Patristic Lectionary—7 December 2020, St. Ambrose

[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 December 2020, St. Ambrose

[The icon is by Theophilia]

Isaiah 34:1-17

The Lord’s Judgement on Edom

Draw near, O nations, to hear, and hearken, O peoples! Let the earth listen, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it. For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host, he has doomed them, has given them over for slaughter. Their slain shall be cast out, and the stench of their corpses shall rise; the mountains shall flow with their blood. All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.

For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have doomed. The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood, it is gorged with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. Wild oxen shall fall with them, and young steers with the mighty bulls. Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their soil made rich with fat.

For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into brimstone; her land shall become burning pitch.

Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up for ever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plummet of chaos over its nobles. They shall name it No Kingdom There, and all its princes shall be nothing.

Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses. It shall be the haunt of jackals, an abode for ostriches. And wild beasts shall meet with hyenas, the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, there shall the night hag alight, and find for herself a resting place.

There shall the owl nest and lay and hatch and gather her young in her shadow; yea, there shall the kites be gathered, each one with her mate. Seek and read from the book of the LORD: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the LORD has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them. He has cast the lot for them, his hand has portioned it out to them with the line; they shall possess it forever, from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.

St. Bernard de Claivaux

Sermo I In Adventu Domini, 9-10 (Opera Omnia, 4, 167-169)

We must now give some thought to the timing of our Saviour’s visitation, for, as I am sure you know, it was not at the beginning of time nor at some intermediate epoch that he came to us, but at the end of the ages. This was no mere whim of his, but a wise disposition of providence that determined to wait until the sons of Adam were experiencing their greatest need before he brought them help, since he well knew how prone men were to ingratitude. Evening was already drawing on and the day was almost over; the sun of justice had begun to sink beneath the horizon and now shed very little of its light and warmth upon the earth, for the light of the knowledge of God had become feeble, and with the increase of sin charity had grown cold. No longer were angels seen or prophetic voices heard; it seemed as if the stiff-necked obduracy of the human race had driven both angels and prophets to despair of intervening further in its affairs. But it was at this point that the Son of God announced: See, I am coming! Well-timed indeed was the entrance of eternity upon the earthly scene, when temporal prosperity was at its zenith. To give but one illustration, peace itself at that period was so universal that it was possible for the decree of a single man to impose a general census upon the whole world.

You already know who it is that comes, where he comes from and to whom, together with the why, the wherefore, and the when. The one thing still to learn is the road by which he comes, and this we must diligently search out so that we can run to meet him and give him a fitting welcome. However, just as he once came on earth in the flesh to accomplish our salvation, so he comes daily in the spirit to save each individual soul; the difference is that his first coming was visible to the eye, whereas the second is unseen. As Scripture says: Christ the Lord is the breath of life to us, and the hidden nature of this spiritual coming is shown in the continuation of the same text: Under his shadow we shall live among the nations. For this reason, even if you are too sick to go very far to meet the Lord, it is appropriate for you to respond to the great physician’s visit by making an effort at least to raise your head and lift yourself up a little to greet him on his arrival. The road pointed out to you is not a long one; you do not have to cross the seas or pierce the clouds or climb mountains to meet your God.

Enter into your own soul and you will find him, for his word is near you; it is on your lips and in your heart. Go down deep into your heart until you are stirred to compunction; make your confession, and so at least turn your back on a conscience so defiled as to be unworthy of entertaining the author of purity.

These are the thoughts I put before you in respect to the coming of our Lord to each individual soul and the enlightenment his powerful presence brings us.

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