Patristic Lectionary (Year 1) – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Third Sunday after Epiphany) – 22 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: Andrei Rublev, _Harrowing of Hell_ (1408-1410). The first coheirs Christ claims: souls of the righteous who died under the old law. The patristic tradition, including St. John Chrysostom, developed this doctrine, referenced succinctly in the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into hell.” Greek: “κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα” (katelthonta eis ta katôtata). Latin: “descendit ad inferos.” ]
Freed in the Spirit
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
St. John Chrysostom
Homily on Romans 14.3 (Bareille 16:36-8)
All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. The Spirit you have received does not enslave you and make you afraid. No; you have received the Spirit of sonship so that you cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The baptized know the power of this word, for they are rightly instructed to use it for the first time when they say the Lord’s prayer after their Baptism. You may ask if the Jews did not also call God Father, if Moses did not say, You forsook the God who was your Father and if Malachi did not remind those he was reproaching that they all had one Father and were created by one God. But despite these and many similar texts, we never find them actually addressing God thus in prayer.
Yet this is how we, both priests and lay people, both rulers and subjects, are all commanded to pray. Our Father is the first word we speak after our marvellous rebirth in Baptism. We have been taught that as the Spirit gives the wisdom that enlightens the foolish, the power by which weak human beings have raised the dead and cast out devils, the gifts of healing, of prophecy and of tongues, so also the Spirit makes us sons of God. And just as we recognize the Spirit’s gift of prophecy from the fact that those possessing it foretell the future, speaking not from their own knowledge but under the inspiration of grace, so also we recognize the Spirit’s gift that makes us God’s sons from the fact that he inspires whoever receives it to call God ‘Father’. In his desire to make us realize that we really are sons of God, Paul made use of a Hebrew word. He said not only ‘Father’, but ‘Abba, Father’, which is the word used in addressing a father by one who is in actual fact his son.
Then, after speaking of what we gain from our new way of life with its gift of grace and freedom, he shows in still another way the dignity of divine adoption. He says: The Spirit of God joins with our spirit to declare that we are sons of God. But if we are sons we are also heirs, heirs of God. And we are not only heirs but something even greater: we are coheirs with Christ. See how he strives to bring us close to the Lord! Since not all sons are heirs, he declares that we are both sons and heirs. And since not all heirs have a very great inheritance, he shows the greatness of ours by saying that we are heirs of God. If it is an inexpressible grace to be a son of God, think what it means to be also an heir! And if this is something great, how much greater it is to be a coheir with God’s only Son!
Then, to show that grace is not the only factor upon which this gift depends and at the same time to make his words more credible, he continues: provided we suffer with Christ, in order that we may also be glorified with him. In other words, if we share with him in what is painful, much more shall we share in what is blissful. Since God bestowed such great blessings upon those who had no good deeds to their credit, when he sees that they have endured trials and much suffering he can hardly fail to repay them with even greater blessings.