Maximus’ exegetical reflections on Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd,
       I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
       He leads me beside quiet waters. 

The active life is ‘a place of pasture’; knowledge of created things is ‘water of refreshment’ (Maximus the Confessor, The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, 2.95).

He restores my soul;
       He guides me in the paths of righteousness
       For His name’s sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
       I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Death is, properly speaking, separation from God, and ‘the sting of death is sin.’ In taking it on, Adam was banished at once from the tree of life, from Paradise, and from God, whereupon there followed of necessity the death of the body. On the other hand life is, properly speaking, the one who says, ‘I am the life.’ By his death he brought back to life again the one who had died (2.93).

Human life is a ‘shadow of death.’ Thus if anyone is with God and God is with him he clearly can say, ‘For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because you are with me’ (2.96).

       Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 

The rod is said to signify God’s judgment and his staff his Providence. Thus the one has obtained knoweldge of these things can say, ‘Your rod and staff have given me comfort’ (2.99).

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
       You have anointed my head with oil;
       My cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
       And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

‘You have prepared a table for me, etc.’ Table here signifies practical virtue, for this has been prepared by Christ ‘against those who afflict us.’ The oil which annoints the mind is the contemplation of creatures, the cup of God is the knowledge of God itself; his mercy is his Word and God. For through his incarnation he pursues us all days until he gets hold of those who are to be saved, as he did with Paul. The house is the kingdom in which all the saints will be restored. The length of days means eternal life (3.2).


About Ben Kautzer

I am currently dwelling in the intangible space of the between. Having finished my MA in Philosophical Theology at the University of Nottingham, I decided to take a bit of a break, return to California, and start applying for PhD programs. That process is finally drawing to a close. This Fall I will be commencing my doctoral research in political theology at either the University of Nottingham, Durham, or Bristol. As of yet, that future still remains (uncomfortably) uncertain. My recent academic pursuits tend to focus on political theology (ecclesiology, ethics, politics, liturgy), biblical theology (scriptural narrative, hermeneutics, philosophy of memory and historical method), and Continental Philosophy (especially phenomenology). View all posts by Ben Kautzer

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