Sing ye wisely (XIX)

CHAPTER XIX. Of the Discipline of saying the Divine Office
24 Feb. 26 June. 26 Oct.

We believe that the Divine presence is everywhere, and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the evil in every place. Especially should we believe this, without any doubt, when we are assisting at the Work of God. Let us, then, ever remember what the prophet saith: “Serve the Lord in fear”; and again, “Sing ye wisely” and, “In the sight of the angels I will sing praises unto Thee.” Therefore let us consider how we ought to behave ourselves in the presence of God and of His angels, and so assist at the Divine Office, that our mind and our voice may accord together.

Saint Benedict, taking up the words of Psalm 46:8, says to us today, Psallite sapienter, which we might translate variously as “Sing ye wisely, “Sing ye praises with understanding,” “Sing ye songs, and understand what they mean,” or even “Savour the psalms ye sing.” We are sometimes so engaged in producing the sound of the psalms, that we fail to listen to them. Saint Benedict would have us sing and listen at the same time. The psalmody is a living exchange between Christ and the Church, between Christ and our community, between Christ and each soul. The psalms are the voice of Christ addressing His Father; or the voice of Christ addressing His Spouse and Body, the Church; or the voice of the Church addressing Christ, her Lord, her King, and her High Priest; or the voice of the soul addressing Christ, her Bridegroom and her God. No one way of understanding the psalms is exclusive of the others.

Our Lord is always speaking to us in the psalms that are on our lips eight times a day, and again in the Proper Chants of the Mass, but our wavering and wandering hearts are often far from Him. When He wants to speak to us, He finds us inattentive or, like Martha of Bethany, busy about many things. What is the remedy for this inattention of our hearts? If we give Our Lord undivided attention in our times of adoration each day, being content only to sit at His feet like Mary of Bethany, we recover our ability to hear His voice and to receive the words that He addresses to us from His most loving Heart.

We are, then, to listen for Our Lord’s voice in the psalms that we sing. He will instruct us in this way and show each of us the way in which we are to go forward. We are to hold fast to the promise Our Lord makes, addressing us in Psalm 31:8: “I will give thee understanding, and I will instruct thee in this way, in which thou shalt go: I will fix my eyes upon thee.”

In moments of anguish, darkness, and even terror, one should listen attentively to the voice of God speaking through the psalmody of the Divine Office. Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus. “My soul hath relied on his word” (Psalm 129:4). God speaks always to the soul who quiets herself and waits for Him, relying on His word:

Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es. Virga tua, et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.

Parasti in conspectu meo mensam adversus eos qui tribulant me; impinguasti in oleo caput meum: et calix meus inebrians, quam præclarus est!
Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebriateth me, how goodly is it!

Et misericordia tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitæ meæ; et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum.
And thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days. (Psalm 22:4-6)