1 August 2020

Psalms (3)

Curiously, we do not know how the Venite (Ps 94 Vg/LXX = Ps 95 MT) was used in Temple worship. But we should take seriously the opening word, which implies motion. (I mean that it is not like the English "C'mon let's have a singsong".) We are to "come" somewhere; we are to move to where God is to be encountered. Nothing is more subversive of true religion than the "spiritual" notion that we need not do more than discern a ubiquitous god. The whole point of Creation is the endless variety of objects and times and places. Exclusively "Spiritual" commerce between an ego and a monad effectively denies the credal affirmation of God as Creator.

Does the Hebrew text point to the Temple Mount upon its lofty rock? We are, literally, urged to make a joyful noise to "the rock of our salvation". But the Septuagintal translation, followed by the Vugate, renders "rock" as "God"! This is an example of how, throughout the Psalter, concrete and vivd terms such as  rock, shield, fortress are replaced by more respectful terms. It has been suggested that one motive may be a desire to avoid encouraging idolatry. (If so, the policy might be said to have failed in the case of Wordsworth and the tradition of English Poetic Landscape-and-Weather Worship.)

S Jerome, pointing out that the word Salvation shares its root with the Name Jesus, neatly suggested that we might translate "rock of our Salvation" as "Jesus our Rock". This might open up interesting links with the Rock which Moses struck open in the Wilderness and thereby to devotion to the Sacred Heart. If, on the other hand, we stick with the version in the Breviary, Deo salutari nostro, an appetite for elegant intertextualities will remark upon its similarity to Mary's phrase near the beginning of the Magnificat, Deo salutari meo (the Greek Bible offers the same parallelism).

"Venite". So we are to come into His presence; Neale/Littledale point out that "coming before His Face" often implies coming before God with Sacrifice (Micah 6:6). "The chief constituent of the sacrifice of Thanksgiving  ... was an oblation of cakes of fine flour and wafer bread, and thus we may justly see in this place a prophecy of the Sacrifice of the New Law, that Eucharistic oblation of praise and thanksgiving wherein CHRIST is Himself offered in a mystery to the FATHER".

In fact, to be pedantic, Leviticus 7 is saying that the 'cakes' accompany  the Thank Offering. Canon Arthur Couratin, long-time Principal of Staggers, used to irritate Protestants who chattered on about "sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving" by pointing out that in the Law, Sacrifices of Thanksgiving tended, as he put it, to have four legs and say "Baaahaaah".

How fittingly do Byzantines refer to the Eucharistic Host as the amnos.

In verse three, Neale/Littledale remark "The force of this verse is somewhat weakened in all the versions, by their failing to give the precisepoint of the Hebrew". I save this for next time.

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