Sacrifice and Sanctity

One of my pet peeves is the way people throw around the word “holy” to mean a lot of things other than what the word historically means.  Sometimes when word-use shifts you just have to shift with it; thems the breaks in the evolution of language.  Sometimes it’s worth the effort of preserving the older usage alongside the new one and recognizing which one you are facing in any given context.  But sometimes, if the word and its concept matter enough, you just have to draw a line in the sand and say “No further!” and break your little ships if people try to take liberties with the word.

“Holy” is one of those latter words.

I think that the erosion of the meaning of the word “holy” has been a disaster for thinking seriously about the meaning of life and religious matters.  I go out of my way to teach a basic sense of the word to my younger students and always resolve to find more ways to use the concept with my older students.  I have occasionally alluded to the correct use of this word in some of my older posts, but I have never set down a full account of what I take to be the essential features of the concept of “holy.”  Let’s remedy that. Continue reading Sacrifice and Sanctity

Sacrifice, Gift, Liturgy

Another way to look at the religious act of sacrifice is to see it in relation to gift-giving.

“Gift” in English typically has the connotation of freely-given, something not given in payment of some debt.  In light of my previous post on sacrifice, that would making gifting and sacrificing two different modes of giving.  Sacrifices are things given to God (or, more broadly, the gods) because we owe a debt of worship; gifts are given in a superabundant act of generosity or love.*

The asymmetry of the God-human relationship I discussed in the previous post extends to this gift-sacrifice distinction.  God can never owe anything and creates all that is in a superabundant act of love; He can only give gifts.  Humans can never truly own anything of their own to gift to God; humans can only give sacrifices.  God gives; we sacrifice. Continue reading Sacrifice, Gift, Liturgy

Debt, Worship, Sacrifice

Let’s reinvent the wheel a little bit.  By the end of this we will have come back around to a very common, very basic doctrine of the Catholic Church.  In writing this I have in mind primarily my students, for whom connecting all the things we teach is usually very difficult.


We begin with justice, the repaying of debts that we owe.  Among all the different kinds of justice-relations we can find ourselves in, the just person above all recognizes that there are some debts that can never be properly repaid.  To be truly just is to attempt to repay those debts anyway, even knowing that it will never really be done.

By way of introductory example, consider the case of one person saving another person’s life.  It doesn’t seem strange to imagine a person feeling that they could never repay their savior, but that they would in any event constantly strive to do so.  Just because “thanks” or “a check for a million dollars” doesn’t seem to cover the debt doesn’t mean we should do nothing.  It’s not hard to imagine the indebted party gladly doing good for their savior in a variety of ways, hoping that some day they could reciprocate in some genuine way.  Anyone who shrugged and ceased to care about their debt because of the inadequacy of their efforts would be wicked. Continue reading Debt, Worship, Sacrifice

Translating Psalms (25)

A sixth of the way there.  If I’d started at the beginning of Lent I may have finished the whole thing.  As it is, I think it’s time for a break after this one.

“Judica me, Domine” (Psalm 25)

1 In finem. Psalmus David. Judica me, Domine, quoniam ego in innocentia mea ingressus sum, et in Domino sperans non infirmabor.

Unto the end.  A Psalm of David.  Judge me, O Lord, for I in my innocence have I entered, and hoping in the Lord I shall not be infirm.

2 Proba me, Domine, et tenta me; ure renes meos et cor meum.

Test me, O Lord, and try me; burn my kidneys and my heart.

3 Quoniam misericordia tua ante oculos meos est, et complacui in veritate tua.

For Thy mercy is before my eyes, and I have been pleased in Thy truth. Continue reading Translating Psalms (25)

Translating Psalms (24)

I’ve been using Douay-Rheims Bible Online ( as my source for this little Vulgate project.  Just happened to stand at the head of Google’s list of a “psalms vulgate” search.  When you need a quick Septuagint check, just head over to

“Ad te, Domine, levavi” (Psalm 24)

[1] In finem. Psalmus David. Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam.

Unto the end.  A Psalm of David.  To You, O Lord, I have lifted up my soul.

[2] Deus meus, in te confido; non erubescam.

My God, in You I trust; may I not be put to shame.

[3] Neque irrideant me inimici mei : etenim universi, qui sustinent te, non confundentur.

Nor may my enemies ridicule me: for indeed all who rely on You shall not be confounded.

[4] Confundantur omnes iniqua agentes supervacue. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi, et semitas tuas edoce me.

Let them be confounded, all those doing iniquities pointlessly.  Thy ways, O Lord, show to me, and Thy paths teach me. Continue reading Translating Psalms (24)

Translating Psalms (23)

No, not the famous one.  That’s Psalm 22 by Vulgate/Septuagint numbering.  This is a pretty famous one too, though…and not just because Stephen Colbert famously danced to a modern rendering of it.

“Domini est terra” (Psalm 23)

  1. Prima sabbati. Psalmus David. Domini est terra, et plenitudo ejus; orbis terrarum, et universi qui habitant in eo.
  2. Quia ipse super maria fundavit eum, et super flumina praeparavit eum.
  3. Quis ascendet in montem Domini? aut quis stabit in loco sancto ejus?
  4. Innocens manibus et mundo corde, qui non accepit in vano animam suam, nec juravit in dolo proximo suo.
  5. Hic accipiet benedictionem a Domino, et misericordiam a Deo salutari suo.
  6. Haec est generatio quaerentium eum, quaerentium faciem Dei Jacob.
  7. Attollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevamini, portae aeternales, et introibit rex gloriae.
  8. Quis est iste rex gloriae? Dominus fortis et potens, Dominus potens in praelio.
  9. Attollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevamini, portae aeternales, et introibit rex gloriae.
  10. Quis est iste rex gloriae? Dominus virtutum ipse est rex gloriae.

First of the Sabbath.  A Psalm of David.  The Lord’s is the earth, and its fullness; the orb of lands, and all who dwell in it.

For He above the seas has founded it, and above the rivers prepared it.

Who shall ascend unto the mountain of the Lord?  Or who shall stand in His holy place?

Innocent in hands and clean heart, who has not accepted in vane his own soul, nor sworn in deceit to his neighbor.

This one shall accept blessing from the Lord, and mercy from the God of his salvation.

This is the generation those seeking Him, of those seeking the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up the gates, you princes, yours, and be elevated, eternal gates, and he shall enter, the king of glory.

Who is this, the king of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

Lift up the gates, you princes, yours, and be elevated, eternal gates, and he shall enter, the king of glory.

Who is this, the king of glory?  The Lord of virtues, He Himself is the king of glory.


I hate the verb praeparo.  Paro means prepare.  Praeparo means pre-prepare…?  Nah, just prepare.  But like, really fast.  Actually, I guess I just hate English for using praeparo to translate paro…  Those Anglo-Saxons did some weird stuff.

Translating Psalms (22)

Super-famous, super-short, and super-cool that it follows on the heels of Psalm 21.  Of course most people know this one, or the opening line at least, under the title of Psalm 23.  The Latin doesn’t shake out quite the same but you can still hear all the echoes:

“Dominus regit me” (Psalm 22)

  1. Psalmus David. Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit:
  2. in loco pascuae ibi me collocavit. Super aquam refectionis educavit me,
  3. animam meam convertit. Deduxit me super semitas justitiae, propter nomen suum.
  4. Nam, etsi ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es. Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
  5. Parasti in conspectu meo mensam, adversus eos qui tribulant me; impinguasti in oleo caput meum; et calix meus inebrians quam praeclarus est!
  6. Et misericordia tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitae meae; et ut inhabitem in domo Domini, in longitudinem dierum.

A Psalm of David.  The Lord rules me, and nothing shall be lacking to me:

in the place of pasture there has He gathered me.  Above the water of restoration He has led me out,

my soul He has converted.  He has led me above the paths of justice, on account of His name.

For, even if I shall walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evils, for You are with me.  Thy rod, and thy staff, these have consoled me.

You have prepared in my sight a table, against them who trouble me; You have anointed my head in oil; and my chalice intoxicant how splendid it is!

And Thy mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and so I may dwell in the house of the Lord, in length of days.

Translating Psalms (21)

Famously quoted during Christ’s Passion, and fittingly translated (though not posted) during Holy Week.  Nowhere else is it more obvious that the psalms are the script and soundtrack of Christ’s life.  Go all out on the typology when you read this: by the end we’ll be singing about the Church, the communion of saints, and the Eucharist!

“Deus, Deus meus” (Psalm 21)

[1] In finem, pro susceptione matutina. Psalmus David.

Unto the end, for the morning undertaking. A Psalm of David.

[2] Deus, Deus meus, respice in me: quare me dereliquisti? Longe a salute mea verba delictorum meorum.

God, My God, regard me: why have You abandoned me?  Far from my safety are the words of my faults.

[3] Deus meus, clamabo per diem, et non exaudies; et nocte, et non ad insipientiam mihi.

My God, I will cry through the day, and You will not hear; and at night, and not unto folly for me.

[4] Tu autem in sancto habitas, laus Israel.

But You, in the holy place You dwell, the Praise of Israel. Continue reading Translating Psalms (21)

Translating Psalms (20)

“Domine, in virtute” (Psalm 20)

[1] In finem. Psalmus David.

Unto the End.  A Psalm of David.

[2] Domine, in virtute tua laetabitur rex, et super salutare tuum exsultabit vehementer.

O Lord, in Thy virtue shall the king be made glad, and over Thy salvation shall he exsult mightily.

[3] Desiderium cordis ejus tribuisti ei, et voluntate labiorum ejus non fraudasti eum.

The desire of his heart You have paid to him, and of the will of his lips You have not defrauded him. Continue reading Translating Psalms (20)

Translating Psalms (19)

The act of typing up my notes on various spots in the passage has been of great help in catching my mistakes.  I get halfway through griping about a difficulty when I finally realize the solution.  Lesson in there somewhere, I guess.

“Exaudiat te Dominus” (Psalm 19)

  1. In finem. Psalmus David.
  2. Exaudiat te Dominus in die tribulationis; protegat te nomen Dei Jacob.
  3. Mittat tibi auxilium de sancto, et de Sion tueatur te.
  4. Memor sit omnis sacrificii tui, et holocaustum tuum pingue fiat.
  5. Tribuat tibi secundum cor tuum, et omne consilium tuum confirmet.
  6. Laetabimur in salutari tuo; et in nomine Dei nostri magnificabimur.
  7. Impleat Dominus omnes petitiones tuas; nunc cognovi quoniam salvum fecit Dominus christum suum. Exaudiet illum de caelo sancto suo, in potentatibus salus dexterae ejus.
  8. Hi in curribus, et hi in equis; nos autem in nomine Domini Dei nostri invocabimus.
  9. Ipsi obligati sunt, et ceciderunt, nos autem surreximus, et erecti sumus. Domine, salvum fac regem, et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te.

Unto the end.  A Psalm of David.

May the Lord hear you in the day of tribulation; may it protect you, the Name of the God of Jacob.

May He send you aid from the holy place, and from Zion may He guard you.

May He be remindful of your every sacrifice, and may your holocaust be fatty.

May He pay you according to your heart, and confirm your every counsel.

We shall rejoice in Thy salvation; and in the name of our God shall we be magnified.

May the Lord fulfill all your petitions; now I know that the Lord has made safe His Christ.  He will hear him from His holy heaven, in powers the salvation of His right hand.

These in running, and these in horses; but we in the name of the Lord our God shall we call.

These same are bound, and have fallen, but we have arisen, and been made aright.  O Lord, make safe the king, and hear us on the day in which we shall invoke You.


“nomen Dei Jacob” I’ve deliberately set this one off at the end of the sentence so I can duplicate the ambiguity of the Latin.  I like to keep the Latin word order as much as possible, and in this case the verb, “protegat,” is front loaded.  I’m pretty confident that the subject is “nomen Dei Jacob” (may His Name protect you) but because “nomen” is neuter it can work as either subject or object.  In this case, “nomen” could be appositive to the direct object, “te,” so that you are the name of the God of Jacob.  Since the Latin word order encourages the double-entendre, I fought to preserve it.