Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, April 02, 2021

The Sacraments in Psalm 51, Color-coded

 Psalm 51, the great penitential psalm of David, makes recurring appearances in the Liturgy of the Hours, including Good Friday's morning prayer. As I wrote it out in Adoration as form of meditation, I was struck by how many sacramental references there were in the psalm. I set myself to find allusions to all seven sacraments. They're noted here in different colors; readers may feel free to quibble or find more apt reference.

Holy Orders 
Anointing of the Sick

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge.
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness.
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.


Brandon said...

I like this quite a bit, especially that you found a plausible connection to matrimony. At the very least, the psalm is only fully answered as a prayer in the sacraments as a whole, so it makes sense that there would be connections, even if they end up messy and not sharply defined.

I think one could also connect "...truth in the heart..." to confirmation, "A pure heart..." to confession, "Do not cast away..." to anointing, and "...the joy of your help..." to confession. The "Have mercy..." at the beginning could be seen as a general summation and it does make sense that the Church-building sacraments end the psalm. Then the only verses not so linked would be the ones contrasting the non-sacramental state with the sacramental one for which we pray.

MrsDarwin said...

One could do this with most of the psalms, I think. It would be a good exercise for a religion class.

I like your suggestions, especially "do not cast away..." for anointing, which (as you can see) was one for which I couldn't find many references. A friend suggested "offenses truly I know them..." for Confession, and "joy of your presence..." for Confirmation, as joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

And I see I've made a mistake! I meant to make the last two lines refer to Holy Orders, and I hit the adjacent color for Anointing of the Sick. I'll edit it, but I'm fessing up here.

Brandon said...

St. Robert Bellarmine, in his commentary on the Psalms, mentions such a reading for Psalm 29 (Ps. 28 in the Vulgate), which has seven mentions of 'the voice of the Lord'. (He himself doesn't commit to it, but reads the Psalms as instead about preaching; but he did nonetheless think it notable enough to mention.)

super aquas -- baptism
in virtute -- confirmation
in magnificentia -- eucharist
confringentis cedros -- penance
intercidentis flammam ignis -- matrimony
concutientis desertum -- orders
praeparantis cervos -- unction

My color perception is slightly defective for a range of colors, so I don't even notice.

MrsDarwin said...

I like that a lot, and it's a far richer interpretation of the sevenfold voice than the footnote in the NAB: "[29:3] The voice of the LORD: the sevenfold repetition of the phrase imitates the sound of crashing thunder and may allude to God’s primordial slaying of Leviathan, the seven-headed sea monster of Canaanite mythology."

I took up Psalm 23 and tried this reading, and despite it only having six verses, it's not a stretch to find all seven sacraments there. I can't color-code the comments, so I'll use parentheses.

The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me; (Baptism)
he restores my soul. (Penance)
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name. (Confirmation)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; (Unction)
your rod and your staff comfort me. (Holy Orders)

You set a table before me
in front of my enemies; (Eucharist)
You anoint my head with oil; (Holy Orders)
my cup overflows. (Eucharist)
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life; (Matrimony)
I will dwell in the house of the LORD
for endless days. (Unction)

One can quibble with interpretations -- I like Holy Orders for "anoint my head with oil...", but some may prefer Confirmation. And of course there are the wags who would say that "the valley of the shadow of death" refers to Matrimony, but with them we have no truck.

Agnes said...

How very beautiful! Thank you! I'll try to look at other psalms from this angle too.