Saturday, July 25, 2009

Basil of Caesarea on Psalmody

Psalmody is the calm of the soul, the repose of the spirit, the
arbiter of peace: it silences the wave, and conciliates the whirlwind
of our passions, soothing that which is impetuous, and tempering that
which is unchaste. Psalmody is an engenderer of friendship, a healer
of dissension, a reconciler of those who were inimical; for who can
longer account that man his enemy, with whom to the throne of God he
hath raised the strain. Wherefore that first of blessings, Christian
love, is diffused by psalmody, which devises the harmonious concert as
a bond of union, and connects the people in choral symphonies.
Psalmody repels the demons; it lures the ministry of angels ; a weapon
of defence in nightly terrors, a respite from daily toil; to the
infant a presiding genius, to manhood a resplendent crown ; a balm of
comfort to the aged, a congenial ornament to women. It renders the
desert populous, and appeases the forum's tumult; to the initiated an
elementary instruction, to proficients a mighty increase ; a bulwark
unto those who are perfected in knowledge. It is the Church's voice.
This exhilarates the banquet; this awakens that pious sorrow which has
reference to God. Psalmody from a heart of adamant can excite the
tear; psalmody is the employment of angels, the delight of Heaven, and
spiritual frankincense. Oh! the sapient design of our Instructor,
appointing that at once we should be recreated by song and informed by
wisdom! Thus the precepts of instruction are more deeply engraven upon
our hearts: for the lessons which receive unwillingly have a transient
continuance; but those which charm and captivate in the hearing are
permanently impressed upon our souls. From hence may not every thing
be acquired ? Hence mayest thou not be taught whatever is dignified in
fortitude, whatever is consummate in justice, whatever is venerable in
temperance, whatever is sublime in wisdom? Hero the nature of
penitence is unfolded; patience is here exemplified. Is there a
blessing to be named which here resides not? The splendours of
Theology beam effulgent; Jesus is predicted; the resurrection is
announced; judgement" is proclaimed; the sword of vengeance is
unsheathed ; crowns of glory glitter; speakless mysteries astonish—all
these are treasured up in the Book of Psalms, as in a common treasury
of the soul.

Basil of Caesarea, also called Basil the Great, (330 – 379)