[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—21 December 2020, Monday in the Fourth Week of Advent
[The image is Edith A. Ibbs’s 1905 illumination of the O Antiphon for 21 December.]
Hymn to God the Saviour. The Blindness of Israel
Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands. The LORD goes forth like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.
For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant. I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.
They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in graven images, who say to molten images, “You are our gods.”
Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see! Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious. But this is a people robbed and plundered, they are all of them trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become a prey with none to rescue, a spoil with none to say, “Restore!” Who among you will give ear to this, will attend and listen for the time to come? Who gave up Jacob to the spoiler, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? So he poured upon him the heat of his anger and the might of battle; it set him on fire round about, but he did not understand; it burned him, but he did not take it to heart.
St. Odilo of Cluny
Sermo 1 In Nativitate Domini (Patrologia Latina 142, 993-994)
Know that I am with you every day until the end of the world. If our Lord has promised to be with his faithful people every day, we can expect him to be even closer to us on the day of his birth; the greater our eagerness to serve him, the more we shall perceive his presence among us. Yes, he who spoke through Solomon, saying: I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, as the firstborn of all creation, and again; The Lord possessed me when his purpose first unfolded, before the earliest of his works; from everlasting I was firmly established ; he who said through Isaiah: Do I not fill heaven and earth? – he it is who, in the mysterious plan of his own providence, is born on earth and laid in a manger.
While Solomon’s words teach us that Christ was eternally in existence before the world began, Isaiah’s declare that there is no place in the whole of creation from which he is absent. And if he exists always and everywhere, he cannot be absent from ourselves. The testimony of the ancient prophets to Christ’s eternal being and his boundless divine presence is indeed trustworthy. Our Saviour himself tells the Jews in the Gospel: Before Abraham ever existed, I am. With God the Father from all eternity, before Abraham existed (more accurately, before anything existed) he had his eternal being; and yet he chose to be born in time from the stock of Abraham – Abraham who was told by God the Father: In your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
The blessed patriarch David was also granted privilege of a similar promise. Revealing to him hidden secrets of his wisdom, God the Father told him: The fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.
These two received the promise of the Saviour’s coming more plainly than any of our other fathers, and so they deserved to be given the first and most important place in the records of our Lord’s ancestry according to the evangelist Matthew, the opening words of whose Gospel are: The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. With these sacred words of the evangelist both the prophetic oracles and the apostolic preaching are in accord.
The man in the Gospel who was freed from the darkness of ignorance and enlightened by faith addressed God’s Son as Son of David. Not only did he receive spiritual insight, but he also deserved to have his bodily sight restored. Christ the Lord desires to be called by this name, knowing that there is no other name by which the world can be saved. And if we ourselves wish to be saved by him who is the one and only Saviour, each of us must also say to him: Lord, son of David, have mercy on us.