Psalm 118 is second only to Psalm 50 (“Have mercy on me, O God…”) in its frequency of use in Orthodox liturgical practice. In a full cycle of services, despite (or perhaps because of) its extraordinary length, it is recited at the Midnight Office every night during the week, and (for most Sunday’s of the year) at Matins. It forms the backbone of all funeral services and the Lamentations at the Tomb served on the night of Holy Friday, elaborated with intercalated troparia. Its unusual structure, organized as it is into twenty-two stases in which each verse (in Hebrew) begins with the same letter of the alphabet, in sequence, may well have been intended as a mnemonic device. In many ways, this Psalm may be seen as a summation of the entire Psalter, a legacy to be especially treasured.
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