Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise you, O God my God.
All Commentaries on Psalms 43:4 Go To Psalms 43
Augustine of Hippo
"Then will I go in unto the Altar of God" (ver. 4). For there is a certain invisible Altar on high, which the unrighteous man approaches not. To that Altar he alone draws nigh, who draws nigh to this one without cause to fear. There he shall find his Life, who in this one "separates his cause." "And I will go in unto the Altar of God." From His holy Hill, and from His Tabernacle, from His Holy Church, I will go in unto the Altar of God on High. What manner of Sacrifice is there? He himself who goeth in is taken for a burnt-offering. "I will go in unto the Altar of God." What is the meaning of what he says, "The Altar of my God"?
"Unto God, who makes glad my youth." Youth signifies newness: just as if he said, "Unto God, who makes glad my newness." It is He who makes glad my newness, who hath filled my old estate with mourning. For now "I go mourning" in oldness, then shall "I stand," exulting in newness!
"Yea, upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God my God." What is the meaning of "praising on the harp," and praising on the psaltery? For he does not always do so with the harp, nor always with the psaltery. These two instruments of the musicians have each a distinct meaning of their own, worthy of our consideration and notice. They are both borne in the hands, and played by the touch; and they stand for certain bodily works of ours. Both are good, if one knows how to play the psaltery, or to play the harp. But since the psaltery is that instrument which has the shell (i.e. that drum, that hollow piece of wood, by straining on which the chords resound) on the upper part of it, whereas the harp has that same concave sounding-board on the lower part, there is to be a distinction made between our works, when they are "upon the harp," when "on the psaltery:" both however are acceptable to God, and grateful to His ear. When we do anything according to God's Commandments, obeying His commands and hearkening to Him, that we may fulfil His injunctions, when we are active and not passive, it is the psaltery that is playing. For so also do the Angels: for they have nothing to suffer. But when we suffer anything of tribulation, of trials, of offences on this earth (as we suffer only from the inferior part of ourselves; i.e. from the fact that we are mortal, that we owe somewhat of tribulation to our original cause, and also from the fact of our suffering much from those who are not "above"); this is "the harp." For there rises a sweet strain from that part of us which is "below:" we "suffer," and we strike the psaltery, or shall I rather say we sing and we strike the harp. ...