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—11 June 2020, St. Barnabas; Feria after Trinity Sunday (Thursday ~ 10th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of a Cistercian monk reading. Monastery, date, and other information unknown.]
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not irksome to me and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
St. John Cassian
Conferences 1.4-5, 7.1 (Ancient Christian Writers, Tr. Boniface Ramsey, O.P.)
In every art and discipline a certain scopos or goal takes precedence. This is the soul’s goal and the mind’s constant intention, which cannot be maintained, nor the final end of the longed for fruit arrived at, except by diligence and perseverance. For, as I have said, the farmer who has as his end a secure and comfortable life, thanks to his fruitful lands, pursues his scopos or goal by clearing his field of all the briers and emptying it of every unfruitful weed, and he does not believe that he will achieve his end of peaceful affluence in any other way than as it were by first possessing by toil and hope what he desires to have the actual use of. Hence, too, the end of our journey is the kingdom of God. But we should inquire carefully into the nature of our goal. If we have not in similar fashion grasped this we shall be wearied fruitlessly by our toil, because if the road is uncharted, then those who undertake the hardships of the journey will have nothing to show for it.
The end of our profession, as we have said, is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven; but the goal or scopos is purity of heart, without which it is impossible for anyone to reach that end. Fixing our gaze on this goal, then, as on a definite mark, we shall take the most direct route. Thus, indeed, the end of our vocation is eternal life, according to the very words of the Apostle: Having your reward, indeed, in holiness, but your end in the eternal life. But the scopos is purity of heart, which is called holiness. Without this the aforesaid end will not be able to be seized. It is as if he had said in other words: Having your scopos, indeed, in purity of heart, but your end in eternal life. When he was teaching us about our immediate goal the same blessed Apostle significantly used the very term scopos when he said: Forgetting what is behind, but reaching out to what is ahead, I press on to the goal (in Greek the scopos), to the prize of the heavenly calling of the Lord. It is just as if he had said: By way of this goal I forget what is behind – namely, the vices of my earlier life – and I strive to attain to the end, which is the heavenly prize. Whatever therefore can direct us to this scopos, which is purity of heart, is to be pursued with all our strength, but whatever deters us from this is to be avoided as dangerous and harmful. For it is for its sake that we do and endure everything, for its sake that family, homeland, honours, wealth, the pleasures of this world, and every enjoyment are disdained – so that perpetual purity of heart may be kept. With this goal always set before us, therefore, our actions and thoughts are ordered to attaining it in the most direct way.
For the sake of this, then, everything is to be done and desired. For its sake solitude is to be pursued; for its sake we know that we must undertake fasts, vigils, labours, bodily deprivation, readings, and other virtuous things, so that by them we may be able to acquire and keep a heart untouched by any harmful passion, and so that by taking these steps we may be able to ascend to the perfection of love.