Ps 1 commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly









Psalm 1: words and music (c) Noel Donnelly;  recorded by Noel Donnelly.

Psalm 1 Commentary.

In Psalm 1 we have the beginning of the book of 150 psalms, and it starts, not with a prayer or hymn of praise but with a lovely picture: a tree by a flowing stream or irrigation channel. 

As we read this first of 150 psalms a word about Hebrew poetry may be useful. It always involves balance rather than our way of rhyming the word at the end of each line: this balance can be a group of words in one line which are often balancing the same thought in the next line, using alternative words or an opposite thought, re-sounding like the toll and counter-toll of a bell. For example, line one says the good person “follows not the counsel of the wicked” and line two echoes this, “and lingers not in the way of sinners”. Verses 5 and 6 show similar balanced parallelism: “the Lord guards the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to doom!” That’s also a firm summary of the whole song. Anyway, reading the balances in psalms makes for an interesting practice as we move forward into the Book of Psalms.

The psalm starts with the word “Blessed”. The Hebrew word used here is not a prayer for blessing but an adjective describing the kind of person identified as being fortunate or blessed in that sense; and the psalm goes on to give the reason for happiness: that person “delights in the gift of the Law”. (verse 1). 

There follows the negative picture of “sinners” and “scorners” which is contrasted with the singer being depicted as a tree, quietly, invisibly and steadily absorbing strength and life from the refreshing stream. What a lovely picture! The psalmist is living the way of the Lord, unlike the “scorner”, the Mr Know-it-all, who proudly sings today along with Sinatra’s “I’ll Do It MY Way!” 

Our responsorial psalm clearly echoes the Jeremiah reading and prepares us for the Beatitudes or Blessings of the Gospel.

Let’s sing it and live it God’s way!