Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Taking up the Psalter

Taking up the Psalter makes a bold statement about us. When we sincerely join the prayer of our hearts to the words of our lips, we declare that we have finally decided to stop burying pain deep within, where neither God nor loved ones can reach to help us. We say that we are ready to suffer through our pain and, when the time comes, to get over it and let it go.

Taking up the Psalter holds a promise. Disorientation is not forever:

When I think: “I have lost my foothold,”
your mercy, Lord, holds me up.
When cares increase in my heart
Your consolation calms my soul. (Ps 93[94]:18-19)

We are not alone in our trouble; suffering, sickness and death do not have the final say. Could this be the reason why so many Christians have clung tenaciously to the Psalter for so many centuries? We need desperately to listen to the Psalms, to read them and to sing them, alone and together. To scream, to delight, to weep, to play them again and again until

My body and my heart faint for joy;
God is my possession forever. (Ps 72[73]:26)

I know now how I will answer my friends. I will tell them, “If you take up the Psalter, prepare for an ordeal. Get ready to see the mirror image of your own life in the book your hands hold. Prepare to let the tears flow … and the sighs, and the groans. And that will be good.”

Footnotes and Credits

1 The most frequently quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament is the Book of Psalms. Many have found in their reading of the New Testament a key to a Christian understanding of the Psalms. For Psalm 2:7, see Hebr 1:5; 5:5, and Acts 13:33. For Psalm 2:1-2, see Acts 4:25-26. Psalm 109(110) is the more frequently cited Psalm. In Mt 22:44 (and parallel passages) Christ applies this Psalm to Himself. Version of the Psalms used in this article: The Psalms: Singing Version, Paulist Press, 1983.

2 For Psalm 21(22), see Mt 27:46 and Mark 14:34. Psalm 30(31) is found in Lk 23:46.

3 These Psalms are not specifically cited in the New Testament. Their use at Ascension and Pentecost belongs too the tradition of Christian psalm-singing in worship.

Recommended reading:
• Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Augsburg, 1970.
• Brueggemann, Walter. Praying the Psalms. Saint Mary’s Press, 1982.
• Merton, Thomas. Bread in the Wilderness. Liturgical Press, 1971.
• Merton, Thomas. Praying the Psalms. Liturgical Press, 1956.

Copyright 2017 Saint Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN 47577-1010 U.S.A. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Fr. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B.
Saint Meinrad Archabbey
100 Hill Drive
St. Meinrad, IN 47577-1010


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