Dates and the 7-Week Psalm Cycle

Alright, this post is more for my reference than anything else. I.e., this is a collection of a few random liturgical facts that are more necessary than important.

The Daily Office lectionary contained in the ’79 BCP has a 7-week psalm cycle.

The cycle begins on a Sunday when the psalms are 146, 147 (Morning) and 111, 112, 113 (Evening).

The cycle moves as follows:

  • It begins on the Week of 1 Advent.
  • It’s interrupted on the weekdays of Advent 4; Sunday is normal but the rest of the week is not. Some of the normal psalms of that course appear, but other ones are introduced not normally seen in this portion.
  • The numbered days after Christmas don’t follow the scheme either, but the psalms appointed for the First and Second Sundays after Christmas do replicate the next two Sundays from the psalm cycle.  (Actually, the evening of 2nd Chr doesn’t though the others do.)
  • The cycle begins anew with the Week of 1 Epiphany and moves through its completion at the end of  the Week of 7 Epiphany. Because it’s moving through Ordinary time with no intervening special events, this is the first full repetition of the unbroken cycle provided that we get to the Week of 7 Epiphany.
  • The cycle begins anew with the Week of 8 Epiphany. Note that it continues into the next printed week—the Week of Last Epiphany. Thus, even though the cycle is printed in continuous form, in years when Easter falls early—and thus when there are fewer weeks of Epiphany, both the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of this next one will be truncated in actual use.
  • Ash Wednesday receives proper psalms but other than that, the cycle rolls into Lent with no change.
  • Thursday of Lent 4 has a break in the cycle: 69 and 73 replace the two halves of 105, presumably because 105 ends with “Halleluiah.”
  • The Monday of Lent 5 likewise places 31 and 35 rather than the two halves of 106. Where normally we’d expect 140 & 142 on Friday Morning of Lent 5, they’ve been shifted to the evening before replacing 134 & 135. Ps 22 takes their place on Friday morning. The Eve of Palm Sunday (Saturday of Lent 5) ends the cycle with Pss 42, 43 replacing the usual 104.
  • Palm Sunday morning receives 24, 29—a standard Sunday morning set—but the rest of Holy Week and Easter 1 are proper.
  • The cycle begins anew with the Week of 2 Easter.
  • There is a minor interruption as the Eve and Day of the Ascension receive proper psalms.
  •  Both the Eve and Day of Pentecost follow the cycle, thus receiving standard Sunday cyclic psalms but not proper psalms.
  • At this point we do a little dance… Pentecost begins the last week of the cycle. The next printed day is the Eve and Day of Trinity but we’re going to ignore them for just a minute. The next day logically after Pentecost (pretending that Easter falls at its earliest point) are the week days of Proper 1 (recall that neither Propers 1 nor 2 have Sundays as in the years when these readings are used, Pentecost and Trinity would take the place of their Sundays). The psalms for the last week of the cycle are used to fill in the weekdays of Proper 1. Flipping back now to the printed order we see that Trinity receives the initial set and the weekdays for Proper 2 pick up the successive order meaning that…
  •    The cycle begins anew with Trinity Sunday & Proper 2 and runs through the Week of Proper 8. As with the end of the Time after Epiphany, though, the end of the previous cycle and the beginning of this cycle will likely be truncated in use depending on where Easter falls.
  • The cycle begins anew with Proper 9 and runs through the Week of Proper 15. Depending on how the fall of Easter has affected things, this may be the first full cycle that you experience in some years!
  • The cycle begins anew with Proper 16 and runs through the Week of Proper 22.
  • The cycle begins anew with Proper 23 and finishes on the last day of the liturgical year on the Saturday of Proper 29.

One of the psalms every Wednesday is a part of Ps 119. It’s cut into seven portions which are read, alternating between morning and evening, through the body of the cycle.

The cycle repeats, either partially or completely, 8 times. The last three of each year are guaranteed to be complete (except, of course, for the psalms potentially skipped as detailed in the previous post…).

While it’s an interesting way to do it, I’d still rather stick with Cranmer’s 30 day scheme.

7 thoughts on “Dates and the 7-Week Psalm Cycle

  1. Scott Knitter

    Thanks for this! A while back, I decided I’d like a big-picture view of the BCP79 psalter distribution, so I made a document that lays it out (and of course it aligns with how you’ve described things here). Just thought I’d link to it in case it’s interesting:

  2. Sean+ Lotz

    Oh, my. And here I have spent many years thinking of myself as “probably the only person who would ever do such a thing.” I see that I was wrong and that I am less unique than I had thought.
    — Sean+

  3. C. Wingate

    I note that the seven week cycle (if not the 1979 version of it: I’m too lazy to check that) seems to have been introduced in the 1945 lectionary revision. At least that’s what I see looking at the weeks after Trinity.

  4. Derek Olsen

    That’s awesome, Scott!

    Looking through it, it seems to me that if one tries to abstract a pattern of composition, I think the compilers started by identifying appropriate psalms for Sundays and the Saturday Eves. Then, they moved in a loosely sequential pattern, omitting psalms used elsewhere (or omitted altogether), filling in from Monday to Saturday morning.

    Is that what others see?

    C. Wingate,
    I’d try and check that, but it appears that all of the ’28 BCPs I have to hand all contain the original ’28 lectionary…

  5. Pingback: The Psalms in the Daily Office | father christopher

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