instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lost Verses of the Lectionary

I get that there are chapters in the Bible that don't make for great readings at Mass. Some passages are dull obscure. Some passages -- like most of Proverbs and much of the Wisdom Books -- are epigrammatic and come off as choppy and disconnected when read aloud in long chunks.

Still, I'm puzzled by discontinuous Lectionary passages like Sunday's First Reading: Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29.

Sometimes, when a single verse is skipped, it's one of those deprecatory bits that, while having God as their Author, can be distracting within the setting of the holy Liturgy. In this case, though, the excised verse 19 is:
For great is the power of God; by the humble he is glorified.
Not only is this harmless -- in fact, it would make a fine daily prayer -- it completes the thought of the previous verse.

Then we get verse 20:
What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.
A capital verse, to be sure, but merely the introduction of a four-verse passage that I'd expect to hear all at once. (And, for that matter, a passage I could profitably hear often.)

Then follows four more proverbs, which may have been omitted for their negativity toward lack of knowledge, stubbornness, and pride. (Is avoiding deprecatory proverbs one aim of the Lectionary? I have no idea.)

After 7 skipped verses, the Lectionary resumes with two more proverbs, largely unrelated to the rest of the reading (and to the skipped verses as well), and then stops one verse shy of finishing the chapter. The overall effect is still a sequence of unrelated proverbs, with no hint that still more unrelated proverbs are not being read.

For the record, and since the mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, vv 21-27 are:
What is committed to you, attend to; for what is hidden is not your concern.
With what is too much for you meddle not, when shown things beyond human understanding.
Their own opinion has misled many, and false reasoning unbalanced their judgment.
Where the pupil of the eye is missing, there is no light, and where there is no knowledge, there is no wisdom.
A stubborn man will fare badly in the end, and he who loves danger will perish in it.
A stubborn man will be burdened with sorrow; a sinner will heap sin upon sin.
For the affliction of the proud man there is no cure; he is the offshoot of an evil plant.