Patristic Lectionary – Friday, Third Week of Lent – 25 March 2022 – Annunciation of the Lord
[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 1: Tim McClure, detail from one of McClure’s windows for Park Cities Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas (2002). ]
Exodus 35:30 – 36:1; 37:1-9
The Building of the Sanctuary and the Ark
And Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with ability to do every sort of work done by a craftsman or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen, or by a weaver – by any sort of workman or skilled designer.
“Bezalel and Oholiab and every able man in whom the LORD has put ability and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.”
Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a moulding of gold around it. And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four corners, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. And he made poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold, and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark. And he made a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And he made two cherubim of hammered gold; on the two ends of the mercy seat he made them, one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.
[ Image 2: Henry Ossawa Tanner, _The Annunciation_ (1898). The “Only Begotten God, who encompasses everything in himself but who also pitched his own tabernacle among us.” St. Gregory of Nyssa, _The Life of Moses_. “[L]et us chant the melody … taught us by the inspired harp of David … ‘Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou and the ark of Thy sanctuary.’ For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.” Gregory Thaumaturgus, Homily on the Annunciation. ]
St. Gregory of Nyssa
_The Life of Moses_ 170, 173-75, 184-88 ( Classics of Western Spirituality , tr. A. Malherbe & E. Ferguson )
What then is that tabernacle not made with hands which was shown to Moses on the mountain and to which he was commanded to look as to an archetype so that he might reproduce it in a handmade structure? God said, See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. Of what things not made with hands are these an imitation? And what benefit does the material imitation of those things Moses saw there convey to those who look at it?
Taking a hint from what has been said by Paul, who partially uncovered the mystery of these things, we say that Moses was earlier instructed by a type in the mystery of the tabernacle which encompasses the universe. This tabernacle would be Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God, who in his own nature was not made with hands, yet capable of being made when it became necessary for this tabernacle to be erected among us. Thus, the same tabernacle is in a way both unfashioned and fashioned, uncreated in pre-existence but created in having received this material composition. This one is the Only Begotten God, who encompasses everything in himself but who also pitched his own tabernacle among us.
Whenever the prophet looks to the tabernacle above, he sees the heavenly realities through these symbols. But if one should look at the tabernacle below, since in many places the Church also is called Christ by Paul, he would see the Church. In this tabernacle both the sacrifice of praise and the incense of prayer are seen offered continually at morning and evening. The great David allows us to perceive these things when he directs the incense of his prayer in an odour of sweetness to God, performing his sacrifice through the lifting up of his hands.
The skin dyed red and the coverings made of hair, which add to the decoration of the tabernacle, are perceived respectively as the mortification of the sinful flesh and the ascetic way of life. By these the tabernacle of the church is especially beautified. By nature these skins do not have in themselves a vital power, but they become bright red because of the red dye. This teaches that grace, which flourishes through the Spirit, is not found in men unless they first make themselves dead to sin.
Whether or not Scripture signifies by the red dye chaste modesty, I leave for whoever wishes to decide. The woven hair, which produced a fabric rough and hard to the touch, foreshadows the self-control which is rough and consumes the habitual passions. The life of virginity demonstrates in itself all such things, as it chastises the flesh of all those who live this way.
If the interior, which is called the Holy of Holies, is not accessible to the multitude, let us not think that this is at variance with the sequence of what has been perceived. For the truth of reality is truly a holy thing, a holy of holies, and is incomprehensible and inaccessible to the multitude. Since it is set in the secret and ineffable areas of the tabernacle of mystery, the apprehension of the realities above comprehension should not be meddled with; one should rather believe that they do exist and that they remain in the secret and ineffable areas of the intelligence.