Dating the psalms
Poetry is all very well, and prayers are all very well.But why did the Church choose, and why do so many individuals choose, to pray by means of poems, often bloodthirsty and vindictive, drawn from a tradition which is now foreign to us? It was, after all, current in the Church for a number of centuries when the psalms were recited in Latin with little or no understanding.Is it simply that the psalms provide a large body of material which can be used as a sort of prayer-wheel? For those with no understanding of Latin it was an exercise in quiet meditation against the background of the murmur of the psalms.For those with a little Latin it was possible to pick up some of the key words and concepts hallowed by Christian usage and theology, such as Dominus, amor, justitia, misericordia.I am particularly grateful to the artists at Turvey who have provided the pictures which do so much to enliven these booklets.
They are ancient, pre-Christian prayers, from an era and in an idiom which is far from contemporary.
They attract immediately by their heartfelt devotion, and yet they also contain elements which can puzzle and even repel.