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Begin Lent by praying Psalm 51

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Philip Kosloski - published on 02/21/23

Psalm 51, the Miserere, is a perfect psalm to meditate upon during the first few days of Lent.

Many of the psalms in the Old Testament speak to our human condition and our need for repentance. They are beautiful poems that recall our sinfulness, while also looking forward to redemption in Christ. In particular, Psalm 51, also called the Miserere, is a perfect psalm to begin the season of Lent. The Church even prescribes this psalm for the Ash Wednesday liturgy.

Pope Benedict XVI commented on this psalm in his homily for Ash Wednesday in 2012.

The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead can turn our hearts from hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (cf. Ezek 36:26). We invoked him just now in the Psalm Miserere: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51[50]:10, 11). That same God who banished our first parents from Eden, sent his own Son to this earth, devastated by sin, without sparing him, so that we, as prodigal children might return, repentent and redeemed through his mercy, to our true homeland.

Here is an excerpt from Psalm 51 to help you start off Lent on the right foot.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

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