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,