[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 – 27 February 2021 – St. Gregory of Narek; Saturday in the First Week of Lent
On Celebrating the Feasts
“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover to the LORD your God; for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. And you shall offer the passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place which the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction – for you came out of the land of Egypt in hurried flight – that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days; nor shall any of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning. You may not offer the passover sacrifice within any of your towns which the LORD your God gives you; but at the place which the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the passover sacrifice, in the evening at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall boil it and eat it at the place which the LORD your God will choose; and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. For six days you shall eat unleavened bread; and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it.
“You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the feast of weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place which the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
“You shall keep the feast of booths seven days, when you make your ingathering from your threshing floor and your wine press; you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place which the LORD will choose; because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place which he will choose: at the feast of unleavened bread, at the feast of weeks, and at the feast of booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed; every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you.”
Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) 4.18.1-2, 4-5 (Sources Chrétiennes 100:596-598, 606, 610-612)
God regards the Church’s oblation, which the Lord said was to be offered all over the world, as a pure and acceptable sacrifice. He has no need of sacrifice from us, but it is an honour for the person offering it to have his gift accepted. We show reverence and love for the King by this gift, which the Lord wishes us to offer in all simplicity and innocence. His own words were: If you remember when you are offering your gift at the altar that your brother has some grievance against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar while you go and make peace. Then come back and offer it.
We have a duty then to offer God the firstfruits of his creation and, as Moses said, not to come empty-handed into the presence of the Lord our God. For thanking God by means of his own gifts to us we shall be honoured by him.
The offering of sacrifice has not been brought to an end. In former ages sacrifice was offered by the people of Israel; it is still offered in the Church. Only the nature of the offering has changed now that it is made not by slaves but by men who are free. One and the same Lord receives the sacrifices, but there is a difference in kind between the offering of a slave and that of a free man, since the latter’s gift manifests his liberty. Indeed, nothing in God’s eyes is without import and significance. So it is that whereas men formerly offered tithes to God, those who have now received their liberty place all they have at the Lord’s disposal. Gladly and freely they give lesser things in the hope of receiving far greater. The poor widow put into God’s treasury all she had to live on.
We are bound then to offer sacrifice to him and always to show our gratitude to the God who created us by making this offering of the firstfruits of his own creation with pure intention, genuine faith, firm hope, and heartfelt love. Only the Church offers the Creator this pure sacrifice, presenting to him with thanksgiving the works of his own hand.
By offering God the things that are his we proclaim in an appropriate way the communion and unity of the flesh and the Spirit. Just as earthly bread after the epiclesis is no ordinary bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly, the other heavenly, so also our bodies after receiving the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, but have the hope of resurrection.