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—13 July 2020, Feria after the Fifth Sunday of Trinitytide (Monday ~ 15th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of Ilya Repin’s painting, “Job and His Friends,” 1869]
Job is Afflicted with Sores and Visited by Friends
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “Whence have you come?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Then Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power; only spare his life.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself and sat among the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to condole with him and comfort him. And when they saw him from afar, they did not recognize him; and they raised their voices and wept; and they rent their robes and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
St. John Chrysostom
Homilia in Paraclytum Demissum per Tecta (“Homily on the Paralytic Lowered through the Roof”) (Patrologia Graeca 51:62-63)
We can find ample consolation not only in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well. Consider the story of Job, and how, after the loss of his wealth and the destruction of his herds, not one, two or even three of his children were taken from him, but all of them together in the very flower of their youth. When you hear of his great spiritual courage, even if you are the weakest of men, it is not so difficult to recover yourself and return to life.
For you, my friend, at least watched over your sick child as he lay on his bed, you heard his last words and attended him as his life came to an end, you shut his eyes and closed his mouth. But Job was not present at his children’s death, nor saw them dying in the house where all were buried as in a single tomb. Yet after such overwhelming disasters he neither grieved nor despaired, but said: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; it has been done as the Lord willed. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
Let us too utter these words in every misfortune that life brings us, be it loss of wealth, bodily sickness, abuse, slander, or any other human ill. Let us say: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; it has been done as the Lord willed. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
If we make this our philosophy, no misfortune will ever cause us suffering, however many we endure. The gain will always be greater than the loss, and the good will outweigh the bad, since with these words you attract the favour of God and shake off the tyranny of the devil. For as soon as you utter them, the devil at once takes to flight, and when he has gone, the cloud of dejection lifts too, and oppressive thoughts disappear in the company of their master; and besides all this you will have as your reward all the blessings both of earth and of heaven. You have a steadfast example in Job and also in the Apostles, who scorned the terrors of this world for God’s sake, and so gained the blessings of eternity. Let us then follow them, and in all that happens to us rejoice and give thanks to the benevolent God. So shall we pass this present life in contentment and gain the blessings to come, by the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, honour and power at all times, now and forever and to endless ages. Amen.