17 February 2019

SEPTUAGESIMA

The ancient usage of the Western Church suggests you should ... now ... be reading the book of Genesis in your Divine Office. And that you should have started reading Genesis today, Septuagesima. Thus, the Roman Breviary; thus, the Anglican 1961 Lectionary for the Divine Office, authorised in the American and Australian Ordinariates (but, strangely, not in the English Ordinariate).

During Lent, of which Septuagesima is the preamble, we repent of the Fall and the mark which it has left on each successive age of human history and on each one of us. Lent leads up to Easter Night, with the great, the outrageous impudence of the Deacon's shout: O felix Culpa: O blessed iniquity (that's Knox's Patrimonial translation ... now, gloriously, restored for use in the Ordinariates!!!); the marvel of Adam's Trangression which deserved such and so great a Redeemer. And then Eastertide invites us to live the Risen Life with and in our New Adam.

The S Pius V/Book of Common Prayer/Ordinariate Eucharistic psalmody for Septuagesima and its season express this spirituality. The Introit is about "The sorrows of Death", recalling the Genesis theme that the pains, labours, and mortality of Man (and not least of Woman) result from the Fall. Yes, I know that the Gesimas were probably introduced by S Gregory the Great at a time of great distress, strife, and chaos in Italy - which does lie behind the sense of agony and helplessness in this and other texts. My point is that it was the Pontiff who discerned a connection between a world ravaged and disordered by the Fall ... and the realities of late sixth century Italy. How can anyone who reads the newspapers doubt that a similar connection is just as possible now?

I incline to believe that S Gregory has left us his own explanation of his liturgical creation, Septuagesima, in the passage from his writings of which the old Breviary gives us a portion in the Third Nocturn (Hom 19 in Evang.; the full text of which is handily available in PL 76 coll 1153sqq.). Speaking, according to the manuscripts, in the basilica of S Lawrence one Septuagesima morning, he explains the different times of the day referred to in the Sunday's EF Gospel (the parable of the Husbandman hiring labourers for his vineyard): "The morning of the world was from Adam to Noah; the third hour, Noah to Abraham; Sixth, Abraham to Moses; Ninth, Moses to the Lord's Advent; eleventh, from the Lord's Advent to the end of the world". The EF Epistle reading ends with the disobedience of many in Jewry in the time of Moses ("in many of them God was not well-pleased"); the Gospel concludes "Many were called but few were chosen".

While there is no doubt that the Tradition has seen this applying to those Jews who rejected the Messiah's call, Bible and Fathers leave no room whatsoever for complacency on the part of Gentile Christians. The whole point of I Corinthians 10, from which the Septuagesima EF Epistle is taken, is that the fall from grace which happened to some who were "baptized into Moses" is just as much a fall awaiting some of those who have been baptised into Christ. And the passage from S Gregory selected for Mattins ends sharply "At the Eleventh hour the Gentiles are called; to whom it is said 'Why are you standing here lazy all day?' " S Gregory goes on to ask "Look what a lot of people we are gathered here, we're packing the walls of the church, but, y'know (tamen), who can know how few there are who're numbered in the flock of God's chosen?" ... a decade or two ago, the Principal of an Evangelical PPH in this University got into terrible trouble for asking a question rather like that.

Divine election ... Human disobedience ... its just punishment in the tribulations of the present age...  followed by a call to Christians to recollect their own sinfulness before Lent begins: it all looks to my eye like a very coherent Proper. Perhaps it is a trifle politically incorrect: the Journalist In The Street tends indignantly to demand of fashionable bishops whether Disasters are a Divine Punishment and why it is that a good God ... all that ...  but Stay: my assumption is that this blog has a superior class of theologically literate readers who can do the theodicy stuff for themselves.

I urge those who can, to read S Gregory's entire homily; it ends with a lurid and lengthy account of an unrepentent sinner at the point of death; it is a real mission-sermon rant such as Fr Faber might have preached to his recalcitrant Irishmen before he moved on to (what Newman called) the 'second rate gentry' of Brompton. S Gregory wasn't half the Latin stylist that S Leo was; but, to be regretfully honest, I sometimes doubt whether the plebs sancta Dei understood much of S Leo's lapidary periods ... but I bet you could have heard a pin drop when S Gregory launched into one of his purple passages and the pontifical spittle was really flying.

8 comments:

MaryMostHoly said...

Where can we purchase the Divine Office prior to the changes of Vatican II? and what year were/are they published.

Thank you

Calvin Engime said...

@Mary Most Holy: There is a two-volume edition in Latin by the German publisher Nova & Vetera, also sold by the FSSP; there is another two-volume Latin edition published by the SSPX; and there is a three-volume edition with parallel columns of Latin and English printed by Baronius Press, although of course anybody saying the 1961 Office to fulfil a canonical obligation must say it in Latin. Fr Bernard Hausmann's book Learning the New Breviary, also printed by Baronius Press with the updated title Learning the Traditional Breviary, is a helpful guide to how to use these books.

Those who do not need English, are not bound by a canonical obligation, and are prepared to explore the secondhand market might take a critical attitude even towards the Office as it existed immediately prior to Vatican II, having suffered dramatic reforms in the period 1911–1960. The books for any version of the Roman Office before John XXIII are nearly impossible to obtain, though, especially if you are picky about whether Pius XII's translation of the Psalms is used.

EdmundGennings said...

The sermon is indeed wonderful. For those of us with the misfortune not to posses the patrologia latina a link to the relevant volume can be found at http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0590-0604__SS_Gregorius_I_Magnus__Homiliarum_In_Evangelia_Libri_Duo__MLT.pdf.html
Click on the red text Homiliarum In Evangelia Libri Duo and go to page 40 of the pdf.

This may be the result of different versions but the sermon seems to actually be in PL 76.

EdmundGennings said...

The sermon is indeed wonderful. For those of us with the misfortune not to posses the patrologia latina a link to the relevant volume can be found at http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0590-0604__SS_Gregorius_I_Magnus__Homiliarum_In_Evangelia_Libri_Duo__MLT.pdf.html
Click on the red text Homiliarum In Evangelia Libri Duo and go to page 40 of the pdf.

This may be the result of different versions but the sermon seems to actually be in PL 76.

Banshee said...

St. Leo's sermons in translation come across really well, in audiobook form. (Most of the Fathers do.)

Tom B. said...

MaryMostHoly, I recommend the affordable and fantastic "Anglican Breviary," a one-volume Anglican translation from the mid-1950s of Pius X's Roman Breviary of 1911 (with very few emendations, all orthodox), in Coverdale and Authorized Version English. It has the extensive patristics of Matins that were expurgated in John XXIII's reform in 1960, and which consequently no longer feature in the so-called "Extraordinary Form." See more at www.anglicanbreviary.net.

Re: the original post, too bad the BCP Sunday lectionary was not approved for Ordinariate use, and we are stuck with the 3-year mess of pottage, having had "6th Sunday in Ordinary Time" readings yesterday instead of Septuagesima. Sad!

MaryMostHoly said...

Thank you Calvin Engime for that information!
@ MaryMostHoly

Deimater said...

There is no such thing as an American Ordinariate (although your confusion is quite understandable). In fact, the Ordinariate of the Chair of S. Peter embraces both the United Stares of America and the Dominion of Canada (which enjoys its own deanery). Perhaps you can refer to the North American Ordinariate as a more inclusive term.