[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 – 11 February 2021 – Our Lady of Lourdes; St. Benoît d’Aniane
I Corinthians 4:1-21
Exhortation against Pride
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.
I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us Apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labour, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.
I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum (The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins) 2.18.28-31 (Works of Saint Augustine, tr. Roland Teske, S.J.)
We men strive to find in our will some good that is ours and that we do not have from God, but I do not know how one can find such a good. We have heard the words of the Apostle, when he was speaking about human goods, After all, what do you have that you have not received? But if you have received, why do you boast as if you have not received? But the path of reason, upon which people like us can enter, presses each of us investigating this question not to defend grace in such a way that we seem to destroy free choice and not to stress free choice in such a way that we are judged ungrateful to the grace of God because of our wicked pride.
Some want to defend the words of the Apostle I mentioned by saying that we should attribute whatever good will we have to God, because it could not exist in us if we did not exist. Why shouldn’t we attribute to God as its author whatever good will we have, since we have it from God alone that we are anything at all? It would not, after all, exist, unless we existed in whom it is found? But in that way one could also say that we should also attribute to God our bad will, because it could not exist in a man, unless the man existed in whom it is found. God is the author of the existence of the man. Thus, one would have to credit God with being the author of this bad will too, since it could not exist if it did not have a man in which to exist. But it is utterly wrong to say that!
Hence, we must maintain not only that the choice of the will, which freely turns this way and that and which belongs to the natural goods which a bad person can misuse, but also that the good will, which already belongs to those goods which cannot be misused, can come to us only from God. Otherwise, I do not know how we are going to defend the words of Scripture, After all, what do you have that you have not received?. For, if we have from God a free will that can become either good or bad, while the good will comes from us, what comes from us is better than what comes from God. If, then, the will is either good or bad and if we certainly do not have a bad will from God, it remains that we have a good will from God. Otherwise, I do not know what other gift of his we ought to rejoice in, when we are made righteous by him. And for this reason, I believe, Scripture says, The will is prepared by the Lord, and the Apostle also says, It is God, after all, who produces in you the willing and the action in accord with good will.
Our turning away from God is our own doing, and this turning is an evil will. But our turning toward God is something we cannot do unless he rouses us and helps us, and this turning is a good will. Hence, what do we have that we have not received? But if we have received, why do we boast as if we had not received? And for this reason, Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.