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—15 October 2020, Santa Teresa de Jesus, Virgin, Religious, Doctor of the Church
[The image depicts Origen in a manuscript (ca. 1160) at Schäftlarn Abbey]
Sirach 16:24 – 17:14
Man, the Summit of All Creation
Listen to me, my son, and acquire knowledge, and pay close attention to my words. I will impart instruction by weight and declare knowledge accurately. The works of the Lord have existed from the beginning by his creation, and when he made them, he determined their divisions. He arranged his works in an eternal order, and their dominion for all generations; they neither hunger nor grow weary, and they do not cease from their labours. They do not crowd one another aside, and they will never disobey his word. After this the Lord looked upon the earth and filled it with his good things; with all kinds of living beings he covered its surface, and to it they return.
The Lord created man out of earth and turned him back to it again. He gave to men few days, a limited time, but granted them authority over the things upon the earth. He endowed them with strength like his own and made them in his own image. He placed the fear of them in all living beings and granted them dominion over beasts and birds. He made for them tongue and eyes; he gave them ears and a mind for thinking. He filled them with knowledge and understanding and showed them good and evil. He set his eye upon their hearts to show them the majesty of his works. And they will praise his holy name, to proclaim the grandeur of his works. He bestowed knowledge upon them and allotted to them the law of life. He established with them an eternal covenant and showed them his judgments. Their eyes saw his glorious majesty, and their ears heard the glory of his voice. And he said to them, “Beware of all unrighteousness.” And he gave commandment to each of them concerning his neighbour.
Homiliae in Genesim 1, 13 (Sources Chrétiennes 7BIS, 60-64)
God made man; he made him in his own image. We must understand what this image of God means and ask in whose likeness it is that man is made. For it is not said that ‘God made man in his image or likeness’, but that he made him in the image of God. So what is the other, this distinct image of God, in whose likeness man is made, except our Saviour who is the firstborn of all creatures, he of whom it is said that he is the splendour of the eternal light and the imprint of God’s substance, he who said of himself: I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and he who has seen me has seen the Father? For just as he who has seen someone’s picture has seen him also whose picture it is, so likewise through the incarnate Word of God, which is the picture, the image of God, one sees God himself. And so we can see the truth of what was said: He who has seen me has seen the Father.
In the likeness of this image, then, was man made and for that very reason our Saviour, who is himself the image of God, was moved by pity for man. For man had been made in his likeness; and yet he was seen to put off that likeness and put on instead the image of evil. And so, moved by pity, our Saviour came to him, assuming the likeness of man, as the Apostle testifies, saying: When he was still in the likeness of God he was not possessive or self-assertive about being equal to God, but emptied himself out, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of man; and man he was found to be, through and through, as he humbled himself even unto death.
We who come to him, then, and strive to be made sharers in his image as we can understand it are by our endeavour and our progress renewed inwardly each day in the image of him who made us; so that we may be made like the body of his radiance, his glory, each of us according to his capacity. The Apostles remade themselves in his likeness; so much so, that he said of them: I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. For he had prayed to the Father for his disciples, that the original likeness might be restored to them, when he said: Father, grant that just as you and I are one, so they also may be one in us.
Let us therefore contemplate this likeness of God, that we may be remade on that pattern. For if man, having been made in God’s image, can be made, against his nature, to resemble the devil merely by looking on him, how much more, by looking on the likeness of God, in whose image he is made, will he receive through the incarnate Word both the virtue and the likeness, already given him by his nature. Let no one despair on seeing that he is more like the devil than God: for he is yet able to recover even so his likeness to God. Our Saviour came to call not the just but sinners to repentance. Matthew was a publican and indeed resembled the devil; but by coming as he did to the incarnate image of God, our Lord and Saviour, and following him, he has been transformed in the likeness of God.