[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—7 May, Thursday in the Fourth Week of Eastertide
[The image is of Bartholomeus Breenbergh’s “Saints Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Sacrifice at Lystra)” (1637).]
Acts of the Apostles 14:8 – 15:4
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra; Going Up to Jerusalem
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting, who could not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and walked. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people. But when the Apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying, “Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” With these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium; and having persuaded the people, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city; and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed Elders for them in every Church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. And when they arrived, they gathered the Church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and the Elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the Church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles, and they gave great joy to all the brethren. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church and the Apostles and the Elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
St. Dorotheus of Gaza
Commentary on an Easter Hymn of St. Gregory Nazianzen, Discourse 16:167-169 (Sources Chrétiennes 92:462-464)
The Apostle urges us to worship God in a way worthy of rational creatures, by offering him our bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to him. How are we to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice? By no longer obeying the promptings of body and mind, but being guided by the Spirit, and not gratifying the desires of our fallen nature. For that is how we put to death what is earthly in us. Such a sacrifice is said to be living, holy, and pleasing to God.
But why is it called a living sacrifice? Because while an animal victim is sacrificed and dies at the same time, Christians who offer themselves to God sacrifice themselves daily but remain alive. As David says: For your sake we are put to death all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
‘Let us offer ourselves,’ says St Gregory; that is, let us sacrifice ourselves, let us die to ourselves all day long, like all the Saints, for the sake of Christ our God, for the sake of him who died for us.
But how did the Saints die to themselves? By not loving the world or anything in the world, as the Catholic Epistles say, but renouncing everything that panders to the appetites, or entices the eyes, and all pride in possessions, that is, pleasure-seeking, covetousness, and vainglory, and taking up the Cross to follow Christ, crucifying the world to themselves and themselves to the world. About this the Apostle says: Those who belong to Christ have crucified the body, with its passions and desires. That is how the Saints died to themselves.
But how did they offer themselves? By not living for themselves, but according to God’s commandments, giving up their own desires in order to obey God, and to love him and their neighbours. As St Peter said: We have given up everything to follow you. What did he give up? He had no money or property, no silver or gold. All he had was his fishing net, and that was old, as St John Chrysostom remarked. But he gave up, as he said, all his own desires, all worldly attachments, so that it is clear that if he had possessed wealth and property, he would have despised these as well.
Then he took up his Cross and followed Christ, according to the words: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. That is how the Saints offered themselves: dying, as we said, to all disordered inclinations and self-will, and living only for Christ and his commandments.