[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 March 2021 – Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent
[The image is of Edward Clifford’s watercolor, “Some Have Entertained Angels Unawares” (late nineteenth century). Clifford was associated with the Aesthetic Movement, which favored art that is beautiful, first and foremost, more than moral, doctrinal, politically activist, and so on. “Art for art’s sake.” Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, William Morris, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were also associated with this movement.]
Daily Life According to Christ
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, I will never fail you nor forsake you. Hence we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I appeal to you, brethren, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should understand that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.
Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom
Homilies on the Letter to the Hebrews 33.3-4 (Patrologia Graeca 63:229-230)
Leaving types and figures behind, the Apostle directs his teaching on sacrifice toward what they foreshadowed, as follows: the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest as a sacrifice for sin are burnt outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate, in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. We learn, therefore, that the former rites were a prefiguring of events to come, and Christ fulfilled them all by suffering outside the city gates. The text also shows that he suffered of his own free will, by intimating that the rites of the old Law were not without meaning but were a prophetic sign. In their accomplishment Christ suffered outside the city boundaries, but his blood was taken up to heaven.
You see then that we have a share in the blood that was brought into the Holy Place – the true Holy Place – and in the sacrifice which the High Priest alone had the right to consume. We have a share, therefore, in the reality that was signified. Our fellowship is in sanctification rather than in shame, but shame was the cause of this sanctification. As Christ himself was scorned and reproached, so also must we be. If we go outside the camp, therefore, we shall have fellowship with him.
Yet what does the text mean when it says Let us go forth to him? It means surely that we should take our share of his sufferings and accept our part in his shame, since it was no chance happening that he suffered outside the gate. We also must strive to carry his Cross and go out from the world, keeping ourselves free from worldly entanglements. Christ endured disgrace as a condemned man, and so must we.
Through him then let us offer a sacrifice to God. As to what sort of sacrifice this should be, the Apostle himself explains: A verbal sacrifice of praise to his name – in other words, prayers, hymns, and thanksgiving. These things are the fruit of our lips. The people of the Old Testament offered sheep, oxen, and calves, which they gave to the priest. None of these must we offer. Thanksgiving and, as far as in us lies, the imitation of Christ, are what we must bring to the Lord. May our lips yield fruit of this kind! Let these be the sacrifices we bring to Christ for him to offer to his Father. There is no other way in which sacrifice may be offered except through the Son, and through a contrite heart.
Since, then, the fruit of lips that praise his name is to thank him for all he has given us and for what he suffered on our account, let us accept everything gratefully, whether it be poverty, sickness, or anything else; he alone knows what is best for us. Let us endeavour, therefore, to give thanks for all things, and with a generous heart to accept whatever comes to us.