PSALM CXLIX. [A writer styles this Psalm " The New Song of the Church Suffering, those royal souls like kings bound in chains, like nobles laden with links of iron.']
Tomasi : That the praise of Christ should be celebrated in all churches. The voice of Christ to the faithful concerning the Resurrection, Judgment to come, promising rest to them who suffer for His Name, and power over all that afflict them.
Venerable Bede : The Psalmist says that a New Song should be sung to Christ the Lord, Who in divers ways, of His loving kindness, hath built up a universal Jerusalem out of the whole world. In the foregoing psalm he urged all creatures to the praises of the Lord ; here he hath furthermore plainly and specially signified that Israel ought to sing a New song, and be joyful in its own Lord Who caused it to be gathered together out of the multitude of the Gentiles. And mention is made of the power which is to be given to the saints in that Judgment, that the might of the Lord may be acknowledged in their glory.
(1) O sing unto the Lord a new song: let His praise be in the Church of the Saints.
No one that hath not put off the old man with his works [Col. iii. 9.] shall sing the new song; nay, it is, moreover, necessary to put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the Image of Him that created him [Ibid. 10.] in order to be able to sing it. And a new song, looked at historically, is a glorious and especial chant, sung in honour of some success and victory; but in the allegorical sense it is a Canticle of the New Testament. For then all things were made new ; a new creation, a new man, a new life, new commandments, new grace, new promises, new sacraments, new precepts. The old man has an old song, the new man a new one. The old song is the Old Testament, the new song the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the promises are temporal and earthly : whoso, then, loveth temporal things sings the old songs; but he who desires to sing the new song must love things eternal. And this song is of peace and charity. It cannot be sung apart from the Church of the saints, from the united Canticle of all the whole earth [Ps. xcv. i.]. He who sings not in this wise, let him sing what he will, he does not sing the new song. With his tongue he may utter Alleluia all day and all night; yet it is not the voice of the singer but the conduct of the doer which has to be noted. I ask and say, what art thou singing ? And one answers Alleluia. What does Alleluia mean ? " Praise ye the Lord," or " O come, let us praise the Lord together." If thou art praising the Lord and I am praising the Lord, why are we at discord ? Charity praiseth the Lord, discord blasphemes Him. Thus St. Augustine.
His praise is in the Church of the saints. In the Catholic Church, not in the congregations of those outside the Unity, far less in the assemblies of the wicked ; for of Sion it is written : Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody [Is. li. 3.]. To the souls in Purgatory it is a new song, the first echoes of which they caught at the Judgment Seat when Christ was gracious to them.
In that Church of the Saints —Purgatory—God's praise is unceasing; for their salvation is secured ; and when the Red Sea of suffering is passed and they join the Triumphant Church of the Saints, the New Song, begun in Purgatory, will go on for ever, swelling with more and more rapture. It is truly a new song the blessed sing ; for the matter of it never grows old, the delight of it never grows weary ; for that delight is always fresh in love, and ever fresh in practice. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day and for evermore [Heb. xiii. 8.]. It is truly new, because it renews men's minds with eternal blessedness. And so we read : Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old: Behold I will do a new thing [Is. xliii. 18.]. Says St. Bonaventure: Sing not therefore with Lucifer, who began with a loud voice an anthem in heaven, saying : I will ascend unto heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High [Ibid. xiv. 14.] ; a voice beginning in pride, then going on to suggestion, and ending in a cry of despair. Sing not with Adam's three dissonant tones of credulity, consent, and excuse ; but sit down at the feet of the New Man and learn of Him to begin from the lowest note. He says : Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart [Matt. xi. 29.].
(2) Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him : and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King.
All those Israelites, indeed, in whom there is no guile, are bidden to rejoice; for God is worshipped chiefly by faith, hope and charity ; and the companions and fruits of these are righteousness, peace and joy.
While all Israel, God's chosen people, rejoice in their Maker, it is the special privilege of the children of Sion, the saints of the Church Militant, especially such as are striving after perfection in the way of the Counsels, to be joyful in their King, their Anointed Priest and Sovereign. For He bears to them a special relation which He does not to any other beings in creation. Wherefore Holy Church saith : But, am I by Him appointed King upon His holy hill of Sion [Ps. ii. 6.]. Yes, adds Cassiodorus, they shall indeed be joyful when they see Him, the Almighty, Him the Bestower of everlasting rewards, Whose future coming in majesty they have believed. What bounds will there be to that joy of beholding the Lord of all things, Whom we believe to have died for the salvation of all ? We cannot know the measure of that gladness; but we know it will surpass all understanding; for the Truth hath promised it. Once more Israel, the Chosen princes of God, now reigning in bliss, the future companions of the souls in Purgatory, or they themselves exiled as Jacob was from his father's home.
Children of Sion. Those who are united together by charity and the assistance of prayer ; for they should be joyful to their King in giving Him back the souls in Purgatory.
(3) Let them praise His Name in the choir: let them sing praises unto Him with timbrel and harp.
Choir is a figure of the Unity of the Faith; and St. Ambrose alleges that the introduction of choirs into the Christian Church was not so much for musical effect as for the purpose of symbolising concord of mind. Psalmody, says he, unites those who were at variance, makes friends of opponents, reconciles the offended. Who could help forgiving a man with whom he has been uttering the same praise to God? With timbrel and harp. The timbrel or tambourine, consisting of a skin stretched tightly upon a frame of wood, is a type of crucifixion to the world, and of bodily mortification; for this skin is that of a dead animal. On the other hand, the harp, with its ten strings, resembles the timbrel, in so far as immediate agent of sound (the strings) is strained to the wooden framework. It also denotes active compliance with the Ten Commandments of the Moral Law.
(4) The Lord is well pleased with His people: and the meek unto salvation.
The Lord is well pleased with His people. In those who submit to His law, not with the subjects of the prince of this world.
He exalteth the meek unto salvation, raising them to His Own right hand in the Judgment. The literal meaning is, He shall beautify the meek unto salvation, that is, not only in the sense of giving costly riches and precious gems instead of the torn, soiled and dishevelled garb of sorrow, as the Prophet says : To appoint unto them that mourn in Sion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness [Is. Ixi. 3.] ; but in giving them, as St. Jerome says, the Pearl of great Price for their ornament.
(5) Let the saints be joyful in glory : let them rejoice in their beds.
The saints rejoice even in Purgatory in their beds, in the peaceful secrecy of divine contemplation, in their heart and conscience, as knowing the night is far spent and the day is at hand [Rom. xiii. 12.], and as being secure and at peace under the wings of God, as it is written : I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely [Osee ii. 18.]. Even here on earth those who seek God's will and whose minds are set on Him rejoice in the security of His love, and their joy no man can take from them.
And lastly, the majority of commentators take the words of the final consummation of bliss in the many mansions of the kingdom of heaven, where the saints rest from their labours.
(6) Let the high praises of God and- be in their mouth, and two-edged swords in their hands.
These high praises, according to St. John Chrysostom, are the two-edged swords, which in the hands of the saints do more to discomfort their foes than any worldly prowess. And the praises of God set on our lips by Holy Church in Public Prayer are taken for the most part out of Holy Scripture, which St. Paul speaks of as sharper than any two-edged sword [Heb. iv. 12.]. Dwelling on this view of the two-edged sword, St. Augustine draws out its meaning as smiting out of the Old and New Testament; having temporal promises and consolations in one edge and eternal ones in the other. This sword draws men from their nearest and dearest when their ties become incompatible with duty towards God; and while thus severing, yet consoles him who has courage to cut boldly with it even if he smites off his own right hand. And this sword of the Word is said to be in their hands, not their mouths, because of the vigour and effect with which they use it. Then, again, it may be taken of the pains the souls in Purgatory have to undergo; for the two-edged swords serve for the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discoverer of the thoughts and intents of the heart [Ibid.]. It is in their hands, for it is their own faults for which they make expiation. It is they who desire to go for a while from the Face of Him in Whose sight they know they are not pure, as St. Catherine of Genoa teaches. But while thus by their own hands they suffer they never lose the high praises of God in their mouth. And again, the words can be taken of that share of the saints in the judicial power of Him out of Whose mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword [Apoc. i. 16.] to smite the sinner and cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites [Matt. xxiv. 51.].
Wherefore follows :—
(7) To be avenged of the nations : and to rebuke the people.
(8) To bind their kings in chains: and their nobles with links of iron.
Now, says St. Augustine, we have seen the saints armed; let us watch the slaughter, watch the glorious battle. If Christ is our general, then we also are soldiers. This implies we have an enemy, and there is warfare and a victory behind. What have Christ and His soldiers done with the two-edged sword in their hands ? Used it to be avenged of the nations, by extinguishing paganism and breaking down the idols.
To rebuke the people. Let that two-edged sword of rebuke go forth of you ; cease not, God has given it to you. When the sinner begins to feel ashamed, when he suffers the prick of conscience, the sword has made a wound, it reaches his heart. He dies that he may live.
To bind their kings in chains, and their nobles with links of iron. Christ came for the good of all ; but He chose that the Emperor of Rome, the type of the world, should be benefited by the Fisherman, not the Fisherman by an Emperor. So He chose things of no weight in the world ; He filled them with the Holy Ghost; He gave them two-edged swords ; He taught them to preach the Gospel to the whole world. It raged, the Lion lifted himself up against the Lamb, but the Lamb proved sharper than the Lion. The Lion was conquered by his own fury; the Lamb conquered by suffering. Why links of iron ? As long as fear rules the heart, those conquered by the sword of God are bound in chains of iron ; but let Love gain the mastery, and then the Law, which pressed so heavily upon us, becomes changed into the sweet Law of Liberty, whose links are of gold. Looking at these verses in another way, we see the light which Purgatory gives us upon the unutterable holiness of God. The manifestation of the vengeance exacted for sin is God's rebuke to Christians for their carelessness. Those who have been looked up to as great in position, learning, authority, and what not, may be nothing in God's sight but sinners; and if dying so, will be bound in chains and links of iron and cast into the darkness outside the light of heaven, until the last farthing of their debt is paid. Lastly, these verses are taken of the sentence the saints shall assist in passing at the Last Judgment on those who, of their own freewill, remain in their wickedness.
(9) To execute on them the judgment written : such glory is to all His saints.
Judgment written, that is pre-ordained, fixed, unalterable, foreseen as the result of our free will. So God spoke by the prophet : Behold it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom [Is. Ixv. 6.].
Such glory is to all His saints. Because the judicial power of Christ is not shared with the Apostles only, but with all the righteous, as it is written : They shall purge the nations and have dominion over the people : and the Lord shall reign for ever [Wis. iii. 8.]. So is it with the saints throughout the world; so they deal in every nation ; so they exalt God in their mouths ; so they rejoice in their beds; so they are beautified with salvation ; so they sing the new song; so they say with heart, voice and life, Alleluia. Thus St. Augustine.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907