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.

No comments: