Friday, July 17, 2015

Dismayed, Downhearted? There's a Psalm for That.

Are you worrrying about the decline of civilization, about increasing violence and never ending wars, about the moral implosion of our nation, and about the nonstop sneering at Christians and Christianity that we seem to hear on a daily basis in the media? Are you wondering at how a (superficially at least) Christian society could seem to crumble overnight? 

There's a psalm for that. Several, in fact. Especially on Fridays. This is the day that we who have the privilege of  praying the Liturgy of the Hours get to unite ourselves in a profound way to the suffering Christ. In praying these psalms we give voice to Jesus in His agony, both as it took place 2000 years ago and as it still happens today in the members of His Body, the Church. 

To refresh your memory,since now it is evening and you did Office of Readings hours ago, here are some excerpts from Psalm 68

I have sunk into the mud of the deep *
and there is no foothold.
I have entered the waters of the deep *
and the waves overwhelm me...

...More numerous than the hairs on my head *
are those who hate me without cause.
Those who attack me with lies *
are too much for my strength...

...Let those who hope in you not be put to shame *
through me, Lord of hosts:
let not those who seek you be dismayed *
through me, God of Israel...

When I afflict my soul with fasting *
they make it a taunt against me.
When I put on sackcloth in mourning *
then they make me a byword,
the gossip of men at the gates, *
the subject of drunkards’ songs....I have reached the end of my strength.
I looked in vain for compassion, *
for consolers; not one could I find.

For food they gave me poison; *
in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

But then, look how Psalm 69 ends:
I will praise God’s name with a song; *
I will glorify him with thanksgiving,
a gift pleasing God more than oxen, *
more than beasts prepared for sacrifice.

The poor when they see it will be glad *
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy *
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise, *
the sea and all its living creatures.

For God will bring help to Zion *
and rebuild the cities of Judah
and men shall dwell there in possession. 
The sons of his servants shall inherit it; *
those who love his name shall dwell there.

Notice how that ends--in hope, trust, confidence, and praise. That's our model for prayer no matter what happens to us or the world around us. 

Morning Prayer, opening as always with the Miserere  (psalm 51) forces us to acknowledge our own part in the sorrows of the world. But that admission, humiliating as it is, is freeing. Again there is confidence that my tongue shall ring our His goodness and my mouth shall declare His praise, despite everything I have done. 

Daytime Prayer is  Psalm 22, Jesus' cry from the cross. The pain and desolation is real there, too. But look how that one ends--with ultimate triumph.

 There's not much more I can say. These psalms speak for themselves. They are a prophecy of the Passion, the sufferings of the Church, and the meaning of suffering for every believer.  Yes, it gets pretty bad. But we are promised that all will come right, and more than right, in the end. 


  1. And although Psalm 135 in Vespers is joyful, we are praising God for getting us the victory over our enemies, which we were complaining about in the earlier hours.

    Compline is a similar attitude to the previous hours with it expressing our loneliness and how we feel no one is on the same side as us; especially with the ending, "my one companion is darkness."

    To better show the mood of some of these psalms, it would have been nice if imprecatory verses weren't unnecessarily cut out. For this reason among many, I hope to eventually switch to the Pre-Vatican II breviary (either 1961 or '62), but I do not currently have the time in my schedule for that.

    1. All true. I ran out of time earlier to fit in Vespers, but yes, it is a fitting conclusion. Compline does get us back in the tomb with Christ. That is one of the few psalms that does not end on a hopeful note. It is only the concluding prayer of Friday compline that recalls the hope of resurrection. As to those cut imprecatory psalms: I never quite got that because there are other parts of the psalter that are just as violent. And all it would take are a few footnotes to explain the imprecatory verses according to the allegorical or moral sense for the sake of those who are initially put off by them. One thing I do appreciate about the current LOTH vs. the old breviary is that it was designed with the active vocation--whether lay, active religious, or diocesan clergy--in mind. I think only a retired lay person could manage all the hours of the 1961 or 62 versions without speed reading.

    2. I noticed that, too, about all the other parts that are violent but weren't cut out. Seems to me somebody got careless.

  2. 150 psalms in one week is a lot more time consuming than doing them in four weeks. A retired person could do it but it's still not easy (especially if he's married).

    1. Amen, Michael. The LOTH is vastly superior to the Old Office (OO) for diocesan clergy and laity. They had an office in the first six centuries in the Western Church.

    2. Amen, Michael. The LOTH is vastly superior to the Old Office (OO) for diocesan clergy and laity. They had an office in the first six centuries in the Western Church.

  3. I came across an breviary I can find little to no mention of online. It's called "Book of Prayer" and was published by the Monks of St. John's Abbey in 1975.

    Can anyone here tell me more about it?

    1. 1.

      Good luck!

    2. From what I understand, St. John's Abbey has some Also they tend to do things their own way. While it might be interesting to have one of their specially edited breviaries, I don't know that I'd actually use it. Although I probably shouldn't say since I haven't seen it. But they are known for following their own path. Maybe Daria knows more about the book itself.

    3. This book was not allowed to be published in this country according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. See below:

    4. Marie R, if you can grab this breviary, it would be spiritually prudent to do so. But first, a little history lesson that Mr. Demers, I invite you to follow along.

      Back in the 2nd liturgical movement as it took place in the United States in the 1930s, it was noted by Dom Vergil Michael, O.S.B., of St. John's Abbey, the need for a lay breviary for religious and laity. You see, before the Council, only priest, monks, and nuns were obliged to say the breviary. Brothers, sisters (Note: there is still a distinction between nuns, who are cloistered) and sisters, and oblates (lay tertiaries). Those sisters, brothers and oblates who said the office before 1940 generally said the Little Office of Our Lady in Latin. Dom Michael's idea was for brothers, sisters, oblates and the laity to be able to participate in the Divine Office by a condensed vernacular edition. Dom Vergil dies in 1938. Two years later in 1940 the First Edition (in print with various "editions") came out. It used the an English translation of the Vulgate psalms. My Grandfather, a dentist, took the 1944 printing of the First Edition with him when he went out to the Pacific in late 1944.

      Since the Vatican revised the Roman Breviary in 1950, the Second Edition came out in 1954. Daria did a brief article showing this book on July 1, 2015. In 1955 the Vatican tweaked the Office, especially All Souls, and so the Second Edition was modified. The Second Edition came in several versions:
      1.) One week psalter
      2.) One Week Psalter plus additional three weeks from Matins giving you all 150 psalms and an Office of Readings from the old Matins office
      3.)A version with the Franciscan propers
      4.) A version with the Precious Blood propers
      5.) A choir version in large print of numbers 2 & 3, above
      6.) A black leather gilded edges edition
      The Second Edition used a translation of the Pian Psalter of Pope Pius XII, a much heralded liturgical reform that bit hit the ash heap after Vatican II.

      The Roman Breviary was revised in 1958 and 1960 and so in 1962 the superb Third Edition came out. It used the Confraternity psalms and came out in several variations:
      1.) Black leather, gilded
      2.) Ivory
      3.) regular brown
      4.) Vincentian
      5.) Australian
      6.) Franciscan
      7.) One week
      8.) Four week with readings
      9.) Benedictine
      Believe it or not, n=most American religious orders, especially in the midwest, adopted the Third Edition to replace the Little Office of Our Lady. The same team that put together this breviary also put together the 1964 Collegeville Three Volume Latin/English Breviary that is the basis for the new Baronius Press Breviary.

    5. Now when the new Liturgy of the Hours came out in 1971, there were fights on the translation. The interim Breviary, Prayer of Christians used the confraternity psalms, bringing it into continuity with the 1962 Short Breviary and the 1964 Collegeville Breviary. But, in an attempt to persuade the British to adopt the American version of the Liturgy of the Hours, they adopted the Grail Psalms, which at that time (1975), were foreign to American Religious who had been using the Confraternity psalms since 1962. Further more, as the Confraternity Bible became the New American Bible, the psalms used in the responsorial psalms in mass were from the New American Bible of 1970 did not match the Grail. Now in 1975 most of the same superb team involved in the Second and Third Edition, as well as the Collegeville Breviary came out with Fourth Edition in 1975. This volume boasted several features:
      1.) An accurate translation of the Collects and propers that was consulted in making the 2008 translation that eventually became our new mass translation.
      2.) The New American (Confraternity) Psalms - so your psalms matched those used in mass and they were familiar and comfortable with them.
      3.) The actual proper hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours, and not made up garbage.
      4.) The full Office of Readings, though condensed.
      5.) Office of the Dead and full sanctoral.
      6.) All seasonal propers.
      7.) A set of the LOTH cost about $50.00 in 1975, this book cost about $8.00.

      Well, most American religious orders, especially nuns, had been using either the 1962 Short Breviary or the 1964 Collegeville. Many just ignored as awful the Prayer of Christians When the Fourth Edition came out, they gravitate to it and bought it. However, our Bishops became upset. The Bishops were losing out on royalties by everyone buying this instead of the Liturgy of the Hours or Christian Prayer. So , on grounds, that it was an illegal translation they suppressed it . It did not help the Abbey that the Fourth Edition's accurate translation showcased how bad the translation of the mass really was, and the Bishops, lead by Bishop Bernadin of Cincinnati pushed to suppress the Fourth Edition.

      Now, today as the new translation is prepared of the Liturgy of the Hours, one of the volumes consulted is this work. It was only banned for liturgical (public prayer) use, not for private or devotional prayer. And, since the laity are not obliged to say the Liturgy of the Hours, there is no canonical prohibition to prevent you from using this book. I still use mine and I cannot but help recommend it, because, as one volume condensation of the Liturgy of the Hours it is better and has so much more of the Office than Christian Prayer.

      Another consequence of the banning was a break up of the old translation team, with many of those involved going elsewhere.

      Do not fall into the thinking that because it was banned by the Bishops, it must be bad - No, it was all about money. Nor should you fall into the belief that since the Abbey now has the reputation of being a den of progressive liberals, that the Fourth Edition must be bad. The Fourth Edition of the Short Breviary is still the single most accurate one volume translation of the Latin Liturgia Horarum in English, bar none

    6. One final proof of accuracy - Note how Daria refers to Psalm 51 and 22. This is the Masoretic numbering of the psalms, not the numbering used by the Vulgate or New Vulgate, which are both based on the Septuagint. So, Psalm 51 is 50 and 22 is 21. Again, this change in the 1975 American version was very disconcerting for many religious and priests. You went from a Septuagint based psalter, used by the early Christians, to the medieval Masoretic text, that would have been unfamiliar to Augustine, Leo, Chrysostom, etc. The Fourth Edition still uses the older numbering, so your introductory psalm for the Office of Readings is still 94, not 95.

      On a different note, for those who wish to use the older office, remember, (1) you are laity and (2) the Council, speaking of the 1960 Roman Breviary recommended saying, at the most, Lauds, Vespers and Compline. Pray what you can, no one will hound you to the confessional to failing to say Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. Yes, the early Christians ideal was all 150 in one week, but the early monks did all 150 in one day!

      A note - the Liturgia Horaum does not give you all 150 psalms, omitting some as imprecatory psalms, or omitting parts, such as the ending of 136. However, the tradeoff is that you now get some new testament hymns not found in any prior Breviary, east or west.

    7. Jim, I was hoping all day that you would show up and give us the lowdown on all this. Thanks.

    8. James, I already knew some of what you wrote here, particularly about the royalties issue with the Bishops Conference. Their suppression of the breviary is not why I expressed doubt. St. John's Abbey has some very serious issues and has had for many decades, including their flouting of doctrine. Yes, it is a...what did you call it...."den of progressive liberals". I was raised in the Church prior to Vatican II and I take that very seriously, and not having had the chance to review the breviary questioned it, as anyone should considering its source. Although as I said I already knew some of the background, your post filled in a lot of the blanks and I would reconsider. Thank you. Have a nice day.

    9. When it is said that, in the Short Breviary 4th edition, the Office of Readings is 'condensed', what does that mean? Condensed how?

    10. Comparing "Book of Prayer" beside the one volume Office of Readings from the Daughters of St. Paul, there is a difference in translation (briefer language used) in the former.

      The same readings are used in both. (Yes, I've become a breviary junkie...)

  4. Dear Mr. Mcauley -- Thank you SO MUCH! You answered all my questions, and I have switched over to using Book of Prayer. It is so much easier to follow, as well as having language which actually flows and hymns that make sense.

    I started with Shorter Christian Prayer, moved on to the one volume Christian Prayer, and finally got my hands on the one volume Daughters of Saint Paul version. Of those three, the last was the easiest to use.

    Then Book of Prayer turned up while I was searching for the Third Edition (not knowing this one existed) so I grabbed it. I'm finding it so much easier to use that I've actually been able to add Matins and one of the Little Hours to my routine.

    I'm so happy with this breviary!

  5. I will be invested as a Benedictine lay oblate in October at St. Meinrad's Archabbey, and I occasionally use Liturgical Press' 'Benedictine Daily Prayer, A Short Breviary' for my prayer of the Hours, especially for the daytime offices.
    The breviary is honestly much more convenient, as everything is usually laid out on one/the same page(s), even the daytime hours, not much ribbon flipping at all, it is a compact breviary when travelling, too (and I know my way around a breviary, so it isn't an issue of lack of knowledge in page flipping) .

    I am not a huge fan of the NSRV Bible translation used, but otherwise find this breviary to be a nice change of pace from Christian Prayer, with the added benefit of a Benedictine flavor to the prayers. I suppose since I am laity, there really isn't a 'right or wrong' breviary, and I still use Christian Prayer quite a bit (especially for our weekly Wednesday morning celebration of Lauds at my parish), but I just find the Benedictine breviary quite attractive to use for prayer sometimes.

  6. Big iBreviary fail today. The Office of Readings is completely missing the psalms and first reading. It just looks like the proper of saints from the four volume breviary. I guess this is why I have the four volume. still works.

    Also, regarding imprecatory psalms, I noticed psalm 149 from Lauds today gets a little imprecatory when it says "to deal out vengeance to the nations / and punishment on all the peoples." Can't these liberals make up their minds? Or is this a part where the flow of the psalm would be ruined if it was abridged? How horrible that we have to use complete authentic Catholic prayers!