[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 – 25 March 2021 – Annunciation of the Lord
[The image is of a mosaic of St. John Chrysostom at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (late ninth century).]
With Christ Our Leader Let Us Hasten Towards the Struggle
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? – “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
St. John Chrysostom
Homilies on the Letter to the Hebrews 28.2 (Patrologia Graeca 63:195)
We must persevere patiently in the course we have begun, without growing faint or discouraged. Let us run the race that lies ahead of us, the Apostle urges. Then, as the highest encouragement, the supreme exhortation, the first and last of all the examples he proposes to us, he goes on to say: We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus means that we must observe the example Christ gave us if we are to learn to run our race. In all arts and athletics, the skill of our instructors is impressed upon our minds as we watch them, and we ourselves become proficient by observing these masters in action. So also, in the race of life, if we want to run well and learn to keep a straight course, we must fix our eyes on Jesus who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.
What does this imply? Surely it means that Christ has given us our faith, and we owe its very first movement within us to his inspiration. As he said to his disciples: You did not choose me, I chose you. In a similar manner Saint Paul declares: Then I shall know just as I am known. If Christ has given our faith its first impetus, he himself will direct it to its goal. He endured the Cross and thought nothing of the shame of it for the sake of the joy that lay ahead of him. He had committed no sin and there was no deceit on his tongue; this means he could have avoided suffering if he had so wished. The Gospel records Jesus’ own statement that the prince of this world was on his way, but he had no power over him. And so, in fact, it was open to Christ to refuse the Cross if he chose. I have the power to lay down my life, he says, and I have the power to take it up again. He was under no necessity of being crucified; he was crucified for our sake. Surely then it is only reasonable that we should bravely endure all the trials that we ourselves encounter.
And so Scripture tells us that for the sake of the joy that lay ahead of him Christ endured the Cross thinking nothing of the shame of it. What exactly is meant by thinking nothing of the shame? The simple fact, as Saint Paul says, that Christ chose an ignominious death, that he chose it in full freedom because he was not subject to sin. By so doing Christ has taught us to face disgrace boldly and make light of it. Let me remind you of the goal he achieved: he has taken his seat at the right hand of God. You see the prize to be won in this conflict. Therefore, whenever we ourselves have to suffer some disgrace, let us think of Christ, remembering that his whole life was filled with insults. He was continuously hearing himself called a madman, deceiver, and sorcerer, by the very people among whom he went about doing good, for whom he performed miracles, and to whom he revealed the works of God.