Monday, 24 November 2014

Praying the Psalms (Part Two)

Image: Monastic Breviary (Chris Webb)
Listening to the Psalms being chanted in an ancient monastery church is one of the most transcendental experiences this world affords. There's something otherwordly about plainsong (also known as Gregorian chant) which just seems to usher the spirit right into the presence of God.

When I can, I love to chant the Psalms. Most of the time, though, that's just not possible; and even though it's a wonderful way to pray, it's not necessary - of course, you can pray the Psalms with nothing more than a Bible and a loving heart!

There are challenges involved in praying the Psalms. Finding time? Sure, although we often talk about 'finding time' as though there were more time out there for us, somewhere, just hiding under the sofa or in a cupboard somewhere. The truth is we all wake up with the same twenty fours hours in each day, every day, and we all make choices about how to use that time. If we don't have time to pray, it's because we've made choices, not because the universe is conspiring to hide time from us. Want to pray but can't 'find time'? My friend, make some different choices.

In my experience the greatest challenge isn't finding time. It's finding my own heart. Truly praying the Psalms requires entering into their experience, the cry of their heart to God. Which means, in turn, discovering the roots of that experience in my own heart. The Psalmists were filled with joy, hope, praise, wonder, and exultation. Usually I can find that within myself too. But they were also filled with pain, bitterness, despair, rage, horror, darkness, guilt, and anguish. This is all in my heart too, but I try to avoid it, to cover it, to ignore it, to hide it - even from myself. Praying the Psalms requires me to open up these less palatable parts of my Spirit to the merciful and healing presence of the Spirit. It requires a terrible honesty about who I am, and what I'm capable of. Which is hard. So hard.

No wonder monastics, whose lives are rooted in these difficult prayers, like to chant them in Latin. In makes a bitter pill just a little easier to swallow when it's wrapped in beauty and mystery. A spoonful of sugar, if you like. It's a kindness to one another as we wrestle with the Lord in the depths of our soul.

As promised, I've reproduced below the Second Week of Psalms I use in my own daily pattern of prayer.

* * *

Praying the Psalms: Second Week

Sunday
Vigils: 24 • 110 • 45 • 89  |  Lauds: 93 • 63 • 150
Terce: 119.1-32  |  Sext: 20 • 21  |  None: 1 • 128
Vespers: 113 • 118 • 117  |  Compline: 139

Monday
Vigils: 67 • 60 • 107  |  Lauds: 96 • 36 • 135
Terce: 119.33-56  |  Sext: 55  |  None: 86
Vespers: 112 •23 • 34  |  Compline: 4 • 121

Tuesday
Vigils: 100 • 50 • 58 • 101  |  Lauds: 97 • 57 • 146
Terce: 119.57-80  |  Sext: 7  |  None: 144
Vespers: 115 • 84 • 132  |  Compline: 11 • 16

Wednesday
Vigils: 29 • 78  |  Lauds: 98 • 25 • 147.12-20
Terce: 119.81-104  |  Sext: 137 • 28  |  None: 40
Vespers: 104 • 65  |  Compline: 6 • 32

Thursday
Vigils: 122 • 59 • 77 • 30  |  Lauds: 99 • 90 • 148
Terce: 119.105-128  |  Sext: 83  |  None: 74
Vespers: 111 • 125 • 66  |  Compline: 13 • 61

Friday
Vigils: 95 • 88 • 3  |  Lauds: 76 • 51 • 149
Terce: 119.129-152  |  Sext: 69  |  None: 142 • 124
Vespers: 116 • 141 • 33  |  Compline: 39 • 130

Saturday
Vigils: 81 • 106  |  Lauds: 47 • 143 • 147.1-11
Terce: 119.153-176  |  Sext: 18  |  None: 120 • 123
Vespers: 114 • 138 • 136  |  Compline: 133 • 131 • 134

No comments:

Post a Comment