SECOND NOCTURN. For Tuesdays and Fridays.
In thy comeliness and thy beauty go forward, fare prosperously and reign.
The original idea of the Antiphon was the selection of some one verse of the psalm to give a meaning to the whole. And we have here a very perfect example. The Antiphon fixes for us the idea of the glory and majesty of the Heavenly Bridegroom, The King in all His beauty [Isaias xxxiii. 17.], and the reflected glory which the Spouse hath, even as the moon reflects the splendours of the sun. Our ever dear and blessed Lady is the type and model of all spouses to God; she alone is all fair, and without the slightest stain. Therefore this psalm is rightfully applied to the mystical union between God and Mary and the relation which results to each one of the Blessed Trinity.
[This psalm is a marriage song celebrating the espousals of Solomon, the
King of Peace, with the Queen of the South. Some of its old titles are suggestive of
the same idea, such as, "A Song for the Beloved," and "Upon the Lilies." In a psalm that speaks of the glory of the Virgin Church, of the glorious Queen of Virgins
"that be her fellows," the allusion to the Lilies among which the Beloved of the
Canticles feeds (ii. 16) is exquisitely beautiful.
" Among the lilies dost Thou feed
With virgin choirs accompanied
With glory decked, the spotless brides
Whose bridal gifts Thy love provides."
Hymn : Jesu, corona virginum.]
Title: To the end : for them that shall be changed : for the sons of Core, to understanding. A Song for the Beloved.
Tomasi: That Christ, fairer in form than the children of men, joined by God the Father to the Church, is to be blessed. The Church is described as the Bride of Christ.
Venerable Bede : The prophet filled with heavenly meats, promiseth that he will announce the tidings of the Lord's Incarnation, that whence he himself was satiate, others might also be fed. The first part contains the praise of the Bridegroom, that is, of the Lord our Saviour; in the second part, the Bride, Holy Church, is praised for a like number of mystical virtues.
(1) My heart bursteth forth the Good Word: I tell my works to the King.
(2) My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
This is the introduction of the psalm, My heart bursteth forth, as though it could no longer contain the thoughts that fill it; Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh [Matt. xii. 34.]. The good word. What can this good word be but the Eternal Word Himself, Whose espousals are going to be celebrated ? That same efficacious Word that spake and it was made; that commanded and it stood forth; that Word that was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God.
I tell my works to the King. And so the Father tells all the secrets of His Own eternity to that King anointed by Him upon the holy hill of Sion; tells Him the plan of man's Redemption ; lays out before Him the mystery of Death destroyed by Death, and the Tree atoned for by the Tree. And do thou, in another sense, says St. Augustine, tell thy works also to the King that suffered for thee on the Cross; thy works of weakness to the King Omnipotent, thy works that have any sweet savour of His grace in them to the King that will unite them to His Own Royal merits, and plead these merits for thine.
My tongue is as the pen of a ready writer. Just as the tongue when it speaks must part between the two lips, so the prophetic tongue speaks under the guidance of the Two Testaments. Mediaeval commentators are rich in their reference to these two portions of Holy Scripture. The two points of a pen that form any one letter reminds them of that verse : The Lord spoke once and these two things have we heard [Ps. Ixi. 12.]; of the rod and the staff of which David sings; of the ladder of Jacob with its two uprights and many rundles; of the tongs of Isaias, which between them held the burning coal. And again, in the double split of the pen they see the Divine and Human natures of our Lord : the ink is the Blood of Calvary; the pen, expressing the meaning of the holder, sets forth Him Who is the express Image of the Father and renders Him visible to mortal eyes ; and a faultless pen, too, writing so quickly, so clearly, without blots or erasures, because working under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. As Theodoret (458) says : Of the Psalms the Holy Ghost is author of all; and the tongues of those by whom they were set down were the ready writers of what He uttereth and spake unto them [Interpretatio in Psalmos, see Migne, P. L., Ixxx.].
(3) Thou art fairer than the children of men. Grace is poured forth from Thy lips : therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever.
Most of the Eastern commentators, such as St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Alexander, &c., deny that the Incarnate Word possessed human beauty, and based their teaching on the words of Isaias : He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him [Isaias liii. 2.]. But these words surely refer to the disfigurements and sorrows of the Passion. The more general opinion of the Western Doctors is that of this Son of David also is that saying true : In all Israel there was none so much to be praised for His beauty : from the sole of His feet even to the crown of His head there was no blemish in Him [2 Kings xiv. 25.], This is the general tradition of the Church and the almost universal teaching of Christian art. St. Bernard, in many and many a passage, tells us of the exquisite beauty of our Lord's humanity. St. Anselm expressly blames a certain vision for denying it. St. Isidore breaks forth with a rapture of admiration at the earthly glory of the Incarnate Word; and the Angelical seems to claim such a belief as certain. But His human beauty had nothing of mere sensual loveliness. It was in truth the outward reflection of the majestic soul within. There must have been a sweetness and a tenderness, a gentleness, and yet a power, about that Divine Face which could attract so many different people, the little children, the workmen, the rich and learned [The one type of the face of our Lord, which has been so universally received, must have had some real foundation.]. But how that face altered ! Towards the end of that weary three years and a half of public ministry His face was marred by toil and exposure; and when, in the Passion, it had been smitten by the soldiers, and spat upon ; when that Divine Head had been crowned with thorns and brought into the dust of death, then was Isaias' prophecy made true : There is no beauty that we should desire Him [liii. 2.]. The sweet face of the Babe of Bethlehem was lost in the pallor of the death-stricken Victim.
Grace is poured forth on Thy lips, says the Bride : The lips of my Spouse drop as the honey-comb: honey and milk are under Thy tongue [Cant. iv. 11.]. Blessed lips, indeed, that spake as never man spake ; that said to the poor man sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven thee [Matt. ix. 2.] ; that comforted the woman taken in adultery with the assurance, Neither do I condemn thee [John viii. II.] ; that on the evening of the Day of Sorrow showed to the longing eyes of Man that home whence he had been banished, saying, This day thou shall be with Me in Paradise [Luke xxiii. 43.] ; that by one word made Himself known to her that loved much, Mary [John xx. 16.] ; that first gave a blessing to the little band of Apostles ere they said aught further : Peace be unto you [Ibid. 19.]. But to us how full of grace if those lips shall one day, after all our falls, in spite of all our sins, notwithstanding all our wanderings, bid us Come ye blessed of My Father [Matt. xxv. 34.].
Therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever; that eternal benediction which belongs essentially to the Co-eternal Word, and that which as Man He merited by doing His Father's will according to the words of the Prophet : He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied; by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many: and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He hath poured out His soul unto death [Isaias liii. II, 12.].
(4) Gird Thee with Thy sword upon Thy thigh O Thou most mighty.
(5) In Thy comeliness and Thy beauty go forward, fare prosperously and reign.
The Psalmist having in a rapture of holiness unveiled the King of Kings as He is in His Own eternity, now proceeds to arm Him for His wars on earth.
Thy Sword. St. Paul says, The sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God [Eph. vi. 17.]. In the highest and noblest sense that Word is the Son of God, but most commentators agree in applying to the message of the Gospel this sword of which the Psalmist speaks. And in this sword bound on the thigh they see these glad tidings wherewith, as by a mighty weapon, the enemies of our race are to be hewn down. To this effect we read in the Apocalypse, the King of Whom this psalm is indited, hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written : King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Apoc. xix. 16]. They take vesture of the glory of His Divinity ; the thigh of the humility of His Humanity: in both evermore to be victorious. With thy sword. There are not wanting those who would see in this sword the Dolour ; that bitter sword which pierced the heart of His blissful Mother even from the days of Simeon's prophecy [Luke ii. 35.], and pierced also His own, and wrung from Him the cry : O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me [Matt. xxvi. 39.]. Yet, still as we may take it in reference to the Incarnation ; because, says St. Jerome, had He not first been true Man to suffer, He could not have thus proved Himself true God.
Most mighty. God shows His might, as the Church says in one of the Collects, " most chiefly in showing mercy and pity." Thus is the sword the proclamation of His mercy whereby He made His way amongst His enemies; not in the storm nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice.
Go forward, fare prosperously and reign. These words addressed to our Lord are best interpreted, it seems, by that passage in the Apocalypse when the four living creatures address their Lord in four different characters with Come [vi. 1-8.] ; and He accordingly appears successively as the Rider on the White Horse, as the Conqueror on the Red Horse, as the Warrior on the Black Horse, as the Judge on the Pale Horse with Death and Hell led in triumph behind Him. Going forth to conquer, He conquers and reigneth for ever Master of Life and Death. Or with Denis the Carthusian : Set out from the most chaste Womb of Mary; fare prosperously in establishing Thy Church ; and reign by faith and grace here below in the hearts of the faithful, and in heaven by the Beatific Vision.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907