Cassiodorus, Explanation of the Psalms - Vol. 3

By Cassiodorus; P. G. Walsh | Go to book overview

to the heavenly Master, the truthful Teacher, the Author who tells of the creation. Why do they hasten to foolish researches, and in their desire to be students of false notions, squander occasions for ascertaining the truth?


COMMENTARY ON PSALM 104

Alleluia. This beautiful word has made its first appearance here. You do not find it used by anyone earlier, 1 though there were many Hebrew writers of early date. We must realise that alleluia is designated as neuter gender; saint Jerome in his commentary on this psalm 2 clearly states this, and we believe that he found it in Hebrew sources. So whenever a citation occurs we shall follow the rule established by that most learned man, that the word must remain unchanged and entire, for it has not been transmuted by the supposition of any tongue. Alleluia among Jews means, "Praise God"; allelu connotes praise, and ia denotes the invisible God. It is one of the ten terms for God expounded by Jerome in his letter to Marcella. He said: "The first name of God is El, that is, strong. Next come Eloim and Eloe, both meaning God." (This is why the word is often found repeated, as in: 0 God, my God, look upon me, 3 and: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?4 and: O God, my God, to thee do I watch at break of day, 5 and the like.) "The fourth is Sabaoth, meaning 'of armies'; the fifth, Helion, which we render as 'exalted.' The sixth is Esereheie, which in Exodus means 'He who sent me.' 6 The seventh is Adonai, which we usually render as Lord. The eighth is Ia, which is applied only to God, and is the final syllable pronounced in Alleluia. The ninth is Tetragrammun, meaning 'the inexpressible.' The tenth is Saddai, meaning 'strong and capable of performing all things,' " 7 and so on.

Alleluia is clearly a new address, notable for its brevity. The churches use it as a votive prayer, and it is fittingly suited to sacred festivities. The tongues of cantors are adorned with it, and the Lord's basilica joyfully responds with it. Innovations are always being introduced to it with varying tropes, 8 as though it is an insatiable blessing. So we must expect the words of psalms to be sweet, when so sweet a proclamation precedes them. We are able to grasp what can follow,

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