Liturgical Notes: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Today is designated the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; seven is, of course, a mystic number in both sacred Scripture and the sacred liturgy. In the Sequence at Pentecost we ask for the sevenfold gift of the Holy Ghost:
Da tuis fidelibus
In te confidentibus,
Grant to Thy faithful,
trusting in Thee,
The sacred sevenfold gift.
Fear of God
The first of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost is the fear of God. Saint Benedict places the fear of God in the first degree of humility.
The first degree of humility, then, is that a man, always keeping the fear of God before his eyes, avoid all forgetfulness; and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded, bethinking himself that those who despise God will be consumed in hell for their sins, and that life everlasting is prepared for them that fear Him. And keeping himself at all times from sin and vice, whether of the thoughts, the tongue, the hands, the feet, or his own will, let him thus hasten to cut off the desires of the flesh. (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter VII)
The seventh of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost is wisdom; it is the gift by which we are able to perceive the workings of Divine Providence, savour their rightness, and find joy on them.
We prayed in the Collect:
O God, whose providence in the ordering of all things never fails; we humbly beseech Thee to put away from us all harmful things, and to give us those things which are profitable for us.
The gift of wisdom enables a soul to recognise the providence of God in the ordering of all things, and to confess that the providence of God never fails. The gift of wisdom moves a soul to pray rightly by asking God to “put away from us all harmful things, and to give us those things which are profitable for us”.
The Great King
The conjunction of the number seven together with today’s Matins lessons from First Kings suggests that the gift of wisdom, exemplified in King Solomon, is the particular grace of today’s liturgy. At the very beginning of Holy Mass, in the verse of the Introit, the figure of the great King appeared:
For the Lord is most high, He is terrible; He is a great King over all the earth. (Psalm 46:2)
The central figure of today’s Holy Mass is, in fact, the great King Solomon: a shining figure of Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, and the Prince of Peace. Does not Our Lord Himself say:
The queen of the south will rise up with this generation at the day of judgement, and will leave it without excuse; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42)
The Gradual of today’s Mass hearkens back to the wise Solomon and points ahead to Christ, the Wisdom of the Father.
Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Come ye to Him and be enlightened: and your faces shall not be confounded.
It is by reading all of today’s proper texts through the image of Solomon, and by recognising in Solomon, the Lord Christ, our true King, as Saint Benedict calls Him in the Prologue, that we can make a beginning in bringing forth good fruit (Gospel, Matthew 8:16–20). The Offertory Antiphon, taken from Daniel 3:40, was chosen to remind us of Solomon’s lavish sacrifice at Gabon after the establishment of his kingship.
He went therefore to Gabaon, to sacrifice there: for that was the great high place: a thousand victims for holocausts did Solomon offer upon that altar in Gabaon. And the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, saying: Ask what thou wilt that I should give thee. (3 Kings 3:4–5)
Thus do we sing in the Offertory Antiphon:
As in holocausts of rams, and bullocks, and as in thousands of fat lambs: so let our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day, that it may please thee: for there is no confusion to them that trust in thee, O Lord.
It was after offering this immense sacrifice that God prompted Solomon to make his prayer. Solomon asked for wisdom:
Give therefore to thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, and discern between good and evil. (3 Kings 3:9)
The Communion Antiphon will press us to make Solomon’s prayer our own, and this, at the very moment of receiving Divine Wisdom, the object of Solomon’s request.
Bow down Thy ear, make haste to deliver me. (Psalm 30:3)
Solomon’s petition pleased God:
And the Lord said to Solomon: Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life or riches, nor the lives of thy enemies, but hast asked for thyself wisdom to discern judgment, Behold I have done for thee according to thy words, and have given thee a wise and understanding heart, insomuch that there hath been no one like thee before thee, nor shall arise after thee. (3 Kings 3:11–12)
The Offertory Antiphon also points to the apotheosis of Solomon’s reign: the dedication of the Temple, which was celebrated with the sacrifice of sheep and oxen too many to be counted:
And king Solomon, and all the multitude of Israel, that were assembled unto him went with him before the ark, and they sacrificed sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord into its place, into the oracle of the temple, into the holy of holies under the wings of the cherubims. (3 Kings 8:5–6)
The Sacrifice of Christ
The Offertory Antiphon leads directly into the Secret, which elucidates it and shows the fulfilment of the sacrifices of the great King Solomon in the one sacrifice of Christ, the true Solomon, the true Temple, the true Priest, the true Victim:
O God who, in this one sacrifice, has perfected the offering of the many victims prescribed under the Old Law: receive this same sacrifice offered by Thy devoted servants and sanctify it with a blessing, like unto that which Thou didst bestow upon the offerings of Abel, that what each one of us has brought here to the glory of Thy name, may profit all unto salvation.
Participation in the Holy Sacrifice, by the worthy reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, causes a soul to become a good tree “planted in the house of the Lord”
The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus. They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God. They shall still increase in a fruitful old age: and shall be well treated, that they may shew, That the Lord our God is righteous, and there is no iniquity in him. (Psalm 91:13–16)
Healing and Deliverance
The Postcommunion is linked to the Epistle (Romans 6:19–23), and makes explicit the benefits of today’s Holy Communion: the healing of the infirmity of man’s flesh, and the making over to God of members formerly made over to uncleanness and iniquity :
May Thy healing work in our souls mercifully free us from our perverse inclinations, O Lord, and lead us ever to do that which is right in Thy sight.