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

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.

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