Sunday, July 26, 2020

Durandus on This Sunday’s Introit

William Durandus explains why the Introit of the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost is repeated from the feast of the Purification. “There follows the Eighth Sunday, on which the Church teaches us to avoid all vanity. For this must be the effect of its teaching within us, because in its teaching it teaches us to become spiritual men, and be removed from bodily desires, unto the likeness of the Blessed Virgin, whose feast (i.e. the Assumption) is approaching. For this reason the Introit begins, ‘We have received Thy mercy’, that is, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, given to us out of mercy, ‘in the midst of Thy temple’, that is, in Thy universal Church. ‘According to Thy name, o God’, for God is named everywhere; ‘so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth’, that is, everywhere. For the ‘temple’ is also the Blessed Virgin, in whom we have truly received the mercy of God; wherefore, reasonable do we sing the current Introit around the time of Her feast, since she is the temple of the Lord, and the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit.” (Rationale Divinorum Officium, VI.122.1)

Durandus’ understanding that on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost the Church “teaches us to avoid vanity”, depends on an assumed correspondence between the Scriptural readings at Matins and specific Sundays, based on a rather late date for Easter, and a period of 24 weeks after Pentecost. This would put the Eighth Sunday on the second Sunday of August, when the Scriptural readings at Matins are taken from Ecclesiastes, with its famous opening words “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.” In point of fact, this correspondence rarely occurs because of the variable date for Easter; the Eighth Sunday can fall as early as July 5th, which is closer to the Visitation (which did not exist as a feast in Durandus’ time) than the Assumption. For all this, we can nevertheless appreciate his understanding that the Church’s received liturgical texts, like the Scriptures themselves, may be explained as having a mystical significance greater than their mere letter.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: