[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 – 29 March 2021 – Monday of Holy Week
[The image is of Sigismund Goetze’s 1904 lithographic drawing “He was Despised and Rejected of Men.” For more information on the drawing and on its reception at the time, follow this link.]
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
The Servant of the Lord, An Atoning Victim
Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men – so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
St. Aelred of Reivaulx
Speculum Caritatis (The Mirror of Charity) 3.5 (Patrologia Latina 195:582)
We can find no greater inspiration to love even our enemies as brothers – as we must if our love is to be perfect – than grateful remembrance of Christ’s wonderful patience. He who was the fairest of the children of men offered his beautiful face to be spat upon by sinners; he allowed those eyes whose glance rules the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror into principalities and powers to the sharpness of thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the Cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, while remaining always gentle, kindly, and serene. In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he was silent, not opening his mouth.
Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of affection, love and imperturbable calm – Father, forgive them – and not at once embrace his enemies with all his love? Father, he says, forgive them. Could any prayer be more full of gentleness and love?
Yet he added something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wished also to excuse them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little understanding. Therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the Cross, but they do not know who it is they are nailing to the Cross. If they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. Therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory.
Therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
If we wish to experience fully the joy of loving our brothers, we must embrace with real love even our enemies. To prevent this fire of divine love from being cooled by the injuries we receive, let us keep the eyes of our soul always fixed on the serene patience of our beloved Lord and Saviour.