Sunday, February 04, 2024

Sexagesima Sunday 2024

Truly it is worthy and just... almighty and eternal God: Who, lest the rational creation give itself over to the pursuit of temporal goods, and direct itself not to everlasting rewards, deignest to teach and direct it in such a way that it faltereth not at Thy chastisement, and groweth not insolent in prosperity; but rather, such becometh its glorious devotion, that by no adversity is it overwhelmed and conquered. Through Christ our Lord. (An ancient preface for Sexagesima Sunday.)
The Great Flood, by Paolo Uccello, in the so-called “green cloister” of Santa Maria Novella, the older of the two Dominican churches in Florence. It was an odd custom of certain Renaissance artists to represent the ark as a pyramid, as Uccello does here, rather than as a boat; the same was done by Lorenzo Ghiberti in a panel of the east doors of the Florentine Baptistery.
Qui rationabilem creaturam, ne temporalibus dedita bonis, ad praemia sempiterna non tendat, ea dispensatione dignaris erudire, ut nec castigatione deficiat, nec prosperitatibus insolescat. Sed hoc potius fiat eius gloriosa devotio, quo nullis adversitatibus obruta superetur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. (The VD here is taken from the apposite page of the Gellone Sacramentary.)

- This Preface is unusual in that it seems to refer, albeit obliquely, to the readings of the Divine Office on the liturgical day on which it is used, which on Sexagesima and the days after are about Noah and the Flood. (Genesis 6-8) The “rational creation” is Man, who before the Flood was given over entirely to “the pursuit of temporal goods”; having once been punished with destruction by the Flood, he is now chastised in such a way that he does not falter, but grows in devotion. The word “chastisement – castigatio” derives from the verb “castigare”, which is also used in several places in the liturgy of Lent, for which the season of Septuagesima prepares us, in reference to the discipline of fasting. Likewise, the word “devotion” occurs twenty times in the Missal during Lent and Holy Week. I believe the words of the Preface “obruta superetur – overwhelmed and conquered” are a reference also the words of the Song of Songs 8, 7, which refer back to the Flood, “Many waters cannot quench charity, neither will the floods drown it (obruent illam).”

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