Title. —A Psalm of Confession.
Tomasi: That we, made by Christ, ought to rejoice, serve, and pray unto Him. The voice of the Apostles to the people. And exhortation of gratitude that we should serve God.
Venerable Bede : The whole of this Psalm belongs to the two kinds of Confession, to wit, of penitence and of praise. In the first part the Prophet exhorts all creation to praise the Lord with exultation, and lest thou shouldst suppose that this kind of confession is always to be used, He promises us in the second part that if we repent of our sins we can enter through the gates of His forgiveness [Agelli says : This Psalm is properly a liturgical one, and from its wording appears to have been especially intended for the sacrifices of thank-offering made with an oblation of fine flour. It is thus a prophecy of the one offering of the Holy Eucharist to be made, not by Aaronic priests in Jerusalem alone, but by Gentile priests and Levites in every country of the world.].
(1) O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands : serve the Lord with gladness.
O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands. All are invited, there is no acceptance of persons; the summons is to all that labour and are heavy laden, that they may rejoice, and trust in no perishable good, but in the Lord. The plural verbs joined to a singular noun (in the Latin) points to the union of all races of mankind in one harmonious chorus of praise.
Serve the Lord. The very end of our creation. But His service is not like that of earthly masters. In His service is true liberty found, in it there is no sighing, no mourning. None will desire to be freed, for, sweet thought! we shall know we are ransomed. The service of the Lord is free ; because not necessity, but love serves therein : For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one the other [Gal. v. 13.]. Let Love, says St. Augustine, make thee a servant; because Truth makes thee free. With gladness, not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver [2 Cor. ix. 7.]. With gladness, because, says St. Paul, the sorrow of the world worketh death [Ibid. vii. 10.].
Speaking of the service of God, St. Augustine says : To serve Him is to reign. Again: He who serves unwillingly makes a slavery for himself. But, says an old writer, if thou put good-will into thy service thou wilt find thou art not God's servant, but His son. The Carmelite tells us that fitness for God's service involves many things : bodily purity and cleanliness, reputableness of character, orderliness, sparingness in living and substance, humility and reverence, cheerfulness and gladness, since all these qualities answer to attributes of the Master we serve.
(2) Come in before His presence with rejoicing.
There are several ways of coming into God, says the Carmelite. We should come in as doves into the windows of Christ's Wounds: Come away, O my dove, into the clefts of the Rock [Cant. ii. 14.] ; as sheep in the sheep-fold : Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring in [John x. 16.] ; as the fearful into a strong refuge : Let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there [Jer. viii. 14.] ; as men forgiven into penance : I will give him the valley of Achor for a door of hope [Osee ii. 15.] ; as a prince unto his dignity : There shall enter into the gates of the city kings and princes upon the throne of David [Jer. xvii. 25.]; as conquerors into a captured city : The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent alone shall take it by storm [Matt. xi. 12.] ; as a procession into a church : They shall enter into My holy place, and they shall come near to My table [Ezek. xliv. 16.]; as the elect into glory : Let us therefore labour to enter into that rest [Heb. iv. n.]. This we are to do with rejoicing. And yet, as St. Peter Chrysologus remarks : Archangels fear, Powers are filled with dread, the Elders fall down on their faces before the Throne, the elements fly, the rocks melt, the mountains flow down, the earth quakes ; and shall Man, who is earth, enter thus fearlessly and stand upright, rejoicing ? How can the Prophet be bold to say that this is what we ought to do ? Because of the words that follow:—
(3) For know ye the Lord He is God: He made us and not we ourselves.
It is because the Lord is God ; that Lord Who was a little Child in our flesh, Who lay cradled a helpless Babe, Who nestled so peacefully on His Mother's bosom, Who was gentle and meek in His converse with us, laying aside all the terrors of the Godhead, all the awfulness of the Judge. It is because of all this that we are bold to enter His Presence with rejoicing, going more to meet the welcome embraces of a loving Father, than the searching examination of our secret sins. Says St. Augustine: Think not meanly of that Lord; for though ye crucified Him, crowned Him with thorns, clad Him with a robe of scorn, hung Him on a tree, pierced Him with nails, smote Him with a lance, and set guards at His tomb, yet He is God, He made us; for by Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made [John i. 3.]. He made us, says Honorius, in our first creation of Nature : He made us also in the second and more glorious creation of Grace. Not we ourselves; for, 0 Lord Thou art our Father; we are the clay and Thou our Maker; and we all are the work of Thy hand [Is. Ixiv. 8.].
(4) We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture : O enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with hymns : Confess ye unto Him.
We are His people, that is, serving Him with intelligent obedience, with confident love : I to My beloved and My beloved to Me [Cant. vi. 2.],
The sheep of His pasture. Because we constitute His inheritance and His wealth ; we need His guidance, are ruled, cared for, preserved by Him. We find Him so loving and tender, that we cannot forget Him ; we seek Him with sighs and yearnings ; we know and hear His voice and follow Him, but no other.
His pasture. Here is a reference to the food He provides for our sustenance, even His very own Body and Blood ; this is the pasture wherewith the Good Shepherd feeds us in the wide and pleasant meadows of His Church, even as He once fed Israel in the pleasant fields of Canaan. Thus Agelli.
Confess ye unto Him. St. Augustine teaches us that repentance must be the outset of the service of God, unto Whose gates we enter with the confession of sins, not attempting to burst forth in the language of praise till, growing in holiness, we penetrate into His courts. Another writer, reminding that our Lord calls Himself " the Door, " explains the gates of our Lady, the Apostles, and others, by whom men enter into Him, making confession first and renunciation of all their sins. And after this straight and painful entrance we should go at once into the spacious courts of charity, passing into the width of heavenly contemplation. There is a stress on His gates, which are many, that we may learn to distinguish these from gates which are not His, by which men often enter in confession. There is the gate of hypocrisy, of which we read : These people draw near with their mouth and with their lips do honour Me, but their heart is far from Me [Is. xxix. 13.]; the gate of pride : I am not as the rest of men [Luke xviii. II.]; the gate of despair: I have sinned in betraying innocent Blood [Matt, xxvii. 4.] ; the gate of treachery : Master, we know that Thou art a true speaker [Ibid. xxii. 16.] ; the gate of flattery : Thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God [I Kings xxix. 9.] ; the gate of mockery : Hail Thou, King of the Jews [Matt, xxvii. 29.] ; the gate of confusion; I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of Israel [Mark i. 24.]; and lastly, that of sacrilege : Unto the ungodly, saith God, why dost thou preach My Law ? [Ps. xlix. 16.]. Opposed to all these gates of the evil one, are the Twelve Gates of the City of God, named from the twelve tribes of Israel [Apoc. xxi. 12.]. On the north, the type of sin, lie Reuben, Juda and Levi. Reuben, Behold the Son, is the prodigal returning to show himself to his father ; Juda, confession or praise, the giving God glory by acknowledgment of sin ; Levi, joined, is the being united to God by abandonment of errors. On the east, the region of light and prayers, are Joseph, the increase in good works ; Benjamin, trust in the right hand of God alone and desire for the good things set there; Dan, reverent thought of the coming Judge. On the south, perfected in love, are Simeon, Issachar, Zabulon. Simeon, heard in prayer; Issachar, the hireling, who has accepted the summons and entered the vineyard ; Zabulon, dwelling, because they shall go out no more, but dwell in the court of the Lord. And on the west, towards the sun-setting type of death, are Gad, Asser, Naphthali. Gad, the troop, denotes the innumerable company of angels and saints ; Asser, their blessedness, in the Vision of God ; Naphthali, a wrestler, reminds us that no one is crowned except after the fight. And these are the Gates through which God's true servants must enter in confession.
(5) Praise His name, for the Lord is sweet: His mercy is for ever, and His truth from generation to generation.
Three reasons are here given us for praising the name of God : His sweetness, His everlasting mercy, and His abiding truth.
He is sweet; for in Him is no bitter at all; He is sweet; for never can He be so angry with a sinner as not at once to be appeased by sincere sorrow.
His mercy is for ever. Because, says Honorius, on the one hand, He extends the acceptable time, the day of salvation, to the end of the world for all, to the end of life for each sinner, rejecting none, and not closing the door of grace till the very last necessary moment; and, on the other, He will keep His Redeemed in heaven for ever the objects of His boundless mercy.
And His truth from generation to generation. Because the promise He made to the Patriarchs He fulfilled to their descendants by coming in person, no longer in type and prophecy ; because His words in Holy Writ shall never pass away, even when heaven and earth are gone; because He keeps to the uttermost in this world, and the next, the pledges given to His disciples of bestowing everlasting blessedness.
Glory be to the Father, Who is sweet for He hath given His Son for us ; Glory to the Son Whose mercy is everlasting as He for ever pleads for us; Glory to the Holy Ghost Whose truth endureth in the Church unto the end of the world.
We run after the odour of thine ointments; young maidens have loved Thee exceedingly.
Now we contemplate the glory, which, as a sweet ointment, pervades the whole being of the Mother of God, crowned Queen of heaven and earth. It attracts us and we run after her example ; and So run that we may obtain the prize [i Cor. ix. 24.] of Eternal Life, even as she has won it. The latter part of the Antiphon recalls our vocation. It was when we were young and generous that the glory and sweetness of our Lady attracted us to serve God after her example. Happy we, if, when the enthusiasm of youth be passed, we preserve still that solid love for Mary which is so helpful for attaining the true knowledge and love of her Divine Son.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907