Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Psalms of the Passion: A Lenten Devotion

We have mediæval warrants for considering Psalms 21 to 30, verse 6 (in the Vulgate and Septuagint enumeration) as Psalms of the Passion, eminently suitable as prayers for the days of Lent, and especially for Fridays, for Passiontide, and of course for Good Friday.  (In that spirit, I prayed them this morning.)

According to Honorius of Autun, Gemma animæ, Liturgica, cap. 83: De tragœdiis:
“Decem namque psalmos, scilicet a Deus meus respice usque In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum cantavit, et sic expiravit.”  [“For He sang ten Psalms, that is, from the Deus meus respice to In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum, and then died.”]

And likewise in Durandus, Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, lib. 6, cap. 77, n. 11:
“Quia vero Christus in cruce pendens prolixe oravit decantans decimos Psalmos scilicet: Deus, Deus meus, respice in me, usque ad: In te Domine speravi, cum pervenisset ad locum illum: In manus tuas Domine, illo dicto emisit spiritum”. [“For truly Christ hanging on the cross abundantly prayed singing ten Psalms, that is: God, my God, look upon me, until: In thee, Lord, have I hoped, when he had come to that place: Into thy hands, Lord, having said that He gave up the ghost.”]

The Passion Psalms, or Psalms of the Passion, consist of Psalms 21 to 30:1-6.  These ten psalms have in total 151 verses, which may be divided into three “hours” (so named for the three hours Christ hung on the Cross), equivalent in length to three nocturns as at Matins, consisting of the 53 verses of the first three psalms (Pss 21-23), then the 55 verses of the next three psalms (Pss 24-26), then the 43 verses of the last four psalms (the three full Psalms 27-29, plus the six opening verses of Ps 30).  By analogy with the practice during the Paschal Triduum, none of the psalms would be said with Gloria Patri.

Not all these psalms refer directly to Christ's Passion: for mingled with such prophecies as in Psalm 21 “All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head; He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him” (verses 8 and 9) – evidently representing the very words of the bystanders and the proud, cruel Scribes and Pharisees as they mocked at Christ Crucified – are foretellings of His Resurrection (Psalm 29, verse 4 and 6: “Thou hast brought forth, O Lord, my soul from hell... In the evening weeping... and in the morning gladness”) and Ascension (Psalm 23, verses 3 and 7: “Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place?... the King of Glory shall enter”), the salvation of the world and the conversion of the Gentiles (“All the ends of the earth... shall be converted to the Lord” – the same psalm, verse 28), and the singing of His glories down all following ages.

Christ, innocent as he was, was made sin for us, as the Apostle dares to declare: in this spirit we read “The sins of my youth and my ignorance do not remember... pardon my sin for it is great... forgive me all my sins” (Psalm 24, verses 7, 11 and 18) – Christ, the sinless Man, suffers vicariously to expiate the crimes of sinful men; for He alone, being God, is able to offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice.  Again, he declares against the detestable “council of vanity... the doers of unjust things... the assembly of the malignant... the wicked” (Psalm 25, verses 4 and 5) – against Caiaphas and the corrupt members of the Sanhedrin who manipulated the crowd and Pilate to procure His death, for He recognizes their sin, “who hated Me without a cause” – but nonetheless after first praying “Deliver Israel, O God” (at the end of Psalm 24).

Many more such insights may be derived from praying over the Psalms of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ; may the Holy Ghost illuminate the minds of those who do so, and inspire their wills to do good!

But to return to the mechanics of this devotion: again by following the custom of the Office for Good Friday, to these Passion Psalms may appropriately be added certain preces said kneeling, consisting of the antiphon Christus factus est, a silent Pater noster, the Miserere (with its 20 verses) said in a low voice, and the collect Respice quæsumus Domine, without Oremus and with its conclusion Qui tecum vivit also said silently.

Similarly, for due preparation of mind and heart, let these Passion Psalms be prefaced by a silent Pater noster, Ave Maria, and, Credo, as would be done at Prime traditionally (and at the other Little Hours but for the Credo) – for we ought turn to God our Father, as Christ did in His Passion; and we ought ask Mary His Mother stand by us, as she did Him; and confessing our faith to be the Faith of the Church, we firmly testify that Christ truly “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried”, thus directing our attention to these truths.

Such an arrangement of preparatory prayers, then psalmody followed by preces, exactly answers to the arrangement of the Little Hours during the Triduum.  Similarly, in length, the Passion Psalms almost exactly totals the psalmody of Terce, Sext and None during the Triduum, which totals 144 verses.

Praying the Psalms of the Passion, we of course begin with the fourth – “My God, My God…” (St Matthew xxvii, 46 and St Mark xv, 34) – and end with the last of the Seven Words Christ uttered upon the Cross – “Father, into thy hands…” (St Luke xxiii, 46).

When we pray in Psalm 21 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my jaws: and thou hast brought me down into the dust of death” (verse 17), we are saying with Christ, “I thirst” (St John xix, 28).

In the Lord’s Prayer (as prefaced to them, and also prayed after them, as is fitting), we declare “we forgive those who trespass against us” – just as Christ prayed in the first of His Seven Last Words: “Father, forgive them…” (St Luke xxiii, 34). 

In the Angelic Salutation (as seems right to repeat ere we begin these holy psalms), we confess that Christ’s Mother is ours also, as we fly to her for refuge, confiding in her prayers: and this answers to Our Lord’s third Word spoken from the Cross: “Woman, behold thy son… Son, behold thy mother” (St John xix, 26f); and this corresponds to the words of Psalm 26 “For my father and my mother have left me” (verse 10).  For St Joseph his putative earthly father having predeceased him, and Christ enduring the anguish of feeling that God His Father has forsaken Him in this His most bitter Passion, despite knowing that He remaineth with Him in truth, as declared in Psalm 22 – “For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me” (verse 4) – He confessed that His most holy Mother, herself standing by in fellow suffering, beholding Him, her innocent Son, die an infamous death, was therefore also being taken from Him – yet He by His power gave her a new child, and, in the person of the Beloved Disciple, made her to be the spiritual mother of all who will be reborn in baptism. 

In the Apostles’ Creed, we declare our belief in “the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting” – which corresponds to that joyful declaration of Christ to the Good Thief, “Amen I say to thee, This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise” (St Luke xxiii, 43), just as we say at the end of the same Psalm 26 “I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord” (verses 13 and 14).  O good thief, whose last robbery was the greatest: who while thyself crucified as a malefactor, stole the gift of life eternal, and dying won entrance into paradise!  May our lot be as thine, sinners as we are. 

Finally, in concluding this devotion of the Passion Psalms, having prayed the prayer of Christ hanging three hours upon the Cross, we confess as Christ did, “It is consummated” (St John xix, 30).



Pater noster, Ave Maria, et Credo, secreto.

Incipiunt psalmi passionis Domini nostri Jesu Christi.

Hora Prima

Psalmus 21 [34 vv.]

Deus, Deus meus, réspice in me: * quare me dereliquísti? longe a salúte mea verba delictórum meórum.
Deus meus, clamábo per diem, et non exáudies: * et nocte, et non ad insipiéntiam mihi.
Tu autem in sancto hábitas, * laus Israël.
In te speravérunt patres nostri: * speravérunt, et liberásti eos.
Ad te clamavérunt, et salvi facti sunt: * in te speravérunt, et non sunt confúsi.
Ego autem sum vermis, et non homo: * oppróbrium hóminum, et abjéctio plebis.
Omnes vidéntes me, derisérunt me: * locúti sunt lábiis, et movérunt caput.
Sperávit in Dómino, erípiat eum: * salvum fáciat eum, quóniam vult eum.
Quóniam tu es, qui extraxísti me de ventre: * spes mea ab ubéribus matris meæ. In te projéctus sum ex útero:
De ventre matris meæ Deus meus es tu, * ne discésseris a me:
Quóniam tribulátio próxima est: * quóniam non est qui ádjuvet.
Circumdedérunt me vítuli multi: * tauri pingues obsedérunt me.
Aperuérunt super me os suum, * sicut leo rápiens et rúgiens.
Sicut aqua effúsus sum: * et dispérsa sunt ómnia ossa mea.
Factum est cor meum tamquam cera liquéscens * in médio ventris mei.
Aruit tamquam testa virtus mea, et lingua mea adhæsit fáucibus meis: * et in púlverem mortis deduxísti me.
Quóniam circumdedérunt me canes multi: * concílium malignántium obsédit me.
Fodérunt manus meas et pedes meos: * dinumeravérunt ómnia ossa mea.
Ipsi vero consideravérunt et inspexérunt me: * divisérunt sibi vestiménta mea, et super vestem meam misérunt sortem.
Tu autem, Dómine, ne elongáveris auxílium tuum a me: * ad defensiónem meam cónspice.
Erue a frámea, Deus, ánimam meam: * et de manu canis únicam meam:
Salva me ex ore leónis: * et a córnibus unicórnium humilitátem meam.
Narrábo nomen tuum frátribus meis: * in médio ecclésiæ laudábo te.
Qui timétis Dóminum, laudáte eum: * univérsum semen Jacob, glorificáte eum.
Tímeat eum omne semen Israël: * quóniam non sprevit, neque despéxit deprecatiónem páuperis:
Nec avértit fáciem suam a me: * et cum clamárem ad eum, exaudívit me.
Apud te laus mea in ecclésia magna: * vota mea reddam in conspéctu timéntium eum.
Edent páuperes, et saturabúntur: et laudábunt Dóminum qui requírunt eum: * vivent corda eórum in sæculum sæculi.
Reminiscéntur et converténtur ad Dóminum * univérsi fines terræ:
Et adorábunt in conspéctu ejus * univérsæ famíliæ géntium.
Quóniam Dómini est regnum: * et ipse dominábitur géntium.
Manducavérunt et adoravérunt omnes pingues terræ: * in conspéctu ejus cadent omnes qui descéndunt in terram.
Et ánima mea illi vivet: * et semen meum sérviet ipsi.
Annuntiábitur Dómino generátio ventúra: * et annuntiábunt cæli justítiam ejus pópulo qui nascétur, quem fecit Dóminus.

Psalmus 22 [9 vv.]

Dóminus regit me, et nihil mihi déerit: * in loco páscuæ ibi me collocávit.
Super aquam refectiónis educávit me: * ánimam meam convértit.
Dedúxit me super sémitas justítiæ, * propter nomen suum.
Nam, et si ambulávero in médio umbræ mortis, non timébo mala: * quóniam tu mecum es.
Virga tua, et báculus tuus: * ipsa me consoláta sunt.
Parásti in conspéctu meo mensam, * advérsus eos, qui tríbulant me.
Impinguásti in óleo caput meum: * et calix meus inébrians quam præclárus est!
Et misericórdia tua subsequétur me * ómnibus diébus vitæ meæ:
Et ut inhábitem in domo Dómini, * in longitúdinem diérum.

Psalmus 23 [10 vv.]

Dómini est terra, et plenitúdo ejus: * orbis terrárum, et univérsi qui hábitant in eo.
Quia ipse super mária fundávit eum: * et super flúmina præparávit eum.
Quis ascéndet in montem Dómini? * aut quis stabit in loco sancto ejus?
Ínnocens mánibus et mundo corde, * qui non accépit in vano ánimam suam, nec jurávit in dolo próximo suo.
Hic accípiet benedictiónem a Dómino: * et misericórdiam a Deo, salutári suo.
Hæc est generátio quæréntium eum, * quæréntium fáciem Dei Jacob.
Attóllite portas, príncipes, vestras, et elevámini, portæ æternáles: * et introíbit Rex glóriæ.
Quis est iste Rex glóriæ? * Dóminus fortis et potens: Dóminus potens in prælio.
Attóllite portas, príncipes, vestras, et elevámini, portæ æternáles: * et introíbit Rex glóriæ.
Quis est iste Rex glóriæ? * Dóminus virtútum ipse est Rex glóriæ.

Hora Secunda

Psalmus 24 [23 vv.]

Ad te Dómine, levávi ánimam meam: * Deus meus, in te confído, non erubéscam.
Neque irrídeant me inimíci mei: * étenim univérsi, qui sústinent te, non confundéntur.
Confundántur omnes iníqua agéntes * supervácue.
Vias tuas, Dómine, demónstra mihi: * et sémitas tuas édoce me.
Dírige me in veritáte tua, et doce me: * quia tu es, Deus, salvátor meus, et te sustínui tota die.
Reminíscere miseratiónum tuárum, Dómine, * et misericordiárum tuárum, quæ a sæculo sunt.
Delícta juventútis meæ, * et ignorántias meas ne memíneris.
Secúndum misericórdiam tuam meménto mei tu: * propter bonitátem tuam, Dómine.
Dulcis et rectus Dóminus: * propter hoc legem dabit delinquéntibus in via.
Díriget mansuétos in judício: * docébit mites vias suas.
Univérsæ viæ Dómini, misericórdia et véritas, * requiréntibus testaméntum ejus et testimónia ejus.
Propter nomen tuum, Dómine, propitiáberis peccáto meo: * multum est enim.
Quis est homo qui timet Dóminum? * legem státuit ei in via, quam elégit.
Ánima ejus in bonis demorábitur: * et semen ejus hereditábit terram.
Firmaméntum est Dóminus timéntibus eum: * et testaméntum ipsíus ut manifestétur illis.
Óculi mei semper ad Dóminum: * quóniam ipse evéllet de láqueo pedes meos.
Réspice in me, et miserére mei: * quia únicus et pauper sum ego.
Tribulatiónes cordis mei multiplicátæ sunt: * de necessitátibus meis érue me.
Vide humilitátem meam, et labórem meum: * et dimítte univérsa delícta mea.
Réspice inimícos meos quóniam multiplicáti sunt, * et ódio iníquo odérunt me.
Custódi ánimam meam, et érue me: * non erubéscam quóniam sperávi in te.
Innocéntes et recti adhæsérunt mihi: * quia sustínui te.
Líbera, Deus, Israël, * ex ómnibus tribulatiónibus suis.

Psalmus 25 [12 vv.]

Júdica me, Dómine, quóniam ego in innocéntia mea ingréssus sum: * et in Dómino sperans non infirmábor.
Proba me, Dómine, et tenta me: * ure renes meos et cor meum.
Quóniam misericórdia tua ante óculos meos est: * et complácui in veritáte tua.
Non sedi cum concílio vanitátis: * et cum iníqua geréntibus non introíbo.
Odívi ecclésiam malignántium: * et cum ímpiis non sedébo.
Lavábo inter innocéntes manus meas: * et circúmdabo altáre tuum, Dómine:
Ut áudiam vocem laudis, * et enárrem univérsa mirabília tua.
Dómine, diléxi decórem domus tuæ, * et locum habitatiónis glóriæ tuæ.
Ne perdas cum ímpiis, Deus, ánimam meam, * et cum viris sánguinum vitam meam:
In quorum mánibus iniquitátes sunt: * déxtera eórum repléta est munéribus.
Ego autem in innocéntia mea ingréssus sum: * rédime me, et miserére mei.
Pes meus stetit in dirécto: * in ecclésiis benedícam te, Dómine.

Psalmus 26 [20 vv.]

Dóminus illuminátio mea, et salus mea, * quem timébo?
Dóminus protéctor vitæ meæ, * a quo trepidábo?
Dum apprópiant super me nocéntes, * ut edant carnes meas:
Qui tríbulant me inimíci mei, * ipsi infirmáti sunt, et cecidérunt.
Si consístant advérsum me castra, * non timébit cor meum.
Si exsúrgat advérsum me prælium, * in hoc ego sperábo.
Unam pétii a Dómino, hanc requíram, * ut inhábitem in domo Dómini ómnibus diébus vitæ meæ:
Ut vídeam voluptátem Dómini, * et vísitem templum ejus.
Quóniam abscóndit me in tabernáculo suo: * in die malórum protéxit me in abscóndito tabernáculi sui.
In petra exaltávit me: * et nunc exaltávit caput meum super inimícos meos.
Circuívi, et immolávi in tabernáculo ejus hóstiam vociferatiónis: * cantábo, et psalmum dicam Dómino.
Exáudi, Dómine, vocem meam, qua clamávi ad te: * miserére mei, et exáudi me.
Tibi dixit cor meum, exquisívit te fácies mea: * fáciem tuam, Dómine, requíram.
Ne avértas fáciem tuam a me: * ne declínes in ira a servo tuo.
Adjútor meus esto: * ne derelínquas me, neque despícias me, Deus, salutáris meus.
Quóniam pater meus, et mater mea dereliquérunt me: * Dóminus autem assúmpsit me.
Legem pone mihi, Dómine, in via tua: * et dírige me in sémitam rectam propter inimícos meos.
Ne tradíderis me in ánimas tribulántium me: * quóniam insurrexérunt in me testes iníqui, et mentíta est iníquitas sibi.
Credo vidére bona Dómini * in terra vivéntium.
Exspécta Dóminum, viríliter age: * et confortétur cor tuum, et sústine Dóminum.

Hora Tertia

Psalmus 27 [12 vv.]

Ad te, Dómine, clamábo, Deus meus, ne síleas a me: * nequándo táceas a me, et assimilábor descendéntibus in lacum.
Exáudi, Dómine, vocem deprecatiónis meæ dum oro ad te: * dum extóllo manus meas ad templum sanctum tuum.
Ne simul trahas me cum peccatóribus: * et cum operántibus iniquitátem ne perdas me.
Qui loquúntur pacem cum próximo suo, * mala autem in córdibus eórum.
Da illis secúndum ópera eórum, * et secúndum nequítiam adinventiónum ipsórum.
Secúndum ópera mánuum eórum tríbue illis: * redde retributiónem eórum ipsis.
Quóniam non intellexérunt ópera Dómini, et in ópera mánuum ejus * déstrues illos, et non ædificábis eos.
Benedíctus Dóminus: * quóniam exaudívit vocem deprecatiónis meæ.
Dóminus adjútor meus, et protéctor meus: * in ipso sperávit cor meum, et adjútus sum.
Et reflóruit caro mea: * et ex voluntáte mea confitébor ei.
Dóminus fortitúdo plebis suæ: * et protéctor salvatiónum Christi sui est.
Salvum fac pópulum tuum, Dómine, et bénedic hereditáti tuæ: * et rege eos, et extólle illos usque in ætérnum.

Psalmus 28 [10 vv.]

Afférte Dómino, fílii Dei: *afférte Dómino fílios aríetum.
Afférte Dómino glóriam et honórem, afférte Dómino glóriam nómini ejus: * adoráte Dóminum in átrio sancto ejus.
Vox Dómini super aquas, Deus majestátis intónuit: * Dóminus super aquas multas.
Vox Dómini in virtúte: * vox Dómini in magnificéntia.
Vox Dómini confringéntis cedros: * et confrínget Dóminus cedros Líbani:
Et commínuet eas tamquam vítulum Líbani: * et diléctus quemádmodum fílius unicórnium.
Vox Dómini intercidéntis flammam ignis: * vox Dómini concutiéntis desértum: et commovébit Dóminus desértum Cades.
Vox Dómini præparántis cervos, et revelábit condénsa: * et in templo ejus omnes dicent glóriam.
Dóminus dilúvium inhabitáre facit: * et sedébit Dóminus Rex in ætérnum.
Dóminus virtútem pópulo suo dabit: * Dóminus benedícet pópulo suo in pace.

Psalmus 29 [15 vv.]

Exaltábo te, Dómine, quóniam suscepísti me: * nec delectásti inimícos meos super me.
Dómine, Deus meus, clamávi ad te, * et sanásti me.
Dómine, eduxísti ab inférno ánimam meam: * salvásti me a descendéntibus in lacum.
Psállite Dómino, sancti ejus: * et confitémini memóriæ sanctitátis ejus.
Quóniam ira in indignatióne ejus: * et vita in voluntáte ejus.
Ad vésperum demorábitur fletus: * et ad matutínum lætítia.
Ego autem dixi in abundántia mea: * Non movébor in ætérnum.
Dómine, in voluntáte tua, * præstitísti decóri meo virtútem.
Avertísti fáciem tuam a me, * et factus sum conturbátus.
Ad te, Dómine, clamábo: * et ad Deum meum deprecábor.
Quæ utílitas in sánguine meo, * dum descéndo in corruptiónem?
Numquid confitébitur tibi pulvis, * aut annuntiábit veritátem tuam?
Audívit Dóminus, et misértus est mei: * Dóminus factus est adjútor meus.
Convertísti planctum meum in gáudium mihi: * conscidísti saccum meum, et circumdedísti me lætítia:
Ut cantet tibi glória mea, et non compúngar: * Dómine, Deus meus, in ætérnum confitébor tibi.

Psalmus 30:1-6 [6 vv.]

In te, Dómine, sperávi non confúndar in ætérnum: * in justítia tua líbera me.
Inclína ad me aurem tuam, * accélera ut éruas me.
Esto mihi in Deum protectórem, et in domum refúgii: * ut salvum me fácias.
Quóniam fortitúdo mea, et refúgium meum es tu: * et propter nomen tuum dedúces me, et enútries me.
Edúces me de láqueo hoc, quem abscondérunt mihi: * quóniam tu es protéctor meus.
In manus tuas comméndo spíritum meum: * redemísti me, Dómine, Deus veritátis.

Hic finiunt psalmi passionis.


Omnes geneflectunt.

Aña.  Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.

Pater noster totum secreto.

Psalmus 50, mediocriter tamen voce. [20 vv.]

Miserére mei, Deus, * secúndum magnam misericórdiam tuam.
Et secúndum multitúdinem miseratiónum tuárum, * dele iniquitátem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitáte mea: * et a peccáto meo munda me.
Quóniam iniquitátem meam ego cognósco: * et peccátum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccávi, et malum coram te feci: * ut justificéris in sermónibus tuis, et vincas cum judicáris.
Ecce enim, in iniquitátibus concéptus sum: * et in peccátis concépit me mater mea.
Ecce enim, veritátem dilexísti: * incérta et occúlta sapiéntiæ tuæ manifestásti mihi.
Aspérges me hyssópo, et mundábor: * lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor.
Audítui meo dabis gáudium et lætítiam: * et exsultábunt ossa humiliáta.
Avérte fáciem tuam a peccátis meis: * et omnes iniquitátes meas dele.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: * et spíritum rectum ínnova in viscéribus meis.
Ne projícias me a fácie tua: * et spíritum sanctum tuum ne áuferas a me.
Redde mihi lætítiam salutáris tui: * et spíritu principáli confírma me.
Docébo iníquos vias tuas: * et ímpii ad te converténtur.
Líbera me de sanguínibus, Deus, Deus salútis meæ: * et exsultábit lingua mea justítiam tuam.
Dómine, lábia mea apéries: * et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
Quóniam si voluísses sacrifícium, dedíssem útique: * holocáustis non delectáberis.
Sacrifícium Deo spíritus contribulátus: * cor contrítum, et humiliátum, Deus, non despícies.
Benígne fac, Dómine, in bona voluntáte tua Sion: * ut ædificéntur muri Jerúsalem.
50:20 Tunc acceptábis sacrifícium justítiæ, oblatiónes, et holocáusta: * tunc impónent super altáre tuum vítulos.

Oratio sine Oremus:

Respice, quaesumus Domine, super hanc familiam tuam, pro qua Dominus noster Jesus Christus non dubitavit manibus tradi nocentium, et crucis subire tormentum:
et conclusione Qui tecum vivit cum Amen totum secreto.

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