Psalter

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This article forms part of the series on the
The Old Testament - Septuagint
or simply "LXX", the Koine Greek version
of the Hebrew Bible.
Pentateuch or "the Law"
1.Genesis | 2.Exodus | 3.Leviticus | 4.Numbers | 5.Deuteronomy
Historical Books
6.Joshua | 7.Judges | 8.Ruth

9.I Kingdoms | 10.II Kingdoms | 11.III Kingdoms | 12.IV Kingdoms
13.I Chronicles | 14.II Chronicles | 15.I Esdras | 16.II Esdras
17.Nehemiah | 18.Tobit | 19.Judith | 20.Esther with additions
21.I Maccabees | 22.II Maccabees | 23.III Maccabees

Books of Wisdom
24.Book of Psalms | 25.Job | 26.Proverbs
27.Ecclesiastes | 28.Song of Solomon
29.Wisdom of Solomon | 30.Wisdom of Sirach
The Prophets
The Minor Prophets, or "The Twelve"

31.Hosea | 32.Amos | 33.Micah | 34.Joel | 35.Obadiah | 36.Jonah
37.Nahum | 38.Habakkuk | 39.Zephania | 40.Haggai | 41.Zachariah
42.Malachi

The Major Prophets

43.Isaiah | 44.Jeremiah | 45.Baruch | 46.Lamentations
47.Letter of Jeremiah | 48.Ezekiel | 49.Daniel with additions

Appendix
IV Maccabees


The Psalter also known as the Psalms, or Psalms of David is the Old Testament book that contains hymns and poems traditionally ascribed to the Holy Prophet and King David, ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ. Virtually every aspect of worship—praise, thanksgiving, penitence, intercession—is covered in the Psalter.

The Psalter in Orthodox worship

One modern commentator, Bp. Demetri, in his foreword to Christ in the Psalms, has described the Psalter as a "golden thread [which runs] through the beautiful garment of Orthodox worship." Indeed, the Psalter forms the core of each of the services of the Daily Cycle, the Divine Liturgy, and the other sacramental offices of the Church.

The Psalter is so prevalent in Orthodox worship that St. John Chrysostom said that wherever one looks in the Church, he finds the Psalter "first, last, and central."

Structure of the Psalter

Chapter Divisions—Septuagint vs. Masoretic Text

The Septuagint (LXX) is the version of the Old Testament used by the Orthodox Church. The LXX Psalter differs in several respects from Masoretic text (MT), which forms the basis for the King James Version and most modern English translations of the Bible.

In addition to substantive, textual differences, the LXX and MT versions of the Psalter differ most obviously in their chapter divisions. This can cause confusion to readers who do not understand the differences between the two versions.

The chapter divisions of the LXX and MT versions of the Psalter correspond as follows:

LXX MT - LXX MT
1-8 1-8 - 115 116:10-19
9 9-10 - 116-145 117-146
10-112 11-113 - 146 147:1-11
113 114-115 - 147 147:12-20
114 116:1-9 - 148-150 148-150


The deuterocanon of the LXX contains an additional Psalm ascribed to David. This 151st Psalm is not numbered with the other 150 and is not included in the Psalter proper.

Kathismata

The Psalter is divided into 20 kathismata. Each kathisma is further divided into three stases. Each stasis contains between one and three chapters. The exception to this is Psalm 118. Due to its great length, this chapter constitutes the entire XVIIth Kathisma.

Each of the divine services contains fixed portions of the Psalter that are read or chanted each time the service is celebrated. In addition, certain services of the Daily Cycle contain prescribed kathisma readings. These prescribed readings rotate daily so that outside of Great Lent the Psalter is read through once in its entirety in a single week.

During the lenten fast, the kathisma readings are accelerated so that the Psalter is read through in its entirety twice each week.

Order of Kathisma Readings (based on The Typicon, Chapter 17)

  • Outside of Great Lent
From the Sunday after Pascha, which is called Thomas Sunday, until the apodosis (leave-taking) of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, we recite the Psalter thusly:

Day Matins Vespers
Su II, III -
M IV, V VI
Tu VII, VIII IX
W X, XI XII
Th XIII, XIV XV
F XIX, XX XVIII
Sa XVI, XVII I

Notes:

On Thomas Sunday at Matins, the 17th kathisma is not said, since the Polyeleos (Psalms 134 & 135) is sung. On other Sundays, when the Polyeleos is not sung, at Matins we also say the 17th kathisma, with its troparia. But if a Sunday should coincide with a feast of the Lord, or of the Theotokos, or of a commemorated saint, after the two kathismata is the Polyeleos and, after the megalynarion, having not sung "Glory.., both now..." or "Alleluia", we sing the troparia "The assembly of angels..." and after the litany, the sessional hymn of the feast, or of the saint.

On Sunday at Vespers throughout the whole year the Psalter is never sung, except, if a feast should occur, then we sing "Blessed is the man...", the first antiphon.

At the Midnight Office, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday throughout the whole year, we say the 17th kathisma, "Blessed are the blameless in the way...", but on Saturday at the Midnight Office, we always say the 9th kathisma, "Unto Thee, O God, belongeth praise in Zion".


After the apodosis of the feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, from the 22nd day of the month of September, until the 20th day of the month of December, we undertake to say the Psalter as here set forth:

Day Matins Vespers
Su II, III -
M IV, V, VI XVIII
Tu VII, VIII, IX XVIII
W X, XI, XII XVIII
Th XIII, XIV, XV XVIII
F XIX, XX XVIII
Sa XVI, XVII I

Notes:

If a feast should coincide with a day on which three kathismata are appointed at Matins, then we say the first two kathismata at Matins, and the third follows at Vespers.

As generally in the rubrics, from the 22nd day of September, three kathismata are appointed at Matins. Even if the day before or after the 20th should be a Sunday, without exception from Monday we begin the recitation of three kathismata.


From the 20th day of the month of December until the 14th day of the month of January, which is the apodosis of the feast of Holy Theophany, we again recite the Psalter as on Thomas Sunday, with two kathismata at Matins and the third in order at Vespers.
From the 15th day of January, until the Saturday before the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, we again recite the Psalter with three kathismata at Matins, and at Vespers the 18th kathisma.
But on the two Sundays, Meatfare and Cheesefare, we say two kathismata at Matins, and at Vespers a third in sequence, because the brethren have little rest. But on the Sunday of the Prodigal, and on Meatfare and Cheesefare, at Matins, after the psalms "O praise ye the Name of the Lord", and "O give thanks unto the Lord", we also sing Psalm 136, "By the waters of Babylon," with the beautiful "Alleluia", followed by the troparia, "The assembly of angels," and the hypakoe of the tone.
Let it be known how, from Cheesefare Sunday, even until the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Polyeleos is celebrated: it is sung only at vigils of feasts of the Lord. But after the apodosis of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, even until Cheesefare Sunday, except during forefeasts and afterfeasts of the Nativity of Christ and Theophany, in cathedrals and other large churches, on Sundays at Matins the Polyeleos is sung, and likewise in larger monastic communities.


  • During Great Lent
During the weekdays of Great Lent, kathisma readings are added to the services of the Hours so that the entire Psalter is read through twice each week. The cycle of appointed kathismata readings for Great Lent are as follows:

During the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Weeks of Great Lent:

Day Matins First Hour Third Hour Sixth Hour Ninth Hour Vespers
Su II, III - - - - -
M IV, V, VI - VII VIII IX XVIII
Tu X, XI, XII XIII XIV XV XVI XVIII
W XIX, XX, I II III IV V XVIII
Th VI, VII, VIII IX X XI XII XVIII
F XIII, XIV, XV - XIX XX - XVIII
Sa XVI, XVII - - - - I


During the Fifth Week of Great Lent:

Day Matins First Hour Third Hour Sixth Hour Ninth Hour Vespers
Su II, III - - - - -
M IV, V, VI - VII VIII IX X
Tu XI, XII, XIII XIV XV XVI XVIII XIX
W XX, I, II III IV V VI VII
Th VIII - IX X XI XII
F XIII, XIV, XV - XIX XX - XVIII
Sa XVI, XVII - - - - I


When the feast of the Annunciation falls on the Thursday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent, the Great Canon is sung on the Tuesday of that week and the Psalter is read as follows:

Day Matins First Hour Third Hour Sixth Hour Ninth Hour Vespers
Su II, III, XVII - - - - -
M IV, V, VI VII VIII IX X XI
Tu XII - XIII XIV XV XVI
W XIX, XX, I II III IV V -
Th VI, VII, VIII* IX X XI XII -
F XIII, XIV, XV - XIX XX - XVIII
Sa XVI, XVII - - - - I
  • On Thursday, the feast of the Annunciation, the polyeleos (Ps. 44) is chanted at the third kathisma of Matins.


During Holy Week:

Day Matins First Hour Third Hour Sixth Hour Ninth Hour Vespers
Su II, III - - - - -
M IV, V, VI - VII VIII - XVIII
Tu IX, X, XI - XII XIII - XVIII
W XIV, XV, XVI XIX XX - XVIII
Th
F
Sa

After Wednesday of Holy Week, we lay aside the Psalter until the eve of Thomas Sunday at Vespers.

See also

External links

Editions

Liturgical Editions: Traditional English

  • The Psalter According to the Seventy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405009)
  • A Psalter for Prayer, Holy Trinity Publications, Jordanville, NY, 2011, (ISBN 978-0884651888). A Psalter for Prayer is the first major English edition to include all the prayers needed to read the Psalter at home according to an Orthodox tradition that reaches back to the time of the desert fathers, known popularly as the 'cell rule'. In addition, the contents include many texts, traditionally printed in Orthodox Psalters, that are not easily found in English, such as the Rite for Singing the Twelve Psalms, directions for reading the Psalter for the Departed and much more. Approved for use by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
  • The Psalter of the Prophet and King David with the Nine Biblical Odes, compiled by Michael Asser, ed. by St. Gregory Palamas Monastery, Center For Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, Etna, CA, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-911165-68-5). Septuagint translation using the King James Version as a template.
  • The Orthodox Psalter: The Psalterion According to the Seventy, With the Nine Odes, and Patristic Commentary, translated by Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, CO, 2011 (ISBN 978-0-944359-35-8). Available as a pocket edition and a full-size edition with patristic commentary.
  • The Psalms of David: Translated from the Septuagint Greek, translated by Donald Sheehan, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR, 2013 (ISBN 13: 978-1-62032-5100)

Liturgical Editions: Contemporary English

  • Kathisma Psalter with Canticles, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, NY.
  • The Psalter, New Skete, Cambridge, NY, 1984. (ISBN 978-0960792450)
  • The Psalter According to the Seventy (Greek-English), translated by Fr. Peter Chamberas, Holy Cross Press, Brookline, MA, 2019.
  • The Holy Psalter of Prophet and King David, arranged and edited by Archimandrite Roman Braga, HDM Press (Holy Dormition Monastery ), MI, 2012.

Scholarly Editions

  • A Comparative Psalter, John Kohlenberger, ed., Oxford, 2006. (ISBN 978-0195297607). This contains the Masoretic Text with translation in the Revised Standard Version, and the Septuagint with translation in the New English Translation of the Septuagint.

Sources

  • Christ in the Psalms, Archpriest Patrick Henry Reardon (ISBN 1888212217)
  • The Psalter According to the Seventy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405009)