Title.—A Song of Degrees.
Tomasi: That Christ, breaking the snare of death, delivered us by the help of His Name. The voice of the Apostles and of all believers. Here is the fifth step. The voice of the Apostles concerning the ungodly Jew and unbelievers who walk in sin.
Venerable Bede : The fifth step is gratitude. The saints, remembering how many perils like a rushing torrent they have escaped through the Mercy of God at the very begining, confess their deliverance ever the work of God. They then give thanks that they have not been deceived by their persecutors but have been rescued from their broken snares.
(1) Unless the Lord had been in us, now may Israel say : unless the Lord had been in us.
(2) When men arose against us : perchance they would have swallowed us up.
In us. This is something more than being at our side : Thou, 0 Lord, art in us . . . . forsake us not 0 Lord our God, says Jeremias [xiv. 9.]. When God is the possessor and inhabitant of our heart, then, and then only, are we safe from any foe. In us as a Pilot of a storm-tossed ship ; in us as a Captain of an army in battle; in us as Head and Heart to the body, directing its thoughts and affections. And it is said in us and not in me; because as the pilgrims go up they sing at times one by one, and at other times in chorus ; because the many are one, since Christ is one, and the members of Christ are one in Him.
They had swallowed us up alive, that is, although wicked men can destroy the life of the body, the soul passes alive and scathless through the torments on to the reward.
(3) When their fury kindled against us : perchance the water had drowned us.
(4) Our soul hath passed through the torrent: perchance our soul would have had to pass through water unbearable.
In the midst of the danger God is with us, even when the torrent threatens destruction, according to the words of the Prophet : When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee : and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee [Is. xliii. 2.]. As used in Scripture waters stand for nations which pass away ; but the Rock in the midst remains unmoved. As it was with the persecutions the nations raised against the Church, so it was with the persecutors. And though the torrent submerged many, yet the Church emerged safely, and therefore it follows :—
(5) Blessed be the Lord: Who hath not given us over for a prey to their teeth.
The devil, the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour [i Pet. v. 8.], has allies and instruments among men, of whom it is written : There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives to devour the poor from off the earth and the needy from among men [Prov. xxx. 14.]. These bite and devour one another [Gal. v. 15.], and the saints, too, with slander and detraction ; and endeavour to make their prey as evil as themselves by incorporating them with their own body. Thus St. Bruno.
(6) Our soul is escaped as a sparrow : out of the fowler's net.
(7) The snare is broken: and we are delivered.
A snare, says St. Augustine, needs to be baited ; and the devil's bait for the souls of men is usually the pleasure of life. He hides it, says the Carmelite, in some unsuspected place ; not on the highway, where it soon may be detected and destroyed, but in some place near to it. He masks it carefully, and puts ease, wealth, self-indulgence, over it to tempt us. God cries aloud to us with His warnings and threats, lest we should give way to the tempter. If we do not listen, but fall into the snare, how can we save ourselves ? What is more helpless than a bird once entangled in the net ? It it said : The snare is broken. When ? When Christ broke the power of Satan. Why fearest thou ? Knowest thou not Who is thy Helper ? Yes, answer Christ's true soldiers, we know well. It is not our own strength or skill which has saved us; we have not broken the snare ourselves. Thus St. Ambrose.
(8) Our help is in the Name of the Lord: Who hath made both heaven and earth.
He hath made the earth whereon the snare is set : so that of right He can destroy that snare as laid unlawfully in His domain. He hath made the heaven for the souls He has delivered; so that they may fly upward, rejoicing. He Himself came down to earth that He might break the snare ; He returned to heaven that we might fly as doves to their windows [Is. lx. 8.], following where He showed the way.
Glory be to the Father Maker of heaven and earth ; Glory to the Son the Breaker of the snare ; Glory to the Holy Ghost our abiding Guest.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907