Friday, February 25, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Commonly known as Sexagesima
Proper 8 in Year A
27 February, AD 2011

Sexagesima just means ‘sixtieth’.

The Collect in the BAS is a modernized and slightly simplified form of the Prayer-Book Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, which goes back to 1549 and in turn is a translation of a very old Latin collect used on that Sunday since at least the seventh century. In the American Prayer Book of 1979 it is appointed for the Sunday closest to August 10.
The Prayer Book Collect for Sexagesima has been the same since the first Book of 1549 and is in turn a translation of the old Roman Collect for this Sunday, which goes back to the so-called Gregorian Sacramentary, from the late eighth century.
If I may be allowed a request here, though to whom it should be made I am not sure, I should love to see a simple commentary on the BAS which could set out which of the various prayers are original compositions and what the sources of the others might be. The Introduction to the Holy Eucharist in the BAS does this well for the Eucharistic Prayers (see pp 179-180) but tracking down the Collects sometimes requires more time than one has available. If any appropriate authorities are reading this, I would be happy to take on this job for suitable remuneration.
The Readings
First Reading: Isaiah 49.8-16a
The passage appointed comes immediately after the Second Servant Song (49.1-7) It concerns the return of the exiles from Babylon [8-9b]. see also 2 Corinthians 6:2.
8. In an acceptable time: see Luke 2:14. See also 2 Corinthians 6:2. which quotes this verse. the desolate heritages: the land of Canaan had been allotted to the twelve tribes when they came from the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt (see Joshua, chapters 14 to 17). The heritages were deolate because the people had been taken into captivity.Thus the Servant is not only a new Moses leading the people to freedom, but a new Joshua.
9. … on all the bare heights shall be their pasture. Other versions have ‘on the bald hills’ and ‘on all the pathways’; The Hebrew shĕphiy apparentlty means bareness, and hence a smooth or bare height, bare place, high places, barren height, and the like. A path is made bare of plants by much travel.
In verses 9c-11, Israel’s deliverance from the Exile is described in the language and imagery of the Exodus (see 48:20-22).
12. Syene is usually identified with Aswan in the south of Egypt; the original, however, seems to be Sinim, which is much less easily located and seems to have perplexed even the ancient translators. The Greeks read ‘land of Persia’; the Latin version gave de terra australi, 'from the land of the south’. The new revised Latin version issued by the Roman Church in about 1980 (Nova Vulgata) has Sinim. Strong’s dictionary defines Sinim as ‘a people living at the extremity of the known world’ and for various reasons suggests that China might be meant. (Indeed, news or at least rumours of China might easily have been known in Babylon at this time). One enterprising website explains that Sinim really means Australia, but I suspect an undue influence of Jerome’s de terra australi. (If you’re interested you may find this site at After going through all this stuff, I have concluded for myself that ‘from the Southlands’ is probably the best way to understand it.
13. A brief hymn praising God who comforts his people (see 44.23) concludes the first section of the reading.
14. In contrast to v 13 comes the complaint of Zion, the holy city, expressing the discouragement the people feel on returning from exile to a poor and ravaged land: see Haggai, Nehemiah 5, and Ezra 9-10. 15. In response the Lord protests his love for Israel, as he does in Hosea 2:14-23 and Jeremiah 31:20. This verse has been described as ‘One of the most touching expressions of divine love in the entire Bible.’
16 For ‘names written on the palms of God's hands’ see Deuteronomy 6:8 and Jeremiah 31:33. [NJBC]
Psalm 131
Domine, non est.
An act of humble submission to God’s will and guidance.
Psalms 120-134 have the superscription ‘a song of ascents’ (in the KJV, ‘degrees’, i.e, ‘steps’).. It is thought that these hymns were sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for the great pilgrim feasts.
1-2. NJBC compares these verses to the sort of ‘negative confession’ found in Psalms 15, 24.4-5, and 101.3-4 and notes that it contrasts with the positive tone of verse 3.
3. Perhaps the psalmist means that just as a weaned child no longer cries fitfully for its mother's milk, but is quiet and content upon her lap, so the psalmist reposes in the love of the Lord. [NJBC]
The last verse is thought to be a later addition to the poem for use in public worship.

The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 4.1–5
In this brief section, St Paul concludes his words on properly thinking about the Church leaders which began at 3.5 and was read last Sunday.
1. NJBC notes that the word translated servants (not doulos, ‘slave’ or diakonos, but hypēretēs) also has the meaning of ‘official witness’. Hypēretēs is literally ‘an under-rower’ but came to mean ‘an attendant’; it seems to have been used in military and civil language for a minor officer. On stewards see Lk 12.42. On God’s mysteries, see Mark 4.11; Rom 11.25; 16.25; 1 Corinthians 2.7.
4. The fact that Paul’s conscience is clear does not ultimately prove his innocence: there is only one true judge.
5. Before the coming of the Lord, all human judgements are prejudice, which literally means pre-judgement [NJBC].
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 6.24–34
Last week our reading of the Sermon on the Mount reached the end of Chapter 5. The first twenty-three verses of Chapter 6 are not read in the course of the Sundays after Epiphany in Year A; but are for the most part read on Ash Wednesday in all three years. These verses concern the outward show of piety: alms-giving, prayer, and fasting, and conclude with the laying up of treasure in heaven.
The last two verses (22-23) are not read on any Sunday, nor is the parallel passage in Luke (11.34-36). In his book on the Sermon on the Mount Charles Gore comments on these verses in connection with the next one, and for this reason we will provide them here:
The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness how great is the darkness!
It is the single eye that makes the link to the next verse, and as Gore notes, ‘The question of vital importance is therefore simply this: are we single-minded in seeking God? Single-mindedness is what gives clearness. Put God clearly and simply first in great things and in small. Then your life will be full of light, full of power. And, in fact, you must put God first, or nowhere. Examine any man's life of what sort it is. Cross-question it. You will find at last that one motive is dominant. Either, at the last push, he will do God's will, or he will do that by which he thinks to serve his interests in the world. Now, what a man does at the last analysis or when pushed into a corner, that is what reveals his real motive. The motive on which he then acts is his only real master-principle. There can be only one such in a life. At the bottom it is either God which rules a life or mammon, i.e. money. Thus you must put God first, or, in fact, you are putting Him nowhere; if He is not first, then He can be no more than the superficial decoration of a life really devoted to something else.’
24. Mammon is said by Augustine to be a Phoenician word for gain. Hence, some have suspected it to be a synonym for Pluto, the god of wealth. Others, again, connect it with a Hebrew term for ‘ trusted’. The NRSV’s wealth here can only be justified if it is wealth personified; better, in my opinion, to use the strange word that needs to be explained than the familiar one which is easily misunderstood. For more on Mammon can be consulted.
The second part of today’s passage (25-34; the parallel is Luke 12.22-32) is about anxiety or worry. Gore writes: The result of singleness of mind in seeking God is to be a complete freedom from worldly anxiety. The keynote, as it were, of the passage which concludes this chapter is the phrase, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the rest shall be added unto you’ [33]. Look to God first. Obey God. Enthrone Him in unique supremacy in your heart. He is your Father, and as such you can trust Him. If day by day you do His will simply, and cast your care on Him, then you can have a wonderful freedom from anxiety as to your future, and can live at peace the sort of peace which finds its illustration in the fascinating tranquillity of the flowers of the field, and the light-heartedness of the birds of the air.
25. Do not worry about, or do not be anxious. NJBC: The term means ‘consider’, ‘think about’, in the sense of ‘be preoccupied with’ or ‘absorbed by’.
28. neither toil nor spin: it is possible that these two verbs represent the outside work of men and the inside work of women, although as the NJBC points out, it is not certain that this distinction was observed in the ancient Near East
30. the oven in which bread was baked was a large earthen vessel lined with the dough. The dried grass was placed within and set on fire.
33. Seek first the kingdom of God: The blessings of the kingdom are to be the first objects of desire and effort. If we make duty our first care God will take care of our happiness. Yet the knowledge of this highest law of life must be sought. Origen reports one saying of Christ to be : Ask for the higher things and the lower will be added. We are not to infer that the lower things are not to be sought at all : they have their place, but it is not the ‘first’. We must note that to seek the kingdom is not a call to otherworldly piety: the whole tenor of the first part of the Sermon shows the place of seeking and acting for the justice of God’s Kingdom in the world today (Matthew 5).
34. Today's trouble is enough for today. Better the older, Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Each day brings its own evil we do not know what it may be—why anticipate? The worst cause of anxiety is worrying about the uncertain and largely imagined future.
And with that we’ve reached the deadline.

27 Sunday The Eighth Sunday after Epiphany, Sexagesima
28 Monday Commemoration of George Herbert, Priest and Poet, 1633
George Herbert was a country priest in the time of Charles I and remembered for his poetry and his writings on pastoral ministry. Some of his verses have been set to music and are among our best-loved hymns (e.g. King of Glory, King of Peace). For more information, see . This year his commemoration is transferred from Sunday
1 Tuesday Memorial of David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c. 544
For more information on the patron saint of Wales, see and
2 Wednesday Commemoration of Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, Missionary, 872
3 Thursday Commemoration of John and Charles Wesley, Priests & Evangelists, 1791, 1788
For further information see: and
4 Friday Feria
5 Saturday Feria
6 Sunday The Ninth Sunday after Epiphany, Quinquagesima

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