King David and musicians, with zither, celesti, andreal.
"A psalm is a religious song, and the one hundred and fifty poems which make up the book of Psalms sing to us the human and divine history of Israel. Tradition attributes them to King David or to the musicians' guilds connected with the names of Asaph or Korah, although it is not possible to attach a date or author to each psalm. Israel has preserved these poems because it has recognised in them the expression of its unique religious destiny. The psalms repeat in lyrical form the teaching of the prophets; they recall the great events of a history that was itself a divine revelation; they meditate on the covenant. Everything that the psalms had sung about the God of Israel, as the one who judges and saves his people, who comes to dwell among them, who reveals his Law to them, gathers them together, leads and sanctifies them, all that finds its expression and accomplishment in the Incarnate Word, Jesus, the Son of David and the son of God, who judges the world in his death and who saves it in his resurrection. He is the Truth, the Way and the Life of which the psalms speak. Christ's Church has found in the Psalms, her favourite prayer, with verses resounding in the liturgy of the Word, in the celebration of the Mass, in the Divine Office, and in the most varied ceremonies of every rite. The Church is the new Israel, and through the images of the old covenant she gives voice to the realities of the new covenant. No one who takes the words of the psalms on his lips and their meaning in his heart, can possibly remain indifferent to them.They may overwhelm or shock, bring peace or exhaltation, but inevitably they draw us beyond ourselves; they force us to that meeting with the God without whom we cannot live and who transforms our whole life.
Some may object that certain passages contradict the command of love taught us by Christ. But we only have to follow the images through to their Easter fulfillment to realise that the psalmist is expressing love and hatred not between friends and enemies, but between the reign of evil which holds sway in us and the reign of grace which lays claim to us. The psalms compel us to voice all the prayers of the people of God and of their Head; they force us to widen our hearts to the full dimensions of the redemption. They make us say what remains hidden except to the eyes of faith, and what we know we must one day become."
(ack. Introduction - 'The Psalms, a New Translation'
The problem of justice, pain and death. (Ps 48)
Hear this, all you peoples,
give heed, all who dwell in the world,
men both low and high,
rich and poor alike.
My lips will speak words of wisdom,
My heart is full of insight.
I will turn my mind to a parable,
with the harp I will solve my problem.
* * *
Why should I fear in evil days
the malice of the foes around me,
men who trust in their wealth,
and boast of the vastness of their riches?
For no man can buy his own ransom,
or pay a price to God for his life.
The ransom of his soul is beyond him.
He cannot buy life without end,
nor avoid coming to the grave.
He knows that wise men and fools must both perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes for ever,
their dwelling place from age to age,
though their names spread wide through the land.
In his riches, man lacks wisdom:
he is like the beasts that are destroyed.
* * *
This is the lot of the self-confident,
who have others at their beck and call.
Like sheep they are driven to the grave,
where death shall be their shepherd
and the just shall become their rulers.
With the morning their outward show vanishes
and the grave becomes their home.
But God will ransom me from death
and take my soul to himself.
Then do not fear when a man grows rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
He takes nothing with him when he dies,
his glory does not follow him below.
Though he flattered himself while he lived:
“Men will praise me for doing well for myself,”
yet he will go to join his fathers,
who will never see the light any more.
In his riches, man lacks wisdom:
He is like the beasts that are destroyed.
Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) - Rembrandt 1627
The Messianic kingship: warning to rulers and nations (Ps 2)
Why this tumult among nations,
among peoples this useless murmurings?
They arise, the kings of the earth,
princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed.
“Come, let us break their fetters,
come, let us cast off their yoke.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord is laughing them to scorn.
Then He will speak in his anger,
his rage will strike them with terror.
“It is I who have set up my king
on Sion, my holy mountain.”
(I will announce the decree of the Lord:)
The Lord said to me: “You are my Son.
It is I who have begotten you this day.
Ask and I shall bequeath you the nations,
put the ends of the earth in your possession.
With a rod of iron you will break them,
shatter them like a potter’s jar.”
Now, O kings, understand,
Take warning, rulers of the earth;
Serve the Lord with awe
And trembling, pay him your homage
Lest he be angry and you perish;
For suddenly his anger will blaze.
Blessed are they who put their trust in God.
Cosmic Praise (Ps 148)
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, shining stars.
Praise him, highest heavens
and the waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord.
He commanded; they were made.
He fixed them for ever,
gave a law which shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
sea creatures and all oceans,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy winds that obey his word;
all mountains and hills,
all fruit trees and cedars,
beasts, wild and tame,
reptiles and birds on the wing;
all earth’s kings and peoples,
earth’s princes and rulers;
young men and maidens,
old men together with children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord
for he alone is exalted.
The splendour of his name
reaches beyond heaven and earth.
He exalts the strength of his people.
He is the praise of all his saints,
of the sons of Israel,
of the people to whom he comes close.
Two ways of living (Ps 1)
Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night.
He is like a tree that is planted
beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper.
Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff
shall be driven away by the wind.
When the wicked are judged they shall not stand,
nor find room among those who are just;
for the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom.
Entry of the Blessed into Paradise - The Last Judgement (detail) (1431) - Fra Angelico
Ack. The Psalms – a New Translation. Collins Fontana books.
Imprimatur ‘William, Cardinal Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster, 1962.’