Patristic Lectionary – 21 January 2022 – St. Agnes, Virgin, Martyr; Ferial Day Following the 2nd Sunday After Epiphany

Patristic Lectionary – 21 January 2022 – St. Agnes, Virgin, Martyr; Ferial Day Following the 2nd Sunday After Epiphany (Friday, 2nd Week ~ Ordinary Time)

[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: Carel Fabritius, “Hagar and the Angel” (ca. 1645)]

[ Preceding selection of readings in this lectionary. Next selection of readings in this lectionary. ]

Genesis 16: 1-16

Ishamel is Born

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; and Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my maid to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “Thou art a God of seeing”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Glaphyrorum in Genesim 3.79.9 (Patrologia Graeca 69: 132-33; Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 2, tr. Mark Sheridan)

As in a concrete image, we see here foreshadowed the fact that once the Emmanuel has appeared and his mystery has been shown to the world, the types of the Mosaic cult necessarily disappear. They give way to the evangelical teachings, to the better and more perfect commandments.

What is the image of which I am speaking? It is this: Sarah had not had children, and because of this Hagar, after having given birth to Ishmael, began to show arrogant contempt for her owner, the free woman. Sarah was unable to bear that arrogance and began to mistreat the Egyptian woman. The latter fled from the house and lost her way in the desert. An angel from heaven asked her where she was going and where she had come from. She replied, I am fleeing from a mistress, Sarah. And the holy angel replied, Return to your mistress, and humble yourself under her hands. She was ordered then, by the voice of the angel, not to depart from the free woman – from instruction, that is, which summons us to the dignity of free persons. She was ordered to humble herself instead under the free woman’s hands.

Worship according to the Law, which takes place through images and types, is as it were the servant of the teachings of the Gospel. In it, in an obscure manner, the beauty of the truth is revealed. At this point in time, the Law, which was once established by Moses through the ministry of angels, receives an order from the voice of an angel to bend the neck to the evangelical oracles and to bow and yield, even if unwillingly, to the free woman. This, I maintain, is the spiritual interpretation of Hagar’s imposed submission to the rule of Sarah. We should remember, moreover, that even the venerable Paul sees Hagar and Sarah as prefiguring the two Testaments: The one, who bears children for slavery, corresponds to the present Jerusalem, and the other – Sarah – bears children who are destined for the dignity of the free.

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