Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lectionary Notes

being The First Sunday after Pentecost in Year C
Sunday, 30 May 2010

As many of you are doubtless aware, I was away in the middle of the past week to attend a funeral in Otawa and spend time with my family. This has meant that I have not had enough time to prepare my raw notes on the readings for this Sunday in a way that would be most useful for you. However, some points have occurred to me as I read through the lections:
On the first Sunday after Pentecost is celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. This feast was first enjoined as a general observance by a synod of Arles in 1260, and has been kept by the whole western Church since the fourteenth century. The eastern Church celebrates the Trinity on Pentecost, keeping this Sunday as a festival of All Martyrs.
The observance of this day as a separate festival possibly originated in England, this is suggested from the old custom in England and some other parts of northern Europe of numbering Sundays ‘after Trinity’, instead of the older system of numbering ‘after Pentecost’, which was followed by the Church of Rome and has been taken up in the new Lectionary. The Canadian Prayer Book, by the way, restored the older custom in part by naming this Sunday The Octave Day of Pentecost, commonly called Trinity Sunday and the next The Second Sunday after Pentecost, commonly called the First Sunday after Trinity.
Eric Mascall wisely pointed out that while people often speak of the Trinity as a doctrine, theTrinity is not a doctrine. The Trinity is the Living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a doctrine about the Trinity, which was elborated over a very long time of discussion and argument among the proponents of different ways of understanding God’s self-revelation in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit. A few comments might be helpful
The doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but has been worked out by the Church as the only possible conclusion from the evidence given in Scripture. It is, in fact, a perfect example of the Lord’s words in today’s Gospel: the Spirit of truth … will guide you into all the truth.
The theologian C. B. Moss writes that ‘The Scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is summed up in the following nine propositions:
(a) There is one God. (St. Mark 12:29; etc.)
(b) The Father is God. (St. John 6:27; etc.)
(c) The Son is God. (St. John 1:1; etc.)
(d) The Holy Ghost is God. (St. Mark 3:29; etc.)
(e) The Three are separate from each other. (II Thess. 3:5; St. John 3:26.)
(f) The Father is personal. (St. John 15:9; etc.)
(g) The Son is personal. (St. Mark 14:62; etc.)
(h) The Holy Ghost is personal. (Rom. 8:26; etc.)
(i) The Three are One. (St. Matt. 28:19; etc.)’
A further passage from Moss might be helpful for understanding the type of evidence the Church was working with as it elaborated the doctrine of the Triinty:
‘3. Nature of the New Testament Evidence
‘The writers of the New Testament assume that there is one God, the Father, to whom the Old Testament bears witness. In the first three Gospels (commonly called Synoptic Gospels), our Lord uses language which implies His Godhead. In the fourth Gospel, in the letters of St. Paul, and in Hebrews and Revelation, His Godhead is explicitly stated. The same is true of the Godhead of the Holy Ghost. .... The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are distinct from each other, but there is only one God. All Three are personal beings capable or relations to each other (such as love). None of them is a mere aspect or influence. We have the materials for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but it is not explicitly given The nearest approach we find to an explicit statement is found in II Cor. 13:14; St. Matt. 28:29. (We cannot refer to I St. John 5:8 in the Authorized Version because it is not found in the original Greek.)
‘4. Reason for Absence of Explicit Statement
‘The reason for this absence of explicit statement is that the writers of the New Testament (all but St. Luke, who was a historian rather than a theologian) were Hebrews, not Greeks. Their business was to proclaim the Gospel as prophets, not to think it out as philosophers, which was the work assigned by Divine Providence to the Greeks. Five centuries of discussion followed. Every possible theory was put forward to explain the facts given in the New Testament. The full theological definition of the doctrine, in technical terms as finally worked out, was accepted by all Christians everywhere, and is accepted still by all the main divisions of Christendom, whether Eastern, Roman, Anglican, or Evangelical.’
The clearest exposition of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is to be found in the Quicumque Vult, commonly called the Creed of St Athanasius (though it is not a creed and not by St Athanasius), on pages 695-697 of the Book of Common Prayer. It is clear indeed; but clarity is not always the same as being easy to understand.
for the day is the acclamation of the Seraphim in the vision of Isaiah [Isa 6.3], which is the first lesson at Morning Prayer in the BCP.
The Collect in the BAS is apparently a new composition (that is, I have not been able to track down the source). The traditional Prayer Book Collect, which has also been kept in the American BCP, is taken from the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary; the opening prayer in the present Roman rite is from the same same source.
As well as reading the passages appointed for today in the Revised Common Lectionary, those with enough time might also benefit from reading some other passages associated with this day.
The traditional readings for the Eucharist on Trinity Sunday, as found in the Book of Common Prayer since 1549, are Revelation 4 and John 3.1-16. According to Blunt’s Annotated Book of Common Prayer, these same readings are also found on this Sunday in the Lectionary of St Jerome [fourth century]. In the new lectionary, Year B seems to have the most traditional readings.
It is interesting to note that the traditional New Testament reading at Matins is an account of the Baptism of Christ: Matthew 3 in the first two prayer books, Mark 1.1-13 in later versions. It seems a pity that the passage from Mark was not chosen as the Gospel in Year C, since the Lord’s Baptism may be seen as a revelation of the Trinity. Indeed the theologian Derwas Chitty once wrote that it is the primary revelation of the Trinity in the Gospels. It would not hurt to read over Mark 1.1-11 or its parallels before Church tomorrow.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the RCL readings for this Sunday in Year C make it rather an extension of Pentecost than a celebration of the Revelation of God as undivided Trinity.
That hymn so commonly sung on Trinity Sunday, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, takes its imagery from the passage from Revelation 4.
PROVERBS 8.1-4, 22-31
The Book of Proverbs is ‘a small library of teaching materials of different origins and dates’, which was compiled in the period after the exile in Babylon to give moral & religious instruction such as professional teachers gacve to Jewish youth. It is ‘the most typical example’ of wisdom literature in the Old Testament: compare Job and Ecclesiastes. In Proverbs 1.2-6 we find what the compiler intended the book to be.
According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Proverbs falls into four principal parts, each with its own title, and five smaller sections serving as appendices:
1.1-9.18 Book I The Proverbs of Solomon, Son of David
10.1-22.16 Book II The Proverbs of Solomon
22.17-24.22 Book III The Words of the Wise
24.23-34 Appendix
25.1-29.27 Book IV More Proverbs of Solomon
30-31 Appendices
Throughout the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament God’s Wisdom is personified: see Job 28; chapters 1, 8, & 9 of Proverbs, Sirach 24; Chapters 7 -9 of the Wisdom of Solomon; and Baruch 3.9-4.4. [Note: the three books last mentioned are among the so-called Apocyrpha, books which are not prnted in all Bibles but are appointed to be read in Church. For Anglicans a complete Bible includes these books.] In Proverbs, God’s Holy Wisdom is described as a woman to be courted, and image which fits the fact that wisdom must be sought out and cherished with dedication and devotion. She calls to all, but there are thousands of other voices calling us to the way of folly: seeking a life of pleasure and easy success. This personification of Wisdom, alost, but not quite as a separate person, was seen by many Christian thrologians as a foreshadowing of the doctrine of persons within the Godhead. Even more, in 1 Corinthians 1.24 and Hebrews 1.3 Christ is called “the Wisdom of God’, a way of speaking which derives from this tradition of personified wisdom.
Today’s reading is made up of portions of ‘the Second Speech of Personified Wisdom’ (8.1-36: for the first speech, see 1.20-33); this speech is the climax of the book’s prologue.
The reading itself is straightforward enough, although you might want to consult the notes and ‘Cippings’ at I would only add the comment here that in the final verse of the reading, the word translated ‘rejoicing in his inhabited world’ seems literally to mean ‘playing in the habitable world of His earth,’ as in the Judaica Press edition, which provides this gloss: ‘All the generations of the wicked that were from Adam to Noah and from Noah to Abraham, I was laughing at them.’
This psalm is a hymn of praise to God as creator. Although verses 4-6 originally referred to the place of humanity as ruler of creation under God Hebrews 2.5-9 applies verses 4-6 to Jesus, so that in Christian use this Psalm has become a hymn of the Incarnation and so quite quitable for Trinity Sunday.
ROMANS 5.1-5
This very short passage is the conclusion [therefore, v. 1] of a longer section of the letter to the Romans in which St Paul sets out his teaching that we are justified (made or accounted righteous by God) not on obedience to law, but on faith in God’s act of redemption … in Christ Jesus. For this reason, to understand the passage one should read at least Romans 3.21-31, which the NJBC describes as ‘the most improtant part of Romans’.
However, the section seems to have been chosen for today because the assurance of our faith is found in the God’s love ... poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.. While, as was noted above, there is no explicit statement of the Trinity in the New Testament, there are many places, especially in the letters of St Paul, which suggest the Trinity of Persons by a triadic form of language; see, for example, 1 Corinthians 6.11, 12.4-5; 2 Corinthians 1.21-22, 13.14; Romans 8.14-17; 15.30. In v. 8 Paul declares that God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, which brings out verse 5 as one of the triadic formulas.

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