Thursday, February 16, 2012


Every year this time of year, this time of year specifically referring to Lent, which technically doesn't really begin until Ash Wednesday next week, I like to read a spiritual book. Been doing this since my hospitalization three years ago. Usually I try to focus on something written about the Passion of Our Lord. One year it was Death on a Friday Afternoon by Father Robert Neuhaus. Another time it was The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Bl. Anna Katherina Emmerich, the book on which Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ was based. I also put away Jim Bishop's excellent The Day Christ Died. All worthy reads, all of enormous spiritual benefit.

For a while now I've been thinking about what I should read this Lent. Then, a few weeks ago and quite out of the blue, this thought resonated throughout my gray matter: read the Psalms. Huh? The Psalms? What has that got to do with the Passion of Jesus?

Before I answer that, may I first comment on this thought resonation? Basically, any time something "pops" into my mind completely unexpectedly and with an astounding amount of force, I don't cast it aside lightly. I may be a hopper, hopping to this topic and that subject, often in midstream, but when I'm metaphysically hit with a two-by-four I do occasionally take notice. And when it pertains to spiritual matters, I take action.

So, Psalms it is, Lent 2012.

What have the Psalms to do with the Passion of Jesus? Well, I'm no biblical scholar, just an armchair theologian of the most amateur stripe. Christ as Messiah is prefigured in numerous places, I'm told, particularly Psalm 22. Christ quotes liberally from the Psalms; indeed, as a 1st century Jew, He knew them intimately. Plus, the Psalms run the whole gamut of emotions, from adoration of God to repentance to calls for justice to suffering and despair. Though most are traditionally attributed to David, modern scholars believe them to be written by several authors (no doubt divinely inspired) over the course of several centuries. So you have the whole Israel experience contained within the Psalms, and Israel, I have heard it posited, is the Old Testament analog of the seeker of God (Christ).

Last week I planned it out. There are 150 Psalms. If I alternate reading 3 one night and 4 the next, I will get through them all by Good Friday. This includes one night to focus slowly and solely on the mammoth Psalm 119, and a day or two at the end to review or reread a few of my favorites - the ones that left the heaviest mark upon me. To help me along the way I read a small booklet on the Psalms by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and am currently making my way through a book of Psalmic reflections by C. S. Lewis.

During my first conversion in the winter of 1992, I read through the Bible in its entirety - with the exception of the Psalms. Twenty years later, a little voice in my head is now urging me to finish the task. I'll try to post weekly on my progress and what I've learned during the journey.

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