The Song of the Church

The song of the Church

From the apostolic constitution Divino afflatu
of Pope Saint Pius X

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.
The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.
Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.


“How is it you came in here not properly dressed?” —Matthew 22:12

Are you properly dressed for the wedding feast of heaven? We must clothe ourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27). We must “put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator” (Col 3:10). We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rm 13:14).
By the Holy Spirit, we “are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). In the Spirit, we clothe ourselves with humility in our relationships (1 Pt 5:5). Also, we clothe ourselves “with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12).
Our heavenly habitation will envelop us, “provided we are found clothed and not naked” (2 Cor 5:2-3). “Happy the man who stays wide awake and fully clothed for fear of going naked and exposed for all to see!” (Rv 16:15) “For this is the wedding day of the Lamb; His bride has prepared herself for the wedding. She has been given a dress to wear made of finest linen, brilliant white. (The linen dress is the virtuous deeds of God’s saints.)” (Rv 19:7-8)

Prayer: Father, may my baptismal garment become a heavenly wedding garment.
Promise: “I will give you a new heart and place a new Spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put My Spirit within you.” —Ez 36:26-27
Praise: Pope St. Pius X combated selfishness by encouraging frequent Communion and by allowing that privilege to the children of the Church.

I love because I love, I love that I may love

From a sermon by St. Bernard, abbot

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.
The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?
Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.
What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?


“When the first group appeared they supposed they would get more.” —Matthew 20:10

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the Master pays the last group first (Mt 20:8). His purpose in paying them first, as it is so often, is to teach the earliest group, His long-time disciples, more about His mercy. Their responses showed that, although they worked obediently and sacrificially for the Master, they still hadn’t grasped and embraced the depth and richness of the Master’s mercy. They failed the mercy quiz. They were watching the Master’s money rather than the Master’s mercy. “Thereupon they complained” rather than rejoiced (Mt 20:11).
Here’s another mercy quiz:

You struggle unsuccessfully for years to bring Eucharistic adoration to your parish. Then a new convert, a former criminal, succeeds. Do you rejoice in this success or inwardly complain since he gets the credit?
You are a faithful pastor who prayed, fasted, and preached in an effort to persuade your parishioners to attend regular Confession. A young priest succeeds you and in a few months has long Confession lines. Rejoice or complain?
Your husband divorces you and leaves you with four young children. You sacrifice for decades to bring them up in the faith. He comes back into their lives when they are grown. When your faithful adult children praise and thank their father, what do you do? Rejoice or complain?

What difficult circumstance is the Lord using to teach you mercy? We modern disciples can also miss the lesson and fail the mercy quiz. Fix your eyes on the mercy of Jesus.

Prayer: Father, may I be like You: “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).
Promise: “Thus says the Lord God: I Myself will look after and tend My sheep.” —Ez 34:11
Praise: St. Bernard often humbled himself before God in prayer, which fueled his life of bringing reform and reconciliation.