The Psalms of Easter Matins

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

Gerard van Honthorst’s King David Playing the Harp (source)

The Divine Office is a collection of Psalms, hymns, and prayers assigned for each day, which are then in turn distributed over different “hours” which historically correspond with different times of the day.  Matins, for its part, is the hour associated with the middle of the night.  Normally, the Divine Office is so arranged that one would ideally pray all 150 Psalms over the course of the week, but the Octaves of Easter and of Pentecost stand apart, as the same Psalms are prayed every day.  Additionally, except during the Octave of Easter and the Octave of Pentecost, Matins never has less than nine Psalms (or a combination of Psalms and divisions of Psalms). During the Octaves of Easter and Pentecost, Matins only has three Psalms. The three Matins Psalms of the Easter Octave are the first three Psalms of the Book of Psalms.  These first three Psalms serve as a summary of salvation history.  They express the distinction between good and evil, the conflict between God and His Christ, on the one hand, and their Enemies, on the other, and Their victory through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the same Christ.  As such, it is eminently fitting that they alone are prayed during the Easter Octave.

In the First Psalm, the way of life and the way of death and the distinction between good and evil is expressed by comparing the Just and the Unjust Man:

Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence…he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.  And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.  Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth…For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

The Second Psalm describes the conflict between God and His Christ, the Just Man par excellence, and Their enemies:

Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?  The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against his Christ.  [Now speaking in the voice of the Christ] But I am appointed king by him over Sion his holy mountain, preaching his commandment…  [Now speaking in the voice of God] Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Additionally, this Psalm expresses the eternal generation of the Son by the Father (“The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee”), the Son Who assumed to Himself a Human Nature and became the Christ, the Anointed One of God.  It also looks forward to the Church spreading among the nations by the preaching of the Apostles, thus making the ends of the earth the possession and inheritance of Christ the King.

The Third Psalm details how the Christ is to come into His Kingship and defeat His enemies.  Again, speaking in the Voice of Christ:

Why, O Lord, are they multiplied that afflict me? many are they who rise up against me. I have cried to the Lord with my voice: and he hath heard me from his holy hill.  I have slept and taken my rest: and I have risen up, because the Lord hath protected me.

The Just Man, Who is also Christ the King, the Incarnate, eternally begotten Son, defeated His enemies and received His Kingship through His suffering, His death (“I have slept and taken my rest”), and His Resurrection through God’s power (“I have risen up”).  Christ truly died and truly rose from the dead with the same Body and Blood which He had taken of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

These are reflections which the Church would have those praying Matins meditate on during this Easter Octave, and you, dear faithful, are invited to do the same.

Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

In support of the causes of Blessed Maria Cristina, Queen, and Servant of God Francesco II, King 

March 31, 2024