Sing us one of the songs of Zion – looking at the Psalms

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

With the psalms, this series reaches the book of the Old Testament most heavily used by Christians. It is the most quoted in the New Testament, and most read, sung and prayed in the life of the church. The Lectionary for Mass, which became the basis of the Revised Common Lectionary, reintroduced the psalms to celebrations of the Eucharist, and did so in a particular way.

Older eucharistic services, whether the Latin Missal or the Book of Common Prayer, only had an epistle and gospel reading, with chants or (eventually) a hymn between the two. When the new lectionary introduced an Old Testament reading (linked to the gospel) it also introduced a psalm which in some way responded to the Old Testament reading.

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Patterns of reading

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

Throughout this series, I am working on the assumption that the vast majority of occasions when people are reading in public worship, it is the principal service on a Sunday. This is the set of readings provided for mass in the Roman Catholic Church, and for the principal gathering for worship (whether eucharistic or not) of the day in other denominations. In most Anglican parish churches, the same set of readings tends to be used for any eucharist celebrated on that day (as in the Roman Catholic Church). There is a separate set of readings for morning and evening prayer (matins and evensong), whose selection is less clearly organised. However, in this series, I am only going to focus on the three-year lectionary which provides the most frequently used readings.

There are three readings provided for each Sunday of the year. In addition, there is a text from the psalms which offers words of response to the first reading. That means that when there are alternative first readings, there are also alternative psalms, since the psalm has been chosen to correspond to the particular reading.

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