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—16 July 2020, Feria after the Fifth Sunday of Trinitytide (Thursday ~ 15th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of Julius Schnorr’s “Job with Three Friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite” from Die Bibel in Bildern (1860)]
“Despise Not the Chastening of the Almighty”
“Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. His sons are far from safety, they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. His harvest the hungry eat, and he takes it even out of thorns; and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground; but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause; who does great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number: he gives rain upon the earth and sends waters upon the fields; he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He takes the wise in their own craftiness; and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. They meet with darkness in the daytime and grope at noonday as in the night. But he saves the fatherless from their mouth, the needy from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth.
“Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven there shall no evil touch you. In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hid from the scourge of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.
“For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you. You shall know that your tent is safe, and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing. You shall know also that your descendants shall be many, and your offspring as the grass of the earth. You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season. Lo, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.”
Didymus the Blind
Commentarii in Job, 5.9-10, 21 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament VI: Job, ed. Manlio Simonetti & Marco Conti (2006)
Eliphaz acknowledges that God is the Ruler and Creator of all things. He is a man who possesses wisdom in human things. Eliphaz also has an understanding of the invisible and visible, since he speaks of the inexplorable, the great, the honourable, and also of water and rain. If he distinguishes that water from rain, he must have in mind water from wells, from creeks and from cracks in stone. One can find very wise thoughts of this kind in many places in Scripture, not least of all in Paul, who writes, In him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible. But it seems clear that Eliphaz became afraid in a very human way because of the things that happened to holy Job, and so he turned from this to admire the works of providence. Regarding the things without number, one has to admit that Eliphaz speaks from a human perspective. For God himself knows everything, there is no miracle in that. Doesn’t Solomon say, For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements; the beginning and end and middle of times; the alternations of the solstices and so on? This knowledge is also given to those who, like Solomon, are worthy of this benefit.
Again Eliphaz vigorously criticises the one who has been rebuked by the Lord, but too often it is righteous people who have been vilified. Among them are Joseph, whom the Egyptian woman charged with excess in spite of his modesty, and Susanna, who suffered as a hostage the humiliations from the lawless elders. Consequently, if he understands his words that the just man rebuked by the Lord will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue to mean that he is neither humiliated nor vilified, he is wrong. It is more accurate to say that the one who lives by the will of God cannot be harmed by humiliation or vilification, by the scourge of the tongue. Virtue protects him from being found guilty of the false allegations. Nor does such a person fear the coming destruction, since he says with St Paul, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Over all this he prevails through virtue’s abundance.
Likewise, he is protected from the intrigues of false wisdom, since God takes the wise in their own craftiness.
The words of the Prophet, The calamity will come from far away, must be understood like this: the good comes from us. For it is said, The kingdom of God is within you, and so we have an inclination toward virtue that Christ called ‘kingdom’. But the punishment and damage and disorder of sin come from the outside. For the man, who is created after God’s image, carries the seed of the good within, but if he deviates from the right path, he encounters evil, without having received such an inclination from God.