Friday, June 10, 2016

Psalms of the day in the liturgy of the Temple

One of the ongoing debates is the extent to which the Divine Office (and the liturgy more generally) represents a continuation of ancient Jewish practice.   Unfortunately, while there are passing references to the liturgy in the Old Testaments (such as King David's instigation of choirs of priests singing in the first temple) very little concrete evidence survives.

Still, those crumbs that do survive are interesting.  Consider this rationale for one of the psalms set for use each day, tied to the days of creation, an idea reflected in our Office today in the Vespers hymns (and arguably in certain other psalms set for the Benedictine Office at least).

The source for this daily service in the Temple  is theTamid, sect. vii, and Maimonides in Tamid:
On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 23, 'The earth is the Lord's,' etc., in commemoration of the first day of creation, when 'God possessed the world, and ruled in it.'
On the second day they sang Psalm 47, 'Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,' etc., because on the second day of creation 'the Lord divided His works, and reigned over them.'
On the third day they sang Psalm 81, 'God standeth in the congregation of the mighty,' etc., 'because on that day the earth appeared, on which are the Judge and the judged.'
On the fourth day Psalm 93 was sung, 'O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth,' etc., 'because on the fourth day God made the sun, moon, and stars, and will be avenged on those that worship them.'
On the fifth day they sang Psalm 80, 'Sing aloud unto God our strength,' etc., 'because of the variety of creatures made that day to praise His name.'
On the sixth day Psalm 92 was sung, 'The Lord reigneth,' etc., 'because on that day God finished His works and made man, and the Lord ruled over all His works.'
Lastly, on the Sabbath day they sang Psalm 91, 'It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,' etc., 'because the Sabbath was symbolical of the millennial kingdom at the end of the six thousand years' dispensation, when the Lord would reign over all, and His glory and service fill the earth with thanksgiving.'

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