The Psalms


The book of Psalms (Psalter) in the Old Testament consists of 150 psalms. It contains divinely-inspired hymns and poems traditionally ascribed to the Holy Prophet and King David, although many were authored by others such as Moses and temple musicians. The Psalms are the prayer-book of the Church and are used in services more than any other book of Holy Scripture. They form the core of each of the services of the Daily Cycle and the Divine Liturgy. So prevalent are they in Orthodox worship that St John Chrysostom observed that wherever one looks in the Church, they will find the Psalter ‘first, last, and central.’

The Psalms serve many functions: foretelling coming events; recalling history; giving laws for life; revealing what must be done to obey God’s word; and helping to overcome passions that exercise dominion over our souls. All states of a person’s soul standing before God, and virtually every aspect of worship, is expressed in the psalms: praising, thanking, blessing, rejoicing, interceding, petitioning, repenting, lamenting, questioning, and even complaining. The psalms use the power of poetic expression and melody to capture and gradually transform our thoughts.

They provide serenity and peace to the soul, soften the soul’s wrath, form friendships, unite those separated and help us in our trials, temptations and tribulations. St Arsenios of Cappadocia referred to psalms that assist in specific circumstances: Psalm 3 to help malice leave a person; Psalm 22 to ask God to tame disobedient children; Psalm 38 to help with troublemakers; Psalm 55 to help people who are extremely sensitive and have been psychologically and emotionally scarred by other people. The psalms have such a powerful effect on the soul and are so integral to our lives that St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain encourages us to Psalmodise in our heart the spiritual songs of the Church wherever we may be: at our home, where we work, where we walk, and everywhere else.


Source: Lychnos December 2018 / January 2019