Section A: The Psalter Scheme that serves as the Basis for all Psalter Scheme Options
The jurisdiction I serve has as one of its hallmarks "liturgical diversity", meaning that a wide variety of liturgical rites are in use. The great thing about this is that people have the freedom to draw upon the vast and varied riches of liturgical tradition to find what is most meaningful for them. The disadvantage, as our seminarians have complained, is that different people will be praying different psalms in the Office on a given day, and in other ways the mythical "unity" (really uniformity, not unity) that the Office supposedly has had will not exist. (I say this because there was always more diversity than realized – the monastic Office has a different Psalm scheme than the secular Office did, for example, although there were some commonalities.)
Another disadvantage is that not all versions of the Office are created equal. Ideally, the Psalms should be prayed through regularly, Scripture read through regularly, and substantial prayer be offered. Not all versions of the Office do these things equally well.
I have no intention of imposing one version of the Office, or allowing it to be imposed. But if I were to come up with a common breviary, this is how I'd go about it.
First, the Psalms. Ideally, these would be said weekly, keeping Psalms whole (with the exception of Psalm 119, the longest, which has 22 natural sections of 8 verses apiece, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is distributed over the Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, and of the small portion of Psalm 31 recited at Compline, which doesn't really "count" since the complete Psalm 31 is recited at Matins on Mondays), and repeating some of the Psalms daily or near-daily. The pre-1911 secular Roman breviary does this (with the caveat that the whole Psalms are according to the Septuagint/Vulgate division, not the Hebrew division). The monastic Office eliminates the integrity of keeping Psalms whole, and splits Psalm 145 between Vespers on Friday and Saturday, as well as having a number of Psalms split within an Office, with multiple antiphons. The 1911 Office eliminates all weekly repetition other than feast days, Psalm 95 as the Invitatory, and Psalm 51 in Lauds on penitential days.
Of course, living in the modern world with a full-time job and often a family makes the weekly Psalter all but impossible. The Book of Common Prayer, beginning in 1549, has divided the Psalter into 60 sections, one for Morning and Evening Prayer for each day of the month. (Unfortunately, recent BCP's have come up with new schemes that have even less recitation of the Psalms, such as the 1943 American lectionary option for the 1928 BCP that omits some Psalms entirely, and the seven-week scheme in the 1979 BCP.) The Liturgy of the Hours produced by the Roman denomination after Vatican II has a four-week scheme that unfortunately omits 3 psalms entirely as well as verses of other Psalms. And, unfortunately, many now say only Lauds and Vespers, thus leaving out many of the Psalms. It does retain a nod to repetition with some weekly repetition of a few Psalms.
The Monastic psalter does have a lot of commonalities with the pre-1911 Secular scheme (many liturgical scholars believe the latter is older, and that the Monastic scheme was essentially a revision of it). However, the 1911 scheme only retains a few similarities, particularly on Sundays and feast days, and the same could be said of the Liturgy of the Hours. The BCP scheme has nothing in common with the Roman schemes. Thus, those using these different Psalm schemes are not saying Psalms in common.
The idea of making a flexible Psalm scheme has been tried before, in at least one place. Oxford University Press put out the Monastic Diurnal for the use of Anglican religious communities and edited by Canon Winfred Douglas. This followed the Monastic use, but using the Book of Common Prayer and King James Bible translations. It contained the texts for all of the offices except Matins. Canon Douglas later produced the Monastic Diurnal Noted, which contained plainchant melodies for the texts in the Monastic Diurnal, and an Anglican community of women put out Monastic Matins, containing Matins to complement the Diurnal. All of these books have been reprinted by Lancelot Andrewes Press. In the mid-1960's, another version of Monastic Matins was produced that divided the Matins psalms into a four-week scheme. Each day's Matins traditionally has 12 psalms in the Monastic scheme, and this version put 3 psalms from each day for a particular week – so the first three sections of Monday's psalms would be for week 1, the second three for week 2, and so on.
I would propose doing something similar with the pre-1911 Secular scheme. I would have four general options: the scheme as it stands – weekly with quite a bit of repetition, a weekly scheme without repetition, a two-week version, and a four-week version. Everyone doing the first three would automatically, as part of that, be doing the psalms done in the four-week version, thus ensuring that there would be common palms done on a daily basis by everyone. Within the two- and four-week options, I would have further options to do two offices a day or more – the daily psalms in the general option would be done, but the number of offices they are distributed among would differ based on whether only two offices are recited or more. (Even within the weekly non-repeating scheme, fewer than eight offices could be an option.)
In the pre-1911 and Monastic offices, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline have mostly fixed Psalms each day (with a little variation in Lauds and Prime, and in the Monastic Office, Terce, Sext, and None as well), while Matins and Vespers have a lot of variation, the majority of the Psalms being recited in these two offices. Of course, on double feasts, the scheme is interrupted, and as time went on, more and more feasts became doubles, doing increasing violence to the weekly Psalter scheme. One of the commendable reforms of 1911's Divino Afflatu was to direct that most doubles would use the weekday Psalter, with the exception of first- and second-class doubles and some greater doubles. I would be tempted to suppress the use of feast day Psalter schemes (with the antiphons providing the needed material for celebrating the feast day), and would, at the very least, strictly limit their use.
More specifically, here is the pre-1911 scheme. (All Psalms are given in the Hebrew numbering.)
Daily: Invitatory: 95
Sunday: First Nocturn: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9-10 (one Psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate), 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
Second Nocturn: 16, 17, 18
Third Nocturn: 19, 20, 21
Monday: 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
Tuesday: 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52
Wednesday: 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 66, 68
Thursday: 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80
Friday: 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 94, 96, 97
Saturday: 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109
Daily: 51 (except Sundays outside of Pre-Lent and Lent), daily psalm, 63, 67, daily Old Testament canticle, 148, 149, 150 (the last three are recited as one psalm under one Gloria and antiphon)
Sunday: 93 (in place of 51), 100 – during Pre-Lent and Lent, 51 and 118 are recited instead
(I will address the daily Old Testament canticles in another post.)
54, daily psalm, 119:1-16, 119:17-32
Sunday: 118 (except Pre-Lent and Lent, 93 & 100 recited instead), Athanasian Creed recited as last Psalm (this was superseded on certain Sundays – however, I would require it every Sunday as part of the weekly Psalter recitation)
Note: some maintain that, prior to the post-Trent reform of the office, psalms 22 -26 were recited daily, rather than distributed through the week – if anyone were to prefer that option, that would be acceptable
119:33-48, 119:49-64, 119:65-80
119:81-96, 119:97-112, 119:113-128
119:129-144, 119:145-160, 119:161-176
Sunday: 110, 111, 112, 113, 114-115 (one psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate)
Monday: 116:1-9 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 116:10-19 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 117, 120, 121
Tuesday: 122, 123, 124, 125, 126
Wednesday: 127, 128, 129, 130, 131
Thursday: 132, 133, 135, 136, 137
Friday: 138, 139, 140, 141, 142
Saturday: 144, 145, 146, 147:1-11(separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew), 147:12-20 (separate psalm in Septuagint/Vulgate, verse division as in Hebrew).
Daily: 4, 31:2-6 (Hebrew verse numbers), 91, 134
Note: The next posts in this series will present the modified options for non-repeating weekly, biweekly, and four-week recitations of the Psalter, as well as the Scripture lectionary question and prayers.