Saturday, 28 January 2017

Matins readings for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

The readings and responsories for Matins in the Benedictine Office for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany are set out below.

Nocturn I  Philippians 1

Reading 1:  Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ; to all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God in every remembrance of you, Always in all my prayers making supplication for you all, with joy; For your communication in the gospel of Christ from the first day until now. Being confident of this very thing, that he, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus. As it is meet for me to think this for you all, for that I have you in my heart; and that in my bands, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my joy.

R. O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thine hot displeasure.
* Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak.
V. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and darkness hath overwhelmed me.
R. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak.

Reading 2:  For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge, and in all understanding:That you may approve the better things, that you may be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ, Filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

R. O God, Which seatest in the throne judging right, be Thou a refuge for the poor, a refuge in times of trouble.* For Thou alone beholdest mischief and spite.
V. The poor leaveth himself unto thee; Thou wilt be the helper of the fatherless.
R. For Thou alone beholdest mischief and spite.

Reading 3:  Now, brethren, I desire you should know, that the things which have happened to me, have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel: So that my bands are made manifest in Christ, in all the court, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, growing confident by my bands, are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear.

R. The Lord is at my right hand, I shall never be moved.* Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoiceth.
V. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup.
R. Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoiceth.

Reading 4: Some indeed, even out of envy and contention; but some also for good will preach Christ. Some out of charity, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. And some out of contention preach Christ not sincerely: supposing that they raise affliction to my bands.  But what then? So that by all means, whether by occasion, or by truth, Christ be preached: in this also I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

R: Keep me O Lord as the apple of an eye * Hide me under the shadow of your wings
V: Show your marvellous loving-kindness, thou that art the saviour of them that put their trust in you
R: Hide me under the shadow of your wings
V: Glory be...
R: Hide me under the shadow of your wings

Nocturn II: From the book of morals of St Gregory

Reading 5: We refresh the body lest it should grow too weak and fail us; we chasten it by abstinence, lest it should wax gross, and become lord over us; we strengthen it with exercise, lest it perish by the not using; and straightway we give it rest, lest it faint through weariness; we succour it with raiment, lest the cold should blight it; and we strip it of the raiment wherewith we have clothed it, lest the heat should afflict it.

R. O Lord, Thou hast shown me the path of life. * Thou shalt fill me with joy in thy presence, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
V. Thou art He That shalt restore mine inheritance unto me.
R. Thou shalt fill me with joy in thy presence, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Reading 6: In all these so many offices what do we but serve the corruptible? Upon what is all this care spent but upon that wherover hangeth the doom of weakness and change? Therefore saith Paul tells: For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

R. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my rock * And my fortress.
V. My Deliverer, my God, mine Helper.
R. And my fortress.

Reading 7: The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly for when man had of his own free will abdicated his state of unchangeable blessedness, the just sentence of death was passed upon him, and whether he willed or not, he became subject to the state of change and corruption. But the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption when it shall rise again incorruptible and be made partaker of the glory of the children of God.

R. The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof * The world, and they that dwell therein.
V. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
R. The world, and they that dwell therein.

Reading 8: Where, then, the elect are still subject to sorrow, being yet bound by the sentence of corruption; but when we shall have put off this corruptible we shall be loosed from that sentence, and shall sorrow no more. For though we earnestly desire to appear before God, we are still hindered by the burden of this dying body. Rightly then are we called prisoners, since we are not free to go whither we will, that is to say, to God; and rightly did the prisoner Paul, yearning after the things which are eternal, and still weighed down with the burden of this corruptible, rightly did he cry out I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ. He would not have felt this keenness if he had not felt himself bound down.

R Show me your ways O Lord and teach me your paths; lead me forth in your truth * For you are the God of my salvation; in you has been my hope all the day long
V: O remember not the sins and offences of my youth, O Lord
R:For you are the God of my salvation; in you has been my hope all the day long
V Glory be...
R:For you are the God of my salvation; in you has been my hope all the day long

Nocturn III:  Homily of St Jerome

Reading 9: In that time when Jesus entered into the boat, his disciples followed him: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And so on.

The fifth sign that He did was when He took ship at Capernaum, and commanded the winds and the sea the sixth, when, in the country of the Gergesenes, He suffered the devils to enter into the swine the seventh, when, as He came into His own city, He cured the man sick of the palsy lying on a bed. The first man sick of the palsy that He cured was the centurion's servant.

R. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.* O my God, I trust in thee, let me not be ashamed.
V. O keep my soul and deliver me.
R. O my God, I trust in thee, let me not be ashamed.

Reading 10: But He was asleep; and His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying Lord, save us. There is a type of this in the history of Jonah, who, when the storm arose, was lying fast asleep, and whom the sailors woke to help them; who also saved the sailors by commanding them to throw him into the sea, the said casting of him into the sea, being, as we know, a figure of Christ's Passion.

R: You have afflicted us for our sins, every day we expect our end with tears; let the sorrows of our heart come before you O Lord * That you may deliver us from the evils that have come upon us
V: O Lord God of Israel, hear our prayers, hearken unto the sorrows of our heart
R: That you may deliver us from the ills that are come upon us

Reading 11: Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea. From these words we understand that all things, which have been made, are sentient to their Maker. All things which He rebuketh or commandeth, hear His voice. This is not the error of the heretics who will have it that everything is quick, but part of the majesty of the Creator, Who maketh to feel Him things which we cannot make to feel us.

R. My sins, O Lord, are fixed in me, like arrows, but before they caused wounds in me,
* Heal me, O God, with the medicine of repentance.
V. For I know my iniquity, * and my sin is always before me.
R. Heal me, O God, with the medicine of repentance.

Reading 12: But the men marvelled, saying What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him? It was not His disciples that marvelled, but the sailors, and the others that were in the ship. tf r however, any one willeth to withstand this our interpretation and to maintain that it was the disciples who marvelled, we are ready to answer them that they who knew not before the power of the Saviour deserve to be stripped of the title of disciples, and to be called simply the men.

R: One Seraph cried unto another * Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts the whole earth is full of His glory.
V. There are Three That bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost and these Three are One.
R. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The whole earth is full of His glory.

Gospel: Matt 8:23-27

And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish.  And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.  But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Numbers in Scripture and translation issues - grrr!

Looking at the rest of the chapter for today's first Nocturn readings, Galatians 1, I came across one of those really annoying translation problems with otherwise excellent texts, namely the Knox version of Galatians 1:18.

Galatians 1:18

The Knox Bible version gives it as:
Then, when three years had passed, I did go up to Jerusalem, to visit Peter, and I stayed a fortnight there in his company;
Where does the reference to a fortnight come from?

The translator's imagination it would seem.

The Greek gives it as fifteen days, as does the Vulgate:
ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε:
deinde post annos tres veni Jerosolymam videre Petrum, et mansi apud eum diebus quindecim:
Fortunately the Douay-Rheims provides a more literal translation:
Then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem, to see Peter, and I tarried with him fifteen days.
The significance of numbers in Scripture

Does it matter?

Well yes in my view.

We tend to forget that numbers in Scripture are important.

When the inspired writer includes a specific number, we have to assume there is a reason for that, not least because Scripture itself often records instruction to the effect that these numbers are significant.

Scripture tells us that God 'hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight' (Wisdom 11:21), and we are frequently reminded that the recurrence of certain key numbers is meant to tell us something important.

In Matthew 16:8-10, for example, Our Lord asks the apostles to ponder the significance of the number of baskets of bread left over from the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 - the numbers in question being the symbolically laden 12 (the 5,000 perhaps standing for those covered by the Pentateuch the five books of the Old Law; twelve for the twelve tribes of Israel) and 7 (the four thousand standing for those brought in by the four books of the Gospel; seven standing for perfection or completion, from the days of creation, or perhaps expansion and the going into the world) respectively.  In Acts, the importance of those numbers is reinforced again in the election of a new apostle to restore the number to twelve, and the appointment of the seven deacons.

Similarly, in 2 Peter 2, St Peter points out that eight people were saved from the Great Flood; the Resurrection that reopened the way to heaven was on the 'eighth day', creating a symbolism that led to baptisteries and baptismal fonts traditionally having eight sides.

The symbolism of fifteen 

The number fifteen used in Galatians is rather less prominent in Scripture than 7, 8 and 12 (which recur hundreds of times through the Old and New Testaments) but it does have several key uses in Scripture that are probably meant to be understood here.  Let me just point to a few of them.

First, the life of King Hezekiah was extended by fifteen years after he prayed when being told he should repent as he was about to die.

Secondly, there were fifteen steps from the outer to the inner temple, and the temple was viewed as a microcosm of heaven, so the steps mark the ascent from this world to the next.

And thirdly, corresponding to the steps of the temple there are fifteen 'psalms of the Ascent' or Gradual psalms, often interpreted as marking the ascent to God through grace.

There are other key Scriptural associations with 15 as well, particularly in its multiples, such as the 150 days that it rained during the Great Flood, symbolising the cleansing from sin; and the 150 psalms, which summarise all of the Bible.

So when Galatians tells us that St Paul stayed with St Peter for fifteen days, St Paul is telling us not that it was only a short time that he spent with the Apostle, in my view, but rather that it was a grace-filled time, a great gift of God; a time that marked the cleansing of the sins of his previous life.

Fathers and Theologians

And indeed, if you check the commentaries of the Fathers and Theologians on the verse, they make exactly these kind of points.  Let me provide just two reference points by way of illustration.

 St Jerome, comments:
And though it seems excessive to some to investigate numbers in Scripture, yet I think it is not beside the point to note that the fifteen days that Paul spent with Peter signifies the fullness of wisdom and the perfection of doctrine, seeing that that there are fifteen [decades of] psalms in a psalter and fifteen steps by which people go up to sing to God.
St Thomas Aquinas adds:
 And I tarried with him fifteen days, because that number is the sum of eight and seven. Eight is the number of the New Testament, in which the eighth day of those who will rise is awaited; but seven is the number of the Old Testament, because it celebrates the seventh day. And so he stayed with Peter fifteen days, conversing with him on the mysteries of the Old and New Testament.
Numbers, it is clear, matter in Scripture, and translations that hide them from us contribute to the undermining of tradition that has become so endemic in our time, with Christmas no longer having days, and the invention of  'Ascension Sunday'.

Working with translations

 I actually do like the Knox translation for many purposes, but alas this particular example is by far from the only place where significant numbers are obscured by the translation.  The number of people saved from the Great Flood in the letter of St Peter I cited above, for example, is not eight in the Knox Bible, rather Noah and 'seven others with him'.

The moral of the story is, if you are using a translation, crosscheck it!  Ideally, use the Latin (and/or Greek).  But failing that (or as a supplement depending on how strong your language skills are) also look at a more literal translation such as the Douay-Rheims and/or use one of the excellent online resources (my personal favourite due to its clear layout is Blueletter bible but there are many others) that can provide multiple translations for comparison purposes, as well as breakdown the Greek or Hebrew for you via links to Strong's Concordance.