Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Wallowing in the Fathers

Posted by universalis on 30 April 2006

The Office of Readings has two big readings each day. The first is from the Bible and the second is from more or less anywhere else – but often from the Christian writers of the earliest centuries, the “Fathers of the Church”.

Filling in the gaps in the collection of Second Readings, I’ve been (re)translating some of the very earliest Fathers from around 100AD – Pope Clement I, Ignatius of Antioch (who was sent from Smyrna to Rome to be killed by the beasts in the amphitheatre and spent the journey firing off letters to half a dozen Christian churches), and others. Some of these Apostolic Fathers were treated more or less as Scripture in the first few centuries.

What stands out for me – getting all of them in one dose like this, rather than the steady drip-by-drip daily readings that you will see – is the way that everything has been turned upside down for these people by the Incarnation and the Resurrection. They are still overwhelmed by what God did and still coming to terms with it, and you can see them thinking out what it all means. It’s like looking like an Old Master’s drawings rather than just his finished, polished final painting. You see the ideas that didn’t make it as well as the ones that did; and even the most familiar phrases gain freshness and power when you watch someone working them out for the first time.

On Universalis the Second Readings are now complete until early June. The first missing one is for the Wednesday after Pentecost, when the first reading is from the book of Job and the second is from meditations on the book of Job by St Gregory the Great. At least I can rest for a few weeks first…

13 Responses to “Wallowing in the Fathers”

  1. Paul Ho said

    hi there,

    thanks very much for the short excepts from the Church Fathers under the Office Readings. look forward every day to reading this section. i know it takes a lot of work and may the Lord bless the work you are doing. i have become an avid reader of the Fathers since last year and i’m constantly amazed by what they have to say teach about the faith. some of it, i’m sure, are the results of divine revelation. it provides me too with good explanations of diffcult passages of the bible.

    you know, the Orthodox actually have books compiling the teachings of the Church Fathers passed down to them. (yes, the same Church Fathers as the Catholics, pre-schism) always hoped a group of us Catholics can put together something similar.

    once again thanks for your work. it’s truly amazing.

  2. Kay Hill said

    I too have become enamered with the fathers because of this beautiful site. I love your expression of what you got out of doing the work. It is wonderful that you received something for doing what is so important to so many of us. God will not be outdone in generosity, will He.

    I’d like to pass on a site where most of the works of the early fathers can be found, not always in the best translations, but free is free. The index is not perfect so if you don’t find what you want search by name at ccel.org.

    Thank you seems inadequate, but many thanks.

  3. Skip Burns said

    Defining The Patristic Age

    I’m preparing to moderate a discussion group on the Early Church Fathers, but am having difficulty deciding when to call a close to the Patristic age, in order to place a calendar date ending to our discussions. Here are some options that appear reasonable:

    [1] One can stop at about 400, when both the OT and NT canons were said to have been formulated. This moment would also be marked with the inclusion of the Cappadocians and Ambrose, plus the Visigoth invasion and the beginning of the Dark Ages.

    [2] Another round number would be 500 to include Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, the Council of Chalcedon and [Bless the thought!] St. Patrick.

    [3] Even though it is more work, spreads the calendar out a little longer, and harder to organize, a third option is also very interesting. Stop at 600, to include Boethius, Benedict and Gregory the Great. This would also bring the audience right up to the Muslims invasion of Spain, the end of the Dark ages, and depending on how one looks at history, end up on the doorsteps of the Scholastic Age. (That is, after 600 the monks tend to dominate defining dogma in place of the bishops).

    Would appreciate some opinionated suggestions. The participants are mature adults, mostly Christian, but with no particular religious training or interests.

  4. If this were an academic course then I might suggest two standard books edited by Henry Bettenson: The Early Christian Fathers (amazon.com) and The Later Christian Fathers (amazon.com) but my experience of trying to read them was that they were heavy going, and one was forever hurrying through each of them to get to the next thing. The freshness of the encounter with the Fathers was lost.

    Why not use Universalis? You can read up to a week’s worth of texts at a time, so each week pick one passage out of the week’s readings whose flavour seems interesting, or different, or unexpected. Branching out from the chosen passage, you can start to explore who the writer was, how he fits in with his time, with his context, and so on. One week you can celebrate the elegant rhetoric of St Ambrose of Milan, the next week the simple faith of St Ignatius of Antioch.

    Most Christian adults don’t even know the Fathers exist, and this random approach will give a far better overview than any amount of sequential plodding. You won’t need to worry too much about the definition of a Church father: if you happen to hit on Teresa of Ávila or Catherine of Siena one week, it can be a good start for a discussion of how things went after the patristic period – and also of why so many Doctors of the Church are women.

  5. ‘…..if you happen to hit on Teresa of Ávila or Catherine of Siena one week, it can be a good start for a discussion of how things went after the patristic period – and also of why so many Doctors of the Church are women….’

    The above was your reply: as there are only 3 female Doctors of the Church, shouldn’t it be why ‘so few doctors’? Or has something gone on behid my back and you’ve found dozens more?



  6. Greg Perlinski said

    The first reading from the old testament seems to be about some war or killing.Is the violance from that time showing up in today’s volance in the same area?

  7. A most sincere “Thank you” and a round of applause to you for the impressive and awesome accomplishment you have achieved. Through your efforts, my catechists and I have been able to pray the prayer of the Church for well over 8 years, maybe even longer, I cannot remember.

    What a miraculous gift this has been. The cost of the entire Office is prohibitive at one time and your site has allowed many to pray with the Church as they learn the joyful regimen of the hours of the day.

    Thank you again and again. As to the other aspects on this blog, since they were so long ago, they make interesting reading and represent a dialogue unmet.
    May your work be blessed an you as well many, many times over.

  8. Thank you for this wonderful website. I have one question and one comment. My question concerns the women Doctors of the Church. I was only aware of St. Theresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Sienna. Who is the third female Doctor?

    As for the cost of purchasing the entire office, I don’t think it’s so prohibitively (sp?) expensive. I purchased a set over time from Catholic Book Publishing in New York. It’s a four volume set and I think each volume is somewhere in the $30.00 range. It’s hansomely and sturdily bound and so can withstand much use over the years. Compare that to the cost of a hardcover novel today and it’s really a bargain.

  9. Patricia –

    The third female Doctor is St Thérèse of Lisieux.

  10. Patti said

    I totally agree with Sylvia Ann… for me, on a fixed income, $30 may not be cost prohibitive, but it is very difficult. Your web site is a great blessing. Thank you very much for all the effort that you put in to making it easier for everybody to pray in this way.

  11. Michael McDonough said

    I wanted to get a quote from St. Augustine in the readings of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (6/29 each year).

    I typed in the date string 20070629 as part of the Universalis URL that appears in the browser at the top (I had done this in the past, but for dates closer to the present).

    The result returned the readings for today (Feast of the Transfiguration). Is this not a feature of Universalis? (if not, it would be helpful).

    Thanks, and keep up the good work,

  12. Ronald Wimprine, Jr. said

    I enjoy using the readings from the Jerusalem Bible as a comparison with those from the NAB.
    I grew up (spiritually) on the JB, and instantly noticed the lack of the tetragram YHWH in
    the liturgical use of this bible. It seems “Yahweh” has been replaced by “Lord” or “the LORD”
    throughout. In many instances the OT text makes more sense using the Hebrew name for God,
    rather than the Greek term, “the Lord”. Can you explain to me how this has come about?

    • It’s a question of decency. For the Jews, the name that is written YHWH is too holy to be pronounced. When their scriptures are being read out loud, whenever YHWH occurs the word “Adonai” is spoken instead: the Hebrew word for “Lord”. Scripture itself is sacred and therefore cannot be changed, but when the scriptures are printed with vowels as well as consonants, the consonants YHWH are given the vowels of “Adonai” – which is where, indirectly, we get the English word Jehovah.

      Christianity was born of Judaism, and for this reason, in liturgical contexts, the name of God is also pronounced “The Lord”. Being less conservative than the Jews in the matter of preserving the original text (since after all the English is not the original text at all but merely a translation), the compilers of the Lectionary have decided that the words that are to be spoken as “The Lord” are to be written as “The Lord”.

      The Catholic Truth Society’s edition of the Bible – intended to be complementary to the missal – uses the Jerusalem Bible text but everywhere replaces “Yahweh” with “the Lord”, for the same reason.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.