15 February 2010

No More Adam

I don't know how useful my posts on Genesis, as we made our way through Adam and the Fall; and Noah; and Abram; have been to anybody else; like a lot of things, I did it to clarify the matter in my own mind; and because, as far as I have been able to detect, nobody else has done it. To summarise: in Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, we prepare for Lent; we read in the Divine Office of the Old Rite the story of Man's first Disobedience; in the propers of Holy Mass we abase ourselves in penitence as we are reminded of the punishment due to our corporate human sinfulness and seek the mercy of God's forgiveness.

Just a couple of footnotes. (1) My Byzantine Synekdemos reminds me that, on the Sunday of Cheesefast - the Sunday before Lent begins - Orthodoxy reads, at Evensong (i.e. on the preceding Saturday evening) about the creation of Adam; his Fall when he ate of the forbidden Fruit; and his expulsion from Paradise. We in the Patrimony, however Papalist we may be, have a deep-rooted affection for Orthodoxy, a profound desire for unity with our Orthodox brethren, and a bit of a feeling that when something is common to both Eastern and Western traditions, its status in some funny sort of way is even more enhanced. So it is, to folks like me, very significant that Byzantium prepares for Lent, as the West did until the 1960s, with a solemn liturgical recollection of the Fall. And even sadder that in those same 1960s Rome and Canterbury both discarded, as valueless, this Ancient Common Tradition.

(2) Almost next to my Synekdemos on my bookshelf is my 1845 (Hanicq) Pontificale Romanum. Idly wasting the lazy moment, I just happen to notice that, on Ash Wednesday, the Pontiff expels the Penitents from Church and warns them not to darken its doors again until Maundy Thursday. Watch the Ebbsfleet website for details of when and where Bishop Andrew is due to perform this Rite; when he does so, the (barefoot) penitents will be garbed in sackcloth and ashes; the penitential psalms and the Litany will be sung (Ah yes! I've just remembered! the service will happen this year at my friend Fr Wilkinson's church at South Hinksey) and then Bishop Andrew will say: "Look! You are chucked out today from the thresholds of Holy Mother Church on account of your sins and worse, just as [YES! HERE IT COMES!] ADAM THE FIRST MAN WAS EJECTED FROM PARADISE ON ACCOUNT OF HIS TRANSGRESSION." Then the choir will sing a couple of very moving anthems: "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread ... etc. etc.."

'Nuff said.


Rubricarius said...

IMHO your posts on Genesis, St. Gregory's explanation of time and the 'Gesima' Sundays were superb!

John F H H said...

One is reminded of the Commination in the Book of Common Prayer [is that part of the Patrimony?]
It opens:
BRETHREN, in the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend.
Instead whereof, until the said discipline may be restored again, (which is much to be wished,) it is thought good, that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God's cursing against impenitent sinners, gathered out of the seven and twentieth Chapter of Deuteronomy, and other places of Scripture; and that ye should answer to every Sentence, Amen: To the intent that, being admonished of the great indignation of God against sinners, ye may the rather be moved to earnest and true repentance; and may walk more warily in these dangerous days; fleeing from such vices, for which ye affirm with your own mouths the curse of God to be due.

Emphasis mine.

But I seem to recall that as late as the 18thcentury, the ecclesiastical courts of the C.of E. were sentencing people to stand as penitents in churches in sackcloth/white sheet and preumbly casting out excommunicates?

Link to the Commination here:

John U.K.

Michael McDonough said...

Is there any indication in the Pontificale Romanum as to an approximate date of this discipline whereby the public and infamous sinners were not to return until Maundy Thursday? The reason I ask is that in Augustine's Treatises on John's Gospel, but not necessarily in the context of Lent, he mentions that they are, along with the Catechumens, ushered out at the expected moment, before the Offertory. Yet, the Catechumens were always welcome to attend the Sunday Liturgy, as far as I know.

I guess one reason for my curiosity is that today, if a person has been canonically excommunicated, he or she is still bound to fulfill those laws of the Church for which he or she is still capable (e.g., attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays, but not receive Communion, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I thought they, the penitents, were to spend this time on the steps outside of the Church building - sun, rain, sleet or snow (ain't global warming a b****) - making their penance?

I like Rubricarius have very much enjoyed these posts. Until you are better paid, Father: Thank you.