The Divine Office

“When the body of the Son prays, it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Savior of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, who prays for us and prays in us and is prayed to by us.”

St. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 85:1

To an Adult Faith Formation Class

The Book of Psalms is a true school of Christian prayer. In. it, we find language to express all the emotions of our hearts to God. If we are joyful, we may “cry to God with shouts of joy” (Ps 47:1); if we are sad: “Listen to my voice, O God, as I complain” (Ps 64:1); if we are afflicted, we may cry, “Relive the anguish of my heart, and set me free from my distress” (Ps 25:17); if we are penitent of heart: “Do not remember the sins of my youth. In your love remember me!” (Ps 25:7). 

Learning to pray with the Psalms not only supplies us with words to express the depths of our human emotions. It teaches us that the Lord really cares about those emotions. He wants us to “pour out our hearts before him” (Ps 62:8), not only those feelings that we deem “acceptable” or religious, but to “call upon him in truth” (Ps 145:18), expressing our deepest longings, anguish, hope—the whole gamut of human feeling. 

Indeed, the Lord Jesus cares intimately about the state of our hearts because He Himself assumed a human heart, with all its depth and range of feeling, in His Incarnation. As man, Jesus learned to pray the Psalms of David, endowing these inspired prayers with a supernatural significance surpassing their considerable poetic excellence. Jesus prayed the Psalms as no one else has. As God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He prayed to the Father in the words of the Psalms, using human words to express the infinite, divine exchange of love which characterizes the inner life of the Trinity; as man, he poured out the depth of feeling of his human heart to God, and so our human feelings, too, are taken up into the mystery of divine love.

The way we Christians pray the Psalms is forever changed by this fact: Christ prayed them before us; He prays them now in us; we pray to Him in them. St. Augustine gives us a beautiful expression: in the Psalms, Christ “prays for us as our priest; he prays in us as our head; he is prayed to by us as our God. So we must recognize our voices in him and his voice in us.” 

In the Psalms, we recognize Christ praying to the Father, as when He said from the Cross: “Into your hands I commend my spirit!” (Ps 30:6) As we pray these verses, we lend Christ our voices with which to pray. As we pray in the words of Christ, He prays to the Father with our voices, and our hearts are drawn up into the pattern of His prayer: “we pray to him, through him, in him; we speak with him; he speaks with us” (St. Augustine).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s