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 June 2020, Feria after Second Sunday of Trinitytide (Thursday ~ 12th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is Gustave Doré’s engraving, “Ezra in Prayer,” from Doré’s The Holy Bible (1866)]
Ezra 9:1-9, 15 – 10:5
On Marriages with Gentiles
After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons; so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”
When I heard this, I rent my garments and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered round me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle rent, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as at this day. But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant, and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. For we are bondmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
“O LORD the God of Israel, thou art just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as at this day. Behold, we are before thee in our guilt, for none can stand before thee because of this.”
While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel; for the people wept bitterly. And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.
St. Leo the Great
Homily 43.1-4 (Corpus Christianorum Latina 138A:251-255)
The Apostle exhorts us to put off the old man with its actions and to be renewed day by day through a holy way of life, for he says, you are the temple of God. If we are the temple of God, then, and the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, we must be very watchful to see that our hearts are not an unworthy dwelling for so great a guest.
When dealing with houses made by hands, people exercise a praiseworthy diligence and make sure to repair quickly any damage done by the rain or wind or the simple passage of time. So we too must constantly take care not to let anything disordered or unclean be found in our souls. For although our edifice will not last without the help of its builder, and the structure cannot remain intact without the watchful care of its maker, yet we are living matter and spiritual stones, and therefore the author of our being works in such a way that the person being renewed must collaborate with him. We must not, then, be disobedient to the grace of, nor separate ourselves from, that Good without which we are unable to be good. If we find anything impossible or extremely difficult in what we are commanded, we must not only look to our own powers but have recourse to him who commands.
God issues his commands with the intention of rousing our desire and giving us the help we need. Therefore, as the Prophet says, Cast your cares upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. Is there anyone so proud and arrogant, so sure of his own purity and integrity, as to think he needs no renovation? Such an attitude is mistaken, and the person who believes himself to be invulnerable amid the temptations of life has become excessively conceited.
The believer has no doubt that divine providence is at work always and everywhere. He knows that the outcome of human affairs does not depend on the power of the stars, for that power is non-existent, and that everything is ordered by the utterly equitable and merciful judgement and will of the supreme King. Nonetheless, things do not always work out as we desire, and the cause of the wicked often triumphs over that of the just. It is only too likely, then, that even generous souls may be disturbed and driven to wrongful complaints. Therefore, since few have such solid strength as not to be shaken by any shifts of circumstance and since prosperity no less than adversity leads many believers astray, we must be diligent in healing the wounds we receive because of our human weakness.