Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Great Example of an Expurgated Reading in the New Lectionary

One of the many criticisms raised about the revised lectionary is that it either drops out passages that were a part of the Church’s traditional lectionary for centuries (and are still heard wherever the usus antiquior is in use), or that it heavily edits the passages it does include. As anyone knows who has paid close attention to an usus recentior hand missal, the skipping of verses appears to have been a common pasttime of the designers of the lectionary, and seems practically de rigueur in readings judged to have too much “negativity.”

One could say: Well, you have to skip something, right, if you are going to include so much more of Scripture? Yes, that is quite true. But it is one thing not to read a certain book for want of time; it is quite another to edit a given passage, so that one no longer transmits a faithful picture of what God actually willed to commit to writing for our salvation. Although the ancient cycle of readings in the usus antiquior is much more limited (and this, on purpose!), the readings almost never exclude any verse of the pericope; they are given in full.

I couldn't help thinking about this at an OF Mass a couple of days ago when I heard a reading from the book of Ezra. As I listened to it, the thought nagged me: Isn’t this somehow incomplete? Sure enough, the undemocratic tough stuff had been excised, as I discovered later when looking at the reading. I shall give the reading here in Nabbish, but the excised bits in brackets will be from the Douay-Rheims.

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Lectionary #450
(Ezra 6:7–8, 12b, 14–20)

King Darius issued an order to the officials of West-of-Euphrates:
7 “Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site.
8 I also issue this decree concerning your dealing with these elders of the Jews in the rebuilding of that house of God: From the royal revenue, the taxes of West-of-Euphrates, let these men be repaid for their expenses, in full and without delay.

[OMITTED: 9 And if it shall be necessary, let calves also, and lambs, and kids, for holocausts to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the custom of the priests that are in Jerusalem, be given them day by day, that there be no complaint in any thing.
 10 And let them offer oblations to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his children.
 11 And I have made a decree: That if any whosoever, shall alter this commandment, a beam be taken from his house and set up, and he be nailed upon it, and his house be confiscated.
 12a And may the God, that hath caused his name to dwell there, destroy all kingdoms, and the people that shall put out their hand to resist, and to destroy the house of God, that is in Jerusalem.]

12b I, Darius, have issued this decree; let it be carefully executed.”

[13 So then Thathanai, governor of the country beyond the river, and Stharbuzanai, and his counsellors diligently executed what Darius the king had commanded.]

14 The elders of the Jews continued to make progress in the building, supported by the message of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, son of Iddo. They finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus and Darius and of Artaxerxes, king of Persia.
15 They completed this house on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
16 The children of Israel—priests, Levites, and the other returned exiles—celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.
17 For the dedication of this house of God, they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs, together with twelve he-goats as a sin-offering for all Israel, in keeping with the number of the tribes of Israel.
18 Finally, they set up the priests in their classes and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, as is prescribed in the book of Moses.
19 The exiles kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.
20 The Levites, every one of whom had purified himself for the occasion, sacrificed the Passover for the rest of the exiles, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

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