A Pastoral Commentary on the Psalms – Psalm 44

Psalm 44

A Messianic Psalm: The Beloved One is Jesus Christ

The Daughter Who is all glorious within is the Theotokos

 

 [1]

 

Psalm 44 (Septuagint) is a Messianic Psalm [2], and is one of the few Psalms that describes the Theotokos.

 

Blessed Augustine has an interesting note about the heading of this Psalm, which is addressed to the “Sons of Kore”:

 

“Now Korah is equivalent to the word baldness; and we find in the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified in "the place of a skull." It is clear then that this Psalm is sung to the "sons of His ‘Passion.”” [3]

 

This Psalm definitely describes the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom the heading calls the “Beloved one”, and also the Theotokos, called the “Queen”, and “daughter”.

 

It is good to know these things, and other symbols in this Psalm which is indeed a deep well, but it is better to apply the verses in it for moral change.

 

We venerate the Theotokos because we are in awe of her personal holiness, which was not by fiat[4] from God, but her personal choice of submission to God. The world has never known, nor will ever know, a mortal with such submission to God’s Holy will.

 

When we read about the Theotokos, our heart should be as one of the previous Psalms expresses,

 

“Like the “hart (which) pantenth after the fountains of water” (Psalm 41:1)[5]

 

When we read about holiness, we should be filled with desire to emulate it. Nobody became holy by reading about holiness or even being around it, without desiring to BE holy. The people of the Gergesenes were with Christ in the midst, and they rejected Him. The Saints through the ages lived amidst turbulence and sin, with very few recognizing their holiness or desiring to emulate them.

 

This has been true at all times; in our time, Patriarch Pavle, who recently reposed, was respected for his sanctity, even among Moslems and atheists, and yet, there have been no mass conversions to true Christianity among the Moslems in Kosovo, nor have the Serbian people emulated the holiness of their beloved Patriarch; Serbian churches are not full except on a few feast days, and the morality of Serbia is not unlike the rest of Europe, which is in captivity to the ways of the world.

 

1. My heart hath poured forth a good word; I speak of my works to the king; my tongue is the pen of a swiftly writing scribe. 2. Comely art Thou in beauty more than the sons of men; grace hath been poured forth on Thy lips, wherefore God hath blessed Thee for ever

The “King” is the God-man, Jesus Christ; the grace that poured forth from His lips was transmitted to His Apostles, and throughout the whole world.

 

3. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy comeliness and Thy beauty. And bend Thy bow, and proceed prosperously, and be king, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously.

 

This verse is said by the priest when he puts on his “nabredrinic”, which is a rectangular cloth vestment that hangs from his left shoulder, diagonally across his body, resting on his right side.

 

Of course, it also refers to the God-man, Jesus Christ.

 

A sword is a tool of action; it is useless if it remains in its scabbard. Here we see the kind of action that is favored by God – “truth and meekness and righteousness”. In another place, the “Mighty One”, preaching to His disciples, told them that the kingdom of heaven is being won by violence, and these two thoughts are completely compatible. The Christian must do violence to his passions, uprooting them, because they all with one accord resist “truth and meekness and righteousness”.

 

When the priest puts on his “sword”, he is preparing to do battle with his passions and pray with attention in front of the altar during the awesome liturgy.

 

We all must carry a sword – being ready at all times to do battle against our passions. Every time we act according to truth, we strike a blow with our sword.  

 

6. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy fellows.

 

The “oil of gladness” is the Holy Spirit, which Jesus Christ was anointed with [6].

 

The Christian is also anointed with the “oil of gladness”, but not everyone is anointed to the same measure. The God-man, more than any other man, loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore, His anointing with the Holy Spirit is above all His “fellows” – all of mankind.

 

The “oil of gladness” gives “gladness’. We see that this gladness is directly proportional to how much we love righteousness.

 

A basic truth of the Christian life is that “to feel good we must do good”.

 

When we suffer from sadness, let us be careful to evaluate why. Many times this will be because we are not righteous. The gladness that the lover of righteousness possesses transcends any situation.

 

“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.  (2)  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:  (3)   And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.  (4)   And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.” (Wisdom 3:1-4 DRB)

 

8 . At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours. 9 . Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. 10 . And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty, for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him.

 

This is about the Theotokos.

 

12. All the glory of the daughter of the King is within, with gold-fringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colours.

 

And this also. All holiness is like this – it is “within”, hidden away from those who do not have eyes to see. Only those who love righteousness truly know the righteous.

 

16. I shall commemorate thy name in every generation and generation. 17. Therefore shall peoples give praise unto thee for ever, and unto the ages of ages

 

Verse 16 is used in the prokeimenon about the Theotokos. Only the Orthodox recognize the holiness of the Theotokos; the Latins take away from her virtue by the error of the so called “immaculate conception” and Protestants by and large ignore her virtue. Only the Orthodox understand her holiness and fulfill the prophesy of this psalm and that of the Theotokos herself:

 

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)

 

 

 

 

C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents\0000 SERAPHIM\new_advent\fathers\1801045.htm

 

 

 

For the End: Concerning Those Verses That Are to be Alternated, for Instruction to the Sons of Kore. An Ode Concerning the Beloved One, 44.

1. My heart hath poured forth a good word; I speak of my works to the king; my tongue is the pen of a swiftly writing scribe. 2. Comely art Thou in beauty more than the sons of men; grace hath been poured forth on Thy lips, wherefore God hath blessed Thee for ever. 3. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy comeliness and Thy beauty. And bend Thy bow, and proceed prosperously, and be king, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously. 4. Thine arrows are sharp, O Mighty One, (under Thee shall peoples fall) sharp in the heart of the enemies of the king. 5. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. 6. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy fellows. 7. Myrrh and stacte and cassia exhale from Thy garments, from the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad, they the daughters of kings in Thine honour. 8 . At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours. 9 . Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. 10 . And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty, for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him. 11. And Him shall the daughters of Tyre worship with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance. 12. All the glory of the daughter of the King is within, with gold-fringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colours. 13. The virgins that follow after her shall be brought unto the King, those near her shall be brought unto Thee. 14. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing, they shall be brought into the temple of the King. 15. In the stead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shalt make them princes over all the earth. 16. I shall commemorate thy name in every generation and generation. 17. Therefore shall peoples give praise unto thee for ever, and unto the ages of ages

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009[U1] .     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] This Pastoral Commentary is a work in progress, and is not intended to be a complete exposition.  The focus is on whatever will  inspire and equip the faithful (including the pastor!), and not necessarily about the theological nuances of each verse commented on. We must read the Psalms to be inspired and helped, and different verses will touch different people in different ways.

[2] There are many “Messianic Psalms”, which refer to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Remember that Holy David was not only a King, but also a prophet!

[3] Blessed Augustine, “Exposition on Psalm 44”, New Advent

[4] The Heresy proclaimed by Rome, known as the “immaculate conception”, actually demeans the holiness of the Theotokos and makes her something other than human (and therefore, Jesus Christ, Who was borne of her without human male seed, would also be something other than human, and not perfectly God AND “PERFECTLY MAN”, that is, NOT the Savior of mankind). This heresy states that the Theotokos was born without “original sin”, making her unique among all human beings. Of course “original sin” as taught by Rome is a false doctrine also.  Human beings are not borne already guilty of sin, but weakness and the propensity to sin.

[5] All Psalm quotations from the “The Psalter According to the Seventy” © 1974, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, unless otherwise indicated.

[6] Matthew 3:16 KJV  And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

 

Luke 4:18-19 KJV  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,  (19)  To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

 


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2 Responses to “A Pastoral Commentary on the Psalms – Psalm 44”

  1. Deborah says:

    Father, Bless,

    When I was first struggling to understand, even after I knew that the Theotokos was something much more than I had been taught by my Protestant religious upbringing, I wondered why the Lord had allowed His mother’s name to be forgotten by so many of His people. It was then that I was struck, as if by lightning, by the enormity of my blindness: Most of Christendom still venerates Mary and for at least the first 3/4 of Christian history her divine role was acknowledged by all Christians. It was ME, blinded by my prejudices, who had been out of step with the majority of Christian understanding without ever even having given the issue a fair hearing or consideration.

    I am not saying that the majority opinion defines truth, but when one is seeking truth, one should at least examine an issue and know the reasons for departing from the majority. Not only had I not ever examined the issue of the role of the Theotokos in God’s great work of salvation, I had not had even the least little inkling of its importance or significance. I already knew that I was blind and ignorant, but this experience brought home to a greater degree than ever before how much I needed the illumination of the teachings of the Church. Even with a heart that earnestly desired truth and my attempts to set aside my preconceived notions in the search for it, I was blinded by prejudice and ignorance that produced ‘blind spots’ that I did not, could not, know existed. Without the Church, I could read this Psalm a thousand times and never see the beauty of the hidden treasure in its meaning.

    With Continuing Thanksgiving,

    Deborah

  2. sharmainev-helsdingen says:

    Bless Father … Thankyou for teaching a new Orthodox Christian … Mary of Egypt

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