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Good Friday, April 3, 2015 Lectionary index # 40

Twenty-second digests for the congregation: These little introductions seem barely necessary in Holy Week, given the the familiarity of the readings and the disposition of the worshippers. But if you choose to use them, arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

Who should announce these before the first and second readings, and before the gospel acclamation? Best practice: Let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.

Good Friday, April 3, 2015
Before the first reading:

Deutero-Isaiah contains four obscure poems called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. They may be autobiographical, they may refer to the people as a whole. They introduce new ways of understanding suffering and the mysterious plans of God. Jesus clearly meditated on these passages, and the gospel writers used them to help express their experience of Jesus in the lives of their communities.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Jewish converts to Christ, rejected by mainline Judaism, missed some familiar institutions they left behind. The Letter to the Hebrews persuades them that Jesus replaces everything they've lost. This passage explains why Jesus is a superior priest, compared to the priests of Judaism.
Before the gospel acclamation:

[Do not offer an introduction to the Passion.]

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First Reading, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. They're about a mysterious figure, who sometimes speaks in the first person, and whom God sometimes addresses. Sometimes the Servant is described as a prophet, sometimes as one whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author's mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus' life.

Our Liturgical Setting: Today's is the fourth Servant Song. On Passion Sunday, we proclaimed the third, Isaiah 50:4-7. The others are Isaiah 42:1-9 and Isaiah 49:1-6.

Proclaiming It: Note the changes in voice through the passage:

As lector, represent these changes by pausing at each one and by changing your tone of voice.

A Theological Reflection: Scholar John J. Collins, in The Collegville Bible Commentary -- Old Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992) says the significance of the passage is how it "allows that suffering can have a positive purpose. As such it broke with a long biblical tradition that regarded suffering as a punishment for sin. It laid the foundation for one of the basic ideas of Christianity."

Proclaiming It, continued: So the contrasts between him who suffered and us whose sins deserved the punishment, are what is important in your proclamation. Use your tone of voice to make those contrasts clear.

Second Reading, Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: Some of the first Jews to become Christians were quite nostalgic for the sacrifices that had been part of their earlier religion, but were absent from Christianity. Likewise the priesthood. The author of Hebrews works to reassure them that Jesus replaces those institutions in a superior way.

Proclaiming It: This passage emphasizes that Jesus our priest experienced all the suffering that we do. In proclaiming the prior passage, I suggested you contrast us and the servant. In this passage, try to identify us with the Servant.

Gospel reading, John 18:1-19:42

Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Reginald Fuller's article at The Center for Liturgy of Saint Louis University.

(Caveat lector. As of February 26, 2015, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

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Last modified: February 26, 2015