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 – Monday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time (Feria after the 7th Sunday in Trinitytide) – 27 July 2020
[ Image: William Blake, “Job Rebuked by His Friends” from _Illustrations of the Book of Job_. “The just upright Man is laughed to scorn” (Job 12:4); “They abhor me, they keep aloof from me” (Job 30:10) ]
Job 29:1-10; 30:1, 9-23
Job Laments His Affliction
And Job again took up his discourse, and said: “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me; when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness; as I was in my autumn days, when the friendship of God was upon my tent; when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me; when my steps were washed with milk, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil! When I went out to the gate of the city, when I prepared my seat in the square, the young men saw me and withdrew, and the aged rose and stood; the princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand on their mouth; the voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
“But now they make sport of me, men who are younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock.
“And now I have become their song, I am a byword to them. They abhor me, they keep aloof from me; they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me. Because God has loosed my cord and humbled me, they have cast off restraint in my presence. On my right hand the rabble rise, they drive me forth, they cast up against me their ways of destruction. They break up my path, they promote my calamity; no one restrains them. As through a wide breach they come; amid the crash they roll on. Terrors are turned upon me; my honour is pursued as by the wind, and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud.
“And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me. The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. With violence it seizes my garment; it binds me about like the collar of my tunic. God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to thee and thou dost not answer me; I stand, and thou dost not heed me. Thou hast turned cruel to me; with the might of thy hand thou dost persecute me. Thou liftest me up on the wind, thou makest me ride on it, and thou tossest me about in the roar of the storm. Yea, I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.”
St. Dorotheus of Gaza
Let us see, my brothers, why it is that sometimes when a person hears words that hurt him he can let them pass by without any bother as if he had not heard them, whilst at other times, as soon as he hears them he is troubled and upset. My question is – what is the cause of this difference? Is there one reason for this or are there many? I think there are several, but there is one in particular which is the source of all the others, as the saying goes: it results from the state of mind the person is in at that particular time.
For example, when someone is caught as he comes from prayer or contemplation, he is then in the best of dispositions and is able to put up with his brother and remain undisturbed. It may be that he has great affection for the other and so, out of love, puts up patiently with everything. But it can also happen that he despises the one who wants to upset him, regarding him as the lowest of men and not worth even a reply. Nor would he even consider mentioning his slights and insults to someone else.
Hence, as I said, it can be that a man is not disturbed or upset because he has only contempt for the things that are said to him and ignores them. The brother who insults us may upset us either because we are not at that moment in the right mood or because we dislike him intensely. There are many other reasons as well which are described in different ways. But, if we examine the matter closely, we can say that the reason for all disturbance is that no one blames himself.
This is the reason for every taking of offence and upset. This is why at times it is impossible to find peace of soul. Nor should we be surprised at this, since it is the teaching of spiritual men that there is no other way of peace for us. This we can see to be true in so many people. And yet we hope for peace but do not follow their teaching. Or, we believe that we are on the right path while we are irritated by everything and cannot bear to take any blame upon ourselves.
That is the way things are. A man may indeed accomplish innumerable good deeds, but if he does not master this, he will never attain peace. Instead, he will always oppress himself and oppress others, and his labours will go for nothing.