3 March 2018


Last Wednesday, I wished a joyous, even riotous, Purim to Hebrew readers. "Open another bottle!", I cried.

The Extraordinary Form Reading at Mass that morning was the Prayer of Mordecai from the Book of Esther ... who is the great theme of Purim; for Christians, of course, Lent is a penitential season, so Alcohol and festivity are not encouraged. (Similarly, the old Roman agricultural festivals became the penitential Christian Ember Days.)

For Synagogue Jews, Purim is a triumphalistic day. Whom better to burn in effigy than Haman! For us, the Lenten liturgical texts offer us the sobering thought that the afflictions to which we are subject are justly deserved; so we fast and we beg for mercy.

For Christian writers, Esther is the Type of which Mary the Mother of God, who stands before the  King as the Mediatrix begging for Mercy, is the the Antitype. On Wednesday, the old Papal statio was at Sancta Caecilia trans Tiberim; on Thursday, this year the second day of Purim, the statio for the Papal Mass would once have been in Sancta Maria trans Tiberim. And the Roman Ghetto was, of course, in the Trastevere ... only a couple of years ago, another Jewish cemetery was excavated there.

May the potent Daughter of Sion pray for the coming of the Day when all Israel shall be brought in. Joys, then, indeed!!

UPDATE: I can't get these liturgical coincidences out of my head! Perhaps they aren't coincidences. Looking back over the last few years, I think that
2017: Purim was on the Saturday and the Sunday which is Lent II.
2014: ditto
2013: ditto
2011: ditto
2010: ditto
2018: Purim was on the Wednesday and Thursday after Lent II.
2015: ditto
2012: ditto
2016: Purim was on the Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week.

Something is going on here! And in my ignorance ...
Do leap years come into the question?
Does the dissonance between the Gregorian and Julian Calendars get its oar in?
Surely, somebody has noticed all this and explained it ... before me? Does anybody have a reference?

As a working hypothesis, I assume that it was Gregory II (715-731), who introduced the Thursday Roman Stations, who arranged to go to the Trastevere on the Thursday; but the Trastevere visit on the Wednesday must have been fixed earlier. Those possessing a Breviarium Romanum could look at the comments made in his homily by S Gregory I the Great, on the Gospel of the Thursday after Lent II.

[Lent II, of course, was a dominica vacat when the Pontiff would have been ordaining in S Peter's at the Saturday/Sunday Vigil Mass.}



Gil Garza said...

The Basilica of St. Mary’s in Trastevere was built over a natural spring of oil which appeared, the nearby Jewish Community understood, as an announcement of the coming of the Messiah. The first Christians gathered at the spring.

The inscription on the floor of the church next to the spring reads, Hinc oleum fluxit, cum Christus Virgine luxit. Hic et donatur venia, a quocumque rogatur. Nascitur hic oleum, Deus ut de Virgine, utroque terrarum est oleo Roma sacrata caput. Versus qui olim legebantur ad fontem olei. ("From here oil flowed, when Christ shone from the Virgin. Here also pardon is given, asked for by whoever. Here oil is born, as God from the Virgin, and by both oils Rome is made the sacred head of all lands").

Joseph Wood said...

Could you expand, at least briefly, on Esther as the anti-type of Holy Mary? One interpretation I saw takes "anti-type" as prefiguration or contrast, not as contrary or opposite. I'm not familier with this field of inquiry and would be grateful for clarification.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

No, as I said, Esther is the Type, Mary the Antitype. I Peter 3:21 gives the Greek terminology: Noah, the type, has Baptism as the Antitype.

The Antitype supersedes the Type. Et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui (let the the ancient Type, the Passover, give way to the Eucharist, the Antitype).

If you feel inclined to use the search engine attached to this blog, as well as looking up Type and Antitype, try Supersession.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Romans 5:14 is the seminal text for Christian thinking in these terms when St. Paul tell us that Adam "is a type of The One to come". There's even a hymn (described as "ancient") in the Divine Office (Friday, week 4, Morning Prayer) which says that the face of Adam was modelled on the face of Christ. Everything was made with the Mystery of Christ in view.

Belfry Bat said...

Both the Jewish Calendar and the Easter Calendar are Lunisolar : an extra month is intercallated now and then so as to keep the cycle of months in harmony with the Seasons --- the particular implementation of the (Roman) Easter Calendar is embelished with the bissextile intercallation sequence, meant to average-out synchronism of the Secular Calendar Dates with the Solstice, and in particular the Roman Liturgical Calendar uses "March 21" as proxy for "Vernal Equinox". I don't really understand either the ancient or developed Jewish intercallation sequence, but some synchronism should be fairly normal with systems trying to accomplish the same thing with the same inputs.