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.

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