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Psalms

The Psalms are the divine­ly-inspired songs of the Peo­ple of Israel. They are tra­di­tion­al­ly called the “psalms of David,” although many of them most cer­tain­ly come from oth­er authors of much lat­er times. The enu­mer­a­tion and the word­ing of the psalms dif­fer in var­i­ous scrip­tur­al tra­di­tions. The Ortho­dox Church fol­lows the Sep­tu­agint ver­sion of the psalter and for this rea­son the num­bers and not sel­dom the texts of cer­tain psalms are dif­fer­ent in Ortho­dox ser­vice books from what they are in the Bibles which are trans­lat­ed from the Hebrew.

In the Ortho­dox Church, the entire psalter is divid­ed into twen­ty sec­tions and is chant­ed each week in those monas­ter­ies and church­es which per­form the entire litur­gi­cal office. Var­i­ous psalms and vers­es of psalms are used in all litur­gi­cal ser­vices of the Ortho­dox Church (see Wor­ship).

Vir­tu­al­ly all states of man’s soul before God are found expressed in the psalms: prais­ing, thank­ing, bless­ing, rejoic­ing, peti­tion­ing, repent­ing, lament­ing, ques­tion­ing and even com­plain­ing. Many of the psalms are cen­tered in the cul­tic rit­u­als of the Jerusalem tem­ple and the Davidic king­ship. Oth­ers recount God’s sav­ing actions in Israelite his­to­ry. Still oth­ers car­ry prophet­ic utter­ances about events yet to come, par­tic­u­lar­ly those of the mes­sian­ic age. Thus, for exam­ple, we find Christ quot­ing Psalm 8 in ref­er­ence to His tri­umphal entry into Jerusalem; Psalm 110 in ref­er­ence to his own mys­te­ri­ous divin­i­ty; and Psalm 22, when, hang­ing upon the cross, He cries out with the words of the psalm in which is described His cru­ci­fix­ion and his ulti­mate sal­va­tion of the world (See Mt 21:16, 22:44, 27:46).

In the Ortho­dox Church all of the psalms are under­stood as hav­ing their deep­est and most gen­uine spir­i­tu­al mean­ing in terms of Christ and His mis­sion of eter­nal sal­va­tion. Thus, for exam­ple, the psalms which refer to the king are sung in the Church in ref­er­ence to Christ’s exal­ta­tion and glo­ri­fi­ca­tion at the right hand of God. The psalms which refer to Israel’s deliv­er­ance are sung in ref­er­ence to Christ’s redemp­tion of the whole world. The psalms call­ing for vic­to­ry over the ene­mies in bat­tle refer to the only real Ene­my, the dev­il, and all of his wicked works which Christ has come to destroy. Baby­lon thus sig­ni­fies the realm of Satan, and Jerusalem, the eter­nal King­dom of God. The psalms which lament the inno­cent suf­fer­ing of the right­eous are sung as the plea of the Lord Him­self and all those with Him who are the “poor and needy” who will rise up to rule the earth on the day of God’s ter­ri­ble judg­ment. Thus, the psalter remains for­ev­er as the divine­ly-inspired song book of prayer and wor­ship for all of God’s Peo­ple, and most espe­cial­ly for those who belong to the Mes­si­ah whose words the psalms are in their deep­est and most divine sig­nif­i­cance.


Litur­gi­cal Divi­sion of the Psalter (Kathis­ma):
1. Psalms 1–8 11. Psalms 78–85
2. Psalms 9–17 12. Psalms 86–91
3.Psalms 18–24 13. Psalms 92–101
4.Psalms 25–32 14. Psalms 102–105
5.Psalms 33–37 15. Psalms 106–109
6.Psalms 38–46 16. Psalms 110–118
7.Psalms 47–55 17. Psalms 119
8.Psalms 56–64 18. Psalms 120–134
9.Psalms 65–70 19. Psalms 135–143
10.Psalms 71–77 20. Psalms 144–150