Canisius | 02 December, 2007 08:31
The spirit of prayer, and even prayer itself, has been sought for in methods and prayer-books, which contain, it is true, laudable, yea, pious thoughts, but after all only human thoughts. Such nourishman cannot satisfy the soul, for it does not initiate her into the prayer of the Church. Instead of uniting her with the prayer of the Church, it isolates her.
For Israel, the book of public liturgy, the book which spoke with the voice of the people rather than merely the voice of the private individual, was the Psalms. Even if certain psalms were composed by an individual for an individual circumstance, they were included in the public liturgy as the people’s prayer.
Already Israel was aware that the nature and identity of the chosen people was a great mystery: the two great questions that govern the Old Testament are “Who is God?” and “Who is Israel?” In due time, God revealed that Israel, as “son of God” (Exod 4:22), was an anticipation of Jesus Christ. As Paul teaches, Jesus carries the identity of Israel, the one to whom the promises were made, and we become members of Israel by incorporation into Christ (Gal 3:26-29).
Because of this, the Psalms are rightly understood as speaking in the voice of Christ—the whole Christ, which includes his members in the Church. By their very nature, then, the Psalms speak with the voice of the Church and are inevitably part of the Church’s liturgy.