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For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Making sense of the Canon

Forget about the speculative attempts to uncover the "primitive" Roman Canon for a moment, and try to understand the apparent conceptual confusion of the prayer as it has been prayed for more than a millennium. One jumps from the "holy, unspotted" sacrifices in its opening words - before the words of consecration have been uttered - to the bestowal of the "good things" of creation at its close - after the words of consecration have been uttered - and wonders how it all fits together. One hears the word 'chiastic' mentioned with regards to its structure: i.e. its rationale is not linear, but rather the end parallels the beginning.

If one takes the text of the prayer, and lays it out in its twelve paragraphs, each allotted an equal width across a page turned 'landscape'-wise, counting the Qui pridie section and Simili modo as one single paragraph: just jotting down the headings will do for our purpose.... one notices that Qui pridie (the sixth paragraph) and Unde et memores (the seventh) form the two central sections. Then fold the two halves of the page together, and see what you get. The - let's call it 'thematic' - correspondence between the sections that now touch each other are fairly obvious.

Starting from the middle: (6) and (7) bring together Christ's acts with his words at the Last Supper. The Incarnate and Ascended Lord is the Holy Bread and the Cup of Salvation.

(5) and (8) are both prayers for acceptance of our offerings: one echoing the language of St Paul in the 12th chapter of the letter to the Romans, the other the great types of the Old Testament.

(4) and (9) are perhaps the least successful parallel of the series: the Hanc igitur is hardly a descending epiclesis in the same way in which the Supplices is (arguably) an ascending epiclesis... however it is worth noting that both of these paragraphs do mention the acceptance of the oblation, and also the request for deliverance from hell in (4) meets its opposition in the ascent to heaven in (9).

(3) and (10) are an obvious parallel: the Saints in light are juxtaposed with the faithful who have gone to their rest; and in (2) and (11) the Martyrs triumphant and the Church militant are placed side by side. The parallel is stronger if one takes the second part of the Te igitur (the prayer for the church) and adds that part of (1) onto (2).

That leaves the first part of (1) to be set alongside (12), which brings us back my original perplexity: what is the immaculate sacrifice doing at the beginning of the Canon? And why the gifts of creation at the end? Well, at least one can see now that there is a parallel between these two sections at the extremities, both of which ask for the acceptance of the gifts or sacrifices through Christ our Lord. And this parallelism may go some way to explaining the apparent dis-ordering of the prayers.

Whatever the original "primitive" ordering of the prayers, and whatever missing ritual (benediction of offerings made by the people on particular festivals perhaps?) that explains the prayer over the gifts of creation at its conclusion, a rationale for the current form seems to emerge by viewing the prayer as structurally chiastic. In fact, one wonders if it gained its form for this precise reason: did the prayer grow from second and even first Century tradition, until it was slightly adjusted, a few extra prayers or words added, to give it its present literary form in order to achieve this balance of juxtaposition of elements? This need not have been a consciously artistic process for the most part: a chiastic structure is for most people a very satisfying literary device, especially when its architecture includes various elements of simple parallelism and repetition, amplification, opposition and allusion - all of which the chiastic structure of the Roman Canon seems to encompass.

If we accept this as a reasonable theory for the coherence of the Roman Canon, as a non-linear literary structure, what does this do for the theology of the prayer? That is a question that I am totally incompetent to tackle - which is another way of saying that I would like to speculate about it in another post. And also - are there are any other patterns or symmetries within its structure?

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Paul Drews and the Canon

The Lutheran scholar Paul Drews' theory of the original ordering and prayers of the Roman Canon are given below, and can be compared with the post-Gregorian order.

I don't know to what extent Drews' theory is accepted, or the main objections to it. If anyone knows of recent scholarship or theories and where to find them, I'd be grateful for some pointers.

While the ordering presented below does make sense, I rather doubt that one would want to set aside the current Roman canon for a speculative scheme... but this said, why didn't the modern revisers think of utilising such a (quite plausibly) very ancient, brief Eucharistic prayer of Roman provenance for the new order of Mass rather than making up a couple?

The "modern" (just a mere 1500 years old) Roman Canon can't be read as a series in the way that this ordering of the prayers from the Canon can. There seems to be more of a linear dynamic in Drews' suggested order, that follows the underlying dynamic of the Eucharist as a whole; whereas the Roman Canon has no such order or structure. It follows a very different logic, which I would like to try to express in a later post.

**********

The "original" Canon Missae as suggested by Drew:

VOUCHSAFE, O God, we beseech thee, in all things to make this oblation blessed, approved, and accepted, a perfect and worthy offering; that it may become for us the Body and Blood of thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
WHO the day before he suffered, took bread into his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes lifted up to heaven, unto thee, God, his almighty Father, giving thanks to thee, he blessed, broke and gave it to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT: FOR THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.
Likewise, after supper, taking also this goodly chalice into his holy and venerable hands, again giving thanks to thee, he blessed, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT, FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, THE MYSTERY OF FAITH, WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.
WHEREFORE, O Lord, we thy servants, and thy holy people also, remembering the blessed Passion of the same Christ thy Son our Lord, as also his Resurrection from the dead, and his glorious Ascension into heaven; do offer unto thine excellent majesty of thine own gifts and bounty, the pure victim, the holy victim, the immaculate victim, the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
Vouchsafe to look upon them with a merciful and pleasant countenance; and to accept them, even as thou didst vouchsafe to accept the gifts of thy servant Abel the righteous, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham; and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate victim, which thy high priest Melchisedech offered unto thee.
WE humbly beseech thee, Almighty God, command these offerings to be brought by the hands of thy holy Angel to thine altar on high, in sight of thy divine majesty; that all we who at this partaking of the altar shall receive the most sacred Body and Blood of thy Son, may be fulfilled with all heavenly benediction and grace.  
THEREFORE, most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, and we ask, that thou accept and bless these  gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices.
WE offer them unto thee, first, for thy holy Catholic Church: that thou vouchsafe to keep her in peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world; together with thy servant N., our Pope, N., our Bishop, and all the faithful guardians of the catholic and apostolic faith.
REMEMBER also, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids, (N. and N.), who have gone before us sealed with the seal of faith, and who sleep the sleep of peace.  To them, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, we beseech thee to grant the abode of refreshing, of light, and of peace.   
THROUGH Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create all these good things; dost sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow them upon us.
BY whom and with whom and in whom, to thee, O Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Old Certainties

"All questions are re-opened" is a phrase from C.S. Lewis's introduction to his anthology of George Macdonald. He is describing the effect of great myths which trouble old certainties and "shock us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives".  Re-opening all questions can be unsettling to say the least, but doesn't the search for truth demand some such attitude?

I take it as fairly basic that anything worth the name of Christianity - call it creedal Christianity if you will - begins by stating that our Lord Jesus Christ is both the fountain and finisher of Creation, History and Redemption, and ought to be at the centre of the Church. There is, the student of ecclesiastical history would admit, some divergence of opinion on how Christ is to be found today, and on what the Church is. Occasionally these differences of opinion have become rather angry.

One accepts that the Church is City built on the foundation of the Apostles; one reaches the conclusion that Apostolic Order is part of the very marrow of the Body of Christ. But there are still a series of unresolved disputes among Christians who believe this much. What role should the Apostle Peter have; what authority has he been given; what power do the bishops have when gathered in council; how does one judge the meaning of Holy Scripture; etc., etc.?

One finds oneself in a particular church at a particular time, as a result of one's heritage, one's earnest study, choices made, and influences within and without: and one thinks that one has a rough but (for oneself at least) satisfactory set of answers for these questions. And then, a decade later, with further study and thought, experience of life and people, colliding with a chance word or phrase, and a long-forgotten hand reaching out from the past to one's shoulder... and "all questions are re-opened". Or thus it has happened to me within the last year.

Perhaps I am only facing up now to profound inconsistencies in my beliefs that I have rationalised but can no longer do so: the submerged doubts must now be brought up to the surface and examined if they are not to become monsters in my subconscious, turning me this way and that without their being uncovered and their power and nature known.

I underwent a psychological assessment lately, to judge my suitability for the diaconate in the Ordinariate. I am in a period of "discernment" at present, and am still not quite sure how things will go - either with my own discernment, or that of my Ordinary. But that is common enough, as one is never encouraged to be too confident, and rightly so. One's calling must be tested. However, the thinking through that I did as a result of the psychological assessment, and the questions that it raised about my own attitude to authority, made me realise that the simmering disquiet that I have been harbouring for the last year or so must be faced in as open and fearless a manner as I can muster.

I have decided to write about it all here, briefly, not so much as to be polemical as to state simply where I am. I want to place my cogitations in an ostensibly public forum, in part to avoid a distinctively clerical atmosphere which sometimes has a sweet sickly smell of disease: a combination of cloistered doubt or disbelief coupled with public avoidance of intellectual engagement in particular areas of theology, patronising smiles and anodyne "faith-talk". If I am ever to be a deacon, entrusted with the communication of Apostolic faith to my brethren in Christ, I want to believe what I say and say that of which I am fully persuaded, always. But I also wished to write about it here to discipline myself to thinking things through, and perhaps gaining some light from readers.

This may not of course be exciting for anyone else. What I say may very well be passé for many, but there is a certain exhilaration for me in pulling out all the drawers and clearing the cupboards, deciding what to keep, what to throw away, and more fundamentally whether the house is the best place to stay after all the sorting, or whether it doesn't answer.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

St Peter & St Paul, Old Saxon Church Albury

Sadly I have had to stop saying the Sarum Office at Old Albury for the time being, and have updated the webpage to communicate this. I am back to saying the Office at home. There are some good reasons for this. I am unlikely to go back to seek permission from the local incumbent and the Churches Conservation Trust to start again unless there were a quorum, a group of at least two or three. I am not too disheartened as I didn't expect a group of people to surface just like that; perhaps something will still be possible at some point.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Ancient rites

I have had some correspondence with someone else who has produced a similar lectionary that takes in the whole of Holy Scripture, but from a slightly different (Lutheran) starting point.

He has made me aware of research on the so-called Ordines Romani, a list of very early, first millenium liturgical instructions for the saying of the Office and the Mass. Those numbered XIII to XV give a fascinating picture of the breviary as it was said in the major basilicas of Rome, staffed by local monastic foundations, back in the early days before St Peter's became a "collegiate" church. St Peter's once had four monasteries to resource its liturgical life.

Somewhat remarkably, there is good evidence that at this early date (we are taking here about the 7th to 8th Centuries) the entirety of Holy Scripture was supposed to be said or sung on an annual basis at Matins - at least notionally - as an ad hoc lectio continua. This very possibly goes back a few centuries more, although there is some evidence that the shift from reading long sections of the Old Testament in an ad hoc fashion at Mass, to doing so at Matins (which previously were most likely constructed of psalmody almost exclusively), may have happened at some point in the 6th or 7th Century.

It seems that the early Roman Breviary's year was divided up into four sections, roughly corresponding to the seasons and bounded by the Ember Days. Genesis to Judges formed the spring lessons (Quinquagesima to Passion Sunday) along with the Easter lessons of Acts, Revelation and the General Epistles. Summer saw the reading of the books of the Kings; and Autumn the Wisdom books. The Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi were begun in December, and continued until the following Lent after the Christmas season. The Gospels and the "Apostle", i.e. the Pauline Epistles, were read at the stational Masses. Thus the early Roman Breviary: which varied somewhat in praxis, from monastic house to monastic house, from one basilica to another, even within Rome.

And then came the cross-fertilisation, or some would call it bastardisation, of the Roman rite with the Gallican, with the introduction of the Roman rite to the court of Pepin and the Franks in 754. This to-ing and fro-ing over the Alps produced many of the classic features of the lessons of the Roman breviary: the seasonal grouping of the lessons was weakened, as the months from August to November took on their recognisable pre-1970 form, and the Pauline epistles made their way into the post-Epiphany period. And the Office as sung at the basilica of St Peter became the liturgical standard, after it became a collegiate church and took over the running of its affiliated monasteries - thus introducing an element of standardisation into the Office at the same time as it was beng Gallicanised.

What I find most interesting, however, besides the above mentioned historical development, something of which I knew next to nothing, is the common feature at this period, which is an assumption that the whole of Scripture was of liturgical value and should form the life and prayer of the church... it is a period which gave us Bede's commentaries on the Tabernacle, and ends with the 12th Century Victorine commentaries on the more "obscure" parts of Genesis. These commentaries were not produced by library scholars poring over books that no-one else ever read, they were (I believe) familiar liturgical texts, heard year upon year, and heard within a Christological and - dare I say it - neoplatonic frame of reference.

I give the internet archive address of one of the books I was directed to:

The History of the Roman Breviary by Pierre Batiffol https://archive.org/details/historyofromanbr00batiiala

The other bits and pieces that I was sent are from more recent books and studies, so I am wary of copyright rules. But this particular summary of the lesson schemata from the Ordines is on-line:
www.naal-liturgy.org/pav/docs/jefferytables-10pt.doc

It has encouraged me to know that the norm of reading the entirety of Holy Scripture in the liturgical year is not some kind of supposedly "silly" Protestant, ergo anti-catholic fad (one hears such profoundly un-Patristic sneers about the sacred word from time to time), but is sadly another of its ancient traditions that the Apostolic see has let fall by the wayside.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The lectionary - almost complete

I have almost completed the lectionary I have been working on, notionally to read the entirety of Holy Scripture in one year. The Temporal is finished; the Sanctoral is not. In the table of lessons, there are (as in the Breviary) three lessons for Matins and one for after Prime; and (an innovation) two for Vespers as at a Book of Common Prayer Evensong. It has undergone a very slow and gradual evolution to get to its current form, and is likely to be further modified as I use it.

It can be seen by following the link entitled A Table of Lessons at this page.


It is based around the spine of the traditional Breviary lectionary of the Sarum use which is as follows:

Advent to Epiphany - Isaiah
After Epiphany - St Paul
Septuagesima to Passion Sunday - Genesis and the first few chapters of Exodus
Passion Week and Holy Week - Jeremiah
Triduum - Lamentations
Eastertide - Revelation, then the General Epistles
Ascension to Whitsun - Acts
After Trinity - History of the Kings
August - Ecclesiasticus
September - Job, Tobit and Judith
October - Maccabees
November - Ezekiel


This experimental lectionary expands the material so that slightly longer passages are read at Matins each day, and makes the following additions to the above material:

Advent - Daniel and Revelation
Christmas - Chronicles (the part about Solomon's coronation and consecration of the Temple)Epiphany - Exodus (the high priestly section)
After Epiphany - the rest of Chronicles
Septuagesima and Lent - the Sermon on the Mount, Deuteronomy, the rest of Jeremiah.
Passiontide - Hebrews
Eastertide - the rest of Acts, Joshua & Judges
Ascension and Whitsun - the rest of Exodus (Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle)
Trinity - the first chapters of the Gospel of John
After Trinity - Gospel of Mark, Proverbs
August - Esther, Wisdom, and the Song of Solomon
September to November - Leviticus & Numbers, Ecclesiastes, the Gospels of Luke & Matthew
November - the Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi


There are reasons for the ordering of the additional material - I have tried to make the choice of lessons in any part of the liturgical year mystagogical in character, primarily. A rationale for some of the more obscure of these choices:

Advent - Daniel looks forward to the Incarnation; Revelation to the appearing of our Lord Jesus
Christmas - Solomon, the son of David, is the type of new-born King at Bethlehem
Epiphany - the High Priest and his vestments, washings, oil and incense are a type of Christ's theophany at the visit of the Wise Men, and in his Baptism
Septuagesima to Lent - Deutoronomy is a recapitulation of the Law after a falling away, a warning to return to our baptismal promises
Eastertide - Joshua and Judges (the new life of Israel after resurrection , the crossing of the Jordan) parallel the account of the new life of the church in Acts
Ascension to Whitsun - The Ascent of Moses to Sinai, and the giving of the Law and the pattern of the Tabernacle, are types of the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost
August to November - I have fitted in the wisdom books and the rest of Pentateuch as best as I can; but the Song of Solomon (which is the type of the mystical union) is read during the octave of the Assumption.


One might ask if this is too much Scripture - if it upsets the balance of the Breviary. My own sense, from use of this lectionary, is that the longer passages for the Matins lessons don't upset the balance: Matins is a long office anyway, and reading around thirty verses of Holy Scripture over three lessons (instead of, say, ten verses) doesn't overburden the office or lengthen it by more than a couple of minutes. The Prime lesson is something to be read over breakfast perhaps. When it comes to Vespers, I can understand why those used to a form of the traditional breviary might not like two lessons added in, but for those used to Evensong it isn't unsettling. Again, one might think that it would lengthen Vespers considerably, but I doubt if it adds on more than five minutes on average.

Overall, the amount of Scripture read in the morning and evening is less than in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, on average, partly because one doesn't read the New Testament through twice, and (because the lessons follow the liturgical rather than the calendar year) there is some redundancy on any given year with weeks omitted after Epiphany or Trinity.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Sarum rite: Vespers of Easter Day

Following on from my previous post: I am intrigued by the rubrics for the Vespers of the Easter Octave in the Sarum Breviary. Most people aware of distinctives of the Sarum rite around Easter know about Easter Matins, and the ritual of the "resurrection" of the third consecrated host of Maundy Thursday from its Easter Sepulchre - still an architectural curiosity in many medieval English parish churches. I have never read anyone waxing lyrical about Easter Vespers in the Sarum rite, however - although it is certainly elaborate, and (I imagine) extremely powerful and beautiful in actu. This discussion is admittedly slightly out of season...

I will not attempt to explain in any depth the vestments, the choreography, and "line-up" for the procession here, something way beyond my very limited knowledge of this kind of liturgical detail. What I can attempt, though, is to give a sense of the text and a rough outline of the procession.

For comparison, bear in mind that the sober and simple Roman rite, probably preserving a very ancient form of the Vesperal liturgy, has no hymn or little chapter of Scripture for Easter Vespers, with instead a very simple line of Scripture in the place of both: This is the day which the Lord hath made : we will rejoice and be glad in it. Easter Vespers according to the Roman rite therefore runs, (1) Opening Versicles, (2) Psalms of Sunday sung with the Antiphons, (3) the Versicle, (4) Magnificat with its Antiphon, and (5) the Collect. It is primitive, unfussy and structurally spartan. The Sarum rite has an instinct for a higher ceremonial, and not merely for the sake of aesthetics, I think. The elaborations one finds in the Sarum rite often bring into relief the sacramental bearing of the text of the Office - and in the case of Easter Vespers, this means drawing out from the Psalms of Sunday their typology vis-a-vis the Christological meaning of the Easter rite and its sacraments, viz. Baptism and the Eucharist.

First, for a brief resume of the ritual itself, and then a note on its significance.

The Sarum rite Easter Vespers is as follows:
  • It begins with a threefold Kyrie (not the Opening Versicle).
  • The first three Psalms of Sunday (110-112) are then sung with a fourfold Alleluia for their common Antiphon - the first Alleluia is intoned, and the choir replies with a threefold Alleluia.
  • The Gradual is then sung, This is the day which the Lord hath made : we will rejoice and be glad in it.
  • A series of Versicles are sung as follows - V. O give thanks unto the Lord for he is gracious: because his mercy endureth for ever. R. Alleluia. V. Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. R. Alleluia. V. The Lord is risen. R. As he said unto you. Alleluia.
  • Then the Magnificat is sung with the Antiphon, And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away : for it was very great. Alleluia.
  • The Collect comes after the Antiphon is repeated: Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who celebrate the solemnities of the Lord's Resurrection, by the invocation of thy Spirit may rise from spiritual death : through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • Then the usual salutation V. Let us bless the Lord etc. completes this part of Vespers.
So far there is not much elaboration of the rite: but at this point the procession begins from the quire to the font and back. (Here I can't vouch for the complete accuracy of the details I am about to give.) It is led by an acolyte carrying the processional cross, two taperers, two thurifers, then two Deacons carrying the oil of the Catechumens and oil of Chrism, then a boy carrying the Office book, then (in order) the equivalent of the master of ceremonies, the Rulers of the choir, the bishop if he is present, the two other Rulers of the choir, and finally the choir.
  • Following a fourfold Alleluia, Psalm 113 is intoned, Praise the Lord, ye servants, and then the procession sets off as one half of the choir replies with the next line of the Psalm O praise the Name of the Lord. Alleluia. The choir then continues to the font, the other half of the choir singing - Blessed be the Name of the Lord : from this time forth for evermore. Alleluia. And the rest of the Psalm is sung alternately and completed at the font, with a repetition of the Alleluia after each line, and the fourfold Alleluia repeated at its end.
  • At the font: Three choirboys join the procession, just behind the Deacons. When the psalm is finished, they sing in unison: Alleluia. Then is sung: Praise the Lord, ye servants : praise the Name of the Lord (in Latin the word "servants" is pueri, which can also translate as "boys"). The boys reply Alleluia.
  • The font is then censed.
  • The Priest says V. The Lord is risen from the tomb. R. Who hung for us upon the tree. Alleluia, and then the Collect, Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who celebrate the solemnity of the Lord's Resurrection, may worthily rejoice in our deliverance. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • After another Alleluia, the Psalms 114 and 115 are sung (as a single Psalm, as it is in the Vulgate), and the Psalm is sung alternately by the two halves of the choir as the procession sets off again. There is a station at the line All the whole heavens are the Lord's, until the end of the Psalm.
  • Here the Priest censes the crucifix, and the Psalm is finished with a repetition of Alleluia.
  • Then the Versicle is said, V. Tell it out among the heathen. R. That the Lord reigneth from the tree. Alleluia, and another Collect is said, God, who for our sake didst will that thy Son should undergo the suffering of the Cross to drive away from us the power of the enemy : grant to us thy servants that we may ever live in the joys of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As the procession enters the quire again, Alma Redemptoris Mater is sung with an Alleluia, followed by the Versicle V. Holy Mother of God, ever-Virgin Mary. R. Pray for us unto the Lord our God. Alleluia, and then the Collect, We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts : that as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel, so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

So ends Easter Vespers.


Now for a note on what I think the significance of all this ritual is.

The psalm sung on the way to the font, Psalm 113, is an invocation to the praise of the God who raises the poor from the dunghill to sit with the princes of his people - language which resonates with the Resurrection - and it also rejoices in the fruitfulness of the once-barren woman, the Church, now a joyful mother bearing children for her newly-risen Bridegroom. The Collect said as the font is censed is a joyful "variation on a theme" of the main Collect of the Vespers Office which invoked the Holy Ghost over the people. The font is the place of the death and resurrection of the Christian people: the place where (as St Paul puts it) they are baptised into Christ's death. But there is another layer of Old Testament typology ready to hand. In the Easter Vigil, Baptism is the crossing of the Red Sea by the people of Israel in their escape from the slavery of Egypt, Egypt being the type of the slavery of sin. The word ereptio, "deliverance", in the Collect really means being wrenched away with some force, suggesting a somewhat uncomfortable escape by the skin of one's teeth from a strong captor. Appropriately, the next psalm (Psalm 114 and 115 sung as a single psalm) is the "Peregrine" psalm, the psalm of pilgrimage of the people after the crossing of the Red Sea out of Egypt, and mentions the water coming from the rock from which Israel drank in the desert, and which followed them in their journey - one is instantly reminded of St Paul's "and that Rock was Christ".

To sing this psalm of pilgrimage in procession, as if the clergy and choir really were the people of Israel, processing back towards the land of promise (they are now returning towards the Altar, the place from which they receive the manna, the Bread of Angels, for their arduous journey to the heavenly kingdom) somehow gives the words an added sense of embodiment in a way that does not feel factitious.... is not, I believe, factitious. The people of the procession, by faith, touch with their hands the Things of eternity, which although hidden by the veil of the visible creature, are yet the Real enacted in mysterio, so that the types of the Old Testament and the stuff of earth are translated (in a little stone building in a small corner of a small cold island) into the Divine Tongue that spoke and the world was.

Honour is done to the crucifix on the return towards the quire at the lines from Psalm 115, All the whole heavens are the Lord's... The dead praise not thee, O Lord, neither all that go down into silence... But we will praise the Lord, from this time forth... This Psalm, and the subsequent Versicle and Collect, seems to imply a glory and power and kingship issuing from the Cross of the Risen Christ, as it precedes the Church in its pilgrimage.

The Marian Antiphon is sung on the return towards the sanctuary, which is the place of Christ's sacramental presence. Continuing the idea of the Peregrine Psalm, of the pilgrimage of Israel through the Arabian desert, one is put in mind of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, which contained the Holy of Holies, the terrible place of God's eternal glory. The Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies was God's meeting place with Israel at the annual sacrifice of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement: and the meeting place of God and Man is the womb of Mary, where God and Man became One Person and began the reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth.


One can imagine this procession, or a simplified version of it at the very least, being done with great dignity in even a small parish church. In fact, that is what fascinates me the most about the idea of such ritual being performed: how powerful it would be in a place where the scale and grandeur of the rite itself was reduced and muted to allow the significance of it to speak louder, and where everyone's face was a distinct and familiar one.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Lessons from Easter to Whitsun

The latest instalment of the experimental lectionary is now added, covering the period from Easter day until the Ember Saturday of Whitsuntide. (Follow link From Advent to Whitsun.)

As detailed in my post A Theory of Common Origin - see 21st January below - the Sarum rite contains more material from Revelation in the Eastertide Matins lessons than does the Roman rite, and less from Acts. Both have a series of homilies for the Easter Octave. Following the Octave, the Roman rite has a series from Acts for the first and second weeks after Easter, and Revelation for the third, with the General Epistles occupying the period from the Fourth Sunday after Easter until Pentecost, with a series of homilies for the Pentecost Octave. The Sarum rite, on the other hand, has a series from Revelation for the whole of the first three weeks after Easter, followed by the General Epistles, and the only place reserved for Acts is the period from Ascension to Whitsun Eve.

In the lectionary, I have kept the Sarum Matins lessons much as they are.

(1) Revelation. It isn't possible to squeeze in the whole book, so one reads only excerpts of Revelation at Matins during the first three weeks after Easter. Revelation has already been read in series in the Vespers of Advent in my lectionary, so this doesn't result in a loss: in any case, in the week immediately after Easter week, the calendar is usually packed with a series of feasts deferred from Holy Week and Easter, so the Matins lessons here will rarely get an outing. It was therefore important for them to be read somewhere else in the lectionary. My selection from the book tries to stay close to the theme of Easter: of resurrection and victory through the Cross and through martyrdom.

(2) The General Epistles. These fit neatly into a series from the Fourth Sunday after Easter until Whitsun Eve, provided one reads them for the second Vespers lesson as well as at Matins.

(3) Acts. One can read only the first four chapters or so at Matins from Ascension until Whitsun. This leaves the question as to what to do with the rest of a somewhat lengthy book that the Roman rite placed within Eastertide. Acts is very suitable for Eastertide, partly in anticipation of Pentecost, and also in part because it details the life and proclamation of the early Church, which was full of the message and power of our Lord's resurrection. I therefore used mainly the Vespers lessons to include sometimes quite lengthy readings from Acts, from Easter Monday until its completion just before the Fourth Sunday after Easter.

There was still quite a lot of space left over in my lectionary for other material.

For the Old Testament lessons from the period from Easter until Ascension, I chose Joshua, Judges and Ruth. The book of Joshua seemed right for Eastertide because in a sense it is a type of the Church (baptised in the Jordan at the Easter Vigil) entering into its new life and divine inheritance under the leadership of its "Jesus" - Joshua is of course the translators' version of the Hebrew word for Jesus. Judges and Ruth complete this period coming up to Whitsuntide: Judges is largely an account of deliverance through the power of the Spirit coming upon his Chosen.

For the period from Ascension until Ember Saturday, I have added a series from the book of Exodus that follows on from where the lectionary leaves off in Holy Week, i.e. at the foot of Sinai. The ascent of Moses into the mountain mirrors the Ascension of Jesus, and the events around the giving of the Law have been seen as a type of the Descent of the Spirit. I have tried to arrange the Exodus material accordingly, to reflect this typological understanding of the story. Several other parallels occurred to me whilst arranging the material. The Whitsun week is one of the Embertide seasons, traditionally when ordinations were performed: in fact Whitsun week was the time of the year that ordinations most often took place. A lot of the priestly material in the final chapters of the book of Exodus, and the material related to the service of the Temple, seemed very appropriate here.

I also added a series of eight lessons for the Octave of Pentecost for the Vespers lessons drawn from the Gospel of John, from the discourse and prayer of Jesus after the Last Supper in chapter 14 onwards, in which Jesus speaks of the Descent of the Spirit and the unity of the Church through the Spirit.

One more thing requires an explanation: I have left the Vespers of Easter Day as an office without any lessons at all. But to explain why, I need to write another post.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Comments

Apologies to those who leave comments as I only remember to check the post now and again. I've published the comments that came through the letterbox now.


One thing has been bothering me about the experimental lectionary. In Sarum there was a custom of celebrating the "Little Office" of St Mary on ferias in addition to the ferial office: it was said rather than sung. But on certain days the Plenum Servitium or full office of Blessed Mary was sung instead of the ferial office. Sarum specifies certain days when this should take place: the Tuesday before Ascension - Rogation Tuesday that is - and the Friday before Whitsunday are two such days. It also seems fairly clear from the rubrics that the Plenum Servitium was meant to be said on Saturdays in Advent. The Breviary gives a specific office of St Mary for use in Advent; and one for use outside Advent with a special Eastertide variation. Because the lectionary I am building is so tight, so full of continuous series of lessons, there is little wriggle room to fit in this kind of variation. I therefore built it into Advent and the other days mentioned above. I think, though, that for the rest of the year, I should allow an option for the Plenum Servitium in the lectionary on at least one Saturday per month. The Sarum Breviary provides six different sets of lessons for the Matins of Blessed Virgin throughout the year outside Advent and Eastertide: it would be good to use them all.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Lessons from Septuagesima to Holy Week

This is a continuation of the series on the experimental lectionary (see link at the bottom of the Sarum Office page to the lectionary which is now updated and called FROM ADVENT TO HOLY WEEK).


A few notes about the traditional Sarum Matins lessons for this liturgical season, which differ from the corresponding Roman lessons in small details - particularly the stories from Genesis to which the Sundays in this season are "anchored". Those familiar with the Roman lessons will know that the series (starting with Septuagesima) runs - Creation, Flood, then Abraham. This much is common to both the Roman and Sarum Breviary, but thereafter the Roman Lent is taken up with Homilies for the day's Gospel. In the Sarum rite, the first week of Lent also has a series of Homilies, but from the Second Sunday of Lent onwards there is a return to the lessons from Genesis. The Sarum series is given below:

Septuagesima week: Creation; the Fall; Cain and Abel
Sexagesima: Noah and the Flood
Quinquagesima: The Call of Abraham, the sacrifice of Isaac
Quadragesima: Homilies
Second Sunday of Lent: Jacob and Esau; the flight of Jacob; his sojourn with Laban
Third Sunday of Lent: The Story of Joseph
Fourth Sunday of Lent: Exodus; the calling of Moses
Passion Sunday: Jeremiah
Palm Sunday: Jeremiah continued
Pascal Triduum: the Lamentations


I found that it was possible to read through all of Genesis and the first part Exodus serially, with almost no adjustments in order, by lengthening the Matins lessons a little, and (from the beginning of Lent proper) reading Genesis as the first lesson of Vespers. Admittedly, one covers a lot of ground in the Third Week of Lent, because the story of Joseph is long, but reading longer passages of narrative is not very onerous.

As for the rest of liturgical season, I have made some adjustments so that it now includes the following additional items in the lessons for Prime and the lessons for Vespers:

The three weeks from Septuagesima until Lent: Deuteronomy
The week before Lent (including Ash Wednesday): the Sermon on the Mount
From Septuagesima until Passion Sunday: Jeremiah and Baruch
From the Fourth Sunday of Lent until Maundy Thursday: The Epistle to the Hebrews


The rationale for these additions should be obvious enough. (1) The Sermon on the Mount is represented in the Missal lectionary for Ash Wednesday and the days after: it is fitting to have a continuous lectionary to cover the same ground at the capite jejuni, the "head of the Fast", with its teaching on real repentance and amendment of life. (2) and (3) I discussed in the previous post. (4) The Epistle to the Hebrews is theologically apposite coming up to Good Friday.

A note about the extension of the material read from Exodus in the experimental lectionary. In the traditional lectionary, the lessons from Exodus stop before the departure of Israel from Egypt, but I have included lessons from the book right up until the ascent of Moses up to Mount Sinai. One therefore takes in a lot of material that relates typologically to events after the Crucifixion as well as the events of Holy Week itself (there is the Passover and the giving of the manna, both referring to the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday; there is the Crossing of the Red Sea which is a type of resurrection and baptism; and the ascent of Moses which is a type of the Ascension). I think that this works, however. I have previously mentioned the idea of anticipation in the liturgy, but I also included the more "Easter" from Exodus because it is read alongside Hebrews in which the Passion and Ascension are presented as a single or immediately consecutive act of Jesus as our Redeemer. In one sense, the victory is complete with the Cross - "It is finished" - and therefore one can fruitfully meditate upon the types of Resurrection and Ascension in the period immediately before the remembrance of the Cross.

The Matins lessons from Lamentations, the office of Tenebrae, I have left alone completely because they have their own musical settings. The additional parts of the Lamentations not covered in the Matins lessons has been fitted into Prime and Vespers.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Lessons for Sundays after Epiphany

Further to this series of posts about the experimental lectionary, the completed scheme for lessons for the Sundays after Epiphany are now added to the Advent to Epiphany file, which can be found via the link at the bottom of the Sarum Office page of the blog.

There is a bit of work to do on the series of lessons from Septuagesima to Holy Week. It isn't quite ready. I should be able to put the final version on-line (well, the final version for this year... it is a work that invites revision and refinement as one uses it) in the next couple of weeks. Before Septuagesima, I hope.

The scheme for Septuagesima to the end of week of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, just before Passion Sunday, is fairly simple. Genesis through to the early chapter of Exodus take up most of the Matins lessons, except when there are Homilies for Matins, although these are less numerous in the Sarum rite than in the Roman, being confined mainly to the First Week of Lent and the Ember Days.

Deuteronomy is added to my scheme for the three weeks of Pre-Lent. The reinforcement of the Law, its repetition, the emphasis on the spirit of the Law and corporate repentance in Deuteronomy, after Israel's gigantic failure at the foot of Sinai, seems like a fitting theme for Lent.

Jeremiah begins on Passion Sunday in the traditional scheme: but there isn't enough space for the whole prophecy in Passion Week and the first few days of Holy Week. I have therefore included the remainder of the prophecy, as well as Baruch (which contains the writing of Jeremiah's scribe), running from Septuagesima right through until Passion Sunday. I think that this is justified, not just thematically on account of Jeremiah's calls to repentance and the impending destruction of the Temple (which is the symbol of Christ's flesh), but also because one also anticipates the use of Jeremiah in Passion Week. Anticipation, or ritually preparing for a thing before it has quite arrived, is almost a kind of liturgical law - one thinks immediately of the first Vespers of Sunday, of the Easter Vigil, of the season of Advent, in all of which the event or something about it is savoured and enacted before its full liturgical celebration in its proper place.

There are no New Testament lessons for Lent, or even Pre-Lent, in the experimental lectionary. This may seem like a major flaw. I think that it is mitigated by the daily Mass lectionary during Lent - Lent, unlike other seasons of the liturgical year, has distinct daily ferial Masses with their own lessons - and which obviously has a great deal of New Testament material. This assumes, however, that one would read the Epistle and Gospel every day as well as the lessons for the daily office. That is, in fact, how it is intended to "work".

Christmas & Epiphany lessons

Next - in this series about the attempt to build a fuller lectionary (see Sarum Office page at the top of the blog for a link to the lectionary) - for the rationale behind the Christmas and Epiphany Lessons.

Matins of the Sarum rite provides unique homilies, and a series of legends, for the feasts and saints of Christmas and Epiphany. During the entire period (from Christmas to the end of the Octave of Epiphany) the Christmas Vespers are said daily, while Matins varies according the feast. There are provisions for festal processions with incense and chants on each of the major feasts after Christmas, notably a procession of deacons on St Stephen, of priests on St John, and choirboys on Holy Innocents: these take place immediately after Vespers.

Filling in extra lessons for this period in addition to the Matins lessons requires a lesson for Prime, and two lessons for Vespers. One can fill out Vespers lessons for many of the major feast days with relevant lessons taken from e.g. the 1928 BCP lectionary. Even then, though, one is left with quite a few gaps.

To take Epiphany first: I found it easy to decide on lessons for the Octave of Epiphany. For the first lesson of Vespers, many passages from Isaiah (many of them packed into the Epistle lesson of the Octave Day Mass which is put together from excerpts from Isaiah) are replete with the symbolism of water and therefore our Lord's baptism. And for the second lesson of Vespers, the first three chapters of John seemed a very apposite series for the entire Octave - I am told that the Coptic lessons at Epiphany also cover the early part of John's Gospel. Finally, there was the Prime lesson: I picked out a series of lessons from the detail in Exodus about the service of the altar and the priestly clothing of Aaron and his sons. There is a lot of detail about the priestly state here, and it is rich in symbolic detail (the use of gold, incense and anointing oil, the laver in which the priests are to wash, the clothing in priestly linen which was symbolically understood as a reference to our Lord's clothing with the stuff of earth, the offerings of wine). The passages from Exodus are ripe for the juxtaposition of the symbols of the Magi, the wedding at Cana, and the Baptism with the ultimate reference of these symbols and happenings, i.e. the Cross and Christ's Ascension to the Altar in Heaven. This is not a connection foreign to the liturgy of this period: the link is explicit enough in the symbolism of the gifts of the Magi, and I understand that there is quite a systematic link made in the Byzantine rite between the feast of the Theophany and the Paschal rites.

The Christmas lessons - mainly the lessons of Prime, and the remainder of the first lessons of Vespers on the days after the feast of St Thomas until Epiphany - caused me some difficulty. Eventually, drawing in the main upon the idea of Christmas as a feast of the birth of a king (remember that Christmas was once seen as particularly appropriate for a coronation), but specifically a king who is the Heir of David, I tried to construct a series of lessons from the building of the Temple of Solomon in the book of Chronicles. The series starts on Christmas Eve with David's prophetic utterances to his son, commanding him to build a house for God to dwell in among his people, and promising Solomon an eternal kingdom; the rest of the series leads on from there, and ends on Epiphany Eve with the visit of the Queen of Sheba (bringing spices in abundance, of course). It seemed as if the series from Chronicles provided a ready-made progression from the building of the Temple (i.e. the Incarnation, understanding the Temple as Christ's body) to the coming of the Gentiles to the Temple (the Queen of Sheba, or Saba, bringing gifts on camels) at the glorious Shewing or Epiphany of our Lord. And the account of the building of the Temple by Solomon covers much of the symbolic material, in anticipation, that will be reiterated in the lessons from Exodus read throughout the Octave of Epiphany.

Something that may cause some disagreement about the nature and purpose of a lectionary is the inclusion of the series of names connected with the service of the Temple, from I Chronicles 23 onwards. In the lectionary as it stands, the role and names of the Levites are detailed on the feast of Stephen; there is further documentary detail of the sons of Aaron (the priests) on the feast of John; and the lists on Holy Innocents concern the singers and musicians. One could draw a line between the liturgy of the Old Testament and the New - as I have done with this lectionary - between the deacons and their procession on St Stephen, to the Levites; between the sons of Aaron (i.e. the priests), and the priestly procession on St John; and between the choir of boys and its procession on Holy Innocents, and the musicians of the ancient Temple. My justification of this typological link between the old worship and the new is that it was made very early on in the history of Christianity by Clement of Rome, who is likely to have known the Apostles Peter and Paul.

One might object of course that the sheer volume of lists names, names, names simply makes the reading aloud of such passages rather silly. In that case, the idea of an annual lectionary to read all of Scripture should be forgotten about. My own feeling is that there is a purpose for such lessons other than to provide material for satirical sketches about Christian worship. (1) To remind us that the meaning of Scripture is in excess of our understanding of it; which entails a belief that (2) the mystery of Scripture is ultimately its reference to Christ, which is often hidden; which prompts us (3) to try to uncover the meaning of the sacred images and narrative because this in itself involves a creative sanctifying of the imagination: we "realise" the images of history and creation, renewing and making them holy by bringing them within the orbit of the mystery of Christ. The public reading of such difficult passages will help (4) to guard against an attitude towards any part of the canonical books that is casual, dismissive, or treats them as an obsolete historical record for critical scholarship to chew over. "Search the Scriptures... they testify of Me."

A final note about the last few days of the series of Epiphany lessons. I have added in an optional extra series of lessons for 14th to 19th January, because these days may occur before the First Sunday after the Epiphany Octave, but after the Octave Day of Epiphany. (Sarum has an Octave Sunday in Epiphany, as did the Roman rite before its removal in Pius V's reform, and therefore the Sunday Gospel of Christ in the Temple occurs a Sunday later in Sarum than it does in the 1570 "Tridentine" rite.) The Sarum rite provides a series of Matins lessons for the feasts of these few days; it would seem to make sense to downgrade these feasts to memorials if they occur after the Sunday after the Epiphany Octave, but to celebrate them with a full festal office if they fall before it.

The Prime lesson and the first Vespers lesson for 14th to 19th January are from the book of Chronicles, which is now read chronologically until Septuagesima, from chapter 1, beginning with the geneology of Adam, and moving on swiftly to the time of king David and his heirs. This series of lessons - which unfolds between Christmastide and the weeks before Lent, has a double reference to the seasons with which it both starts and ends, linking the time of Christmas (concerned with the birth of the eternal Son of David) and Septuagesima (which is liturgically the time of Creation, when the book of Genesis is begun). The period "after Epiphany" can be cut very short, of course, if Easter and hence Septuagesima fall early - which is one instance in which the proposed lectionary would often fall short in practice of the goal of traversing the entire Bible in one year. The second lesson of Vespers for the 14th to 19th January is from the first Epistle of John, suited to Christmastide because of its references to the flesh and bone nature of the Incarnation, the tangible, visible appearance of the Word of life.

Next: I have still to make the final adjustments to the lessons for the Sundays after Epiphany, but will post the link sometime soon. There is little to say except that these lessons will continue through Chronicles, and include the historical material from the reign of Hekekiah from Isaiah. Chronicles makes up the lessons for Prime and the first lesson of Vespers. The scheme incorporates the Pauline epistles, which provide the traditional Matins lessons for this period. The Epistles of Paul are read serially at Matins and at the second Vespers lesson, with six instead of three lessons of St Paul at Sunday Matins. This is on account of a peculiarity of the Sarum rite: on Sundays after Epiphany and Trinity, unlike the Roman Breviary, Sarum has no homily in the lessons of the second nocturn on Sundays - it simply has six consecutive lessons from the "Histories", as they are called... although they aren't necessarily from the historical books of the bible. Because of theological significance of the Epistles of St Paul, the lectionary will provide a place much later on, after Trinity, to fit in any of his Epistles that are not read in this season, or any lessons from Paul that are displaced because of an early Easter and hence an early date of Septuagesima.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Advent lessons

N.B. This piece is about the experimental lectionary I am putting together (to peruse the lectionary, see the Sarum Office page and follow the link at the bottom of that page).

Isaiah provides the traditional lessons for Advent, which can vary from 22 to 28 days. (Last year there were 28 days because Christmas fell on a Sunday, giving a full fourth week after the Fourth Sunday).

Some of Isaiah is not particularly relevant to either the first or the second coming of Christ: there is a whole historical section about the attempted Assyrian subjugation of Jerusalem in the reign of King Hezekiah, for example; and there are also the parts, like Isaiah chapter 53, that are part of the liturgy of Holy Week because of their prophetic witness to the crucifixion. Parts of Isaiah already form the Matins lessons of Christmas and Epiphany.

Once one has taken out these parts, the remaining "Advent Isaiah" fits fairly neatly as a continuous lectionary into Advent, if one reads two sections each day: one section at Matins, and one at Vespers. There are occasional ferial days, such as the Ember days, when the Matins lessons are occupied by a Gospel Homily - on these days one can shift the first Isaiah lesson to become the lesson after Prime.

There is one slight complication to the neat continuous reading of Isaiah in Advent: which is O sapientia and the O antiphons, beginning on the 16th December in the Sarum rite. I therefore made a special series of lessons for 16th to 23rd December, and I tried as best I could when constructing the lectionary to make the lessons coincide with the O antiphons. By interrupting the continuous lessons and jumping around a little, it wasn't difficult - for O oriens, for example, there is the very obvious "Arise, shine" of Isaiah chapter 60. I don't think that the lack of continuity in reading through Isaiah is very important, however - aside from a few sections in Isaiah there is no particularly clear reason for the consecutive ordering of much of its material.

A couple of things stood out for me when putting the lessons in place over the last few years.

Firstly, once one sets a sequence running (e.g. for the O antiphons), the biblical text almost seems to be ready made for the series. The final O antiphon O virgo virginum to take one sample of many, just happens to coincide naturally with the final chapter of Isaiah, chapter 66. Read it: the wealth of symbolically relevant Marian detail is astonishing. Verse 7 stands out as an anticipation of the traditional understanding of the mode of our Lord's birth from the Virgin in such an obvious way that I cannot believe that the text had nothing to do with the development of the traditional idea.

The second thing that stood out for me was the general lack of reference in Isaiah to David, to his throne, to the rule of the monarchy of Israel in general. Take out the well known prophecy of chapter 9, "Unto us a son is born", and almost the only other mention of David in the book that does any symbolic or prophetic work, so to speak, is the phrase "the sure mercies of David" in chapter 55. Odd, in a way: there is a lot more Davidic material in Jeremiah and other prophets such as Zechariah - yet here are all those purple passages about the nations flowing to Jerusalem and the Temple, the restoration of all things to a primitive Eden... and yet the role of the house and throne of David in all of this is barely mentioned. Even the figure of Cyrus seems much more central for a goodish part of the book. I am not sure what to make of this, nor where to turn for really good critical studies of Isaiah. Perhaps someone could be kind and enlighten me.

Isaiah forms the bulk of the Advent lectionary, and the remaining lessons for Prime and the second lesson for Vespers are provided by two fairly obvious Advent texts, Daniel and Revelation respectively. The Apocalypse draws heavily on Daniel, so the two are complementary. I read in The Name of the Rose that the Benedictines read Revelation at Prime, although I have never been able to corroborate this - but it does seem like a natural choice for Advent, ending with the descent of the Bride and the invocation of the Bridegroom, just as he is about to "leap down from heaven" in the silence of the night. Daniel is not only complementary for the theme of Advent, but also runs on from the November lessons - my adjustments to the Sarum lectionary means that Daniel runs straight on from Ezekiel in November, the other minor prophets fitting into November also. This provides a continuity that extends the theme of Advent that one finds in the minor prophets (such as Zechariah and Malachi) back into November, which is only fitting given that Advent once began after Martinmas. I believe that it still does in Milan.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Theory of Common Origin

The basic skeleton of the traditional Matins lectionary is as follows, with differences between the Roman and Sarum scheme noted:


Roman

Sarum
(where at variance)
Advent
Isaiah
- preparation for the coming of Christ (first and second coming)


After Epiphany
the Epistles of Paul


Septuagesima and Lent
Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus
- from Creation to the Election of Israel and Redemption


Passiontide and Paschal Triduum
Jeremiah and Lamentations
- the rejection and abandonment of Christ


Easter
Acts
- the power of the risen Christ in his Church, anticipating Pentecost

Revelation (from 3rd Sunday)
- Christ's glory and triumph

General Epistles (from 4th Sunday until Pentecost)

Revelation only is read until the Fourth Sunday, then the General Epistles, and Acts is reserved for the period from Ascension until Whitsunday.
After Trinity
History of the Kings


August
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom & Ecclesiasticus

Ecclesiasticus only
September
Job, Tobit & Judith


October
History of the Maccabees


November
Twelve Minor Prophets

Ezekiel only

My guess is that the divergence between the Roman and Sarum lectionary can be explained by a common origin in a much more extensive lectio continua at Matins. As the calendar silted up with more and more feasts (less days to say ferial Matins), and as the Matins lessons were cut short (blame the Franciscans and their influence via the papal liturgy), the Roman Breviary opted for keeping all the books of the original scheme, achieved by specifying a series of excerpts for each week of the liturgical year. Sarum on the other hand kept a series of continuous lessons for use at Matins, but because the length of the lessons were curtailed, and there were fewer and fewer ferias, the proportion of the original scheme actually read through was drastically reduced.

[As an aside, it is notable that the long "green" period between Trinity and Advent is broken into liturgical months from August to November... might this be a remnant of the period when the ecclesiastical calendar still followed a lunar month? Following Easter and Pentecost - determined by the moon - the liturgical year was then structured flexibly to accommodate the varying lengths of the months. There is some evidence in the ancient sacramentaries that the Sundays for this period were originally grouped into fours and fives, with saints' festivals being observed at fixed points relative to the Sundays in the period... might the August to November Matins arrangement be a survival of this primitive structure?]

One of the aims of a revised lectionary might be to restore the original scheme, using some guesswork. One could lengthen the lessons, but the revision would have to be undertaken with a reduction in the number of feasts.

If one looks at the typical Sarum calendar of the mid-sixteenth century, one notices how few double feasts there are: if one limited the obstruction of the normal cycle of Matins lessons to these feasts only, one has a continuous lectionary broken only every two weeks or so.

The question then arises as to what to do with all the lessons from the simple feasts of iii and ix lessons. Several solutions occur to me (1) downgrade feasts of iii lessons to commemorations only, and read the iii lessons as a single lesson either after Prime or in place of a homily - they are predominantly legends of the saints - and (2) for feasts of ix lessons, have a "double" Matins i.e. have one ferial Nocturn without an invitatory or Hymn, with ferial lessons and responses (one could use the three festal Psalms of the Nocturn with their Antiphons), followed by two Nocturns of the feast, the second Nocturn beginning with Invitatory and Hymn, and containing in three compressed lessons the first six lessons of the festal Matins. In Sarum one could easily compress the first six festal lessons into three, because in general the first six contain, in series, the legend of the saint.

By such an arrangement one wouldn't lose any liturgical "material", and the reduction in festal days although significant would not be too monotonous... well, that is my opinion of course.

There are details of divergence here: for example in Eastertide all Sarum feasts are of iii lessons, so one could alter the rules so that feasts of iii lessons with rulers of the choir should not be downgraded to become mere commemorations; but the festal calendar is relatively spare in April and May, so it would not cause much of a problem for lectio continua.

So much for speculations about origins, and for clearing the ground. I hope to write about the actual arrangement of a "restored" lectionary for Advent in the next post.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Starting Again

I haven't posted here for over a year, since late 2015. I have been cured of the itch to comment on anything current (or maybe it is merely a chronic illness in temporary remission).

My reason for posting here again is largely to do with an interest in the Sarum office - not with its ceremonial primarily, or as something exotic to be studied, but as something to pray through: as a window, rather than a work of art.

I have therefore added a very brief page (top right), called Sarum Office, primarily so that I can link to a lectionary page on another webpage - alas, I cannot work out how to load files onto the site here, but I can use the webpage to load files and link to them from this site.

The lectionary: a word about that. That is what I want to write a few web log entries about at the moment, in the hope of getting some replies.

The Sarum rite follows a similar pattern to the Roman rite in its Lessons for Matins (Isaiah in Advent etc.), but is generally more sequential, more of a lectio continua. The 1888 Roman Breviary that I have jumps its way through most of Isaiah in Advent, for example, giving one samples of "the best bits", while the Sarum rite runs through a quarter of Isaiah more or less serially and then runs out of space.

One thing we know about the ancient Church is that they read much more Scripture than in the middle ages or than we do, certainly more of the Old Testament at the Mass of the Catechumens, and more at Matins (whenever that office developed). The monastic and Sarum office also provide for a lesson after the Capitular office (after Prime), and probably had lessons with lunch and dinner. The Orthodox also have lessons in their Vesperal liturgy, and then there are the two lessons of Anglican Evensong.

Holy Scripture is a mystery that initiates one into Christ. Reading it with this awareness - that when one speaks the Spirit is uttering the mysteries of the Creating and Sustaining Logos, and of our sacrificed Redeemer - is to listen for a Voice that does not always speak in words that are readily understood. I see no reason why one should not aim to read all of Holy Scripture annually if possible, even if parts of it are not obviously "edifying". If one lengthens the Matins lessons, adds a lesson after Prime, and provides two Lessons for Vespers (Evensong), this becomes close to achievable.

I am in the middle of putting together a lectionary as described. I have followed the traditional Sarum (and Roman) scheme as closely as possible: whatever books are read for traditional Matins for that liturgical season or that month are to be found in my scheme at the same season, but in a more complete form. Other books have been added to the traditional scheme to make up the four daily lessons in this experimental lectionary.

I am going to blog my way through the lectionary as I post and link it to the Sarum Office page, piece by piece. It isn't necessarily finalised and I am revising bits here and there as I use it annually. The purpose of my blogging on this is to think a little about the mystagogical and Christological currents that emerge from putting together various books of Scripture in this way, to illuminate the mystery of redemption that the church is celebrating at particular times of the year. I don't know if the actual result viz. the lectionary I have put together will recommend itself to anyone.

A final word about sources. These include the older Sarum and Roman rites, and also the revised 1928 BCP lectionary. If I were really want to be a student of the typological use of Scripture I suppose I should be looking carefully at the Orthodox office lectionary. I may get around to it eventually, but I haven't thus far.