Matins reading notes for the second week of Lent

This week the first Nocturn readings for  the Second Sunday of Lent return us to the covenantal reading of Genesis.

The Patriarchs and God's covenants with them

The sequence so far, you will recall, is Adam (Septuagesima Sunday); Noah (Sexagesima Sunday); Abraham  (Quinquagesima Sunday); and Isaac (though the readings are displaced by the special set for the First Sunday of Lent).

This week covers Jacob;  the Third Sunday of Lent, Joseph; and the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Moses.

And in Passiontide we look forward to the new covenant prophesised in Jeremiah.

The story of Jacob

This week's Scriptural readings for the First Nocturn of Matins come from Genesis 27 (1 - 29); next Sunday picks up the story of Joseph in Genesis 37.

Accordingly a possible ordering of the weekday readings (displaced by the Gospel homilies from the later middle ages) might be:

Sunday: Genesis 27 (Jacob's blessing)
Monday: Genesis 28 (leaves home to seek a wife; see's a ladder to heaven)
Tuesday: Genesis 29-31 (marriage to Lia and Rachel, children)
Wednesday: Genesis 32 (wrestles with an angel)
Thursday: Genesis 33 (confrontation with Esau)
Friday: Genesis 34 (abduction and rape of Dina)
Saturday: Genesis 35 (renamed Israel) &Genesis 36 (generations of Esau)

The responsories (of which there are fifteen spread over the week) highlight key aspects of the storyline: the  deception to obtain his father's blessing; the vision of the ladder; wrestling with an angel; the confrontations with Esau; and his renaming.

The Gospels and their readings and responsories

This Sunday's Gospel is Matthew 17, on the Transfiguration.  Curiously, no responsories specific to the Gospel are used in the current Office, or listed in the Cantus database for this Sunday (or the Thursday, the other day Gospel responsories are often provided).

The Gospel's for the week, which are the subject of the Patristic readings are:

Monday: John 8:21-29
Tuesday: Matt 23:1-12
Wednesday: Matt 20:17-28
Thursday: Luke 16:19-31
Friday: Matt 21:33-46
Saturday: Luke 15:11-32

The feast of St Gregory the Great

The major feast this week is of St Gregory the Great, pope and author, inter alia, of the Dialogues, of which Book II is the Life of St Benedict, and hence is the person most responsible for the propagation of his cult and the Benedictine Order.

As perhaps the most important figure for the order after St Benedict himself, it should be no surprise that St Gregory's Benedictine credentials came under sustained attack from the middle of the twentieth century onwards.

Some argued that although he devoted an entire book to the Life of St Benedict, and used the preceding and succeeding book of the Dialogues to frame it, St Gregory was not strictly speaking a Benedictine seeking to promote and consolidate the charism of his Order,  even though virtually every other contemporary monastic saints' life (such as those of Eugippius, Caesarius of Arles, Fulgentius, the lives of the abbots of Agaune, and Columbanus for example) are accepted as works of their disciples and serving such a purpose.

Some went to so far as to claim that there was no evidence that St Gregory had ever actually read the Benedictine Rule, since all his citations from it could also be found in other sources: never mind that  he specifically commends it; that the  Life is essentially a commentary on the Rule; and that the way St  Gregory uses his source texts was deeply steeped in Benedictine spirituality rather than other interpretations of those monastic sources.

It was even claimed that the entire Dialogues were a fake, a much later invention; never mind that a steady stream of visitors to Rome in the early seventh century, including Jonas of Bobbio and Benedict Biscop, seem to have come away having read it.

Perhaps for this reason, the responsories for the feast in the 1962 breviary appear to be entirely modern compositions, for which I have been unable to find chant settings.  Accordingly I've stuck with those for a Doctor Pontiff, one of the options provided for in the breviary.  You can find transcriptions of four responsories for the feast contained in the Hartker MSSS here though.