Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Written during Girolamo Savonarola’s final weeks in his Florentine prison, a term that would end with his fiery execution, these Psalm meditations, originally written in Latin, are his most-read works. He wrote these works after being tortured and signing a confession that recanted his faith, then regretting his weak will in the face of torture. His meditation on Psalm 51 is complete and offered in the form of a highly personal prayer to God who alone can provide hope as Savonarola faces his many enemies. His incomplete meditation on Psalm 31 presents only the first two verses and develops as a spiritual conversation between the writer and Sadness and Hope personified. Immediately popular, within two years Psalm 51 went through eight Latin editions and seventy-eight in Latin and vernaculars by 1600; Psalm 31 has seen more than eighty editions.
Each verse of Psalm 51 prompts a meditation. Sinful, Savonarola is abandoned by all but God, his only hope. Yet God is all, “the supreme reality . . . indescribable majesty,” how can he presume to approach God? However, God is also supreme mercy, and Savonarola asks that God take away his misery. By the blood of Christ his salvation is made possible, and so he asks that God turn him toward himself, forgive his sins, and “justify [him] through your grace.” As God’s mercy aided Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the penitent thief, so may God deign to aid Savonarola: “blot out my iniquity . . . wipe clean my...
(The entire section is 1064 words.)
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