[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 – 15 April 2021 – Feria in Eastertide
[The image is of a statue of St. Thomas More at Chelsea Old Church, London. More’s residence was along this part of the Thames. He worshiped at the Old Church, and he had the south chapel of the church rebuilt. (The church was bombed in World War II, though the south chapel avoided much of the damage.) Most readings from this lectionary come from the Church Fathers, but More was steeped in, and influenced by, patristic literature. Both he and St. John Fisher blended their “massive patristic learning” with scholasticism and the new humanism of their age.]
To the Churches of Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicia
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead. Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.
“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go
out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
St. Thomas More
The Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation 3.26
Let us all who cannot now conceive such delight in the consideration of the joys of heaven as we should, have often in our eyes by reading, often in our ears by hearing, often in our mouths by rehearsing, often in our hearts by meditation and thinking, those joyful words of Holy Scripture by which we learn how wonderfully large and great those spiritual heavenly joys are, of which our fleshly hearts have so feeble and so faint a feeling, and our dull worldly wits so little ability to conceive as much as a shadow of the right imagination. A shadow, I say, for as for the actual thing as it is, not only can no fleshly fantasy conceive it, but even more, no spiritual holy person either, as long as he is still living in this world. For since the very essence and substance of all the celestial joy consists in the blessed beholding of the glorious Godhead face to face, no one can presume or expect to attain it in this life, for God has said so himself: No one shall see me and live. And therefore we may well know that while in this state of life we are not only shut out from the fruition of the bliss of heaven, but also that the very best man living here upon earth (the best, I mean, who is not more than human) cannot, I think, imagine it aright. Even the very virtuous are, in a way, as far from conceiving it as one born blind is from having the right imagination of colours.
The words that Saint Paul repeats from the Prophet Isaiah prophesying Christ’s incarnation may properly be applied to the joys of heaven: No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has anyone imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him. For surely, while in the state of this world, the joys of heaven are by our mouths unspeakable, to our ears not audible, to our hearts inconceivable, so far do they excel all that we have ever heard of, all that we can ever speak of, all that by our natural powers we can ever think on.
And yet, although the joys of heaven are thus prepared for every saved soul, our Lord says, by the mouth of Saint John, that he will give his holy martyrs that suffer for his sake many a special kind of joy. For he says: To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life. And also, He who conquers shall be clothed in white garments, and I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. And also he says: fear none of those things that you suffer, but be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.
 Kenneth Hylson-Smith, Christianity in England from Roman Times to the Reformation, Volume I: From Roman Times to 1066 (London: SCM Press, 1999), 151