Friday, 15 January 2016

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C - First Reading - Isaiah 62:1-5

More for me than you. I thought I'd try and see if I can offer some thoughts and reflections on the upcoming Sunday mass readings.

Introduction

The first reading is taken from Isaiah. Isaiah is an extensive work of the Old Testament - it's set across a sweeping timeframe encompassing pre-exile, exile and post-exile life for the people of Judea (the Babylonian exile is generally dated 587BC to 536BC), it contains many images taken into the Christian tradition and is notable as being well-preserved in the Dead Sea scrolls. This reading comes from so-called Third Isaiah, the period after the exile when the chosen people are invited to return to their land under the Persian king Cyrus. The context is the re-establishment of Sion as a centre of worship - looking forward to a time in which the Jewish people would be light to the nations and bring the other nations to the LORD.

Isaiah 62 (Jerusalem Bible)

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
 nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you

Isaiah 62 (My Translation)

1To the end that Sion is not silent    and to the end that Jerusalem is not quiet
until her righteousness goes out as brightness     and her salvation like a burning lamp.
2And the nations see your righteousness   and all kings your glory
And you shall be called by a new name   that the mouth of the LORD (your God) shall give to you.
3And you will be a crown of glory in the hand of LORD   A royal turban in the palm of your God.
4Not calling you again 'Forsaken'    nor shall your land be called again 'Desolate'
For to you he shall proclaim 'My delight in her'   and to your land 'Married'
For the LORD delights in you   and your land shall be married.
5For as a youth marrying a virgin   so shall your sons marry
And as daughter's husband rejoices over the bride   so your God rejoices over you.


Notes on the Text

From the layout of both translations, you can note that the text broadly falls into poetry, a common marker of prophetic works in the bible. My translation is read first part-pause-second part-bigger pause for each line.
A big difference is found in verse five - is it the one who built you marrying you or a promise of marriage to your sons? The context suggests that a simile is intended so it might be more fitting to follow the Jerusalem Bible's translation which finds its parallel in the last line. Psalm 147:2 talks about the LORD building up Jerusalem after the exile. The debate is on the difference between  the noun 'sons' BNM and the verb 'build' BNH - to say either your sons or the one who built you require the same 2nd person singular suffix, and the last letter drops out - so the word is not fully clear. However, the Greek translation of the Old Testament says so shall thy sons dwell in thee (Not my translation: source: http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Esaias/index.htm).  The marital imagery of this passage might lend itself more to the sons translation - this gives verse 5 the dual aspects of temporal/horizontal/natural blessing (i.e. sons marrying, good society) and eternal/vertical/supernatural blessing (relationship with God our Father).

Reflection

This poetic passage is sometimes used as a canticle in Morning Prayer, and it invites us to go out into the world as salt and light to bear witness to Jesus. We can relate to the exiles - we are in this world but we can be a bit dazed as to how to move forward and establish the Kingdom here. Of course, God himself takes the lead. He delights over us and this bears fruit. It reminds us that God does not forsake us, and he will not rest until we are fulfilled in our being - we are called to be a people of righteousness, salvation and glory, always leading the peoples back to God.



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