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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Alternate Matins Lesson for this Sunday, November 14 2010

In some uses of the Western Rite, this Sunday adopts the Lessons and some of the Propers for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany. I believe this is due to the variable length of the season resulting from the movable nature of the feast of Pascha.

Saint Athanasius
VI Sunday after Epiphany

From a Sermon by Saint Athanasius the Bishop

If the hereticks had but known the Person, the matter, and the time whereof the Apostle spake, when he was writing his Epistle to the Hebrews, they would never have behaved so wickedly and foolishly toward Christ as to attribute human qualities to his Godhead. This will be easily seen if ye will but read the beginning of the passage on which we are commenting, and consider it carefully. The Apostle there saith : God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in theses last days spoken unto us by his Son. And again, a little further on : When the Son had purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high ; being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent Name than they. The Apostle doth here expressly specify the time wherein God hath spoken unto us by his Son, namely : When the son had by himself purged our sins. Let us ask, then, when it was that God spake unto us by his Son? Or when did the Son purge our sins? Or when was he born Man? And the Apostle answereth : After God spake unto the fathers by the Prophets : namely: In these last days.
The Apostle, when about to enter upon a discussion of the human dispensation of the Word, which as he saith began in these last days, naturally mentioned first that God had been silent in time past, but had spoken unto the fathers by the Prophets. And secondly, he saith that after the Prophets had discharged their office, and the Law had been given by the ministry of Angels, then the Son also came down unto us to minister. Whereupon he addeth : Being made so much better than the Angels : to shew that as the Son differeth from a servant, so the ministry of the Son must have been better than the ministry and office of the Angels who are not sons but servants.

Russian Icon of Athanasius
It was for this reason that the Apostle, seeing the difference between the new ministry of the Son and the old of the Angels, maketh very bold in writing and speaking to the Hebrews. For this cause, therefore, he doth not compare the details of the two ministries, and then come to the general conclusion that the new was greater or more honorable than the old. For if he had so done, some might have reasoned therefrom that the two ministries were of the same kind : and on this wise thay might be misled to think that the Apostle’s conclusion (to wit, that the new ministry is better than the old) was arrived at by comparing the degrees in each of things which the two ministries had in common. Therefore he saith plainly that the Son himself was made better than the Angels, to distinguish at once and completely the nature of the Son from the nature of things created.

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