My birthday passed last week, always a time for celebration and reflection. I have a tradition of reading the psalm of my age every year, so this year is Psalm 59. I acquired this tradition on my 30th birthday from a dear friend, Sister Elaine Roulet, CSJ. The Book of Psalms in the Torah or the Old Testament, is a set of 150 poems by David and other Jewish writers, used today as prayers to God, revealing pain, anger, praise and fulfillment in human experience. I often use the Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan C. Merrill. She has reworked the psalms into contemporary language of inner struggle, love and contemplation.
As I seek to be more contemplative, this time of pandemic seems to afford more space to be reflective and to be in solitude. I have recently read again Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton. In the second to last chapter, Merton writes, “The Psalms are the true garden of the solitary. . . They reveal their secrets to him because, in his extreme poverty and humility, he has nothing else to live by except their fruits. . . to learn the inner secrets of the Scriptures we must make them our true daily bread.” I am drawn to those words, “make them our true daily bread.” I do have a practice of praying the Psalms daily, but how can I live by their fruits?
In the next few months (or longer) I intend to “learn the inner secrets” of Psalm 59 by contemplating it or parts of it each day and making it part of my art making practice. From the contemplation, daily praying of the psalm, I will seek within me the images that arise. These will be fruits from which I paint. I will share this process here as it develops.
Contemplation is deep reflective thought that can be done not only with the Psalms or scripture, but any object or words that one would like to understand more deeply or find within inspiration. In my experience, it is a process of finding where the words or object resonate or speak deeply within me. This is the wisdom I am searching within myself. That is where God speaks to me. As I make it my “true daily bread,” I know there is always more secrets to be found, because God is infinite. Join me if you like, in contemplating what God is saying to you.
CORRECTION: In the fourth sentence above I wrote “The Book of Psalms in the Torah or the Old Testament,” The Books of Psalms is part of the Hebrew Bible, called the Writings or the Ketuvim, in Hebrew. The Torah is also part of the Hebrew Bible but does not include the Psalms. I am grateful to a good friend for bringing this to my attention.