Distributing the psalms

If you use the Liturgy of the Hours as a daily office, you may sometimes wonder how much of the psalter it covers. (If you don’t use the Liturgy of the Hours, this post probably isn’t for you. Ditto if you do use the Liturgy of the Hours, but aren’t a massive liturgy nerd…)

Some time ago, I came across a page which listed the psalms for all the different hours. Sadly the page has now disappeared, but an archived version is available here. Using this, I’ve prepared a table showing where each psalm is used in the Liturgy of the Hours (click the preview image to open as a PDF):

Liturgy of the Hours psalm distribution - click for PDF

One practical effect of preparing this table a few months ago was to encourage me to be more disciplined in saying Daytime prayer and Vespers more regularly. Doing so adds a huge number of psalms to the cycle compared with only saying Lauds and Compline. Saying the Office of Readings would fill in most of the remaining gaps, so I’m thinking about trying this during Lent.

What about the psalms that are omitted altogether? These appear to fall into two categories. First, psalms 57(58)82(83) and Psalm 108(109), all of which are “cursing” psalms. Second, psalms 104(105) and 105(106): no idea at all why these have been omitted. Possibly seen as too long, or duplicating other “historical” psalms (such as psalm 77(78))? (Note that the numbering scheme used in the LOTH gives the Hebrew numbering, more familiar to Anglicans, Lutherans and other non-Catholics, in brackets.)

Finally, what this table doesn’t show is the psalms which are not said in their entirety – for example, psalm 136(137), from which the “notorious” final verses are omitted, or other psalms which are edited simply for length. But it does show how the full Liturgy of the Hours covers the psalms almost in their entirety.

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9 thoughts on “Distributing the psalms”

  1. This is fascinating.

    Bizarrely (or perhaps not), I was thinking about this only yesterday, pondering how many were missed out completely and whether there was any repetition over the course of four weeks. I’m glad to have a fast answer to that question that doesn’t involve me doing any work.

    I’m also glad to see I’m not missing psalms out completely by only saying one hour during the day.

    I started off by saying Office of Readings as an ‘optional extra’ if I had the time, but I very quickly got hooked on the long readings. Despite the lack of a gospel canticle, it’s probably my favourite hour. (Am I allowed to have a favourite hour?) I definitely recommend adding it in.

    1. Thanks! Will give it a whirl. It’s just a case of finding the time… especially given that getting up at (ahem) “monastic” hours is not really my, um, er, charism. 😉

  2. Why bother with the Marcionite distribution & truncation of the psalms into several services per day? The psalter, as in the BCP, requires only two services per day, and no psalm is truncated or omitted.

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