Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Reflections for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year C
Sunday, 20 December, 2009

As we near the end of Advent time seems to be running away rather rapidly; this is perhaps appropriate at a time when we ponder the eschaton and the end of days. Whether my condition is as sublime as that might make it sound, the weekend has come and I am not even close to having digested my notes on the readings into a shape that might be useful for my few but faithful readers. Indeed, unless I am hit with some brilliant idea tha I need to broadcast, there will not be notes here for Christmas or the Sunday following. I am sorry, but I hope you will understand. The RCL notes are always available.

Nonetheless, here are two comments that might be helpful.

The Collect for today, in which we pray that we, like the Blessed Virgin, may embrace God’s will in all things, seems most fitted to Year B, when the Gospel of the Annunciation is read. It is not so far off from the words which the Epistle to the Hebrews takes from the Greek version of Psalm 40: See, I have come to do your will.

First Reading: Micah 5.2-5a

Zephaniah’s genealogy is given for four generations; not even Micah’s father in named. Little is known of his personal life, and he had no political role. Micah preached in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, that is 740-687 bc. These were bad days for Judah: the Assyrians conquered Damascus, Samaria; and Ashdod: by taking the coastal regions they had Judah in their grip and besieged Jerusalem in 701. Micah’s own home Moresheth in the lower country of south-west Judah was menaced by the invaders. The danger to Judah was not only from without: “Prophets, priests and judges accepted bribes; merchants cheated; Canaanite cults were used alongside the Yahwistic ones [NJBC]. Though Micah was more concerned with sin and punishment than with political or cultic matters, he, like Isaiah, used the fall of Samaria in 721 bc as an example for Jerusalem. His prophesies are organized on a pattern of oracles of doom followed by oracles of promise.
The reading this Sunday is an oracle of great promise: after a prophesy of destruction and exile (4.9-14) cmes the anouncement of a new David coming to restore his kingship. Matthew 2.5-6 shows hiw this text came to be interpreted [NJBC]. Like David this king will be shepherd of the people. The reference to Bethlehem does not necessarily mean that the Messiah will be born there, but that he will spring from the royal line of David. Textual criticism suggests, in fact that Bethlehem is a latter addition to the text (on this, please refer to a commentary such as the the NJBC)
If that is so, then we can see Bethlehem as an image deepen and gain power as it is used in the Scriptures. In the first instance, the prophet may have had in mind only that the promised Messiah would be born of the house of David, and expressed this by reference to Ephratha {see Gen 35.19; Ruth 4.11; 1 Sam 17.12]. But by the time the passage was used in the Gospel, there is a clear reference to Bethlehem, and it appears that the belief was current that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem [see Matthew 2.5, John 7.42]. In the preaching of the Gospel Christians have found even more in the name Bethlehem. To take one example from a sermon of Gregory the Great:
“Bethlehem is by interpretation the house of bread. For it is the Lord Himself who says, ‘I am the bread of life which came down from heaven.’ The place therefore where the Lord was born was before called the house of bread, because it was there that He was to appear in His fleshly nature who should refresh the souls of the elect with spiritual fullness.”
I hope I will have a chance to provide some reflections in theis space at Christmas, and think further about this meaning; for not only was the Bread of Heaven born in the House of Bread, he was laid in a manger. But for now I will leave you to ponder this.
This is the only reading from Micah in the 3-year cycle. In the Hebrew text it is 5.1-4a; the numbering of verses in our versions comes from the edition of the Vulgate in use in medieval and early modern times; the New Vulgate (1979) agrees with the Hebrew and Septuagint numbering.
I comment on the Gospel reading in the homily, which I might post on Sermonets if the respons is good. But I fear it is rather pedestrian.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Liturgical Notes

The Advent “O” Antiphons

The Calendar in the Book of Common Prayer notes on 16 December, “O Sapientia: an ancient Advent anthem”. “O Sapientia” is the first of seven antiphons on the Magnificat which are addressed to Christ under a series of titles and figures from Old Testament prophesy and are known as the “O Antiphons” or the “Great Os” from the first word. In the Roman rite they are used from the 17th to the 23rd of December. In the mediaeval English use, however, the "Os" were accordingly begun on the 16th, either because of a proper antiphon on St Thomas’ day or the use of an extra Marian Antiphon (O Virgo virginum) on the 23rd.

When exactly the O Antiphons were composed and came into use is not known. It is claimed that Boethius (died 524/5) “made a slight reference to them”, although the on-line essay where I fund this gives not even a slight reference for this claim []. According to A.C.A. Hall, the Episcopal Bishop of Vermont, writing c. 1914, the antiphons are fond in 11th century manuscripts, but “must be of much earlier origin; for Amalarius, a French liturgical scholar of the first half of the ninth century, added an eighth to the older seven.” This eighth, by the way, was the O Virgo virginum.

The same source which talks about Boethius mentioning them also says that “the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, ‘Tomorrow, I will come.’ Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, ‘Tomorrow, I will come.’ So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.”

The hymn O Come, o come, Emmanuel, is founded on these antiphons, though the seventh antiphon becomes the first verse of the hymn.

It might be helpful to point out the prophecies to which each of the O Antiphons refers. I have simply combined the references given by different commentators. The New Testament references are from Bishop Hall. The English versions of the Antiphons are from McCausland’s Order of Divine Service: The Christian Year 2010 (Toronto: ABC, 2009), p. 27. Bishop Hall also included a devotional paraphrase on each of the antiphons:

1. O Sapientia
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, / attingens a fine usque ad finem, / fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: / veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from beginning to end, mightily and sweetly ordered all things: Come, and teach us the way of prudence!
Isaiah 11.2-3’ Isaiah 28:29; Proverbs viii. 22, sq.; Sirach 24:3; Wisdom of Solomon 8:1; 9: 4, 9, 10; Hebrews i. 1; John i. 3; Ecclesiasticus xxxiv. 3. sq.
2. O Adonai
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, / qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, / et ei in Sina legem dedisti: / veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mount Sinai gave him the Law: Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us!
Isaiah 11:4-5 ; Acts 7:30, 28; Hebrews 12:18-21, 10:16. Also: Ex 24:12; Deut 5:15f; Ex 15:13.
3 . O Radix Jesse
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, / super quem continebunt reges os suum, / quem Gentes deprecabuntur: / veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, standing for an ensign of the people, before whom rulers shall keep silence, to whom all nations shall have recourse: Come, save us, and do not delay.
Isaiah 11:1, 10; 45.14; 52.15; Micah 5:1. Isaiah 45:14, Isaiah 52:15; Hab 2:3 ; Romans 1:3; 15:12.
4. O Clavis David
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; / qui aperis, et nemo claudit; / claudis, et nemo aperit: / veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, / sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel: who opens and no one closes, who closes and no one opens: Come, and deliver from the chains of prison whoever sits in the darkness and the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22:22; 9:7; 42:7; Gen 49:10; Num 24:17; Revelation iii. 7; Luke i. 32; Mark ii. 10; Matthew xxviii. 18, xvi. 18, 19.
5. O Oriens
O Oriens, / splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: / veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Rising Dawn (or Dayspring), Brightness of the light eternal and Sun of Righteousness: Come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Isaiah 9:2; 42:7; 60:1-2; Zech 3:8-6:12Malachi 4:2; Wisdom 7; 26; Luke i. 78, 79; Hebrews i. 3; John i. 4, 5; Titus iii. 4; Luke vii. 22; Ephesians v. 8-14.
[Note that in some OT passages, the word which the Vulgate rendered as “dawn” is translated as “Branch”.]
6. O Rex gentium
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, / lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: / veni, et salva hominem, / quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations, and their Desire, the cornerstone that binds two into one: Come, and save mankind, fashioned out of clay.
Gen 2:7; Isa 9:6; 2:4; Isa 28:16; 45:22; Jer 10. 7; Haggai 2:8; Psalm 113. 6-8; 47:9. Acts 17:26; Eph 2:14 .
7. O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, / exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: / veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Saviour: Come, and save us, O Lord our God.
Isaiah 7:14 ; 8:8; 32:1; Psalm 72; Genesis 49: 10; Haggai 2:7; Zech 9:9; Luke 1:71, 74, 75.

For those who begin the Antiphons today, here is the one for use on December 23rd
O Virgo Virginum
O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?/ Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem. / Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? / Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall be any after. daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Third Sunday of Advent
13 December AD 2009

Gaudete in Domino

The traditional theme of this Sunday is Joy, and its traditional name is “Gaudete in domino”, which means “Rejoice in the Lord!”. It is taken from the fourth chapter of Philippians, which is the traditional Epistle for this Sunday in the Roman rite, and from which the introit antiphon is taken. The rose-coloured vestments used today in some places and the rose or pink candle in the Advent wreath are signs of this joy.
In the Book of Common Prayer, the Philippians passage is read on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, not the Third: it appears that the compilers were following the Sarum use, but whether this or the Roman was the original is unknown. For the Sarum Use see

First Reading: Zephaniah 3.14-20.

Zephaniah proclaimed the word of the Lord in Judah in the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC), who made a serious attempt to undo the apostasy of his father and grandfather (2 Kings 21-22; 2 Chronicles 33-35). Zpehaniah seems to have preached before Josiah began his reforms.
The Book of Zephaniah traces the prophet’s genealogy back four generations to Hezekiah. Since the faily of no other prophet is traced so far, and the name Hezekiah is uncommon in the Scriptures, it is generally taken that Zephaniah was a descendent of King Hezekiah (715-687 BC) and a second cousin once removed of Josiah.
Zephaniah proclaims judgement on Judah for idolatry, a judgement which was extended to other nations in the second chapter. The third chapter opens with a stern warning against rebellion and sin, but promises comfort and consolation to those who wait patiently for the Lord. The book ends with today’s reading, a promise of the restoration of Judah and Jerusalem and a triumphant summons to rejoicing.
Note the repeated declaration: “the Lord is in your midst” (verses 15, 17). The presence of the Lord is likewise declared in Psalms 46 and 48 (“Zion Psalms).
In both this reading and the Canticle is found the expressions “in that day” and “at that time”, which are used in the prophetic writings to refer to the Day of the Lord, which comes to mean the end of the era, and to refer to the coming of the Messiah.

Canticle : Isaiah 12.2-6, A Song of Salvation.

Shout aloud and sing for joy … for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel! The first reading’s themes of joy and the divine presence are echoed in the Canticle from Isaiah.

Philippians 4.4-9.

Rejoice! The RCL commentary notes that this “is the conventional Greek salutation (like our goodbye) but here Paul means ‘rejoice’ literally.” This seems to me to put the point backwards. It would be better to say that the word χαίρω, chairō, means ‘to rejoice, be glad’’ it is from the noun χαρά, chara, which means ‘joy’; like “hail!” it came to be used in Greek as a salutation and farewell. That it was rendered by “Gaudete” in the Vulgate would suggest that this verse was not in ancient times understood to be a salutation. Perhaps if one wanted to capture all the nuances, one might use “Cheers!” but this would hardly do in Church.
A more serious question that arises is the call to rejoice always. If we think of joy as a mood, this is something impossible: joy will not come for the asking. But the epistle calls us to rejoice in the Lord always. The attitude of joy begins with the thankful remembering of what God has done for us. Indeed, it is worth pondering the fact that the Greek words for ‘joy’ and ‘thanks’ are from the same root, which also gives us the word for ‘grace’. We should also remember that our Christian life is a shared life, and at times when grief weighs individuals down, the strength of the whole community bears them up, and they remember that we are called to share the life of Christ, “who for the joy that was before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.2). It is to Christ that we give all that burden us, making our requests known and seeking the peace of God.
Where Zephaniah and Isaiah speak of the Lord “in your midst” Paul here speaks of the Lord as “near” or “at hand”, which echoes the Aramaic prayer of the early church, Marana tha, “come Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:22 see also Revelation 22:20).

Luke 3.7-18

The Gospel of the preaching of John the Baptist continues, with a summary of his preaching. Two very important themes of the Gospel are given prominence in Luke’s account of the Baptist. One is the universality of God’s redeeming love. For it is all the people who go out to hear the word and seek the baptism of repentance. Luke generally uses the word ὄχλος, ‘crowd’ as a synonym for λαος, ‘people’ (not in the loose modern sense of a number of individuals, but in the strict sense of the populace), thereby giving a wider scope than Matthew, where John is speaking to Pharisees and Sadducees. Luke will later make it clear enough that the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected John’s teaching; now he is concerned with those who accept it. The other theme is the reversal of expectations & God’s love for the despised. This is seen in the two groups among the crowd who are singled out, the tax-collectors and the soldiers. Later on in the Gospel both tax collectors and soldiers (officers, indeed) will be among those who hear and approve the teaching of Jesus.
Three times in this passage the question is asked which anyone who accepts the Gospel must ask: “What the should we do?” It is not enough simply to hear and say, “That sounds nice!” or “There’s a lot of sense in that!” The call is to repent, that is turn around, change your mind and heart: it is natural to ask what this means in practice.
What John does not say is, “You must give up your life and come to live in the desert, as I do,” or “You must abstain from wine and strong drink, as I do,” or even “You must fast and pray, as I do”. What he says is very simple: people are to make proper use of their material possessions (such as cloaks and food), using them to help those in need; those in positions of authority are to act justly and honestly.
However, John did not have the last word: he came pointing beyond himself to the one mightier than he. Repentance, turning around, is not the end of the Gospel. Luke tells us that John proclaimed the Good News to the people, and he did. But when Jesus came proclaiming the Good News he said not only, “Repent and believe in the gospel;” he also said, “Follow me!”.
Just so the answer to “What then should we do?” changes as the full Gospel of Christ is revealed. Today we hear the Baptist’s answer: when the same question is put to St Peter and the Eleven on the Day of Pentecost there is a new answer: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

It's nearly five o'clock on Friday afternoon, and time to stop so that you might have a chance to think about the readings before Sunday. As always, the notes at the Revised Common Lectionary Site are a good help tpo understanding the readings. See:

The Hastings Road Murder of 1862

Selected Documents, I
A reference I recently happened to make on Facebook prompted a certain amount of interest in the story of the Hastings Road Murder in 1862 and a request for mor information. Some recent articles were cited. Perhaps it would be of interest to present some of the original documents of the case, beginning with the first news reports. This first selection ends with the opening remarks of the prosecution at the trial and will continue with the evidence presented.
I have transcribed these pieces from the microfilm records. There are a very few gaps where the material is not legible. I have not corrected the spelling of proper names.

1. Hastings Chronicle: Belleville, Wednesday, June 4th, 1862
"Horible Murder in Monteagle
"To the attention of A. F. Wood Esq we are indebted for the following particulars of a murder on the Hastings Road:
"Madoc, [Friday] May 30, 1862.
"A Mr. Finlayson has just come in from the township of Monteagle after the Coroner, to investigate one of the most outrageous murders that has taken place in this section country. The circumstances of the case as related by Mr. Finlayson (a very respectable man by the way,) are as follows:-- On Tuesday last [May 27th] a Mr. Munro, a resident of Monteagle (a Township on the Hastings Road about 70 miles from this place,) went to his neighbour, a Mr. Elward, to expostulate with him for shooting his hens. Elward told him he would shoot them if they came on his grain again, and took his gun and went out for that purpose. Munro seized hold of the gun to prevent his shooting. Elward drew a pistol from a side pocket and presented it at Munro, who knocked it out of his hand and called on his son to pick it up. While the scuffle was going on, Elward's wife stole up behind Munro and struck him over the head with a scythe, cutting through the skull into the brain!--Munro fell, upon which she struck him again, almost severing his arm from his body. Munro died in a few minutes. Elward then wrenched the pistol from Munro's son and shot him in the back, making a frightful wound. When Finlayson left, young Munro's life was despaired of.
"It was with the greatest exertions that the people in the neighbourhood were prevented from lynching Elward and his wife.
"Munro is a man of very good character, and generally respected. Elward and his wife, on the other hand, have been the cause of much trouble to the settlement since they resided there, and were not only very much disliked, but also very much feared. On his way out Finlayson stopped at Mr. Jelly's (Reeve of Tudor,) who immediately with several of his neighbours, started off to arrest Elward and his wife.
"Dr. Yeomans, Coroner, will leave in the morning for the purpose of holding an inquest, and investigating the matter. Finlayson says the excitement is very great in the immediate neighbourhood. It is a most horrible affair, and it is to be hoped that the guilty parties will be brought to justice."

2. The Intelligencer, Belleville, Friday Morning, October 17th, 1862

"The Fall Assizes

"The Hon. Chief Justice DRAPER opened the Fall Assizes for this County on Monday last. ADAM WILSON, Esq., Sollicitor General, is proseculting for the Crown. There are four important cases to be tried--four for murder, one for maiming cattle, and one for larceny. The civil docket contains but 39 cases. The following gentlemen compose the Grand Jury:--

3. The Globe, Toronto, 21 October, 1862
"The Hastings Road Murder.

"We received the following telegraph last evening from Belleville, relative to the Hastings Road Murder, by which it will be seen that Richard Aylward and his wife were both found guilty of murdering the son of the latter, and sentenced by Mr. Justice Draper to be executed on the 8th of December next:--
"BELLEVILLE, Monday, Oct. 20.-- The trial of Richard Aylward and Mary Ann his wife, for the murder of Munro, and the attempted murder of the son of the latter, on the Hastings road, about six months ago, took place to-day. The trial lasted all day, and appeared from the evidence to have been one of the most revolting murders ever perpetrated in Canada. The jury retired about five in the afternoon, and after three hours' deliberation returned a verdict of guilty against both parties.
"Mr. Justice Draper then addressed the prisoners, stating in the course of his remarks that it was the most atrocious case he had ever presided over, and closed by passing sentence upon them both, to be hanged on the 8th of December next.
"The trial of Mormon, for the murder of Taylor, in this town, about three weeks ago, took place on Friday last, but contrary to all expectation, Mormon was acquitted."

4. The Hastings Chronicle, [Wednesday] October 29, 1862.
"The Assizes.

Trial of Richard and Mary Elward for the Murder of William Munro. Shocking Revelations: Verdict of Guilty.

Sentence of Death Pronounced.

Unfeeling Conduct of the Prisoners.
"(Reported expressly for the Chronicle by our own Reporter)

Monday Morning, Oct 20, 1862
"This trial, the most important one of the last Assizes, and in fact the most important that has ever been tried in this County, came off on Monday last [October 20]. Owing to a pressure of other matters we were unable to give a full report in our last; we will now endeavour to atone for the delay by giving a more detailed statement than we could possibly have given last week. The appearance of the prisoners in the dock created quite a sensation, and prepossessed those present strongly in their favor,--but as the Hon. Solicitor General unravelled link after link in their chain of guilt, this feeling gave way, and one of horror at the manner in which they compassed the death of Munro took its place. The prisoners were ably defended by Jas. O'Reilly Esq. and John Finn Esq., but the eloquence of the former and the ingenuity of the latter was of no avail; the record was too black,--the evidence too plain and uncontradicted, to be shaken. Few persons besides Mr. O'Reilly would have been able to make even a tolerable defence out of the material at his command, and vigorously did he labour to save his clients from the penalties of a capital conviction, but without efect. He exhausted every means in his power,--took advantage of every quirk and qibble of the law. The prisoners appeared to be above the ordinary standard of intelligence, but presented a perfectly stolid appearance,--a seeming indifference to the result,--and only at one time during the whole of the horrid recital did the female prisoner appear moved, and that was when the learned Counsel for the defence made any unusually eloquent appeal to the sympathies of the Jury on behalf of the three little children,--one a mere infant not many months old, left to the bitter mercies of a cold world, to bear the obloquy which the ignominious death of their parents would entail upon them. Of the character of the prisoners previous to their removal to the township of Wicklow we know nothing beyond mere rumor, and the witnesses were not asked by the defence in relation thereto, since their residence in that part, being under the impression no doubt that it would not bear investigation.
"Mr. O'Reilly challenged fifteen Jurors; the Crown did not exercise the right of challenge. The following are the names of the Jurors empanelled:--
"Charles English, Thomas Conlan, Edward Walsh, William B---, Ja--- Baragan, Baltis Baragan, John W. Keeler, John Hawkins, John Cl---, Francis Robertson, Robert Clare, Sidney Banagar.
"The prisoners were then arragned for the murder of William Munron, of the Township of Monteagle, on the 16th of May last, and pleaded 'Not Guilty'.
"The Hon. Adam Wilson, Solicitor General, then briefly stated the facts as to the murder, as he proposed to establish. It appeared that in May 1861, the deceased moved on to one of the Government free grants of land in the township of Monteagle, and in a short time after, prisoners moved and settled on the lot directly opposite, but in the township of Wicklow,--the township road merely dividing the two premises. For a time the families lived in friendly intercourse, but afterwards several little differences arose, and latterly they were not on speaking terms. Some complaints had been made by prisoners that deceased's hens were on his property destroying his grain, but nothing was done about the matter until the 16th of May last. While the deceased and son were working in their own clearings, about 4 o'clock on the day in question, they heard a gun fired in the direction of prisoner's house, and it being nearly tea-time, the proceeded home to enquire the reason. Arrived there, they were informed by Mrs. Munro that the hens had come from the direction of Elward's in great fright, and on counting them she found there was one missing. Munro went over to Elward's to see what he had done with the hen; the son Alexander followed, and arrived in time to hear the prisoner tell Munro to go away.--Munro replied that he did not care how much prisoner would shoot the hens, so long as he did not take them away with him. Prisoner answered that he had not shot the hen, but wished he had; the deceased replied, Perhaps they are there now. Deceased then took up a gun, and the three proceeded to the wheat field; on the way there, prisoner turned rapidly round to Munro, pointing the gun at him. Deceased caught hold of the gun, and they struggled for its possession, during which prisoner drew a pistol, which was knocked out of his hand. Munro desired his son to pick it up; he did so, and in turning found prisoner standing over him with the gun pointing at him. Young Munro threw himself on the ground at his feet, when prisoner stepped back and fired, the charge taking effect in his left shoulder. And here the female prisoner first appears on the scene; just as the boy rose with the pistol, he observed Mrs. Elward standing about 11 or 12 yards from him, about the same place where he left his father and Elward scuffling; he did not see his father; it is supposed he was lying on the ground, with the female prisoner standing over him. These are the facts, as will be told you by the witnesses. The other testimony consists of admissions made by the prisoners, or either of them, before and after the occurrence; the sharpening of the scythe with which the fatal blow was struck, and the manner in which the prisoners spoke of the occurrence after it had taken place. If, gentlemen of the Jury, you find the facts as I have stated them to you, you will bring in a verdict against the prisoner. If, on the contrary, you deem the evidence justifies you in arriving at an opposite conclusion, you will of course acquit the prisoner. The object of going over the testimony in advance is to enable you to note the particular bearing of the evidence, as adduced, and consequently give a more intelligent verdict. The learned Counsel for the Crown then referred to the law bearing upon the case and the difference in the crimes of wilful murder and manslaughter.

NOTE: The life of Justice W. H.Draper, CB., may be read at

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Second Sunday in Advent
6 December ad 2009
Compare the Collect in the BAS to the Prayer Book Collect for Advent III (page 99)
The Gospels for the Second and Third Sundays in Advent tell us of St John Baptist, the Forerunner (ὁ Πρόδρομος). Today, not only the Gospel reading but all the lections say something about John. For an introductory article on John with some rererences to further reading, see
First Reading
Malachi 3.1-4
Nothing is known of the person of the prophet Malachi. In Hebrew Malachi means ‘my messenger’, and it is widely thought that the book takes its name from the reference in 3.1. It dates from the period after the return from Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple (500-450 BC). Malachi devoted to the temple and had a high view of the responsibilities of the priesthood and the demands of the covenant. For this reason he pronounced judgement on corrupt priests (1.6-2.4) and looked to the Lord’s messenger who would prepare for the coming of the Lord.
The Book of Malachi ends with the prophecy that God wuld send Elijah before the day of the Lord comes (4.5). Some commentaries, such as the HarperCollins Study Bible, make much of the fact that Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament, and that its prophecies are followed by their fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ. It should perhaps be pointed out that this is only certainly true in the arrangement of the Bible followed by Protestants since the Reformation. It is not the case in the Vulgate or Roman Catholic Bibles or the Bibles used iN Eastern Orthodox Churches.
The present passage is one of the great Advent scriptures
A note on My messenger. In Greek the word for messenger is ἄγγελος, angelos; some versions, such as the Judaica Press Complete Tanakh, render 3.1 as “Behold I send My angel, and he will clear a way before Me. And suddenly, the Lord Whom you seek will come to His Temple. And behold! The angel of the covenant, whom you desire, is coming, says the Lord of Hosts.” It might be a healthy correction to some of the New Age guff about angels to remember that the word simply means ‘messenger’. In Matthew 11.10 Jesus himself applies this verse to John Baptist.
Alternative First Reading
Baruch 5.1-9
Baruch the son of Neraiah was the secretary of the prophet Jeremiah (see Jer 36). This book claims to be his work, written at Babylon in the fifth year after the fall of Jerusalem (1.1-2). On the internal evidence, however, this identification is not convincing. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary describes it as “a collection of several distinct pieces, grouped together because all are too short to stand alone and all are set against the backdrop of the fall of Jerusalem in 587 and the exile.” Although at least some of the book seems to have been composed in Hebrew, the earliest extant texts are in Greek. Jerome knew of no Hebrew text.
The present passage is a promise of the return from exile. It bears a close resemblance to passages in Isaiah: a good Study Bible (or any edition with cross references) will point this out) Of particular interest today is verse 7, a prophecy of a highway in the desert that is strikingly similar to Isaiah 40.3-4, which in turn is quoted in the Gospel in reference to St John the Baptist.
The Canticle Luke 1.68-79
The Song of Zechariah, known as the Benedictus from its opening word in the Latin version, is the traditional Gospel Canticle for Morning Prayer. It is widely considered to be a composite of more than one song. One suggestion is that Luke has adopted and joined together two Jewish Christian hymns (vv. 68-75; 76-79). The latter material stresses John’s role as forerunner of Jesus. For comments on the text. see the extensive comments in the RCL “Clippings” [ ] These notes call for one further comment.
On “the dawn from on high” (oriens ex alto) in verse 78, RCL comments, “We are familiar with various names for Jesus, but not this one. It seems that it did not catch on in the early Church.” The fifth of the great Advent Antiphons, however, is “O Oriens”
O Rising Dawn (or Dayspring), Brightness of the light eternal and Sun of Righteousness: Come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
The Epistle: Philippians 1.3-11
Philippi was an important city of Macedonia, a hub on one of the main roads of the Roman Empire. the first Christian community established by Paul in Europe was at Philippi (Acts 16.11-13). Paul’s relationship to the Philippians seems to have been a happy one (4.15-16). The occasion of this letter was that Epaphroditus, who had been sent by the Philippian church with gifts for Paul (4.18), and who had been seriously ill while staying with Paul, was noe returning home (2.25-30). Paul sent with him his thanks and certain necessary instructions.
As usual, St Paul follows his opening salutation with a prayer of thanksgiving This prayer is appropriate for reading in Advent because of the references to the day of Jesus Christ. In verse 6 Paul prays that God who began a good work in the Philippians “will bring it to completion at the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In v.10 he hopes that the Philippians “may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”. Compare this verse to last week’s reading from 1 Thessalonians “that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
The day of the Lord Jesus would be a fruitful topic for a brief Bible Study. That day is when Christ will return and the present age end (1Cor 1.8; compare 2 Thess 2.3 and 2 Pet 3.10; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The concept does not originate with the apostles, hiwever: the study should begin with the many words of the prophets about the day of the LORD (to start with, Amos 5.18-20; Zephaniah 1.15-16; Lamentations 1.21, 2.22; Ezekiel 30.3-4; Joel 1.15, 2.10-11; 2.28-32, 3.18) and note the “little apocalypse” (Mark 13 and parallels). For this study a good commentary or two would be needed.

The Holy Gospel acording to St Luke 3.1-6
The Preaching of John the Baptist
Year C of the RCL is centred on the third of the synoptic Gospels, which is attributed to St Luke. There is perhaps more strength to this ascription than the others, for Luke the physician was a relatively minor character, mentioned once or twice by St Paul, and it seems unlikely that his name would be adopted to lend authority to an anonymous Gospel (a practice that was less frowned upon in ancient times than it would be today). One of the features of Luke’s writing is that he was concerned to write in the most appropriate style and to follow the best practices of the historians of his day. Alone among the evangelists, he takes some care to provide the dates of the events he describes. That he perhaps got some of them wrong does not affect the case. Besides, since neither a single calendar nor a common era in use at the time, we should not be too hard on him for getting muddled. For all their advantages, modern historians sometimes make astounding errors.
In addition to the helpful notes over at the RCL Commentary (see link above), we should note that in verses 4-6 the quotation from the prophet Isaiah differs from the Hebrew text. Where Luke has
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: /'Prepare the way of the Lord, / make his paths straight."
The Hebrew text of Isaiah 40.3 has
A voice calls, "In the desert, clear the way of the Lord, straighten out in the wilderness, a highway for our God." [Judaica Press translation]
Isaiah was describing the return from the Babylonian exile as a new Exodus, leading across another Sinai desert to a new and more glorious promised land [see also the passage from Baruch noted above].
Note too, that though all the Evangelists identify this prophecy of Isaiah with John Baptist, only Luke completes the quotation with words of promise to all the world “all flesh shall see the salvation of God”. Let us keep this in mind when we come to Christmas and hear that the Good News of the angels is for all people.

Now the call to prepare the way of the Lord and proclaiming a level highway adds a nuance to the title of the Messenger of the Lord from Malachi and the Crying Voice from Isaiah; and that is the title Forerunner, or to use a less familiar English word, “Harbinger”. When a monarch would go progress throughout his kingdom, to see and be seen, he woud send a servant ahead to arrange lodging and in effect, prepare the way. This servant was known as the harbinger, from the Middle English herberger, literally, "innkeeper" in itself from herber a form of “harbour” (the –n- strayed in sometime in the 15th century). Compare the modern French auberge. So John Baptist might well be called the Harbinger of the Lord. We mght then recall that our Lord was born in an inn … but we probably have enough food for thought already.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the First Sunday of Advent
29 November, AD 2009
The Advent Antiphons
While the city is sprouting Christmas lights and decorations, and the shops are filled with the most tiresome of Christmas music, in our churches we find a quieter, more reflective mood. It is Advent, the season of preparing for Christmas and of contemplating the one who came, who comes to us, and who will come in glory to restore all things to God’s love.
Every year I find that there is one Christmas hymn that can give us a right perspective for the Advent preparation: that hymn is What Child is This? This year I would like to suggest as a particular focus for exploring this question that we take up the ancient Advent Antiphons, the “Great Os”. For each of these seven antiphons is a title for the Messiah, the Christ, which is drawn from the prophecies, particularly those of Isaiah. Today's reading from Jeremiah is also refelcted in the thrid antiphon. Altogether, the "Great Os" are a rich source for meditation on those promises of God to wich Christ is his resounding “Yes!”.
1. O Sapientia
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, / attingens a fine usque ad finem, / fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: / veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from beginning to end, mightily and sweetly ordered all things: Come, and teach us the way of prudence!
2. O Adonai
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, / qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, / et ei in Sina legem dedisti: / veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mount Sinai gave him the Law: Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us!
3 . O Radix Jesse
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, / super quem continebunt reges os suum, / quem Gentes deprecabuntur: / veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, standing for an ensign of the people, before whom rulers shall keep silence, to whom all nations shall have recourse: Come, save us, and do not delay.
4. O Clavis David
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; / qui aperis, et nemo claudit; / claudis, et nemo aperit: / veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, / sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel: who opens and no one closes, who closes and no one opens: Come, and deliver from the chains of prison whoever sits in the darkness and the shadow of death.
5. O Oriens
O Oriens, / splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: / veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Dayspring, Brightness of the light eternal and Sun of Righteousness: Come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
6. O Rex gentium
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, / lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: / veni, et salva hominem, / quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations, and their Desire, the cornerstone that binds two into one: Come, and save mankind, fashioned out of clay.
7. O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, / exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: / veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Saviour: Come, and save us, O Lord our God.
A version of these Antiphons may be found in the Advent Litany on page 119 of the BAS; they are adapted (in reverse order) in the hym O come, o come, Emmanuel.
Some further notes on these Antophons, including the appropriate scriptural references will appear in the next posting.
The Collect
The Collect in the BAS is adapted from the Prayer Book Collect, which seems to have been an original composition in the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549. It is based on the theme of the traditional Epistle for the day, Romans 13.11-14, which in the RCL is read on this Sunday in Year A.
The First Reading: Jeremiah 33.14-16
The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the word of the Lord in the last years of the kingdom of Judah, from the thirteenth year of Josiah (about 626 BC) to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 597 BC.
Chapter 23 of Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgement on the evil shepherds, bad kings of his people, and utters the promise of a restoration of the house of David to rule in righteousness and justice. This oracle of the “shoot of David” is repeated in today’s reading, which is thought by many scholas to be the work of a later editor. In the Babylonian captivity it seemed to many that the promise had gone unfulfilled, and the people were tempted to abandon their ancestral faith.
The earlier prophecy promised the restoration of “Judah and Israel”; now we hear, “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.” In the earlier prophecy the new name, :"The LORD is our righteousness" [YHWH șidqēnû] is a play on tbe name of the last king, Zedekiah[șidqî-yāhû “my justice is the LORD”].
To Christians, the promise of the righteous shoot of David is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. The image of the shoot or branch became a clsssic term for the Messiah (see Zech 3.8, 6.12; Isaiah 11.1). This inage is found in the Great “O” Antiphons of Advent which are familiar both from the hymn O come, O come Emmanuel and from the Advent Litany in the BAS : “O Root of Jesse, standing for an ensign of the people, before whom rulers shall keep silence, to whom all nations shall have recourse: Come, save us, and do not delay!” It is verse four of the great Advent hymn O come, o come, Emmanuel.
It should be noted that the verses which make up today’s reading are missing from the Septuagintm the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Psalm: 25.1-10
Psalm 25 is one of a number of acrostic psalms, that is a psalm in which every verse or every line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is a device delightful to the composer of verse as a challenge to ingenuity, and an aid to those who wish to learn it, since it makes it easy to remember, but it usually results in the absence of any clear, logical structure. Nonetheless, Psalm 25 is clearly contains the elements of the typical lament: cry for help. (For more infrmation on this point, see
“Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame” : waiting is a central theme of Advent, expressed in the cry, Come, O Lord. Another note in this psalm that is also a note of Advent is the theme of the Lord’s path or ways. These is a key theme of the psalm: see verses 3 and 7-15.
The Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13
This letter is generally considered to be the oldest part of the New Testament. For the circumstances of writing, see the notes at
In this section St Paul offers thanskgiving and prayers for the Churstians of Thessalonica. It was not the custom to include a direct prayer in an ancient letter, so this prayer is couched in the form of a blessing. It contains three petitions: for a return visit, an increase in love by the Thessalonians, and fulfilment of their Christian life, which is to ‘be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.’ This touches on the theme of the Gospel for today. In first Thessalonians the Day of the Lord is treated more .extensively in Chapter 5.

The Holy Gospel according to St Luke: 21.25-36
Traditionally, the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent looks not to the prophecies of the Messiah or to the birth of Christ, it does not look to his coming in the hearts of his people, but to his second Advent, his triumphant manifestation as Lord and Judge.
On Luke 21.5-38, the RCL notes comment:
“This section opens up two windows:
“Through one, the reader may look back on 19:47-21:4 and see the consequences of the religious leaders’ rejection of
Jesus and his teaching in the Temple.
“Through the other window, the reader looks beyond the events of Luke 22-23 and sees God’s vindication of the rejected Son of Man and Jesus’ strengthening of his disciples, who will be rejected
because of their allegiance to him. [NJBC].”
When Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple and his disciples asked him when this should be, he spoke of the signs of the end that were expected, both natural phenomena such as earthquakes and events such as wars and, in particular, the persecution his followers were to expect; now he turns to speak of cosmic events, signs in the heaven, and of a great terror coming on the whole earth, Then the Son of man will come, as Daniel had said, in great power and glory. This is the sign of redemption, and his faithful are to stand firm in confident expectation.
The great message of the end time is this: Whatever happens, in earth or in the heavens, the words of Jesus will remain. The fate of the world is in the hands of the one who came to give himself in love and reconcile us to God.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Sunday between 6 and 12 November
Proper 32, Year B
Sunday, 8 November AD 2009

The Collect and Sentence
The BAS Collect is slightly adapted from the Prayer Book Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent, which was an aoriginal composition for the first book of 1549; it reflects the theme of the Epistle, Romans 15. 4-18, part of which is still read on that Sunday in Year A. There is no readily apparent reason why it is used this week.
The Sentence is the same as the Alleluia verse for this Sunday in the Roman Missal, and is clearly intended to be an interpretative comment on the second part of the Gospel Reading
The Readings
The First Reading: Ruth 3.1-5; 4.13-17
The Book of Ruth is a short story set in the period before 1000 BC, in the time of the Judges. This gentle story has little in common with the history of warfare narrated in the Book of Judges. It is a book about love and fidelity, of how Ruth, a Moabite widow in a Jewish family brings her widowed mother-in-law back to enjoying life. Near the end of the book, Ruth bears a son who becomes David's grandfather. Because Ruth is a foreigner, the book’s effect, if not its intention “is to create a symathetic feeling towardss foreigners who put themselves nder the protection of Israel’s God,” and to show that marriage with foreigners is acceptable. This theme has sugested that it was “a post-exilic composition, based on an older tale, intended to counter the hearsg decrees of Ezra and Nehemiah” requiring Israelites to divorce foreing wives and marry only Israelite women (Era 10.1-5; Neh 13.23-27.
Christian readers will note that as great-grandmother of King David, the Moabite Ruth is an ancestor according to human reckoning of the Lord Jesus; see the genealogy in Mt 1.1-16. It is notable that apart from the mother of Jesus, four women are mentioned in this genealogy: Tamar (see Gen 38); Rahab (see Jos 2, 6); Ruth; Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (1 Samuel 11-12). The reader or hearer will also connect this passage with the concern for widows, especially poor widows in the Gospel passage for today. In the Roman Mass a passage from 1 Kings 17 about Elijah and the poor widow of Zarephath is read today, with Psalm 146.
The first reading for Proper 31, Ruth 1.1-18, which we did not read last week because of the celebration of All Saints, sets the scene; the story of Ruth and Boaz begins at 2.1. We now come to the conclusion of the tale. At harvest time, when the reapers are required to leave some grain for the poor (including widows) to glean; Ruth chooses to glean in Boaz’s field (2:3). As a kinsman of Naomi (2:20) Boaz he has some obligation to look after her and Ruth. More than that, he notices Ruth and favours her; he has learnt of her fidelity to Naomi. Naomi sees Boaz’ kindness as a gift from God, and desiring to provide for Ruther, she teaches her how to show her love for him.
In verse 1 “security” seems to explain rather than translate the original, as does the RSV’s “a home”. It appears that Naomi literally said, I must seek rest for you, that it may be well with you”: this is supported by the ancient Greek and Latin versions as well as the English version of he Judaica Press.
In verse 4 “feet” is said to be a euphemism for the private parts.

Psalm 127
A psalm of wisdom, 127 teaches that a safe home and a large faily are the Lord’s gift. It declares two truths: first, that without God’s help, all human activity is futile (1-2); second, of the security that comes from a stroing family (3-5)\
1 “House” may mean household as well as a dwelling-place, though the reference to labourers suggests that a building is meant. Because the superscription of this Psalm is “of Solomon”, it has also been suggested that the reference is to the temple. A broader interpretation is that the nation is intended, whose security and confidence rest in God who founded Jerusalem and continues to provide new generations.
2. Worry is vain and has no place in the life of the faithful because the Lord does build he house and defend the city. See Mt 6.25-34. The second half of this verse seems to pose a problem for translators: most English versions more or less agree with the liturgical psalter, but the Judaica Press version is “so will the Lord give to one who banishes sleep from himself,” and the RCL notes cite “honour” and “prosperity” as alternative translations.
5-6. I have only just discovered, while looking for something else that a movement among conservative evangelical Christian couples has adopted the name “Quiverful”, on which see One should also remember how Mr Quiverful, the vicar of Puddingdale in Trollopes’s Barsetshire Chronicles, a poor clergyman with a very large family.

For general comments on the Epistle, Hebrews 9.24-28 see and the link to the clippings there.
The same epistle is read in the Roman Mass today.
In verse 24, the word “copy” translates the Greek antitypon. Since the categories of type and antitype are of some importance in Biblical interpretation and theology in general, it is useful to comment on the words involved. The root of these words is the verb typtein, which means “to beat, press, strike”, from which is typos, “a blow, print, mark”, which comes to mean "a figure, type, model or pattern”. It is helpful to think of the English ‘type” as in “typewriter” (untl this device has been forgotten) and “typography”, Hence a “type” is the model and the antitype the copy struck from it.
By the way, the English “typewriting” and the French dactylographie show a difference in the way the act is considered: the latter means “finger-writing”,

The Holy Gospel: Mark 12.38-44
The same Gospel passage is read in the Roman Mass today, but a shorter reading is provided by the omission of verses 38-40The parallels in Matthew and Luke are, for the warning about the scribes, Mt 23.1, 5-7, 14; Lk 1.20-46 and for the widow’s mite, Lk 21.1-4.
Since two weeks ago, the readings from Mark’s Gospel have jumped over Chapter 11, which relates the palm Sunday Entry into Jerusalem and its sequels, and the first part of Chapter 12, We missed 12.28-37, which is read on Proper 31 B, because of All Saints. That passage ends with a dispute between Jesus and the scribes in which Jesus had the upper hand, and at which “the throng heard him gladly”. It was likely because of the mention of the scribes that the Gospel-writers put the pericope 38-40 here, and the mention of widows in verse 40 that attracted the incident of the widow’s mite
Beware the scribes!
The scribes were certainly not all as evil as they are depicted here, nonetheless, these faults are common to religious leaders, The charge that they “devour widow’s houses” (v. 40) is one that resonates in all ages, for the unscrupulous man of God who takes large sums from credulous old women is well-known. Of course old women are not their only credulous victims.
v. 38. Long robes probably refers to the outer garment with tassels prescribed in the Law (Num 15.38-9, Deut 22.130. The scribes apparently wore a longer version of these. They were proper for times of prayer and other duties: here it seems that the scribes liked to wear them at other times to parade their piety. Note Matthew’s version, “they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long”. I have seen reference to a suggested correction of the text that would read stoais, (porticoes), for stolais (robes); this would give the more elegantly balanced phrases, “walk in the porticoes and be greeted in the market-place” but does not seem to be supported by the manuscript evidence.
Greeted: According to Nineham’s commentary on Mark, the custom was that one should pay greetings to a person more learned in the Law, but “that some of the greatest rabbis are known to have waived their right and been eager to make their salutations first.
v. 39. best seats, literally first seats. The custom was growing at this time that in the synagogues the elders sat in front of and facing the congregation. First, then, would probably catch the image better than best. On seeking places of honour at banquets, see Lk 14.7-11 and Mk 10.37.
The widow’s coins
The devouring of widow’s houses brings the next pericope to mind, the well-known story of the widow’s mite. Jesus, while watching the people casting their offerings into the temple treasury, sees a widow cast in two mites declares that she is giving more than all the others, because she only is making a real sacrifice to provide her gift. There is a danger of missing the point, and teaching ourselves to think that this incident simply praises those who give little.
We do not need to concern ourselves too much with the exact meaning of treasury; it translates a word which in some passages means a room, but it here is seems to refer to a number of chests in the women’s court of the temple that were earmarked for specific purposes.
The small copper coin is a lepton, the smallest coin of the day worth 128th of a denarius, which was the standard day’s pay. Mark explains that two are worth a quadrans, transliterating the Latin name of a coin which the NRSV calls a “penny”, although the sense might be better caught by “farthing”. One lepton was the smallest acceptable (or indeed possible) offering.
Since a number of quite similar stories are told in both pagan and Jewish literature, it has been suggested that this pericope originated as a story Jesus told and which was later transformed into an incident in his life, Nineham cites a famous example from the Rabbinic literature, the story of priest who scorned a woman’s offering of a handful of flour; overnight he received in a vision this rebuke: “Despise her not; it is as though she offered her life”.
Another reading of this passage should also be noted, one which takes the two parts of today’s reading as a unit, Byron Smith of Edinburgh sees the widow’s mite as
" illustration of how the scribes who run the temple are devouring the house of a widow, all she had to live on, indeed literally, 'her entire life'. Whether or not this was a 'freewill' offering or a compulsory payment, this temple system has eaten another widow. She has not just given until it hurts, but the temple has taken away her very life. There is no criticism of the widow, but neither is there simple commendation of her as an example of generosity. She is an innocent bystander, a casualty of the temple, pointlessly sacrificed by the very scribes who will soon go on to devour Jesus' life too." [See:}
Of course, we do not need to choose one reading or the other. The example of giving all one’s life to God in Christ is important whether the scribes were fleecing this poor woman or not: for this story really isn’t about money. You’ll have to think about that, or discuss it among yourselves; I’m getting too close to 2,00 words for comfort.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes on All Saints’ Day, Year B

There seems to be no point in repeating the general notes that were provided for the feast of All Saints last year, and are posted on this blog under the date of 1 November 2008. However, a further note on the Collect that As we noted then, the Collect for this feast in the BAS is an adaptation of the traditional Prayer Book Collect, which appears to have been composed for the first book of 1549. It might be interesting to note how this Collect has changed since the first Prayer Book of 1549.
The first Prayer Book prayed God to grant us grace so to follow this holy Saints in all virtues and godly living. In 1662 this was altered to all virtuous and godly living, which was retained in the Canadian Book of 1962. In the BAS this became lives of faith and commitment. Which, if either, of these is in any way better I leave to your judgement. One would only hope that by following the saints in lives of faith and commitment we will all increase in virtue and godly living.
The change of unspeakable to inexpressible was probably unavoidable, as unspeakable has gained a pejorative sense. I find the older words sound better, but there you are.
All Saints and All Souls : the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed can hardly be separated, but make a two-day commemoration of those who have died in Christ. The readings for Year B make this clear, for the first choice of first reading appointed for All Saints this year, Wisdom 3.1-9 is also the first reading for All Souls. Just what the distinction between the two commemorations might be is hard to say, especially since our Church has no formal doctrines concerning the prayers of the Saints or of Purgatory —though a variety of opinions and practices on these matters are held by its members. Nonetheless, the ground for some distinction does exist in the practice of placing the names of certain of the faithful departed in the calendar to be remembered. For further thought on this question, you would do well to consult the entries for these feasts in Fr Reynold’s For All the Saints. I wold also recommend for reading at this season a recent book by N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperCollins, 2008), which is also an excellent Lent book.

The Readings
First Reading: Wisdom of Solomon 3.1-9 or Isaiah 25.6-9
At St Columba and All Hallows the reading from the Wisdom of Solomon will be read on All Saints’ Day this year. The alternative reading, Isaiah 25.6-9 contains a vision of the Lord’s feast for all nations at the end time. This saving vision speaks of the conquest of death; its promise that the Lord “will wipe away the tears from all faces” is echoed in the reading from the Book of Revelation.
Internal evidence suggests that the Wisdom of Solomon is not the work of that monarch, but of a Hellenistic Jew, possibly of Alexandria, in the first century before Christ. It was written in Greek, though the first chapters show signs of having been translated from Hebrew originals. It was part of the Greek version of the Scriptures, the Septuagint, which were excluded from canon established by the Jewish authorities after the fall of Jerusalem. However, along with other books of the so-called apocrypha, it formed part of the Christian Old Testament and has been read as such in the Roman and Eastern Churches. Although the Anglican Church went with other Protestant and Reformed teaching in denying that these books are canonical, or may be read to establish doctrine, it has always included them in the lectionary.
When the commemoration of the faithful departed was restored to the Canadian Calendar, Wisdom 3.1-9 was appointed as the lesson at the Eucharist.

Psalm 24
is said by the New Oxford Annotated Bible to be “a liturgy on entering the sanctuary, probably used in connection with a procession of the ark. It is imagined as having been sung by two choirs, one inside and one outside the temple. Within the temple gates is sung an acknowledgement of the Lord as creator [1-2]. The choir then asks and answers the question, “Who is worthy to be admitted to the temple?” [3-6]. Verses 7-10 are a dialogue in which the choir without the gates, presumably carrying the ark, demands admittance. In verse 7 the heads of the gates are the lintels.
It is obvious that this Psalm is read on All Saints because of verses 3-6, the description of those who seek the face of the Lord and are worthy to ascend his hill. However, it might not be too far-fetched to recall that verses 7-10 figure in the ancient legend of Christ’s Harrowing of Hell. When the Crucified Lord Christ descends to the place of departed spirits (see the BCP p. 545), these verses are heard. Thus in the Christian mind, these words are associated with the victory of Christ over the everlasting doors of Hell. Let them echo in your mind as you hear the final verses of the Gospel passage being read.

Second Reading: Revelation 21.1-6a
Time does not permit much comment on the reading from the Revelation of John also known as the Apocalypse (which is merely “revelation” in Greek). Please note that there is no ‘s’ in Revelation.
In commenting on this passage, N T Wright suggests that this scene of cosmic renewal “is not well enough known or pondered (perhaps because, in order to earn the right to read it, one should really read the rest of the Revelation of St John first, which proves too daunting for many).”
There are two particular promises in this vision of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven which are particularly important for the present feast. The first is the great declaration that “The home of God is among mortals.” Can there be any more perfect fulfilment of all the promises of scripture than this?
While I understand the need to avoid exclusive language, I must ask whether “among mortals” is a good translation for μετὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: “Mortals” does not mean “human beings, but all that are subject to death. While it is an important truth that God cares for all his creatures, that does not seem to be the point here. Further, I wonder whether “home” best renders ἡ σκηνὴ, literally “tent” or “tabernacle”: “dwelling” seems less definitive. But I digress.
The other promise is the abolition of death and tears and sorrow; which should be read in close connection with the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus; for what do we see in God’s perfect self-revelation but that he takes part in and shares our grief.

The Holy Gospel, John 11.32-44
The pressure of sermons that need to be prepared has overwhelmed me, and I am unable to make any useful comments now. I do recommend the comments on this passage in William Temple’s Readings in St John’s Gospel.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Sunday between 23 and 29th October
Sunday, 25 October 2009: The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost,
Proper 30, Year B

The First Reading : Job 42.1-6, 10-17
The conclusion of the Book of Job. The reading has two sections. Verses 1-6 are the end of the poem of Job; verses 10-17 are from the prose epilogue, which is in the same style as the opening chapters of the book. Verses 7-9, the Lord’s judgement on Job’s three friends, are omitted. In the end the Lord restores Job’s fortune twofold.
There are some questions about the text of these verses, for which a good commentary should be consulted. Note especially that in verses 2-4 Job quotes words of the Lord we heard in last week’s reading.
Job acknowledges that understanding the world and the divine plan is beyond him. Where before he had believed by hearing, now he has seen the Lord; [v. 5]as NOAB comments, this is “the contrast between belief through tradition and faith through prophetic vision.” Indeed, the philosophical problem of suffering is not solved in the Book of Job. Its end is not the vindication of Job but his acceptance by the Creator. Perhaps the ongoing relationship with the God is the only real answer there is.
It is interesting that in the restoration of Job there is no mention that his disease is healed, though surely we may assume that it was. Note also the unusal fact that the three daughters of Job are named: Jemimah (dove), Keziah (cassia), and Keren-happuch (horn of antimony —a black eye shadow). The commentary of Rashi says that “They were named according to their beauty: Jemimah: Bright and white as the sun (יום); Keziah: She had a fragrant and perfumed scent like the spice, cassia; Keren-happuch: Because of the horn in which they put stibium and lixivium, as it is stated (Jer. 4:30): ‘that you enlarge your eye with paint (בפוך).’” The daughters also receive an inheritance along with their brothers, which is not only a sign of Job’s immense wealth but also (as it has been suggested) an assurance that they woul make good marriages. NOAB suggests that the names have a flavour of folklore.
A church-goer might be forgiven for failing to recognize the great beauty and wisdom of the Book of Job from the brief snippets we hear in the Sunday lectionary. Perhaps this is good, as it points out the need to know the Bible better. This is also true of the selections from Hebrews we are reading, which leave out important parts of the thought (a further note on that comes below).
Psalm 34.1-8 (19-22)
An alphabetical acrostic, as are Psalms 9, 10 and 25. The traditional superscription, found in texts of the Bible, but not in the Liturgical Psalter, ascribe this Psalm to “David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away”. For this incident, see 1 Samuel 21.10-15, where Abimelech is called Achish the king of Gath.
Like Job, the psalmist has experienced evils and been saved by the Lord; therefore he calls on the people to praise the Lord with him.
Read today, this is an obvious meditation on the lection from Job. Note that the importance of faith by seeing is stressed: “O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man that trusts in him.”
In liturgical use there is no particular reason not to use the whole psalm, though unless we are going to read or chant it slowly and carefully, there is no particular reason to do so.

The Epistle : Hebrews 7.23-28
In an earlier form of the lectionary (which will be found in most copies of the BAS: the change to the RCL was made in a later printing, check the title page to see which one you have) Hebrews 7.1-10 was read this Sunday; now the RCL gives us 7.23-28. The former practice had the advantage of explaining further the references to Melchizedek, King of Salem, in the reading the week before. Instead we have part of a much longer argument, and indeed a pronoun [“he” in verse 24] whose antecedent [“Jesus” in verse 22] has to be supplied. If anyone who reads the lessons in Church is following this I would remind them to review the directions in the third paragraph of page 266 of the BAS. This is one of the readings to which these directions most clearly apply!
The passage we read is a very important part of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and contains the great declaration that Christ’s offering was made “once for all when he offered up himself”, which is so well stressed in the Eucharistic Prayer of the BCP in saying that on the Cross Christ made “by his one oblation of himself once offered” the only true and complete sacrifice for the whole world.
Space is too short to give a useful list of readings on the question of what is meant by the Eucharistic sacrifice and how it relates to the once-for-all event of Calvary; Eric Mascall's Corpus Christi might be a good start.
The teaching of Hebrews about Christ’s perfect sacrifice does not stop here, but follows the analogy of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant to show that it includes not only his death but his ascension into the heavenly sanctuary: over the next few weeks we continue to read gobbets from this complex argument. Here again it is abundantly clear that the passages read in Church are not sufficient: in order to benefit from them a person needs to be familiar with the whole of the Epistle. If anything shows the necessity of regular Bible-reading, it is the passages chosen to be proclaimed in Church.
Now it would not take anyone very long to read through Hebrews (or Job, for that matter) with enough attention to make it possible to follow and understand the selection heard in Church. If we could be sure that enough of the congregation did this, it would be far easier to preach sermons that were profitable to them!
Canon Bright’s hymn, Once, only once, and once for all would be good to sing this Sunday; it is not in the new Common Praise.

The Holy Gospel according to St Mark, 10.46-52
This passage tells the story of the healing of the blind beggar Bartimaeus outside of Jericho: the parallel passages, Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43, differ in certain details, not the least of which are the number of the blind men and the fact that neither Matthew nor Luke call him by name. Scholars differ on the implications of this fact. See R. Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006), p. 41.
This passage concludes a section of Mark’s Gospel. In coming to Jericho, Jesus and his disciples have come within twenty miles of Jerusalem: the next section is the entry into the holy city, and the prelude to Christ’s Passion. The section that ends with Bartimaeus also began with the healing of a blind beggar (8.22-26); it is concerned throughout with sight and faith. In it we hear the three prophecies of the Passion, each followed by an instance of the disciples’ inability to understand (or see) the meaning of Jesus ministry, even when they can confess that he is the Christ. One meaning of this section is that all are in need of Jesus’ healing before they can see the truth, whether their blindness was physical or spiritual.
In the interests of space, here are just a few comments.
“Bartimaeus … the son of Timaeus”. Bartimaeus itself means “son of Timaeus” in Aramaic. Is the writer displaying an ignorance, or giving a clumsy aid to non-Jewish readers? See Bauckham, p. 79.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Son of David was a messianic title in that it designated Jesus as heir of the promise made to David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Psalm 89:28-37). Before this only the disciples and demons have recognized Jesus’ true identity; they were always commanded to be silent. This is the first public declaration of Jesus as Messiah that goes without rebuke. This is perhaps another sign that we are on the brink of the final conflict.
Notice that when Jesus calls Bartimaeus to him he does it though others (it is not clear whether the disciples are meant or the crowd): “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’” The message is relayed to Bartimaeus as Christ’s call: “Take heart; rise, he is calling you”. Do we always realize that Christ’s normal way of calling folk is through us?
“Throwing off his mantle”. This shows Bartimaeus’ eagerness to answer the call of Jesus, and is reminiscent of the call of the first disciples, who left their nets and boats and all to follow Jesus. The similarity is closer that one might at first think, for it was the custom for beggars to receive alms in their mantles or cloaks which were spread on the ground for that purpose. So here, like the fishermen, Bartimaeus is throwing away a means of livelihood, a symbol of the old life. The final words of the passage, “and followed him on the way,” makes this more clear.
“The way” was used as a technical term for the Christian life by the earliest Christians (see Acts 9.2).
In a note in Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, he quotes an observation of G. Thiessen, that “Bartimaeus ‘is the only healed person the miracle story tells us became a “follower” in the narrower sense,’” and adds “In form, Mark’s story of Bartimaeus … resembles a story of the call of a disciple as much or perhaps more than the story of a healing miracle” (p 45, n. 25, and see references there). This point should be very helpful for our reading of this passage.
Although there are many more things I should say, I must turn from writing notes and buckle down to preparing a sermon, and so I will tale my leave of you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lectionary Notes

A Note on the Sunday between 16 and 22 October
18 October AD 2009
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 29, Year B

Since certain other commitments are weighing heavily this week, it seems better to provide one interesting comment on the Gospel reading than a number of trite comments on the whole Sunday lectionary. Useful comments on the other readings may be found as usual at the Diocese of Montreal’s Revised Common Lectionary site:
The point I want to make is not often found in commentaries. indeed, although I know I read or heard it somewhere, I cannot remember where. I can only be sure it is not my own clever idea.
The Holy Gospel: Mark 10.35-45
The incident reported in this reading follows immediately Jesus’ third prediction of his passion. As with the other predictions, the disciples’ concern for rank and leadership in the community and the kingdom shows how little they understood what Jesus was telling them.
This time the stars of the story are James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They and Peter seemed to have formed an inner group of disciples : they alone were present in the Garden of Gethsemane and at the Transfiguration. They come to Jesus with a request for the places of honour “when he comes into his kingdom”. Commentators are not agreed on what this means. The idea of being seated at his right and left had would seem to refer to the messianic banquet. We might be content, though to follow the early writer Theophylact, who simply said “Now the above mentioned disciples thought that He was going up to Jerusalem, to reign there”.
The Lord’s reponse to their request is clear. He says: “You do not understand what you mean when you ask this. I have just told you that the Son of Man, the Messiah, is going to suffer. Are you able to go to the same fate?” His reference to the cup becomes clear in Gethsemane: when he prays, “remove this cup from me”. (For the references see the RCL site, or a Bible with good notes.) It is also clear that when the brothers say (with a speed and brevity that makes it all too clear they still don’t understand), “We are able!” that they will, indeed drink his cup and be baptized with his baptism.
Jesus goes on to say that although they will share his cup and baptism, “but to sit at my right hand or my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” [v. 40]. These words are rich in meaning. One valuable comment comes from Eduard Schweizer:
"The fact that Jesus has left open the question for whom these places of honour have been prepared (by God) makes it very clear that to Jesus, discipleship does not allow one to claim any special reward. In a very pointed manner, Jesus rejects the idea that suffering is meritorious. The fact that one suffers in some specific way as a part of sharing in the pathway of Jesus does not qualify him to receive a reward, neither does it allow him to make any special demand. It is certain, however, that God will never forget it."
For the Lord does not say who it is these places have been prepared for. St Matthew’s version adds the words “by my Father” [Mt 20.23], but this does not answer the question.
Now when we remember that this incident is the sequel to Jesus’ prediction of his passion, and take seriously the references to the cup and the baptism, we should expect that these words about his right and left hand also have a relation to the Passion. Indeed, the Gospels do show us two persons who are granted the places at Jesus’s right hand and his left: for in Mark 15 27 we read, “And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.” (There is no difference between saying “on his right hand ….” and “on his right …” : same expression is used in both cases in Greek.)
Long ago, Henry Alford, the Dean of Canterbury, commenting on St Matthew’s version of the request of James and John wrote:
“One at least of these brethren {sc John] saw the Lord on His Cross—on His right and left hand the crucified thieves. Bitter indeed must the remembrance of this ambitious prayer have been at that moment! Luther remarks, ‘The flesh ever seeks to be glorified, before it is crucified: exalted before it is abased.’” [The New Testament for English Readers, vol I, part I, 1868].
I am still working on the rest of this Gospel passage, for there is no little danger in the teaching that who would be first must be a servant! How many men and women have found that taking the way of a servant is the way of power and control, in a sense far different from what Jesus had in mind. We may think of the odious and servile Uriah Heap in David Copperfield, of the woman in one of Lewis’ pieces of whom it is said: "She's the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression" [The Screwtape Letters], of countless secretaries of committees. But this is all going into the sermon for Sunday, and I must now stop.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Harvest Thanksgiving
Sunday, 11 October, AD 2009

Haec (i.e. gratia) enim est una virtus non solum maxima sed etiam mater virtutum omnium reliquarum: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. Cicero, Pro Cn. Plancio, 80.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the the spirit, indeed it is a way of life which lies at the heart of our faith: the idea of thankfulness cannot be spearated from that of grace: indeed, in latin langauges the words are the same, for gratia, grace, means both the ‘favour’ or ‘gift’ and the thanks that is rendered for it. Hence we call the blessing said over food a ‘grace’. From the Greek χάρις, which has much the same range of meaning, comes eucharist, the name of the great sacrament of our salvation
One might wonder why such an important virtue as gratitude is not included among the four cardinal virtues, Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. St Thomas ranks it as a special virtue under the heading of Justice, which is "Rendering to each one his right" [2a2ae, 58, 1]. Since all we have and all we are is grace, an unearned gift of God, we owe him grace, thankfulness.

Here are a few of the many quotations on the theme of gratitude one can find on line.
G. K. Chesterton: You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
~ When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
William A. Ward : God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"
John E. Southard : The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.
Thomas Fuller: Gratitude is the least of the virtues, but ingratitude is the worst of vices.
Joseph Addison: There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance.
Meister Eckhart: If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.
George Herbert: Thou hast given so much to me, / Give one thing more, - a grateful heart; / Not thankful when it pleaseth me, / As if Thy blessings had spare days, / But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition: The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.
For balance, here are a few about the vice of ingratitude:
TimothyDexter: An ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating acorns, but never looking up to see where they come from.
Dennis Prager: All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it's truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.
Publilius Syrus: One ungrateful man does an injury to all who stand in need of aid
And of course,
Shakespeare, King Lear: How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is / To have a thankless child!

The Readings:
Although the lectionary provides three sets of readings for Harvest Thanksgiving, the Canadian Church does not appropriate each set to a particular year of the three-year cycle (see pp 396ff in the BAS). So while the commentary in the Revised Common Lectionary Website of the Diocese of Montreal comments on the second set this year, as if they were “Year B”, I have a preference for the first set. Last year my notes on the readings for Harvest Thanksgiving were rather skimpy and I am glad to have a chance to correct this . However, please refer to those notes (9 October, 2008) for some general remarks on the festival.
Overall, the readings teach that every gift is from God. More precisely, the lesson of thanksgiving is that everything is a gift

The First Reading: Deuteronomy 8.7-18
On the brink of their crossing over to the river Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses addresses the people of Israel to remind them of the mighty acts of God by which they were liberated from Egypt and of the laws and commandments on which their status as his chosen people depended. In the eighth chapter he insists on their remembering and obeying these laws, and remembering the harsh conditions of the exodus and sojourn in the wilderness. If they remember these things, when they enter into Canaan, the good and rich land, and have eaten and are full, they will bless the Lord their God for the excellent land which he has given them [8.7-10]
We may note two things here before moving on. The first is that to bless the Lord for something is to give thanks. The other is that the words of this chapter are addressed in the singular: “the Lord thy God is bringing thee into a good land ….Thou shalt eat thy fill and bless the Lord thy God …”. This is something we miss in modern English. Do we not lose thereby a sense of each individual in every generaltion being addressed?
At verse 11 comes what Robert Burton called “the caveat of Moses”: when you first come into the land you will give thanks, for the memory will be fresh, but what when you are settled? Beware lest in the midst of prosperity you be puffed up: acknowledge the riches you have to be his good gifts and benefits, and the more you have to be more thankful. The warning is necessary, for it is human nature to take what we for granted, if not as an inalienable right and entitlement. Do you remember Charlie Anderson’s grace in the movie Shenandoah (1965)?
“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you, Lord, just the same for the food we're about to eat, amen.”
Surely the Andersons worked hard. But how much of the result was a gift entirely beyond their control?

Psalm 65
This is a psalm of thanksgiving for a good harvest. The notes in the NOAB give this outline for the Psalm: vv.1-5, it is good to gather at the tempe to sing God’s praises; 6-8, it was he who created the world; 9-13, and it is he who makes the earth fertile.

The Epistle, 2 Corinthians 9.6-15.
Gratitude is best shown in generosity.
A collection was being taken in the Churches of Achaia (Greece) and Macedonia for the relief of the Church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corithians are concerned with this offering (see also Galatians 2.1-10, 1 Cor 16.1-4, Rom 15.25-27). Paul urges the Corinthians to be generous in their contribution. He reminds them that God’s gifts are given precisely so that they may be shared (See also Romans 14.7: None of us lives to himself).

The Holy Gospel: Luke 17.11-19
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. That is, he is on his way to the final conflict and the cross. See Luke 9.51. then Jesus cleanses ten lepers, only one returns to give thanks, and that one is a foreigner, a Samaritan.
As we have noted before, in Scripture the term leprosy is used for a variety of diseases which are not necessarily the illness now known as leprosy. According to the Law (Leviticus 13.45-6) those afflicted with these disorders were to live alone and apart from the community, wearing torn clothes with their hair unkept, and covering their upper lip to cry “Unclean! unclean!”. Numbers 5.1-4 lays down that the lepers were to be put out of the camp. So the ten lepers call for Jesus’ mercy from a distance. Note that they do nto specifically ask to be healed.
The term ‘Master’ is possibly misleading – we are likely to think of the word as more or less equivalent to “Lord”, as in “the Master of the house”, or “Master, the experiment is ready”. But the word here is not kyrie or dominus, but epistata, literally “one set over”; this is rendered in the Latin version as praeceptor, or Teacher. It is equivalent to Rabbi. If we must use “master” what we should think of is “school master”. The same word is found at Luke 5.5, 8.24 and 45, and 9.33 and 49, where the meaning is also “teacher”.
The one who returned thanks for healing was a Samaritan. On the Samaritans, see als Luke 9.51-55, 10.33, and Acts 8.4-25. This passage, in which gratitude is found only in the stranger, is like Luke 7.2-10, in which the Centurion shows such faith in Jesus that the Lord declares, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith”.
One might wonder just what we are to gather from this story: the thankfulness of the Samaritan is praised, as is his faith, which has “made him well”. But we are not told that the nine suffered in any way for their lack of gratitude. (Perhaps we should not even say that they were ungrateful; only that they neglected to express their gratitude!) Nor did they lose the gift of healing because they did not give glory to God (who, after all, makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good).
One point is clear: that when we read this passage on Thanksgiving we are challenged to ask whether we return to give thanks, or just go on our way, perhaps forgetting the stupendous gifts we receive. In this it brings us back to the first reading, where we are warned against forgetfulness of God, which is the cause of disobedience, and as such is surely equivalent to a lack of faith.