Sunday, August 5, 2012

The eighth day: Psalm 117



For obvious reasons we tend to think of Sunday as the start of the liturgical week rather than its end: a new collect for the week is given each Sunday; Monday is labelled as 'feria secunda' or second day in the breviary/Diurnal, reflecting the fact that Saturday is the sabbath, or seventh day in the Jewish week; and the Sunday Mass propers are used throughout the week in the Extraordinary Form when other feasts do not intervene.

For Christians, however, Sunday has become our sabbath or day of rest, and it is also celebrated in the liturgy as the day of the Resurrection, the 'eighth day'.

The end of the weekly cycle?

Pope John Paul II drew attention to the traditional view of Sunday in his letter Dies Dominici, citing several patristic sources:

"We celebrate Sunday because of the venerable Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we do so not only at Easter but also at each turning of the week": so wrote Pope Innocent I at the beginning of the fifth century, testifying to an already well established practice which had evolved from the early years after the Lord's Resurrection. Saint Basil speaks of "holy Sunday, honoured by the Lord's Resurrection, the first fruits of all the other days"; and Saint Augustine calls Sunday "a sacrament of Easter".

In the context of Orthodox liturgy, Patrick Reardon argues that Sunday is the end of a weekly cycle that starts with Wednesday:

"...Sunday evening is the quiet closing of a small weekly cycle commemorating the redemption that God "sent" unto  His people in the death and Resurrection of Christ.  That cycle began on Wednesday, when we observed a regular fast day to recall that dreadful Wednesday on which Judas sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.  Then, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we again bore in mind the events of the Lord's suffering, death, and burial..." (Christ in the Psalms, 2011 ed, p219)

I've suggested in this series that the psalm cycle in St Benedict's Office actually goes further than this, taking in the whole week in its story of Redemption: to the Wednesday to Sunday cycle can be the Incarnation and Christ's hidden life on earth up to his baptism on Monday; and Christ's earthly ministry on Tuesday.

Today, however, I want to look briefly at how St Benedict reflects that Sunday Resurrection focus in his Office.

Sunday in the Benedictine Office

St Benedict’s Sunday Office is radically different from the old Roman he started from, and in ways that I think serve to reinforce the idea that this is the end of the week as much as its beginning.

The old Roman Office, for example started Sunday Lauds at Psalm 1 and worked through in numerical order from there; St Benedict instead starts at Psalm 20, one of the Royal psalms which speaks of the crowning of the King.  Instead of reciting the entirety of Psalm 118 over the course of the day, he spreads it over Sunday and Monday.

In fact the only hours that are more or less the same are Vespers and Compline, and even there he shaves a psalm off in each case.

At Lauds, St Benedict shifted Psalms 92 & 99 (still said in Sundays in the 1962 version of the Roman Office) out of the day altogether (though due to later changes, these psalms are now said as ‘festal’ psalms on Sundays at certain periods of the year), and moved Psalm 117 from Prime to Lauds instead.

These are the days...

The more prominent position given to Psalm 117 in the Benedictine Office by placing it into one of the more elaborate ‘hinge hours’ is, I think, easily explained.

Probably originally composed as a liturgical hymn suitable for use in a procession, this is a joyous hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the harvest. For Christians though, it takes on an additional level of meaning as a prophesy of Our Lord’s Resurrection, and its verses are used extensively in the Easter liturgy, as well, I would suggest, as a remembrance of the Resurrection each Sunday in the Benedictine Office.

Psalm 117 is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament, important in particular for the verses directly prophesying the Resurrection, such as verse 17, Non móriar, sed vivam, or, I shall not die but will live, and the reopening of the gates of heaven to the just (v19).

The verse starting Hæc est dies, this is the day the Lord has made (v23), is used throughout the Easter Octave.

Similarly verse 24 is quoted in the Sanctus (benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini).

The most important verse of all though, is arguably the reference to the stone that the builders rejected, verse 21, Lápidem, quem reprobavérunt ædificántes: hic factus est in caput ánguli.

Psalm 117

Alleluia.
Give praise to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now say, that he is good: that his mercy endures for ever.
3 Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endures for ever.
4 Let them that fear the Lord now say, that his mercy endures for ever.
5 In my trouble I called upon the Lord: and the Lord heard me, and enlarged me.
6 The Lord is my helper: I will not fear what man can do unto me.
7 The Lord is my helper: and I will look over my enemies.
8 It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man.
9 It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes.
10 All nations compassed me about; and, in the name of the Lord I have been revenged on them.
11 Surrounding me they compassed me about: and in the name of the Lord I have been revenged on them. 12 They surrounded me like bees, and they burned like fire among thorns: and in the name of the Lord I was revenged on them.
13 Being pushed I was overturned that I might fall: but the Lord supported me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my praise: and he has become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just.
16 The right hand of the Lord has wrought strength: the right hand of the Lord has exalted me: the right hand of the Lord has wrought strength.
17 I shall not die, but live: and shall declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord chastising has chastised me: but he has not delivered me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of justice: I will go in to them, and give praise to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter into it.
21 I will give glory to you because you have heard me: and have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected; the same has become the head of the corner.
23 This is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the Lord has made: let us be glad and rejoice therein.
25 O Lord, save me: O Lord, give good success.
26 Blessed be he that comes in the name of the Lord. We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and he has shone upon us. Appoint a solemn day, with shady boughs, even to the horn of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you: you are my God, and I will exalt you. I will praise you, because you have heard me, and have become my salvation.
29 O praise the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.



Alleluja
Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.
2 Dicat nunc Israël : Quoniam bonus, quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.
3 Dicat nunc domus Aaron : Quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.
4 Dicant nunc qui timent Dominum : Quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.
5 De tribulatione invocavi Dominum, et exaudivit me in latitudine Dominus.
6 Dominus mihi adjutor; non timebo quid faciat mihi homo.
7 Dominus mihi adjutor, et ego despiciam inimicos meos.
8 Bonum est confidere in Domino, quam confidere in homine.
9 Bonum est sperare in Domino, quam sperare in principibus.
10 Omnes gentes circuierunt me, et in nomine Domini, quia ultus sum in eos.
11 Circumdantes circumdederunt me, et in nomine Domini, quia ultus sum in eos.
12 Circumdederunt me sicut apes, et exarserunt sicut ignis in spinis : et in nomine Domini, quia ultus sum in eos.
13 Impulsus eversus sum, ut caderem, et Dominus suscepit me.
14 Fortitudo mea et laus mea Dominus, et factus est mihi in salutem.
15 Vox exsultationis et salutis in tabernaculis justorum.
16 Dextera Domini fecit virtutem; dextera Domini exaltavit me : dextera Domini fecit virtutem.
17 Non moriar, sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini.
18 Castigans castigavit me Dominus, et morti non tradidit me.
19 Aperite mihi portas justitiæ: ingressus in eas confitebor Domino.
20 Hæc porta Domini : justi intrabunt in eam.
21 Confitebor tibi quoniam exaudisti me, et factus es mihi in salutem.
22 Lapidem quem reprobaverunt ædificantes, hic factus est in caput anguli.
23 A Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris.
24 Hæc est dies quam fecit Dominus; exsultemus, et lætemur in ea.
25 O Domine, salvum me fac; o Domine, bene prosperare.
26 Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini : benediximus vobis de domo Domini.
27 Deus Dominus, et illuxit nobis. Constituite diem solemnem in condensis, usque ad cornu altaris.
28 Deus meus es tu, et confitebor tibi; Deus meus es tu, et exaltabo te. Confitebor tibi quoniam exaudisti me, et factus es mihi in salutem.
29 Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.

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