Dear Parish Faithful,
"The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore;
yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away."
(Psalm 90:10 - RSV)
For this Wednesday's zoom Bible Study, we will read and discuss the three historical psalms from last week that we did not get to: Psalms 78, 105, 106. — What are the various moral and spiritual insights meant to be revealed in these psalms?
We will also discuss the two psalms that precede 105 and 106, and that would be Psalm 103 (sung as the first antiphon in the Liturgy); and the great psalm in praise of creation and sung or chanted at every Vespers service: Psalm 104. — What is the link between psalm 104 and the creation account in Genesis I. Why is this psalm prescribed to begin every Vespers with?
If time allows, we will take a look at the most quoted psalm in the New Testament - 110 - especially the first verse. You may want to further look up all the NT passages that quote that opening verse, "The Lord says to my lord: 'Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool'." — What are some of the various interpretations of this verse as found throughout the NT?
- Fr Steven
Dear Parish Faithful,
At our next Bible Study on zoom, scheduled for Wednesday, July 1 (7:00 p.m.), we will continue to discuss the Six Psalms of Matins by covering psalms 63 & 88. I find these particular psalms to be some of the most impressive of the entire psalter. They move us toward repentance and trust in God, even when conditions or circumstances seem hopeless.
I would also like to discuss some of the "historical psalms," especially 78, 105, 106. These are all rather lengthy, so I would suggest reading them, and perhaps we will highlight certain passages from them; beginning with Psalm 78:1-8, about passing on tradition from generation to generation.
Then, one of the great classic psalms is 51 (50 in the Septuagint). This is the most-used psalms of all liturgically. We will take a close look at it, and marvel at how it expresses genuine repentance in such a powerful and moving manner.
Below, are the comments from Mother Paula as to how the Psalter is used in a monastic setting, as at her monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA. We would like to thank Mother Paula for preparing this for us.
- Fr. Steven
Here are my comments about the Psalter which you are free to share. You may have already discussed this in your first few classes.
All monasteries chant or read the Psalms usually at the beginning of Matins and Vespers. The book of Psalms is divided into 20 Kathismas (sections). The Psalms are also a part of the Hours, Compline and the Liturgy. Every Matins service also begins with the reading of six special Psalms ( 3, 38, 63, 88, 103, 143) each day.
Some monasteries read all 150 Psalms in a period of one week. At our monastery of the Transfiguration, our tradition is to read Kath. 1 - 10 in one week and then 11 - 20 the next week.
Kath. 17, which is Psalm 119 (the longest Psalm) is read every Sat. morning. It is often read at funerals and memorial services.
During Great Lent we read all 150 Psalms in one week including at the daily Hours.
Some monasteries chant the Psalms, we usually try to read them in a clear and understandable voice.
The Psalms can be read anytime in one's daily prayer life. It is good to read through them and find ones that touch the heart. They can be helpful for one's soul, in times of joy, thanksgiving, need, grief, anxiety, fear, anger, and repentance.
St. Basil the Great believes that "There is no liturgical book that better serves God than the Psalter."
The Psalms are the Prayer book of Christ and His Church.
Some of the Psalms are hard to understand. Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory, told us to try to think of Christ as they are read or chanted.
For me personally, I like to say a few verses of a Psalm to keep me centered and focused on the Lord, throughout the day.
"Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me." Ps. 50
"O Lord let your good spirit lead me on a level path." Ps.143
"O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his mercy endures forever." Ps. 136
"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice in it." Ps. 118
Yours in Christ,
Dear Parish Faithful,
We will begin by covering psalms 23 & 24 (assigned for last week but not yet discussed). I also want to cover the profound "Six Psalms" always chanted at Matins. Tomorrow evening, we will discuss Psalm 38 (we have already discussed Psalm 3). The remaining four yet to come are Psalms 63,88103,143. If time permits, we will discuss Psalm 63.
Attached you will find a version of Psalm 42 in the RSV translation. We will take a close look at this beautiful psalm. We will then cover Psalm 43, which many commentators see as a direct continuation of psalm 42, as they may have been one psalm at one point in time. If that is so, what would indicate that in the psalm itself?
I understand that our good friend Mother Paula of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery will join us, and perhaps another mother or sister from the monastery. I will try and get Mother Paula to share a few words of how an Orthodox monastic community approaches the Book of Psalms in their weekly worship cycle.
Dear Bible Study Participants,
NOTE: Our Bible Study has been transferred to Thursday evening this week, June 18, starting at 7:00 p.m.
I think we got off to a pretty good start last Wednesday evening. A strong response and I invite others to join us as we continue. Reading and studying the Book of Psalms is an endless endeavor, so we will do our utmost to choose very representative psalms as we go along. For next Wednesday, we will read and study at least the following psalms (numbered according to the Hebrew as found in the RSV):
8 - Divine Majesty and Human Dignity (A Hymn)
12 - A Prayer Against Evil Tongues (communal lament)
13 - A Prayer For Help (lament of an individual)
14 - A Lament Over Widespread Corruption (A wisdom psalm)
15 - The Righteous Israelite (a liturgical hymn)
22 - The Prayer of an Innocent Person (lament of an individual) Of all these chosen psalms, this may be the one that is most open to a Christological reading.
23 - The Lord, Shepherd and Host (prayer of confidence of an individual) Of course. the "good shepherd" is an image of Christ
24 - The Glory of God in Procession to Zion (a liturgical hymn)
I kind of doubt we will make our way through all of these beautiful psalms - though some are quite short - but we will do our best without rushing through them.
Summer Bible Study 2020
THE PSALTER ~ Prayer Book of the Orthodox Church
• Wednesday evenings at 7:00pm, beginning June 10, 2020
• Live via Zoom
We will discuss the Book of Psalms this year - how we use the Psalter in church, the nature of the different types of psalms, and an in-depth discussion of some chosen psalms.
Together with the Gospels and the New Testament Epistles, the Psalter is the most used book of the Bible in the life of the Church. At Orthodox monasteries the Psalms are read through each week, twice a week during Great Lent (!), and key verses are used in the prokeimena in the divine services. This multi-layered daily use of the Psalter derives from one of the core beliefs of the Church: It is Christ whom we encounter in the scriptures and in an especially profound manner in the Book of Psalms.
Contact Fr Steven if you wish to join us by Zoom. We hope to either stream our Zoom feed live on Facebook, or post the class videos after.
From Fr Steven:
Dear Parish Faithful,
And Now For Something All-Together Different - Attached you will find a beautiful flier created in order to promote our Spring/Summer Bible Study which will begin tomorrow evening on zoom at 7:00 p.m. We are looking into having it also posted on Facebook and possibly youtube. To repeat, we will be studying the Book of Psalms, or at least individually chosen psalms over the course of our study.
As I wrote last week, we are not trying to "escape" from the social and health turmoil swirling around us in organizing our annual Bible Study. If you want to escape, then we can do that through netflix or a host of other choices. The Scriptures brings into the realm of God's revelation, and thus into a world of depth and divine-human interaction. It is like ascending a high mountain and then gazing down and across at the whole world for an in-depth view, even as we continue to gaze upward at the heavens and the throne of God. As St. Basil said it with another metaphor:
"This book called the Psalter is like a great sea; for as the water of the sea is never diminished or exhausted by the outpouring of its rivers and streams, neither does the chanting of the Psalter ever fail. The Psalter has been called bravery and boldness before God for the salvation of the soul, for there is great reward in fasting, and in prostrations, and in the reading of the Psalter."
Hope to "see" you there!