Hi all! This isn’t really a reflection on a specific topic within Sacred Scripture, rather it is some work that I had done for class and I thought it would be valuable to share with you. There is a lot of content that was reading so I hope that if you are interested in finding the quoted material, the citations are helpful. Also, when I refer to Dr. Wood, I am referring to his lecture that was assigned for that specific class. I would like to highlight my reflection of praying on the psalms in response to another student. I hope you enjoy!
To be completely honest, Sacred Scripture was never really a large part of my life until seminary. I was predisposed toward the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because I felt like I could better pursue the “active participation” that the Second Vatican Council speaks of. As a young man after Confirmation, I still had a hard time understanding what it really meant to sit in silence with the Lord. Of course, I went to pray and meant in all sincerity to be silent to listen to God, but I always ended up praying the rosary or some other sacramental or prayer. This is not truly sitting in silence with the Lord. Enter seminary, where I started to learn how to be truly silent. This process actually came about with my greater study of Sacred Scripture. Once I really started praying with Sacred Scripture (the Psalms especially), I started to grow in my ability to be silent. I think that this reflects what St. Thomas Aquinas said in the Inaugural Sermons, “First it is the life of grace, to which Sacred Scripture disposes” (p. 7). I understand that St. Thomas meant the life of grace in a general sense; but for me, God gave me a specific grace in my life of learning how to be silent with Him. As I started to grow in this grace, I started to receive great blessings from the Lord in the form of a greater knowledge what role my belief in the Lord meant. When I was reading St. Bonaventure, I started to understand why I experienced the grace of silence in the way that I did. “Therefore passing from knowing to wisdom is not assured: a means must be placed in between, that is, holiness. But passing over is an endeavor: the endeavor to pass from the study of the sciences to the study of holiness and from the study of holiness to that of wisdom;” (Nineteenth Collation 284-285) I realized now after reading this, that this is precisely what I had experienced, a passing of knowledge to wisdom that was strengthened by the desire for holiness. And, as any faithful Catholic, I continue to desire holiness, which I believe fits in line with what St. Augustine had to say, “Therefore he who considers absolutely the highest cause of the whole universe, namely God, is most of all called wise” (De Trin. xii, 14). So I guess to sum up what Scripture has played in my life, it is that Sacred Scripture strengthened my resolve to be called wise (which means that I will have holiness and God with me).
That leads me up to how I believe that I can open myself to encounter God in Scriptures in a more meaningful way. Something that Dr. Wood said in the first lecture really stuck with me and I plan on taking this to prayer, “sharing with us His Word, precedes sharing of the sacrament which lends itself to being in communion.” Upon hearing that I was struck because Dr. Wood brought up a thought of how to strengthen my love of the Eucharist (which I always seek to do so) by truly praying with Sacred Scripture. I think that I will approach my prayer with this in mine; I will listen to the Word, silently let Him come into my heart, and then take that grace with me to mass to experience the Eucharist more fully. That in turn, will bring me more closely into communion with the Lord. It is not much, but certainly a great thing for me to ponder.
Pax Christi Vobiscum!
Thank you for your reflections on silence. I went back and re-read the reading assignments and saw things I didn’t see before. The quote you quoted on passing from knowledge to wisdom to holiness was one I had skimmed over and in re-reading it saw the goal of wisdom is not an end in itself; it is of far greater meaning when it leads to holiness. I like your suggestion of praying the Psalms as a way that helped you to grow in your ability to be in silence. How, for you, do you “pray” the Psalms, I mean, beyond just reading them and thinking about what you read (if it’s not too time consuming to share)?
John O : )
Thank you for your kinds words and I am pleased to hear that you were shown something new in the readings!
In regard to your question, my answer is simple: סֶלָה This is the Hebrew word “Selah” and if you have an older bible, you will find it 72 times within the psalms themselves (I believe it is 72). This word doesn’t really have the best translation, but it has often been translated as the blessing, “forever.” In musical terms, this word would be interpreted as a phrase break, meaning there is a pause in the music before the next section of melody. This word is what really opened me up to the interior silence found in the heart. Let me clarify what I mean even more.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Music is the food of love, play on”? This phrase is uttered in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Essentially what he is saying is that there is inherent beauty in music that is fed on by love, meaning that music is nourishment to love (sorry my answer is so convoluted, but I have to take you through my train of thought). Well, the psalms are pieces of music written in love and wonder of the Lord. So I can say confidently that the singing of psalms produces a new found love for the Lord.
Furthermore, have you ever listened to an incredible piece of music that you were emotionally intrigued by? That you had hairs that stood up on end? If you do, you must know what I am talking about: imagine that feeling at the end of a phrase, or maybe even in the end of the song. There is a moment in which the music is over, there is pure stillness and silence, but there is still an incredible “energy” (or whatever you want to call it) that fills the air. It is a moment of absolute sheer bliss. This moment is what I like to imagine what listening to the angels singing the sanctus is like.
Continuing on to how I pray and find the silence in the psalms.
When I pray the psalms, I actually sing them. I either use English, Latin, or the Hebrew (though my Hebrew is not the best). When I sing the psalms, I try my best to imagine what I am singing, a love story for the Lord. As I continue through, there is something that definitely stirs in my heart and I can feel the movement of the Holy Ghost. And that leads me to the Selah; upon reaching that pause in the psalm, I try my very best to recreate that stillness that is found after the magnificent beauty that hangs in the air after an incredible song. If I do it right, then it means that I can find absolute stillness after praying the psalm and I can actually sit in an atmosphere that is truly alive, but is alive in absolute silence. I usually just sit there without speaking or thinking anything until the hum or buzz of the air is gone and I will continue on to the next part of the psalm until the next Selah. I am sure that this can be replicated by listening to the psalms on-line as well . . .
I really hope that this explains my way of praying the psalms and I pray that it might offer something new for you.
Pax Christi tecum,