A moment with the psalmist, Pope Benedict, and St. Augustine

Spend a moment in your midday with ….

Psalm 3

The psalm of David when he fled from the face of his son Absalom.

Why, O Lord, are they multiplied that afflict me? many are they who rise up against me.
Many say to my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God.
But thou, O Lord art my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.
I have cried to the Lord with my voice: and he hath heard me from his holy hill.
I have slept and taken my rest: and I have risen up, because the Lord hath protected me.
I will not fear thousands of the people, surrounding me: arise, O Lord; save me, O my God.
For thou hast struck all them who are my adversaries without cause: thou hast broken the teeth of sinners.
Salvation is of the Lord: and thy blessing is upon thy people.

Death of Absalom

From L’Osservatore Romano I picked up the blurb in English about the Holy Father’s General Audience today, during which he spoke of Psalm 3.

The image on the right, with the L’Osservatore Romano summary, is a 12th c. miniature of “The death of Absalom and the cry of King David” (Pierpont Morgan Library).

God who responds
to the cry of man

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We return today to our series of catecheses on prayer with a consideration of Psalm Three, in which the psalmist cries out to God to rescue him from the enemies who surround him.  Traditionally the psalm is attributed to King David as he flees from the armies of his rebellious son Absalom.  Assailed on every side by foes who seek his life, the psalmist calls on the name of the Lord, filled with faith in the presence and the power of God who alone can save him from the evils that threaten him.  We are reminded of the plight of the just man in the Book of Wisdom, condemned to a shameful death by the wicked, who taunt him by arguing that God will surely come to his rescue.  Our thoughts move on to Calvary, where the passers-by mocked Jesus, saying that God would deliver him from death if he were really who he claimed to be.  And yet, we know that God truly hears the prayers of those who call upon him in faith.  He answers from his holy mountain.  The unseen God responds with great power, and he becomes our shield and our glory.  Even though Jesus appears to be abandoned by the Father as he dies on Calvary, yet for the eyes of faith this is the crowning moment of salvation, the triumph of the Cross, the hour of our Saviour’s glorification.

For St. Augustine, whom Pope Benedict has read deeply, Christ speaks to the Father in every word of the Psalms.  This is a key to reading Augustine reading the psalms.

Sometimes Christ as the Head of the Body is speaking to the Father, sometimes the as the Body, at other times, Christus Totus, Christ Whole, Entire.

St. Augustine of HippoAugustine comments in a sermon on Psalm 3.  Toward the end, he offered this:

9. This Psalm can be taken as in the Person of Christ another way; which is that whole Christ should speak. I mean by whole, with His body, of which He is the Head, according to the Apostle, who says, “You are the body of Christ, and the members.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 He therefore is the Head of this body; wherefore in another place he says, “But doing the truth in love, we may increase in Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together and compacted.” Ephesians 4:15-16 In the Prophet then at once, the Church, and her Head (the Church founded amidst the storms of persecution throughout the whole world, which we know already to have come to pass), speaks, “O Lord, how are they multiplied that trouble me! Many rise up against me;” wishing to exterminate the Christian name. “Many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God.” For they would not otherwise hope that they could destroy the Church, branching out so very far and wide, unless they believed that God had no care thereof. “But You, O Lord, art my taker;” in Christ of course. […]

10. Each one too of us may say, when a multitude of vices and lusts leads the resisting mind in the law of sin, “O Lord, how are they multiplied that trouble me! Many rise up against me.” And, since despair of recovery generally creeps in through the accumulation of vices, as though these same vices were mocking the soul, or even as though the Devil and his angels through their poisonous suggestions were at work to make us despair, it is said with great truth, “Many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God. But You, O Lord, art my taker.” For this is our hope, that He has vouchsafed to take the nature of man in Christ. “My glory;” according to that rule, that no one should ascribe ought to himself. “And the lifter up of my head;” either of Him, who is the Head of us all, or of the spirit of each several one of us, which is the head of the soul and body. For “the head of the woman is the man, and the head of the man is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:3

[… ]

“I slept, and took rest; and rose, for the Lord will take me up.” Who of the faithful is not able to say this, when he calls to mind the death of his sins, and the gift of regeneration? “I will not fear the thousands of people that surround me.” Besides those which the Church universally has borne and bears, each one also has temptations, by which, when compassed about, he may speak these words, “Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God:” that is, make me to arise. “Since You have smitten all who oppose me without a cause:” it is well in God’s determinate purpose said of the Devil and his angels; who rage not only against the whole body of Christ, but also against each one in particular. “You have broken the teeth of the sinners.”

Each man has those that revile him, he has too the prime authors of vice, who strive to cut him off from the body of Christ. But “salvation is of the Lord.”

Pride is to be guarded against, and we must say, “My soul cleaved after You.” “And upon Your people” be “Your blessing:” that is, upon each one of us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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One Comment

  1. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you, Father, for this beautiful meditation. What a team-Augustine, Benedict and Father Z. the key to letting God be the “lifter of my head” is, of course, humility. Of ourselves, we can do nothing, and He does everything. God bless you.

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