Why does Common Worship set the whole of Psalm 105 for evensong on Easter Day?

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20 April 2018

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Why does Common Worship set the whole of Psalm 105 for evensong on Easter Day?

The traditional proper Psalms for Easter Day evening appointed in the Prayer Book are 113, 114, and 118. In practice, it has been customary (certainly during most of my lifetime) to choose one or other of these Psalms for Easter Day evensong. Psalm 114 was a popular choice in country churches with limited musical resources, where it could be easily sung to the catchy little Tonus Peregrinus chant, and has a long association with Sunday Vespers of the Breviary tradition, be that Roman or Sarum. Its use at evensong on Easter Day is particularly appro­­priate where the traditional first lesson from the 1922 lectionary, Exodus 14 — which recounts the Israelites crossing the Red Sea — is read. Psalm 118 was retained by the ASB lectionary and, until the recent reforms, was also a popular choice for Easter Sunday evensong.

Quite why those who compiled the Common Worship lectionary chose, in defiance of long tradition, to offer a choice of Psalms 105 and 66.1-11 for Sunday evensong instead passes my understanding. I suppose an explanation of sorts lies in the decision to redeploy Psalm 114 as an option at the Easter vigil as well at Morning Prayer, and offer Psalm 118 (or at least parts of it) for use at the eucharist.

Also, the replacement Psalms speak of God’s deliverance/saving acts which are part of the message of Easter.

On Easter Day this year, I found myself at a choral evensong at which only the first 12 verses of Psalm 105 were sung. While that was a mercy to choir and congregation alike, Psalm 105, along with the other longer narrative Psalms (78, 89, 106, and 107) cannot really be abridged satisfactorily without losing some of its sense — or at least the story that it tells.

We can only hope that when the lectionary is next revised, as it will be eventually, an attempt is made to restore the traditional Psalmody of the Easter Day offices — at least as a permissive alternative, if nothing else.

Adrian F. Sunman

South Collingham, Notts

To give the Precentor a chance for a much needed nap after the rigours of Holy Week!

(Canon) Janet Chapman

Northfield, Birmingham

Your questions: 

Is Thy Kingdom Come actively promoting the celebration of the holy communion (and attendance at it) on Ascension Day, as enjoined by canon law?

A. M.

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