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—22 October 2020, St. John Paul II, pope; Feria after the Nineteenth Sunday of Trinitytide (Thursday ~ 29th Week in Ordinary Time)
[This image, which evokes the connection between patristic literature and the Anglican patrimony, inserts Domenico Ghirlandaio’s 1480 fresco “Saint Jerome in His Study” into a photo of the Duke Humfrey’s Library of the Bodleian, Oxford.]
Sirach 38:24 – 39:11
Knowledge of Crafts is Compared with Wisdom of the Scribe
The wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure; and he who has little business may become wise. How can he become wise who handles the plough and who glories in the shaft of a goad, who drives oxen and is occupied with their work, and whose talk is about bulls? He sets his heart on ploughing furrows, and he is careful about fodder for the heifers. So too is every craftsman and master workman who labours by night as well as by day; those who cut the signets of seals, each is diligent in making a great variety; he sets his heart on painting a lifelike image, and he is careful to finish his work. So too is the smith sitting by the anvil, intent upon his handiwork in iron; the breath of the fire melts his flesh, and he wastes away in the heat of the furnace; he inclines his ear to the sound of the hammer, and his eyes are on the pattern of the object. He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork, and he is careful to complete its decoration. So too is the potter sitting at his work and turning the wheel with his feet; he is always deeply concerned over his work, and all his output is by number. He moulds the clay with his arm and makes it pliable with his feet; he sets his heart to finish the glazing, and he is careful to clean the furnace. All these rely upon their hands, and each is skilful in his own work. Without them a city cannot be established, and men can neither sojourn nor live there. Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people, nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly. They do not sit in the judge’s seat, nor do they understand the sentence of judgment; they cannot expound discipline or judgment, and they are not found using proverbs. But they keep stable the fabric of the world, and their prayer is in the practice of their trade.
On the other hand, he who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients and will be concerned with prophecies; he will preserve the discourse of notable men and penetrate the subtleties of parables; he will seek out the hidden meanings of proverbs and be at home with the obscurities of parables. He will serve among great men and appear before rulers; he will travel through the lands of foreign nations, for he tests the good and the evil among men. He will set his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him and will make supplication before the Most High; he will open his mouth in prayer and make supplication for his sins.
If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom and give thanks to the Lord in prayer. He will direct his counsel and knowledge aright and meditate on his secrets. He will reveal instruction in his teaching and will glory in the law of the Lord’s covenant. Many will praise his understanding, and it will never be blotted out; his memory will not disappear, and his name will live through all generations. Nations will declare his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise; if he lives long, he will leave a name greater than a thousand, and if he goes to rest, it is enough for him.
Epistola LIII ad Paulinum (Letter 53 to Paulinus [Bishop of Nola]) (Patrologia Latina 22:544-549)
Scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and condemn the intelligence of the intelligent. True wisdom will destroy the false; and although preaching about the cross is foolishness, yet Paul speaks wisdom among the mature. Not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who pass away; but he speaks the wisdom of God which was hidden in a mystery, and which God predestined from the beginning. The wisdom of God is Christ. For Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This wisdom was hidden in a mystery, in which all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were hidden, and he who was hidden in the mystery was predestined from the beginning. He was predestined and prefigured in the Law and the Prophets.
That is why the Prophets were also called seers: for they saw him whom the rest did not see. Abraham saw his day and rejoiced. The heavens were opened to Ezekiel on behalf of a sinful people. Open my eyes, said David, so that 1 may gaze at the wonders of your law. For the law is spiritual and needs to be revealed to be understood, and so that we may contemplate the glory of God when his face is revealed.
In the Apocalypse there is shown a book sealed with seven seals. If you give it to a literate man to read, he will tell you: I cannot, because it is sealed. How many people today think they are literate, and are in possession of a sealed book which they cannot open unless he unlocks it who holds the key of David, and when he opens it no one can shut it, and when he shuts it no one can open it.
In the Acts of the Apostles there is a holy eunuch who was reading Isaiah, and when Philip asked him: Do you really understand what you are reading? he answered: How can I without a teacher? To speak of myself for a moment, I am neither holier nor more zealous than that eunuch, who came to the temple from Ethiopia, that is, from the ends of the earth, setting out from the royal palace. He loved the law and divine knowledge so much that even while sitting in his chariot he read the sacred writings. And yet all the time that he was holding the book, ruminating on the Lord’s words, reading them fluently and out loud, he did not know whom he was unwittingly revering in the book. Then Philip came and showed him Jesus, who lay enclosed in the text in secret. The marvellous power of a teacher! In that same hour the eunuch believed, was baptized, was faithful and holy, and turned from a pupil into a master.
I have touched briefly on these matters, to make you understand that you cannot enter upon the holy Scriptures without someone to go before you and show you the way. I beg you, dearest brother, to live in the midst of these things, meditate on them, know nothing else, look for nothing – does that not seem to you to be a dwelling-place in the heavenly kingdom already here on earth?