[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—10 February, St. Scholastica.
Genesis 41:1-17, 25-43
After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows sleek and fat, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, gaunt and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the gaunt and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men; and Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was none who could interpret it to Pharaoh.
Then the chief butler said to Pharaoh, “I remember my faults today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own meaning. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard; and when we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came to pass; I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it; and I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile …”
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dream of Pharaoh is one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dream is one. The seven lean and gaunt cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh, God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of that famine which will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take the fifth part of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine which are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
This proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are; you shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand and arrayed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in his second chariot; and they cried before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.
A Reading from the Commentary on Genesis by St. Procopius of Gaza
In Gen. (PG 87/1:468-69)
Not only does God pour out his gifts upon us, he also draws good out of evil. Had Joseph remained in his father’s house, Egypt would have had no one to act in advance to prevent the full effects of the impending famine. In the same way, had the only Son of God remained hidden from us in the glory of the Father, the whole world would still be unredeemed.
Joseph was born in his father’s old age, and for this reason Jacob loved him all the more. There is a foreshadowing here of the events of these last days. With immeasurable love God looked upon his Son as he came into the world in the fullness of time, at the end of a long line of Prophets and saintly men and women. This Son of his encountered the hate of the Pharisees because the Father had clothed him with a garment of many glorious attributes – rather as Jacob had clothed Joseph with a tunic of many colours. Christ was the light, and he was the life. He cleansed those dead in sin, commanded the sea and walked on the water. The fire of envy, however, smouldered in the hearts of the Pharisees when they considered that the time would come when the whole world, and not merely the Jews, would worship this man. Here is the heir. Let us kill him and take his inheritance.
Joseph was handed over to the Ishmaelites and went down into Egypt. Christ, too, was delivered to the Gentiles: Behold we go to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the Gentiles. When Joseph first arrived in Egypt, he was deeply afflicted. Christ, too, suffered persecution at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles. Both men were falsely accused. Joseph was thrown into prison. Christ was consigned to the grave. Joseph rose to a position of eminence and ruled over his captors. Christ’s rule extends to the living and the dead.
Think, however, with what constancy of mind Joseph was endowed. Though oppressed by servitude and imprisonment, he possessed true freedom of mind. He languished in prison, but one day he would be clothed with royal dignity. Doubts never violated his faith. What was the source of his watchfulness and self-control? If he had no faith in the divinely inspired gift of interpretation, why did he interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s servants in prison with him? Why did he not rather persuade them that nothing was to be gained by self-discipline?
When the time came, not one of his brothers was able to recognise Joseph. Envy obscures the truth, and too much cunning can lead to a form of slavery. It was Joseph’s father who paid him the highest tribute of all when he wept for the son whom he loved. The envy of the Jews obscured the truth concerning the Christ, and so does the hate of the Greeks. Christ is not truly recognized either by those bogged down in heresy. But if you desire to attain true knowledge of Christ, you must hear God saying to you: This is my beloved Son; listen to him.