Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Col, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
As he normally does, Augustine comments on the superscription of Psalm 48, which is assigned to the “second day of the week” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324450). He draws a connection to the creation of the firmament on the second day of creation, then declares the Church as the firmament, the place of strength.
The opening of the Psalm sings praise to God and His city, which is on a hill, easy to see. Augustine compares it to the city on a hill with light that can be seen from a great distance. However, Augustine continues to observe that we do not go out in search of this city, for if we are God’s people, it is already our city, with Jesus as the corner-stone not cut out by hands (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324463). The plural which Augustine finds in verse two seems momentarily perplexing, but he concludes there are two sides in God’s kingdom - one of Jews and the other of Gentiles, gathered as one by Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324475). In verse three, God is the refuge, when He rescues His people. Again, Augustine applies this to Christ as the firm foundation of the secure refuge (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324487).
In verses 4-7, rulers of the earth assemble together. Augustine sees them coming to God’s mountain and marveling at Christ’s work. This caused them trouble, and they hurried away in verse five. The trouble Augustine finds is that the presence of Jesus convicts the rulers of their sin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324493). Moved by fear, as a woman in labor, lest they should bring forth new life, the rulers flee from God’s mountain. Augustine briefly analyzes the reference to shiops of Tarshish, noting that some scholars identify it as Tarsus in Cilicia, while some consider it to be Carthage (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324512). Regardless, it is a city which had deserved a reputation and could be seen as a seat of pride, to be broken by God’s storm. Verse eight (seven in Augustine’s version) concludes the idea of the passage. As we have heard in the past, now in Christ we see the fulfillment (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324524).
Verse eight, in Augustine’s version, which is verse nine in ours, speaks of seeing God’s loving kindness among His people. Augustine questions how this could be, since all God’s people would be recipients of His mercy. He concludes that not all people who are among the Church and who receive Christ’s gifts actually are recipients of His mercy, since “not all live worthily of that Sacrament” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324542). Those who believe receive God’s gifts effectually. This brings rejoicing in the next verse, because of God’s judgments. Even though, as Augustine says, we labor in adversity, God makes people glad in His presence (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324566).
Verse eleven tells God’s people to “walk about Zion, and embrace her.” Augustine sees this as speaking well of God and His kingdom. Understanding the might of God is done through grasping God’s love (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324578). The love of God is also powerful for right perception of godliness. Augustine takes this as athe meaning of the Psalm’s exhortation to “distribute” or “distinguish” the houses (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324590). The outcome of our perception is that, as the Psalm closes, we can identify the true God for generations to come (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324602). Augustine considers that through history people have failed to perceive the coming of the Lord and His true identity, turning often to false gods. Therefore, those who have seen the true God must tell the next generation, so God will rule over them in righteousness.