Saturday, November 20, 2010

Psalmus contra Dæmones

While reading Matins (out of order) yester-day, I was delighted to come across Psalm 82, Deus, quis similis? (number 83 in the Hebrew) – which is a staunch imprecation against all Israel's enemies.  (Sadly, missing entirely the theme of spiritual combat this psalm presents, it is omitted from the modern Divine Office, lest it unsettle the comfortable.)  

Illuminated, I trust, by light from above, my mind grasped that this is not to be taken literally as a prayer prayed long past time against extinct foes, but against the "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the air": against demons, imps and devils.  As St Pio of Pietrelcina grumbled, "If you could see the devils, the sky would be black!"  And how apposite to rebuke them in the name of the Lord, as St Michael did, by scorning them with the names of the fallen foes of Israel, praying "Make them as the tents of Edom and the Ismahelites, as Moab, and the Agarens, Gebal, Ammon, Amalec, Philistines and the men of Tyre... as Assyria and the sons of Lot, as Madian and Sisara, as Jabin, and all their princes as Oreb, and Zeb, and Zebee, and Salmana!"  (Cf. Ps. 82:7-12.)

This list of jangling barbaric names represents how the ninefold hierarchy of the godly angels is perverted among the fallen into a Babel of foul pretended titles, such as that which the Bible designedly renders as "Lord of the Flies", a very apt piece of mockery.  

A moment's thought will shew that it is the fallen angels who hate God, and plot wickedness against His people, His saints (cf. vv. 3-4).  They want to destroy the new Israel of God, the Church, and to blot out the Christian name (cf. v. 5); they want to possess God's sanctuary (cf. v. 13).  They have made as it were a thieves' covenant to compass their futile objective (cf. 6), being an assembly of robbers, hating each other and themselves, warring against God and His Christ, in infernal rage, having no hope, and furiously contending against the ineluctable designs of Providence.

Deus meus, pone illos ut rotam: "My God, make them as a wheel" (v. 14) – for it is to God that we address our prayer to cast down the hellish horde, reminding ourselves that we are on the winning side if we on the Lord's side, and that the devils "believe, and tremble": for they know "that Thy Name is the Lord, Thou alone the Most High over all the earth" (v. 19).  Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.  Glory be to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Herewith, Psalm 82:

Deus, quis similis erit tibi? * ne taceas, neque compescaris, Deus:
Quoniam ecce inimici tui sonuerunt: * et qui oderunt te, extulerunt caput.
Super populum tuum malignaverunt consilium: * et cogitaverunt adversus sanctos tuos.
Dixerunt: Venite, et disperdamus eos de gente: * et non memoretur nomen Israël ultra.
Quoniam cogitaverunt unanimiter: * simul adversum te testamentum disposuerunt, tabernacula Idumæorum et Ismahelitæ:
Moab et Agareni, Gebal, et Ammon, et Amalec: * alienigenæ cum habitantibus Tyrum.
Etenim Assur venit cum illis: * facti sunt in adjutorium filiis Lot.
Fac illis sicut Madian et Sisaræ: * sicut Jabin in torrente Cisson.
Disperierunt in Endor: * facti sunt ut stercus terræ.
Pone principes eorum sicut Oreb, et Zeb, * et Zebee, et Salmana:
Omnes principes eorum: * qui dixerunt: Hæreditate possideamus sanctuarium Dei.
Deus meus, pone illos ut rotam: * et sicut stipulam ante faciem venti.
Sicut ignis qui comburit silvam: * et sicut flamma comburens montes:
Ita persequeris illos in tempestate tua: * et in ira tua turbabis eos.
Imple facies eorum ignominia: * et quærent nomen tuum, Domine.
Erubescant, et conturbentur in sæculum sæculi: * et confundantur, et pereant.
Et cognoscant quia nomen tibi Dominus: * tu solus Altissimus in omni terra.

And, in honour of our friends the incoming groups of Anglicans, here it is in the Prayer Book Version, according to the American recension (which is quite allowable for Catholics, being already in the Anglican Use Book of Divine Worship) – I indicate with italicized bold text (for American only) and square brackets (for English differences) the very few differences between this and the English original, mainly in the proper names, and some three verbal divergences:

Psalm 83.  Deus, quis similis?

HOLD not thy tongue, O God, keep not still silence : refrain not thyself, O God.
2 For lo, thine enemies make a murmuring : and they that hate thee have lift up their head.
3 They have imagined craftily against thy people : and taken counsel against thy secret ones.
4 They have said, Come, and let us root them out, that they be no more a people : and that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
5 For they have cast their heads together with one consent: and are confederate against thee:
6 The tabernacles of the Edomites, and the Ishmaelites : the Moabites, and Hagarenes;
7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek : the Philistines, with them that dwell at Tyre.
8 Assyria also is joined with them : they [and] have holpen the children of Lot.
9 But do thou to them as unto the Midianites [Madianites] : unto Sisera, and unto Jabin at the brook of Kishon;
10 Who perished at Endor : and became as the dung of the earth.
11 Make them and their princes like Oreb and Zeeb : yea, make all their princes like as Zebah and Zalmunna [Salmana];
12 Who say, Let us take to ourselves : the houses of God in possession.
13 O my God, make them like unto the whirling dust [a wheel] : and as the stubble before the wind;
14 Like as the fire that burneth up the forest [wood] : and as the flame that consumeth the mountains;
15 Pursue them even so with thy tempest : and make them afraid with thy storm.
16 Make their faces ashamed, O Lord : that they may seek thy Name.
17 Let them be confounded and vexed ever more and more : let them be put to shame, and perish.
18 And they shall know that thou, whose Name is Jehovah : art only the Most Highest over all the earth.


Kate Edwards said...

A nice analysis - I love the imprecatory psalms!

And a belated happy birthday.

Joshua said...

Thanks, Terra!