05 March 2006

Enter the Feast with Clean Bodies and Souls

In the Western Divine Office, according to the pre-Vatican II breviary reordered by Pope Pius X, at Matins there are 3 groups of 3 Psalms. On Sundays and major feasts, a lesson is read after each group of 3 Psalms. These lessons come from the Scriptures and the early fathers. The third lesson is always a commentary on the Gospel at the day's Mass. Today's first lesson was an expansion of the epistle at the Mass. The second lesson was a commentary by St Leo the Great. The entire sermon is worthy of your attention, but I would simply like to highlight the portion that struck me.

There is never any day or time which is not rich with divine gifts ; and always God's mercy is made available to us by his grace. Yet that is a reason why at the time of this great fast the hearts of all men should be moved to more earnest pursuit of things spiritual, and stirred up to complete trust in God. For now is drawing near the anniversary of the Day of our Redemption, which doth summon us to perform every duty of devotion, to the end that we may be able to celebrate, with clean bodies and souls, those mysteries which exceed all others, to wit, those of the Lord's Passion.

Mysteries so great demand a perseverance in devotion, and an abiding reverence, that so what we attain to be on the Feast of Easter, we may ever afterwards in God's sight continue to be. But few have the strength to do this, for the flesh in its weakness rebelleth against such hardness, and the business of this life doth distract us with many cares, whereby the hearts even of the godly are often smudged with the grime of this world. To the end that our souls may be restored to us in purity, there hath been provided for us, by a most wholesome custom in the following of Christ's example, the discipline of these forty days, wherein by godly works we may redeem the time which we have mis-spent, and by holy fasting may cleanse us of our faults. (Source)


Anonymous said...

Father Fenton,

What do you mean or imply when you write "In the Western Divine office ..."? As if the use of the definite article indicates that there is only one official western office. Just curious.

Fr John W Fenton said...


Thanks for noticing small things in order to probe my thoughts.

The emphasis ascribed to the definite article is not one I intended. It simply seemed more confusing for me to write, "In a Western Divine Office..." (as if one may pick and choose); and clumsy to write, "In Western Divine Office..."

However, with your question you've suggested to me this point: while there are certainly several versions of the (Latin) Western Divine Office, all (except perhaps the post-Vatican II "Liturgy of Hours") derive from the same initial source; namely, the Rule of St Benedict. To be sure, a significant departure occured with the revisions of Pope Pius X (or was it Pope Benedict XV?), especially in terms of the distribution of the Psalter. However, until the liturgical reconstruction (or, I would suggest, deconstruction) of Pope Paul VI, one could fairly confidently speak of the (Latin) Western Divine Office.

(I've added [Latin], as you've no doubt surmised, because I recognize that the Mozarabic and Ambrosian rites are Western, but of a different heritage.)