We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Thoughts Out of Season

In continuing to study the various lectionaries, the truly anarchic situation of earlier eras has become plain. The Lenten season shows the greatest overlap but even there it is clear that different people have introduced different readings for Feria V. Indeed, it is in the ferial readings that Sarum reveals the work of many hands.

Liturgical revision has not, in the recent past, been organic, in almost any sense of the word. It is apparent that in the earliest practice the Gospel sequences and the Epistle sequences were mainly of significance as sequences: thus, there was no need for them to be coordinate, nor was it a big deal if the sequences shifted over days. Mostly the same track was covered and that is what mattered.

Cardinal Tomasi did excellent work but he did not feel the need to be bound by what came before. The reform of Trent, although less radical than V2, was, nonetheless, a reform. It is, once again, obvious that in, say, the Advent season, there is a conscious attempt to adjust Epistle and Gospel and we also begin to see the shifting of Ferial readings and antiphons to Sundays (e.g., Rorate caeli, etc.). Most lay folk make it to church on Sunday, if that. So those readings and chants had better hit home. And our primary focus ought to be the anni circuli of the Temporale.

Of course, there are other central days that may or may not occur on Sunday. Except for the devout, this means these lections will be heard only every seven years or so. But, yet one more time, what has happened to, say, The Octave Day of Christmas, and the Circumcision of Our Lord, being New Year's Day?

Rome has turned this into Mary, the Holy Mother of God; 815 into The Holy Name. Let's start with the collects:

Rome: O God, who through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary bestowed on the human race the grace of eternal salvation, grant, we pray, that we may experience the intercession of her, through whom we were found worthy to receive the author of life, our lord Jesus Christ, your son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

815: Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

I'll leave off Rome only to note that 815's version is pretty weak tea.

Now this is one of the days that the RCL has decided that the lections will remain constant across the three-year cycle. So they must be important, right?

Numbers 6: 22-27 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:“‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Psalm 8 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ...

Galatians 4: 4-7 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Luke 2: 15-21 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

While the traditional antiphons mention 'naming', their main focus is light, revelation, seeing, as a clear foretaste to the Epiphany (Theophany). And while there is little denying the need for some didactic function in the readings, there also needs to be a strong sense of the marvellous and the miraculous and the mystery of the workings of God. On this criterion, the pericopes above miss more often than they hit. (To my mind, they are a bit too prosaic, a bit too affirming. After all, we surely wouldn't want the Word of God to startle or upset us, now would we?)

Can revision proceed without the simple imposition of merely individual tastes? If we start with the traditional Gospel, then we may refer to other sources, of which there are many. I found this list of lections approved by some dioceses in the Scottish Church (which can be put to use if we cleave to lectio continua in the Daily Office). So, the following is not merely the work of a single hand. Tell me that it is manifestly inferior to the two aforementioned efforts.


INTROIT: Puer natus est nobis.

(Isaiah 9. 6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor -- (Psalm 98. 1). O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things. V.: Glory be to the Father . . . For unto us a child is born . . .

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Prophecy. Genesis xvii. 1-7.

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

GRADUAL: Viderunt omnes.

(Psalm 98. 4, 5, 3) All the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God. Show yourselves joyful unto the LORD, all ye lands V.: The LORD declared his salvation; his righteousness hath he openly showed in the sight of the heathen.

The Epistle. Galatians iii. 23-29.
Priusquam venerit fides.

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

ALLELUIA: A Domino factum est.*

Alleluia, alleluia. (Psalm 118. 23, 27) V.: This is the LORD’S doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. God is the LORD, who hath showed us light. Alleluia.

The Gospel. Luke ii. 21-32.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.


The one salient change (noted by the *), besides the slight truncation of length to accommodate an additional lection, is as follows: the traditional alleluia is Dies sanctificatus: Alleluia, alleluia. V.: The hallowed day hath shined upon us. Come, ye nations, and adore the Lord, for to-day a great light hath descended on the earth. Alleluia. While there is nothing objectionable in that, it can be better aligned with the partial source in order to impress a purely scriptural character (as probably required for Anglicans, despite its majestic antiquity).

In the RCL, Genesis xvii is read only once a year on Friday, of Ordinary Time, in Week 12. Not very important, it seems.

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