Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum

Spiritual aerobics: walking up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs here at home, reading Matins.  Told you I was crazy.

Because of time constraints, I usually say Matins (if at all) out of due order: before work, I say Lauds and Prime (asking for a blessing the day and my actions), perhaps fit in Terce and/or Sext at breaks, but in any case get them and None done by mid- to late-afternoon (I hope)... Vespers is said in the evening, then Compline to complete the day.  Or at least that is my general aim...

I must note that to me, Wednesday Matins are very beautiful because of their sublime (and not overly long) psalmody: Psalms 44 (Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum - a royal epithalamium, the song of David's love for his wife the queen, of God's love for Israel, of Jesus' love for His Mother, for His Church, for the Christian soul), 45 ("God is for us a refuge and strength"), 47 ("Great is the Lord and exceedingly to be praised"), 48 ("Hear this, all ye nations"), 49 ("The God of gods, the Lord, has spoken and summoned the earth") and 50 - the incomparable Miserere.  (Psalm 46, which would fit in the midst of these, is read at Lauds on Mondays - "All nations, clap your hands... psallite sapienter...")  Since to-day is the feast of a canonized queen who, widowed, took the habit as a holy religious, how fitting to sing Psalm 44 at the opening of her Office!

While my Latin is by no means perfect, I know these psalms well, having prayed them for many years in English in the modern Divine Office (let us say that some psalms aren't quite so well-recalled)...

Friends, such as Terra, prefer to pray the Benedictine Breviary, wherein Psalm 44 is instead the last of the twelve psalms at Monday Matins (or "Vigils"), while on Tuesdays at Matins the following psalms are prayed: the six Psalms 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51 in the First Nocturn, and another six, Psalms 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 58 in the Second Nocturn.  Phew!  (And Psalm 50 makes its appearance as the second psalm daily at Lauds.)  

It is considered that St Benedict based his arrangement of the weekly cursus of psalms on that then current at Rome, making various changes here and there, while the Roman arrangement endured until the minor reform of St Pius V (who removed Psalms 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25 from Sunday Prime, and redistributed them among the other weekdays - until his day, Sunday Prime had nine psalms!) and the major reform of St Pius X (who decreed that each psalm - with the exception of the Venite, Psalm 94, and at penitential times the Miserere, Psalm 50 - was to be assigned but one Hour at week at which it was to be said, thus cutting back substantially on the length of the Office). 

Before 1912, the Roman Breviary, too, had twelve psalms at Matins - this number allegedly goes back to the Egyptian Fathers of the Desert, who received a response from an angel to their question of the proper number of psalms for the night office.  To this day, their lineal descendants, the Copts, pray in their Office an astonishing number of psalms every day, but they have a cheeky way of speeding up their devotions: one monk says the first of the psalms appointed, another the second, and so on - all together saying their respective psalms at once!

Whatever of this, the psalms for Wednesday Matins in the 1962 Breviary were previously included in the twelve said at Tuesday Matins until 1912: Psalms 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, and 51 - for Psalm 50 was instead said every day at ferial Lauds (and when this happens in the 1962 Breviary on Wednesdays, as in Lent, Psalm 50 is dropped from that day's Matins).

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