Saturday, August 6, 2011

Breaking News! Rare Canticle Sighting on August 6th!

Sorry. I've read one too many times about the importance of catching the reader with an intriguing title.

But a rare canticle is one of the many special features of the office for the feast of the Transfiguration. Jumping ahead to Evening Prayer we have this little jewel from 1 Timothy 3:16 which (not counting the repeated antiphon)  holds the title for both shortest of all canticles, and least frequently used. We only see it twice a year: today, and on the feast of the Epiphany. This fact by itself will give rise to some nifty insights since it prompts us to compare these two feasts of Light: one revealing Christ to the gentiles, who found God in a dark, humble place by the light of a brilliant star; the other revealing to 3 apostles  His divinity and confirming to them that He was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, clothed in light not from a star, but from Himself.  

Here is the canticle:
R. Praise the Lord, all you nations.
Christ manifested in the flesh,
Christ justified in the Spirit.
R.Praise the Lord, all you nations.
Christ contemplated by the angels,
Christ proclaimed by the pagans.
R.Praise the Lord, all you nations.
Christ who is believed in the world,
Christ exalted in glory.
R. Praise the Lord, all you nations.

Other interesting things about this feast and office:
-Unlike other feasts (as opposed to solemnities) feasts of Our Lord, when they fall on a Sunday, take the place of the regular Sunday liturgy. We'll see that happen next year.

-Antiphon I in Morning prayer quotes the gospel account, Moses and Elijah appeared with him in glory and spoke with him about the death he was to undergo. Everytime I read this, I am stabbed with curiosity about that conversation. It's High on my list of things to ask about in heaven.
-Light and cloud. The antiphons and readings (including Office of Reading and Daytime Prayer) dance back and forth between the place of light and cloud in the account of the Transfiguration AND the presence of God in Exodus. It's not easy for most of us to do all the hours of the liturgy each day, but a great practice is to MAKE THE EFFORT to do so on major feast days. This would be a good one to start on. While it's true that Morning ,and Evening are the hinges of the day, the entire office forms a unified tapestry (symphony? I have no time to choose the best metaphor, but you'll see what I mean)that will often amaze you if you have the time to do it.
-The psalmody of the Office of Readings (which one tends to overlook in one's eagerness to get to the readings) has a favorite of mine, Ps. 84. The bit about the lucky swallows who get to build their nests near the temple altar. The part about making the bitter valley (this life in times of suffering) a place of springs is just about the most consoling message in all of scripture. And applying this psalm  today yields  a different take: how lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God of hosts! day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Peter, James and John were actually IN those courts for that brief time on Tabor.

A certain someone is demanding I make good on a promise to take him shopping with me this morning, so I'd better go. Enjoy this feast, and may the liturgy waken in you that  longing and yearning for the courts of the Lord.