[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—13 April, Monday in the Octave of Easter
[The image is Salvador Dali’s “The Ascension of Christ”]
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-26
Appearances and Ascension of the Lord; Election of Matthias
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. (Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven Apostles.
A Paschal Homily (Sources Chrétiennes 27:116-118, 184-190)
Now the holy rays of the light of Christ shine forth, the pure stars of the pure Spirit rise, the heavenly treasures of glory and divinity lie open. In this splendour the long dark night has been swallowed up and the dreary shadows of death have vanished. For us who believe in him a glorious day has dawned, a long unending day, the mystical Passover symbolically celebrated by the Law and effectually accomplished by Christ, a wonderful Passover, a miracle of divine virtue, a work of divine power. This is the true festival and the everlasting memorial, the day upon which freedom from suffering comes from suffering, immortality from death, life from the tomb, healing from a wound, Resurrection from the fall, and Ascension into heaven from descent into hell.
To show that he had power over death Christ had exercised his royal authority to loose death’s bonds even during his lifetime, as for example when he gave the command, Lazarus, come out and Arise, my child. For the same reason he surrendered himself completely to death, so that in him that gluttonous beast with his insatiable appetite would die completely. Since death’s power comes from sin, it searched everywhere in his sinless body for its accustomed food for sensuality, pride, disobedience or, in a word, for that ancient sin which was its original sustenance. In him, however, it found nothing to feed on and so, entirely closed in upon itself and destroyed for lack of nourishment, death become its own death.
Many of the just, proclaiming the Good News and prophesying, were awaiting him who was to become by his Resurrection the firstborn from the dead. And so, to save all members of the human race, whether they lived before the Law, under the Law, or after his own coming, Christ dwelt three days beneath the earth. After his Resurrection it was the women who were the first to see him, for as a woman brought the first sin into the world, so a woman first announced the news of life to the world. Thus they heard the holy words, Women, rejoice; for sadness was to be swallowed up by the joy of the Resurrection.
When Christ had clothed himself completely in the humanity created in God’s image and transformed into the heavenly man the old man he had put on, the image united to himself ascended with him into heaven. At the sign of the great mystery of human nature now ascending with God the angelic powers cried out with joy, commanding the hosts of heaven: Lift up your gates, you princes, be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall enter. They, seeing the unheard of wonder of human nature united to God, exclaimed in their turn: Who is this King of glory? and received the reply: The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory, the strong, the mighty, the powerful in battle.