Psalm 118/119: The Church Fathers on the Second Stasis
This is a continuation of a series of articles on Psalm 118 (LXX) / 119 (MT). The other articles can be found here:
י Yod (Theme: God, The Almighty & Creator & His Direction In Our Relations With Others)
Apollinaris of Laodicea: Thy hands have made & fashion me (v. 73)
God does not fashion in the way of a potter…but as an artesian implements in creating, accomplishing by his power a realization of a particular form. And he is wont to produce in the initial creation, anciently formulated concepts of which it is said: ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew the’ (Jer. 1:5)…
‘Give me understanding…’ Of this intelligence, Paul also says, ‘Consider what I say: & the Lord give thee understanding in all things’ (2 Tim. 2:7). This request addressed to the Creator is logical. It implies: tend to Your creation for it to achieve is contemplated be by getting it the [necessary] intelligence, & that which You have prepared for it to live in closeness to You, make it live in intimacy with You by the knowledge of Your will, for in the beginning man has need for a precept which, for the sake of his spirit, renders useless a multitude of prescriptions; but after he has failed in this precept, he will have need of a greater number, to fill a very great lack.
כ Kaph (Theme: God’s Aid In Struggle Against Insults, Discouragements, Enemies)
St. Gregory of Nazianzus; Panegyric on His Brother S. Caesarius: On Thy words have I set my hope (v. 81)
But now, laying aside lamentation, I will look at myself, & examine my feelings, that I may not unconsciously have in myself anything to be lamented. O you sons of men, for the words apply to you, how long will you be hard-hearted & gross in mind? Why do you love vanity & seek after falsehood (cf. Ps. 4:3), supposing life here to be a great thing & these few days many?… Are we not to know ourselves? Are we not to cast away visible things? Are we not to look to the things unseen? Are we not, even if we are somewhat grieved, to be on the contrary distressed at our lengthened sojourn (cf. Ps. 119:5), like holy David who calls things here the tents of darkness in the place of affliction, & the deep mire (cf. Ps. 68:2), & the shadow of death (cf. Ps. 43:20), because we linger in the tombs we bear about with us, because, though we are gods, we die like men the death of sin? This is my fear, this day & night accompanies me, & will not let me breathe, on one side the glory, on the other the place of correction: for the former I long for to I can say, ‘My soul faintest for Thy salvation’ from the latter I shrank back shuttering; yet I am not afraid that this body of mine should utterly perish in dissolution & corruption, but that the glorious creature of God (for glorious it is if upright, just as it is dishonorable of sinful) in which is reason, morality, & hope, should be condemned to the same dishonor as the brutes, & be no better after death, a fate to be desired for the wicked, who are worthy of the fire yonder.
With that I might mortify my members that are upon the earth, would that I might spend my all upon the spirit, walking in the way that is narrow & trodden by few, not that which is brought in easy (cf. Mt. 7:13). For glorious & great are its consequences, & our hope is greater than our desert. ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?’ (cf. Ps. 8:4). What is this new ministry which concerns me? I am small & great, lowly & exalted, mortal & immortal, earthly & heavenly. I share one condition with the lower world, the other with God; one with the flesh, the other with the spirit. I must be buried with Christ, arise with Christ, be joint heir with Christ, become the sons of God, yea, God himself.
ל Lamed (Theme: Teaching Ourselves To Follow God’s Will & Word & Truth)
St. Athanasius of Alexandria: Forever, O Lord, Thy word abideth in heaven (v. 89)
He develops & addresses some more elevated dogmas. He makes mention of the eternal Word of the Father, & not solely ‘In the beginning was the Word’ (Jn. 1:1). He speaks also of the order of the universe, clearly designating the creation in its entirety as His ‘servants’ [By Thine ordinance doth the day abide, for all things are Thy servants-v. 91].
מ Mem (Theme: Reforming Defects In The Soul In Conformance With The Law)
Theodoret of Cyrus: Above mine enemies hast though made me wise in Thy commandment, for it is mine forever (v. 98)
After having confessed that he loves the divine law with a burning love, the Prophet returns all to divine grace: it is from You, he says, that I have received the wisdom & the knowledge that causes me to love Your law, for You have given me understanding above that of my enemies. That is why they seek to kill me when I refuse to revenge myself on those who assault me, for I dream of the eternal reward for virtue.
נ Nun (Theme: The Law As A Guide In Dealing With Infirmities)
St. Augustine of Hippo: Thy law is a lamp unto my feet & a light unto my paths (v. 105)
Since, therefore, the only-begotten Word, coequal with the Father, is styled a light, & men when enlightened by the Word is also called a light, who is likewise styled a lamp, as John, as the apostles; & since no man of these is the Word, & that Word by whom they were enlightened is not a lamp, what is this word called a light & a lamp at the same time, except the word which was sent unto the prophets, or preached through the apostles? It was not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written: ‘Faith cometh by hearing, & hearing by the word of God’ (cf. Rom. 10:17). For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, says, ‘whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lantern, that shineth in a dark place’ (2 Pet. 1:19). What, therefore, he calls ‘Thy word’ here, is the word which is contained in all the Holy Scriptures.
ס Samek (Theme: Dispositions & Decisions Of The Will For A God Pleasing Life. God’s Grace & Man’s Love Of The Law Of God.)
Eusebius of Caesarea: Uphold me according to Thy saying (v. 116)
After having said, ‘depart from me, ye evil-doers,’ logically he also invokes God’s help for this, in order that, by his own strength the evil-doers should be repulsed in his soul, & that, in this respite, he may obtain life & salvation granted by God, without risk of his ‘expectation.’
ע Ayin (Theme: Meditation On Our Relationship With God)
St. Augustine of Hippo: Deal with Thy servant according to Thy mercy & teach me Thy statutes (v. 124)
This petition must never be intermitted. For it does not suffice to have received understanding, & to have learned the testimonies of God, unless it be always received, & forever in a manner quaffed from the fountain of eternal light. For the testimonies of God are the better & the better known, the more understanding a man attains.
פ Pe (Theme: Expression Of God’s Words, Testimonies & Teaching, & Man’s Learning & Receiving)
Apollinaris of Laodicea: The unfolding of Thy words will give light & understanding unto babes (v. 130)
Others, he says, admire gold & precious stones; I, as I know the divine orders are the only things admirable & beautiful, will keep to them & guard them above the importance of any treasure…
The teachings need to be unveiled: that is why the Lord ‘opened the understanding’ of His disciples ‘that they might understand the Scriptures’ (Lk. 24:45). The understanding granted by the ‘words’ dispels the delusion which comes from pleasure or from vainglory.