Commentaries

Artwork: Gozzoli, Benozzo. “Baptism of St Augustine.” 1464-65.

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Below are classic Biblical commentaries on some of the Scriptural parts of the Rite of Baptism.

The commentary I pull from is Haydock 1.

For more commentaries, visit St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea 2, Sermonry 3 and Psallam Domino 4.

Psalm 8

Full text of the Psalm

2: Domine Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! Quoniam elevata est magnificentia tua, super caelos.

3: Ex ore infantium et lactentium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos, ut destruas inimicum et ultorem.

4: Quoniam videbo caelos tuos, opera digitorum tuorum: lunam et stellas, quae tu fundasti.

5: Quid est homo, quod memor es ejus? aut filius hominis, quoniam visitas eum?

6: Minuisti eum paulo minus ab Angelis, gloria et honore coronasti eum:

7: et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.

8: Omnia subjecisti sub pedibus ejus, oves et boves universas: insuper et pecora campi.

9: Volucres caeli, et pisces maris, qui perambulant semitas maris.

10: Domine Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra!

Haydock Commentary

Ver. 2. O Lord, (Jehova) our Lord, (Adonenu) S. Jer. Dominator noster, “our Ruler.” H. — God is Lord of all by creation, and still more of those who believe. W. — Adonai is pronounced by the Jews, and sometimes applied to men. But they have lost the pronunciation of the first term, which some read Jehovah, (C.) or Jaho, (S. Jer.) Jave, &c. H. — Admirable. It expresses all that He is. (Ex. iii. 14. Bert.) Essence itself. H. — Earth. This was verified after the incarnation; (S. Chrys.) for before, the Gentiles knew it not, and the Jews caused it to be blasphemed. Bert. — Now all confess the glory of Jesus Christ, the master-piece of God. C. — Heavens; which are nothing in comparison, (M.) for he hath created them. W. Hab. iii. 3.

Ver. 3. Praise. But why does the prophet take notice of this proof of Christ’s being the Messias, while he passes over his curing the sick? &c. S. Chrysostom answers, because the other miracles had been performed in the old law, but God had never before opened the mouths of infants to proclaim “praise the Lord,” as they did when they bore witness to Christ entering the temple. Other commentators greatly weaken this proof. Bert. — We read that after the passage of the Red Sea, wisdom opened the mouth of the dumb, and made the tongues of infants eloquent; (Wisd. x. 21.) which may be a figurative expression. The prophets and apostles, whom the world looked upon as fools, were chosen to declare the highest mysteries. All nature so clearly proves the existence of Providence, that, if other things were silent, infants would open their mouths to confound the incredulous. The condition of man from his infancy is, in effect, one of the plainest proofs of the divine wisdom. His imitative powers, the ease with which he takes his mother’s milk, &c. are something surprising. Hippocrates even, concludes hence, that the child must have sucked, even in the womb, as the art is soon lost, and not easily recovered. God seems to be particularly pleased with the praises of children. Mic. ii. 9. Joel ii. 16. S. Aug. admires how the Scriptures have been proportioned to the capacity of infants. Heb. “Thou hast founded strength.” Aquila. C. — But S. Jerom retains praise, as our Saviour himself quotes it. Matt. xxi. 16. H. — Avenger. The old Vulg. read defensorem (H.) in the same sense. S. Chrys. explains it of the Jews; and other Fathers understand heretics and the devil. S. Aug. &c. C. — Arnobius (con. Gent. i.) seems to think that all have an innate idea of Providence, ingenitum. The poor and simple confessed Christ, whom the proud doctors of the law, and Pharisees, rejected, despising his followers as children or fools. H.

Ver. 4. Fingers, as if they had been formed in play, while the Incarnation is the work of God’s right hand. Euseb. C. — Heavens, moon, and stars, denote the Church. No mention is made of the sun, because it is the emblem of Christ, who was the Creator. Bert. Apoc. xii. 1. — This text proves that the world was not formed by angels, as some ancient heretics asserted. David, perhaps, wrote this at night; and the sun and stars are not seen together. M.

Ver. 5. Him. The prophet considers the nature of man at such a distance from the divinity. Being, nevertheless, united with it in Jesus Christ, it is raised far above the angels. Heb. ii. 6. Bert. — When we reflect on the meanness of our nature, on the one hand, and on what God has done for it on the other, we are lost in astonishment. The pagans were aware of the corporal infirmities of man, (Seneca Consol. xi.) but not of his spiritual disorders. Heb. has here, the son of Adam, or one of the lowest class; and not of ish, which means a person of nobility, vir. Ps. iv. 4. C. — Yet Christ applies to himself the former appellation, to shew us a pattern of humility. H. — S. Aug. inquires, what difference there is between man or the son. The Heb. v means, likewise, and; yet or would have been better. Ex. xxi. 16. — “Whether he have sold him, or he be in his hand.” Amama.

Ver. 6. Angels. Elohim means also “God,” as S. Jerom, &c. explain it. Thou hast placed man like a deity upon earth. But S. Paul adopts the sense of the Sept. C. — S. Jerom doubted whether the epistle to the Hebrews belonged to him or he would have done the same. Some of the Fathers suppose, (Bert.) that the prophet speaks of man before the fall. Theodoret. — Yet he has Christ principally in view. C. — A little less may be better rendered, ““for a little while:” bracu ti. Acts v. 34. Is. x. 25. modico. Heb. ii. Notwithstanding the prerogatives of Adam, before the fall, what is said by the prophet and S. Paul can be true of none but Christ; who was subject to death only for a short space, and quickly rose from the tomb, Lord of all. 1 Cor. xv. 26. If we do not see it yet, (Heb. ii. 8. Ps. lxix. 2.) our faith must not waver. He is crowned, and will one day assert his dominion. Bert. Matt. xxviii. 18. Eph. i. 19. C. — In his assumed nature, Christ became less than the angels; but he has raised it above them, and is appointed Lord of angels, men, and creatures of every description. The sea and the winds obey him. Matt. viii. W.

Ver. 8. All sheep. S. Paul did not judge it necessary to specify these things, as they are included in the word all. Bert. These tame cattle designate the believing Jews; beasts, the Gentile converts; birds, the proud; fishes, the voluptuous. S. Athan. — The birds may also be put for men of genius, who dive into the secrets of theology; and fishes, for anxious worldlings. Hesyc. — SS. Aug. and Jerom understand that people who labour not for their salvation, or who are attached to the earth, men who rise up against God, or never elevate their thoughts to heaven, are emblematically specified by these creatures.

Ver. 9. Sea. All things are subjected to man’s dominion. Gen. i. 26. and ix. 2. C. — “The Stoics are in the right, who say that the world was made for us. For all its parts and productions are contrived for man’s benefit.” Lact. ira. xiii.

Ver. 10. Earth. This repetition of the first verse insinuates, that as God was admirable in giving man the power to avoid sin and death; so he is wonderful in raising him again, in such a state the he can sin no more. W.

Psalm 28

Full text of the Psalm

2: Afferte Domino filii Dei: afferte Domino filios arietum: Alferte Domino gloriam et honorem, afferte Domino gloriam nomini ejus: adorate Dominum in atrio sancto ejus.

3: Vox Domini super aquas, Deus majestatis intonuit: Dominus super aquas multas.

4: Vox Domini in virtute: vox Domini in magnificentia.

5: Vox Domini confringentis cedros: et confringet Dominus cedros Libani.

6: Et comminuet eas tamquam vitulum Libani: et dilectus quemadmodum filius unicornium.

7: Vox Domini intercidentis flammam ignis:

8: vox Domini concutientis desertum: et commovebit Dominus desertum Cades.

9: Vox Domini praeparantis cervos, et revelabit condensa: et in templo ejus omnes dicent gloriam.

10: Dominus diluvium inhabitare facit: et sedebit Dominus Rex in aeternum.

11: Dominus virtutem populo suo dabit: Dominus benedicet populo suo in pace.

Haydock Commentary

Ver. 2. Honour. Heb. “strength,” which we must acknowledge. H. — The first design of sacrifice is to adore God in spirit. W. — Holy court. Heb. “in the holy beauty.” 1 Par. xvi. 29. Even the priests were obliged to remain in the court, where they adored God, as sitting upon the Cherubim, in the most holy place (C.) in the Catholic Church. W. — External worship must be observed. Bert.

Ver. 3. Voice. Separating the waters from the earth at the beginning, as the six other voices may denote the other works of the creation; or all these voices may signify the various effects of thunder, or may allude to the terrors preceding the last judgment, (Apoc. x. 3.) or attending the establishment and liberation of the Jewish and Christian Churches. The first voice was heard when Jesus was baptized, (Mat. iii. 17.) as the rest may intimate the instruction and efficacy of the other sacraments. It is evident that something posterior to the reign of David is prefigured; (Bert.) and the Fathers have generally understood the psalm of the propagation of the gospel by the apostles, two of whom are styled sons of thunder. Mark iii. 17. C. — The psalmist speaks of greater things than attended the translation of the ark. He represents our Saviour preaching with great power and majesty, (Mat. vii. 29.) and subjecting the most powerful monarchs to his dominion. W. — Thunder is often styled the voice of God, and is occasioned by the collision of the clouds, (H.) which Moses calls the waters above. S. Bas. C.

Ver. 4. Power and magnificence. The sacraments of confirmation and the blessed Eucharist, or the wonderful propagation of the Church, amid violent persecutions. Bert.

Ver. 5. Libanus. Which were the most famous. H. — Storms often tear up trees by the roots. C. — The effects of the gospel and of penance, may be described, or the terrors of the last day, when Jesus Christ will destroy the proud. Bert.

Ver. 6. Shall reduce them to pieces, &c. In Hebrew, shall make them to skip like a calf. The psalmist here describes the effects of thunder, (which he calls the voice of the Lord) which sometimes breaks down the tallest and strongest trees; and makes their broken branches skip, &c. All this is to be understood mystically, of the powerful voice of God’s word in his Church; which has broke the pride of the great ones of this world, and brought many of them meekly and joyfully to submit their necks to the sweet yoke of Christ. Ch. — Calf, or “branch,” as the Greek word also implies. But Heb. seems more naturally to signify “a calf; Libanus and Sirion, (or Sarion. Deut. iii. 9.) as the son of the unicorn.” These two mountains are represented jolting together. C. — The violence of an earthquake has sometimes produced such effects. Pliny ii. 83. See Ps. cxiii. 4. Judg. v. 5. Hab. iii. 10. C. — And as. The construction & dilectus, seems rather to make this only nominative, “the Lord shall, &c. and the beloved, (H.) the Messias, like the son of the unicorn,” shall perform the like wonders. It seems probable that the Sept. have read Jeshurun for Shirion, (Bert.) or vissron, instead of ussriun; as i would onlybe a little transposed. H. — Jeshurun is a title of Israel, (Deut. xxxii. 15. and xxxiii. 5. 26.) who was a figure of the Messias, the beloved of God. Bert. — “And he will scatter them as a calf would do; Libanus and Sarion, are in motion, like the son of the rhinoceros.” S. Jer. H. The most powerful submit to Christ, who works these wonders. W.

Ver. 7. Fire. Lightning, which deals destruction around. C. — The Holy Ghost appeared in the form of parted tongues of fire, to enable the apostles to convert the desert of the Gentile world, and the Jews, represented by the desert of Cades, (W.) which was near their country, (H.) on the frontiers of Idumea. Num. xiii. 27. C. — Holy orders were instituted by Christ, to confer grace to the sacred ministers, according to their different stations or exigencies; (Bert.) or extreme unction, which prepares the sol for her separation from the body, may be here meant, if we follow the usual disposition of the sacraments; as the following sentence may allude to holy orders, which shakes or causes the desert to fructify, (H.) unless these words be rather applied to matrimony. Bert. — Shaketh and shakes. S. Jer. has parturire faciens, making the desert bring forth.” Chal. “frightens the serpents.” All nature is alarmed at the sound of thunder. H. — The deserts then appear most terrible. C.

Ver. 9. Prepareth. Heb. “delivereth,” as a midwife (S. Jer. 5 Edit. Aquila) “maketh the hinds to calve;” (Prot. H.) or “to leap, (from éul; Bert.) or frighteneth.” Hinds are supposed to bring forth with great difficulty. But the reverse seems to be the case. S. Chrys. in Job xxxix. 3. C. — They are very swift, and trample serpents under their feet, nature having given them this power. S. Jer. Pliny vii. 32. The text may be understood of the last sacrament, which prepares us for our passage; (Bert.) or of matrimony, by means of which the world is peopled with rational beings, whose duty it is to glorify God in his temple. H. — This is also the effect of grace, and of the preaching of the gospel, (Bert.) which inspires people with a desire of running on in the way of perfection. Christ explains to them hidden mysteries in his Church, to which he bring multitudes, like the waters, ruling over them, and enabling them to overcome all temptations, till he crown his elect with eternal peace. W. — Glory. Running thither through fear, or to thank God for rain after a drought.

Ver. 10. Dwell. Chal. explains this of the deluge, which continued a long while upon the earth, to punish mankind. Heb. may also signify, “the Lord sitteth upon the flood,” or clouds, as the Lord of nature. — Strength, or abundant rain, (Jos. xxxviii. 6.) with all other blessings; (C.) making his people as terrible to their enemies as the storm which has been described. M.

Psalm 41

Full text of the Psalm

2: Quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum: ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus.

3: Sitivit anima mea ad Deum fortem, vivum: quando veniam, et apparebo ante faciem Dei?

4: Fuerunt milii lacrymae meae panes die ac nocte: dum dicitur mihi quotidie: Ubi est Deus tuus?

5: Haec recordatus sum, et effudi in me animam meam: quoniam transibo in locum tabernaculi admirabilis, usque ad domum Dei. In voce exsultationis, et confessionis: sonus epulantis.

6: Quare tristis es anima mea? et quare conturbas me? Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi: salutare vultus mei,

7: et Deus meus. Ad meipsum anima mea conturbata est: propterea memor ero tui de terra Jordanis, et Hermoniim a monte modico.

8: Abyssus abyssum invocat, in voce cataractarum tuarum. Omnia excelsa tua, et fluctus tui super me transierunt.

9: In die mandavit Dominus misericordiam suam: et nocte canticum ejus. Apud me oratio Deo vitae meae,

10: dicam Deo: Susceptor meus es. Quare oblitus es mei? et quare contristatus incedo, dum affligit me inimicus?

11: Dum confringuntur ossa mea, exprobraverunt mihi, qui tribulant me, inimici mei. Dum dicunt mihi per singulos dies: Ubi est Deus tuus? quare tristis es anima mea?

12: Et quare conturbas me? Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi: salutare vultus mei, et Deus meus.

Haydock Commentary

Ver. 2. Waters. This was sung at the baptism of Catechumens, (S. Aug.) teaching them to thirst after heaven. H. — The hart being infected with poison, thirsts exceedingly, as sinners must do for pardon. W.

Ver. 3. Strong. Most Bibles before Clement VIII. read “fountain.” C. — El signifies both God and strong. Bert. — The Levites desired earnestly to serve God in his temple; Christians must wish to appear before him in heaven, (C.) when they will be free from temptations. Idols may destroy, but they cannot give life. W.

Ver. 4. Bread. Ovid imitates this: Cura dolorque animi lachrymæque alimenta fuére. Met. x. — The tears of compunction obtain the remission of sin. S. Jer. — God. Thus the idolaters derided those who could not point at their God. H. — The Babylonians had conquered all the surrounding nations, and despised their deities. C. — The wicked laugh at the just, who are for a time in distress, comforting themselves with weeping. W. — Those who saw David wandering (H.) in the mountains, at a distance from the tabernacle, might ask him what religion or God he followed. M.

Ver. 5. These sarcasms fill me with grief, (C.) while the solemn ceremonies of religion, which, I remember, where observed in the temple, cause my heart to overflow with joy. Bert. — I shall. Prot. “I had gone with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise; with a multitude that kept holiday.” Yet the holidays of the Catholic Church are now ridiculed by many. Prot. H. — The original may have several other meanings. The tabernacle may here designate the musach of Levites. 4 K. xvi. 18. C. — Feasting. Some such religious feasts were prescribed. Deut. xii. 12. H. — David was not permitted to build the temple, nor to enter the tabernacle: but he speaks of heaven. W.

Ver. 6. My countenance. Heb. “his,” as Aquila, &c. read. C. — Yet as the words are repeated, (v. 12.) there seems to be a fault in the text, (Bert.) owing to v, “his” being taken in here, instead of explaining it by and, v. 7. H. — The arrangement of the letters in the Vulg. is preferable. C.

Ver. 7. Little hill of Sion. I hope that I shall soon again behold the fertile regions along the Jordan. C. — But these hills of Hermon, &c. are nothing when compared with heaven: They serve only to remind us of our banishment. Bert. — The difficulties of our present abode, hemmed in on all sides, teach us to place our hopes in heaven. W.

Ver. 8. Flood-gates. The Hebrews imagined there were immense reservoirs of water above, (C.) which might serve to drown the earth, as at the deluge. Gen. vii. 11. Both heaven and earth seemed to be armed against the psalmist. H. — One affliction succeeded another, (C.) and God appeared to have abandoned his servants to temptations. But he enables them to come off with victory, and fills them with more joy in their trials: so that they may sing in heart, and pray. W.

Ver. 9. Night. In affliction, as well as in prosperity, we must praise the Lord. Rom. Sept. “in the night he will manifest it.” — Mercy. H. — This is very beautiful, but not agreeable with the original. Bert.

Ver. 11. Whilst. Prot. As, “with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me.” H. — Thus the martyrs were tortured and upbraided. C.

Ver. 12. Countenance. To whom I look up with confidence. M. — The just are comforted with the hope of God’s sight. W.

Sources


  1. Haydock, George L. Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary. Edward Dunigan and Brother: New York, 1859, https://www.ecatholic2000.com/haydock/title.shtml. ↩︎

  2. Aquinas, Thomas. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels. J.H. Parker, 1841, https://www.ecatholic2000.com/catena/untitled-111.shtml. ↩︎

  3. Sermonry, https://sermonry.com/. Accessed 3 June 2019. ↩︎

  4. “Psallam Domino: Masterpost: Links to Notes by Psalm Number.” Psallam Domino (blog), January 16, 2018. https://psallamdomino.blogspot.com/2018/01/masterpost-links-to-notes-by-psalm.html. ↩︎