Last July, I spent a fair amount time with the readings for Athanasius' feast, getting ready to write a reflection for this month's Give Us This Day about the melodies I hear in my head when I pray the Psalms. (A short excerpt from the piece is below.) I'm getting ready to go on retreat in a couple of weeks, looking forward to spending some time soaking in sung psalmody at a Camoldolese monastery. Other than the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist, this retreat time will be totally silent, not even a daily consultation with a spiritual director. No Wi-Fi, no cell phone signal. I'm going to the desert and the psalms will be the only voices I hear.
Whenever I encounter Psalm 67, I hear voices. Not the mystical murmurings of angels, but the strains of Margaret Rizza’s serenely majestic setting of this psalm. A lone male voice calls on God, and the call is taken up by a vibrant chorus whose notes seem to stretch to infinity. In the layers of voices both human and instrumental I can almost see all the nations of the earth streaming forth, shimmering in the light from God’s face. The psalm rings forth as a single voice, but no one voice can make music of such intricate depth.
All too often we encounter the psalms in their plainest dress, prayed silently or spoken by a single voice in the daily liturgy. Yet simmering underneath is a chorus of possibilities: the enduring strength of monastic plainchant, the soaring soprano glory of Allegri, the full-voiced joy of an assembly singing a favorite psalm to an otherwise unremarkable melody. So may God’s ways be known upon the earth. — From Give Us This Day, May 2012
You can hear Margaret Rizza's setting of Psalm 67 here. It's track 09.