Meditations on the Psalms, Author’s Preface

Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, 1926These meditations, some of which were originally committed to writing merely for the author’s own future reference, are his own reflexions, designed for his own use, on the Sacred Text. He was encouraged by friends to publish them in case they might be of use to those who, while preferring to go back to the Scriptures themselves for their subjects of meditation, find nevertheless that the intellectual preparation demanded for such an exercise does not come easy to them if they undertake it without assistance. The suggestions, therefore, to be found in this book are suggestions merely, and should be regarded as bearing to their original something the same relation as the “hints” given to schoolboys for their Latin Verses bear to the original poem. In a word, they are meant to be used at the overnight preparation rather than in the course of meditation itself.

The text of the Psalms given on the alternate pages is that of the ordinary Douai version; in some places it does not preserve the exact shade of meaning which the author thought he saw in the Latin text, but it seemed hard to depart from it in view of the fact that it has become familiar to so many Catholics. In closely following the Vulgate, this text represents the Greek of the Septuagint, not the Hebrew which, dating as a written document from a later period, has formed the basis of other translations. In a few cases, where a difference of rendering in the Hebrew has been preserved in the marginal notes to the Douai version, the difference has been taken into account. Apart from these marginal notes no commentary was used for the exposition of the Psalms, but it was naturally impossible not to be influenced by innumerable associations derived from various spiritual authors; and nothing in this book either claims originality or pretends to any superiority if it differs from the interpretations usually given.

The arrangement of the Psalms is designed (roughly) to proceed from the less to the more “interior” levels of the spiritual life. Consequently it hardly needs to be said that in the latter part of the book borrowed lights predominate over personal experience, and more scrupulous care has been taken not to read into the original any sense which, on the ordinary principles of allegorical or mystical interpretation, it could not reasonably be supposed to carry. Except in the case of the last four meditations, Psalms have been chosen which were neither too long nor too short to form one meditation each; they have, for convenience, been distributed in each case into three parts, and a few acts, etc., have been added at the end, but it would not be difficult to use them on a less formal system.

– Father Ronald Arbuthnott Knox
Saint Edmund’s College
Old Hall, Ware, Hertfordshire, England