Psalm One (Augustine)

I present here a short reflection on Psalm One with the aid of St. Augustine’s Commentary.

 

Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper. Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth. Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just. For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

 

St. Augustine wastes no time in the commentary on the Psalms in letting us know the centrality of Christ. The first comment on verse 1 of the first psalm is “This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.” We immediately see that the Psalms, thought pre-Christian in date, are Christ centered, and refer us directly to the Son of God Incarnate. Unlike the first Adam, the second Adam is He “who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence.” Only united to this perfect man may we also be called sons of the Father. If it is “no longer I but Christ that lives in Me” I can understand myself to be the man in this Psalm.

 

“’He will meditate by day and by night,’ is to be understood either as without ceasing; or ‘by day’ in joy, ‘by night’ in tribulations.” Meditating on the law of the Lord means a firm and constant disposition to hold fast to God in all circumstances, times, and places.  Our delight is in God in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, as the wedding vows say.  After all, we, as the Church, are the bride of Christ. These vows should hold at least as firm in our commitment to God as they do to our earthly spouse, if we have one.

 

“If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink;” for “he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters.” Augustine references many passages from the Gospels that directly relate to the third verse of the Psalm. It is our life in Christ that nourishes us.  We are the branches, He the vine, and we must abide in Him to bear fruit.

 

“Not so the wicked, not so.” As we are told that the Godly man of verse one refers first and foremost to Christ, the new Adam, we may remember here the fall of the first Adam, who after “he had consented and tasted of the forbidden tree that he might be as God, hid himself from the Face of God.” He is the dust that the wind driveth from the face of the earth.  We are dust and to dust we shall return, if we not be united to the new Adam, who has overcome death.

 

“For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.” It is as if He were to say to the just “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom,” and to the unjust “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

 

Psalm One could be said to sum up the Gospels and indeed the entire Christian life.  The opening words of the Didache tell it plainly: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.”

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