The psalm-prayers in the Divine Office – Updated

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: First of all, thank you for such a helpful and informative blog. By explaining matters so that they make sense, you are doing all of us a real service.

The psalm-prayers were written at the time of the revision of the Breviary, but were not published as part of it.  One of the points that arose in discussion was, apparently, how to offer without mandating: there are people for whom the psalm-prayer is an enriching experience and people for whom it could be an additional burden and a distraction.

My question concerns how one should do the psalm-prayers, if one has decided that one wants to do them. Because they have not been officially published in the Latin books, one has to go on the brief phrase “absoluto psalmo et aliquo silentii spatio observato” (General Instruction, §112) as a guide.

The question is: “when, exactly, is meant by this?”

Some sources print the psalm-prayer after the psalm and its doxology but before the final antiphon. Others print it after the psalm and the doxology and the final antiphon.

Looking at the General Instruction, the latter arrangement seems the more logical. We have completed the entire psalm, with everything that is chanted or sung with it; we have reflected on it in silence; we adopt a bodily posture suitable for praying; and we pray.

The former arrangement seems awkward. The psalm is not completed, but suspended in mid-air. The choir hovers as if in mid-breath – and after the prayer is completed and you would think it was time to move on to the next thing, it draws another breath and utters a single antiphon, on an island of its own and isolated from the psalm.

On the other hand, there are books that print it like that; and I wondered if you had any views on what arrangement of the psalm-prayers would work best.


A: I agree with your observations: reciting the psalm prayer before the final antiphon seems to rob the psalm of its coherence. I suspect that the varying practices came into being because of the ambiguous expression absoluto psalmo. Does the word “psalm” refer to the biblical passage alone? Or does it refer to the passage together with its antiphons? The ambiguity permits either interpretation. I think you can make a case for moving the prayer after the antiphon, even though some books lay it out differently.

I just checked the German translation of the Liturgy of the Hours. It has no psalm prayers, which is probably what the English will look like in a few years.


FYI…. The Ceremonial of Bishops states that the prayer, if used, is recited after the antiphon is repeated at the end of the psalm.#198.


Thank you for that. You are correct.