The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Jesus leaves his parents

Canisius | 27 April, 2006 02:58

The Gueranger entry for yesterday featured a lovely hymn (VIII,110) with a somewhat puzzling first verse:

Let the Church of Christ sing a canticle to her beloved, who out of love for her, left father and mother, and, God as he is, clad himself with our nature, and cast off the synagogue."

While each phrase in this verse makes sense, it is difficult to see the connections between them. The Gueranger Blog to the rescue!

"Let the Church of Christ sing a canticle to her beloved" is an obvious reference to the Song of Song, which is traditionally interpreted as about the love between Christ and the Church; since it is written from the point of view of the woman, it forms a canticle sung by the Church to Christ.

"Who out of love for her, left father and mother." This is an allusion to Genesis 2:24, Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.. The idea of Church as bride and Christ as groom is continued.

"And, God as he is, clad himself with our nature." This is a play on Philippians 2:6-7, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Just as the passage from Philippians speaks as though Christ were emptied of his divinity by the Incarnation, so our hymn speaks as though Christ left God the Father by becoming man. This is how Christ "left father" to seek his bride.

"And cast off the synagogue." I would have been stumped by this verse had I not recently translated Guigo II's Scala claustralium. At one point in that little treatise, Guigo remarks how lovely it would be to see Jesus "no longer clothed in the appearance given him by his mother", meaning no longer appearing as merely a man in the appearance Mary gave him. But one manuscript I ran across had an interesting variant reading: it said "no longer clothed in the appearance given him by his mother the synagogue." It was apparently a stock idea in the middle ages that the synagogue can be seen as Jesus' mother, just as the Church is our mother, so some scribe somewhere inserted a couple of (erroneous) explanatory words into Guigo's treatise.

For our purposes, the point is that when Jesus turned from the synagogue to bring the gospel to the gentiles, this can be poetically portrayed as "leaving his mother" to seek his bride. This continues the allusion to Genesis 2:24.

So believe it or not, the whole verse actually hangs together very tightly!


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