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—24 September 2020, Our Lady of Walsingham, Title Solemnity of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Patroness of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
[The image is Pieter Lastman’s “The Angel and Tobias with the Fish” (1625)]
Tobias and the Angel Make the Journey
[Tobias is sent by his father Tobit to Gabael at Rages in Media to reclaim silver Tobit had entrusted to Gabael. Tobias’s traveling companions are the archangel Raphael, disguised as Azarias, and a dog who somehow appears in the narrative without much in the way of explanation.]
Now as they proceeded on their way they came at evening to the Tigris river and camped there. Then the young man went down to wash himself. A fish leaped up from the river and would have swallowed the young man; and the angel said to him, “Catch the fish.” So the young man seized the fish and threw it up on the land. Then the angel said to him, “Cut open the fish and take the heart and liver and gall and put them away safely.” So the young man did as the angel told him; and they roasted and ate the fish.
And they both continued on their way until they came near to Ecbatana. Then the young man said to the angel, “Brother Azarias, of what use is the liver and heart and gall of the fish?” He replied, “As for the heart and liver, if a demon or evil spirit gives trouble to any one, you make a smoke from these before the man or woman, and that person will never be troubled again. And as for the gall, anoint with it a man who has white films in his eyes, and he will be cured.”
When they approached Ecbatana, the angel said to the young man, “Brother, today we shall stay with Raguel. He is your relative, and he has an only daughter named Sarah. I will suggest that she be given to you in marriage, because you are entitled to her and to her inheritance, for you are her only eligible kinsman. The girl is also beautiful and sensible. Now listen to my plan. I will speak to her father, and as soon as we return from Rages we will celebrate the marriage. For I know that Raguel, according to the law of Moses, cannot give her to another man without incurring the penalty of death, because you rather than any other man are entitled to the inheritance.”
Then the young man said to the angel, “Brother Azarias, I have heard that the girl has been given to seven husbands and that each died in the bridal chamber. Now I am the only son my father has, and I am afraid that if I go in I will die as those before me did, for a demon is in love with her, and he harms no one except those who approach her. So now I fear that I may die and bring the lives of my father and mother to the grave in sorrow on my account. And they have no other son to bury them.”
But the angel said to him, “Do you not remember the words with which your father commanded you to take a wife from among your own people? Now listen to me, brother, for she will become your wife; and do not worry about the demon, for this very night she will be given to you in marriage.
When you enter the bridal chamber, you shall take live ashes of incense and lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish so as to make a smoke. Then the demon will smell it and flee away and will never again return. And when you approach her, rise up, both of you, and cry out to the merciful God, and he will save you and have mercy on you. Do not be afraid, for she was destined for you from eternity. You will save her, and she will go with you, and I suppose that you will have children by her.” When Tobias heard these things, he fell in love with her and yearned deeply for her.
St. Gregory Nazianzen
Oratio 37, 19.1-12 (Patrologia Latina 36:286-291)
The fortunes of this world are uncertain and transient; they are tossed from hand to hand, as in a game with pebbles, and are always changing. Not one of this world’s blessings belongs to its owner securely enough to prevent time destroying it, or envy transferring it elsewhere. But the rewards of heaven are fixed and abiding; they neither disappear nor change, and can never deceive the hopes of those who trust in them.
Now in my opinion there is a very good reason why people can find nothing reliable or lasting in the good things of this world. The Word, who is the architect of our destiny in this as in all things, and the Wisdom that transcends all mortal thought, have together well contrived it that we should be misled by everything we see in the constantly shifting world around us, where in the midst of this whirling to and fro we are always in pursuit of something that is forever flying from our grasp. Once we have observed the restlessness and distortion of this mortal life, we shall hasten to change our course toward the life to come. Indeed what should we have done if our prosperity here have been secure, when even in all its uncertainty we are so bound to this world, and its pleasures and allurements have so enslaved us, that we cannot imagine anything better or higher than our present life? And this, despite the fact that we are told and believe that we are created in the image of God, that image which is above and draws us to itself.