Genesis and Responsories, Cont.: A Pause for Quadragesima

Continuing yet again with our look at how the Genesis readings are contextualized and framed by the responsories with which they are paired in the early medieval monastic Night Office, we come to a not unexpected break in the interpretive flow. Liturgically, Lent does not begin on Ash Wednesday but with the First Vespers of Quadragesima so, sure enough, the first Matins of Lent hammers the Lenten themes and makes no reference whatsoever to Genesis. This too teaches us something: the responsories serve to interpret the Scriptures, yes, but their primary obligation is to the rhythms of the year. When the continuous reading of the Scripture is the most seasonally thematic part, the responsories work with them; when it’s not, it does something else.

Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile (CAO 6600)
R: Behold–now is the acceptable time; behold–now is the day of salvation. Let us commend ourselves in much patience, in much fasting, through the weapons of the righteousness of the power of God.
V: In all things let us exhibit ourselves as ministers of God that our ministry not be blamed. Through the weapons…
Sources: 2 Cor 6:2b, 4, 5, 7, 4, 3. This is a section of the appointed Epistle for the day.

Paradisi portas aperuit nobis (CAO 7348)
R: The time of fasting will open to us the gates of Paradise. Let us receive it, with prayer and supplication, that we may glory in the day of resurrection with the Lord.
V: Behold–now is the acceptable time; behold–now is the day of salvation giving no one any offense. That we may glory…
Sources: The first two sentences have no clear Scriptural parallels that I can think of; as for the rest… 2 Cor 6:2b, 4, 5, 7, 4, 3.

Emendemus in melius (CAO 6653)
R: Let us change ourselves for the better because we sinned in ignorance. Lest the day of our death overtake us suddenly, let us beseech a time of penitence and may we not be found [unready]. Harken, Lord, and have mercy for we have sinned against you.
V: We, with our fathers, have sinned, we have done injustice, we have committed iniquities. Harken, Lord…
Sources: Again, lots of Scriptural language but no compelling parallels that I can think of.

In jejunio et fletu orabant (CAO 6910)
R: In fasting and prostrations the priests prayed, saying, “Spare, Lord, spare your people, and do not give your inheritance over to destruction.”
V: Between the vestibule and the altar the priests implored. “Spare, Lord…”
Sources: Joel 2: 12a, 17b. In the Tridentine Breviary, Joel 2:17 is the Little Chapter for Vespers during Lent. According to the Office Chapter lectionary for Lent in Cod. Sang. 342 it was not the Vespers reading there—but the Little Chapter for the Night Office was Joel 2:12.

In omnibus exhibeamus nos (CAO 6920)
R: In all things let us exhibit ourselves as ministers of God with much patience that our ministry not be blamed.
V: Behold—now is the acceptable time; behold—now is the day of salvation. Let us commend ourselves in much patience. That our ministry…
Sources: 2 Cor 6:4a, 3b, 2b. This responsory contains most of the same elements as the first, merely reversing the order in the response and verse.

Abscondite eleemosynam (CAO 6012)
R: Hide your alms in the bosom of the poor and they [the alms] will pray for you to the Lord. For just as water quenches fire, so alms quench sin.
V: Honor the Lord out of your substance, and out of your first fruits give to the poor. For just as water…
Sources: I can’t locate a source for the first sentence but the second is Sir 3:33 and the verse is from Prov 3:9.

Tribularer si nescirem (CAO 7778)
R: If in tribulation I were ignorant of your mercy, Lord, you said, “I do not wish the death of the sinner, but repent and live”, the one who calls the Canaanite and tax collector to penitence.
V: But you received Peter weeping, merciful Lord. The one who calls…
Sources: Ezekiel 18:32 contains the quotation, the rest is built around gospel material, particularly the tears of Peter after the crowing of the cock in Matt 26:75|Mark 14:72|Luke 22:62.

Angelis suis mandavit de te (CAO 6087)
R: He commanded his angels concerning you, that they guard you in all of your ways; they will carry you in their hands lest you strike your foot against a stone.
V: Upon the asp and basilisk you will walk; you will tread on the lion and the dragon. They will carry you in their hands…
Sources: VgPs 90:11-13. The appearance of this psalm is fascinating as it pulls together a whole bunch of liturgical threads. While it is cited from the psalms, it actually makes its entrance through the Gospel of the Day, Matthew 4:1-11; this psalm is referred to in the debate between Jesus and the devil found there. If you then look at the data from Hesbert’s Antiphonarium Missarum Sextuplex where he pulls together the Propers from six early sources you’ll see that every single one of them from the Introit to the Tract to the Offertory to the Communion are based on this psalm.

Pater, peccavi in coelum (CAO 7362)
R: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired hands.”
V: “Do not the hired hands in my father’s house abound with bread, but here I perish from hunger? I will rise and I will go to my father and I will say to him. Make me as one of your hired hands.”
Sources: Luke 15:18b-19, 17b-18a. The repentance of the prodigal son.

Ductus est Jesus in desertum (CAO 6529)
R: Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit that he might be tested by the devil, and drawing near the Tempter said to him, “If you are the Son of God, speak that these stones may become bread.”
V: And when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, afterward he hungered. And drawing near the Tempter said…
Sources: Matthew 4:1, 3, 2. A portion from the Gospel of the Day.

Looking over the choice of texts, we see a real confluence here between the appointed Mass texts and the Night Office; this is one of those points where the cross-over is not just notable but extensive. The Epistle, Gospel, and the Psalm featured in the Mass liturgy all feature quite heavily here. Once again we’re reminded that the different liturgies despite their different functions are interwoven—even more so at the main points of the Church Year.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] by Ælfric to Genesis, two of them focused on the start of liturgical seasons (Septuagesima and Quadragesima/Lent 1); the other four did indeed provide an interpretive for the Genesis […]


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