The Gospel of Luke is the focus for the Cycle C Sunday Lectionary readings. Luke presents his material not only in a particularly orderly way but also in an especially ordinary gynocentric way as is brought out in the following readings.
The readings for this Sunday suit an examination of the vocation
of motherhood. The two mothers,
Micah is tricky. Micah is a prophet wanting to get from under the Assyrians, without success. What Micah prophesied, relief, never happened as Micah prophesied. That being the case, others revised the prophecy. We must now deal both with the unrevised and revised prophecies.
Luke makes no mention of the prophecy of Micah thereby not needing “Quirinius and his census to get Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, as a form of `prophecy historicized.’” One scholar notes, “Birth of the messiah in Bethlehem may be explicitly dependent on Mic 5:2 but it could have a wider and less specific basis in a typological reading of the story of King David.” That typology leans into the Lukan concern for ordinary poor people.
In its own right, the prophecy of Micah reflects a
dissatisfaction with how the Judaic Kings are ruling with a view to “a new king
who would fulfill the ancient ideal (Isa 8:23-9:6; 11:1-10; Mic 5:1-5; Jer 23:5-6).” In the words of Bauckham, “Jesus’ birth in
verse 1 Thus says the LORD:
small to be among the clans of
from you shall come forth for me
who is to be ruler in
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
verse 2 Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
the children of
verse 3 he shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
verse 4a he shall be peace.
Scholars become exercised when ancient prophecies are twisted away from their original intent. For example, one scholar quotes another, “that interpreting clearly imminent temporal denotations as distant `is worse than ungrammatical and unreasonable, it is immoral.’” Micah is looking for an immediate return from exile. Scholars do not mind if the Evangelists reinterpret the prophecies into a new meaning. What the scholars do mind is attributing the new meaning to the old prophet.
Scholars regard verse 3 as messianic in tone, one of the few such verses in the first Testament. Scholars recognize a divide between Christians, who, after the fact, regard Middle Judaism as highly focused looking for the Messiah, and the contemporaneous Jews themselves, most of whom left little evidence of regard for the promised messiah. As one scholar words it, “the existence of a pervasive Davidic messianism that is, in fact, largely the construct of Christian imagination.”
Another scholar, reviewing the composition of the Micah, comments as follows:
The author of the revision breaks up the flow of the dramatic poetry. He preempts and encircles it with a continuous sub-plot (-13; 4—5; -20) to give Micah’s prophecy a new climax and meaning. The reviser recognizes that the drama is about Samaria and Jerusalem and thus portrays Micah’s prophecy as one extending from the end of the eighth century to the beginning of the seventh (1:1aBb). The revision agrees with the overall thrust of Micah’s drama and its message of hope for better days, but while Micah makes the hope immediate, dramatizing it as something occurring in the present (7:7-9), his editor ties the hope to events that are going to happen in the near or distant future.
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 (4)
As Bauckham puts it, this Psalm is readily
understood as a prayer for God to restore the northern
tribes (cf. v 2 [MT 3]) to the land,
this refrain occurs three times (vv 3,
7, 19, [MT 4, 8, 20]): “Restore us,
O [LORD] God [of hosts]; let your face
shine, that we may be saved.” God’s face shining on the exiles is his favor
bringing them back from exile to the
The Lectionary uses the above passage in the following places:
Readings Page in Verses used
2B 11 2-3, 15-16, 18-19, (4) Fourth Sunday of Advent.
12C 61 2-3, 15-16, 18-19, (4) The readings for today.
138A 871 9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20, (Isaiah 5:7a) 27th Ordinary
verse (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
verse 2 O shepherd
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
verse 3 and come to save us.
The Lectionary does not indicate that verses 2b and 3a are omitted.
The Vulgate (circa 410): (2) Qui pascis
qui deducis velut ovem Ioseph.
Qui sedes super cherubim, effulge
(3) coram Ephraim, Beniamin et Manasse
Excita potentiam tuam et veni,
ut salvos facias nos.
Douay-Rheims (1582-1610): (2) Give ear, O thou that rulest Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. Thou that sittest upon the cherubims: shine forth
Stir up thy might: and come to save us.
(1611): Give ear, O
Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest
between cherubims, shine forth. Before
enthroned on the cherubs, shine
rouse your strength,
come to us and save us!
The King James and
New American (1970): verse
2 Shepherd of
the flock of
From your throne upon the cherubim
Stir up your power, come to save us.
New Jerusalem (1985): Shepherd of
enthroned on the winged creatures, shine forth
rouse your valour
and come to our help.
The image of God as shepherd comes to infiltrate the First
Testament, especially Ezekiel 34 and, in the New Testament,
verse 15 Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted,
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
This verse suits contemplation in a garden of peace. Not only are the people of God analogized as a flock of sheep guarded by God, but also as plants, grown by him. Such a nourishing function suits a gynocentric understanding of the relationship between God and his people.
Scholars regard this verse 15 also as messianic.
This passage is about the sacrificial priesthood of
verse 10 By this “will,” we have been consecrated
the offering of the body of
This verse immediately precedes the Gospel verses.
verse 38 Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.
The Lectionary links
This is the closest the Sunday Lectionary readings come to offering the Magnificat. The Lukan idea remains that the LORD “sets on high those who are lowly.”
The Rosary, “a compendium of the Gospel”
The Rosary is one of the traditional paths of Christian
prayer directed to the contemplation of
. . .
The Joyful Mysteries
20. . . .
Exultation is the keynote of the encounter with
Bauckham observes, “In Elizabeth and her son the Hebrew
Bible/Old Testament culminates, while in
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town
verse 40 where
she entered the house of
verse 41 When
the infant leaped in her womb,
verse 42 cried out in a loud voice and said,
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
Reading the Greek, different parts of the above translation bother me. I am going to try to characterize the various translations for my own spiritual benefit. Saint Jerome used the original documents. Saint Jerome assumed he knew what the Sacred Scriptures said, the problem was getting the translation understandable. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) declared that the Vulgate is divinely inspired. Douay-Rheims translates the Vulgate. To my disappointment, the Douay-Rheims I just received is updated to 2002, “diligently compared with the Hebrew, Greek and other editions in divers languages,” something not on the title page of the Douay-Rheims with which I grew up.
The King James Version reflects the Greek and avoided
the Latin as too Catholic. The King
James Version, ultimately went back to the original documents
Just as the Douay-Rheims is a translation of the Vulgate,
so is the
The New American Bible reflects the relatively
unscholarly influence of the
History teaches to be careful when dealing with the Magisterium. The Holy Spirit works through the Magisterium in ways that too often seem strange to historians. Historians generally present Church History as the history of scandal, which it is not, rather than the history of grace, which it is. The knack here is to accept the current Lectionary, understanding that a revision was built into its original promulgation.
The Vulgate (circa 410):
verse 39 Exsurgens
verse 39 Now in
verse 39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; (40) And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth [English spelling]. (41) And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: (42) And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb. (43) And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (44) For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
New American (1970):
verse 39 During
The holy Spirit in verse 41 is a surprise, because the grammarian observes that the Greek does not refer to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Most blessed is another surprise because the grammarian observes the convoluted Greek is superlative. The Lectionary follows the traditional words of the Hail Mary.
New Jerusalem (1985):
verse 45 Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
In conclusion, the face
of God almighty looks best when ordinary.
Micah points to the ordinary
For more on sources, besides the footnotes, see the Appendix file.
 A word
made up by
NRSV as quoted by
Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus
 Maximilian Zerwick, S.J., English Edition adapted from the Fourth Latin Edition by Joseph Smith, S.J., Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblico—114—Biblical Greek (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1994) 48.
 Maximilian Zerwick, S.J., English Edition adapted from the Fourth Latin Edition by Joseph Smith, S.J., Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblico—114—Biblical Greek (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1994) 58.
struck: Motherhood is an ordinary vocation performed by ordinary Faithful. Motherhood is more than giving physical birth. Motherhood is most especially giving birth to
the Holy Word of God. Just as
One of the most severe Crosses I see among the Faithful at
Daily Mass is loss of Faith by their children.
The effort to bring their children back to the Magisterium of the Church
is a soul-wrenching sacrifice, easily by-passed for more entertaining pursuits. These readings find