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—28 September 2020, Feria after the Sixteenth Sunday of Trinitytide (Saturday ~ 26th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is a 1430 illumination depicting Achior before Holofernes]
Achior Tells the Truth About Israel in Holofernes’s Presence
When Holofernes, the general of the Assyrian army, heard that the people of Israel had prepared for war and had closed the passes in the hills and fortified all the high hilltops and set up barricades in the plains, he was very angry. So he called together all the princes of Moab and the commanders of Ammon and all the governors of the coastland, and said to them, “Tell me, you Canaanites, what people is this that lives in the hill country? What cities do they inhabit? How large is their army, and in what does their power or strength consist? Who rules over them as king, leading their army? And why have they alone, of all who live in the west, refused to come out and meet me?”
Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him, “Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of your servant, and I will tell you the truth about this people that dwells in the nearby mountain district. No falsehood shall come from your servant’s mouth. This people is descended from the Chaldeans. At one time they lived in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the gods of their fathers who were in Chaldea. For they had left the ways of their ancestors, and they worshiped the God of heaven, the God they had come to know; hence they drove them out from the presence of their gods; and they fled to Mesopotamia, and lived there for a long time. Then their God commanded them to leave the place where they were living and go to the land of Canaan. There they settled and prospered, with much gold and silver and very many cattle. When a famine spread over Canaan they went down to Egypt and lived there as long as they had food; and there they became a great multitude – so great that they could not be counted.
“So the king of Egypt became hostile to them; he took advantage of them and set them to making bricks, and humbled them and made slaves of them. Then they cried out to their God, and he afflicted the whole land of Egypt with incurable plagues; and so the Egyptians drove them out of their sight. Then God dried up the Red Sea before them, and he led them by the way of Sinai and Kadesh-barnea and drove out all the people of the wilderness. So they lived in the land of the Amorites, and by their might destroyed all the inhabitants of Heshbon; and crossing over the Jordan they took possession of all the hill country. And they drove out before them the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Jebusites and the Shechemites and all the Gergesites, and lived there a long time. As long as they did not sin against their God they prospered, for the God who hates iniquity is with them. But when they departed from the way which he had appointed for them, they were utterly defeated in many battles and were led away captive to a foreign country; the temple of their God was razed to the ground, and their cities were captured by their enemies. But now they have returned to their God, and have come back from the places to which they were scattered, and have occupied Jerusalem, where their sanctuary is, and have settled in the hill country, because it was uninhabited. Now therefore, my master and lord, if there is any unwitting error in this people and they sin against their God and we find out their offence, then we will go up and defeat them. But if there is no transgression in their nation, then let my lord pass them by; for their Lord will defend them, and their God will protect them, and we shall be put to shame before the whole world.”
When Achior had finished saying this, all the men standing around the tent began to complain; Holofernes’s officers and all the men from the seacoast and from Moab insisted that he must be put to death. “For,” they said, “we will not be afraid of the Israelites; they are a people with no strength or power for making war. Therefore let us go up, Lord Holofernes, and they will be devoured by your vast army.”
St. Gregory Nazianzen
Second Oration on Easter, 15-16 (A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, tr. Browne & Swallow )
Then comes the sacred night, the anniversary of the confused darkness of the present life, into which the primeval darkness is dissolved, and all things come in to life and rank and form, and that which was chaos is reduced to order. Then we flee from Egypt, that is from sullen persecuting sin; and from Pharaoh the unseen tyrant, and the bitter taskmasters, changing our quarters to the world above. We are delivered from the clay and from making bricks, and from the husks and dangers of this fleshly condition.
Then the Lamb is slain, and act and word are sealed with the Precious Blood; that is, habit and action, the side-posts of our doors; I mean, of course, of the movements of mind and opinion, which are rightly opened and closed by contemplation, since there is a limit even to thoughts. Then comes the last and gravest plague upon the persecutors, truly worthy of the night; and Egypt mourns the first-born of her own thoughts and actions, which are also called in the Scripture the children of Babylon who are dashed against the rocks and destroyed. The whole air is full of the cry and clamour of the Egyptians, and then the Destroyer of them shall withdraw from us in reverence for the anointing. Then comes the removal of leaven; that is, of the old and sour wickedness, not of that which is quickening and makes bread. This happens for seven days, a number which is of all the most mystical and is that of this present world, that we may not lay in provision of any Egyptian dough, or relic of Pharisaic or ungodly teaching.
So, let them lament—we will feed on the Lamb toward evening—for Christ’s Passion was at the completion of the ages. We will do so because too he communicated his disciples in the evening with his Sacrament, destroying the darkness of sin. And let us be aided by the good coals, kindling and purifying our minds from him who comes to send fire on the earth, the fire that shall destroy all evil habits. Everything that is solid and nourishing in the Word shall be eaten with the inward parts and hidden things of the mind, and shall be consumed and given up to spiritual digestion; yes, from head to foot, that is, from the first contemplations of Godhead to the very last thoughts about the Incarnation. Neither let us carry any of it abroad, nor leave it till the morning; because most of our Mysteries may not be carried out to them that are outside, nor is there beyond this night any further purification. For just as it is good and well-pleasing to God not to let anger last through the day, but to get rid of it before sunset, whether you take this of time or in a mystical sense, so too we ought not to let such food remain all night, nor to put it off till tomorrow.