The Fathers on Psalm 118

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say:
his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say,
his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the Lord say,
his mercy endures forever.

In danger I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is with me; I am not afraid;
what can mortals do against me?
The Lord is with me as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on my foes.
Better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put one’s trust in mortals.
Better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put one’s trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me;
in the Lord’s name I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side;
in the Lord’s name I cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees;
they burned up like fire among thorns;
in the Lord’s name I cut them off.
I was hard pressed and falling,
but the Lord came to my help.
The Lord, my strength and might,
has become my savior.

The joyful shout of deliverance
is heard in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand works valiantly;
the Lord’s right hand is raised;
the Lord’s right hand works valiantly.”
I shall not die but live
and declare the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord chastised me harshly,
but did not hand me over to death.

Open the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and thank the Lord.
This is the Lord’s own gate,
through it the righteous enter.
I thank you for you answered me;
you have been my savior.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice in it and be glad.
Lord, grant salvation!
Lord, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he
who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God and has enlightened us.
Join in procession with leafy branches
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;
my God, I offer you praise.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures forever.

Athanasius: “When you feel the need to give thanks, sing Psalm…118.”[1]

But if the Gentiles are honoring the same God who gave the law to Moses and who made the promise to Abraham and whose words the Jews dishonored, why are the Jews ignorant (rather, why do they choose to ignore) that what the Lord foretold in the Scriptures has been revealed in the world and appeared as if in bodily form, as the Scripture said: The Lord is God and has enlightened us; and again, He sent his Word and healed them;[2] and again, Not a messenger, not an angel but the Lord himself saved them[3]? Their state may be compared to that of someone insane, who sees the earth illuminated by the sun but denies that the sun illuminates it.[4]

Pseudo-Athanasius: Through this psalm the new people that was established from the people and the Gentiles is instructed to confess Christ and to call him alone succor. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever. First of all, he commands the former—those who come from the people—to begin confession, since they were called first through the preaching of the Gospel. In danger I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me? And they learn in tribulations to rely on and call ‘refuge’ no one else but him. All the nations surrounded me; in the Lord’s name I cut them off. They surrounded me on every side; in the Lord’s name I cut them off. They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns; in the Lord’s name I cut them off. I was hard pressed and falling, but the Lord came to my help. The Lord, my strength and might, has become my savior. For not only does he bring great relief to those who are afflicted for his sake, but he also brings them into the tabernacles of the just, in which the voice of exultation and salvation is heard. The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand works valiantly; the Lord’s right hand is raised; the Lord’s right hand works valiantly.” For he is the Father’s right hand, which he stretched out to us, that by it we might be raised from the gates of death and he might open for us the gates of righteousness, in order that when we enter through them we may confess the Lord. This is the Lord’s own gate, through it the righteous enter. But the Lord’s gate—through which the just enter—is wisdom, justice, purity, and spiritual valor. When the just are beautiful in these virtues and are purified—that is, contented—through torments, they will enter in and see God, whom only the pure see. I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior. And they will confess him who heard and saved them. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. For he was our chief cornerstone, through which he bound the people and the Gentles, spiritually fashioning both of them into one new man. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This especially showed his wonder, by which he destroyed death and made life and incorruption shine. And on the glorious day of his resurrection, he made us rejoice and exult, saying: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—that is, in the glory that befits God and in the dominion and greatness which surpasses all, when he comes to call every man and make him rejoice. Thus the prophets foretold concerning him: The Lord is God and has enlightened us. Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us, and he has made his house for those who have believed in him. For those who will also arise he commands a festival, as they are gathered in love and spiritual concord, so that because of their multitude they will reach as far as the horns of the altar and the Cherubim, who with their wings were veiling the mercy seat. You are my God, I give you thanks; my God, I offer you praise. We are also commanded to confess and exalt him as the true God, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever. We declare that he is good by nature and his mercy is forever.[5]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 125.

[2] Psalm 107:20 (LXX)

[3] Isaiah 63:9 (LXX)

[4] On the Incarnation 40, LCC 4:94. Εἰ δὲ τὸν Μωϋσῇ δεδωκότα τὸν νόμον καὶ τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἐπαγγειλάμενον Θεόν, καὶ οὗ τὸν λόγον ἠτίμασαν Ἰουδαῖοι, τοῦτον τὰ ἔθνη σέβουσι, διὰ τί μὴ γινώσκουσι, μᾶλλον δὲ διὰ τί ἑκόντες παρορῶσιν, ὅτι ὁ προφητευόμενος ὑπὸ τῶν γραφῶν Κύριος ἐπέλαμψε τῇ οἰκουμένῃ καὶ ἐπεφάνη σωματικῶς αὐτῇ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή· «Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἐπέφανεν ἡμῖν», καὶ πάλιν· «Ἐξαπέστειλε τὸν Λόγον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰάσατο αὐτούς», καὶ πάλιν· «Οὐ πρέσβυς, οὐκ ἄγγελος, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς ὁ Κύριος ἔσωσεν αὐτούς.» Ὅμοιον δὲ πάσχουσιν, ὡς εἴ τις παραπεπληγὼς τὴν διάνοιαν, τὴν μὲν γῆν φωτιζομένην ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου βλέποι, τὸν δὲ ταύτην φωτίζοντα ἥλιον ἀρνεῖται.

[5] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168V. Page 76-77. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 475-80.

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