Thursday, April 17, 2014

Masterpost: The Seven Penitential Psalms

The Seven Penitential Psalms

The listing of the penitential psalms - Psalm 6, Psalm 31 (32), 37 (38), 50 (51), 101 (102), 129 (130) and 142 (143) - was firmed up by Cassiodorus, a sixth century contemporary of St Benedict.  You can find the full text of all of the set here.

The Penitential Psalms were traditionally prayed communally each day during Lent - indeed, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) ordered them to be prayed at this time.

You can find them with the antiphon normally used in most missals, or in the Monastic Diurnal.

Introduction to the series

Psalm 6
Psalm 6 as a penitential psalm
Introduction to Psalm 6
Psalm 6 Pt 2: On God's anger (v1)
Psalm 6 pt 3: God the physician (v2)
Psalm 6 pt 4: In death no man remembers you (v3-5)
Psalm 6 pt 5: A baptism of tears (v6)
Psalm 6 pt 6: praying for our enemies (v7-10)

Psalm 31

Introduction to Psalm 31
Psalm 31 Pt 2: The grace of forgiveness (v1)
Psalm 31 Pt 3: Admitting our faults (v6)
Psalm 31 Pt 4: On being as stubborn as a mule (v11-12)

Psalm 37

Introduction to Psalm 37
Psalm 37 verse 6
Psalm 37 v14&15
Psalm 37 v18

Psalm 50

Introduction to Psalm 50
Psalm 50: verses 1-4
Psalm 50: verses 5-6
Psalm 50: verses 7-9
Psalm 50: verses 10-12
Psalm 50: verses 13-15
Psalm 50: verse 16
Psalm 50: verses 17-18
Psalm 50: verses 19-20

Psalm 101

Introduction to Psalm 101
Psalm 101 verses 1-3
Psalm 101 v7-8
Psalm 101 v12-14
Psalm 101 v 26-29

Psalm 129

Introduction to Psalm 129 as a penitential psalm pt 1
Intro to Psalm 129 Pt 2
Psalm 129: Hear my plea (verses 1-2)
Psalm 129: God's great mercy (v3-5a)
Psalm 129: The virtue of hope (v5b-6)
Psalm 129: The promise of redemption (v7-8)

Psalm 142

Introduction to Psalm 142 as a penitential psalm
Psalm 142: verses 1-4
Psalm 142 v5
Psalm 142: verses 6-7
Psalm 142: verses 8-9
Psalm 142 v10-12
Psalm 142 v13-14


  1. Saint John Fisher wrote a commentary on the seven penitential psalms. Ignatius Press published a translation into modern English. It is one of the first scripture commentaries to have been written in English.

  2. Dear Father,

    In fact if you go on and take a look at the very first post in the series, you will see that it actually opens with a quote from that commentary.

    Personally, I found it a bit of a rambling commentary, albeit with some useful insights - but I much prefer St Augustine. But for the record, there are actually two even earlier commentaries written in English, one by the fourteenth century mystic Richard Rolle, the other a translation from a medieval french commentary by Dame Eleanor Hull (c1370-1454). At some point I plan to come back and update these notes (and provide more detailed notes for the psalms not treated verse by verse) using it, as it has some lovely material in it. Seems to have been a bit of a favourite theme in early English devotional literature!