Patristic Lectionary (Year 1) – Friday, Second Week of Lent – 10 March 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: Arnold Friberg, _The Consecration of Joshua_ (1953) ]
[ Next selection of readings in this lectionary. ]
Deuteronomy 31:1-15, 23
The Last Words of Moses
So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I am no longer able to go out and come in. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not go over this Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will go over before you; he will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them; and Joshua will go over at your head, as the LORD has spoken. And the LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. And the LORD will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”
Then Moses summoned Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.”
And Moses wrote this law, and gave it to the priests the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time of the year of release, at the feast of booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land which you are going over the Jordan to possess. “
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting. And the LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud; and the pillar of cloud stood by the door of the tent.
And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore to give them: I will be with you.”
On Joshua, Homily 2.1 (Sources Chrétiennes 71:116-118)
It is necessary to make some comments on the death of Moses, because unless we understand in what sense Moses is said to be dead, we shall not be able to grasp the sense in which the leadership is said to have passed to Joshua (whose name in Greek is Jesus).
I would ask you, then, to consider the present condition of Jerusalem. The city has been destroyed and its altar abandoned. There are no more sacrifices, no victims or libations, no high priest or temple priesthood, no levitical ministry. Now, having considered all this, say to yourself: Moses, the servant of God, is dead.
No longer can anyone be observed presenting himself three times a year before the Lord, making offerings in the temple, slaying the Passover lamb, eating unleavened bread, bringing the firstfruits of his harvest or consecrating his firstborn. Take note of this, and say: Moses, the servant of God, is dead.
In place of these things, I ask you to observe how the Gentiles are turning to the faith and building churches. Altars are not sprinkled with the blood of dumb beasts anymore; they are consecrated by the precious blood of Christ. Instead of the blood of bulls and goats, priests and deacons minister the word of God through the grace of the Holy Spirit. All this must lead you to conclude that Jesus has taken the place of Moses as leader of the people – not Jesus who is called Joshua, the son of Nun, but Jesus the Son of God.
Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed and we now eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The good soil yields a thirty, sixty, or hundredfold harvest in the Church; the descendants of Israel have been multiplied by the adoption of all those born not of blood or of the will of man or of the will of flesh, but of God himself. God’s scattered children have been reunited. His people now keep the Sabbath not by abstaining from their ordinary work but by refraining from sinful practices. After taking all these things into consideration, say to yourself: Moses, the servant of God, is dead, and Jesus has taken over the leadership.
There exists a little work that treats of this mystery in figurative language, though admittedly it does not form part of the canon of Scripture. This book describes the appearance of two Moses figures, one a living spirit, the other a dead body. Surely this vision has a prophetic meaning. The letter of the Law, lifeless and empty of all those things of which we have just spoken, may be regarded as the dead body of Moses. But if you know how to remove the veil from the Law and understand that the Law is spiritual, there you have the Moses who continues live in the spirit.
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