30 June 2008

Sancta Maria in Sabbato

As I was crafting the List of Services for This Week, to go on the S Thomas's notice boards, I felt suddenly moved to write, for Saturday, Our Lady on Sabbath. The Latin for Saturday is still Sabbatum; and that word still does mean Sabbath. We should steer clear of the Protestant notion that Sunday is the Sabbath: it is not; it the Dies Dominica, the Lord's Day, the great celebration of the Resurrection. Saturday is still the Sabbath; while S Paul's warnings against identifying ourselves with the Old People who define their group by 'sabbatizing' (instead of with the new Easter People) do remain valid, it is also true that, as Pius XI said, we are all spiritually semites, and the Sabbath remains worthy of great respect even if not of being a sign of our group-definition. And how better to respect it than by the Western tradition, going back at least to the Carolingian reforms and the time of Alcuin the Englishman, of using the Sabbath to mark the Great Daughter of Sion, the highest of creatures, our blessed Lady. The statutes of all our medieval cathedrals provided most amply for this, and it even survives the post-Conciliar reforms as an option.

Typologically, The Sabbath Rest reminds us that on Great and Holy Saturday God the Word rested from his labour before his new deed of creation on the Eighth Day; and Mary's own eschatological rest prefigures the Sabbath Rest to which God's pilgrim people is journeying (Hebrews 4:1-11).

This sort of thing, surely, is the real ecumenism.

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