Thursday, December 31, 2009
St. Augustine and Psalm 51
Last night, as part of our nightly devotional, my wife and I read the selection on Psalm 51 found in the Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians book which I highlighted a few weeks ago. As I mentioned there, this fine devotional focuses on 34 particular Psalms, including various selections from the Early Church Fathers. Last night, we read the entry on the very famous Psalm 51. It is one of the main penitential Psalms of the Church, most notably read every Friday morning in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Here it is, in the RSV-CE:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to thy steadfast love;
according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil in thy sight,
so that thou art justified in thy sentence
and blameless in thy judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Fill me with joy and gladness;
let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,
and sinners will return to thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
thou God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.
O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on thy altar.
After reading through this Psalm, we were treated with three short reflections from the Church Fathers, including Clement of Rome, John Chrysostom, and Augustine. Although fairly short, Augustine's reflection on Psalm 51 is very poignant, since it helped me to look at Psalm 51 from a different vantage point. So, I want to share that reflection with you know, which comes from his Exposition of the Psalms, which I copied and pasted from, the helpful and inexpensive, The Faith Database. I hope you enjoy it!
"To thee Nathan the prophet hath not been sent, David himself hath been sent to thee Hear him crying, and with him cry: hear him groaning, and with him groan; hear him weeping, and mingle tears; hear him amended, and with him rejoice. If from thee sin could not be excluded, be not hope of pardon excluded. There was sent to that man Nathan the prophet, observe the king's humility. He rejected not the words of him giving admonition, he said not, Darest thou speak to me, a king? An exited king heard a prophet, let His humble people hear Christ."