Patristic Lectionary—9 November 2020, Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

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—9 November 2020, Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

[The image is of a statue of St. Thomas More at Chelsea Old Church, London.  More’s residence was along this part of the Thames.  He worshiped at the Old Church, and he had the south chapel of the church rebuilt.  (The church was bombed in World War II, though the south chapel avoided much of the damage.) Most readings from this lectionary come from the Church Fathers, but More was steeped in, and influenced by, patristic literature.  Both he and St. John Fisher blended their “massive patristic learning” with scholasticism and the new humanism of their age.[13]]

I Maccabees 1:41-63

The Persecution by Antiochus

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.”

In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. And he appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the cities of Judah to offer sacrifice, city by city. Many of the people, every one who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death. They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities.

And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar which was upon the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.

But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. And very great wrath came upon Israel.

St. Thomas More

Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulations

Our Saviour was himself taken prisoner for our sake, and prisoner was he carried, and prisoner was he kept to the end of his passion. The time of his imprisonment, I grant, was not long, but as for hard handling which our hearts most abhor, he had as much in that short time as many men in a much longer time. And surely then if we consider of what estate he was, and therewith that he was prisoner in such wise for our sake, we shall I hope never shamefully play the unkind coward as for fear of imprisonment sinfully to forsake him, neither let us be so foolish as by forsaking him to give him the occasion to forsake us.

How can any faithful wise man dread death so sore out of fear of shame when his reason and his faith together may shortly make him perceive that herein there is no shame at all? For how can that death be shameful that is glorious? Or how can it be but glorious to die for the faith of Christ, if we die both for the faith and in the faith, joined with hope and charity, when Scripture so plainly says, Precious in the sight of God is the death of his saints? Now if the death of his saints be glorious in the sight of God, it can never be shameful in fact, however shameful it may seem here in the sight of men. For here we may see and be sure, that not at the death of Saint Stephen only, to whom he showed himself with heaven open over his head, but at the death also over every man that so dies for the faith, God with his heavenly company beholds his whole passion and verily looks on him.

This same short and momentary tribulation of ours that is in this present time works within us the weight of glory above measure on high. Now to this great glory can no man come headless. Our head is Christ and therefore to him must we be joined and as members of his must we follow him if he will come in before us, and he therefore that will enter in after, the same way that Christ walked, the same way must he walk too. And what was the way by which he walked into heaven? He himself shows what way it was that his Father had provided for him, when he said to the two disciples going toward Emmaus: Knew you not that Christ must suffer passion and by that way enter into his kingdom? Who can for very shame desire to enter into the kingdom of heaven with ease when Christ himself entered not into his own without pain?

Br. John-Bede Pauley OSB, PhD

    St. John’s Abbey

jpauley@csbsju.edu


[13] Kenneth Hylson-Smith, Christianity in England from Roman Times to the Reformation, Volume I: From Roman Times to 1066 (London: SCM Press, 1999), 151.

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