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The Order of the Psalmody

Sunday, June 23, 2024
Chapter 18

On Monday at Terce, Sext and None, the remaining nine sections of Psalm 119 are said, three sections at each hour. Psalm 119 is thus completed in two days, Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday,three psalms are said at each of the hours of Terce, Sext and None. These are the nine psalms, 120-128. The same psalms are repeated at these hours daily up to Sunday. Likewise, the arrangement of hymns, readings and versicles for these days remains the same. In this way, Psalm 119 will always begin on Sunday.

The minor hours—Terce, Sext and None—are descants in the structure of Benedict’s daily office. They repeat the same messages over and over. Over and over, every day of their lives the monastic hears the same message: God delivers us, God is our refuge, God will save us from those who seek to destroy us, God will bring us home. The words are haunting: “When I am in trouble, I call to Yahweh and God answers me…”; “Pity us, Yahweh, take pity on us…”; and finally, “What marvels indeed Yahweh did for us…for those who once sowing in tears now sing as they reap.”

In the minor hours, the psalms carry us from hardship to joy, from inner captivity to liberation, from despair to trust. It is a message to us all that remembering to trust in God can be enough to carry us for a lifetime.