Patristic Lectionary – 18 December – 18 December, “O Adonai”
[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: Edith A. Ibbs’s 1905 illumination of the O Antiphon for 18 December.]
The Lord Opposes the Idols of Babylon
Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop, they bow down together, they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.
“Hearken to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
“To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! They lift it upon their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.
“Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
“Hearken to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from deliverance: I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off, and my salvation will not tarry; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”
The Epistle to Diognetus 8, 5-9, 6
No man has ever seen God or known him. He himself has given us the revelation of himself. But he has only revealed himself to faith, by which alone are we permitted to know God. For God, though Lord and architect of the whole world, who made and set in order each single thing that is, was something more than loving towards mankind, he was long-suffering as well. So he has always been, and is, and shall be: merciful, kind, slow to anger, and true. There is none so good as he. He conceived a design, great and beyond all telling, and he imparted it to none but his son alone.
So long as he maintained this secrecy, and kept his own wise counsel, it seemed as though he had no care for us and had put us out of his mind. But as soon as he disclosed it, through his beloved Son, and revealed what had been planned from the beginning, then straightaway he poured out all the fullness of his bounty upon us, permitting us to share his benefactions and to see and know such blessings as none of us could ever have looked for.
Next, after making these dispositions in his mind with the Son, he left us to live for the meanwhile as we pleased, giving free rein to our unruly instincts and being at the mercy of sensuality and lust. This was not because he took any pleasure in those sins of ours; all he was doing was to put up with them. It was not that he was sanctioning that former era of lawlessness. Rather, he was preparing this present era of righteousness. His purpose was that we, who had been proved by our own works unworthy to achieve life, might in these days be made worthy of it by the goodness of God. After clearly showing our inability to enter into the kingdom of God by our own power, we might now by God’s power be made able.
Accordingly, when our iniquity had come to its full height, and it was clear beyond all mistaking that retribution in the form of punishment and death must be looked for, the hour arrived in which God had determined to make known from then onwards his loving-kindness and his power.
How surpassing is the love and tenderness of God! In that hour, instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickedness against us, he showed how longsuffering he is. He bore with us, and in pity he took our sins upon himself. He gave his own Son as a ransom for us – the holy for the wicked, the sinless for sinners, the just for the unjust, the incorrupt for the corrupt, the immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except his righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone?
O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! – that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One who is holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!