One of the more curious features of the 2019 Prayer Book’s handling of the Psalter in the Daily Office is this rubric on page 735:
If there is a 31st day of the month, psalms are chosen from among the Songs of Ascents (120 to 134).
If you want to know more about the Songs of Ascents, I wrote about them a couple weeks ago here.
But today we’re looking at this Weird Rubric.
The 31st day of the month has always been a monkey wrench in Thomas Cranmer’s arrangement of the Psalms, which is a 30-day rotation. The solution in Prayer Books before ours was that the 31st day of the month would simply repeat the Psalms from the 30th day. There was at first a more complicated exception to this rule to account for the shortened month of February, but that faded from the Prayer Book tradition. But in the 2019 Book we now have this murky instruction to choose the Psalms from a particular range. What this, in effect, does is make the 31st day a repeat of the 27th day or 28th morning.
Now there are two “outs” if you (like me) find this rubric a little too weird. Your first alternative is to use the 60-day cycle of Psalms, which is printed along with the Daily Office Lectionary. This has the advantage of begin easy to look up, and perhaps the shorter psalmody will be a welcome “break” if you struggle to keep up with the 30-day standard. The other solution is to take advantage of this text on page 734:
For any day, the psalms appointed may be reduced in number according to local circumstance, provided that the entire Psalter is read regularly.
This could be interpreted as a “Lazy Clause”, authorizing practically anything. For example, you could literally read one Psalm, or half a long Psalm, each Office, and take a quarter of a year to get through the whole psalter! If you do that “regularly” then you’re obeying the rubric here. And, hey, if you’re new to liturgical prayer and new to the psalms, or you’re helping a child learn to pray, that may be a good idea. But a seasoned Christian should not use this rubric as license for simply being lazy. However, the license afforded here does mean that on “any day”, such as the 31st day of the month, you can deviate from the chart on page 735, provided you are covering the entire Psalter regularly. In short, this is your “out” for praying the Psalms the traditional way, repeating Day 30’s psalms on Day 31.
But if you want to turn Day 31 into a grab-bag of Psalmody, replicating Day 27 and the morning of 28 in some fashion or another, go for it!