TWO YEAR LECTIONARY
PATRISTIC VIGILS READINGS
WEEKS 1 to 17 : YEAR II
THURSDAY, FOURTH WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME, YEAR II
A READING FROM THE BOOK OF GENESIS
(Jacob meet Esau and wrestles with God: Genesis 32:3-30)
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I have oxen, asses, flocks, menservants, and maidservants; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favour in your sight.’”
v.24_30: The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Tell me, I pray, your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Year 2
A READING FROM THE HOMILIES ON EZEKIEL BY ST GREGORY THE GREAT
The pursuit of the contemplative life is something for which a great and sustained effort on the part of the powers of the soul is required, an effort to rise from earthly to heavenly things, an effort to keep one's attention fixed on spiritual things, an effort to pass beyond and above the sphere of things visible to the eyes of flesh, an effort finally to hem oneself in, so to speak, in order to gain access to spaces that are broad and open.
There are times indeed when one succeeds, overcoming the opposing obscurity of one's blindness and catching at least a glimpse, be it ever so fleeting and superficial, of boundless light. But the experience is momentary only, so that all too quickly the soul must again return to itself. From that light which is approached with bated breath, it must now, sighing and mournful, go back once more to the obscurity of its blindness.
We have a beautiful illustration of all this in the sacred history of the Scriptures where the story is told of Jacob's encounter with the angel, while on his return journey to the home of his parents. On the way he met an angel with whom he engaged in a great struggle and, like anyone involved in such a contest, Jacob found his opponent, now stronger, now weaker than himself.
Let us understand the angel of this story as representing the Lord, and Jacob who contended with the angel as representing the soul of the perfect individual who in contemplation has come face to face with God. This soul, as it exerts every effort to behold God as he is in himself, is like one engaged with another in a contest of strength. At one moment it prevails so to speak, as it gains access to that boundless light and briefly experiences in mind and heart the sweet savour of the divine presence. The next moment, however, it succumbs, overcome and drained of its strength by the very sweetness of the taste it has experienced. The angel, therefore, is, as it were, overcome when in the innermost recesses of the intellect the divine presence is directly experienced and seen.
Here, however, it is to be noted that the angel, when he could not prevail over Jacob, touched the sciatic muscle of Jacob’s hip, so that it forthwith withered and shrank. From that time on Jacob became lame in one leg and walked with a limp. Thus also does the all-powerful God cause all carnal affections to dry up and wither away in us, once we have come to experience in our mind and hear the knowledge of him as he is in himself.
Previously we walked about on two feet, as it were, when we thought, so it seemed, that we could seek after God while remaining at the same time attached to the world. But having once come to the knowledge and experience of the sweetness of God, only one of these two feet retains its life and vigour, the other becoming lame and useless. For it necessarily follows that the stronger we grow in our love for God alone, the weaker becomes our love for the world.
St Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez., 1.12 (PL 76:955); Word in Season VII
From a sermon by Guerric of Igny (In nat. Joannis Baptistae, sermo II: PL 185, 167-169)
No longer is love as strong as death, but stronger than death Since the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent are even now seizing it.
Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God? As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go. I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me. I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? It is wonderful, and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.
It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name. What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty. Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel. Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift. Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body's members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel. Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth. Paul's thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.
So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.
But God forbid, brethren, God forbid that he who willed to become weak, and even to die for you, will be strong against you who ask for what is pleasing to him. He has been pierced with so many wounds, his whole body has suffered crucifixion; from where can he draw strength to resist that charity which led him, as if conquered and a prisoner, through every kind of weakness even to death, death on a cross? No longer is love as strong as death, but stronger than death, since God's strength through the power of his love has been made weak unto death. Yet his weakness has been found stronger than all the strongest, his death has been proved to be your death, O death.
Be armed then with the power of love, whoever you are who in your devotion would force an entry into the kingdom of heaven and make it your prize; and be assured that you will easily conquer the king of heaven himself. If he seems to oppose you with difficulties or hardness, do not be fainthearted but understand what his purpose is in so acting. By the very contradiction he seeks to give a finer edge to your spirit, as the nature of the magnanimous and the strong is wont to be; he seeks to exercise your forces, to prove your constancy, to multiply your victories and increase your crowns.
Responsory 1 In 4:9.16b; In 3:16
God's love for us was revealed when he sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. + God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God and God lives in him.
V. God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. + God is love ...