Cassiodorus On The GRADUAL Psalms Of The Mass For The 2nd Sunday After Pentecost
GRADUAL Ps. 119:1-2
In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.
V. O Lord, deliver me from lying lips and from a treacherous tongue.
1. In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and he heard me. The first step of the virtues is taken, in which the prophet abandons earthly vices, and with tearful confession begs to be freed from the afflictions of this world. As a beginning, he proceeded to abandon the sins of the flesh, and thus to make entreaty t the Lord. The person who mounts one step leaves ground-level, but is still admitted to a lowly position when accorded only the first step of the climb. But undoubtedly he who can be encountered even on this step will now possess the merit of one of the blessed. So we read in Scripture: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven. So they say that they have been heard, since they had cried out in tribulation. The Lord cannot fob off the person whom He hears entreating Him with remorseful heart. As we read in Isaiah: Whilst thou art still calling, I will say, Here I am. Observe too the most beautiful order of the words: first the affliction is mentioned, then comes the exclamation, thirdly the hearkening, so it is clear that the prayers of the faithful reach the Lord in this fixed sequence.
2. O Lord, delivery mu soul fro wicked lips and a deceitful tongue. Set as they are in the vale of lamentation (though we now know that this is one of the steps for faithful souls), they ask to be delivered from harsh allegations and from enticements ordered with crafty persuasion. The person who has begun to abandon the world through loathing of its vices endures wicked lips at the first stage of conversion, when his decision is mocked by evil reproaches. Wicked people say to him: "Why do you torture yourself, fleeing from worldly honours and abandoning human attractions, with the result that you both lose the world and fail ever to attain what you long for?" But these are words placed on the lips that deceive, for they are not reinforced by any reflection from the heart. When they are ineffective, their advocates turn to crafty enticements, and say: "Do not circumscribe yourself, do not weary yourself with fasting; there is time to do these things later." They presume to speak on behalf of the body, but are seen to impose problems of all kinds on the soul. So these are the wicked lips and deceitful tongue which the person initially suffers who is converted to the Lord's commands. Though he thinks that the words are trivial, they were the reason for the fall of the human race and the imposition of the condition of death, for when the serpent approached Eve, he first said to her with wicked lips: Why has God commanded you not to eat of this tree of Paradise? When she replied that she was forbidden by the Lord, he said with deceitful tongue, Eat and you shall be as gods. So you see that entreaty was made with all the prophet's strength that he be delivered from these words of persuasion, for he knew that the human race had been beguiled by them.
Explanation of the Psalms
Translated by P.G. Walsh