Kathleen Norris on the Psalms

The Benedictine Abbey at Tyniec, Poland

[T]he psalms don’t theologize or explain anger away. One reason for this is that the psalms are poetry, and poetry’s function is not to explain but to offer images and stories that resonate with our lives. … The value of this great songbook of the Bible lies not in the fact that singing praise can alleviate pain but that the painful images we find there are essential for praise, that without them, praise is meaningless. It becomes the “dreadful cheer” that Minnesota author Carol Bly has complained of in generic American Christianity, which blinds itself to pain and thereby makes a falsehood of its praise. … In expressing all the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the psalms act as good psychologists. They defeat our tendency to try to be holy without being human first. … The psalms make us uncomfortable because they don’t allow us to deny either the depth of our pain or the possibility of its transformation into praise.

Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

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