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 – 25 January 2021—Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle; Close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
[The image presents the theme of the 2021 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends today. Ut Unum Sint.]
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus
Explanatio in Canticum Canticorum (Commentary on the Song of Songs) 4 (Patrologia Latina 81:205-8)
Our Saviour wishes us to use the Cross as a sign in all our meditations and actions and imprint it as a symbol of himself on everything we do or say, just as the portrait of a monarch is on all genuine royal coinage. It will not be difficult for you to do this, he says, if you continue in your love for me, because love is as strong as death. As by God’s decree death conquers everything, so too does love overcome all things, proving stronger even than death itself. Think of the Cross as an example to inspire you. If the thought of it remains strong in your hearts, you will refuse to regard anything else as more precious; or to let anything dishearten or discourage you. The sign of the Cross will put you in communion with me.
Many waters, says Scripture, cannot quench love nor can rivers overwhelm it. All the holiest people in the Old Testament as well in the New bear witness to this truth. Abraham’s love for God could not be extinguished by his removing and settling in a foreign land nor by the hardship which poverty and hunger brought nor by the taking away of his wife nor by the sacrifice of his son nor by the dispute about wells. Nor could Isaac’s love be destroyed by the troubles which afflicted him. Nor was Jacob’s love weakened by the unceasing labours and sorrows of his life. What could be more bitter than the trials to which Joseph was subjected? He was sold by his brothers, deprived of the love of his parents and the house of his fathers and forced into slavery. His purity earning him only calumny, he was thrown into prison and subjected to innumerable hardships, yet in all these troubles his love for God shone the brighter.
Then, passing over other saints, the blessed Paul will be enough to demonstrate to us the power of love since he gave more proof of it than anyone else. What can separate us from the love of God? he asks. Can tribulation, hardship or persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger or the sword? As Scripture says, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ But in all these trials, he says, we have complete victory because of Christ’s love for us.