Discovering Christ and Ourselves in the Psalms

“In the Psalms, the human being fully discovers himself…The latter, [the Fathers of the Church] in fact, were able with deep spiritual penetration to discern and identify the great “key” to understanding the Psalms as Christ himself, in the fullness of his mystery. The Fathers were firmly convinced that the Psalms speak of Christ.” (Pope John Paul II, General Audience Address) If both of the above statements of Pope John Paul II are true, then their reconciliation, of course, is that we only know ourselves in knowing Christ.  We only know the meaning of something created in the image of God (ourselves) in knowing God Himself, and especially in God incarnate. Further, the pope tells us:

“The Fathers add that in the Psalms Christ is spoken to or it is even Christ who speaks. In saying this, they were thinking not only of the individual person of Christ, but of the Christus totus, the total Christ, composed of Christ the Head and his members.”
And so we also know ourselves in knowing ourselves as community and not just as individuals. Personalist philosophers such as Pope John Paul II and Norris Clarke, S.J., for example, tell us that beings have an internal and external aspect. “All being, therefore, is by its very nature as being, dyadic, with an introverted or in-itself dimension, as substance, and an extroverted or towards-others dimension, as related through action” (Clarke, Person and Being).

We likewise have a personal relationship with Christ and a communal one as well. We are related to the Father in heaven in a personal way, but also pray, not “My Father,” but “Our Father” as taught by Christ. We pray as the Body, as a community. And we pray in the words taught us by the Holy Spirit, written by Him in fact, when we pray the Psalms as a community, most especially in the Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours.

In other words, we have been given an entire prayer book in the psalms to both discover ourselves and Christ as individuals, and at the same time pray as a community to God in words He Himself gave us. Here the Holy Spirit cries abba for us.  And we discover much of ourselves in knowing ourselves as a community. We know our very being, our created being, in knowing ourselves as “being in relation.” We can “be,” as created, in no other way.

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