[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 – 20 February 2021 – Saturday After Ash Wednesday
[The image depicts Moses receiving the “two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18). In the Deuteronomy passage, posted below, Moses recalls the Exodus 31 incident (and the law) to the Israelites gathered across the Jordan. The mosaic is from a sixth-century building at St. Catherine’s Monastery. St. Catherine’s—officially the “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai”—is at the foot of what is said to be the mountain of Exodus 19-20.]
Promulgation of the Ten Commandments
And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:
“ ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“ ‘You shall have no other gods before me.
“ ‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“ ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
“ ‘Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
“ ‘You shall not kill.
“ ‘Neither shall you commit adultery.
“ ‘Neither shall you steal.
“ ‘Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbour.
“ ‘Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbour’s.
“These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them to me.”
Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) 4.16.2-5
In Deuteronomy Moses says to the people, The Lord Your God made a covenant with you in Horeb, not with your fathers did the Lord make this covenant but with you.
Why did the Lord not make the covenant with your fathers? Because The Law is not laid down for the just. Your fathers lived just lives because they had the meaning of the decalogue implanted in their hearts and minds – that is, they loved God, who made them, and they did their neighbour no injury. So they did not need to be warned by written prohibitions; for they had the righteousness of the Law in their hearts.
When, however, in Egypt this righteousness and this love towards God were forgotten and became extinct, God was compelled by his deep love towards men to reveal himself by a voice.
With power he led his people out of Egypt, so that man again might become the disciple of God and follow him so that they might not despise their creator, he punished those who were disobedient. He fed them with manna so that they might have spiritual food, as Moses says in Deuteronomy, He fed you with manna, which your fathers did not know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone; but that man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. He taught them to love God, and instilled in them that righteousness which is towards their neighbour. By the Decalogue he instructed men to be friends with himself and in harmony with their neighbour. Man is greatly helped by these things. God, however, stands in need of nothing from man.
These blessings made man glorious, giving him what he lacked: friendship with God. They bestowed nothing on God, for God did not stand in need of man’s love. Man did not have the glory of God. The only way that man could receive this glory was by obeying God. Therefore Moses said, Choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God and obeying his voice and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days.
To prepare man for this life, God himself spoke the words of the Decalogue, to all men alike. And so these words remain with us too. By his coming in the flesh God did not abrogate them; he extended and augmented them. As for the precepts which enslaved, however, God imposed these on his people separately through Moses. These precepts were well devised to instruct or punish them, as Moses himself said, The Lord commanded me, at that same time, to teach you statutes and ordinances. But by the new covenant of liberty God cancelled those provisions which he had given to his people to enslave them and serve the purpose of a sign. At the same time the laws, which are natural and appropriate to free men and are applicable to all without distinction, were amplified and widened. Out of the abundance of his love, without grudging, God adopted men as his sons, and granted that they might know God as Father and love him with all their heart and follow his Word without turning aside.