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Crosfigell

Foundation of Doctrine

The psalms are a rich resource for spiritual life.

Now it occurred to the mind of Finnian of Clonard that the last days of Ciaran were approaching. Finnian went to visit him, for he was his tutor, for it was with him he studied his psalms and every kind of learning that he had; and a great many of the saints of Ireland resorted to him, for he was a tutor to a large proportion of them.

  - Life of Ciaran of Saighir, Irish, 17th cent., from an earlier ms.

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods’”?”

  - John 10.34

Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.

  - Psalm 143.10

It’s interesting to hear Jesus quote Psalm 82.6, and refer to the psalms as the Law. We don’t usually think of the psalms as normative – either doctrinally or practically – but more liturgical, spiritual, or even mystical in nature. We look to the psalms more to lift and soothe our souls, than to shape our minds and direct our steps. The psalms are for devotion, rather than doctrine.

How much less do we think of the psalms as Law?

But for Jesus the psalms were equal to the Law. As important as the Law was to the first Christians, Jesus wanted us to understand that the psalms were just as valuable.

That view must have been shared by the writers of the New Testament, those great apostolic crafters of Christian doctrine, because there are more quotations from the psalms in the New Testament than from any other book, including Deuteronomy, the quintessential book of the Law.

It’s interesting as well to see how the reference to Finnian’s training under Ciaran, early in the fifth century, seems to have been grounded in the psalms. Young Irish boys, dedicated to the Lord, began their relationship with the Lord and their understanding of His Word in the psalms. They studied and learned the teaching of the psalms, prayed them daily – typically, praying the entire psalter once a day or once a week – and sang them with such beauty and gusto that those who heard admired them greatly. The psalms provided the overall framework for learning the great doctrines of the faith, by focusing students on the unseen things of the Lord, penetrating the depths of their souls, and teaching them to do the good works of God for which they were being prepared.

The psalms must have been of the deepest personal importance to these young Christians. In one situation, we find Brendan, as a pre-adolescent, assigned to spend the night alone in a cave, waiting on the Lord as an act of penance for sinning against a neighbor. Imagine the shame, the fear, the sadness, and the loneliness he must have felt! It will hardly surprise us to know that he spent the entire night singing his way through the psalms.

The psalms can be understood as the foundation of Christian doctrine. They’re also the foundation of spiritual life, of Christian liturgy, and of the mission of the Church. Learning doctrine is not simply an intellectual discipline. Doctrine informs every aspect of life. It feeds the soul, leads us to seek the Lord, equips us for good works, and impels us into mission. While every part of Scripture is sufficient for such good work, the psalms offer more of the complete package of doctrine, and its proper use, than any other part of the Bible.

We neglect the psalms to our great impoverishment. The psalms were meant for meditation, but also to guide us in our prayers, draw out our praises to God in song, lift us from our blackest moods, enable us to express the heights of joy and glory in the Lord, and guide us in bringing the goodness of the Lord to light in our lives.

Have you discovered the joy and benefits of meditating on the psalms? God has given us this largest book of the Bible as a sure means for entering His Presence, nestling into His joy, and emptying ourselves of every fear or doubt, as we wonder at the greatness, goodness, faithfulness, and steadfast love of the Lord revealed here.

Do you seek a richer, fuller understanding of the great truths of Scripture? A closer walk with the Lord? A more urgent sense of the Gospel? A greater love for God and neighbor? Spend more time in the psalms, where you can learn the great doctrines of the faith in an environment that not only informs your mind, but engages your heart, purifies your conscience, and directs your steps for a life of good works.

For Reflection
1. Do you have a favorite psalm? Try using it as a guide to prayer.

2. Once you’ve mastered praying that psalm, take on another one. Keep doing this, and you’ll find your prayer life greatly enriched.

Psalm 143.1, 2, 9-12 (Divinum Mysterium: Of the Father’s Love Begotten)
Hear my earnest prayer, O Lord! Give ear to my pleas for grace!
In Your faithfulness and righteousness, look upon me with Your face!
Enter not to judgment with Your servant, Lord, with Your loving servant, Lord:
None can stand before Your Word.

Rescue me from all my enemies! Lord, I refuge seek in You.
Let me know Your will, O Lord my God; make me know what I must do.
Let Your Spirit lead me on to level ground; save my life! Preserve my soul!
Rescue, Lord, and make me whole!

Help me to love the psalms, O Lord, so that through them I might see You more.

Subscribe to Scriptorium
If you’re not a reader of our daily devotional, Scriptorium, this would be a good time to use the subscription button at the website to upgrade your subscriptions. Susie and I are smack in the middle of a study of the psalms of the sons of Korah, a great place to begin using the psalms for prayer and instruction.

Free Christmas Gifts
Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, can strengthen our faith, but only as we sing it understanding what he intended. Our book, A Mighty Fortress, walks through each stanza of Luther’s hymn to reveal the powerful testimony this song provides. Order your free copy by clicking here. Order several copies and give them to friends for Christmas. Also, our booklet,Joy to Your World!, can show you how to be more consistent in working your Personal Mission Field. Order your free copy today (click here). Please order by December 15 to make sure you get your gifts on time.

Thank you
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 120 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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