Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thou Hast Made Both Summer and Winter

Each Thursday at Sext I strike the line in the psalmody, æstatem et ver tu plasmasti ea -  "summer and spring Thou hast fashioned them" (Ps 73:17).  Strangely, the Grail Version I know from using the modern Office in years past has "you have made both summer and winter" (as does the R.S.V.); a quick check of the Septuagint shews that the Latin follows the Greek in reading "spring" for "winter".  How odd...  The Hebrew says חֹרֶף (ḥōrĕph, meaning harvest time, autumn, or winter); how did this become spring in Greek, and why, what is the interpretation to be made of this?  St Jerome already read "winter" here, following the Hebrew; the Neo-Vulgate has amended the line thus: æstatem et hiemem tu plasmasti ea.

But why does this line move me?  Because it reminds me of heaven, or rather of something Aquinas says of heaven in a prayer attributed to him: ubi est amœnitas vernalis, luciditas æstivalis, ubertas autumnalis, et requies hiemalis - "there resides the cheerfulness of spring, the brilliance of summer, the fruitfulness of autumn, and the gentle repose of winter".

After days brought low through my fault, I feel a certain lifting up of my spirit, God grant it a measure of repentant return to Him from Whom too often I hide away.  "For God is our King from before the ages: He has wrought salvation in the midst of the earth," even in this mortal clay I pray (Ps 73:12).  I make the last words of the prayer Qua ad cælum adspirat (For the Attainment of Heaven) my own, asking to be directed toward my best Goal and final End:

Da, Domine Deus, vitam sine morte, gaudium sine dolore, ubi est summa libertas, libera securitas, secura tranquillitas, jucunda felicitas, felix æternitas, æterna beatitudo, veritatis visio, atque laudatio, Deus.  Amen.

(Give, Lord God, life without death, joy without sorrow, where there is the greatest freedom, untrammeled security, secure tranquillity, delightful happiness, happy eternity, eternal blessedness, the vision of truth, and praise, O God.  Amen.)

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