Sunday, December 14, 2014

PSALMS: HOW WE ARE PRAYING?


       The overall meaning of praying the psalms, especially in their ‘messianic sense,’ can be studied in the General Instruction.
       This is merely an observable fact: many of our communities, have learnt to recite the Office at machine-gun speed ------, sometimes running words, or lines, together - and sometimes themselves stumbling over words at such high speed - so at times derailing the tempo of others around them. This makes entering the spirit of prayerfulness of Office almost impossible, especially for those that do not have English as first language, or are learning English.

       We note what the General Instructions tell us: the psalms are ‘lyrical’ in nature (General Instruction 269) and therefore singing is encouraged - (not that we can always carry this off in our little communities!). If we can’t sing the psalms we need to see them at least from ‘a poetic and musical point of view’ (278). Think maybe, of a poetry recital with all its wonderful and powerful emphasis – rather than a race of words.

       Young men in formation need time to get used to the prayers we know almost by heart.
       To readdress this problem, the following is a vital recommendation. The psalms should be said rhythmically in tune with the rule that meditation (especially in the East) is always accompanied by regular, deep breathing.
       Praying the Office is not to be fulfilling an obligation, or making sure everybody plays their part correctly without ‘mistakes,’ rather, there is an emotional and spiritual involvement that needs to be fostered. The General Instruction puts it nicely. Such ‘Praying and praising’… ‘spring from the depths of the person.’ (270) There is genuine ‘artistic nature and spiritual value’ to built into the way we say the Office. ‘It is very important for us to be concerned with the meaning and spirit of what we are doing. The celebration should not be rigid or artificial, nor should we be merely concerned with formalities’ (279). ‘Praising God’ should be ‘a delight’ (279). The psalms must be seen as ‘poems of praise’ or ‘songs of praise.’

       The psalms more than ‘presents a text to the mind’ - it is meant to ‘move our spirits’ (103). They are therefore ‘mediations’ and ‘responses of the heart’ to the ‘movements of the Spirit’ and are accompanied by ‘joy and a spirit of charity’ (104). 
       The emotions expressed in a psalm can involve ‘pain, hope, misery and confidence’ as well as ‘faith, revelation and redemption’ (107). We should be in tune with the type of emotion of the literary type of that psalm, be it of lament, thanksgiving or confidence’ (106). That is why we should have some biblical instruction especially regarding the psalms (102) - especially in formation programs.
       The Liturgy of the Hours is meant to be ‘a source of devotion and nourishment for personal prayer’ (28). It helps us ‘to seek God and enter into the mystery of Christ’ (19).

THERE ARE PRACTICAL MEANS TO ACHIEVE THIS:
       There should be a natural breathing-pause - after every single line - as mentioned.
       Silences are encouraged: after the antiphon of the psalm has been repeated; short or long silence after the reading; and either before or after the responsory (202).
       This time allows one to read the theme of the psalm included in the heading of the psalm in red (rubric) and as expressed more prayerfully in the scriptural quote in italics – so that one can prepare emotionally for praying the psalm in the right spirit (a sense of lament, praise and the like).
       One can change selection of psalms – as for a votive office (see 252).
       Special readings can be chosen for special celebrations (see 248).
       See the options for the second reading of the Office of Readings (250).
       Let young men learn to make spontaneous intercessions after the general intercessions for more particular needs of theirs, or on behalf of the Church. In evening prayer these are made before the last intercession praying for the dead.

       As a special exercise of prayer, to help young men enter into the feeling and genre of a psalm one may conclude a psalm by the hebdom asking for the repetition of any line or word that ‘spoke’ more personally to any individual. This needs to be arranged beforehand with understanding of all, and done meditatively with short silences between the contributions, and should not go so too long that it becomes painful. In this case, where more time is spent, maybe another psalm can be left out.

                                                
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