[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—27 April, Monday in the Third Week of Eastertide
[The image is of Herbert Boeckl’s “Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Seckau Abbey, Austria, 1952-1960.]
Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40
Philip Baptizes the Eunuch
But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing.
But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea.
Sermon 99, 9-11 (Works of Saint Augustine , translated by Edmund Hill, O.P.)
The Lord said somewhere, after he had risen from the dead, Receive the Holy Spirit, and after saying Receive the Holy Spirit, he immediately added, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them; that is, it’s the Spirit who forgives, not you. But the Spirit is God. So it’s God who forgives, not you. What, though, are you in relation to the Spirit? Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? So God dwells in his holy temple, that is among his holy faithful, in his Church and it is through them he forgives sins.
But if he forgives through human agency, he can also forgive apart from human agency. To some he gave forgiveness through John; through whom did he give grace to John himself? Wishing to demonstrate this and to confirm this truth, God very suitably arranged that when some people in Samaria had been evangelized and baptized, and baptized by Philip, one of the seven Deacons originally chosen, they did not receive the Holy Spirit, and yet they had been baptized. This was told to the disciples in Jerusalem, and they came to Samaria so that those who had been baptized might receive the Holy Spirit by their laying on their hands.
When Simon saw this, he thought it was something possessed by men, and wanted to possess it himself. Thinking it was possessed by men, he wanted to buy it from men. Then Peter denounced him and said, you have neither part nor portion in this faith. For you thought the gift of God is something to be bought with money. Now I would like you to take note of why I have wanted to remind you of this story. It was proper for God to show first that he works through men; but next that he works through himself, in case people should think what Simon thought, that that sort of power belongs to men, not to God – though the disciples themselves already knew this. After all, one hundred and twenty people had been gathered together when the Holy Spirit came upon them without the laying on of anyone’s hands. I mean, who had then imposed hands on them? And yet he came, and they were the first ones he filled.
After that scandal of Simon, what did God do? Notice him teaching, not by words but by events. Philip had baptized people, and the Holy Spirit hadn’t come upon them until the Apostles had come along and laid their hands upon them. This same Philip later baptised the eunuch of Queen Candace. He had been worshipping in Jerusalem, and on his way back from there was reading the prophet Isaiah in his chariot and not understanding it. Philip was prompted to approach the chariot, and he explained the reading, insinuated the faith, preached Christ. The eunuch believed in Christ, and said when they came to some water, Look, here is water; who is to prevent me being baptized? Philip said to him, do you believe in Jesus Christ? He answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And immediately he went down with him into the water. Once the mystery and Sacrament of Baptism had been carried out, since there was no expectation of the Apostles coming as on the previous occasion, so that no one should think the gift of the Holy Spirit was at the disposal of men, the Holy Spirit came immediately. That put an end to Simon’s ideas, to make sure he didn’t have imitators in that kind of thinking.