Why These Psalms?

I have been fascinated with the organization of and use of the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. I just noticed today that Psalm 63 and Psalm 149, used in Morning Prayer on Sunday of Week 1, are also used throughout the Octave of Christmas and the Octave of Easter and most Feast Days and Solemnities and a host of other days. I did a quick Google search to see if anybody knows why that is and found this interesting blog post by a Priest who wonders the same thing. Here is his quote on those two Psalms:

“Psalms 63 and 149 and the Canticle of Daniel certainly have their place of prominence. Not only are they prayed on Sunday I morning, but are the “go to” psalms for all feasts and the Octave of Christmas and Easter.”

But, he doesn’t know why either. He also commented on the three Psalms that are not included anywhere:

“You begin to wonder what these three psalms did to deserve this lack of acknowledgement. When you look up the three psalms, why not Psalms 58, 83, 109? Are they so bad they could not make the cut?”

No answers to that question either. I’m feeling better but no less curious.

I think here is the most important and insightful quote in his post:

The psalms truly are the prayers of humanity. There is something there for everyone. They do reflect the human condition, unfortunately too much so. Scholars state that two-thirds of the psalms are prayers of complaining, struggle and the darkness of humanity.

Check out his post. It is pretty interesting.

Here are those most common two Psalms. Given the last three verses of each, I would have chosen different ones I believe. Why not Psalm 23 and Psalm 100? It is interesting that in the Liturgy, the first and those last three verses of Psalm 63 are omitted, only 2-9 used. But nothing is omitted from Psalm 149.

Psalm 63

Psalm 149

Here is a handy summary of usage of all the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. The basic chart was found online HERE and I added some notations including the list of uses of 63 and 149. We get a very small dose in our Wednesday Morning MPG.

Prayint the Psalms Big Picture

Why this information? I guess just to help us think about what we are saying when we pray the Psalms. We don’t want to do it mindlessly! The Morning Prayer with Father Linsky for the last eighteen months has certainly broadened my interest in the Psalms, and I have been doing the Morning Prayer almost every day since Advent 2016, trying to pay attention to the various messages and themes of the Psalms.

Finally, there is a very nice article here titled “Exploring the origins of the Liturgy of the Hours.” It goes all the way from contributions of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the most recent 1971 modifications by Pope Paul VI. But it doesn’t explain why Psalms 63 and 149 are used so much and 58, 83, and 109 not at all.

See you Wednesday morning I hope.


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