Tuesday 12 April 2022

The Psalms Grail Translation - Henry Wansbrough OSB - CTS Scriptures

The Psalms 
Grail Translation
Henry Wansbrough OSB (Introduction)
ISBN 9781860821592
CTS Booklet SC76

I have now read several of the volumes in the CTS Scriptures series, all with introductions by Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB. But this one was a little different. I absolutely love the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. Over the last 5 years I have read 275 books and booklets from the CTS. And have many more on my ‘to be read’ list. Late last year I read three books from the CTS that were The Gospel According to Luke, a regular one, a larger print edition and a special edition from The Year of Mercy. I enjoyed them so much I ordered copies for the other three gospels. I picked up a mix of the Larger Print Editions and the regular. I then looked for which other books and booklets came in this format. This is the first volume that I have read that is not a gospel. The description of this volume is:

“The psalter is the prayer book of Israel, the treasury of Israel's hopes and fears, successes and failures, loves and hates. For centuries they have provided the material for monastic and priestly prayer, and in every age have been used to express the prayers of Christians in moments of crisis or joy. A psalm is always used to provide the response to the First Reading at Mass.

Since the revival of the Liturgy of the Hours, the psalter has become increasingly important as a vehicle and expression of worship. The Psalms are introduced by Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB who also gives practical guidance for personal reading and reflection. The Grail translation is used in the Prayer of the Church and the Catholic liturgy.”

I read this book over a few days. I have read the Psalms many times, and in many different translations. I was not aware of what the Grail Translation was. The other volumes I have read in this series are based on The Jerusalem Bible. I discovered that:

“The Grail Psalms refers to various editions of an English translation of the Book of Psalms, first published completely as The Psalms: A New Translation in 1963 [a] by the Ladies of the Grail. The translation was modeled on the French La Bible de Jérusalem,[1] according to the school of Fr. Joseph Gelineau: a simple vernacular, arranged in sprung rhythm to be suitable for liturgical song and chant (see: Gelineau psalmody).”

Comparing the Psalms in this volume, with my Jerusalem, New Jerusalem Bibles and online editions the psalms here are different; similar but different. They are great for reading. When I was in university and involved with campus ministry at a conference one year was a challenge to read three Psalms, and 1 chapter of Proverbs a day for the whole year, thus reading the Book of Psalms, and Proverbs 12 times. It was a transformative exercise. 

Once again Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB is wonderful. After reading the first few I books in this series I picked up a whole New Jerusalem Bible with notes and introductions by Dom Henry. There is some significant overlap between the two Introductions to Psalms. The version in the bible is longer but there are a few paragraphs in this introduction that do not exist in the other. A few of the passages I highlighted or had an impact on me reading the introduction for this volume were:

“The Psalter is the prayerbook of Israel: the treasury of Israel’s hopes and fears, successes and failures, loves and hates. The 150 psalms of the Hebrew Bible are only a part of the rich harvest of sacred songs contained in the Bible. Other such canticles can be found elsewhere in the OT (e.g. the song of Hannah in 1 S 2), in the NT (the Benedictus and the Magnificat) and in the hymn collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Authorship of these psalms is attributed to King David, not least because he soothed King Saul by his playing of the harp, but also because he was revered as the founder of the Temple liturgy. Many of the psalms were subsequently imaginatively prefaced by a title which attached the psalm to particular events in David’s life.”

“From early times the psalms have been used in Christianity. No doubt they were used already by Mary, Jesus and the disciples in their daily prayers. In the gospels, Jesus himself quotes the psalms to show that he fulfils the scriptures, especially Ps 22 (Gk 21) about his Passion and Ps 110 (Gk 109) about his resurrection and exaltation. The latter psalm was used frequently in the NT as evidence of his glorification at the right hand of God. Since then the psalms have remained the staple of Christian prayer, occurring in the earliest liturgy recorded at Jerusalem, and sanctified by Christian use ever since.”

“Unlike much conventional English poetry there is no such thing as rhyme in Hebrew poetry. Structure is provided by rhythm and balance. Rhythm consists in a regular number of stress-beats per line, sometimes two, sometimes three or four, with interposing unstressed syllables (as in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–1889). Some rhythms – seldom reproduced in translation – are adapted to particular kinds of songs, e.g. 3 + 2 stresses per line alternating for a lament, as Ps 27 (Gk 26). Another frequent element of structure is acrostic, that is successive lines, Ps 111 and 112 (Gk 110 and 111), or groups of lines beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, Ps 119 (Gk 118). Frequently, too, a psalm is bound together by a refrain, ‘for his mercy endures for ever’, Ps 136 (Gk 135); or by the repetition of the opening phrase at the end of the psalm, ‘O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name through all the earth!’, Ps 8.”

“A most attractive feature of the poetry of the psalms is the imagery, mostly drawn from nature, and redolent of the Palestinian countryside, especially in such splendid nature-poems as Ps 104 (Gk 103). The dryness of the country is constantly brought to mind by the imagery of life-giving water, v. 10. The image of God as a rock of refuge or stronghold recalls the steep escarpments of black basalt or threatening grey granite. Young lions roaring for their prey and the flocks of birds, vv. 21, 12, conjure up the thickets of the Jordan, while the ‘wine to cheer the human heart; oil, to make faces shine’, v. 15, reflects the fertile vineyards and olive groves of the hill country, and the wild goats and rock-rabbits, v. 18, the shy but inquisitive fauna of the ravines.”

“Subjects of much prayer and meditation, the psalms have been interpreted in many ways within Christianity. At first the overwhelming tendency was to look in them for prophetic allusions to Christ, in accordance with Jewish methods of interpretation at the time.”

A few sample Psalms from this volume are:

Psalm 1 Two Ways of Living

Happy indeed is the man
 who follows not the counsel of the wicked,
 nor lingers in the way of sinners,
 nor sits in the company of scorners,
 but whose delight is the law of the LORD,
 and who ponders his law day and night.

He is like a tree that is planted
 beside the flowing waters,
 that yields its fruit in due season,
 and whose leaves shall never fade;
 and all that he does shall prosper.
Not so are the wicked, not so!

 For they, like winnowed chaff,
 shall be driven away by the wind.
When the wicked are judged they shall not stand,
 nor find room among those who are just;
 for the LORD guards the way of the just,
 but the way of the wicked leads to doom.”

Psalm 19 Prayer for a king before battle

May the LORD answer in time of trial;
 may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.

 May he send you help from his shrine,
 and give you support from Sion.
May he remember all your offerings,
 and receive your sacrifice with favour.

 May he give you your heart’s desire,
 and fulfil every one of your plans.
May we ring out our joy at your victory,
 and rejoice in the name of our God.
 May the LORD grant all your prayers.

I am sure now that the Lord
will give victory to his anointed,
 and reply from his holy heaven
 with the mighty victory of his hand.

Some trust in chariots or horses,
 but we in the name of the LORD.
 They will collapse and fall,
 but we shall hold and stand firm.

 Grant salvation to the king, O LORD,
 give answer on the day we call.”

Psalm 120 God the Protector: 
a pilgrimage song

I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
 from where shall come my help?
 My help shall come from the LORD,
 who made heaven and earth.

He will never allow you to stumble!.
 Let him sleep not, your guard.
 No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
 Israel’s guard.

The LORD your guard, the LORD your shade
 at your right side he stands.
 By day the sun shall not smite you,
 nor the moon in the night.

The LORD will guard you from evil;
 he will guard your soul.
 The LORD will guard your going and coming,
 both now and for ever.”

It was very interesting study to do some side by side comparisons between the Jerusalem Bible, The NJB and this Grail translation, and also a new Grail translation online. This is a wonderful book of the Psalms. My son who is 14 has become fascinated with these little booklets, he has asked for each of the gospels, and now this one after I finish them. He takes them and reads them. I am not sure he would pick up his full bible yet and read a whole book, but with these booklets he has been doing just that. It is an excellent resource from the Catholic Truth Society! It is great to pick up and read and use to just visit with a Psalm or two from time to time.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Henry Wansbrough OSB:
CTS Books:
36 Days & 36 Ways Daily Meditations from Advent to the Epiphany Year B
40 Days and 40 Ways Daily Meditations for Lent Year A
40 Days and 40 Ways Daily Meditations for Lent Year B
40 Days and 40 Ways Daily Meditations for Lent Year C
Companion to the Sunday Gospels: The Year of Mercy
Companion to the Sunday Gospels: Year B
Jesus: The Real Evidence
The CTS New Catholic Bible (Editor)

Other Books:
40 Days With Paul
Benedictines In Oxford (Editor)
Children's Atlas Of The Bible: A Photographic Account Of The Journeys In The Bible From Abraham To St. Paul
Doubleday Bible Commentary: Genesis
Doubleday Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Luke
Event And Interpretation
In the Beginning
Introducing the New Testament
Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition
Luke: A Bible Commentary For Every Day
Mark and Matthew
Risen from the Dead
Sunday Word: A Commentary on the Sunday Readings
The Bible A Reader's Guide: Summaries, Commentaries, Color Coding for Key Themes
The Gospel of Matthew: Take and Read (Editor)
The Gospels: Take and Read
The Holy Spirit
The Incarnation
The Lion and the Bull: The Gospels of Mark and Luke
The New Jerusalem Bible (Editor)
The New Testament of the New Jerusalem Bible (Editor)
The Passion
The Passion And Death Of Jesus
The Resurrection
The Spck Bible Guide
The Story of Jesus
The Story of Jesus: Photographed as If You Were There!
The Story Of The Bible: How It Came To Us
The Use and Abuse of the Bible: A Brief History of Biblical Interpretation

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