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The Discipline of Psalmody

Wednesday, June 26, 2024
Chapter 19

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and "that in every place the eyes of God are watching the good and the wicked (Prv 15:3)." But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office.

We must always remember, therefore, what the prophet says: "Serve the Holy One with reverence (Ps 2:11)," and again, "Sing praise wisely (Ps 47:8);" and, "in the presence of the angels I will sing to you (Ps 138:1)." Let us consider, then, how we ought to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.

"The unexamined life is not worth living," the philosopher Socrates said. Benedict implies the same. If indeed we walk in the womb of God, then reflection on the meaning of every action and the end of every road is the constant to which we are called. There must be no such thing as the idle decision, the thoughtless act. Every part of our lives must be taken to prayer and the scrutiny of scripture must be brought to every part of our lives because we believe "beyond the least doubt" that the God we seek is there seeking us.

Prayer in the Benedictine tradition, then, is not an exercise done for the sake of quantity or penance or the garnering of spiritual merit. Benedictine prayer is not an excursion into a prayer wheel spirituality where more is better and recitation is more important than meaning. Prayer, in the spirit of these chapters, if we "sing praise wisely," or well, or truly, becomes a furnace in which every act of our lives is submitted to the heat and purifying process of the smelter's fire so that our minds and our hearts, our ideas and our lives, come to be in sync, so that we are what we say we are, so that the prayers that pass our lips change our lives, so that God's presence becomes palpable to us. Prayer brings us to burn off the dross of what clings to our souls like mildew and sets us free for deeper, richer, truer lives in which we become what we seek.