January 28, 2022

Illuminating the Psalms

This past Fall, as part of a class on the Liturgy of the Hours, a few Sisters completed the assignment of making an illuminated manuscript. They each chose a favorite Psalm for the project.

As consecrated religious, we chant the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours) daily, thus joining Jesus Christ, our High Priest, in His canticle of divine praise (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 83).  Composed primarily of the Psalms (which, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, contain “all of theology”), the Scriptures punctuate our day in order to permeate our day.  The scheduled times of prayer give us an experience of sacred time that gradually teaches us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) during each moment of each day.

In imitation of (and inspired by) faith-filled Catholics throughout the ages, the Sisters poured their energies and creativity into a true labor of love, yielding a work that reflects the beauty and importance of the Word of God.  It also gave the Sisters an opportunity to contemplate the Psalm in a new way, for they were forced to slow down, writing each line very carefully as well as deciding on the appropriate colors and design.  Some of them even included small pictures reflecting the Christological meaning of the Psalm, laying bare some aspect of its New Testament fulfillment in Christ. 

The careful, contemplative, and unhurried way the Sisters approached the various elements of this project provided a very tactile way of experiencing the contemplative attitude we seek to cultivate as we pray the Psalms throughout the day, in order that the word of God may be always, not only in our mouth, but also in our hearts (cf. Rom. 10:8). 

Why not try copying down your favorite Scripture passages sometime? It doesn’t have to be a fancy illumination – even making a clean and simple copy is a prayerful and fruitful activity.  The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures may well inspire (or illuminate) you with new insights as you slow down and allow the Word of God to penetrate your being in a new way.