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—7 November 2020, Feria after the Twenty-First Sunday of Trinitytide (Saturday ~ 31st Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is of a Cistercian monk reading. Monastery, date, and other information unknown.]
Wisdom 18:1-15; 19:4-9
Passover Night and the Crossing of the Red Sea
But for thy holy ones there was very great light. Their enemies heard their voices but did not see their forms, and counted them happy for not having suffered, and were thankful that thy holy ones, though previously wronged, were doing them no injury; and they begged their pardon for having been at variance with them. Therefore thou didst provide a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for thy people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering. For their enemies deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness, those who had kept thy sons imprisoned, through whom the imperishable light of the law was to be given to the world.
When they had resolved to kill the babes of thy holy ones and one child had been exposed and rescued, thou didst in punishment take away a multitude of their children; and thou didst destroy them all together by a mighty flood. That night was made known beforehand to our fathers, so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted. The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were expected by thy people. For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies thou didst call us to thyself and glorify us. For in secret the holy children of good men offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the fathers. But the discordant cry of their enemies echoed back, and their piteous lament for their children was spread abroad. The slave was punished with the same penalty as the master, and the common man suffered the same loss as the king; and they all together, by the one form of death, had corpses too many to count. For the living were not sufficient even to bury them, since in one instant their most valued children had been destroyed. For though they had disbelieved everything because of their magic arts, yet, when their first-born were destroyed, they acknowledged thy people to be God’s son. For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed.
For the fate they deserved drew them on to this end and made them forget what had happened, in order that they might fill up the punishment which their torments still lacked, and that thy people might experience an incredible journey, but they themselves might meet a strange death.
For the whole creation in its nature was fashioned anew, complying with thy commands, that thy children might be kept unharmed. The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp, and dry land emerging where water had stood before, an unhindered way out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain out of the raging waves, where those protected by thy hand passed through as one nation, after gazing on marvellous wonders. For they ranged like horses, and leaped like lambs, praising thee, O Lord, who didst deliver them.
Blessed William of Saint-Thierry
De Contemplando Deo (On Contemplating God) 10 (Cistercian Fathers , tr. Penelope Lawson, C.S.M.V.)
[Sr. Penelope Lawson (1890-1977) was a member of the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin in Wantage, England.]
How is it we are saved by you, O Lord, from whom salvation comes and whose blessing is upon your people, if it is not to receive from you the gift of loving you and being loved by you? That, Lord, is why you willed that the Son of your right hand, the man whom you made strong for your own self, should be called Jesus, that is to say, Saviour, for he will save his people from their sins. There is no other in whom is salvation except him who taught us to love himself when he first loved us, even to death on the cross. By loving us and holding us so dear he stirred us up to love himself, who first had loved us to the end. This is the righteousness of the sons of men: ‘Love me, for I love you.’ One seldom meets a person who can say: ‘I love you, in order that you may love me!’ But, as the servant of your love proclaims and preaches, you who first loved us did this, precisely this. And that was not because you needed to be loved by us, but because we could not be what you created as to be, except by loving you.
Having then in many ways and on various occasions spoken to the fathers by the Prophets, now in these last days you have spoken to us in the Son, your Word, by whom the heavens were established, and all the power of them by the breath of his mouth. For you to speak thus in your Son was an open declaration, a ‘setting in the sun’, as it were, of how much and in what sort of way you loved us, in that you spared not your own Son, but delivered him up for us all. Yes, and he himself loved us and gave himself for us.
This, Lord, is your word to us; this is your all-powerful message: he who, while all things kept silence (that is, were in the depths of error), came from the royal throne, the stern opponent of error and the gentle Apostle of love. And everything he did and everything he said on earth, even the insults, the spitting, the buffeting, the cross and the grave, all that was nothing but yourself speaking in the Son, appealing to us by your love, and stirring up our love for you.
For you, O God, our souls’ Creator, knew that this affection cannot be forced in the souls of the sons of men, but has to be evoked. And this is for the obvious reason that there is no freedom where there is compulsion, and, where freedom is lacking, so too is righteousness. But you, O righteous Lord, you who wish to save us, you never save or condemn anyone otherwise than justly. You are both the author of our judgement and the advocate of our cause. Sitting upon your throne and judging righteous judgement, you judge the righteousness that you yourself have made. Thus will every mouth be shut, and the whole world be made subject to God, when you have pity on him on whom you will have pity, and extend mercy to him to whom you will be merciful. We could not with justice have been saved, had we not loved you, nor could we have loved you, save by your gift.
Br. John-Bede Pauley OSB, PhD
St. John’s Abbey