Penitential Psalms

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A group of seven Psalms especially suitable for the use of penitents and considered, at least since the 6th century (e.g., by Cassiodorus), as forming a class by themselves. They are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. The number seven was interpreted allegorically by Cassiodorus to indicate seven means for obtaining forgiveness: baptism, martyrdom, alms, forgiving spirit, conversion of a sinner, love, and penance. By order of Innocent III they were to be prayed in Lent, and under Pius X they became part of the Friday ferial office of Lent. Although no longer officially mandated, they are still widely used in the liturgy, especially Psalm 130, the De Profundis (Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord), and Psalm 51, the Miserere (Have mercy on me, O Lord). Although they are the classic Christian prayers of repentance for sin, they are not always directly concerned with this (particularly Psalms 6, 102, and 143). All of them, however, can be classified as laments (on this form, see psalms, book of).

Bibliography: e. hertzsch, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 1:15339. b. fischer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 2:822823.

[r. e. murphy/eds.]