Tuesday, October 27, 2009


During my talk on Saturday, I mentioned that the revised Liturgy of the Hours avoided using three of the Psalms--the "cursing" Psalms. Sure enough, someone wanted to know which Psalms I was talking about. (Silly me! I hadn't looked that part up.) On the spot, I was unable to identify them, although I did remember that the last part of Psalm 139 had been "edited for content" ("Do I not hate those who hate you, God? I hate them with a perfect hatred!")
So I did my homework, and the answer is:
Ps. 58 ("The upright will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.")
Ps. 83 ("Treat them like Midian...to manure the ground.")
Ps. 109 ("May God never forget the crimes of his ancestors... may no one take pity on his orphans."
Taken as a whole, none of those Psalms is especially violent or offensive. And Ps. 109 (against enemies) has some magnificent lines: "Let them curse, provided that You bless.... I shall praise God before all people, for he stands at the side of the poor.")
I understand that in the monasteries, they continue praying the Psalms--all 150 o f them.
We may yet need those cursing Psalms ourselves.


Curtis said...

It is strange that in an age that promotes and values authenticity, transparency and rawness, we would want to censor certain thoughts and prayers as being unacceptable.

In any case, the psalms are full of curses, even in psalms not designated as "cursing psalms".

Even in today's morning hours, we pray Psalm 24, hardly a cursing psalm, but it contains the line: "Confundantur omnes iniqua agentes supervacue" Let all be confounded who act unjustly without cause. I guess you could say that is a moderate and proportionate curse but a curse nonetheless.

Dean Soto said...

Pardon my ignorance, but why would they be removed? They should have some value if they are scripture. It's not that big of a deal, since I believe that not all of the scriptures are in the office of readings etc. anyway. But just seems odd to me.

Curtis said...

All Scripture has value but not all Scripture is necessarily fit for prayer. I would not use the words of Satan, the Pharisees or Pontius Pilate to pray although they are beneficial for reflection and study, and no less inspired than the words of the prophets and apostles.

The cursing psalms would fall under this category - not fit for a Christian to pray. (There is a bit of anti-Semitism in that - the notion that Jews are overly carnal and vindicative) I would disagree - perhaps not fit for an individual to pray against individuals but it is good and right for the Church to pray for the downfall of her enemies. It is charitable to pray for the wicked to be confounded and fail.

If I were to ever attempt a murder, I would like people to pray for my failure, even for my death before I did such a thing.