Patristic Lectionary (Year 1) – Third Sunday of Lent – 12 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: Anonymous, illumination from _La Bible Moralisée__ (Paris, ca. 1220, held by the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, cod. 2554, f° 0v )], God as Creator/Architect, gently leaning to measure the world with a compass. The Son of God upholds the universe by his word of power (Hebrews 1:3), “since he is himself the life of the whole universe” (John Chrysostom). ]
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Hebrews 1:1 – 2:4
The Son, Heir of All Things, Exalted above the Angels.
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.
For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee?” Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son?” And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “Who makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness beyond thy comrades.” And, “Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they will perish, but thou remainest; they will all grow old like a garment, like a mantle thou wilt roll them up, and they will be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years will never end.” But to what angel has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet?” Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?
Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will.
Homily on the Letter to the Hebrews, 2, 3 ( Patrologia Graeca 63:23-25 )
The Son of God sustains the whole universe by his word of power. In the beginning God said: Let there be light. But here we see that the Son also acts by the power of his word, sustaining the whole universe, controlling and supporting what would otherwise disintegrate. The preservation of the world is, in fact, no less a task than its creation. If so bold a statement may be allowed, it is even greater, for in the one instance something is produced from nothing, while in the other created things are preserved from falling apart and returning to non-existence. This is indeed a great and wonderful work, a proof of immense power.
In saying that he sustains the whole universe, therefore, Scripture is telling us that the Lord makes light of the great burden of creation; it is no effort to him, for, the text adds, he does it by his word of power. Yes, truly: by his word. We may think of a word as something insubstantial, but Scripture shows us that it is not so with God. The expression used in the Letter to the Hebrews: he sustains the whole universe by his word of power, has the same significance as Saint John’s message: In him was life. Both indicate the power of the Word to preserve his creation, since he is himself the life of the whole universe.
The text continues: In his own person he has made purification for our sins. Thus after speaking of these great and wonderful matters, Scripture goes on to describe God’s providential care for the human race. He sustains the whole universe is, indeed, an all-embracing statement; but the continuation is greater still and no less universal, since the salvation offered to all of us comes through the Son of God. Moreover, when John had pointed out God’s providence in the words In him was life, he went on to say: And in him was light. The same declaration is made here to the Hebrews: When he had made purification for our sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Here we are given two signs of God’s care for us: we are cleansed from sin, and this is brought about through the Son of God himself. How many texts there are that glory not only in our reconciliation with God but in its accomplishment through his Son! So immense a gift becomes even greater when it is given us through him.
Now when Scripture says that after making purification for our sins, he took his seat at God’s right hand, it recalls the Cross to our minds and then proceeds at once to teaching on the resurrection and ascension.
Since we know these things, therefore, let us be neither ashamed nor presumptuous. He who was Lord and God and Son of God did not refuse to assume the condition of a slave; surely then we ought to embrace every task that is laid upon us, no matter how humble and lowly it may be.
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