[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—23 May 2020, Saturday in the Sixth Week of Eastertide
Jews Plot Against Paul
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. And they went to the Chief Priests and Elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. You, therefore, along with the Council, give notice now to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush; so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. And Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune; for he has something to tell him.” So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. But do not yield to them; for more than forty of their men lie in ambush for him, having bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you.” So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of this.”
Then he called two of the centurions and said, “At the third hour of the night get ready two hundred soldiers with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” And he wrote a letter to this effect:
“Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greeting. This man was seized by the Jews, and was about to be killed by them, when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. And desiring to know the charge on which they accused him, I brought him down to their Council. I found that he was accused about questions of their law but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”
So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. And on the morrow they returned to the barracks, leaving the horsemen to go on with him. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked to what province he belonged. When he learned that he was from Cilicia he said, “I will hear you when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.
St. Leo the Great
Sermon 74, 5 (Corpus Christianorum Latina 138A:459-461)
Dearly beloved, let us exult with spiritual joy and rejoice before the Lord with the thanksgiving that is his due, freely raising the eyes of our hearts to Christ’s dwelling place on high. Let no earthly desires weigh down the minds that are summoned heavenward, no perishable things encumber those predestined for what is everlasting, no deceptive snares entangle the feet that have entered upon the path of truth. The faithful should make their way swiftly through these temporal things, knowing themselves to be mere pilgrims in this earthly vale. The world’s consolations may attract us, but they must be bravely passed by; it would be an unworthy act for us to embrace them. We are urged to such total dedication by the blessed Apostle Peter, who, in that zeal for feeding Christ’s sheep, which his threefold profession of love for his Lord inspired in him, entreats us as strangers and pilgrims to abstain from carnal desires which war against the soul. And on whose behalf do these carnal desires wage war? Are they not tools of the devil, who enjoys bringing upward-striving men into bondage to lust for passing pleasures and robbing them of the place from which he himself has fallen? Against his plots each of the faithful must keep careful watch, so that he may be able to repulse the enemy from whatever quarter he may attack.
Now nothing is more effective against the devil’s wiles, dearly beloved, than tender compassion and unselfish love; by these, every sin can be either avoided or conquered. But such a degree of virtue cannot be attained until its contrary is overcome; and there is surely nothing so hostile to mercy and works of charity as the love of money, from the root of which all evil springs up. Unless this noxious weed is starved to death, it is inevitable that the heart in which it has taken root will bring forth the thorns and briars of vice rather than any flower of true virtue. Therefore, my beloved, let us resist this most pestilent of evils and make charity our aim, for no virtue can flourish without it; and then by the same path of love which Christ trod when he came down to us, we shall be able to ascend to him, to whom, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, belong honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.