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—14 November 2020, Feria after the Twenty-Second Sunday of Trinitytide (Saturday ~ 32nd Week in Ordinary Time)
[The image is Peter Paul Rubens’s “The Triumph of Judas Maccabeus” (1635) – I Maccabees 3:26 “His fame reached the king, and the Gentiles talked of the battles of Judas.”]
I Maccabees 3:1–26
About Judas Maccabeus
Then Judas his son, who was called Maccabeus, took command in his place. All his brothers and all who had joined his father helped him; they gladly fought for Israel. He extended the glory of his people. Like a giant he put on his breastplate; he girded on his armour of war and waged battles, protecting the host by his sword.
He was like a lion in his deeds, like a lion’s cub roaring for prey. He searched out and pursued the lawless; he burned those who troubled his people. Lawless men shrank back for fear of him; all the evildoers were confounded; and deliverance prospered by his hand. He embittered many kings, but he made Jacob glad by his deeds, and his memory is blessed for ever. He went through the cities of Judah; he destroyed the ungodly out of the land; thus he turned away wrath from Israel. He was renowned to the ends of the earth; he gathered in those who were perishing.
But Apollonius gathered together Gentiles and a large force from Samaria to fight against Israel. When Judas learned of it, he went out to meet him, and he defeated and killed him. Many were wounded and fell, and the rest fled. Then they seized their spoils; and Judas took the sword of Apollonius and used it in battle the rest of his life.
Now when Seron, the commander of the Syrian army, heard that Judas had gathered a large company, including a body of faithful men who stayed with him and went out to battle, he said, “I will make a name for myself and win honour in the kingdom. I will make war on Judas and his companions, who scorn the king’s command.” And again a strong army of ungodly men went up with him to help him, to take vengeance on the sons of Israel.
When he approached the ascent of Beth-horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small company. But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judas, “How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and strong a multitude? And we are faint, for we have eaten nothing today.” Judas replied, “It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few. It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven. They come against us in great pride and lawlessness to destroy us and our wives and our children, and to despoil us; but we fight for our lives and our laws. He himself will crush them before us; as for you, do not be afraid of them.”
When he finished speaking, he rushed suddenly against Seron and his army, and they were crushed before him. They pursued them down the descent of Beth-horon to the plain; eight hundred of them fell, and the rest fled into the land of the Philistines. Then Judas and his brothers began to be feared, and terror fell upon the Gentiles round about them. His fame reached the king, and the Gentiles talked of the battles of Judas.
St. John Chrysostom
In Psalmum 123 (Jean Francois Bareille, Oeuvres Complètes de St. Jean Chrysostome [1865-1878] IX, 483-485)
Blessed be the Lord for not having given us up as a prey to their teeth. Our life has escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler. Do you see how the psalmist describes the weakness of the Jews and the strength of their enemies? The latter, armed with native strength and fury, rush on their prey like wild beasts, ready to devour their flesh, while the Jews are weaker than any bird. For then are the wonders of God most plainly seen, when the weak overpower the strong.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Consider the strength, the power of their champion, who has frustrated the schemes and brought to nothing the machinations of their enemies. These words could be taken in a spiritual sense as referring to the devil and the human race. The psalmist shows how the Lord has delivered us, how he has released us from the snares of the devil.
This has been happening ever since Christ said to his disciples: You shall tread underfoot snakes and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy. It is no longer open warfare, then, no longer equal combat. The enemy has fallen headlong, whereas you are standing upright and can thrash him from above. He is exhausted, while you are fighting fit.
How then can we explain his frequent victories? They are due to our indolence, to the indifference of people who are half asleep. Anyone, however weak, can overpower someone who is sleeping.
Disarmed and bound, the strong man has been rendered powerless, his dwelling broken into, his weapons taken away. Besides, are you not aware of the help you have at hand? Recall not only the weakness of your enemy but also the great assistance you are given. God has enabled you to rule your body; for arms he has given you the breastplate of integrity, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. He has given you the pledge of your inheritance, he feeds you with his body and gives you his blood to drink. He has put his cross into your hands to use as a spear, a spear that will never bend; finally, he has bound your enemy and hurled him to the ground. You would have no excuse, then, if you were defeated; you would have thrown away all chance of pardon, for you have many ways of winning the victory. The snare has been broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Br. John-Bede Pauley OSB, PhD
St. John’s Abbey