Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | June 2, 2009

Psalm Wandering

As I write this update, I’m a bit overwhelmed by a project I undertook, work, and other schedules. In particular, I’m not getting all that far on my project as there just seems so much to do. The project began during the course of Lent when reading through the Septuagint’s version of the Psalms from Holy Transfiguration Monastery, I stumbled on a phrase I’d missed on previous visits:

“The way of Thy commandments have I run, when Thou didst enlarge my heart.” Psalm 118 (119)

Archmandrite Zacharias’s, “The Englargment of the Heart” gives an account of the Theology of Saint Silhouan the Athnonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex as inspired by the admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:13, “Be ye also enlarged”. And so I guess my confession here as someone who devoured Archminadrite Zacharias’s texts with an eager heart… is that I am also geek enough to have been thrilled to see something of the same echoed here.

I began to wonder where else in the Psalms these references to the heart lay. Thus my May project became tracking down the other utterances in a subsequent review. This now done, I am of course humbled to report that between the explicit and implicit references, my originally narrow line of inquiry has expanded… almost beyond reasonable limits. Whoops!

Nevertheless accepting the limitation of explicit utterances, premature though it may be, it looks as if the following explicit references ought to be a decent start: 4, 63, 77, 83, 84, 103, 104,106, 107, 111, 118, 130, 138, 139, 140 142, and 146. There’s a lot to be garnered here, and as much as I thought it could readily be excerpted and studied, that’s something of a lark as I quickly found it difficult to get the sense from a short passage alone. And of course taking the words out of context seems to rob them of much of their power to say nothing of the other changes of perspective and sentiment within the same and other psalms. I mean… do I ignore the places where without using the word “heart” specifically the Psalmist seems to convey a change of heart? Moreover, the closer one ponders through these things, the more one begins to discover and understand that there are whole traditions to their reading that I am in danger of skimming over. Thus I end the month admitting to have gotten through the psalms again… but that I’m to another beginning rather than closing in on the end.

So I confess to being weighed down. Fr. Patrick Reardon wrote of his own studies searching for the person of Christ in the Psalms. But as helpful as this may be, no doubt he scarcely intended to suggest that his effort was either comprehensive or exclusive. And naturally I have no ambition to write a book… only to “git it”. I came to  the Orthodox Church for many reasons…. but mostly it was my  sense of care for tradition, and the sense of searching through it to find and soften the heart that seemed the sort of voyage of discovery worth attending to. I’m just too old to re-invent the wheel… So if anyone knows a bit from the Fathers that would jump start this endeavor… I’m all ears. I have no pretense to originality! And in fact I’m reading Athanasius’s Life of Anthony… an edition with the Letter to Marcellinus as well… which I haven’t gotten to yet… and as hopeful as I am that this will provide a key… other leads would be appreciated as well! Thank you.

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