Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Notes


Christmas Midnight Mass
Our Book of Alternative Services provides proper prayers for celebrations of the Eucharist on Christmas Eve at Midnight, in the Early Morning and during the Day (pp 273-275). This triple celebration originated very early in the Roman church (see ‘The Three Masses in the article ‘Christmas’ in the Catholic Encyclopedia, at Three sets of readings are provided, but not specifically set for any one of the three possible services. In the Roman Catholic rite, the first set is used at Midnight, the second at Dawn, the third during the Day, which suggests that the first set is the most appropriate for use at Midnight. The epistle and Gospel of the third set (from Hebrews 1 and John 1) are those appointed in the Book of Common Prayer.
This year we use the first set of readings at both the evening eucharist and the one at Midnight.
Some verse from these readings were famously set by Handel in his oratorio Messiah; links are provided to performances of these pieces on-line.
The Readings.
Isaiah 9.2-7: The Messianic King
According to NJBC this passage is to be date shortly after the crisis in Ahaz’ reign which we read about last week (7.10-16). In 8.23-9.7 Isaiah describes Immanuel, in whom the promise to the House of David was to be realized. NOAB says that the passage may have originally celebrated the accession of a Judean King, perhaps Hezekiah (c. 715-686 BC); in its present context it describes the coming of the Messiah as the ideal king.
The opening verses speak of the deliverance of the northern territories (Zebulun and Naphtali, which were later to be known as Galilee) which were the first to be subjugated by Assyria. These are ‘the people who walked in darkness’.
In verse 3, the day of Midian refers to Judges 7, when God gave victory to Gideon over the Midianites who were oppressing Israel.
In its first use, verse 6 referred to the fact that the enthronement of a king was conceived as God’s adoption of the king as his son. While this may originally have referred to Hezekiah, he did not fulfill the hopes, and the prophet pushed his hopes into the later future. For Christians a deeper meaning of these words was revealed in the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem.

A call to all nations to praise the Lord as the only God and to proclaim the glory of his reign throughout the world. This Psalm appears in a slightly altered form in 1 Chronicles 15.23-33. Compare this to Psalm 98; each is followed by a hymn celebrating the Lord’s reign. It appears that 97 has been linked with 96 and 99 with 98 to form a sequence of praise introduced by Psalm 95
1-3: Summons to worship
4-6: The Lord is the mighty creator; all other gods are nothing.
7-13: All nations and the physical; universe are summoned to join in his praise.
In the beauty of holiness (verse 9) is better rendered as in holy array; the word translated ‘beauty’ means ‘adornment, glory’.
The appropriateness of this psalm for Christmas is revealed in verses 12 and 13 (in the BAS; verse 13 in other versions, which speaks of the Lord’s coming to judge the earth. I sometimes wonder if the well-known hymn Joy to the World was meant to be a sort of response to the Psalm,

TITUS 2.11-14
Titus is not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles but is quite frequently referred to in St Paul’s epistlers (in particular see 2 Corinthians and Galatians). The letter is an instruction for his work organizing and overseeing the church on the island of Crete (1.5). His relics are preserved in the Cathedral in Iraklion on that Island. This passage follows a longer one (2.1-10) which sets out the ‘behaviour that first sound doctrine’. As so often in Paul’s letters, the foundation for right living is a consideration and imitation of the example of Jesus Christ, ‘who gave himself for us to redeem us …’ (verse 14). Here the self-giving is not only his suffering and death on the Cross, but his coming to be born for us and live a human life. This passage should be compared to Philippians 2.1-11, which includes the great hymn of Christ, a passage that should be read carefully on Christmas and throughout Christmastide.

This, as Linus Van Pelt tells us in A Charlie Brown Christmas, is the true meaning of Christmas. Indeed, the NJBC gives the whole passage the title ‘The Angels’ pronouncement about the Meaning of the Baby Jesus Lying in the Manger’. The passage has two main parts:
I (verses 1-7). The Birth of Jesus, Caesar Augustus having ordered a census of his empire, the first census being taken while Quirinius is holding office in Syria, everybody goes to his own city to be enrolled. Accordingly Joseph goes from Nazareth to Bethlehem, taking Mary with him. There she gives birth to a firstborn son, whom she lays in a manger, because there is no room for them in the inn.
II (verses 8-20). The Bethlehem shepherds. Shepherds watching their flock at night in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem are startled by seeing an angel and the light of God’s glory. The angel reassures them, saying he is a messenger of good news, and announcing that a Saviour, even the long-expected Christ, has been born in the city. They will find him in a manger. Suddenly the angel is surrounded with a heavenly host, singing of glory to God and peace on earth. After the vision has passed, the shepherds set off at once for Bethlehem and find the babe as described. They give an account of their vision, which occasions wonderment ; but Mary treasures these things in her heart. The shepherds return, glorifying God.
Some comments: 1. Caesar Augustus: Octavian, great-nephew of Julius, became the first Roman emperor; he reigned B.C. 31 to A. D. 14. His reign brought peace and stability to the whole Meduiterranean world, which was seen as providential by early Christians, since the Roman Peace enabled the Christian message to spread. But the Gospel contrasts this ruler who was hailed as the restorer of world peace with Jesus, the Saviour (2.11) and bringer of peace (2.14). The NRSV assumes ignorance and possibly stupidity on the part of the reader by giving Emperor Augustus in place of the correct reading. The title of Emperor was not used in that way then.
2. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. There are historical problems with Luke’s chronology: Quirinius was governor of Syria in ad 6-7 and not during the reign of Herod (see Luke 1.5), whole ruled 37-4 bc. Further, except for this passage there is no evidence for a world-wide census such as it describes. There have been several attempts to tidy up the problems, but the most realistic view is that Luke’s dating is confused. But as Adeney put it in his commentary on Luke, ‘even if it should be conceded that [Luke] was in error as to the census here described, that is not sufficient ground for discrediting his narrative of the birth of Jesus, as it only concerns one of the accessories. For further reading on this, and anything else about this census, see Brown, Birth of the Messiah.
4. Joseph went up from Galilee to Bethlehem: this might just be a covnentional way of speaking, but it is worth remembering that both Jerusalem and Bethlehem are on high ground, some 2,500 feet above the sea level. The Dead Sea, a mere 35 miles off, is 422 metres (1,385 ft) below sea level. The city of David: see 1 Samuel 16. Bethlehem means House of Bread.
7. Her firstborn son: scholars argue as to the implications of ‘firstborn’; it does not necessarily imply that there were others (see Exodus 13.2, 11-16), but we will cerainly not settle the question here. Manger: this word is from the French manger, to eat; it means a feeding-trough. The manger is important: Luke mentions it three times (2.7, 12, 16) Oddly enough the word crib originally meant a manger or a storage bin for fodder, and only came to mean ‘a child’s bed with barred sides’ because of the Nativity story. It is ultimately from a Germanic word Krippe, corn-crib, which by another route developed into the French crèche. For the familiar ox and ass of pageants and folklore, see Isaiah 1.3. No room … Brown says that ‘no place’ would be better because ‘no room’ implies ‘there was not a room’, which is not the same thing. … at the inn. Luke does not use the normal word that means inn, but a vaguer one (kataluma) that means a lodging. (We don’t have space to go into this; you really should read Brown.) Despite generations of retelling and Church-School Pageants, there is no mention of an inn-keeper (or his wife or family) in the text. For further information on what type of lodging Luke might mean, see Brown. What is more interesting is that the word kataluma appears one more time in the Gospel, at 22.11, when Jesus refers to the place where he will eat the Last Supper as a kataluma. The NJBC comments:
‘In order to create and underline the important and symbolic value he places on the thrice-mentioned manger, Luke says that there was no room at the inn. Although born in lowly circumstances and without hospitality. Jesus us the one who will be host to starving humanity. Fully grown and about to lay down his life as a servant, Jesus hosts in an inn (22.11) a meal that his disciples will continue in his memory.’

8. The Shepherds may remind us of David, who was raised from tending the sheep to become king and shepherd of the people (Psalm 78.72), but ‘in accord with Luke’s theme of poverty’, the shepherds are the poor and lowly. Keeping watch … by night: much ink has been spilled by scholars arguing about the time of year when shepherds would have been out in the fields all night. Since, as Brown puts it, ‘it is most unlikely that any reliable tradition about the exact date of birth would have survived’, there is little point in spending time on this point. Literally, ‘keeping the watches of the night’. They would watch by turns, with fires burning to scare wild beasts. So Brown, ‘taking turns watching over their flock by night’. This passage, ‘for popular piety, has fixed night as the time of Jesus’ birth’. That it was ‘Midnight was suggested by the application of Wisdom of Solomon 18.14-15 to the birth of Jesus: ‘When all things were in quiet silence, and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful word leaped down from heaven’s royal throne’ [Brown].
9. An angel; not named unlike Gabriel in chapter 1; note that in v. 15 the shepherds say of the angel`s message that `the Lord` has made it known to them. And they were terrified; this is a very flat rendering of the original which is literally And they feared with a great fear; the RSV is better with and they were filled with fear; while the AV And they were sore afraid is old-fashioned but familiar and expressive.
10. Do not be afraid is again flatter and less urgent than Fear not! I am bringing you good news: better, I announce to you good news; the verb, which is related the the noun evangelion, Gospel, has a sense of preaching and proclaiming. (Browning’s poem ‘How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’ might be considered in defense of ‘bringing’, but that is not about the announcing of the news as much as the swift journey.)
11. born today: Finally the hope of Isaiah 9.6 is fulfilled. God’s salvation is not in some distant future but is inaugurated now, today. This is a theme throughout the Gospel; see 4.21, 5.26, 12.28, 13.32, 33, 19.5, 6, 22.34, 61. A Saviour: Jesus, not Caesar Augustus. who is the Messiah, the Lord, literally, who is Christ Lord; Christ being the Greek for Messiah, the anointed one. This is the only time that these titles appear in the NT without the definite article.
12. The sign. The sign was in the conjunction of circumstances, a new-born babe, in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.
13. The heavenly host, the Greek means ‘army’, which was also the original meaning of the English ‘host’; its wider sense of ‘a large number’ seems to date only from the early 17th century. A multitude of God’s army appear; this is by no means all.
14. Glory to God in the highest. This song of praised was used in the hymn Glory be to God on high which was originally only sung at the Christmas mass. And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. This difference from the traditional and peace on earth, goodwill towards men depends on the erading of the Greek text. Since Brown’s note on this phrase takes almost two pages, I may be forgiven for not going into it here.
The remainder of the passage is sufficiently clear as not to need a detailed commentary.

Saturday 25 : The Nativity of our Lord, Christmas Day
The First Day of Christmas
Sunday 26 The First Sunday after Christmas Day
The Second Day of Christmas . The feast of St Stephen is transferred to December 30.
Monday 27 St John, Apostle and Evangelist
The Third Day of Christmas
Tuesday 28 The Holy Innocents
The Fourth Day of Christmas
Wednesday 29: Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1170
The Fifth Day of Christmas
Thursday 30: St Stephen the Martyr
The Sixth Day of Christmas
Friday 31: John West, Missionary in the Red River District
The Seventh Day of Christmas
Saturday 1 January AD 2011: The Naming of Jesus. New Year’s Day
The Eighth Day of Christmas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Week of Advent IV in Year A
Sunday. 19 December 2010

The theme of the last week in Advent (which in fact is seldom a whole week), as both the Sentence of the day (Matthew 1.23) and the Collect express, is the birth of Jesus to the Blessed Virgin Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of his Son.

First Reading : Isaiah 7.10–16
Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria (745–727 BC), was the great power in Middle East; he received tribute from King Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:19) and defeated his successor Pekah (15:29). Pekah had allied with Rezin, king of Syria (Aram) against Ahaz of Judah (735-715 BC), who had refused to join them in a league against Assyria. Ahaz appealed for Assyria's help. Tiglath-Pileser took Damascus, killed Rezin of Syria, and deported the Aramaeans to Kir (16:9). He also seized the northern half of Israel, and deported the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manasseh to Assyria (1 Chron. 5:26) [See 2 Kings 16.1-20].
In the midst of all this, God sent Isaiah to meet Ahaz and tell him that he may have confidence if he trusts in God, but ‘If you will not believe, surely you will not be established” [Isaiah 7.1-9]. In proof of this Ahaz may ask any sign and it will be given him. Ahaz refuses; to which God responds with a sign, but not for Ahaz; it will be one to speak to future generations.
10. It may be that Ahaz’ indecision between the courses offered by his advisers and by the prophet prompted the offer of a sign.
11. A sign [’owth, אוֹת] was not necessarily something miraculous (see Isaiah 37.30).
12. Ahaz’ refusal of the offered sign probably indicates that his mind is already closed. Rashi’s commentary says more bluntly: ‘and I will not test: I do not wish that His Name be hallowed through Me.’
13. Rejected by Ahaz, the Lord now declares that he will give a sign to the House of David.
14. The young woman: English versions of Scripture have traditionally followed the Greek and Latin versions in translating the Hebrew word ‘alma עַלְמָה by the word virgin. But in Hebrew ‘alma is not the technical term for a virgin; that is bĕthulah בְּתוּלָה. ‘Alma does seem elsewhere to mean a young unmarried woman, but not necessarily a virgin when she is with child. Moreover, the significance of Isaiah’s prophecy lies in the child, not in His manner of birth. The child promised will guarantee the dynasty’s future (note again ’the house of David’ in v. 13; cf v. 2) and for this reason can be called Emmanuel (with us is God). It has carefully to be observed, however, that the Jews did not expect the Messiah to be born of a virgin. Consequently, this verse could not have given rise to the idea of the Virgin Birth, as has been alleged. The Virgin Birth was first believed in, and then Isaiah's words were taken to be a prophecy of it. We cannot go into this matter in any further detail here; the parish Library has a copy of Raymond Brown’s The Birth of The Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, in which a proper discussion may be read, The questions of how we are to understand prophecy and how St Matthew used this verse in the Gospel are discussed on pages 143-153. Note the article, The young woman, which seems to imply a known individual. That this was perhaps a wife of Ahaz would fit the prophesy as spoken to the House of David.
PSALM 80.1–7, 16–18 (2-8, 18-20)
In the New Oxford Annotated Bible, this Psalm is described as A Prayer for Deliverance from National Enemies. A most notable feature is the refrain in verses 3, 7, and 20. The prayer, stir up your strength and come to help us (v. 2), is the true prayer of Advent, and is answered in the coming of Jesus Christ.
v. 1-3: A cry for help. You that are enthroned upon the cherubim: see 1 Sam 4.4, where the ark of the covenant is described.
vv. 4-7 describe the nation’s woe. God seems to have forgotten his people and left them to their enemies.
vv. 16-18 are a promise of faithfulness in the future. The man of your right hand, the son of man is a personification of Israel, but may also refer to the promised Messiah.
Though Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, was not the first to be written. It was probably written in 57 AD, when Paul was near the end of his third missionary journey around the Eastern Mediterranean. It was addressed to the church at Rome. This opening salutation is based on the usual formula of ancient letters, ‘N. to N., Greetings’, which —because it is addressed to a Church he has not visited—is here expanded to introduce himself and his teaching.
v. 13. among all the Gentiles, see v. 13, also 11:15; Galatians 1:15-16; 2:7-9.

The account of Jesus’ nativity in the Gospel according to St Matthew is in fact an account of the Annunciation of Jesus to St Joseph. There is no narrative of the Nativity itself; Matthew only refers to it. A useful comment on this passage would be too long for these notes; we will make a few brief points and refer you to Brown’s Birth of the Messiah or some other good commentary for further information.
The Nativity is described from the side of Joseph, but it does not rest necessarily nor probably on Joseph's own account thereof.
18. When … Mary had been betrothed to Joseph: among the Jews of those times marriage had two stages ; there was first a formal exchange of consent before witnesses; later the husband would take the bride into his home. The first stage would in our terms constitute a legal marriage, since it could be dissolved only by divorce and any sexual relations with another person would be adultery. However, the bride would continue to live in her parents’ home for about a year before the next stage. Before they came together, that is, the second stage, "before they came to live together in the same house". of the Holy Spirit; this is the evangelist’s comment; this explanation is not yet known to Joseph. To him it is a painful discovery.
19. righteous is considered a better translation than just by most commentators, since it implies objective morality; Jospeh was a man who kept the law. His actions, however, also show kindness, and as Anderson points out, love. Joseph was not willing to expose Mary to public disgrace; Anderson: ‘A bill of divorcement was necessary to make the divorce legal. Ordinarily this was given in public before the authorities. He resolved to make a private arrangement. Probably he would give her the bill of divorcement without informing the authorities, as a mere oral agreement would not have been a legal divorce. He was probably stretching the law to its utmost. So strong, was his love—the spirit of Jesus' home.’
20-23: On the appearance of the Angel and Matthew’s citation of Isaiah 7.14, see Brown.
25. until she had borne a son: older versions often have ‘her firstborn son’; the evidence of the better manuscripts show that this was a later addition, possibly influenced by the accopunt in Luke 2.
Sunday 19 - The Fourth Sunday of Advent; O Clavis David
On this day: in 1813 at Montreal, James McGill died, leaving £10,000 to found a university; in 1902 was born Sir Ralph Richardson, English actor (d. 1983)

Monday 20 - Feria; O Oriens
On this day: in 1192 King Richard I (Lion-Heart) was captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria while returning to England from the Third Crusade; in 1864 the Canadian militia was sent to guard against possible Fenian raids.

Tuesday 21 - Feria; O Rex gentium
St. Thomas, Apostle, in the Prayer-Book Calendar
On this day: in 1118 was born Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (martyred 1170); in 1804 was born Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (d. 1881); in 1894 Mackenzie Bowell 1823-1917 became Prime Minister of Canada after the death of John Thompson. A Senator, Bowell was Canada's 5th Prime Minister; he served to April 27, 1896.
The Winter Solstice occurs today at 23:38 Coordinated Universal Time or 6:38 pm local time.

Wednesday 22 - Feria; O Emmanuel
On this day in 1893, the opera Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck was first performed. In Japan today the birthday of the Emperor Akihito is celebrated.

Thursday 23 - Feria; O Virgo Virginum
On this day in 563 the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was dedicated for the second time after being destroyed by earthquakes; in 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812.

Friday 24 - Feria; Christmas Eve
This is the traditional time to decorate your home for Christmas.

Today, the twenty–fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image. Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.
Twenty–one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the nointing of David as king; in the sixty–fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
In the one hundred and ninety–fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty–second year from the foundation of the city of Rome. The forty–second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
This is the first day of Christmas.
Also born this day: Sir Isaac Newton, natural philosopher, in 1642

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Advent III, Year A
12 December, 2010
Gaudete Sunday
In the Western Church the Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the first word in Latin of the traditional Introit Antiphon for this Sunday; it means ‘Rejoice!’ The Antiphon is Philippians 4.4-6, Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. This was also read as the Epistle for the day, and is still in Year C of the new lectionary.
Gaudete Sunday has a counterpart in the Fourth Sunday in Lent, which is known as Laetare Sunday. Both Gaudete and Laetare ‘refer to the importance of the theme of Christian joy, even in the midst of a penitential season’, which is reflected in the readings of both Sundays. From notes by Fr Edward McNamara at
It is an old custom from Rome that Rose-coloured vestments may be worn in place of violet (or the more modern
blue); this custom is reflected in the use of a pink or rose candle in the Advent Wreath on this Sunday.
The Return of the Redeemed to Zion

The imagery of this passage is like that of Deutero-Isaiah (see 40.3-5 and 43.19), and may well have belonged originally to that part of the book. It is a prophecy of the return of Israel from Babylon and evokes a picture of a second exodus.
1. The desert (Hebr. הָעֲרָבָה‎‎, Ha‘Arava) is the Arabah, a section of the Great Rift Valley running in a north-south orientation between the southern end of the Sea of Galilee (as the Jordan river valley) down to the Dead Sea and continuing further south where it ends at the Gulf of Aqaba. like the crocus, other translations give ‘rose’ or ‘lily’; it is often very difficult to know what flower is meant by the names in different languages. In the Song of Solomon 2.1, the same Hebrew word is translated by ‘Rose of Sharon’; some scholars think it refers to a type of crocus.
2. It has been suggested that the references of the glory of Lebanon and the majesty of Carmel and Sharon mean that the prophet has not only Judah in mind but also the northern tribes and even Lebanon. But note that the glory of these northern places, known for their beautiful trees and foliage, is to be given to Judah. So it seems to me that this this is not a promise to those places.
4. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! In the Judaica Press translation this is rendered as Say to the hasty of heart, "Be strong, &c. and the commentary of Rashi says that the hasty are those ‘Who hurry the redemption and are troubled by its delay’. Compare this with the comments below on the Epistle reading from James.
5-6. In his answer to John Baptist’s question (Matthew 11), Jesus points to his work that has fulfilled this promise of salvation. The most unfortunate among the exiled will be among the first to share these blessings. The references to the blind and the deaf have long been understood to include the spiritually as well as the physically afflicted.
Verse 7 is difficult. For the haunt of jackals older translations give something like ‘In the dens where dragons dwelt’. According to the dictionaries, the Hebrew word tanniyn (תַּנִּין) means ‘dragon, serpent, sea monster’, or ‘serpent, venomous snake’. Nonetheless, the Judaica Press translation like almost all modern English versions, gives ‘jackal’. I have not yet found a reason given for this translation. Perhaps the modern translators want to avoid ‘dragon’ but find sea-monster confusing in a verse about a desert. Still, I wonder why ‘haunts of monsters’ would not do. Apparently this verse has been a problem for a long time: the old Greek translation renders it: ‘And the dry land shall become pools, and a fountain of water shall [be poured] into the thirsty land; there shall there be a joy of birds, ready habitations and marshes,’ for this verse. (The English word jackal, by the way, is a corruption of the Turkish chakal, which is in turn from from Persian shaghal, from Skt. srgala-s, literally "the howler.")
8-10. The Lord’s people, ransomed from captivity, will return by a highway, which is literally a road that is lifted up. They will return by the Royal road, protected from all dangers, so that even a fool may travel without getting lost.

PSALM 146.5-10
This portion of Psalm 146 is tied to the first reading by verse 8.
The Magnificat is the song that Mary sang when she visited her kinswoman Elizabeth (Luke 1.47-55); it is the traditional Gospel Canticle at Evensong.
Patience in Suffering
Early Christians expected the second coming, almost immediately. As it became more and more apparent that this event was not about to happen immediately, more questions arose in the minds of the faithful. James warns his readers not to be impatient (vv. 8-9), lest this impatience lead to grumbling and division within the church (v. 9), which will bring judgement. For with the second coming of Christ comes also the judgement of God. The second coming is a two-edged sword: its arrival is both of comfort and of warning to Christians!
Thus, after the joyful picture of deliverance in the first reading, we are warned against being overly optimistic, with the danger of disappointment that the full future of God’s promises seems always to be delayed.
In verses 7-9 there are three references to the coming of the Lord, a contrast to the preceding passage (5.1-6) which warns that seeking riches is vain: now it is declared that the one who waits patiently for the Lord will be rewarded. Note that impatience leads to grumbling against one another. This is an error we will not fall into when we are aware that the Lord is at hand. To say that the Lord is at hand corrects the danger of thinking that because we speak of the ‘Second Coming’ we mean that the Lord is absent.
The passage concludes by offering the prophets as a model of patience.
Messengers from John the Baptist; Jesus Praises John the Baptist
Last week we read that John Baptist proclaimed that a mightier one was coming after him, whose ‘winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’ [Matt 3.11-12]. He is now in prison at Machaerus, a fortified place about five miles east of the Dead Sea where he has heard about Jesus’ preaching. What he has heard makes him wonder whether he was mistaken to identify Jesus as the one who is to come. Jesus’ reply affirms that he has a totally different conception of the mission which he has received from God—he has come not to punish but to heal.
In verse 3, John’s question is ‘are we to wait for another?’ The Greek ἕτερον , ‘another’, can also mean ‘different’. John’s question would then be: Are we to wait for a 'different' one, a different type of leader? But it probably means only "Are we to wait for someone else"?
4. Jesus does not answer a straight yes or no to John’s question, he simply points to what is happening by in his ministry. In fact he does not even say that he is healing the blind. The blind are given their sight by God.
As we read this passage we should note a comment of the Biblical scholar Reginald Fuller (the emphasis is mine): Fuller: who said that questions of how John thought about Jesus ‘are interesting ... but they are irrelevant to a proper understanding of our text. The real question is the one addressed to us: Can we believe that he is the Coming One or must we look for another?’ Jesus does not give us a straight yes or no answer any more than he did to John. Perhaps in response we need to read the passage from James again.
After John’s disciples leave —perhaps scratching their heads at what they will say to John—Jesus speaks to the crown about John. It is odd that we read only part of his words; the passage continues until 11.19. The NOAB summarizes verses 7-15 thus: ‘John was important because he introduced the new manifestation (or ‘coming’) of God’s kingdom.
In verse 10 the quotation is from Mal 3.1; compare Mk 1.2. Ahead of you is : literally ‘before your face’.
Who will prepare your way echoes Isaiah 35.8, ‘A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way’.
Verse 11: Although John announced the imminence of the Kingdom, he himself still stood within the old order, so that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Adapted from the note which appeared in this Blog last year on or about December 16th. This year the Antiphons are given in English only: the Latin text may be found in the earlier version
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 on the ten days before Christmas—antiphons are short anthems sung before and after a psalm or canticle—which are addressed to Christ under a series of titles and figures from Old Testament prophesy Because each begins with the word ‘O’ they are known as the “O Antiphons” or the “Great Os”. In the Roman rite they are used from the 17th to the 23rd of December, but in England in the Middle Ages the practise was to begin using them the 16th, perhaps because on the 23rd a special Antiphon in honour of our Lady was used (O Virgo virginum).
When exactly the O Antiphons were composed and came into use is not known. According to A.C.A. Hall, the Episcopal Bishop of Vermont, writing about 1914, the antiphons are found 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.
It has been noted that the orsder of the O Antiphons appears to have 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 here 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 which may be found at:
1. O Sapientia
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 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 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 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 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 3:8-6:12; Malachi 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 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, 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.
By the English custom, this is the Antiphon for December 23rd:
O Virgo Virginum
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.


Sunday 12th : Advent III, Year A: Gaudete Sunday
On this day: in 1858 at Kingston the Province of Canada released first decimal coins; only 421,000 cents were ready; in 1911, Delhi replaced Calcutta as the capital of India.

Monday 13th : Feria [Saint Lucy's Day]
On this day in 1294 Celestine V resigned the papacy after only five months; he hoped to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit; he was wrong; in 1784 Dr. Samuel Johnson, writer and lexicographer, died at London. 18 days remain until the end of the year.

Tuesday 14th ; Feria
On this day in : 1782 The Montgolfier brothers' first balloon lifts off on its first test flight; in 1916 Quebec banned women from entering the legal profession.

Wednesday 15th; Ember Day: Commemoration of Samuel Gibbons, First Priest from the Inuit, 1896;
Samuel Gibbons was born in Labrador. He was six years old when his parents died; he was placed in an Anglican orphanage in Newfoundland. He was ancouraged to study for ordination at King's College in Halifax, and was ordained in 1878. He gave all, inclouding his physical health in his ministry, and died at the age of 46 in 1896. There is some confusion about whether this commemoration should fall on the 14th or the 15th; however, the 14th is the date in the official Church Calendar.
THE EMBER-DAYS are days of fasting and prayer at the four seasons of the year: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Third Sunday in Advent, the First Sunday in Lent, the Day of Pentecost (Whitsunday), and Holy Cross Day (September 14). The custom is known from ancient times, ceratainly before Pope St Leo the Great, but its origin is debated. It is said that they were in the third century, for imploring blessing on the produce of the earth; and also preparing the clergy for ordination. The rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer direct that ordinations should take place ‘at the Ember Seasons, or on any Sunday or Holy-day’. The Council of Placentia, 1095 A.D., set the dates of the Ember Days. In modern liturgical revisions the Ember Days have been made days of optional observance according to local needs; the BAS directs that the propers for the Ember days are To be used at times of prayer for the whole ministry of the Church.
The term is probably derived from the Old English embrem or imbryne, denoting a course or circuit, these days recurring regularly, at stated periods, in the four quarters or seasons of the year. The weeks in which these days fall, are termed the Ember-weeks, and in Latin the ember-days are denominated jejunia quattuor temporum, or 'the fasts of the four seasons.'

Thursday 16th: Feria; O Sapientia
On this day: in 1770 Ludwig van Beethoven, German composer and pianist was born (d. 1827); in 1913 George Ignatieff, diplomat and Provost of Trinity College, Toronto, was born at St Petersburg, Russia (died 1989).

Friday 17th: Ember Day; O Adonai
In the Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, Martyr in Rome, c., 115, is commemorated today; in the BAS Calendar he is kept on October 17th. On this day in 1538 Pope Paul III excommunicated King Henry VIII of England.
Don’t forget the Concert at the Church tonight at 7:30!

Saturday 18th: Ember Day; O Radix Jesse; International Migrants Day
On this day: in 1620 the Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts; IN 1893 Toronto Ontario - Robert Machray, Bishop of Ruperst Land was elected first Anglican Primate of all Canada; in 1988 Quebec legislature passed Bill 178 requiring French only on outside signs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

:Lectionary Notes

The Tomb of St Nicholas in Bari


The Collect in the BAS is adapted from the Prayer Book Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent (page 99). Do take the time to compare the two prayers.

Isaiah 11.1-10
1-9: The Future King

In the last third of the eighth century BC the kingdom of Judah was in constant danger from the kings of Assyria. Many cities of Syria had fallen to Tiglath-Pileser III; it seemed all too likely that Judah would fall as well. Then what would become of the house and kingdom of David, which the Lord had promised would be established forever [2 Samuel 12-17]; would it simply fall as so many nations had before the Assyrian might? The faith of the Judeans was tested sorely in those days. It was in this time that Isaiah proclaimed the oracles of salvation that make uop the first chapters of the book that bears his name.
In the closing verses of Chapter 10, Isaiah has used imagery of forests and tree imagery; the Lord will cut down Assyria. Now he turns the imagery to the house of David; from what seems a mere stump will come new growth, a new Branch. Compare Job 14.7-10.
Jesse was the father of David (see 1 Samuel 16). The oracle of the new Branch promises a king from his line, but he will be a king of a new kind. The Spirit of God will rest in him as it did on David (1 Samuel 16.13). The note is recalled in the Servant Song of Isaiah 61.1 which was in turn the text of the first sermon of the Lord Jesus at Nazareth (Luke 4.18).
The Branch of Jesse is one of the most important images of Advent, being found in the great ‘O’ Antiphons, of which we will have more to say next week
Six gifts of the spirit are listed in v. 2: wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of (that is, proper respect for) God. In the old Greek translation, ‘piety’ was read in this passage instead of ‘fear of the Lord’; with the mention of fear of the Lord in verse 3, this gives the traditional Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost (see the prayer in the Order for Confirmation in the Book of Common Prayer, page 560).
The promised King will bring perfect justice; from perfect justice comes perfect peace. In verses 6-9 the images of peace among animals speak of the restoration of the ideal state of harmony God originally intended, before humans revolted against him. See also Ezekiel 47:1-12 (water flowing from the Temple).
This king (“root of Jesse”, v. 10) will be a rallying point not just for Judah but for all peoples: they will see his achievements and “inquire” of God’s glory as reflected in him. This verse is quoted in today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is perhaps not too far-fetched to think of the Lord crucified when Isaiah says that ‘the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples’
Psalm 72.1-7, 18-19
Deus, iudicium
This is a prayer for God’s blessing on a king—possibly for use at the coronation or an annual liturgy on its anniversary. The prayer is that he may have the ability to determine what is right, especially for the helpless poor (vv. 2, 4) and be a guarantor of justice to crush the oppressors, and that his reign be a time of prosperity (v. 3). For much of human history, people have believed that the health, happiness, prosperity and peace of the nation was bound up with the king’s well-being. The psalm today is clearly a commentary on the Messianic King, the Branch of Jesse, of the first reading, and in Advent we read it as a foreshadowing of Christ.

Romans 15.4-13
At the opening of chapter 15 St Paul urges the Romans to patiently bear the burdens laid on them by the failings of the weak and to this point quotes Psalm from 69.9, ‘the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.’ Since he is applying to Christ the personal lament of an upright Israelite who has suffered disgrace as a result of his fidelity, he explains this reading of Scripture as applicable to the Christians of today [verse 4]. See also Romans4.23, where he makes and defends a similar use of Scripture.
The patience and steadfastness of Christ teaches Christians to bear with one another so that gthey can live in unity with one another by God\s grace, and together glorify God. In reading this prayer we need to bear in mind that the Church at Rome was mixed, composed of Jewish and Gentile Christians.
St Paul goes on to ground this unity in the example of Christ, who came to fulfill the promises that God truly made to the patriarchs of Israel (v. 8) but shows with several quotations from the Scriptures that the salvation he came to bring was for the Gentiles as well. The quotations are: Verse 9: Psalm 18.51; 2 Samuel 22.50. Verse 10: Deuteronomy 32.43. Verse 11: Psalm, 117.1. Verse 12: Isaiah 11.10

Matthew 3.1-12
John the Baptist: Forerunner of the Lord.

On the Second and Third Sundays of Advent the Gospel readings tell us of John the Baptist. Today we read St Matthew’s account of John’s character and message and his prediction concerning a greater messenger of God.
Verse 2: Repent. Commentaries often say that the Greek word [μετανο-έω] literally means `return` or `turn around`. In fact the basic meaning of the verb is to perceive afterwards or too late, and secondarily to change one's mind or purpose. The noun μετάνοια is a change of mind or heart, which then gains the sense of repentance, regret. (The Latin paenĭtentĭa , ae,whence our ‘penitence’ and ‘repentance’ is ultimately from a noun poena, meaning indemnification, compensation, satisfaction, expiation, punishment, penalty and itself from the Gr. ποινή, ἄποινα, quitmoney, fine. So this sense of pentience is about what it costs you, whereas the other is about finding the right way to be and act) Anyway, John Baptist calls the people to return to the way of life called for by God`s covenant with Israel. The kingdom of heaven: Matthew uses this expression in place of kingdom of God which is found in the other synoptic Gospels.
Verse 3: this is he that was spoken of… All the Synoptics (cf. Mark 3. i ; Luke 3. 4) refer here to Isaiah 40.3, but they use the quotation differently, as can be seen in Luke`s version which is the Sentence for this Sunday. They also all follow the Greek version in reading `the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare…”’, whereas the Hebrew is ‘A voice cries, “Prepare ye in the wilderness the way…”’: In the fourth gospel John applies the prediction to himself (John 1.23). As royal travellers sent messengers (Harbingers) ahead to clear the roads from obstruction, and even to form roads where none existed, so the prophet represents divine Providence as preparing the way for captive Israel to return to their own land. Just so the mission of John was to open a way for the Messianic King.
Verse 4: The description of John Baptist echoes the description of Elijah in 2 Kings 1.8.

Verses 7-10: John sees many representatives of the two main religious parties of his day, and rebukes them. These are the Pharisees and Sadducees. Mark omits this address to the Pharisees and Sadducees, but Luke applies it to the multitude. They cannot expect to ‘get by’ simply on being members of the chosen people; they must repent, return to the way of life God expects of them and show it in ‘fruits’ worthy of repentance
Verses 11-12: John speaks of the one who is to come after who will bring not only repentance (a baptism in water like John’s), but a complete cleansing and a new life (baptism in the Holy Spirit and in fire, which was indeed fulfilled on the day of Pentecost).


Sunday 5 : The Second Sunday of Advent
On this day in 1792 died Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Monday 6 : The Commemoration of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342; National Day of Action on Violence against Women
It is perhaps not unfitting that Nicholas, the fourth-century Bishop of Myra in what is now the south-west corner of Turkey should have given his name to the great symbol of Christmas giving, Santa Claus. For Nicholas was remembered for deeds of kindness and generosity on land and sea. In the Middle Ages his relics were stolen and moved to Bari on the east coast of Italy, where they remain in the Cathedral. See
On this day was born Henry VI of England, 1421

Tuesday 7 : The Memorial of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 397
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was a great champion of the orthodox faith, even bold enough to stand up to emperors in the cause of truth. It was Ambrose who baptized the great St Augustine of Hippo. He also gave us the expression ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’. Remind me to tell you about that sometime.
On this day in 43 BC Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator, was assassinated.

Wednesday 8 : The Memorial of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Although even the names of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary are known to us only from legend; the desire to mark and celebrate the great moments of the life of the woman whom God chose out of all the world to be the mother of his Son was as strong as it is easy to understand. Jeremiah sang of God’s calling him before he was formed in the womb and consecrating him as a prophet before he was born; how much more should this be true of the Mother of the Saviour.
On this day in 1542 was born Mary, Queen of Scots, at Linlithgow

Thursday 9 : The Memorial of the Prophets of the Old Testament
We remember and celebrate the Prophets of the Old Testament among the saints of Christ, as Father Reynolds writers, ‘because they recalled Israel; and Judah to God’s covenant and uttered the word of God’s justice so that the people might return and seek redemption from the Lord.’

Friday 10 : Feria; UN Human Rights Day
Feria is a term used in the Church calendar to mean a weekday.

Saturday 11: The Commemoration of Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210 (Transferred from December 5th)
Clement of Alexandria was a theologian of the second century, a priest and head of the Christian Academy in Alexandria which had been founded to instruct new converts in the faith. He taught there until persecution forced it to close; he then went to Asia Minor where he died in around 210. His writings are very valuable in helping us to understand the teaching of the early church.
Women’s Fellowship Breakfast Group at St Columba and All Hallows today!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Festival of All Saints in Year C
November 1: this feast may also be celebrated on the Sunday following.

The Feast
‘The Church celebrates the victory of Christ in the lives of particular individuals in the commemoration of saints’ (BAS, p. 14).
The festival of All Saints seems to Have had its beginning in the fourth century, when the Eastern Church kept the Sunday after Pentecost as a feast of ‘the martyrs of the whole world’. Some places in the West began to adopt this feast. When it was introduced at Rome the feast was kept on November 1, the date in AD 608 when the Pantheon was dedicated as a Christian church under the name of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Martyrs.

The Collect is an adaptation of the Collect in the Book of Common Prayer. I doubt that ‘grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment’ is an improvement on ‘Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living’.

The Readings
Daniel 7.1-3, 15-18
One Daniel, who is renowned for his piety wisdom and righteousness is mentioned in Ezekiel (see 14:14, 20; 28:3. There are many stories about Daniel originating from the time of the Exile; some are in Chapters 1-6; others are in the Apocrypha: Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. (In Roman Catholic Bibles, Susanna is Chapter 13 of Daniel, and Bel and the Dragon Chapter 14. Both chapters are in the Greek Septuagint translation but are not in the Masoretic Hebrew Text.)
Although the Book of Daniel is included among the Prophets in the Christian Bible, in the Hebrew canon it is among the Writings. The author most likely lived at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (167-164 BC) who persecuted the Jews and wrote these stories and visions of Daniel to encourage his fellow-believers
7.1-28: A Vision of the passing away of kingdoms to make way for the kingdom of God.
1. In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon. Belshazzar was not king of Babylon but viceroy for his father Nabonidus, during his absences, from 554 BC.
2. The four winds indicate universality. In the scheme of four kingdoms (see chap. 2,36-45), the four winds fittingly introduce the four beasts that symbolize these kingdoms.
4-14. The winds of heaven stir up the great sea, a symbol of primordial chaos (Genesis 1:2), and Daniel sees four beasts come up out of it. The first three are like a lion (Babylon, v. 4), a bear (the Medes, v. 5) and a leopard (the Persians v. 6). The fourth beast, which is too horrible to be likened to any animal stands for the empire of Alexander; the ten horns are the ten successors to Alexander. The small horn (see also 8.9) that appears symbolizes Antiochus Epiphanes. Then thrones are set in place and God (“the Ancient of days”, v. 9) takes his place, surrounded by attendants; his court sits in judgement. The fourth beast is put to death; the second and third are allowed to linger on. Then “one like a human being” (v. 13, or a son of man) comes from heaven and is presented to God, who gives him a universal, eternal, unconquerable kingdom (v. 14). (To Christians this figure is clearly Christ, but to Jews he represented the archangel Michael and faithful Jews.)
15-18. Daniel asks one of this standing around God’s throne to explain the vision. Though the four beasts represent four kingdoms, the saints, holy people of God, will receive the true and eternal kingdom.
Psalm 149
Psalm 149 is a song of praise to the Lord; the NOAB suggests that it was a hymn to accompany a festal dance (see v.4)—a liturgical event including a drama which has a war-like theme, suggesting that the audience reclines “on their couches” (v. 5) during the play. Used on the feast of All Saints, it might be considered as a celebration of the kingdom received by the saints of the Most High.
1. a new song: see also Psalms 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1, Isaiah 42:10.
3. timbrel: an instrument resembling a tambourine.
The Epistle: Ephesians 1.11-23
An opening thanksgiving and prayer is a regular feature of the letters of Saint Paul and this one to the Ephesians is no exception. The prayer is that the saints, that is the members of the Church, will come to know the hope of their calling in Christ.
The Holy Gospel according to St Luke 6.20-31
In the Sermon on the Plain (6.17-49) Luke includes many of the teachings found in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chaps 5-7), omitting some passages, such as those dealing with the law as superseded by the teaching of Christ, and laying more stress on love and mercy; he also includes some that are found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, while other parts of the Sermon on the Mount are found in other parts of Luke later on. The ‘Woes’ (verses 24-26) have no parallel in any other Gospel.
The passage we read this Sunday has two sections. In vv. 20-26 are The Beatitudes and Woes (Lamentations). Jesus begins his discourse to his disciples by uttering four sentences of blessing on them, as (1)the poor, (2) those who hunger now, (3) those who weep; now, (4) those who are persecuted. He bids them rejoice in persecution because of their prospect of future reward. Then he utters four lamentations, on (i) the rich, (2) those now full,(3) those who now laugh, and (4) men when all speak well of them.
In comparing these sayings with the Beatitudes in Matthew (5. 3-12) we may notice first the following points of agreement : They both deal with the question of the summum bonum, the question of the true road to happiness. In this they agree in rejecting the common ways of worldly ambition and greed power, wealth, popularity, pleasure, &c., and point to quiet, lowly paths. In particular they both deal with poverty, sorrow, hunger, and persecution as characteristics of the road to blessedness.
In the second place we may observe the points of difference divergence between them:
(1) Matthew has eight beatitudes ; Luke has but four, to which he adds four corresponding lamentations, not found in Matthew,
(2) Matthew s beatitudes treat of moral and spiritual conditions, describing the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, &c. ; Luke only refers to social and personal conditions the poor, those who hunger now, &c.
(3) In Matthew the form of address is in the third person Blessed are they…; in Luke it is in the second person Blessed are you.... Commentators differ as to which is the more original form. Some say Matthew’s as the more spiritual and Christlike, and assert that Luke or the compiler he followed converted them to what we might call his socialistic ends. Others prefer Luke’s version, and take Matthew’s as an expansion of the original utterances with additions from sayings of Jesus on various occasions, and explanations of what was seen to be the deeper spiritual meaning of his brief words. It is also possible that our Lord used both forms of the Beatitudes on two different occasions. If so, Luke’s as the simpler series, dealing more with external and social conditions, would come first, Matthew’s as the more spiritual treatment following and revealing deeper meanings. But possibly Matthew and Luke had obtained different versions of the Beatitudes from two different sources, neither intentionally altered, but each representing the facet of our Lord s teaching that most struck some disciple.
vi. 27-38. On loving out enemies. Jesus bids his people love their enemies and return good for ill, giving to all who ask, and following out the golden rule of doing to others as we wish them to do to us. It is nothing merely to render good for good, or to lend where we expect a ret rn ; even sinners do as much. But to love our enemies and lend without ever despairing will prove us sons of the Most High, who acts thus generously to good and bad alike. Mercifulness is commended as godlike. We are warned not to judge or condemn others that we may not suffer a like fate ; but to be generous in our treatment of people, because as we deal with them we shall be dealt with ourselves.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Proper 31 in Year C
Sunday, 31 October 2010
The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

The Readings
Habakkuk 1.1-4, 2.1-4
Nothing is known about Habakkuk except that he is called a prophet (nabî’) in 1.1 and 3.1. The appearance of the prophet Habakkuk in the Greek addition to the Book of Daniel known as Bel and the Dragon (33-39) is not based on history, The main clue to the date of Habakkuk’s prophecies is the reference to the Chaldeans in 1.6 is the: that people had replaced the Aayrians as he leading power in the Near East in the late 7th-early 6th century BC. The prophecies of this book probably date from between 608 and 598 BC, but not all scholars are agreed on this. The Book of Habakkuk has three main sections:
I. 1.1-2.5 Dialogue between the Prophet and God
II 2.6-10 The Five Woes
III 3.1-19 The Canticle of Habakkuk
Our reading today, which is the only Sunday reading from Habakkuk in the Revised Common Lectionary, comes from the first section. In the dialogue between the prophet and God, Habakkuk first protests that because the Lord allows violence and destruction, he makes law and justice mere nothings. we read this objections today [1.2-4]. The Lord’s response, which is not part of our reading, is to point to the Chaldeans. This gives nothing of the expected comfort or promise of rescue; for the moment, only further fear an suffering can be expected [1.5-11].Such an unexpected response draws a further complaint from the prophet: he asks how long the Holy One will look on while the wicked one swallows up the righteous [1.12 -2.1]. Today’s reading continues with the final verse of this complaint (2.1) in which the prophet declares I will take my stand to watch … and look forth to see what he will answer … The Lord’s respnse is now that while the prophet cannot see the outcome, divine justice is inexorable and will come in God’s time [2.2-3]; in the meantime, the righteous must live by faith [2.4] This last verse received a wider application in St Paul’s letter to the Romans (1.17).

Psalm 119.137-145

In form Psalm 119 is an alphabetical acrostic: each stanza is made up of eight lines all beginning with the same Hebrew letter. Almost every line contains the word ‘law’ or a synonym such as ‘commandment’, ‘decrees’, ‘precepts’, and the like. There is an overall mood of lament which suggests that it was meant to be a prayer for deliverance. It is also possible that this psalm is a purely literary exercise in honour of the law and the language of lament is just an imitation of other psalms.
In this stanza each line begins with the Hebrew letter sade. It is an acknowledgement of God’s justice, and acts today as a meditation on and a balance to the complaints of the prophet Habakkuk.

The Epistle: 2 Thessalonians 1.1-4, 11-12
In New Testament times, the port city of Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman provnce of Macedonia in what is now northern Greece. In about AD 50 St Paul came with his companions Timothy and Silas and preached in the synagogue there for three weeks (Acts 17.1-15). The ministry had some success among the Jewish and Gentile inhabitants of the city, but some of the Jews there caused disturbances; Paul and Silas escaped the city by night. Paul’s concern for the small community at Thessalonica is seen in the two letters that have been preserved in the New Testament. Scholars are not agreed whether the second of the letters is the authentic work of St Paul or is to be attributed to a follower; there is a helpful note in the RCL commentary on this question see:

1.1-2 Salutation. Silvanus is Latin form of Silas, which is in turn either a Semitic name or a shortened Greek form of Silvanus. Silas is mentioned in Acts 15:22, 40; 16:19-25; 17:1-9; 18:5. [NOAB] The Silvanus mentioned in 1 Peter 5:12 may be the same person. On Timothy see Acts 16.1; 2 Timothy 1.5, 3.15. He is often mentioned in Acts and in named in the opening salutations here and in 1 Thessalonians and 2 Corinthians. Grace to you and peace: Paul combines the greetings usual in Greek and Hebrew society, but this greeting is not simply his own good wishes, it is the grace and peace of God in Christ Jesus.
3-10. Thanksgiving Paul followed the customary practice in ancient letter-writing of opening a letters with a thanksgiving or prayer to God on behalf of the person addressed. Although the Thanksgiving and Prayer are spoken of separately, in the original they form one long, involved sentence (so NJBC). 3. as the Thessalonians’ faith grows abundantly, their love for one another is increasing. Since mutual love is Christ’s great commandment for his disciples, so it is the greatest sign and test of Christian faith. A community in which love for one another is not growing is one that lacks in faith. 4. Because their love increases they are steadfast in the face of persecution and affliction, and Paul can boast of them to the other churches: their life shows the truth of the Gospel he preaches. The mention of their steadfastness and faith recalls the words of the Lord to Habakkuk — the vision will not lie. If it seem slow wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
3.11-12. Prayer. The thanksgiving is followed by a prayer that the Christians at Thessalonica may be made worthy of God’s call. The purpose of this is not their benefit alone, but that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them. 12. The NJBC has an important note on the words according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace ‘describes the sovereign gift both of God (the Father) and of the Lord Jesus Christ. The two personal subjects (under one article, developing 1.1-2) function as one being.’
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
xix. 1-10. Zacchaeus. A rich tax collector named Zacchaeus, who is short, climbs into a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he passes through Jericho. Jesus looks up and tells Zacchaeus that he is coming to be his guest, at which the people all make complaint. When in his house Zacchaeus promises great generosity to the poor, and ample amends for his extortions; and Jesus declares that salvation has come to his house, since the Son of man came precisely in order to save the lost. This narrative is only found in Luke.
This passage is followed by one more parable (of the Pounds, 19.11-27) before the narrative of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday, 19.28-40), the lament over Jerusalem (19.41-44) and the cleansing of the Temple (19.45-6).
1. Jericho was on a main trade route and was an important customs centre. It lies 7 km west of the River Jordan, 10 km north of the Dead Sea and 30 km east of Jerusalem. It lies 250 metres below sea level and thus it is considered to be the lowest city in the world [Source, website of the Jericho Municipality].
2. The name Zacchaeus means ‘clean’. He is described as a chief tax collector; this title appears nowhere else in ancient literature. Telones (Latin publicanus), which we translate ‘tax collector’, in fact had the wider meaning of a collector of tolls, customs, or taxes. Jericho, a frontier city through which merchandise passed, would be likely to have a main sub-collectors. We might describe Zacchaeus as ‘a superintendent of customs’. The NJBC notes that Zacchaeus ‘straddles two Lucan symbolic worlds: he is a toll collector, one who responds generously to God’s call (see 3.12-13; 5.27-32; 7.29-30; 18.9-14); he is also a rich man, one who finds great difficulty liberating himself from attachment to possessions (18.24-27)’
3. He sought to see Jesus. Zacchaeus must have heard of Jesus’ kindness to tax collectors and sinners, and wanted to see him. It is most unfortunate that the NRSV renders this as ‘was trying to see Jesus’; this obscures the fact that the same verb (to seek) appears in verse 10. the crowd: another reference to the multitude of people now accompanying Jesus. (see 18.36). The same people made up the procession in the triumphal entry to Jerusalem. They would be Galilean pilgrims going up to the passover. …because he was short of stature: the details of this story are such that R. Bauckman holds that if they ‘really are recollected, rather than the product of storytelling imagination, they can only have been recollected by’ Zacchaeus (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses p. 55).
4. … he climbed up into a sycamore tree: this is the fig-mulberry tree (Ficus sycomorus), not our sycamore; a tree with fruit like figs, and leaves like those of the mulberry tree. It has been remarked that, ‘with its short trunk and lateral branches forking in every direction, it would be easy to climb.’
5. Jesus … looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus’…: Jesus may have heard of this man before, and some of the people may now have pointed him out in his strange position. The evangelist does not say that he was trying to hide himself in the tree. He had climbed it simply that he might see Jesus, regardless of what people would think of his action. … make haste and come down: these words have often been interpreted as a call to humility. For I must stay at your house today. See 2.49: ‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ Must which occurs 18 times in Luke’s Gospel, conveys the theme of necessity: it is in accordance with God’s pan that Jesus invite himself to take Zacchaeus’ hospitality. Today is an equally important word in Luke: God’s salvation is not in some distant future, but is already being inaugurated in Jesus Christ. See verse 9 and 2.11.
7. All, that is not only the Pharisees and Scribes but the whole crowd of pilgrims murmur against Jesus’ crossing of the boundary between clean and unclean. But while before Jesus answered complaints about his associating with tax collectors (5.27-32) it is now the tax collector who answers the objection.
8. … I give to the poor … I restore it. The present tense here is open to two interpretations. It may mean that Zacchaeus was in the habit of practising the extraordinary generosity he here describes, or taken as a vow, his words indicate his intention to do so. By the first interpretation, Zacchaeus is arguing that he is not a sinner, because it is his customary conduct to be generous and just, but by the second, he is saying he is no longer a sinner; he resolves to change his ways The second interpretation is more generally accepted, and more indeed more likely. As Adeney wrote, ‘He speaks of giving half his goods, not half his income, as though contemplating a distribution of his property. Besides, the reference to restoring fourfold what is wrongly extorted could not apply to a constant habit. Nobody would make extortions at all under such circumstances. Lastly, it is less likely that Zacchaeus is boasting of his settled habits than that he is proving himself a new man at the coming of Jesus to his house.’ The promise of four-fold restitution goes beyond the demands of the Law, which required only that a thief caught and punished (Exod. xxii. i). In a case of voluntary restitution it was enough to restore the property with the addition of one-fifth of its value (Lev. vi. 5 ; Num. v. 7) (but see Exodus 22.1; was Zacchaeus calling himself a sheep-stealer?).
10. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost: The presence of Jesus makes possible what is humanly impossible. A wealthy man gets through the needle’s eye! But not without some radical change (NJBC). It is interesting to note that Zacchaeus ‘sought’ to see Jesus, but at the same time Jesus was seeking to save Zacchaeus. We must always remember this as a caution against thinking that religion is our ‘search for God’.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some notes for Proper 30 in Year C
Sunday, 24 October 2010
The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

The Readings
Joel 2.23-32

The name Joel (Hebr. yô’el) means ‘The LORD is God’; it appears elsewhere in the Old Testament, but there is no other reference to the prophet Joel son of Pethuel (1.1). The book gives us no biographical information about its author, nor does it give the date of his prophetic ministry. (Among the twelve ‘minor’ prophets, such information is given in the books of Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah but not for the others.) The most widely accepted interpretation of the evidence in the text is that he lived in Judah during the period after the exile, in the time of Persian rule. He shows an acquaintance with the priesthood and worship of the temple, which has led to the suggestion that he was a ‘cultic prophet’ (i.e. a prophet who ministered within the life of the temple), but, as the NJBC points out, this may be arguing more than the text will bear, ‘appreciation for the cult does not necessarily make one a cultic functionary.
Joel’s prophecy springs from a terrible plague of locusts that visited the land which he saw as God’s judgement on his people and a call to repentance (1.2-2.27); from this reflection he goes on to depict the coming of the Day of the LORD and the final judgements and blessings (2.28-3.21). Today’s reading ends the first section and begins the second. It is a promise of the land restored after devastation.
23. He has given the early rain for your vindication or he will give you a teacher for righteousness: The meaning of the text here is uncertain. The word translated as ‘early rain’ is môreh; there is another word môreh which means ‘teacher’. While ‘early rain’ fits this context very well. NJBC points out the connection between rain, justice, and teaching in Isaiah 30.19-26; 1 Kings 8.35-35; 2 Chronicles 6.26-27. The importance of the early rain was that before it came the dry land was too hard for the light plough used in ancient times. The rains softened it.
27. And you shall know …: The removal of the locusts and the alleviation of the drought are not just phenomena that would occur anyhow in the course of nature. They are saving acts of the LORD, giving knowledge of his presence.
The second part of the book, which speaks of the effect of the Lord’s presence in the midst of Israel, begins at Joel 2.28. In the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin versions, this is the beginning of Chapter 3. I do not know why the Chapter divisions were altered in our English versions. 2.28-32 was quoted by St Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2.17-21).
28. I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh: The commentary of Rashi interpreted ‘all flesh’ as ‘anyone whose heart becomes soft as flesh’, citing Ezekiel 36:26, ‘And I will give you a heart of flesh.’ NOAB notes that ‘:For Joel all flesh means primarily the Jews (3.2, 17, 19-21; Ezek 39.29); for Peter at Pentecost it included all nations. NJBC suggests that the charismatic outpouring of the spirit which accompanies the LORD’s presence amidst his people is reminiscent of Moses’ prayer, ‘Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!’ (Numbers 11.29). See also Isa 32.15 and 44.3-5.
31. The sun shall be turned to darkness: compare 2.2, 10-11, where darkness is the effect of the army of locusts. When the insects are removed, the LORD takes over their astronomical effect, and his terrible day becomes a day of vindication for Israel. Rashi says that the sun will be turned to darkness to embarrass those who worship the sun. turned to blood is an indication of colour.

Psalm 65
Te decet hymnus
We used this hymn of praise for the rain and thanksgiving for the harvest on Thanksgiving; now it is a reflection on Joel’s promise of bounty coming after disaster in response to Israel’s turning back to the LORD. The difference is seen in the suggested refrain: on Thanksgiving it was ‘You crown the year with your goodness, O LORD’; now it is ‘’Deliverance belongs to the LORD’.
2-3: Confession and the forgiveness of sins are necessary, for sin was believed to prevent the coming of the rain (NJBC refers to 1 Kings 8.35-36 and Amos 4.7-8)
9. The river of God: See Psalm 46.5; Isaiah 33.21; Ezek 47.1-12; Zechariah 14.8; Revelation 22.1-2.
13. the wilderness: Perhaps steppe is a better translation here than wilderness. It is countryside that looks most infertile during the dry season but comes to life when the rains arrive. the hills be clothed with joy: this phrase uses a figure of speech called ‘elipsis’: the meaning is the hills were clothed with (the vines that produce the wine that brings) joy.
The Epistle: 2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18
In 4:6-22 Paul gives his concluding exhortations. He expects to die soon (6-7) and looks back on his life and work, using metaphors of sacrifice and athletic games (see Philippians 2.17, 3.12; 1 Corinthians 9.24-25). Though among Jews crowns or wreaths of leaves and flowers were worn as symbols of joy and honour at feasts and weddings [NOAB], it seems more likely that Paul is thinking of the Greek practice of crowning the winners of athletic contests with wreaths [8].
In 14-18 Paul describes his legal situation. He writes—or if the letter is by one of his followers, is imagined as writing, between his first and second trial. At the first he was abandoned by ‘everyone’ (but see 4.11), as Jesus was at his trial; but the Lord Jesus does not abandon Paul (17). Nonetheless, he is in real danger of his life. The lion’s mouth is a common metaphor in the Hebrew Scriptures for a violent death (Ps 7.2; 17.12; 22.21). So far he has been rescued from physical death, but that the Lord will save him does not exclude his death.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 18.9-14
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector (Publican)
Following right on from the passage we read last Sunday is this parable, unique to Luke, which Jesus told to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt. It has been suggested that these were Pharisees, but as Archbishop Trench wrote:
‘What profit would it have been to hold up to such, the spectacle of a Pharisee praying as this one prays in the parable? They would have seen nothing unseemly in it; they would have counted it the most natural and fittest thing in the world that he should pray exactly in this fashion. But a disciple, one already having made some little progress in the school of Christ, yet in danger, as we are all in danger, of falling back into pharisaic sins, such, a one would only need his sin to be plainly shown to him, and he would start back at its deformity; he would recognize the latent Pharisee in himself, and tremble and repent. It was in some of his own disciples and followers, that the Lord had detected symptoms of spiritual pride and self-exaltation, accompanied, as these will be ever, with, a contempt of others; and it is to their disease that He proceeds in the parable to apply a remedy.’
Thus the lesson is aimed at, and is meant to be heard by, none other than you and me.
10: went up: The temple was on a hill, Mount Moriah, approached by a magnificent flight of steps. In (better into) the temple: they went into the courts of the temple, not the Holy Place, which was reserved for priests. To pray: probably at one of the hours of prayer, such as 12 o clock (Acts x. 9) or 3 o clock (Acts iii. i). See also Isaiah. lvi. 7.
11. standing by himself has been interpreted as a sign of the Pharisee’s pride, but it was the normal custom for Jews to pray standing. Hannah stood praying in the temple (i Sam. i. 26); and Jesus says, Whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, &c. (Mark xi. 25). Moreover, the publican, whose prayer was an humble one, also stood (ver. 13). Nonetheless, as Trench points out, ‘when we weigh the word of the original, this ‘stood’ may very well be emphatic, indeed we may confidently assert that it is. It implies that he, so to speak, took his stand, planted and put himself in a prominent attitude of prayer; so that all eyes might light on him, all might take note that he was engaged in his devotions (Matt. vi. 5 ). Even worse is the statement that he stood by himself: the name ‘Pharisee’ means "separated, separatist," it is from the Heb. parush, from parash "he separated." Trench notes: ‘separatist in spirit as in name, and now also in outward act, he desired to put a distance between himself and all unclean worshippers’. St Basil said that the Pharisee ‘”prayed with himself," that is, not with God’.
His prayer seems to begin well with God, I thank you, but it is possible to use the language of thankfulness while being ungrateful to that help, allotting to oneself the first share in virtuous actions, to God the second. The good beginning is soon eclipsed, for the Pharisee cannot thank God for the good which he fancies that he finds in himself, without insulting and casting scorn upon others for the evil which he sees, or fancies that he sees, in them. For he thanks God that he is not like other people, or more correctly. not like the rest. St Augustine wrote of this: ‘He might at least have said, "as many men;" for what does he mean by "other men," but all besides himself?’ He divides the human race into two sorts: himself and all others: ‘I am righteous,’ he says, ‘the rest are sinners.’ And what sinners: thieves, rogues, adulterers! As he cannot think too good of himself, so neither can he think too bad of others. …even like this Tax-collector: ‘To despise the whole race of man was not enough for him; he must yet attack the Publican,’ wrote St John Chrysostom.
He goes on to mention his merits. I fast twice in the week. The law enjoined only the Day of Atonement as a fast-day(Lev. xvi. 29), but in Jesus’ day many observed Monday and Thursday as weekly fasts. Fasting is good, and many Christians keep Fridays as days of abstinence (a thing our own Church teaches). But what we do as discipline is not something we brag about to God. I give tithes of all I possess: the Law prescribed a tithe (Num. xviii. 21); but the rule was understood to apply only to farm crops, not to small garden produce, which the Pharisees tithed as a work of supererogation (‘mint and cumin’; see Matt, xxiii. 23). He goes further even that that. He tries to make God as his debtor.
In his prayer there is nothing but this self-praise disguised as thanksgiving. 'Had he then,' asks Augustine, 'no sins to confess?’
The Tax-collector also stood, but far off. Adeney takes this to mean far from the Pharisee, too humble to pray near the holy man. But Chrysostom thinks it was not so far but that ‘He heard the words, that I am not as the Publican. He was not angry, but pricked to the heart. The one uncovered the wound, the other seeks for its remedy.’ Augustine wrote, ‘The Publican stood afar off, yet drew near to God.’ He beat his breast, which is a sign of repentance. In fact, he was striking his breast again and again in the agony of self-reproach. Archbishop Trench suggests that the Pharisee was moved to greater pride by the sight of him, thus standing humbly with eyes cast down, and ‘drags him into his prayer, making him to furnish the dark background on which the bright colours of his own virtues shall more gloriously be displayed; finding, it may be, in the deep heart-earnestness with which the contrite man beat his breast, in the fixedness of his downcast eyes, proofs in confirmation of the judgment which he passes upon him. He, thank God, has no need to beat his breast in that fashion, nor to cast his eyes in that shame upon the ground.’
The Tax-Collector’s prayer, Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, or more literally, the sinner, is the foundation of the ancient prayer known as the Jesus Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner’. Helpful information on this devotion may be found at several sites:
~ Introduction to the Jesus Prayer by Mother Alexandra, formerly Her Royal Highness, lleana Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria:
~ The Jesus Prayer, from the Orthodox Church in America:
It was the Tax-collector who went down from the temple to his house ‘justified’, made or counted righteous and so forgiven, rather than the other. That is, he is acquitted in God’s court of justice, because he has recognized his need of God’s forgiveness and shown sorrow for his sins. Both were in need of forgiveness, but not only did the Pharisee not ask for forgiveness, he showed no awareness of the slightest need to be forgiven. In truth he did not know himself. One who truly knows oneself will be humble; one who is honest will never exalt oneself.
The model that the true disciple of Jesus is to follow is the Tax-Collector.