"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Saturday, February 28, 2009

...but You, O Lord, are my Shield, my Glory and the One Who Lifts Up my head...

A psalm of David when he was fleeing from the face of his son Absalon.
"Why, O Lord, have those who afflict me increased in number? Many rise up against me. Many say to my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God. But you, O Lord, are my protector, my glory and the one who lifts up my head. I have cried to the Lord with my voice, and he heard me from his holy mountain. I have slept and deeply; and I have risen up because the Lord has protected me. I will not fear the thousands of people surounding me: arise, O Lord, make me safe, O my God. For you have struck all those opposing me without cause, and have broken the teeth of sinners."
Salvation is of the Lord, and your blessing is upon your people. The former psalm showed the effort of his adversaries. Here, he implores divine help against their effort. And this psalm is presented in the mode of a prayer. We can describe it first as based in history, second in an allegorical sense, and lastly in a moral sense. The historical sense is clear from its title which is When he was fleeing from the face of his son Absalon, as is treated of at 2 Kings 15 - David's son, Absalon, persecuting his father, desired to kill him. David yielded to him, leaving Jerusalem on foot with his household. He understood that this would happen to him on account of the sins of murder and adultery, as the Prophet Nathan had foretold to him:
2 Kings 12: The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me.
When Absalon was persecuting David, he turned David's army against him. However, in the assault, Absalon drove his mule under the boughs of an oak tree, where he was captured, hanging by his head, his kneck having been enveloped by the boughs. He was killed by Joab, a leader of David's militia. On account of this death, David was restored to his kingship and reigned in peace. Therefore, this psalm, Why, O Lord, is against this very persecution. Through it, however, was prefigured the persecution which Christ suffered from his child Judas - John 13: Little children, yet a little while I am with you. And again at Matthew 9: Can the children of the bridegroom mourn etc. Christ fled from Judas when he withdrew from his approaching passion by departing with the rest of the apostles to the mountain of Olivet. And just as David offered peace to his wicked son, when he admonished the people going to war, Save the boy Absalon, and said when he was killed, Would he grant to me that I might die for you, O my son Absalon etc., so too did Christ offer peace to Judas the betrayer, as is clear at the supper and in his kiss. On account of this, Absalon is well called the peace of the father. For Abba, in hebrew, is translated by father in latin, and Salon, by peace. And Judas himself betrayed Christ with an extension of peace. And as Absalon, so too did Judas die suspended. On account of death, Christ reigned in peace, because he rose in glory. And this can be referred to all the tribulations of the Church, and it can be referred morally against the tribulations which it suffers either from temporal or spiritual enemies. And for this reason, the desire of the imploring man is expressed. Therefore concerning this the psalmist does two things. First he puts forward the effort of his adversaries, or explains his anguish to God, and second, acknowledges that divine help goes to him, at, But you O Lord etc. He describes his persecution with respect to the number of those doing harm, they have increased, namely the Gentiles, the people, kings and princes. And not only these outsiders, but his son as well - Psalm 39: They are multiplied above my head etc. With respect to the harming, the motive, because it is without cause. Thus, what is written at (?): What have I done, or what evil is in my hand? With respect to the manifold torment, because they injure by afflicting him in many ways. Thus, they afflict. A thistle is a stinging herb -
Genesis 3: Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth to you. Therefore, those afflict who sting.
They stung Christ by beating, scourging, spitting upon and ridiculing him, and by aiming at his death. And this is what he says, Many rise up, namely, (factis - in their deeds ?). Absalon wanted to kill David, as is clear in Chusai's advice, at, 2 Kings 17. Likewise did Judas hand Christ over to death. Again, they afflict by disparaging words, or by proposing lies. Hence Many say etc. Against that is what is said at Psalm 36: But the salvation of the just is from the Lord. For if the impious considered this, they would not easily rise up against the just; but because they do not believe, or because they despise the power of God or the justice of man, for this reason they say, in word and deed, There is no salvation for him etc., that is, in him whom he worships, and takes as God to himself. Even the persecutors of Christ say this: for if they were expecting him to rise again shortly, Judas would not have betrayed him, nor would they have killed him. And this is the sense: He will not save him, nor is he the son of God. Thus they said at Matthew 17: If you are the son of God, come down from the cross; and in the same place, If he is the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross and we will believe him? This is the second part wherein he shows the help prepared for him by God. And concerning this he does two things. First, he shows that the divine help is present to him especially, and secondly to everyone in general, at, Salvation is of the Lord. And concerning the first, he sets forth three things. First, the divine help, second, the experience of this help, at, with my voice, and third, the conceptum (conception, thought ?) of safety, at, I will not fear. Therefore, he says, But you, O Lord; as if he were saying, Those people rise up to wage war, but you undertake to defend. This is better rendered by Jerome's version which states, My shield around me, as it were, defending me like a shield. Furthermore, not only preserving against those wanting to destroy in life, but also against those defaming in glory; thus he says My Glory - 2 Cor. 10: He who would glory, let him glory in the Lord; Jeremiah 9: Let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and know me. Not only do you defend me against those defaming, but you also make me to prevail against those oppressing me; thus he adds, The one who lifts up my head - Psalm 26: And now I have lifted up my head above my enemies. These things can be referred to Christ, who was conceived in accordance with human nature at the Incarnation; for The Word was made flesh (John 1) - Isaiah 42: Behold my servant, I will uphold him: my elect, my soul delights in him; Psalm 64: Blessed is he who you have choosen and taken to yourself. Furthermore, he was glorified in his resurrection (John 16: Glorify me, Father), and exalted in his ascension (Philipians 2: On account of which God has also exalted him). Next, when he says, With my voice, he shows the experience of this help. He describes three things, namely his prayer, at, With my voice, second, the hearkening, at, And he heard me, and third, where (?) he was heard, where he says, I have slept. Concerning the first, he treats of two things which must appear in prayer. First, it must be attended to. And thus he says, With my voice, namely of the heart which speaks to God, and with which Moses used to cry out to the Lord, while keeping his mouth silent - Exodus 14: The Lord said, Why do you cry out to me etc. Susanna was also heard crying out with this voice - Daniel 13: And she weeping, looked up to heaven, for her heart had confidence in the Lord etc.; 1 Kings 1: Now Anna spoke in her heart etc.; 1 Cor. 14: I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding. And thus he says My. For when the voice does not go out from the heart, it is not mine. Furthermore, it must be right: for it is then right when it tends to where it must: and thus he says, To the Lord, where help is - 2 Paralipomenon 20: But as we know not what we ought to do, this alone remains to us, that we turn our eyes to you; Psalm 120: My help is from the Lord. Furthermore, it must be devout. Thus he adds, I have cried: for a prayer is called loud (or clamoring) according to the magnitude of one's longing - Psalm 101: Let my cry come to you etc.; Hebrews 5: With a strong cry and tears etc. The hearkening is described next when he says, And he heard me from his mountain, that is, from the loftiness of his divine majesty, which is unapproachable - Psalm 23: Who shall ascend to the mountain of the Lord, that is, to his omnipotence; or from the height of his justice, which is incomprehensible or boundless - Psalm 35: Your judgments are a great deep; or on your holy mountain, that is, (de me qui eram mons sanctus), concerning which there is Isaiah 2: And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared etc. I have slept follows, wherein he describes where (?) he was heard. For I have risen. There is a difference between the dead and those sleeping, for the dead do not get up - Job 14: Do you think that a man that is dead shall live again? - while those sleeping do get up - Psalm 40: Shall he that sleeps rise again no more? So therefore when tribulation is so great that a person does not return to his prior condition, this is called death. But when the one suffering tribulation or trial falls into sin but rises (again from it), this is called sleep. In this way David slept, as it were, because he was freed from his son and from sin. However one is said to sleep, as if a little, but to sleep deeply, as if greatly: another version says, I have taken sleep, that is, I have slept deeply. Christ is said to have slept thus since he bore the passion on his own accord: and since he slept deeply, death ensued. Hence, he travelled from sleep to a deep sleep. This deep sleep is signified in the deep sleep of Adam - Genesis 2: The Lord cast a deep sleep upon Adam etc., because from the side of Christ in his death on the cross was built the Church. Therefore he says, And I have risen up, namely by my own power - John 10: I have the power to lay my soul down, and I have the power to take it up again. And this happens because The Lord has protected me. Another version has, He has sustained (me). For he had the power of divinity because he rose - Psalm 36: When he falls, he shall not be bruised, for the Lord puts his hand under him. Next, when he says, I will not fear, he describes the confidence of safety, as if he were saying, Since I was heard, I will not fear etc. - Psalm 26: If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear. It is here signified that the Church of Christ cannot be wholly overwhelmed. For the multitude of people, who stood round the crucifix, were in no way able to harm Christ after the resurrection: for Christ rising from the dead, dies now no more (Romans 6). And thus he has this confidence, which he shows when he says, Arise, namely, manifest your power by making me rise up from the dead: and this is at Make me safe etc. For the father etc. Previously, he had said two things. First, that they distress him - Psalm 3: Why, O Lord, have those who afflict me increased in number? - and against these he says, For you have struck. Second, they were defaming, There is no salvation for them etc., and against these he says, The teeth of sinners, that is, you have rendered their lying words ineffectual - Job 29: I broke the jaws of the wicked etc. Jerome's version has, I struck the jaws. And the teeth; as if he were saying, Thus you have strongly struck because their teeth have been crushed. The jaw was Absalon, but the teeth were those clinging to him. Thus, when Absalon was destroyed, the others were crushed. Finally, when he says Of the Lord, he shows divine help to be present to all the people. And first, with respect to preservation from evil; thus he says, Salvation is of the Lord. And for this reason prayer ought to be directed to God. Second, with respect to the multiplication of goods; and thus he says, Your blessing is upon your people, that is, upon the people who hope in you and not in another. Your blessing. The blessing of the Lord always includes the multiplication of goods - Proverbs 10: The blessing of the Lord makes men rich. However, this very psalm can be read in another way according to a gloss, namely so that by it, all of Christ, that is the Church, speaks and is appointed as his head during the storms of persecution. Or this psalm can be read morally in the person of all the faithful, who are attacked by sinful habits and desires. And according to this, by David is understood the faithful, and by Absalon, the vices of carnal desire, as is clear in the gloss. http://www.niagara.edu/aquinas/Psalm_3.html
Psalm 3

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