Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where's Blessed Reginald of Orléans, O.P.?

Servites? I thought this was a Dominican blog? Shouldn't we be celebrating the Memorial of Blessed Reginald of Orléans today? [grumble, grumble, murmur, murmur ...]

Hold your horses and cool your jets, as they say. Reginald will have his due, but next week, on the 17th. Why? Well, one of the goals of this blog, as a personal project, was to acquaint myself more deeply with the heritage of the Order of Preachers through an encounter and engagement with the cycle of readings in the Dominican missal. The older cycle presents some interesting challenges from a homiletic perspective, at least for those of us familiar with the lectionaries in use for Mass since 1970. For the ordinary form of the Mass, the cycle of readings is largely uninterrupted, and so on the memorials of saints, one generally reads the lessons of the day. This allows for the interesting encounter of the saint whose feast is celebrated and passages from Scripture which may have no obvious connection with the life of the saint. Moreover, since the date of the memorial moves through the week from year to year, and since there are two yearly cycles of readings, this allows for an interesting variety and set of perspectives from the Scriptures to enlighten or be enlightened by the saint whom we celebrate.

For the older cycle of readings, the challenge was and is different. Here, the readings for saints, even for memorials, is fixed, and will remain the same whatever day of the week the feast is celebrated. There is also a smaller array of lessons for the whole number of saints, which means that, ceteris paribus, the same Epistle and Gospel will be read for saints of the same type (i.e. martyrs, virgins, abbots, etc.) even though the saints themselves differ. Indeed, when there is not the feast of a saint, the lessons will, outside of Lent and a some other occasions, simply be drawn from the preceding Sunday. This situation calls for different strategies for preaching. If the virtue of the cycle for the ordinary form is its variety and mutability from year to year, calling on a kind of broad creativity to prevent the celebration from seeming arbitrary, then the virtue of the extraordinary form seems to be precisely its sameness and stability, calling on a richness of vision and attentiveness to deeper meanings to prevent a (in a negative sense) repetitive encounter with God's Word.

Well, that's what I think now in any case. We'll see as the project progresses.

In the meantime, if you have celebrated Bl. Reginald today, give the Servites their due. If you have not honored Reginald, you'll have another chance next week, on the 17th, where the older date of his memorial falls.

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