David’s Son, before Whose face His tempters so often retreated in confusion, baffled by His wisdom, as though driven away with swords, before Whom the soldiers in the garden on the night of betrayal, “went backward, and fell to the ground,”* Who triumphed over His spiritual enemies upon the Cross, and Whose terrible judgments fell upon the sinful nation that rejected Him, albeit He saved alive with one full line the Apostles and other disciples who believed on Him. These too He smote down at first, (C.) as He did Saul of Tarsus, as He does still with sinners whom He desires to bring to repentance, and to separate from their transgression, and to put to flight from their former sinful life, that they may take refuge with Him.
24 (25) My truth and my mercy shall be with him: and in my Name shall his horn be exalted.
This prophecy cannot be in its fulness taken of David,* albeit in a lower sense it is true of him also, but it is perfectly accomplished in Christ, for the mercy which was with Him is that hypostatic union of the Godhead with the Manhood, which cannot be disjoined, while the truth is the fulfilment of the promise to His Mother by the angel, “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”* Wherefore His horn was exalted in the Name of God, because His power is such that in His Name every knee must bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth.* And this Name is the Name of God, for the glory of Jesus is as of the Only-begotten of the Father, so that He is worshipped by all as the Son of that eternal Father, in Whose Name He comes, so that God the Father “hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name,” (A.) which would not be true if the Name of God were still above Himself.* And observe, that as “all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,” so Christ is mercy and truth to us, by His pardoning grace, and His faithfulness to His word; and we therefore, if we are desirous of showing our gratitude, and of being conformed to His likeness, are bound to give Him the same, by showing mercy to those in distress, by being true and just in all our dealings.
25 (26) I will set his dominion also in the sea: and his right hand in the floods.
His dominion. It should be simply, his hand, (A. V., Vulg., &c.,) that is, the left hand, as distinguished from the right hand of the next clause. The prophecy was fulfilled so far as David is concerned, by his victories over the Philistines,* four of whose five principal cities, namely, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gaza, were actually on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, while his victory over Hadadezer, king of Zobah,* extended the Hebrew monarchy to the river Euphrates on the other side. It is fitly said his right hand, because the eastern conquests were more conspicuous and extensive than the western, to which, accordingly, only the left hand is attributed. (A.) Mystically, they explain the salt stormy sea as the Gentile nations, or the world in general, bitter and turbulent, and the rivers as those persons who, greedy of the world’s pleasures and gain, rush eagerly on in search of them, as the rivers pour into the sea.* Another interpretation sees in the rivers, because of their powerful currents, a type of the kings and princes of the world, who require more forcible constraint than the multitude.* On the other hand, a contrary explanation is suggested by the facts that the rivers are of sweet water, that they are not stormy like the sea, that they run in fixed and narrow channels, and that they admit of bridges being built over them for the passage of men; whence they may be taken as types of the righteous and meek,* to be set at God’s right hand. But the Greek Fathers prefer to explain the river as the mystical Jordan, the type of Holy Baptism, where the right hand of Christ is placed, either because,* as one will have it, only those regenerated in Baptism have the promise of being set on His right in the Judgment; or, as a Latin expositor takes it, because His propitiatory and pardoning might, which is a higher and nobler attribute than His coercive and punitive authority,* is exercised in the remission of sins. Not unlike this is that other view which finds in the sea and rivers types of secular and spiritual things, and reminds us that God gives us greater power of operation in the latter,* in that we can achieve higher things therein. And thus a famous preacher tells us that Religious,* who have put themselves within the river banks of claustral obedience, in the sweet, calmly flowing life of the convent, keep their right hand there, not in the sea of worldly habits, and receive a special blessing from God.
26 (27) He shall call me, Thou art my Father: my God, and my strong salvation.
Here they bid us note the singular fact that David nowhere, (Ay.) in all the variety of epithets he applies to God throughout his portion of the Psalter,* ever does call Him Father,* albeit the title occurs once or twice elsewhere in Holy Writ.* But when we turn to the sayings of Christ, a remarkable difference at once strikes us. The name of Father is given by Christ to the Almighty about one hundred and forty times, of which fifty-four have the emphatic word My prefixed. (B.) “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”* This first part of the verse, then, He speaks according to His Deity;* but the latter part, according to His manhood, whereby He is inferior to the Father. My strong salvation. More literally the Rock of my salvation, (A. V.) But LXX. and Vulgate read the taker-up (ἀντιλήπτωρ, susceptor) of My salvation. And that,* they say, refers to those two takings-up of Christ by His Father, the Resurrection and Ascension; (R.) or else to the taking-up of human nature in His act of mercy unto salvation.
27 (28) And I will make him my first-born: higher than the kings of the earth.
This type was, it is true, partly fulfilled in David, in that he, the youngest of seven sons, was set over not only his brethren, but the whole of Israel, and in that he was victorious over all the adjacent countries,* “of Syria, and of Moab, and of the children of Ammon, and of the Philistines, and of Amalek,* and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah.”* But the very fact that the promises here seemingly made to David only, (Ay.) are transferred to Solomon in the prophecy of Nathan,* teaches us to look further,* to Him of whom David the conqueror and Solomon the Wise were but types. He is the first-born of the Father in four ways. First,* as the Eternal Wisdom of God;* begotten and predestined before the worlds were made;* secondly, as the one only child of His Mother, and therefore called, her “first-born Son;” thirdly, because of the Resurrection,* whereby He is “the first-born from the dead;” fourthly,* because He is “appointed Heir of all things,”* “that He might be the first-born among many brethren,”* nay, “the first-born of every creature.”*
Higher than the kings of the earth.* Bellarmine remarks truly enough that even in the widest estimate of the power of David and Solomon, they could not rank in puissance with the Assyrian monarchs, albeit the petty kinglets around were tributary to them, “from the river even unto the land of the Philistines, and the border of Egypt,”* and that we must therefore apply these words to Him only Who is “Prince of the kings of the earth,”* and Who “hath on His vesture and on His thigh a Name written, King of kings and Lord of lords,” before Whom the mightiest sovereigns now bow their heads, (A.) Whose Cross surmounts their royal crowns. Wherefore in the First Vespers of the Nativity, the Antiphon runs,* “The Peaceful King is magnified, over all the kings of the whole earth.” The word higher is noteworthy, for the Hebrew is עֶלְיו̇ן,* which, in all other places where it stands alone, or is used of a person in Scripture,* is applied to God only,* and is usually translated Most High in the A. V. And thus as He, being God, is Most Holy, as well as Most High, He is Chief of all those kings and priests, those saints who have conquered and ruled their own passions and have overcome the world, who exercise in the Church of God the double position of priesthood and authority committed to the first-born under the patriarchal dispensation.
28 (29) My mercy will I keep for him for evermore: and my covenant shall stand fast with him.
The mercy of God was kept for Christ,* that is, it was held over until His coming, and was not given under the elder dispensation, “for the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”* And because this mercy in the remission of sins is permanent, and cannot be set aside, it is added, My covenant, My new covenant, shall stand fast, in contradistinction to the old covenant, which decayed, waxed old, and vanished away, because “the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.”* And it is for His sake that this new covenant does stand fast, for it was concluded through and in Him. He mediated it, (A.) He signed it, He is its surety, its witness, Himself the inheritance bestowed by it, and therewith its co-heir. Others,* less forcibly, take the faithful covenant to be the fulfilment of the prophetic promises in the person of Christ.
29 (30) His seed also will I make to endure for ever: and His throne as the days of heaven.
It was urged as an objection to the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus by some of the Jews, (L.) that He had no earthly progeny, and did not leave descendants, but the answer was easy,* that according to high Rabbinical authority, the title of sons or seed is given to the disciples of a great teacher, as, for example, those of R. Hillel. And accordingly, the favourite explanation of this passage with Christian commentators is that it denotes the perpetual duration of the Church.* The seed of Christ are those who are like unto Him, (A.) and follow in His footsteps, who are His throne, inasmuch as they yield themselves to His sovereignty, who are as the days of heaven by reason of the brightness, clearness, warmth, and purity of their lives.* The throne of Christ, a Saint tells us, is fourfold: the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, the faithful soul, and the Blessed Virgin Mother.* If we take the verse literally as referring to David, we shall come to the same result, as Christ was of his seed according to the flesh, and as the earthly Jewish throne disappeared with Jehoiachin or with Zedekiah, there is no other save the Messiah, to whom the words may be fully said to refer.
31 But if his children forsake my law: and walk not in my judgments;
32 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments: I will visit their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges.
Here they raise the question as to how the promises, the gifts and calling,* of God can be without repentance, how they can be justly said to be firm and irrevocable, if they can be affected in this wise by the error, folly, or sin, of so unstable a creature as man. And first, (A.) the Doctor of Grace most truly answers that God proves His Fatherhood, not abdicates it, by the act of punishment. “For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”* Our fear should be not lest we should be scourged, but lest we should be disinherited. And God scourges, precisely that He may give us back the heritage we have forfeited. Next, (L.) they point out that God does not go back from His promises. What He undertakes to give, that He does give, as the Incarnation of Christ, promised to the sinners Adam and Ahaz, establishes. In this manner His fulfilment is absolute. But the enjoyment and benefit to be derived from the thing promised and given is conditional. Thus the literal kingdom over Israel passed from the tribe of Judah to that of Levi, and the spiritual kingdom of the Church, after being first offered to the Jews, was handed over to the Gentiles. The refusal of the chosen people to accept the proffered mercies did not cause withdrawal of them, but only a change in the recipients, as in the case of the marriage-supper of the king’s son. (C.) Hence we gather that here we have set before us that lesson which is inculcated by so many parables, the mixture of good and bad Christians within the Church, and the double truth that the fall of a part does not involve the ruin of the whole; but that even the fall itself is capable of recovery.* There are four modes of transgression named here, against the law, the judgments, the statutes, and the commandments of God. Of these, the law is the generic term, including the others under it, or if taken specifically, it denotes the Decalogue;* the judgments have to do with the decision of causes, the assignment of rights, and the meting out rewards and punishments; the statutes are the negative or prohibitory rules, laying down certain actions as forbidden; the commandments are the affirmative part of the code, enjoining certain modes of conduct; and of the third of these it is to be noticed that for break My statutes, the margin of A. V., rightly agreeing with the Vulgate, reads profane My statutes, whereby we learn the greater heinousness of sins of commission, especially such as involve irreverence in things sacred, than of any others. (Ay.) And the Carmelite hereupon justly points out that the sin of profanity, especially in the form of idolatry and foreign rites, was that especial one into which several of the descendants of David fell, notably Solomon himself,* Ahaz, and Manasseh. There are two degrees of punishment threatened, the rod, for the smaller and lighter offences, the scourges, for graver and more persistent sin. In the corresponding passage of the Book of Samuel, the warning runs thus, “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men,”* that is, with punishments such as earthly fathers inflict upon their children,* and not too severe for human nature to bear. And by the rod, in Holy Writ, fatherly correction is usually signified;* whereas the punishment of a judge is with the sword. So, we read of the former, “He that spareth the rod hateth his son;”* of the latter, “If a man will not turn, He will whet His sword.”* Wherefore also He saith Himself, “Repent, or else I will come to thee quickly, and will fight against thee with the sword of My mouth.”* But the rod and staff of the Lord comfort the wayfarer in the valley of the shadow of death,* knowing that the chastisement is given in love.* He will take even the scourges patiently, because with them too God visits, as a firm but gentle surgeon who needs to use steel and cautery upon a patient for his healing, and instead of lamenting or resisting, the sick man will say, “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”*
33 Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him: nor suffer my truth to fail.
34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips: 35 I have sworn once by my holiness, that I will not fail David.
S. Augustine explains these verses in the manner already stated above, (A.) that the sin of man cannot make void the promise of God, since His purpose by predestination will stand, and be fulfilled in one,* if not in another. It is also an encouragement to hope and to repentance, if we once take in the thought that God’s will to pardon never fails, and that our sins are to His mercy what a cobweb is to the storm,* a spark to the ocean, sure to be swept away by the might of the one, to be quenched in the abyss of the other.* They raise in this place the question as to the repentance and salvation of Solomon, (Ay.) answering it, as do SS. Ambrose, Jerome, and Gregory, in the affirmative; alleging that he was punished by the revolt of the ten tribes from his son, but pardoned himself, granted repentance, and delivered from hell. And S. Jerome mentions a curious Hebrew legend to the effect that the penitent king,* entering the Temple, put rods into the hands of certain men learned in the law, beseeching them to chastise him, but that they alleged that they dared not put out their hands against the Lord’s anointed; whereupon he passed sentence upon himself, and abdicated the throne. (A.) Nor suffer My truth to fail. The Vulgate rendering, I will not hurt in My truth, has drawn from S. Augustine the comment that he who abides not by his promises does hurt, and that sorely, any one who depends on that promise; and furthermore, that he who punishes according to the full rigour of justice, (C.) hurts too. And another reminds us that although the enemies of the Son were suffered to work their will upon Him, yet in the truth of the Father He was unhurt, inasmuch as His glorious Passion wrought salvation for the world; while a third exposition, practically coinciding with the latter part of S. Augustine’s gloss,* sees here a promise of final salvation in the day of Judgment, because God’s scourges will heal, not injure us. My lips. This refers especially, they say, (L.) to the utterances of the Prophets, who are the lips wherewith God spake to His people. He will not alter the thing which they have spoken, for the Lord Himself saith, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law,* till all be fulfilled.”* I have sworn once. Some Hebrew expositors have interpreted this as meaning that God used the formula here given on this occasion only, a theory refuted by its appearance in Amos 4:2, (L.) for the true force of the word is to mark the firmness and irrevocability of the Divine pledge.* In My holiness, that is, as they variously explain it, by My holy Name; or by My holy place, whether heaven (as it is written, “For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever,”*) or the Holy of holies in the temple; or in My secret counsel; (R.) or, finally, by My Holy One, that is, Christ Himself, (C.) which agrees with that other saying, “The Lord hath sworn by His right hand,* and by the arm of His strength.” I will not fail David. The A. V. more exactly, with the ancient versions, I will not lie unto David. Therefore it is said, I have sworn once. How often, asks S. Augustine, would God have to swear, if He had once lied in swearing? He uttered one oath on behalf of our life, (A.) when He sent His Only Son to death for us.
36 (35) His seed shall endure for ever: and his seat is like as the sun before me.
37 (36) He shall stand fast for evermore as the moon: and as the faithful witness in heaven.
Here, as in the thirtieth verse, we have the assertion of Christ’s eternity, and the promise of the indefectibility of the Church. So we read in Jeremiah, who thus gives us the literal sense: “Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.”* And similarly a heathen poet, writing of the dynasty founded by Vespasian:
Manebit altum Flaviæ decus gentis*
Cum sole et astris, cumque luce Romana,*
Invicta quicquid condidit manus, cœlum est.
The Flavian race shall last in high renown,
With sun and stars, and light that shines on Rome,
That which a conqueror’s hand has raised, is heaven.
His seat is like as the sun.* That is, as the Chaldee will have it, radiant and glorious as the sun, or else, as other expositors take it, enduring as the sun, a phrase equivalent to the “days of heaven” in the earlier passage.* And taking the seat or throne (LXX., Vulg.) to mean the Church in which He dwells, we shall note its continuous visibility, and its office of enlightening the world, as both signified hereby. Or if we take the seat to be the righteous soul, (A.) wherein Christ reigns, we then have His own saying to confirm this one, for He tells us that when He hath ended the judgment, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”* As the moon. The Rabbinical interpretation of this clause is,* that it declares how the house of David should be treated if it fell away from God. Even then it would not be cast off, but would remain as the moon in comparison with the sun, feebler in light and warmth, and suffering decrease almost to extinction, but, nevertheless, returning in due time to the full. (A.) S. Augustine, dwelling on the same qualities of the moon, interprets them of our mortal flesh, which here passes through many phases, but will be a perfect moon (Vulg.) in the Resurrection, no longer subject to any change. So too the moon may fitly be the Church Militant here on earth, (C.) waxing and waning, and deriving all her light from the Sun of Righteousness. (Ay.) A curious Rabbinical gloss is, that as the sun and moon were created on the fourth day, so they foretold the perpetual kingdom of Messiah, sprung from Judah, the fourth of Jacob’s sons. Another commentator, accepting the sun and moon as types of the souls and bodies of the elect, points out four attributes of the sun which correspond to faculties of the soul in bliss: to wit, brightness; (Ay.) swiftness, in that its rays pass instantaneously from east to west; subtilty, in that it penetrates glass without leaving any trace of its passage; and impassibility, because it is not defiled by being brought in contact with any substance that stains. If true of any holy soul, the words must hold good especially of that undefiled one of whom we read, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?”* whom the Holy Eastern Church styles the “throne of Cherubim.”* This is the great throne of ivory overlaid with gold, which our Solomon made for Himself;* ivory, by reason of her pureness; great, because of humility; a throne, because of her fruitfulness,
Ligna, sedile, manus, ebur, aurum, brachia, scamnum,
Argentum, leo, Rex, purpura, prævia, gradus.
Wood, seat, hands, ivory, gold, with arms, a stool,
Silver, king, lion, purple, platform, steps.
That is, firm and incorruptible as the cedars, her charity is the seat which admits repose; the hands, on which the arms rest, her works of lowliness and devotion; the ivory, her purity; the gold, her wisdom; the arms, reminding us of those infant arms so often clasped about her, the embracing tenderness of her nature; the footstool, earthly riches and wisdom which she trod under foot; silver, her tuneful and pure speech; the fourteen lions of the throne, her virtues and gifts (or, as we might rather take them, her seven joyful and seven sorrowful mysteries); the King, that only One Who lay in her bosom,* (“the Prince, He shall sit in it”); the purple, her martyrdom of soul at the Cross; the platform, her uplifted perfection, raising her above the level of the earth; the steps, the six grades of holy veneration: namely, reverence, devotion, salutation, good words, obedience, and active compliance.
As a faithful witness in heaven.* The word as does not occur in the Hebrew, and some doubt has thus arisen as to the precise meaning of the clause. A very common interpretation is, that the parallelism requires us to understand the moon to be the witness meant, as it is the arbiter of seasons and festivals; but another, which has met with many supporters, interprets the passage of the rainbow,* that witness of God’s covenant with Noah; the like of which is round about the throne,* and upon the head of the mighty Angel of the Covenant. But the best explanation of all and that most followed by the early commentators, taking the clause, There is a faithful witness in heaven, sees in the faithful witness Christ our God Himself. So holy Job speaks,* “Behold, my witness is in heaven;” and the Lord saith by Jeremiah, “I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord;”* and further, the epithet is twice directly applied to Christ in the Apocalypse, wherein He is styled, the “faithful and true witness.”* He then, of Whom Isaiah said in old time, (L.) “Behold, I have given Him as a Witness to the people;” Who saith of Himself, “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth,”* is rightly compared to sun and moon,* (Cd.) which rule the day and night, for whereas each of these luminaries is hid for a time, and does as it were shut its eyes to the world,* “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,”* but beholds all things at all times alike clearly, and therefore will know all things, needing not other witnesses, when He sits in judgment.
38 (37) But thou hast abhorred and forsaken thine Anointed: and art displeased at him.
Here the whole tone of the Psalm changes, and instead of looking on the glorious picture of stable prosperity, we hear the lament for the overthrow of all the splendours of the Hebrew polity, (R.) the total eclipse of its brilliant day. And whether we take this lament as referring especially to Absalom’s successful rebellion,* to Solomon’s own fall, to the revolt under his son, to the Babylonish captivity,* or to the yet more disastrous ruin of the second Temple, bringing with it the disappearance of the Aaronic worship as well as that of the Davidic throne, (A.) we see in each and all the working out of a divine and providential purpose.* For had there been no such reversal experienced, the spiritual growth of the Messianic idea would have been checked in its very bud,* and men would have looked to the peaceful splendour of Solomon’s reign as fulfilling all the promises of a King and Deliverer, and would thus have never risen out of this material notion into the higher spiritual truth.* Thou hast forsaken Thine Anointed. It is the cry, they tell us, first of the exiled Jews, seeing the captivity of their two last kings, discrowned and imprisoned. And thus, having regard to the Vulgate reading distulisti, (A.) which is Thou hast put off, S. Augustine explains it of God’s continued delay in sending the Messiah to deliver His people;* but S. Ambrose more truly expounds the passage as the words of Christ Himself, declaring what He has endured, the shame and reproach and suffering of the Cross, and the mysterious abandonment thereon,* for the ransom of mankind. A curious view which has been suggested is that the speaker in this verse is God Himself, accusing the Synagogue of its rejection of its King. But the more usual interpretation is sounder, and must be understood,* as a Greek Father points out, not of complaint against God’s will, far less as any charge of unfaithfulness, but as a prayer for mercy and restoration.
39 (38) Thou hast broken the covenant of thy servant: and cast his crown to the ground.
This verse may be taken in any of three meanings. The covenant may here imply the entire Old Testament polity, (A.) in which case the servant is the Jewish nation, and the crown its spiritual pre-eminence, a view which gains consistency amongst the Fathers from the general explanation of the word נֶזֶר (ἁγίασμα, sanctuarium) as the sanctuary or temple, instead of the royal diadem, as S. Jerome rightly translates it. (C.) The fuller rendering of the A. V., nearly identical, save for this one word, with the Vulgate, strengthens the notion, by saying, Thou hast profaned his crown, as the verb fits in so well with the notion of defiling a shrine. (R.) The second view makes the reference more personal,* and confines it to the non-fulfilment of the pledge given to David and his house, as proved by the dethronement of his family. And the third, which is also the fullest, sees here the rejection of Christ, and the apparent annulling of the promise spoken by Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin at Nazareth, whereby her Son was promised perpetual sovereignty over the house of Jacob. What then was this crown of his which was so cast to the ground?* One tells us that it is the Sacred Humanity which He took of His dear Mother, wearing which He conquered and destroyed the empire of death, though it was cast to the ground indeed in the Agony, in the nailing to the Rood, in the laying in the tomb.* And another takes the verse as referring less to Christ Himself than to His Body the Church, and will have us see in this place the sufferings of the Martyrs,* the crown of glory, the royal diadem,* which He, their King, wears upon His brow.
40 (39) Thou hast overthrown all his hedges: and broken down his strong holds.
41 (40) All they that go by spoil him: and he is become a reproach to his neighbours.
Here comes in the metaphor of the vineyard of Israel, whereof Isaiah says, “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.”* (Z.) And this hedge may well be explained of the Mosaic Law, with all its minute and thorny provisions for separating the Jewish people from the heathen nations around; although several take it to mean literally the battlements and walls of the lesser cities of Palestine; attributing the latter clause of the verse to the fortifications of Jerusalem alone,* or even to the citadel of Sion.* The LXX. and Vulgate read the last half of the verse, Thou hast made his strong place a terror. (B.) That is, as they variously explain it, brought terror and dismay amongst the defenders of the last fortresses, (R.) so as to lead to their surrender, or else put the stronghold itself into the possession of the enemy, so as to turn it into a means of overawing the native population. Spoken of Christ, we may take the words either of the breaking down in the popular mind of that “divinity which doth hedge a king,” so that the reverence in which He was held for a time gave way before the slander of the Chief Priests; or again, (L.) that the multitude of His disciples who once compassed Him about, forsook Him and fled,* and that even His strong one, the bold and zealous Peter, was filled with terror, and failed Him in His need. The whole passage, as well as the next verse, applies more strictly to the people than to the king, and deals with him as their representative; whence the transition is easy to the sufferings of the Church in times of persecution,* when the prelates, who are the hedge of her solemn usages, and her great teachers, her surest strongholds, fall away or are cut off.* For the faithful soul, the hedge, rough with thorns, is penitence, a fence through which Satan cannot force his way, nor yet the allurements of the senses; but where there is no such hedge,* entrance is easy; and all the passers by spoil and strip the vines bare of their grapes. They that go by. That is, as they tell us,* all transgressors, all who pass over the fixed boundaries of the moral law, or those who pass by and neglect Him Who is the Way, Who was seized and bound in the garden, stripped of His raiment,* crucified, and reviled by “all them that passed by.” Literally the words tell us of the weakness and contempt into which the Jews had sunk, when every petty tribe around was able to insult, plunder, (Ay.) and wrong them with impunity after their power had been broken by the resistless force of Babylon. The lion had made them his prey first, and then they became a “portion for foxes,”* scattered abroad in many a land, and a reproach to their neighbours. Of Christ it was true that He was stripped in His Passion, (P.) and that He was made a reproach, not only by His citizens, who would not have Him to reign over them, but by His neighbours, (L.) the foreign tyrant Herod, and the Roman soldiers, who mocked and insulted Him. Nay, more, even after His Ascension, the prophecy held good, for the preaching of the Cross,* which was to the Jews a stumbling-block, was to the Greeks foolishness, and therefore received with jeers and derision. And, moreover, the soul which has given way to the enemy, and suffered spoiling when its hedge is broken down, is made the subject of more bitter reproach for its fall, when once it has yielded, than it was before, for refusing to yield in guilty compliance with sinners.
42 (41) Thou hast set up the right hand of his enemies: and made all his adversaries to rejoice.
43 (42) Thou hast taken away the edge of his sword: and givest him not victory in the battle.
The Psalmist proceeds to dwell on the increasing severity of God’s judgments,* in that He not merely withdraws His aid from His Anointed, leaving him thus weak and undefended, but joins the side of his enemies. (R.) And the commentators bid us note the contrast here exhibited to the successes of the scanty forces of Gideon, or of the Maccabees, (Ay.) against enormous odds, whereas under Zedekiah “all the men of war fled by night.”* In dwelling on the power given to Christ’s enemies against Him in the Passion, and their rejoicing over His death,* they remind us not only how Peter was forced to return his sword into its sheath, but that the help of the Eternal Word of God,* that sharp and “two-edged sword,” was taken from the Manhood of the Redeemer, so that He had no comfort or support there from, nor any aid from those legions of Angels whom the Father would have sent Him. We are reminded, too, when the interpretation is transferred to the sufferings of His mystical Body, how, in literal fact, the heathen persecutors used to rejoice, and make festival of the torture and passions of the Martyrs; while Cardinal Hugo,* who explains these and the previous verses of scandals in the Church of a later day, whereby it is stripped and plundered, and its discipline broken down by its own evil ministers, so as to make it a reproach to heretics, schismatics, and even to possible converts, declares that an evil prelate, sent as a chastisement to the Church, is the very right hand of her enemies, and his promotion a subject of hearty rejoicing to them, because he bears in vain the sword of temporal and spiritual authority. And another,* not dissimilarly, warns preachers that their gift of sacred eloquence, albeit the sword of the Word, is of no avail to themselves in the battle of personal temptations, if they venture to dispense themselves from self-denial and prayer, not bearing in mind that saying of the Apostle: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”*
44 (43) Thou hast put out his glory: and cast his throne down to the ground.
His glory. That is, as Cardinal Bellarmine rightly explains the passage,* albeit following the unlike Vulgate reading, all the pomp and splendour of royal attire and surroundings, the external tokens of dignity, (L.) as well as the substantial enjoyment of power, denoted by the throne of the latter clause. Applied to the nation, rather than to the king, the words will denote the stately ritual of the Temple,* which was made to cease (A. V.) first for seventy years, and then for ever. The LXX. and Vulgate read, Thou hast loosed (LXX., destroyed Vulg.) from purification, partly misapprehending the meaning of the last word, and this has given rise to various comments.* One practically agrees with that just cited, (Ay.) and takes the phrase of the fall of the Temple, (D. C.) because seeing in purification (καθαρισμοῦ, emundatione) a reference to the ceremonial washings and lustrations of the Law; (A.) while S. Augustine will have it that it means the spiritual rejection of the Jews, who could not, because they would not, (C.) be cleansed from their sins by faith; and therefore they were punished by their throne, their Holy City, and the whole land which they inhabited, being overwhelmed in total ruin.
Spoken of the Church in times of laxity,* we note that God’s punishments at times harden instead of purifying sinners, and overthrow that throne in their hearts on which Christ should reign. So exclaims the Prophet: “O Lord,* are not Thine eyes upon the truth? Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock;* they have refused to return.” While in days of fervour and zeal, the Martyrs are slain either because of their very purity, or because slanderous tales of their crimes have been spread abroad in order to make public morality an excuse for persecution, so that the bodies of those Saints who are Christ’s throne are tortured,* slain, and cast to the ground. And in that awful time of the Passion, when the divine glory of the Lord was most of all hidden in His supreme humiliation, when not only the throne offered Him on Palm Sunday was dashed down by the choice of Cæsar as king and Barabbas as leader, but that surer one in the hearts of His chosen disciples seemed shaken to its very foundations;* then He was destroyed from purification so far as His enemies could effect it, by being numbered with transgressors and felons, and by Himself too, because, all-pure as He was, He took upon Him our sins, and was in a sense defiled thereby, according to His own saying by His Prophet, “Their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment.”*
45 (44) The days of his youth hast thou shortened: and covered him with dishonour.
It is obvious that these words cannot be taken literally either of David or of Solomon,* each of whom died in full age, after a reign of forty years. But they may apply exactly enough either to the very brief reigns of the later kings of the house of David, especially Jehoahaz,* who occupied the throne for only three months in the twenty-third year of his age,* and Jehoiakim, who was deposed when but eighteen, after the same brief possession of the crown, while even the two remaining sovereigns, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, were deprived in the prime of their life.* Or else the words may point to the entire duration of the dynasty, (Ay.) so much briefer than was to be looked for from the terms of the divine promise, inasmuch as the national life of the Jews was violently interrupted before it reached maturity. And the phrase covered him with dishonour will apply not only to the whole nation,* but especially to the disgrace and imprisonment of three of the last monarchs at the hands of Pharaoh-Necho and Nebuchadnezzar, (C.) as also to the still more fatal overthrow of the Jewish polity by Vespasian and Titus. But the obvious application to the Lord Jesus,* cut off in the flower of His days,* and that amidst every mark of shame and insult, has not been neglected by the Fathers.* Further, it is explained of the sufferings of the Church, and of the martyrdom and sudden deaths of her noblest and most devout children,* while those were spared who were neither eminent nor useful, whose evil living covered their Mother with confusion.
46 (45) Lord, how long wilt thou hide thyself, for ever: and shall thy wrath burn like fire?
Here the Psalmist,* after pouring out his lamentations, betakes himself to prayer, and implores God to send the Deliverer. And the words not only befit the Jews in their first prostration of the Babylonian captivity, but even after their return and the rebuilding of the Temple, for that event did nothing for the restoration of the Davidic throne;* rather, in truth, the sacerdotal kingdom of the Maccabees was an additional obstacle to the replacement of the old dynasty. God is said here to hide Himself; not that He does change towards us, for with Him there is “no shadow of turning,” but that He suffers us to avert ourselves from Him, so that the light of His countenance no longer shines on us. (Ay.) And He is then compared to a monarch who,* after condemning a criminal, shuts himself up, lest any one should approach him with a petition for pardon. For ever? The LXX. and Vulgate, as usual, translate this unto the end, (C.) whereon the commentators observe that the question is whether God will continue to hide His face from the Jewish people till the consummation of all things.* And they answer, No: because the Apostle saith, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel,* until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved.” How long then shall His wrath burn like fire? So long, exactly, (Ay.) as there is any fuel of sin for the fire to feed upon. And observe that God’s wrath is compared to fire, by reason of four properties, according to the various substances on which fire acts. Fire reduces some to ashes, like wood, which is the manner in which obstinate sinners are dealt with by God. It softens others, like lead, which represents the moving to repentance and tears. Others, again, as gold, it purges from dross, denoting change and perfection through suffering. And finally it hardens earthenware, that is, the flame of divine love gives strength and fortitude to what was before weak and yielding, as in the case of the Martyrs. (P.) The verse may be taken also as the opening part of a prayer, either of Christ Himself, or of His Body the Church, preceding His Resurrection after the terrible woes of the Passion;* and finally, as the petition of a penitent soul seeking reconciliation and peace with God.
47 (46) O remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men for nought?
Seeing,* he would say, how soon my life shall end, and that I cannot look forward to a prolonged existence, let me, whilst I still live, see that which Thou hast promised, and behold Thy salvation, the Redeeming King of the seed of David. It cannot be that Thou hast made man,* with all his passionate yearnings after beauty, life, and holiness, for the mere nought of this world,* full of sorrows and trouble, grief and sin. Send us therefore One who may be our guide to a happier dwelling, our teacher for higher things; send us Christ the Lord. The Vulgate, (C.) instead of how short my time is, reads what my substance is, and some of the commentators explain it in a manner practically the same. Because my nature is weak and sinful, because Thou wilt not wantonly destroy Thine own creature, send the Deliverer. But another interpretation, making the words the address of Christ to the Father,* takes them as His appeal on behalf of mankind because He is their Brother,* their own flesh and blood, and at the same time He Who has full right to ask what He will, because He is also Consubstantial with the Father Himself. (L.) And then they may be used of our own prayer to God,* reminding Him that we are made in His image, and therefore have a special claim on His mercy, while we call on the Son in the words of the old hymn for Christmas:
Salvation’s Author, call to mind,*
Thou took’st the form of humankind
When of the Virgin undefiled
Thou, in man’s flesh, becam’st a Child.
48 (47) What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death: and shall he deliver his soul from the hand of hell?
This is the cry of the previous verse put in another form.* Not only I, the Psalmist would say, have no hope of seeing the Deliverer unless Thou hasten His coming, but there is no man whose expectation in the matter can be any surer than mine. All are frail and short-lived, wherefore, unless Thy mercy be speedy, all will pass away without beholding the desire of their eyes.
They answer the question by saying that no man ever lived who did not or else will not see death, (A.) including even Christ Himself; and the constant tradition of the Church is that Enoch and Elijah, (L.) still believed to live, will reappear and die in the days of Antichrist. But while all ransomed souls will live again in the Resurrection, and see death no more, of none can it be said, save of Christ, that they delivered their own souls from the hand of hell.* He raised up Himself by His own divine and inherent power, all His Saints are raised by Him too, (D. C.) by His sustaining grace, and not by any strength or holiness of their own. And therefore He only can say,* “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”
49 (48) Lord, where are thy old loving-kindnesses: which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?
He calls them old, (C.) not merely because they dated from the beginning of David’s reign,* but because they were but the repetition of promises made to the Patriarchs; and they were old even in their time,* because established by God’s predestination before the beginning of the world, in His truth, that is,* in His Only-Begotten Son.
50 (49) Remember, Lord, the rebuke that thy servants have: and how I do bear in my bosom the rebukes of many people;
51 (50) Wherewith thine enemies have blasphemed thee; and slandered the footsteps of thine Anointed:
The most usual interpretation of the former of these verses is in agreement with the Prayer Book rendering;* that the people of God were a mock for all the heathen round about; whether we take the said people as the Jews, in opposition to Gentiles, Christians as contrasted with Pagans, or holy persons in distinction from the worldly and frivolous. These rebukes the whole chosen nation, (A.) or the Anointed as its representative, bears in the bosom, feeling its wound deeply, but giving no outward token of pain by complaint. But the LXX. and Vulgate are nearer to the original in their reading, for they do not attempt to fill in the ellipse (if it be such) of the second clause: and they read, which I have borne in my bosom, of many peoples. The literal Hebrew is, I have borne in my bosom all many peoples. And this phrase, to “bear in the bosom,”* implies elsewhere fostering tenderness, as of a mother, not secret repression, (C.) as it must do here if we repeat the word rebuke. A different rendering, somewhat more satisfactory, makes the many people the same as the servants, but although this is truer to the spiritual meaning of the passage, it yet overlooks the contrast obviously intended between the one nation which serves God and the many nations which do not. Hence, a modern critic has suggested that the words may fairly be taken as a complaint of the Jewish nation at the intrusion of a number of foreign invaders,* settling on the sacred soil of the Holy Land, whom she was thus forced to bear in her bosom. But this again loses sight of the loving sense of that phrase. The truest meaning, that which at once seems to agree most fully with the Hebrew text and with the mystical purport, is half guessed at by one mediæval expositor, (R.) who points out that the rebuke, the special charge of the Jews against the Anointed One and His servants the Apostles, was precisely that He did not confine His teaching and the divine promises to the children of Israel alone,* but that in His embracing love He bore in His bosom all the peoples, the whole multitude of the Gentiles, converting them to the Faith, and co-opting them into the commonwealth of the true Israel. With this rebuke they slandered the footsteps of the Anointed, because He bent His way to “bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”* And so we read that the Pharisees and chief priests, when they sent officers to take Him, said, as the worst calumny they could frame against Him, “Will He go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?”* But the Rabbinical comment on the verse is different, and very ingenious. It is that the Gentiles rebuke the footsteps of Messiah,* because of His delay; that is, they mock and jeer at the Hebrews for looking to the coming of a Deliverer who is so tardy that there is little reason to suppose that He will ever appear. And the same interpretation applies to those unbelievers now who reject the doctrine of Christ’s second Advent,* as the Apostle teaches us: “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But the LXX. and Vulgate, instead of the footsteps, read the changing of Thine Anointed. And for the most part they explain this to mean the passage of Christ from life to death, the fatal change which thereby, as the Jews thought, came upon the fortunes of the new teaching, so that they reproached the disciples for worshipping a dead man, just as the Assyrian conquerors mocked at the changed prospects of the Davidic kings,* after the overthrow of their realm. Yet that change which Christ’s enemies mocked at was widely different from what they supposed; (A.) for He was changed from temporal to everlasting life, from Jews to Gentiles, from earth to heaven; and thereby He changed the old man by calling him unto the new grace of regeneration, (C.) and out of the darkness of sin into the light of faith, from mortality to immortality. And this change of life,* wrought by repentance through grace, inducing men to abandon pleasure and accept hardship, to care little for life, and to welcome death, (Ay.) is precisely the thing most jeered at and reviled by unbelievers. S. Albert counts up for us the principal changes of Christ; namely,* the Incarnation, whereby the Creator became a creature; the Transfiguration, which glorified His humility; the Holy Eucharist, wherein He changes bread and wine into His Flesh and Blood (the chief of all reproaches levelled at the Catholic Faith;) the Passion, wherein He was changed into the pallor of death; the Resurrection, which brought Him back to life. Yet, (L.) again, change may be taken in the sense of price, or equivalent, a meaning often borne by the LXX. ἀντάλλαγμα, and the force will then be the ridicule levelled against the Jews by idolaters,* for the poor thanks their God gave them for serving Him; a reproach still cast by unbelievers on the doctrine of our ransom through the Blood of Christ.* Some commentators, however, give an explanation which brings us back to the truest sense,* telling us that the wrath of the Jews was mainly excited by those words of the Lord,* “Behold your house is left unto you desolate,” whereby He. implied what was said later in express terms by His Apostles, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”*
Praised be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen.
With this doxology ends the Third Book of the Psalter,* just as a similar one closed the first book at the end of Psalm 41, (Ay.) and the second at the end of Psalm 72,* and it is supposed by many writers to belong to the book collectively, and not to be an integral part of this particular Psalm. It reminds us, observes S. Augustine, (A.) that the power of injury exercised by the adversary against the Anointed of the Lord is fleeting, but the power and goodness of the Lord is everlasting. It teaches us also that our own sorrows and troubles are no reason for omitting the praises of God,* but rather a reason for doubling them, as is here done by the forcible repetition of Amen,* wherewith we welcome our returning Lord,* as He comes victorious from the battle, with recovered crown and firmly established throne.* Praised be the Lord Jesus by His twofold Church of Jew and Gentile,* Amen, Amen; with the double service of soul and body,* Amen, Amen; by all His saints in the hour of grace and in the time of glory in this world and the world to come,* Amen, (Lu.) Amen.
Glory be to the Father, the Lord God of Hosts; glory be to the Son, His First-born and Anointed, higher than the kings of the earth; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Light of the Countenance of God and the holy oil of His elect.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.
Gregorian. Friday: Matins. [Christmas Day: III. Nocturn. Transfiguration: III. Nocturn.]
Monastic. Friday: Matins. [Christmas Day: II. Nocturn. Transfiguration: II. Nocturn.]
Ambrosian. Wednesday of Second Week: III. Nocturn. [Christmas Day: II. Nocturn. Epiphany (ver. 26 to end:) I. Nocturn.]
Parisian. Thursday: Matins.
Lyons. Friday: Matins. [Christmas Day: III. Nocturn.]
Quignon. Thursday: Matins.
Gregorian and Monastic. Praised * be the Lord for evermore. [Christmas Day: He shall call Me. Alleluia. Thou art My Father. Alleluia. Transfiguration: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy Name,* Thou hast a mighty arm.]
Ambrosian. Thy truth shalt Thou stablish in the heavens. [Christmas Day: I will make Him My firstborn * higher than the kings of the earth. Epiphany: I will set His hand in the sea,* and his right hand in the floods.]
Parisian. O Lord,* they shall walk in the light of Thy countenance, their delight shall be daily in Thy Name: and in Thy righteousness shall they make their boast.
Lyons. As Gregorian. [Christmas Day: First section: Righteousness and equity, Alleluia,* are the habitation of Thy seat, Alleluia. Second section: He shall call Me, Alleluia,* Thou art My Father, Alleluia. Third section: His seat is like as the sun before Me, Alleluia,* and as the moon perfect for ever, Alleluia.]
Mozarabic. Thy truth shalt Thou stablish in the heavens, O Lord.
Deliver our souls, O Lord,* from the hand of hell; Who for us didst mightily break hell in pieces, that we, singing Thy mercies, may be delivered from the shame of our sins and from everlasting death. (1.)
Christ Jesu,* Wondrous Son of God, unto Whom there is none equal nor like amongst the sons of God; unto Thee, O Lord, we direct our prayer, that Thou mayest vouchsafe to bestow on penitents that mercy which Thou hast promised to keep for the saints; and we therefore beseech Thee to correct us with forbearing discipline, not taking away Thy mercy in Thy wrath, that Thy covenant may not be profaned by reason of the offence we have committed, but Thy chastisement may be assuaged with heavenly pity, and Thou mayest wash away all that displeaseth Thee. And Thou, Who justifiest and glorifiest sinners who return to Thee, and Who didst will that we should be, out of nothing, what we are, grant us to be fitted for the kingdom of heaven and to dwell with Thee for evermore. (11.)
O God, (D. C.) the glory of the strength of the saints, grant us ever to walk in the light of Thy countenance, and to rejoice in Thy Name, that Thy mercy may ever go before our face, and we, when we have run the race of righteousness to the end, may be enabled to attain unto Thee. (1.)
READINGS AND OFFICE:
Readings from the NABRE. The translation used in the United States.
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible. Translation used in most other English speaking countries.
COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: Isaiah 7:10-14.
COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6.
COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Romans 1:1-7.
COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Matthew 1:18-24.
Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-24. Includes 25.