7 Epiphany, Wednesday Evening

First Lesson: Deuteronomy 7:6 – 13

For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.
Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:
And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

Canticle: Magnificat. St. Luke 1:46-55

My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek;.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Glory be.

Second Lesson: Matthew 26:31 – 46

Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Canticle: Nunc dimittis. St. Luke 2:29-32

LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be.

A reading from a sermon by St Augustine

The reading that I have undertaken to explain, with the help of God’s mercy, is this obscure and troublesome passage of the Apostle’s letter, which is, however, very helpful and wholesome to those who understand it rightly.

For when we were in the flesh, he says, the passions of sins which came through the Law were working in our members, to bear fruit for death. Here it seems that the Apostle is blaming and finding fault with the Law of God. The Manichees say that the Law of God which was given through Moses was not in fact given by God and is contrary to the Gospel. But read on, go a little further, listen to the whole passage with patience; What therefore are we to say, he continues, that the Law is sin? Perish the thought. At a stroke he has acquitted the Law and condemned its accuser. Perish the thought that the Law may be sin. But I would never have known about sin, he goes on, except through the Law. For I would not know about lust, unless the Law said: You shall not lust. Is the Law bad that says, You shall not lust? Not even the most shameless of lechers will give me that answer. After all, even the most dissolute rakes blush when they are rebuked for their behaviour; and when they are in the company of clean-living people, they don’t dare to indulge in loose behaviour. So if you say that the Law is bad which says, You shall not lust, it means you want to lust with impunity.

But seizing its opportunity, sin through the commandment worked in me every kind of lust. There was less lust when you were sinning before hearing the Law; but now that the Law’s barricades have been set in place against you, the stream of lust has been checked a little as by a dam, but not dried up. When there were no barriers it used to carry you along; now its pressure builds up, it bursts the barriers and overwhelms you. But what are you to do, O man? The reason you haven’t been victorious is that you have been presumptuously self-reliant. Your lust has conquered you because it found you in a bad place; it found you in the flesh. Emigrate from there. Don’t panic, I haven’t told you to die – or rather I have the nerve to say, yes, I have told you to die. If you have died with Christ, seek the things that are above. While living in the flesh, don’t go on being in the flesh; start being in the Spirit instead.

To heal sinners, the Saviour came from the virgin; he didn’t come to you the way you came, seeing that he didn’t originate from the sexual appetite of male and female, not from that chain of lust. Because of this he sets you free. Where did he find you? Sold under sin, lying in the death of the first man, having guilt before you could have any free choice. He found you as a baby, but you have got beyond your infant years, you’ve grown up: to the first sin you have added many more, you have received the Law, you have turned out a transgressor. But don’t worry: Where sin abounded, grace has abounded even more.

St Augustine, Sermon 153; WSA (1992) tr. Hill.

And the Apostles Creed and the rest of the office.

Collect:

O LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour who liveth and reigneth with THee in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.Collect