Sunday, February 16, 2014

Septuagesima Sunday - Medicaménto pæniténtiæ

At 1st Vespers yesterday evening, the holy Season of Septuagesima begins...the pre-preparation for the Season of Lent.  At Matins, we begin the scriptural cycle of reading from the Book of Genesis.  The Gospel reading is the parable of the householder who hires laborers to work in his vineyard.  Lesson iii is an excerpt from St. Gregory the Great's magnificant homily on this parable.  It is one of my favorite patristic homilies, and I return to it often during the year, reading bits and pieces of it now and again, for spiritual edification.  If you have a relative or loved one who has fallen away from the Church, and you are anxious for their eternal welfare, I highly recommend this homily.

For Septuagesima Sunday, the lessons are taken from the Creation narratives.  Accordingly, the versicle at 1st Vespers is drawn from Genesis:
℟.  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them; and on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done.  *  And he rested from all his work which he had done.  ℣.  And God saw all he had done, and it was very good. - And he rested. - Glory. - From all his work which he had done.
The remainder of 1st Vespers is the same as that of the Roman Breviary, with one interesting exception; the Magnificat antiphon.  In the Roman and Monastic Breviaries, the antiphon is:
The Lord said to Adam:  "Of the tree which is in the midst of paradise you must not eat; for the day you eat of it, you must die."
This is from the lessons at Matins (from Genesis), and it follows the custom that is observed with the Dominican, Roman and Monastic Breviaries of taking the antiphon for the Magnificat from the lessons at Matins.  However, for this Sunday, the Dominican Breviary uses the following antiphon for the Magnificat:

My sins, Lord, like arrows, are sunk deep in me.  But before they produce wounds in me, heal me, Lord God, with the antidote of repentance.
Peccáta mea, Dómine, sicut sagíttae infíxa sunt in me:  sed ántequam vúlnera génerent in me, sana me, Dómine, medicaménto pæniténtiæ, Deus. 
I know that I am partial to the Dominican Breviary, but to me this antiphon is striking in its imagery of repentance and seems perfectly apropos to the Season of Septuagesima.  Quick Lord! Before the effects of my sins begin to poison my soul...and I lose that inestimable gift of your supernatural life within me, send me the antidote.  And what is that antidote?  The spirit of repentance, which is precisely the spirit of the Season of Septuagesima.  I plan on using this antiphon as a source of meditation for this week, and for the entire Septuagesima and Quadragesima season.

A blessed Septuagesima Season to all who read this blog.