[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 – 28 January 2021 – St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Religious, Doctor of the Church
One Lord of Jews and Gentiles
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to Gods righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified.
Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The Scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the Gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Sermon 153 (Works of St. Augustine, tr. Edmund Hill, O.P.)
When Saul was persecuting the Church he was stumbling over the stone of stumbling. Christ was lying, lowly and humble, on the ground; he was also, to be sure, in heaven, his flesh that had been raised from the dead having been lifted up there. But unless Christ were also lying on the ground, he wouldn’t cry out to Saul, Why are you persecuting me?
But those now who stumbled over the stone of stumbling; what does the same Apostle say about them? Because not from faith, he says, but as though from works. Because they, as though through their own justice, stumbled at the stone of stumbling; as it is written: Behold, l am placing in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal; and whoever believes in him shall not be confounded. Whoever believes in him, you see, will not have his own justice, which is from the Law, though the Law is good; but he will fulfil that very Law not with his own justice but with that given by God.
So those men stumbled over the stone of stumbling and the rock of scandal. And he says about them, Brothers, the good will of my heart and my prayer to God is for them unto salvation. The Apostle is praying for those who don’t believe, that they may believe; for those who have turned away, that they may turn back to God. You can see how not even this turning back or conversion happens without God’s help. My prayer, he says, to God is for them unto salvation. For I bear them witness that they have the zeal of God. Just as he too used to have it himself; he used to have the zeal of God. But not according to knowledge. What’s this, not according to knowledge? For being ignorant of God’s justice, and wishing to establish their own.
Remove yourself, remove, I repeat, yourself from yourself; you just get in your own way. If it’s you that are building yourself, it’s a ruin you’re building. Unless the Lord has built the house, they have laboured in vain, who build it. So stop wishing to have your own justice. It’s the Apostle Paul speaking; those who love their own justice mustn’t put the blame on me. Here’s where you can find him. Open it, read, listen, see. Don’t have your own justice; the Apostle counts it as dung, even though it’s from the Law, but still because it’s his own. For being ignorant of God’s justice, and wishing to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the justice of God.
Don’t think that just because you call yourself a Christian, you cannot for that reason stumble over the stone of stumbling. When you disparage his grace, you stumble over him. It’s less serious to stumble at Christ hanging on the Cross than at Christ seated in heaven. Let there be justice in you, but let it be from grace, let it come to you from God; don’t let it be your own. This is what the Apostle Paul preached: ‘Let it come to you from God.’ Sigh to obtain it, weep to obtain it, believe in order to obtain it. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord, he says, shall be saved.