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—26 September 2020, Feria after the Fifteenth Sunday of Trinitytide (Saturday ~ 25th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is Paulus Lesire’s “Healing of Tobit” (ca. 1640)]
Tobit 10:7 – 11:17
The Return of Tobias to His Father
[Tobias, still on his journey to reclaim silver his father had entrusted to Gabael at Rages, has married the pious Sarah. With the help of the archangel Raphael, disguised as Azarias, Tobias has vanquished a demon who had claimed the lives of Sarah’s seven previous husbands on their wedding nights. Tobias, Sarah, and her family celebrate the marriage for fourteen days, also welcoming Gabel to the festival (with Tobit’s silver duly counted out and delivered to Tobias). Now, Tobias looks homeward. On his journey back, that mysterious dog somehow re-appears. Among the many efforts to make sense of, or dismiss, the dog’s presence in the narrative is the charming verses from Robert Browning’s “Ring and the Book”: “Let / Each level have its language! Heaven speaks first / To the angel, then the angel tames the word / Down to the ear of Tobit: he, in turn, / Diminishes the message to his dog, / And finally that dog finds how the flea / (Which else, importunate, might check his speed) / Shall learn its hunger must have holiday …”]
At that time Tobias said to Raguel, “Send me back, for my father and mother have given up hope of ever seeing me again.” But his father-in-law said to him, “Stay with me, and I will send messengers to your father, and they will inform him how things are with you.” Tobias replied, “No, send me back to my father.” So Raguel arose and gave him his wife Sarah and half of his property in slaves, cattle, and money. And when he had blessed them he sent them away, saying, “The God of heaven will prosper you, my children, before I die.” He said also to his daughter, “Honour your father-in-law and your mother-in-law; they are now your parents. Let me hear a good report of you.” And he kissed her. And Edna said to Tobias, “The Lord of heaven bring you back safely, dear brother, and grant me to see your children by my daughter Sarah, that I may rejoice before the Lord. See, I am entrusting my daughter to you; do nothing to grieve her.”
After this Tobias went on his way, praising God because he had made his journey a success. And he blessed Raguel and his wife Edna.
So he continued on his way until they came near to Nineveh. Then Raphael said to Tobias, “Are you not aware, brother, of how you left your father? Let us run ahead of your wife and prepare the house. And take the gall of the fish with you.” So they went their way, and the dog went along behind them.
Now Anna sat looking intently down the road for her son. And she caught sight of him coming, and said to his father, “Behold, your son is coming, and so is the man who went with him!”
Raphael said, “I know, Tobias, that your father will open his eyes. You therefore must anoint his eyes with the gall; and when they smart he will rub them, and will cause the white films to fall away, and he will see you.”
Then Anna ran to meet them, and embraced her son, and said to him, “I have seen you, my child; now I am ready to die.” And they both wept. Tobit started toward the door and stumbled. But his son ran to him and took hold of his father, and he sprinkled the gall upon his father’s eyes, saying, “Be of good cheer, father.” And when his eyes began to smart he rubbed them, and the white films scaled off from the corners of his eyes. Then he saw his son and embraced him, and he wept and said, “Blessed art thou, O God, and blessed is thy name for ever, and blessed are all thy holy angels. For thou hast afflicted me, but thou hast had mercy upon me; here I see my son Tobias!” And his son went in rejoicing, and he reported to his father the great things that had happened to him in Media.
Then Tobit went out to meet his daughter-in-law at the gate of Nineveh, rejoicing and praising God. Those who saw him as he went were amazed because he could see. And Tobit gave thanks before them that God had been merciful to him. When Tobit came near to Sarah his daughter-in-law, he blessed her, saying, “Welcome, daughter! Blessed is God who has brought you to us, and blessed are your father and your mother.”
St. Maximus of Turin
Sermo 73.3-5 (Corpus Christianorum Latina 23:305-307)
A Christian worthy of the name will be intent on praising his Lord and Father throughout the whole day and on doing all things to his greater glory, in accordance with these words of the Apostle, Whether you eat or drink, in fact whatever you do, let all of it be offered for God’s glory. This gives you some idea of what St Paul thought a Christian’s meal should be like: Christian faith ought to be served up at it rather than a profusion of food; a man’s spirit should be nourished at it by frequent invocations of the Lord’s name rather than his body by a sequence of elaborate and over-laden dishes; piety rather than satiety should appease his hunger. Above all, says the Apostle, let all be done for the sake of God’s glory. Christ wants our every act to be carried out in his own presence as companion and witness, and for this reason: that his personal inspiration may influence us for good, while his constant partnership may cause us to refrain from evil.
Let us, then, give thanks to Christ on rising, and throughout the day let us begin our every deed with the Saviour’s sign. Why, even as Gentiles, you used to look for signs, and with scrupulous care you searched for such as might portend a profitable outcome to whatever business you had in hand! But now let us make no mistake as to the number of these signs. For you must realize that Christ’s one sign alone will guarantee the total success of every enterprise. And whoever makes that sign at the sowing of his seed will reap the harvest of eternal life, whilst he who makes it at the outset of his journey will travel all the way to heaven. Thus in Christ’s sign and name must all our actions be performed, and to it all life’s ups and downs must be referred, for has not the Apostle told us, in him we live and move and have our being?
But when evening’s shadows lengthen, we must sing to him in the psalmist’s words and declare his praises in melodious chants, for in having overcome our labours and our struggles we, like conquerors, have deserved our rest and the oblivion of sleep as the reward of our toil. Who, then, possessing human intelligence, would not be ashamed to end the day with no repetition of the psalms, when even the birds pour out their own sweet psalms in gratitude and with no exultant hymns sung to the glory of him whom the birds praise in melodious song? Therefore, my brothers and sisters, imitate the tiniest birds by giving thanks to the Creator in the early morning and at evening; and if you are specially devout imitate the nightingale, for whom the day alone is not enough to fill with praise, and so it sings the whole night through as well! You also, then, as you vanquish the day with your songs of praise, must add a nightly round to your office, and with a sequence of psalms console your sleepless diligence in the work which you have undertaken!