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—18 July 2020, Feria after the Fifth Sunday of Trinitytide (Saturday ~ 15th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of William Blake’s “Job’s Evil Dreams” from llustrations of the Book of Job. Job 7:14 – “With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest me …” From the Linell Set, 1823. The marginal gloss states: “Satan himself is transformed into an Angel of Light & his Ministers into Ministers of Righteousness”]
Job Cries Out in the Weariness of His Life
“Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope.
“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while thy eyes are upon me, I shall be gone. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him any more.
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that thou settest a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint’, then thou dost scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that thou dost make so much of him, and that thou dost set thy mind upon him, dost visit him every morning, and test him every moment? How long wilt thou not look away from me, nor let me alone till I swallow my spittle? If I sin, what do I do to thee, thou watcher of men? Why hast thou made me thy mark? Why have I become a burden to thee? Why dost thou not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; thou wilt seek me, but I shall not be.”
St. Gregory the Great
Moralia in Job, 8.23, 26, 30, 34 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament VI: Job, ed. Manlio Simonetti & Marco Conti )
My flesh is clothed with corruption and foulness of dust. If we take Job’s words as the voice of the holy Church universal, doubtless we find it at one time sunk to the earth by the corruption of the flesh, at another time by the defilement of dust. For the Church has many within it who, while devoted to the love of the flesh, become corrupted by the putrefaction of excess. In addition, there are some people who certainly keep from the gratification of the flesh, yet grovel with all their heart in earthly practices. So let holy Church speak through the words of one of its members, let it express what it endures from either sort of person. My flesh is clothed with corruption and the defilement of dust. It is as if the Church said in plain words, ‘There are many who are members of me in faith, yet these are not sound or pure members in practice. For they either are mastered by foul desires and run to and fro in corruption’s rottenness, or, being devoted to earthly practices, they are soiled with dust. For in those whom I have to endure, people filled with wantonness, I do plainly lament for the flesh turned corrupt. And in those from whom I suffer, those who are seeking the earth, what else is this but the defilement of dust that I bear?’
My days pass more swiftly than the weaving of cloth by the weaver. In a very suitable image, the time of the flesh is compared with a cloth web. As the web advances thread by thread, so this mortal life passes day by day; in proportion as the web increases, so it advances to its completion. Just as we said before, while the time in our hands passes, the time before us is shortened. Moreover, of the whole length of our lives, the days to come are proportionally fewer to those days that have gone by.
Job says that, The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone. For the human eye is the pity of the Redeemer that softens the hardness of our insensibility when it looks upon us. Hence, as the Gospel witnesses, it is said, And the Lord turned, looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord. And he went out and wept bitterly. However, when the soul is divested of the flesh, the human eye henceforth does not see anything. The Redeemer’s pity never delivers anyone after death whom it has not gracefully restored to pardon before death.