Patristic Lectionary—26 March, Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

[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—26 March, Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Numbers 3:1-13; 8:5-11

The Laws of the Levites

These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the first-born, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar; these are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to minister in the priests’ office. But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unholy fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall perform duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle; they shall have charge of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and attend to the duties for the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but if any one else comes near, he shall be put to death.”

And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every first-born that opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the first-born are mine; on the day that I slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the first-born in Israel, both of man and of beast; they shall be mine: I am the LORD.”

And the LORD said to Moses, “Take the Levites from among the people of Israel and cleanse them. And thus you shall do to them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of expiation upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves. Then let them take a young bull and its cereal offering of fine flour mixed with oil, and you shall take another young bull for a sin offering. And you shall present the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the whole congregation of the people of Israel. When you present the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites, and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that it may be theirs to do the service of the LORD.”

St. Irenaeus

Against the Heresies 4.14.2-3; 15, 1

From the beginning God formed man in view of his gifts. He chose the Patriarchs in order to save them. He began to prepare a people, teaching it, obstinate as it was, to follow him. He provided Prophets, to make men accustomed to having God’s Spirit within them and to having communion with God. God indeed needed no one’s company, but he shared his company with those who needed him. For those who pleased him he set down, like an architect, his plan of salvation. In his own person he gave guidance to his people in Egypt, though they did not see him. To those in the desert, who were restless, he gave an appropriate Law. To those who entered the good land he gave a fitting inheritance. For those who returned to the Father he killed the fatted calf and put on them the best robe.  In these many ways he blended the human race to a harmony of salvation.

For this reason John said in the Apocalypse, His voice was like the sound of many waters. The Spirit of God is indeed like many waters, because the Father is both rich and great. And the Word passing through all those men, without grudging gave help to all who were obedient by drawing up in writing a Law adapted and applicable to every class among them. By this Law he prescribed how they were to make the Tabernacle, build the Temple, choose Levites, offer sacrifices and oblations, carry out rites of purification, and fulfil all the rest of their service.

He himself has no need of these things. Even before the time of Moses, every good was to be found in him, and the origin of every fragrance and all the smoke of pleasant incense. The people were quick to turn back to idols, but God instructed them. Many times he freed them, urging them to persevere in his service. He called them to things of supreme importance by means of things of less importance, that is, he called them by shadows to those things which are real; he called them by temporal things to eternal things, by the carnal to the spiritual, by the earthly to the heavenly.

God told Moses, See that you make them all after the pattern which you have seen on the mountain. For forty days Moses was learning to remember God’s words, the heavenly patterns, the spiritual images, the foreshadowing of things to come. Paul, too, says this, For they drank from that spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Paul, again, listed the things which were in the Law, and concluded, All these things happened to them but they were written down as a warning to us upon whom the end of the ages has come.

By means of shadows they began to learn the fear of God and perseverance in his service. So the Law was both instruction for them and the foretelling of things to come.

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