|Our Lord Would Like to See You after Class.
The Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin & Martyr.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Zephaniah 3: 1-2, 9-13.
• Psalm 34: 2-3, 6-7, 17-19, 23.
• Matthew 21: 28-32.
…or, from the proper:
• II Corinthians 10: 17—11: 2.
• Psalm 31: 3-4, 6, 8, 16-17.
• Matthew 25: 1-13.
…or, any lessons from the common of Martyrs for a Virgin Martyr, or the common of Virgins for One Virgin.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Lucy, Virgin & Martyr; and, the Commemoration of the Third Tuesday of Advent.**
Lesson from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Corinthians 10: 17-18; 11: 1-2.
• Psalm 44: 8, 3.
• Matthew 13: 44-52.
The Thirtieth Tuesday after Pentecost, the Fifth of Philip's Fast; the Feast of the Holy Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius & Orestes; and, the Feast of the Holy Virgin Martyr Lucy.***
First & third lessons from the menaion for the Martyrs, second & fourth from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Ephesians 6: 1--17.
• Hebrews 12: 25-26; 13: 22-25.
• Luke 21: 12-19.
• Mark 8: 22-26.
9:43 AM 12/13/2016 — As you know, throughout the Holy Gospels our Lord is constantly teaching, and every teacher has his or her own style. Socrates taught by asking questions. Our Lord uses a Jewish rabbinic style proper to the middle east: He tells stories; we call them parables. They're not meant to be gripping yarns; in fact, as stories go, they're pretty pedestrian and sometimes even implausible; the characters in them don't usually act they way normal people do. That's because they're not meant to be realistic, they're meant to make a point, and the line between right and wrong, good and evil, in the parables is drawn very boldly. And the points Our Lord makes in His parables are all very simple; you don't need a secret decoder ring to figure them out. Today's parable is a good example: two fellows are asked by their father to go work in the family vineyard: one of them is very rude to his father and says that he won't go, but then feels guilty about it and goes anyway; the other one bows and scrapes before his father and says, “Oh, yes, father, I'm going right now,” then plays hookey and doesn't go. Our Lord then asks the question, “Which of the two did his father's will?” (Matt. 21: 31 NABRE).
The rabbis He's speaking with get the answer right, of course; how could they not? It's not a difficult question, but whether they've applied the lesson of the parable to themselves is another matter. And the clue that Our Lord is experiencing a very human kind of frustration in this encounter with these Jewish priests and Temple elders is suggested in what He says to them after they've answered the question: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you” (v. 31 NABRE). He couldn't have chosen a more insulting thing to say to them. The Greek word that's actually used here is προάγουσιν, from which comes the English word to progress or move forward or, literally, “move ahead of.” Think about that. Here are the holy men of Jewish society in Jerusalem, the priests and elders of the Temple;—think of them as your pastor and the parish council—and, Msgr. Knox, in his translation, captures what Our Lord is actually saying: that tax collectors and prostitutes are “further on the road to God’s kingdom than you” (v. 31 Knox). Our Lord couldn't have chosen two examples more insulting with which to compare these people. It's one thing to sin out of weakness, as we all do;—that's why we go to confession—but, a prostitute is someone who makes her living by means of sin. And as for tax collectors … well, who doesn't hate the IRS? And Our Lord is telling them that both of these kinds of people are further along the road to holiness than they are.
The basic point of Our Lord's parable is neither earth-shattering nor profound:—very few of his parables are—He's simply reminding them of how important it is for them to practice what they preach, the point of the parable being that it's not what you say that's important; it's what you do that matters. That's sound advice for any priest or rabbi or minister or anyone who, because of his vocation, has to speak for God; it's not exactly rocket science. Could the point have been made more gently? Of course. So, why does He resort to shock and awe? And here is where we must read between the lines and appreciate what is clearly Our Lord's sense of human frustration. It wasn't that the rabbis and Temple fathers didn't understand the point of the parable;—they got the answer to the question right, so they understood the lesson—but they had failed to apply it to themselves. And don't we do exactly the same thing? We come to Holy Mass, we hear the Word of God proclaimed to us, we hear the homily of the priest who attempts to apply the words of our Lord to our own lives; and yet, what is it we so often find ourselves thinking? “Gee, I hope So-and-so heard that!” And that's only if we're thinking anything at all, other than, “I hope he shuts up soon because it's time for lunch.”
Well, he's going to shut up right now, but here's the point: it isn't enough to come to Mass; it isn't even enough to pray the Mass with devotion, as important as that is. What really matters is what we do after it's over, how hearing the Holy Word of God and receiving our Lord's Sacred Body and Precious Blood causes us to live our lives.
* It is commonly believed that Lucy died in Syracuse, Sicily, around the year 304 under the Emperor Diocletian, and has been venerated in the Church since sub-Apostolic times, though nothing is known for certain about her. She is regarded as patroness of those afflicted with diseases of the eye, probably because her name is derived from the Latin masculine given name Lucius, which means "born at dawn" or "daylight"; thus, she is often associated with festivals of light, particularly in Scandinavia. She is the also the patroness of Syracuse and all Sicily, and is mentioned in the Roman Canon.
** In the extraordinary form during Advent, whenever a feast is observed, the feria is commemorated, but a Mass is not permitted for this commemoration; rather, the commemoration is made at Mass by an additional Collect, Secret and Postcommunion added to those of the feast. The commemoration is made at Lauds and Vespers by adding an additional antiphon, verse and Collect to those of the feast.
*** Cf. the first paragraph of the first footnote attached to the post here for an explanation of Philip's Fast. Today is the fifth Tuesday because the season began on a Tuesday.
The Martyrs whose feast is observed today in the Ruthenian Church along with that of Lucy are believed to have died with her toward the beginning of the fourth century; like Lucy, nothing is known for certain about them. The Melkite Church, among others, commemorates all of them in one feast; the Ruthenian Church separates Lucy from the others (probably in imitation of the Latin Church), but the lessons from the menaion apply to all of them.