Patristic Lectionary—14 December 2020, St. John of the Cross, Priest, Religious, Doctor of the Church

[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 December 2020, St. John of the Cross, Priest, Religious, Doctor of the Church

[The image is Donald Jackson’s illumination of Matthew 1 from The Saint John’s Bible The gold pattern on the menorah represents the DNA double helix, a modern insight on the incarnation.  Luke 2:4 “Joseph … was of the house and lineage of David”]

1 Chronicles 17:1-15

Prophecy of the Prophet Nathan

Now when David dwelt in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: You shall not build me a house to dwell in. For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I led up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ Now therefore thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son; I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever and his throne shall be established for ever’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Commentarius in Michaeam Prophetam 7, 72 (Patrologia Graeca 71, 774-775)

The mystery of Christ is truly a matter for marvelling, and the excellence of it is beyond the wondering utterance of anyone who knows the mercy shown to us. Habakkuk too, an inspired man of God, stood in awe at the manner of the incarnation and cried out, Lord, I harkened to your tidings, and I was afraid; I considered your works, and I marvelled. The only Son of God, who is in the form of God and equal to God the Father, rich though he was in his divinity, made himself poor, that we might be enriched by his poverty. So he willed to save the lost, strengthen the weak, bind up the shattered, give life to the dead, purify the defiled, and adorn with the honour of being God’s children by adoption those who by nature were slaves. Let everyone hear the words: Who is God like unto you? For he is good and forgiving and refrains from punishing the faults that stand against the remnant of his inheritance. By this remnant are to be understood those few of Israel who have believed because by not believing the majority are clearly heading for destruction. Christ said, He who believes in the Son is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in God’s name.

God passes over our sins and overlooks our faults. He keeps no angry score against us. We were cast out in Adam, but welcomed again in Christ. As by the transgression of one man many died, says Scripture, so by the righteous deed of one man many will live. God has ceased to be angry, because he is a God who wishes to show mercy. When he turned back to us again at the time of his incarnation it was as though he sank all our sins into the sea.

And so, the prophet continues, since God promised to the holy fathers Abraham and Jacob that he would multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, he will indeed give them what was promised. They shall be called fathers of many nations, which evidently means that they are fathers not merely to those who are counted among Abraham’s children because they are of Israelite blood, but also to the children of the promise. The children of faith, both those who come from what are called the uncircumcised and those who are circumcised according to the law, are fused together in a unity in the Spirit. For it is written, Not all those who are of Israelite descent really belong to Israel; it is the children of the promise who are reckoned as the true race. Now as many as are children of Abraham by faith are blessed with faithful Abraham, and we can understand how this promise of blessing is fulfilled by the grace bestowed in Christ, through glory to God the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for endless ages. Amen.

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