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"And Yet Further Back": Mother Maria of Normanby on Meeting the Psalms Face-to-Face

Psalm 22 Mako Fujimura

"I had studied the Psalms, form, rhythm, content, historical background, as they were sung from age to age, in liturgical harmony, of joy and of grief, by Old Israel; and the distant, unhalting psalmody in the Orthodox Church had often carried me to the shores of eternity, where my prayer could come to rest; and for many years I had myself recited the Psalms in the monastic Offices. But, one day, I was roused as if out of a slumber, and with sudden, violent clarity I knew that I did not know the Psalms; that, what I knew, was but a surface, or what I myself projected into the Psalms; it was not the life of the Psalms. And I was ashamed.

"Could it not be that each Psalm had a face, a personal face, a particular, unique life, which had remained hidden from me within the eternity flow of liturgical prayer? I must seek it; but how could I find it? Could I go back, and yet further back, word by word, listening, delicately, with held breath? Would then the Psalm let me enter, and allow me, from the inside, to experience it, as if for the first time?"

from The Psalms: An Exploratory Translation (1973) by Mother Maria (Lydia Gysi)


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