Patristic Lectionary—9 May, Saturday in the Fourth Week of Eastertide

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[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—9 May, Saturday in the Fourth Week of Eastertide

Acts of the Apostles 15:36 – 16:5

Beginning of Paul’s Second Journey, Conversion of Lydia

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the Churches.

And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the Apostles and Elders who were at Jerusalem. So the Churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; and on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

St. Ambrose

On the Mysteries, 3.8-12, 15; 5.26-28; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church 2.10 (Tr. De Romestin)

What did you see? Water, certainly, but not water alone; you saw the Deacons ministering there, and the Bishop asking questions and sanctifying. First of all, the Apostle taught you that you should not consider the things which we see, but the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Believe, then, that the presence of the Godhead is there. Do you believe the working, and not believe the presence? How can you have the working without the presence?

Consider, however, how ancient is this mystery which was prefigured even in the origin of the world itself. In the very beginning, when God made the heaven and the earth, the Spirit, it is said, moved upon the waters. Take another testimony. All flesh was corrupted by its iniquities, as God said, My Spirit shall not remain among men, because they are flesh, by which he shows that the grace of the Spirit is turned away by carnal impurity and the pollution of grave sin. Because of this, God, who desired to restore what was lacking, sent the flood and commanded the just man Noah to go up into the ark. Noah, as the flood was subsiding, first sent out a raven which did not return and then sent a dove which returned with an olive branch. You see the water, you see the wood, you see the dove, do you still hesitate as to the mystery?

The water, then, is that in which the flesh is dipped, that all carnal sin may be washed away and all wickedness therein buried. The wood is that on which the Lord Jesus was fastened when he suffered for us. The dove is that in the form of which the Holy Spirit descended, as you have read in the New Testament, who inspires in you peace of soul and tranquillity of mind. The raven is the figure of sin, which goes forth and does not return, if, in you, too, righteousness is preserved both inwardly and outwardly. You must not, then, trust your bodily eyes; that which is not seen is seen more truly, for the object of sight is temporal, but what is discerned by the mind and the spirit is eternal.

Is there, then, here any room left for doubt, when the Father clearly calls from heaven in the Gospel narrative and says: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased? When the Son also speaks, upon whom the Holy Spirit showed himself in the likeness of a dove? When the Holy Spirit also speaks, who came down in the likeness of a dove? When Scripture testifies that at the prayer of Jerubbaal, fire came down from heaven, and again, when Elijah prayed, fire was sent forth and consecrated the sacrifice.

Do not consider the merits of individuals, but the office of the priests. Or, if you look at the merits, consider the priest as Elijah. Look also upon the merits of Peter and Paul who handed down to us this mystery which they had received of the Lord Jesus. To those of old a visible fire was sent that they might believe; for us who believe, the Lord works invisibly. Believe, then, that the Lord Jesus who said, where two or three are, there am I also, is present at the invocation of the priest. How much more where the Church is and where his Mysteries are does he truly impart his presence!

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