Notes from the Subdeacon:
THE INTROIT. Ps. cxxx. (Si iniquitates) If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? For there is mercy with thee, O God of Israel. Ps. ibid. Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.
The Church Year is drawing to an end. The Church teaches us to think of the ending of our own life and the final coming of Christ. All too aware of our sins, we realize that they surround us and cut us off from the Lord, just as the Prophet Jonas was cut off and isolated in the whale’s belly. The liturgy begins with our chanting of Psalm 130 which, St. Augustine tells us, is the prayer the Prophet Jonas made from the whale’s belly; hidden in the depths of the ocean. Deep and hidden though Jonas was, his prayer “penetrated all things, it burst through all things, it reached the ears of God.” This tells us that the Father will always hear us and heed us, no matter how estranged we may be from Him, when we cry out to Him in faith. Now when we as the Body of Christ – the Church – chant this psalm, the deep from which we cry is this mortal life. We know that we are weighed down by the burden of sin and iniquity. We know our sins are great, so much so that we know that justice alone will do us no good; what we need is mercy. But the Psalm assures us that there is indeed mercy with God. We cry from the depth of our misery and our voice will be heard. The liturgy of today will show us just how deep we are weighed down but also just how much God will add mercy to justice.
GRADUAL & ALLELUIA. Ps. cxxxiii. Behold how good and joyful a thing it is, brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down unto Aaron’s beard. Alle-luia, alleluia. Ps cxiv. When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among the strange people. Alleluia.
These verses carry three themes: dwelling in unity, anointing with precious ointment and the escape from servitude to a strange people. St. Augustine tells us that when people dwell together in unity, they are of one mind and one heart just like the Apostles and the first Christians. This ideal was and is at the heart of Christian monasticism. In fact, “unity” here translates the Greek “monos” from which comes “monk.” Such unity comes because each person loves and strives for one goal: to grow fully and completely into a member of Christ’s Body. But of ourselves we cannot do this; we are “sore let and hindered by our sins.” Christ Who is both Sacrifice and Priest cleanses us from our sins. The ointment poured over Aaron in such quantity as to run down from his beards is a prefiguring in this psalm of the unction of the Holy Ghost which is poured upon us in baptism and chrismation. It is the richness of this grace and power freely bestowed on us by God which enables us to dwell in unity with the Christ our Lord and all of the saints of every age. The result of this outpouring of grace and life in union with Christ is that we are finally freed from the bonds of our sins and healed of the wounds which have been inflicted upon us by our own folly. Like the Jews of old, we escape from the slavery of sin.
OFFERTORY. Esther xiv. Remember me, O Lord, King of all power: and put a well-ordered speech in my mouth, that my words may be pleasing in the sight of the prince.
Here we are reminded of the King Artaxerxes’ intended extermination of the Jews that was the context for the Introit of Trinity XXI. Esther knows she has but one chance to dissuade Arta-xerxes from this. She also knows that of herself she cannot do this; she must rely solely on God, the supreme King to assist her with a well-ordered speech. It is important to note, however, that Esther still must see the king, speak to him and persuade him; she cannot say to herself that she will have no part in his hoped-for change of heart now that she has sought God’s help. She prays for well-ordered speech; speech that will reflect the depths of God’s creative love for us. God will help us;
He will even sometimes work miracles for us, but we must still do our part.
COMMUNION. Ps. xvii. I have called upon thee, O God, for thou shalt hear me: incline thine ear to me, and hearken unto my words.
This verse serves as a summation of what we have been doing in this liturgy. Through faith we have called upon God. He has heard us and instructed us with His Word. In the Mystery of His Body and Blood, He has joined us with Him in the great Sacrifice which He offers to the Father. It is Christ through His Passion, Death and Resurrection Who offers Himself and cries out to the Fa-ther on our behalf. It is now our duty to let this great mystery penetrate our hearts and more and more transform them.
November 16, 2014 | News