Psalms in the Lectionary
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lecturnPsalms in the Lectionary




In the Roman Catholic liturgy, there are usually four Scripture readings each Sunday. The first reading is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. After the congregation hears this reading, the entire congregation “responds” with a psalm, a hymn from the Hebrew Scriptures, often led by a cantor. The Psalms are the Bible’s prayer book. Their words are perennial. This is followed by the second reading, usually from one of the letters or epistles in the Christian Testament, often from one of St. Paul’s letters. All the readings point to the final reading, that of the Gospel, or Good News, and that could be from the Gospel of Matthew, Mark Luke or John. When one first hears the readings, one can usually see a thematic connection between the first reading and the Gospel. In Christian practice, the psalm used often ties them together and points to the Gospel. The second reading is sometimes harder to mesh with the other readings, but it still serves as a teaching supporting the Gospel message of the day.

     Choirs in Catholic liturgies sing the psalm and led the congregation in a simple chant of these marvelous hymns. Since I sing in one of those choirs, we were rehearsing the psalms every week. I began writing these columns as a way of making the psalm singing more meaningful for the choir in my parish. Each week, I began to do a little exegesis of the particular psalm we were rehearsing, and we found if one knows the history, style, purpose and audience of a particular psalm, it became more meaningful to the singers and potentially more prayerful. As we looked at the readings of the coming Sunday, we began to see how the psalm tied them all together, and often pointed toward the Gospel.

  cantors-copy-of-the-psalms  The Book of Psalms is part of the Bible and is the Word of God by itself. It can stand alone.  Each psalm can be read and sung and prayed by itself, or its own worth. In fact, not only do Christians but also Jews and Moslems pray the psalms. For some three thousand years, their words have resonated with billions of believing men and women in prayer. In the Eucharistic liturgy, however, for Christians, they connect the dots, and they point to the Gospel. The following are short columns that explore the psalm verses that are sung on particular Sundays and a reflection is offered on how the psalm works as a connecting device, tying one reading to the other. It is the Holy Spirit that guides the Church in her selection of the readings of the lectionary. Savoring the psalm readies us to hear more of the Good News. Praise God!!