Daily Series on the Catechism


Section One:  Prayer in the Christian Life

Chapter 1:  The Revelation of Prayer

Article 1,  In the Old Testament

The Psalms, the prayer of the assembly (cont’d)

§ 2586  The psalms both nourished and expressed the prayer of the People of God gathered during the great feasts at Jerusalem and each Sabbath in the synagogues. Their prayer is inseparably personal and communal; it concerns both those who are praying and all men. The psalms arose from the communities of the Holy Land and the Diaspora [the dispersion or exile of Israelites out of their ancestral homeland], but embrace all creation.

Their prayer recalls the saving events of the past, yet extends into the future, even to the end of history; it commemorates the promises God has already kept, and awaits the Messiah who will fulfill them definitively. Prayed by Christ and fulfilled in Him, the psalms remain essential to the prayer of the Church (cf. GILH, nn. 100-109).

§ 2587  The Psalter is the Book in which The Word of God becomes man’s prayer. In other Books of the Old Testament, “the words proclaim [God’s] works and bring to light the mystery they contain” (DV 2). The words of the psalmist, sung for God, both express and acclaim the Lord’s saving works; the same Spirit inspires both God’s work and man’s response. Christ will unite the two. In Him, the psalms continue to teach us how to pray.

§ 2588  The Psalter’s many forms of prayer take shape both in the liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart. Whether hymns or prayers of lamentation or thanksgiving, whether individual or communal, whether royal chants, songs of pilgrimage or wisdom-meditations, the psalms are a mirror of God’s marvelous deeds in the history of His people, as well as reflections of the human experiences of the psalmist. Though a given psalm may reflect an event of the past, it still possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions.

§ 2589  Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the psalms: simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God Himself through and with all that is good in His creation; the distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of His Love and in submission to His will.

The prayer of the psalms is always sustained by praise; that is why the title of this collection as handed down to us is so fitting: “The Praises.” Collected for the assembly’s worship, the Psalter both sounds the call to prayer and sings the response to that call: Hallelu-Yah! (“Alleluia”), “Praise the Lord!”

  • What is more pleasing than a psalm? David expresses it well: “Praise the Lord, for a psalm is good: let there be praise of our God with gladness and grace!” Yes, a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, praise of God, the assembly’s homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all, the voice of the Church, a confession of faith in song (EIP 1, 9: PL 14, 924; LH, Saturday, wk 1, OR).

Tomorrow – In Brief

(Part IV, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1 – to be continued)

[Editor’s Note:  The abbreviations in today’s posting are noted below.]

  • “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”
  • “DV” – “Dei Verbum [The Word of God]”, Vatican Council II
  • “EIP” – St. Ambrose, “Enarratio In Psalmum 1 [Exposition of Psalm 1]”
  • “GILH” – “General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours”
  • “LH” – “Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office)”
  • “OR” – “Office of Reading” from the “Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office)”
  • “PL” – “Patrologia Latina [Latin Patrology]”, an enormous collection of writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers in the Latin language published by J. P. Migne, (Paris, 18411855 A.D.)
Available in several languages

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