Thursday, April 25, 2013

Byzantine Hours Kathisma Chart

In the Byzantine tradition of the Hours (the Divine Office), the basic psalmody in each hour is static, except for changes during Great Lent.  However, monastic tradition included variable psalmody readings that result in praying the entire Psalter at least once a week (depending on the time of the year).  These readings are exceedingly long and rarely prayed in their fullness, except possibly in monasteries.  However, they still provide a pattern of shared psalmody for the Church.

I put together this chart not so much for use in the Hours (though the readings can be prayed there) but for personal use, so that one can pray along with the Church.  I myself will often only pray parts of each reading, maybe a stasis or two, but it is still immensely fruitful, first of all because it is the Word of God, second because it is a tradition of the Church. 

This chart can only be used when the Byzantine psalter divisions are known.  According to this system, the psalter is divided into 20 kathismata (singular kathisma, literally "seat"), with each kathisma being divided into 3 staseis (singular stasis, literally "standing").  The names of these divisions come from how the psalter was originally prayed: because the psalmody was long, the monks (except the reader) would sit, rather than stand (the normal Byzantine prayer position), but at the end of each stasis they would stand for a doxology.  Thus, in one reading of a kathisma, the monks would sit, except for when they stood thrice for doxologies ("Glory be..." followed by "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, glory be to You, O Lord" thrice, with metanias).  The division of the psalter into kathismata and staseis (in both the Septuagint (Greek) psalm numbering and the Masoretic (Hebrew) psalm numbering) can be found here.  [The best way to check which numbering your Bible uses is to check for the longest psalm, the psalm in praise of God's law, which is a kathisma in itself: in the Septuagint, it is Ps 118, and in the Masoretic, it is Ps 119.]

This chart was designed to be printed double-sided so that it can easily be placed in a Bible for quick reference.

I hope you find this chart useful, and I hope that it can inspire you do a more frequent praying of the Psalms and a deeper love of the Word of God and of God Himself.

 Nota Bene: This chart is based on the Greek monastic tradition recounted in the edition of the Sabbaite Typikon by Antiochian Orthodox Bishop Demetri Khoury and Archpriest John Morris, with some additional information from various Orthodox descriptions of the pattern that I found online.

No comments:

Post a Comment