[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 – 23 January 2021—Ferial Day Following the Second Sunday After Epiphany; Saturday, Second Week in Ordinary Time
[The image, by Theophilia (Cecilia Lawrence), is her icon of “St. Paul the Apostle”]
“I Am Carnal, Sold Under Sin”
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
De Natura et Gratia (On Nature and Grace) 53.61 (Works of St. Augustine, tr. Raymond Teske, S.J.)
Let us now see whether Scripture says that the flesh is opposed to the baptized as well. Where and to whom did the Apostle speak these words? The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other so that you do not do those things which you will. He wrote them to the Galatians, I believe, the same people to whom he said, Did he who gave you the Spirit and worked miracles among you do this because of the works of the Law or because of the acceptance of the faith? From these passages it is clear that he is speaking to Christians and to people to whom God has given the Spirit; he is speaking, then, to those who have been baptized.
See, we have discovered that the flesh is opposed even to the baptized, and they do not have that ability which he says is inseparably implanted in nature. What has happened to his question, ‘How is it possible that the flesh is opposed to anyone who has been baptized?’ The term ‘flesh’ in this passage, in fact, refers not to the nature of the flesh, which is good, but to its defects. But no matter how he might understand ‘flesh’, notice that the flesh is, nonetheless, opposed even to the baptized. How is it opposed? So that they do not do what they will. See, the will is present in the human being; where is that ability of nature? Let us admit that grace is necessary; let us cry out, Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? And our answer is: The grace of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
After all, when one asks these people, as it is perfectly correct to do, ‘Why do you claim that apart from the help of God’s grace a human being can be without sin?’, the question does not have to do with the grace by which human beings were created, but with the grace by which they are saved through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Moreover, in prayer the faithful say, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. If they have the ability, why do they make this prayer? Or from what evil do they ask to be set free if not especially from the body of this death, from which they are set free only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. They do not ask to be set free from the substance of the flesh which is good, but from the defects of the flesh from which human beings are not set free without the grace of the Saviour, not even when they leave the body through the body’s death. In order to make this point, what did the Apostle previously say? I see another law in my members that resists the law of my mind and holds me captive in the law of sin which lies in my members. See the injury which the will’s disobedience has inflicted upon human nature. Let him pray to be healed! Why does he expect so much from the ability of nature? It is wounded, injured, beaten, ruined; it is in need of a true confession, not of a false defence.
Let it ask, then, for the grace of God, not that by which it is created, but that by which it is restored.