[Consonant with both Anglicanism’s and monasticism’s love of patristic theology-spirituality, this is a series of occasional 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. R. M. Healey’s edition is also used if there are lacunae in the Durham edition. Click here for the link to Healey’s formatting of the lectionary.]
Patristic Lectionary – 27 September 2021 – St. Vincent de Paul; Monday, Seventeenth Week in Trinitytide
[Image: Statue of St. Benedict at the west entrance of Norwich Cathedral, Church of England. The word ausculta (listen) chiseled on the book is the opening word of the Rule of St. Benedict and means “listen.” Cultivation of silence is necessary for listening and thus for growing in spiritual strength, as Bd. Guerric d’Igny writes.]
The Futility of Treaties with Alien Peoples
“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine; and who make a league, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, every one comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.”
An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the viper and the flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of asses, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.”
And now, go, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness for ever. For they are a rebellious people, lying sons, sons who will not hear the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, “See not”; and to the prophets, “Prophesy not to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and rely on them; therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel which is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a sherd is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” And you would not, but you said, “No! We will speed upon horses”, therefore you shall speed away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”, therefore your pursuers shall be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
Blessed Guerric d’Igny
Third Sermon for the Annunciation(Liturgical Sermons, Cistercian Fathers Series 32, tr. Monks of Mount St. Bernard Abbey)
Of all the human weaknesses or injuries which God deigned to bear for us, the first in time and, one might say, the greatest in humility, was, I think, that the majesty which knows no bounds allowed itself to be conceived in the womb and to be confined in the womb for the space of nine months. Where else did he so empty himself out, or when was he seen so completely eclipsed? For so long a time Wisdom says nothing, Power works nothing that can be discerned. The majesty which lies hidden and enclosed is not betrayed by any visible sign. He was not seen so weak on the Cross. What was weak in him immediately appeared stronger than all men, when he glorified the thief as he died and with his last breath breathed faith into the centurion. The sorrow of the hour of his passion not only made the elements of creation suffer with him but also subjected the opposing powers to a passion of timeless sorrow. On the other hand in the womb he is as if he were not. Almighty power lies idle as if it could do nothing. The eternal Word constrains himself to silence.
But to you, brethren, to you that silence of the Word speaks, to you it cries out, to you to be sure it recommends the discipline of silence. For in silence and hope shall be your strength, as Isaiah promises, a man who defined the pursuit of justice as silence. As that Child in the womb advanced towards birth in a long, deep silence, so does the discipline of silence nourish, form and strengthen a man’s spirit, and produce growth which is the safer and more wholesome for being the more hidden. Mere man with his natural gifts, who does not take in the thoughts of God’s Spirit, does not know the way of the Spirit and how bones are built up in the womb of a woman with child. But my body was not hidden from you, the Holy Man tells God, the body you made for me in the mind’s hidden depth under the pall of silence. Neither from you is this mystery hidden, my brethren. You have shared your experience with me and have told me how a quiet and disciplined spirit is strengthened, grows fat and flourishes in silence, and how on the contrary by speaking it is broken up and dislocated as if by paralysis, grows thin and withers and dries up. If there was not strength in silence Solomon would not have said: Like an open city without any encompassing walls, so is the man who cannot restrain his spirit from speaking.