Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Out of the Depths": How to Increase Your Lenten Penance and Honor Tradition at the Same Time

"Sustinuit anima mea in verbo Domini" (Ps. 129)

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

Our readers, I know, don't need me to tell them about the classic Lenten good works. We will all fast as we can, given the indifference of the world and the concomitant difficulties of keeping Lent in such an environment. Likewise, giving alms is very much proper to the individual and his means and therefore beyond the scope of a uniform plan of action. But when it comes to prayer, there is perhaps a way that our readers can unite to maintain the traditions of Lent and to increase the time given to prayer in this holy season.

I refer, of course, to the traditional additions made (in the past--sometimes in the distant past) to the Office. One may not have time, practically speaking, to recite the entire Divine Office; that is completely understandable. But the Lenten "supplements" are perhaps within everyone's reach: namely, the Gradual Psalms, the Seven Penitential Psalms with the Litany of the Saints, and the Office of the Dead.

Gradual Psalms

Ordinarily--i.e., when there is no feast of nine lessons (semi-doubles or higher)--on Wednesdays are recited the Gradual Psalms, according to a set arrangement, including versicles and prayers. The entire schema can be found at this very convenient webpage. Note that you will need to have your Vulgata or English Bible handy (or you may use the Psalter given at another excellent website). In the good ol' days, these Psalms, etc., were recited before Matins in the wee hours before dawn; but privately (which would include the laity) they can be recited at any time. Their recitation begins on Ash Wednesday and continues up until Spy Wednesday (exclusive).

Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany

Immediately following Friday Lauds--i.e., leaving off the "Fidelium animae, etc."--the Seven Penitential Psalms are recited with their antiphon. (You may find them, although intercalated with devotional prayers, at this webpage.) The Litany of the Saints immediately follows the repetition of the antiphon. You may find the Litany here. (Note that only the first two words of the antiphon, Ne reminiscaris, are recited at the beginning, as is customary for the traditional Office.) As with the Gradual Psalms, the Penitential Psalms and Litany are recited every Friday, unless there is a feast of nine lessons or more. Here as well, their recitation ends with Holy Week.

Office of the Dead

The Office of the Dead, in this context, consists of Vespers of the Dead (recited immediately after Sunday Vespers, in which case the Pater and Ave are not said) and then Matins (one nocturne usually, i.e. the first, omitting the Invitatory and beginning immediately with the antiphon Dirige, whence the famous "dirge") and Lauds of the Dead. These two hours are recited immediately after Monday's Matins and Lauds. Outside of the Divine Office, any time Sunday evening is suitable for the first part (Vespers) and then Monday morning (or even Sunday night) for the second part (Matins and Lauds). The Office of the Dead was not recited when there was a nine-lesson feast on Monday, and it ceased (as a Lenten practice) on Palm Sunday.

De Profundis clamavi ad te, Domine

Interestingly, the one Psalm that is found in all three devotions is Ps. 129, the De Profundis. I'm sure no one needs me to expound on how very fitting it is that that should be so. Truly, out of the depths of this old world, we the Church Militant cry out to God and the Church Triumphant for forgiveness and salvation for ourselves and for the Holy Souls. As I promised at the outset, using these prayers--adapting them to our circumstances, as need be--we revive and sustain one of our holy traditions and we fulfill, very fittingly, the Lenten duty of increased prayers. Why not give it a try?


  1. Being awake (both spiritually and physically) and pounding one's chest with a stone is highly recommended as the picture above suggests. :)

  2. Good suggestions. The past few Lents I would try what you outline above for Passion Week.

  3. Another excellent Lenten offering, The Rad Trad. Most grateful.

    I have now learned what The Gradual Psalms are, and, indeed, have begun to recite them. They are magnificently suited to Lent.

    Again, grateful thanks to you.

  4. Praying the Monastic Diurnal I already get a daily dose of the Gradual Psalms from Tuesday to Saturday.

    Once upon a time, there was a holy and pious popular practice in Portuguese villages (which has now died out but in a few places) on Lenten Saturday evenings. People would come out and do a pilgrimage of sorts to all the roadside shrines for the Holy Souls of Purgatory, singing a sort of popular Office of the Dead and exhorting the living to repent and convert.


    Here is a popular hymn (which has been worked on, and here is sung by the choir that sang at our wedding) which was sung in some places, a hymn about Our Lord's Passion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfKO9obPK7Q

  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBA_9C6aciw

    This way of singing seems to be common for this devotion, if not to the whole country, at least to the interior.

  6. Hello, good people of this blog.

    About the praying of DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI AD TE, DOMINE, is there a certain way of praying it like the Office of the Dead? Or can one freely pray it in any manner for one's Lent?

  7. Thanks, RT. Great post.


    The above useful app is one ABS has on his phone

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    1. Zephyrinus, ABS: You're very welcome! I'm glad to hear you are already reciting them, Z. And thank you for the link, ABS.

      Mirai: the "De Profundis" can be prayed all by itself. Usually, the only difference if it's being said for the Faithful Departed is that instead of the "Gloria Patri" ("Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit," etc.) at the end (after the last verse) is said the "Requiem aeternam" (V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. R. And let perpetual light shine upon them).

  9. Dear Father. From today's Sexta, Psalm 73

    A prayer of the Church under grievous persecutions.

    1 Understanding for Asaph.
    O God, why hast thou cast us off unto the end? why is thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of thy pasture?
    2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed from the beginning.
    The sceptre of thy inheritance, which thou hast redeemed: Mount Sion, in which thou hast dwelt.
    3 Lift up thy hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
    4 And they that hate thee have made their boasts, in the midst of thy solemnity.
    They have set up their ensigns for signs:

    5 and they knew not both in the going out, and on the highest top.
    As with axes in a wood of trees,
    6 they have cut down at once the gates thereof: with axe and hatchet they have brought it down.
    7 They have set fire to thy sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling-place of thy name on the earth.
    8 They said in their heart, the whole kindred of them together: Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the land.
    9 Our signs we have not seen, there is now no prophet: and he will know us no more.

    This Psalm sounds like the plain and simple observation of what has been happening every single day since the Hierarchy crammed the Lil' Licit Liturgy down our faithful throats. When the Holiest singe act on earth at any time is treated so cavalierly (at best) why are so many Catholics confused as to the source of our problems?

    Do they think Jesus is as uninterested in worship as our Hierarchy is?

    Lord have Mercy, those in charge think Jesus will pour out His Grace upon the Church He established even though it treats The Holocaust (Holy Sacrifice of Mass is The Holocaust made Sacramentally present in our midst) as though it were of no more consequence than a family picnic.

    ABS is convinced that if the Hierarchy who is responsible for the Lil' Licit Liturgy was at Calvary they would have thought a yodeling contest would not have been an improper response to the very long and tedious time it took Jesus to complete His Salvific Self-Sacrifice Look, the people grow bored and restless...

  10. Thank you, Father, for an inspired proposal - one which I am trying to put into practice this Lent.