Patristic Lectionary – 20 December – “O Clavis”

Patristic Lectionary – 20 December – “O Clavis”

[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 20 December.]

Isaiah 48:1-11

God Alone is the Lord of the Future

Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came forth from the loins of Judah; who swear by the name of the LORD, and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right. For they call themselves after the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel; the LORD of hosts is his name.

“The former things I declared of old, they went forth from my mouth and I made them known; then suddenly I did them and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my graven image and my molten image commanded them.’

“You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I make you hear new things, hidden things which you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’ You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, and that from birth you were called a rebel.

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

St. John Chrysostom

Commentary on Psalm 49 1-2 (tr. Abbé Jean François Bareille, t.9, 286-88)

God will come openly, says the Prophet. Do you wonder whether he ever came in another way? Indeed he did. His first coming was without a sound, hidden from almost everyone and for many years unnoticed. But why do I say ‘almost everyone’ when even the Virgin carrying him had no knowledge of the mystery, his own relatives did not believe in him, and the man presumed to be his father did not regard him as being anyone very exalted?

I speak of men, but even the devil himself did not know who he was. If he had known he would not, many years later on the mountain, have asked him if he was the Son of God and repeated the question three times. So John was going to make him known, but Jesus said to him: Let it be so for now, ‘Say nothing for the present.’ The time has not yet come to reveal the mystery of my incarnation, which I still wish to keep hidden from the devil. Keep silence. It is fitting that we should.

Christ came to earth as a shepherd seeking his lost sheep, and in order to catch the rebellious creature he kept himself hidden. As a doctor takes care not to alarm his patient at the outset, so the Saviour did not wish to make himself known immediately, but only little by little. Referring to this silent coming the Prophet says: He shall descend like rain on a fleece, like raindrops on the earth.

He did not come with a crash of thunder amid a great upheaval, earthquakes, flashes of lightning, and disturbance in the heavens. He did not come with an escort of angels, tearing the heavens apart to descend upon the clouds. No, he came without a sound. For nine months he was carried in the womb of the Virgin. He was born as the son of a carpenter and laid in a manger. He was plotted against while still in swaddling-bands and with his mother he fled into Egypt. Later, after the death of the perpetrator of such great crimes, he returned and continued to live a wandering life, being to all appearance just an ordinary man.

But this is not how he will come the second time. That coming will be so open that there will be no need to announce it. How open it will be he himself revealed when he said: If they say he is in the inner room, do not go in; if they say he is in the desert, do not go out. For as the lightning flashes across the sky, from east to west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. It will manifest and proclaim itself.

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