Sunday, May 11, 2014

Matins Canticles for Eastertide: Zephaniah 3:8-13

The last of the Third Nocturn Canticles said at Matins during Eastertide is from the prophet Zephaniah.

Easter 3: Zephaniah (Sophonia) 3:8-13
1.  Exspecta me, dicit Dominus, in die resurrectionis meæ in futurum: quia judicium meum ut congregem gentes, et colligam regna,
Wherefore expect me, saith the Lord, in the day of my resurrection that is to come, for my judgment is to assemble the Gentiles, and to gather the kingdoms
2.  Et effundam super eos indignationem meam, omnem iram furoris mei
and to pour upon them my indignation, all my fierce anger
3.  In igne enim zeli mei devorabitur omnis terra.
for with the fire of my jealousy shall all the earth be devoured. 
4.  Quia tunc reddam populis labium electum, ut invocent omnes in nomine Domini, et serviant ei humero uno
  Because then I will restore to the people a chosen lip, that all may call upon the name of the Lord, and may serve him with one shoulder
5.  Ultra flumina Æthiopiæ, inde supplices mei; filii dispersorum meorum deferent munus mihi. 
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, shall my suppliants the children of my dispersed people bring me an offering.
6.  In die illa non confunderis super cunctis adinventionibus tuis, quibus prævaricata es in me,
In that day thou shalt not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me
7.  Quia tunc auferam de medio tui magniloquos superbiæ tuæ, et non adjicies exaltari amplius in monte sancto meo.
for then I will take away out of the midst of thee thy proud boasters, and thou shalt no more be lifted up because of my holy mountain. 
8.  Et derelinquam in medio tui populum pauperem et egenum: et sperabunt in nomine Domini.
And I will leave in the midst of thee a poor and needy people: and they shall hope in the name of the Lord. 
9.  Reliquiæ Israël non facient iniquitatem, nec loquentur mendacium, et non invenietur in ore eorum lingua dolosa,
The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:
10.  Quoniam ipsi pascentur, et accubabunt, et non erit qui exterreat.
for they shall feed, and shall lie down, and there shall be none to make them afraid.

 It is in the nature of Old Testament prophesies that they often refer simultaneously to several different separate sets of events, including those at the time the prophet was writing, which in the case of Zephaniah (Sophronius) was under King Josiah (circa 635-630 BC); to the time of the Incarnation; to our own times; and to the Second Coming.  This particular Canticle is a nice example of this.

The Old Catholic Encyclopedia's take on the verses that come immediately before the canticle, and its opening, is all too pertinent to the Church of our time:

"The Prophet then turns again to Jerusalem: "Woe to the provoking, and redeemed city. . . She hath not hearkened to the voice, neither hath she received discipline"; the severest reckoning will be required of the aristocrats and the administrators of the law (as the leading classes of the civil community), and of the Prophets and priests, as the directors of public worship."

Haydock's Commentary on verses 1-3 (in the liturgical arrangement of the text) also point to its relevance to New Testament times, as well as to the Second Coming:

"About forty years after Christ's resurrection, the Jews for the most part continuing obstinate, Titus ruined their city; which is a figure of the world's destruction, and of the eternal punishment of the wicked... After the resurrection, the Church was to be gathered from all nations. Christ will rise again at the last day to judge all."

The main content of the canticle though, encourages us to look forward to the future,  It is, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"A consolatory prophecy, or prophetic glance at the Kingdom of God of the future, in which all the world, united in one faith and one worship, will turn to one God, and the goods of the Messianic Kingdom, whose capital is the daughter of Sion, will be enjoyed..."

Above all though, the canticle invites us to be part of the faithful, purified remnant, the Church, whose sins will not be held against them (v6-7), and can act rightly through grace, a status made possible by the Resurrection. 

I've included Brenton's translation from the Septuagint from the Septuagint, as well as Knox's translation in a table below, as I think the Septuagint gives a better sense of the Messianic content of the Canticle, and both translations are a lot easier to understand than the Douay-Rheims!

Brenton from the Septuagint
Therefore wait upon me, saith the Lord, until the day when I rise up for a witness: because my judgment shall be on the gatherings of the nations, to draw to me kings,
Hope, then, is none, till the day, long hence, when I will stand revealed; what gathering, then, of the nations, all kingdoms joined in one!
to pour out upon them all my fierce anger:
And upon these, my doom is, vengeance shall fall, fierce anger of mine shall fall;
for the whole earth shall be consumed with the fire of my jealousy
the whole earth shall be consumed with the fire of my slighted love. 
For then will I turn to the peoples a tongue for her generation, that all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve him under one yoke. 
And after that, all the peoples of the world shall have pure lips, invoking one and all the Lord’s name, straining at a single yoke in the Lord’s service. 
From the boundaries of the rivers of Ethiopia will I receive my dispersed ones; they shall offer sacrifices to me. 
From far away, beyond Ethiop rivers, my suppliants shall come to me, sons of my exiled people the bloodless offering shall bring
In that day thou shalt not be ashamed of all thy practices, wherein thou hast transgressed against me
No need, then, to blush for wayward thoughts that defied me;
for then will I take away from thee thy disdainful pride, and thou shalt no more magnify thyself upon my holy mountain
gone from thy midst the high-sounding boast; no room, in that mountain sanctuary of mine, for pride henceforward
And I will leave in thee a meek and lowly people; and the remnant of Israel shall fear the name of the Lord,
a poor folk and a friendless I will leave in thy confines, but one that puts its trust in the Lord’s name.
and shall do no iniquity, neither shall they speak vanity; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:
The remnant of Israel, strangers now to treachery and wrong, the true word ever on their lips!
for they shall feed, and lie down, and there shall be none to terrify them.
Yonder flock may graze and lie down to rest, none to dismay it. 

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