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—29 October 2020, Feria after the Twentieth Sunday of Trinitytide (Thursday ~ 30th Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of Sandro Botticelli’s “Saint Augustine in His Study” (1480), in the Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy.]
Corrupt Men are Condemned by God
Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him and those who make light of his labours. When they see him, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at his unexpected salvation. They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, “This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach – we fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honour. Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? And why is his lot among the saints? So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise upon us. We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction, and we journeyed through trackless deserts, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us?
“All those things have vanished like a shadow, and like a rumour that passes by; like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found, nor track of its keel in the waves; or as, when a bird flies through the air, no evidence of its passage is found; the light air, lashed by the beat of its pinions and pierced by the force of its rushing flight, is traversed by the movement of its wings, and afterward no sign of its coming is found there; or as, when an arrow is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway. So we also, as soon as we were born, ceased to be, and we had no sign of virtue to show, but were consumed in our wickedness.” Because the hope of the ungodly man is like chaff carried by the wind, and like a light hoarfrost driven away by a storm; it is dispersed like smoke before the wind, and it passes like the remembrance of a guest who stays but a day.
But the righteous live for ever, and their reward is with the Lord; the Most High takes care of them. Therefore they will receive a glorious crown and a beautiful diadem from the hand of the Lord, because with his right hand he will cover them, and with his arm he will shield them. The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armour, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; he will take holiness as an invincible shield, and sharpen stern wrath for a sword, and creation will join with him to fight against the madmen. Shafts of lightning will fly with true aim and will leap to the target as from a well-drawn bow of clouds, and hailstones full of wrath will be hurled as from a catapult; the water of the sea will rage against them, and rivers will relentlessly overwhelm them; a mighty wind will rise against them, and like a tempest it will winnow them away. Lawlessness will lay waste the whole earth, and evil-doing will overturn the thrones of rulers.
Sermo 198.43 (Works of St. Augustine, tr. Edmund Hill, O.P.)
Your Saviour took flesh to himself, your Mediator took flesh to himself, and by taking flesh he took the Church to himself. He was the first to make a libation, as coming from the head, of what he would offer to God, a high priest forever, and the propitiation for our sins. The Word took human nature to himself, and the two became one, as it is written, They shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament, he says, but I mean in Christ and in the Church. The bridal chamber of this marriage was the womb of the virgin. And he, like a bridegroom coming forth from his chamber, exulted like a giant to run the way. A giant because strong, overcoming weakness with weakness, annihilating death with death.
He was running the way himself in order to fulfil what had been foretold about him: He drinks from the torrent on the way; therefore he shall lift up the head. The torrent, you see, is this world. Waters which flow as a result of sudden storms or winter floods are called torrents – which are, of course, going to stop flowing just as quickly. That’s what all these affairs of time are like – a transient torrent, soon going to cease.
Today, New Year’s Day, those who are enjoying the excesses and vanities of the world don’t see that they are being swept along by the rushing force of the torrent. Let them summon back, if they can, this same day last year; let them at least call back yesterday. They don’t see that their enjoyments too pass like a torrent, so that they will find themselves saying later on, These are the ones whom at one time we held in derision and in the likeness of a reproach. We, fools that we were, reckoned their life madness and their end without honour. Now they are counted among the sons of God, and their lot is among the saints! So we strayed from the way of truth, and the light of justice did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise for us.
Which sun? Not this visible one, surely? This one rises for them daily. It is about this one, after all, that the Lord says, Who makes his sun rise up on the good and the bad. There is another sun who made this one, invisible and intelligible, the sun of justice, about which it says in another place, The sun of justice has risen for me. This is the sun that did not rise for them. And listen to their lament: What use to us was pride, and what did the boastfulness of riches confer upon us? All those things have passed like a shadow. It has all flowed away already like that torrent; but yet that other one who was born, who suffered, was crucified, was buried, has risen again. He drinks from this torrent on the way; that is why he has lifted up the head, which is to say, himself.
Br. John-Bede Pauley OSB, PhD
St. John’s Abbey
2900 Abbey Plaza PO 2015
Collegeville, MN 56321