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Part Four

end of history; it commemorates the promises God has already

kept, and awaits the Messiah who will fulfill them definitively.

Prayed by Christ and fulfilled in him, the Psalms remain essential

to the prayer of the Church.



The Psalter is the book inwhich TheWord of God becomes

man’s prayer. In other books of the Old Testament, “the words

proclaim [God’s] works and bring to light the mystery they con­



The words of the Psalmist, sung for God, both express and

acclaim the Lord’s saving works; the same Spirit inspires both

God’s work and man’s response. Christ will unite the two. In him,

the psalms continue to teach us how to pray.


The Psalter’s many forms of prayer take shape both in the

liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart. Whether hymns or

prayers of lamentation or thanksgiving, whether individual or

communal, whether royal chants, songs of pilgrimage or wisdom-

meditations, the Psalms are a mirror of God’s marvelous deeds in

the history of his people, as well as reflections of the human

experiences of the Psalmist. Though a given psalm may reflect an

event of the past, it still possesses such direct simplicity that it can

be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions.


Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the

Psalms: simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God him­

self through and with all that is good in his creation; the

distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for

the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who

waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his

love and in submission to his will. The prayer of the psalms is always

sustained by praise; that is why the title of this collection as handed

down to us is so fitting: “The Praises.” Collected for the assembly’s

worship, the Psalter both sounds the call to prayer and sings the

response to that call:


(“Alleluia”), “Praise the Lord!”

What is more pleasing than a psalm? David expresses it well:

“Praise the Lord, for a psalm is good: let there be praise of

our God with gladness and grace!” Yes, a psalm is a blessing

on the lips of the people, praise of God, the assembly’s

homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all,

the voice of the Church, a confession of faith in song.


38 Cf. GILH, nn. 100-109.




40 St. Ambrose,

In psalmum 1 enarratio,

1, 9: PL 14, 924;


Saturday, wk 10,