“Entering” the church through the doors of Psalter

Sunday School is back after the Thanksgiving break and we are going to talk about the Book of Psalms.

Architecture is sometimes thought of as frozen music or poetry in stone. The Book of Psalms can be compared to a large Cathedral which, though built over a span of many years and may have a variety of style, there is a unity.

Psalms 1 and 2 are considered to be the doors to the cathedral. Psalm 1 starts with the words “Blessed is the man” (Ps.1:1) and Psalm 2 ends with the words “Your blessing is upon Your people” (Ps. 2:9). Everyone who enters and leaves the church receives a blessing.

St. John Chrysostom mentioned in his Commentaries on the Book of Psalms that whatever direction we take in the church service we will encounter Psalms. Early saints such as Theodoret, Euthymius, Cassiodorus, and Augustine gave lots of attention to the Psalms.

Psalms teach us how to love God and also about God’s love to us. Psalms invite us to ponder life on a deeper spiritual level and to understands God’s Providence about His people, they call us to slow down, have faith and peace and learn about our Creator: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 45:11).
Not all the Psalms were written by St. David. Some of them are attributed to Asaph, the director of David’s choir of musicians; some to the eleven sons of Korah who was a temple musician; and Psalm 89 is the “prayer of Moses, a man of God”. St. David, however, is called “the excellent psalmist of Israel” and it is said that “the Holy Spirit hath spoken” by him; and in 2 Chronicles 5 it is said that the singers in the temple were accustomed to sing the psalms which David had made.

The Psalms have become for the Church the book of prayer and praise. All find their fulfillment in Christ, the Son of God. Not only do the Psalms predict specific events of Christ’s life, but in them He intercedes for and with His people before the Father. The Psalms can also be seen as a dialogue between the Church, the Body of Christ, and Christ Himself.

The Psalter is used in the Orthodox Church in three primary ways:
1) In the daily cycle of prayers.
2) In the weekly order of the morning and evening services (Matins and Vespers).
3) In the observance of the Church year, the liturgical tradition selects particular psalms or verses for specific feasts as prophetic statements.