[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—21 March, Solemnity of the Passing of Our Holy Father Benedict, Abbot; Saturday in the Third Week of Lent
[The image is Stanley Roseman’s Two Monks Bowing in Prayer (1978) “One thing I asked of the Lord … to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Psalm 27:4]
The Tabernacle is Built
Thus did Moses; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. And in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. Moses erected the tabernacle; he laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars; and he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent over it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above on the ark; and he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony; as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil, and set the bread in order on it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, and set up the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil, and burnt fragrant incense upon it; as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he put in place the screen for the door of the tabernacle. And he set the altar of burnt offering at the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the cereal offering; as the LORD had commanded Moses. And he set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet; when they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses. And he erected the court round the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would go onward; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward till the day that it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
St. Cyril of Alexandria
Commentary on John IV.4 (Patrologia Graeca 73:620-621, 625)
Emmanuel, God-with-us, is presented in figure and image when Scripture says: And you will place the ark of the testimony in the tabernacle and cover it with the veil. For in the preceding account the Word was described to us as in the whole tabernacle; for it was the house in which God dwelt, namely, the holy body of Christ. But despite that, the ark gives us the same meaning in detail. For it was made of acacia wood, for you to perceive his incorruptibility. It was entirely overlaid with pure gold, as it is written, both inside and outside. For everything in him, both divine and human, is precious and splendid; and in everything he is pre-eminent, as Paul says. Gold, then, stands for honour and pre-eminence in general. So the ark was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, and had the divine Law put into it as a symbol of the indwelling Word of God united to a holy body. For the Word of God was also the Law, even, if not in human form, as the Son is. But it is covered with the veil.
It was much the same with God the Word made man, the covering of his own body obscured to the many. He, too, was hidden by his holy flesh as by a veil. Some of the Jews, therefore, failing to recognize his divine majesty, sometimes tried to stone him to death, accusing him of claiming to be God, when he was a man. Others again did not hesitate to say: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How, then, can he say: ‘I have come down from heaven.’ So the laying of a veil on the ark tells us symbolically that Jesus would not be recognized by the many. Then even the ark itself was a symbol of him. So it was even he who went before the Israelites in the desert, taking the place of God at that time; for it was he who led the people. The psalmist is also a witness to this, saying: When you went before your people, O God, when you crossed the desert, the earth shook and the heavens, too, poured down rain. For the ark being always in front clearly means that God leads the way.
For Christ is one, but is understood in many and various ways: he is the tabernacle, because of the veil of flesh; he is the ark, containing the divine Law, as he is the Word of God the Father; again he is the table, as life and nourishment; the lampstand, as intellectual and spiritual light; he is the altar of sacrifice, as the fragrant odour in sanctity; and the altar of offerings, as an offering for the life of the world. Thus all things in life are sanctified, for Christ is entirely holy, in whatever way he is understood.