Patristic Lectionary – 15 November – St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Religious (Order of Preachers), Doctor of the Church; Monday, Twenty-Fourth Week in Trinitytide

Patristic Lectionary – 15 November – St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Religious (Order of Preachers), Doctor of the Church; Monday, Twenty-Fourth 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.]

[Image: Destruction of Jerusalem from Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Chronicarum (TheNuremberg Chronicle), 1493.  Woodcuts by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff]]

Ezekiel 17:3-15, 19-24

A Prophecy of Ruin and Reinstatement

“Say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colours, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar; he broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade, and set it in a city of merchants. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil; he placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig, and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine, and brought forth branches and put forth foliage.

“But there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage; and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him, and shot forth its branches toward him that he might water it. From the bed where it was planted he transplanted it to good soil by abundant waters, that it might bring forth branches, and bear fruit, and become a noble vine. Say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its branches, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots. Behold, when it is transplanted, will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it – wither away on the bed where it grew?”

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Say now to the rebellious house, Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took her king and her princes and brought them to him to Babylon. And he took one of the seed royal and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath. (The chief men of the land he had taken away, that the kingdom might be humble and not lift itself up, and that by keeping his covenant it might stand.) But he rebelled against him by sending ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he succeed? Can a man escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, surely my oath which he despised, and my covenant which he broke, I will requite upon his head. I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treason he has committed against me. And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind; and you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it out; I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar; and under it will dwell all kinds of beasts; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.”

St. Jerome

Commentaria in Ezechielem (The Commentary on Ezekiel) 6 (Patrologia Latina 25:173-174)

The true Nebuchadnezzar takes a tender shoot from the topmost branches of the tall cedar, so that the kingdom may be brought low, unable to raise itself. But the Lord God, the almighty Father, who spoke to Ezekiel, takes a royal seed from the line of David and plants it on a high and lofty mountain. It is this seed that says in the psalm: He has made me King on Zion his holy mountain. For Judah had lacked a prince and Israel a leader, until the one came about whom the promise was made: And he will be the expectation of the nations.

He put out branches and produced fruit, and grew taller than all the cedars, so that the birds of the air all nest beneath him, protected by his shade. Habakkuk says of him: Rays of light flash from his hands; there his power is hidden. And it is he who longs to gather his people together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, sothat, referring metaphorically to the faithful, all the trees of the field may know that he is the Lord.

It is he who brought down the once lofty tree of Israel, and exalted the lowly people of the Gentiles. He dried up the green tree of the Jews, which blossomed and produced fruit under the Law and the Prophets, and made the dry tree of the Gentiles green, so as to fulfil by deeds what he had always foretold. This is also the meaning of the words of Simeon in the Gospel: He is destined to cause many either to stand or to fall. We are reminded of the mustard seed which, though the smallest seed of all, grows into a plant big enough for the birds to nest in.

Some give a different interpretation of the high tree brought low and the lowly one exalted, taking it to refer to the passion of our Lord and Saviour, who though his state was divine did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself, assuming the condition of a slave. After the resurrection this tree was exalted; green at first but dried up by death, it came to life again, recovering its original vigour.

Others, after the manner of the Jews, refer both trees to Israel: at our Lord’s first coming this tree was brought low and dried up and at his second it will be restored to its original dignity, fulfilling the words of the Apostle Paul: When the Gentiles have entered in full strength, then all Israel will be saved.

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