[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—5 December 2020, Ember Saturday in Advent
[The image is a colorized version of Gustave Dore’s “Isaiah’s Vision of the Destruction of Babylon” from La Grande Bible de Tours (1866)]
The Day of the Lord
The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
On a bare hill raise a signal, cry aloud to them; wave the hand for them to enter the gates of the nobles. I myself have commanded my consecrated ones, have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger, my proudly exulting ones.
Hark, a tumult on the mountains as of a great multitude! Hark, an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts is mustering a host for battle. They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the LORD and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole earth.
Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every man’s heart will melt, and they will be dismayed. Pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in travail. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make men more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. And like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, every man will turn to his own people, and every man will flee to his own land. Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished. Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendour and pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or dwelt in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there. But wild beasts will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there satyrs will dance. Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged.
Blessed Guerric d’Igny
Sermo 3 in Nativitate Sancti Johannis Baptistae (Patrologia Latina 185, 169-170)
Among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Solomon advised, Let your praise come from your neighbour’s lips, but how much happier and more glorious it is for someone to be praised by the lips of his God! God cannot be deceived nor does he flatter. He is not quick to praise anyone whom he sees could be puffed up by it, or whom he foresees will merit final reprobation. You, as a human assessor, are rightly warned to praise no one in your lifetime, for just as you cannot know another’s innermost heart, so you cannot foreknow the way he will end. Even in your own case you must confess, though I am not conscious of any sin, this of itself does not justify me. There are righteous and wise men whose actions are in the hand of God, and they do not know whether they deserve love or hate; all things are kept in uncertainty against the future.
Happy is the man, then, who has come to know himself worthy of love by the declaration of the judge. It is true that a testimonial to present righteousness does not relieve a fickle man of all fear and misgiving about the future; nonetheless it is an unquestionable mark of outstanding virtue and great perfection whenever that sovereign judgment of God deems one still mortal fit for his commendation.
Assuredly it was a remarkable eulogy of Noah’s justice when the Most Just One said to him, I have seen you to be just before me. It was a sign of Abraham’s high merit when God swore to him that for his sake the promises made to him would be fulfilled. Again, what pre-eminent grace God vouched for in Moses by being jealous on his behalf and routing those who were jealous of him! If anyone among you is a prophet of the Lord, he said, I will appear to him in a vision or speak to him in a dream. But not so with my servant Moses, the most faithful man in my whole household. I speak to him face to face, plainly and not in riddles, and he sees God. Why then were you not afraid to disparage my servant Moses? Finally, who has there ever been to compare with David, over whom the Lord rejoices because he has found a man after his own heart?
Yet however great they all were, these people and others, there is not one among them or among any born of woman who, as he who was born of the Virgin testifies, is greater than John the Baptist. Even though star differs from star in brightness, and in that dance of holy constellations which lit up the night of this world before the rising of the true Sun there were some shone out with a marvellous radiance, still there was not one in their whole company greater or more splendid than that morning star, that burning and shining lamp which the Father prepared for his Anointed.