13 October 2021

Psalm 18 (RSV19) and the Miracle of the Sun.

Today is the Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, when it was seen to dance around the Earth. I wish to share a few thoughts about the Typology of this event, with its deeply scriptural and traditional roots.

Our starting point should be Psalm 18, and the rich use which Holy Tradition has made of this psalm. 

In the Pius XII Psalter which was masterminded by Cardinal Augustin Bea (bad ... bad), we read (verse 5) "He has made a tabernacle for the sun". An accurate translation, it may be, of the Hebrew. But this is not what we find in both the ancient Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint (abbreviated to LXX): the two versions by which Christians of both East and West have always worshipped. Here is a literal rendering of what these versions give us:
5.In the sun he has placed his tabernacle: and he himself like a bridegroom going forth from his chamber has rejoiced (LXX: will rejoice) like a giant to run his course.
6. From highest (LXX: furthest) heaven {is} his going forth: and his meeting is even unto its highest (LXX: furthest); neither is there one who might hide himself from his heat.

Our Catholic and Orthodox forebears took the Sun to be our Lady (S Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634: "For in thee, O Virgin, as in a most pure and sparkling Heaven, God has placed his tabernacle"). They understood the bridegroom to be Christ. The bridal-chamber is the womb of the Blessed Virgin. In that Womb he united Godhead with manhood as bridegroom is united to bride, so that he is a giant with two Natures in one Person. His going forth is his eternal generation, as the Divine and Only-begotten Son, from the Father. His meeting is the Son's equality with the Father.
Let's consider the Advent Office Hymn Conditor alme siderum. We will take the clever and accurate translation of stanza 3 by the Anglican John Mason 'Patrimony' Neale which appears as Number 1 in the English Hymnal:
Thou cam'st, the bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

And a hymn by the great S Ambrose himself, Veni Redemptor gentium
Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

The Liturgy of the hours unfortunately misses out ('ad brevitatem') the next stanza, also based on our psalm, which Neale (English Hymnal 14) renders
From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
His course he runs to death and hell,
Returning on God's throne to dwell.

The Pre-Conciliar Breviary and the English Hymnal do not provide another ancient hymn, Fit porta Christi pervia, which the Liturgy of the Hours dug up and ordered to be said at Morning Prayer on January 1. Here is a literal version of the second stanza; it shows its indebtedness to Psalm 18:
The Son of the highest Father has gone forth from the palace of the Virgin, bridegroom, Redeemer, Creator, the Giant of his Church.

 I'm sure you've noticed the relevance of all this to the importance of celebrating Mass versus Orientem, towards the Lord who comes to us at the dawning of the day, walking to meet us from the womb of his Mother, the Woman clothed with Sun, the Tabernacle of Divinity.

But today, we think of the Sun as the great cosmic Ikon of the Mother of God, which spectacularly confirmed the authenticity of the Fatima Message; confirmed it for 1917 and for every successive year.


David Paterson said...

That is truly beautiful. Every now and then I hear something that pertains to Our Lady and my heart feels like it’s going to burst with love. That, good Reverend Sir, is one of those instances.

Brendan Whelan said...

In sole posuit tabernaculum suum: et ipse tamquam sponsus procedens de thalamus suo

DMG said...

And the monstrance... Thank you kind pastor.

David J Critchley said...

The idea that God might set up a tent for the sun is an odd one: normally people pitch their own tents, and in the exception of 1 Chron 15 1 it is David pitching a tent for the Ark, i.e. the servant pitching a tent for his master. For God to pitch a tent for the sun reverses the social roles. "In the sun" is therefore preferable to "For the sun." Doubtless the latter arose as a simple copyist's error, and was then seized on gladly by those who objected to the possible incarnational implications of "In the sun." We also thereby avoid the assignation of personality to the physical sun.

Banshee said...

In the phrase "lash-shemesh", apparently "lash" is an inflected form of a preposition that means a whole range of things "with regard to." So there are a lot of possible meanings.

"For the sun" is favored by modern translators because there are other passages using this wording, in which folks are doing pagan stuff for the sun, or dedicating things to the sun.

OTOH, this verse and the Christological interpretation was HUGE in Early Christian times, to the point that you keep running into it every five minutes in the Fathers. So I'm inclined to go with how they saw it.