Weekly Reflection – The Psalms: A hymn book for the ages

18 March 2022

Dean Simon

Every morning in the cathedral a group of clergy and laity gather to say Morning Prayer together. A central element of the service is the saying of the psalms, a wonderful collection of sacred hymns written over 2500 years ago for use in worship by the Jewish people.  All human emotions are here! Praise, lament, anger, bewilderment, joy, sorrow, frustration and much more. The psalms embody the sheer complexity of human beings as well as the complexity (and occasional ambivalence) of our relationship with God.

At Morning Prayer today we were able to give thanks for the homecoming of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori following their release from imprisonment in Iran. As I reflected on their ordeal, and that of their loved ones, a verse from one of the psalms we said struck me with particular force: All my enemies whisper together against me, against me they devise evil (Psalm 41 verse 7). There must surely have been many times when Nazanin and Anoosheh, and their families in the UK, had similar feelings during their long years in captivity.

I sometimes think of the psalms as a ‘safe space’ in which to express emotions that I might be feeling but that I am sometimes either afraid or ashamed to express. They remind me that those who wrote the psalms were human as I am human; that they needed an outlet for their (sometimes very strong) reactions to circumstances, to other people and to God. They also remind me that beyond the force of any human emotion lies an even stronger force: the love of God, whose ways we may not always understand but who sustains us in all our adversity so that, together with the psalmist, we can finally say: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

With prayers and all good wishes,
Dean Simon

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