But this very obedience will be acceptable to God and pleasing to all only if what is commanded is done without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling, or objection. For the obedience given to Superiors is given to God, since He Himself has said, “He who hears you, hears Me” (Luke 10:16). And the disciples should offer their obedience with a good will, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). For if the disciple obeys with an ill will and murmurs, not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart, then even though he fulfill the command yet his work will not be acceptable to God, who sees that his heart is murmuring. And, far from gaining a reward for such work as this, he will incur the punishment due to murmurers, unless he amend and make satisfaction.
Today’s reading, which ends the chapter on obedience follows up on what was said yesterday, and so I will not repeat my previous comments.
The smell of Lent is in the air. In a few weeks we will be entering head first into that great liturgical period which is Lent – Quadragesima, but for now the Liturgy begins to prepare us for what is to come with Septuagesima. As of tomorrow the Mass will have noticible differences: violet vestments; no Gloria; the Alleluia will cease – in its place we will find the Tract. After this period of an exuberant joyfulness we suddenly pass the threshold to a different disposition, one more recollected, almost somber. It is as though the Liturgy wishes to tell us “yes, what came before was joyful, but it is not the source of our joy; our joy will come after this period of going down into the tomb.” And so, as if to say good-bye to this past period of joy, First Vespers of Septuagesima ends in a unique way:
V. Benedicámus Dómino, allelúia, allelúia.
R. Deo grátias, allelúia, allelúia.
Before certain reforms of the traditional Roman rite, one would hear at the end of the Mass during penitential seasons not the usual Ite Missa est, but the Benedicamus Domino. One can only wonder why this was changed. Returning to the Alleluia, I have read that in some places it was customary for a ceremonial burial of the Alleluia. This is a custom which I think can be easily done at home and which one can involve the children in; it is one I hope to start with my own one day.
This period of Septuagesima is one of the many reasons why I love the traditional Roman rite. It is a season of preparation that the Church of Rome most likely picked up from the Greeks, who already had this prepatory period for Lent. One does not simply fall into Lent; no, one is given time to prepare for it, to make the necessary adjustments for living the Great Fast. Sadly, this period was removed from the modern liturgical calendar.
I find it providential that today’s reading should fall on the eve of Septuagesima. We have been reading about obedience and we are now about to enter a liturgical period related to obedience, i.e., the Son’s obedience to the Father. The New Adam, the obedient son; unlike the First Adam, by whose disobedience Death entered into the world. Disobeying the will of God merits death (“the wages of sin is death”), not because the Lord is a tyrant, but because He is Life, and to sin is to reject Life. This First Vesper’s antiphon for the Magnificat reminds us of the reality of the consequences of disobedience:
The Lord said unto Adam: * Of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, thou shalt not eat; in the hour that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.