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.

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