The Ancient Author and You

Today’s second reading from the Office of Readings is a sermon from “an ancient author”. I always find these anonymous selections a bit frustrating, because there is no way to find out how ancient. When it’s Chrysostom, Melito of Sardis, or Fulgentius, it only takes a few clicks to find out what century the author in question came from.  But Ancient Author?  The breviary gives a very unhelpful string of numbers from some sort of arcane reference book, and even lets us know that it’s the 1879 edition of “PL 17”.  Undoubtedly the more scholarly types among the clergy know exactly what all this means. The rest of us, not so much.  One of my fantasies for that new edition/translation of the breviary that is supposed to happen someday is that it will include the approximate dates of the author by each reading in the OOR.

But little as we know about Ancient Author, it’s easy to see we psalm-sayers have something in common with him: the liturgy of the Easter season. For all the change in the Mass and the Hours over the years, the liturgy has retained its essential nature, and, shall we say, it’s “flavor”. Ancient Author mentions in his sermon that at Easter, the Christian community, together with the prophet sings the psalm which belongs to this yearly festival: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” (from Ps.118)

This very line is an antiphon we use every day this week both at Morning and Evening Prayer, as the responsory to the reading, plus the entire psalm 118  appears in the psalter several times during the octave. It’s such a favorite verse for me, that n our home  we say  it along with “The Lord is risen/He is truly risen” as a preface to grace before meals every day this week.  It’s  a way to keep the family Easter-aware.

So, it’s kind of a thrill to have this little bond, over so many centuries, to the anonymous holy man who wrote today’s second reading. That he too, after days of mourning and fasting, uttered these words with joy an relief during this same glorious week each year. That my praying of these words is part and parcel of the same eternal liturgy that Ancient Author is still praying now, in the unending Day.

It’s a bit ridiculous to plan an agenda for what I’ll do in heaven, but I like to imagine that I’ll ask around and locate Ancient Author. We’ll clasp hands (however this is done by disembodied souls), and greet each other with: This IS the day that the Lord has made, the endless day, alleluia!

Weekly Q&A time:  Anything that puzzles/confuses/alarms/mystifies  you about the Liturgy of the Hours or the breviary can be brought up in the comments section.

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Daria Sockey is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her articles have appeared in many Catholic publications. She authored several of the original Ignatius Press Faith and Life catechisms in the 1980s, and more recently wrote five study guides for saints' lives DVDs distributed by Ignatius Press. She now writes regularly for the newly revamped Catholic Digest. Her newest book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, will be published by Servant Books this spring. Feel Free to email her at [email protected]

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