GILH 126-129: How the Psalms Were Distributed

The next ten sections outline a Plan for the Distribution of the Psalms in the Office.

126. The psalms are distributed over a four-week cycle in such a way that very few psalms are omitted, while some, traditionally more important, occur more frequently than others; morning prayer and evening prayer as well as night prayer have been assigned psalms appropriate to these hours. [See SC 91.]

The four-week cycle is enshrined, and some important psalms are repeated over the course of the cycle.

127. Since morning prayer and evening prayer are particularly designed for celebration with a congregation, the psalms chosen for them are those more suited to this purpose.

We have a nod to the hope for communal celebration, and in context, it could only be for laity in parishes and other circumstances.

128. For night prayer the norm given in no. 88 has been followed.

129. For Sunday, including its office of readings and daytime prayer, the psalms chosen are those that tradition has particularly singled out as expressions of the paschal mystery. Certain psalms of a penitential character or connected with the passion are assigned to Friday.

The special character of the sixth and eighth days are brought out by the choices of the psalms. For those who pray the psalms, do you find the Friday and Sunday selections appropriate? Was anything obvious missed?

I used to wonder why the penitential psalms other than the 51st (6, 32, 38, 102, 130, and 143) weren’t more prominent on Fridays.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to GILH 126-129: How the Psalms Were Distributed

  1. I like the idea of the single week psalter in that it seems like there would be a certain familiarity to thinking “On Friday, Vespers is always like this,” but then, given my walk in life I’m clearly not going to saying anything close to the full week’s cycle (even under our short, modern one). I can certainly see why priests needed some serious relief in their obligations given that they were essentially being asked to handle a full monastic load in their spare time.

    What does seem a bit sad is that this means that the secular clergy and laity now use a completely different cycle of psalms than monks and nuns who are using one of the one week monastic psalters. (Before the council, from what I have hread, there were still variations between the Roman and monastic psalters, but they were pretty minor and only affected the propers and a few of the day hours.)

    It would have been sort of interesting if what they had done was stuck with a one week psalter, but divided each hour into three or four parts (like the nocturnes in the old Matins) and had laity and secular clergy do only one part. (Week one, do section one of each hour, week two do section do, etc.) It seems like that would have given more of a sense of the whole Church praying the same cycle, each according to his vocation.

    But that’s not what happened, so it’s pretty much just idle speculation…

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