Psalms (R & R Reflections #4)

Again, the tyranny of the urgent has displaced me from my journaling.

Not lacking, though, are the ways I continue to feed off of my Summer Benedictine Experience.

The Psalms, for example, continue to be a most important part and center of my prayer life. It’s a center grounded in Benedict’s Rule and the daily rhythm of Benedictine devotion.

“But, why the Psalms? Why should this mixed bag of emotions – some very base and ungodly… Why, should these form a nucleus for our prayer life? Maybe they could dance at the periphery, but why these prayers at the center of our devotional life?” (Benedictines, you see, will engage all 150 Psalms in the course of a week. Some Coptic communities in Egypt engage all 150 every day!) The question of why the Psalms are given such primacy was a real question before us during my Summer Experience.

While I have only begun to really dance with the Psalms (and, even then, it’s an erratic dance), I can nonetheless affirm their value and importance…

  1. On a general level, there’s the way that the Psalms turn my mind toward a God who is over all creation… and a creation that contains a radical mix of beauty and corruption. (Especially is this needful, when so many of our prayers are about “me” and “my” little world.)
  2. And then there’s the mix of Psalms and the breadth of emotions and realities they represent:
  • “Cursing” Psalms which help me identify with the poor and oppressed (and even have me asking myself, “Am I a part of the oppression?”… or, more precisely, “In what ways am I a part of the oppression?”)
  • Psalms of Confession, Lament and Contrition help me to bow before the Eternal and acknowledge that it’s not about me and that God’s holiness demands that I not get overly nonchalant or complacent in His presence.
  • Psalms extolling Zion and Jerusalem make me homesick for the “New Jerusalem” to come.
  • Psalms of Deliverance have me affirming the “spiritual warfare” embedded in this earthy existence… even as they have me affirming my total dependence on God and Grace for “victory.”
  • Psalms of “Coronation” invite me to enthrone God as Lord of life and living.

Father Richard Rohr has a book entitled, Everything Belongs. It’s an affirmation of the contemplative spirit: that all things in life, when given enough attention, “preach.” It’s a title that conveys much of my feelings and reverence for the Psalms. “Everything belongs”: the praise and confession, the curse and the praise,… God accepts all our prayer-feelings… and all these feelings can point us to God and His life.

“Why the Psalms at the center of devotion?” In light of my own experience, the question or questions that emerge are: “Why not the Psalms?” and “What else, if not the Psalms?”

This entry was posted in Benedictine Spirituality, Discipleship, Spiritual Devotion/Formation. Bookmark the permalink.

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