Patristic Lectionary—25 May 2020, Monday in the Seventh Week of Eastertide; St. Bede the Venerable

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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—25 May 2020, Monday in the Seventh Week of Eastertide; St. Bede the Venerable

Acts 25:1-27

Paul Appeals to Caesar and is Summoned by King Agrippa

Now when Festus had come into his province, after three days he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the Chief Priests and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they urged him, asking as a favour to have the man sent to Jerusalem, planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea, and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them accuse him.”

When he had stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea; and the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. And when he had come, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem stood about him, bringing against him many serious charges which they could not prove. Paul said in his defence, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended at all.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem, and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried; to the Jews I have done no wrong, as you know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death; but if there is nothing in their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his Council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go.”

Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the Chief Priests and the Elders of the Jews gave information about him, asking for sentence against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any one before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defence concerning the charge laid against him. When therefore they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed; but they had certain points of dispute with him about their own superstition and about one Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “I should like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you shall hear him.”

So on the morrow Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then by command of Festus, Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you, and, especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Commentary on St. John’s Gospel, 11.11 (Patrologia Graeca 74:559-562)

All who receive the sacred flesh of Christ are united with him as members of his body. This is the teaching of St Paul when he speaks of the mystery of our religion that was hidden from former generations, but has now been revealed to the holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit; namely, that the Gentiles are joint-heirs with the Jews, that they are members of the same body, and that they have a share in the promise made by God in Christ Jesus.

If in Christ all of us, both ourselves and he who is within us by his own flesh, are members of the same body, is it not clear that we are one both with one another and with Christ? He is the bond that unites us, because he is at once both God and man.

With regard to our unity in the Spirit we may say, following the same line of thought, that all of us who have received one and the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, are united intimately both with one another and with God. Taken separately we are many, and Christ sends the Spirit who is both the Father’s Spirit and his own, to dwell in each of us. Yet that Spirit, being one and indivisible, gathers together those who are distinct from each other as individuals and causes them all to be seen as a unity in himself. Just as Christ’s sacred flesh has power to make those in whom it is present into one body, so the one, indivisible Spirit of God, dwelling in all, causes all to become one in spirit.

Therefore Saint Paul appeals to us to bear with one another charitably, and to spare no effort in securing by the bonds of peace, the unity that comes from the Spirit. There is but one body and one Spirit just as there is but one hope held out to us by God’s call. There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and works through all, and is in all. If the one Spirit dwells in us, the one God and Father of all will be in us, and he through his Son will gather together into unity with one another and with himself all who share in the Spirit.

There is also another way of showing that we are made one by sharing in the Holy Spirit. If we have given up our worldly way of life and submitted once for all to the laws of the Spirit it must surely be obvious to everyone that by repudiating in a sense our own life, and taking on the supernatural likeness of the Holy Spirit who is united to us, our nature is transformed so that we are no longer mere men but also children of God, spiritual men, by reason of the share we have received in the divine nature. We are all one, therefore, in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are one in mind and holiness, we are one through our communion in the sacred flesh of Christ, and through our sharing in the one Holy Spirit.

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