Sunday, 3 April 2011

Looking to the heavenly Jerusalem

2011 04 03_0041
Photo credit Mulier Fortis

Rose vestments, halfway through Lent - but what is happening in this antiphon? St Jerome's Vulgate has this for the text (Isaiah 66.10-11)
Lætamini cum Jerusalem et exsultate in ea, omnes qui diligitis eam; gaudete cum ea gaudio, universi qui lugetis super eam ut sugatis et repleamini ab ubere consolationis ejus
which is translated in the Douai Rheims as:
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all you that mourn for her. That you may suck, and be filled with the breasts of her consolations:
but todays' Introit reads:
Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.
which is translated:
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.
The antiphons in the Mass are often different from the text in the Vulgate. This is one of those aspects of the traditional Mass that can send a shiver up your spine. The texts we are singing sometimes predate St Jerome (c.347-420) making us wonder just how far they go back in terms of the celebration of the Liturgy.

The part which interested me was the difference between "exsultate" and "conventum facite." The Greek word is panēgurisate. According to my Liddell and Scott, panēgurizo means "to keep or attend a public festival" (the second meaning is "to make a set speech in a public assembly, to deliver a panegyric" which is not ad rem here but interesting because people know the word "panegyric" in English.)

It seems that in this case, the old Roman text has an advantage: we are not simply celebrating the rejoicing of Jerusalem but the rejoicing of Jerusalem at a solemn festival. Applied to the Christian Liturgy, this means that we are celebrating here and now the joy of being in the presence of the solemn festival of the heavenly Jerusalem under the veil of signs and symbols. We are also looking forward to the day when we will celebrate in the heavenly Jerusalem in that divine Liturgy where we will see God face to face.

This is explicitly prophesied in Isaiah 66.22 where the prophet speaks of the new heavens and the new earth. The theme is taken up by St John in the vision he received on the island of Patmos (which I had the joy of visiting some years ago.)
I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone: and the sea is now no more. And I, John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men: and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people: and God himself with them shall be their God. (Rev 21.1-3)
All of which goes to show that we should keep the traditions of our Liturgy, including rose vestments for the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Many thanks to Maria in my parish who made the new antependium which adorned the altar for this Sunday.
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