29 Dec: St. David, musical King and Old Testament Prophet

Holy Church considers many Old Testament figures to be saints.

Today when you open your trusty copy of the 2005 Martyrologium Romanum you will find, just below the St. Thomas Becket, this interesting entry:

2. Commemoratio sancti David, regis et prophetae, qu, filius Iesse Bethlehemitae, gratiam invenit ante Deum et oleo sancto a Samuele propheta unctus est, ut populum Israel regeret; in civitatem Ierusalem Arcam foederis Domini transtulit ac Dominus ipse mox ei iuravit semen eius in aeternum mansurum esse, eo quod ex ipso Iesus Christus secundum carnem nasciturus esset.

I am sure some of you readers can come up with your renderings of the Latin original, either in a smoother version or perhaps in a slavishly literal way.

Changing tracks slightly, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art there  is a series of paintings of Old Testament figures, including King David.  These are elements from an altar piece by Florentine painter Lorenzo Monaco (known also as Piero di Giovanni +1422).

Moses is at the top left.  Next to him is Abraham.  Below him on the bottom right is Noah with his ark.

By thy way, since I took that photo, the paintings have been rearranged… in case you go looking.

Here is David, holding a psaltery.  Greek ψάλλω…psallo means “to pluck”.   While there are also bowed psaltery, this one is plucked by the fingers rather than bowed or struck with a pick or plectrum.

When you get the audio guide at the Met and listen to experts talk about the works, sometimes you get a sample of period music.  In this case, you get to hear some music played on a psaltery.

I dug around a bit and found some psaltery music on Youtube and elsewhere.

You can hear, below, a sample of bowed psaltery together with a small harp, also appropriate to David, as well as plucked psaltery in two versions of a Medieval Lament for Tristan, which would have been in vogue at the time the painter was working on the altar piece.

Listen as you do your translation!

Also, here again is Tristan’s Lament.

And, just for fun… here is another image of a psaltery bunny from a late 13th c. French manuscript. He even had the audience moved to sorrow.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. acardnal says:

    Yes, David not only wrote a number of the psalms – though not all – he was also a singer and a musician. His playing of the lyre (1 Samuel 16:18) was so good that David would play for Saul when he was not feeling well. His playing was healing and relief would come to Saul; “he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” c.f. 1 Samuel 16:23

  2. Priam1184 says:

    The Commemoration of Saint David, king and prophet, who, being the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, found grace before God and was anointed with holy oil by the prophet Samuel, that he should rule the people Israel; he brought the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to the city of Jerusalem and thereupon the Lord Himself swore to him that his seed would remain forever, it was from him that Jesus Christ would be born according to the flesh.

  3. Mario Bird says:

    Is it not strange that sheeps’ guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?

    –WS, Much Ado About Nothing

  4. stephen c says:

    Englished, with, as best as I can guess, in of course a very inaccurate way, some of the unspoken implications of the Latin ….. [Today is the day we celebrate the] commemoration of a man named David, who was a prophet and a King, who, [although he was no more than the] son of somebody from Bethlehem named Jesse, [at some point in his life] figured out how to obtain the Grace of our Lord: and Samuel the Prophet [who was known to all] then anointed him: in order for him, David, to [eventually] rule [as a genuine king] the people of Israel: he expedited the delivery of the Ark of the Lord to [the City of Peace] Jerusalem; in addition, he thereupon {mox} was promised by the Lord Himself that as long as the universe might last some [or all] of his descendants would [also] last, because one of those [promised] descendants would be Jesus, [the] Christ, [the Only One Anointed of the Lord], in order that He would be born the way, [each generation immediately followed by the next], all [mortal] people have been.

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