Patristic Lectionary – Tuesday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time (Feria after Trinity Sunday) – 14 June 2022
[ 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: Panel from John Singer Sargent’s mural Frieze of Prophets at the Boston Public Library (1895) depicting (l. to r.) Micah, Haggai, Malacchi, Zechariah ]
[ Previous selection of readings in this lectionary. ]
Ezra 4:1-5, 24 – 5: 5
Assaults against the Rebuilding of the Temple
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you; for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and hired counsellors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Then the work on the house of God which is in Jerusalem stopped; and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of She-alti-el and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them.
At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus, “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this, “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them till a report should reach Darius and then answer be returned by letter concerning it.
St. Hilary of Poitiers
Tractatus super Psalmos, 126.3-8 ( Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, 22: 615-619)
Unless the Lord build the house for himself, they labour in vain who build it. The hearing of the psalm, then, is not restricted to the days of Solomon, but is to be understood also as appropriate to those of Haggai. Either labour, whether Solomon’s building or Haggai’s, is in vain, it says. For of the city built by Zerubbabel, today there remain only the ashes from the conflagration and the ugly sight of ruin and devastation. These seats of kings, where the builders thought to restore the glory of the eternal kingdom, have undergone further destruction as the seat of every other kingdom, one after another, has been overthrown. For it to endure, then, a house ought to be built by God; for unless it be built by the Lord, it will not last.
As to which house is God’s we are to understand that this can be ascertained from how long it is built to last. So it is that houses, in the sense of buildings, do not bespeak an infinite God as their owner; neither can his unlimited power be confined in some place, the omnipotence that made all things. As the Apostle bears witness: The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made by the hands of men.
Is there, then, no repose in God, no dwelling place for him? Some people might suppose that he who is nowhere ought to be non-existent. So let us hear his own testimony about his rest and his dwelling place. This is what he says: This is my resting place for ever; here will I live, for I have chosen it. Now it is Zion that he chose: but is that the place about which the lament in this prophecy is being made?
Unless the Lord build the house (it says) they labour in vain who build it. Zion, where the Temple stood, has been turned upside down. So where is the Lord’s seat and eternal dwelling place now? What precisely is that temple which is fit for his habitation? It is the one of which it was said: You are a temple of God; and the Spirit of God dwells in you. To this, the same Prophet bears testimony: your holy temple, wonderful in its proportions. The holiness of men, their judiciousness and self-restraint – that is the temple of God.
The house, then, must be built by God. Any house made by the works of men will not endure; neither can any based on the maxims of this world stand its ground; neither can our vain labours and useless worry have any lasting effect. The construction and the maintenance must be otherwise. The beginnings must not be made on water and shifting sands, but foundations laid on the Prophets and the Apostles. Then living stones must serve to build it up; the cornerstone to keep it in place and hold it together; the interlocking pieces making up the whole man, built on the scale of Christ’s body, to be adorned by the beauty and elegance of spiritual graces. What is built by God, that is to say his teachings, will not fall down. Israel, once made captive after the abundance and prosperity of the nations, will now secure the building of this house. This house is itself growing, into more houses, so as to build up the faithful at every turn and to beautify and extend that blessed city in each one of us.