Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ambrosian Lent V: The Lenten Saturday Circle

Saturdays have a very special role in Ambrosian Lent.

As I mentioned in a previous post, in Milan it was forbidden to fast on Saturdays, because those days were considered semi-festive.

An early testimony of this typically Ambrosian custom is given by St.Ambrose himself, who wrote:

During Lent, we fast every day, except on Saturdays and Sundays. (De Elia et jejunio, 34)
A proud defense of this custom can be found in the Gospel read on Saturday of
the first week of Lent: Matth. 12, 1-8:
In illo tempore. Abiit Dominus Jesus sabbato per sata...

One Saturday, Our Lord goes with his Disciples through the cornfields, and the Disciples begin to glean and eat the ears of wheat. The Pharisees blame them and Our Lord answers:
Misericordiam volo, et non sacrificium: numquam condemnassetis
innocentes: dominus est enim Filius hominis etiam sabbati

Which is an indirect answer to the Romans, who blamed the Ambrosians, for not fasting on Saturdays.

The semi-festive character of lenten Saturdays is also evident from the structure of the Mass: in fact every lenten Saturday Mass has three readings (normal feriae both inside and outside Lent have only two) and has the Antiphona post Evangelium, which is normally missing on lenten feriae.

A final remark about the Gospel readings of Lenten Saturdays in the Ambrosian Rite: As I will mention in my next post about lenten Sundays, all Ambrosian Lent is very much Baptism-oriented. It is a long liturgical catechesis in preparation to the Baptism the catechumens will receive during Paschal Vigil.

On lenten Saturdays, according to the ancient discipline of the Church the scrutinia in preparation to the Baptism of the Catechumens were performed. An allusion to the scrutinia can be found in the respective Gospels for those days:

Saturday of the 2nd week of Lent: the imposition of the hands

Mark 6, 1-5:
Et non poterat ibi virtutem ullam facere, nisi paucos infirmos impositis manibus sanabat.

Saturday of the 3rd week of Lent: the unction with the oil of the Catechumens

Mark 6, 7:
et daemonia multa ejiciebant, et ungebant oleo multos infirmos, et sanabant.

Saturday of the 4th week of Lent: the imposition of the sign of the cross on the forehaed

Matth. 19, 13-15:
et cum imposuisset eis manibus, benedicebat eos

Saturday of the 5th week of Lent: the Traditio Symboli.

The Creed is solemny sung during the ferial Mass.

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