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The Psalms and Canticles of the Divine Office

Benedict XVI, at his first Wednesday audience as Pope on 27th April 2005, said:

I think back with affection to my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, to whom we are indebted for his extraordinary spiritual heritage. "Our Christian communities", he wrote in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, "must become genuine "schools' of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love'" (n 33). This is what Pope John Paul II did. He sought to put these instructions into practice himself, commenting on the psalms of lauds and vespers at the most recent of his Wednesday catecheses. Just as at the beginning of his Pontificate John Paul II wanted to continue the reflections on the Christian virtues that his predecessor had begun, I also intend to continue in the coming months the reflections that he had prepared on the second part of the psalms and canticles which comprise vespers. Next Wednesday, therefore, I will take up his catecheses where he left off, after his General Audience last 26 January."

The Psalms:

Psalm 1 - The two paths - 1 Sun Office
Psalm 2 - The Messiah, king and victor - 1 Sun Office
Psalm 3 - The Lord is my protector - 1 Sun Office
Psalm 4
Psalm 5 - Morning prayer for help - 1 Mon Lauds
Psalm 6 - A prayer for relief from affliction - 1 Mon Office
Psalm 7 (8) - - 4 Sat Lauds
Psalm 8 - The majesty of the Lord, the greatness of man
Psalm 9A (9) - Thanksgiving for victory - 1 Mon Office
Psalm 9B (10) - Thanksgiving - 1 Tue Office
Psalm 10 (11) - The Lord, support of the just - 1 Mon Vespers
Psalm 11 (12) - A prayer against the proud - 1 Tue Office
Psalm 12
Psalm 13
Psalm 14 (15) - Who shall be worthy to stand before the Lord? - 1 Mon Vespers
Psalm 15 (16) - The Lord is my portion - 2 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 16 (17) - Save me from wrongdoers
Psalm 17 (18)- Thanksgiving for salvation and victory - 1 Wed & Thu Office
Psalm 18 (19) - Praise of God the creator - 2 Mon Lauds
Psalm 19 (20) - Prayer for a king before battle - 1 Tue Vespers
Psalm 20 (21) - Thanksgiving for a king's victory - 1 Tue Vespers
Psalm 21
Psalm 22 (23) - The good shepherd
Psalm 23 (24) - The Lord comes to his temple - 1 Tue Lauds
Psalm 24 (25) - Begging for forgiveness and salvation
Psalm 25
Psalm 26 (27) - Trust in time of affliction - 1 Wed Vespers
Psalm 27
Psalm 28 (29) - Public Praise of the Word of God - 1 Mon Lauds
Psalm 29 (30) - Thanksgiving for liberation from death - 1 Thu Vespers
Psalm 30 (31) - Trustful prayer in time of adversity - 2 Mon Office
Psalm 31 (32) - Happy is the man whose offence is forgiven - 1 Thu Vespers
Psalm 32 (33) - Praise of the providence of the Lord - 1 Tue Lauds
Psalm 33 (34)
Psalm 34 (35) - The Lord, a saviour in time of persecution
Psalm 35 (36) - The evil of the sinner; the goodness of the Lord - 1 Wed Lauds
Psalm 36 (37) - The fate of the evil and the righteous
Psalm 37 (38) - The plea of a sinner in great peril
Psalm 38 (39) - A prayer in sickness
Psalm 39
Psalm 40 (41) - Prayer in sickness - 1 Fri Vespers
Psalm 41 (42) - Longing for the Lord and his temple - 2 Mon Lauds
Psalm 42 (43) - Longing for the temple
Psalm 43 (44) - In time of defeat
Psalm 44 (45) - Royal wedding song - 2 Mon Vespers
Psalm 45 (46) - God is our refuge and strength - 1 Fri Vespers
Psalm 46 (47) - The Lord is the king of all - 1 Wed Lauds
Psalm 47 (48) - Thanksgiving for the salvation of God's people - 1 Thu Lauds
Psalm 48 (49) - The uselessness of riches - 2 Tue Vespers
Psalm 49 (50) - True reverence for the Lord
Psalm 50 (51) - Have mercy on me, God - 1 Fri Lauds, 3 Fri Lauds, 4 Fri Lauds
Psalm 51 (52) - Against calumny
Psalm 52
Psalm 53
Psalm 54 (55) - Against a faithless friend
Psalm 55
Psalm 56 (57) - Morning prayer in time of affliction - 1 Thu Lauds
Psalm 57
Psalm 58
Psalm 59
Psalm 60 (61) - An exile's prayer
Psalm 61 (62) - Peace in God - 2 Wed Vespers
Psalm 62 (63) - A soul thirsting for God - 1 Sun Lauds, 2 Sun Lauds
Psalm 63 (64) - A prayer against enemies -
Psalm 64 (65) - A solemn thanksgiving
Psalm 65
Psalm 66 (67) - All the peoples will give praise to the Lord - 2 Wed Vespers, 3 Tue Lauds
Psalm 67 (68) - The Lord's triumphal journey
Psalm 68
Psalm 69
Psalm 70
Psalm 71 (72) - The royal power of the Messiah - 2 Thu Vespers
Psalm 72 (73)
Psalm 73
Psalm 74
Psalm 75
Psalm 76 (77) - Remembering the works of the Lord
Psalm 77
Psalm 78
Psalm 79 (80) - Lord, come to visit your vine
Psalm 80 (81) - Solemn renewal of the covenant
Psalm 81
Psalm 82
Psalm 83 (84) - Longing for the Lord's temple - 3 Mon Lauds
Psalm 84 (85) - Our salvation is very near - 3 Tue Lauds
Psalm 85 (86) - A poor man's prayer in time of trouble - 3 Wed Lauds
Psalm 86 (87) - Jerusalem, mother of all nations - 3 Thu Lauds
Psalm 87
Psalm 88 (89) - The Lord's kindness to the house of David
Psalm 89 (90) - Let the Lord's glory shine upon us - 4 Mon Lauds
Psalm 90
Psalm 91 (92) - Praise of God, the Creator - 4 Sat Lauds
Psalm 92 (93) - 3 Sun Lauds
Psalm 93
Psalm 94 (95)
Psalm 95 (96) - The Lord, the universal King and judge - 3 Mon Lauds
Psalm 96 (97) - The glory of God in his judgements -
Psalm 97 (98) - The Lord has brought salvation - 3 Wed Lauds
Psalm 98 (99) - The Lord our God is holy - 3 Thu Lauds
Psalm 99 (100) - The joy of those who enter the temple of the Lord - 1 Fri Lauds, 3 Fri Lauds
Psalm 100 (101) - The declaration of a just ruler - 4 Tue Lauds
Psalm 101 (102) - Prayers and vows of an exile
Psalm 102
Psalm 103 (104) - Hymn to God the Creator
Psalm 104
Psalm 105
Psalm 106 (107) - Thanksgiving after rescue
Psalm 107 (108) - - 4 Wed Lauds
Psalm 108
Psalm 109 (110) - The Messiah is king and priest - 1 Sun II Vespers, 2 Sun II Vespers
Psalm 110 (111) - To fear the Lord - 3 Sun II Vespers
Psalm 111 (112) - How blessed are the just - 3 Thu Vespers, 4 Sun II Vespers
Psalm 112 (113) - Praise of the Lord's name - 3 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 113A (114) - Israel is freed from Egypt - 1 Sun II Vespers
Psalm 113B (115) - Praise of the God of truth - 2 Sun II Vespers, 3 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 114 (116) - Thanksgiving - 2 Fri Vespers
Psalm 115 (116B) - Thanksgiving in the Temple - 2 Fri Vespers
Psalm 116 (117) - Praise of the merciful Lord - 1 Sat Lauds, 3 Sat Lauds
Psalm 117 (118) - Song of rejoicing in salvation - 4 Sun Lauds
Psalm 118 (119) - Meditating the word of the Lord in the Law - 1 Sat Lauds, 2 Sun I Vespers, 3 Sat Lauds
Psalm 119
Psalm 120 (121) - God, the protector of his people - 2 Fri Vespers
Psalm 121 (122) - Jerusalem, the holy city - 4 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 122 (123) - - 3 Mon Vespers
Psalm 123 (124) - Our help is in the name of the Lord - 3 Mon Vespers
Psalm 124 (125) - The Lord protects his people - 3 Tue Vespers
Psalm 125 (126) - God our joy and our hope - 3 Wed Vespers
Psalm 126 (127) - All work is in vaini without the Lord - 3 Wed Vespers
Psalm 127
Psalm 128
Psalm 129 (130) - Out of the depths - 3 Mon Vespers, 4 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 130 (131) - Childlike trust in God - 3 Tue Vespers
Psalm 131 (132) - God's promise to the house of David - 3 Thu Vespers
Psalm 132
Psalm 133
Psalm 134 (135) - Praise the Lord, the wonder-worker - 4 Mon Lauds, 3 Fri Vespers
Psalm 135 (136) - A paschal hymn - 4 Mon Vespers
Psalm 136 (137) - By the rivers of Babylon - 4 Tue Vespers
Psalm 137 (138) - Thanksgiving - 4 Tue Vespers
Psalm 138 (139) - The Lord knows all things - 4 Wed Vespers
Psalm 139
Psalm 140 (141) - Prayer in time of danger - 1 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 141 (142) - You are my refuge - 1 Sun I Vespers
Psalm 142 (143) - - 4 Thu Lauds
Psalm 143 (144) - Prayer of the King for victory and for peace - 4 Tue Lauds, 4 Thu Vespers
Psalm 144 (145) - Praise to the Divine Majesty - 4 Fri Vespers
Psalm 145 (146) - - 4 Wed Lauds
Psalm 146 (147A) - The Lord's goodness and power - 4 Thu Lauds, 4 Fri Lauds
Psalm 147 (147B) - The renewal of Jerusalem - 3 Sun Lauds
Psalm 148
Psalm 149 - The saints rejoice - 2 Sun Lauds
Psalm 150 - Praise the Lord - 4 Sun Lauds

The Explanations of the Psalms by Saint Ambrose
The delightful book of the psalms

Although the whole of Scripture breathes God’s grace upon us, this is especially true of that delightful book, the book of the psalms. Moses, when he related the deeds of the patriarchs, did so in a plain and unadorned style. But when he had miraculously led the people of Israel across the Red Sea, when he had seen King Pharaoh drowned with all his army, he transcended his own skills (just as the miracle had transcended his own powers) and he sang a triumphal song to the Lord. Miriam the prophetess herself took up a timbrel and led the others in the refrain: Sing to the Lord: he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

History instructs us, the law teaches us, prophecy foretells, correction punishes, morality persuades; but the book of psalms goes further than all these. It is medicine for our spiritual health. Whoever reads it will find in it a medicine to cure the wounds caused by his own particular passions. Whoever studies it deeply will find it a kind of gymnasium open for all souls to use, where the different psalms are like different exercises set out before him. In that gymnasium, in that stadium of virtue, he can choose the exercises that will train him best to win the victor’s crown.

If someone wants to study the deeds of our ancestors and imitate the best of them, he can find a single psalm that contains the whole of their history, a complete treasury of past memories in just one short reading.

If someone wants to study the law and find out what gives it its force (it is the bond of love, for whoever loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law) let him read in the psalms how love led one man to undergo great dangers to wipe out the shame of his entire people; and this triumph of virtue will lead him to recognise the great things that love can do.

And as for the power of prophecy – what can I say? Other prophets spoke in riddles. To the psalmist alone, it seems, God promised openly and clearly that the Lord Jesus would be born of his seed: I promise that your own son will succeed you on the throne.

Thus in the book of psalms Jesus is not only born for us: he also accepts his saving passion, he dies, he rises from the dead, he ascends into heaven, he sits at the Father’s right hand. The Psalmist announced what no other prophet had dared to say, that which was later preached by the Lord himself in the Gospel.