The responsories for the second Nocturn of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday, which we start on today with a look at Psalm 71 (72), focus on Judas' betrayal and subsequent horrible fate.
Today's psalm, though, first invites us to reflect on just how terrible a crime that betrayal was by reminding us just who Christ is, and why he came as man to us.
Who is Christ?
The sixth century commentator Cassiodorus provides a nice summary of the progression of the psalm in the light of the New Testament:
"The prophet speaks throughout the psalm, pointing to the coming of the Lord Saviour, and clearly manifesting alternately His humanity and His divinity in one and the same person. In the first section he addresses the Father, begging for His Son the role of judging the nations which is known to have been predestined before time began. In the second part he says that at the Lord's judgment the sons of the poor will be saved, and the pride of the devil undoubtedly brought low. He is also seen to indicate in marvellous fashion the birth from the Virgin, by means of certain parallels. In the third part he recounts what blessings have accrued from the holy Spirit and from the Lord Christ born of the virgin Mary. In the fourth section he says that He is to be adored by all kings because He has freed the human race from the power of the devil. In the fifth he proclaims that once seen by human eyes He was the mainstay of believers and an undoubted Source of progress for the just. In the sixth he relates that praises are to be delivered to the eternal Lord with the unanimity of the whole world. In the seventh he delivers with the sweetest devotion a hymn to the Lord Christ. It is thus obvious that a clear and manifest beginning to the New Testament has been fashioned in the course of this psalm."
Meditation on the kingship of Christ should surely help us to put our own actions in perspective, and help dissuade us from those small betrayals of his we make each day.
Deus, judicium tuum regi da, et justitiam tuam filio regis;
judicare populum tuum in justitia, et pauperes tuos in judicio.
Suscipiant montes pacem populo, et colles justitiam.
Judicabit pauperes populi, et salvos faciet filios pauperum, et humiliabit calumniatorem.
Et permanebit cum sole, et ante lunam, in generatione et generationem. Descendet sicut pluvia in vellus, et sicut stillicidia stillantia super terram. Orietur in diebus ejus justitia, et abundantia pacis, donec auferatur luna.
Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.
Coram illo procident Æthiopes, et inimici ejus terram lingent.
Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent; reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent: et adorabunt eum omnes reges terræ; omnes gentes servient ei.
Quia liberabit pauperem a potente, et pauperem cui non erat adjutor.
Parcet pauperi et inopi, et animas pauperum salvas faciet.
Ex usuris et iniquitate redimet animas eorum, et honorabile nomen eorum coram illo.
Et vivet, et dabitur ei de auro Arabiæ; et adorabunt de ipso semper, tota die benedicent ei.
Et erit firmamentum in terra in summis montium; superextolletur super Libanum fructus ejus, et florebunt de civitate sicut fœnum terræ.
Sit nomen ejus benedictum in sæcula; ante solem permanet nomen ejus.
Et benedicentur in ipso omnes tribus terræ; omnes gentes magnificabunt eum.
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, qui facit mirabilia solus.
Et benedictum nomen majestatis ejus in æternum, et replebitur majestate ejus omnis terra. Fiat, fiat.
And for the translation:
Give to the king your judgment, O God, and to the king's son your justice:
To judge your people with justice, and your poor with judgment.
Let the mountains receive peace for the people: and the hills justice.
He shall judge the poor of the people, and he shall save the children of the poor: and he shall humble the oppressor.
And he shall continue with the sun and before the moon, throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth.
In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away.
And he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down: and his enemies shall lick the ground.
The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts:
And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.
For he shall deliver the poor from the mighty: and the needy that had no helper.
He shall spare the poor and needy: and he shall save the souls of the poor.
He shall redeem their souls from usuries and iniquity: and their names shall be honourable in his sight.
And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Arabia, for him they shall always adore: they shall bless him all the day.
And there shall be a firmament on the earth on the tops of mountains, above Libanus shall the fruit thereof be exalted: and they of the city shall flourish like the grass of the earth.
Let his name be blessed for evermore: his name continues before the sun.
And in him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed: all nations shall magnify him.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful things.
And blessed be the name of his majesty for ever: and the whole earth shall be filled with his majesty. So be it. So be it.
And for the next part in this series, go here.
Tenebrae of Holy Thursday
Nocturn I: Psalms 68, 69, 70
Nocturn II: Psalms 71, 72, 73
Nocturn III: Psalms 74, 75, 76
Lauds: 50, 89, 35, [Ex 15], 146
And for the antiphon and a few verses of the psalm to listen to (note that it goes on with a setting of the responsories).