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The Psalter as a Prayer Book

Ger

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Hello,

For the Nativity Fast, my parish organized several groups of 20 people. Each person in each group started with a specific Kathisma and continues at the pace of one per day, the result being that between us, the whole Psalter is said each day.

All that being said, I have really benefited from this. I feel like I’m finally starting to see the possible transformative power of the Psalter. I was wondering how if anyone ever uses the Psalter as their primary prayer book. I was considering (of course, I will speak with my priest) following the monastic pace of two kathismata in the morning and one in the evening along with the prayers for reading the Psalms at home.

I was just curious about what everyone’s thoughts are concerning this?

Thanks and all the best,
 

HaydenTE

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Every since I started praying the office a little over a year ago now, the psalms have become the bedrock of my prayer life. Even outside of the office, my go-to for prayer when I have a quiet moment is one of the psalms. I cannot recommend the practice enough.
 

Ger

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Every since I started praying the office a little over a year ago now, the psalms have become the bedrock of my prayer life. Even outside of the office, my go-to for prayer when I have a quiet moment is one of the psalms. I cannot recommend the practice enough.
Thanks so much for the encouragement!

When you say “praying the office”, do you mean “the hours” as laid out in the Horologion? Or the Benedictine office? Or...?
 

HaydenTE

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Thanks so much for the encouragement!

When you say “praying the office”, do you mean “the hours” as laid out in the Horologion? Or the Benedictine office? Or...?
Over the past year I’ve used the Anglican Daily Office, the Roman Liturgy of the Hours, and the Traditional Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I’ve settled on the Anglican Office, as it is the most comprehensive in terms of its lectionary (two lessons in the morning, two in the evening, covering a solid chunk of the Bible, including the deuterocanon, in a year).
 

LukeDM

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This may be of interest to y'all.

A Psalter for Prayer



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.

The Psalms and Nine Biblical Canticles have been adapted from the classic Miles Coverdale translation of the Book of Psalms and the King James Version of the Bible. The text has been carefully edited to agree with the original Greek of the Septuagint, as well as to the Latin and Church Slavonic translations, and has been approved for use within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Printed in large print on acid-free paper, with rubrics in red, this book is sturdily bound to withstand regular use. It is further enhanced by the two gold marker ribbons.
 
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LukeDM

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These are the words of Elder Theodore the Cave-Dweller (+ 2016), the last ascetic of Agiofarago in Crete:

"If you asked me to tell you, what I learned after so many years in the wilderness, I would answer you with one word: the power of the Psalter. If I began my life right now, I would strive to do on ething: to memorize the Psalter. This is the parental womb of noetic prayer. This is the fertile soil where the seed of prayer is sown. When I would read, during my vigils, the Psalter, a demon would come, hissing like a wildcat in my ear. Especially when I said the verse: "Let God arise...," and the verse that says: "You are the Lord my God." Enraged, he would grab me by the throat, choking me. He would confuse my words, so I would not say them. So much did they burn him."
Quote acquired from John Sanidopolous' blog, Daimonologia
 
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bwallace23350

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I am on a personal 60 day reading cycle of the Psalter. I am an Anglican so I am do just half of the Psalms readings each day as we are supposed to actually a 30 day cycle.
 
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Stinky

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These are the words of Elder Theodore the Cave-Dweller (+ 2016), the last ascetic of Agiofarago in Crete:



Quote acquired from John Sanidopolous' blog, Daimonologia
What is this site about, " Daimonologia" ?
 

LukeDM

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What is this site about, " Daimonologia" ?
It's an Orthodox perspective on demons and dark forces. Hence the references to the psalms burning the demons in the above quote.
 

Ger

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This may be of interest to y'all.

A Psalter for Prayer

LukeDM, do you own this Psalter? I have been thinking about getting a copy simply because, as I understand it, this edition has all of the troparia after each kathisma. I own (and love) the HTM Psalter, but I like all of the “extra stuff” in the Psalter for Prayer.
 

Dominika

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My parish has such practice for Great Lent, and this year additionaly for the Nativity Fast becsaue of the situation.

Well, I use psalms as basic part of my prayer rule, but it's not the unique part.
 

MalpanaGiwargis

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I read the psalter and kathisma prayers for my morning prayer. A Psalter for Prayer is nice for its completeness, but I do not really like the translation. If your parish uses archaic English or you come from an old Book of Common Prayer background, you may like it, as it is essentially the old Coverdale psalter "corrected" to the Septuagint. I personally read the psalms from the Orthodox Study Bible (which I generally like) and the kathisma prayers from Vivian Maria Hartley's translation, The Psalter According to the Seventy, which is blessed for use in the OCA-Canada.
 

Deacon Lance

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The Ancient Faith Psalter is nice in that it is ordered from Sat Vespers through Friday Matins rather than Psalms 1-150 in order.
 

LukeDM

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LukeDM, do you own this Psalter? I have been thinking about getting a copy simply because, as I understand it, this edition has all of the troparia after each kathisma. I own (and love) the HTM Psalter, but I like all of the “extra stuff” in the Psalter for Prayer.
Yes I do, and it does, in fact, have all of the troparia after each kathisma, as well as many other neat passages, such as a collection of several patristic quotations on the psalms, instructions on how the psalter is to be read throughout the year, how to chant the psalms, directions for reading the psalter for the departed, and a lot of others too. The edition I have is huge. Like the size of a book that you'd keep on a coffee table. I think they also have a soft leather pocket edition, but I'm not sure how much they've abbreviated it to fit it in a small size. The larger edition has very large text as well.
 

Stinky

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Yes I do, and it does, in fact, have all of the troparia after each kathisma, as well as many other neat passages, such as a collection of several patristic quotations on the psalms, instructions on how the psalter is to be read throughout the year, how to chant the psalms, directions for reading the psalter for the departed, and a lot of others too. The edition I have is huge. Like the size of a book that you'd keep on a coffee table. I think they also have a soft leather pocket edition, but I'm not sure how much they've abbreviated it to fit it in a small size. The larger edition has very large text as well.
Thank you for sharing this; I ordered one for myself and I'm super excited. There's so much stuff out there and I don't know what's what so this forum has been helpful with practical areas like this. I saw they have a pocket edition so I may have to get that later too.
 

LukeDM

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Thank you for sharing this; I ordered one for myself and I'm super excited. There's so much stuff out there and I don't know what's what so this forum has been helpful with practical areas like this. I saw they have a pocket edition so I may have to get that later too.

My friends have accused me of getting a kickback from bookstores. I love watching people buy books that are spiritually beneficial.
 

Stinky

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This may be of interest to y'all.

A Psalter for Prayer

Just got a notice of a refund from SVS Press because they are out of stock. Now i need to go find one somewhere else. ....any ideas where I can find one? Everyone saw your post and ran to the candy store. Now there's not enough gumballs for me.
 

Asteriktos

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Thank you for your help. I ordered this as well as the pocket edition. Free shipping!
I ordered the pocket edition and now that I have it ... why am I so surprised by how small it is, lol? It's a pocket edition, what was I expecting? And it lists dimensions where I bought it. 😇
 

Mor Ephrem

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I ordered the pocket edition and now that I have it ... why am I so surprised by how small it is, lol? It's a pocket edition, what was I expecting? And it lists dimensions where I bought it. 😇
The mid-size version is the best IMO.
 

hecma925

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Does anyone have or has anyone read the Psalter by David Sheehan? How do you like it?


 

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Does anyone have or has anyone read the Psalter by David Sheehan? How do you like it?


I don’t have an opinion on this version, but would appreciate it if others share theirs. I’ve been reading through the Psalms one kathisma a day since December and haven’t settled on a translation. I’ve been using A Psalter for Prayer and I like the extra content but after two months still find the Psalms hard to read as prayer (or even sometimes to comprehend).
 

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To hit the OP, with the other points as reference....

The psalter is the backbone of Christian worship - Latin, Coptic, etc. even to my understanding the traditional Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed traditions.

This is no less true for our "Byzantine" tradition, though the monstic experience has given us hundreds of extra hymns, and Canons to be tacked on. (when done in full, like in monasteries - kathismae, canons - Orthros generally lastas 2-3 hours)

I personally (note I'm no one's spirtual father) think that praying the psalms is excellent. The kathismae divisions are an excellent way to do this daily.

That said, they can definitely be a slog for someone who's new to them. It also takes I think 30-some minutes in the AM and 15 in the PM most days. (and maybe 50 minutes on Sundays, as psalm 118/119 is supposed to be said before the evlogitaria). That in terms of time and ability to spiritually focus is a lot. However, I found that as I become more familiar with the psalms it becomes much easier.

A few things that might lighten things (from which you can work up)

- doing only one stasis of the kathisma a week

- doing this suggested abbreviation:

- doing them by audio - I personally do this on weekdays; I have each kathisma in a playlist on my phone and play them in the car in the AM/PM. My commute just about allows me to get in the full kathisma of 25-30 minutes. This is sort of like hearing the reader recite the kathismae in a monastery - but on the downside in the car you should be focused on driving. Personally, I find at least outside the monastery that I focus best when I'm either directly reading at home, or if I'm driving while listening (listening at home does not work for me at all!). Also, you need to find an audio bible of your prefered translation (more below), you need to definitely be sure to find a the recording with minimal dramatization (generally hard because the recordings are done generally by evangelical protestants or other such groups who want drama in their audio), and does not have stuff like relaxation music or waterfalls in the background (I'm not kidding). Youtube is your friend here.

You also run into the problem of interpretation. Many things in even the psalms do not yield themselves to an easy, immediately obvious meaning. The biggest one probably are the various damnation-type verses, which can be very hard for some. (some Latin Catholic monasteries claim they don't use these passages because of this, to which one is tempted to slap the abbot in the face....) - the quick answer, IMO, is that "Israel" is the Church, and the enemies of the Church who we want to be damned or whose children we want to kill are not any specific person - to say nothing of the historical whomever-ites - but are rebellion from God and his goodness, be it philsophical, demonic, or (especially) that with which we contend in our own hearts.


As far as which translation of the psalter to use........the ideal one would be the one used by your jurisdiction in Vespers, Orthros, and Divine Liturgy. That said, while the Greek quotes the septuagint psalter, I've found that most English translations did not first pick a psalm or Bible translation and build from there; rather most liturgical translations are idiosyncratic: they use one translation here, another translation there, assuming they don't just straight up translate each psalm verse in its own way in that liturgical setting. (Holy Transfigration Monastery is an exception in that they spent an enormous amount of time and effort to translate the psalms and then apply them in the various liturgical services consistently. For their broader liturgical texts they've also translated in a consistent manner of high quality, and may be the only critical edition of the services books out there in any language as they compared several Greek and when necessary Slavonic, etc. editions - and spent a lot of time thinking about their translations)



So, I'd look at your situation first and ask your parish priest/spiritual father.

Beyond that, I'd use a translation that uses a decent degree of "formal" equivalence. (vice "dynamic" equivalence which in practice IMO turns out to be generally various western Christians translating it to what they fairly imaginatively think it spiritually means). Thus I recommend the older English translations (Douay-Rheims, KJV, etc.) and more conservative newer versions (RV, ASV, RSV, RSV-CE, NKJV, NIV, ESV, etc.*)


My thoughts on the various translations I've tried:

I personally find it very convenient for the psalms to be their own separate volume, vice part of a bigger Old or New Testament, for portability. This to my knowledge disqualifies the Orthodox Study Bible and the New King James that it's derived from as that doesn't exist. (and even if you used the OSB, the pages in my edition are tissue thin and I'm sure they wouldn't stand more than two weeks of my daily use)

My favorite is the "kathisma psalter with nine canticles revised according to the septuagint" by Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery (OCA IIRC) in Otego NY. This is the psalter from the Revised Standard Version, slightly revised to conform with Orthodoxy, and (most importantly) arranged into Kathismae, and with the 9 Biblical Odes at the end.** This is fairly clear modern English. The book is basically laid out by pre-windows WordPerfect, on printer paper, spiral bound at somewhere like Fedex Office - but perfectly adequate.

https://holymyrrhbearers.com/catalog/ [not working for me as I type this]
https://svspress.com/the-kathisma-psalter-with-the-nine-canticles/


Holy Transfiguration Monastery - this is a translation direct from the septuagint into Elizabethan English, and probably in particular from one or another Greek psalter (Phos or Apostoliki Diakonia; the preface may mention which one but I don't have a copy here). The septuagint translation is probably fairly literal (haven't done much checking) and even then HTM sometimes tries to out-Elizabethan English the real Elizabethans, yielding phrases that are often really odd or sometimes outright bad***. If can get around that or if you like that, the bigger blue edition is nicely laid out, with good fonts and paper (which is what you expect from them) and I would recommend it. I don't recommend the smaller green edition because it lacks the Odes.

Psalter for Prayer - this advertises itself as an Orthodox-zed Coverdale Psalter [which IIRC was translated from the Vulgate?[. Now, having attended some High Church Morning and Evening Prayer sessions according to the 1662 Prayerbook in liturgically well endowed cathedrals and parish churches in England, I'm not sure anyone's done a more beautiful translation than Coverdale. That said, this is only partly Coverdale IME; I thought a few sounded off and when I did a close look at a few of the psalms I found it was a mix of Coverdale, HTM, and the author's own corrections. (no idea off the top of my head what translation it uses of the Odes, though it might be in the preface somewhere). I also don't like a lot of the extra material; so for me it's a bit of a disappointment, IMO. But I do recommend it to those who like Elizabethan English.
* note that even this limited cross section of fairly conservative shows the modern "Bible Babel" that IME is heavily sectarian. Years ago I brought my RSV to an otherwise NIV/KJV evangelical Bible study at work; we all chuckled at places where it was clear the only reason differences existed was because the translators wanted to be different. Also note that even different ones are preferred by different denomination, and sometimes split among different countries; to my understanding for instance the NIV is prefered by US evangelicals while the ESV by Commonwealth evangelicals.

** our "Byzantine" tradition theoretically has nine poems from other parts of the Bible attached to the Psalms; these each precede each ode of a canon like the Akathist Canon, Paraklisis, or the 100s of canons in the various services books I mentioned elsewhere above. IMO, these canons only make their full sense when thought of in reference to the Biblical Odes.

*** IMO the worst example is "Arouse Thyself O Lord My God" - used in the Second Mode Orthros prokimenon, from I think one of the psalms in the 2nd Kathisma but I'm not going to dig it up right now. I'm sure they'd give good reason why they translated this, quoting their own and otherwise undone critical septuagint edition work, Greek philology, and the Oxford English Dictionary. And they're right, it's just that the translation DOES NOT WORK in the way "arouse" is used these days.....

All that said, the psalter is the oldest and worst of HTM's translation for this reason, while the Menaion is at least a step better, while the recent Pentecostarion and Holy Week books are IMO translated very, very well.
 
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