February 23, June 24, October 24

Four psalms are sung each day at Vespers, starting with Psalm 109 and ending with Psalm 147, omitting the psalms in this series already assigned to other hours, namely, Psalms 117 through 127, Psalm 133 and Psalm 142. All the remaining psalms are said at Vespers. Since this leaves three psalms too few, the longer ones in the series should be divided: that is, Psalms 138, 143, and 144. And because Psalm 116 is short, it can be joined to Psalm 115. This is the order of psalms for Vespers; the rest is as arranged above: the reading, responsory, hymn, versicle, and canticle.

Often the psalms are a way for us to ‘read against our temperament’, and a way of experiencing what it is like to read something contrary to our worldview and theology (see chapter 9). As we be with what is uncomfortable, there grows in us an ability to be with difference. In time, perhaps, we might even come to understand something of this difference. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is a sound foundation for civility. Reading the psalms can help us with this.  

To be comfortable with difference is needed now more than ever. Today many of us read newspapers and watch TV according to ideology. Search engines are biased towards our own, at times narrow, interests. We only see on Facebook the things that we have liked. It is easier to befriend those of like mind. All of this does little to encourage acceptance of difference. Compassion is at risk of becoming the specialisation of the few, rather than the foundation of what it is to be human. We need to be stretched via meaningful engagement with difference. At prayer, the psalms can be this.

So too, community stretches us. Community is living with others whom you would otherwise not choose to live with. In community it can be difficult to avoid people and situations we (for some reason) find uncomfortable. Because of this, there can be healthy tension in community, tension we can commit to being with rather than avoiding. This develops our capacity to live with and accept difference. In community we ‘live against our temperament’. Grace lives in this living. Transformation and integration happen in a conscious tension.

O praise the Lord, all you nations; acclaim him, all you peoples. For his merciful love towards us is great; and the Lord’s faithfulness is forever. Alleluia! (Ps. 117[116]: 1-2, RNJB)