De Disciplina Psallendi | The Discipline of Singing the Psalms

Although it is generally agreed that the chapter titles in the Rule of St Benedict are a later addition, they often throw fresh light on the subject Benedict is writing about. Take today’s section of the Rule, for example. McCann paraphrased the title of chapter 19 as ‘The Manner of Saying the Divine Office’, which is fine, but doesn’t convey the crispness and point of the Latin. De Disciplina Psallendi reminds us that singing the psalmody of the Divine Office is instructive, not something we take up accidentally or without registering its significance. It requires all that is implied by the English word ‘discipline’: focus, attention, listening to others, holding back our own dulcet tones, possibly, to achieve harmony, hard work. It is a discipline that changes us. Singing the psalms, entering into the prayer of Christ himself, hour by hour, day by day, enlarges our understanding and compassion. We learn how to celebrate the beauty of creation, the mirabilia Dei, give thanks, acknowledge our sin and plead for forgiveness, experience the desolation of God’s apparent absence, know the depths of our tawdry desire for vengeance. We cannot hide from God or ourselves when we sing the psalms. They are the song of a free people, people God has claimed as his own, a little taste of Eden and of the heaven to come

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