Praying the Psalms

This is a new column for our local theologians and biblical scholars to share their thoughts.

May 08, 2021

By Msgr James  Gnanapiragasam SSL, STL
It is to the credit of the Second  Vatican Council that translations,  especially in the liturgy, opened  the floodgates for lay participation.  The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy emphatically promoted active  participation, exhorting priests and  others to pray the divine office and  “to attune their minds to their voices when praying it. To achieve this  more fully, they should take steps to  improve their understanding of the  liturgy and of the Bible, especially  the psalms” (SC 90).

We undertake here to give a series of articles that would help readers to understand the psalms. Some  of these psalms may be difficult to  grasp and it might help to read and  reread a particular psalm to get the  full import of what it says. The vocabulary and images they use may  be foreign to us. However, these  psalms are our prayer. They are the  prayer of the Church. Whether we  pray in private or in common, these  psalms express our experiences and  we respond in prayer to these experiences.

Consequently, we will use the  psalms as given in the Missal or the  divine office in the Grail translation.  Readers who do not have the Divine  Office may use their own Bibles,  which may even have footnotes to  help in understanding. The numbers  of the psalm will be indicated here as  the Hebrew numbering of the psalm  and the Greek or Latin numbering  of the psalm which the Grail follows will differ. Bibles today usually  prefer to use the Hebrew numbering  which we give in bold print. The  Grail is usually one less.

This psalm is the invitatory psalm  for morning prayer in the Divine  Office. It begins with two invitations  to pray called out by the Levites  (Vss 1-2 and Vs 6). 

After each invitation, the crowd  responds professing faith in the God  of Creation (A mighty God … vs  3-5) and in the God of the Covenant  (For he is our God…Vs 7).

What follows is an oracle spoken  by God, reminding the people that  the Covenant is important and how  their ancestors disobeyed Him in the  past.

We know that Jesus prayed the  psalms. It would be fair to say that  he knew the 150 psalms by heart.  He had his own desert experience,  hunger and temptation to power. He  knew how hurt his Father, the God  of the Covenant, was by their disobedience.

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