Reflecting on the Psalms:Psalms convey thoughts and feelings in images and sounds

Poets use a great deal of imagination to convey their thoughts and feelings. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines poetry as ‘literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound and rhythm.’

Jul 03, 2021

By Msgr James Gnanapiragasam
Poets use a great deal of imagination to convey their thoughts and feelings. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines poetry as ‘literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound and rhythm.’ Robert Frost in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, makes his protagonist profoundly enjoy a scene in the woods while even his horse finds it strange to stop there without a farmhouse near. But then the rider moves on, he cannot just while away the time admiring the woods because “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

The psalms also convey thoughts and feelings in images and sound. The verses are written in figurative language. Symbols are used to give deeper meaning. The psalmist is aware of his experience and gives an emotional response. We see examples in the following psalms.

Songs of Ascent (4) Ps 127 (128) DO (Everyday Prayer) Wk 4 Thursday Prayer During the Day pg. 1326; Ps 126 (127) Wk 3 Wed Evening Prayer pg. 577.

These are companion psalms and they show some teachings of the Wisdom tradition in Israel. In Ps 127 (128) the pilgrims are blessed on their arrival at Jerusalem. Blessings are poured upon the one who “fears” the Lord. The fear is not terror or fearful obedience, but “walking in his ways”. The virtuous man will enjoy God’s favour and experience happiness. The evidence of this happiness is a loving wife in the heart of the house and many children around the table. We can almost imagine the fruitful clusters of grapes and the olive shoots. But one must not be too naive. Experience tells us that material success does not always mean that the man was virtuous.

God establishes the ‘house’, an image for the family or the household which in biblical times consisted of a number of families under the authority of the oldest married man. All life’s success would then be a gift from God, not from human effort or endeavour. Even the multitude of sons are like arrows in the man’s quiver. He does not Psalms convey thoughts and feelings in images and sounds Reflecting on the Psalms have to fear others at the city gates which were the civic centre in those times. (Pr 31:23)

Ps 127 (128) reminds us how Jesus would have prayed. He proclaimed the Christian Charter in the beatitudes; he taught marital fidelity. Commentators say there are mystical allusions in this psalm. The allusions: the spouse of Jesus is the Church (Rev 19:7; 21:2) and we are the children from all around the world gathered around the table of the Eucharist. The Second Vatican Council also recalls that the Church is like a choice vineyard and Christ, the true vine, gives life and fruitfulness to us, the branches. (LG 6)

Happiness will be ours if we live and walk in his ways. We overcome our selfishness as we create family and family is ordained by God. Love itself is a gift of God. As we recite this psalm, let us pray for those we love, for those in love and for faithfulness in marriage of the couples we know. Moreover, a family cannot be isolated from others. The psalm tells us that God blesses from Sion both us and all future generations in a happy and peaceful Jerusalem (world). Thus, it invites us to pray for our city, our kampung, our country and our fellow citizens. We learn to praise and adore the Lord and not just to pray for happiness when things go wrong. Let us thank him at all times.

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