Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Psalms of the day in the daytime Hours

Posted by universalis on 17 December 2013


A question has been asked on Stack Exchange about why Universalis sometimes gives a choice of psalms for the daytime Hours and sometimes not. I don’t live on Stack Exchange, but Andrew Leach, who does, pointed the question out to me and I thought that it might be worth putting the answer on the Universalis blog.

The Breviary gives a set of psalms to be used at a daytime Hour – at the daytime Hour, if you only recite one, or at a daytime Hour if you recite two or three of them in the day. The remaining daytime Hours then use what are called “complementary psalms”, one for Terce, one for Sext, one for None. So the simple rule is: pick one Hour for the psalms of the day, and use the complementary psalms at the other Hours.

Now and then, however, the Breviary sets limits on when you use the psalms of the day. For instance, on Monday of the third week of Advent, if you recite Sext, then you must use the psalms of the day at Sext and not at another hour. Only a few days are affected, and the restriction looks rather arbitrary. The Stack Exchange question asks for a reason for it, because no reason is given in the Breviary.

When I was programming Universalis I had to include the restriction, and I was also curious about the reasons. It turned out to be simple once I’d worked it out. Looking at my example of Monday of the third week of Advent, Vespers includes Psalm 70(71), and so do the complementary psalms for Sext. Thus, in the interest of not having the same psalm twice on the same day, one shouldn’t use the complementary psalms at Sext – which, turned round, becomes “If you are celebrating Sext, you must use the psalms of the day then”.

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