Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pray the Gradual Psalms

Yester-day, for Friday penance, and this morning, as my morning prayer, I prayed the Gradual Psalms (Pss 119–133 according to the Septuagint and Vulgate, or Pss 120–134 in the Hebrew and in modern Bibles) – which ought be ever on the lips of Christians.

It is said that these Gradual or “stepwise” Psalms were originally pilgrim chants, sung when going up to Jerusalem, or, as the more literal-minded would have it, they were songs sung by the Levites as the steps of the Temple were ascended one by one – mystical writers imagined that Our Lady, when presented as a child in the Temple, thus prayed them upon her entrance thereto.  Again, those exiled in Babylon, when at last able to return to Jerusalem, may well have prayed them during their journey: and all these images of going up, of approach, to the Holy, are of course an image of the spiritual life, an ascent from the Babylon of this world to the City of God.

The Gradual Psalms are thus figures of the ascent of the elect, who go up from this vale of tears to the heavenly Jerusalem by the steps of the virtues, and especially of charity (so states the Cœleste Palmetum, an old manual of devotion: they are figuras fuisse ascensionis Electorum, qui per gradus virtutum, ac præcipue charitatis, de valle lacrymarum ad cælestem Jerusalem ascendunt).  Therefore a Christian ought know himself to be but a pilgrim in this world, and have these psalms most familiar to him: he ought weep for being in painful exile, he ought pant after rest in the heavenly homeland, he ought ever lift himself up and make progress in the journey home to God – for, as Augustine warns, he who does not make continual progress at once goes backward.  The Gradual Psalms abound in these relevant sentiments, and so amply supply the mind with rightful thoughts and the will with holy aspirations.

(Again, I but english the words of the Cœleste Palmetum, which states: Proinde usus horum Psalmorum familiaris esse deberet cuilibet Christiano, qui se peregrinum in hoc mundo agnoscit, et nunc ærumnas exilii sui deflet, nunc ad requiem cælestis patriæ aspirat, semper autem se ad ascendendum, et in via Domini progrediendum ascendit. Ad quæ congruos affectus hi Psalmi abunde suppeditant.)

Why fifteen psalms “of degrees”, or “steps”?  I now refer to the numerical speculations of mediævals.  Fifteen is seven plus eight, and represents fitly the Old Testament, centred on the seventh day, whenas Creation was completed, and so hallowed as a day of rest in remembrance thereof, now fulfilled in the New, centred on the eighth, the Day of Resurrection, image of eternity as triumphant completion of God’s salvific work. Again, the first five psalms represent our five senses, by which we sin, and so die – hence their being sung without Gloria Patri, and being offered as prayer for the dead: Deus Israël, audi nunc orationem mortuorum Israël (Baruch iii, 4); while the second and third set of five psalms add to ten, being the number of the Commandments, the first three relating to love of God, and the last seven to love of neighbour – therefore, these are prayed for the living, and sung with Gloria Patri.  Such the mystic reasons adduced!

I like to preface the Gradual Psalms with Psalm 83, Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, since this is a psalm imaging the pilgrimage to Jerusalem: ascensiones in corde suo disposuit, in valle lacrimarum in loco quem posuit… ibunt de virtute in virtutem: videbitur Deus deorum in Sion. (And one may as well add to this the two like psalms following, Psalm 84, Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam – found at Roman Prime de Beata – and Psalm 85, Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam; just as they are found together in the Præparatio ad Missam.)

By the way, Psalm 85, just referred to in passing above, has a moving line, a strong confession of sinful man’s grateful recognition of Divine mercy: Quia misericordia tua magna est super me: et eruisti animam meam ex inferno inferiori – “For thy mercy is great over me: and thou hast delivered” (more literally, “dug up”) “my soul from the deepest hell”.  So God’s Word struck me as I prayed after Confession this morning.

It was the practice in the Middle Ages for the Gradual Psalms to be prayed directly before beginning Matins.  As they were offered up as prayers of intercession, they were divided into three groups of five psalms each, and each group was followed by preces or prayers: Kyrie, the Lord's Prayer, some versicles and a collect.  The first group was prayed for the dead, and the second and third for the living.  While St Pius V released those who read the Office privately from saying the Gradual Psalms, he maintained the obligation of their use in choir to the extent that they were appointed to be said on Lenten Wednesdays; St Pius X removed this remnant commitment.

A check of various Breviaries reveals a surprising uniformity in the prayers added to the Gradual Psalms: they are almost always identical.  Some slight differences manifest themselves in the Uses of the religious orders, in the case of the Dominicans and especially the Carmelites, as will be detailed below; otherwise, they were prayed with the same words everywhere.

The Dominicans, as is their wont, abbreviate the collects and preces slightly: they omit the versicle Domine exaudi from all the preces; they omit the versicle Requiescant in the first set of preces, and the words et omnium fidelium defunctorum from its collect; they omit the words nos et omnes famulos tuos from the collect of the second set; they add, however, the words et ancillas tuas to the versicle Salvos in the third set of preces, and read assequantur in the last collect instead of the expected consequi mereantur.  These may be survivals of earlier practices.

The Carmelites make the most changes: firstly and uniquely, they preface the Gradual Psalms with V/. Adjutorium nostrum. As their Breviary's rubrics make clear, they sit for all the psalms, and bow at each doxology, before kneeling for the preces as is normal.

Most notably, in the Carmelite Rite the first five psalms are not prayed for the dead: instead, they are said with Gloria Patri, and are followed by what are the preces for the second set in other Uses, one of its versicles beginning not Memento but Memor esto and moreover having another versicle before it: V/. Memento nostri Domine in beneplacito populi tui. R/. Visita nos in salutari tuo. (The Cluniac Breviary also used this with the preces for the second five psalms.)

Again, the preces for the second five psalms are what in other Uses are appointed for the third, and likewise add, before its versicle Salvos, another versicle: V/. Domine, salvum fac regem. R/. Et exaudi nos in die, qua invocaverimus te. (The Cluniac Breviary had this versicle with the third set of preces, but reading salvos fac reges instead.) 

The last set of five psalms are those prayed for the dead, evidently because the first is Psalm 129, De profundis, considered the prayer for the dead par excellence, and these are said with only one Requiem at the end, just as is done in all other Uses for the first five psalms.  The preces (omitting Kyrie, as is mostly but not always done when praying for the dead) are the same as the Roman first set. It thus appears that the Carmelites changed the traditional order of praying the Gradual Psalms, thinking thus to adopt the more usual arrangement of praying for the living first, and the dead last.

I warmly commend these psalms and prayers to those who list for the Lord, lifting hearts and hands to God in heaven (cf. Lam. iii, 41).  In the text of the Gradual Psalms as given below, according to the traditional Roman form as found in the 1962 Breviary and earlier editions, laymen of course omit the versicle Dominus vobiscum when it occurs, as only a deacon, priest or bishop would say that.

PSALMI GRADUALES


Psalmus 119
Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi: * et exaudivit me.
Domine, libera animam meam a labiis iniquis, * et a lingua dolosa.
Quid detur tibi, aut quid apponatur tibi * ad linguam dolosam?
Sagittæ potentis acutæ, * cum carbonibus desolatoriis.
Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est: habitavi cum habitantibus Cedar: * multum incola fuit anima mea.
Cum his qui oderunt pacem, eram pacificus: * cum loquebar illis, impugnabant me gratis.
Psalmus 120
Levavi oculos meos in montes, * unde veniet auxilium mihi.
Auxilium meum a Domino, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
Non det in commotionem pedem tuum: * neque dormitet qui custodit te.
Ecce non dormitabit neque dormiet, * qui custodit Israël.
Dominus custodit te, Dominus protectio tua, * super manum dexteram tuam.
Per diem sol non uret te: * neque luna per noctem.
Dominus custodit te ab omni malo: * custodiat animam tuam Dominus.
Dominus custodiat introitum tuum, et exitum tuum: * ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum.
Psalmus 121
Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: * In domum Domini ibimus.
Stantes erant pedes nostri, * in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, quæ ædificatur ut civitas: * cujus participatio ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: * testimonium Israël ad confitendum nomini Domini.
Quia illic sederunt sedes in judicio, * sedes super domum David.
Rogate quæ ad pacem sunt Jerusalem: * et abundantia diligentibus te:
Fiat pax in virtute tua: * et abundantia in turribus tuis.
Propter fratres meos, et proximos meos, * loquebar pacem de te:
Propter domum Domini, Dei nostri, * quæsivi bona tibi.
Psalmus 122
Ad te levavi oculos meos, * qui habitas in cælis.
Ecce sicut oculi servorum * in manibus dominorum suorum,
Sicut oculi ancillæ in manibus dominæ suæ: * ita oculi nostri ad Dominum, Deum nostrum, donec misereatur nostri.
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri: * quia multum repleti sumus despectione:
Quia multum repleta est anima nostra: * opprobrium abundantibus, et despectio superbis.
Psalmus 123
Nisi quia Dominus erat in nobis, dicat nunc Israël: * nisi quia Dominus erat in nobis,
Cum exsurgerent homines in nos, * forte vivos deglutissent nos:
Cum irasceretur furor eorum in nos, * forsitan aqua absorbuisset nos.
Torrentem pertransivit anima nostra: * forsitan pertransisset anima nostra aquam intolerabilem.
Benedictus Dominus * qui non dedit nos in captionem dentibus eorum.
Anima nostra sicut passer erepta est * de laqueo venantium:
Laqueus contritus est, * et nos liberati sumus.
Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
Requiem æternam * dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua * luceat eis.

Pater noster  secreto usque ad
. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
. Sed libera nos a malo.
. A porta inferi.
. Erue, Domine, animas eorum.
. Requiescant in pace.
. Amen.
. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. Dominus vobiscum. 
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
Oremus.                                   Oratio
Absolve, quæsumus, Domine, animas famulorum famularumque tuarum et omnium fidelium defunctorum, ab omni vinculo delictorum: ut in resurrectionis gloria inter Sanctos et Electos tuos resuscitati respirent. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. . Amen.
Psalmus 124
Qui confidunt in Domino, sicut mons Sion: * non commovebitur in æternum, qui habitat in Jerusalem.
Montes in circuitu ejus: * et Dominus in circuitu populi sui, ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
Quia non relinquet Dominus virgam peccatorum super sortem justorum: * ut non extendant justi ad iniquitatem manus suas.
Benefac, Domine, bonis, * et rectis corde.
Declinantes autem in obligationes adducet Dominus cum operantibus iniquitatem: * Pax super Israël.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 125
In convertendo Dominus captivitatem Sion: * facti sumus sicut consolati:
Tunc repletum est gaudio os nostrum: * et lingua nostra exsultatione.
Tunc dicent inter gentes: * Magnificavit Dominus facere cum eis.
Magnificavit Dominus facere nobiscum: * facti sumus lætantes.
Converte, Domine, captivitatem nostram, * sicut torrens in austro.
Qui seminant in lacrimis, * in exsultatione metent.
Euntes ibant et flebant, * mittentes semina sua.
Venientes autem venient cum exsultatione, * portantes manipulos suos.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 126
Nisi Dominus ædificaverit domum, * in vanum laboraverunt qui ædificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem, * frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere: * surgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum: * ecce hæreditas Domini, filii: merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittæ in manu potentis: * ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis: * non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 127
Beati omnes qui timent Dominum, * qui ambulant in viis ejus.
Labores manuum tuarum quia manducabis: * beatus es, et bene tibi erit.
Uxor tua sicut vitis abundans, * in lateribus domus tuæ.
Filii tui sicut novellæ olivarum, * in circuitu mensæ tuæ.
Ecce sic benedicetur homo, * qui timet Dominum.
Benedicat tibi Dominus ex Sion: * et videas bona Jerusalem omnibus diebus vitæ tuæ.
Et videas filios filiorum tuorum, * pacem super Israël.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 128
Sæpe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea, * dicat nunc Israël:
Sæpe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea: * etenim non potuerunt mihi.
Supra dorsum meum fabricaverunt peccatores: * prolongaverunt iniquitatem suam.
Dominus justus concidit cervices peccatorum: * confundantur et convertantur retrorsum omnes qui oderunt Sion.
Fiant sicut fœnum tectorum: * quod priusquam evellatur exaruit:
De quo non implevit manum suam qui metit, * et sinum suum qui manipulos colligit.
Et non dixerunt qui præteribant: Benedictio Domini super vos: * benediximus vobis in nomine Domini.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
Pater noster  secreto usque ad
. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
. Sed libera nos a malo.
. Memento Congregationis tuae.
. Quam possedisti ab initio.
. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. Dominus vobiscum. 
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
Oremus.                                   Oratio
Deus, cui proprium est misereri semper et parcere: suscipe deprecationem nostram; ut nos, et omnes famulos tuos, quos delictorum catena constringit, miseratio tuæ pietatis clementer absolvat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. . Amen.
Psalmus 129
De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: * Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes, * in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine: * Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est: * et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus: * speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem: * speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia: * et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël, * ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 130
Domine, non est exaltatum cor meum: * neque elati sunt oculi mei.
Neque ambulavi in magnis: * neque in mirabilibus super me.
Si non humiliter sentiebam: * sed exaltavi animam meam:
Sicut ablactatus est super matre sua, * ita retributio in anima mea.
Speret Israël in Domino, * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 131
Memento, Domine, David, * et omnis mansuetudinis ejus:
Sicut juravit Domino, * votum vovit Deo Jacob:
Si introiero in tabernaculum domus meæ, * si ascendero in lectum strati mei:
Si dedero somnum oculis meis, * et palpebris meis dormitationem:
Et requiem temporibus meis: donec inveniam locum Domino, * tabernaculum Deo Jacob.
Ecce audivimus eam in Ephrata: * invenimus eam in campis silvæ.
Introibimus in tabernaculum ejus: * adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus.
Surge, Domine, in requiem tuam, * tu et arca sanctificationis tuæ.
Sacerdotes tui induantur justitiam: * et sancti tui exsultent.
Propter David, servum tuum, * non avertas faciem Christi tui.
Juravit Dominus David veritatem, et non frustrabitur eam: * De fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam.
Si custodierint filii tui testamentum meum, * et testimonia mea hæc quæ docebo eos:
Et filii eorum usque in sæculum, * sedebunt super sedem tuam.
Quoniam elegit Dominus Sion: * elegit eam in habitationem sibi.
Hæc requies mea in sæculum sæculi: * hic habitabo, quoniam elegi eam.
Viduam ejus benedicens benedicam: * pauperes ejus saturabo panibus.
Sacerdotes ejus induam salutari: * et sancti ejus exsultatione exsultabunt.
Illuc producam cornu David, * paravi lucernam Christo meo.
Inimicos ejus induam confusione: * super ipsum autem efflorebit sanctificatio mea.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 132
Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum * habitare fratres in unum:
Sicut unguentum in capite, * quod descendit in barbam, barbam Aaron,
Quod descendit in oram vestimenti ejus: * sicut ros Hermon, qui descendit in montem Sion.
Quoniam illic mandavit Dominus benedictionem, * et vitam usque in sæculum.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Psalmus 133
Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum, * omnes servi Domini:
Qui statis in domo Domini, * in atriis domus Dei nostri.
In noctibus extollite manus vestras in sancta, * et benedicite Dominum.
Benedicat te Dominus ex Sion, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum.  Amen.
Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
Pater noster  secreto usque ad
. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
. Sed libera nos a malo.
. Salvos fac servos tuos.
. Deus meus, sperantes in te.
. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. Dominus vobiscum. 
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
Oremus.                                   Oratio
Prætende, Domine, famulis et famulabus tuis dexteram cælestis auxilii: ut te toto corde perquirant, et quæ digne postulant, consequi mereantur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. . Amen.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Great post - I love these pslams!