Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bible Comment on Ezekiel 45 with poem by Edwin Markham, Breathless Awe: Holy, Municipal and Royal Districting

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 6, I Samuel 15:1-33, Ezekiel 45, Romans 3

Daily Text: Ezekiel 45

Holy, Municipal and Royal Districting
There is a new division of land being made in Ezekiel 45 to support the new temple and the kingdom in the post-exilic period. These are considered ample to support both the temple staff and the royal household and its prerogatives. Interestingly, the royal house receives lands that stretch on both sides of the Holy and Municipal districts from the Jordan River westward to the Mediterranean Sea. The royal lands were not to displace the tribes, but were rather for protection in law and in economics for the common person. Justice was to reign. Fair balances and measures were to become the signature of the king. Radical this must have seemed at the time.

Breathless Awe
Edwin Markham

1852-1940

“Two things,” said Kant, “fill me with breathless awe:
The starry heaven and the moral law!”
But I know a thing more awful and obscure—
The long, long patience of the plundered poor.
407:1574

Collect for the Day
Strengthen us, O God, to relieve the oppressed, to hear the groans of poor prisoners, to reform the abuses of all professions; that many be made not poor to make a few rich; for Jesus Christ's sake. Oliver Cromwell, 1599-1658 [489:153:August 17]

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bible Comment on Ezekiel 44 with poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, A Sun-Day Hymn: Closing the East Gate

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 4:20-5:23, I Samuel 14, Ezekiel 44, Romans 2

Daily Text: Ezekiel 44

Closing the East Gate
Ezekiel 44 makes very clear that the very passage of YHWH through the East gate elevates its status to such a point that no longer are the people to pass through. With such awe inspiring measures as closing the East gate permanently, the name and presence of the LORD are elevated. There is to be a tightening of who is and who is not admitted to the inner court. For sure, no foreigner and no Israelite who is not circumcised both in behavior and in the flesh is to be admitted. This had been ignored in the latter years of Solomon’s temple. In every way there is a concern in the actual working out of the use of this new temple that observance be strict. These matters are probably no part of Ezekiel’s original vision, for his vision preceded the building of the temple by many years.

Similarly, the elevation of the family of Zadok among the Levitical priests undoubtedly is the concern of a party or lobby within the post-exilic community, and not a part of Ezekiel’s original concerns. The duties which fell on these priests, however, are not lightened, but spelled out explicitly.

A Sun-Day Hymn
Oliver Wendell Holmes
1809-1894

Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
Sheds on our path the glow of day:
Star of our hope, thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn;
Our noontide is thy gracious dawn;
Our rainbow arch, thy mercy’s sign:
All, save the clouds of sin, are thine.

Lord of all life, below, above,
Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
Before thy ever-blazing throne
We ask no luster of our own.

Grant us thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for thee,
Till all thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame.
407:205

Collect for the Day
Think through me, thoughts of God;
My Father, quiet me,
Till in thy holy presence, hushed,
I think thy thoughts with thee.

Think through me, thoughts of God,
That always, everywhere,
The stream that through my being flows
May homeward pass in prayer.

Think through me, thoughts of God,
And let my own thoughts be
Lost like the sand-pools on the shore
Of the eternal sea.

Amy Carmichael, 1868-1951
[489:203:November 7]

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bible Comment on Ezekiel 43 with poem by Cleanthes of Assos, The Hymn of Cleanthes: Glory Fills

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 4:1-19, I Samuel 13, Ezekiel 43, Romans 1

Daily Text: Ezekiel 43

Glory Fills
In Ezekiel 10:18-22 the Lord left the temple by the East gate, presaging destruction. Ezekiel 43 sees him returning to the new envisioned temple by the East gate. His spirit fills the temple. This is a major change for no longer is there ‘furniture’ for the Holy of Holies. “Confessedly, the real elements of Temple-glory no longer existed. The Holy of Holies was quite empty, the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim, the tables of the law, the book of the covenant, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the pot of manna, were no longer in the sanctuary. The fire that had descended from heaven upon the altar was extinct. What was far more solemn, the visible presence of God in the Shechinah was wanting. Nor could the will of God be now ascertained through the Urim and Thummim, nor even the high-priest be anointed with the holy oil, its very composition being unknown” [Edersheim 510:37]. But the Lord himself has taken up residence, according to Ezekiel’s vision in the new temple, and not only in the Holy of Holies. His glory fills the temple. This God is not restricted to a temple characterized by symbols. YHWH is a God who intends to confront and be experienced by his people. Nothing will stand in the way of that. In fact, with the new temple the entire enclosure is marked off as sacred unlike the first temple. Step inside the walls and know the awe and the glory of God.

The Hymn of Cleanthes
Sometimes called “Hymn to Zeus”
Cleanthes of Assos
331?-232 B.C.
tr. from the Greek by James Adam

O God most glorious, called by many a name,
Nature’s great King, through endless years the same….
We are thy children, we alone, of all
On earth’s broad ways that wander to and fro,
Bearing thine image whereso’er we go.
Wherefore with songs of praise thy power I will forth shew,
Lo! yonder Heaven, that round the earth is wheeled,
Follows thy guidance, still to thee doth yield
Glad homage; thine unconquerable hand
Such flaming minister, the levin-brand,
Wieldeth, a sword two-edged, whose deathless might
Pulsates through all that Nature brings to light;
Vehicle of the universal Word, that flows
Through all, and in the light celestial glows
Of stars both great and small. O King of Kings
Through ceaseless ages, God, whose purpose brings
To birth, whate’er on land or in the sea
Is wrought, or in high heaven’s immensity….
Chaos to thee is order: in thine eyes
The unloved is lovely, who didst harmonize
Things evil with things good, that there should be
One Word through all things everlastingly….
Zeus the all-bountiful, whom darkness shrouds,
Whose lightning lightens in the thunder-clouds;
Thy children save from error’s deadly sway:
Turn thou the darkness from their souls away:
Vouchsafe that unto knowledge they attain;
For thou by knowledge art made strong to reign
O’er all, and all things rulest righteously.
So by thee honoured, we will honour thee,
Praising thy works continually with songs,
As mortals should; nor higher meed belongs
E’en to the gods, than justly to adore
The universal law for evermore.
407:340

Collect for the Day
We praise thee, O God, for thy glory displayed in all the creatures of the earth,
In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm; in all of thy creatures,
both the hunters and the hunted.
For all things exist only as seen by thee, only as known by thee, all things exist
Only in thy light, and thy glory is declared even in that which denies thee;
the darkness declares the glory of light.
Those who deny thee could not deny, if thou didst not exist; and their denial is ne er complete, for if it were so, they would not exist.
They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living; the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch; the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb; the worm in the soil and the worm in the belly. T. S. Eliot [489:141:July 27]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bible Comment on Ezekiel 42 with poem by T. S. Eliot, Ash-Wednesday I: Dimensions of Hope

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 3, I Samuel 12, Ezekiel 42, John 21

Daily Text: Ezekiel 42

Dimensions of Hope
Ezekiel 42 is uneven. The first 14 verses deal with clerical matters like where the priests eat and change their garments, not a matter of original concern to Ezekiel, but to a later group. Matters like this and sacrifices are pragmatic additions to chapters 40-42. Ezekiel was less colorful, two-dimensional, giving measurements from the heavenly guide, laying out on another level the dimensions of hope for the community in exile. And even that hope was years away, at least a generation away. But even so, the dimensions, in a more literal sense were gargantuan. This temple was to occupy a site 500 cubits on a side, roughly the length of three football fields square. With this vision hope had a blueprint.

Ash-Wednesday I
1930
T. S. Eliot
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dyer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
461:60

Collect for the Day
And now unto him who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to him be power and authority, for ever and ever. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968 [489:210:November 21]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bible Comment on Ezekiel 41 with poem by Beth Bachmann, Forms: Temple Detail

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:24, I Samuel 10:27b-11:15, Ezekiel 41:5-26, John 20

Daily Text: Ezekiel 41:5-26

Temple Detail
Side chambers three stories high with passageways widening as one ascends, and paneling with recessed frames. A pattern etched into the walls of the nave of cherubim and palm trees may seem like a small thing, but it is large enough for God to communicate to the prophet. Square doorposts and a wooden altar, double doors and close measurements. What does the temple detail mean? Could it have some relationship to the divine-human dialogue or the creator-created dimension in religious reality?

Ezekiel 41:15b-26 probably supplements the description following 41:4, and if so, is the only section out of sensible order in the three chapters 40-42 [508:227]. That Ezekiel is not the only author here is obvious.

Forms
Beth Bachmann


The sugary clouds dissolve, give way to the rain
that distributes itself tentatively on my window.
I too am uncertain, unwilling yet to rise and shut
the louvers, to call in the animals. I cannot take in

how a thing with so much purpose also captivates.
Where I’m from, form doesn’t hold a candle
to function: the arm of the iron well pump,
though beautiful, recedes from the water;
the neck of the swan is a fickle gesture
compared to the dark meat under its wing.

In this masked light, rain rolls off the chapel
roof onto the ground. Tomorrow the men will
come out to fit the eaves and square the gutters.
323:#45:77

Collect for the Day
O God, the divine seeker, you are light to the lost, bread to the hungry, deliverance to the captive, healing to the sick, eternal vision to the dying, and harbour to every soul in peril. Gather the wanderers from every corner of the world into the community of your mercy and grace, that we may eternally praise you for our salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.
[476:855:107 Psalm prayer]

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Second Temple: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 41 with poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, We Love the Venerable House

Daily Readings
Psalm 107:1-32, I Samuel 10:1-27a, Ezekiel 40:1-41:4, John 19

Daily Text: Ezekiel 40:1-41:4

The Second Temple
On the twenty-fifth year of his exile, April 28, 573, Ezekiel is transported within a vision to Mount Zion where he views the outlines of a new temple. Moses was given such a plan for the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant and David was given written instructions by the hand of God for what became known as Solomon’s Temple. Now Ezekiel, in chapter 40 is entrusted with a plan for the Second Temple. He is to focus determinedly, to look closely, to listen attentively and declare to the people what God has proposed. How difficult it is for us to do any of these things when it comes to those we love, much less the commands of God.

The dimensions of the temple are incredible—the inner court and the temple proper are each 100 long cubits square. The outer court is as long. A cubit is generally the measurement from one’s elbow to the tips of the fingers—about 18 inches. Add to that four inches, the width of the hand, for a long cubit and a cubit measures roughly 22 inches. So 100 cubits is roughly 183 1/3 feet! These are pretty big spaces surrounded by walls 11 feet thick and perforated by gates over 90 feet through and over 18 1/3 feet wide. God’s house is to be proportionate to divine dimensions, for there one may meet God.

We Love the Venerable House
Ralph Waldo Emerson

1803-882

We love the venerable house
Our fathers built to God;
In heaven are kept their grateful vows,
Their dust endears the sod.

Here holy thoughts a light have shed
From many a radiant face.
And prayers of humble virtue spread
The perfume of the place.

And anxious hearts have pondered here
The mystery of life,
And prayed th’ Eternal Light to clear
Their doubts and aid their strife.

They live with God, their homes are dust;
Yet here their children pray,
And in this fleeting life-time trust
To find the narrow way.
407:1602

Collect for the Day
Almighty and Holy Spirit, the comforter, pure, living, true—illuminate, govern, sanctify me, and confirm my heart and mind in the faith, and in all genuine consolation; preserve and rule over me that, dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, I may be and remain forever in the temple of the Lord, and praise him with a joyful spirit, and in union with all the heavenly Church.
Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560 [489:148:August 6]

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Aligned with Evil: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 39 with poem by Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth

Daily Readings
Psalm 104 I Samuel 9 Ezekiel 39 John 18

Daily Text: Ezekiel 39

Aligned With Evil
Exile is no more; regathering is the theme of the day. And then Gog attacks. But the invaders begin to fall to the ‘attacks’ of the LORD. So great are their losses that it will take special teams seven months to find all of their slain simply for burial. And so great the amount of wood from weapons and shields and chariots that Israel will have their firewood for seven years! No trees will need to be cut that entire time. Simultaneously, Israel’s fortunes are to be restored so completely that they will forget their shame, will be secure in their land and in their God. He will pour out his spirit upon them. He overlooks nothing in redeeming them and reclaiming them for his own. John in the Revelation refers to Gog and Magog, perhaps confusing these names, seeing them as parallel rather than Gog being the prince of the kingdom, Magog. They are aligned with evil, but the image is the same, that is, innumerable foes surrounding the people of God and the beloved city, Jerusalem. And again the elements consume the mighty hosts, and God protects his own.

Anthem for Doomed Youth
Wilfred Owen1

1893-1918

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can platter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,--
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, bu in their eyes
Shall shine in the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
407:1738
1English soldier, killed in World War I.

Collect for the Day
O God of eternal light, heaven and earth are the work of your hands, and all creation sings your praise and beauty. As in the beginning, by your Spirit, you gave life and order to all that is, so by the same Spirit redeem us and all things, through Christ our Lord.
[476:845:104 Psalm prayer]