St. Basil the Great on Reading the Psalter

A blessed feast of St. Katerina to everyone! If you’ve never read the story of the Great Martyr Katerina (Catherine), there is a short and sweet version here.

Today, we are ten days into our Psalter readings and I promised I would share some of the various writings I’ve found on the importance of reading the Psalms.  The following was written by St. Basil the Great.  I hope that it encourages you to keep going!

NO other book so glorifies God as does the Psalter.  It profits the soul; it glorifies God together with the angels, and exalts and extols with a powerful voice, and imitates the angels.  At times, it flogs the demons and drives them out, and causes them much weeping and injury.  It prays to God for kings and princes, and for the whole world.  With the Psalter you can pray to God even for yourself, for it is the greatest and most exalted of books. 

This book called the Psalter is like a great sea: for as the water of the sea is never diminished or exhausted by the outpouring of its rivers and streams, neither does the chanting of the Psalter ever fail.  The Psalter has been called bravery and boldness before God for the salvation of the soul, for there is great reward in fasting, and in bows, and in the reading of the Psalter. 

If, brother, you say that you are weak, and cannot perform this rule, being but flesh–look up into the air, and see how the sun and the moon and the stars do not rest day or night from following their path, performing the commandments of the Lord, and how this fiery creation does not eat, or drink, or look for the torment to come, but, rather, fears God, and performs His command without ceasing.  You, brother, though flesh, have clothing for your body.  If you are in want, you eat and drink, and sleep as is needed.  There are those who get up at midnight, and worship, and pray to God, and occupy themselves with handiwork, and yet give thanks to their Maker for all things.  And again he says, How weak and infirm is the nature of water, and yet it fears the Lord.  Day and night it continues to ebb and flow, washing not only men, but also their darkness, giving drink to cattle, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things, and pouring itself out upon the earth.  And you, brother, how is it that you neither examine or attend to yourself?  With God, all things are possible, but with man, nothing is possible. Simply take courage and be strong, and God will help you. 

For David says, ‘Wait thou on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall promote thee, that thou shalt possess the land’ {Psalm 36:34}; so let not a single day pass without singing from the Psalter. If for some reason, you are obliged to set it aside, mark the place, and begin again the next morning, not stopping out of slothfulness.  For, as Peter, the chief of the apostles, says, ‘One day of our life is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day’, and it makes no difference.  For all the seasons of this world, brethren, turn like a wheel.  Today there is sun, and, tomorrow, darkness, and rain and snow.  Today, there are parties and weddings, and tomorrow, weeping and despondency.  But if you take action to save your soul, you will correct your speech and learn the commandments of God, and He will open your eyes, so that you might understand the wonders of the Law of the Lord.

The great John Chrysostom was asked by the brethren, ‘Is it good to lay aside the Psalter?’ He replied, ‘It would be better for the sun to fall from its orbit, than to neglect reading the Psalter, for it is of great benefit to study the psalms, and to read the Psalter diligently.  For all spiritual books are profitable for us, and grieve the demons, but there is none like the Psalter.’ 

Let us, then, take heed.”

Do we see how important it is to read the Psalter?  These Psalter groups are such a blessing for all of us!  Not only are we praying the words of what some of our greatest saints consider the most spiritually powerful books in existence, but we are also praying for each other.  We are flogging the demons with the grace-filled words of the Prophet David.

We are 1/4 of the way there!  Never mind, if you’ve missed a reading, even if you’ve missed them all, figure out what reading you would be on today and start now!  I know that is always a concern for people, missing their readings, but I promise you I don’t know anyone who has never missed one.  This is a huge task we are undertaking and nothing this beneficial is accomplished with ease!  Kali Dynami and may St. Katerina, St. Basil and the Prophet David intercede for us!

3 thoughts on “St. Basil the Great on Reading the Psalter

  1. I’m so glad you posted this! I am Coptic Orthdox and our Agpeya (prayer book of the hours) is predominantly psalms. I’ve been convicted over the past year and a half to not let a day go by without praying the Psalms, and also praying the psalms over my children, husband and others. They truly are so powerful and Satan will do anything to stop us from reading them. It’s so true as was mentioned above that if we try our best, God really gives grace and power to pray them.

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