[Recently, I learned of an online, two-year lectionary for the Divine Office that draws mostly from patristic writings (and provided by my alma mater, Durham University). In addition to providing here the link to the lectionary, I propose posting from the lectionary several times a week.]
Patristic Lectionary—21 December
A READING FROM THE PROPHET ISAIAH
THE NEW EXODUS: ISAIAH 48:12-21; 49: 9B-13
“Hearken to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am He, I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. “Assemble, all of you, and hear! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken and called him, I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me and his Spirit. Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. O that you had hearkened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.” Go forth from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it forth to the end of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!” They thirsted not when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he cleft the rock and the water gushed out. “They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be raised up. Lo, these shall come from afar, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.” Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.
A READING FROM THE COMMENTARY ON ST LUKE’S GOSPEL BY ST AMBROSE
IN EV. LUC. 2, 19, 22-23, 26-27, FROM THE DIVINE OFFICE VOL. I
When the angel was announcing the mysteries to the Virgin Mary, he also told her as a precedent, to help her to believe, that an old and barren woman had conceived. This was to show that God can do everything that pleases him. When Mary heard this she hurried off to the hill country. This was not because she disbelieved the oracle, or was uncertain about the messenger, or doubted the precedent offered, but because she was overjoyed with desire, eager to fulfil a duty of piety, and impelled by gladness. Where could she who was filled with God hasten to, except to the heights? There is no such thing as delay in the working of the Holy Spirit. The arrival of Mary and the blessings of the Lord’s presence are also speedily declared. As soon as Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice the choice of words and their precise meaning. Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice; but John was the first to experience grace. She heard according to the order of nature; he leaped because of the mystery. She recognized the arrival of Mary; he the arrival of the Lord. The woman recognized the woman’s arrival; the child, that of the child. The women speak of grace; the babies make it effective from within to the advantage of their mothers who, by a double miracle, prophesy under the inspiration of their babies. The infant leaped, the mother was filled with the Spirit. The mother was not filled before the son, but after the son was filled with the Holy Spirit, he filled his mother too. John leaped and the spirit of Mary rejoiced. As John leaped, Elizabeth is filled, but we know that Mary was not filled but her spirit rejoiced. For he who cannot be comprehended was working in his mother’s womb in ways beyond comprehension. Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit after she had conceived, and Mary before. Blessed are you, she said, who believed. But you too, who have heard and have believed, are blessed. Every soul who has believed both conceives and generates the Word of God and recognizes his works. Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in God. According to the flesh one woman is the mother of Christ, but according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all men. Every soul, indeed, receives the Word of God, provided it remains unstained and free from sin and preserves its chastity in unviolated modesty. The soul who has been able to reach this state magnifies the Lord, as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her savior.