Psalms of the Passion
09/October/2009 Filed in: Jottings
We pray the whole psalter every week, which means that on Fridays we sing the great sequence of Passion psalms, including some of those the Roman Office currently thinks unseemly on the lips of Christians. Nuns take a robust view of these things on the grounds that Christ is the true singer of the psalms and we want our prayer to be one with his. So, today we shall be cheerfully uttering such lines as "Break the teeth in their mouths!" while St Benedict will be exhorting us to "speak gently and without mockery, humbly and seriously, in a few well-chosen words, and without raising your voice" (see RB 7. 60–61). The irony will not be lost on the community. We can and must control what we say and the way in which we say it because, as Colophon has remarked several times in recent weeks, words affect others, often more deeply than we realise; but the thoughts and emotions of the heart are more troublesome, less subject to reason and control. That is precisely why we need to bring EVERYTHING to prayer, not just the bits of ourselves we think "acceptable" or "good". When I pray the vengeful lines of the psalms, I'm uncomfortably aware of all the unforgiveness in my own heart, the half-acknowledged desire to pay back hurt for hurt. It isn't very nice, anymore than the psalmist's thirst for revenge; but there is only one way of allowing the grace of Christ into areas of sin and darkness, and that is by praying. Here is a suggestion: pray Psalm 21 with Christ on the Cross, then follow it up with Psalms 108 and 34 (numbering as in liturgical psalters). If that doesn't bring you to your knees or your senses, try praying them every Friday. Conversion is the work of a lifetime.