CHAPTER XVIII. In what order the Psalms are to be said
23 Feb. 24 June. 24 Oct.
Vespers are to be sung every day with four Psalms. And let these begin from the hundred and ninth, and go on to the hundred and forty-seventh, omitting those of their number that are set apart for other Hours – that is, from the hundred and seventeenth to the hundred and twenty-seventh, the hundred and thirty-third, and the hundred and forty-second. All the rest are to be said at Vespers. And as there are three Psalms wanting, let those of the aforesaid number which are somewhat long be divided, namely the hundred and thirty-eighth, the hundred and forty-third, and the hundred and forty-fourth. But let the hundred and sixteenth, as it is short, be joined to the hundred and fifteenth. The order of the Psalms at Vespers being thus disposed, let the rest, that is, the lessons, responses, hymns, verses and canticles, be said as already laid down. At Compline the same Psalms are to be repeated every day: namely the fourth, ninetieth, and hundred and thirty-third.
The last psalm of the weekly cursus, coming at Vespers on Saturday, is Psalm 147, Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum (Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem). The names Jerusalem and Sion occur in the first verse of the psalm: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion” (Psalm 147:1). The Fathers, following Saint Paul, tell us that Jerusalem refers to the Church that is above, “our mother, the heavenly Jerusalem, a city of freedom” (Galatians 4:26). Sion refers to the Church here below: “But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, and to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens” (Hebrews 12:22-23). What is the principal work of the one Church in heaven and on earth? What is the principal occupation of the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant? It is the praise of God.
With Psalm 147, having come to the end of the weekly cursus, we are between the end of the seventh day and the beginning of the eighth day, between time and eternity, between earth and heaven. We find ourselves gathered together in the peace of the Church, blessed among her children, enlightened by the swift running Word of God, and sustained by wheat become the Bread of Life, the true Body of Christ. We look beyond the borders of the Church and see that no other city is blessed as is Sion, the Church. We look above and see that the heavenly Jerusalem is peopled by “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). The last psalm of the weekly cursus is one of praise and thanksgiving.
On Saturday evening, with the labour and struggles of the week behind us, we praise and thank God not only for all that is past, but also for all that the dawn of Sunday promises, and for all that the coming week will bring. We praise and thank God for everything that He has willed or permitted, and we praise and thank Him ahead of time for everything that the new week will bring.
Psalm 147, with its allusion to the “full ears of wheat” that fill the Church, awakens us to what we are given in the Most Holy Eucharist. What have we to offer as our thanksgiving sacrifice if not the immolated Body and outpoured Blood of Christ? And for what have we to give thanks in this earthly exile if not for the foretaste of heaven given us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar? In heaven, without the sacramental veils that conceal God from our sight here below, we shall see God, and eat God, and drink God, and enjoy the bliss of the presence of God in fulfillment of what Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abiu, and seventy of the ancients of Israel experienced on the holy mountain: Videruntque Deum, et comederunt, ac biberunt. “They saw God, and they did eat and drink” (Exodus 24:11). What is the Most Holy Eucharist if not God seen, eaten, drunk, and present in mystery, that is, concealed beneath the sacramental veils? We begin to give thanks here below for the very reality that will cause us to give thanks eternally in heaven.