Patristic Lectionary—18 May, Monday in the Sixth Week of Eastertide; Rogation Day; St. John I, Pope and Martyr

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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—18 May, Monday in the Sixth Week of Eastertide; Rogation Day; St. John I, Pope and Martyr

Acts of the Apostles 21:1-26

Journey to Jerusalem; Agabus Prophesies; Council of James and the Elders

And when we had parted from the Elders of Ephesus and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. And when our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey; and they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way till we were outside the city; and kneeling down on the beach we prayed and bade one another farewell. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the brethren and stayed with them for one day. On the morrow we departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “The will of the Lord be done.”  After these days we made ready and went up to Jerusalem. And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James; and all the Elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them.

St. Maximus of Turin

Sermon 56, 1-2 (Corpus Christianorum Latina 23:224-225)

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Our Lord blossomed afresh when he rose from the tomb, and he bore fruit when he ascended to heaven. As a flower he burgeoned from the depths of the earth; as the fruit he took his place on his lofty throne. Enduring the torment of the Cross alone, he is that grain which he himself describes; surrounded by his Apostles, now unshakeable in their faith, he is the fruit. In his converse with his disciples during those forty days after his Resurrection, he taught them the fullness of mature wisdom, and reaped from them an abundant harvest by the life-giving power of his words. Then he ascended to heaven, bringing his Father the fruits of his incarnate life, and leaving in his disciples the seed of holiness. Just as the eagle leaves the low-lying ground, makes for the heights, and climbs high to heaven, in like manner our Saviour left the lower regions, made for the heights of Paradise, and reached heaven’s highest summit.

But what of the fact that an eagle often steals its prey by carrying off what belongs to another? Even so, our Saviour did something not unlike that, for in a manner of speaking he stole his prey when he snatched the manhood he had assumed from the jaws of hell and carried it off to heaven, freeing the human race from slavery to an alien prince, that is, from the power of the devil, and leading it captive into a higher captivity. As the prophet says, Ascending on high he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men. The undoubted meaning of these words is this: that since the devil held the human race captive, our Lord, by wresting it from him, took it captive himself and as the prophet tells us led that very captivity to the heights of heaven. Both captivities do indeed bear the same name, but they differ one from the other. The devil’s captivity means enslavement; Christ’s, on the contrary, means restoration to freedom.

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