Distilled Prayer Project

This page will be used to provide the project description and an index for blog posts and other files.

Venerable Bede

Project Description

The Distilled Prayer project is a long-term study of the Venerable Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter. My goal is to work through this project in this blog and I look forward to your suggestions. I call this project ‘distilled prayer’ because that is exactly what Bede has done with his abbreviated psalter. To distill means to concentrate, or to separate or extract the essential elements of something from a larger entity.

Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter is a collection of abbreviations of every psalm in order. These abbreviations range from a half a line, just a few words, to half a dozen verses for the longer psalms or just those he valued. In effect, Bede created a new prayerbook from verses of the psalter. Understanding why he created the abbreviated psalter and how it was to be used is the goal of this project.

Goal revision 2/24/08: To understand the origins of the breviate pslater and its effect on the development of later devotional books and prayers.

Expected segments of this project (to date):

  1. Review existing literature on the Abbreviated Psalter
  2. Review 7-8th century use of the psalter in Britain and Ireland.
  3. Reformat Browne’s translation to remove all of the critical apparatus, verse numbers and spaces between the abbreviated psalms so that it can be read continuously as the earliest manuscripts formatted it. Make observations on reading it in this manner.
  4. Review Bede’s use of the Abbreviated Psalter and the psalms in general. Some of the newer editions of his works have a good enough critical apparatus to make this possible.
  5. Do an abbreviated psalter myself with the Book of Common Prayer psalter. Make observations on this process and its uses.
  6. Review modern theology and meditations on the psalms.
  7. Summarize findings and discussion on a web page and/or perhaps a small book.

The Project

Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter

Book of Cerne
Book of Cerne

Early Medieval Breviate Psalters

See the page on Evolving Prayer Books for the development of devotional books without breviate psalters and after the Book of Cerne.

2 thoughts on “Distilled Prayer Project

  1. first, thank you for your studies; i always find them thought-provocative.

    second, it seems that there are these days fewer and fewer users of the entire psalter. even the new and beautiful benedictine daily prayer has an abbreviated psalter, many liturgical psalters leave many of the psalms out, and the book of common prayer 1979 allows entire psalms or difficult parts to be left out.

    for those of us who think there is a great advantage to praying the entire psalter, i find your discussion of the perhaps noble history of shorter psalters both fascinating and challenging.

  2. Hey, from Toronto, Canada

    Just a quick hello from as I’m new to the board. I’ve seen some interesting comments so far.

    To be honest I’m new to forums and computers in general 🙂


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