Psalm 108.  Deus, laudem

Woe to the merciless enemy

Psalm 108 is a curse formula and very difficult to reconcile with the Christian idea of prayer.  Let us suppose that the Church or Christ himself is praying this Psalm.  Then the curses become no longer wishes, but rather the solemn sentence of divine justice upon those unwilling to repent.  With tears in her eyes the Church prays these terrible words―just as our blessed Lord once declaimed his eightfold "Woe unto you..." against the Pharisees.

At the opening of the Psalm, the Church laments.  In the following two sections, where curses and punishments are asked for, a picture of the everlasting hellfire is painted for us.  The petition which comprises the fourth part of the Psalm can be a prayer of the individual soul; I stand terrified before the picture I have seen:  "Have mercy upon me, a poor, weak mortal!"

Lament and plea

Deus, laudem meam ne tacúeris: * quia os peccatóris, et os dolósi super me apértum est.
2  Locúti sunt advérsum me lingua dolósa, et sermónibus ódii circumdedérunt me: * et expugnavérunt me gratis.
3  Pro eo ut me dilígerent, detrahébant mihi: * ego autem orábam.
4  Et posuérunt advérsum me mala pro bonis: * et ódium pro dilectióne mea.

Hold not thy tongue, O God, in my praise; * for the mouth of the ungodly, yea, the mouth of the deceitful is opened upon me.
2  They have spoken against me with false tongues, and they compassed me about also with words of hatred, * and fought against me without a cause.
3  Instead of making me a return of love, they have excluded me : * but I gave myself unto prayer.
4  And they rewarded me evil for good, * and hatred for my love.

Woe to the merciless

5  Constítue super eum peccatórem: * et diábolus stet a dextris ejus.
6  Cum judicátur, éxeat condemnátus: * et orátio ejus fiat in peccátum.
7  Fiant dies ejus pauci: * et episcopátum ejus accípiat alter.
8  Fiant fílii ejus órphani: * et uxor ejus vídua.
9  Nutántes transferántur fílii ejus, et mendícent: * et ejiciántur de habitatiónibus suis.
10  Scrutétur fœnerátor omnem substántiam ejus: * et dirípiant aliéni labóres ejus.
11  Non sit illi adjútor: * nec sit qui misereátur pupíllis ejus.
12  Fiant nati ejus in intéritum: * in generatióne una deleátur nomen ejus.
  In memóriam rédeat iníquitas patrum ejus in conspéctu Dómini: * et peccátum matris ejus non deleátur.
14  Fiant contra Dóminum semper, et dispéreat de terra memória eórum: * pro eo quod non est recordátus fácere misericórdiam.
15  Et persecútus est hóminem ínopem, et mendícum, * et compúnctum corde mortificáre.

5  Set thou an ungodly man over him, * and may the devil stand at his right hand.
6  When sentence is given upon him, let him go out condemned; * and may his prayer be turned into sin.
7  May his days be few; * and let another take his bishoprick.
8  May his children be fatherless, * and his wife a widow.
9  May his children be vagabonds, and beg their bread; * and may they be cast out of their dwellings.
10  Let the extortioner consume all that he hath; * and let the stranger spoil his labour.
11  May there be no man to help him, * nor to have compassion upon his fatherless offspring.
12  Let his posterity be destroyed; * in one generation let his name be blotted out.
  Let the wickedness of his fathers be had in remembrance in the sight of the Lord; * and let not the sin of his mother be done away.
14  Let them alway be before the Lord, that he may root out the memorial of them from off the earth; * because he was not mindful to shew mercy.
15  But persecuted the poor man and the beggar : * and the vexed at heart, that he might slay him.

He invites the curse

16  Et diléxit maledictiónem, et véniet ei: * et nóluit benedictiónem, et elongábitur ab eo.
  Et índuit maledictiónem sicut vestiméntum, * et intrávit sicut aqua in interióra ejus, et sicut óleum in óssibus ejus.
18  Fiat ei sicut vestiméntum, quo operítur: * et sicut zona, qua semper præcíngitur.
  Hoc opus eórum, qui détrahunt mihi apud Dóminum: * et qui loquúntur mala advérsus ánimam meam.

16  His delight was in cursing, and it shall happen unto him; * he loved not blessing, therefore shall it be far from him.
17  He clothed himself with cursing like as with a raiment, * and it shall come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
18  Let it be unto him as the cloak that he hath upon him, * and as the girdle that he is alway girded withal.
19  This is the work of them that detract me before the Lord : * and that speak evil against my soul.

The Psalmist's crisis

20  Et tu, Dómine, Dómine, fac mecum propter nomen tuum: * quia suávis misericórdia tua.
  Líbera me quia egénus, et pauper ego sum: * et cor meum conturbátum est intra me.
22  Sicut umbra cum declínat, ablátus sum: * et excússus sum sicut locústæ.
23  Génua mea infirmáta sunt a jejúnio: * et caro mea immutáta est propter óleum.
24  Et ego factus sum oppróbrium illis: * vidérunt me, et movérunt cápita sua.
25  Adjuva me, Dómine, Deus meus: * salvum me fac secúndum misericórdiam tuam.
26  Et sciant quia manus tua hæc: * et tu, Dómine, fecísti eam.
27  Maledícent illi, et tu benedíces: * qui insúrgunt in me, confundántur: servus autem tuus lætábitur.
28  Induántur qui détrahunt mihi, pudóre: * et operiántur sicut deplóide confusióne sua.
29  Confitébor Dómino nimis in ore meo: * et in médio multórum laudábo eum.
30  Quia ástitit a dextris páuperis, * ut salvam fáceret a persequéntibus ánimam meam.

20  But thou, O Lord, my Lord, do with me for thy Name's sake : * for sweet is thy mercy.
  O deliver me, for I am poor and needy, * and my heart is troubled within me.
22  I go hence like the shadow that departeth, * and am driven away as the locusts.
23  My knees are weak through fasting; * my flesh is changed for want of oil.
24  I am become also a reproach unto them: * they saw me, and they shaked their heads.
25  Help me, O Lord my God; * O save me according to thy mercy;
26  And they shall know how that this is thy hand, * and that thou, Lord, hast done it.
27  Though they curse, yet bless thou; * and let them be confounded that rise up against me; but let thy servant rejoice.
28  Let my detractors be clothed with shame; * and let them be covered with their own confusion, as with a double cloak.
29  As for me, I will give great thanks unto the Lord with my mouth, * and praise him among the multitude;
30  For he hath stood at the right hand of the poor, * to save from them that persecute my soul.