Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience to what he described as "the book of prayer par excellence, the Book of Psalms". The audience was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 10,000 people.
The 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms "express all human experience", said the Pope. "All the truth of the believer comes together in those prayers, which first the People of Israel and later the Church adopted as a special way to mediate their relationship with the one God, and as an adequate response to His having revealed Himself in history".
"Despite the many forms of expression they contain", the Psalms "can be divided into two broad categories: ... supplication associated with lamentation, and praise. These two dimensions are related, almost indivisible, because supplication is animated by the certainty that God will respond, and this opens the way to praise and thanksgiving; while praise and thanksgiving arise from the experience of salvation received, which presupposes the need for help expressed in the supplication. ... Thus, in the prayer of the Psalms, supplication and praise intertwine and fuse together in a single song which celebrates the eternal grace of the Lord as He bows down to our frailty".
"The Psalms teach us to pray", the Holy Father explained. "In them, the Word of God becomes the word of prayer. ... People who pray the Psalms speak to God with the words of God, addressing Him with the words He Himself taught us. ... Through these words it is also possible to know and accept the criteria of His actions, to approach the mystery of His thoughts and His ways, so as to grow and develop in faith and love".
"By teaching us to pray", the Pope went on, "the Psalms also teach us that at times of desolation, even in moments of suffering, the presence of God is a source of wonder and consolation. We may weep, plead and seek intercession, ... but in the awareness that we are advancing towards the light, where praise will be unending".
"Equally important and significant are the manner and frequency in which the words of the Psalms appear in the New Testament, where they assume and underline that prophetic significance suggested by the link of the Book of Psalms with the messianic figure of David. In His earthly life the Lord Jesus prayed with the Psalms, and in Him they reach definitive fulfilment and reveal their fullest and deepest meaning. The prayers of the Book of Psalms, with which we speak to God, speak to us of Him, they speak of the Son, image of the invisible God Who fully reveals the Father's face to us. Thus Christians, by praying the Psalms, pray to the Father in Christ and with Christ, seeing those songs in a new perspective which has its ultimate interpretation in the Paschal Mystery".
Having completed his catechesis and delivered greetings in various languages, the Pope recalled the fact that tomorrow is the Feast of Corpus Christi. He invited everyone in Rome, residents and pilgrims alike, to participate in the Mass he will celebrate at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the basilica of St. John Lateran, and in the subsequent procession along Via Merulana to the basilica of St. Mary Major. "I invite you", he said, "to join this act of profound faith towards the Eucharist, which represents the most precious treasure of the Church and of humankind"
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