by Sr. Fidelis
Every Friday morning at Lauds, we chant Psalm 51 — perhaps the most famous of all the penitential psalms. In fact, it is quite easy to start off in the wrong weekly cycle until you get to the following psalm because it occurs on EVERY Friday of EVERY week! Not only does it occur with an extraordinary regularity, it opens and closes with the simplest of antiphons which consists of only three notes on the opening text, Miserere mei, Deus (Lord, have mercy on me).
Sometimes I find that I can’t wait to chant this psalm. I don’t have to think or perform. There are no “tricky intervals”, no vocal ranges which I will have to manage, no worry about staying in tune. The antiphon and the chant mode are both as simple as the request of the psalmist himself — “Lord, have mercy on me and create a clean heart within me.” What a beautiful and necessary message and one that I find myself in need of every time we come to Friday Lauds! This, I believe, is one of the truest beauties of chant — its ability to set itself aside as it allows the message, the colors, of the words themselves to take on ever new meanings. The very simplicity of this chant reminds me over and over again of the purity and simplicity of God’s mercy.
Have a blessed week!