A READING FROM A COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS BY ST JEROME
There are two peoples who believe in the one God, those of Gentile origin and the Jews. To the Jews it was promised that a saviour would come, but to us who were outside God’s law no such promise was made. This means that mercy has been shown to the Gentiles, but God has kept faith with the Jews by sending them what he had promised. The promise made to the fathers has come to fulfilment in their sons.
When the psalm says: Justice and peace have embraced it is telling us that mercy and truth have made friends, and that means that Gentiles and Jews are now united under a single shepherd, Christ.
Truth has grown up from the earth. Jesus Christ said: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Truth incarnate has grown up from the earth, for Scripture says: There shall come forth a shoot from Jesse’s stock, and out of his root a flower shall blossom: and another text says: God has wrought salvation in the heart of the earth. These texts show us that the truth that has grown up from the earth is our Saviour, born of Mary.
And justice looked down from heaven. That the Saviour should have mercy on his people was indeed an act of justice. See what the Scripture says: O how just are God’s judgments and how unsearchable his ways! On the one hand truth, that is, a saviour, has grown up from the earth, and on the other justice looks down from heaven in the person of that same Saviour who is himself justice.
It is right and just for a potter to treat his works of art gently and for a shepherd to show compassion on his flock And so, because we are the Lord’s people and the work of his own hands, he grew up from the earth and looked down from heaven at one and the same time, in order to give full scope to his justice and show pity to his handiwork
Finally, look at the words: The Lord will show his kindness, and you will hear a note of mercy, not of harshness, in the word justice, because the very reason for justice looking down from heaven was to show pity to his handiwork And our earth will yield its fruit. Truth has indeed grown up from the earth: that is a historical fact. But when the psalm goes on to speak of the earth yielding fruit, the verb is in the future tense. So do not be disheartened by the fact that Christ’s birth from Mary is an unrepeatable event of the past. He is also born in us every day. Our earth will yield its fruit; we too can give birth to Christ if we wish. Our earth will yield the fruit from which the bread of heaven is made, the bread of which Jesus said: I am the bread of heaven.
St Jerome, Tract. In ps. 84 (CCL 78, 107-108), from Word in Season 1