How Good It Is To Sing Psalms To Our God
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Ambrose was the Roman governor of Liguria and Emilia before he was made Bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374. Trained as a rhetorician, Ambrose was a persuasive preacher who refuted most eloquently the theological propositions of the Arians and won the admiration of a young agnostic seeker from north Africa named Augustine, whom he baptized as a convert to Christianity in 387.
What is more pleasing than the psalms? David himself expressed it so beautifully when he said: Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing psalms to our God! How pleasant to praise him! And this is indeed true: for in the psalms there is an opportunity for the people to bless and praise God. The psalms express the admiration that people feel and what the people want to say. In them the Church speaks, the faith is professed in a melodious way and authority finds ready acceptance. There too is heard the joyful call of freedom, the cry of pleasure and the sound of happiness.
The psalm soothes anger, frees from care and drives away sadness. It is a weapon by night and a teacher by day: it is a shield in times of fear, an occasion of rejoicing for the holy, and a mirror of tranquility. It is a pledge of peace and harmony, for with the aid of the harp the psalm makes one melody from a number of different notes. The beginning of the day hears the sound of the psalm and the end of the day hears its echoes.
In the psalm teaching is combined with charm: for it is sung for pleasure but learned for instruction. Is there anything that does not come to mind as you read the psalms? It is there that I read: A Song for the Beloved, and at once I am on fire with a desire for the divine love. There too I see the secret of revelations, the evidence of the resurrection, the gifts that have been promised. In the psalms I learn to avoid sin and I forget the shame of sins now repented.
What, then, is the psalm if it is not the musical instrument of virtues, which the holy prophet played with the help of the Holy Spirit, making the earth resound with the delightful melody of heavenly music? Just as this harmonious music is played on the strings and chords of the harp, which are fashioned from the remains of dead animals, and made into a song of the heavenly tune of divine praise, so the psalmist has taught that we should first die to sin and then that the various strokes of virtue should appear in this body. In this way our devotion should be sure to find favor with the Lord. For this reason David taught that we should sing and praise the Lord in our hearts, just as Paul also sang: I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
The psalms teach us to shape our lives and actions by the study of higher things, so that material pleasures may not arouse our bodily passions by which the soul is weighed down instead of being redeemed. And the holy prophet said that he sang psalms for the redemption of his soul: I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you; my soul also which you have rescued.
Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397)
Blessed Lord, you gave us
the Scriptures to point the way to salvation:
teach us to hear them, to read them
and study them with love and prayer;
strengthen us by their inspiration
to hold firm the hope of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Over the next few weeks elections are taking place for the General Synod of the Church of England. 'Sovereign Lord, please increase the numbers of Jesus loving and Jesus obeying men and women within the General Synod of the Church of England, for the honour of your name and the faithful proclamation of the gospel. Amen.'
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