Front Page Titles (by Subject) V.: The Lessons from the Scriptures - On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments
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V.: The Lessons from the Scriptures - Ambrose, On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments [387 AD]
On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments by an Unknown Author, trans. T. Thompson, ed. with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Strawley (New York: Macmillan, 1919).
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The Lessons from the Scriptures
There are several references to the lessons from Scripture read in Church in both treatises. In the case of de Sacram. especially these are often quite explicit, and from them and the less clearly defined statements in de Myst. we can form some idea of their order and contents. Their evidence shows that certain books were already assigned to particular seasons, and that the beginnings of a fixed course of lessons for the more important seasons of the Church had already been made. It will be sufficient here briefly to indicate the facts and to adduce parallels with the later system of lessons exhibited in the Manuale Ambrosianum of the tenth century, noting any approximations already made in the two treatises to this later system. Such parallels can only yield results of varying and unequal value. In some cases they point to a real connexion between the earlier and the later practice. Others are merely interesting “attestations,” while others again (e. g. some of those cited under III.) are of interest as showing the kind of teaching which was associated with the passages and led to their finding a place in the Milanese cycle of lessons.
I. In de Myst. i. 1, Ambrose speaks of lessons from the lives of the patriarchs and from Proverbs as being read during Lent. This corresponds to the later Milanese practice found in the Manuale, in which lessons from Genesis and Proverbs were read at the missae catechumenorum at the third and ninth hours each week-day in Lent, except Saturdays.1 From Ambrose, Ep. xx. 14, 25 we learn that in Holy Week it was the established custom to read lessons from the books of Job and Jonah,2 and both books find a place in the course of lessons prescribed in the Manuale for the first four days of Holy Week.3 From de Myst. vi. 31 (cf. de Sacram. iii. 1. 4) it would appear that John xiii. 4 f. was read at the time of the washing of the feet of the newly-baptized (in the Manuale it is appointed for the mass of the newly-baptized on Saturday in Easter week). For the services of Easter week, at which the addresses in de Sacram. were given, the author supplies the following facts. In the second address (ii. 2. 3; cf. de Myst. iv. 22) he speaks of John v. 4 f. as being read “yesterday.” In the same book (ii. 7. 23) he refers to Rom. vi. 3 as being read in “the lesson for the day” (in lectione praesenti). In the third address (iii. 2. 8) he alludes to the “spiritual seal” of which they had heard in the lesson for the day. The reference is to 2 Cor. i. 21 f., as is shown by the parallel section de Myst. vii. 42, where that passage is spoken of as having been read “in the lesson from the Apostle” (apostolica lectione). In the sixth address (vi. 2. 9) the passage 1 Cor. xii. 4 f. is said to have been read “the day before yesterday” (nudius tertius).
As we have seen (§ iii. p. xx), the addresses contained in de Sacram. began on Tuesday in Easter week, and ended on the following Sunday. The following table shows the lessons read on the first four days, and the corresponding days on which the same chapters appear in the system of lessons found in the Manuale.
II. Three other lessons referred to in these treatises as read in Church, though the day is not indicated, find a place in the Manuale in connexion with the services of Lent or Easter week.
III. The following passages, commented on or alluded to, in illustration of the baptismal rites in these treatises, though not referred to as actually read in Church, find a place among the lessons contained in the Manuale.
[1 ]For details see footnotes to the services in Lent in Magistretti’s edition of the Manuale, and on these missae catechumenorum see W. C. Bishop, Ch. Quart. Review, lxxii. (1911), pp. 56 f.
[2 ]The words of Ambrose are: audistis . . . librum Job legi, qui solemni munere est decursus et tempore (§ 14) . . . Sequenti die lectus est de more liber Jonae (§ 25).
[3 ]Ambrose speaks of the book of Job as read on the Monday, Jonah (apparently) on the Wednesday. In the Manuale Job is read, along with Tobit, on the first three week-days in Holy Week, and the lesson from Jonah is on Maundy Thursday.