"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Praying to Christ through the Psalms

The Psalter, of course, has long been the backbone of hymnody in the Church, even if there was a certain Byzantine tendency to replace psalmody with later poetry in some of the Divine Office, Matins especially: edifying, beautiful poetry to be sure, but a displacement nonetheless if Baumstark's laws of liturgical development are to be believed, and I see no reason to doubt them.

A book released this summer takes a scholarly examination of the use of the Psalter in Eastern monastic practice: James F. Wellington, Christe Eleison!: The Invocation of Christ in Eastern Monastic Psalmody c. 350-450 (Peter Lang, 2014), 241pp.

About this book we are told:
For centuries the Jesus Prayer has been leading Orthodox Christians beyond the language of liturgy and the representations of iconography into the wordless, imageless stillness of the mystery of God. In more recent years it has been helping a growing number of Western Christians to find a deeper relationship with God through the continual rhythmic repetition of a short prayer which, by general agreement, first emerged from the desert spirituality of early monasticism. In this study James Wellington explores the understanding and practice of the psalmody which underpinned this spirituality. By means of an investigation of the importance of psalmody in desert monasticism, an exploration of the influence of Evagrius of Pontus and a thorough examination of selected psalm-commentaries in circulation in the East at this time, he reveals a monastic culture which was particularly conducive to the emergence of a Christ-centred invocatory prayer.

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