[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.]
Patristic Lectionary—11 January, Saturday after Epiphany, Ferial day in Christmastide
A READING FROM THE PROPHET BARUCH 4:30-5:9
THE JOY OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
Take courage, O Jerusalem, for he who named you will comfort you. Wretched will be those who afflicted you and rejoiced at your fall. Wretched will be the cities which your children served as slaves; wretched will be the city which received your sons. For just as she rejoiced at your fall and was glad for your ruin, so she will be grieved at her own desolation. And I will take away her pride in her great population, and her insolence will be turned to grief. For fire will come upon her from the Everlasting for many days, and for a long time she will be inhabited by demons.
Look toward the east, O Jerusalem, and see the joy that is coming to you from God! Behold, your sons are coming, whom you sent away; they are coming, gathered from east and west, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven. For your name will forever be called by God, “Peace of righteousness and glory of godliness.”
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height and look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went forth from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
A READING FROM A SERMON ATTRIBUTED TO ST MAXIMUS OF TURIN
SERMO 45, 1-3 (CCL 23, 182-183)
Today the true Sun has risen upon the world; amid universal darkness light has dawned. God has become man, so that men may become divine; the Lord has assumed the likeness of a slave, so that slaves may become lords. He who created the heavens as his dwelling place has made his home on earth, in order that earth’s inhabitants may find their way to heaven.
O the glory of this day, eclipsing the very sun in its splendour, the culmination of centuries of waiting! The revelation to which the angels looked forward, the secret hidden from seraphim, cherubim, and every heavenly spirit has been disclosed to our generation. What former ages perceived in figures and images, we see in reality. The God who spoke to the people of Israel through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest of the prophets now speaks to us through his Son. Mark the difference between the Old Testament and New! In the Old Testament God spoke in a storm cloud; in the New he speaks in the clear, calm light of day. In the Old Testament God appeared in a bush; in the New he is born of a virgin. In the Old Testament God was present as a fire consuming the sins of his people; in the New he is present as a man who forgives them – or rather, as the Lord who pardons his servants, since no one can forgive sin but God alone.
There are various opinions current in the world, since our ideas reflect a diversity of traditions, but whether the Lord Jesus was born or baptized on this day, this much at least is clear: Christ’s birth both in the flesh and in the spirit is to our benefit. Both are mysteries to me and both are advantageous to me. The Son of God had no need to be born or baptized. He had committed no sin that required forgiveness through baptism. On the contrary, his condescension is the cause of our exaltation, his cross our victory, his gibbet our triumph.
Let us joyfully raise the banner of his cross on our shoulders and bear the ensign of his victory; better still, let us carry this great standard as a sign emblazoned on our foreheads. Whenever the devil sees this sign on our doorposts he trembles; demons who have no reverence for gilded temples fear the cross. They may despise royal sceptres, grand banquets, and imperial purple, but they are cowed by the fasting and humble garb of Christians.
Let us be filled with exultation then, dear friends, and lift up holy hands to heaven in the form of a cross. When Moses held up his hands Amalek was defeated, but if he lowered them for a while Amalek prevailed. Birds too resemble the cross in shape as they are borne aloft and glide through the air on outstretched wings. Even our memorials and victory processions take the form of crosses. Surely then we ought to bear the cross not on our foreheads only but within our very souls, so that by its protection we may trample on the snake and the serpent in Christ Jesus, to whom belongs the glory for ever and ever.