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—30 July 2020, Feria after the Seventh Sunday of Trinitytide (Thursday ~ 17th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of William Blake’s watercolor “When the Morning Stars Sang Together” from the Butts set (1805-1806) of the Illustrations of the Book of Job. “When the morning Stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)]
Job 38:1-30; 39:31-35
God Confounds Job
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?’
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It is changed like clay under the seal, and it is dyed like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain, and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man; to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground put forth grass?
Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven? The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.”
And the LORD said to Job: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” Then Job answered the LORD: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.
St. Gregory the Great
Moralia in Job, 27 Praefatio (Patrologia Latina 76:445-6)
After the loss of his goods, the death of his children, the wounds of his body, the words of his wife inciting him to evil, the insulting language of his comforters, and the spear thrusts of so many sorrows bravely received, Job ought to have been praised by his judge for the strength of his constancy – but Job is not now going to be called out of this world. He is about to receive back twofold, he is about to be restored to his former health, to enjoy his restored possessions longer, so Almighty God is obliged to reprove him whom he preserves with strict justice in case Job’s very victory should lay him low with the sword of pride.
There is nothing, is there, that so commonly slays people than consciousness of their own virtue. It puffs them up with self-satisfaction and at the same time empties them of the truth; it suggests that they are sufficient unto themselves to achieve their rewards and at the same time diverts them from the will to amend. Job, then, was just before his scourges, but he remained more so after them; before them he was praised by the mouth of God; after them and because of them he grew in stature. As a pipe of ductile metal is lengthened by hammering, so Job rose in God’s esteem the more he was chastised. But he who stood so firm in virtue when struck down needed to be humbled. He needed to be humbled so that the arrows of pride should not pierce that sturdy breast which the wounds already received had certainly failed to pierce. It was necessary to search out someone who surpassed Job – but what about God’s words: Have you seen my servant Job, that there is no one like him in all the earth? How then could Job be humbled by comparison with another when God himself had attested that there was no one like him? What, then, was left but for the Lord himself to describe his own accomplishments? So he asks: Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? And again: Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Or: Have you commanded the morning ever since your days began and caused the dawn to know its place?
Who can do these things but the Lord? Yet a human being is asked so that he may learn that he is unable to do these things, so that a man who has grown limitless in virtue and is surpassed by no other man may know he is surpassed by God and so avoid elation. But how highly is he exalted who is so sublimely humbled! How great is the victory of the man who has been brought low by comparison with God! How much greater than a man is he who is shown by the witness of creation to be less than God! He is very mighty who is proved by such questioning to be not at all mighty.