Patristic Lectionary (Year 1) – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sexagesima Sunday) – 12 February 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: Monk’s cell, St. Macarius Monastery, Wadi al Natroun, Egypt. (See below for information on St. Macarius and early monasticism in fourth-century Egypt.) ]
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I Corinthians 6:12-20
Living an Immoral Life
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Macarius of Egypt
[See below for information on St. Macarius and early monasticism in fourth-century Egypt.]
Macarian Homilies 46.3-6 ( Patrologia Graeca 34:794-6 )
When the soul is devoted to the Lord, and the Lord in mercy and love comes to her and is united with her, and when her intention thereafter remains continually in the grace of the Lord, then the soul and the Lord become one spirit, one unity, and one mind; and though her body is prostrate on the earth, her mind lives wholly in the heavenly Jerusalem, mounting even to the third heaven, where it clings to the Lord and serves him. And he, while sitting on the throne of majesty on high, in the heavenly city, is wholly with the soul in her bodily existence. For he has placed her image above, in Jerusalem, the heavenly city of the saints, and he has placed his own image, the image of the unspeakable light of his godhead, in her body. He ministers to her in the city of the body, while she ministers to him in the heavenly city. She has inherited him in heaven, and he has inherited her upon earth. The Lord becomes the soul’s inheritance, and the soul becomes the inheritance of the Lord.
In heart and mind, sinners living in darkness can be far from the body, can live at a great distance from it; they can travel in a moment of time to remote lands, so that often, while the body lies stretched out upon the earth, the mind is in another country with its beloved, and sees itself as living there. If then the soul of a sinner is so light and swift that his mind speeds without let or hindrance to far-away places, how much easier it must be for the soul from whom the veil of darkness has been lifted by the power of the Holy Spirit, whose mental eyes have been illuminated by heavenly light, who has been completely delivered from shameful passions and made pure by grace, to be at once wholly in heaven serving the Lord in Spirit, and wholly in the body serving him. The mental faculty of such a soul is so greatly expanded that she is present everywhere, and can serve Christ wherever and whenever she wishes.
Truly, the soul is a great and wonderful divine work. God created her according to the image of the virtues of the Spirit, without any evil in her nature. He placed in her the laws of the virtues, discernment, knowledge, understanding, faith, love, and the rest of the virtues, according to the image of the Spirit.
Even now the Lord is found and revealed to the soul in knowledge, understanding, love and faith; he has placed in her intelligence, imagination, will, and reason to rule them. He has given her the ability to come and go in a moment, and to serve him in thought wherever the Spirit wills. In a word, he created her as one who was to become his bride and companion, so that he might be united with her and she might be one spirit with him, according to the word of Scripture: whoever is united to the Lord is one spirit with him. Tohim be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Macarius of Egypt (ca. 300-391)
“St. Macarius the Great, also known in the West as ‘the Egyptian,’ is considered, together with St. Antony the Great, the most well-known and loved [among the] Desert Fathers. He should not be confused with another bearing the name Macarius, who was his contemporary and disciple, known as St. Macarius of Alexandria. … St. Macarius the Great was the founder and spiritual father of the great monastic region historically known as Scetis, about 100 km North-West of Cairo. … As the son of a presbyter who was originally from Memphis, Macarius was born around AD 300 in a village called Ğiğbēr (currently Šabšīr, a village on the Delta of the Nile). As a young man he worked as a camel driver in a region saturated with salt lakes known as the Natron Valley, present day Wādī al-Naṭrūn. The name is linked to the type of “natron” salt that could be extracted from that region. This salt lake region in the middle of the western desert would become one of the most important monastic centers in the world.”
St. Macarius monastery in the Wadi al Natroun area of Egypt was founded by St. Macarius around 360 A.D. and has been continuously inhabited by monks since. Among saints who were monks there: “Saint Macarius of Alexandria, Saint John the Dwarf, Saint Paphnutius the Ascetic, Saint Isidore, Saint Arsenius, Saint Moses the Black, Saint Poemen, and Saint Serapion.”
From A. J. Mason’s introduction to the 1921 translation of _Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarius the Egyptian_, xx: “The Homilies are well described as ‘spiritual’ Homilies. That is their purpose and their character. They are not dogmatic; they are not controversial; they are not expository; they are not concerned with the politics or the expansion of the church; they have little to say about the Christian’s duty to his fellow-men. There is a strange aloofness about them. The struggles of the Nicene faith against Arianism, the last struggle of Paganism against Christianity under Julian, the Meletian schism which rent the church of Egypt in twain, wake no echo in them. They have but one object, to help to bring individual souls to God in perfect self-subdual and absolute devotion.”
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