A review of an ICEL Psalter, just published back in 1995, was interesting because of its careful mixture of approval and criticism. Reading it increased my understanding of some of the issues involved in translating Hebrew thought and language into English, and some of the tendencies of the ICEL in dealing with these things. But the part I am going to quote isn't really to do with the central thesis. I just liked it.
The world of Psalms is often pragmatic, anchored in the immediacy and the urgent concerns of quotidian existence. Within this frame, these nameless Hebrew poets succeeded in giving supreme expression to the basic rhythms of inner life: bleak despair in the face of accumulated disaster, stubborn hope, gratitude, exultation, rhapsodic celebration of the splendors of creation, contentment in the quiet joys of the good life. The wonder of it is that the Psalms are able to join a hard-nosed pragmatic view of life with great delicacy of feeling and resonant spirituality.I liked it because it seemed so true to me. Not only of the Psalms but more and more of the way I live out my days, the way my inner landscape looks. My dad always used to recommend the Psalms to me. He loved them for all the qualities mentioned in the quote. I read them, of course, but I used to feel a trifle baffled by the battle imagery, and some of the creation celebration just sounded so familiar to me, since I've heard the major Psalms so many times since my earliest days. They seemed remote from my life, echoes from a different time and place.
Now that I'm about the age that my Dad was when I reached adulthood (sigh... it doesn't seem that long ago) the Psalms resonate more and more with my daily experience. Not that my enemies are waiting to kill me... and yet, they are, even if they come from inside. I too move from desolation to gratitude in the space of a few lines. I too pray for a peaceful night's sleep but know that sometimes I will be awake and groaning under the weight of everything and praying to God for mercy. I too am so deeply happy that no matter what befalls, Creation keeps up its procession of glorious beauty. Deo Gratias that I don't have to come up with my own words, for they would not be adequate. Reading the Psalms ennobles what I am experiencing and gives me a perspective outside of the sheer overwhelming succession of unpredictable moments. Even the peculiarities of the different place and time only remind me that the human condition is essentially the same in any time and place. A stay at home mom in the California mountains is not in a different universe from a Hebrew poet of 3000 years before. And we both look for deliverance and comfort from that very same Lord