The joy of saint Joseph
- Blessed is the man who does not follow the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit on the bench of scoffers;
- but his delight is in the Law of Yahweh, and he murmurs His Law day and night
- He is like a tree planted near a stream of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaves never wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
- The ungodly are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
- Therefore the ungodly will not stand firm before an equitable judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
- for Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish.
PLACED at the beginning of the collection of the psalms, which is the song and prayer book of the “ wise men ” of the Old Testament in which can be found an abridgement of all of Biblical revelation, this psalm recalls that two paths lie open before us : one of them leads to perdition, the other to salvation. There is no middle way.
He who prays while meditating on the Law of Yahweh, is like a fruitful tree; the ungodly are like chaff that God’s last judgement will scatter.
The first verse formulates a precept of “ negative purity ”, to use Fr. de Nantes’ fine expression, warning against the temptation of letting oneself be gradually carried off into the camp of the ungodly : one begins by following their « counsel », then one perseveres in their « way », and finally one « sits down » on their bench. Blessed is he who does not let himself be carried away but who remains aloof. The « scoffers » are those who deride religion, “ scoffers ” and “ freethinkers ”.
In verse 2, the psalmist associates a “ positive purity ” to this refusal of temptation : the believer turns his affections towards the « Law of Yahweh » and it becomes the subject of all his thoughts :
The Law of Yahweh, the Tôrah, in Hebrew, not only designates the “ commandments ” that must be observed, but also the whole of the sacred history of the Covenant forged between Abraham and Yahweh. These commandments are the terms of the Covenant recorded in the first five books of the Old Testament that are called the Pentateuch : Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy.
Now the Pentateuch was put into the form in which it was handed down to us, in 398 BC, after the return from the Exile, during the mission of Ezra, at a time during which the people of Israel no longer had either a king or prophet to lead it. This first psalm, as well as the composition of the collection for which it is the “ preface ”, is for this reason well dated to the beginning of the fourth century BC, after the return from the Exile.
All the psalms sing of the Law, Israel’s wisdom, the unique treasure of faithful Yahwists, the subject of their continual meditation. For those of us who recite the breviary and who are no longer subject to this Law, this constant praise seemed somewhat irksome, until our Father proposed that we see in this Law, in this Wisdom, mistress of life, a figure of the Blessed Virgin and of Her Immaculate Heart. She Herself recollected the Law and pondered the whole of Revelation. Her desires, Her demands, the “ small demands ” are today our true “ Law ”, the Law of the new Covenant.
Everything is transformed. When we reach Psalm 119, we will appreciate its 176 verses; to celebrate the loveliness of the Blessed Virgin every Sunday, they are not too numerous… And through it, we enter into the most pure, most generous and almighty Heart of St. Joseph, who, for sure, applied the psalm in this manner before we did. This is the reason for the title given to this first psalm, which invites us, while saying the Rosary « night and day », to take « delight » in the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary...
He who does this « is like a tree planted near a stream of water ».
For the Old Testament Yahwist, the liturgical life of the Temple was the source of this « stream », with the daily morning and evening sacrifices, bloody sacrifices, sacrifices of incense, and all the prayers that accompanied them. All of this was enhanced by the great pilgrimages of the year, during which people went to Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. This is where one could drink from the miraculous source that the prophet Ezekiel had contemplated in a prophetic vision at the time of the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar :
« And behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the Temple toward the East, for the Temple looked toward the East. The water was flowing down from below the right side of the Temple. » (Ez 47.1)
Ezekiel saw this water become a river, « and wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live » :
« And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the Sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. » (Ez 47.12)
Have trees ever been known to bear new fruit each month ? That is exactly what occurred for us during our important pilgrimages to Lourdes, Fatima Turin, Moure, La Salette, and Lisieux; the source of the grace that gives us life issues from the offering of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world. We receive Him in communion, after having received « healing » through confession. The grace of the Sacraments flows like a river from the pierced side of Christ, as Sister Lucy saw at Tuy, and as we see on the Holy Shroud. Water and Blood issue forth, from the right, from the wound to His side that was opened by the spear.
So then, I understand : new fruits each month, each First Friday of the month, and each First Saturday, this is what the faithful attached to the Immaculate Heart of Mary produce « like a tree planted near a stream of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaves never wither. » In other words : « All that he yields »… is for Heaven !
There is even more. In the desert of this apostate world, ravaged and devastated by war, Aids and famine, in which people no longer have kings or prophets to lead them, this miraculous salvation does not happen to individuals in isolation, but to brothers gathered into communities, the “ anawîm ”, the “ Poor of Israel ”, whom we recognise as brothers.
Nothing less than this is required to triumph over the ungodly, « seated on the bench of scoffers », who form a unity as well. Here is a portent of their ruin on Judgement Day. The association of the ungodly will be dispersed like chaff in the wind : « The ungodly are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. » The breath of the mouth of God pronouncing His judgement tears them away from the Church in which they are mixed in with the faithful, like the chaff with the good grain.
These ungodly who do not stand firm and are like the chaff that the wind scatters, are represented in the Book of Daniel by the idol with feet of clay in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. It represented the power hostile to the God of Israel as a single mass, an eternal paganism, endlessly renewing itself from one civilisation to the next; it is man’s arrogant pretension to place himself in God’s stead. But suddenly, a stone cut out by no human hand smote and broke into pieces « the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. » (Dn 2.35)
This stone that will break into pieces the successive kingdoms is the promised Messiah. The psalm explains the prophetic allegory : in order to crush the league of the ungodly the Messiah will only have to blow on him.
Verse 6 : « for Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish. »
It may be said that all the psalms are an appeal for this reversal of fates that will put an end to the insolent triumph of the ungodly.
Brother Bruno of Jesus
He is risen ! n° 19, March 2004