[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—23 April, Thursday in the Second Week of Eastertide
[The image is of Rembrandt’s “The Stoning of Saint Stephen” (1625)]
Acts of the Apostles 7:1-16
Stephen Begins a Sermon on the History of the Patriarchs
The High Priest said, “Is this so?” And Stephen said: “Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.’ Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living; yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him in possession and to his posterity after him, though he had no child. And God spoke to this effect, that his posterity would be aliens in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and ill-treat them four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation which they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him governor over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time. And at the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. And Joseph sent and called to him Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five souls; and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers, and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”
The Exhortation to Martyrdom 41-42 (Patrologia Graeca 11:618-619)
If passing from unbelief to faith means that we have passed from death to life, we should not be surprised to find that the world hates us. Anyone who has not passed from death to life is incapable of loving those who have departed from death’s dark dwelling place to enter a dwelling made of living stones and filled with the light of life. Jesus laid down his life for us; so we too should lay down our lives, I will not say for him, but for ourselves and also, surely, for those who will be helped by the example of our martyrdom.
Now is the time for Christians to rejoice. Scripture says that we should rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering trains us to endure with patience, patient endurance makes us pleasing to God, and being pleasing to God gives us ground for a hope that will not be disappointed. Only let the love of God be poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
The more we share in the sufferings of Christ, the more we share, through him, in his consolations. We should be extremely eager to share in Christ’s sufferings and to let them be multiplied in us if we desire the superabundant consolation that will be given to those who mourn. This consolation will not perhaps be the same for all, for if it were, Scripture would not say: The more we share in the sufferings of Christ, the more we share in his consolation. Sharing in his consolation will be proportionate to our sharing in his suffering.
God says through the prophet: At an acceptable time I heard you; on the day of salvation I helped you. What time could be more acceptable than when, for our fidelity to God in Christ, we are made a public spectacle and led away under guard, not defeated but triumphant?
In Christ and with Christ the martyrs disarm the principalities and powers and share in his triumph over them, for their share in Christ’s sufferings makes them sharers also in the mighty deeds those sufferings accomplished. What could more appropriately be called the day of salvation than the day of such a glorious departure from this world?