Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Canticle: Isaiah 33:13-18

Today I want to continue my Sunday series on the canticles used in the third Nocturn at Matins in the Benedictine Office.

The second of the three canticles used during time throughout the year picks up a few verses after the first, and consists of Isaiah 33:13-18a.

Isaiah 33:13-18
1 Audite, qui longe estis, quæ fecerim; et cognoscite, vicini, fortitudinem meam. 
Hear, you that are far off, what I have done, and you that are near know my strength
2 Conterriti sunt in Sion peccatores; possedit tremor hypocritas
The sinners in Sion are afraid, trembling hath seized upon the hypocrites.
3 Quis poterit habitare de vobis cum igne devorante? quis habitabit ex vobis cum ardoribus sempiternis? 
Which of you can dwell with devouring fire? which of you shall dwell with everlasting burnings? 
4 Qui ambulat in justitiis et loquitur veritatem, qui projicit avaritiam ex calumnia, et excutit manus suas ab omni munere,
He that walketh in justices, and speaketh truth, that casteth away avarice by oppression, and shaketh his hands from all bribes,
5 Qui obturat aures suas ne audiat sanguinem, et claudit oculos suos ne videat malum. 
that stoppeth his ears lest he hear blood, and shutteth his eyes that he may see no evil.
6 Iste in excelsis habitabit; munimenta saxorum sublimitas ejus: panis ei datus est, aquæ ejus fideles sunt. 
He shall dwell on high, the fortifications of rocks shall be his highness: bread is given him, his waters are sure.
7 Regem in decore suo videbunt oculi ejus, cernent terram de longe. Cor tuum meditabitur timorem:
His eyes shall see the king in his beauty, they shall see the land far off.  Thy heart shall meditate fear:

The previous canticle of the day asked for God's blessings and protection for his people in the face of external threats - the destroyer who, we are told will himself be destroyed - and points to the evidence of God's judgment on those external enemies.

Today's canticle takes us closer to home: it opens with a warning of the fate of those nominally within the Church, but who are in fact hypocrites: 'the sinners of Sion'.

But it quickly moves to a more positive note, telling us what we must do if we want to dwell in holy city where, as the Knox translation puts it, "bread shall be his for the asking, water from an unfailing spring. Those eyes shall look on the king in his royal beauty, have sight of a land whose frontiers are far away."

What must we do? Pursue justice; speak truth; reject greed and avarice; avoid listening or looking at things that will lead us astray; cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord wherein lies the beginning of wisdom.

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