[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—14 May, Thursday in the Fifth Week of Eastertide
[The image is an icon of Nicholas Cabasilas, fourteenth-century Greek mystic. Extracts from his The Life in Christ are used as readings in the Roman Catholic Church’s Liturgy of the Hours—another plus for ecumenism’s mutual enrichment.]
Acts of the Apostles 19:1-20
Paul at Ephesus
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.
And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; and fear fell upon them all; and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily.
Nicholas Cabasilas (ca. 1319-1392)
The Life in Christ, 3 (Patrologia Graeca 150:574-575)
The purpose of chrismation is to enable us to share in the power of the Holy Spirit. This anointing brings the Lord Jesus himself to dwell in us, our only salvation and hope. Through him we are made sharers in the Holy Spirit and are led to the Father. Unfailingly it procures for Christians those gifts that are needed in every age, gifts such as faith, reverence for God, prayer, love, and purity. It does so even though many are unaware of having received such gifts. Many do not know the power of this sacrament or even that there is a Holy Spirit, as it says in the Book of Acts, because they were anointed before reaching the age of reason and afterward they blinded their souls by sin.
Nevertheless, the Spirit does in truth give the newly initiated his gifts, distributing them to each one as he wills; and our Lord, who promised to be with us always, never ceases to shower blessings on us.
Chrismation cannot be superfluous. We obtain the remission of our sins in baptism and we receive the body of Christ at the altar. These sacraments will remain until the unveiled appearance of their author. It cannot be doubted, then, that Christians also enjoy the benefits that belong to this holy anointing and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. How could some sacraments be fruitful and this one without effect? How can we believe that Saint Paul’s words: He who promised is faithful, apply to some sacraments but not to this one? If we discount the value of any sacrament we must discount the value of all, since it is the same power that acts in each of them, it is the immolation of the same Lamb, it is the same death and the same blood that gives each of them its efficacy.
The Holy Spirit is given to some, as Saint Paul says, to enable them to do good to others and to edify the Church by prophesying, teaching revealed truth, or healing the sick by a mere word. The Spirit is given to others for their own sanctification, imparting to them a shining faith and reverence for God, or making them outstanding in purity, charity, or humility.