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

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.

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