Sunday, June 1

The Psalms -As the deer longs

I have belonged to one of our local Catholic parish church choirs for over 20 years and I never tire of singing liturgical music, especially the Psalms. As a group we are able to choose individual hymns and psalms which fit in with the church year calendar focus and hence it’s a continual moving feast. We might choose a Psalm to be sung as a hymn or as a responsorial Psalm which is how they were first intended; the verse/chorus is repeatedly sung by the congregation after the choir sings the verses.

The Psalms have several authors; with many attributable to King David. Most people are familiar with the 23rd Psalm “The Good Shepherd (The Lord is my Shepherd) which is prefaced simply as a Psalm of David. Whether it was actually written by King David is problematic as scholars recognize many of the events described within these Psalms attributed to him happened many centuries later.

What I find interesting about the collections of 150 Psalms is the extent of the full range of emotions and drama that are cleverly interwoven to describe celebrated past events and hopeful aspirations of a community; of a rich theology. They reflect the poetic nature of the Hebrew Bible which in turn is indicative of the popularity of poetry in Israel and its surrounding regions at the time.

According to the Jerusalem Bible’s introduction to the Psalms the best way to generally characterize them is in terms of their literary types; of which they are three , Hymns , Entreaty (for use in public and temple court) and thanksgiving.

Here is one of my favorite psalms, which would fit under the heading of an "Entreaty" shown here in abbreviated form.

Psalm 42~is headed: For the Choirmaster ~ of the sons of Korah (which is a reference to the sons of Korah who were musicians at that time of the original composition)

As the deer longs for running streams,
so I long, so I long, so I long for you

A-thirst my soul for you the God who is my life!
When shall I see, when shall I see,
see the face of God?
Echoes meet as deep is calling unto deep,
over my head, all your mighty waters,
sweeping over me.
Continually the foe delights in taunting me:
“Where is God, where is your God?”
Where, O where, are you?

As the deer longs for running streams,
so I long, so I long, so I long for you.

Defend me, God, send forth your light and your truth,
they will lead me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling place.
Then I shall go unto the altar of my God.
Praising you, O my joy and gladness,
I shall praise your name.

Adaption taken from Hymns listed in ‘As One Voice’ © 1988 Bob Hurd Published by OCP Publication` 'AS THE DEER LONGS'


Seraphine said...

That Psalm is beautiful in it's simplicity and acceptance. Running waters, for example, have rich meaning as a metaphor for life, cleansing (and baptismal cleansing), direction, thought, or "going with the flow."
I love swimming. I swim with my eyes open. Generally, I've learned to avoid current (because I fight it. I'm bad at acceptance) and I get anxious when the water gets too deep.
"...Deep is calling unto deep,
over my head, all your mighty waters, sweeping over me" would freak me out in a major way.
The poems is beautiful because there are people who can accept that unconditionally. They aren't calling out to God to save them, they accept the beautiful fact that HE WILL. That's grace.

Anonymous said...

An excellent selection.

Anonymous said...

That's wonderful Lindsay! Thank you!

susan said...

I was interested to learn poetry actually predates prose in human literature. Scriptures had to be learned from authorized teachers since intonation and timing was a very important factor and to put them into written script would have been considered profane. The Vedas were passed down from one group of masters to the next for thousands of years. The ancient languages in which sacred poems and scriptures were originally composed like Sanskrit, Hebrew, Welsh etc. were considered sacred languages which indicates the sounds and vibrations were actually sacred.

I'm happy the Psalms were translated for us all to understand - also the great Sufi poets like Rumi and AlArabi and Milarepa too but there's a part of me that longs for the original sounds that go beyond our normal day to day language and direct to the great heart of Being.

I'm sure that feeling soars with the combined voices of your choir and congregation.


sera - That was a nice interpretation.

gfid said...

i find it a rare thing when lyrics and music are equally exceptional. most often, if one is outstanding, the other is disappointing. i'd love to have heard this performed as originally written. it's powerful imagery - the delicacy of the deer, and the water which gives it life. i've always loved this psalm

Seraphine said...

Singing is a great way to share air.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Sera, Pt, Arulba, Susan & Gfid
Thanks for your comments.
Sera - I agree with Susan -a delightful interpretation, wonderful!!
Susan -Many thank for your soaring insightful thoughts.
I'm also pleased the Psalms were translated for us. GfiD & Susan I wonder too at the original sound!!

All of your thoughts very much appreciated
Best wishes

Seraphine said...

Thank you for sharing the beauty.