Patristic Lectionary—29 June 2020, Saints Peter and Paul

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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—29 June 2020, Saints Peter and Paul

 [The image is of a sixth-century mosaic of St. Cyprian in the Church of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy]

Nehemiah 5:1-19

Nehemiah Frees the Poor from the Oppression of the Rich

Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many; let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax upon our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children are as their children; yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved; but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”

I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them, and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brethren who have been sold to the nations; but you even sell your brethren that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say. So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover I and my brethren and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us leave off this interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the hundredth of money, grain, wine, and oil which you have been exacting of them.” Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and took an oath of them to do as they had promised. I also shook out my lap and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labour who does not perform this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.

Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brethren ate the food allowance of the governor. The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens upon the people, and took from them food and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also held to the work on this wall and acquired no land; and all my servants were gathered there for the work. Moreover there were at my table a hundred and fifty men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations which were about us. Now that which was prepared for one day was one ox and six choice sheep; fowls likewise were prepared for me, and every ten days skins of wine in abundance; yet with all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the servitude was heavy upon this people. Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

St. Cyprian of Carthage

Sermon [attributed – Patrologiae Latinae Supplementum 1:51-52

God’s will is what Christ did and taught: it means humility in behaviour, steadfastness in faith, modesty in words, justice in deeds, mercy in good works, discipline in daily life; to be incapable of doing injury to anyone, but able to bear the injury done, to rejoice at the prosperity of our neighbour as if we ourselves had deserved to prosper, to think of another’s loss as our own loss, and another’s gain as our own gain. It is to love a friend not for the world’s sake but for God’s, to put up with and even love an enemy, to do to nothing to anyone which you would not want to suffer yourself, to refuse no one what you rightly want given to you; to help your neighbour in time of trouble not only according to your means, but willing to be of use to him even beyond your means, and to keep the peace with your brothers. It is to love God with all your heart, to love him as Father but fear him as Lord; and to put nothing before Christ, for he has never put anything before us.

But all who love the name of the Lord will be glorified. Let us be unhappy here, so as to be happy afterwards. Let us follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who say they believe in him must live in the same way as he lived. Christ, the Son of God, came not to reign, but though king he shunned the kingdom; he came not to rule, but to serve. He became poor to make us rich; he took blows for us, so that we ourselves should feel no pain when scourged.

Let us imitate Christ. Christian is a name that stands for justice, kindness, and integrity. A Christian is one who imitates and follows Christ in everything, who is holy, innocent, undefiled, and chaste. There is no place in the heart of a Christian for malice, but only for devotion and goodness. A Christian is one who follows the life of Christ, who is merciful to all and ignorant of injustice. A Christian is one who forbids the poor to be disparaged in his presence, who helps the unfortunate, mourns with those who mourn, feels another’s pain as if it was his own, and is moved to tears by the tears of others. A Christian’s house is open to all, no one is ever shut out. The poor are always welcome at his table; everyone knows that Christians are really good, and no one is left with any sense of injustice. A Christian is one who serves God diligently day and night, whose soul is sincere and immaculate, whose conscience is faithful and pure, whose mind is wholly on God, and who despises worldly possessions so that he may acquire heavenly ones.

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