Chapter III of the GILH looks more closely at the elements which make up the Liturgy of the Hours. In fact, the next 104 sections will address the spiritual side of the various elements of the hours.
Sections 100-109 address the core of the Hours: the psalms themselves. Why are these Jewish prayers significant for Christians? What is the Christian approach to them? How can they be prayed? Stay tuned and we’ll have a discussion about it.
Chapter III: Different Elements in the Liturgy of the Hours
Chapter III-I. Psalms and Their Connection With Christian Prayer
100. In the liturgy of the hours the Church in large measure prays through the magnificent songs that the Old Testament authors composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The origin of these verses gives them great power to raise the mind to God, to inspire devotion, to evoke gratitude in times of favor, and to bring consolation and courage in times of trial.
In other words, the psalms express the full range of the human thought, inspiration, and emotions in our relationship with God.
101. The psalms, however, are only a foreshadowing of the fullness of time that came to pass in Christ the Lord and that is the source of the power of the Church’s prayer. Hence, while the Christian people are all agreed on the supreme value to be placed on the psalms, they can sometimes experience difficulty in making this inspired poetry their own prayer.
102. Yet the Holy Spirit, under whose inspiration the psalms were written, is always present by his grace to those believers who use them with good will. But more is necessary: the faithful must “improve their understanding of the Bible, especially of the psalms,” [SC 90.] according to their individual capacity, so that they may understand how and by what method they can truly pray through the psalms.
THE GILH concedes that the psalms are not always grasped by Christian believers. While acknowledging the role of the Holy Spirit to inspire us and provide a grace-filled experience, some human effort might be needed as well. What would be some ways in which we can go deeper with the psalms?
Familiarity with them might begin with a chosen few. Many psalms are brief and provide a focus of thought for the reader at prayer: 131, 134, 121, 23, 67, and 100 among others are easily digestible. Select portions of longer psalms, too: 19:8-11, 63:2-7, for example.
Attention to the musical settings of psalms is also helpful. The Lectionary reprints in missals, missalettes, and hymnals give select verses of the psalms used at Sunday worship. Even if one’s taste doesn’t align with the music sung at Mass, the text of the psalms themselves will be a good preparation for or follow-up from the liturgy.
A good biblical commentary is indispensable, but I counsel caution with it. I advocate going to the psalm text first, reading it and praying with it before turning to see what a Scripture scholar will offer. Keep in mind the role of the Holy Spirit to inspire us through the inspired text. No such guarantee is given to theologians.
Any other suggestions, including perhaps Bible study materials devoted to the psalms?