The Primacy of the Psalms

October 13, 2009

David PsalmsJPG


Psalms produce a strong reaction in people. For some they express the deepest emotions of the heart. For others they express things we dare not say or think. Some people find it enormously difficult to recite the psalms. Yet for St Benedict they are at the heart of monastic life. As seasons change Benedict reduces the readings from the Old Testament but not the Psalms:

From Easter until the Calends of November 
let the same number of Psalms be kept as prescribed above; 
but no lessons are to be read from the book,
on account of the shortness of the nights. 
Instead of those three lessons 
let one lesson from the Old Testament be said by heart 
and followed by a short responsory. 
But all the rest should be done as has been said; 
that is to say that never fewer than twelve Psalms 
should be said at the Night Office, 
not counting Psalm 3 and Psalm 94.

For Benedict the Psalmody seems to represent perfect harmony. Because the psalms express so many different things I think they can also be unifying. Ultimately the Rule is presenting harmony, unity and purification for the individual, the community and civilisation.We should not be surprised that the Rule of Benedict harmonised so much of Europe. I am confident it still has a very important role to play. Have you read it?


Picture above shows David Composing the Psalms from the Canterbury Psalter.



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