31 July 2020

The Psalms

Two short posts from Fr H on a commentary on the Psalms that might be of interest to anyone who prays the Divine Office.

From Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment

The Psalms (1)

There is a splendidly produced Commentary on the Psalms, written by S Bellarmine, translated by the Venerable John O'Sullivan, Archdeacon of Kerry, and commended by David Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry. What a majestic trio!! Bellarmine was the very flower of Counter-Reformation erudition, rescuing the Faith intellectually from the Protestant claim that Popery was in opposition to 'Primitive Christianity'. David Moriarty was a close friend of S John Henry Newman, and one of, I think, only two of the Fathers of Vatican I who never actually ... as such ... subscribed the decrees of the Council. Those were the days when sound men and true were a trifle nervous that Pastor Aeternus might be used to promote ultra-papalism: they can never have suspected that the day could come when Vatican I would stand up to be counted as our protection against the ultrahyperuebersuperpapalism at the heart of the Bergoglianist error. Vivat Moriarty, Vivat Concilium. It is remarkable how le bon Dieu over-rules our errors and our anxieties.

And the Venerable Archdeacon? The Catholic Church in Ireland still maintains the honorary title of Archdeacon ... I believe the French Church did until the Revolution. Archdeacon O'Sullivan, D.D.,   was also Rector of Kenmare, in the part of Ireland I knew so very well for a couple of decades. Indeed, I once stood next to the then Catholic Archdeacon of Kerry (brother, incidentally, of the then Bishop of Kerry) in a sculpture Park in the little town of Sneem, as the Egyptian Ambassador unveiled a statue of the goddess Isis! Think about that for a moment ... Anglican priest ... Catholic Archdeacon ... Islamic Ambassador ... syncretistic pagan goddess! Whatever were we all doing ... well, I'll tell you: we were lending cheerful light-hearted backing to the local tourist trade. And today I will commend to you the Ring of Kerry as a fantastic place to holiday. There are hundreds of first-millennium monastic sites ... including the Skelligs ... and there is fish to guzzle.

Mind you, in this age of Pachamama I think I would now have qualms about appearing to be light-hearted about her cousin Isis. Among much else, relativist syncretist liberals have stolen from us so many possibilities for light-heartedness which were, only three decades ago, matters for innocent play; because, when Isis was just ancient history and ancient art, and Liz Taylor as Cleopatra was an object of helpless merriment, Isis was not much of an occasion of temptation to idolatry. PF, and all that lot, have changed things so terribly for the worse. May God forgive them for the grim and laughterless world which they have sponsored.

Archdeacon O'Sullivan ... Moriarty's Archdeacon ... was a staunch and effective defender of his people during the dark days of the 'Soupers': when, in times of famine, Protestants with money gave food away free of charge to the starving peasantry ... free, as long as they took part in proddy worship. And took their children along too. He was a very big and very great man, still remembered with pride.

PF, by cutting down the Monsignore industry, has happily made the Catholic Church in England look much more Indigenous ... Yes!! ... because our senior Catholic presbyters are now 'Canon Thingummy' rather than 'Mgr O'Wotsit'. Perhaps the next stage of inculturation will be for Vicars General, and all those 'Episcopal Vicars' galore, to be replaced by ... Archdeacons! Come back, your venerablenesses! All is forgiven!

That's the way ahead! You know it makes sense!!

In my next piece I will explain my hesitations about the Bellarmine-Moriarty-O'Sullivan commentary on the Psalms.

Psalms (2)

A Commentary on the Book of the Psalms, Preserving Christian Publications, Boonville, New York 2008, American ISBN 978-0-9802084-4-3, is a fine book which would feed the spirituality of those who wish to benefit from the surface text of the psalms. But, as Bishop Moriarty explained "it omits those portions which are purely philological, or which relate to the discrepancy and reconciliation of texts and versions". And, frankly, what the Archdeacon omitted is the sort of thing I, moi, love getting into.

Does all that 'dry' historical stuff really matter? Let me briefly take Psalm 91 (Vg-LXX) = 92 (MT). Bonum est confiteri, as Anglicans have always called it. There is a rabbinical legend that this was the song of praise uttered by Adam as the first Sabbath dawned upon the world, and that it descended by tradition as the special hymn for that day. Moving into historical time, what we do know is that it was sung in the Temple on the Sabbath at the offering of the Tamid, the first lamb of public sacrifice, in the morning, when the wine offering was poured out and the Breads were offered (Numbers 28). And verse 2 refers to both the morning and the evening sacrifices of the lamb. In the old Breviary, it was still in use on the Sabbath at Lauds because "the Roman Church, amongst other tokens of the poweful Judaizing influence which affected its earliest days, retains it as part of Saturday Lauds". Apparently, rabbinic Judaism still uses it on the Sabbath. And its Sabbath use survived the revision of the Palter under Pope S Pius X. Indeed, even the Liturgy of the Hours retains its use on alternate Sabbaths.

I am aware that not everybody, in their journey of Faith, needs the same props. But I don't see what harm such informations will do to any presbyter or laic as they say Saturday Lauds before setting off up the Hill to the Altar of Sacrifice.

In my second paragraph, I high-lighted one sentence. It was borrowed from A Commentary on the Psalms: from Primitive and Medieval writers; and from the Various Office Books and Hymns of the Roman, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Greek, Coptic, Armenian and Syriac rites. By The Rev. J.M. Neale, D.D., sometime Warden of Sackville College, East Grinstead, and the Rev. R.F. Littledale, Ll.D., sometime scholar of Trinity College Dublin. 1887.

A ripe product of the scholarship of the second generation of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England (and Ireland). It does what it says on the tin. I doubt if it's still in print ...

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