[Consonant with both Anglicanism’s and monasticism’s love of patristic theology-spirituality, I occasionally post selections from a 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. When there are lacunae in the Durham edition, I draw from R. M. Healey’s edition. Click here for the link to his formatting of the lectionary.]
Patristic Lectionary—16 January 2021—Ferial Day Following the First Sunday After Epiphany; Saturday, First Week of Ordinary Time
[The image is a drawing based on George Richmond’s 1844 chalk sketch of St. John Henry Newman.]
Righteousness that Comes through Faith
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the Prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
St. John Henry Newman
Parochial and Plain Sermons IV, 142-7
The highest blessedness of any creature is to be under the Law, the highest glory is obedience. It is our shame, not our privilege, that we do not obey as the angels do. Men speak as if the Gospel were glorious, because it destroyed the law of obedience. No; it destroyed the Jewish Law, but not the holy Law of God therein contained and manifested. And if that holy Word, which endures forever in heaven, which is co-eternal with God, is a bondage to us, as it is by nature, so much the more shame for us. It is our great sinfulness, not any inherent defect in the Law, which makes it a bondage; and the message of the Gospel is glorious, not because it releases us from the Law, but because it enables us to fulfil it – fulfil it (I do not say wholly and perfectly), but with a continual approximation to perfect obedience, with an obedience running on into perfection, and which in the next world will rise into and result in perfection. This is Saint Paul’s account of it, Being not without Law to God, he says, but under the Law to Christ. Again, Not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, that is, that kind of obedience to the Law to which he by himself attained, but that which is through the faith of Christ, that high and spiritual obedience which faith in Christ, aided by the grace of Christ, enabled him to accomplish.
When then I say that religion, considered as a Law or code of morals, is a bondage, let no one suppose me to countenance that presumptuous and unchristian spirit, which seems to exult in being through Christ free (as it thinks) from the Law, instead of being bound and able through Christ to obey it more perfectly. The glory of the Gospel is, not that it destroys the Law, but that it makes it cease to be bondage; not that it gives us freedom from it, but in it; and the notion of the Gospel which I would describe as cold and narrow is, not that of supposing Christianity a law, but of supposing it to be scarcely more than a law, and thus leaving us where it found us.