Friday, October 18, 2019

Psalm 129 (130) with Commentaries of Church Fathers

PSALM 129 (130)

1 An ode of ascents. Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; 

2 O Lord, hear my voice; Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplication. 

3 If You, O Lord, should mark transgression, O Lord, who would stand? 

4 For there is forgiveness with You. 

5 Because of Your law, O Lord, I waited for You; My soul waited for Your word. 

6 My soul hopes in the Lord, From the morning watch until night; From the morning watch until night, Let Israel hope in the Lord. 

7 For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption; 

8 And He shall redeem Israel From all his transgressions.

REARDON: Throughout Christian history, Psalm 129 (Hebrew 130) has been one of the psalms most frequently prayed. Indeed, this psalm having long been designated for daily recitation in both the East and the West, there are undoubtedly thousands of Christians even now who know it by heart.
And as the day ends, most of us are aware of various ways in which, during the course of it, we have failed of the grace of God, perhaps permitting some root of bitterness to spring up and trouble us, whereby many are defiled (Heb. 12: 15). We end our day, therefore, by remembering God’s mercy: “If You, O Lord, should count our sins, O Lord, who could stand it? But with You there is appeasement. For Your name’s sake have I waited for You, O Lord. My soul has waited on Your word.”
And what is this “word” from God for which we wait at the end of the day? Is it, perhaps, “Today you will be with Me in paradise”? Surely the thief hanging on the Lord’s right hand was waiting for such a word, knowing that if the Lord should count our sins, who could stand it? Some mysterious movement of grace in his soul, however, prompted him to hope that with the Lord there is appeasement.
TEHILLIM: The Psalmist prays  for an end of his being in exile.

An ode of ascents.

1. Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;

THEODORET: “Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord”, that is to say, From the very bottom of my heart I pour out the supplication. The divine Scripture condemns those who employ only their lips: at one place the prophet Jeremiah says to the God of all, “You are near to their mouth, but far from their innards”; at another place God himself through the prophet Isaiah condemns Jews in the words, This people honors me with their lips, but the heart is far from me."
CHRYSOSTOM: What is the meaning of “Out of the depths”? He did not simply say, "Out of my mouth;" he did not simply say, "With my tongue;" his mind was wandering when the words came out, you see. Instead, from the depths of my heart, with great zeal and enthusiasm, from the very bottom of my mind. Such, you see, are the souls of the distressed: they stir up their very heart in its entirety, calling on God with deep compunction - which is precisely the reason they are heard. Prayers like this, in fact, have immense force, not being overturned or undermined, even should the devil attack with great impetus.
People who pray like this, you see, even before they receive what they request, reap fine benefits from their prayer, repressing all their passions, assuaging anger, repelling envy, quelling desire, extinguishing the lust for things of this life, reducing the soul to complete tranquility, and finally raising it to heaven itself. In other words, just as rain falling on tough terrain, or fire on steel, softens it, so prayer of this kind softens and bedews the toughness of the mind in its passions more thoroughly than fire and more effectively than rain. The soul, after all, is tender and pliable; but as often occurs with the waters of the Ister that become solidified with ice, our soul too has the experience of becoming hardened and petrified with sin and deep indifference. So we have need of great ardor so as to soften the hardness. Now, this in particular is what prayer achieves. When, therefore, we practice prayer, do not look only to get what you ask but also to make the soul better from prayer itself; this is the function of prayer, after all. The person praying in this way rises above earthly concerns, gives wings to the mind, makes the brain lighter, falls victim to none of the passions.  
“Out of the depths I cried to you, O Lord”: he makes two points here, Out of the depths, and crying, implying by crying not just the tone of voice but the disposition of attitude. O Lord, hearken to my voice: we learn two things from this, that it is not possible simply to attain what comes from God if what comes from us is not to the fore—hence he first said Out of the depths I cried, and only then hearken; secondly, that fervent prayer accompanied by the tears of compunction has great power to influence God to accede to our requests. Like someone who has achieved something wonderful and made a contribution of one's own, he added, “Lord, hearken to my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the sound of my supplication”: he calls the faculty of hearing ears, and says again sound, referring not to the pitch of the breath, nor to the cry, but to the intensity of disposition.

2. O Lord, hear my voice; Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.

THEODORET: He knows God is bodiless, despite using human expressions: he uses terms for the sense of hearing and sight. Our eyes, of course, have the power of sight, and our ears have been equipped with the sense of hearing. What God hears with, on the contrary, he also sees with, and what he sees with he also hears with.
AUGUSTINE:  "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice". Jonas cried from the deep; from the whale's belly. He was not only beneath the waves, but also in the entrails of the beast; nevertheless, those waves and that body prevented not his prayer from reaching God, and the beast's belly could not contain the voice of his prayer. It penetrated all things, it burst through all things, it reached the ears of God: if indeed we ought to say that, bursting through all things, it reached the ears of God, since the ears of God were in the heart of him who prayed. For where hath not he God present, whose voice is faithful? Nevertheless, we also ought to understand from what deep we cry unto the Lord. For this mortal life is our deep. Whoever hath understood himself to be in the deep, crieth out, groaneth, sigheth, until he be delivered from the deep, and come unto Him who sitteth above all the deeps.

3. If You, O Lord, should mark transgression, O Lord, who would stand?

CHRYSOSTOM: in case anyone were to say, "I am a sinner, I am full of sins beyond counting, I cannot approach and pray and call on God," he strips away this pretext by saying, If you were to take note of crimes, Lord, Lord, who would stand? Who here means "no one," you see. It is impossible, after all, it is impossible for anyone to render a meticulous account of one's affairs and ever attain mercy and lovingkindness. We say this, not to drive souls to indifference, but to comfort those who have fallen into despair.  
AUGUSTINE: he hath disclosed from what deep he cried out. For he crieth beneath the weights and billows of his iniquities .... He said not, I may not abide it: but, "who may abide it?" For he saw that nigh the whole of human life on every side was ever bayed at by its sins, that all consciences were accused by their thoughts, that a clean heart trusting in its own righteousness could not be found.

4. For there is forgiveness with You.

CHRYSOSTOM: It is not in our good deeds but in your goodness that the possibility lies of escaping punishment; in other words, avoidance of judgement rests with your lovingkindness. If we were not to benefit from it, our efforts would not suffice for snatching us from the wrath to come. This he indicated also through the inspired author, saying, "I am the one who blots out your crimes,"that is, it comes from my goodness, my lovingkindness. Thus, in other words, your efforts would not ever suffice for freedom from retribution were not the workings of my lovingkindness also brought to bear. And again "I support you."   
AUGUSTINE: And what is this propitiation, except sacrifice? And what is sacrifice, save that which hath been offered for us? The pouring forth of innocent blood blotted out all the sins of the guilty: so great a price paid down redeemed all captives from the hand of the enemy who captured them. "With Thee," then, "there is propitiation." For if there were not mercy with Thee, if Thou chosest to be Judge only, and didst refuse to be merciful, Thou wouldest mark all our iniquities, and search after them. Who could abide this? Who could stand before Thee, and say, I am innocent? Who could stand in Thy judgment?

5. Because of Your law, O Lord, I waited for You; My soul waited for Your word.

THEODORET: he means. Aware of this your goodness (you employed mercy like some law), I do not renounce firm hope as I await [1901] the promise of good things. He called the good promise here word; loving-kindness, however, he promised to the repentant.

6. My soul hopes in the Lord, 
CHRYSOSTOM: on account of your lovingkindness, on account of your Law I looked forward to salvation; for if I were to consider my own capabilities, I would long ago have despaired, I would long ago have given up. As it is, however, I attend to your Law and your word, and so have sound hope. Which word? That of lovingkindness. He is the one, you see, who says, "As heaven is far above earth, so are my plans above your plan and my ways above your ways;"and again, "According to the height of heaven above earth the Lord confirmed his mercy on those who fear him;" and again, "As far as the east is from the west he removed our transgressions from us."That is to say, I did not only save the virtuous, but I also spared sinners, and amidst your sins I gave evidence of my own support and care.

6. From the morning watch until night; From the morning watch until night, Let Israel hope in the Lord.

CHRYSOSTOM: nothing is so efficacious for salvation as watching constantly and depending on that hope, even should countless problems beset us to drive us to despair. This is an impenetrable wall, this is unassailable security, this an impregnable tower. Even should circumstances betoken death, danger and ruin, therefore, do not stop hoping in God and expecting his salvation: everything is easy and simple for him, and he will be able to find a means where none exists. Accordingly, do not expect to enjoy help only when things go swimmingly; rather, at that time most of all when there is storm and tempest, and the risk of ultimate disaster hangs over you - then it is in particular that God gives greater evidence of his power. This, then, is what he means: at all times you must hope in the Lord, all your days, all your life.

7. For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption;
8. And He shall redeem Israel from all his transgressions.

THEODORET: The verse directs its prophecy to the Lord: he is the Lamb of God in person, who takes away the sin of the world. This was also the way the divine Gabriel spoke to the holy Virgin: “You will have a son, and you will give him the name Jesus, because he is the one who will save his people from their sins.”
CHRYSOSTOM: What is the meaning of Because with the Lord there is mercy? A font and treasure of lovingkindess is to be found there, he is saying, flowing constantly. Now, where there is mercy there is also redemption - and not only redemption but also complete redemption, a limitless ocean of lovingkindness. Even if we are given up as lost because of our sins, therefore, we should not lose heart or despair: where there is mercy and lovingkindness, accounting for sin is not taken scrupulously, the judge overlooking much because of his great mercy and his propensity to lovingkindness. God is like this, you see, inclined and favorable to showing constant mercy and giving pardon. He will redeem Israel from all its transgressions. If he is like this, then, and the magnitude of his lovingkindness is everywhere poured out, it is obvious that he will also save his people and free them not only from punishment but also from their sins.

Mindful of this, therefore, let us continue to implore and entreat him, and never desist, whether we receive what we ask or not. After all, if it is in his power to give, and in his power when to give, he also knows precisely the right time. Consequently, let us continue beseeching, imploring, having confidence in his mercy and lovingkindness, and let us never despair of our salvation but contribute what is ours, and what is his will follow in its fulness, since mercy on his part is beyond telling and lovingkindness without limit. 

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