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MelindaB

Reading Maketh a Full Man...

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Currently reading

The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)
C.S. Lewis
Boys and Girls Learn Differently!: A Guide for Teachers and Parents
Michael Gurian, Terry Trueman, Patricia Henley
Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
Christian Wiman
Deep River: The Life and Music of Robert Shaw
Keith C. Burris
Daring, Trusting Spirit
John De Gruchy
The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
John Thavis
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
Orlando Figes

Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD

Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD - Cynthia Bourgeault This book is like the little girl from the poem who "had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good, she was very very good. But when she was bad she was horrid." Parts of this book are very very good. But the parts that were bad weren't just bad, they are pretty horrid!The very very good parts are where the author sticks to what chanting the psalms really involves -- the rich and long history of psalms of ancient Israel, the monastic psalmody, and providing a CD with examples of how to chant various psalms. The CD is very useful as are the sections where Gregorian chant notation is explained. That section alone made reading the book worthwhile, because I now "get" how the psalms are notated and understand the logic in the notation! Oh happy day!!The author identifies correctly that Christian chant is not like the chanting in other religions. To quote from page 165, "Christian sacred chanting has traditionally been a cataphatic practice. This means that it engages the faculties -- reason, memory, feeling, imagination, and will." Eastern chanting uses mantras to quiet the mind or empty oneself and ones mind and disappear. To quote from page 33 and 34, "In Christian chanting, you have to know and understand the words.... The meaning of the words is always primary to Christian chanting. Contemplative psalmody is a matter of staying close to the text, of being with it and in it."The sheer strength of Christian psalmody is noted by the author, and discussed in happy detail. The most significant strengths come from the texts themselves, the Psalms of Holy Scripture, and other strengths come from the meticulous and careful way that the chant methodology (for want of a better word) has been kept and maintained over the centuries. Disciplined reading and chanting and meditation on the Holy Scriptures results in a strong Christian spiritual life and untold benefits. Then surprisingly enough, the author seems to negate those strengths and encourage new ways to chant by suggesting interfaith services using texts or poems from "wisdom leaders" like the Dali Lama. This rather irrational leap of craziness reminded me of a conversation from "Pride and Prejudice". Caroline Bingley and her brother Charles are discussing having a ball at Netherfield. (chapter 11 of "Pride and Prejudice")"I should like balls infinitely better," she (Caroline) replied, "if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the day.""Much more rational, my dear Caroline (says her brother Charles), I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball."While interfaith chanting based on texts from Buddhists, Native American Indians, or favorite poets might be interesting to some, it would not of course be called Christian any more, nor would it be chanting the Psalms. These are the portions of the book that become horrid. I have to quote from the book, because there is one paragraph that made me laugh out loud because it was so poor, and then become disgusted because of the attempted slight of hand to make Christian psalmody equivalent to new age psycho-babble.From page 222, "For me, the most intriguing implication of Cousin's work lies in his observation that all of the major world religions have their roots in the first axial period -- in other words, they herald and mirror the dawning of egoic consciousness, with its dual attributes of a personal sense of selfhood and a deep sense of separation. Within the context of these root perceptions, religion's primary function has been to contain, train, and moderate the shadow side of this consciousness while pointing beyond it to a transcendent Oneness that exceeds the limits of the egoic operating system. If, as many feel, humanity now stands at the edge of a universal second axial period, it may be that our present world religions, having served their role as stewards of the egoic, will be transformed into 'new wineskins', disappearing in their present form to be reborn as appropriate vehicles for the manifestation of higher consciousness. InterSpirituality then becomes not so much about inter-religious dialogue and tolerance as about a collective midwifing of the dawning new consciousness." The new-age psycho-babble gobbledygook in this paragraph is repeated and expounded throughout the book. I read the book because I was interested in chanting the Christian psalms, not because I wanted to trade in my Christianity for pop-schlock InterSpirituality. What is fascinating is that the pillars of strength the author outlines for Christian psalmody would never translate to an interfaith chanting of sacred texts. She admits this in numerous places, but does the "slight of hand" trick and starts writing about new age sacred chanting as though the two are related and one can become the other. Bad logic, and bad theology.So, as a result, despite that there are some good parts in the book, I can not recommend it at all. As quoted in the book, Father Theophane, the choirmaster at St. Benedict's Monastery noted about chanting the Christian Psalms, "I like to think that I'm praying in the same words that Christ used." I agree. Too bad the author does not agree!