[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 – 13 March 2021 – Saturday in the Third Week of Lent
[The image is of a stained-glass representation of St. Augustine. “‘Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised’ … And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, …. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” St. Augustine, Confessions, (tr. Albert C. Outler, 1955).]
God’s Faithfulness is Our Hope
Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
St. Augustine of Hippo
Enarrationes in Psalmos (Discourses on the Psalms) 85.1
This is the greatest gift which God could give to men: he made his Word, through whom he created all things, head over them and joined them to him as his members, so that he might be Son of God and son of man, one God with the Father, one man with men. So when we turn to God in prayer, we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays, it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Saviour of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, who prays for us and prays in us and is prayed to by us.
He prays for us as our priest; he prays in us as our head; he is prayed to by us as our God. So we must recognize our voices in him and his voices in us. When something is said of the Lord Jesus Christ, particularly in prophecy, which would refer, as it were, to a certain lowliness unworthy of God, we must not hesitate to attribute it to him, since he did not hesitate to join himself to us. For the whole creation is at his service since the whole creation was made through him.
Accordingly, when we behold his exaltation and his divinity, when we hear the words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made, when we behold this supreme divinity of the Son which surpasses all that is exalted in creatures, we also hear him in some part of the Scriptures as it were sighing, praying, confessing.
We hesitate to attribute these words to him, because our reflection has just been contemplating him in his divinity and is slow to descend to his lowliness. It directed its words to him when it was praying to God, and now it wavers, as if it would be doing him a wrong to acknowledge his words as man, and it tries to change their meaning; and yet it meets with nothing in Scripture except what always returns to him, and does not allow it to turn away from him.
Let our mind wake up then and keep watch in its faith. Let it see that he whom it was contemplating a little earlier in the form of God took on the form of a servant; made in the likeness of man and found in human form, he humbled himself, made obedient to death; and he wished to make his own the words of the psalm, as he hung on the Cross and said: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
So he is prayed to in the form of God; he prays in the form of a servant: in the first case as Creator, in the latter as created, the unchanged taking on the creature that the creature may be changed, and making us with himself one man, head and body. We pray to him, through him, in him; we speak with him, he speaks with us.