OCF 25-26: Psalms

Why psalms?

25. The psalms are rich in imagery, feeling, and symbolism. They powerfully express the suffering and pain, the hope and trust of people of every age and culture. Above all the psalms sing of faith in God, of revelation and redemption.

If this weren’t true, much of two millennia of musical inspiration would have been directed elsewhere. And indeed, most of the liturgy is constructed on the imagery of the psalms, even when the musical texts are not explicitly or obviously based on them.

They enable the assembly to pray in the words that Jesus himself used during his life on earth. Jesus, who knew anguish and the fear of death, “offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death. … Although he was Son, he learned to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation …” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

Through the psalms, the liturgy remains focused on the essential fact of the Paschal Mystery and on Jesus Christ. This isn’t to say that the psalms don’t present obstacles in comprehension for many laypeople and even some clergy. I think one way “into” the psalms is through lectio divina–finding those small points of entry for the points that touch on the human experience: hope, anger, trust, lament. Later on in this series, we’ll take a look at the choices for psalmody in both the funeral and the related liturgies.

Praying with the voice of God is endorsed also:

In the psalms the members of the assembly pray in the voice of Christ, who intercedes on their behalf before the Father. (GILH 109) The Church, like Christ, turns again and again to the psalms as a genuine expression of grief and of praise and as a sure source of trust and hope in times of trial. Pastors and other ministers are, therefore, to make an earnest effort through an effective catechesis to lead their communities to a clearer and deeper grasp of at least some of the psalms provided by the funeral rites.

26. The psalms are designated for use in many places in the funeral rites (for example, as responses to the readings, for the processions, for use at the vigil for the deceased). Since psalms are songs whenever possible, they should be sung.

One key aspect is the “surety” of the psalms in the Christian experience. The psalms work. They’ve always worked. And when they might not seem to work for believers, it’s more likely there’s something lacking on the human side.

Thoughts?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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