Patristic Lectionary (Year 1) – Thursday, 2nd Week in Ordinary Time (Ferial Day following the Second Sunday after Epiphany) – 19 January 2023
[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: Anonymous, Capital: Virtues and Vices (early 12th century). This capital from Cathédrale Saint-Lazare, Autun, France, presents virtues triumphing over vices. Left: generosity overcomes greed. Right: patience overcomes wrath and/or self-control, gluttony. ]
Righteousness is to be Observed
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum (“On the Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Children”) 2.28.45-46 (Works of St. Augustine, translator, Roland Teske, S.J.)
The Apostle refers to the law of sin as ‘sin’, when he says, Let sin, then, not reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires. It does not remain in the members of those who have been reborn of water and the Spirit, as though it were not forgiven, once they received the full and complete forgiveness of sins. Rather, it remains in the old condition of the flesh as something overcome and destroyed, provided it does not to some extent revive through our consenting to what is wrong and it is not recalled into its own kingdom and dominion.
The Apostle sharply distinguished the life of the Spirit, in whose newness the baptized are reborn through the grace of God, from this old condition of the flesh in which this law of sin, or sin, has already been forgiven. It was not enough for him to say that such persons were not in sin; he also added that they were no longer in the flesh, even before they departed from this mortal life. He said, But those who are in the flesh cannot please God; you, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, provided that the Spirit of God dwells in you. And yet, those who apply its members to good works make good use of this flesh, corruptible as it is, though they are not in this flesh, because they neither think nor live in accord with it.
Believing married couples make good use even of that law of sin which remains in the old condition of the flesh, though already forgiven, for, inasmuch as they are in the newness of Christ, they do not allow lust to rule over them. But inasmuch as they still bring with them the old condition of Adam, they bear children subject to death who need to be reborn for immortality. The law of concupiscence, then, remains in the members, but, despite its remaining, its guilt is removed. It is removed in one who has received the Sacrament of rebirth and has begun to be renewed. But one who is born from that old condition of concupiscence that remains needs to be reborn in order to be healed, because believing parents who have been born in the flesh and reborn in the Spirit have begotten children in the flesh. But how could children in any sense be reborn before they are born?
Do not be surprised that I said that, although the law of sin remains in concupiscence, its guilt is removed by the grace of the Sacrament. For wicked thoughts, words, and deeds have passed away and no longer exist in terms of any movement of the mind and body they involved. But though they have now passed away and no longer exist, their guilt remains, unless it has been removed by the forgiveness of sins. So, conversely, this law of concupiscence has not passed away, but still remains, though its guilt is removed and no longer exists, when the full forgiveness of sins takes place in Baptism. Just as, then, it is not surprising that the guilt of past thoughts, words, and deeds remains prior to the forgiveness of sins, so it ought, conversely, to come as no surprise that after the forgiveness of sins the guilt ceases, while the concupiscence remains.