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—19 October 2020, Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, Priests, Religious, Missionaries, and their Companions, Martyrs
Sirach 27:22 – 28:7
Against Anger and Vengeance
Whoever winks his eye plans evil deeds, and no one can keep him from them. In your presence his mouth is all sweetness, and he admires your words; but later he will twist his speech and with your own words he will give offence. I have hated many things, but none to be compared to him; even the Lord will hate him. Whoever throws a stone straight up throws it on his own head; and a treacherous blow opens up wounds. He who digs a pit will fall into it, and he who sets a snare will be caught in it. If a man does evil, it will roll back upon him, and he will not know where it came from. Mockery and abuse issue from the proud man, but vengeance lies in wait for him like a lion. Those who rejoice in the fall of the godly will be caught in a snare, and pain will consume them before their death.
Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will possess them. He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins. Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does a man harbour anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins? Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember destruction and death and be true to the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbour; remember the covenant of the Most High and overlook ignorance.
St. John Chrysostom
Homilia LXI in Matthaeum (Oeuvres Complète de S. Jean Chrysostome, tome XII , 506-509)
[St John was an Eastern doctor of the Church who was named ‘Chrysostom’ (golden-mouthed) on account of his eloquence. In 398, he was elevated to the See of Constantinople and became one of the greatest lights of the Church. But he had enemies in high places and some were ecclesiastics, not the least being Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who repented of this before he died. His most powerful enemy, however, was the empress Eudoxia, who was offended by the apostolic freedom of his discourses. Several accusations were brought against him in a pseudo-council, and he was sent into exile.]
Two things are required of us, here and now: to acknowledge our sins and to forgive others; the first, so that the second may become easier. For someone properly aware of his own behaviour and its shortcomings will be the more forgiving to his fellow humans. And that does not mean forgiveness in words merely but from the heart, lest in our resentment we turn the sword on ourselves. For is the harm done to you comparable to that which you do yourself when you renew your anger and draw down on yourself God’s condemnation? If you are vigilant and wise, the misdeed will fall to his account and he will suffer for it; but if you persevere in your resentment and anger, it will be you who gets hurt – and not from him but from yourself. Do not say: He has insulted me and slandered me, he has done me great wrong; for the more you protest, the more you put him in the right. For he has given you an opportunity for casting off your sinful character. So, the more he has injured you, the greater the forgiveness of your own sin, in consequence.
Let us take care that we hate no one, so that God may still love us; so that even though we may be owing him a thousand talents he may yet be generous and merciful to us. Has someone offended you? Be merciful to him, then; do not hate him. Weep and lament for him, but do not show aversion. For it is not you who have offended God, but he; you will do well to put up with it. Recall how Christ was content to be crucified – and yet shed tears over those who did it. That must be your disposition also: the more you are wronged, the more you must lament for the wrongdoers. For it is we who profit from this – and greatly – but not they.
Or is it that you have received injury from those you treated kindly? For that very reason you should wail and lament over them, being content that therein you resemble the Lord himself, who makes the sun to rise on the unjust as also on the just. If it seems beyond you so to imitate God, be assured otherwise: it is not a difficult task to a man of vigilance. But if it still seems a greater burden than you can bear, think of others we could mention: Joseph, who endured so much from his brethren and was kind to them nevertheless; Moses, praying for those who had vexed him so much; the blessed Paul, whose sufferings were beyond his reckoning, and yet he would still have been anathema on account of those who had caused them; or Stephen, praying for the forgiveness of his very malefactors, even as they stoned him. With all that in mind, cast off your anger so that God may forgive you all your transgressions, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honour, now and always, forever and ever. Amen.