Patristic Lectionary – 16 October 2021 – Saturday, Nineteenth Week in Trinitytide

[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 – 16 October 2021 – Saturday, Nineteenth Week in Trinitytide

[Image: Jeremiah – William Butterfield, St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Enfield, England, north chancel.  Designed ca. 1883.  Installed by Heaton, Butler, and Bayne.  Butterfield had drafted architectural plans the church in 1863.  Photograph: John Salmon.]

Jeremiah 9:1-11, 16-21

A Condemnation of Bad Faith and a Lamentation

O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! O that I had in the desert a wayfarers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, says the LORD.

Let every one beware of his neighbour, and put no trust in any brother; for every brother is a supplanter, and every neighbour goes about as a slanderer. Every one deceives his neighbour, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.  Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, says the LORD.

Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peaceably to his neighbour, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD; and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?

“Take up weeping and wailing for the mountains, and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness, because they are laid waste so that no one passes through, and the lowing of cattle is not heard; both the birds of the air and the beasts have fled and are gone. I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”

“I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.”

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider, and call for the mourning women to come; send for the skilful women to come; let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush with water. For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion: ‘How we are ruined! We are utterly shamed, because we have left the land, because they have cast down our dwellings.’”

Hear, O women, the word of the LORD, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth; teach to your daughters a lament, and each to her neighbour a dirge. For death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, cutting off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares.

St. Augustine of Hippo

Sermon 14A.2-3 (Corpus Christianorum Latina 41:219-220)

How shall we act so as not to sin with our tongue? It is written that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and again: Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but even more because of the tongue. The Lord says the same thing: They have taught their tongues to speak lies. They have taught! You see, the tongue becomes accustomed to telling lies. It tells lies even when you do not want it to. It is like a wheel: if you spin it once, after that initial impetus its own shape and roundness or what you might call its natural instability makes it go on turning. And it is the same with our tongues: once started they run on of their own accord in the way that is easiest for them. You have one thing in your mind, but sometimes out of habit the tongue chooses another.

What is to be done? You see what a balanced judgement must be made before the tongue is allowed to say anything! For it does not in fact wag of its own accord; there is one within who wags it. There is within us a certain power which moves both itself and the members that serve it. Let the one in control be good and with the help of grace that person can overcome any bad habit whatever. Let the servant be good and the service will be peaceful. The soldier has weapons but if he does nothing neither do they. So too among our members our tongues are our souls’ weapons. Scripture calls the tongue a restless evil. O restless member! Who made this evil if not a restless person? Do not be restless yourself and this evil does not exist. Do not set it going and it will do nothing on its own. It is not a spirit to move of its own accord. It is merely a body and lies still. It will not wag if you do not wag it.

When you do use it, be careful how you do so. It is the tongue which many people make use of in the service of greed as they plot their shady deals, and when they begin some transaction they thrust out a member made for praising God and use it to blaspheme him. ‘By Christ,’ they say, ‘I bought this for so much and I am selling it for so much.’ Why? Did I ask you, ‘Swear to me how much you are selling it for?’  What I asked you was, ‘How much are you selling it for?’ ‘I am selling it for ten or twenty denarii’, you swear by Christ. Swear by your eyes, swear by your children and then your conscience will be afraid. What an impious tongue! You have despised the Creator and respected the creature! Oh that restless evil, full of deadly poison! We use it to praise our God and Father – God and also Father, God by nature, Father by grace – then we use it to call down curses on other people made in God’s image. Be careful, my friends, with what you are carrying about with you. But of course I should say, what we are carrying about with us, for I am a man just as you are.

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