[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—Saturday, 22 February, Chair of St. Peter
Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians 3:1-18
Exhortations and Counsels
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things which we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If anyone will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.
If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all.
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Saint John Cassian
Conferences, 18.10-11 (Ancient Christian Writers 57, Tr. Ramsey)
Although some people are in the habit of speaking of monasteries instead of coenobia, without drawing a distinction, nonetheless the difference is that monastery is the name of a dwelling and means nothing more than a place for monks, whereas coenobium indicates the character and discipline of the monastic profession itself. The dwelling of even one monk can be called a monastery, but something cannot be called a coenobium unless a united community with several inhabitants lives there. Indeed, even where groups of sarabaites live are said to be monasteries.
Therefore, since I see that you have learned the principles of this profession from the best kind of monks – that is, from the praiseworthy school of the coenobia – and that you are heading toward the highest reaches of anchorite discipline, toward the virtue of humility and patience which I do not doubt that you learned there, you should pursue this with a sincerely disposed heart, not feigning it, as some do, by false humility in speech and certain bodily practices.
Abba Serapion once cleverly mocked this feigned humility. When someone came to him displaying the greatest abjection in dress and speech and the old man encouraged him, as was the custom, to say the prayer, the man would not agree. He demeaned himself and said that he had been involved in such wicked behaviour that he did not deserve to breathe the same air as everyone else; he even refused to sit on a mat but sat on the ground instead. But when he refused to have his feet washed, Abba Serapion, having finished the meal and having been given the opportunity by the customary conference, began to warn him kindly and gently not to wander about everywhere like a lazy vagrant, especially since he was young and strong; he encouraged him to sit in his cell in keeping with the rule of the elders and, following the example of the Apostle Paul, to prefer being supported by his own toil rather than by others’ generosity.
At this the man was filled with such annoyance that he was unable to conceal on his face the bitterness that he had conceived in his heart. The old man said to him: ‘Up until now, my son, you have burdened yourself with the full weight of your misdeeds, not fearing to incur a notorious reputation by confessing such atrocious crimes. Why, I ask you now in reference to our simple little admonition, which contained no reproach at all but rather edification and love, do I see you moved with such indignation that you are unable to hide it on your face? Were you perhaps, in humiliating yourself, hoping for praise from our mouth?’
Hence, a humility of heart must be maintained which is genuine and which does not come from an affected humbleness of body and speech. It will glow with the clearest indications of patience precisely when a person does not boast to others about crimes of his that are not to be believed but, rather disregards what is insolently said against him by someone else and endures insults inflicted upon him with a gentle and placid spirit.