We’re up early for the 8:30 Mass today. We’ve got a lot to do, and the Archbishop is celebrating some special Mass at 10:00 so we’d be missing the Latin anyway. We celebrated with him on Gaudete Sunday the fortieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, so I can’t remember now what he’s celebrating today. I think maybe thirty years as a bishop. Or maybe 20.
There’s parking right out front when we arrive, since it’s so early and I guess people are also maybe going to the bigger shindig at ten. We pull up around the same time as Shannon in the choir. Dawn notes that she must be our cantor this morning, since there’s no choir at the 8:30 Mass.
We have Father Hurley and Deacon Work. Deacon Work reminds me of Jerry Falwell, except during Advent and Christmas when he grows his winter beard. Deacon Work’s winter beard, not Jerry Falwell’s. And he, Deacon Work, has this amazing booming baritone, a real radio announcer voice, which is exactly what he used to be. Apparently he was with ABC News in Korea, doing radio reporting during the Pueblo crisis.
Again with Joy to the World. Only this time the music leaflet directs us to sing verses three, four, and five. But then I’m totally confused when everybody starts singing the first verse, and only after that then launching into the third verse. And so Father Hurley et. al. have all arrived at their stations by the end of the fourth verse, so then Paul Hardy the organist finishes so there’s no singing of the fifth verse anyway.
Apparently the readings are always the same on Epiphany, regardless of the year. So no St. Luke today, just good old St. Matthew.
But it’s more the first reading that strikes me this year, the one from Isaiah.
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
I don’t know why, but I am in wonder of these exotic places, Midian and Ephah. I mean, I’ve at least heard of Sheba, or the Queen of Sheba anyway, whoever she was. But where are (or were) Midian and Ephah?
Research reveals that Midian and Ephah aren’t places at all, but rather peoples.
First let’s note that we learned something about Midian at the Christmas Midnight Mass, where Isaiah said:
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
I thought it sounded familiar.
Wikipedia says that Midian is a son of Abraham and his concubine Keturah. All well and good, but then it goes on to say in a parenthetical that Keturah is Hagar according to the midrash. Oh, goodness, now I’m confused.
Okay, let’s take it slow here. Breathe.
Midrash evidently is any number of ways of interpreting the the Old Testament, either like official rabbinical midrash or just any old interpretation of same. So we’ll just conclude as to Wikipedia’s parenthetical that some say that Keturah is Hagar, but it ain’t necessarily so.
And Genesis 25 starts out
Abraham married another wife, whose name was Keturah.
She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. The descendants of Dedan were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.
The descendants of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All of these were descendants of Keturah.
Abraham deeded everything that he owned to his son Isaac.
And all this long after Genesis 21, where Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael be exiled. You know, roaming in the wilderness, lost and setting down waiting to die, water springing from the rock.
But either way, Midian is brother to Ishmael, either half-brother if Hagar and Keturah are different women or full brother if they are the same. And apparently lots of these descendants of Abraham go on to the nation founding à la Ishmael, although the others not with the express help of God and the “for I will make of him a great nation” that Ishmael got. And note Sheba in there as well. Midian, Ephah, and Sheba are all three of them peoples, not places. And all different from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, those specifically being descended from Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.