Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Sunday 15 August 2010

This feast, also known as the Dormition of Mary (that is Falling Asleep, a very old way of speaking about death) in the Eastern Church and the Assumption in the Roman Church, is one of the four great feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the others are the Presentation (2nd February), the Annunciation (25th March) , and the Nativity of Mary (8th September). These festivals originated in the east and were adopted in the Roman Church in the seventh century, although celebrations of our Lady’s death were known in other parts of the west before this. Another feast, that of her Conception (8th December) was not added until 1476. [For further information see:] The association of this feast with our Lady’s dormition is reflected in the BAS Collect without excluding the idea of her assumption, for it says ‘you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary’.

The Sentence for this day is the salutation addressed to Mary by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation combined with a foretelling of the miracle of the Incarnation (St Luke 1.28, 35)
Isaiah 7.10-15
This prophecy, the true meaning of which was to be revealed after long ages, was delivered during a great crisis in the southern kingdom of Judah in the days of Ahaz. The reign of Ahaz is narrated in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 22 He was the son of Jotham, king of Judah. He came to the throne at the age of twenty and reigned sixteen years. Different Old Testament chronologies have been worked out by different scholars: it is safe enough to say that Ahaz reigned from about 735 – 715 BC. He did not do right in the eyes of God, but sinned as the kings of Israel had. he even sacrificed his own son to a foreign god, possibly Rimmon (2 Kgs 16.2-4). In Ahaz’ time, the great power of the region was Assyria, to which the smaller kingdoms paid tribute. Syria and Israel decided to break away and form a coalition against Assyria; the southern kingdom of Judah did not join them. In about 735 the kings of Syria and Israel attacked Judah with a view to forcing it into the coalition. Isaiah urged Ahaz to put no trust in Israel and Syria; it was in this context that he uttered the oracle in today’s reading.
Although he has heard the Lord’s promise spoken by Isaiah (7.1-9), Ahaz may still have been undecided, with the prophet urging one course of action, his advisers urging another. This was the occasion for the offer of a sign. Sign translates the Hebrew word ‘ôt, which does not necessarily refer to something miraculous; Ahaz is here told to ask for a confirmation of the prophet’s promise. Sheol was the underground place of the dead; more like the Greek Hades than Hell.
It is possible that Ahaz’ refusal indicates that his mind is closed and that he does not want to be bothered by the man of God. Isaiah seems more than a little annoyed by this refusal, but proceeds to speak.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. According to the NJBC this means ‘the sign to be given is no longer to persuade Ahaz but will, in the future, confirm the truth of what the prophet has spoken’.
The words of verse 14, Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, has been the subject of great debate for many centuries because the Hebrew word almah, is not the technical term for a virgin; that is betula. Almah means ‘young woman’, ‘girl’ or ‘maiden’. In its original setting, this verse is best understood as referring to a wife of Ahaz; the promised child will guarantee the dynasty’s future. [NJBC] In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Scriptures made long before the birth of Christ, it was translated by the word parthenos, which does mean ‘virgin’. It was this version which was used in St Matthew’s Gospel. The space available to us does not permit anything like a proper discussion of the questions involved, especially because it also calls for a discussion of the meaning of prophecy. It is possible to accept that in the initial context the prophecy referred to the king’s wife, in the Gospels and the church’s mind a further fulfillment comes in the Virginal conception of our Lord. A good discussion may be found in R. E Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, pp. . There is also a helpful section in the article on the B.V. M. in the old Catholic Encyclopaedia at:
Psalm 132.6-10, 12-13
Memento, Domine
Psalm 132 is described by the NOAB as a ‘Liturgy commemorating God’s choice of Zion and the Davidic dynasty. The first portion appointed for today, verses 6-10, evidently accompanied a dramatic ceremony which re-enacted the discovery of the ark by David and the procession by which he brought it into the sanctuary (2 Samuel 6.2-15). We may see this in the use of verses 8-10 in the account of the dedication of the temple by Solomon (2 Chronicles 6.41-42). The last two verses repeat the Lord’s promise to David concerning his house, which are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of David.
It should perhaps be noted first of all that in verse 6 the opening words ‘The Ark!” do not appear in the original text: this is a gloss rather than a translation. The mention of ‘the fields of Jearim’ suggests this: The Ark was kept at Kiriath-Jearim (meaning town of the woodlands) from Samuel’s time until David became king in Jerusalem: see 1 Samuel 7:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 1:4.
These verses of Psalm 132 were not chosen for today only because of the Davidic prophecy; for the Ark itself might be very well regarded as a mystical figure of the Blessed Virgin, who bore the Word of God in her womb just as the Ark bore the tablets of the Law. One of the titles given to our Lady in Christian tradition (as in the Litany of Mary) is the "Ark of the Covenant" Here is a discussion of this imagery from an Eastern Orthodox source:

The Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7
This short passage from the Letter to the Galatians is appointed for today because of the reference to Christ’s being ‘born of a woman’ [v.4]; which is a typical Jewish circumlocution for the human person. This reminds us of the most important reason for declaring that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary: it is a declaration of his humanity. Because the one born of a woman is no other Person than God the Word, the Third Ecumenical Council [Council of Ephesus] declared the Blessed Virgin to be Θεοτόκος, 'Bearer of God', a title which is often rendered in English as Mother of God.
If you want further textual notes on this passage you may find them at the RCL Commentary:

Luke 1:46-55
The Gospel is the Song of Mary, known from its opening words in Latin as the Magnificat. Our Lady sang this hymn of praise when after the Annunciation she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country of Judaea (Luke 1.39-56). It is based largely on Hannah's hymn of praise at the borth of Samuel in 1 Sam 2.1-10. Both Elizabeth and Hannah were childless for a long time and dedicated their children to the Lord.
1. Magnifies, literally ‘makes great’, here means, ‘declares the greatness of’.
The prophecy of v. 48, all generations shall call me blessed, has surely been fulfilled. It is a wonder of God’s mighty power that he has so exalted the low estate of his handmaid.
51-53: Scholars differ over how to understand the verbs ‘He has shown strength … has scattered .. has brought down … lifted up … has filled …sent.’ They wonder how God has done all these things in the conception of Jesus. The likeliest explanation is that the verbs describe what God has done in the past and will begin to do finally in Jesus.

Another passages of Scripture which is associated with our Lady is the vision of Revelation 11.19; 12.1-6, 10 I point this out for those who will be at St Columba and All Hallows this Sunday. Take a look at the front of the bulletin.

No comments: