Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Let us show ourselves glad in him with psalms

At some point children begin to wonder exactly what it is their fathers do at work. The children of priests, perhaps like parishioners, are especially curious about what their fathers do. My children are more or less grown and they would say that what I do is say Mass and visit the sick, go to meetings and worry about what to say in my homilies. I would only add to that the saying of the Psalter. As much as I respect Cranmer's prose, I am not as enthusiastic as I once was about collapsing the whole of the Office into Morning and Evening Prayer. The point of reading the Hours throughout the day is recollection, something which is probably more necessary now  for seculars than even for regulars. I have not found this burdensome but easy and well worth the relatively small time it takes. I also find myself questioning whether it was a good idea to turn the Office into a daily bible reading exercise. The heart of the Office is the Psalter and Dr. Neale gives proof of that in his Commentary on the Psalms:

From the scarcity of books, it was no unusual thing during the first twelve centuries that its [the Psalter’s] committal to memory should be enjoined on Ecclesiastics. So we find that S. Genna­dius,' Patriarch of Constantinople, in the fifth age, refused to ordain any clerk who could not repeat " David" by heart. S. Gregory the Great declined to consecrate a Bishop who had not learnt the Psalter, and his refusal was enjoined on others by the Se­cond Council of Nicaea. The Eighth Council of Toledo' (653) orders that none henceforth shall be promoted to any ecclesiastical dignity who do not perfectly know the whole Psalter, and in addition to that the usual Canticles and Hymns, and the Formula of Baptism." In like manner the Council of Oviedo (1050) decrees that" the Archdeacon shall present such clerks for Ordination at the Ember seasons as know perfectly the whole Psalter, the Canticles, the Hymns, the Gospels, and the Collects.
Dr. Neale adds this from St. Augustine:

 GOD hath praised Himself that He might be properly praised by man and because He hath deigned to praise Himself, therefore have men found how to praise Him. For it cannot said to GOD, as it is to man, Let not Thine own mouth praise Thee.' For man to praise himself is arrogance: for GOD to praise Himself is mercy (Commentary Ps 145).

The primary concern for the Office at the Reformation was godly edification and erudition of the clergy.  The perennial  concern of the Church throughout her history was offering the sacrificium laudis and the spiritual formation of the clergy. Both are important but in any case, as St. John Chrysostom said, David comes first, last and central.

No comments: