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—3 August 2020, Feria after the Eight Sunday of Trinitytide (Monday ~ 18th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of St. Gregory Nazianzen by Julia Bridget Hayes]
Joel 1:1, 13 – 2:11
A Plague of Locusts, the Sign of the Coming of the Day of the Lord
The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: Gird on sackcloth and lament, O priests, wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because cereal offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.
Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God; and cry to the LORD.
Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
The seed shrivels under the clods, the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are ruined because the grain has failed. How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep are dismayed.
Unto thee, O LORD, I cry. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the wild beasts cry to thee because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.
Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but after them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.
Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle.
Before them peoples are in anguish, all faces grow pale. Like warriors they charge, like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way, they do not swerve from their paths. They do not jostle one another, each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls; they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.
The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his host is exceedingly great; he that executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?
St. Gregory Nazianzen
Orations 16, 6.12-14 (The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 7 , tr. Browne & Swallow]
How terrible is an unfruitful season and the loss of the crops. It could not be otherwise, when men are already rejoicing in their hopes and counting on their all but harvested stores. Terrible again is an unseasonable harvest, when the farmers labour with heavy hearts, sitting as it were beside the grave of their crops, which the gentle rain nourished, but the wild storm has rooted up. Wretched indeed is the sight of the ground devastated, cleared, and shorn of its ornaments, over which the blessed Joel wails in his most tragic description of the desolation of the land and the scourge of famine; while another Prophet wails, as he contrasts with its former beauty its final disorder, and thus discourses on the anger of the Lord when he strikes the land: before him is the garden of Eden, behind him a desolate wilderness.
You are angry, and we have sinned, says one of old, making confession; and it is now time for me to say the opposite: We have sinned, and you are angry: therefore we have become a reproach to our neighbours. You turned your face from us, and we were filled with dishonour. But we are your people, O Lord, the rod of your inheritance; therefore correct us, but in goodness and not in your anger, lest you bring us to nothingness and contempt among all that dwell on the earth. With these words I invoke mercy: and if it were possible to propitiate his wrath with whole burnt offerings or sacrifices, I would not even have spared these. You yourselves also imitate your trembling priest, my beloved children. Possess your souls in tears and stay his wrath by amending your way of life. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, as blessed Joel with us charges you. I know also what he enjoins both upon me, the minister of God, and upon you, that we should enter his house in sackcloth and lament night and day between the porch and the altar, in piteous array, and with more piteous voices, crying aloud without ceasing on behalf of ourselves and the people, sparing nothing, either toil or word, which may propitiate God: saying, Spare, O Lord, Your people, and do not give Your heritage to reproach.
Come then, all of you, my brethren, let us worship and fall down, and weep before the Lord our Maker; let us appoint a public mourning, in our various ages and families, let us raise the voice of supplication; and let this, instead of the cry which he hates, enter into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. Let us anticipate his anger by confession; who knows if he will turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?
This I know certainly, I the sponsor of the loving-kindness of God, that when he has laid aside that which is unnatural to him, his anger, he will turn to that which is natural, his mercy. To the one he is forced by us, to the other he is inclined. And if he is forced to strike, surely he will refrain, according to his nature. Only let us have mercy on ourselves and open up a road for our Father’s righteous affections.