Here is the Saint Aelfric Customary for the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, 2019.

In the Daily Office

Like several other modern Prayer Books, the 2019 Book offers a slower-paced daily psalter along with the Daily Office Lectionary.  It is billed as a 60-day Psalter, and due to the shorter selections per Office it occasionally skips forwards and backwards through the Psalms to keep each entry reasonably balanced in length.  A handful of holy days are assigned special psalms, out of order:

  • Epiphany: 96, 97 and 67, 72
  • The Presentation: 24
  • The Annunciation: 113, 138 and 131, 132
  • The Transfiguration: 27 and 80
  • All Saints’ Day: 15 and 34
  • Christmas: 19 or 45 and 85, 110

In addition to these fixed-date holy days are the moveable-date holy days of Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Day, Ascension Day, and Pentecost, which also have specific Psalms appointed along with their specific readings.

Others, such as Psalms 127 & 128 on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, contain coincidental matches that are not traditionally associated but happen to have worked out neatly.

It is the recommendation of this Customary that the original, Cranmerian, 30-day Psalter always be used in public worship, the 60-day psalter being a concession for individuals or families desiring shorter selections from the Psalms.  For the aforementioned holy days, however, the minister is encouraged (as authorized on BCP 734) to switch to the 60-day Psalter to draw upon the special psalms for those days.

Additionally, the officiant should consider the classical Prayer Books’ list of Proper Psalms on Certain Days:

  • Christmas Day: 19, 45, 85 and 89, 110, 132
  • Ash Wednesday: 6, 32, 38 and 102, 130, 143
  • Good Friday: 22, 40, 54 and 69, 88
  • Easter Day: 2, 57, 111 and 113, 114, 118
  • Ascension Day: 8, 15, 21 and 24, 47, 108
  • Day of Pentecost: 48, 68 and 104, 145

The 31st day of the month, classically, simply appointed a repetition of the 30th day, which this Customary commends as the simplest solution.  If the rubric on BCP 735 is to be observed, however, the following implementation is recommended:

  • 31st Morning Prayer: 120—125
  • 31st Midday Prayer: 126, 127
  • 31st Evening Prayer: 128—132
  • 31st Compline: 133—134

A further variant, not recommended for public use but proposed for individuals for sake of antiquity, is the pattern of the earliest Prayer Books, wherein January 31st was to be accounted as Day 1 in the Psalter, running through to March 1st, and beginning the next 30-day cycle on March 2nd.  Thus puts the Psalter day off from the calendar through February and March, but reduces the loss of the latter Psalms in February.

The historic Prayer Book custom has been to say the Gloria Patri at the end of each Psalm; this is to be preferred over a single Gloria Patri at the end of the Psalms Appointed.  This also applies to Midday Prayer and Compline.

In the Communion Service

The Psalm in the Communion liturgy is not a Scripture reading, but a scriptural prayer akin to the Canticles in the Office.  The distinction here, however, is that the Psalm is almost always a direct response to the Old Testament Lesson before it.  Thus the Psalm retains a function similar to that of the Gradual, Sequence, or Tract of pre-reformation liturgy.

The Gloria Patri is not used at the end of a Psalm or portion of a Psalm in this context.  This also applies to similar liturgies such as Holy Baptism, Holy Matrimony, and the Burial of the Dead.

The Responsive Reading of the Psalms

Throughout history, different traditions have developed regarding the antiphonal (back-and-forth) chanting or reading of Psalms.  Most notably is the question of how the reader and congregation (or two halves of the congregation or the two “choirs”) split the text: some recite a whole verse each, pausing at the asterisk; others recite a half-verse, switching sides at the asterisk.  Both approaches have their place in the greater tradition of the Church.  For the sake of reading comprehension, and continuity with Anglican tradition of chant and hymnody, the use of full verses is recommended.  Many verses are single sentences, and their meanings will be more clear when the congregation utters those full sentences on their lips.