[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 – 14 October 2021 – Thursday, Nineteenth Week in Trinitytide
[Image: Jeremiah, south portal at l’Abbaye Saint-Pierre, Moissac, France (12th century)]
Jeremiah 4:5-8, 13-28
The Destroyer Coming from the North
Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say, “Blow the trumpet through the land; cry aloud and say, ‘Assemble, and let us go into the fortified cities!’ Raise a standard toward Zion, flee for safety, stay not, for I bring evil from the north, and great destruction. A lion has gone up from his thicket, a destroyer of nations has set out; he has gone forth from his place to make your land a waste; your cities will be ruins without inhabitant. For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and wail; for the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned back from us.”
Behold, he comes up like clouds, his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles – woe to us, for we are ruined! O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you? For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims evil from Mount Ephraim. Warn the nations that he is coming; announce to Jerusalem, “Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah. Like keepers of a field are they against her round about, because she has rebelled against me, says the LORD. Your ways and your doings have brought this upon you. This is your doom, and it is bitter; it has reached your very heart.”
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Disaster follows hard on disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment. How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? “For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not.”
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.”
Homilies on Jeremiah 1.3-4 (Sources Chrétiennes 232:198-202)
God condemned Jerusalem because of its sins, and sentenced its inhabitants to be delivered up to captivity. Yet when the time came, God in his love for mankind again sent the prophet Jeremiah during the third kingdom before the captivity, so that those who so wished might be led by the prophet’s words to reflect and repent. He also sent him to prophesy both in the time of the second king and in that of the third, right up to the days of the captivity itself. For God is patient and granted the people a respite at almost the very last moment, urging them to listen and repent, so that the sufferings of captivity might be avoided. Thus it is written that Jeremiah prophesied until the captivity of Jerusalem, until the fifth month. Even after the captivity had begun he continued to prophesy in words such as: You are prisoners now but repent even so, for then the sufferings of captivity will not be prolonged, but God will have mercy on you.
We can find something useful for ourselves in this passage concerning the days of prophecy when God in his love for mankind urged his hearers not to undergo the sufferings of captivity. This warning is for us as well. If we sin we too shall become prisoners, for handing over someone to Satan is no different from handing over the people of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. Just as they were handed over to Nebuchadnezzar because of their sins, so because of our sins we are handed over to Satan, our Nebuchadnezzar. Referring to other sinners, the Apostle also speaks of those whom I have handed over to Satan to teach them not to blaspheme.
Notice then how great an evil sin is, since they were handed over to Satan, who imprisons the souls of those whom God abandons; and those whom God abandons are not abandoned without cause or unjustly, for when he sends rain on a vineyard but instead of grapes it yields thorns, what is God to do but command the clouds to withhold their rain from it?
A captivity threatens us also, then, because of our sins, and unless we repent we shall be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, the spiritual Babylonians, to be torn to pieces by them. With this punishment hanging over our heads, the words of the prophets, of the law, of the Apostles and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ exhort us to repent and urge us to amend our lives. If we hear them let us trust him who said: I too shall repent of all the evil which I threatened to inflict on them.