History and Usage of the De Profundis Psalm 130

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The De Profundis is the common name for the 130th Psalm (in the modern numbering system; in the traditional numbering system, it is the 129th Psalm). The Psalm takes its name from the first two words of the psalm in its Latin phrasing (see below). This Psalm has a varied history of usage in many traditions.

In Catholicism, the rule of St. Benedict, established around 530 CE, assigned the De Profundis to be recited at the beginning of the vespers service on Tuesday, followed by Psalm 131. It is a penitential psalm that is also sung in commemoration of the dead, and it is also a good psalm to express our sorrow as we prepare for the Sacrament of Confession.

For Catholics, every time a believer recites the De Profundis, they are said to receive a partial indulgence (the remission of a portion of punishment for sin). 

The De Profundis also has a variety of uses in Judaism. It is recited as part of the liturgy for the high holidays, for example, and is traditionally recited as a prayer for the sick. 

The De Profundis has also appeared in world literature, in the works of the Spanish author Federico García Lorca and in a long letter by Oscar Wilde to his lover. 

The Psalm has frequently been set to music, with many of the melodies written by some the world's most renowned composers, including Bach, Handel, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Mozart, as well as modern composers such as Vangelis and Leonard Bernstein. 

The 130th Psalm in Latin

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:
Speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem, speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

The English Translation

Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
If You, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?
But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.
I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word.
My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,
For with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption;
And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
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ThoughtCo. "History and Usage of the De Profundis Psalm 130." Learn Religions, Sep. 3, 2021, learnreligions.com/de-profundis-542782. ThoughtCo. (2021, September 3). History and Usage of the De Profundis Psalm 130. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/de-profundis-542782 ThoughtCo. "History and Usage of the De Profundis Psalm 130." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/de-profundis-542782 (accessed March 20, 2023).