Occurring Scripture for the
Hour of Matins
A reading from the book of
Now Isaac was old, and his eyes
were dim, and he could not see: and he called Esau, his elder son, and said
to him: My son? And he answered: Here I am. And his father said to
him: Thou see that I am old, and know not the day of my death. Take
thine arms, thy quiver, and thybow, and go abroad: and when thou hast taken
some thing by hunting, make me savory meat thereof, as thou know I
like, and bring it, that I may eat: and my soul may bless thee before I die.
And when Rebecca had heard this, and he was gone into the field to fulfill
his father's commandment, She said to her son Jacob: I heard thy
father talking with Esau thy brother, and saying to him: Bring me of
thy hunting, and make me meats that I may eat, and bless thee in the sight
of the Lord, before I die. Now, therefore, my son, follow my counsel:
and go thy way to the flock, bring me two kids of the best, that I may make
of them meat for thy father, such as he gladly eats: Which when thou
hast brought in, and he hath eaten, he may bless thee before he die.
And he answered her: Thou does know
that Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am smooth. If my father
shall feel me, and perceive it, I fear lest he will think I was mocking him,
and that I shall bring upon me a curse instead of a blessing. And his
mother said to him: Upon me be this curse, my son: only hear thou my voice,
and go, fetch me the things which I have said. He went, and brought,
and gave them to his mother. She dressed meats, such as she knew his father
liked. And she put on him very good garments of Esau, which she had at
home with her: And the little skins of the kids she put about his
hands, and covered the bare of his neck. And she gave him the savory
meat, and delivered him bread that she had baked. Which when he had
carried in, he said: My father? But he answered: I hear. Who art thou, my
son? And Jacob said: I am Esau thy firstborn: I have done as thou
didst command me: arise, sit, and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless
me. And Isaac said to his son: How couldst thou find it so quickly, my
son? He answered: It was the will of God, that what I sought came quickly in
And Isaac said: Come hither, that I may
feel thee, my son, and may prove whether thou be my son Esau, or not.
He came near to his father, and when he had felt him, Isaac said: The voice
indeed is the voice of Jacob; but the hands are the hands of Esau. He
said: Art thou my son Esau? He answered: I am. Then he said: Bring me
the meats of thy hunting, my son, that my soul may bless thee. And when they
were brought, and he had eaten, he offered him wine also, which after he had
drunk, He said to him: Come near me, and give me a kiss, my son.
He came near, and kissed him. And immediately as he smelled the fragrant
smell of his garments, blessing him, he said: Behold the smell of my son is
as the smell of a plentiful field, which Lord hath blessed. God give
thee the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn
and wine. And let peoples serve thee, and tribes worship thee: be thou
lord of thy brethren, and let they mother's children bow down before thee.
Cursed be he that curseth thee: and let him that blesseth thee be filled
From the Book against Lying
written by Saint Augustine, Bishop
Chapter ix. Tome IV
If we consider faithfully and carefully
what it was that Jacob did by the advice of his mother, and wherein he seems
to have deceived his father, it appears that it has an aspect in which it is
not a lie, but is rather an allegory. If we denounce this allegorical sense
as a lie, then must we also give the name of "lie" even to parables,
and to every figure devised to set forth the nature of anything, which is
not to be taken in its literal sense, but in which one thing is to be
understood under the name of another. This we cannot do.. Whosoever should
do this, would bring the charge of falsehood against very many figures of
speech, including that one called "metaphor" (in which a word is transferred
from that meaning which belongs to it, to some other meaning) which would,
by such reasoning, be given the name of a "lie."
The deep meaning is given; but what is
considered is the lie because men do not understand the way in which that
signification, which is a truth, is set forth but the falsehood is plainly
expressed, and believed. That we may understand this more plainly by way of
illustration, consider what Jacob did. It is certain that he covered his
limbs with the skins of goats. If we consider his object in point of fact,
we shall find that it was to lie, because he did this that he might be
thought to be he who he was not. But if we consider this his deed in that
deep typical sense which it undoubtedly possesses, we find that by the
goat-skins are represented sins, and by him who covered himself therewith
Him Who bore not His own sins, but the sins of others.
It is impossible to apply the term
"lie" to that mystic aspect of this transaction in which it was true and
such an aspect there is, not only in the acts, but in the words. When Isaac
said to Jacob: "Who art thou, my son" and Jacob answered "I am Esau, thy
first-born, if we take this in its sense relative to the two brothers, it
will be apparent that it was a lie. If, however, we look at it relatively to
that for the sake of which these words and deeds were written down, we shall
see that Christ is here signified in His mystic body, the Church. Concerning
her, (the younger covenant,) He said (to them of the older covenant) "Ye
shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Prophets in the kingdom
of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east,
and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit
down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be
first, and there are first which shall be last." Thus did the younger take
away the title and inheritance from the elder, and acquire it to himself.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
And after six days Jesus
took Peter and James, and John his brother, and brought them up onto a high
mountain apart: And He was transfigured before them. And His face did
shine as the sun: and His garments became white as snow. And behold
there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with Him. And Peter said to Jesus: "Lord, it
is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles,
one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." And as he was yet
speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of
the cloud, saying: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear
ye Him." And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much
afraid. And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them, "Arise, and
fear not." And they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus.
And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: "Tell
the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead."
An Homily of Pope Saint Leo the Great
On the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Jesus took Peter, and James, and John
his brother, and brought them up into an exceeding high mountain apart, and
manifested forth the brightness of His glory. Hitherto, though they
understood that there was in Him the Majesty of God, they knew not the power
of that Body which veiled the Godhead. And therefore He had individually and
markedly promised to some of the disciples that had stood by Him that they
should "not taste of death till they had seen the Son of Man coming in His
kingdom, that is, in the kingly splendor, which is the right of the Manhood
taken into God, and which He willed to make visible to those three men. This
it was that they saw, for the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the
Godhead Himself which will be the everlasting life of the pure in heart, can
no man, who is still burdened with a dying body, see and live.
When the Father said "This is My
beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased hear ye Him," did they not plainly
hear Him say "This is My Son, Whose it is to be of Me and with Me without
regard to time." For neither is He That begets, before Him That is
begotten, neither is He That is begotten, after Him That begets Him. " This
is My Son between Whom and Me, to be God is not a point of difference to be
Almighty, a point of separation nor to be Eternal, a point of distinction. "
This is My Son not by adoption, but My very Own not created from, or of
another substance, or out of nothing, but begotten of Me not of another
nature, and made like unto Me, but of Mine own Being, born of Me, equal unto
This is My Son by Whom all things were
made, and without Whom was not anything made that was made, Who makes,
likewise, all things whatsoever that I make, and all things whatsoever I do,
He does likewise, inseparably and indifferently. " This is My Son Who
thought it not robbery, nor hath taken it by violence, to be equal with Me,
but, abiding still in the form of My glory, that He may fulfill Our common
decree for the restoration of mankind, has bowed the unchangeable Godhead
even to the form of a servant. Him therefore in Whom I am in all things well
pleased, by Whose preaching I am manifested, and by Whose lowliness I am
glorified, Him instantly hear ye. For He is the Truth and the Life, My
Power, and My Wisdom.
Let us pray: O God, Thou sees that we
have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, keep us both outwardly in our
bodies, and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all
adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which
may assault and hurt the soul. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
Again therefore Jesus said to them: "I
go, and you shall seek me, and you shall die in your sin. Where I go, you
cannot come." The Jews therefore said: "Will he kill himself, because
he said: 'Where I go, you cannot come?'" And He said to them: "You are
from beneath, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this
world. Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins. For
if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sin." They said
therefore to Him: "Who art thou?" Jesus said to them: "The beginning, who
also speak unto you. Many things I have to speak and to judge of you.
But he that sent me, is true: and the things I have heard of Him, these same
I speak in the world." And they understood not, that he called God His
Father. Jesus therefore said to them: "When you shall have lifted up
the Son of man, then shall you know, that I am He, and that I do nothing of
Myself, but as the Father hath taught Me, these things I speak: And He
that sent Me, is with Me, and He has not left Me alone: for I do always the
things that please Him.
An Homily of St Augustine, Bishop
Tract 38 on John.
The Lord spoke to the Jews, saying:
"I go My way" for, to
the Lord Christ, death was a departure to that place whence He had come, and
whence He had never departed. "I go My way," said He, "and you shall seek Me
not from love, but from hatred." Yea after He had withdrawn Himself from the
sight of men, two classes sought Him, even they that loved Him, and they that
hated Him; the one because they longed for His presence, the other because
they were fain to hunt Him down. In the Psalms the Lord Himself said by His
Prophet: "Refuge failed me, and no man cared for my soul (Psalm cxli. 5)." And
again He said in another Psalm: "Let them be confounded and put to shame that
seek after my soul (Psalm xxxiv:4)."
Thus He blames them that seek Him not, and
condemns those who seek. Yes, it is a good thing to seek the soul of Christ,
as the disciples sought it; and an evil thing to seek it, as the Jews sought
it; the first sought it to possess, the second to destroy it. What then does
He bid us know will be the reward of such as seek it evilly in a perverse
heart? "You shall seek Me, and lest ye think that you do well so to seek
Me, I tell you that ye shall die in your sins." To seek Christ with bad
intent, is as much as to die in sin, for it is to hate Him through Whom
alone we can be saved.
Whereas men whose hope is in God ought to
return good even for evil, those men returned evil for good. The Lord
therefore told them beforehand, and, because He knew it, He let them know
their coming end, how that they should die in their sins. Then He said
farther "Where I go, you cannot come." This He said in another place
to His disciples, but He never said to them "You shall die in your sins." What
said He? The same words as to the Jews "Where I go, you cannot come. Yet, to
the disciples, these words only deferred, they cut not away hope for they,
though for a little while they could not come whither He was to go, were yet
in the end to go there. Not so they to whom He foretold and said "You shall
die in your sins."
Let us pray. Almighty God, grant, we beseech thee, unto
this thy family, that as they do abstain from meals to afflict the flesh, so
by following after righteousness they may fast from sin. Through our Lord
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and
to his disciples, Saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the chair of
Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe
and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.
For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's
shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them. And all their works they do for to be seen of men. For they make their
phylacteries broad, and enlarge their fringes. And they love the first
places at feasts, and the first chairs in the synagogues, And salutations in the market place, and
to be called by men, Rabbi. But be not you called Rabbi. For one is
your master; and all you are brethren. And call none your father upon
earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters;
for one is your master, Christ. He that is the greatest among you
shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he
that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
An Homily of Saint Jerome, Priest
Book IV. Commentary on Matthew xxiii.
Was there ever man gentler and kinder than the Lord? The
Pharisees tempted Him; their craft was confounded, and, in the words of the
Psalmist, The arrows of babes have pierced them, (Psalm lxiii:8), and
nevertheless, because of the dignity of their priesthood and name, He exhorts the people to be subject to them, by doing according to their
words, though not according to their works. By the words Moses' seat we are
to understand the teaching of the law. Thus also must we mystically take,
Sit in the seat of the scornful, (Psalm i:1), and likewise, "overthrew the
seats of them that sold doves," (Matthew xxi:12), to describe doctrine.
How they bind heavy burdens, and
grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves
will not move them with one of their fingers. This is generally directed
against all teachers who command things hard, and themselves do not even
things easy. But it is to be remarked that the shoulders, the fingers, and
the binding of the burdens, have a spiritual interpretation. But all their
works they do for to be seen by men. Whosoever therefore doth anything for to be seen of
men, the same is, so far, a Scribe and a Pharisee.
"They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge
the borders of their garments. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and
the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be
called of men, Rabbi." Woe to us miserable sinners who have inherited the
vices of the Pharisees! When the Lord had given the commandments of the law
to Moses He added afterwards: "Thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine
hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." The sense of these
words is: My Law shall be in thine hand to order whatsoever thou do, and
ever before thine eyes that thou may meditate therein day and night. But
the Pharisees, by a bad interpretation, were accustomed to write on pieces
of parchment the Decalogue of Moses, that is, the Ten Words of the Law, and
to tie these pieces of parchment, plaited in a peculiar manner, on their
foreheads, so as to make a sort of crown round their heads, which projected
in front of their eyes, and always moved before them.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
And Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took
the twelve disciples apart, and said to them: Behold we go up to
Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the
scribes, and they shall condemn him to death. And shall deliver him to
the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day he
shall rise again. Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee
with her sons, adoring and asking something of him. Who said to her:
What wilt thou? She saith to him: Say that these my two sons may sit, the
one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom. And
Jesus answering, said: You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice
that I shall drink? They say to him: We can. He said to them: My
chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not
mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father.
And the ten hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two
brethren. But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the
princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater,
exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever
will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: And he that
will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man
is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a
redemption for many.
An homily of Saint Ambrose, Bishop
Book V to Gratian, on
Faith, ch. ii.
Consider what it was that the mother of Zebedee's children
came to Christ desiring, with, and for her sons. She was a mother, who,
longing for the honor of her sons, preferred a request immoderate, and yet
pardonable. She was a mother who, albeit stricken in years and comfortless,
at an age when she had sore need of the strength of her offspring to help
and keep her, was yet so earnest in godliness and motherly love, that she
would rather suffer the loss of her sons, that they might gain the reward of
following Christ still, as we read they had already done, when, at the first
call of the Lord, they left their nets and their father.
She, then, yielding to the intensity of her
motherly love, besought the Savior, saying, Grant that these my two sons
may sit, the one at thy right hand and the other at thy left hand, in thy
kingdom. Although it was a mistake, it was a mistake of love. For a mother's
love knows no moderation. Yet, although it was a greedy prayer, that was a
pardonable greed, which hungered, not for riches, but for grace. Neither was
that request shameless which sought, not her own good, but her children's.
Remember that she was a mother. Think how that she was a mother.
Christ took into His consideration that
mother's love of hers, which made her sons' reward the comfort of her own
old age, and which could bear the loss of her loved ones, broken as she was
by a mother's yearnings. Consider also that she was a woman, that is, of the
weaker sex, to which the Lord had not yet given strength by His Passion.
Consider, I say, that she was an heiress of Eve, and weakened by that
transmission of the unbridled covetousness of the first woman, which the
Lord had not yet disarmed by His Blood, even that craving for undue dignity,
wherewith all our natures are imbued, and which Christ's Blood-shedding had
not yet washed away. She erred indeed, but the mistake was an inherited
Let us pray. Look down in mercy upon thy people, O Lord,
we beseech thee, and grant unto them, whom Thou command to abstain from
flesh-meats, power to abstain also from the corruption of sin. Through our
Lord Jesus Christ.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
Luke 16: 19-31
At that time Jesus said to the pharisees: There
was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and
feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar,
named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, Desiring to be
filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, and no one
did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. And it
came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into
Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.
And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar
off, and Lazarus in his bosom: And he cried, and said: Father
Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of
his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this
flame. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst
receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things,
but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. And besides all
this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who
would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither.
And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to
my father's house, for I have five brethren, That he may testify
unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And
Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear
them. But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them
from the dead, they will do penance. And he said to him: If they
hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise
again from the dead.
An homily of Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
Whom, dearly beloved brethren, whom are we to understand as
signified by that rich man which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and
fared sumptuously every day, whom, I ask, are we to understand, but the
Jewish people, who had all the outward life of religious ordinances, and who
turned the treasure of the law they had received to show and not to use?
What but the herd of the Gentiles is figured in Lazarus, full of sores?
Whosoever turns himself to God and is not ashamed to confess his sin, hath
his sores on the skin, for in a sore on the skin breaks out the corruption,
which is drawn from within.
What is, then, the confession of our sins but
the breaking out of our sores? The corrupt matter of sin is healthily opened
in confession, instead of remaining in the mind to rot it. Open sores on the
skin bring the poisonous matter to the surface, and when we confess our
sins, what do we but open up the evil that there is lurking in us? But
Lazarus desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's
table, and no man gave unto him; even so did that proud people scorn to
admit a Gentile to the knowledge of their law.
The teaching of the law moved them to pride,
and not to love, as though they swelled with self importance at the thought
of their riches, and the words which some Gentiles caught of their knowledge
were as crumbs falling from their sumptuous table. On the other hand, the
dogs came and licked the sores of the beggar that was laid at their gate.
Sometimes in Holy Writ, under the figure of dogs, preachers are understood.
A dog's tongue heals the sore which it licks, and so do holy teachers,
when we confess our sins, and they speak to us, mollify by their tongues the
sores of our souls.
Let us pray Grant unto us, O Lord, we beseech thee, the
help of thy grace, that we, who are now bent on fasting and prayer, may be
freed from enemies both of our bodies and of our souls. Through our Lord
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
At that time, Jesus said to the multitude of Jews
and the chief priests: Hear ye another parable. There was a man an
householder, who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round about it, and
dug in it a press, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen; and went
into a strange country. And when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he
sent his servants to the husbandmen that they might receive the fruits
thereof. And the husbandmen laying hands on his servants, beat one,
and killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants
more than the former; and they did to them in like manner. And last of
all he sent to them his son, saying: They will reverence my son. But
the husbandmen seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir:
come, let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance. And taking
him, they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him. When
therefore the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those
husbandmen? They said to him: "He will bring those evil men to an evil
end; and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, that shall render
him the fruit in due season." Jesus said to them: "Have you never read
in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become
the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful
in our eyes. Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God shall be
taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.
And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken: but on whomsoever
it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder." And when the chief
priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they knew that he spoke of
them. And seeking to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes:
because they held him as a prophet.
An Homily of Saint Ambrose,
Book IX on Luke xx.
diverse spiritual meanings from the term vineyard, but Isaias gives us to
know that the vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth is the house of Israel.
Who but God planted that vineyard? He it was that let it out to husbandmen,
and went into a far country; not that the Lord, Who is everywhere present, moves from place to place; but because He is nigh unto them that seek Him,
and from such as regard Him not He stands afar off. For a long time He
tarried away, lest He might seem to ask too early for the fruits of His
vineyard. For where kindness is greatest, there ingratitude is worst.
Therefore it is well written in Matthew, for our instruction, that He
hedged it round about, that is, He girded it with the fortifications of His
own Divine protection, that it might not easily lie open to the ravages of
spiritual wild beasts. And dug a wine-press in it. What sense are we to
put upon the wine-press, unless it be that the Psalms are here described
under that title, because in them the mysteries of the Lord's Passion flow
over like new wine, working under the power of the Holy Ghost? Whence also,
they upon whom the Holy Ghost was outpoured were deemed to be drunken [Acts
of the Apostles
ii: 13. God therefore dug a wine-press, into which the rational grapes
of inward fruitfulness poured their spiritual richness.
"And built a tower," that is, He raised up the goodly structure of the Law.
And so this, His vineyard, thus fortified, furnished, and garnished, He gave
over to the Jews. And when the time of the fruit drew near, He sent His
servants to the husbandmen. Well doth He call it the time of the fruit, not
the time of the in-gathering. For the Jews yielded Him no fruit; the Lord
had no ingathering from that vineyard of which He said: When I looked that
it should bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes. [Isaias v: 4] Not
that wine that makes glad the heart of man, not with the new wine of the
spirit, reeked that wine-press, but with the blood of the Prophets, brutally
Let us pray. O Almighty God, grant, we beseech thee, that
the Sacred Fast may so cleanse us that thereby Thou may make us to come
with clean hearts unto those holy ordinances which are now before us.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to
Luke 15: 11-32
At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees and
scribes in parable: A certain man had two sons: And the younger
of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of inheritance that
falls to me. And he divided unto them his substance. And not many days
after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far
country: and there wasted his substance, living riotously. And after
he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country; and he began
to be in want. And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that
country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine. And he would
fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat; and no man gave
unto him. And returning to himself, he said: How many hired servants
in my father's house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger?
I will arise, and will go to my father, and say to him: Father, I have
sinned against heaven, and before thee: I am not worthy to be called
thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And rising up he came
to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and
was moved with compassion, and running to him fell upon his neck, and kissed
him. And the son said to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven,
and before thee, I am not now worthy to be called thy son. And the
father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it
on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring
hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry:
Because this my son was dead, and is come to life again: was lost, and is
found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field,
and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing:
And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
And he said to him: Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the
fatted calf, because he hath received him safe. And he was angry, and
would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him.
And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve
thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandment, and yet thou hast never
given me a kid to make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy
son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed
for him the fatted calf. But he said to him: Son, thou art always with
me, and all I have is thine. But it was fit that we should make merry
and be glad, for this thy brother was dead and is come to life again; he was
lost, and is found.
Homily by St Ambrose, Bishop
Book VII, Comment on Luke xv
We see how that the heavenly goods are given to such as seek them.
Neither ought we think to blame the father because he gave to his
younger son. In the kingdom of God there is no age of weakness, nor does
faith wax infirm with years. He, surely, who asked, deemed himself of
sufficient age. And would that he had not left his father! then had he been
ignorant of the obstacle of his age! But after that he had left his father's
house, and had gone into a far country, he began to be in want. Well is he
said to have wasted his substance, who hath cut himself off from the Church!
He took his journey into a far country. No man
can go farther than to abandon his own better self, to leave, not his
country, but his morals, and, as it were, in an hideous fever of lust after
the world, to divorce himself from the ties that bind him to holy things.
Yes, he that turns his back on Christ, banishs himself from his
Fatherland, and becomes a citizen of the world. But we are no more
strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the
household of God, since we who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the
Blood of Christ. Let us not envy the pleasures of them who
remain in the far country. We too have once been there, but, as says
Isaias, "they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath
the light shined" (ix: 2). And that far country is the land of the shadow of
But we to whom the Lord Christ is the breath of
life, are alive under the shadow of Christ. And therefore it is that the
Church says; "I sat down under His shadow with great delight (Canticles ii: 3).The
prodigal son by riotous living wasted all the gifts of nature. Take warning,
O thou who art made in the image and likeness of God, lest thou waste the
same by brutish wallowing. Thou art the work of God; say not to a tree Thou
art my father, (Jeremias: ii. 27), lest thou grow into the likeness of a
it is written They that make them are like unto them.
Let us pray Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that our fasts
may bring forth their fruit unto salvation, that so the affliction which we
lay upon our bodies may quicken our souls unto spiritual increase. Through
our Lord Jesus Christ.