Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Psalm 129: Verses 1-2

El Greco The Repentance of St Peter

The first two verses of Psalm 129 above all justify its inclusion as one of the Seven Penitential Psalms.  But they also have other lessons to offer us on the nature of prayer in general.

Notes on the verses

De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: * Dómine, exáudi vocem meam :
κ βαθέων κέκραξά σε κύριε κύριε εσάκουσον τς φωνς μου

De (from/out of) profúndis (the deeps) clamávi (I have called) ad (to) te (you) Dómine (O Lord) Dómine (O Lord) exáudi (hear) vocem (the voice) meam (my)

The depths (profundis) can mean literally the depths of the sea, or the depths of misfortune and sin. The Monastic Diurnal's translation, along the RSV, makes this verse present tense to reflect the Hebrew perfect (action occurring simultaneously).   

profundum, i, n., the depth, the sea, any deep water;  the depths, deep
clamo, avi, atum, are  to call, cry out; to call to or upon for aid.
exaudio, ivi, Itum, ire, to hear, hearken to, listen to, give heed to; to regard, answer
vox, vocis, f., the voice of a person, or, the sound of an instrument, thunder. 

Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord: I have cried to you, Lord, hear my voice.
Out of the depths have I cried to thee, O Lord. 2 O Lord, hearken to my voice
Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
KJV 1769
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.

To obtain God's mercy, according to this verse, requires two things: intensity in prayer (a cry) and a recognition of the depths of our sin.  the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2559) notes that:

"Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought," are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God."

The Fathers' commentaries on this verse point us to examples of great sinners who repented deeply, such as Jonah in the whale, St Peter, and the tax-collector.

Fiant aures tuæ intendéntes: * in vocem deprecatiónis meæ.
fiant aures tuae intendentes ad uocem deprecationis meae. 
γενηθήτω τ τά σου προσέχοντα ες τν φωνν τς δεήσεώς μου

Fiant (let them be) aures (the ears) tuae (your) intendéntes (being attentive = be attentive) in vocem (to the voice) deprecatiónis (supplications) meæ (my supplications)

The Coverdale translation renders the last phrase as 'the voice of my complaint', but 'complaint' here is really meant in the Old English sense of a petition or request for mercy or pardon.

fio, factus sum, fieri , to be made or done, to become, happen
auris, is, f the ear.
intendo, tendi, tentum, ere 3 to give heed to, pay attention to.
vox, vocis, f., the voice of a person, or, the sound of an instrument, thunder. 
deprecatio, onis, prayer, supplication, entreaty.

Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications

Prayer is communication between two people.  The opening verse demands that we say 'I', that we acknowledge our sin individually.  This verse turns to the other side of the conversation, namely God, and  asks that he listens to us.  Yet since God sees and hears everything anyway, why do we need to do that?  First we need to be clear that we are not just talking to ourselves but seeking to engage directly with our creator and redeemer!  Secondly, we do need to be insistent when we really want something.  St Robert Bellarmine comments:

"However loud one may cry, he will not be heard, unless the person to whom he cries attend to him. People are often so absorbed in other mat­ters, that they pay no heed to one talking to them, and then one talks to them in vain. Now, God always sees and hears every­thing, but when he does not grant what we ask, he is like one that does not attend to us, as if he were thinking of something else, and, therefore, David, being most anxious for a hearing, and not content with having called out with a loud voice, asks, furthermore, that God may deign to attend to him; that is, to receive his prayer, and grant what it asked."

*For a key to the abbreviations and links to full texts see the Notes on the psalm notes post.  

Those used here are: V=Vulgate; NV=Neo-Vulgate; JH=St Jerome's translation from the Hebrew; Sept=Septuagint; DR=Douay-Rheims; Brenton=Brenton's translation from the Septuagint; Cover=Coverdale; KJV=King James Bible

Psalm 129: De Profundis

Canticum graduum.
Canticum graduum.
De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam
Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord:
2  Fiant aures tuæ intendéntes: * in vocem deprecatiónis meæ.
2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
3  Si iniquitátes observáveris, Dómine: * Dómine, quis sustinébit?
3 If you, O Lord, will mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it.
4  Quia apud te propitiátio est: * et propter legem tuam sustínui te, Dómine.
4 For with you there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of your law, I have waited for you, O Lord.
5  Sustinuit ánima mea in verbo ejus: * sperávit ánima mea in Dómino.
My soul has relied on his word: 5 My soul has hoped in the Lord.
6  A custódia matutína usque ad noctem: * speret Israël in Dómino.
6 From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
7  Quia apud Dóminum misericórdia: * et copiósa apud eum redémptio.
7 Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption.
8  Et ipse rédimet Israël: * ex ómnibus iniquitátibus ejus.
8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities

And for notes on the next set of verses of this psalm, continue on here.

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