Title. —A Song of Degrees.
Tomasi : That Christ sitteth and makes seats for sitting in judgment. The voice of the Church to the Apostles. The voice of Christ to the Church.
Venerable Bede : Another step higher up. The Prophet is lifted to the third degree, reaching higher than the second, and is declared to have made a beginning of the Psalm in his very gladness. He rejoices that he has been counselled to come to the heavenly Jerusalem, where the saints abide ever now in sure prosperity and shall judge together with the Lord. He then speaks to the citizens of Jerusalem concerning their abundant peace.
(1) I rejoiced in those things which were said unto me: we will go into the House of the Lord.
Who have said these things ? The Prophets who foretold the return from Captivity, and in that figure, the return to the heavenly Jerusalem. And again, who are the we who speak ? The Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity speaking to us by the Prophets and Apostles, and saying not Go, but We will go and be your Guides and Companions on the road to that House which admits the righteous only. In that They say it to me, the unity of the Church, the individuality of the promises, is denoted. In that it is added, we will go —the multitude of them that are of one heart and mind is shown forth. There are four Houses of God into which the faithful soul goes. First, the Church Militant ; then the inner House of Conscience ; then the House of Suffering ; and lastly, the House of Heaven in which there are many mansions. How are we to go ? On the two feet of charity, answers a saint, Love of God and Love of our neighbour. Richard of St. Victor takes this verse in an allegorical sense as referring to our first parents rejoicing in the hopes of regaining Paradise. It is said we will go because neither the hand alone nor the heart suffice for that journey. Adam does not desire to enter without Eve, for Knowledge without Love is unprofitable; it is altogether impossible for Eve to enter without Adam, for if we knew nothing of Divine things we shall not love them at all. And lastly, it is taken of the gladness of the saints at entering into their rest through the gate of Death.
(2) Our feet were standing: in Jerusalem. thy courts 0 Jerusalem.
The Carthusian says : The very sign and cause of our hope that we shall go into the House of the Lord is that our feet are even now standing within the gates of Jerusalem, that is, in God's Holy Church where our desires and contemplations are fixed and set on the mansions above, because our conversation is in heaven [Phil. iii. 20.]. He stands there who delights himself in God : and he whose delight is in himself cannot stand, but must, as Lucifer, fall through his pride. Thus St. Augustine. The oratory, the choir, are the very courts of Jerusalem ; for there we gain that peace of which that City is the Vision.
(3) Jerusalem which is built as a city : which is at unity with itself.
St. Hilary points out that the Psalmist, referring to the temporal city, does not say that it is a city, but only that it is built as a city; because it is, at the best, but a faint and shadowy type of the true Jerusalem, the City Eternal made without hands. This heavenly City is being built now, of living stones ; and it is a true City, for its inhabitants are united together and share in unity with Him Who is no other than Jesus Christ, by Whose merits they become citizens of heaven, and Whose Headship they all acknowledge. The heavenly Jerusalem has points of resemblance to an earthly city ; its many mansions [John xiv. 2.] ; its unity of law, love ; its one king, Jesus ; its fountain, Mary ; its twelve gates, the Apostles [Apoc. xxi. 12.] ; its citizens, the angels and saints ; its walls and bulwarks, salvation.
(4) For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord : the testimony unto Israel to praise the Name of the Lord.
In the Law it was ordered that all males three times a year should present themselves before the Lord [Exod. xxiii. 17.] to attest their loyalty to Him and to claim the privilege of the Covenant [Deut. xvi. 16.]. It is not said the tribes of Israel but the tribes of the Lord; that is, the Gentiles ; those who have come into the Church, not by inheritance. They are often by their earnestness and devotion, a testimony unto Israel. They go up to Israel ', for out of Sion shall go forth the Law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem [Is. ii. 3.]. Their presence in Jerusalem is a witness of their obedience and an example given to others.
(5) For there they have set thrones of judgment, thrones over the house of David.
Here is the third glory of Jerusalem, says St. John Chrysostom. It is not merely stately and strong in beauty, the gathering-place of all the tribes, but it is also the seat of kingly power and justice. Thrones : for all manner of causes come before the judges, even the judging of the world. Ye shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel [Matt. xix. 28.]. The apostolic thrones are over the house of David; for his throne was an earthly one; and theirs are set to judge angels [I Cor. vi. 3.] as well as men.
(6) O pray for the peace of Jerusalem : and plenteousness to them that love thee.
(7) Peace be within thy strength: and plenteousness within thy towers.
Jerusalem is not only a type of heaven ; it also, being the Vision of Peace and at unity with itself, is a type of the Church. In this verse a prayer is made for peace in our days. For although the Church must always be prepared for battle, and lives in an armed truce, peace is necessary for her development and for the legitimate exercise of her influence. Peace is secured by attending to the strength of the walls and to the abundance of provisions for its citizens. The first secures it from without; and the second from want within. The Church's walls are Faith, Hope, and Charity; and in her sacraments she has provision enough for all the children of men. And that the faithful may enjoy to the full these benefits, she wants peace. St. Bernard takes the strength to be the Passion of our Lord ; and the towers the height of heavenly grace and glory attained by those who love Him.
(8) For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will speak peace of thee.
There are two senses in which we may take this verse : because all thy citizens are my brethren, or because my brethren now in exile are to be brought home. One, for it gives us the rejoicing sense of fellowship in the communion of saints ; the other, the eager yearning of all devout souls for those who have gone astray. Some commentators take these words as those of Christ Himself promising present blessings and future glory to the Church on earth, for both He that sanctified and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren [Heb. ii. 11.],
(9) Yea, because of the House of the Lord our God, I have sought good things to thee.
We must carry good-will with action ; first that of earnest prayer that God may grant His City all desirable blessings, and next diligently seeking out all good things to increase the power and wealth of that City. Good things; all that can tend to the increase of God's Church. Souls, above all; for they are the future citizens of heaven : virtue and merit in our own soul; for that increases the wealth and attractiveness of the Church. We should have put the last first; for the surest way of converting others is first of all to convert oneself. A man who is set upon self-conversion will do far greater work in secretly influencing souls in a practical, healthy way, than one who deliberately sets himself out to gain converts. The real work is done by example, not by word.
Glory be to the Father the Builder of the heavenly Jerusalem. Glory to the Son in Whom the citizens are all at unity. Glory to the Holy Ghost Who has told us that we shall go into the House of the Lord.
LITTLE CHAPTER [Eccle. xxiv. 2.].
And so was I strengthened and likewise in the holy City did I rest, and in Jerusalem was my power.
Thanks be to God.
Grace is poured forth on thy lips.
Therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.
The words of the Little Chapter direct our minds to Mary, of whom all these Psalms speak. She who was so peaceful and yet suffered ; who dwelt so high on the holy mountain, and watched over Israel's God ; She who was the New Jerusalem in which the King dwelt and whose unity was in Him ; She is given a place in the Church which is strong like the Rock on which it is built. She has been set as the Mother of the Church ; through her cometh the help we look for from the Lord; for in heaven, where her power is, she reigns as Queen of Angels and Saints. The thought of the powerful advocate we have makes us say a fervent thanksgiving to God Who has so blessed her on account of the grace that is in her. The Myroure says on this Little Chapter : " These words are read both of our Lord Jesus Christ and also of our Lady; for by her we have Him. Here are named three places : Sion, City, and Jerusalem. By Sion, that is as much as to say ' beholding,' is understood souls that are given to contemplation wherein our Lord Jesus Christ is surely stablished, for they are not troubled about many things as others are. By the hallowed City is understood souls given to active life wherein our Lord Jesus Christ resteth by charity that they have to their fellow-Christians. For City is as much as to say one body of citizens, and it is said ' hallowed' by the pureness of intention that they offer to God in all their works. By Jerusalem is understood prelates and governors that have power and care upon both contemplative and active life; and therefore their life is called the mixed life, as being a mean between action and contemplation, having part with both. For they ought to see that both be kept in peace, according to their calling ; and therefore they are understood by Jerusalem, that is as much as to say, the ' sight of peace'; for they ought to have sight of wisdom and of discretion to know how to keep peace with all parties. And to that end He hath shared with them His own power ; and therefore He saith : And in Jerusalem is my power [ Pp. 147-8. ]."
For a fuller treatment of the Versicle and Response see the first Psalm of the Second Nocturn, third verse.
O God Who by the Fruitful Virginity of the blessed virgin hath given to the human race the rewards of eternal salvation: grant we beseech Thee that we may experience the intercession of her through whom we merited to receive the Author of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son : &c.
As usual, the Collect sums up all the thoughts of the whole hour and unites those of Jesus and Mary in the full expression of them all. The Author of Life of Whom speak the Psalms ; His Mother, the type of the Christian soul. We get all the goods of eternal life through her divine Motherhood ; for in giving us Jesus she has given us Life itself.
The Antiphon (second), Little Chapter, and Prayer are the same as are said at Lauds during this season ; the Versicle as above.
The Antiphon (second), and Prayer are as at Lauds during this season ; the Little Chapter and Versicle as above. The thought of the Mother by the side of the Crib gives another turning to the idea of the Little Chapter.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907