Patristic Lectionary – 22 November – St. Cecilia, Virgin, Martyr; Monday, Twenty-Fifth Week in Trinitytide

Patristic Lectionary – 22 November – St. Cecilia, Virgin, Martyr; Monday, Twenty-Fifth 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: Michelangelo – Ezekiel from the Seven Prophets, Sistine Chapel – 1510.]
[ Description of image: “Ezekiel, the Prophet of the Merkabah, the divine throne and chariot of fire, the heavenly hierarchy and the four cherubim, is shown contorted by his vision. His expressive Hebrew profile faces Zechariah to the left. There is surely some meaning in the fact that this Prophet’s head is wrapped in a white turban; holy dread is written on his countenance; the brightness of the vision might have blinded him. The other Prophets are bareheaded, while the Sibyls, like the young Delphica and the old Persica, closer to earth, are veiled or shrouded so as to protect them from an excess of light. The movement of the Prophet’s right hand indicates three things: surprise, self-surrender, and the imparting of his vision. Michelangelo thus succeeded by sheer, direct simplicity, in endowing a simple gesture with manifold meaning. The contrast of Ezekiel’s sombre, heavy garment painted in brown and lilac makes his rapture all the more poignant. The wind of the spirit brushes the fringes on his shoulder. The earth-sprite behind the old man looks terrified, while the beautiful and angelic boy beside him points heavenward with a gesture reminding us of Leonardo’s ‘John the Baptist’ and his ‘Bacchus’; late works which Michelangelo may not have seen. But great men who are ahead of their time often express some new idea simultaneously.”]

Ezekiel 36:16-36

The Future Renewal of the People of God

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their doings; their conduct before me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood which they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; in accordance with their conduct and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that men said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned among the nations to which they came.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses; and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

“Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified.’ Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it.”

St. Augustine of Hippo

De Doctrina Christiana (On Teaching Christianity) 3.48-49 (Corpus Christianorum Latina 32:108-110)

The Lord said: I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you profaned in their midst, and the nations will know that I am the Lord. Let the reader therefore take note of how a single people will be superseded and all peoples added to it, for he continues: when, through you, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

And I shall take you out of the nations and gather you from every land, and bring you to your own land; and I shall pour clean water over you, and cleanse you of all your idolatry, and I shall purify you and give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

Now no one who looks into the matter can doubt that this is a prophecy of the New Testament, which applies not only to the remnant of that one people, of whom it is written elsewhere: Even if Israel should have as many descendants as there are grains of sand on the seashore, a remnant will be saved, but also to the other nations according to the promise made to their fathers who are also our fathers; and that it is also a promise of those waters of regeneration that we now see imparted to all nations. Thus the spiritual Israel is composed not of one people but of all peoples, who were promised to the patriarchs in their offspring, which is Christ.

This spiritual Israel is therefore distinguished from the natural Israel, which consists of one nation, by newness of grace, not nobility of descent, and by sentiments rather than race. But while the sublime prophecy speaks of or to the natural Israel, it secretly refers to the spiritual Israel, in such a way that while speaking of or to the latter it still seems to be speaking of or to the former. It does this not from an unfriendly attitude that begrudges us an understanding of the scriptures, but rather, like a physician, to exercise our understanding.

Therefore, when the Lord says: And I shall bring you to your own land, and a little later, more or less repeating himself, And you will live in the land that I gave to your fathers, we ought to understand this not literally as though it referred to the natural Israel, but spiritually, of the spiritual Israel. For the Church without spot or wrinkle, gathered from every nation and destined to reign eternally with Christ, is itself the land of the blessed, the land of the living. We are to understand that it was given to our fathers when it was promised to them by the certain and immutable will of God; for what they believed would be given in its own time was for them, on account of the firmness of the promise and predetermination, the same as if it were already given. Writing to Timothy about the grace given to the saints, the Apostle says: not for any merit of ours but for his own purpose and by the grace granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, and now revealed by the coming of our Saviour. He speaks of the grace as given when those who were to receive it did not yet exist, because by the arrangement and predetermination of God what was to take place in its own time, or, as the Apostle says, be revealed, had already been accomplished.

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