THE PSALTER AS A BOOK OF NEEDS, according to the usage of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, as transmitted by the Athonite Elder Paisios. Translated for the St. Pachomius Library by Vassilios Kollias edited by Karen Rae Keck. This document is in the public domain. Copying it is encouraged. A collection of Psalms as has been given by the Orthodox Saint ordered after the type of their specific use.
“Father Arsenios proclaimed true Orthodoxy with his Orthodox life. He mortified his flesh in asceticism from his ardent love of God, and modified souls with the Grace of God. He believed deeply and healed many, believers and non-believers. Few words, many miracles. He experienced much and hid much. Within his hard outer shell, he concealed his sweet, spiritual fruit. A very harsh father to himself, but also a very loving father to his children. He never beat them with the law.… As minister of the Most High, he did not tread the earth, and as co-administrant of the sacraments he shone upon the world.”—Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
EDITOR’S NOTE: Saint Arsenios used to use the Psalms for blessings, especially when there was no prescribed blessing for a particular occasion. Here in Part One is the correspondence between the psalms and different occasions. The original Greek list can be found in -O Geron Paisios- by the Hieromonk Christodoulos, Agion Oros, 1994. In Part Two, we have provided a (rather poor) index; perhaps someone else would care to fashion a better.
Apart from all religious considerations, this “Book of Needs” is a fascinating portrait of village life in Anatolia at the beginning of the Twentieth Century: whether it reflects more the “longue duree” of Byzantine history or the particular difficulties of St. Arsenios’ time we do not feel well enough informed even to speculate. There is certainly no idealization of rural conditions here: particularly noteworthy is the extreme concern for alleviating psychological as well as physical pain, and the mention of what we would nowadays call “post-traumatic stress disorder”.
To us, at least, the exact reasoning behind the saint’s choice of a particular psalm for a given need is not always obvious; perhaps this is by design, to encourage close reflection on the words. Orthodoxy is not magic, and a document like this one is not an endorsement of “peasant superstition”; it is rather a channel through which the Love of God can enter into every aspect of human society.
PART ONE: A LIST OF PSALMS FOR USE AS BLESSINGS, ARRANGED BY ORDER IN THE PSALTER:
The FIRST number is the number of the psalm in the Greek Septuagint Bible. The SECOND number is the number of the psalm found in the Masoretic text and in most English language Bibles.
Psalm 1 (1):When a tree or a vine is planted, so that it may bring forth fruit.
Psalm 2 (2) : So that God illumines those who go to meetings and councils.
Psalm 3 (3) : So that badness goes away from people, so that they do not torment unjustly their fellows.
Psalm 4 (4) : So that God heals the sensitive people who fell ill from depression because of the behaviour of hard-hearted people.
Psalm 5 (5) : So that God heals the wounded eyes that were bitten by a bad person.
Psalm 6 (6) So that God frees the person who has been under a spell.
Psalm 7 (7) For those who got damaged from fear, from the terrors and the intimidations of bad people.
Psalm 8 (8) For those who are hurt by demons or by perverse people.
Psalm 9 (9 & 10) So that the demons stop tormenting you in sleep or with fancies during the day.
Psalm 10 (11) For hard-hearted couples that argue and divorce (when the hard-hearted man or woman torments their sensitive wife or husband).
Psalm 11 (12) For mentally ill people who have badness and harm others.
Psalm 12 (13) For those who suffer from their liver.
Psalm 13 (14) For a terrible demon, continually three times a day for three days.
Psalm 14 (15) So that robbers or thieves change their mind and return having done no harm, and having repented.
Psalm 15 (16) So that the key is found when it is lost.
Psalm 16 (17) For a grave and unjust accusation, three times a day for three days.
Psalm 17 (18) When there is an earthquake or other natural disaster, or devastating rain with lightning.
Psalm 18 (19) So that women give birth successfully.
Psalm 19 (20) For the couples who for medical reasons cannot have children, so that God heals them and that they do not divorce.
Psalm 20 (21) So that God softens the hearts of the rich and they give alms to the poor.
Psalm 21 (22) So that God contains the fire, so that no big harm happens.
Psalm 22 (23) So that God makes milder the very rebellious children that bring sorrow to their parents.
Psalm 23 (24) So that the door opens when the key is lost.
Psalm 24 (25) For people who temptation troubles a lot and so brings continual problems into their lives, making them lose their peace and complain.
Psalm 25 (26) When somebody asks something good from God so that He gives it without the person getting harmed.
Psalm 26 (27) So that God protects the peasants from the enemy army, so that they do not harm the people or their fields.
Psalm 27 (28) So that God heals those who suffer from illnesses of nervous or mental origin.
Psalm 28 (29) For those that the sea makes sick and who are afraid of the rough sea.
Psalm 29 (30) For those that are in danger far away, in the territory of barbarous and unbelieving people, so that God guards them and illumines the people there to become peaceful and to come to know God.
Psalm 30 (31) So that God gives enough grain and fruit when the weather is not good for agriculture.
Psalm 31 (32) So that the travelers find their way when they are lost and suffering from it.
Psalm 32 (33) So that God reveals the truth to those who were unjustly imprisoned, and so that they are set free.
Psalm 33 (34) For those on the edge of death, when they are tormented by demons. Or, for the enemy army when it brings danger and enters the borders with ominous intentions.
Psalm 34 (35) So that God frees the good people from the traps of the bad people, who take advantage of the people of God.
Psalm 35 (36) So that animosity disappears completely after arguments and misunderstandings.
Psalm 36 (37) For people badly wounded by criminals.
Psalm 37 (38) When the jaws have pain coming from rotten teeth.
Psalm 38 (39) So that the people who are abandoned and depressed find work, so that they stop being in sorrow.
Psalm 39 (40) So that the love between employer and employee comes back when there has been exchange of heavy words.
Psalm 40 (41) So that women give birth with success when the child comes prematurely into the world.
Psalm 41 (42) For young people when they get ill from falling in love, and one person gets wounded and is in sorrow.
Psalm 42 (43) So that the people get free from the prisons of an enemy nation.
Psalm 43 (44) So that God reveals the truth to couples when there has been a misunderstanding, so that they come into mutual peace and love again.
Psalm 44 (45) For those who suffer from heart or kidneys.
Psalm 45 (46) For the young people that the enemy because of envy prevents from making a family (i.e. from getting married).
Psalm 46 (47) So that the employee or the employer find peace, when the employee leaves offended by the employer, and so that the employee finds work.
Psalm 47 (48) When gangs of criminals go robbing and grave disasters are happening: to be continually read for 40 days.
Psalm 48 (49) For those who do a dangerous job.
Psalm 49 (50) So that the people who are far from God repent and return to God and are saved.
Psalm 50 (51) When, because of our sins and in order to correct us, comes the punishment of God (epidemics of illness and deaths for people or animals).
Psalm 51 (52) So that the hard-hearted masters repent and become compassionate and do not torment the people.
Psalm 52 (53) So that God blesses the nets and they get filled with fish.
Psalm 53 (54) So that God illumines the rich people that have bought slaves so that they free them.
Psalm 54 (55) So that the name of a family that had been unjustly accused is restored.
Psalm 55 (56) For sensitive people, whose souls have been wounded by their fellows.
Psalm 56 (57) For those people who suffer headaches coming from big sorrow.
Psalm 57 (58) So that things come in a helping way for those who work with good intention, so that God prevents every perverse action of demons or crooked people.
Psalm 58 (59) For those that cannot speak, that God gives them the ability to speak.
Psalm 59 (60) So that God reveals the truth when a whole group of people is unjustly accused.
Psalm 60 (61) For those that have trouble in their work either because of laziness or because of fear.
Psalm 61 (62) So that God relieves from troubles the person who is weak, so that he is not dominated by the urge to complain.
Psalm 62 (63) So that fields and trees bring forth fruit when the water is limited.
Psalm 63 (64) When a person is bitten by a dog or wolf that had rabies. (He was also for giving them blessed water to drink).
Psalm 64 (65) So that merchants prosper, so that they do not speak too much and take advantage of simple people.
Psalm 65 (66) So that the evil one does not bring obstacles in the homes and cause families to be in sorrow.
Psalm 66 (67) So that the places where hens are raised are blessed.
Psalm 67 (68) So that the women whose pregnancies fail manage to endure and become healthy.
Psalm 68 (69) When there is severe rain and the rivers overflow, taking with them people and houses.
Psalm 69 (70) For sensitive people that get sad from little things and come to despair, that God gives them strength.
Psalm 70 (71) For deserted people who become uninteresting to others [lit. “boring”] because of the devil’s envy and come to despair, that they may find mercy and healing from God.
Psalm 71 (72) So that God blesses the gatherings of the new agricultural production that the peasants bring home.
Psalm 72 (73) So that the criminals repent.
Psalm 73 (74) So that God protects the peasants that work in their fields when the enemy have surrounded the village.
Psalm 74 (75) So that the barbarous employer becomes peaceful and does not torment his fellow human beings, the empoloyees.
Psalm 75 (76) For a mother who is scared during her giving birth, so that God gives her braveness and protects her.
Psalm 76 (77) When there is no mutual understanding between parents and children, that God illumines them, so that the children listen to the parents and the parents show love.
Psalm 77 (78) So that God illumines those who lend so that they do not press their fellows for their debt, and so that they are compassionate.
Psalm 78 (79) So that God protects the villages from the robbing and stealing of the enemy army.
Psalm 79 (80) So that God cures a person whose face gets swollen and all his head is in pain.
Psalm 80 (81) So that God takes care of the poor who are in need and sorrow and are depressed because of poverty.
Psalm 81 (82) So that people buy the products of the peasants, so that the peasants are not sad and depressed.
Psalm 82 (83) So that God prevents the bad people who want to do murders.
Psalm 83 (84) So that God preserves all that is kept in the house, and the animals, and the products of the producers.
Psalm 84 (85) So that God heals those who were wounded by robbers and moreover got psychologically damaged from terror.
Psalm 85 (86) So that God saves the world when plague comes and people die.
Psalm 86 (87) So that God extends the lives of those members of the family that are still urgently needed by the rest of the family.
Psalm 87 (88) So that God protects all those who have no protector and are suffering from hard-hearted fellows.
Psalm 88 (89) So that God gives strength to those who easily fall sick and are physically weak, so that they can work without getting tired and depressed.
Psalm 89 (90) So that God brings rain when there is a drought, or that the wells bring forth water again if they have stopped doing so.
Psalm 90 (91) So that the devil disappears when he appears in front of a person and brings him terror.
Psalm 91 (92) So that God gives prudence to people so that they progress spiritually.
Psalm 92 (93) So that God protects the ship when it is in great danger at sea. (He was also for throwing blessed water at the four corners of the ship).
Psalm 93 (94) So that God illumines the disorderly people who cause problems to the nation and bring commotion to the people, causing trouble by disorder and divisions.
Psalm 94 (95) So that no spells cause couples to start finding reasons for arguments and fights.
Psalm 95 (96) So that God gives to the deaf people the ability to hear.
Psalm 96 (97) So that spells go away from people.
Psalm 97 (98) So that God gives comfort for those who are in sorrow so that they stop being depressed.
Psalm 98 (99) So that God blesses and gives grace to those young people who want to leave everything and follow God. [I do not know how succesful is my translation here. To my Greek ear the exact phrase that is used would make me think of people who follow the monastic life but I am not sure. –Trans.]
Psalm 99 (100) So that God blesses and makes real the desires of the people that are in accordance with His will.
Psalm 100 (101) So that God gives graces and talents to the good and simple people.
Psalm 101 (102) So that God blesses the people who hold offices of power so that they help the people with kindness and understanding.
Psalm 102 (103) So that the monthly flow of blood comes to a woman when it is delayed.
Psalm 103 (104) So that God blesses the possessions of the people that they are not sad and depressed, but glorify God.
Psalm 104 (105) So that people repent and confess their sins.
Psalm 105 (106) So that God gives illumination to people so that they do not move away from the way to salvation.
Psalm 106 (107) So that God gives the woman who could not give birth the ability to do so.
Psalm 107 (108) So that God humbles the enemies, so that they change their bad intentions.
Psalm 108 (109) So that God cures the epileptics. Or, so that God has mercy on those who accuse unjustly and they repent.
Psalm 109 (110) So that the younger have respect for the older.
Psalm 110 (111) So that the unjust judges repent and judge justly the people of God.
Psalm 111 (112) So that God protects the soldiers when they go to war.
Psalm 112 (113) So that God gives blessings to the poor widow, so that she pays her debts and is saved from going to prison.
Psalm 113 (114 & 115) So that God cures the mentally retarded children.
Psalm 114 (116:1-9) So that God gives blessings and comfort to the sad poor little children, so that they are not looked down upon by the children of the rich and consequently feel depressed.
Psalm 115 (116:10-19) So that God cures the horrible passion of lying.
Psalm 116 (117) So that families keep unity and love and glorify God.
Psalm 117 (118) So that God humbles the barbarians when they surround the village and bring fear, and that He reverses their bad intentions.
Psalm 118 (119) So that God shatters the barbarians and humbles their action when they slay innocent women and children.
Psalm 119 (120) So that God gives patience and forbearance to those people who have to live together with crooked and unjust people.
Psalm 120 (121) So that God protects the slaves from the hands of the enemy so that they are not mutilated before they are set free.
Psalm 121 (122) So that God cures those who suffer from the “evil eye”.
Psalm 122 (123) So that God gives eyesight to the blind and cures the eyes that are in pain.
Psalm 123 (124) So that God protects people from snakes, so that they do not bite.
Psalm 124 (125) So that God protects the fields of the just people from the bad people.
Psalm 125 (126) So that God cures the people who suffer from continual headaches.
Psalm 126 (127) So that God brings peace to a family when there are arguments.
Psalm 127 (128) So that the badness of the enemy never approaches the homes, and that there is the peace and blessing of God in the family.
Psalm 128 (129) So that God cures the people who suffer from migraines, or, so that God shows mercy to the hard and indiscreet people who bring sorrow to the sensitive.
Psalm 129 (130) So that God gives braveness and hope to those who start a new job and do not know it well yet, so that they do not find extreme difficulty in their work.
Psalm 130 (131) So that God gives repentance and comfort with hope to people so that they are saved.
Psalm 131 (132) So that God shows pity to the world when because of our sins there are continual wars.
Psalm 132 (133) So that God illumines the nations and they become friendly and the people find peace.
Psalm 133 (134) So that God protects people from every danger.
Psalm 134 (135) So that people concentrate at the time of prayer and their mind is united with God.
Psalm 135 (136) So that God protects the immigrants when they abandon their homes and leave so that they are saved from the barbarians.
Psalm 136 (137) So that God brings steadiness to the person with unsteady character.
Psalm 137 (138) So that God illumines the masters of the place so that people’s requests are treated with understanding.
Psalm 138 (139) So that God stops the temptation of sensitive people by blasphemous thoughts.
Psalm 139 (140) So that God makes peaceful the head of the family who has a very difficult character and brings suffering to all the family.
Psalm 140 (141) So that God makes peaceful the barbarian master of a place who torments his fellows.
Psalm 141 (142) So that God makes peaceful the rebel who is doing bad; then even if he is a Kurd he becomes a lamb. [St. Arsenios was living in Asia Minor. Kurds, who were often soldiers, had a reputation among other ethnic groups for being brutal fighters. –Trans.]
Psalm 142 (143) So that God protects the mother throughout the pregnancy so that she does not loose the child.
Psalm 143 (144) So that God pacifies the people when they are in unrest so that no civil war happens.
Psalm 144 (145) So that God blesses the work of people so that it is well accepted by God.
Psalm 145 (146) So that God stops the flow of blood from people who suffer from it.
Psalm 146 (147:1-11) So that God heals the people who have been bitten and wounded in the jaws by bad people.
Psalm 147 (147:12-20) So that God brings peace to the wild animals so that they do not harm people or farm produce.
Psalm 148 (148) So that God makes the weather appropriate so that people have plenty and glorify God.
[These were from St. Arsenios. The following two are from Fr. Paisios of the Holy Mountain.]
Psalm 149 (149) From gratefulness and thankfulness to God for His many kindnesses and for the plenitude of His love, that knows no limit and bears with us.
Psalm 150 (150) So that God gives happiness and comfort to our sad brothers and sisters who are in far places, and to those of our brothers and sisters who are sleeping and are even farther away. Amen.
PART TWO: TOPICAL INDEX
IMPORTANT NOTE: Only the Septuagint psalm number is given in this index.
- AGRICULTURE: 1, 26, 30, 50, 52, 62, 66, 71, 83, 124, 147, 148
- ANIMALS, Unfriendly: 63, 123, 147
- CHILDREN: 22, 76, 109, 113, 114
- DEATH AND DEPARTED: 33, 150
- DISASTERS: 17, 21, 30, 50, 62, 68, 85, 89
- HEALTH, Physical: 5, 12, 28, 36, 37, 44, 56, 58, 63, 79, 86, 88, 95, 102, 108, 122, 125, 128, 145, 146
- HEALTH, Psychological: 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 24, 27, 41, 55, 56, 60, 61, 69, 70, 80, 81, 84, 97, 100, 103, 128, 136, 138
- HEALTH, Women’s: 18, 19, 40, 67, 75, 106, 142, 145
- LAW AND GOVERNMENT: 14, 16, 32, 36, 47, 51, 59, 72, 82, 84, 93, 101, 108, 110, 137, 140, 141, 143
- MAGIC AND DEMONS: 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 33, 57, 65, 90, 94, 96, 121
- PEACE AND WAR: 26, 33, 42, 73, 78, 93, 107, 111, 117, 118, 120, 127, 131, 132, 135, 140, 141, 143
- PEACE (among friends and family): 10, 19, 22, 35, 41, 43, 45, 54, 65, 76, 86, 94, 109, 116, 126, 127, 139
- PROPERTY: 14, 15, 23, 47, 83, 103, 124
- PROTECTION: 9, 13, 34, 47, 48, 57, 90, 133
- SOCIAL CONCERNS: 20, 32, 35, 38, 51, 53, 59, 77, 80, 81, 87, 93, 101, 110, 112, 113, 114, 119, 124, 137, 140
- SPIRITUALITY: 3, 9, 24, 25, 29, 49, 50, 57, 72, 91, 98, 99, 100, 104, 105, 108, 115, 119, 130, 134, 136, 149
- TRAVEL AND EMIGRATION: 28, 29, 31, 92, 135, 150
- WORK: 2, 38, 39, 46, 48, 51, 52, 57, 60, 64, 74, 81, 83, 100, 101, 103, 129, 137, 140,144
The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, Nativity of the Forerunner 1995
Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the Hieromonk Christodoulos, the translator Vassilios, and Karen.
THE END, AND TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
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