[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 – 26 April 2021 – Feria in Eastertide
[The image is of St. Ireneaus. Of relatively recent note, see this article on the 2019 vote by the U.S. bishops, in agreement with a French initiative, to name St. Irenaeus a doctor of the Church.]
The Two Beasts
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed the beast with wonder. Men worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. If any one has an ear, let him hear: If any one is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if any one slays with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men; and by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth, bidding them make an image for the beast which was wounded by the sword and yet lived; and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast so that the image of the beast should even speak, and to cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.
Adversus Haereses 5.28.1-30.3
Just as in this world some persons turn to the light, and by faith unite themselves with God, but others shun the light and separate themselves from God, so the Word of God comes to prepare a fit dwelling for both. On this account he says that those on the right hand are called into the kingdom of heaven, but those on the left will be sent into eternal fire, for they have deprived themselves of all good.
When the Antichrist comes and concentrates in his own person the apostasy, he shall accomplish his deeds according to his own will and choice, sitting in the Temple of God so that those he has deceived may adore him as the Christ. Thus shall he deservedly be cast into the lake of fire. John described his coming in these words in the Apocalypse: And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth; and to it the dragon gave his own power and his throne and great authority. After this he likewise describes his armour-bearer, whom he also terms a false prophet: He spoke like a dragon, and exercised all the power of the first beast in his presence, and caused the earth and those that dwell therein, to adore the first beast. Let no one imagine that he performs these wonders by divine power. He performs them by the working of magic for, since the demons and apostate spirits are at his service, it is through them that he performs the wonders by which he deceives the inhabitants of the earth.
The number of the beast is six hundred and sixty-six, that is, six times a hundred, six times ten, and six units, as a summing up of the whole of that apostasy which has taken place during six thousand years. For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the six thousandth year.
Man who was moulded at the beginning by the hands of God, that is the Son and the Spirit, is made after the image and likeness of God. The chaff, which is the apostasy, will be cast away, but the wheat, those bringing forth fruit to God in faith, will be gathered into the barn. It is for this reason that tribulation is necessary for those who are saved: that having been in a sense broken up and ground down fine, and sprinkled over by the patience of the Word of God, and then set on fire, they may be made ready for the royal banquet. As a certain man of ours once said when condemned to the wild beasts because of his witness to God: ‘I am the wheat of Christ, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.’
When the Beast comes, he shall make a recapitulation of all sorts of iniquity so that all apostate power, flowing into and being shut up in him, may be sent into the furnace of fire. Fittingly, therefore, shall his name possess the number six hundred and sixty-six, since he sums up in his own person all the wickedness, due to the apostasy of the angels, performed previous to the deluge. It is therefore less hazardous to await the fulfilment of the prophecy than to be making conjectures about names of men who may possess the number of the coming Antichrist.