Patristic Lectionary – Saturday, Seventh Week of Easter – 30 May 2020
[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.]
[Image: Statue of St. Paul in front of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall, Rome, Italy]
[ Preceding selection of readings in this lectionary. ]
Paul a Captive in Rome
And the brethren at Rome, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him.
After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews; and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar – though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brethren coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in great numbers. And he expounded the matter to them from morning till evening, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, while others disbelieved. So, as they disagreed among themselves, they departed, after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people, and say, You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” And he lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered.
Didymus the Blind
On the Trinity, 2.12 (Patrologia Graeca 39:667-674)
The Holy Spirit renews us in Baptism through his Godhead, which he shares with the Father and the Son. Finding us in a state of deformity, the Spirit restores our original beauty and fills us with his grace, leaving no room for anything unworthy of our love. The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from the earthly men we were, made of dust and ashes, into spiritual men, sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father, who bear a likeness to the Son and are his coheirs and his brothers, destined to reign with him and to share his glory. In place of earth the Spirit reopens heaven to us and gladly admits us into Paradise, giving us even now greater honour than the angels, and by the holy waters of Baptism extinguishing the unquenchable fires of hell.
We have two conceptions: to the human body we owe our first conception; to the divine Spirit, our second. John says: To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. All who believed in Christ, he says, received power to become children of God, that is, of the Holy Spirit, and to gain kinship with God. To show that their parent was God the Holy Spirit, he adds these words of Christ: I give you this solemn warning, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Visibly, through the ministry of priests, the font gives symbolic birth to our visible bodies. Invisibly, through the ministry of angels, the Spirit of God, whom even the mind’s eye cannot see, baptizes into himself both our souls and bodies, giving them a new birth.
Speaking quite literally, and also in harmony with the words, of water and the Spirit, John the Baptist says of Christ: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Since we are only vessels of clay, we must first be cleansed in water and then hardened by spiritual fire – for God is a consuming fire. We need the Holy Spirit to perfect and renew us, for the fire of the Spirit can also wash us and the water of the Spirit can also melt us down and recast us.