[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—Monday, 17 February, Pre-Lenten Feria
[The image is of St. Hilary of Poitiers]
First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians 2:13-3:13
Friendship Between St. Paul and the Thessalonians
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!
But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavoured the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face; because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you, that no one be moved by these afflictions. You yourselves know that this is to be our lot. For when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction; just as it has come to pass, and as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent that I might know your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour would be in vain.
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith; for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
St. Hilary of Poitiers
Discourses on the Psalms. Psalm 132.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. It is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity because when they dwell in unity they are gathered in the community of the Church; when they are called brothers it is because they are of one heart in the charity of a single will.
At the first preaching of the Apostles we read that this was the great precept, summed up in the words, The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul. It is fitting then, for the people of God to be brothers under one Father, to be one under one Spirit, to enter with one mind under the same roof, under one head to be members of one body.
It is good and pleasant when brothers dwell in unity. And the Prophet uses a simile to illustrate that goodness and pleasantness, It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes. By that oil, made up of perfumes, Aaron was anointed to the priesthood. It was God’s pleasure that this be the anointing of his first priest. And we know that our Lord, too, was invisibly anointed when it is said, Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness. That anointing is not a material thing, he was anointed not with a horn of oil as kings are, but with the oil of gladness. Furthermore, after this anointing Aaron was called according to Law, the Christ, which means the anointed one.
And since wherever it is poured out, this oil quenches the unclean spirits of the heart, so through the anointing of charity we breathe forth to God a sweet odour, as the Apostle says, we are the aroma of Christ. Just as this oil was pleasing to God in his first priest, so it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity.
The oil ran down from the head into the beard. Now, a beard is an ornament of adult manhood. For we must not be little children in Christ except, as it is written, we should be babes in evil not in thinking. The Apostle calls all who have not faith ‘babes’ since they are not strong enough for solid food and still need milk, as he says, I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready.