The Ambrosiaster Psalter Commentations
[Ca. 4th Century, A.D.]
[Ca. 4th Century, A.D.]
"Blessed is the man who did not stop in the way of sinners.” If he stops there, he stops being blessed to become guilty and worthy of punishment. Yet he still retains some hope of amendment, because he is not impious, but simply sinful. If a man is found who has not entered the council of the wicked and has not stopped in the way of sinners, he is doubly blessed. For he cannot be blessed, if without entering into the counsel of the wicked, he stops in the path of sinners, because if he does not then have a complete ruin, he is nevertheless worthy of punishment. The Psalmist adds: "nor sits in the seat of scoffers." Happiness, according to him, consists of these three degrees together, and is based on a triple reason, not to enter the counsel of the ungodly, not stopping in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but, as we see in the first two degrees only two kinds of people, the ungodly and the sinners to whom this third degree applies: "Nor sits in the seat of scoffers?" Is it to the impious or the sinners? Let us first see what it is to sit in the seat of scoffers, and then we will understand better who this last line applies to. We call the seat of scoffers that which arises outside the order of God, which has been established only to issue unjust judgments, and that is called the scoffers chair, because from it comes the corruption that causes death, as the iniquity produces damnation. This seat cannot therefore come from God. Moses was established in a chair of life, God raised this seat to retain the authority of the righteous Judge and the Creator God. This is what makes Our Lord say: "The scribes and Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses.” (Matt. 23:2) And to the Apostle: "There is no power that is not of God, and those that are, have been ordained of God.” (Rom. 13:1) Also see what the same Apostle said to the high priest: "You are sitting to judge me according to the law, and against the law you command me to be struck.” (Acts 23:3) These words, "According to the law," show the just and holy authority of the law; and those which follow: These words, "According to the law," show the just and holy authority of the law; and those that follow: "And against the law; you order me to be hit," the injustice of the judge, who even in the seat of God rendered his judgments of iniquity. We read in the prophet Daniel: "The kingdoms belong to God, and he gives them to whom he pleases.” (Dan. 4:14) Just as the authority of a king of the earth imposes itself upon all his subjects and inspires them with the respect due to him, so according to the divine institution, the authority God is personified in the king and exerted through him on all men. Often, it is true, the world does not understand this truth, and submits to powers other than those which God has established; yet the divine institution is that only one has the right to the respect and homage of men. The authority of one God is never rejected except by those who teach men to fear and respect many gods. These are those who sit in the chair of scoffers, for the doctrine that their priests preach is a doctrine of death. All their efforts tend to make the worshipers of one God devoted to scorn or death as fools and enemies. This is the object of their impiety, and it still extends to other crimes which bring out all the enormity. Thus, it was by the order of Jezebel that priests of iniquity seated themselves in the seat of scoffers, to wreak the loss of the innocent Naboth, and by means of false suborned witnesses, pronounced against him, without being his judges, a sentence of death. (2 Kgs. 21:11) This is why it is written in another Psalm: "I will not sit with the wicked." (Ps. 25:5) The judgment is here of the same nature as the one who sits in the seat of scoffers. If those who sit in the pulpit of God come to oppress the innocent, their judgment is unjust, but not the seat. But from the seat of scoffers, only iniquitous judgments can come forth, although they cover them with certain appearances which disguise their impiety and deceive the eyes. That impiety alone is proposed, it will find no buyer, and if the preachers of the doctrine of the devil come to pronounce his name, they make horror. In order to disguise the poison, honey is added to it; they mix with the doctrine of the devil some proverbs of justice, which they cover with the name of truth. We must therefore examine here the intentions and the thought of each, because often he states a truth to better illusion, and thus allow its pernicious errors. We have affirmed that the seat of scoffers was outside the institution of God, and therefore we call seats of scoffers those who are raised outside of the Church or against the Church. A reckless presumption in the use of permitted things is a crime. How much more is the overthrow of the tradition of the one whose siege is seized? In fact, they destroy the order which we see beginning at the Apostle St. Peter, and which has continued to us by an unbroken succession of bridges; they assume a dignity without origin, that is to say, they present a body without head, their seat is therefore rightly called a seat of scoffers. And that they do not count on liberty, because they cover themselves here with the name of God. We know in fact that they put their opposition under the protection of the name of God. Surely it is not the zeal of God that presses them, they just want to defend their places. Now, we know that Korah and the two hundred and fifty Israelites who dared to offer a rash incense to God were swallowed up by the earth that opened under their feet (Num. 16:31-35), and that King Uzziah having wanted to seize priestly functions against the law, was struck on the brow of leprosy. (2 Kgs. 15:5, 2 Chron. 26:21) It is therefore well established that the seat of scoffers is that impiety of which we have just spoken. Let's see what happens next. The Psalmist adds: "But who puts his will into the law of the Lord." (Psalm 1:2) His will is in the law of the Lord, because he despises the ungodly, separates himself from the sinners and the seat of scoffers, and puts all his affection in the law of God. So the Psalmist proclaims him blessed. He adds, "And he meditates on this law day and night." It is evident that free from all seductions, free from all that is opposed to the law of God, he is continually exercised in the practice of this law, and fortunate by the sacraments of the Son of God, he consecrates the day to good works and night to prayer. It is from him of whom it is said in the Song of Songs, "Let him sleep, but let his heart watch.” (Songs 5:2) So the Psalmist adds: "And he shall be like a tree planted by a stream of water." Who can doubt that he who makes the law of God the subject of his meditations, has no certain hope? As a tree planted along the water cannot remain barren, so he who continually meditates on the law of God is certain to see the blessings of his works. "And he will bear fruit in his time." Says the Psalmist, "Every well-directed plantation gives fruits in its time,” so he who obeys the law of God will also produce fruit at the appointed time, and will receive the fruit of his zeal and devotion when Our Lord Jesus Christ will begin to judge the living and the dead, and the Psalmist adds, "And his leaves will not fall." This tree whose leaves do not fall clearly signifies the sap of life of which it is full. It is the running water that sprinkles and feeds him that he must keep his leaves. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "If you treat green wood like this, what will dry wood be made of?” (Luke 23:31) Green wood is here the symbol of life and the fruits it produces. Just as a tree, thanks to the running water that feeds its roots, does not feel the drought, so that which applies to the meditation of the law of God, even when temptation comes to test him, strong in the help of God, far from losing, he obtains eternal salvation, according to these words of the Apostle: "It is by many tribulations that we must enter in the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:21) "And all he does will prosper.” These words are clear, that he who remains faithful to the law of God, and who puts his delights to fulfill his commandments, will see success crowning all his actions; so that all that Joseph did was prosperous, as a reward for his having preferred the fear of God to life itself; it is not so, no, it is not so with the wicked. (Ps 1:4) This repetition means that the fate which he predicts to the ungodly will be invariable; they have no happiness to expect for the future, and will only receive misfortunes until death. This is why the Psalmist adds: "They will be like the dust that the wind scatters from the face of the earth." (Ibid. 4) Thus the wicked will perish like the dust that the wind carries off from above the face of the earth, to annihilate it: in fact, the dust carried off from the earth, which was its support, disperses through the air and annihilates itself insensibly, thus the impious rejected by the angels before the face of God, their Creator, the only principle of life, perished forever. "And the wicked will not be raised in the day of judgment." (Ibid. 5) These words are worthy of attention. Judgment, they who did not want to be given any work of God which they could account for the law of God was for them an object of contempt and denial, they cannot therefore before the court of God render any according to the law given to them, so convinced of arrogance and revolt against God, they will rise only to see the truth of what they did not want to believe, and to perish forever, because they dared to accuse God of falsehood. "Neither the sinners in the assembly of the righteous." The Psalmist represents here three kinds of men, the ungodly, the sinners, and the just, in the order followed by the error. As for the ungodly, they are quite foreign to the righteous, because as we said, they did not want to live under the law of God. The wretches who live under the law of God will be cited before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, and separated from the righteous to give account of the commandments of the law which they have received, and that they did not put into practice to obtain the approval of God and to avoid his reproaches. For the righteous who have applied themselves with holy activity to the fulfillment of the law, they will obtain the reward. "For God knows the paths of the righteous. (Ibid. 6) In the language of Scripture, God knows those who remember his precepts, and engage in the practice of good works to obtain the crown he reserves for the righteous. As for those who have made a game of forgetting God and neglecting the salvation of their soul, he will say to them: "Depart, I do not know you, workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:27) "And the way of the wicked will perish.” This psalm ends as it began, and it teaches us that the wicked whose actions it has made known, have to wait for an eternal loss. As I have pointed out, it is said of God that he knows the paths of the righteous, because they walk in his law, and that the way of the wicked shall perish because it is outside the law of God; for, says Solomon, all the ways of the ungodly are covered with darkness (Prov. 4:19), while the way of the righteous shines with a glowing light, under the guidance of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
PSALM 19:4; 40
QUESTION: “HE HAS PLACED,” SAYS THE PSALMIST, “HIS TENT IN THE SUN,” THAT IS TO SAY, HIS BODY IN WHICH JESUS CHRIST DWELT, AND WHICH WAS DELIVERED BY PILATE TO THE TORTURE OF BURNING; HOW THEN IS IT SAID IN ANOTHER PSALM WHICH HAS THE OBJECT OF CHRIST: “THE FLOGGING SHALL NOT COME NEAR TO YOUR TABERNACLE,” (Ps. 40) SINCE INDEED HE DECLARED THAT HIS BODY WAS A TEMPLE. — The body of the son of man and the Son of God is indeed a temple. Yet God, that is, the Son of God, though he came in visible flesh, fixed his dwelling in the soul. The soul as well as the body are therefore the tabernacle of the Son of God, although there is only one God and man, the Son of God and the son of man. The blaze, therefore, has not approached his tent in the sense that his soul, where his divinity lives, has been freed from the torments of hell or the princes of hell. The torture of the cross and the sufferings of the flesh, to which he had been condemned as guilty, though he was innocent, made him fear that his soul might feel some pain in the underworld; The Scripture, therefore, shows that the trouble was not able to approach his soul in the underworld, because he descended to it, that is to say, he allowed his sufferings only to confound the darkness, and to convince madness of the princes of darkness. That's why the Lord says, "My soul is sad unto death." (Matt. 26, Mark 14) The Savior abandons his soul to the sadness that was in his nature, but it immediately wins the victory and robs those who had upset her to the point of death, followed by an eternal joy, and this text of the whole man can still be heard, because he who has not known sin was not subject to torture. prescribed by law.
The title of this psalm indicates the subject. Before speaking of the mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ, he designates the day of the Lord: "To this David for the first day of the week.” Saying, "To this David," he has in sight the one of whom this David was the figure and of whom the prophet said, "And my son David will lead them." (Ezek. 37:24) The first day of the Sabbath is the first day of the week. Indeed, the first day following the Sabbath is the Lord's day, as testified by the Evangelist: "On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulcher, etc." (Matt. 28:1) Now, this day of the Lord is the symbol of the mystery of the Savior, but to expose this psalm following the logical order, the Psalmist begins with the person of God the Father, so that the mystery of the divinity may be manifested to men of God. He who wishes to treat any subject must take it in his principle, in his origin, on pain of being unable either to make known his nature or to persuade of its truth. The Prophet begins with these words: "The earth and all that it contains is to the Lord." (Ps. 23:1) These words, "The earth and all that it contains is to the Lord," are a profession of faith. Here he follows the authority of the ancient saints who taught that the earth and all that it contained was to the Lord. He adds: "The globe of the earth and all who live in it are his.” He feared that he had not explained his word enough, saying, "The earth and all that it contains is to the Lord," he makes it clearer by saying: "The globe of the earth and all those who live are his." He teaches us that all the earth without exception is to the Lord, with all that it contains, and that there is absolutely nothing that does not belong to him. There are heretics who support the contrary and who, according to the apostle St. Peter, deny the sovereign domain of God (2 Pet. 2:10), but they are condemned by the testimonies of the prophets who testify that everything belongs to God. He founded it on the sea. (Psalm 23:2) This is what he explains in another psalm where he says: "It is you who have made the earth on the water.” (Ps.135:6) To give support to the faith, he shows how it was done. In the midst of the confusion of all things, while neither the earth nor the heavens had a definite form, the earth, by the order of God, the earth became compact and was over water, so that the earth and the water had a peculiar property, and conformed to their origin. This is why God says in the book of Kings: "Is it not I who made the waters?" “And he established it above the rivers.” (Ps. 23:2) It is established above the rivers in that it contains the waters which are enclosed within it and which, circulating through a thousand secret channels, give it the necessary density so that excessive drought does not remove its consistency and make it unfit for cultivation. These waters provide a vivifying sap to the roots of trees and plants and at the same time freshness in dry places. The Psalmist then shows the little usefulness of faith without a holy life: "Who will go up on the mountain of the Lord, or who will stop in his holy place?” (Ibid. 3) He now exposes what must be the one who recognizes a creator God; he has forewarned the punishment of those who deny the empire of God over all that exists, he wants to learn now from those who confess this authority that they cannot avoid themselves to be punished if their life is not in accordance with their faith. This mountain of the Lord is heaven, which he says in another psalm: "I raised my eyes to the mountains from which help is to come.” (Ps. 120:1) The place of the Lord is the place where he manifests himself. It was said to Joshua when the Lord appeared to him, "The place where you are is a holy place." (Josh. 5:16) Jacob said of where he saw God: "This is the house of God." (Gen. 28:17) "He whose hands are innocent and the heart pure." (Ps. 23:4) This is he whom he declares worthy to ascend on the mountain of the Lord, that is to say in heaven, or to stop in his holy place, the one whose works are innocent and the pure heart in the cause of God, that is, in faith. It can rise in the sky and stop in its holy bond. Indeed, as soon as he has left this life, he will ascend into heaven. And when the city of Jerusalem comes down from heaven for the coming of the Lord, he will be worthy to stop because of his innocence in the place where the Lord must judge the living and the dead; while the wicked and the sinners will be unworthy to stop in the holy place where God pronounces his judgments, because the ungodly ones will rise again for their loss and the sinners for an eternal punishment. If the sons of Israel, because of their sins, could not bear the brightness of Moses' face when he came down from the mountain (Exod. 29:29), how much more will a conscience charged with crimes fear? to raise your eyes to the Lord of glory seated on the throne of his majesty, especially when he hears him say to them: "I do not know you, the workman of iniquity. Who has not received his soul in vain." (Ps. 23:4) He now indicates the different kinds of sins from which one must be exempt. First, he is innocent and has a pure heart that has not prostituted his soul to idolatry; for it is vanity par excellence, and he who submits to it renders his soul a slave to corruption. "And who has not made a deceitful oath to his neighbor.” He has contented himself with indicating two essential duties, one with regard to God, the other to the neighbor, because he who is faithful to these two commandments will also fulfill all the others, to the testimony of the Lord Himself: He tells us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength. This is the first commandment; and the second is like it: You will love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments contain all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37) But who can love God with all his heart and not keep his law? Who can have charity for his neighbor and indulge in sin, since the fear of God is for him the principle of love of neighbor? "This is the one who will receive from heaven the blessing and will obtain mercy from God his Savior." (Ps. 23:5) Here is the reward of one who, faithful to his duties towards God and man, his Creator and neighbor will have practiced faith and charity, he will receive from the Lord a blessing that will cover him with glory, and he will obtain mercy for those whom he has not been able to fulfill. No one can take vigilance so far that he absolutely avoids all sin, but if he has been attentive and faithful to perform the essential duties, he will obtain from God mercy for less important things. The Psalmist gives God the name of Savior because he does not want the death of the one who is going to die, but rather that he is converted and lives. (Ezek. 18:32) "This is the generation of those who seek it, of those who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” (Ps. 23:6) It is one and the same generation who seeks, according to the Psalmist, the Lord, and who seeks the face of the God of Jacob. This is not without purpose, for although these two things are good, there are here two very distinct degrees. It is good to seek God, but it is perfect to seek the face of the God of Jacob. Indeed, the most worthy are those who stand before the judge's face. Such, then, is the generation of these merits and of this reward; it is the innocence and the purity of the heart which bring to this bliss, as it is injustice and iniquity, that lead to perdition. There are indeed two generations, the generation of iniquity, which is the mother of Cain, and the generation of justice, which is the mother of Abel; one has faith and pure life, the other infidelity and vice. These are the two laws of good and evil, of God and of the devil, and one becomes the son of him whose law one follows. Thus, the generation of those who seek the Lord is faith in God and love of neighbor, as we have said. He who believes in God always seeks his protection, and no one is unjust to men when one wishes to render himself favorable God. This is what the Psalmist seems to indicate when he says, "The God of Jacob, because God is known in Judea.” (Ps. 75:2) But why does he say that they seek his face when God himself says to Moses: "You will not be able to see my face?” (Exod. 33:20) If Moses sought, but in vain, to see the face of the Lord, their search is useless, since they are no better than Moses. We answer that no one seeks to see God unnecessarily, because the Psalmist says here that they seek the face of God to make us understand that they are worthy to see the one they seek. We know well who we look for when we see his face; but as the face of God cannot be seen by mortal eyes, the 'Psalmist' designates this divine face under these expressions: The God of Jacob. "Diapsalma." (Ps. 23:7, Septuagint) This word diapsalma, “pause,” indicates in this place a change of person. After what relates to the person of God the Father, the Psalmist places the mystery of the Son of God in order that the order that exists between the Father and the Son be perfectly observed. The law was given by Moses to be like a teacher who was to instruct men and prepare them for the school of righteousness to make himself worthy to wait for the year of the Lord and the day of reward, that is, to say that those who had faithfully preserved the hope of the coming of Christ would receive it and thus escape safely in the aftermath of Adam's sin, because the advent of the one they hoped for should give them the mercy that erases the sins where they let themselves be carried away. This is what the Psalmist has said above: "He will receive," he says, "the mercy of God his Savior. Raise your doors, O princes," he exclaims. (Ibid. 7) It is the voice of the holy angels of which it is said in the Gospel that they approached the Savior and served him. (Matt. 4:11) Therefore they turn to the princes and powers against whom the Apostle tells us that we have to fight (Eph. 6:12), and tell them to raise the gates of their prince, that is to say, of the devil, who is the chief of the erring princes, and by whom one descends into hell. These gates are the infidelity and deceptive seductions of idolatry. "And you, eternal doors, rise up.” These eternal gates are faith, hope, and charity, because one cannot destroy preaching that is based on truth. These doors, on the contrary, which are, as I have said, unbelief and the ploys of idolatry are only for a time, because every lie is essentially transient. As soon as the truth is revealed, it will give him the death blow. The Psalmist therefore asks them to lift the doors of their prince from darkness, that is to say, to remove the error of the plurality of the gods and to substitute faith in one God by Jesus Christ. The Apostle declares that this is the object of his mission, to announce not only to men but to princes and heavenly powers the mystery of one God in Jesus Christ. (Eph. 3:9) "And the King of glory will come in.” (Ps. 23:7) He asks that these deceptive doors of the devil, product of the lie and presumption that inspired him to be equal to God, be raised to let in the King of glory, who is Our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, faith in God cannot enter a soul until it has rejected from it the error produced by the evasiveness of the devil. These princes of whom we have spoken cannot receive Christ as king, who preaches to them the faith in one God, before having rejected from them the traditions of error and lies opposed to the unity of God, no only those which have sprung up on earth, but the one which is the author of Satan, the chief of these princes; for they sought to spread on earth the error they had concentrated in heaven under the inspiration of the devil, that is to say, to proclaim themselves gods by a lie which is the image of the devil. "Who is this king of glory?” (Ibid. 8) One could have regarded as a vain title that name of King of glory given to Jesus Christ; the Psalmist therefore supposes a person who asks him this question: "Who is this King of glory?” It seems that he is in astonishment and wants to learn if it is true, if it is worthy to call Jesus Christ the King of glory. He is answered, "The Lord is strong and mighty, he is the mighty Lord in battle," to teach him that it is not in words alone, but in the testimony of the works that Jesus Christ is the King of glory. It is indeed the strength and power that made him win an entire victory over the devil and his followers, and which showed him the true king of glory. The Psalmist repeats again: "Princes, raise up your doors, and you, eternal doors, rise up,” (Ibid. 9) that is to say since the proofs of the power of Christ, which you can not contradict without crime, teach you that he is worthy of being called the King of glory, reject the error of your minds. He adds, "And the King of glory will come in," to teach them that they cannot participate in the faith of Jesus Christ until they have cleansed their hearts from all the defilements of idolatry. The Holy Spirit cannot enter a man unless he is completely renewed. "Who is this king of glory?” (Ibid. 10) This repetition is intended to confirm the truth. All new teaching cannot be well understood unless it is repeated, and what we hear for the first time excites astonishment and surprise. "The Lord of the powers is himself this king of glory.” By this repetition the Psalmist teaches us that the Lord of powers is rightly called the King of glory, for what is more just than to give the title of King of glory to the one who rules over the powers? This is what made the Apostle say: "If they had known him, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 11:8)
QUESTION: WHY IS IT SAID IN THE PSALMS, "YOU WILL SAVE MEN AND ANIMALS," AND IN THE PROPHET JONAH, "I WILL NOT SPARE A CITY WHERE A HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND MEN AND A MULTITUDE DWELL. OF ANIMALS? "(JON. 4:11) WHILE THE APOSTLE SAYS," DOES GOD CARE FOR OXEN? "(1 COR. 9:9) — To consider only the words, there is, it seems contradiction, but if we examine the condition of man and animals, this contradiction disappears. God takes care of all creatures, because it is from him that all hold their existence; but he does not keep the animals for themselves. He keeps animals for men and not men for animals. Thus he who cares for men preserves animals, but without them being the object of that particular care which he reserves for men. For what hope can there be in animals?
PSALM 39; 50
QUESTION: WHY IN THE LAW IS AARON HIMSELF COMMANDED TO OFFER BURNT OFFERINGS FOR HIS SINS, WHILE DAVID SAYS, "YOU DID NOT ASK FOR A BURNT OFFERING FOR SIN," (PS. 39) AND IN ANOTHER PSALM: "THE BURNT OFFERINGS ARE NOT PLEASING TO YOU." (PS. 50) WHY DOES HE COMMAND TO OFFER THEM TO THEM, IF THEY ARE NOT PLEASING TO HIM? — It is evident that God cannot indulge in the holocausts that are offered to him; but that the groans and the pain of the heart may satisfy for sin and obtain forgiveness. But God wanted the sacrament to be the testimony of sin, and by the removal of the sacrifice the sinner confessed publicly his sin. He tells us in another place how the forgiveness of sins is obtained: "Share," he tells us, "by his prophet, your bread with the hungry; when you see a naked man, cover him, and do not despise those who have the same origin with you.” (Isa. 58) Or again: "God despises not a heart broken by pain and humiliation.” (Ps. 50) God therefore commands us first to confess our sin, and then teaches us the means to obtain our forgiveness. Nowhere does he command to offer a sacrifice for a known sin; it is always for the sins of ignorance, for man sins even without knowing it, and his intention is faulty even when he believes he is acting according to the rules of justice. It is these sins that God declares to be obliterated by sacrificial oblation.
QUESTION: WHY DOES DAVID SAY IN ONE OF HIS PSALMS, "LET THESE BE CONFOUNDED AND ASHAMED, SAYING TO ME, 'VERY GOOD, VERY GOOD,'" WHILE THE SAVIOR SAYS, "ALL RIGHT." GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT, ETC. WHAT DAVID REGARDS AS AN INSULT, OUR LORD APPLIES TO HIM WHOM HIS MERITS HAVE MADE WORTHY OF REWARD. — This question has a lot of analogy with the previous one. A single expression may have different meanings, as I have recalled above 1. David's enemies, who were seeking his ruin, rejoiced at his troubles. Thus they approved of the sufferings and persecutions which David had to endure of Saul and his son Absalom, and said loudly that there was nothing better. It is absolutely as if someone who receives an outrage is said to have done well, because it is to rejoice in the harm done to him, and to say, nothing more just, he deserved it. The Savior uses the same expression in the joy of the good works of Him whose merit He proclaims: "All right, good and faithful servant." He testifies to his joy that the servant has gone from more and more worthy, by saying to him, "Very well, you have done well to increase the sum of your merits so that one and the same expression is employed in two very different circumstances." This is what we ordinarily say of a man: he is judged, it is what precedes or what follows which determines the meaning which must be given to these words. They are taken sometimes in good, sometimes in bad part, just as concupiscence is sometimes heard in a good sense, sometimes in a bad sense.
This psalm is here placed not in chronological order, but for a particular reason. The title, in fact, is determined by this reason and not by the rank of this psalm. To consult only history, it is prior to the third, because David was taken from his crime by the prophet Nathan before the rebellion of his son Absalom, who wanted to take away both his kingdom and life. The reason why this psalm is placed fiftieth, comes from the law which prescribed that the number fifty was a remission number. This number is the one that comes first after seven weeks and is the figure of the day of the Lord. In the same way, after seven days the first day is the one that was made in the beginning, is always the first to succeed the past week, so the fiftieth day that comes after seven weeks is the first in a mysterious sense, and it is called twice the day of the Lord, first of all because it was made in the beginning by the Lord, and when returning to himself it is always the first after the periodic revolution of each week; and second, because it is on this day that the Lord has risen after triumphing over death; and for this reason it is also called the day of the Lord. It is therefore rightly that forgiveness is attached to the number fifty that we notice to be the first in a mysterious sense. The law was also given on the fiftieth day. On the forty-eighth day after leaving Egypt, the children of Israel are ordered to purify themselves for two days to prepare themselves to receive the law on the third day. (Exod. 19:10) What does this purification mean, if not the remission that is made on the fiftieth day that they receive the law after being purified? All their past sins were obliterated, and now they had to account for their actions according to the law they were given. It was for the same reason, that the law had established, that purchased possessions returned to their first owners in the fiftieth year. (Lev. 25:10) This is why this psalm is placed on the fiftieth, for David implores the forgiveness of his sins in the sense that we have said: "Have mercy on me, O God! according to your great mercy." (Ps. 50:1) David knows the seriousness of his crime and he asks for forgiveness in these terms: "Have mercy on me, O God! according to your great mercy,” because the greatness of mercy breaks out especially in the forgiveness of great faults. "And erase my iniquity according to the multitude of your kindnesses.” To make him understand the enormity of his sin, he calls it an iniquity, because iniquity is not a slight sin, and he who erases iniquity, that is to say, that is to say, who does not impute it has possessed in itself an abundant source of mercy. He therefore has no excuse, and thereby not only softens the soul of his judge, but inspires him with feelings of compassion. Pity naturally enters the soul when a guilty man is seen to make a sincere confession of his sins, and to express a deep pain. He who has no regret for his faults seems to mock his judge, and he implores his forgiveness only to escape punishment and fall back into the same faults. "Lift me more and more of my iniquity, and purify me of my sin." (Ibid. 4) He has just proclaimed the great mercy of God, so he asks him to purify him completely and not to leave in him the least stain, the least stain of injustice that may offend his regards. And as a reason for his prayer, he adds, "Because I know my iniquity, and I have my sin before my eyes." (Ibid. 5) As he knows the extent of his he fears that he will not be entirely forgiven for him. Consideration of the greatness of his sins throws him into anxiety, because he knows that enormous sins are not easily forgiven. He confesses his sin with tears; he always has it in front of his eyes to completely bend his judge and make him favorable. He knows that it is written, "First confess your iniquities to be fair to them." (Isa. 43:26) "I have sinned before you alone, and I have done evil in your presence.” (Ps. 50:6) Here he considers the remedy of his error from another point of view, and brings a new reason for his prayer, which, in the first place, justifies him because another than God, is the enemy of the Creator God, since in his place he establishes another to whom he attributes his authority, so David declares that he is not guilty of this iniquity by saying, "I have sinned before you alone, and I have done evil in your presence,” that is to say, as it is in your presence that I have sinned, and not to another whom I should have recognized as God by mistake, my fault is less great than the sin of those who have devoted themselves to certain ruin.. I am not impious, but sinful, because I have sinned not against you, but in your law, I have not denied you, but it is in recognizing that you are my God and my Lord that I have sinned against a man. Therefore, since I am not guilty of the crime that offends you personally, forgive me for the sin I committed against one of my kind, for in preaching I have not denied the honor due to your name for the transport to another. It was therefore a motive to touch the heart of his judge. Since God exhorts to convert the great number of those who sin against him, he must kindly welcome those who have not sinned directly against him and who implore their forgiveness on other grounds. Indeed, the Lord's will is that his servants always have recourse to his protection. "So that you will be recognized as righteous in your words, and you will remain victorious when judging your conduct.” By imploring the mercy of God, he begs him not to change the decrees of his justice which is not equal to the innocent and the sinners, that is to say, who gives to each according to his works; but the holy prophet does not ignore the nature of the mysterious prayer he addresses to God. He knows that God often repeats in the law: "I am merciful, I, the Lord your God;” (Exod. 22:27) He therefore prayed that this faith dwell in divine mercy, and God is justly acknowledged in his words, faithful to what he has promised and not allowing his mercy to be chained by the sins of men. Sinners also know the promises God has made to the faithful observers of the law, and as they persevere in their sins, they accuse God of falsehood. Their guilty life prevents them from believing in the truth of God's promises. King David therefore asks God to overcome this prejudice and to fulfill his promises, to cover with confusion those who, without observing his commandments, accuse him of not giving what he has promised. "For here I have been formed in iniquity." (Ps. 50:7) Here he recalls the cause of the infidelity of the human race, the inclination of man to sin to soften the judge's severity towards him. He wants to speak here of the original fault of which Adam is guilty, and whose responsibility has extended to all mankind. n conceiving iniquity to the deceitful persuasion of the enemy, he has subjected all his posterity to the slavery of sin, and none of his descendants can escape this slavery. That is why David adds, "And my mother conceived me in sin,” that is to say, the sin of which Adam is the source, extends to all those who are conceived and born to life, and become for them an obstacle to the practice of good. David therefore hopes that God will show mercy to him because he has a fierce enemy against him that brings him to evil. By his sin the first man was enslaved to the devil, who received the power to act upon his body and to seduce him with malicious finesse the misleading attractions of sin which make him fall into the trap and rob him of life. It is to the memory of this slavery that the doctor of the nations exclaims: "I feel in my members another law which fights against the law of my mind," (Rom. 7:23) so that at this sight, God, sensitive to his complaints, extends his hand to him in the midst of the difficulties which besiege him. "Because you loved the truth.” (Ps. 50:8) Since you have loved the truth, he said to God, come to my aid, I beg you, for you know that I have explained to you the true weaknesses of my soul, and you have resolved in your mercy to save the sinner by healing by a heavenly providence the wounds that sin has made to him on the earth. That's why he adds, "You have revealed to me the secrets and mysteries of your heart.” These secrets and these mysteries are the help that God has prepared for the human race, of which the Apostle said: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,"1 Cor. 2:9) Who are those who love God? those who accept his law without trying to disguise or excuse their faults. These secrets of the heart are thus revealed to those who love God. The multitude of sins with which they deplore the sad influence could have made them question the justice of punishment, reject their faults on their origin, and make God their creator responsible for their sins. Their hearts were enlightened with a spiritual light and they discovered the providence of God in the coming of Christ who was to come to destroy the sin that had exercised the tyranny on mankind since the evasiveness of Adam. King David therefore asks God that, since he has resolved to save the human race one day from the sad state in which he sees him reduced, he anticipates for himself, the victim of the same misfortune, the salvation he must give to all one day, and that he should give to his prayers and tears the free gift which he held in reserve and which he could not grant before the marked time. How will it be done? He indicates it with the following words: "You will water me with the hyssop and I will be purified.” (Ps. 50:9) He rightly asks to be purified by sprinkling with the hyssop. The children of Israel sprinkled the poles of their house with this sprinkling to escape the exterminating angel (Exod. 20:22), and David also asks to be purified of his sins by the sprinkling of the hyssop, also to escape from death. "You will wash me and I will become whiter than the snow." Now it is evident that God's action is at a great distance from the action of man, which is why David says, "And I will be whiter than snow,” because the work of God has a character of perfection which the work of man cannot have. It therefore requires to be purified by sprinkling with hyssop, that is, just as the body is purified by water from its material soils, so the hyssop is the purified figure of a spiritual operation of the souls by the defilements of sin. Sprinkling with the hyssop is a kind of purification whose visible action indicates the inner and invisible purification. "You will make me hear words of comfort and joy." (Ps. 50:10) There is no doubt that the voice of one who announces the remission of sins does not spread joy in the souls of sinners. Who would not rejoice, indeed, at the news of the forgiveness granted to him? For the forgiveness of God gives all security for the present and for the future. So David adds, "And the humbled bones shall tremble with gladness." David's humiliation was of two kinds, he was humbled in his sin, for sin is no one's cause of elevation, and he humbled himself to implore his forgiveness, and begged God under the ashes and the sackcloth to show mercy to him, and the pardon bestowed upon him, brought joy to his soul and strength to his dejected body. "Turn aside your eyes from my crimes, and give me all my iniquities." (Ibid. 11) David asks God to forgive him as he should later grant by faith in Jesus Christ, and that the Savior who He has been spiritually promised by him to forgive sins with truly repentant hearts. The one in whom one no longer looks at sins and whose iniquities are erased has no longer to fear being treated as guilty, and his enemies are reduced to silence. He who does not look at sins does not impute them either; to look away from the faults of a sinner is to refuse to receive an accusation against him. But how is David, accused only of two crimes, accusing himself of many other iniquities? Since Nathan had assured him that God had forgiven him, why does he beg forgiveness with so much solicitude? He did not plead only his cause, but in this confession of his sin he understood all the spiritual miseries of his people. He therefore asks for a complete renewal, for he who gets his pardon is not without confusion if he is not restored to his first state and in a rank which excludes all shame, and he announces for all the others the grace of God who was to purify all their sins. "Create in me, O God, a pure heart, and reestablish a righteous spirit in the depths of my womb.” (Ibid. 12) This is to implore the mercy of God in excellent dispositions. David does not confine himself to asking for the forgiveness of the past, his solicitude extends to the future, he is resolved to hate sin to no longer fall back, and he prays to God to fortify him with the spirit of justice that he will re-establish in his soul, that is to say, give him a new spirit which keeps him from all sin and all that is contrary to his well-known will. Now, one has a pure heart when one keeps oneself away from all internal and external sin, from action and thought. It is almost impossible to observe this purity of heart in all its extent, but at least it must be in the essential relationship of the soul with God and keep his pure heart in the mystery of God and Jesus Christ by inviolably preserving the faith we have in them. Indeed, we read in another place of Scripture, "Who can be glorified to have a pure heart or to be free from sin?" (Prov. 20:9) But David kept his heart pure in his dealings with God, because he never claimed the help of vanity, that is to say idolatry, and that he never did what the Lord had commanded him. He adds for the future: "Do not reject me from your face, and do not remove from me your Holy Spirit.” (Ps. 50:13) He again expresses the thought that we have indicated above, he is sure of his forgiveness, but he is concerned with the entire reform of his soul. The servant to whom we are content to forgive remains far from the presence of his mistress. There is no rage against him, yet his crime is not effaced in the mind of his master or judge. David therefore prayed that his sin be entirely obliterated and that he be made worthy to approach the face of the Lord and to prophesy as in the past, which was granted him. This is what he asks with these words: "And do not remove from me your Holy Spirit," that is, the spirit of prophecy. "Give me the joy of your salvation, and support me with the sovereign Spirit.” (Ibid. 14) He asks God for the joy that was promised in the coming of Christ, so that, cleansed and purified of all his tasks, he would be filled with the joy that would come from the salvation he had and, far from losing his crown, he was confirmed on the throne by the Holy Spirit. He calls it the Sovereign Spirit because he is above all creatures and it is through him that kings rule. "I will teach your ways to the wicked, and the wicked will be converted to you.” (Ibid. 15) He thus expresses himself so that the wicked may learn by his example what is the goodness of God who welcomes sinners as soon as they confess their faults and who does not abandon the impious who have converted to him, but never cease to exhort them by showing mercy to others. "Deliver me, God of my salvation, of all the blood I shed.” (Ibid. 16) David shows here that his sin was worthy of death to proclaim the greatness of God's mercy to him and to excite sinners to take refuge, as he did, in the bosom of God's clemency. "And my tongue will celebrate your righteousness with hymns of joy. He declares his joy in the justice of the Lord because he perseveres in him the effect of this promise of God: "I will not take away from them my mercy." (Ps. 88:34) David, full of joy and security on this point, celebrates the righteousness of his God: "You shall open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." (Ps. 50:17) God opens his lips by delivering him from slavery. The mouth of the deliverer is opened, but the mouth of the sinner remains closed, shame and fear condemn him to silence, while the one who has regained his full freedom breaks out his transports and publishes the praises of his judge. Thus the Apostle, free from all servitude, as he testifies, exclaims: "My mouth opens to you, O Corinthians.” (2 Cor. 6:11) "If you had desired a sacrifice, I would have offered it to you." (Ps. 50:18) David speaks here of certain knowledge; he remembered what the holy prophet Samuel had said to King Saul, who believed that he could erase his sin not by the pain of his soul or by the shedding of his tears, but by offering a sacrifice. "Does the Lord want sacrifices, and do not ask for obeying his voice?” (1 Sam. 15:22) because these sacrifices can be harmful and do not appease the righteousness of God. The only thing that soothes him is a soul who, at the memory of his sin, weeps in the bitterness and tribulation of the heart the misfortune of offending God. "But with burnt offerings you will not be delighted.” (Ps. 50:19) No, God is not pleased with the holocaust, but with the feelings we have just spoken of. It's up to the soul to satisfy him, without looking outside for anything to pay him ransom. That's what can really help him a lot. Just as the soul has yielded to the seductive charms of sin, it must submit to the pain of penance, and then God will take pleasure in erasing his sins. "For the sacrifice worthy of God is a broken spirit of pain. God does not despise a suppressed and humiliated heart." (Ibid. 19) David tells us here what a sacrifice God receives for sins; it is impossible to appease him unless he who has rejoiced at the loss of his soul opens his heart to pain and repentance and thus finds life again. Any turbulent and unrestrained man is often exposed to receiving wounds that cannot be cured without pain; In the same way sinners cannot redeem their sins without the guilty soul being penetrated with a deep sense of pain., for it is to all righteousness that he who has tasted the joy which reason disapproves be subject to the pain which reason commands, "Lord, treat favorably Sion and make them feel the effects of your goodness." (Ibid. 20) Zion is the figure of the Church, and according to our feeling, which will not seem unlikely, David suggests that she ask God to fulfill his promise, because he knows that she will receive the complete remission of her sins when God has fully fulfilled His decrees through Jesus Christ, that is, those who hope in the salvation promised to them will be delivered from all sin; and indeed they will be delivered by Jesus Christ not only from their own sins, but from the sin of Adam, of which all his descendants are born guilty. "And the walls of Jerusalem will be high.” Had they been destroyed? The walls of Jerusalem are here the figure of the Church which was to be raised by the law in Jesus Christ. Its walls are the saints, as we learn from the Apocalypse of St. John, where we see that we must understand by the city of Jerusalem and by its walls the servants of God. (Rev. 21:12) King David knew that it was Christ who was to fulfill the promise of the deliverance of the servants of God; he therefore asks God to fulfill it, that is to say, the Church rises on the foundation of faith, and those who hope for their salvation by this faith are delivered from the slavery of sin. "Then you will agree to a sacrifice of righteousness, oblations and burnt offerings.” (Ps. 50:21) David declares here that God would be blessed with oblations and burnt offerings when the Church was built, and not sacrifices offered without rule or at the pleasure of everyone, but: "You will agree to the sacrifice of justice.” Sacrifice is right when you take from God a worthy victim of his; but there is no sacrifice neither more just, nor more worthy than the offering we make to God of ourselves. “God is spirit.” (Jn. 4:24), so we must offer him spiritual sacrifices, that is, to offer the living God a living victim. David had declared that God was not in favor of the expiation of sins, the carnal sacrifices; He teaches, therefore, that spiritual sacrifices should be offered to him, and that he would be agreeable to them, because these sacrifices are worthy of God; that is to say, sacrifices were of little value in the past, because they were all exterior, and they are now of great value, because they are spiritual. "Then will we put calves on your altar to offer them to you?" He has just announced that the ancient sacrifices would succeed spiritual sacrifices; what do these words mean: "Then will we put calves on your altar to offer them to you?” That is to say, these material victims are the figure of the spiritual victims, since he has declared that God has no carnal sacraments for pleasing. These calves are here as a figure of the new people to whom faith in Jesus Christ gave a new birth and whose piety is sacrificed every day on the altar of the Lord. Since David has spoken clearly about the Church here, the sacrifices that are placed therein are necessarily spiritual sacrifices.
QUESTION: WHY DOES SCRIPTURE SAY, "MAN HAS EATEN THE BREAD OF ANGELS," SINCE ANGELS, CREATURES SIMPLE IN THEIR NATURE AND CLOTHED WITH A VERY SPIRITUAL POWER, DO NOT NEED FOOD? — This bread, which the Psalmist calls the bread of angels, is nothing but manna. Now, the word manna means: What is this? For the sons of Israel, when they saw on the earth a kind of white seed of coriander, said one to another, What is this? in Hebrew MAN HU. (Exod. 16:15) This bread or food was not created by virtue of the laws that govern the world, by the blending of certain elements, it descended from heaven by an effect of a divine providence. It did not even exist in the upper regions of the air, it was created at the moment by the power of God to nourish the bodies. It was given the name of angels' bread because it was created by that same power that gave the angels existence and life; for no life is apart from God. It is because it descended from heaven that manna was called the bread of angels. The Psalmist has expressed himself in this way to recall the greatness and excellence of the blessings of God upon men, that at this sight they may give thanks to God, who governs his servants with so much kindness, that he gives, if it is necessary to them, the very food of the angels. The Apostle says, among other things, "Christ was the stone," (1 Cor. 10:4), that is, Christ was called the stone, because it is his power that made pouring gushes of water from the stone. (Exod. 17:6) In the same way, as it is by an effect of its power that the manna is descended from heaven, it receives the name of manna, that is, of bread; this symbolic food is the figure of what is now offered in the Church, and men, that is, the Jews, have eaten the bread of the Christian people shown in Scripture by the angels. Let us add that grace is now more abundant than it was under the prophets, as well as the liberty given by Jesus Christ, for where the spirit of the Lord is, is freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17) This is why, considering the times and the bonding of graces, the name of angels was given to the Christians, whose bread, which is Jesus Christ, was eaten by the Jews, who are here called men; for Jesus Christ belongs rather to those to whom he has been revealed and who have the honor of bearing this name. This question can therefore be understood in two different senses, and the manna may be called or the bread of the angels of heaven, or the bread of the Christians, according to the explanation we have given.