Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
We are very excited to be welcoming Simon de Voil and David Wallace to teach a four-week series on the psalms starting this week. I hope you will consider joining them for an exploration of these ancient texts and their spiritual meaning for us today.
My dear fellow seekers,
I’m writing from the Atlantic coast of New England, watching the cadence of waves soothe and splash as over and over they act out their universal destiny. I’ve come to Maine to attend the memorial of a beloved cousin felled young by pancreatic cancer, and the gathering is a sweet mix of friends, colleagues and family from all over the country. We sit quietly through our tears and are reminded by the ancient words of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….”.
These words have been comfort and connection for generations in times of sorrow, in times which need the reassurance of strength and hope. They are part of a legacy of poetic song which have been part of the Abrahamic tradition for centuries – the Book of Psalms.
Perhaps you grew up with the Psalms in your tradition of worship or prayer. Or perhaps they appear as an antiquated and strange collection of exclamations no longer of interest to a modern mind. Whatever your experience, this letter is a request to reframe any prior relationship you have made with this sacred text, and reconsider its powerful and mysterious explorations as a vehicle to enhancing our current spiritual inquiry and practice.
My friend and colleague Simon de Voil (a Celtic mystic and gifted musician) sings the Psalms every single day as part of his spiritual practice. He has learned to see their depth anew, and using fresh translations has composed some extraordinary songs (“psalm” means “song”) that carry new meaning to these ancient exhortations. His work, as you’ll see and experience, creates a resonate inspiration for us who seek a deeper relationship with this miracle of our life, and living.
For my part, I’ve spent a lifetime studying and teaching sacred texts in all spiritual traditions, and each time I return to the Psalms I find new insight into my own life and place in the Universe. Though we think of this literature as coming from the simple harp of a shepherd named David as he helps create Israel as nation, it’s clear that these poems were written over many generations, and come to us with the combined wisdom of a lineage of seekers facing the questions of being human, as poignant then as now: what is our relationship with the Divine? With those who trouble us? With our own fear and sorrow? With seeking our own unique place in the holy order of things?
Simon and I will be offering a four week course reflecting on the abiding wisdom of the Psalms, and offering both a musical experience and invitation to ongoing practices using these ancient tools. We’ll be using fresh translations which will help us hear these songs anew, and share in community of contemplative reflection. We’re calling the exploration Deep Calls Unto Deep: A Contemplative Exploration of the Psalms in our Life and Practice. We’ll begin on September 5, and all spiritual wayfarers from any (or no) spiritual orientation or tradition will find wisdom, song, and practice to nourish their life’s journey. We hope you’ll join us. (You’ll find a link with more information below).
With every blessing,
Rev. David Wallace and Rev. Simon de Voil
We also have some other exciting news – our Abbey of the Arts – Prayer Cycle, Book Club, and Scholarship Fund is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, an arts-centered not-for-profit in the U.S. which means that any of our U.S.-based dancing monks who want to donate to support our scholarships and free programs can now get a tax-deductible receipt. You can visit our Donation page for more details. Please note that we are unable to provide tax-deductible receipts for residents of other countries or for our Sustainers Circle as you receive programs in exchange for that financial support. Two wonderful ways to support us! We are so grateful to the many of you who have already.
Join Simon and David for their series on the Psalms which begins Tuesday! It promises to be a deeply nourishing experience.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image: Paid license with Canva