Living water and the comfort of God

I enjoyed an image from Give Us This Day’s morning prayer this morning. One of the most effective aspects of liturgical prayer is its intertextuality – its ability to read scriptural texts against other scriptural texts, bringing new life to how we experience these texts. This would probably be an interesting subject for a longer post, or even a series – there are all kinds of interesting academic questions, from why it works, to how it develops and changes over time, to what kind of authority the intertextual readings of scripture have, and many more.

For today, though, I just want to draw attention to this lovely and touching example. It’s an antiphon read against (against as a background, here, rather than in opposition to) the Canticle of Zechariah:

Ask of me and I will give you living water.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
Ask of me and I will give you living water.

This juxtaposition presents an image, here in the midst of Lent, of a God tenderly and assiduously reassuring those who are thirsty. “Do not be too afraid to ask for relief. Do you not remember all I have done for you, for your people? Ask, ask again and again, and drink.”

8 comments

  1. Thank you for this. I am rediscovering morning and evening prayer this Lent, and Give Us This Day has been a wonderful resource.

  2. One of the most effective aspects of liturgical prayer is its intertextuality – its ability to read scriptural texts against other scriptural texts, bringing new life to how we experience these texts.

    Liturgical prayer (the Eucharist, Sacraments, and Divine Office) constitute a primary way in which Tradition is formed and expressed. Since these are mainly composed of scriptural texts, and prayers, hymns, and poetic texts based inspired by scriptures the Liturgy is in many respects Scripture reformatted for the worshiping community.

    The Constitution on the Liturgy, although much debated now, was early and easily adopted in the first session of Vatican II, whereas the Constitution on the Word of God was much debated and not adopted until the last session.

    I think the revision of the classical two source theory of Scripture and Tradition into a one source vision of Scripture and Tradition founded on the Word of God will in time renew Christianity far more deeply than the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

    That long term renewal awaits the slow development of a hermeneutic of Scripture that takes into account not only history, society and culture but also the literary intertextuality of Scripture, e.g. interpreting Mark in terms of whole Mark, Mark within the context of the OT, and Mark within the context of the N.T.

    The Canon in many ways provides less a uniform biblical theology but rather multiple resources for communities of faith, in effect the basis for multiple spiritualities. Similarly Liturgy provides us less a uniform Tradition but rather many lived spiritualities. Ultimately there is an inter play of Word and Spirit throughout history.

    The long term renewal of Christianity awaits the slow development of our understanding of how Scripture and Liturgy have influenced each other, especially how new relationships of scriptural texts in Liturgy have influenced our spiritualities.

  3. there are all kinds of interesting academic questions

    One is the use of a verse of scripture, e.g. from a psalm or canticle, as an antiphon that reinterprets the psalm in a different way. For example the Invitatory Psalm 94(95) of the Roman Office often uses verse 1“Come let us worship” to make this psalm festive, but versus 7-8 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” makes it penitential.

    This use is particularly interesting since it gets at the heart of how the psalm means in the first place, especially the fact that psalms often have complimentary themes, and even voices. The questions gets us very close to studying the scriptural text without interpreting it very much.

  4. Another at the opposite end of the spectrum are the troparia in the Byzantine Tradition. A fine example is the Great Canon of Andrew of Crete. http://monachos.net/content/patristics/patristictexts/484

    The Great Canon is one of the great works, if not the great work, of the Church’s hymnography of repentance. It is steeped in biblical imagery, yet it is not simply a condensation of biblical themes. In the Canon, all the human events of scripture—creation, fall, exile, return, longing, redemption—all are made personal. They become my events: my creation, my fall, my redemption. Their story is my story, and I am made intensely aware of all its depth.

    If you click on any of the portions of the Canon, you will find biblical reference numbers for each of the verses.

    In addition to the verses, one has to keep in mind that the verses are set in juxtaposition to the Nine Odes, i.e the Biblical Canticles that are printed at the end of the Book of Psalms in Orthodox Bibles.

    1.First Ode of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19)
    2.Second Ode of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43)
    3.Prayer of Anna, the Mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
    4.Prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:2-19)
    5.Prayer of Isaias (Isaiah 26:9-20)
    6.Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:3-10)
    7.Prayer of Azariah (Daniel 3:26-45, a deuterocanonical portion)
    8.Song of the Three Young Men (Daniel 3:52-88, a deuterocanonical portion)
    9.The Magnificat; Prayer of Mary the Theotokos (Luke 1:46-55)

  5. Just received the May issue and discovered the addition of Compline/Night Prayer.

    Beautifully done, evoking images of trust in God’s love and mercy, a wonderful way to conclude the day.

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