and for ever. After these varied and diverse aspirations that the Lord's mercy may guard us, he comes to the end of the psalm and rounds it all off. He says: May the Lord keep thy beginning. It is appropriate for us to regard this as addressed to martyrs, whose beginning is to be guarded by the Lord in case they yield through the savagery of tortures, or are seduced by the enticement of flattery. So the prophet rightly prays that their beginning be protected, for without the Lord's help they cannot in any sense be wholly on their guard. As He says in the gospel: When you come before princes and powers, take no thought how or what to speak, for it shall be given to you in that hour how or what to speak. 15 He further adds: And thy end, in which lies total perfection, for until the very end of life there abides in them true and blameless confession. As He says in the gospel: He that shall persevere to the end shall be saved. 16 So the Lord watches over the beginning and guards the end, ensuring that martyrs both proclaim the truth and are not vanquished by any excessive punishment. But note what he added to this consummation: From henceforth, now and for ever, for whoever perseveres will gain eternal benefits. There can be no end where rejoicing is to continue without sense.
How well has this second step kept the prophet's feet steady and unshakeable! How well he rose above himself, for he mounted to merits of greater strength. Let us see what he achieves on the third step, after here demanding the Lord's protection with great longing.
A canticle of steps. We have listened to the previous step, and we must understand it as mounting to a higher level. But this ascent maintained with the Lord's vigilance is steady. Its advance in merit is balanced by self-prostration in mental subjection. See now how the prophet rises to the third step, rising higher than those on the second rung; he is said to inaugurate the psalm with a feeling of joy.