[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—2 May, Saturday in the Third Week of Eastertide
[The image is of the version of Christ Pantocrator at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai, Egypt. The different expressions shown on the right and left sides of Jesus’ face may suggest his double nature as both human and divine. It was painted on a wooden board during the 6th or 7th century.]
Acts of the Apostles 11:19-30
Foundation of the Church at Antioch
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the Elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
St. Gregory of Nyssa
On Christian Perfection (Werner Jaeger, Gregorii Nysseni Opera 8:174-177)
No one has known Christ better than Paul, nor has anyone surpassed him in the example he gave of what anyone should be who bears Christ’s name. So perfectly did he mirror his Master that he became his very image. He was transformed into his model and it seemed to be no longer Paul who lived and spoke, but Christ himself living in Paul. His words Since you seek a proof that it is Christ who speaks in me, and, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, show his keen awareness of this grace.
Paul teaches us the meaning of Christ’s name when he calls him the power and wisdom of God, our peace, the unapproachable light in which God dwells, our sanctification and redemption, our great High Priest, our paschal sacrifice, our expiation; when he declares him to be the reflection of God’s glory, the perfect likeness of his nature, the Creator of all ages, our spiritual food and drink, the rock and the water, the foundation of our faith, the cornerstone, the image of the invisible God. He shows what Christ’s name means when he says that he is the mighty God, the Head of his Body the Church, the firstborn of the new creation, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the firstborn from the dead, the eldest of many brethren, and when he tells us that Christ is the mediator between God and man, the only-begotten Son crowned with glory and honour, the Lord of glory, the beginning of all things, the King of justice and of peace, the King of the whole universe, the ruler of a realm that has no boundaries.
Paul calls Christ by many other titles too numerous to mention. Their cumulative force when taken together gives some conception of what the name ‘Christ’ really means and shows us his inexpressible majesty in so far as our minds can comprehend it. Since by the goodness of God we who are called Christians have been granted the honour of sharing this name, the greatest, the highest, the most sublime of all names, each of the titles that explains its meaning should have its reflection in us: if we are not to be false to this name we must bear witness to it by our lives.