One of the most important and meaningful parts of the Old Testament is the Psalter with its 150 psalms which priests and others in the Catholic Church recite or chant in their entirety in the course of each calendar year.
Mostly attributed to King David, the psalms touch every area of human life. Though all Scripture is fragrant with God’s graces, Saint Ambrose claims that the book of psalms has a special attraction.
Pope Benedict XVI said that the Old Testament Book of Psalms is a timeless and powerful “prayer book” that teaches Christians how to communicate with God.
The 150 “inspired songs” are prophetic about the coming of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Holy Father pointed out that prayers from the Book of Psalms were used by Jesus himself "thus enhancing their full and profound meaning.”
Moses related the history of Israel’s forefathers in prose. After leading his people through the Red Sea, a wonder etched in his and his people’s memory, he broke into a song of triumph in praise of God after seeing King Pharaoh and all his forces perish. David’s psalms soared to their highest level to match an accomplishment beyond human comprehension.
Miriam too raised her timbrel and sang encouragement for women by saying; “Let us sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously, he has cast horse and rider into the sea.”
There is something for everyone in the Book of Psalms. With its healing power for our salvation, the psalms provide instruction from history, teaching from the law, guidance from prophecy, chastisement from denunciation and persuasion from moral preaching. All who recite the psalms with reverence thereby discover a unique cure for their own individual needs.
All with eyes to see can discover a complete gymnasium for the soul and a stadium for virtues. Equipped for every kind of spiritual exercise; it is for each to choose the kind he or she judges best to gain the prize.
Anyone wishing to read and imitate the deeds of the past will find the whole history of the Israelites spelled out the psalms. He who wants to study the power of the law summed up in the bond of charity (whoever loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law) may read in the psalms about the great love by with which one man bravely removed the shame of a whole people. He will find the glory of charity more than a match for the parade of power.
The grace of prophecy, which others hinted at in riddles promised openly and clearly to the psalmist alone that the Lord Jesus was to come from David’s line and be placed upon on his throne.
In the psalms, then, not only is Jesus born for us but He also undergoes His saving passion. His body lies in death and He rises again, He ascends into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father.
What no mere man would have dared to imagine was foretold by the psalmist alone, and, afterward proclaimed by the Lord himself in the Gospels. The psalms are indeed worthy of frequent recitation.