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Pope explains intricacies of Psalm 119

November 09, 2011

Pope Benedict devoted his November 9 public audience to a discussion of Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms.

The central theme of the psalm is a meditation on the law of God, the Pope told his weekly audience. This law, he added, must be “listened listened to with obedience but not servility, with filial trust and awareness. To listen to the Word is to have a personal encounter with the Lord of life.”

The ideal example of a proper response to God’s law is the Virgin Mary, Pope Benedict said. She not only studied and observed the law, but also “treasured it in her heart.”

Psalm 119 is characterized by intricate wordplay, the Pope observed. Each of the 22 stanzas begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and by using every letter the psalmist hints that he is trying to express the full range of his thoughts about God. The Pope also remarked that the psalm uses a variety of different words for both God’s laws (decrees, precepts, promises) and for the believer’s commitment (to know, to love, to live, to meditate upon) to observe them.

At the conclusion of his Wednesday audience, the Pope made an appeal for prayers for the victims of recent floods in both Central America and Southeast Asia. He asked “that institutions and men and women of good will may collaborate generously to help the thousands of people affected by such calamities.”


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