Patristic Lectionary – Monday, 16th Week in Ordinary Time (Feria after the 5th Sunday in Trinitytide) – 18 July 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: William Blake, “Job Rebuked by His Friends” from _Illustrations of the Book of Job_. “The just upright Man is laughed to scorn” (Job 12:4); “They abhor me, they keep aloof from me” (Job 30:10) – watercolour version of engraving 10 from Blake’s _The Book of Job_ (1826) ]
Job Explains God’s Dominion over All Human Wisdom
Then Job answered: “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these? I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called upon God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock. In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip. The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Does not the ear try words as the palate tastes food? Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
“With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counsellors away stripped, and judges he makes fools. He looses the bonds of kings, and binds a waistcloth on their loins. He leads priests away stripped, and overthrows the mighty. He deprives of speech those who are trusted, and takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes, and looses the belt of the strong. He uncovers the deeps out of darkness, and brings deep darkness to light. He makes nations great, and he destroys them: he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless waste. They grope in the dark without light; and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.”
St. Gregory the Great
Moralia in Job, 10.47-8
He who is mocked by his neighbour, as I am, will call upon God and he will answer him. Often, the frail mind, acclaimed for its good actions by the breath of human regard, dissipates itself in outward delights, so that it lays aside what it inwardly desires and is willing to lie loosely in the external things to which it directs its attention. It delights not so much in becoming, as in being called, blessed; and because it longs for the words of applause, it ceases to strive after what it had begun to be; and so, the very means through which it appeared to be commendable in God, sever it from God.
But sometimes it perseveres in good works with a constant heart, and yet is pushed hard by the scoffing of men; it does admirable deeds, and gets only abuse; and he who might have been encouraged to come out of himself by commendation, is repulsed by insults and returns back again into himself. He establishes himself the more firmly in God, as he finds no place else where he may rest in peace: for all his hope is fixed in his Creator. Amidst ridicule and abuse, he implores only the interior witness. His soul in distress becomes God’s neighbour, in proportion as he is a stranger to the favour of man’s esteem. So he pours himself out in prayer and, hard-pressed from without, is refined with a more perfect purity to enter more deeply into all that is interior. Therefore, it is well said at this time, He who is mocked by his neighbour as I am, will call upon God and he will answer him. For though the wicked reproach the soul of the good, yet the good are showing them whom to seek as witness of their actions. And while the soul of the good strengthens itself, with compunction, in prayer, it is united within itself in the hearing of the Most High, in the very act that severs it from the approval of men outside itself.
But we should note how thoughtfully are inserted the words ‘as I am’. For there are some men who are downcast at the ridicule of their fellowmen; and yet they are not the kind of men to be heard by the ears of God. For when they are ridiculed because of their sin, surely they gain no virtuous merit from that mocking.
For the upright man’s simplicity is laughed to scorn. It is the wisdom of this world to conceal one’s feelings with pretence, to veil the sense with words, to show things that are false as true, and to make out as fallacious what is true. But on the other hand it is the wisdom of the righteous to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words, to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood, to set forth good deeds freely, to bear evil more gladly than to do it, to seek no revenge of a wrong, to count ill repute as a gain for the truth’s sake. But this simplicity of the righteous is laughed to scorn, because the goodness of purity is taken for folly by the wise men of this world. For doubtless everything that is done from innocence is counted foolish by them, and whatever truth sanctions in practice sounds weak to carnal wisdom.