Friday, February 3, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Pieter Lastman, “Jonah and the Whale”
Then Jonah prayed to the Lᴏʀᴅ his God from the belly of the fish.  He said:
I called to the Lᴏʀᴅ out of my distress,
    and He answered me.
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and You heard my voice.
You cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas,
    and the flood surrounded me.
All Your billows and Your waves
    passed over me.
Then I said, “I am cast away
    from Your sight;
yet I will look again
    to Your holy temple.”
The waters encompassed me; even to my soul
    the deep surrounded me;
    weeds were wrapped around my head.
I went down to the foundations of the mountains;
    the earth with its bars was around me forever;
yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
    O Lᴏʀᴅ my God.

When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered the Lᴏʀᴅ;
and my prayer came to You,
    into Your holy temple.

Those who follow vain idols
    forsake their true loyalty.
But I will sacrifice to You
    with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
    Salvation is of the Lᴏʀᴅ!
Then the Lᴏʀᴅ spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon dry land.  (Jonah 2:1-10)

Finally from these depths, Jonah who was set in the whale’s belly and had entered hell alive, spoke to the Lord with silent vehemence.  The whale was a house of prayer for the prophet, a harbor for him when shipwrecked, a home amid the waves, a happy resource at a desperate time.  He was not swallowed for sustenance but to gain rest; and by a wondrous and novel precedent the beast’s belly yielded up its food unharmed, rather than consumed by the normally damaging process of digestion.  Jonah bears witness to this in his book when he says, “And the Lord commanded a great fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights,” and the rest.  In that same passage he recounted his prayers as well with prophetic truth.  What an outstandingly and wholly glorious repentance, a humility that experiences no fall, grief that rejoices people’s hearts, tears that water the soul.  Indeed this depth, which conveys us to heaven, has no inkling of hell.  So observe the power of holy prayer, believing as it does that it must be heard the more quickly, the deeper the depths from which it cried to the Lord.  So finally there follows, “Lord, hear my prayer,” for those who have buried themselves in the bowels of holy humility are all the closest to the Highest.  Thus when he prayed from the depths he quickly gained the gifts of the highest Redeemer.

Cassiodurus, Exposition on Psalm 129

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