19 November 2010

Stir up Sunday

As all right-thinking people will know, next Sunday is really Excita Sunday and ought to be a Green Mass and Office. And, of course, there should be a Commemoration of the Feast of our Lady's Presentation, such an important day in the Byzantine Rite. And don't forget that the Last Gospel should really be of our Lady.

Just to be even more provocative, I will go further and explain that the really traditional way of celebrating this day is with the Book of Common Prayer (which here reproduces the medieval English 'uses'). In this rite, we use an Epistle (well, actually, a Lesson from Jeremiah) and a Gospel (from S John) which both swilled around a bit in the Middle Ages but pretty well always came just before or just at the start of Advent, as a taster and a preliminary for that season. Their loss is an impoverishment in the Missal of S Pius V. I will explain the importance of these readings in the words of Abbot Rupert of Deutz (1075- 1129) - a considerable mystagogue (of whose unorthodoxy with regard to the Eucharistic presence I have never been completely convinced). I believe that we can learn from his words about what Scripture and the Tradition teach concerning the redemption of our Jewish brethren; rather better, dare I suggest, than we can learn it from Nostra aetate.

Holy Church is so intent on paying her debt of supplication, and prayer, and thanksgiving, for all men, as the Apostle demands, that we find her giving thanks also for the salvation of the children of Israel, who, she knows, are one day to be united with her. And, as their remnants are to be saved at the end of the world, so, on this last Sunday of the Year, she delights at having them, just as though they were already her members! In the Introit, calling to mind the prophecies concerning them, she sings each year: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. Verily, his thoughts are those of peace, for he promises to admit to the banquet of his grace, the Jews, who are his brethren according to the flesh; thus realising what had been prefigured in the history of the patriarch Joseph. The brethren of Joseph, having sold him, came to him, when they were tormented by hunger; for then he ruled over the whole land of Egypt; he recognised them, he received them, and made, together with them, a great feast; so too, our Lord who is reigning over the whole earth, and is giving the bread of life, in abundance, to the Egyptians, (that is, to the gentiles), will see coming to him the remnants of the children of Israel. He, whom they had denied and put to death, will admit them to his favour, will give them a place at his table, and the true Joseph will feast delightedly with his brethren.

The benefit of this divine table is signified, in the office of this Sunday, by the Gospel, which tells us of the Lord's feeding the multitude with five loaves. For it will be then that Jesus will open to the Jews the five books of Moses, which are now being carried whole and not yet broken - yea, carried by a child, that is to say, this people itself, who, up to that time, will have been cramped up in the narrowness of a childish spirit.

Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremias, which is so aptly placed before this gospel: They shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but, The Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north-country,and from all countries whither I have driven them.

Thus delivered from the spiritual bondage which still holds them, they will sing with their heart, the words of thanksgiving as we have them in the Gradual: It is thou, O Lord, that savest us from our enemies!

The words we use in the Offertory: Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord, clearly allude to the same events; for, on that day, his brethren will say to the great and true Joseph: We beseech thee to forget the wickedness of thy brethren! The Communion: Verily I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and it shall be done unto you, is the answer made by that same Joseph, as it was by the first: Fear not! Ye thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present ye see, and might save many people. Fear not, therefore, I will feed you, and your children.
(The Reading is Jeremiah 23:5 ff, in which, prescient of the Bugnini dating of Christ the King, we learn that "A king shall reign"; the Gospel, John 6: 5 ff, is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. My translations of the propers are taken from the Book of Common Prayer and the good old English Missal.)

This is a superb exposition, in the patristic 'typological' idiom, of an important theme in Pauline eschatology - see Romans 9-11. There is significance, I suspect, in the fact that modern lectionary-manufacturers exclude this theme, the Eschatological Submission of the Jews to the Call of Christ, from their confections. Sometimes I feel that, despite the call for a "richer table of Scripture" in Sacrosanctum concilium, the Scriptures read to the People of God have in some respects, paradoxically, been made conceptually narrower in the post-conciliar books. I venture suggest that this question could benefit from a broad enquiry.

You might call this a contribution from the Patrimony.


Rubricarius said...

Fr. H.,

In an ideal world do you think that Stir up Sunday should be celebrated in violet and part of a longer Advent as in the Ambrosian rite etc?

Joshua said...

Will Mrs H. be therefore about to prepare the Christmas pudding, perchance?

Please remember me to Pam, Fr, whom I met over a cup of tea when I visited in January!

(I forget: is the spouse of a sacerdos a sacerdotisa?)

William Tighe said...

Sacerdotissa, perhaps, as opposed to sacerdotula? Although the real word is flaminica (in Tighe-speak the word for a pretend-bishopess).

Sir Watkin said...

The form sacerdota is attested, tho' more usually sacerdos is of common gender (so same form for both sexes).

Ian said...

Having been saturated in my southern US upbringing by the teachings of eschaton-obsessed free-churchmen (pre-millennialists, millennialists, post-millennialists, &c, &c), I have always been unclear on the end in store for Judaism. Is it indeed orthodox teaching that a door will be opened to them before the trumpet sounds?
(btw, sacerdotista sounds as if it's a priest's wife who works at Starbucks!)

Fr Levi said...

The Greek Orthodox call the priest's wife 'presbytera' - there's a nice article about the wife sharing in her husband's calling at http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/papadimitriou_call2.html

Rubricarius said...

What about 'Matushka' - hope I have spelt that correctly.