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—16 November 2020, St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Gertrude the Great
[The image is of the Church and Churchyard of St. Anne’s Siston in Gloucestershire, England. “Because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins, [the pilgrim Church] has also offered prayers for them.” Lumen Gentium.]
II Maccabees 12:32–45
Sacrifice for the Dead
After the feast called Pentecost, they hastened against Gorgias, the governor of Idumea. And he came out with three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry. When they joined battle, it happened that a few of the Jews fell. But a certain Dositheus, one of Bacenor’s men, who was on horseback and was a strong man, caught hold of Gorgias, and grasping his cloak was dragging him off by main strength, wishing to take the accursed man alive, when one of the Thracian horsemen bore down upon him and cut off his arm; so Gorgias escaped and reached Marisa.
As Esdris and his men had been fighting for a long time and were weary, Judas called upon the Lord to show himself their ally and leader in the battle. In the language of their fathers he raised the battle cry, with hymns; then he charged against Gorgias’ men when they were not expecting it and put them to flight.
Then Judas assembled his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was coming on, they purified themselves according to the custom, and they kept the Sabbath there.
On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honourably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.
The Second Vatican Council
Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) 49-50, 51
When the Lord comes in his majesty, and all the angels with him, death will be destroyed, and all things will be subject to him. Meanwhile, some of his disciples are exiles on earth. Some have finished with this life and are being purified. Others are in glory, beholding clearly God himself, triune and one, as he is.
But in various ways and degrees we all partake in the same love of God and neighbour, and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who belong to Christ, having his Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in him. Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least interrupted. On the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church it is strengthened through the exchange of spiritual goods.
For by reason of the fact that those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers here on earth to God, and in many ways contribute to its greater upbuilding. For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord, through him and with him and in him, they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us. Rather, they show forth the merits which they have won on earth through the one Mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus. There they served God in all things and filled up in their flesh whatever was lacking of the sufferings of Christ on behalf of his body which is the Church. Thus by their brotherly interest our weakness is greatly strengthened. Very much aware of the bonds linking the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead. Because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins, she has also offered prayers for them. For as long as all of us, who are sons and daughters of God and comprise one family in Christ, remain in communion with one another in mutual charity and in one praise of the most holy Trinity, we are responding to the deepest vocation of the Church and partaking in a foretaste of the liturgy of consummate glory. For when Christ shall appear and the glorious resurrection of the dead takes place, the splendour of God will brighten the heavenly city and the Lamb will be the lamp thereof. Then in the supreme happiness of charity the whole Church of the saints will adore God and the Lamb who was slain, proclaiming with one voice: To him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb blessing, and honour and glory and dominion forever and ever.
Br. John-Bede Pauley OSB, PhD
St. John’s Abbey