[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 – 6 May 2021 – Feria in Eastertide
[The image is a detail from a fourteenth-century French tapestry, Tapisserie de l’Apocalypse du Château d’Angers, this detail depicting St. John the Evangelist contemplating the heavenly Jerusalem.]
Revelation 21: 9-27
The Vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal. He also measured its wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits by a man’s measure, that is, an angel’s. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day – and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
St. Bernard de Clairvaux
Sermones super Cantica Canticorum (Sermons on the Song of Songs) 27:6-7 (Cistercian Fathers Series 7, tr. Kilian Walsh, O.C.S.O.)
Contemplate what a glory is hers who compares herself to heaven, even to that heaven who is so much more glorious as he is divine. This is no rashness, taking her comparison from whence her origin comes. For if she compares herself to the tents of Kedar because of her body drawn from the earth, why should she not glory in her likeness to heaven because of the heavenly origin of her soul, especially since her life bears witness to her origin and to the dignity of her nature and her homeland? She adores and worships one God, just like the angels; she loves Christ above all things, just like the angels; she is chaste, just like the angels, and that in the flesh of a fallen race, in a frail body that the angels do not have. But she seeks and savours the things that they enjoy, not the things that are on the earth. What can be a clearer sign of her heavenly origin than that she retains a natural likeness to it in the land of unlikeness, than that as an exile on earth she enjoys the glory of the celibate life, than that she lives like an angel in an animal body? These gifts clearly indicate that a soul thus endowed is truly from heaven.
But Scripture is clearer still: I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying: “Behold the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell among them”. But why? In order to win a bride for himself from among men. How wonderful this? He came to seek a bride, but did not come without one. He sought a bride, but she was with him. Had he then two brides? Certainly not. My dove is only one, he says. Just as he wished to form one flock of the scattered flocks of sheep, that there might be one flock and one shepherd, so, although from the beginning he had for bride the multitude of angels, it pleased him to summon the Church from among men and unite it with the one from heaven, that there might be but the one bride and one Bridegroom. The one from heaven perfects the earthly one; it does not make two. Hence he says: My perfect one is only one. Their likeness makes them one, one now in their similar purpose, one hereafter in the same glory.
These two then have their origin in heaven: Jesus the Bridegroom and Jerusalem the bride. He, in order to be seen by men, emptied himself taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. But the bride – in what form or exterior loveliness, in what guise did St John see her coming down? Was it perhaps in the company of the angels whom he saw ascending and descending upon the Son of Man? It is more accurate to say that he saw the bride when he looked on the Word made flesh, and acknowledged two natures in the one flesh. For when that holy Emmanuel introduced to earth the curriculum of heavenly teaching, when we came to know the visible image and radiant comeliness of that supernal Jerusalem, our mother, revealed to us in Christ and by his means, what did we behold if not the bride in the Bridegroom? He who descended is also he who ascended, since no one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven. The one and same Lord who as head of the Church is the Bridegroom, as body is also the Bride.