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t       This site will contain the twenty-eight days of the Catholic “Liturgy of the Hours,” with everything removed except the psalms and antiphons for the church year. Each verse of each psalm contains four versions of the verse: the Greek (Septuagint) version; the Latin version from the pre-Vatican II breviary; a 1966 English translation of the verse by the Grail organization; and the version created by the International Commission for English in the Liturgy in the decades leading up to the 1990s. I have made minor editorial changes in this ICEL version.

       The “Kindle” has made this effort possible. Without such an electronic format, text like this would be too cumbersome. But the electronic format makes it easy to skip past text that you do not want to use on a particular day.

       A gracious helper uploaded all twenty-eight days onto this site, but the Wix software did not preserve the indentations and italicizations that are in the original.  I am manually adding those features, beginning with week one, but that is a slow process. 

       I had hoped that readers could copy the text from this site and paste it back into a Word document, but when I did that, the text again lost the indentations and other features that make reading easier. Reading it requires a smartphone or tablet.  

Why a Latin and Greek psalter?

       There are few people around who can read Latin or Greek, but both languages are important in Jewish and Christian history, and in this age of widespread education and online resources, we should encourage believers to aim high.

       Praying the psalms in Latin reminds us of centuries of religious men and women and priests using those exact words up until the 1960s. Praying in Greek reminds us that early Christians, and possibly Jesus himself, would have used those exact words, which had been created 200 years before Jesus’s birth by a panel of scholars in Alexandria, Egypt.

       Praying psalms in Greek or Latin highlights some features of the psalms that English translations do not provide. For example, numerous psalms pair the two Greek words ἔλεος (eleos—mercy or steadfast love) and ἀλήθεια (alethia—truth  or faithfulness), as characteristics of God. The same pairing occurs in Latin, with misericordia (mercy or steadfast love) and veritas (truth or faithfulness).

 

       There are three such pairings in just the first thirty-one psalms, one each in psalms 25, 26, and 31.

 

       For example, here is the second verse of the shortest psalm, psalm 117: “Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus, et veritas Domini manet in æternum.” ICEL translation: “Strong the love embracing us, faithful the Lord forever.”

 

 

The church year

       The church year, with its seasons of Advent, Lent, Easter, and ordinary time, has been used for centuries by the church to sanctify the passage of time and give structure to the Christian goal of living into the story of Jesus. In the psalter the church does this with “antiphons,” phrases placed before and after a psalm that remind one of what season it is when the person is praying the psalm.

       The official “Liturgy of the Hours” (often called the “breviary”), contains other forms of prayer such as short responsories, as well as passages from scripture or sacred authors. This psalter does not include any of those elements—it is strictly psalms and antiphons.

 

Sources of the texts

       I have downloaded the Greek, Latin, and Grail psalms from the internet.

       The Grail is an English organization that had produced a translation of the psalms back in the 1960s. Both the original and a revised Grail translation are on the internet. The still-in-print official four-volume Liturgy of the Hours uses the Grail psalter.

       The ICEL psalter had been approved for liturgical use by the U.S. bishops in the early 1990s, but then a committee in Rome de-certified it and the bishops ordered it taken off the market. The ICEL version is still not available for purchase, which is why I see no ethical problem with placing my re-typed version in a blog. I have modified it in several places. For example, I revived the reference to Melchizedek in Psalm 110 because that seemed to be too important to leave out of a translation.

 

 

The structure of the Liturgy of the Hours

       Sunday of the first week is how the psalter begins.

       Each day’s prayer starts with the “Invitatory,” a psalm (psalm 95—some alternatives are suggested in the official version) with an appropriate antiphon interspersed between the psalm verses. Then follow morning prayer (two psalms and a canticle from the Old Testament), midday prayer (three psalms), office of readings (three psalms), evening prayer (two psalms and a canticle from the New Testament), and night prayer (one or two psalms).

       Before each psalm I have sometimes included a digest of the commentary on that psalm from the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990), abbreviated “NJBC.”

       I have included all the reflections offered in the 1968 Grail Psalter.

       I distinguish the four translations of each verse by indenting every other one:

              Greek

                         Latin (italicized)

              Grail (italicized)

                         ICEL

       Tradition ends each psalm with the “Glory be.” I alternate an inclusive language version of the Glory Be with the traditional one, not only because of the gender issue but also because the inclusive version addresses God directly.

       After years of praying with only the ICEL version, I found returning to the Grail translation thought-provoking. It gave me a different feeling about how using non-inclusive language can be prayerful.

         

Canticles

       The second of the three “psalms” in morning prayer is always a canticle from the Old Testament, and the last of the three psalms in evening prayer is a canticle from the New Testament.

       Morning Prayer always ends with Zachary’s canticle, (Luke 1:68-79); Evening Prayer with Mary’s canticle (Luke 1:36-55).

 

       The Sunday antiphons for Zachary and Mary are sometimes related to the gospel of the day. Since there is a three-year cycle of Sunday gospel readings, separate antiphons for Year A (2023, 2026 etc.), Year B (2024), and Year C (2025) match the gospel reading for each Sunday.

 

Christmas antiphons

       The days from December 17 through December 24 are liturgically special. Each day has special antiphons different from the Advent antiphons used before the 17th.

       The antiphons for Mary's Canticle in evening prayer from the 17th through the 23rd are called the “O antiphons,” because each one begins with the salutation “O.” They use references to Old Testament texts and have unique melodies.  They are the basis for the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” 

Antiphons added

       The official liturgy does not provide seasonal antiphons for weekdays during Advent and Lent. I have selected appropriate seasonal antiphons for the weekdays in those seasons, and made other adaptations, for example, by adding seasonal antiphons in night prayer.

       I have used inclusive language in the antiphons I revised.

 

 

Reminders

       It helps to be reminded where you are while reciting or singing a psalm. Here is how I do the reminding.

       An example of the first line of a psalm verse, using psalm 117:

              117  3.1/2  Praise! Give glory to God! - 2

              Nations, peoples, give glory!   ◦

 

       The numbers remind me that the verse is from psalm 117. It is the third psalm in morning prayer, and this verse is the first of two verses.

 

       The “2” at the end of the line says that there are two lines in the verse, which means that its melody uses parts 1 and 4 of the ICEL melody pattern (see the section on music below). 

 

 

Night Prayer Hymns

       After night prayer each day, tradition has added four hymns to Mary.

       The first one, “Alma, Redemptoris Mater,” is for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

       The second one, “Ave Regina,” is used from the feast of the Baptism to Holy Saturday.

       The third one, “Regina Coeli,” is for the Easter season, which ends with Pentecost.

       The fourth one, “Salve Regina,” translated into English as “Hail, Holy Queen,” is used for ordinary time from Pentecost till Advent.

 

 

SINGING THE HOURS

       I was inspired to sing the psalms by observing the Muslim practice of bowing five times a day in prayer. Since my body will not allow me to use that gesture, I decided that the physical practice of singing could be a substitute.

       Scholars have categorized the psalms in various ways. The ICEL translation uses nine categories:

 

            1. hymns;

            2. songs of Zion;

            3. individual laments

            4. individual thanksgivings;

            5. communal laments;

            6. communal thanksgivings;

            7. royal psalms;

            8. wisdom/historical psalms; 

            9. prophetic psalms.

       The ICEL Psalter has published tones for singing the nine tones. I do not know how to write music on a computer, so I use letters in place of notes. “G  F  Ef” are the notes for “Three Blind Mice” (I also don’t know how to insert a “flat” sign, so I use “f”).

       I modified the ICEL melodies so that they all start on “G.” When you do not use instrumental accompaniment, the starting note is whatever note is comfortable to sing.

       Most of the melodies are divided into four parts, because the phrases to be sung can have two, three, or four parts.

 

       When the phrase has four parts, all four sections are sung.

 

       When it has three parts, sing sections one, two, and four.

 

       When there are just two parts, sing sections one and four. This sounds complicated, but it quickly becomes second nature.

     The first note in each part can be any number of syllables; the last three notes are one syllable each:

     Invitatory melody:

            G   A   B   G   |   G   A   F#   E   |   E   F#   G   E   |   E   G   F#   D

     Canticles of Zachary and Mary:

           G   B   A   G   |   E   F#   G   A   |   A   B   G   A   |   A   G   A   B

     Canticle of Simeon:

           G   F#   G   A   |   A   G   F#   E  (this canticle has only two sections)

     Tone 1, hymns:  

          G   F#  G  A   |  B  A  G  A   |  G  F#  E  D   |   E  G  A  G

     Tone 2, songs of Zion:

          G  A  B  A   |    A  B  C  B   |   B  C  D  C   |   C  [high F]  E  D

     Tone 3, individual lament:  

      G  F#  D  E   |   A  G  E  F#   |   B  A  F#  G   |   F#  E  D  E

    Tone 4, individual thanksgiving:

       G   E   G   A   |   A   G   F   G   |   C   A   C   D   |   A   G   A   C

    Tone 5, community lament:

        G   Ef   F   G   |   G   Af   G   F   |   F   D   Ef   F   |   F   Ef   F   G

     Tone 6, community thanksgiving:

        G   F   Ef   G   |   G   Bf   D   C   |   C   D   Ef   Bf   |   Af   G   Af   Bf

     Tone 7, royal psalms:

        G   A   B   C   |   A   B   C   D   |   E   D   C   A  |   D   C   B   C

     Tone 8, wisdom psalms:

        G   F#   D   E   |   E   F#   G  D   |   D   E   G   A   |   A   G   E   G

     Tone 9, prophetic psalms:

        G   E   F#   G   |   B   A   G   A   |   C   B   A   B   |   A   G   F#   G

 

       The friars in my Holy Cross community here in Quincy, Illinois have been singing the ICEL psalms in our community prayer for ten years. We began slowly with one tone, and gradually added more.

       In my experience, we were never able to pray psalms in common without going faster and faster. Instead of dividing the community into two equal-sized alternating choirs, which is the traditional way of praying psalms in common, we alternate between a leader or cantor and everybody else. The cantor controls the speed.

       We have learned that allowing a brief pause before each verse makes the experience more prayerful.

Friarzimm.com

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