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.