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.

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:


(where at variance)
- 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

- 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

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom & Ecclesiasticus

Ecclesiasticus only
Job, Tobit & Judith

History of the Maccabees

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.

Warren’s Sarum Missal in English