Vigil of St. John Baptist


Breviary Ordo

At Matins III Lessons. Ferial Psalms & Antiphon for all Hours. At Matins. Gospel & Homily for the Vigil. No Te Deum. Lauds 2, w/ ferial Preces. Collect of the Vigil. Other Hours are ferial. Vespers is of the Feast p. E236, w/ Psalms of Vespers 3 (see Sunday Vespers in the Breviary).

Scripture Reading

II Samuel 7 (LXX = II Kings 7)

David desires to build a Temple, but the prophet Nathan tells him it will not be David to build a Temple but rather Solomon his son.

Patristic Reading

St. Athanasius, Against the Heathen, Ch. 2. Vs. 1-4.

In the beginning wickedness did not exist. Nor indeed does it exist even now in those who are holy, nor does it in any way belong to their nature. But men later on began to contrive it and to elaborate it to their own hurt. Whence also they devised the invention of idols, treating what was not as though it were. 2. For God Maker of all and King of all, that has His Being beyond all substance and human discovery, inasmuch as He is good and exceeding noble, made, through His own Word our Saviour Jesus Christ, the human race after His own image, and constituted man able to see and know realities by means of this assimilation to Himself, giving him also a conception and knowledge even of His own eternity, in order that, preserving his nature intact, he might not ever either depart from his idea of God, nor recoil from the communion of the holy ones; but having the grace of Him that gave it, having also God’s own power from the Word of the Father, he might rejoice and have fellowship with the Deity, living the life of immortality unharmed and truly blessed. For having nothing to hinder his knowledge of the Deity, he ever beholds, by his purity, the Image of the Father, God the Word, after Whose image he himself is made. He is awe-struck as he contemplates that Providence which through the Word extends to the universe, being raised above the things of sense and every bodily appearance, but cleaving to the divine and thought-perceived things in the heavens by the power of his mind. 3. For when the mind of men does not hold converse with bodies, nor has mingled with it from without anything of their lust, but is wholly above them, dwelling with itself as it was made to begin with, then, transcending the things of sense and all things human, it is raised up on high; and seeing the Word, it sees in Him also the Father of the Word, taking pleasure in contemplating Him, and gaining renewal by its desire toward Him; 4. exactly as the first of men created, the one who was named Adam in Hebrew, is described in the Holy Scriptures as having at the beginning had his mind to God-ward in a freedom unembarrassed by shame, and as associating with the holy ones in that contemplation of things perceived by the mind which he enjoyed in the place where he was— the place which the holy Moses called in figure a Garden. So purity of soul is sufficient of itself to reflect God, as the Lord also says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

St. Athanasius, Against the Heathen, Chap., 2, 1-4.

The opening words of chapter two are very important. For Athanasius the first creation of the world was good. The world, however, possesses goodness as a quality not essentially. That means the world, unlike God, can lose its goodness. God, being essentially good, cannot lose goodness. God is-what-it-is to be good. Men, creatures, later added evil to creation. Evil is therefore not a substance. This is not to say that evil is not real. It is very real. Athanasius is simply painting a contrast between the stable and eternal nature of “good” over against the unstable and temporal nature of evil. Evil has no roots for its existence in God. The goodness of creation has its roots in God and is therefore part of God’s intention and will for creation. Evil, by its nature, cannot endure and will (of necessity) be overcome.

The change from good to worse for creatures is described in terms of a fall from a higher state of being to a lower. It does not imply a fall from heaven into bodies! Athanasius, good Origenist that he is, knows better than that. Embodied creatures, oriented toward God, become reoriented toward themselves (their bodies and its desires). This erratic orientation toward bodies (conversing and mingling with them as Athanasius puts it) is described as a fall from the the Garden of Eden into the world we know today. To Athanasius the Garden of Eden (as we find it in the opening chapters of Genesis) is a figure (allegory) of our creation and our fall. This does not mean Athanasius did not believe in a historical Adam and Eve, it simply means there is more to these chapters than meets the eye.

Fr. Gregory Wassen

 

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About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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