Tuesday, July 14, 2009

THE COMMON OF VIRGINS

“Virgin Annunciate”
by Antonello da Messina, c. 1476
THE COMMON OF VIRGINS

Alternate Readings Numbers 731-736 [1]

Readings and Commentary: [2]

731 READING 1
FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT


First Option
Song of Songs 8:6-7

Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the nether world is devotion;
its flames are a blazing fire.
Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away.
Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love,
he would be roundly mocked.
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Commentary on
Sgs 8:6-7

This short phrase from a love song in Song of Songs begins with the notion of undying fidelity in love. ("Set me as a seal on your heart – Seal: this could be worn bound to the arm, as here, or suspended at the neck, or as a ring (Jeremiah 22:24). It was used for identification and signatures. Stern . . . relentless: in human experience, death and the nether world are inevitable, unrelenting; in the end they always triumph. Love, which is just as certain of its victory, matches its strength against the natural enemies of life; waters cannot extinguish it nor floods carry it away. It is more priceless than all riches.”)[3] In this context the image of chaste love of God reflects the virgin’s virtue.

CCC: Sgs 8:6-7 1611; Sgs 8:6 1040, 1295
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Second Option
Hosea 2:16bc, 17cd, 21-22

Thus says the LORD:
I will lead her into the desert
and speak to her heart.
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth,
when she came up from the land of Egypt.
I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.
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Commentary on
Hos 2:16bc, 17cd, 21-22

The Prophet Hosea, voicing God’s hope for the people of Israel, speaks as a husband might address a wife. (In later parts of the book Israel is like the wife who was unfaithful.) In this selection, speaking with the voice of God to the Hebrew people, he sounds as if he is wooing his future bride.  He tells them that if they will be faithful, because God’s love and mercy is eternal, that God is always faithful. In Hebrew tradition this courtship would include the gifts for the bride (cf Genesis 24:53)

CCC: Hos 2 218; Hos 2:21-22 2787
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732 READING 1
FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT
DURING THE SEASON OF EASTER


First Option
Revelation 19:1, 5-9a

I, John, heard what sounded like the loud voice
of a great multitude in heaven, saying:

"Alleluia!
Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God."

A voice coming from the throne said:

"Praise our God, all you his servants,
and you who revere him, small and great."

Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude
or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder,
as they said:

"Alleluia!
The Lord has established his reign,
our God, the almighty.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
his bride has made herself ready.
She was allowed to wear
a bright, clean linen garment."
The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.

Then the angel said to me,
"Write this:
Blessed are those who have been called
to the wedding feast of the Lamb."
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Commentary on
Rev 19:1, 5-9a

“A victory song follows, sung by the entire church, celebrating the marriage of the Lamb, the union of the Messiah with the community of the elect.”
[4] The significance of this passage as it relates especially to martyrs is the earlier reference to the “white robed” martyrs who have “have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelations 7:14). The wedding feast to which they are invited indicates their reception into the fullness of the Heavenly Kingdom.
CCC: Rv 19:1-8 2642; Rv 19:1-9 677; Rv 19:6 865; Rv 19:7 757, 1602, 1612; Rv 19:9 1329, 1602, 1612
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Second Option
Revelation 21:1-5a

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning,
wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away."

The One who sat on the throne said,
"Behold, I make all things new."
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Commentary on
Rv 21:1-5a

In this selection from St. John’s Revelation, John has a vision of the “New Heaven” and the "New Earth,” after Christ begins his reign at God’s right hand. The "New Jerusalem," is the image of God’s Church, viewed as the bride with Christ the bridegroom. In the "New Jerusalem" (the Church), God dwells, and there he will show his tender mercy (“He will wipe every tear from their eyes”). The old order is washed away: “Behold, I make all things new” (see also Isaiah 43:18ff, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Galatians 6:15).

CCC: Rv 21:1-22:5 117; Rv 21:1-2 756; Rv 21:1 1043; Rv 21:2-4 677; Rv 21:2 757, 1045, 2016; Rv 21:3 756, 2676; Rv 21:4 1044, 1186; Rv 21:5 1044
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733 RESPONSORIAL PSALM

First Option
Psalm 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17

R. (11) Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
or:
R. The bridegroom is here; let us go out to meet Christ the Lord.

Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father's house.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord, and you must worship him.

R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
or:
R. The bridegroom is here; let us go out to meet Christ the Lord.

All glorious is the king's daughter as she enters;
her raiment is threaded with spun gold.
In embroidered apparel she is borne in to the king;
behind her the virgins of her train are brought to you.

R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
or:
R. The bridegroom is here; let us go out to meet Christ the Lord
.

They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
The place of your fathers your sons shall have;
you shall make them princes through all the land.

R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
or:
R. The bridegroom is here; let us go out to meet Christ the Lord.
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Commentary on
Ps 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17

Psalm 45 is a Royal Psalm originally sung in honor of the King’s marriage to a queen (of foreign extraction). It is likely that it influenced St. Paul’s instructions on virgins and marriage; it emphasizes the beauty of the sacramental relationship (see 1 Corinthians 7:25-35).


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Second Option
Psalm 148:1bc-2, 11-12, 13, 14

R. (see 12a and 13a) Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights;
Praise him, all you his angels,
praise him, all you his hosts.

R. Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Let the kings of the earth and all peoples,
the princes and all the judges of the earth,
Young men, too, and maidens,
old men and boys,
Praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted.

R. Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

His majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has lifted up the horn of his people.
Be this his praise from all his faithful ones;
from the children of Israel,
the people close to him. Alleluia.

R. Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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Commentary on
Ps 148:1bc-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Psalm 148 is a hymn of praise. In this selection we find the psalmist singing of the omnipotence of God, His power and majesty, and his promise of salvation.

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734 READING II FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT

First Option


1 Corinthians 7:25-35

In regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord,
but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.
So this is what I think best because of the present distress:
that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation.
Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife.
If you marry, however, you do not sin,
nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries;
but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life,
and I would like to spare you that.

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.
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Commentary on 1 Cor 7:25-35

St. Paul gives his opinion (“Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord”) as opposed to a definitive requirement. It is his feeling that the Christians are already living in the “end times” and that the Parousia, Christ’s second coming is imminent. The language he uses is quite similar to “the time of distress” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:15 and Luke 21:23. His comments about “virgins” refer to both male and female and scholars question whether St. Paul is aware of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:12 concerning the gift of the marital vocation. The Apostle therefore tells the Corinthians that they should moderate their behavior (not immerse themselves), anticipating the final resurrection.

CCC: 1 Cor 7:26 672; 1 Cor 7:31 1619; 1 Cor 7:32 1579, 1618; 1 Cor 7:34-36 922; 1 Cor 7:34-35 506
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Second Option

2 Corinthians 10:17-11:2

Brothers and sisters:
"Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord."
For it is not the one who recommends himself who is approved,
but the one whom the Lord recommends.
If only you would put up with a little foolishness from me!
Please put up with me.
For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God,
since I betrothed you to one husband
to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
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Commentary on 2 Cor 10:17-11:2

St. Paul, in these chapters from his second letter to the Corinthians, is in the middle of a defense of his own ministry. He tells them that rather than immodestly boasting about his own forceful proclamation of the Gospel, he boasts only in Christ who accomplishes all good works through those chosen by him, not those who put themselves forward bragging of what they accomplished. The reading concludes reminding the faithful that God has adopted them (St. Paul’s jealousy is of that adoption). His feelings, as he hands them on to Christ in faith, are those of a father who gives his virgin daughter to her husband, in this case Christ.

Presented to us on the feast of St. Lucy, we see in those concluding remarks from Ch. 11 the heroic virtue of the virgin saint as she embraces her martyrdom infused with the love of one betrothed to Christ.

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736 GOSPEL

First Option
Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?"
He said in reply,
"Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate."
They said to him,
"Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman
a bill of divorce and dismiss her?"
He said to them,
"Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery."
His disciples said to him,
"If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry."
He answered, "Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it."
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Commentary on
Mt 19:3-12

This passage from Matthew’s Gospel is foundational to our understanding of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Here we find Jesus challenged by Pharisees (possibly being asked to take sides in an argument but more likely to be tricked). Jesus' comments on the origins of marriage and its sanctity are attacked again using Mosaic Law. Jesus once more goes back to the Father’s intent but does give an out – “unless the marriage is unlawful,” that is, the sacramental bond did not exist from the beginning.


The discourse then switches to one between Jesus and his disciples as they discuss the idea of living the celibate life. Again the Lord tells them that this is not for everyone but “only for those to whom that is granted.” The Gospel links the call to marriage and celibacy; both are gifts from God.

CCC: Mt 19:1-12 2364; Mt 19:3-12 1620; Mt 19:3-9 2382; Mt 19:4 1652; Mt 19:6-12 2053; Mt 19:6 796, 1605, 1614, 1644, 2336, 2380; Mt 19:7-9 2382; Mt 19:8 1610, 1614; Mt 19:10 1615; Mt 19:11 1615; Mt 19:12 922, 1579, 1618
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Second Option
Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
`Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
`Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.'
But the wise ones replied,
`No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.'
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
`Lord, Lord, open the door for us!'
But he said in reply,
`Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.'
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour."
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Commentary on
Mt 25:1-13

St. Matthew’s Gospel gives us the parable of the Ten Virgins continuing the Gospel theme of preparedness and vigilance (although strictly speaking this parable is about foresight). In this story the idea of vigilance is expanded to include being prepared. The Jewish wedding customs of the time would have dictated a procession [at night] from the house of the bride to the house of the groom. The whole act is symbolic of the coming of the messianic era also portrayed as a wedding in Matthew 9:15, Matthew 22:1-14 and John 3:29. The wise virgins brought oil for their lamps while the foolish ones did not. The oil is interpreted by some scholars as referring to good works.

The overarching symbolism is the lamp of faith (light of the indwelling Holy Spirit) being kept burning with oil (good works). Hence, without good works (oil), the lamp will not continue to burn (James 2:17) and the virgins, so deprived of light, are excluded from the heavenly kingdom.

CCC: Mt 25:1-13 672, 796; Mt 25:1 672; Mt 25:6 1618; Mt 25:13 672
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Third Option
Luke 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."
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Commentary on Lk 10:38-42

In this encounter with Martha and Mary in St. Luke’s Gospel, we see two distinct messages. First, we see the importance of the role of women and Jesus’ attitude toward them. Second we see the importance of listening to the word of God: "Mary has chosen the better part."


The selection emphasizes the importance of listening to the teachings of the Lord. While in some early texts the Lord tells Martha there is “need for only a few things,” or of one, the message is clear, Mary, in assuming the role of disciple (listening at the master’s feet) has chosen the correct or better role. Martha, concerning herself with the requirements of hospitality (old law) has chosen the lesser.

“Mystically (St. Gregory the Great, Moralia 2, 6): the two women signify two dimensions of the spiritual life. Martha signifies the active life as she busily labors to honor Christ through her work. Mary exemplifies the contemplative life as she sits attentively to listen and learn from Christ. While both activities are essential to Christian living, the latter is greater than the former. For in heaven the active life terminates, while the contemplative life reaches its perfection.”[5]


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[1] The picture is “Virgin Annunciate” by Antonello da Messina, c. 1476
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] See NAB footnote for Song of Songs 8:4-7
[4] See NAB footnote for Revelations 19:5-10
[5] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp. 129

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