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 October 2020, Feria after the Sixteenth Sunday of Trinitytide (Saturday ~ 26th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The first image is August Riedel’s “Judith” (1840)—Judith 13:6-8 “She came close to his bed … and said ‘Give me strength today, O Lord God of Israel!’ Then she … cut off his head.” Judith beheading Holofernes has been so popular a subject among artists across the centuries that at least one other representation is worth adding. The second image is that of Caravaggio’s interpretation, which he painted around 1598.]
The Death of Holofernes and the Thanksgiving
So every one went out, and no one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber. Then Judith, standing beside his bed, said in her heart, “O Lord God of all might, look in this hour upon the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help thy inheritance, and to carry out my undertaking for the destruction of the enemies who have risen up against us.” She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes’s head, and took down his sword that hung there. She came close to his bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!” And she struck his neck twice with all her might and severed it from his body. Then she tumbled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts; after a moment she went out, and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, who placed it in her food bag.
Then the two of them went out together, as they were accustomed to go for prayer; and they passed through the camp and circled around the valley and went up the mountain to Bethulia and came to its gates. Judith called out from afar to the watchmen at the gates, “Open, open the gate! God, our God, is still with us, to show his power in Israel, and his strength against our enemies, even as he has done this day!”
When the men of her city heard her voice, they hurried down to the city gate and called together the elders of the city. They all ran together, both small and great, for it was unbelievable that she had returned; they opened the gate and admitted them, and they kindled a fire for light, and gathered around them. Then she said to them with a loud voice, “Praise God, O praise him! Praise God, who has not withdrawn his mercy from the house of Israel, but has destroyed our enemies by my hand this very night!”
Then she took the head out of the bag and showed it to them, and said, “See, here is the head of Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army, and here is the canopy beneath which he lay in his drunken stupor. The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman. As the Lord lives, who has protected me in the way I went, it was my face that tricked him to his destruction, and yet he committed no act of sin with me, to defile and shame me.”
All the people were greatly astonished, and bowed down and worshipped God, and said with one accord, “Blessed art thou, our God, who hast brought into contempt this day the enemies of thy people.”
And Uzziah said to her, “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth, who has guided you to strike the head of the leader of our enemies. Your hope will never depart from the hearts of men, as they remember the power of God. May God grant this to be a perpetual honour to you, and may he visit you with blessings, because you did not spare your own life when our nation was brought low, but have avenged our ruin, walking in the straight path before our God. And all the people said, “So be it, so be it!”
St. Andrew of Crete
Homilia in Annunciatione Beatae Mariae (Patrologia Graeca 97:893.897-901)
Rejoice, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. May you rejoice, instrument of joy, through whom the condemnation of a curse has been annulled and replaced by the justification of joy.
Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And you are rightly blessed. For God blessed you as his own dwelling, when in a way beyond our understanding you bore within you one supremely filled with the glory of the Father, the human Christ Jesus and the same God, in the perfection of the two natures of and in which he was formed. Most blessed are you among women, who without constriction received that heavenly treasure in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden within the inviolate inner room of your virginity. You are truly blessed whose womb gathered a sheaf for the threshing floor, because without seed or husbandry you brought Christ to perfection, the fruit of blessing, the ear of corn of immortality, and led an abundant harvest, ten-thousand fold, thousands of joyful people to the husbandman of our salvation.
You are really blessed, since you alone without human husband bore within you one who expanded the heavens and, in a marvellous way, made the earth of your virginity heaven. Most blessed are you among women, since you alone inherited the blessing which God promised to the Gentiles through Abraham. You are truly blessed, since you alone were the mother of the blessed child Jesus Christ and our Saviour. It was because of you that the Gentiles cried out: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; and: Blessed be his glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, Amen.
Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed is the fruit which blossomed like a marvellously ripened dark grape from the undefiled shoot of your virgin womb.
Blessed is the fruit from which flows streams of water welling up for eternal life. It is from this fruit that the bread of life, the Lord’s body is offered, and the chalice of immortality, the drink bringing salvation is presented. Blessed is the fruit which every tongue glorifies in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, thus including the Lord, as being of the same essence, in the threefold formation of the sanctifying Deity in the Trinity, but as a person assigning him individuality in the basic unity of the subsistent entities. Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.