Sunday, April 1, 2012

Settimana Santa (Holy Week) in the Liturgia Delle Ore (Liturgy of the Hours)

For those who pray the Roman breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Week begins a cycle of some of the finest readings in the divine office. The Pascal cycle features the some of the best lectio in the Office of Readings, the finest complement of Scripture and theological/spiritual selections. I'll personally use the Italian Liturgia Dell Ore.

The selection from Hebrews (Heb 10:1-18) speaks (or should speak) for itself. The selection from Andrea di Creta (Andrew of Crete) may need a little more explication. The revision of the readings in the Liturgia Horarum and all subsequent vernacular editions has not been without some controversy. The Liturgia Horarum/Liturgia Delle Ore abandons the hagiography used in the old Breviarium Romanum and utilizes a broader Patristic base for many of the second readings. I believe there was a conscious attempt to not only situate as much as possible in the Patristic tradition, but indeed to establish a divine office that was (again, as much as possible) anterior to the division between Christian East and Christian West. Andrew of Crete satisfies both goals: an author of the Patristic tradition and prior to the division between the Latin and Greek churches.

A few highlights from Sant'Andrea di Creta:

"Venite, e saliamo insieme sul monte degli Ulvi..." the opening sentence of this lesson recalls the invitatory of the Liturgia Delle Ore, psalm 94, although the reading supplies us with a firm locus point for the action of thanksgiving at the beginning of the psalm. Adoration of the divine is to be located upon the mount of Olives. The intention is not to be literal, but christological; "sul monte degli Ulvi" euphamistically orientates worship upon the person of Christ.

"E` disceso dal cielo, per farci salire con se lassu 'al di sopra di ogni principato e autorita, di ogni potenza e dominazione e di ogni altro nome che si possa nominare'" (cf. Ephesians 1:21) Andrew of Crete explicates the operative effect of the descent of the logos from heaven first (implicitly) among those who believe in him (Andrew's thought echoes Johnanine theology) and next (citing Ephesians) upon the principalities or lesser powers.

The two readings, taken together, are cosmic in scope. Hebrews orientates us to the celestial temple and the radically celestial sacrificial liturgy that has taken place there in by the sacrifice of Christ; the action of Jesus' death has a corresponding action in the eternal that effects the atonement: "Ora, dove c'e` il perdono di queste cose, non c'e` piu` bisogno di offerta per il peccato." (Note: and who says lex orandi, lex credenti has been turned on its head in recent decades?) Andrew of Crete, meanwhile, reminds us of an ancient and at times utterly obscure world view, a conception of reality in which there is not just earth and heaven (and/or hell) and those the that dwell therein. There are those nebulous principalities and dominions and powers creating a web of daemonic (note the spelling) intermediaries, so familiar in the ancient world, constituted somewhere between the visible and the invisible. I hesitate to go much further given my ignorance of Andrew of Crete's angelology and demonology.

In general, today's office of readings sets the pace for il tempo di Pasqua,. There will be a far number of readings which desire to orientate the participant to a greater and more transcendent reality. In one manner of speaking, the many of the readings from Holy Week on evoke the notion of the Sacred similar to Otto's definition. The readings peer into a transcendent other above ourselves, the encounter of which inspires awe, fear, and a realization of our own finite existence in comparison to its transcendence.