All posts tagged: psalms

Cultivating Benedictine Wonder

I awake in the middle of the night, as I do most nights here, with muscles complaining about the hundreds of hay bales I loaded into a barn the day before. It is half past 2AM. The Guest House at the Abbey of Regina Laudis is black and silent, but some 800 meters away in the chapel, an assembly of nuns is awake and keeping watch with the sanctuary lamp. It is the hour of Matins. By the time I rise at 8:00, the flowers have been watered, the cows milked, the sheep sent to pasture, the cat found and fed, the grapevines inspected, and the bread dough set out to rise. I gulp a cup of Folgers and hike up the hill to the Church of Jesu Fili Mariae for Mass. A bell rings, and from behind the wrought iron grille, the nuns process into the sanctuary, bowing to the altar and to one another before taking their places in the choir stalls. Mother Abbess intones the prayer: Deus, in adjutorium meum intende. The …

Jazz: A Foretaste of Eternal Life

Throughout Scripture, there are more than 1,000 references to all things musical—songs, singing, instruments, and the like. These passages identify music as a beautifully appropriate way to praise God not only here on earth, but also in the eternal joy of heaven. As a lifelong musician, I’ve always been especially comforted by the reassurance that, whatever else life in heaven is like, music will definitely be a part of it. More recently, as a composer, I’ve often found myself wondering what exactly this music will sound like. Some Scripture passages seem to imply a capella (unaccompanied vocal) music, for example, “I thank you, LORD, with all my heart; in the presence of the angels to you I sing” (Ps 138:1). On the other hand, Isaiah tells us that “we will sing to stringed instruments in the house of the LORD all the days of our life” (Is 38:20). That sounds appealing; who doesn’t love a good string quartet? The psalmist goes several instruments further in his final song of praise: Hallelujah! Praise God in his …

Human Need in Game of Thrones and the Word of God

Keep this in mind, dear brothers and sisters. Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for a person’s anger does not fulfill God’s justice. Strip away all that is filthy, every vicious excess. Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves. A person who listens to God’s word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks into a mirror at the face he was born with: he looks at himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. There is, on the other hand, the man who peers into freedom’s ideal law and abides by it. He is no forgetful listener, but one who carries out the law in practice. Blest will this man be in whatever he does. (James 1:19–25) I’m a TV junkie. I confess it. I have been one for as long as I can …

An Invitation to Vespers

Each month, a small group of people gathers in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy in Geddes Hall to pray Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church. We sing a hymn, we chant the psalms, we hear the words of Scripture, we listen to a homily offered by a member of the Notre Dame community, we offer intercessions for different needs, we celebrate the liturgical cycle of feasts and seasons—in short, we step away from the demands of academia and work in order to enter intentionally into the life and prayer of the Church. The structure of Vespers itself never varies: greeting, hymn, psalms and/or canticles, reading, homily, responsory, Magnificat, intercessions, Lord’s Prayer, closing collect, dismissal, sign of peace. The whole thing takes thirty minutes, tops. The experience of Vespers, though, is different every time we gather. The psalms, antiphons, and readings change. The homilist changes, providing a new person’s perspective as he or she reflects on the Scriptures. The feasts and seasons change: right now, sunlight still fills the chapel when we pray, …

My Heart is Ready

It is the LORD who keeps faith for ever, who is just to those who are oppressed. It is he who gives bread to the hungry, the LORD, who sets prisoners free, the LORD who gives sight to the blind, who raises up those who are bowed down, the LORD, who protects the stranger, and upholds the widow and orphan. It is the LORD who loves the just but thwarts the path of the wicked. The LORD will reign for ever, Zion’s God from age to age. (Psalm 146:6b–10a) Again and again I need to be reminded that in a special way, God is with the childlike, the poor, “the babes” as Gustavo Gutierrez translates from the Greek. When first sitting with and praying with these Scriptures, I realized that I wanted a magical God to swoop in and change the situations described in Psalm 146. How is our God just to those who remain oppressed? How does God give bread to those who remain hungry? How does God protect the stranger? Uphold the widow …

The Mass for Millennials: The Responsorial Psalm

Wedged between the First Reading and Second Reading at Sunday Mass (or between the First Reading and Gospel at daily Mass) is a small reading known as the Responsorial Psalm. If you attend Mass today, for example, you will hear: The Lord hears the cry of the poor I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Taste and see how good the Lord is; Blessed the man who takes refuge in him. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. The LORD confronts the evildoers, To destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, And from all their distress he rescues them.  The Lord hears the cry of the poor. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; And those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, But out of them all the LORD delivers him. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Few would argue the beauty, power, and import …

Three Steps to a Better Understanding of the Year of Mercy

The Year of Mercy is a call to action, but first of all, it is a call to contemplate the action of God. In the words of Pope Francis, “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.” But contemplation is really hard work; it takes tremendous effort to learn to receive well, to take up a posture of willed passivity in the manner of Jesus’ Immaculate Mother who “[heard] the Word of God and [acted] on it” (Lk 8:21; cf. Lk 1:26–56). God’s merciful action toward us frees us to act mercifully toward one another, and coming to know ourselves as recipients of God’s mercy teaches how to see the possibilities for merciful relationships in the first place. Therefore, I would like to propose three practices for taking up the challenge of contemplating divine mercy. These three practices are at once simple and demanding; in full, they affect our language, our silence, and our manners of accompaniment. By praying the psalms, adoring the Blessed Sacrament, and engaging in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we may …