Sunday, February 19, 2012

Patris Pax

Psalm 3. 
"A psalm of David, when he fled from the face of Abessalon his son. 1. The words, "I slept, and took rest; and rose, for the Lord will take me up," lead us to believe that this Psalm is to be understood as in the Person of Christ; for they sound more applicable to the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, than to that history in which David's flight is described from the face of his rebellious son. And, since it is written of Christ's disciples, "The sons of the bridegroom fast not as long as the bridegroom is with them;" [36] it is no wonder if by his undutiful [37] son be here meant that undutiful [38] disciple who betrayed Him. From whose face although it may be understood historically that He fled, when on his departure He withdrew with the rest to the mountain; yet in a spiritual sense, when the Son of God, that is the Power and Wisdom of God, abandoned the mind of Judas; when the Devil wholly occupied him; as it is written, "The Devil entered into his heart," [39] may it be well understood that Christ fled from his face; not that Christ gave place to the Devil, but that on Christ's departure the Devil took possession. Which departure, I suppose, is called a flight in this Psalm, because of its quickness; which is indicated also by the word of our Lord, saying, "That thou doest, do quickly." [40] So even in common conversation we say of anything that does not come to mind, it has fled from me; and of a man of much learning we say, nothing flies from him. Wherefore truth fled from the mind of Judas, when it ceased to enlighten him. But Absalom, as some interpret, in the Latin tongue signifies, Patris pax, a father's peace. And it may seem strange, whether in the history of the kings, when Absalom carried on war against his father; or in the history of the New Testament, when Judas was the betrayer of our Lord; how "father's peace" can be understood. But both in the former place they who read carefully, see that David in that war was at peace with his son, who even with sore grief lamented his death, saying, "O Absalom, my son, would God I had died for thee!" [41] And in the history of the New Testament by that so great and so wonderful forbearance of our Lord; in that He bore so long with him as if good, when He was not ignorant of his thoughts; in that He admitted him to the Supper in which He committed and delivered to His disciples the figure of His Body and Blood; finally, in that He received the kiss of peace at the very time of His betrayal; it is easily understood how Christ showed peace to His betrayer, although he was laid waste by the intestine war of so abominable a device. And therefore is Absalom called "father's peace," because his father had the peace, which he had not." [St. Augustine (2010-03-28). St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms (Kindle Locations 355-375). Kindle Edition.]

Recently, I set up a spiritual reading project for myself: continuous reading of the Book of Psalms, also reading the Ukrainian text, and reading the relative exposition or commentary by St. Augustine. Truth to be told, the toughest part of it is facing St. Augustine, at least it has been so for the first three psalms. It's like the way they describe panning for gold. Much to my surprise, however, I've already struck it rich early in the game with St. Augustine's reflection on the meaning of the name Absalom: a father's peace. Take and read again the last part of Augustine's exposition on verse 1 of the psalm from note {41} to the end! It's marvelous! I'll share one application to life in the world for the Christian which struck me immediately.

As awkward as it sounds, and perhaps in this I am limiting the possibilities of such a reflection to those of us who are older, just like King David, I can have a father's peace in the face of any son or daughter who makes war upon me, regardless really of whether or not they are physical progeny. Knowing and understanding my own divine sonship as baptismal grace, I find myself by grace and adoption caught up into the life of the Most Blessed Trinity; not only do I find myself strong in the face of my adversaries; I find myself loving, such that I cannot or dare not have war in my heart.

Think about it and in the context of our Lord's Passion:  that so great and so wonderful forbearance of our Lord! I guess I could leave all else aside, read the psalm again and be most encouraged in the face of whatever I might claim as trials:

"3. O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of me there is no help for him in God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cry aloud to the Lord and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! For thou dost smite all my enemies on the cheek, thou dost break the teeth of the wicked. Deliverance belongs to the Lord; thy blessing be upon thy people!"

Dear St. Augustine, who sees King David at peace with his son, Absalom, in the midst of war, who sees Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at peace before Judas' treachery and rejection of his calling as a disciple! I cannot compare, but I can certainly hope for a heart filled also with a father's peace: But Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

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