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—15 June 2020, Feria after First Sunday of Trinitytide (Monday ~ 11th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of Gustave Doré’s engraving, “Cyrus Restoring the Vessels of the Temple [to Shesh-bazzar, Prince of Judah],” from his The Holy Bible, 1866.]
Ezra 1:1-8; 2:68-3:8
The People’s Liberation & Return from Captivity, Restoration of Worship
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.
Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, every one whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem; and all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Cyrus, king of Persia, brought these out in charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Shesh-bazzar, the prince of Judah.
Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site; according to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work sixty-one thousand darics of gold, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.
The priests, the Levites, and some of the people lived in Jerusalem and its vicinity; and the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants lived in their towns, and all Israel in their towns.
When the seventh month came, and the sons of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of She-alti-el with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings upon it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. They set the altar in its place, for fear was upon them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings upon it to the LORD, burnt offerings morning and evening. And they kept the feast of booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the ordinance, as each day required, and after that the continual burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the LORD, and the offerings of every one who made a freewill offering to the LORD. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.
Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of She-alti-el and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their brethren, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to have the oversight of the work of the house of the LORD.
St. Bede the Venerable
In Esdram et Nehemiam (Patrologia Latina 91:812-813)
Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord.
A great faith shines out in these words of King Cyrus, and a great love. He understood that the people of Israel, above all other nations, was the people of God, and he gave leave to all without exception who wished to return to their native land to do so as free men. He acknowledged that the Lord God who dwelt in heaven dwelt also in Jerusalem and could go up with each one of those returning from Babylon to Jerusalem. Is it not clearer than daylight that he believed this God to be non-corporeal, unrestricted by place, a spirit, present everywhere; whom he acknowledged dwelt in Jerusalem and its Temple yet without doubting that he held sway simultaneously in the kingdom of heaven; whom he believed reigned in heaven yet was with his faithful on earth, guiding their hands and hearts to accomplish what was good and salutary? For the rest, all the words of this text are full of spiritual significance.
For who does not easily recognise that it is only those whom God is with who can pass from sinfulness to sanctity – from captivity in Babylon to freedom in Jerusalem? Without me, Christ says, you can do nothing. Can anyone fail to see here a reference to the spiritual ascent, the ‘going-up’ to Jerusalem? Those who really desire to please God must necessarily lift up their hands to higher things, long for what is divine and transcend the display of this world and its attractions through their love of eternal reality. We are reminded that Jerusalem is in Judah, so that we who through disregard of God were once held captive by the Chaldeans and thereafter freed from malign spirits, may return to the vision of peace and light by our recognition of God’s love. And there let us build a house to the Lord God of Israel – in the unity of Catholic peace, in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness and God’s loving-kindness and grace. Let us prepare our hearts so that he himself may deign to dwell in them and enlighten them by his presence. But let us also take care to set the hearts of our neighbours alight, so that they too may praise their Creator and engage in the works of love. Indeed, either way we build a house to the Lord: whether we commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness or, by our words and example, inspire those whom we can to walk in the way of holiness.