Sunday, March 07, 2010

Thoughts on the Offertory and Communion Propers for the Third Sunday in Lent

One of the great joys of praying the Divine Office is being able to immerse oneself, morning after morning, evening after evening, day after day, in the Psalms of David.

The psalms can teach us many things; they can teach of the compunction we should have for our sins and shortcomings, they can give us words of Divine praise, and they can teach of the trust we should have in the Lord who provides for us -- to name only a few of the treasures found therein. They also contain some very beautiful and very rich imagery.

I mention this because, today, the Third Sunday in Lent, I was struck by two very beautiful propers found in the Mass (in both forms), which include particularly rich and poetic imagery from the psalms; imagery which comes in the context of creation. I am speaking of the Offertory verse taken from Psalm 18 and the Communion verse from Psalm 83:

The justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts, and His judgments are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb: for Thy servant keepeth them.
-- Offertory (Ps. 18: 9, 11, 12)

The sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest, where she may lay her young ones: Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God: blessed are they that shall praise Thee forever and ever.
-- Communion (Ps. 83: 4-5)

Aside from the primary spiritual content of these propers, which speak to the sweetness of God's law and the joy of communion with God, both in the Mass and ultimately in Heaven, it seems to me another lesson may come forth from these prayers: how God blesses us with and speaks to us through His creation.

In our modern age, so urban in character, so fast-paced and so technologically driven; so divorced from nature and from the seasons, it is all too easy to forget or ignore these simple, natural blessings and realities; blessings and realities in which, as the catechism reminds us, "God speaks to man through", speaking to "both his greatness and his nearness." (para. 1147) Accordingly, it seems to me that we would do well to be more conscious of and attentive to these things, for they indeed have the ability to bring us closer to God, and remind us that all that we have, ultimately comes from Him; that we can trust in Him and His Divine Providence.

By extension, I believe this serves as yet another reminder of the great richness of the Propers of the Mass, and how we should take time to reflect upon them, for within them the Church presents us with many spiritual treasures.

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