Thursday, July 14, 2016

Psalms of Compline (Short summaries)/3 - Psalm 133

Canticum graduum
A gradual canticle
1 Ecce nunc benedícite Dóminum, * omnes servi Dómini
Behold now bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
2 Qui statis in domo Dómini, * in átriis domus   Dei nostri.
Who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God
3 In nóctibus extóllite manus vestras in sancta, * et benedícite Dóminum.
In the nights lift up your hands to the holy places, and bless the Lord.
4 Benedícat te Dóminus ex sion, * qui fecit cælum et terram.
May the Lord out of Sion bless you, he that made heaven and earth.

Pronouncing the words

You can heard the psalm read aloud slowly in Latin over at the Boston Catholic Journal.

Once you are confident of the pronunciation, try singing it with the monks - the videos below are one option, alternatively, listen to one of the archived audio files of Compline sung by the monks of Le Barroux.

Summaries of the Psalm

Pick the summary of your choice and learn it, or copy it to create a cheat sheet to have handy for when you say the Office.   Psalm 133 is the last of the 'Songs of the Ascent, or fifteen Gradual Psalms', which were sung on major feasts as the priests walked up the fifteen steps in the Temple.

St Alphonsus summarises it as follows:
The prophet here exhorts the priests and levites to praise the Lord and to pray for the people.
An alternative version summary by Fr Pius Pasch:
Night watch - This psalm is a sort of liturgical formula for changing the night watch of the temple guard.  As children of God, we are really temple watchmen; Holy Mother Church is sending us to keep the vigil. 
St Benedict's contemporary Cassiodorus provides a slightly longer summary:
A canticle of steps. Let us observe closely with the heart's eye how the prophet has topped the steps, and mounted to the highest traces of the virtues; for he addresses he addresses the rest of his wholesome persuasion to the blessed brotherhood which he had bidden to gather in unity, urging that their blessed harmony be roused to praises of the Lord with the most burning eagerness of love, so that they may attain the crown of their activity, and may in this life imitate the sweetness which we believe will abide in holy minds in that native land of the future. It is right that a blessing be bestowed on Him to whom they have undoubtedly ascended with the greatest zeal.
My own summary:
At the literal level, this psalm is a summons to worship at night, to  give God thanks for the blessings of the day.  It concludes by requesting a blessing from God on us.  Spiritually, it reminds us each night of our proper objective in life, set out most fully in Chapter 7 of the Benedictine Rule: we must climb the ladder of humility to heaven, in order to rest forever in perfect union with God.


  1. I really like this one by the monks at Citeaux. I'm not able to do it by myself as quickly as they; it is wrong to do it slowly?

    1. No slow is fine. Pace differs between monasteries/orders - the Carthusians generally take it slowest, others speed through...