Saturday, 13 May 2017

Fourth Sunday after Easter

Nocturn I: St James 1

Reading 1: The beginning of the Catholic letter of St James the Apostle - James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, sends greeting to the members of the twelve tribes scattered throughout the world. Consider yourselves happy indeed, my brethren, when you encounter trials of every sort,  as men who know well enough that the testing of their faith breeds endurance.  Endurance must do its work thoroughly, if you are to be men full-grown in every part, nothing lacking in you.

R. Si oblitus fuero tui, alleluia, obliviscatur mei dextera mea:* Adhaereat lingua mea faucibus meis, si non meminero tui, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Super flumina Babylonis illic sedimus et flevimus, dum recordaremur tui Sion.
R. Adhaereat lingua mea faucibus meis, si non meminero tui, alleluia, alleluia.
R. If I forget thee, Alleluia, let my right hand forget me.* If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. Alleluia,   Alleluia.
V. By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion
R. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 2: Is there one of you who still lacks wisdom? God gives to all, freely and ungrudgingly; so let him ask God for it, and the gift will come. 6 (Only it must be in faith that he asks, he must not hesitate; one who hesitates is like a wave out at sea, driven to and fro by the wind; 7 such a man must not hope to win any gift from the Lord.

R. Viderunt te aquae, Deus, viderunt te aquae, et timuerunt:* Multitudo sonitus aquarum vocem dederunt nubes, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Illuxerunt coruscationes tuae orbi terrae: vidit et commota est terra.
R. Multitudo sonitus aquarum vocem dederunt nubes, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
R. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee and they were afraid.* There was a noise as of many waters the clouds sent out a sound. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. thy lightnings lightened the world the earth saw it and shook.
R. There was a noise as of many waters the clouds sent out a sound. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 3: No, a man who is in two minds will find no rest wherever he goes.) Is one of the brethren in humble circumstances? Let him be proud of it; it exalts him, whereas the rich man takes pride in what in truth abases him. (The rich man will pass by like the bloom on the grass;  the sun gets up, and the scorching wind with it, which dries up the grass, till the bloom on it falls, and all its fair show dies away; so the rich man, with his enterprises, will disappear.)

R. Narrabo nomen tuum fratribus meis, alleluia:
* In medio Ecclesiae laudabo te, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Confitebor tibi in populis Domine, et psalmum dicam tibi in Gentibus.
R. In medio Ecclesiae laudabo te, alleluia, alleluia.
R. I will declare thy Name unto my brethren Alleluia.* In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people, and sing unto thee among the nations.
R. In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 4: Blessed is he who endures under trials. When he has proved his worth, he will win that crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Nobody, when he finds himself tempted, should say, I am being tempted by God. God may threaten us with evil, but he does not himself tempt anyone. No, when a man is tempted, it is always because he is being drawn away by the lure of his own passions.  When that has come about, passion conceives and gives birth to sin; and when sin has reached its full growth, it breeds death. 16 Beloved brethren, do not deceive yourselves over this.

R. Dicant nunc, qui redempti sunt, alleluia,
* A Domino, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Quos redemit de manu inimici, et de regionibus congregavit eos.
R. A Domino, alleluia, alleluia.
V Gloria Patri
R: A Domino, alleluia, alleluia.

R. Let now the redeemed of the Lord, Alleluia.
* Say, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Let them whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered them out of the lands.
R. Say, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V Glory be…
R. Say, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Nocturn II: Tract of St Cyprian

Reading 5: From the tract of St Cyprian, bishop and martyr, on the good of patience - In speaking of patience, beloved brethren, and in preaching on its benefits and advantages, how can I better begin than by pointing out the fact that now, just for you to listen to me, I see that patience is necessary, as you could not even do this, namely, listen and learn, without patience. For only then is the word of God and way of salvation effectively learned, if one listens with patience to what is being said. Dearly beloved brethren, there are divers paths of heavenly wisdom, wherein we are invited to walk, if we would reach in the end the reward which God hath prepared to crown hope and faith but I find no path more useful to life - ward, nor more sure to glory -ward than this, that while we humbly strive, in all fear, and in all godliness, to obey the commandments of the Lord, we should set our chiefest guard in an unceasing watch over our patience.

R. In ecclesiis benedicite Deo, alleluia,
* Domino de fontibus Israël, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Psalmum dicite nomini ejus, date gloriam laudi ejus.
R. Domino de fontibus Israël, alleluia, alleluia.
R. Bless ye God in the congregations Alleluia.
* Even the Lord, ye that are of the fountains of Israel Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Sing forth the honour of His Name, make His praise glorious.
R. Even the Lord, ye that are of the fountains of Israel Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 6: The philosophers also say that they take this path, but their patience is as much a sham as their wisdom is a cheat, for who can be wise or patient who knoweth nothing of God's wisdom or God's patience are the lives of servers and worshippers of God. Let it be ours, then, to show forth by spiritual watchfulness that patience which is a part of the teaching which we have learnt from heaven. Patience is one of His Own virtues whereof God hath made us partakers with Him our Great Head is the Captain of the patient, and it is through patience that He hath crowned Himself with glory and honour.

R. In toto corde meo, alleluia, exquisivi te, alleluia:* Ne repellas me a mandatis tuis, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Benedictus es tu Domine, doce me justificationes tuas.
R. Ne repellas me a mandatis tuis, alleluia, alleluia.
R. With my whole heart Alleluia have I sought thee Alleluia. * O let me not wander from thy commandments Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Blessed art Thou, O Lord teach me thy statutes.
R. O let me not wander from thy commandments Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 7:But as for us, dearly beloved brethren, we are the real philosophers, whose wisdom lieth not in words but in deeds, and is manifested not in dresses but in the truth. We are they whose knowledge hath the inward consciousness, not the idle boasting, of strength. We are not speakers of high-sounding words, but our lives. Yea, God is Himself the Source, the Fountain, and the Greatness of patience, and it behoveth man to love what is beloved of God. That good thing which he loveth is commended unto him of God's Majesty. If God be our Lord and Father, let us follow after the ensample of our Lord and Father's patience, since it is the duty of servants to be obedient, and of sons to be home-minded.

R. Hymnum cantate nobis, alleluia:
* Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena? alleluia, alleluia.
V. Illic interrogaverunt nos, qui captivos duxerunt nos, verba cantionum.
R. Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena? alleluia, alleluia.
R. Sing us a song Alleluia.* How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. There they that carried us away captive required of us a song.
R. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 8: By our patience God draweth us toward Himself, and keepeth us His Own. Patience doth soothe anger, bridle the tongue, govern the mind, keep peace, set rules of self-control, break the onset of lust, still the swelling of temper, put out the fire begotten of hatred, make the rich meek, and relieve the need of the poor patience doth guard in virgins their blessed wholeness in widows, their careful purity in such as be married, their single-hearted love one toward the other. Patience doth teach such as be successful to be lowly-minded such as be unfortunate, to be brave and all to be gentle when they are wronged and insulted. Patience maketh a man soon to forgive them that trespass against him, and if he have trespassed against any, long and humbly to ask his pardon. Patience doth fight down temptations, bear persecution, and endure unto the end in suffering, and in uplifting of our testimony. Patience is the moat that guardeth the stout foundations of the castle of our faith.

R. Cantate Domino, alleluia: * Psalmum dicite ei, alleluia.
V. Afferte Domino gloriam et honorem, afferte Domino gloriam nomini ejus.
R. Psalmum dicite ei, alleluia.
V: Gloria patri...
R. Psalmum dicite ei, alleluia.
R. O sing unto the Lord. Alleluia. * Sing unto Him. Alleluia.
V. Give unto the Lord glory and honour, give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name.
R. Sing unto Him. Alleluia.
V Glory be…
R. Sing unto Him. Alleluia.

Nocturn III: (St Augustine, Tract 94 on John)

Reading 9: From the Holy Gospel according to John - At that time Jesus said unto His disciples I go My way to Him That sent Me and none of you asketh Me Whither goest Thou And so on.

Homily by St Austin, Bishop of Hippo - The Lord Jesus told His disciples what things they should suffer after that He was gone away from them, and then He said: "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you ; but now I go My way to Him That sent Me." Let us first see whether it had been that He had not told them before this what they were to suffer in time coming. That He had done so amply before the night of the last Supper, is testified by the three first Evangelists, but it was when that Supper was ended that, according to John, He said: "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you."

R. Deus canticum novum cantabo tibi, alleluia:
* In psalterio decem chordarum psallam tibi, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Deus meus es tu, et confitebor tibi: Deus meus es tu, et exaltabo te.
R. In psalterio decem chordarum psallam tibi, alleluia, alleluia.
R. I will sing a new song unto thee, O God Alleluia. * Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee Thou art my God, and I will exalt thee.
R. Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 10: Are we then to try and loose the knot of this difficulty by asserting that, according to these three Evangelists, it was on the eve of the Passion, albeit before the Supper, that He had said these things unto them, and therefore not at the beginning, when He was with them, but when He was about to leave them, and go His way to the Father And in this way we might reconcile the truthfulness of what this Evangelist saith here "These things I said not unto you at the beginning" with the truthfulness of the other three.

R. Bonum est confiteri Domino, alleluia: * Et psallere, alleluia.
V. In decachordo psalterio, cum cantico et cithara.
R. Et psallere, alleluia.
V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.
R. Et psallere, alleluia.
R. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord Alleluia * And to sing praises Alleluia.
V. Upon an instrument of ten strings, upon the harp with a solemn sound.
R. And to sing praises Alleluia.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. And to sing praises Alleluia.

Reading 11: But this explanation is rendered impossible by the Gospel according to Matthew, who telleth us how that the Lord spake to His Apostles concerning their sufferings to come, not only when He was on the point of eating the Passover with them, but at the very beginning, when the names of the twelve are first given, and they were sent forth to do the work of God.

R: Alleluia audivimus ea in Ephrata invenimus eam in campis silvae * introibimus in tabernaculum ejus adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus alleluia alleluia
V: Surge domine in requiem tuam tu et arca sanctificationis tuae
R: introibimus in tabernaculum ejus adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus alleluia alleluia
R: Alleluia. Behold we have heard of it in Ephrata: we have found it in the fields of the wood.* We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood.
V: Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.
R: We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood.

Reading 12: It would seem then that when He said: "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you," He meant by "these things," not the sufferings which they were to bear for His sake, but His promise of the Comforter Who should come to them, and testify while they suffered. This Comforter then, or Advocate, (for the Greek word "Parakletos" will bear either interpretation,) would be needful to them when they saw Christ no more, and therefore it was that Christ spoke not of Him "at the beginning" (of the Gospel Dispensation) while He Himself " was with " His disciples, because His visible Presence was then their sufficient Comfort.

R: Deduc me in semita mandatorum tuorum alleluia quoniam ipsam volui alleluia * inclina cor meum in testimonia tua alleluia alleluia alleluia
V: Averte oculos meos ne videant vanitatem in via tua vivifica me
R: Inclina cor meum in testimonia tua alleluia alleluia alleluia
V: Gloria Patri...
R: Inclina cor meum in testimonia tua alleluia alleluia alleluia
R. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, alleluia, for therein is my desire, alleluia. * Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
V. O turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way.
R. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.


The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Easter is St John 16:5-14:

But I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou?  But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.  But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment.  Of sin: because they believed not in me.  And of justice: because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer.  And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged.  I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you.  He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you.  All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you.  A little while, and now you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall see me: because I go to the Father.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Saturday of Our Lady - Second Saturday in May

The one reading for the Office of Our Lady on Saturday this week at Matins is from a Treatise of St. Augustine on the Creed, to the Catechumens:

Through a woman came death; through a woman, life: through Eve, ruin through Mary, salvation. The former, corrupted, followed the deceiver; the latter, uncorrupted, gave birth to the Savior. Eve willingly accepted the drink offered by the serpent and handed it on to her husband; and by their action both deserved the penalty of death. Mary, filled with heavenly grace from above, brought forth life, by which mankind, already dead, can be revived. who has worked this miracle, if not the Son of the Virgin and the Spouse of virgin who brought fruitfulness to His mother without taking away her in, integrity?

The responsory:

R. Felix namque es, sacra Virgo Maria, et omni laude dignissima:
* Quia ex te ortus est sol justitiae, * Christus Deus noster.
V. Ora pro populo, interveni pro clero, intercede pro devoto femineo sexu: sentiant omnes tuum juvamen, quicumque celebrant tuam sanctam commemorationem.
R. Quia ex te ortus est sol justitiae.
V. Gloria Patri
R. Christus Deus noster.
R. O holy Virgin Mary, happy indeed art thou, and right worthy of all praise * For out of thee rose the Sun of righteousness, even Christ our God.
V. Pray for the people, plead for the clergy, make intercession for all women vowed to God. Let all that are making this holy memorial of thee feel the might of thine assistance.
R. For out of thee rose the Sun of righteousness
V. Glory be...
R. Even Christ our God.

Revelation 2:12-29

Folio 10 recto of the Bible of S Paolo fuori le Mura, Frontpiece for the Book of Revelations

Continuing today with St Bede's verse by verse notes on Revelation 2, starting at verse 12.


Et angelo Pergami ecclesiæ scribe: Hæc dicit qui habet rhomphæam utraque parte acutam:
And to the angel of the church of Pergamus write: These things, saith he, that hath the sharp two edged sword:

St Bede sees the reference to the sword as to Christ's judicial power:
He has fitly mentioned first His judicial power, for He was to assign rewards to the victors, and punishment to the transgressors.
Scio ubi habitas, ubi sedes est Satanæ: et tenes nomen meum, et non negasti fidem meam. Et in diebus illis Antipas testis meus fidelis, qui occisus est apud vos ubi Satanas habitat.
I know where thou dwellest, where the seat of Satan is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith. Even in those days when Antipas was my faithful witness, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

The first sentence applauds this church for holding fast to the faith in truth, despite attempts to evil teachers to turn them aside:
I approve indeed of thy patience, because although thou dwellest among the reprobate, thou dost not honour Me in name alone, as called Christian, but with perfect faith, even in the time of a persecution unto death. But I do not approve of this, that I see seducing teachers even in thee.
The reference to Antipas, according to Bede, is either to a martyr who suffered at Pergamos or to Christ 'who even now is put to death by the unbelieving, so far as in them lies'.

Sed habeo adversus te pauca: quia habes illic tenentes doctrinam Balaam, qui docebat Balac mittere scandalum coram filiis Israël, edere, et fornicari: ita habes et tu tenentes doctrinam Nicolaitarum
But I have against thee a few things: because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat, and to commit fornication: So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaites.

He holds them to account, however, for gluttony and fornication.  Bede notes that there is more to it than this though:
These are the two principal things in which all the carnal exercise themselves, "whose god is their belly, and their glory in their shame." But besides this, every evil work is idolatry and spiritual fornication.
Bede explains that:
The Nicolaitans are named from Nicolas the deacon, of whom Clement relates that, when he was reproved for his jealousy of a most beautiful wife, he answered that whoever would might take her to wife, and says that, on account of this, unbelievers taught that the Apostles allowed to all a promiscuous and common intercourse with women. And the Nicolaitans are reported to have put forth some fabulous and almost heathen statements concerning the beginning of the world, and not to have kept their meats separate from things offered to idols.
Similiter pœnitentiam age: si quominus veniam tibi cito, et pugnabo cum illis in gladio oris mei.
In like manner do penance: if not, I will come to thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Qui habet aurem, audiat quid Spiritus dicat ecclesiis: Vincenti dabo manna absconditum, et dabo illi calculum candidum: et in calculo nomen novum scriptum, quod nemo scit, nisi qui accipit.
He, that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna, and will give him a white counter, and in the counter, a new name written, which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it.

The reward for those who resist these sins is  'the sweetness of the invisible bread which comes down from heaven'.

The Douay-Rheims translates 'calculum candidum' as a white counter, but Knox makes it a white stone which is probably clearer.

THE CHURCH OF THYATIRA (verses 18 -29)

Et angelo Thyatiræ ecclesiæ scribe: Hæc dicit Filius Dei, qui habet oculos tamquam flammam ignis, et pedes ejus similes auricalco:
And to the angel of the church of Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like to a flame of fire, and his feet like to fine brass.

St Bede suggests that Thyatira means
"for a sacrifice;" and the saints "present their bodies a living sacrifice."
The image of eyes like flame, he interprets as pointing to Christ's power to search our hearts and minds, and on this basis to rewards.

Novi opera tua, et fidem, et caritatem tuam, et ministerium, et patientiam tuam, et opera tua novissima plura prioribus.
I know thy works, and thy faith, and thy charity, and thy ministry, and thy patience, and thy last works which are more than the former.
Sed habeo adversus te pauca: quia permittis mulierem Jezabel, quæ se dicit propheten, docere, et seducere servos meos, fornicari, et manducare de idolothytis.
But I have against thee a few things: because thou sufferest the woman Jezabel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach, and to seduce my servants, to commit fornication, and to eat of things sacrificed to idols.

And here a condemnation all too apt for our time:
In thy work indeed, and thy faith, thou art to be praise. But in this thou art to be blamed, that thou dost not confute with proper energy the synagogue of false Apostles, which pretends to be Christian. The name Jezebel, which implies "an issue of blood," belongs to heretics; and in particular, she is conjectured to be a woman in the aforenamed church, who teaches the evil deeds which have been mentioned, who was to be a figure of the Jezebel throughout the world, whom also he manifestly threatens with vengeance.  Under the name of Christ forsooth, she taught spiritual fornication and idolatry, for how could she openly teach the worship of idols, when she said that she was a prophetess in the Church.
Et dedi illi tempus ut pœnitentiam ageret: et non vult pœnitere a fornicatione sua.
And I gave her a time that she might do penance, and she will not repent of her fornication.

Ecce mittam eam in lectum: et qui mœchantur cum ea, in tribulatione maxima erunt, nisi pœnitentiam ab operibus suis egerint.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed: and they that commit adultery with her shall be in very great tribulation, except they do penance from their deeds.

The bed promised is hell:
It is brought to pass by the just judgement of God, that she should lie in a bed of eternal punishment, who made the wretched lie down in a bed of lust.
Et filios ejus interficiam in morte, et scient omnes ecclesiæ, quia ego sum scrutans renes, et corda: et dabo unicuique vestrum secundum opera sua. Vobis autem dico,
And I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts, and I will give to every one of you according to your works. But to you I say,

Bede comments:
He here names the posterity and works of the woman, "children," and he threatens them not with the momentary death of the body, but the eternal death of the soul.
I've generally translated 'renes et corda' as hearts and minds, since the word reins has gone out of use.  The Knox translation just says 'innermost hearts' though.  The central point, though, is that it is not just what we say and do that matters, but our motivation.  Bede comments:
Our works and words, no doubt, may be known to men. But with what intention they are accomplished, and whereunto we desire to attain by their means, He alone knows Who perceives what each one thinks, and in what he takes delight. And with that consistency in punishing fornication and idolatry, which are open faults, can He be said to be a discerner of secret things, unless these names may be applied even to the least offences? "Thou wilt destroy" he says, "all those who commit fornication from Thee." And the same Apostle John, who heard this, when he reasoned of false brethren, ended by saying "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."
et ceteris qui Thyatiræ estis: quicumque non habent doctrinam hanc, et qui non cognoverunt altitudines Satanæ, quemadmodum dicunt, non mittam super vos aliud pondus:
And to the rest who are at Thyatira: Whosoever have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will not put upon you any other burthen.
tamen id quod habetis, tenete donec veniam.
Yet that, which you have, hold fast till I come.

And here some words of comfort for those resisting false doctrine on subjects such as marriage and fornication.  St Bede notes:
As he commends repentance to the ungodly, and threatens them with punishment, so he exhorts the godly to patience by holding forth eternal rewards.... "Beware," He says "of false prophets," for I put unto you no new doctrine; but keep that which ye have received unto the end.
Et qui vicerit, et custodierit usque in finem opera mea, dabo illi potestatem super gentes,
And he that shall overcome, and keep my works unto the end, I will give him power over the nations.
et reget eas in virga ferrea, et tamquam vas figuli confringentur,
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and as the vessel of a potter they shall be broken,

sicut et ego accepi a Patre meo: et dabo illi stellam matutinam.
As I also have received of my Father: and I will give him the morning star.

These three verses have strong echoes of Psalm 2.  St Bede comments:
With inflexible justice He rule the meek, that they may the more bring forth fruit, but overthrows the contumacious, that they may either perish for ever, or that earthly desires may be destroyed in them, and the impure things of the old man, whatever has been contracted and wrought in them from the sinful clay....Christ is "the morning star," Who promises and reveals to the saints the eternal light of life, when the night of the world is past.
Qui habet aurem, audiat quid Spiritus dicat ecclesiis.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Revelation 2:1-11: On the need for charity

House of the BVM (now a chapel) at Ephesus

Chapter 1 of Revelation ended with a mention of the seven churches.  The next two chapters address messages to them one by one.  Today a look at the messages to the Churches of Ephesus and Smyrna.


The Church of Ephesus is praised for its good works and spiritual zeal in resisting heresy and impurity.  There is a sting in the tail though, as the vision reminds us that without charity these virtues are worthless.


Angelo Ephesi ecclesiæ scribe: Hæc dicit, qui tenet septem stellas in dextera sua, qui ambulat in medio septem candelabrorum aureorum:

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he, who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:

St Bede notes that the word Ephesus can be interpreted either as meaning "a great fall," or "my will in it.".  Accordingly:
Part of this Church he blames, and part he praises, according to the character of the name. 
He suggests that the main sentence means:
he has you in his hand, and he rules and sustains you by his power...He who walks about in your midst searches the hearts and the mind of everyone.

Scio opera tua, et laborem, et patientiam tuam, et quia non potes sustinere malos: et tentasti eos, qui se dicunt apostolos esse, et non sunt: et invenisti eos mendaces:et patientiam habes, et sustinuisti propter nomen meum, et non defecisti

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil, and thou hast tried them, who say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 
And thou hast patience, and hast endured for my name, and hast not fainted.

St Bede says:
I see, that is, that thou art diligent in the practice of good works, and bearest calmly the insufferable injuries of the wicked, for thou hast diligently examined the words and works of the false Apostles, and hast not been willing to give way to them in anything.  

Sed habeo adversum te, quod caritatem tuam primam reliquisti.

But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity.

St Bede:
In the person of some, thou hast forsaken the love which began at first, and if they do not regain it, I will deprive them of the promised reward of light. 

Memor esto itaque unde excideris: et age pœnitentiam, et prima opera fac: sin autem, venio tibi, et movebo candelabrum tuum de loco suo, nisi pœnitentiam egeris.
Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance, and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance.

Victorinus comments:
He who falls, falls from a height: therefore He said whence: because, even to the very last, works of love must be practised; and this is the principal commandment. Finally, unless this is done, He threatened to remove their candlestick out of its place, that is, to disperse the congregation.

Sed hoc habes, quia odisti facta Nicolaitarum, quæ et ego odi.

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaites, which I also hate.

A point in their favour though, St Bede notes, is that:
...thou hatest the examples of evil men, idolatry, that is, and fornication, for these are the deeds of the Nicolaitans...

Qui habet aurem, audiat quid Spiritus dicat ecclesiis: Vincenti dabo edere de ligno vitæ, quod est in paradiso Dei mei.

He, that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him, that overcometh, I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of my God.

This is the first time we come across a refrain, 'He who has ears...', repeated seven times in these chapters.  St Bede comments:
He indicates that he writes for all the churches the things which he addresses to them individually; for it was not the Church of the Ephesians alone, which, if it did not repent, was to be removed from its place; nor was Satan's seat at Pergamos alone, and not rather in every place. In like manner also, the other things of the several churches are common to every church.
In each of these messages to the Church, a particular reward is set out.  St Bede explains this one as follows:
The "tree of life" is Christ, by the vision of Whom in the celestial paradise, and in the present body of the Church, holy souls are refreshed.
THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA (verses 8-11)

The message to the second of the churches is about standing firm under persecution.


Et angelo Smyrnæ ecclesiæ scribe: Hæc dicit primus, et novissimus, qui fuit mortuus, et vivit:

And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: These things saith the First and the Last, who was dead, and is alive:

St Bede notes that:
He speaks to this church of enduring persecution, and its name also agrees with this. For Smyrna is interpreted "myrrh", which denotes the mortification of the flesh....He who both created all things, and renewed all things by His death. This is a suitable preface when he is going to enjoin patience.

Scio tribulationem tuam, et paupertatem tuam, sed dives es: et blasphemaris ab his, qui se dicunt Judæos esse, et non sunt, sed sunt synagoga Satanæ.

I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich: and thou art blasphemed by them that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Bede links the tribulations and poverty of this Church to the beatitudes:
Yea, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Fortunatus has beautifully expressed this in a short verse, saying: "In narrow realm the poor man reigns possessing God."
 He interprets Jews here as meaning those who profess that they know God, but deny him in their works.


Nihil horum timeas quæ passurus es. Ecce missurus est diabolus aliquos ex vobis in carcerem ut tentemini: et habebitis tribulationem diebus decem. Esto fidelis usque ad mortem, et dabo tibi coronam vitæ.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison that you may be tried: and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life.
The use of the number ten here can be given a number of interpretations, and St Bede notes two possibilities:
He means the whole of the time during which the commandments of the decalogue are necessary. For as long as thou shalt follow the light of the divine word, thou must needs suffer imprisonment from the enemy who opposes thee. Some understand that the ten persecutions of the heathen, from the Emperor Nero to Domitian, are signified.

Qui habet aurem, audiat quid Spiritus dicat ecclesiis: Qui vicerit, non lædetur a morte secunda.

He, that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: He that shall overcome, shall not be hurt by the second death.

St Bede interprets this as meaning:
He who shall have remained faithful unto the death of the flesh, will not fear the death of the soul.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Revelation 1:12-20: The vision of the son of Man

British Library
Add MS 35166

This is the second post in my series on the Book of Revelation with the aid of notes by St Bede the Venerable (and others).  Today a look at the second half of chapter one, which starts describing the vision St John is told to tell the churches:

Et conversus sum ut viderem vocem, quæ loquebatur mecum: et conversus vidi septem candelabra aurea:
And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks:

St Bede sees the candlesticks as representing the Church:
Here the figure of the Church is beautifully represented, as holding forth the light of divine love in the brightness of a chaste breast, according to that which the Lord saith, "Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning."
The number of candlesticks, he suggests, denotes perfection, being made up of three, standing for God (the Trinity), and ourselves (the body being thought to have been made up of four properties, fire, earth, water and air).  We should therefore 'love the Lord God with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our strength'.

et in medio septem candelabrorum aureorum, similem Filio hominis vestitum podere, et præcinctum ad mamillas zona aurea:
And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

St Bede interprets this as referring to the ascended Christ, with the robe denoting his priesthood:
..."Proderis," which is called in Latin, "tunica talaris," and is a sacerdotal vestment, shews the priesthood of Christ, by which He offered Himself for us, as a victim to the Father, upon the altar of the cross.  By the "paps" he here means the two Testaments, with which He feeds the body of the saints in communion with Himself. For the golden girdle is the choir of saints, which cleaves to the Lord in harmonious love, and embraces the Testaments, "keeping," as the Apostle says, "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
caput autem ejus, et capilli erant candidi tamquam lana alba, et tamquam nix, et oculi ejus tamquam flamma ignis:
And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire,

St Bede suggests that white depicts immortality:
The antiquity and eternity of majesty are represented by whiteness on the head, to which all the chief ones adhere, as hairs, who, because of the sheep which are to be on the right hand are white, like wool, and because of the innumerable multitude of the white-robed and the elect, who come forth from heaven, are glistering like snow.
He sees the eyes of flame as referring to those who preach the Gospel:
The eyes of the Lord are preachers, who, with spiritual fire, bring light to the faithful, and to the unbelieving a consuming flame.
et pedes ejus similes auricalco, sicut in camino ardenti, et vox illius tamquam vox aquarum multarum:
And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And his voice as the sound of many waters.

St Bede sees this the reference to his feet as a reference to the persecution of the Church:
By the "fiery feet" he means the Church of the last time, which is to be searched and proved by severe afflictions. For orichalcum is brass, which by much fire and various ingredients, is brought to the colour of gold. 
The voice as the sound of many waters, it is suggested, means the many peoples of the world who are baptized.  Victorinus, for example, comments:
The many waters are understood to be many peoples, or the gift of baptism that He sent forth by the apostles, saying: Go, teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
et habebat in dextera sua stellas septem: et de ore ejus gladius utraque parte acutus exibat: et facies ejus sicut sol lucet in virtute sua.
And he had in his right hand seven stars. And from his mouth came out a sharp two edged sword: and his face was as the sun shineth in his power.

The seven stars again stand for the Church:
In the right hand of Christ is the spiritual Church. "On Thy right hand," he says, "stood the queen in a vesture of gold." And as it stands on His right hand, He saith, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom."
The two-edged sword coming out of his mouth denotes his power to judge:
He, the Judge of all things visible and invisible, "after He has killed, has power to cast into hell fire."
His shining face represents his gifts to the Church:
...this appearance of the Son of Man belongs also to the Church, for He Himself was made the Christ in the same nature with it, and He gives to it a sacerdotal dignity and a judicial power, and to "shine as the sun in the kingdom of His Father."
Et cum vidissem eum, cecidi ad pedes ejus tamquam mortuus. Et posuit dexteram suam super me, dicens: Noli timere: ego sum primus, et novissimus,
And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last,

St John now describes his reaction of fear to the vision, but is quickly reassured:
As a man, he trembles at the spiritual vision, but his human fear is banished by the clemency of the Lord.
St Bede explains that Christ: the first, because "by Him were all things made;" the last, because in Him are all things restored.
et vivus, et fui mortuus, et ecce sum vivens in sæcula sæculorum: et habeo claves mortis, et inferni.
And alive, and was dead, and behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell.

The keys of death and hell have been bestowed on the Church for our salvation:
Not only, He saith, have I conquered death by resurrection, but I have dominion also over death itself. And this He also bestowed upon the Church by breathing upon it the Holy Spirit, saying, "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them," and the rest.
Scribe ergo quæ vidisti, et quæ sunt, et quæ oportet fieri post hæc.
Write therefore the things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done hereafter.

This verse reminds us that evil will always be mixed in with good so far as the Church in this world is concerned, according to St Bede:
Reveal to all the things which thou alone hast seen, that is, the various labours of the Church, and that the evil are to be mingled in it with the good unto the end of the world.
Sacramentum septem stellarum, quas vidisti in dextera mea, et septem candelabra aurea: septem stellæ, angeli sunt septem ecclesiarum: et candelabra septem, septem ecclesiæ sunt.
The mystery of the seven stars, which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. And the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.