One Week Psalms

The ascriptions to the Psalms make evident their use in worship from earliest times. They were the Jewish hymns. There were Psalms for the morning service, Psalms that were sung throughout the day, and even Psalms designated as the “Psalm of the Day.”

From these earliest times, some have recited the Psalms on a weekly or monthly basis. In the early church, a candidate for bishop was expected to be able to recite the entire Psalms from memory.

Orthodox Christians divide the Psalms into 20 kathismata. Each kathisma is then divided into three stases. The kahismata are recited at Vespers and Matins so that the entire Psalms are read in one week. During Great Lent, the number are increased, so that the entire Psalms are read twice each week.

Some Christians follow a devotion of reading the Psalms in four weeks.

All of these are excellent practices.

I was attracted to an ancient Irish practice, which is very similar to the Orthodox practice, of reciting the Psalms at the Beginning of Night (around 9pm) and at Matins (dawn). Originally, this involved an entire community of brethren and there was a Midnight office between the two. The entire Psalms were recited between the Beginning of Night and Midnight throughout the week. Then at Matins, on weekdays, there could be 24 to 36 Psalms recited each day. On Saturdays and Sundays, 75 Psalms each, so that the entire Psalms were recited on those two days alone. A very robust devotion to say the least, but, again, there was an entire community of brothers assisting in this process. This was not recommended for individuals. To make this a devotional practice for myself, I have removed the midnight office, and used the following schedule for the Psalms at the Beginning of Night and at Matins the following morning:

Day Beginning of Night Matins
Saturday Psalm 1-9 Psalms 10-19
Sunday Psalm 20-34 Psalms 35-45
Monday Psalm 46-57 Psalms 58-73
Tuesday Psalm 74-83 Psalms 84-94
Wednesday Psalm 95-109 Psalms 110-120
Thursday Psalm 121-133 Psalms 134-150

On Friday night, is a Cross Vigil. Read Psalms 119 through 122. There are some ancient hymns that also accompany this.

What I find particularly attractive of this arrangement is that we are brought to the cross each week. The cycle of Psalms end on Friday morning. A cross vigil is held on Friday night. Saturday morning is quiet. Then the Psalms begin again Saturday night. The pattern follows the Friday-Saturday-Sunday resurrection pattern each week.

Another discipline at the Beginning of Night, following the reading of the Psalms, is the reading of either the Gospel of St John or the Acts of the Apostles. Alternate each week.

Day St John Acts
Sunday St John 1-3 Acts 1-4
Monday St John 4-6 Acts 5-8
Tuesday St John 7-9 Acts 9-12
Wednesday St John 10-12 Acts 13-16
Thursday St John 13-15 Acts 17-20
Friday St John 16-18 Acts 21-24
Saturday St John 19-21 Acts 25-28

With this pattern, you will have read the Gospel of St John and Acts 25 times each year. I suppose, you could choose to seasonally substitute another Gospel for St John. For example, you could read St Matthew in spring, St Mark in summer, St Luke in autumn, and St John in winter, but the tradition was to read St John alternating with Acts throughout the year.

Psalms at other hours of prayer:

Hour Psalms
Second (7 am) Psalms 51, 63, 90
Third (9 am) Psalms 47, 54, 116.1-9
Sixth (noon) Psalms 67, 70, 116.10-19
Ninth (3 pm) Psalms 130, 133, 147.12-20
Vespers (6 pm) Psalms 65, 104, 113