25 March 2022

The Gospel Canticles

 The priest of the Roman Rite mentions Abraham on three significant occasions each day: most importantly, at Mass, when he refers to the Sacrifice of Abraham; the Sacrifice on Mount Moriah which is the type of the Lord's Sacrifice upon His Cross. 

But, already, at Dawn, the priest has mentioned Abraham in the Benedictus: the song of Zacharias father of S John Baptist. This song begins with (what classicists sometimes call) a 'motto'; a quotation from an earlier piece of literature, which establishes a prescriptive resonance between the two. Here, we notice Psalm 40 (MT 41); Psalm 71 (MT 72); 105 (MT 106): "Blessed be YHWH  the God of Israel". I mentioned recently the close linkage between the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) and the assertion that He is exclusively the God of His people, and associated with Jerusalem, Sion, and the Temple where His Name dwells. I think we are not to miss the fact that Zacharias is a priest of that Temple. And that in the psalms I have just listed, the phrase comes almost at the end of the text, as a kind of doxology. The Ministry of the Forerunner takes up, and elevates to a new level, the Covenant Mercy and Salvation which is the message of the psalmist. In accordance with God's oath to Abraham, this child will be a New Dawn for His People.

The Magnificat also begins with a 'motto'; this time, alluding to I Samuel = I Kings 2: 1-10. Hannah has conceived her longed-for child: so, in the House of YHWH, she offers sacrifice and prays "My heart exults in YHWH". Like our blessed Lady, she associates herself with the anawim: the devout poor who, against the high and the mighty, remain faithful to YHWH. And, as the evening lights illumine our Churches, and Magnificat is sung, incense swirls up around the Altar as once it did (Exodus 30) on the Temple Mount; "a perpetual incense before YHWH throughout your generations".

The 'Lucan Infancy narratives' demonstrate the fidelity of Mary and her spouse to her Covenant God; a fidelity expressed by their scrupulous adherence to the Torah ... "as it is written in the Torah of YHWH". But, in the Christian Tradition, Western and Eastern, there is also a happy liturgical conviction that the great Lady was herself presented in the Temple as a baby, and was maintained there, being fed by angels with paradisal food from the Tree of Life, as befits her prelapsarian status. Readers will recall Byzantine icons of this event ... up in the corner, there is that small image of Mary lodged a in a pinnacle of God's Temple and receiving the divine sustenance ... food, so S Gregory Palamas explains, "which Adam had not tasted, because, if he had, he would not have fallen from life".

Byzantine 'Palamite' Councils of the 14th century enthusiastically anathematised those (probably proto-Enlightenment Western 'rationalists') who rejected these laudable narratives ...

Quite right too! We could do with a lot more anathemas!

Mary, poor and redeemed, whose heart is truly Immaculate, sings the Mercies of YHWH which He spoke to our Fathers and to Abraham and his Seed for ever. And her immaculate heel will crush His enemies because she has alone put down all the heresies in all the world!


Anonymous said...

i question whether Bl Mary was redeemed. Revelations tells us the woman clothed
(reflecting) the sun was born before Adam She therefoe could, did not inherit original sin and never lost her original innocence.

Fr PJM said...

She most certainly was never redeemed in the sense of going from a state of needing redemption to having been redeemed, just as she was never sanctiFIED.