Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 18: In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said, October 25, 2016

February 24, June 25, October 25

Chapter 18: In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said

The order of psalmody for the day Hours being thus arranged,

let all the remaining Psalms be equally distributed

among the seven Night Offices

by dividing the longer Psalms among them

and assigning twelve Psalms to each night.

We strongly recommend, however,

that if this distribution of the Psalms is displeasing to anyone,

she should arrange them otherwise,

in whatever way she considers better,

but taking care in any case

that the Psalter with its full number of 150 Psalms

be chanted every week

and begun again every Sunday at the Night Office.

For those monastics show themselves too lazy

in the service to which they are vowed,

who chant less than the Psalter with the customary canticles

in the course of a week,

whereas we read that our holy Fathers

strenuously fulfilled that task in a single day.

May we, lukewarm that we are, perform it at least in a whole week

Some thoughts

Over the last few days, I’ve written about the benefits of a committed prayer life, particularly using a prayer book or breviary to assist one with the observation of such of the Daily Offices that one can commit to, even if it is only NoonDay Prayer offered as one eats one’s lunch at work. The important thing is to commit to it so the Holy Spirit may have Her way with you and perhaps make you long for additional Offices.

 
There are probably books I haven’t read about why Benedict chose certain Psalms for certain times of day. It may be that in the synagogues that developed after the destruction fo the First Temple and the after the building of the Second Temple, that certain prayers were assigned to certain hours as part of Jewish worship. I really need to look into this idea because isn’t it absolutely wonderful to think of people worshipping God with the same Psalms at the same time of day for thousands of years? It surely is to me.
 
Today’s reading makes me chuckle a couple of times. The first is here, “We strongly recommend, however,
that if this distribution of the Psalms is displeasing to anyone,
she should arrange them otherwise,
in whatever way she considers better,
but taking care in any case
that the Psalter with its full number of 150 Psalms
be chanted every week.”
 
It’s going to come up over and over again, that by the time the final draft of the RB was completed, St. Benedict had written a Rule unlike any that had preceded his. The idea that monastics get to choose, as above, was brand new. This also means that there is a likelihood that the order of certain Psalms might be different from one monastic community to another.
 
The second bit that brings a smile, albeit a rueful one, is this, “For those monastics show themselves too lazy
in the service to which they are vowed,
who chant less than the Psalter with the customary canticles
in the course of a week,
whereas we read that our holy Fathers
strenuously fulfilled that task in a single day.
May we, lukewarm that we are, perform it at least in a whole week!”
 
While I doubt that St. Benedict used an exclamation point (as I doubt it had yet to be invented) it is a good use of it. In various Reflections on a Saying of A Desert Christian, I have frequently noted that the Desert Christians sat in their cells (huts), weaving baskets or mats and starting the day with Psalm 1 and praying every Psalm, from memory, through to Psalm 150. In a single day.
 
Compared to that it surely does seem lazy to try to avoid praying the Psalter in a week.

 

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