Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Purging the Psalter of all those 'mean' psalms and verses.

Help, O Lord, for good men have vanished; 
truth has gone from the sons of men.
Falsehood they speak one to another, 
with lying lips, with a false heart. - Ps. 11

Otherwise known as the 'hostile' psalms.

Years ago when I was a novice the issue was discussed at Chapter.  Several of the monks wanted a deeper purge of all the negative, hostile, 'violent' verses and psalms from the monastic office.

I always thought that was wrong.

I've always thought that these psalms and those verses which called on God to destroy the enemies who oppress his people, were spiritually and psychologically healthy to pray.  I've often wondered if that is why we have become so soft on sin, and passive in the face of those sins which cry to heaven for vengeance?

I find these psalms especially helpful in times of temptation - especially temptation to discouragement.  The words can express our deepest frustration - with ourselves and our soul's enemies.  In a sense, they can be a sort of exorcism, a spiritual defense in the spiritual combat.  They also inform us, remind us of God's justice.

I find such psalms especially helpful when praying for Christians facing martyrdom, and the oppressors who persecute them.  Similarly, I have found consolation in praying these psalms in defense of the defenseless innocents killed by abortion and infanticide.

Rather than expunging these verses from the psalter, I think they need to be reinstated, in the Liturgy and  Offices.

"Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you." - Ps. 5

Once again, Rorate Caeli brings the changes to our attention in a very good post revealing the effects of the liturgical reform and the editing of the psalter - purging the more difficult psalms from the Ordinary Form and the Divine Office.  Though rather critical in tone, I want to include a couple excerpts here:

For 2,000 years, Christians Eastern and Western had been praying the psalter of David in its integrity, and now, Catholics were handed an expurgated or abridged version, with verses removed by “experts” who knew better than the Holy Spirit, knew better than the Israelites, knew better than the Church Fathers and Doctors, knew better than Tradition. But of course they knew better: this was the Age of Enlightenment breaking in at last upon a fortress-like Church, an age in which we should shake ourselves free from the shackles of unenlightened piety, with its gnarled, enigmatic, sharp-edged, implacable expressions, and its archaic, earthy, tribal atmosphere. Razing the bastions, making the world safe for democracy, and all that good stuff.
This observation dovetailed with another talk given at the Sacra Liturgia conference about the reform of the lectionary, in which the speaker looked at how the Novus Ordo lectionary for Mass also suppresses “difficult” verses from both Testaments—verses that had always been present in the traditional Roman lectionary but were excluded from the new lectionary, in spite of its boast of being so much bigger and better.
Catholics who attend the Ordinary Form are not merely getting “more” Scripture, they are also getting different Scripture—and the principles of selection are politically correct, ecumenical, sensitive, excluding much that is dark or difficult. In other words, the principles are rather unlike Scripture itself. The modern principles and the premodern text to which they are applied sit uneasily together. - Posted by Benedict Constable

Arise O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered.

Perhaps such revisionism is why the Catholic hierarchy can seem so banal at times, the liturgy so effeminate in the touchy-feely sense, and Catholics so complacent and compromised by moral relativism?

I appreciate the following verses - especially when I pray for those who slaughter the innocent:
O God, break the teeth in their mouths,
tear out the fangs of these wild beasts, O Lord!
Let them vanish like water that runs away;
let them wither like grass that is trodden under foot:
let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime;
like a woman's miscarriage that never sees the sun. - Ps. 57

Upon waking, my daily prayer always begins this way:

Let God arise, let his foes be scattered.
Let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is blown away so will they be blown away;
like wax that melts before the fire,
so the wicked shall perish at the presence of God. - Ps. 68

I keep thinking of St. Paul's admonition: Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.


  1. Purging the Psalter?

    Meh! Balderdash! Politically correct religious hogwash! Where are the heroes? Where are God's warriors? Why are we to endure milquetoast prayers that stifle our rightful indignation at what is being done to God's little ones? I am glad I still use my bible from almost 25 years ago plus I have an Ignatius bible as well.

    Let them say I am out of tune or that I am mean because I like my prayer negative, hostile, with 'violent' verses from the psalms.

    No wonder so many of our bishops appear as if they were weaned on a bland diet that makes them milquetoast like especially after reading Archbishops Cupich's comment on abortion and his contribution to the infamous "seamless garment." I was unimpressed.

    More prayer all around for sure. ;p

    1. The 'seamless garment' may be the biggest contributor to our apathy regarding abortion.

  2. As a Secular Franciscan, I'm afraid I must pray the Office "as is. ." though I can't help but feel Seculars in bygone decades were helped along in the quests for holiness by better traditions and prayer materials. .

    1. Me too - but I like praying with Psalter outside of the Hours.

  3. Unfortunately it is a pandemic that touches two Popes who Rorate will not criticize...the two prdecessors of Pope Francis. Pope St. John Paul II edited Genesis 9:5-6 in section 39 of Evangelium Vitae by removing the death penalty for murder but a Cardinal at the CDF must have noticed and made it his mission to cite the entire couplet in ccc #2260. Pope Benedict is the first Pope ever to suggest in section 42 of Verbum Domini that God didn't order the herem massacres but they were sins of men despite the OT saying the opposite 6 times. The Pontifical Biblical Commision saw Benedict's poker hand and raised him...by stating in 2010 in a document that the massacres never really happened because they were written about much later ( as though oral tradition was non existent in the OT but critically existent in the first century).

  4. As an ordinary Catholic woman who struggles daily to keep God close, I very much appreciated this post. I feel no constraint to recite these prayers and share them with other heartsick Catholics and Christians of like feelings. I have desired to have a weapon of words to express my anguish at the state of our world and started writing protest poetry. These selections, from the Psalms, are more inspiration for my fire.

    Thank you for sharing these, Terry.


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