[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 May 2021 – St. Pachomius; Feria in Eastertide
[Today’s readings from the lectionary accord well with the example of St. Pachomius, whose feast day it is. The icon depicts the legend of an angel, disguised as a monk, handing Pachomius the rule that would launch the cenobitic (communal) phase in the monastic movement. Adalbert de Vogüé wrote the following in his introduction to Armand Veilleux’s Pachomian Koinonia: “The rules and traditions, organization and hierarchy, monasteries and congregation [of Pachomius] all disappeared, and the faint literary or institutional traces of Pachomianism left to the monastic world—particularly in the latin West—would of themselves constitute only a pitiable survival. But in truth, the Koinonia of the sons of Pachomius has not ceased to exist. It is found wherever brothers gather together in the love of Christ to live in total sharing, perfect charity, and the renunciation of self-will ‘under a rule and a father’. (Veilleux, V.I, p. xxiii)]
1 John 3:11-17
Love for Our Brothers
For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
St. Augustine of Hippo
In epistolam Johannis (On the First Epistle of St. John) 5.11-13 (Sources Chrétiennes 75:266-271)
By this we know what love is (John is here speaking of perfect love, that perfect love to which we have already paid tribute): That he laid down his life for us, and we too ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Here we have the key to the Lord’s words: Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep. Peter was meant to feed the Lord’s sheep even to the laying down of his life for them, as we may learn from the sentence that follows: When you were a young man you girded yourself and went where you pleased; but when you have grown older another will gird you and take you where you would rather not go. This he said, the Evangelist tells us, to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Such was his way of teaching the man whom he had charged with the feeding of his sheep that he would have to die for them.
How does charity begin? Listen carefully for a moment. You have heard how it is brought to perfection; the end and the manner of it have been enjoined on us by the Lord in the Gospel. Greater love has no man than this, he says, that he lay down his life for his friends. He shows us what perfect love is, then, in the Gospel, and here we are invited to embrace it. But you will ask yourselves, ‘When shall we be able to love like that?’ Do not despair of yourselves too soon. Perhaps charity is already born in you, but it has not yet grown to maturity. Foster it; do not let it be stifled. But you may say, ‘How shall I know? We have been told how love is perfected; what we want to learn is how it begins.’
The text goes on: If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how can the love of God abide in him? There is where charity begins. If you are not yet capable of dying for your brothers at least be capable of sharing your possessions with them.
Your brothers are hungry and in need; they may be racked with anxiety, hard pressed by some creditor. They have no money; you have. They are your brothers; you were ransomed together, bought at the same price, all redeemed by the blood of Christ. See if you cannot have pity on them, you who possess this world’s goods. You may ask, ‘What business is that of mine? Am I to give my money to save them from trouble?’ If that is the way your heart answers you, the Father’s love does not dwell in you. And if the Father’s love does not dwell in you, you are not a child of God. How can you boast of being a Christian? You have the name, but not the practice. But if the name is endorsed by action, anyone who likes may call you a heathen, but you will show yourself to be a Christian by your deeds. And if your actions do not prove your Christianity, the whole world may call you a Christian, but the name will be of no profit to you without the reality. Little children, let us not love in words or speech only, but in deed and in truth.