Argument [This Psalm is always said together with the two following, under one
Gloria and Antiphon ; and the custom is explained by Durandus as the triple
battle cry against the world, the flesh and the devil ; the joint anthem of Jews
Christians, and Gentiles ; the praise of the Trinity in Unity. The name of the
office of Lauds is derived from the word so frequently repeated, Laudate.],
Tomasi : That all things were made and created by the command of Christ. The voice of the Apostles to the people inviting all to the praise of the Creator.
Venerable Bede : The Prophet urges all creatures to the praises of the Lord; the rational and intellectual ones in person ; those which lack instinct or senses through the means of those which join in praising the Lord with the wisest use of thought [A recent writer styles this Psalm " The Voice of the Church Militant praising her Maker for the Resurrection."].
(1) Praise the Lord from the heavens : praise Him in the heights.
(2) Praise Him all ye His angels: praise Him all ye His powers.
This is a song of hope fulfilled, of liberty granted, of rest given. And therefore most fitly those very sons of God, the Angel hosts, are invited to begin the song from the heavens, and that from no lowly station therein, but in the heights, where Cherubim and Seraphim stand nearest to the Throne. They are to begin the Song of the New Creation ; for Man, though rejoicing in the message of Redemption, knows not how to praise as he ought, and therefore needs a voice to give the intonation to this Psalm. It is thus not a commandment, but a petition, that the Angels may continue what they always are doing ; so that Man may catch the strain, as the priest sings in the Preface of the Mass : " And therefore with the angels."
(3) Praise Him Sun and Moon : all ye Stars and Light praise, Him.
The Psalmist descends from the invisible and highest of creatures to those which, though far lower in dignity, are yet the highest and most glorious objects in the visible universe ; that what is greatest in light may praise Him first. Light, the primaeval creation, is an emblem of God. Light of Lights, is one of the similies used in the Nicene Creed to express the Divine Nature of God the Son. St. Gregory the Great says : As Christ in His Manhood praises the Father, ascribing all glory to Him, that God may be all in all, so, too, the Church, that moon which derives all her light from Him and waxes and wanes in brightness here in the world, together with all those righteous children of His who shine as stars [Dan. xii. 3.], praises Him in one hymn of thanksgiving. The Light, as something diverse from the orbs of brightness, also utter His laud, by typifying and disclosing Him. We may also take light as signifying that light which enlighteneth everyone coming into this world [John i. 9.], the light of Reason, which is the light of the Countenance of God which He has signed upon us [Cf. Ps. iv. 8.].
(4) Praise Him all ye heavens : and ye waters that are above the heavens, let them praise the Name of the Lord.
All ye heavens, words, says St. Augustine, implying at once their vast extent and unsearchable height. The Carmelite takes these words of our Blessed Lady, who for nine months was the abode of God made Man : and ye waters that are above the heavens of the Divine contemplation of the doctrines of the Gospels and the Apostles. Origen and St. Ambrose understand these waters as purely spiritual symbols ; and Jorgius tells us they are the abundant grace of the Holy Ghost: A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Apoc. xxii. I. ]. They may also be taken of the waters of Baptism, which open the way to us through the gates of heaven and which take their rise in the pierced Side of Jesus. St. Peter Chrysologus tells us that the waters of penitential tears, the weeping of Mary Magdalen, are above the heavens, because they rise at once and directly into the very presence of God.
(5) For He spoke the word and they were made : He commanded and they were created.
He spoke the Word when He said, before all Eternity : Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee [Ps. ii. 7.]. Thus says St. Augustine : And they were made, for the Word was God and all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made [John i. i, 3.].
He commanded. Our Lord Himself says : The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His Hands . So St. Paul draws out the doctrine that: Therefore by Him were all things created that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and in Him [Col. i. 16. ]. And as the Carmelite together with the Carthusian says : In that He not only made but created them, His divine origin, power, as well as His plastic and artistic wisdom, are implied. And also the whole sentence shows the instantaneous result of the Divine Fiat; for God calleth these things which are not as though they were [Rom. iv. 17.].
(6) He hath made them fast forever and ever ; He hath given them a law which shall not be broken.
Each created thing is not only formed to endure, in the type or the development, if not in the individual, but also has its place in the universe fixed by God's decree, that it may fulfil its appointed share of working out His Will. This is so even in the spiritual life. We have every one of us a state of perfection to which God calls us, and towards which all His graces are directed; for instance, it is idle for a Sister of Mercy to sigh after that kind of perfection which is part of the vocation of a Poor Clare. To each one His Gift [Cf. I Cor. vii. 7.]. God's will is for us to be perfect in our own vocation ; and it is to this end that we must direct all our efforts.
The Law, which He hath given to all heavenly things, to the Angels, to that bright and glorious City whence we are exiled pilgrims, is that of everlasting praise, their one task where there are no sins to struggle against, no wants to minister to. Thus St. Augustine.
(7) Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all depths.
We begin with the lowest part of creation. Some of the mediaeval commentators dwell on the words, dragons and all depths, to teach us that even the great red dragon [Apoc. xii. 3.] and all his brood in deepest hell are forced, however reluctantly, to praise the Lord by working out His ends when striving to do their own evil will. That devout anchoress, Mother Juliana of Norwich, says of the Evil one : All that God suffereth him to do turneth us to joy and him to shame and pain. And he hath as much sorrow when God giveth him leave to work as when he worketh not; and that is, for he may never do as ill as he would, for his might is all locked in God's hand [P. 48.],
Hugh of St. Victor, who explains this, as well as the succeeding verses, of various orders of saints, thinks great eminence to be signified by the size of the dragons, and profound wisdom in the depths where they lie ; and he gives as examples of his meaning such names as Abraham, Isaias, SS. Peter, John, Stephen and Nicholas.
(8) Fire, hail, snow, and ice: glades, : ye spirits of the storms who fulfil His Word.
Bellarmine points out that this enumeration teaches two lessons : that these are all agents of good, not of evil, in the world, and that they are all under the absolute control of God. Some commentators take these words as representing various kinds of sinners : Fire, men of burning passions ; hail, which crushes the grain, the persecutors ; snow, those cold in sin ; ice, frozen in unbelief; spirits of the storms, still fiercer persecutors ; yet all fulfilling His word. But Hugh of St. Victor lakes these words in quite the opposite sense. With him fire denotes souls fervent and glowing with charity ; hail, great preachers who pour down storm and lasting rebukes on sinners; snow, those white in purity ; ice, such as by mortification check whatever in them is too lax or flaccid; and all these, in their several ranks in the Church, cheerfully doing God's will. Nor is there any real difference between the two views ; for the opposition only denotes the various results of these very same qualities when under the guidance of God or when left to self-will.
(9) Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars ;
(10) Beasts and all cattle; creeping things and feathered fowls.
Following Hugh of St. Victor, mountains are saints eminent in holiness; hills, those who bring forth good works, especially by teaching others; cedars, those incorrupt in mortification and excelling in contemplation ; wild beasts, those called to practise solitude ; cattle, such as live together in the common life; creeping things, such who quietly and steadily occupy themselves in the active life ; feathered fowl, such as rise on high in heavenly contemplations.
(11) Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth ;
(12) Young men and maidens, old men and children, praise the Name of the Lord : for His Name is alone exalted.
Here, at last, says the seraphic doctor, St. Bonaventure, is the direct appeal to Man, as the highest of earthly beings, to take his part in the great anthem of praise.
Kings and princes, that is, all superiors, praise God, says Albert the Great, when they rule for the good of the people ; judges, when they decide with justice all cases that come before them. And there is great force in the words, all people, inasmuch as the worship of the true God is not confined within the limits of a single nation, but spreads all over the world.
Young men are those who are strong and in whom the Word of the Lord abideth, and have overcome the wicked one [I John ii. 14.]. Maidens, all those who in chastity serve God, even if they be among the wedded ; but above all, such as are nearer to Him by the Religious life ; while all others are included under the remaining head. Then comes the reason ; no longer, as in the fifth verse, the constraining force of an Eternal Law, too strong to be broken, that suffices for inanimate creations ; but Man must have his reason convinced, and his will moved before he submits.
His Name alone is exalted. That Name, says Gerovius, of Jesus, Who only is holy, Who only is the Lord, Who only is most high, with the Holy Ghost in the glory of God the Father : Who has a Name which is above every other name before which every knee must bow [Phil. ii. 9. ].
(13) His praise is above heaven and earth: and He hath lifted up the horn of His People.
His praise is above all created things ; for no creature, not even our ever dear and blessed Lady, can praise God as His Majesty demands. Only Infinity can worthily praise God ; hence Jesus, the Word Incarnate, is the Adorer, the Praiser of His Father. We join with Him in that eternal act of Praise which is ever going up in the Mass and the Office, and in every prayer which the Holy Ghost inspires.
He hath lifted up the horn of His people, that is, the power. First, by the Incarnation, next by the Passion, then by the the dignity and glory He bestows upon all who live His life and follow His law.
(14) A hymn for all His saints: even the children of Israel, a people that draweth nigh to Him.
What is a hymn, asked St. Augustine. A song with praise of God. If you praise God and do not sing it is not a hymn ; yea, rather, if you sing and do not praise God it is not a hymn you utter ; if you sing and praise something which is not God, song and praise together do not make you utter a hymn. A hymn, then, has these three properties : song, praise, and all directed to God. So this hymn is for all the children of the true spiritual Israel, even the people that draweth nigh to Him. The Carthusian says : It is truly said near; for the world to come as well as for this one, since it would be easier to annihilate heaven and earth than that any man who takes delight in God's praises should not be saved. What is then the hymn peculiar to these saints ? What but that very Alleluia which is the title and close of this Psalm.
" This is the strain, the eternal strain, the Lord of all things loves :
This is the song, the heavenly song, that Christ Himself approves :
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907