The Psalms As Song And Prayer Of The Monks
The Rule of Saint Benedict has many chapters devoted to the selection of particular Psalms for the different hours of prayer
(Chapters 8 to 18). Our father, Saint Benedict, concludes in chapter 18 (verse 22): If anyone finds this distribution of the Psalms unsatisfactory, he should arrange whatever he judges better, provided that the full compliment of 150 Psalms is by all means carefully maintained every week.
The Psalms are a part of what makes a Cistercian monk. The Psalms are the prayer book of the church inherited from the synagogue. If one feels that the Psalms are not Christocentric, than I suggest that he ponder the commentaries on the Psalms by Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, and Saint Athanasius.
It is because Saint Benedict loves the Psalms that they became part of our charism, a torch to be passed to future generations. Fundamentally, the Psalms were an integral part of the prayer life of Jesus and of every practicing Jew. Of the almost 200 quotes in the New Testament taken from the Old Testament, 100 are from the Psalms. We find the Psalms on the lips of Jesus as he is dying on the cross. (Luke 23:46 / Psalms 31:6) How many of His followers, such as Saint John of the Cross, have died with quotes from the Psalms on their lips?
Saint Jerome, in letter 46 to Marcella, wrote from Bethlehem:
In Christ's humble cottage there is only rustic simplicity; except for the chanting of Psalms, silence is perfect. Wherever you go, the husbandman sings alleluia over his plough, the toiling harvester refreshes himself with the Psalms; the vinedresser prunes his vine to a song of David. These are the popular songs of this country; the love songs of the shepherds whistle, the lyrics of the famer as he toils the soil with devotion.
Indeed, the Psalms are the song of the monk, a part of who he is. Saint Augustine's commentary on the Psalms reads:
A thought already familiar to the Fathers that the whole of the Old Testament foreshadows Christ in types, and symbols, and that the Psalter especially throws light upon our Savior's inward prayer. It was left to Saint Augustine to develop this line of thought, and so reveal with amazing richness the soul of the One Man as He prays, suffers, or rejoices. The Psalms which in their diversity of feeling embrace all the possibilities of human life, actually become the Book of hours of the Mystical Christ, whom we hear praying to God now as Head, now as Body, and at times we even overhear a mysterious dialogue between the two. Once we have grasped this idea, we have found the whole theme of the Psalms.
Another quote by Saint Augustine from the introductory page of the Genesee Psalter.
This Psalm is spoken in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, both head and members. He is the head, we are the members. Not without good reason then, His voice is ours and our voice is also His. Let us, therefore, listen to the Psalm and recognize in it the voice of Christ.
Let us, therefore, listen to the Psalms and recognize in them the voice of Christ.
(Excerpts taken from the book, "What Makes a Cistercian Monk" by Fr Anthony Delisi OCSO)
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