[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 – 2 October 2021 – Guardian Angels; Saturday, Seventeenth Week in Trinitytide
2 Kings 20:1-19
The Healing of Hezekiah & Prophecy of Exile into Babylon
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, Thus says the LORD, “Set your house in order; for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in thy sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. And I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”
And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD on the third day?” And Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps; rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD; and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz.
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah; for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armoury, all that was found in his storehouses; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And whence did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.” He said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”
Book of Perfection, 39-43 (Cistercian Studies 101, tr. Sebastian Brock)
[Martyrius (Sahdona) was a 7th-century Syriac monk and bishop.]
We should not confine our ministry to the specific fixed times of the Hours; rather, it should be continuous all the time, in accordance with the Apostle’s bidding to pray at all times in the spirit, keeping vigil in prayer at every moment and praying continuously. And again he says, Let your requests be made known before God with all sorts of supplication, and, Be constant in prayer; be filled with the Spirit; sing among yourselves with psalms and praise; sing spiritual songs in your hearts to the Lord. Everywhere in his letters he urges strongly that we be constant in prayer; for he knows that prayer is a mighty weapon for Christians, an impregnable rampart, made strong by God.
Prayer may do what it likes – just as God can. It gives orders on earth, it holds back in heaven. Prayer is a god amongst men: it forgives sins and decrees healing. For the prayer of faith heals the person who is sick, and if he has committed sins, they are forgiven. Great is the power of the prayer which the righteous man prays. Elijah was a man subject to suffering just like us, yet he prayed on earth and held back the heavens; he prayed over a dead man and brought him back to life.
Prayer sometimes does bring the dead back to life, but sometimes it may also slay the living, as happened with the godly Peter: he brought Tabitha back to life by prayer, but he effected the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Elisha, that spiritual man, brought to life the young son of the Shunamite woman, but he brought to their end the wicked children, through the bears which he brought out against them with the curse. The case of Hezekiah was also astonishing: through prayer he added to the days of his life as King, but he routed the mighty army of the Assyrian through the agency of a spiritual being.
How potent and mighty is the power of prayer! Prayer is able to put pressure on Satan who puts pressure on the human race; it can rescue from his hands and bring deliverance from all the temptations of the world. For this reason our Lord does well to bid us: Be wakeful and pray, so that you do not enter into temptation; and again: Be watchful at all times and pray, so that you may be held worthy to escape from the things to come and to take your stand before the Son of Man.
Those who stand in Christ’s presence, whose whole concern is with things divine, who are liberated from all the cares of the world, should accordingly persevere at all times in the hidden prayer of the heart and in spiritual thoughts of the mind, rejecting and pushing aside every worldly thought which darkens the soul and prevents it from engaging in thoughts of God.