Saturday, 20 May 2017

Fifth Sunday after Easter

The readings and responsories for Matins in the Benedictine Office are set out below.

Nocturn I 

Reading 1: Lesson from the first letter of St Peter the Apostle - Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect,  According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, unto the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy hath regenerated us unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, Unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that can not fade, reserved in heaven for you, Who, by the power of God, are kept by faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

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: Wherein you shall greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: That the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love: in whom also now, though you see him not, you believe: and believing shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified; Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and diligently searched, who prophesied of the grace to come in you. Searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ in them did signify: when it foretold those sufferings that are in Christ, and the glories that should follow: To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to you they ministered those things which are now declared to you by them that have preached the gospel to you, the Holy Ghost being sent down from heaven, on whom the angels desire to look.

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: Lesson from the second letter of St Peter the Apostle - Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained equal faith with us in the justice of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace be accomplished in the knowledge of God and of Christ Jesus our Lord: As all things of his divine power which appertain to life and godliness, are given us, through the knowledge of him who hath called us by his own proper glory and virtue.  By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world.

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: And you, employing all care, minister in your faith, virtue; and in virtue, knowledge; And in knowledge, abstinence; and in abstinence, patience; and in patience, godliness; And in godliness, love of brotherhood; and in love of brotherhood, charity. For if these things be with you and abound, they will make you to be neither empty nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that hath not these things with him, is blind, and groping, having forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

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

Reading 5: From the Book written by St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, on belief in the Resurrection - Since it was impossible that the Wisdom of God could die, and that which could not die could not rise from the dead, He took to Himself Flesh Which could die, that That Whose nature it was to die might die, and rise again. Neither was it possible that the resurrection of the dead should come otherwise than by man, "for since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead."  Man He rose since Man He died, the Manhood quickened but the Godhead Quickener. Man then, as touching the Flesh God now, over all things. For now we know Christ no longer after the Flesh, but we owe it to the Flesh that we know Him as "become the First-fruits of them that slept. "and the First-begotten of the dead".

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 first-fruits are of the same kind and nature as the other fruits, and they are brought as an offering to God l to win His blessing on the in-gathering, an holy offering made on behalf of all, and as it were the homage of restored nature. Christ then is the First-fruits of them that sleep. But is He the First-fruits of only His own loved ones that fall asleep in Him, and lie as it were untouched by death, wrapt in a sweet slumber Or is He the First-fruits of all the dead? But "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

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: So that, as in Adam were the first-fruits of the death wherein all die, even so in Christ were the first-fruits of the resurrection, wherein all rise again. But let no man be hopeless, neither let it be a grief to the righteous to remember that to rise again will be common to all men, when he looketh for that day wherein the harvest of his life will nobly realise itself. All shall rise again, "but," as saith the Apostle, "every man in his own order." The harvest of God's mercy will be for all, but in reward one man shall differ from another.

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: I tell you how grievous an outrage against God it is not to believe in the resurrection. If we shall Is this not rise again, then did Christ die in vain, then is Christ not risen For if [if He rose at all,] He rose for us, and if He had not us to rise for, then He is plainly not risen. In Him the world, in Him the heavens, in Him the earth rose again. For there shall be " a new heaven, and a new earth". For Himself He needed not to rise Whom the bands of death held not. For although He died as Man, yet was He free in the netherworld itself. Wouldest thou hear how free "I am as a man that hath no strength, free among the dead". O how free Who was able to take up his life again at will, even as it is written that He said " Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up ". O how free Who descended into hell only to redeem others therefrom.

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

Reading 9: From the Holy Gospel according to John - At that time Jesus said unto His disciples Amen, Amen, I say unto you Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you. And so on.

Homily by St Austin, Bishop of Hippo - We have now to consider these words of the Lord "Amen, Amen, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you." It hath already been said in the earlier part of this discourse of the Lord, for the sake of some who ask the Father in Christ's Name and receive not, that whatsoever is asked, which tendeth not to salvation, is not asked in the Name of the Saviour. By the words "In My Name" we must not understand the vocalization of letters and syllables, but the meaning of what is said, the honest and true meaning.

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: Therefore, whosoever thinketh of Christ as he ought not to think of the Only Son of God, such an one doth not ask anything in Christ's Name, although he do actually utter letters and syllables to that effect, because by these sounds he meaneth not the Real Christ, but a fancied being who hath no existence except in the speaker's imagination. But on the other hand, whosoever thinketh of Christ as he ought to think, the same asketh in Christ's Name, and receiveth, provided only it be nothing against his own everlasting salvation but if it is good for him to receive, he receiveth. Some things are not given at once, but kept over till a more fitting season.

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: Such is the true interpretation of the words "He will give it you" namely, that those things will be given which are good for them to ask. All the Saints also are heard when they ask for themselves, but not necessarily when they ask for their friends, or their enemies, or others, even as it is written, not simply "He will give it" but "He will give it you."

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: Hitherto saith the Lord, have ye asked nothing in My Name? "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." This their joy, whereof He saith that it shall be full, is to be understood not of fleshly but of spiritual joy and when that joy is so great that it can be increased no more, then shall it without doubt be full. Whatsoever therefore we ask for the fulfilling of this joy, (that is, if we thereby mean grace, if we ask for that life which is the really blessed one,) that is a thing which it is meet to ask in Christ's Name. If we ask anything else than this, we ask nothing, although we do actually ask something, because all things are nothing in comparison with this.

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.


This week's Gospel is John 16:23-30:

And in that day you shall not ask me any thing. Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in proverbs. The hour cometh, when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will shew you plainly of the Father. In that day you shall ask in my name; and I say not to you, that I will ask the Father for you.  For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and I go to the Father.  His disciples say to him: Behold, now thou speakest plainly, and speakest no proverb.  Now we know that thou knowest all things, and thou needest not that any man should ask thee. By this we believe that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them: Do you now believe?  Behold, the hour cometh, and it is now come, that you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.

Revelation 7:1-8 - On the twelve thousand from each tribe

 Bamberg Apocalypse

Today's section of Revelations is one of those cases where St Bede, drawing heavily on St Jerome and an earlier commentary by Primasius in particular, draws a lot more out of the text than would be obvious to a modern reader, and indeed might seem a bit strained to us.

The messages he extracts for us though, seem to me to be rather important ones, not least because they echo a number of key themes of the Benedictine Rule.  Accordingly, I think it is worth chewing on!

Post hæc vidi quatuor angelos stantes super quatuor angulos terræ, tenentes quatuor ventos terræ, ne flarent super terram, neque super mare, neque in ullam arborem.
After these things, I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that they should not blow upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor on any tree.

St Bede comments: in the former seals, after the manifold conflicts of the Church, he saw the joys of triumphant souls, so now, also, he is to prove by examples the victory over the preceding kingdoms of the world, who have now submitted to the Church of Christ, which is to follow the reign of Antichrist. For greater matters must of necessity be confirmed by greater proofs...
Et vidi alterum angelum ascendentem ab ortu solis, habentem signum Dei vivi: et clamavit voce magna quatuor angelis, quibus datum est nocere terræ et mari,
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the sign of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

The angel rising in the East is the Incarnation of Our Lord:
Who is the Angel of the great counsel, that is, the Messenger of His Father’s will, has visited us, “the day-spring from on high,” bearing the ensign of the cross, with which to seal His own in their foreheads.  The “loud voice of the Lord” is the cry which is lifted up on high, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
dicens: Nolite nocere terræ, et mari, neque arboribus, quoadusque signemus servos Dei nostri in frontibus eorum.
Saying: Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we sign the servants of our God in their foreheads.

St Bede:
From the time that the Lord suffered, not only was the dominion of the enemy who opposed Him destroyed, but that of worldly power too, as we both see with our eyes, and read of in the image which the stone from the mountain “broke in pieces.”
St Bede views the sign on the foreheads of the servants of God as the cross:
For to this end was the empire of the nations broken up, that the face of the saints might be freely marked with the seal of faith, which these had resisted. For, again, the figure of the cross itself represents the kingdom of the Lord extending everywhere, as the old saying proves: “Behold the world four-square, in parts distinct,To shew the realm of faith possessing all.”
And not in vain was the sacred Name of the Lord, of four letters, written on the forehead of the High Priest, inasmuch as this is the sign on the forehead of the faithful, of which it is also sung in; the Psalm “for the winefats,” “O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy Name in all the earth?” and the rest, until he says, “That thou mayest destroy the enemy and the defender.”
Et audivi numerum signatorum, centum quadraginta quatuor millia signati, ex omni tribu filiorum Israël.
And I heard the number of them that were signed, an hundred forty-four thousand were signed, of every tribe of the children of Israel.

The number 144,000 stands for a great multitude and completeness, being derived from twelve:
By this definite number is signified the innumerable multitude of the whole Church, which is descended from the patriarchs either by the lineage of nature, or the imitation of faith. For, he says, “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed.” And it tends to additional completeness, that the twelve also should be multiplied by twelve, and brought to a sum of thousands, which is the cube of the number ten, by which is represented the enduring life of the Church. And for this reason, too, it is often denoted by the number twelve, because throughout the foursquare world it subsists by faith in the Holy Trinity, for three times four are ten and two. Finally, also, when the Apostles were to preach the same faith to the whole world, twelve were chosen, as signifying by their number the mystery of their work.
At the end of this section of the chapter he comes back to this point:
So, then, from each tribe are sealed twelve thousand. For in whatsoever virtues each one of the faithful has made progress, he must needs be ever strengthened by the faith, and instructed by the examples of the fathers of old. And it is most certain that frequently the body of doctors, frequently that of the whole Church, is designated by the number twelve, because of the sum of the Apostles, or patriarchs.  
5  Ex tribu Juda duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Ruben duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Gad duodecim millia signati:
Of the tribe of Juda, were twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Ruben, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand signed:

St Bede notes that the order of the tribes here does not follow the birth order of the Patriarchs:
With good reason, he begins with Judah, from which tribe our Lord sprang; and has omitted Dan, from whom, as it is said, Antichrist is to be born; for it is written, “Let Dan become an adder in the way, a horned serpent in the path, biting the horse-hoofs, that his rider may fall.” For he has not proposed to set forth the order of earthly generation, but according to the interpretation of the names the powers of the Church, which from present confession and praise is hastening to the right hand of eternal life. For this is the meaning of the name of Judah, who is placed first, and of Benjamin, who comes last.  
He bases his explanation for their import on the meaning of the names, and there seem to me to be strong echoes of the Prologue to the Benedictine Rule in his comments here. The first name, Judah, he suggests, points us to the need for confession of our sins, whose opening line [Prologue 1] is a call to return from our disobedience:
So, then, Judah is placed first, who is interpreted “confession,” or “praise;” for before the first step of confession no one reaches the height of good works, and unless we renounce evil deeds by confession, we are not fashioned in such as are good.
The Prologue to the Rule then invites us to take up good works, and Ruben, St Bede suggests, points to the need to do just that, highlighting the reward to monks and nuns who have chosen the higher path of virginity:
The second is Reuben, who is interpreted, “seeing the son.” That works are denoted in “sons,” the Psalmist testifies, when among the benedictions of the man who is blessed, he says with the rest, “Thy sons like olive-plants;” and below, “That thou mayest see thy sons’ sons.” For it is not, that he who fears the Lord cannot be blessed, unless he has begotten sons, and raised up grandsons, since a better reward awaits the faithful virgins; but in “sons,” he designates works, and in “sons’ sons” the fruits of works, namely, an eternal reward. Accordingly, after Judah there follows Reuben, that is, after the commencement of divine confession and praise, the perfection of action.
The opening sentences of the Rule also allude to the need to fight temptation in the spiritual battle Gad represents the need to persevere in the face of temptation, and indeed the wording of St Benedict's introduction closely echoes that of Sirach 2, which St Bede quotes:
But because “we must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God,” after Reuben follows Gad, who is interpreted “temptation,” or, “girt.” For after the beginning of a good work, it is needful that a man should be proved by greater temptations, and be girt about for greater conflicts, that the strength of his faith may be approved. And so Solomon says, “My son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in righteousness and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation;” and the Psalmist also, “Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle.”
ex tribu Aser duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Nephthali duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Manasse duodecim millia signati:
Of the tribe of Aser, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Nephthali, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Manasses, twelve thousand signed:

Asher, he suggests, takes us to our hope of attaining sanctity, in a passage that echoes the end of the Prologue to the Benedictine Rule:
And because “we esteem them blessed who have maintained sufferance,” for this reason, after Gad is placed Asher, that is, “the blessed,” an order which is not unsuitable. For “Blessed is he who endures temptation, for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life.” But, inasmuch as they who rely upon the sure promise of this blessedness, are not straitened, but “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,” sing with the author of the Psalm, “In tribulation Thou hast enlarged me,” and also, “I ran in the way of Thy commandments, while Thou didst enlarge my heart;” and say, exultingly, with the mother of the blessed Samuel, “My heart is enlarged above mine enemies, because I rejoiced in Thy salvation;” therefore, Nepthali succeeds, that is, “enlargement.” 
Manasses, he notes, means “forgetting,” or, “necessity.”, from which he advises us to focus on the kingdom of heaven, and avoid indulging in worldly pleasures:
By the mystery of this name we are admonished that, schooled by the anguish of these present temptations, and forgetting  what is past, we should (according to the apostle) so strain towards those things which lie ahead that we shall continue our care of the body strictly to what is necessary for the human condition, and make no provision for the flesh in its desires.  Sighing for better things, the Psalmist prays for this: Deliver me from my necessities. (trans Wallis)
ex tribu Simeon duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Levi duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Issachar duodecim millia signati:
Of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand signed:

Simon, Bede reports, means “he heard of sorrow,” or, “the name of his habitation;”, accordingly:
 For the joy of the heavenly habitation will be given to those whose mind is here made sorrowful by a fruitful repentance; to whom it is also said, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”
On Levi he comments that:
that is, “added,” in whom we either understand those who by temporal obtain eternal things; as Solomon says, “The ransom of a man’s life are his riches;” or those who, by following the counsel of God, “receive in this world a hundredfold with tribulations, but in the world to come, eternal life.” And to these, also, belongs this that is written, “He who adds knowledge, adds grief.” For to this end also the bitterness of tribulation was added to the blessed Job, that having been proved, he might receive a greater recompense of reward.
Issachar means reward:
And so, not without reason, there succeeds him in direct order, Issachar, who is interpreted “reward,” because, as the Apostle teaches, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us,” inasmuch as we fight with better success when there is hope of a sure reward.
ex tribu Zabulon duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Joseph duodecim millia signati: ex tribu Benjamin duodecim millia signati.
Of the tribe of Zabulon, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand signed: Of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand signed.

Zabulon means strength:
But God operates and perfects this in the habitation of strength, [cf rb Prologue 5-6] which Zabulon means, when “strength is made perfect in weakness.” So that the body, which is considered weak by its enemies, and through the material substance of which they also strive to bring destruction to the soul, is found to be invincible through God Who strengthens it; and there succeeds a happy increase in this. This is also denoted by the word Joseph, for it signifies, gifts and graces to be added, whether thou understand the increase of spiritual gain from the double return of the talents, or whether thou take it in respect of the offerings which are made to God the Redeemer by the devotion of the faithful.
Finally comes Benjamin:
Now, in order that thou mayest perceive that all these, who both by the succession and interpretation of the names are shewn not to be placed without significance, will be at the right hand of Christ, the eternal King, in the judgment to come; Benjamin, that is, “the son of the right hand,” is set last, as I said before, as the end of the line. For, after the last enemy, death, has been destroyed, the bliss of the eternal inheritance will be given to the elect. And this, whether each one of the faithful is rightly called the son of the right hand, or the whole assembly of the Church, of which it is sung: “Upon Thy right hand stood the queen, in a vesture of gold, clothed in variety.”
He then provides a summary of the discussion:
For whether each one is counted worthy of praise from confession, as in Judah; or is illustrious from the progeny of works, in Reuben; or is strong from the discipline of temptations, in Gad; or is happy from victory in conflicts, in Asher; or is enlarged by abundant works of mercy, in Napthali; or is forgetful of the things which are behind, in Manasseh; or is still sorrowful, as in the valley of tears, but always rejoicing in the name of his habitation, while sighing for the heavenly Jerusalem, in Simeon; or is rejoicing together in the promises of the life that now is, and of that which is to come, resting upon temporal good things, added to the eternal good, in Levi; or is strengthened by the contemplation of the future reward, in Issachar; or is laying down his life for Christ, in Zabulon; or is labouring earnestly for an increase of spiritual substance, and offering something more beyond the commands of God, either in virginity, or from the abundance of his means, in Joseph; or is expecting the right hand of eternal bliss, with unwearied prayer, in Benjamin; it is fitting that each should be sealed in his own profession by the rule of the preceding fathers, as by the number twelve, and that from the merits of individuals, should the most perfect beauty of the Church, as the sum of a hundred and forty-four thousand, be made up.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Saturday of Our Lady: Reading for the third week of May

The reading for the Office of Our Lady on Saturday is from the Homily of St Cyril of alexandria against Nestorius.

Sit tibi sancta Dei Mater laus. Mater et Virgo; tu benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini, in sanctis Evangeliis nominatur. Per te Trinitas sanctificatur: per te crux pretiosa celebratur et adoratur in toto orbe terrarum. Per te exsultat coelum, laetantur Angeli et Archangeli, fugantur daemones, et homo ipse ad coelum revocatur. Per te omnis creatura idolorum errore detenta, conversa est ad agnitionem veritatis, et fideles homines ad sanctum baptisma pervenerunt, atque in toto orbe terrarum constructae sunt ecclesiae. Te adjutrice Gentes veniunt ad poenitentiam. Per te unigenitus Dei Filius vera illa lux effulsit sedentibus in tenebris et umbra mortis. Amen.
Praise be to thee, Holy Mother of God! Mother and Maiden, where through cometh He of whom the Gospels tell, that Blessed One Who cometh in the Name of the Lord ! Through thee is the name of the Trinity hallowed, through thee is the precious Cross preached and worshipped throughout all the world. Through thee there is joy in heaven, through thee Angels and Archangels shout aloud, through thee the devils are put to flight, and man is recalled to Paradise. Through thee every creature once in bondage to idols turneth to the knowledge of the truth, through thee believers come to holy Baptism, through thee Churches are built in all the earth. By thy help, the heathen turn to repentance. Through thee the Only-begotten Son of God, He in Whom is Life, and the Life is the Light of men, hath shined upon them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen.

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 6:1-17

Valladolid, Biblioteca de la Universidad,
Ms 433 (ex ms 390) f°93
Today's chapter of Revelation describes the opening of the seven seals.  St Bede summarises these as follows:
In the first seal, accordingly, he beholds the glory of the primitive Church, in the following three the threefold war against it, in the fifth the glory of those who triumph in this war, in the sixth the things which are to come in the time of Antichrist, and that with a brief recapitulation of former events, in the seventh the beginning of eternal rest.
Et vidi quod aperuisset Agnus unum de septem sigillis, et audivi unum de quatuor animalibus, dicens tamquam vocem tonitrui: Veni, et vide.
And I saw that the Lamb had opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures, as it were the voice of thunder, saying: Come, and see.

St Bede comments:
Seeing that the seals are first loosed, and the book is then opened, he has purposely changed the accustomed order. For in that He suffered and rose again, the Lord taught the Church that He was the end of the law; and in that He ascended into heaven, by the mission of the Holy Spirit, He strengthened the Church with the gift of a more hidden mystery. 
The words of one of the four living creatures are the Easter message:
We also are admonished by the loud voice of the Gospel to behold the glory of the Lord.
Et vidi: et ecce equus albus, et qui sedebat super illum, habebat arcum, et data est ei corona, et exivit vincens ut vinceret.
And I saw: and behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and there was a crown given him, and he went forth conquering that he might conquer.

The vision of the first seal, according to St Bede, is of the early Church immediately after Pentecost:
The Lord presides over the Church, which is made whiter than snow by grace, and He bears the arms of spiritual teaching against the ungodly; and in the persons of His own He receives, as conqueror, a crown; as it is said of Him, “He received gifts in men.” In their persons also, although Lord of heaven, He was persecuted by Saul [Paul before his conversion].
Et cum aperuisset sigillum secundum, audivi secundum animal, dicens: Veni, et vide.
And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature, saying: Come, and see.

Even when the Church is prosperous and growing though, we must know that adversity will come, and be prepared:
He is wisely bidden to observe the opposing horsemen, that, as he derives joy from the prosperity of the Church, so he may acquire caution also from its adversity, by foreknowledge of it.
Et exivit alius equus rufus: et qui sedebat super illum, datum est ei ut sumeret pacem de terra, et ut invicem se interficiant, et datus est ei gladius magnus.
And there went out another horse that was red: and to him that sat thereon, it was given that he should take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another, and a great sword was given to him.

St Bede interprets the red horseman as the devil:
Against the Church victorious and conquering there went out a red horse, that is, a malignant people, bloody from its rider, the devil. Yet we have read in Zechariah of the red horse of the Lord. But the former one is red with his own blood, this with the blood of others.
The devil can take away worldly peace, but not that of the Church:
That is, its own peace. But the Church has received an eternal peace, which has been left to it by Christ.
The fate of the sword applies to good and bad alike:
That is, either against those whom he makes betrayers of the faith, or whom he makes martyrs. And concerning this it is said to the blessed Job, “He who made him has made His sword to approach;” that is, either that he may not try the saints, as much as the ungodly one wills, or, that the vengeance of his own rage may return upon himself.
Et cum aperuisset sigillum tertium, audivi tertium animal, dicens: Veni, et vide. Et ecce equus niger: et qui sedebat super illum, habebat stateram in manu sua.
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying: Come, and see. And behold a black horse, and he that sat on him had a pair of scales in his hand.

St Bede interprets the black horsemen as those who claim to be Christians, but act otherwise:
The black horse is the band of false brethren who have the balance of a right profession, but hurt their fellows through works of darkness. For when it is said in the midst of the living creatures, “hurt not,” it is shewn that one is there who hurts. Of the running forward of this horse, the Apostle says, “Without were fightings, within were fears.”
Et audivi tamquam vocem in medio quatuor animalium dicentium: Bilibris tritici denario et tres bilibres hordei denario, et vinum, et oleum ne læseris.
And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying: Two pounds of wheat for a penny, and thrice two pounds of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the wine and the oil.

To these false brethren he urges reform, and proper love of god and neighbour:
Beware, he says, lest, by your most evil example, ye offend your brother for whom Christ died, and who bears the seal of the sacred blood, and of the chrism. For whether they are perfect in merits, or are even the least, yet whosoever in the Church are imbued with the faith of the Holy Trinity, are redeemed by the same perfect price of the Lord’s blood. And not without reason is the perfection of faith, or work, expressed by a measure of two pounds, and not by a single pound. For both alike have their root in a twofold love.
7-8 Et cum aperuisset sigillum quartum, audivi vocem quarti animalis dicentis: Veni, et vide. Et ecce equus pallidus: et qui sedebat super eum, nomen illi Mors, et infernus sequebatur eum, et data est illi potestas super quatuor partes terræ, interficere gladio, fame, et morte, et bestiis terræ.
7-8 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature, saying: Come, and see.And behold a pale horse, and he that sat upon him, his name was Death, and hell followed him. And power was given to him over the four parts of the earth, to kill with sword, with famine, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. 

The third type of evil horsemen, arrayed against the white horsemen of the Church, according to St Bede, are heretics:
Heretics who assume the garb of Catholics, are worthy to have death abide in their midst, and they draw after them the army of the lost. For the devil and his servants are, by a metonymy, called death and hell. It may also be taken simply, that there eternal punishment follows those who here are spiritually dead.
Et cum aperuisset sigillum quintum, vidi subtus altare animas interfectorum propter verbum Dei, et propter testimonium, quod habebant:
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.

St Bede:
Because he had said that the Church was afflicted in manifold ways in the present time, he speaks also of the glory of souls after the punishment of the body. “I saw them,” he says, “under the altar,” that is, in the secret place of eternal praise. 
For the altar, which is of gold, and is placed within, and near the ark of the Lord’s body, does not, as the altar which is without, present flesh and blood to the Lord, but only the incense of praise; and they who now “offer their bodies a living sacrifice,” when the bonds of the flesh are broken, thus offer to Him the sacrifice of praise....

1et clamabant voce magna, dicentes: Usquequo Domine (sanctus et verus), non judicas, et non vindicas sanguinem nostrum de iis qui habitant in terra?
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

The voice of the martyrs crying out, St Bede, argues, simply reflects God's intention to see justice prevail, and is the petition we make when we say the Our Father:
The great cry of the souls is their great desire for those things which they know that the Lord wills to do. For it is not right to suppose, that they wish for anything against the good pleasure of God, when their desires are dependent upon His will.
How long? They ask not this in hatred of their enemies, for whom they made supplication in this age. But in a love of justice, in which, as they who are placed near the Judge Himself, they agree with Him, they pray for the coming of the day of judgment, in which the reign of sin may be destroyed, and the resurrection of their lifeless bodies may come. For we also, in the present time, when we are commanded to pray for our enemies, say nevertheless, when we pray to the Lord, “Thy kingdom come.”
11 Et datæ sunt illis singulæ stolæ albæ: et dictum est illis ut requiescerent adhuc tempus modicum donec compleantur conservi eorum, et fratres eorum, qui interficiendi sunt sicut et illi.
11 And white robes were given to every one of them one; and it was said to them, that they should rest for a little time, till their fellow servants, and their brethren, who are to be slain, even as they, should be filled up.

St Bede interprets the white robes as the souls of the faithful in heaven; and the resurrection of the body ub the final judgement, they will have two robes:
The souls of the saints which rejoice in their blessed immortality, have now each one robe. But when their bodies arise, as Isaiah says, “they will possess double in their own land.”
The souls in heaven await the joy of being reunited with their bodies while the conversion of the world, for which we should pray hard, proceeds:
The desire of resurrection is not denied, but deferred, that the brethren may be gathered in and multiplied. For the joy of souls itself may also be represented by white robes, when they learn by the revelation of the Lord, that the ungodly are to be condemned at the last, and that even unto the end of the age many are to be joined to their number by martyrdom. Therefore, imbued with internal charity, and content with this consolation, they have been willing rather that their own joys should be deferred for the completion of the number of the faithful.
12 Et vidi cum aperuisset sigillum sextum: et ecce terræmotus magnus factus est, et sol factus est niger tamquam saccus cilicinus: et luna tota facta est sicut sanguis:
12 And I saw, when he had opened the sixth seal, and behold there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair: and the whole moon became as blood:

St Bede sees the sixth seal as indicating the end times:
By the opening of the sixth seal the last persecution is announced, and that the world is shaken with darkness and fear, as when the Lord was crucified on the sixth day of the week.
The black sun is: if the power of Christ were hidden, or His doctrine temporarily obscured, or covered by a veil, when the servants of Antichrist are brought to attack the servants of Christ.
The bloody moon is the Church:
The Church, more than is wont, will shed her blood for Christ And he said “the whole,” because the last earthquake will be in the whole world. But before that, as it is written, “there will be earthquakes through divers places.”
13 et stellæ de cælo ceciderunt super terram, sicut ficus emittit grossos suos cum a vento magno movetur:
13 And the stars from heaven fell upon the earth, as the fig tree casteth its green figs when it is shaken by a great wind:

At this time, those who present to the world as good will be exposed for what they really are:
They who shine as heavenly ones in the Church, and that in appearance alone, when they are driven by the wind of the last persecution, will be proved to have been of earth. And their works are fitly compared to green figs, that is to the untimely, and useless, and falling fruit of the fig-tree.

14 et cælum recessit sicut liber involutus: et omnis mons, et insulæ de locis suis motæ sunt:
14 And the heaven departed as a book folded up: and every mountain, and the islands were moved out of their places.

The Church will continue, but hidden:
As a scroll rolled up contains indeed mysteries within, while there is no appearance of them without, so will it be with the Church. At that time, known only to her own, she will prudently avoid persecution in retirement, that by such concealment she may remain unperceived by those without.
He speaks of the members of the Church, as differing according to the character of their offices or powers, and foretells, that no one will be without his share in this whirlwind. But the movement caused by it will be dissimilar, for in the good it will be one of precaution by flight, but in the bad, of giving way by compliance.

15 et reges terræ, et principes, et tribuni, et divites, et fortes, et omnis servus, et liber absconderunt se in speluncis, et in petris montium:
15 And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and tribunes, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of mountains:

St Bede:
The “kings” we take to be those who are powerful. For he will have persons of every degree and condition to be understood. Besides, who will then be kings except the persecutor alone?  While all the weak at that time seek to be strengthened by the examples of the highest in the Church, and to be fortified by their counsels, protected by their advice, and sheltered by their prayers, they entreat the very mountains to fall upon them with a feeling of compassion. For “the high mountains are a refuge for the hinds, and the rocks for the hedgehogs.”
16 et dicunt montibus, et petris: Cadite super nos, et abscondite nos a facie sedentis super thronum, et ab ira Agni:
16 And they say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb:

Hiding here, means cultivating a proper fear of God:
That is, in order that He may not find us reprobates when He comes, but steadfast in the faith, with our sins covered by the intercession of the saints, and the mercy of God.
17 quoniam venit dies magnus iræ ipsorum: et quis poterit stare?
17 For the great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?

The key message is to be prepared for the coming judgement:
He surely will be able to stand in that day who has now taken care to be watchful, to stand in the faith, to act manfully. But if thou refer this earthquake literally to the day of judgment itself, it is no marvel if the kings and princes of the earth are then afraid, and seek the refuge of the holy hills. For so, in the rich man clothed in purple, and the poor Lazarus, we read that it has already taken place.