From East to West: part five

In my recent post about Resurrection hymns, Joe observantly commented on the tone 2 Resurrection tropar, noting the similarities of its structure and sentiment to an antiphon from the Divine Office in the Roman Rite for the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord. It appears in the Benedictine Office as the second antiphon on the psalms at Vespers and Lauds of the feast. Here it is:

When Thou wast born ineffably of a Virgin, then were the Scriptures fulfilled: Thou camest down like rain into a fleece of wool, to bring salvation unto all mankind: we praise Thee, O our God.

Because of its structure, especially the way that it climaxes with an ejaculation of praise at the end, I speculated that it may also be found in some form in the Byzantine Rite, so went and looked, and found this:

O Christ, Thou camest down into a virgin womb like rain upon a fleece, and as drops falling on the earth. Ethiopians and Tharsians and the isles of the Arabs, rulers of Saba and Medes, of all the earth fell down before Thee, O Saviour. Glory to thy power, O Lord!

This is the third tropar from ode 4 of the Canon from Matins of Christmas, and seems to have the same origins as the Western antiphon above:

He shall come down like rain upon a fleece, and like rain-drops that fall upon the earth. In his days shall righteousness dawn forth an abundance of peace, until the moon be taken away. And He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the rivers even unto the ends of the inhabited earth. Before Him shall the Ethiopians fall down, and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall bring gifts, kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring presents. And all the kings of the earth shall worship Him, all the nations shall serve Him.

- Psalm 71:6-11

Both make reference to the virgin birth, and liken Christ's coming to rain upon a fleece. The Byzantine tropar explicitly mentions the peoples who came to worship Christ while the Western one summarises it by referring to the Scriptures having been fulfilled but they both clearly refer to the same psalm.

In Christ in the Psalms, Fr Patrick Reardon tells us of the historic use of the psalm to speak of the line of earthly rulers of the chosen people; God's anointed kings. He then turns us to the Saviour:

As Christians, of course, we believe that the inner substance of all these prefigurings finds its fulfilment in Jesus the Lord, the goal of biblical history and the defining object of all biblical prophecy ... The liturgical use of this psalm during the festal days of Christmastide suggests still further dimensions of its fulfilment, particularly the anticipated universality of the Messiah's Kingdom ... such lines must put one in mind of those wise kings who came to bow down beforfe the Christ Child...

And later:

No matter how successful his reign, no other king in history fulfilled the hopes outlines in Psalm 71. The Kingdom here described is truly not a kingdom of this world.

Thank you, Joe, for your observation, which led to this.

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