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—8 June 2020, Feria after Trinity Sunday (Monday ~ 10th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is a fresco of St. Columbanus in Brugnato Cathedral]
To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of partisanship, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Instructio VIII.1-2 (Patrologia Latina 80:244-246)
It is natural for travellers to hasten toward their native land, and natural too that they should have trouble on the way and safety at home. So let us who are on the way to it hasten toward our native land; for our whole life is like a single day’s journey.
And therefore let us devote ourselves to divine rather than human affairs, and like exiles be always sighing for our native land and longing for it. For the journey’s end must always be wished and longed for by travellers, and so because we ourselves are travellers and exiles in the world we should always be thinking of the journey’s end, that is, the end of our life, for our journey brings us to our native land. But, there, all who have been travelling the world get different lots according to their merits.
The good travellers come home because they love the journey. Let us not love the journey to our native land, so that we do not lose our eternal home, for that is the kind of home we have, and which we must love. Let this, then, be our constant aim: to live our way like travellers, exiles, visitors to the world, without clinging to any worldly ambitions or longing to fulfil any worldly desires, but to fill our minds entirely with heavenly and spiritual images, singing in thought and deed: When shall I come and appear before the face of my God? For, my soul thirsts for the strong and living God. And saying with Paul: I long to die and be with Christ.
Let us realise that although We are exiles from the Lord as long as we are in the body, we are present in the sight of God. Therefore spurning all laziness, putting away all lukewarmness, let us do our best to please him who is present everywhere. Then, with a good conscience, we may pass happily from our journey in this world to the holy and eternal home of our eternal Father, from the present to the absent, from sorrow to joy, from transitory to eternal, from earth to heaven, from the region of the dead to that of the living. And then we shall see, face to face, the world of heaven and the king of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ, ruling his kingdom with right government, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.