Title. —A Psalm of David.
Tomasi : That God, by the Coming of His Son, hath declared His salvation unto all. The voice of the Apostles rejoicing at the Resurrection of Christ. The voice of the Church to the Lord and to the Apostles. Concerning the first and second Coming of Christ.
Venerable Bede : The Psalm refers to our Lord, concerning Whose Coming the Psalmist is about to speak. In the first part the Psalmist recommends the Christian people to be glad with the rejoicing of a new song, since the wondrous Coming of Christ is granted. In the second part he declares more fully in various ways that we should rejoice because the Judge desired by the righteous is to come at last.
(1) sing unto the Lord a new song: for He hath done marvellous things.
(2) With His right hand and with His holy arm hath saved Himself.
The song must be new, because of the unwonted nature of the marvellous things God hath wrought. When of old, with a mighty hand and an arm stretched out, He brought His people out of Egypt, He saved but one small nation ; He overthrew in the Red Sea only a human enemy. But now His salvation extends to all nations of the earth ; the enemy He has routed is the Prince of the powers of the air : it is wickedness in the high places.
He hath done marvellous things, says Bellarmine, in the Incarnation, Birth, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and in the Sending of the Holy Ghost; not to speak of the miracles He wrought in person during His sojourn on earth, or by the hand of His servants since. But the words most especially refer to the Resurrection, the greatest of all His earthly miracles; and
in that He wrought this marvel alone : I have power to lay My life 'down and I have power to take it up again [John x. 18.], with no one to aid in the agony of His Passion, with no hand to pluck Him back from the grave. He said in prophecy of old : The year of My redeemed is come, and I looked and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore Mine own arm hath brought salvation unto Me and My fury it upheld Me [Isaias Ixiii. 4-5.]. We may also, following Lorin, take, without any material change in the meaning, the words as spoken by the Father, declaring that He wrought the salvation of mankind by one instrument alone—His own Right Hand, the only-begotten Son, by Whose second Coming, of which this Psalm speaks, as well as His first, the triumph will be completed.
(3) The Lord hath made known His salvation, and hath revealed His righteousness in the sight of the heathen.
It is the manifestation of the only-begotten Son, the Saviour of Mankind, the Light to enlighten the Gentiles of whom Simeon chanted his dying song while doubtless thinking of this Psalm. And observe, it is not said that God showed, but that He made known His salvation. For He had shown it in mystery of old to the Patriarchs. Adam knew Him as the Redeemer to come; and so did Abel, who offered Him a lamb; and Seth, who called on His Name ; and Noe, who was His type, saving mankind in the Ark ; and Abraham, who offered up his own son. But the world had forgotten Him, and therefore the Father made Him known. So the Carmelite. And the Carthusian points out that God did this with care that the Birth should not pass unnoticed ; for He made it known to shepherds by the angels, to the wise men by the star, to Zacharias by the angel Gabriel, to Simeon and Anna by the Holy Ghost. But to the Gentiles, who had no previous knowledge to be recalled, He revealed His righteousness in their sight. So we may notice that the Apostles never address their Gentile congregations in parables, as our Lord did the Jews. They make direct proclamation of the Gospel.
His salvation, His righteousness. These terms mean Jesus the Holy One, the Just One [Acts iii. 14.]. He is known to the faithful in the breaking of bread [Luke xxiv. 35] ; and to those outside He is declared by the Church, whose Unity He chose as the mark that might convince men of His Divine Mission [John xvii. 21.].
(4) He hath remembered His mercy and His truth towards the house of Israel.
The word remembered is here employed, as in the Benedictus and Magnificat, not in any way denoting that God could possibly forget, but to remind us of the length of time which passed before the promised Deliverer appeared, a delay which would, in any human analogy, be due to oblivion. But God is eternal : and a thousand years are as a day in His sight [Ps. Ixxxix. 4.] It is said towards the house of Israel because the promises of mercy were made originally to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so that God's truth was concerned in fulfilling this pledge. Accordingly the true manifestation of the Saviour, the first preaching of the Gospel, was among the people and in the land of Israel.
(5) All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
This latter verse, read in the light of the former, shows the uncovenanted mercies whereby His love overflows the contract He makes with His creatures. We are bound by His Covenant, but He can work without restrictions. Nothing can bind Him save Himself; and He, the Apostle tells us, is charity [I John iv. 8.].
All the ends of the earth. To all those Gentiles who had not claim on His truth : and yet to them, to us, He has shown Jesus His salvation. And precisely so runs the prophecy of Isaias : It is a light thing that Thou shouldst be My servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the desolations of Israel: I will also give Thee for a Light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth [xlix. 6.].
(6) Show yourselves joyful unto the Lord all ye lands : sing, rejoice, and give thanks.
Commentators tell us that by the use of these general words various grades of spiritual exultation are denoted, to each of which all lands, the whole extent of the Church, are invited.
Show yourselves joyful is the first inarticulate expression of the soul's delight, striving for utterance ; but not yet able to collect itself, nor perfectly to understand the nature of its gladness. Sing tells us that words of suitable devotion have been found at last. Rejoice tells us of the fervent happiness with which the saints pour forth their prayers to God. And give thanks (upon the harp) implies the active praise of good works performed for His sake.
(7) Praise the Lord upon the harp, upon the harp and with the voice of a psalm: with trumpets and with the sound of the shawm.
We have now five methods of rejoicing put before us, the five words of which St. Paul speaks : Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding . . . than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue [I Cor. xiv. 19.]. These five words answer, as Perez remarks, to the five titles given to our Lord in this Psalm, viz., right hand, holy arm, salvation, righteousness, and truth. As regards the mystical signification of the various instruments named here, we are reminded, first, that by the harp we are taught that all our faculties, all parts of our conduct, should be vocal with sweet melody to God. For a harp is imperfect if even one string be lacking or not in tune with the others. What profits it thee, then, if thou be chaste, liberal in almsgiving, and yet envious ? What advantage is it if thou have six strings whole and one broken ? The harp (a symbol of mortification, with its tense strings and empty hollow) is twice named, to teach us that bodily austerity and the practice of holiness need to be repeated and not left off after the beginning ; that we are to praise with body and soul in prosperity and adversity, in this life and the next: and it is coupled with the psalm of thanksgiving in the second place, because contemplation and prayer, in addition to active virtues, are essential to spiritual life and joy. Some, however, think that the ten-stringed harp is meant here, implying the keeping of the ten commandments.
With trumpets and shawms, or, literally, " on drawn-out trumpets and with the sound of the trumpet of horn." The first are aptly assigned to the heralding of the Gospel, while the humbler "trumpet of horn" to the pastoral teaching of Christian shepherds. Yet another view, that of Albert the Great, sees in the metal trumpets the martyrs of Christ; and in the cornet (horn), made of that which springs from the flesh, yet is not of it, the confessors who have kept their carnal affections in check by asceticism, and by lifting themselves up in the practice of prayer towards God.
(8) O show yourselves joyful before the Lord the King: Let the sea be moved and the fulness thereof: the round world and they that dwell therein.
(9) Let the floods clap their hands and let the hills be joyful together before the Lord: for He comes to judge the earth.
The Carmelite says, We show ourselves joyful before the Lord when we so constantly have Him in our thoughts, words, and deeds ; when we are conscious of acting with continual reference to Him and not to the world or to ourselves ; and when ours is a glad and filial service, not the servile letter of slaves. The notion of this clause, which really belongs to the former verse, is that of the processional march with music and singing to greet the King as He returns from victory and coronation. A monarch, in such cases, bestows largesse
upon his subjects. So our special time for rejoicing is when our King comes to judgment and bestows rewards on His faithful people. The Psalmist goes on to call inanimate creation, which, in St. Paul's words, groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now [Rom. viii. 22.], to swell the hymn of triumph raised by all that dwell in the round world. But as Corder, giving us various opinions of Oriental commentators, says, There are spiritual meanings underlying the various terms used. The sea, as one will have it, denotes the Law, once bitter, now made sweet by the word of the Cross ; or else the restless, tossing, bitter, and sorrowful life of the world and all that are mixed up with it; also those who shed the salt tears of penitence.
The round world, those within the circle of the Church, firm and fruitful.
The floods, drinking in the waters of wisdom from their source, and irrigating the dry land, denote all holy preachers of the word. The hills are those in high position, especially in the offices of the Church.
Let the sea be moved. St. Augustine observes that it is exactly when the storms of persecution are raging that saints are most zealous and most happy, clapping their hands in very joy in honour of their King.
The floods mean the faithful regenerated in the sweet waters of Baptism, and remind us that the rivers flow down from the hills, and bid us see herein the spiritual might and progress of the disciples in the Faith.
For He comes to judge the earth. With Bellarmine, we may take this either of our Lord's first or second Coming. If of the first, then the ground of rejoicing is because He comes to rule the earth with a Law, perfectly just ; and to do so, not as of old in the unseen Majesty of the Godhead, but in bodily and visible form, as a Man dwelling with men. If of the second Coming, then the theme of rejoicing is the final victory over sin and the making all things new [Apoc. xxi. 5.], when we are delivered at last from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the children of God [Cf. Rom. viii. 21.].
(10) With righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.
This Psalm ends precisely as does the first Psalm in this Nocturn, with the exception of the last word equity instead of truth. It is a word of hope and of fear alike. Of hope, because the feeble and the oppressed will find an advocate in their Judge ; for it is written : With righteousness shall He judge the poor and argue with equity for the meek of the earth [Is. xi. 4.]. Of fear, for, If Thou, Lord, will mark iniquities, Lord, who shall abide it ? [Ps. cxxix. 3.]. But as He hath not yet come for the second time, why should men tremble ? Let them amend and rejoice. It is in thine own power how thou shalt look for the Coming of Christ. He delays that Coming that He may not have to condemn thee. Behold He cometh not yet. He is in heaven and thou on earth. He delays His Coming, delay not thou thy counsel. His Coming is hard to the obdurate, but gentle to the loving. Look, then, at once what thou art; if obdurate, thou mayest soften ; if gentle, rejoice that He is coming. For thou art a Christian ? Yes, sayest thou. I believe thou prayest and sayest, Thy kingdom come. Thou desirest Him to come of Whose Coming thou art afraid. Repent lest thy prayer be against thyself. Thus St. Augustine.
Glory be to the Father, the Lord and King ; Glory to the Son, His Right Hand, Who shall judge the world with righteousness ; Glory to the Holy Ghost, Who declared the salvation of God.
VERSICLE AND RESPONSE.
Grace is poured forth on thy lips.
Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
These, taken from the first Psalm in the second Nocturn, fittingly conclude a Nocturn which has been mainly concerned with the office of our ever dear and blessed Lady towards the Mystical Body. They sum up everything. From the grace poured forth on her lips at the Fiat mihi comes all her blessedness in which we share so abundantly. It is well to fix this point into our minds : Mary is what she is to us, because she is the Mother of God. So our love for her will abound more and more [I Thess. iv. i.] in knowledge and understanding.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907