Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Penitential Psalms

If people asked me my favourite books of the bible I would probably have to say Psalms and Ecclesiastes. To explain briefly there is 2 dicotemies in my spiritual life:

1. What I am obligated to believe (Catholicism)
2. What I honestly believe (Generally Anglicanism circa 1940/Anglo-Catholicism + some Catholic doctrine)

1. What I know about God (Thomistic philosophy and theology)
2. What I experience of God (Deism at times, and occasional moments of joy)

The reason Psalms and Ecclesiastes are my favourite is because they correspond to the #2's of both categories. I believe personally that God is somehow very distant and uncaring most of the time and thus connect with the penitential, and the depressing or 'bitching psalms' as I call them (I am able to force myself to believe my obligatorily theology ; I was raised fundamentalist it's a skill). But at other times I experience what C.S. Lewis would describe best as joy, occasional overwhelming moments of felicity that come from experiencing God. The last time I genuinely remember it was taking communion at Holy Trinity Anglican last August, or maybe standing in the Cathedral making the sign of the cross in latin at the Rite of Election.

Anyway, the Psalms are honest, they're real. Ecclesiastes is likewise honest and real, ecclesiastes was written by someone who understood philosophy, and so I can connectwith it quite easily.

The purpose of all this is that over time I eventually marked up both books in my bible alot and almost out of sheer chance I had marked up a few psalms that had a connection I was unaware of. They were 7 Psalms (I think I had favoured about 5 of them) that were called the "penitential psalms" and as I found this out in my NRSV study bible's footnote I started to pray all 7 in a row sometimes. I really enjoyed it and find myself reading them more and more often.

I read that : "St. Augustine, when dying, had the Psalms (that is the penitential psalms) fixed upon the wall opposite his bed" (http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/seven_penitential_psalms.htm)

I was watching Shadowlands again tonight and thinking about C.S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms (which I haven't read) and how I'd like to write a few, so I decided to write on the 7 penitential Psalms. I'll be quite proud of myself if I make it to all 7, I have a tendency to give up on these sorts of things.

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