If you have been participating in the various Lenten Church services, via livestream for your safety of course, you may have noticed a great deal of reading from the Book of Psalms. Some services like the Great Compline are comprised mostly from the Book of Psalms. Do you ever wonder why certain Psalms were chosen for the services?
The Book of Psalms is sometimes referred to as the first hymnal of the Church. This is natural since many Psalms are meant to be sung, thus the name of the book. The Church has always found comfort and edification in the book, which is why it has been incorporated so thoroughly in the worship of the Church. In fact, it is the ONLY book read entirely multiple times throughout the year.
Normally, the Book of Psalms is read in it entirely each week throughout the year. The book, referred to as The Psalter, is divided into sections known as Kathismata (loosely translated to seated prayers), and each Kathisma is appointed to a particular church service on a particular day. This why certain Psalms are more widely known, such as those from Orthros/Matins and Vespers since many Orthodox Christians attend those services. There are other services, though mostly only celebrated in monastic communities, during which the other Kathismata are read. During Great Lent, which is why I’m choosing to blog about it today, The Psalter is read twice each week, and daily during the first part of Holy Week.
As I’ve mentioned before in my sermons and blogs, you can learn a great deal from the emphasis the Church places on something, and the Psalter is a prime example. No other book of the Bible is read as much as it, so that should reveal the honor the Church places upon The Psalter. As our urgency grows for the coming of Holy Week, and the Passion of Christ, the Church invites us to read The Psalter DAILY for comfort and instruction. Imagine how comforting it will feel when you reach Holy and Great Friday and hear Christ crying down from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” (Matthew 27.46) and you realize Christ was PRAYING THE PSALTER, Psalm 21 (Psalm 22 in the Protestant Bible) to be exact.
When things got painful for Christ, He prayed the Psalter. Maybe it could become a source of comfort for us during this pandemic crisis. Maybe this year’s Great Lenten Journey, since we are forced to remain at home, we can read The Psalter in its entirety as the Church invites us to. We don’t live in monastic communities, but this year we have more time on our hands. Things are painful for us, and if praying The Psalter was comforting for Christ, it will be comforting for us.
For a complete breakdown of The Psalter visit https://orthodoxwiki.org/Psalter.