The introductory Prayers and Hymns are the same as at Prime. The Antiphon is taken from Lauds (the second) according to the season.
Title. —A Song of Degrees [This Psalm begins what are called the "Gradual Psalms" or "Songs of Degrees." One ancient Jewish view is that they were intended to be liturgically used in processions to the Temple, one upon each of the fifteen steps leading up to the great portal. But the most ancient Christian tradition, without being inconsistent with this one, is more probable, viz., that they are originally pilgrim songs for going up to Jerusalem. These Psalms were said daily before Matins in the reforms begun by St. Benedict of Aniane. At present they are said, in choirs, on Wednesdays in Lent, and are divided into three sets, each with its own Versicles and Collect: the first for the dead, the second for sinners, the third for all Christian folk. The recitation of the fifteen "Gradual Psalms" was a favourite private devotion of our catholic forefathers.].
Tomasi : That Christ may bestow on us a dart wherewith to confound unrighteous tongues. The voice of Christ in the Passion. The voice of Christ to the Father touching the Jews. The Songs of Degrees are the progresses of souls, whereby, ascending from the desire of a holy life to better things, they are perfectly delivered in heaven from trouble and perils of this present life.
Venerable Bede : " Songs of Degrees " are songs of Ascensions, whence the more significant Greek name is Songs of goings up, because they lead only towards heavenly things ; as though one had fallen into a pit and a ladder were set that he might be able to ascend. So when the people of Israel were come to the pit of captivity, and in their trouble called upon the Lord, they were heard and brought back to their country. After this example, whosoever falls into the pit of sin has degrees of humility whereby he may return above. Throughout the Psalm the Prophet speaks.
(1) When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord: and He heard me.
Says St. John Chrysostom : Seest thou the gain of affliction, seest thou the readiness of mercy ? The gain of affliction, in that it brings men to pour forth holy prayers ; the readiness of mercy, granted at once when they call. Therefore Christ declares those blessed who mourn [Matt. v. 4.]. If, then, thou wouldest ascend these steps, cut away whatever is luxurious and relaxed in thy life, gird thyself with diligent conduct, and withdraw from earthly things. This is the first going-up. Even one step upwards is leaving earth ; and lowly as the place is, it is not the less the first elevation. Note the admirable order of the words. First comes trouble, then a cry, lastly a hearing ; to make us know that the prayers of the faithful reach the Lord in an appointed order. The trouble against which the saints call on God is not such as the world fears, but the snares of sin in all its forms, lest they should subdue our weak natures and drag us down to the depths of evil. And all true prayer for deliverance must unite in itself the three marks of this one ; necessity, when I was in trouble; devotion, I called; direction in the right way, upon the Lord. Thus St. Hilary and Cardinal Hugo.
(2) Deliver my soul, 0 Lord, from unrighteous lips: and from a deceitful tongue.
St. Basil says, the moment a man begins to go up, that is, to think of advancing in spiritual things and of despising the world that he may cling to God alone, he begins to suffer from the tongues of adversaries, and, what is more grievous, from those who try to turn him away from salvation. He who does not suffer opposition may know that he is not even trying to advance.
Unrighteous lips. Such as are shameless, open in daring and execution. A deceitful tongue is treacherous and mischievous, by reason of dissembling, because it aims at overthrowing religion under the name of religion, and bends down to death with the hope of life. . . .' . We find them both in the history of our first parents. Unrighteous lips said, Eat. Then the deceitful tongue added, Ye shall be as gods, ye shall not surely die [Gen. iii. 4, 5.]. The Carmelite adds, it is not only from the wicked lips and tongues of others that the disciple of Christ needs to be delivered, but from his own ; from all boastfulness, spiritual pride and glorying in his own merits.
(3) What shall be given to thee, or what shall be added to thee : unto the deceitful tongue ?
(4) The sharp arrows of the Mighty, with desolating coals.
St. Hilary explains this verse as, What weapons of defence shall be given to thee against evil speakers ? In which case the next verse supplies the answer : the Word of God, sharp as an arrow in the hands of a strong man and consuming as red-hot coals. St. Augustine takes the coals as denoting the examples of those sinners, once cold and black, but now converted to God and glowing with His love. But other commentators, dwelling on the word desolating, think it is an awful warning against the destruction that attends the deeds of sinners and awaits themselves. Others take coals as fervent prayer in reference to the touching of Isaias' lips with a coal from the altar [Is. vi 6.]. Another commentator notes that arrows at most take away life, and may be the cause of glory, as with martyrs ; but coals brand where they touch and add dishonour to death. Another explanation takes arrows as the sting of conscience and coals as the punishment of a deceitful tongue.
(5) Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged ; I have dwelt with the dwellers of Cedar: my soul hath been long a sojourner.
St. Hilary explains the verse in this manner : The saints long to be dissolved and to be with Christ [Phil. i. 2.]. The body is the dark tent (Cedar meaning black) in which the soul is imprisoned. He also lays stress on the word with (the dwellers of Cedar), as being something different from in their company. This denotes that although the saints live in the flesh, yet the arms of their warfare, not being carnal, they do not dwell in the tents of Cedar, but only beside them, and are not in the flesh but in the spirit [Rom. viii. 9.]. Says St. Augustine, sojourning is a pilgrimage. He who dwells in a foreign land, not in his own country, is called a sojourner. St. Paul tells us the same : Here we have no abiding city, but seek one to come [Heb. xiii. 14.]. Heaven, says Bellarmine, is our true fatherland, and unhappy are they who are away from it ; for the stateliest palaces of earthly monarchs, in comparison with the Golden City, are but as the rough tents of the wandering Arabs. Long a sojourner. And yet three-score and ten is no very long sojourn as time goes ; but it is very long, and very weary, and full of sorrow to those who regard themselves, and sigh after the Life without end given us in our Fatherland [Qui vitam sine termino Nobis donet in Patria. St. Thomas Aquinas.].
(6) With them that hate peace I was peaceful : when I spoke unto them that assailed me me without cause.
St. Augustine observes that we have here the voice of the Church protesting against any unwise attempts to narrow her limits, to break her unity, to rend her fellowship, on the ground that within her pale are found many whose lives are in contradiction to her teaching. Says St. Prosper : It is a part of Christian perfection to be peaceful, even with them that hate peace, in the hope of amending them, not through assent to their evil ways. The deepest sense is, with the Carmelite, to take these words of our Divine Lord. For three and thirty years He was in the midst of men who hated Peace. He is the Prince of Peace; and when He spoke to carnal Israel, as man never spoke before, they tried to cast Him headlong, then to stone Him, and at last cried out : Away with Him I Away with Him I Crucify Him ! [John xix. 15.] Not less does the earlier part tell us of Him Who cried out to His Father all night in prayer, and in the Garden, and on the Cross; and Who was heard and raised again and exalted.
Glory be to the Father Who hears us in the day of trouble. Glory to the Son Who is Peace. Glory to the Holy Ghost Who comforts us in our sojourning with Cedar.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907