|"Have mercy upon me, O God"|
Psalm 51 is the 51st psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning in English in the King James Version: "Have mercy upon me, O God". In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 50 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as Miserere, (Ancient Greek: ? ? ?, romanized: elé?són me ho theós) in Ancient Greek: ? ?, romanized: H? Ele?m?n), especially in musical settings. Psalm 51 is one of the penitential psalms. It is traditionally said[by whom?] to have been composed by David as a confession to God after he sinned with Bathsheba.
The Midrash Tehillim states that one who acknowledges that he has sinned and is fearful and prays to God about it, as David did, will be forgiven. But one who tries to ignore his sin will be punished by God. The Talmud (Yoma 86b) cites verse 5 in the Hebrew (verse 3 in English versions), "My sin is always before me", as a reminder to the penitent to maintain continual vigilance in the area in which he transgressed, even after he has confessed and been absolved.
Spurgeon says Psalm 51 is called "The Sinner's Guide", as it shows the sinner how to return to God's grace. Athanasius would recommend that this chapter be recited each night by some of his disciples. According to James Montgomery Boice, this psalm was recited by both Thomas More and Lady Jane Grey at their executions.
Verse 19 in the Hebrew suggests that God desires a "broken and contrite heart" more than he does sacrificial offerings. The idea of using brokenheartedness as a way to reconnect to God was emphasized in numerous teachings by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. In Sichot HaRan #41 he taught: "It would be very good to be brokenhearted all day. But for the average person, this can easily degenerate into depression. You should therefore set aside some time each day for heartbreak. You should isolate yourself with a broken heart before God for a given time. But the rest of the day you should be joyful".
|1||Magistro chori. Psalmus. David,|
|2||? ? ?||cum venit ad eum Nathan propheta, postquam cum Bethsabee peccavit|
|3||? ?||Miserere mei, Deus, secundum misericordiam tuam; et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum dele iniquitatem meam|
|4||Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea et a peccato meo munda me|
|5||?||Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper.|
|6||? | ? ?||Tibi, tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci, ut iustus inveniaris in sententia tua et æquus in iudicio tuo|
|7||? ?||Ecce enim in iniquitate generatus sum, et in peccato concepit me mater mea|
|8||? ? ?||Ecce enim veritatem in corde dilexisti et in occulto sapientiam manifestasti mihi|
|9||? ?||Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.|
|10||?||Audire me facies gaudium et lætitiam, et exsultabunt ossa, quæ contrivisti|
|11||Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis et omnes iniquitates meas dele|
|12||? ?||Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum firmum innova in visceribus meis.|
|13||? ? ?||Ne proicias me a facie tua et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me|
|14||? ?||Redde mihi lætitiam salutaris tui et spiritu promptissimo confirma me|
|15||? ?||Docebo iniquos vias tuas, et impii ad te convertentur|
|16||? | ? ?||Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meæ, et exsultabit lingua mea iustitiam tuam|
|17||? ? ? ?||Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam|
|18||| ? ?||Non enim sacrificio delectaris; holocaustum, si offeram, non placebit|
|19||? ? ?||Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus; cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies|
|20||? ?||Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion, ut ædificentur muri Ierusalem|
|21||? ? ? ? ?||Tunc acceptabis sacrificium iustitiæ, oblationes et holocausta; tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos|
Several verses from Psalm 51 are regular parts of Jewish liturgy. Verses (in Hebrew) 3, 4, 9, 13, 19, 20, and 21 are said in Selichot. Verses 9, 12, and 19 are said during Tefillat Zakkah prior to the Kol Nidrei service on Yom Kippur eve. Verse 17, "O Lord, open my lips", is recited as a preface to the Amidah in all prayer services. Verse 20 is said by Ashkenazi Jews before the removal of the Sefer Torah from the ark on Shabbat and Yom Tov morning; it is also said in the Atah Horaisa ("You have been shown") prayer recited before opening the ark on Simchat Torah. In the Sephardi liturgy, Psalm 51 is one of the additional psalms recited on Yom Kippur night.
The most frequently used psalm in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches, Psalm 50 (Septuagint numbering) it is called in the Greek language ? ? He Ele?mon, and begins in Greek ? , ? ? Eléïsón me, o Theós.
In the Divine Liturgy it is recited by the deacon while he censing the entire church at the conclusion of the Proskomedie, which is also known as killing Satan. It is also a part of many sacraments and other services, notably, as a penitential psalm, during the Mystery of Repentance.
In Western Christianity, Psalm 51 (using the Masoretic numbering) is also used liturgically.
In the Roman Catholic Church this psalm may be assigned by a priest to a penitent as a penance after Confession. Verse 7 of the psalm is traditionally sung as the priest sprinkles holy water over the congregation before Mass, in a rite known as the Asperges me, the first two words of the verse in Latin. This reference lends a striking significance to the Mass as Sacrifice, given that Hyssop was used for the smearing of blood on the lintels at the first Passover.
In the Divine Office, it was traditionally said at Lauds on all ferias; the 1911 reform restricted this use to the ferias of Advent and Lent. It is otherwise said as part of the weekly cycle on Wednesday at Matins. In the Liturgy of the Hours, it is prayed during Lauds (Morning Prayer) every Friday.
The Miserere was used for centuries as a judicial test of reading ability. This practice began as a means by which a defendant could claim to be a clergyman, and thus subject only to ecclesiastical courts and not subject to the power of civil courts. This was called pleading the benefit of clergy. The Biblical passage traditionally used for the literacy test was the first verse of Psalm 51. Thus, an illiterate person who had memorized this psalm could also claim the benefit of clergy, and Psalm 51 became known as the "neck-verse" because knowing it could save one's neck by transferring one's case from a secular court, where hanging was a likely sentence, to an ecclesiastical court, where both the methods of trial and the sentences given were more lenient, for example, a sentence of penance.
The Miserere was a frequently used text in Catholic liturgical music before the Second Vatican Council. Most of the settings, which are often used at Tenebrae, are in a simple falsobordone style. During the Renaissance many composers wrote settings. The earliest known polyphonic setting, probably dating from the 1480s, is by Johannes Martini, a composer working in the Este court in Ferrara. The extended polyphonic setting by Josquin des Prez, probably written in 1503/1504 in Ferrara, was likely inspired by the prison meditation Infelix ego by Girolamo Savonarola, who had been burned at the stake just five years before. Later in the 16th century Orlande de Lassus wrote an elaborate setting as part of his Penitential Psalms, and Palestrina, Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Carlo Gesualdo also wrote settings. Antonio Vivaldi may have written a setting or settings, but such composition(s) have been lost, with only two introductory motets remaining.
One of the best-known settings of the Miserere is the 17th century version by Roman School composer Gregorio Allegri. According to a famous story, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, aged only fourteen, heard the piece performed once, on April 11, 1770, and after going back to his lodging for the night was able to write out the entire score from memory. He went back a day or two later with his draft to correct some errors. That the final chorus comprises a ten-part harmony underscores the prodigiousness of the young Mozart's musical genius. The piece is also noteworthy in having been transcribed erroneously by William Smith Rockstro as having numerous high Cs in the treble part. This interpolated version is nevertheless extremely popular and widely recorded.
4 Settings were written by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (H.157, H.173, H.219, H.193-H.193 a). Louis-Nicolas Clérambault set one Miserere for soloists, chorus and continuo (organ) (date unknown). Sébastien de Brossard set one Miserere in 1688 - 89, André Campra set one Miserere in 1726 and many by Michel-Richard de Lalande (S15, S27, S87, S41/2, S32/17, S6/3), Costanzo Festa, Johann Sebastian Bach, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Saverio Selecchy. Jan Dismas Zelenka wrote two elaborate settings (ZWV 56 and ZWV 57).
Modern composers who have written notable settings of the Miserere include Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt, and James MacMillan. References in secular popular music include the Antestor song "Mercy Lord", from the album Martyrium (1994), "In Manus Tuas" (Salvation 2003) by the group Funeral Mist, "White As Snow" (Winter 2008) by Jon Foreman, the song "Restore To Me" by Mac Powell and Candi Pearson-Shelton from Glory Revealed (2007). Bukas Palad Music Ministry includes their version of "Miserere" in their album "Christify" (2010). Modern Christian singer Keith Green put this psalm to music in the song "Create in Me a Clean Heart".
Verses 12-13 have been set to music as a popular Jewish inspirational song.[by whom?][year needed] Titled Lev Tahor ("A pure heart"), this song is commonly sung at Seudah Shlishit (the third Shabbat meal).