Friday, December 6, 2013

Psalm 131: Verses 1-2

King David in Prayer, by Pieter de Grebber (c. 1640)
The opening verses of Psalm 131 set the scene of David's commitment to building the Temple.

Verse notes

Meménto, Dómine, David, * et omnis mansuetúdinis ejus :
Memento, Domine, Dauid  et omnis adflictionis eius;

μνήσθητι κύριε το Δαυιδ κα πάσης τς πραΰτητος ατο

Memento (Remember/Be mindful ie future imperative of memini) Domine (O Lord) David et (and) omnis (all) mansuetudinis (meekness) ejus (his)

The speaker here could be David himself, in the third person, or perhaps his son King Solomon who actually built the Temple. The Masoretic Text Hebrew reading of his verse (attesting to David’s devotedness/labours/piety rather than his meekness) verse may reflect a desire to avoid giving any credit to the Christian reading of the psalm: meekness is of course one of the virtues claimed for Christ, and advocated by him in the beatitudes, so unsurprising that the early Jews would seek to avoid  its use in a psalm accepted as Messianic by both religions.  That said, the underlying Hebrew is ambiguous, so the two competing interpretations of the second phrase, meekness (Septuagint) or labour (Masoretic Text) respectively, are both theoretically possible readings. 

memini, nisse  to remember, be mindful of;
omnis, e, all, each, every; subst., all men, all things, everything.
mansuetudo, inis, f  meekness, mildness, clemency; weakness, inactivity, 

O Lord remember David, and all his meekness.
O Lord remember David and all his meekness
Lord, remember David, and all his meekness
O Lord remember David, and all his devotedness
Remember, O LORD, in David's favor, all the hardships he endured;
Lord, remember David, and all his trouble

Verse 1 lauds David’s meekness, foreshadowing that of Our Lord.  But what does meekness really mean?  Certainly not a reluctance to speak up strongly and act when necessary, as St Robert Bellarmine points out:

“Nor is it inconsistent with the meekness of David or Moses to have taken the lives of so many, nor with that of Christ to have turned the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and to upset their tables; for meekness is not inconsis­tent with justice, it is rather sister to zeal for the honor of God; and they who readily put up with a personal offence, which is the office of meekness, are the more fit to punish one offered to God or to the neighbor, because it is evident to all that they are not influenced by any private pique or selfish motive, but by a pure love of justice; as, also, because they seem to forget them­selves altogether, and to be entirely absorbed in seeking and extending God's honor and glory.”

You can read St John Chrysostom's exposition of this verse presenting meekness as being about 'tough love' here.

Sicut jurávit Dómino, * votum vovit Deo Jacob :
quia iuravit Domino, votum vovit Potenti Iacob:

ς μοσεν τ κυρί ηξατο τ θε Ιακωβ

Sicut (as)  jurávit (he swore an oath) Dómino (to the Lord) votum (a vow) vovit (he vowed)  
Deo (to the God) Jacob (of Jacob).

There are no other Scriptural allusions to David’s oath on this subject, but 2 Samuel 6&7 record his decision to build a dwelling for God.  The Neo-Vulgate follows the MT here in making the vow to ‘the Strong One’ or ‘Hero’ of Jacob, rather than just the God of Jacob.  The Navarre commentary points out that the name "Mighty One of Jacob" (vv. 2, 5) is the same as "Protector of Israel".

sicut, adv., as, just as, like, how
juro, avi, atum, are, to swear, take an oath
votum, i, n. a vow votum vovere, to vow a vow, make a vow, to vow.
voveo, vovi, votum, ere 2, to vow, to promise solemnly or sacredly.

How he swore to the Lord, he vowed a vow to the God of Jacob:
how he sware to the Lord, and vowed to the God of Jacob
how he swore unto the Lord, and vowed a vow unto the Almighty God of

It is often claimed that Churches are not much needed any more, that any ‘worship space’ will do.  Increasingly, the great cathedrals of the world are being dwarfed by skyscrapers, or replaced by architectural monstrosities.  Yet this psalm testifies to just how important churches really are. 

The Old Testament records that just as God is especially present in reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle of the Church, so God was especially present to his people first in the Arc of the Covenant, and subsequently in the Temple itself.  

David vowed to replace the tents and tabernacle set up by Moses with a proper Temple – but God refused to allow him to do so because of his many sins, and instead gave the task to his son Solomon to complete. Nonetheless, the importance of David’s intention, and the blessings that flowed from it, are attested to in this psalm. 

The final destruction of the Temple in 70 AD effectively ended the Jewish religion as it was then understood, with its animal sacrifices and annual pilgrimages.  But this psalm should remind us that the destruction of the Temple, far from abolishing the need to honour God through buildings devoted to him, rather made at least theoretically possible the spread of God’s Real Presence to every village, town and city throughout the whole world.  Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI has commented in relation to this psalm that:

“…it shows that at the heart of the social life of a city, of a community, of a people there must be a presence that calls to mind the mystery of the transcendent God, a proper space for God, a dwelling for God. Man cannot walk well without God; he must walk together with God through history, and the task of the temple, of the dwelling of God, is to point out in a visible way this communion, this allowing God to guide.

Psalm 131 (132) – Memento Domine
Canticum graduum.
A gradual canticle.
Meménto, Dómine, David, * et omnis mansuetúdinis ejus :
O Lord remember David, and all his meekness.

2  Sicut jurávit Dómino, * votum vovit Deo Jacob
2 How he swore to the Lord, he vowed a vow to the God of Jacob:
3  Si introíero in tabernáculum domus meæ, * si ascéndero in lectum strati mei :
3 If I shall enter into the tabernacle of my house: if I shall go up into the bed wherein I lie:
4  Si dédero somnum óculis meis, * et pálpebris meis dormitatiónem :
4 If I shall give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids,
5  Et réquiem tempóribus meis : donec invéniam locum Dómino, * tabernáculum Deo Jacob.
5 or rest to my temples: until I find out a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
6. Ecce audívimus eam in Ephrata: * invénimus eam in campis silvæ.
6 Behold we have heard of it in Ephrata: we have found it in the fields of the wood.
7  Introíbimus in tabernáculum ejus: * adorábimus in loco, ubi stetérunt pedes ejus.
7 We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood. .
8  Surge, Dómine, in réquiem tuam, * tu et arca sanctificatiónis tuæ.
8 Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified
9  Sacerdótes tui induántur justítiam: * et sancti tui exsúltent.
9 Let your priests be clothed with justice: and let   your saints rejoice.
10  Propter David, servum tuum: * non avértas fáciem Christi tui.
10 For your servant David's sake, turn not away the face of your anointed.
11  Jurávit Dóminus David veritátem, et non frustrábitur eam: * de fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam.
11 The Lord has sworn truth to David, and he will not make it void: of the fruit of your womb I will set upon your throne
12  Si custodíerint fílii tui testaméntum meum: * et testimónia mea hæc, quæ docébo eos.
12 If your children will keep my covenant, and these my testimonies which I shall teach them:
13  Et fílii eórum usque in sæculum: * sedébunt super sedem tuam.
Their children also for evermore shall sit upon your throne.
14  Quóniam elégit Dóminus Sion: * elégit eam in habitatiónem sibi.
13 For the Lord has chosen Sion: he has chosen it for his dwelling.
15  Hæc réquies mea in sæculum sæculi: * hic habitábo, quóniam elégi eam.
14 This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.
16  Víduam ejus benedícens benedícam: * páuperes ejus saturábo pánibus.
15 Blessing I will bless her widow: I will satisfy her poor with bread.
17  Sacerdótes ejus índuam salutári: * et sancti ejus exsultatióne exsultábunt.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice with exceeding great joy.
18  Illuc prodúcam cornu David: * parávi lucérnam Christo meo.
17 There will I bring forth a horn to David: I have prepared a lamp for my anointed
19  Inimícos ejus índuam confusióne: * super ipsum autem efflorébit sanctificátio mea.
18 His enemies I will clothe with confusion: but upon him shall my sanctification flourish.

For the next part in this series of notes on Psalm 131, continue on here.

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