25 March 2009

She feared the light

So reads a responsory which, in theLiturgia Horarum, comes after the first reading of today's Office of Readings. Why did our Ladsy fear the light? where does the detail come from?

The responsory was taken over from the old Breviary, so we don't have to wonder about on what grounds to criticise Bugnini. A friend emailed me to ask about it, to whom I owe the English rendering (vide supra), and points out that there is no obvious source. I tried the Protevangelium Iacobi, in case it has its origin in an apocryphal source, but no luck there.

The Latin has "expavescit de lumine" - which isn't quite the same. But what is the point of this vivid little detail?

Could it be to provide a narrative reason as to exactly why our Lady was afeared? Could it have originated in a culture in which Angels did not have big give-away feathery wings, and so one would have to give a reason why she should be startled? Dunno. Interesting.

4 comments:

Andy Wilkes said...

Fr, see the wonderful picture I chose for my earlier post, The Annunciation, and it makes sense. You might also like my pics of Lancing.

Fr.Ogs said...

Fascinating Fr.
Do you suppose that 'she shrank from the Light...' would be a fair translation (Rossetti's picture shows her doing just that!)? And, if so, could this be a recognition of what an aweful responsibility Mary was being asked to shoulder? Could it also refer back to the kabod, that unearthly light the mere afterglow of which in Moses' face so upset the Israelites?

Christopher said...

I wonder if this has any relation to the tradition (also attested in an early responsory) that Mary conceived through her ear? (Before you ask, through which other orifice did you think the Eternal Word might be pleased to enter?) By this account, the message that Gabriel brings is nothing less than her Son.

Note how St John's Gospel, having introduced the Son as the Word, immediately moves on to speak of him as Light. Would not the Lord come with Light? Cf. Malachi 3:1-2 etc.

That's a little speculative, but I think it makes some kind of sense.

Pastor in Valle said...

And I have oft been puzzled by the EF antiphon at Matins of the BVM 'ante torum huius Virginis frequentate nobis dulcia cantica dramatis'. Yes, I know what it means, but I don't know what it MEANS.