Patristic Lectionary—12 October 2020, St. Wilfrid

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—12 October 2020, St. Wilfrid

[The image is of part of a cell at the Mount Grace Charterhouse in Yorkshire, England.  “Therefore one must abide constantly in one’s cell.”–St. John Cassian. Some scholars think _The Cloud of Unknowing_ was written by a Carthusian of Mount Grace.]

Sirach 11:12–28

Trust in God Alone

There is another who is slow and needs help, who lacks strength and abounds in poverty; but the eyes of the Lord look upon him for his good; he lifts him out of his low estate and raises up his head, so that many are amazed at him.

Good things and bad, life and death, poverty and wealth, come from the Lord. The gift of the Lord endures for those who are godly, and what he approves will have lasting success. There is a man who is rich through his diligence and self-denial, and this is the reward allotted to him: when he says, “I have found rest, and now I shall enjoy my goods!” he does not know how much time will pass until he leaves them to others and dies. Stand by your covenant and attend to it, and grow old in your work.

Do not wonder at the works of a sinner, but trust in the Lord and keep at your toil; for it is easy in the sight of the Lord to enrich a poor man quickly and suddenly. The blessing of the Lord is the reward of the godly, and quickly God causes his blessing to flourish. Do not say, “What do I need, and what prosperity could be mine in the future?” Do not say, “I have enough, and what calamity could happen to me in the future?” In the day of prosperity, adversity is forgotten, and in the day of adversity, prosperity is not remembered. For it is easy in the sight of the Lord to reward a man on the day of death according to his conduct. The misery of an hour makes one forget luxury, and at the close of a man’s life his deeds will be revealed. Call no one happy before his death; a man will be known through his children.

St. John Cassian

Conferences 6, 13-16 (Ancient Christian Writers 57, tr. Ramsey)

Germanus asked Abba Theodore, “Is our mind able to hold on to one state constantly and to remain always in the same condition?”

He replied, “As the Apostle says, it is necessary for one who is renewed in the spirit of his mind to make progress every day, always reaching out to what is ahead. The alternative is that the neglectful person reverses himself and falls back into a worse state. We confess that God alone is unchanging. Him alone does the prayer of the holy Prophet address in this way: You yourself are the same. And he says of himself: I am God, and I do not change. For only he to whom nothing can ever be added and from whom nothing can ever be taken away is by nature always good, always complete, and always perfect. Therefore we must always push ourselves with unceasing care and concern to attain the virtues, lest our progress suddenly cease and regression occur. For, as we have said, the mind cannot remain in one and the same condition – that is, so that it does not either increase or decrease in virtue. Not to have gained is to have lost, because when the desire of making progress ceases, the danger of falling back will appear.

“Therefore one must abide constantly in one’s cell. For as often as a person has wandered out of it and has returned to it like a novice who is only starting to live there, he will waver and be disturbed.  The person who stays in his cell has acquired an intensity of mind that, once let go slack, he will not be able to recover again without effort and pain.

“But that even the heavenly powers, as we have said, are subject to change is proclaimed by those of their number who fell because of the sinfulness of their corrupt will. Therefore we should not think of those who have persevered in the blessedness in which they were created as possessing an unchanging nature because they did not likewise behave wickedly. For it is one thing to possess an unchanging nature and another not to be changed because of zeal for virtue and perseverance in the good, which is due to the grace of an immutable God. Whatever is acquired and maintained through diligence can also be lost through negligence. Consequently it is said: You should not call a person blessed before his death, because whoever is still involved in this struggle, even though he usually overcomes and obtains the palm of victory, still cannot be free of fear and of concern about an uncertain result.

“God alone, then, is said to be unchangeable and good – he who possesses goodness not because of laborious effort but by nature, and who cannot be anything other than good. Therefore no virtue can be possessed unwaveringly by a man, but for it to be firmly maintained once it has been acquired it must always be preserved with the same concern and effort with which it was obtained.”

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