What is the Psalter?
The Psalter is the book of Psalms divided into 20 sections called kathisma (singular) or kathismata (plural). My copy is called The Psalter According to the Seventy, which was published by Holy Transfiguration (Orthodox) Monastery in 1997. (*Note: It costs $60 on Amazon and only $22 at St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.) I purchased my copy in 1998 when my father and my Goddaughter both died within a few months of each other. I wanted to observe the Orthodox Christian practice of reading the Psalter every day for 40 days when someone dies. Since then I’ve added a total of 28 names to the back of the book, with the date of each person’s death. I have kept photographs and funeral programs from many of these beloved departed, and this morning they all fell out of the Psalter when I lifted it to read.
How is the Psalter used during Great Lent?
During Holy Week, a vigil is held on Holy Friday and Saturday and parishioners sign up to read the Psalter after the service on Friday night and again after the Holy Saturday morning service until the Pascha (Easter) service starts late that night.
At my parish, St. John Orthodox in Memphis, we have Psalter Groups during Lent—a practice started last year. Here’s how it works:
During Lent individual members of each group of 20 will read one kathisma per day, resulting in the Psalter being read in its entirely each day by the group. By the end of Lent, each individual will have read through the entire Psalter twice.
Additionally, each group member commits to praying daily for the other members of their group. Everyone will read and pray at home (or the place of their chooding) at a convenient time for the each day. Although we are not in the same physical location, we will be together in prayer.
Strength and Happiness in Old Age
This morning when I went to our icon corner to do my morning prayers and Psalter reading, I was especially blessed by this verse, Psalm 91:9:
“And lifted high as that of a unicorn shall be my horn, and mine old age shall be strengthened with rich oil.”
Today is my 69th birthday. I am now one year older than my father was when he died in 1998, and eleven years older than my brother was he was died at age 58 in 2007. Both of them seemed so young to me when they died . . . and now at 69, I admit I am beginning to feel old. But I’m also feeling blessed is so many ways. And although I don’t count myself as “righteous,” I do hope to be included in the Psalmist’s promises in verses 11-13:
“The righteous man shall flourish like a palm tree, and like a cedar of Lebanon shall he be multiplied. They that are planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God they shall blossom forth. They shall still increase in a ripe old age, and happy shall they be to proclaim that upright is the Lord our God, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
So today as I turn 69, I’m thankful to be almost completely recovered from the shingles, to be enjoying this beautiful day in Memphis, and to be heading out to dinner with my husband of almost 50 years. Strength and happiness in old age.