The countdown to Lent continues as we reach Quinquagesima Sunday, and at I Vespers of Sunday (Saturday Vespers), the Magnificat antiphon refers to Sunday Matins readings from Genesis 12.
The Gospel for this Sunday is Luke 18:31-43 – Jesus tells the apostles of his coming Passion but they don’t understand (Benedictus antiphon); and he heals a blind man on the road to Jericho (Magnificat antiphon).
Here is the text of the Gospel:
"And taking the twelve, he said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise." But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging; and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." And he cried, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me receive my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God."
The Patristic commentary on the Gospel for Matins is by St Gregory:
"Our Redeemer, foreseeing that the minds of His disciples would be troubled by His suffering, told them long before both of the pains of that suffering, and of the glory of His rising again, to the end that, when they should see Him die as He had prophesied, they might not doubt that He was likewise to rise again. But, since His disciples were yet carnal, and could not receive the words telling of this mystery, He wrought a miracle before them. A blind man received his sight before their eyes, that if they could not receive heavenly things by words, they might be persuaded of heavenly things by deeds.
But, dearly beloved brethren, we must so take the miracles of our Lord and Saviour, as believing both that they were actually wrought, and that they have some mystic interpretation for our instruction. For in His works, power speaks one thing and mystery again another. Behold here, for instance. We know not historically who this blind man was, but we do know of what he was mystically the figure.
Mankind is blind, driven out from Eden in the persons of his first parents, knowing not the light of heaven, and suffering the darkness of condemnation. But, nevertheless, through the coming of his Redeemer, he is enlightened, so that now he sees by hope already the gladness of inward light, and walks by good works in the path of life. One must note that as Jesus drew to Jericho a blind man received his sight. Now, this name Jericho, being interpreted, signifies the city of the moon and in Holy Scripture the moon is used as a figure of our imperfect flesh, of whose gradual corruption her monthly waning is a type.
As, therefore, our Maker draws nigh to Jericho, a blind man receives his sight. While the Godhead takes into itself our weak manhood, man receives again the light which he had lost. By God's suffering in the Manhood, man is raised up toward God. This blind man is also well described as sitting by the wayside begging for the Truth saith I am the Way.''
This week in the Office
This week marks the start of Lent, with Ash Wednesday (Feb 22). The rubrics for the Office, however, essentially do not change from those of Septuagesimatide until next week, reflecting the fact that the four days from Wednesday are a 'later' (sixth century!) addition to the length of Lent intended to bring it up to the forty Scriptural days.
The key thing to note, though, is that at both Lauds and Vespers the canticles have an antiphon specific to the day (MD 180*)ff, as well as specific collects to be used. The collect set for Lauds is also used from Matins to None.
Saints in the Office this week
There are two saints celebrated in the traditional Benedictine Office (and EF calendar) this week:
St Walburga OSB.