Bro Paschal Jordan OSB spoke at the Liturgical Commission’s workshop ‘Composing Responsorial Psalms’ March 30 at the Max Murphy Hall, St Philip and St James RC Church, Chaguanas. This is part three of a series based on his short course for music composers on the Book of Psalms. Part one appeared in the May 7—13 issue, and Part two in the May 14–20 issue.
Which psalms or fragments of psalms do you find helpful in time of trouble/sorrow/difficulty/grief?
Psalms of Praise are songs praising God for Himself, for the wonder of nature, and for ourselves, human beings, wonderfully made by God. Let us consider a Spirituality of Praise:
When we adopt praise as a spiritual attitude or ‘spirituality’, we may discover any one or all of the following:
– Praise helps us to recognise the Lord in nature, persons, events, creation in general, and, especially in the Bible.
– Praise cleanses our heart of anger, passion, melancholy, and a grasping spirit.
– It opens us up to God who is ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel’ (Ps 22:4).
– Praise opens us up to recognising the ups and downs of life as equally God’s gifts.
– Praise takes away our self-centredness and egocentricity.
– It does not take away sorrow – which means that sorrow is a legitimate emotion, no matter what anybody tells you to the contrary – but helps us to accept it graciously.
– Praise is not just glib talk, but demonstrates faith, hope, and confidence in Divine Providence.
– It is not a substitute for hard work but acts as a sort of ‘lubrication’ in the daily grind.
– Praise helps create in us a certain docility of spirit and gentleness of life-style, because it makes us aware of our dependency on God. (And God, as we know, will not let us ‘slip through His fingers’.)
– Praise brings an element of joy into the daily grind; it softens our brusqueness of spirit.
Which psalm, or fragment of a psalm, helps you to praise God in your life?
Psalms of thanksgiving or gratitude:
These psalms are a sort of mixture of Lament and Praise – inasmuch as the psalmists recall the suffering they underwent, their cry to God, His healing response, and now they praise God for what He has done. In other words, thanksgiving, or gratitude.
Let us consider a Spirituality of Gratitude:
What is the heart of gratitude?
Psalm 40:6–8 gives the real inner attitude of thanksgiving, which is an open ear and a ready step to do God’s will: I am coming to do your will, O God.
This is the response of love: to please God in all that we do.
Name three things/events/persons which make you truly grateful.
How were these psalms sung?
As composers of Responsorial Psalms, you may be wondering how the psalms were originally sung, and what they sounded like.
Here is a video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQNJs89E6x8) of the Lament Psalm 22(21): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” sung in Hebrew, with pictures of the Holocaust:
You will recall listening to the Gospel of Matthew, last Palm Sunday of the Passion, where Jesus cried out those very words of the Psalm: Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani!
And here, according to the various Books of the Old Testament, we may be able to get a glimpse of how the Psalms of Praise were sung. Take time to look up the Biblical references given: