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—22 August 2020, The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
[The photograph is by Brother John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B. Ecclesiastes 11:7 “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun.”]
Ecclesiastes 11:1 – 12:4
Advice About Old Age
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what evil may happen on earth. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun.
For if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
Remove vexation from your mind and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find pleasing words, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
On Ecclesiastes 10.2
Light, says the Preacher, is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun.
For if the light were taken away the world would be unadorned and life would be lifeless. Which is why Moses, who saw God, said, And God saw the light and said it was good. Here it is fitting for us to think of that great, true, eternal light that enlightens every man coming into this world, namely Christ our Saviour, the Redeemer of the world, who was made man and came to the last extremity of the human condition. Of him the Prophet David says, Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds; his name is the Lord, exult before him.
He, too, called the light sweet and foretold that it would be good to see with the eyes the sun of glory, he who in the time of his divine incarnation said, I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. And again, This is judgement, that the light has come into the world. In this way, by means of the light of the sun which we see with our bodily eyes, he foretold the spiritual Sun of justice. That was indeed most sweet for those who were found worthy to be taught by him and to see him with their own eyes as any man, living and dealing with men, even though he was not just any man. He was indeed the true God and hence brought it about that the blind saw, the lame walked, the deaf heard, he cleansed those afflicted with leprosy, and by a single command called the dead back to life.
But now it is most sweet to gaze on him with the eyes of the spirit and to contemplate and ponder over his divine beauty that it is not possible for man to see. Then, by means of this communion and mutual sharing, to be enlightened and adorned; to be filled with the sweetness of the spirit and clothed in sanctity; to attain to understanding and finally to be filled with divine exultation which lasts all the days of this present life. The wise Preacher made this point when he said, For if a man live many years, let him rejoice in them all. Clearly, for those who gaze on him, the Sun of justice is the source of all joy. Of him David the Prophet said, Let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy!; and again, Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.