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Another reading for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany: St. Basil on Psalmody

February 6, 2017

Here is another reading for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, from Faith and Life: St. Basil on Psalmody.

I. PSALMODY.

WHATEVER is profitable in the other books of Scripture is comprised in the Book of Psalms. It predicts the future, it keeps history in remembrance, it legislates for our life, it suggests what we should do; in a word, it is the common treasury of good teaching, providing with all carefulness what is useful to each man by himself. It heals the old wounds of the soul, applies a speedy cure to the newly-wounded, makes the diseased part sound, keeps the sound part free from evil; and, as far as may be, casts out those passions which in various ways, throughout human life, hold empire over the soul; and all this with a certain graceful persuasiveness, and a sweetness which produces sobriety of mind. For since the Holy Spirit knew how reluctantly mankind are led towards virtue, and how neglectful we are of right conduct through our propensity to pleasure; He mingled the charm of melody with His instructions, that by hearing what was soft and pleasant we might unconsciously take in the salutary teaching. A Psalm is the quiet of souls, the arbiter of peace, allaying the surge of excited feeling. It softens the irritation of the soul, and controls its sensuality. A Psalm brings friends together, unites those who are at variance, reconciles enemies. So that Psalmody supplies that greatest of blessings, Love. A Psalm puts demons to flight, procures the aid of Angels, is armour in nightly fears, refreshment in daily toils; it is safety to children, an ornament to youth, comfort to the elders, a most appropriate grace to women ; it makes wildernesses habitable, and public places pure; it teaches rudiments to the beginner in things spiritual, it helps the proficient to further advances, it establishes the perfected, it is the voice of the Church. It is this which gives brightness to our festivals, it is this which forms in us godly sorrow; for a Psalm calls forth a tear even from a stony heart. A Psalm is the work of Angels, the heavenly conversation, the spiritual incense. O what a wise plan of our Teacher, who so manages that we shall at the same time be singing and learning useful lessons; whereby His instructions are the more deeply impressed upon our souls. For what is there that we cannot learn from the Psalms? Can we not learn majestic courage, strict justice, dignified self-control, consummate wisdom, the method of repentance, the measures of patience, every good thing that one can name? Here we find a perfect theology, a prediction of Christ’s sojourn in the flesh, a warning of judgment, a hope of resurrection, a fear of punishment, promises of glory, revelations of mysteries; all are treasured up, as in some great and general storehouse, in the Book of Psalms.
–St. Basil, Homily on Psalm i

The Psalms are called ‘the Prayer Book of the Bible” and St. Basil certainly would agree with that.

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