[Consonant with both Anglicanism’s and monasticism’s love of patristic theology-spirituality, I occasionally post selections from Durham University’s two-year lectionary for the Divine Office that draws mostly from patristic writings. The lectionary was initially edited by Stephen Mark Holmes (University of Edinburgh School of Divinity) and subsequently re-edited and formatted by Michele Freyhauf (Durham University). Click here for the link to the lectionary.]
[The image is of J.C. Leyendecker’s “The Magi,” a magazine illustration from 1900.]
Patristic Lectionary—6 January, Monday after the Epiphany, Ferial day in Christmastide
A READING FROM THE PROPHET ISAIAH 54:1-17
THE JOYS AND THE BEAUTY OF THE REBORN CITY
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer.
“For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
“O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your sons shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you. Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD.”
A READING FROM A SERMON BY ST LEO THE GREAT
SERMON 34: 6 JANUARY 444, TR. FREELAND & CONWAY (1996)
Justice and reason demand a service of genuine reverence, dearly beloved, in these days which make known the works of’ divine mercy. We must rejoice with all our hearts and celebrate with honour the things that have been done for our salvation. Even the law of recurring seasons calls us to this devotion, which, after the day on which the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, was born of the Virgin, in a short time introduced to us the feast of the Epiphany, consecrated by the Lord’s appearance.
Consequently, it came about by the great goodness of the divine plan that a nation living in the distant regions of the East, a nation which possessed the skill of reading stars, should receive a sign that the child who was to rule in Israel had been born. The unusual clarity of a brighter star appeared to the wise men and filled the hearts of those looking on with an admiration for its splendour. As a result, they felt that they must not neglect what had been shown through so great a portent.
As the nature of the event had shown, it was the grace of God that governed this miracle. Although, up to this point, not even all of Bethlehem had learned about Christ’s Nativity, this sign brought knowledge of his birth to nations that were going to believe. What could not yet be described with human eloquence was made known by the proclamation of heaven. The wise men were also able to be reminded through the ancient pronouncements of Balaam, for they knew that it had at one time been spread abroad in a famous and memorable prediction: A star will appear out of Jacob, and a man will rise up from Israel. He will rule over the nations. So the three men, stirred by God through the shining of this unusual star, follow the course of its gleaming light ahead of them, thinking that they would find the indicated child in the royal city of Jerusalem.
When this conjecture had failed them, however, they learned from scribes and teachers of the Jews what the Sacred Scriptures had told about the Birth of Christ. Encouraged by the double evidence, they sought him out with an even more ardent faith, the one to whom both the brightness of the star and the authority of prophets pointed. When the divine oracle was put forth in the responses made by priests, the word of the Spirit was made clear, the one which said: And you, Bethlehem of Judah, are not least among the princes of Judah, for out of you will come the leader who will rule my people Israel.
Then, dearly beloved, when the wise men had been led into Bethlehem by following the star’s guidance, they rejoiced with a very great joy, as the Evangelist has related, and, entering the abode, they saw the Child with Mary his Mother. Prostrating themselves, they adored him. Upon opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.