The Little Office for the New Year: Praying the Great Psalm

Psalm 119 is worthy of being called the Great Psalm. Not because it is the longest Psalm in the Bible, though it is. Not because it is the longest chapter in the Bible, though it is.

Not because some consider it a literary tour de force due to its display of strength and skill as an alphabetic acrostic. For it consists of 22 stanzas with eight verses each that match the order of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet with each stanza and each of the verses within the stanza beginning with the corresponding letter of the alphabet.

It is worthy of being called the Great Psalm because it is a spiritual tour de force.

Reading and reflecting upon the entire Psalm as the Little Office for the New Year is likely to be a powerful experience filled with the passion, penance, and possessiveness towards the principles and precepts expressed by the person(s) who prearranged the Psalm.

Thus, the Psalm was prepared and prescribed for you, particularly at a time when you tend to look back at the past year and contemplate the coming new year.

From ancient times to the present day, designated hours of the day have been set aside for sacred times with God, whether it be early morning, mid-day, twilight, late evening, or the middle of the night.

Psalm 119 contains the verse that Christian monasticism has used to shape the traditional Divine Offices of Prayer, which is “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws (v. 164).” The Psalm notes a couple of the traditional times. One is midnight, “At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws (v. 62)”and the other is dawn, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word (v. 147).”

The length of the Great Psalm for reading and reflection may be best done over one or more of the traditional times of prayer between now and the end of the day on January 1 or beyond. Midnight, or sometime in the late evening, on New Year’s Eve may be particularly personal for you because of the transition from the old to the new year.

May your time(s) be filled with periods of reflection and prayers that are as passionate, penitent, and possessive as those found in the Great Psalm.

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