Friday, December 29, 2017

Commentary on Psalm 10

THE ESTIMATE of God as a “distant hypothesis” is the characterization by Card. Ratzinger of present-day thinking in most parts of Germany. The same could be said of wide areas of the affluent Western world, where wickedness runs rampant to the accompaniment of condescending references to God. There are still some voluble atheists around, but as a rule God is dismissed with quiet ease, while a broad spectrum of wicked actions are spoken of with indifference. Moral relativism rules with an intolerant absolutism. The decibels of moral indignation are reserved for genocides, usually called “ethnic cleansing,” but not consistently. Some people are more expendable than other people. And “the murder of the innocent,” an expression of this psalm, is not a label to be used in “nice” circles in reference to partial birth abortion.

Psalm 10 would not, of course, be genuine if it contained anticipations of the modern disease of utter skepticism. Whoever was the author of this psalm, he would not consider even for a moment that the wicked might be in good faith. As portrayed in this psalm the wicked deny God, though they are not really secure. Although they say that “God does not exist,” they are more intent on assuring themselves that “God forgets,” that “He does not see,” that “He will not punish.”

The wicked’s hollow boasting, “Never shall I falter, misfortune shall never be my lot,” might have been exposed by the psalmist for what it is worth, had he not been overwhelmed by the wicked’s readiness to pounce from his hiding place on any and all: The poor, the common folk, the ordinary toiler—all seem to be “devoured by the pride of the wicked.”

All this misery reflects an internal affair of the people, unlike the scene presented in the previous psalm in which the misdeeds of the nations are the cause of agonizing complaints addressed to God. But the resolution of the problem points in this psalm, too, in much the same direction. Here, too, the psalmist begs God to finish off all the wicked, to save all the innocent, and on a very short run at that. To be sure, even in the New Testament we have to pray that God’s kingdom may come and that we may be delivered from the Evil One. But we are not instructed to beg God that He should do wholesale justice right now or even within the foreseeable future.

We are always tempted to pray for precisely that. May the recitation of this psalm, which pleads in an almost naive way for the rapid elimination of all wickedness that rends society apart, be a much needed reminder of the need for a patient endurance of the wicked. This endurance we must turn into a virtue, and all the more so as Jesus himself warned: “In patient endurance shall you possess your soul” (Lk 21:19).

~Stanley L. Jaki: Praying the Psalms: A Commentary, Psalm 10.


Psalm 10
Revised Gail Psalter

O LORD, why do you stand afar off,
and hide yourself in times of distress?
The poor are devoured by the pride of the wicked;
they are caught in the schemes that others have made.

For the wicked boasts of his soul’s desires;
the covetous blasphemes and spurns the LORD.
The wicked says in his pride, “God will not punish.
There is no God.” Such are his thoughts.

His path is ever untroubled;
your judgments are on high, far removed.
All those who oppose him, he derides.
In his heart he thinks, “Never shall I falter;
never shall misfortune be my lot.”

His mouth is full of cursing, guile, oppression;
under his tongue are deceit and evil.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hidden places, he murders the innocent.

The eyes of the wicked keep watch for the helpless.
He lurks in hiding like a lion in his lair;
he lurks in hiding to seize the poor;
he seizes the poor one and drags him away.

He crouches, preparing to spring,
and the helpless fall prey to his strength.
He says in his heart, “God forgets,
 he hides his face, never will he see.”

Arise, O LORD; lift up your hand, O God!
Do not forget the poor!
Why should the wicked spurn God,
saying in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

But you have seen the trouble and sorrow.
You note it; you take it in your hands.
The helpless one relies on you,
for you are the helper of the orphan.

Break the arm of the wicked and the sinner!
Pursue their wickedness till nothing remains!
The LORD is king forever and ever.
The nations shall perish from his land.

O LORD, you have heard the desire of the poor.
You strengthen their hearts; you turn your ear
to give right judgment for the orphan and oppressed,
so that no one on earth may strike terror again.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Praying the Psalms

Initials from the beginning of psalms in the St. Albans Psalter. (Wikisource)
I (Ben) recommend Fr. Jaki’s Praying the Psalms because I found this book quite helpful with understanding the Psalms in a way that enables me to pray them more meaningfully. . .

Praying the Psalms: "Since the psalms are Old Testament prayers by origin, their teaching is very incomplete about trials, whose full meaning was revealed only through Christ's suffering. The psalms contain only faint hints about the fact that from God's perspective life really begins with death. But the psalms remain unparalleled expressions of souls who struggle to hold on to God no matter what and who experience moments of surpassing joy. The purpose of this fine book is to help Christians grasp the basic meaning of each psalm so that the act of praying them might truly become an elevation of the mind to God. After providing general background on the psalms, including reflections on their use as both Jewish and Christian prayers, Stanley Jaki offers commentary on each individual psalm. He avoids exegetical minutiae, providing instead precisely enough explanation of the original cultural and theological setting of each psalm to let the usefulness of praying any of them fully emerge. A widely respected Christian scholar, Jaki has recited all 150 psalms once every week for the past sixty years. As a result, his book not only offers learned insight into the meaning of the psalms but it is also built on personal experience, making it a powerful devotional tool. Readers will find here helpful pointers for turning the recitation of the psalms into living prayers relevant to today's troubled world." (Real View Books)

Praying the Psalms:
a Commentary by Stanley L Jaki
Available from Real View Books

About RVB: "Real View Books is a publishing company, founded by Stanley Jaki, established to print books that are significant to the understanding and defense of Christian doctrine and culture. A good number of books of Father Jaki on Science and Religion, and on Theology are also printed by Real View Books, and are available on this site."