The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Compline Or Night-Song, pt 2. By E. L. Taunton.

PSALM CXXIX. [This Psalm, the eleventh Gradual Psalm, St. Augustine tells us, consisting
as it does of eight verses, teaches that no man can so live throughout the perfect
term of his working life here (denoted by the Six Days of Creation) without transgressing
the Ten Commandments, and so pass on to Eleven, the symbol of evil ;
but that by persevering in penance and prayer the sinner may at last reach that
Octave of the Resurrection, when Christ shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.].

Title. —A Song of Degrees.


Tomasi: That Christ may grant us forgiveness of our sins without marking our iniquities. The voice of Christ and of the Church. This Psalm is to be read with the Prophet Jonas. Wherefore this eleventh step denotes the voice of St. Peter weeping bitterly after his fall; hence it is that of repenting sinners.

Venerable Bede : The Prophet, placed on the eleventh step, prostrates himself to fulfil his penance, because no saint, so long as he is in the flesh, can be entirely free from sin. And this, too, is to be said, that every sin belongs, as it were, to the number eleven, because it over-passes the perfection of the Ten Commandments. The Prophet cries to the Lord for deliverance out of the depths of sin and from the troubles he experiences. Then, without delay, he comes to the joys of thanksgiving, that penitents may know with what favour they will be received, and how soon the remedy is bestowed on them.

(1) Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: O Lord hear my voice.

Out of the depths. A cry of the Jews from the depths of their Captivity, seemingly without hope; for, as says St. Augustine, it is the cry of any one trying to ascend out of the abyss of sin ; even as Jonas cried unto the Lord out of the belly of the great fish [Jonas ii. I.]. The depths in which we find ourselves are the depths of this world. All who realise that they are in this abyss cry, groan, and sigh till they be freed from it, and come to Him Who sitteth over all the depths and upon the Cherubim. Whence, then, does this cry come ? Out of the depths. Who is it that cries ? A sinner. And with what hope does he cry ? Because He Who came to loose the bonds of sin hath also given hope even to a sinner in the depths of his iniquity. Man must needs call, too, out of the depths of humility, recognising the abyss of misery into which he is plunged, and call upon the depths of God's mercy : Depth calleth upon depth [Ps. xli. 8.]. Note, too, says St. Gregory the Great, it is not written " I am calling," but I have called, showing us thereby not to end our prayer until by perseverance it has been granted. God loves to be asked, to be constrained, to be overcome, as it were, by importunity ; for the loving repetition of His Name marks the affection and confidence of His client. It has been pointed out that this verse puts before us six conditions of a good prayer—it is humble, out of the depths ; fervent, have I cried ; direct to God, unto Thee; reverent, 0 Lord ; awed, Lord repeated ; one's very own, hear my prayer. This Psalm is used so frequently for the Dead that a reference here to it in that sense will not be out of place. It is the prayer of souls abiding in the depths of Purgatory, overwhelmed with the sense of their own impurity and imploring the Lord to take them to His rest.

(2) Let Thine ears be attentive: to the voice of my supplication.

It is not enough to be heard, says Bellarmine, that we should cry aloud; He Who is called upon must also listen. It is true God sees and hears everything; but when He remains silent it seems as though He heard not. So the Psalmist in the vehemence of his desire beseeches God to turn an attentive ear to his cry and grant him speedily his petition. God, says the Carmelite, is said to bow down His ear, that is, His readiness and mercy, to us ; but we, on the other hand, are to lift up ours to Him. And it is to be noted that the form of the human ear teaches three silent lessons : It is always open, not like the eyes or lips, signifying we should be more ready to hear than to see or speak ; it is small, not like that of the brute animals, warning us to take heed how we hear, and not to believe everything that is spoken; it is erect because we ought to listen for words coming from heaven rather than from earth.

(3) If Thou shalt mark iniquities ; Lord, who shall abide it ?

No man is safe from sins, which howl around him like angry beasts; none is of spotless conscience, none pure of heart because of his own righteousness. When God marks down in the Book of Doom all our sins and reads them out, who shall abide it, that is, endure the shame and the guilt ? Wherefore we beseech God not to act as Judge only, but to exert as King His prerogatives of mercy, and add :—

(4) For there is with Thee forgiveness: because of Thy Law I have waited for Thee, 0 Lord.

If Thou wast strict in judgment, and punishment fell swift upon the sin, all would perish. Therefore if Thou desirest to be feared, forgive, and drive not sinners into despair, wherein they cease to fear because they have lost all. There is with Thee forgiveness, since He Who is the propitiation for our sins [i John ii. 2.] is seated in glory at Thy right hand.

Because of Thy Law : God's Law, by which He rules us now, is Mercy and Love; confiding in this the Psalmist awaits His Coming, though well aware of his own unworthiness to abide it. I have waited patiently, bearing all chastisement because of Thy Law, knowing that Thou actest righteously and mercifully in all things, and in judgment forgetteth not mercy.

(5) My soul hath relied on His Word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.

(6) From the morning watch even until the night: let Israel hope in the Lord.

God has promised mercy through the Incarnation and Sacrifice of the Word, His only-begotten Son; and the Psalmist declares that he is relying upon a promise which can never fail.

From the morning watch even until the night. St. Augustine takes these words of the trust of the Church in Christ from the early morning of His Resurrection until that Night in which no man can work [John ix. 4.], which is to be followed by that other Resurrection Morning for us all. Others take it of the breaking of the Light of Faith upon the soul till the close of life, working, as St. Hilary says, through all the burthen and heat of the day until the Reward we know is awaiting us is bestowed.

(7) Quia apud Dominum For with the Lord there is misericordia: et copiosa apud mercy: and with Him plentiful Eum redemptio. redemption.

Says Cassiodorus on this glorious verse : Here is the reason for Israel to hope in the Lord : because in His hand is Mercy which can make the sinner righteous, the weak strong, and give to the carnal the purity of angels. There is also the plentiful redemption which is the Precious Blood stored up for us in the Church and ready to do its healing work at every turn of our life. Daily and hourly It is being offered in the Sacrifice of the Mass on our behalf to the Eternal Father; daily It is washing away Original Sin and Actual Sin ; daily It is giving grace to all men by the Sacraments of the New Law, the channels by which It is brought to the soul. This Precious Blood gives the force and the Divine influence to all the Sacramentals of the Church, and covers her and all her members with a blood-stained robe, so that she can say to Her Head, Jesus, : Thou art a Spouse of blood to me [Exod. iv. 25.]. It is this Blood pleading for forgiveness and shed so abundantly in the Passion which is the plentiful Redemption which our good God in His mercy hath arranged for us.

(8) And He Himself shall redeem Israel : from all his iniquities.

No one else but God is our Redeemer; as the prophet said : God Himself will come and will save you [Is. xxxv. 4.]. Before He came on His errand of mercy the name of Saviour was given to Him : Thou shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His People from their sins [Matt. i. 21.].

From all his iniquities: not from temporal captivity and suffering, which is our appointed share in the work of release, but from the more bitter bondage of sin, a work He alone can do. And mark, iniquity is entirely taken away, blotted out: For He that sitteth on the throne said: Lo, I make all things new [Apoc. xxi. 5.].


Glory be to the Father unto Whom we call from the depths. Glory to the Son, His Word in Whom we rely. Glory to the Holy Ghost with Whom there is mercy.

From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907