Saturday, 4 June 2016

Third Sunday after Pentecost

The Matins readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost in the Benedictine Office are set out below.

Nocturn I (I Kings/Samuel 9 -10)

Reading 1: There, then, in the gateway Saul came up to Samuel, and said, Pray shew me where it is that the seer lives.  I am the seer thou speakest of, was his answer; go up before me to the hill-top, where you shall eat at my side. To-morrow I will send thee on thy way, and tell thee all thou wouldst know.  As for the asses that were lost three days since, put thy mind at ease, they have been found already. And here is all the best that Israel has to give, waiting for whom? For thee, and for thy father’s kin.

R. Prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him Only * And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.
V. Return unto Him with all your hearts, and put away the strange gods from among you.
R. And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.

Reading 2: For me, answered Saul, a man of Benjamin, the smallest of Israel’s tribes, sprung from a clan that is named last among the clans of Benjamin? What means this greeting thou hast given me?But now Samuel took Saul and his companion with him, and led them into the dining-hall, where he gave them the highest place among the company that was bidden there, some thirty men;

R. God, Which heareth all, even He sent His Angel, and took me from keeping my father's sheep, and
* Anointed me with the oil of His mercy.
V. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear
R. And anointed me with the oil of His mercy.

Reading 3: and told the cook, Bring out the portion I gave thee, with orders to keep it by thee separate from the rest.  So the cook bore in a shoulder, and put it before Saul; Here, Samuel told him, is the provision we made for thee; sit down to it and eat thy fill; it was put aside for thee on purpose, when I invited my company. Saul, then, was Samuel’s guest that day;  together they went down from the hill into the city, and together they held converse on the house-top. There, on the house-top, Saul lay down and slept;

R. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear
* He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.
V. God hath sent forth His mercy and His truth, and delivered my soul from among the lion's whelps.
R. He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.

Reading 4: waking early, at the first coming of the light, Samuel called out to him, Rise up, it is time I sent thee on thy way. Rise up he did, and together he and Samuel went out;  and when they reached the edge of the city on their downward journey, Samuel said, Bid thy servant pass on before us, and do thou wait here a little; I have a message to give thee from the Lord.And now Samuel took out his phial of oil, and poured it out over Saul’s head; then he kissed him, and said, Hereby the Lord anoints thee to be the leader of his chosen people; thine it shall be to deliver them from the enemies that hedge them round.

R. Remember, O Lord, thy covenant, and say unto the destroying Angel: Stay now thine hand
* That the land be not utterly laid waste, and that thou destroy not every living soul.
V. Even I it is that have sinned, and done evil indeed but these sheep what have they done? Let thine anger, I pray thee, O Lord, be turned away from thy people.
R. That the land be not utterly laid waste, and that Thou destroy not every living soul.

Nocturn II - Exposition of St Gregory on the book of Kings (Lib. 4. cap. 5. in I. Eeg. c. 10).

Reading 5: Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it over his head. Clearly this annointing expresses what has become a custom in Holy Church : for he who is made one of her Princes receives the sacrament of anointing. Now, since this anointing is a sacrament, he who is thus promoted is well anointed outwardly, if he is inwardly strengthened by sacramental power.

R. Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
* Because the hand of the Lord was with him, he smote the Philistine, and took away the reproach from Israel.
V. Is not this David? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?
R. Because the hand of the Lord was with him, he smote the Philistine, and took away the reproach from Israel.

Reading 6: First, then, let us consider the virtues of oil. Oil is superior to other liquids, in that it feeds flame and is wont to heal wounds. It therefore signifies mercy, as it is written of the Lord, His mercy is over all His works. In that it feeds flame, it signifies preaching which enlightens the mind of the elect. But in that wounds are healed by oil, it is clearly shown that the wounds of sin are to be wiped out.

R. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you
* For there are the mighty of Israel fallen
V. All ye mountains that stand round about, the Lord look upon you but let Him pass by Gilboa
R. For there are the mighty of Israel fallen

Reading 7: Let the head of the King be anointed then, that his mind may be filled with the spiritual grace of a teacher. Let him have oil through his anointing, let him have abundant mercy, which he should prefer to all other virtues. Let him have oil, so that while he kindles within himself the flame of the Holy Spirit, he may enlighten others by the Word. Likewise let him have the oil of healing, that he may dispense wisdom, and by it wipe out the stains of sins, and restore the sick in mind to health.

R. Thus saith the Lord I took thee out of thy father's house, and appointed thee to be ruler over My people, over Israel.
* And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, to establish thy kingdom for ever.
V. And I have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies.
R. And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, to establish thy kingdom for ever.

Reading 8: But Saul was anointed from a vial, not to signify teaching, but to indicate his future. For a vial is a very small vessel. Why was it that Saul was anointed from a vial of oil, if not because he was eventually to be cast out ? For after he had refused to obey God, he heard from Samuel, because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. As the vial held but little oil, so he was to be cast away received but little spiritual grace. This may be taken to be the rulers of the holy Church. For many of them receive the high dignity of the prelacy who are not perfect in their love of God and of their neighbors.

R. O Lord, Thou hast hearkened unto the prayer of thy servant, that I might build a temple unto thy Name,* O God of Israel, bless Thou, and hallow this house for ever.
V. O Lord, Who keepest covenant with thy servants that walk before thee in all their heart.
R. O God of Israel, bless Thou, and hallow this house for ever.

Nocturn III (Homily 34 of St Gregory on the Gospels)

Reading 9: From the Holy Gospel according to Luke: At that time: the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear him. And so on.

Ye have heard, my brethren, from the Gospel which hath but now been read, how that the publicans and sinners drew near unto our Redeemer, and how that He received them, not only to converse, but also to eat with Him. And when the Pharisees and Scribes saw it, they murmured. From this learn ye, that true righteousness is merciful, and false righteousness is contemptuous, albeit that the righteous also oft-times feel moved with just indignation at sinners. 

R. My sins are many, yea, they are more in number than the sands of the sea; I am not worthy to look up toward heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities; for I have provoked thee to anger
* And done evil in thy sight.
V. For I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me, for against thee only have I sinned
R. And done evil in thy sight.

Reading 10: But it is one thing to feel thus indignant through pride, and another to feel so through love of law. The righteous indeed look down upon sinners, and yet, as not despising them; they abandon them, and yet, as not without hope; they fight against them, and yet, as loving them all the while; for if they be behoven to chasten them grievously as touching the outer man, yet is it through charity which offereth sweetness to their inner man.

R. Hearken, O Lord, unto the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee today, that thine eyes may be open and thine ears attend;
* Toward this house day and night.
V. Look down from thine high and holy place, O Lord, even from heaven thy dwelling.
R. Toward this house, day and night.

Reading 11: In their hearts they prefer before themselves them whom they are correcting; they hold as better than themselves them whom they judge. And thus doing, they watch by carefulness over them, which are committed unto their charge, and, by lowly-mindedness, over themselves.On the other hand, they whose exaltation cometh of a false righteousness, look down upon their neighbour, but are softened by no mercy toward his misery, and are all the more sinful, because they perceive not that they themselves are sinners.

R. Lord, when thy people shall turn again to thee, and shall pray unto thee in this house
* then hear Thou in heaven, O Lord, and deliver them out of the hand of their enemies.
V. If thy people sin against thee, and turn again, and repent, and come and pray unto thee in this house.
R. Then hear Thou in heaven, O Lord, and deliver them out of the hand of their enemies.

Reading 12: Of such were those Pharisees who judged the Lord because He received sinners, and, in the dryness of their own heart, rebuked the very Fountain of mercy. They were sick of so desperate a sickness that they knew not of themselves that they were sick; but, that they might know that they were so, the Heavenly Physician applied to them His tender ointments, and, by means of a gracious parable, lanced the boil of their pride of heart.

R. One Seraph cried unto another* Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts the whole earth is full of His glory.
V. There are Three That bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost and these Three are One.
R. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The whole earth is full of His glory.

Gospel: St Luke 15: 1-10

When they found all the publicans and sinners coming to listen to him, the Pharisees and scribes were indignant; Here is a man, they said, that entertains sinners, and eats with them. Whereupon he told them this parable: If any of you owns a hundred sheep, and has lost one of them, does he not leave the other ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders, rejoicing, and so goes home, and calls his friends and his neighbours together; Rejoice with me, he says to them, I have found my sheep that was lost.  So it is, I tell you, in heaven; there will be more rejoicing over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine souls that are justified, and have no need of repentance.Or if some woman has ten silver pieces by her, and has lost one of them, does she not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls her friends and her neighbours together; Rejoice with me, she says, I have found the silver piece which I lost. So it is, I tell you, with the angels of God; there is joy among them over one sinner that repents.

Erant autem appropinquantes ei publicani, et peccatores ut audirent illum.  Et murmurabant pharisæi, et scribæ, dicentes: Quia hic peccatores recipit, et manducat cum illis.  Et ait ad illos parabolam istam dicens: Quis ex vobis homo, qui habet centum oves, et si perdiderit unam ex illis, nonne dimittit nonaginta novem in deserto, et vadit ad illam quæ perierat, donec inveniat eam? Et cum invenerit eam, imponit in humeros suos gaudens: et veniens domum convocat amicos et vicinos, dicens illis: Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni ovem meam, quæ perierat.  Dico vobis quod ita gaudium erit in cælo super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente, quam super nonaginta novem justis, qui non indigent pœnitentia. Aut quæ mulier habens drachmas decem, si perdiderit drachmam unam, nonne accendit lucernam, et everrit domum, et quærit diligenter, donec inveniat? Et cum invenerit convocat amicas et vicinas, dicens: Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni drachmam quam perdideram.  Ita, dico vobis, gaudium erit coram angelis Dei super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente.





Friday, 3 June 2016

Feast of the Sacred Heart

The Matins readings in the Benedictine Office (1962) for the feast of the Sacred Heart are set out below.

Nocturn I: Jeremiah 24:5-7; 30:18-29, 21-24; 31: 1-3, 31-33

(Note: The psalms set for the feast are Ps 32, 33, 35, 40, 46, 60)

Reading 1: A message from the Lord God of Israel: This meaning the good figs have, that good will of mine goes with the men of Juda I have banished from their homes, and sent away into the country of Chaldaea.  I will smile on them once more, and bring them back home, and all will be building now, not pulling down, planting now, not uprooting. And I will give them a heart to know me, know me by my divine name; they my people, and I their God, once in good earnest they have retraced their steps, and come back to me.

R. I will make an everlasting Covenant with them, and I will not cease from doing them good, and I will put my fear in their hearts,* So that they shall not depart from me.
V. Yea, I will rejoice over them, to do them good with my whole Heart.
R. So that they shall not depart from me.

Reading 2: Nay, says the Lord, I mean to bring tent-dwelling Jacob home, have pity on those ruined walls, build the city anew on its height, set up the temple and its ordinances anew; here songs of praise shall echo once again, and cries of mirth. They shall increase, that hitherto had dwindled, be exalted, that once were brought low. A prince of their own race they shall have, a home-born ruler, singled out by my own call to serve me; that office, the Lord says, none may take on himself unbidden. You shall be my own people, and I your own God. Like a whirlwind it will suddenly appear, the Lord’s vengeance; will break in storm, and light upon rebel heads. Nor shall the divine anger be appeased till the blow has been struck and the decree executed; what his design was, will be known all too well, all too late.

R. It was not an open enemy that has done me this dishonour, for then I could have borne it,* But it was even thou, mine own familiar friend, who did also eat of my Bread.
V. Neither was it mine adversary that did magnify himself against me, for then peradventure I would have hid myself from him.
R. But it was even thou, mine own familiar friend, who did also eat of my Bread.

Reading 3: No clan in Israel, the Lord says, but shall own me as its God when that day comes, and all of them shall be my people. Out there in the solitudes they have won pardon, those exiles the sword left untouched; Israel shall find a home, the Lord says, the Lord, making himself known from far away. With unchanging love I love thee, and now in mercy I have drawn thee to myself.

Reading 4: A time is coming, the Lord says, when I mean to ratify a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Juda. It will not be like the covenant which I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand, to rescue them from Egypt; that they should break my covenant, and I, all the while, their master, the Lord says. No, this is the covenant I will grant the people of Israel, the Lord says, when that time comes. I will implant my law in their innermost thoughts, engrave it in their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

R. And we, being dead in our sins, hath God quickened together with Christ, * For his great love wherewith he hath loved us.
V. That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace.
R. For his great love wherewith he hath loved us.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. For his great love wherewith he hath loved us.

Second Nocturn (From the Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI)

(Psalms 84, 85, 93, 96, 97, 107)

Reading 5: Among the wonderful developments of sacred teaching and piety, by which the plans of the divine Wisdom are daily made clear to the Church, hardly any is more manifest than the triumphant progress made by the devotion of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Very often indeed, during the course of past ages, Fathers, Doctors, and Saints have celebrated our Redeemer's love: and they have said, that the wound opened in the side of Christ was the hidden fountain of all graces. Moreover, from the Middle Ages onward, when the faithful began to show a more tender piety towards the most sacred Humanity of the Saviour, contemplative souls became accustomed to penetrate through that wound almost to the very Heart itself, wounded for the love of men. And from that time, this form of contemplation became so familiar to all persons of saintly life, that there was no country or religious order in which, during this period, witnesses to it were not to be found.

R. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him,
* Yea, unto all such as call upon him faithfully.
V. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering and of great goodness.
R. Yea, unto all such as call upon him faithfully.

Reading 6: Finally, during recent centuries, and most especially at that period when heretics, in the name of a false piety, strove to discourage Christians from receiving the most Holy Eucharist, the veneration of the most Sacred Heart began to be openly practised, principally through the exertions of St. John Eudes, who is by no means unworthily called the founder of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Reading 7: But in order to establish fully and entirely the worship of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to spread the same throughout the whole world, God himself chose as his instrument a most humble virgin from the order of the Visitation, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who even in her earliest years already had a burning love for the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and to whom Christ the Lord had very many times appeared, and was pleased to make known the riches and the desires of his divine Heart. The most famous of these apparitions was that in which Jesus revealed himself to her in prayer before the blessed Sacrament, shewed her his most Sacred Heart, and, complaining that in return for his unbounded love, he met with nothing but outrages and ingratitude from mankind, he ordered her to concern herself with the establishment of a new feast, on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, on which his Heart should be venerated with due honour, and that the insults offered him by sinners in the Sacrament of love should be expiated by worthy satisfaction.

R. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent;
* Yea, thou hast revealed them unto babes.
V. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.
R. Yea, thou hast revealed them unto babes.

Reading 8: At length, in the year 1765, the Supreme Pontiff Clement XIII approved the Mass and Office in honour of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Pius IX extended the feast to the universal Church. From then on the worship of the most Sacred Heart, like an overflowing river, washing away all obstacles, hath poured itself forth over all the earth, and, at the dawn of the new century, Leo XIII, having proclaimed a jubilee, decided to dedicate the whole human race to the most Sacred Heart. This consecration was actually carried out with solemn rites in all the churches of the Catholic world, and brought about a great increase of this devotion, leading not only nations but even private families to it, who in countless numbers dedicated themselves to the Divine Heart, and submitted themselves to its royal sway. Lastly, the Sovereign Pontiff Pius XI, in order that, by its solemnity, the feast might answer more fully to the greatly widespread devotion of the Christian people, raised the feast of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus to the rite of a double of the first class, with an octave; and moreover, that the violated rights of Christ, the supreme King and most loving Lord, might be repaired, and that the sins of the nations might be bewailed, he ordered that annually, on that same feast-day, there should be recited an expiatory form of prayer in all the churches of the Christian world.

R. All nations whom thou hast made shall come,* And they shall worship thee, O Lord.
V. Yea, they shall glorify thy Name, for thou art great, and doest wondrous things.
R. And they shall worship thee, O Lord.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. And they shall worship thee, O Lord.

Third Nocturn (St Bonaventure):

(Canticles: Is 12:1-6; 1 Kings 2:1-5, 6-10)

Reading 9: In order that the Church might be taken out of the side of Christ, in his deep sleep on the Cross, and that the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced: it was divinely ordained that one of the soldiers should pierce his sacred side with a spear, and open it. Then forthwith there came flowing out blood and water, which was the price of our salvation, pouring forth from its mountain-source, in sooth, from the secret places of his Heart, to give power to the Sacraments of the Church, to bestow the life of grace, and to be as a saving drink of living waters, flowing up to life eternal for those who were already quickened in Christ. Arise, then, O soul beloved of Christ. Cease not thy vigilance, place there thy lips, and drink the waters from the fount of salvation.

R. If I be lifted up,* I will draw all men unto me.
V. This he said, signifying what death he should die.
R. I will draw all men unto me.

Reading 10: Because we are now come to the sweet Heart of Jesus, and because it is good for us to be here, let us not too soon turn away therefrom. O how good and joyful a thing it is to dwell in this Heart. What a good treasure, what a precious pearl, is thy Heart, O most excellent Jesu, which we have found hidden in the pit which hath been dug in this field, namely, in thy body. Who would cast away such a pearl? Nay, rather, for this same I would give all my pearls. I will sell all my thoughts and affections, and buy the same for myself, turning all my thoughts to the Heart of the good Jesus, and without fail it will support me.

R. Be ye therefore followers of God;* And walk ye therefore in love.
V. For Christ also hath loved us and hath given himself for us.
R. And walk ye therefore in love.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. And walk ye therefore in love.

Reading 11: Therefore, o most sweet Jesu, finding this Heart that is thine and mine, I will pray to thee, my God: admit my prayers into the shrine of hearkening: and draw me even more altogether into thy Heart.For to this end was thy side pierced, that an entry might be open unto us. To this end was thy Heart wounded, that in it we might be able to dwell secure from alarms from without. And it was wounded none the less on this account that, because of the visible wound, we may perceive the wound of love which is invisible. How could this fire of love better shine forth than for him to permit that not only his body, but that even his Heart, should be wounded with the spear?

Reading 12: Who would not love that Heart so wounded? Who would not, in return, love one who is so loving? Who would not embrace one so chaste? Wherefore let us who are in the flesh love in return, as much as we can, him who so loveth, embrace our wounded one, whose hands and feet, side and Heart, have been pierced by wicked husbandmen; and let us pray that he may deign to bind our hearts, still hard and impenitent, with the chain of his love, and wound them with the dart thereof.

R. Be ye therefore followers of God;* And walk ye therefore in love.
V. For Christ also hath loved us and hath given himself for us.
R. And walk ye therefore in love.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. And walk ye therefore in love.

The Gospel for the Feast of the Sacred Heart is from St John 19:

31 Judæi ergo (quoniam parasceve erat) ut non remanerent in cruce corpora sabbato (erat enim magnus dies ille sabbati), rogaverunt Pilatum ut frangerentur eorum crura, et tollerentur. 32 Venerunt ergo milites: et primi quidem fregerunt crura, et alterius, qui crucifixus est cum eo. 33 Ad Jesum autem cum venissent, ut viderunt eum jam mortuum, non fregerunt ejus crura, 34 sed unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua. 35 Et qui vidit, testimonium perhibuit: et verum est testimonium ejus. Et ille scit quia vera dicit: ut et vos credatis. 36 Facta sunt enim hæc ut Scriptura impleretur: Os non comminuetis ex eo. 37 Et iterum alia Scriptura dicit: Videbunt in quem transfixerunt.

[31] Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. [32] The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. [33] But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. [35] And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe. [36] For these things were done, that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of him. [37] And again another scripture saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Hebrews 1:9b-14 - Christians are kings and priests

The opening verses of Hebrews 1 compares Christ's power of governance to the ministry of the angels.

Hebrews 1:1
and God, thy own God, has given thee an unction to bring thee pride, as none else of thy fellows. 
 propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo exultationis præ participibus tuis.

Christ’s fitness for accomplishing and governing. 

Aquinas: In those words He is speaking of a spiritual anointing, whereby Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit... It also befits Him to be anointed with the oil of holiness and gladness: for the sacraments, which are vessels of grace, were instituted by Him...

This anointing also befits Christians, for they are kings and priests: ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood’ (1 Pt. 2:9); ‘You have made us a kingdom and priests for our God’ (Rev. 3:10). Furthermore, He has the Holy Spirit, Who is the spirit of prophecy: ‘I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy’ (Jl 2:28).

Therefore, all are anointed with an invisible anointing: ‘Now he that has confirmed us with you in Christ and that has anointed us is God: who has also sealed us and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts’ (2 Cor. 1:21); ‘But you have the unction from the Holy One and know all things’ (1 Jn. 2:20)...He has it principally and first, but we and others have it from Him...

Christ's power of acting
10 And elsewhere: Lord, thou hast laid the foundations of the earth at its beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou wilt remain; they will all be like a cloak that grows threadbare, and thou wilt lay them aside, like a garment, and exchange them for new; but thou art he who never changes, thy years will not come to an end.
 Et: Tu in principio, Domine, terram fundasti: et opera manuum tuarum sunt cæli. Ipsi peribunt, tu autem permanebis, et omnes ut vestimentum veterascent: et velut amictum mutabis eos, et mutabuntur: tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non deficient. 
Aquinas: Above, the Apostle mentioned four things in which Christ excelled the angels, and he proved two of them, namely, that He excels them, because He is the Son and because He is the heir. Now he proves the third, namely, that He excels them in His power of acting, because through Him the Father made the world.

...there is a difference between Creator and creature...in regard to two things which are proper to the Creator; the first is eternity; the second is immutability...Here he shows the permanence of the Creator. As if to say: ‘In you there is no change nor shadow of change’ (Jas. 1:17). This can be understood of Christ as man: ‘Jesus Christ, yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8).

His dignity
13 Did he ever say to one of the angels, Sit on my right hand, while I make thy enemies a footstool under thy feet?14 What are they, all of them, but spirits apt for service, whom he sends out when the destined heirs of eternal salvation have need of them?
Ad quem autem angelorum dixit aliquando: Sede a dextris meis, quoadusque ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum? Nonne omnes sunt administratorii spiritus, in ministerium missi propter eos, qui hæreditatem capient salutis?
Aquinas: As if to say: It is not found that God said this to an angel, but He said it to Christ. And Christ Himself claims that this was said of Him.

Christ's power

But what He says, namely, sit at my right hand, can be referred to the divine nature in which Christ is equal to the Father, because He has judiciary and royal power equal to the Father: ‘All that the Father has are mine’ (Jn. 16:15). Indeed, the Father Himself said this from eternity, because He engendered the Son by speaking, and by engendering gave Him equality with the Father. It can also be referred to the human nature, according to which He sits near the transcendent goods of the Father. In this case the Father spoke, when He joined His Word to a human nature.

...it should be noted that something can be in someone’s power in two ways: in one way in regard to his authority, and then all things have been subject to the Son of God from all eternity, inasmuch as they were decreed to be done, and in the time they existed, they were subject to the Son of God as God, but to Him as man they were subject from the time of His conception as man...

Then he shows that this dignity does not belong to the angels, when he says, Are they not all ministering spirits?

Here he does three things: first, he indicated their function; secondly, the performance of that function (v. 14b); thirdly, the fruit of that performance (v. 14c).

Ministry of the angels

Then he shows that this dignity does not belong to the angels, when he says, Are they not all ministering spirits? Here he does three things: first, he indicated their function; secondly, the performance of that function (v. 14b); thirdly, the fruit of that performance (v. 14c).

Are they not all ministering spirits?His ministers who do his will’ (Ps. 102:21)...some carry out the divine commands, while others oversee and direct their performance...

Furthermore, the Lord Himself said: ‘Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father’ (Mt. 18:10). Therefore, it must be admitted that all see God’s essence; just as God by knowing His essence also knows Himself and all things not Himself, so, too, the angels, seeing the essence of God, know it and all things in it. In this vision they are happy only because they see Him; not because they see other things in Him...But the vision by which they see God’s essence is common to the beatified. In the vision by which they know all other things in God one angel is above another, for the higher angels, being of a higher nature and intellect, see more in God than the intermediate do, and these more than the lowest. Hence, they see everything which pertains to their office and which are to be accomplished by the others.

the fruit of their activity: ...the purpose of their actions toward men is that the number of the elect be filled. And he says, for them, and not for all, because, although all are called, few are chosen, as it says in Mt. (22:14). He says, the inheritance, because only the sons obtain it: ‘But if sons, then heirs also’ (Rom. 8:17). He says, receive, because the kingdom of God is obtained by labor and sweat and solicitude: ‘The kingdom of God suffers violence’ (Mt. 11:12). Therefore, they will be saved, who take care to guard the divine illuminations and inspirations impressed by the good angels and to make them fructify; otherwise, they will hear what said in Jer (51:9): ‘We would have cured Babylon, but she is not healed.’

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Hebrews 1:-9a - Christ as King, Creator and Son

As we embark on this project of reading Hebrews prayerfully, I thought it might be useful to remind ourselves of the key stages of the lectio divina process, which can be summarised as: read (slowly and carefully, memorise if possible); think (ponder, consider what questions you need to answer to understand the text and what it is saying to you); study (with the help of the commentary); meditate (on the key messages that stand out to you); pray (turn those messages into a prayer); contemplate; work (put into action).

One useful way of making sure you do the read stage thoroughly, I find, is to listen to it read aloud.  If you have some Greek or Latin, try in those languages, otherwise there are many audio Bibles around the web you could use.

Hebrews 1:1 
In old days, God spoke to our fathers in many ways and by many means, through the prophets; 
 Multifariam, multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in prophetis: 
 Aquinas:

The time: ...he touches upon the time, when this teaching was delivered, i.e., the past, because he spoke of old, i.e., not suddenly, because the things that were spoken about Christ were so great as to be incredible, unless they had been taught bit by bit as time went on. Hence St. Gregory says: ‘As time went on, the knowledge of divine things grew.’ ‘The former things of old I have declared, and they went forth out of my mouth, and I have made them to be heard’ (Is. 48:3).

The author: Thus, he mentions the author, namely, God, Who speaks: ‘I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me’ (Ps. 84:9) For He does not lie: ‘God is not a man that he should lie’ (Num. 23:19). These, then, are the first three things which commend the Old Testament: authorship, because it is from God; secondly, subtlety and sublimity, because in so many and various ways; thirdly, duration, because of old.

To whom it was given:  Fourthly, he shows to whom it is delivered, namely, to our fathers. This is why it is familiar and known to us: ‘We declare unto you the promise which was made to our fathers’ (Ac. 13:32); ‘As he spoke to our fathers’ (Lk. 1:55).

The Ministers: Fifthly, he indicates the ministers, because it was delivered not by jesters but by prophets: ‘Which he had promised before by his prophets’ (Rom. 1:2); ‘To whom all the prophets give testimony’ (Ac. 10:43).

Christ: Creator  and Son
now at last in these times he has spoken to us with a Son to speak for him; a Son, whom he has appointed to inherit all things, Just as it was through him that he created this world of time;  a Son, who is the radiance of his Father’s splendour, and the full expression of his being; all creation depends, for its support, on his enabling word. 
 novissime, diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit hæredem universorum,per quem fecit et sæcula: 3 qui cum sit splendor gloriæ, et figura substantiæ ejus, portansque omnia verbo virtutis suæ
Aquinas: ...for by the fact that he is the brightness, he shows his co-eternity with the Father; for in creatures splendor is coeval, and the Word is co-eternal...But when he says, the image of his substance, he shows the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. For since splendor is not of the same nature as the resplendent thing, then lest anyone suppose that it is not similar in nature, he says that it is the image or figure of His substance. But because the Son, even though He is of the same nature with the Father, would be lacking power, if He were weak, he adds, supporting all things by the word of his power. Therefore, the Apostle commends Christ on three points, namely, co-eternity, consubstantiality and equality of power.
3b Now, making atonement for our sins he has taken his place on high, at the right hand of God’s majesty, 
 purgationem peccatorum faciens, sedet ad dexteram majestatis in excelsis: 
Aquinas: It belongs to Christ to cleanse by reason of His divine nature and by reason of His special sonship. By reason of His divine nature, because guilt or sin is uniquely an evil of the rational creature, and God alone can repair such an evil. For sin lies in the will, which God alone can move: ‘The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable; who can know it? I am the Lord who searches the heart and proves the reins’ (Jer. 17:9)...But the will is concerned with the ultimate end, because it is made for enjoying God; therefore, it is moved by God alone. Therefore, since Christ is true God, it is obvious that He can cause purification from sins: ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (Lk. 5:21)

Superior to the angels
4 superior to the angels in that measure in which the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Did God ever say to one of the angels, Thou art my Son, I have begotten thee this day? And again, He shall find in me a Father, and I in him a Son? Why, when the time comes for bringing his first-born into the world anew, then, he says, Let all the angels of God worship before him. What does he say of the angels? He will have his angels be like the winds, the servants that wait on him like a flame of fire.
tanto melior angelis effectus, quanto differentius præ illis nomen hæreditavit.Cui enim dixit aliquando angelorum: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te? Et rursum: Ego ero illi in patrem, et ipse erit mihi in filium? Et cum iterum introducit primogenitum in orbem terræ, dicit: Et adorent eum omnes angeli Dei. Et ad angelos quidem dicit: Qui facit angelos suos spiritus, et ministros suos flammam ignis.
 Aquinas: ...Christ had two things according to the human nature in this life, namely, the infirmity of the flesh; and in this way He was lower than the angels: but He also had fullness of grace, so that even in His human nature he was greater than the angels in grace and glory: ‘We have seen him as it were the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (Jn. 1:14). But this is not how the Apostle understood it, for he does not mean that He was made better in regard to grace, but by reason of the union of human nature with the divine; so He is said to be made, inasmuch as by effecting that union He became better than the angels, and should be called and really be the son of God.

... as to the signification of the name, because the proper name of angels is that they are called angels, which is the name of a messenger. For an angel is a messenger. But the proper name of Christ is that He is called the Son of God; and this name is vastly different from ‘angel’, because no matter how great a difference you might imagine, there would still remain a greater difference, because they are infinitely apart: ‘What is his name, and what is the name of his son, if thou knowest?’ (Pr. 30:4). For the name of the Son, as that of the Father, is incomprehensible: ‘He gave him a name which is above every name’ (Phil. 2:9)...the second difference, because they differ as to mode: ‘Who among the sons of God shall be like to God?’ (Ps. 88:7). As if to say: No one by nature. As to the third he says that He inherited that name; for inheritance follows upon origin. Hence, Christ is the Son by origin and by nature, but the angels by a gift of grace: ‘Here is the heir:’ (Mt. 21:38). Hence, He inherited that name, but not so the angels...

Kingship of Christ
8  And what of the Son? Thy throne, O God, stands firm for ever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingship is a rod that rules true.  Thou hast been a friend to right, an enemy to wrong; 
 Ad Filium autem: Thronus tuus Deus in sæculum sæculi: virga æquitatis, virga regni tui. Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem
Aquinas:

Royal dignity:..a throne is the king’s seat, a chair is the teacher’s seat and a tribunal the judge’s seat. All of these belong to Christ, because He is our king: ‘He will reign in the house of Jacob’ (Lk. 1:32) and, therefore, deserves a throne: ‘His throne is as the sun’ (Ps. 88:38). He is a teacher and, therefore, needs a chair: ‘We know that you have been sent a teacher from God’...For He reigns in order to direct men to eternal life. But this is not so of human kingdoms; hence, their kingdoms end with the present life. Another reason is that the Church, which is His kingdom, will last until the end of the world, when Christ will deliver the kingdom to God and to the Father to be consummated and made perfect.

The equity of his rule: Then he commends his kingdom on its equity when he says, a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. And this kingdom is fittingly described by the scepter: for a tyrannical kingdom differs from that of a king, because the former exists for the tyrant’s benefit with great harm to the subjects; but a kingdom is particularly ordained to the benefit of the subjects...

But it should be noted that sometimes a person rules according to the rigor of the law, as when he observes things that according to themselves are just. But it happens that something is just according to itself, but when compared to something else, it causes suffering, if it is observed; consequently, it is necessary that the common law be applied, and if this is done, then there is a rule of equity...

The goodness of the ruler: For some observe equity not for the love of justice but from fear or for glory. And such a kingdom does not last...But one who does not love justice is not just: ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice’ (Mt. 5:6). Yet some love justice but are lax in correcting injustice. However, Christ hates, i.e., reproves justice: ‘I have hated the unjust’ (Ps. 118:113). Similarly, He hates the wicked and his wickedness: ‘The highest hates sinners, and has mercy on the penitent’ (Sir. 12:3). Therefore, he says, you have hated iniquity.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Reading Hebrews with St Thomas: St Thomas' Introduction to the Epistle

St Thomas offers both a prologue to the Commentary, and some comments on the structure of Hebrews, both of which are worth contemplating.

The structure and purpose of Hebrews

Aquinas:
He wrote this epistle against the errors of those converts from Judaism who wanted to preserve the legal observances along with the Gospel, as though Christ’s grace were not sufficient for salvation. 
Hence it is divided into two parts: in the first he extols Christ’s grandeur to show the superiority of the New Testament over the Old; secondly, he discusses what unites the members to the head, namely, faith (chap. 11). 
But he intends to show the New Testament’s superiority over the Old by proving Christ’s preeminence over the personnel of the Old Testament, namely, the angels, by whom the Law was handed down: ‘The law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator’ (Gal. 3:19); and Moses, by whom or through whom it was given: ‘The law was given by Moses’ (Jn. 1:17); ‘There arose no more a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, to whom the Lord spoke face to face’ (Dt. 3:10), and the priesthood by which it was administered: ‘Into the first tabernacle the priests indeed entered, accomplishing the offices of sacrifices’ (Heb. 9:6).  First, therefore, he favors Christ over the angels; secondly, over Moses (chap. 3); thirdly, over the priesthood of the Old Testament (chap. 5). 
Comment: The error of our times is no longer Judaising tendencies, but the arguments used in are still extremely pertinent in countering the modern tendency to downplay the divinity of Jesus.

The transcendence of Christ (Prologue)

 ‘There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours’ (Ps. 86:8).
In these words Christ’s transcendence is described under two aspects: first as compared to other gods, when he says, ‘There is none among the gods like thee, O Lord’; secondly, as reflected in His effects, when he says, ‘nor are there any works like yours’.

In regard to the first it should be noted that although there is but one God by nature, as it says in Deut. 6:4: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord’, nevertheless, by participation there are many gods both in heaven and on earth: ‘For there be gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor. 8:5). For angels are sometimes called gods: ‘When the sons of God came to stand before the Lord’ (Jb. 1:6 & 11), and also prophets, as is said of Moses: ‘Behold I have appointed you the god of Pharaoh’ (Ex. 7:1), and priests: ‘You shall not speak ill of the gods’, i.e., of the priests (Ex. 22:28); ‘If the thief be not known, the master of the house shall be brought to the gods’ (Ex. 22:8). Angels are called gods on account of their rich splendor of divine brightness: ‘Upon whom shall not his light arise?’ (Jb. 25:3).

Christ is greater than all others called 'gods': But angels are not like unto Christ among the gods, because He is the ‘brightness of the Father’s glory’ (1:3); ‘Setting him on his right hand in the heavenly place above all principality and power and above every name named in this world and in the world to come’ (Eph. 1:20). The prophets are called gods, because the word of God was spoken to them; ‘He called them gods, to whom the word of God was spoken’ (Jn. 10:35). Therefore, Christ is God in some more excellent way, because He is the substantial Word of God. Priests are called gods, because they are God’s ministers: ‘You shall be called priests of the Lord, you ministers of our God’ (Is. 61:6). But Christ is God in a stronger sense, for He is not a minister but the Lord of all: ‘Lord of Lords’ (Rev. 19:16). ‘But Christ was faithful in his own house as a son’ (Heb. 3:6). Christ, therefore, is the great God above all the gods, because He is the splendor, the Word, and the Lord

 Secondly, this transcendence is shown by His works; hence it says, nor are there any works like thine. Here it should be noted that the matchless work of Christ is threefold: one extends to every creature, namely, the work of creation: ‘All things were made through Him’ (Jn. 1:3); a second extends to the rational creature, who is enlightened by Christ, namely, the work of enlightenment: ‘He was the true light which enlightens every man that comes into the world’ (Jn. 1:9); the third extends to justification, which pertains only to the saints, who are vivified and sanctified by Him, i.e., by life-giving grace: ‘And the life was the light of men’ (Jn. 1:4). Now, the other gods cannot perform these works: for the angels are not creators, but creatures ‘Who make your angels spirits’ (Ps. 103:4); prophets are enlightened and not enlighteners: ‘He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light’ (Jn. 1:8); and priests do not justify: ‘It is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sin should be taken away’ (Heb. 10:4).

The transcendence of Christ is thus clearly shown in our text; and this is the subject matter of this epistle to the Hebrews....

Prayer

Lord, 

May our reading and meditation on this your word help protect us against error and lead us to greater understanding and love of you.
  Oh God, as we contemplate your wonderful work of creation, and your work of enlightenment of men, give us too your life-giving grace that we may be sanctified and vivified through Christ,

Amen. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

Introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews/1


Today, an introduction to a series of posts aimed at supporting lectio divina on the epistle to the Hebrews, drawing mainly on the Commentary of St Thomas Aquinas.

Why read Hebrews?

Fr Hunwicke recently posted a rather sad piece on the failure of Catholics to appreciate the reality and importance of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Personally I think the problem is not just the Mass (central though that is) but a broader issue around our understanding of suffering and sacrifice (viz Arianism is alive and well in our day), not to mention Christology (viz Arianism is alive and well!).  Certainly in my own theological degree the topics of sacrifice and atonement, and their relevance to everyday Christian practice were topics jumped over pretty lightly indeed, and several years later I'm still trying to fill in gaps in my understanding.

In large part I suspect the problem stems from our reluctance to read and engage with the Old Testament thoroughly, and understand the way it foreshadows and teaches us the foundations for the New.  That continuity is of course a key theme in Acts, which I've just finished working through here with the help of St John Chrysostom, but it is most developed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and so I thought it might make a suitable next subject for lectio.

Authorship and date

The Epistle to the Hebrews is traditionally attributed to St Paul, supported by the testimony of Clement of Rome.  Doubt about his authorship started in the third century, mainly because the style of the Greek is much more polished than his other epistles.

St Thomas Aquinas comments for example that:
... it should be noted that before the Council of Nicaea, some doubted that this was one of Paul’s epistles for two reasons: first, because it does not follow the patters of the other epistles. For there is no salutation and no name of the author. Secondly, it does not have the style of the others; indeed, it is more elegant. Furthermore, no other work of Scripture proceeds in such an orderly manner in the sequence of words and sentences as this one. Hence, they said that it was the work of Luke, the evangelist, or of Barnabas or Pope Clement. For he wrote to the Athenians according to this style.
Nevertheless, the old doctors, especially Dionysius and certain others, accept the words of this epistle as being Paul’s testimony. Jerome, too, acknowledges it as Paul’s epistle.
St Thomas provides some arguments to counter the virtual consensus of modern scholars against Pauline authorship:
To the first argument, therefore, one may respond that there are three reasons why Paul did not write his name: first, because he was not the apostle of the Jews but of the Gentiles: ‘He who wrought in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, wrought in me also among the Gentiles’ (Gal. 2:8); consequently, he made no mention of his apostleship at the beginning of this epistle, because he was unwilling to speak of it except to the Gentiles. Secondly, because his name was odious to the Jews, since he taught that the observance of the Law were no longer to be kept, as is clear from Acts (15:2). Consequently, he concealed his name, lest the salutary doctrine of this epistle go for naught. Thirdly, because he was a Jew: ‘They are Hebrews: so am I’ (2 Cor. 11:22). And fellow countrymen find it hard to endure greatness in their own: ‘A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house’ (Mt. 13:57).
To the second argument the answer might be given that the style is more elegant, because even though he knew many languages: ‘I speak with all your tongues’ (1 Cor. 14:18), he knew the Hebrew language better than the others, for it was his native tongue, the one in which he wrote this epistle. As a result, he could write more ornately in his own idiom than in some other language; hence, he says: ‘For though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge’ (2 Cor. 11:6). But Luke, who was a skillful writer, translated this ornate Hebrew into Greek.
Regardless of authorship, most accept that it was written early, possibly around 63-64 AD.

Length and structure

Hebrews has thirteen chapters, and there are various ways of dividing them.

Modern scholars tend to divide it into five parts: Christ's pre-existence; his superiority over the angels; his superiority over Moses; Christ's priesthood; his sacrifice compared to the sacrifices of the Old Law.

Commentaries

While Hebrews is a text that really does benefit from the insights of modern scholarship, particularly from the Dead Sea Scrolls and related literature (and I'll try and provide a few comments and links on this here and there), there are two key commentaries from the Fathers and Doctors that are available online and well worth reading.

The first is by St John Chrysostom.  His commentary on Hebrews focuses above all on the idea of redemptive suffering.  He sees the Epistle as a document of encouragement for Jewish converts:
...that they might not think themselves forsaken..that they should bear nobly whatever befalls them; the other, that they should look assuredly for their recompense. For truly He will not overlook those with Abel and the line of unrewarded righteous following him.
Chrysostom also focuses on St Paul's use of the Old Testament as proof of the Resurrection:
But he speaks much of both the New and the Old Covenant; for this was useful to him for the proof of the Resurrection. Lest they should disbelieve that [Christ] rose on account of the things which He suffered, he confirms it from the Prophets, and shows that not the Jewish, but ours are the sacred [institutions]
St Thomas Aquinas argues that the focus of the Epistle is "Christ’s grandeur to show the superiority of the New Testament over the Old", "what unites the members to the head, namely, faith".  His Prologue to his commentary on Hebrews provides an exposition of Christ's transcendence by way of introduction to the text, and I'll post some of that tomorrow.

My approach

I plan to use extracts from St Thomas' commentary by way of a change of pace (though we won't entirely abandon Chrysostom, since St Thomas frequently quotes him) in terms of material to support close reading, study and meditation on the text.

I will be using the translation of the text by Fabian R. Larcher, O.P (provided over at the Dominican Priory website linked to above).

Both St Thomas' and St John's commentaries are quite long: Chrysostom's for example, averages about three homilies per chapter (compared to around two for each chapter of Acts); and  the Dominican Priory website divides St Thomas' text into 52 separate sections.

For this reason, I'm going to be moving fairly slowly through the text.  I'll also plan on inserting in any key Old Testament texts (particularly those likely to be less familiar).

All the same, I do plan on editing rather heavily, and cutting out a lot of the Commentary, so I would encourage you to go and read the full commentary (and that of St John) if you have time.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Matins readings for the Benedictine Office for the Second Sunday after Pentecost are set out below.

Nocturn I (I Kings/Samuel 1)

Reading 1:There was a man once called Elcana, that lived at Ramathaim-Sophim, in the hill-country of Ephraim; he was an Ephraimite born, descended from Suph through Jeroham, Eliu and Thohu. He had two wives, one called Anna, the other Phenenna, and this Phenenna had borne him sons, whereas Anna was childless. Never a feast-day would he keep in his own city; he must be at Silo, worshipping the Lord of hosts, and offering him sacrifice; there dwelt the Lord’s priests, Ophni and Phinees, the two sons of Heli.

R. Prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him Only* And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.
V. Return unto Him with all your hearts, and put away the strange gods from among you.
R. And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.

Reading 2: When the time came for Elcana’s sacrifice, Phenenna must have many portions, for a son here, a daughter there, and he was sad at heart as he gave Anna her single portion, for Anna he loved dearly. Why had the Lord denied her motherhood? And still she must endure bitter persecution from her rival, that did not scruple to make her childlessness a matter of reproach; year after year, when they went up to the Lord’s temple for the feast, it was ever the same.

R. God, Which heareth all, even He sent His Angel, and took me from keeping my father's sheep, and
* Anointed me with the oil of His mercy.
V. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear
R. And anointed me with the oil of His mercy.

Reading 3: In tears she sat, with no heart for eating, while her husband Elcana tried to comfort her. Anna, he said, what need to weep, what need to deny thyself food? What sorrow weighs on thy heart? Is it not worth the love of ten sons, the love I bear thee?

R. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear
* He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.
V. God hath sent forth His mercy and His truth, and delivered my soul from among the lion's whelps.
R. He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.

Reading 4:Once, on such a visit to Silo, when eating and drinking was done, Anna rose up from her place and went to the temple door, where the priest Heli was sitting. Sad at heart, she prayed to the Lord with many tears, and made a vow: Lord of hosts, if thou wilt take good heed of this sorrow I bear, if thou wilt keep this handmaid of thine ever in remembrance, and grant her a son, then he shall be my gift to the Lord all his life long, a Nazirite unshorn.

R. Remember, O Lord, thy covenant, and say unto the destroying Angel: Stay now thine hand;
* That the land be not utterly laid waste, and that thou destroy not every living soul.
V. Even I it is that have sinned, and done evil indeed but these sheep what have they done? Let thine anger, I pray thee, O Lord, be turned away from thy people.
R. That the land be not utterly laid waste, and that Thou destroy not every living soul.

Nocturn II: Sermon of St John Chrysostom

Reading 5: His Word saith: "This is My Body." This we confess, and believe, and, with spiritual eyes, do see. Christ hath not left unto us Himself in such form as that we can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste Him and yet hath He left Himself unto us in things which we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, and which all men may understand. Thus also is it in baptism by mean of water, which men perceive outwardly, is given unto them a gift which they can grasp only inwardly, that is, a new birth. If we had no bodies, then would these things be given us without any outward and visible signs, but since we are here made up of souls and bodies, there are given unto our souls gifts which they can grasp, in outward signs which our bodies may perceive. How many there be which say I would that I could see His comely presence, His Face, His garments, even His shoes Behold, thou dost see and touch Him, yea, thou dost feed upon Him. And wouldest thou behold His raiment Lo, He hath given unto thee not only to behold it, but to feed upon it, and handle it, and take it into thyself.

R. Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.* Because the hand of the Lord was with him, he smote the Philistine, and took away the reproach from Israel.
V. Is not this David? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?
R. Because the hand of the Lord was with him, he smote the Philistine, and took away the reproach from Israel.

Reading 6: At this table of the Lord let none dare to draw near with squeamishness or carelessness. Let all be fiery, all hot, all roused. To the Jews it was commanded touching the Paschal lamb: "And thus shall ye eat it with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand and ye shall eat it in haste it is the Lord's Passover." But thou needest to be more watchful than they. They were just about to travel from Egypt to Palestine, and therefore they bore the guise of travellers but the journey that lieth before thee is from earth to heaven.

R. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you
* For there are the mighty of Israel fallen
V. All ye mountains that stand round about, the Lord look upon you but let Him pass by Gilboa
R. For there are the mighty of Israel fallen

Reading 7: And therefore it behoveth thee in all things to be on thy guard, for the punishment of him that eateth or drinketh unworthily is no light one. Bethink thee how thou art indignant against him which betrayed, and them that crucified the Lord and look to it well that thou also be not " Guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord." As for them, they slew His Most Holy Body but thou, after all that He hath done for thee, dost thrust Him into thy polluted soul. For His love, it was not enough to be made Man, to be buffeted, and to be crucified He hath also mingled Himself with us, by making us His Body, and that not by faith only, but verily and indeed.

R. Thus saith the Lord I took thee out of thy father's house, and appointed thee to be ruler over My people, over Israel.
* And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, to establish thy kingdom for ever.
V. And I have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies.
R. And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, to establish thy kingdom for ever.

Reading 8: Anything be purer than that man ought to be, who eateth of this great Sacrifice Can sun-beam be clearer than that hand ought to be which breaketh this Flesh? that mouth, which is filled with that spiritual fire? that tongue, which is reddened by that Blood, awful exceedingly? That whereon the Angels quail to look, neither dare to gaze steadfastly upon It, because of the blinding glory that shineth therefrom, upon This we feed, with This we become one, and are made one body of Christ, and one flesh. "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord who can show forth all His praise?" Where is the shepherd which feedeth his flock with his own blood Nay, why should I say, shepherd Many mothers there be, who after all the pains of travail, give their own little ones to strangers to nurse. But so would not He, but feedeth us with His Own Blood, and maketh us to grow up in His Own substance.

R. O Lord, Thou hast hearkened unto the prayer of thy servant, that I might build a temple unto thy Name,* O God of Israel, bless Thou, and hallow this house for ever.
V. O Lord, Who keepest covenant with thy servants that walk before thee in all their heart.
R. O God of Israel, bless Thou, and hallow this house for ever.

Nocturn III (from St Gregory, Homily on the Gospels no 1):

Reading 9: Dearly beloved brethren, between the dainties of the body and the dainties of the mind there is this difference, that the dainties of the body, when we lack them, raise up a great hunger after them, and when we devour them, straightway our fulness worketh in us niceness. But about the dainties of the mind we are nice while as yet we lack them, and when we fill ourselves with them, then are we an-hungered after them, and the more, being an-hungered, we feed thereon, the more are we an-hungered thereafter.

R. My sins are many, yea, they are more in number than the sands of the sea; I am not worthy to look up toward heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities; for I have provoked thee to anger
* And done evil in thy sight.
V. For I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me, for against thee only have I sinned
R. And done evil in thy sight.

Reading 10: In the bodily dainties, the hunger is keener than the fulness, but in the spiritual the fulness is keener than the hunger. In the bodily, hunger gendereth fulness, and fulness niceness in the spiritual, hunger indeed gendereth fulness, but fulness gendereth hunger. Scriptural dainties, in the very eating, do stir up the keenness of hunger in the mind which they fill, for, the more we taste their sweetness, the better we know how well they deserve to be loved and, if we taste them not, we cannot love them, for we know not how sweet they be.

R. Hearken, O Lord, unto the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee today, that thine eyes may be open and thine ears attend;
* Toward this house day and night.
V. Look down from thine high and holy place, O Lord, even from heaven thy dwelling.
R. Toward this house, day and night.

Reading 11: And who can love that whereof he knoweth nothing Hence saith the Psalmist " O taste and see that the Lord is good", that is, as it were, " If ye taste not, ye shall not see His goodness but let your heart once taste the bread of life, and then indeed, having tasted and proved His sweetness, ye shall be able to love Him." But these were the dainties which man lost when he sinned in Eden, and when he had shut his own mouth against the sweet bread whereof if any man eat he shall live for ever, he forsook paradise.

R. Lord, when thy people shall turn again to thee, and shall pray unto thee in this house
* then hear Thou in heaven, O Lord, and deliver them out of the hand of their enemies.
V. If thy people sin against thee, and turn again, and repent, and come and pray unto thee in this house.
R. Then hear Thou in heaven, O Lord, and deliver them out of the hand of their enemies.

Reading 12: And we that, from the first man, are born under the afflictions of this pilgrimage, are come into the world smitten with niceness we know not what we ought to want, and the disease of our niceness groweth the worse, as our soul draweth itself the more away from that bread of sweetness. We are no longer an-hungered after inward dainties, since we have lost the use of feeding on them. And so in our niceness we starve, and the sickness of long famishing maketh prey of our health. We will not eatof that inward sweetness which is made ready for us, and being enamoured only of things outward we sink into the wretchedness of loving starvation.

R. One Seraph cried unto another
* Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts the whole earth is full of His glory.
V. There are Three That bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost and these Three are One.
R. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The whole earth is full of His glory.

Gospel: St Luke 14:

 At ipse dixit ei: Homo quidam fecit cœnam magnam, et vocavit multos. Et misit servum suum hora cœnæ dicere invitatis ut venirent, quia jam parata sunt omnia.  Et cœperunt simul omnes excusare. Primus dixit ei: Villam emi, et necesse habeo exire, et videre illam: rogo te, habe me excusatum.  Et alter dixit: Juga boum emi quinque, et eo probare illa: rogo te, habe me excusatum.  Et alius dixit: Uxorem duxi, et ideo non possum venire.  Et reversus servus nuntiavit hæc domino suo. Tunc iratus paterfamilias, dixit servo suo: Exi cito in plateas et vicos civitatis: et pauperes, ac debiles, et cæcos, et claudos introduc huc.  Et ait servus: Domine, factum est ut imperasti, et adhuc locus est.  Et ait dominus servo: Exi in vias, et sæpes: et compelle intrare, ut impleatur domus mea.  Dico autem vobis quod nemo virorum illorum qui vocati sunt, gustabit cœnam meam.

But he said to him: A certain man made a great supper, and invited many. And he sent his servant at the hour of supper to say to them that were invited, that they should come, for now all things are ready. And they began all at once to make excuse. The first said to him: I have bought a farm, and I must needs go out and see it: I pray thee, hold me excused. And another said: I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them: I pray thee, hold me excused.  And another said: I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. And the servant returning, told these things to his lord. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant: Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the feeble, and the blind, and the lame.  And the servant said: Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.  And the Lord said to the servant: Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. But I say unto you, that none of those men that were invited, shall taste of my supper.