Monday, November 5, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 1 Kings 17:10–16
Second Reading Hebrews 9:24–28
Gospel Mark 12:38–44 or Mark 12:41–44

For the second reading, see also Ascension, Year C.
For the Gospel, see also the parallel in Matthew at Ordinary Time 31, Year A.

St. Cyprian--the widow of Zerephath is an exemplar of generosity in almsgiving, and Elijah a type of Christ:
‎Thus that widow in the third book of Kings, when in the drought and famine, having consumed everything, she had made of the little meal and oil which was left, a cake upon the ashes, and, having used this, was about to die with her children, Elias came and asked that something should first be given him to eat, and then of what remained that she and her children should eat. Nor did she hesitate to obey; nor did the mother prefer her children to Elias in her hunger and poverty. Yea, there is done in God’s sight a thing that pleases God: promptly and liberally is presented what is asked for. Neither is it a portion out of abundance, but the whole out of a little, that is given, and another is fed before her hungry children; nor in penury and want is food thought of before mercy; so that while in a saving work the life according to the flesh is contemned, the soul according to the spirit is preserved. Therefore Elias, being the type of Christ, and showing that according to His mercy He returns to each their reward, answered and said: “Thus saith the Lord, The vessel of meal shall not fail, and the cruse of oil shall not be diminished, until the day that the Lord giveth rain upon the earth.” (1 Ki 17:14) According to her faith in the divine promise, those things which she gave were multiplied and heaped up to the widow; and her righteous works and deserts of mercy taking augmentations and increase, the vessels of meal and oil were filled. Nor did the mother take away from her children what she gave to Elias, but rather she conferred upon her children what she did kindly and piously. And she did not as yet know Christ; she had not yet heard His precepts; she did not, as redeemed by His cross and passion, repay meat and drink for His blood. So that from this it may appear how much he sins in the Church, who, preferring himself and his children to Christ, preserves his wealth, and does not share an abundant estate with the poverty of the needy. (Cyprian, De op et eleem. 17, ANF, vol. 6, pg. 480)

St. Ambrose--it is better to be rich for others than for oneself:
‎Bread for food also failed Elijah, that holy man, had he sought for it; but it seemed not to fail him because he sought it not. Thus by the daily service of the ravens bread was brought to him in the morning, meat in the evening. (1 Ki 17:6) Was he any the less blessed because he was poor to himself? Certainly not. Nay, he was the more blessed, for he was rich toward God. It is better to be rich for others than for oneself. He was so, for in the time of famine he asked a widow for food, intending to repay it, so that the barrel of meal failed not for three years and six months, and the oil jar sufficed and served the needy widow for her daily use all that time also. (1 Ki 17:14) (Ambrose, De offic. 2.4.12, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 46)

St. Leo the Great--he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself:
‎For the measure of our charitableness is fixed by the sincerity of our feelings, and he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself. The holy widow of Sarepta discovered this, who offered the blessed Elias in the time of famine one day’s food, which was all she had, and putting the prophet’s hunger before her own needs, ungrudgingly gave up a handful of corn and a little oil (1 Ki 17:11). But she did not lose what she gave in all faith, and in the vessels emptied by her godly bounty a source of new plenty arose, that the fulness of her substance might not be diminished by the holy purpose to which she had put it, because she had never dreaded being brought to want. (Leo, Serm. 42.2, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 156-157)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ is both victim, Priest and sacrifice:
‎“Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest entereth into the Holy place every year with blood of others.” Seest Thou how many are the differences? The “often” for the “once”; “the blood of others,” for “His own.” (He 9:12) Great is the distance. He is Himself then both victim and Priest and sacrifice. For if it had not been so, and it had been necessary to offer many sacrifices, He must have been many times crucified. “For then,” he says, “He must often have suffered since the foundation of the world.” (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 17.3, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg, 447)

St. John Chrysostom--by Christ's death, the tyrrany of death is broken:
‎(Ver. 27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this, the Judgment.” He next says also why He died once [only]: because He became a ransom by one death. “It had been appointed” (he says) “unto men once to die.” This then is [the meaning of] “He died once,” for all. (What then? Do we no longer die that death? We do indeed die, but we do not continue in it: which is not to die at all. For the tyranny of death, and death indeed, is when he who dies is never more allowed to return to life. But when after dying is living, and that a better life, this is not death, but sleep.) Since then death was to have possession of all, therefore He died that He might deliver us. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 17.4, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 446)

St. John Chrysostom--in almsgiving the proper disposition is more important than the amount:
‎But when alms is to be given, we want nothing else, but the disposition only is required. And if thou say that money is needed, and houses and clothes and shoes; read those words of Christ, which He spake concerning the widow, (Mk 12:43; Lk 21:3, 4) and cease from this anxiety. For though thou be exceedingly poor, and of them that beg, if thou cast in two mites, thou hast effected all; though thou give but a barley cake, having only this, thou art arrived at the end of the art. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 52.5, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 324)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Wisdom of Solomon 7:7–11
Second Reading Hebrews 4:12–13
Gospel Mark 10:17–30 or Mark 10:17–27


Origen--Christ as sword:
‎The texts of the New Testament, which we have discussed, are things said by Himself about Himself. In Isaiah, however, He said (Is 49:3) that His mouth had been set by His Father as a sharp sword, and that He was hidden under the shadow of His hand, made like to a chosen shaft and kept close in the Father’s quiver, called His servant by the God of all things, and Israel, and Light of the Gentiles. The mouth of the Son of God is a sharp sword, for (He 4:12) “The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” And indeed He came not to bring peace on the earth, that is, to corporeal and sensible things, but a sword, and to cut through, if I may say so, the disastrous friendship of soul and body, so that the soul, committing herself to the spirit which was against the flesh, may enter into friendship with God. Hence, according to the prophetic word, He made His mouth as a sword, as a sharp sword. Can any one behold so many wounded by the divine love, like her in the Song of Songs, who complained that she was wounded: (So 2:5) “I am wounded with love,” and find the dart that wounded so many souls for the love of God, in any but Him who said, “He hath made Me as a chosen shaft.” (Origen, Comm. Jo. 1.36, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 316)

St. John Chrysostom on "dividing soul and spirit":
‎“Piercing,” he says, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” What is this? He hinted at something more fearful. Either that He divides the spirit from the soul, or that He pierces even through them disembodied, not as a sword through bodies only. Here he shows, that the soul also is punished, and that it thoroughly searches out the most inward things, piercing wholly through the whole man. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 7.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 398)

St. Clement of Alexandria--Christ bids us banish our anxieties about wealth:
‎What then was it which persuaded him to flight, and made him depart from the Master, from the entreaty, the hope, the life, previously pursued with ardour?—“Sell thy possessions.” And what is this? He does not, as some conceive off-hand, bid him throw away the substance he possessed, and abandon his property; but bids him banish from his soul his notions about wealth, his excitement and morbid feeling about it, the anxieties, which are the thorns of existence, which choke the seed of life. For it is no great thing or desirable to be destitute of wealth, if without a special object,—not except on account of life. (Clem. Alex., Quis dives salv. 11, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 594)

St. Clement of Alexandria--let us be poor in vice and rich in virtue:
‎If then it is the soul which, first and especially, is that which is to live, and if virtue springing up around it saves, and vice kills; then it is clearly manifest that by being poor in those things, by riches of which one destroys it, it is saved, and by being rich in those things, riches of which ruin it, it is killed. And let us no longer seek the cause of the issue elsewhere than in the state and disposition of the soul in respect of obedience to God and purity, and in respect of transgression of the commandments and accumulation of wickedness. (Clem. Alex. Quis dives salv. 18, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 596)

St. Augustine--goodness is peculiarly the quality of God:
‎“For He is good.” I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God Himself when addressed by some one as “Good Master,” by one, namely, who beholding His flesh, and comprehending not the fulness of His divine nature, considered Him as man only, replied, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mk 10:17, 18) And what is this but to say, If thou wishest to call Me good, recognise Me as God? (Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 118.1, NPNF1, vol. 8, pg. 557)

St. John Chrysostom--affluence makes the love of money more tyrranical:
‎“But when the young man heard it, he went away sorrowful.” (Mt 19:22; cf. Mk 10:22) After this the evangelist, as it were to show that he hath not felt anything it was unlikely he should feel, saith, “For he had great possessions.” For they that have little are not equally held in subjection, as they that are overflowed with great affluence, for then the love of it becomes more tyrannical. Which thing I cease not always saying, that the increase of acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders the getters poorer, inasmuch as it puts them in greater desire, and makes them have more feeling of their want. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 63.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 388)

St. John Chrysostom--the forsaking was done for the sake of following:
‎But mark also how exactly his reply is according to Christ’s demand. For He had required of the rich man these two things, to give that he had to the poor, and to follow Him. Wherefore he also expresses these two things, to forsake, and to follow. “For behold we have forsaken all,” saith he, “and have followed Thee.” For the forsaking was done for the sake of following, and the following was rendered easier by the forsaking, and made them feel confidence and joy touching the forsaking. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 64.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 391)

St. Jerome on the rich young man:
‎Once upon a time a rich young man boasted that he had fulfilled all the requirements of the law, but the Lord said to him (as we read in the gospel): “One thing thou lackest: if thou wilt be perfect, go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor; and come and follow me.” (Mk 10:21) He who declared that he had done all things gave way at the first onset to the power of riches. Wherefore they who are rich find it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom which desires for its citizens souls that soar aloft free from all ties and hindrances. “Go thy way,” the Lord says, “and sell” not a part of thy substance but “all that thou hast, and give to the poor;” not to thy friends or kinsfolk or relatives, not to thy wife or to thy children. (Jerome, Ep. 118.4, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 222)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Numbers 11:25–29
Second Reading James 5:1–6
Gospel Mark 9:38–43, 45, 47–48


St. John Chrysostom--our envy of those who do the work of God passes on to Christ:
‎And does any one by preaching His word, and benefiting His Church, obtain a good reputation? Then he is the object of envy, because he does the work of God. And we think that we envy him, but our envy passes on to Christ. We affect to wish the benefit to come not from others, but from ourselves. But this cannot be for Christ’s sake, but for our own: otherwise, it would be a matter of indifference, whether the good were done by others or ourselves. If a physician found himself unable to cure his son, who was threatened with blindness, would he reject the aid of another, who was able to effect the cure? Far from it! “Let my son be restored,” he would almost say to him, “whether it is to be by you or by me.” And why? Because he would not consider himself, but what was beneficial to his son. So, were our regard “to Christ,” it would lead us to say, “Let good be done, whether by ourselves or by any other.” As Paul said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached.” (Phil. 1:18). In the same spirit Moses answered, when some would have excited his displeasure against Eldad and Modad, because they prophesied, “Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” (Num. 11:29.) These jealous feelings proceed from vainglory; and are they not those of opponents and enemies? (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Tim. 3, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 419)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem--the Spirit descended on Eldad and Modad to show that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift:
‎This Spirit descended upon the seventy Elders in the days of Moses. (Now let not the length of the discourse, beloved, produce weariness in you: but may He the very subject of our discourse grant strength to every one, both to us who speak, and to you who listen!) This Spirit, as I was saying, came down upon the seventy Elders in the time of Moses; and this I say to thee, that I may now prove, that He knoweth all things, and worketh as He will (1 Co 12:11). The seventy Elders were chosen; And the Lord came down in a cloud, and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and put it upon the seventy Elders (1 Nu 11:24, 25); not that the Spirit was divided, but that His grace was distributed in proportion to the vessels, and the capacity of the recipients. Now there were present sixty and eight, and they prophesied; but Eldad and Modad were not present: therefore that it might be shewn that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift, but the Spirit who wrought, Eldad and Modad, who though called, had not as yet presented themselves, did also prophesy. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. 16.25, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 121-122)

St. Clement of Rome--who to those who cast a stumbling-block before others by schism:
‎Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another?” (Ro 12:5) Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, “Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones. (Comp. Mt 18:6, 26:24; Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2) Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continueth. (1 Clem. 46, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 17-18)

St. Augustine on the interpretation of the fire and worm:
‎Now they who would refer both the fire and the worm to the spirit, and not to the body, affirm that the wicked, who are separated from the kindgdom of God, shall be burned, as it were, by the anguish of a spirit repenting too late and fruitlessly; and they contend that fire is therefore not inappropriately used to express this burning torment, as when the apostle exclaims “Who is offended, and I burn not?” (2 Co 11:29) The worm, too, they think, is to be similarly understood. For it is written, they say, “As the moth consumes the garment, and the worm the wood, so does grief consume the heart of a man.” (Is 51:8) But they who make no doubt that in that future punishment both body and soul shall suffer, affirm that the body shall be burned with fire, while the soul shall be, as it were, gnawed by a worm of anguish. Though this view is more reasonable,—for it is absurd to suppose that either body or soul will escape pain in the future punishment,—yet, for my own part, I find it easier to understand both as referring to the body than to suppose that neither does; and I think that Scripture is silent regarding the spiritual pain of the damned, because, though not expressed, it is necessarily understood that in a body thus tormented the soul also is tortured with a fruitless repentance. For we read in the ancient Scriptures, “The vengeance of the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms.” (Sir 7:17) (Augustine, De civ. Dei 21.9.2, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 461)

St. Augustine--how is Mark 9:38-39 to be harmonized with Matthew 12:30:
‎It is indeed true that the Lord says in the gospel, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Mt 12:30) Yet when the disciples had brought word to Him that they had seen one casting out devils in His name, and had forbidden him, because he followed not them, He said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. For there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” (Mk 9:38-39, Lk 9:50) If, indeed, there were nothing in this man requiring correction, then any one would be safe who, setting himself outside the communion of the Church, severing himself from all Christian brotherhood, should gather in Christ’s name; and so there would be no truth in this, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” But if he required correction in the point where the disciples in their ignorance were anxious to check him, why did our Lord, by saying, “Forbid him not,” prevent this check from being given? And how can that be true which He then says, “He that is not against you is for you?” For in this point he was not against, but for them, when he was working miracles of healing in Christ’s name. That both, therefore, should be true, as both are true,—both the declaration, that “he that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad;” and also the injunction, “Forbid him not; for he that is not against you is for you,”—what must we understand, except that the man was to be confirmed in his veneration for that mighty Name, in respect of which he was not against the Church, but for it; and yet he was to be blamed for separating himself from the Church, whereby his gathering became a scattering; and if it should have so happened that he sought union with the Church, he should not have received what he already possessed, but be made to set right the points wherein he had gone astray? (Augustine, De bapt. 1.7.9, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 416)

St. Augustine--just as the name of Christ could exist outside the disciples, so there may be something Catholic outside the Catholic Church:
‎This indeed is true, that “baptism is not unto salvation except within the Catholic Church.” For in itself it can indeed exist outside the Catholic Church as well; but there it is not unto salvation, because there it does not work salvation; just as that sweet savor of Christ is certainly not unto salvation in them that perish, (2 Co 2:15) though from a fault not in itself, but in them. But “whatsoever is without the Catholic Church is mere pretense,” yet only in so far as it is not Catholic. But there may be something Catholic outside the Catholic Church, just as the name of Christ could exist outside the congregation of Christ, in which name he who did not follow with the disciples was casting out devils. (Mk 9:38) For there may be pretense also within the Catholic Church, as is unquestionable in the case of those “who renounce the world in words and not in deeds,” and yet the pretense is not Catholic. As, therefore, there is in the Catholic Church something which is not Catholic, so there may be something which is Catholic outside the Catholic Church. (Augustine, De bapt. 7.39.77, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 508)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 50:5–9a
Second Reading James 2:14–18
Gospel Mark 8:27–35


St. Athanasius--the impassible Word takes our sufferings upon himself:
‎the incorporeal Word made His own the properties of the Body, as being His own Body. Why, when the Body was struck by the attendant, as suffering Himself He asked, ‘Why smitest thou Me?’ (Jn 18:23) And being by nature intangible, the Word yet said, ‘I gave My back to the stripes, and My cheeks to blows, and hid not My face from shame and spitting.’ (Is 50:6) For what the human Body of the Word suffered, this the Word, dwelling in the body, ascribed to Himself, in order that we might be enabled to be partakers of the Godhead of the Word. (2 Pe 1:4) And verily it is strange that He it was Who suffered and yet suffered not. Suffered, because His own Body suffered, and He was in it, which thus suffered; suffered not, because the Word, being by Nature God, is impassible. And while He, the incorporeal, was in the passible Body, the Body had in it the impassible Word, which was destroying the infirmities inherent in the Body. But this He did, and so it was, in order that Himself taking what was ours and offering it as a sacrifice, He might do away with it, and conversely might invest us with what was His, and cause the Apostle to say: ‘This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.’ (1 Co 15:53) (Athanasius, Ep. ad Epict. 6, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 572)

St. Augustine--faith without works is dead:
‎I have shown from Scripture, that the faith which saves us is that which the Apostle Paul clearly enough describes when he says: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” (Ga 5:6) But if it worketh evil, and not good, then without doubt, as the Apostle James says, “it is dead, being alone.” (Jas 2:17) The same apostle says again, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” (Jas 2:14) (Augustine, Enchir. 67.18, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 259)

St. Augustine--by loving himself man is lost, by denying himself he is found:
‎We know what great things love itself can do. Very often is this love even abominable and impure; but how great hardships have men suffered, what indignities and intolerable things have they endured, to attain to the object of their love? whether it be a lover of money who is called covetous; or a lover of honour, who is called ambitious; or a lover of beautiful women, who is called voluptuous. And who could enumerate all sorts of loves? Yet consider what labour all lovers undergo, and are not conscious of their labours; and then does any such one most feel labour, when he is hindered from labour. Since then the majority of men are such as their loves are, and that there ought to be no other care for the regulation of our lives, than the choice of that which we ought to love; why dost thou wonder, if he who loves Christ, and who wishes to follow Christ, for the love of Him denies himself? For if by loving himself man is lost, surely by denying himself be is found. (Augustine, Serm. 96.1.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 408)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 35:4–7a
Second Reading James 2:1–5
Gospel Mark 7:31–37


St. Justin Martyr--Christ is the spring of living water in the desert:
“‎Be comforted, ye faint in soul: be strong, fear not. Behold, our God gives, and will give, retributive judgment. He shall come and save us. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear. Then the lame shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be distinct: for water has broken forth in the wilderness, and a valley in the thirsty land; and the parched ground shall become pools, and a spring of water shall [rise up] in the thirsty land.’ (Is 35:1-7) The spring of living water which gushed forth from God in the land destitute of the knowledge of God, namely the land of the Gentiles, was this Christ, who also appeared in your nation, and healed those who were maimed, and deaf, and lame in body from their birth, causing them to leap, to hear, and to see, by His word. (Justin Martyr, Dial. 69, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 233)

St. Augustine--injustice to the poor is as great a transgression as idolatry:
‎See how the apostle calls those transgressors of the law who say to the rich man, “Sit here,” and to the poor, “Stand there.” See how, lest they should think it a trifling sin to transgress the law in this one thing, he goes on to add: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou do not kill, yet, if thou commit adultery, thou art become a transgressor of the law,” according to that which he had said: “Ye are convinced of the law as transgressors.” Since these things are so, it seems to follow, unless it can be shown that we are to understand it in some other way, that he who says to the rich man, “Sit here,” and to the poor, “Stand there,” not treating the one with the same respect as the other, is to be judged guilty as an idolater, and a blasphemer, and an adulterer, and a murderer—in short,—not to enumerate all, which would be tedious,—as guilty of all crimes, since, offending in one, he is guilty of all.” (Augustine, Ep. 167.1.3, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 533-534)

St. Augustine--God did not choose the rich in faith, but made his chosen rich in faith:
‎Therefore God elected believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already so. The Apostle James says: “Has not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him?” (Jas 2:5) By choosing them, therefore, He makes them rich in faith, as He makes them heirs of the kingdom; because He is rightly said to choose that in them, in order to make which in them He chose them. (Augustine, De praed. sanct. 17.34, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 515)

St. Gregory Nazianzen--do not be deaf to the instruction of the Lord:
‎If you were deaf and dumb, let the Word sound (Mk 7:37) in your ears, or rather keep there Him Who hath sounded. Do not shut your ears to the Instruction of the Lord, and to His Counsel, like the adder to charms. (Ps 58:4, 5) (Greg. Naz., Orat. 40.34, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 372)

St. Ambrose explains the meaning Ephphatha Rite performed on catechumens:
‎Open, then, your ears, inhale the good savour of eternal life which has been breathed upon you by the grace of the sacraments; which was signified to you by us, when, celebrating the mystery of the opening, we said, “Epphatha, which is, Be opened,” (Mk 7:34) that whosoever was coming in quest of peace might know what he was asked, and be bound to remember what he answered.
‎Christ made use of this mystery in the Gospel, as we read, when He healed him who was deaf and dumb. But He touched the mouth, because he who was healed was dumb and was a man, as regards one point that he might open his mouth with the sound of the voice given to him; as regards the other point because that touch was seemly towards a man, but would have been unseemly towards a woman. (Ambrose, De myst. 1.3-4, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 317)

St. Ephrem the Syrian--the deaf man touched Godhead that may not be touched:
‎That Power Which may not be handled came down and clothed itself in members that may be touched; that the needy may draw near to Him, that in touching His manhood they may discern His Godhead. For that dumb man [whom the Lord healed] with the fingers of the body, discerned that He had approached his ears and touched his tongue; (Mk 7:34-37) nay, with his fingers that may be touched, he touched Godhead, that may not be touched; when it was loosing the string of his tongue, and opening the clogged doors of his ears. For the Architect of the body and Artificer of the flesh came to him, and with His gentle voice pierced without pain his thickened ears. And his mouth which was closed up, that it could not give birth to a word, gave birth to praise to Him Who made its barrenness fruitful in the birth of words. He, then, Who gave to Adam that he should speak at once without teaching, Himself gave to the dumb that they should speak easily, tongues that are learned with difficulty. (Ephrem Homily On Our Lord 10, NPNF2, vol. 13, pg. 309)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading  Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 6–8
Second Reading James 1:17–18, 21b–22, 27
Gospel Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23

St. John Chrysostom--the Pharisees erred in substituting the tradition of the elders for the Law of Moses:
‎But mark, I pray thee, how even by the question itself they are convicted; in not saying, “Why do they transgress the law of Moses,” but, “the tradition of the elders.” Whence it is evident that the priests were inventing many novelties, although Moses, with much terror and with much threatening, had enjoined neither to add nor take away. “For ye shall not add,” saith he, “unto the word which I command you this day, and ye shall not take away from it.” (De 4:2)
‎But not the less were they innovating; as in this instance, that one ought not to eat with unwashen hands, that we must wash cups and brazen vessels, that we must wash also ourselves. Thus, when men were henceforth, as time advanced, to be freed from their observances, at that very time they bound them with the same in more and more instances, fearing lest any one should take away their power, and wishing to strike more dread, as though they were themselves also lawgivers. The thing in fact proceeded so far in enormity, that while their own commandments were kept, those of God were transgressed; and they so far prevailed, that the matter had actually become a ground of accusation. Which was a twofold charge against them, in that they both invented novelties, and were so strict exactors on their own account, while of God they made no reckoning. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 51.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 314-315)

St. Athanasius--God draws nigh to his adopted children, but is in the Son:
‎For a son which is by nature, is one with him who begat him; but he who is from without, and is made a son, will be attached to the family. Therefore he immediately adds, ‘What nation is there so great who hath God drawing nigh unto them?’ (De 4:7) and elsewhere, ‘I a God drawing nigh;’ (Je 23:23) for to things originate He draws nigh, as being strange to Him, but to the Son, as being His own, He does not draw nigh, but He is in Him. (Athanasius, Oratio contra Ar. 4.5, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 435)

St. Augustine--let all praise be directed to God, from whom comes every perfect gift:
‎Again I say, “Let no man glory in men;” nay, oftentimes I repeat it, “Let no man glory in men.” If you perceive anything in us which is deserving of praise, refer it all to His praise, from whom is every good gift and every perfect gift; for it is “from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jas 1:17) (Augustine, Contra Pellian. 3.2.3, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 597)

John Cassian--no one can show forth the fruits of the Spirit without his inspiration and cooperation:
‎How foolish and wicked then it is to attribute any good action to our own diligence and not to God’s grace and assistance, is clearly shown by the Lord’s saying, which lays down that no one can show forth the fruits of the Spirit without His inspiration and co-operation. For “every good gift and every perfect boon is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” (Jas 1:17) (Cassian, Collat. 1.3.16, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 328)

St. Bede the Venerable--the washing of vessels is in vain for those who are not washed in the font of Savior:
‎For taking the spiritual words of the Prophets in a carnal sense, they observed, by washing the body alone, commandments which concerned the chastening of the heart and deeds, saying Wash you, make you clean; (Isa. 1:16) and again, Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Isa. 52:11) It is therefore a superstitious human tradition, that men who are clean already, should wash oftener because they eat bread, and that they should not eat on leaving the market, without washing. But it is necessary for those who desire to partake of the bread which comes down from heaven, often to cleanse their evil deeds by alms, by tears, and the other fruits of righteousness. It is also necessary for a man to wash thoroughly away the pollutions which he has contracted from the cares of temporal business, by being afterwards intent on good thoughts and works. In vain, however, do the Jews wash their hands, and cleanse themselves after the market, so long as they refuse to be washed in the font of the Saviour; in vain do they observe the washing of their vessels, who neglect to wash away the filthy sins of their bodies and of their hearts. (Bede, in Marc., in Cat. Aur. 2.131-132)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 1 Kings 19:4–8
Second Reading Ephesians 4:30–5:2
Gospel John 6:41–51


St. Augustine--the forty fast of Moses, Elijah and Christ signifies the time of temptation we face in this life:
‎That this number, then, is a sign of that laborious period in which, under the discipline of Christ the King, we have to fight against the devil, is also indicated by the fact that both the law and the prophets solemnized a fast of forty days,—that is to say, a humbling of the soul,—in the person of Moses and Elias, who fasted each for a space of forty days. (Ex 34:28; 1 Ki 19:18) And what else does the Gospel narrative shadow forth under the fast of the Lord Himself, during which forty days He was also tempted of the devil, (Mt 4:1, 2) than that condition of temptation which appertains to us through all the space of this age, and which He bore in the flesh which He condescended to take to Himself from our mortality? (Augustine, De consens. Ev. 2.4.9, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 105)

St. Augustine--imitate God in forgiving one another:
‎But since we are speaking of the remission of sins, lest ye should think it too high a thing to imitate Christ, hear the Apostle saying, “Forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you.” (Col 3:13; Eph 4:32) “Be ye therefore imitators of God.” They are the Apostle’s words, not mine. Is it indeed a proud thing to imitate God? Hear the Apostle, “Be ye imitators of God as dearly beloved children.” (Eph 5:1) Thou art called a child: if thou refuse to imitate Him, why seekest thou His inheritance? (Augustine, Serm. 114.3, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 453)

St. John Chrysostom--it is not enough to abandon sin, we must acquire virtue:
‎And therefore the blessed Paul also, in leading us away from sin, leads us on to virtue. For where, tell me, is the advantage of all the thorns being cut out, if the good seeds be not sown? For our labor, remaining unfinished, will come round and end in the same mischief. And therefore Paul also, in his deep and affectionate anxiety for us, does not let his admonitions stop at eradicating and destroying evil tempers, put urges us at once to evidence the implanting of good ones. For having said, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and clamor, and railing be put away from you, with all malice,” he adds, “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other.” For all these are habits and dispositions. And our abandonment of the one thing is not sufficient to settle us in the habitual practice of the other, but there is need again of some fresh impulse, and of an effort not less than that made in our avoidance of evil dispositions, in order to our acquiring good ones. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 16, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 126-127)

St. John Chrysostom--by forgiving, we are made like God:
‎“Be ye therefore imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us an offering and sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell.”
‎That thou mayest not then think it an act of necessity, hear how He saith, that “He gave Himself up.” As thy Master loved thee, love thou thy friend. Nay, but neither wilt thou be able so to love; yet still do so as far as thou art able. Oh, what can be more blessed than a sound like this! Tell me of royalty or whatever else thou wilt, there is no comparison. Forgive another, and thou art “imitating God,” thou art made like unto God. It is more our duty to forgive trespasses than debts of money; for if thou forgive debts, thou hast not “imitated God”; whereas if thou shalt forgive trespasses, thou art “imitating God.” And yet how shalt thou be able to say, “I am poor, and am not able to forgive it,” that is, a debt, when thou forgivest not that which thou art able to forgive, that is, a trespass? And surely thou dost not deem that in this case there is any loss. Yea, is it not rather wealth, is it not abundance, is it not a plentiful store?
‎And behold yet another and a nobler incitement:—“as beloved children,” saith he. Ye have yet another cogent reason to imitate Him, not only in that ye have received such good at His hands, but also in that ye are called His children. And since not all children imitate their fathers, but those which are beloved, therefore he saith, “as beloved children.” (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 17, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 129)

Tertullian--we digest the Word made flesh by faith:
‎Constituting, therefore, His word as the life-giving principle, because that word is spirit and life, He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, (Jn 1:14) we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith. Now, just before (the passage in hand), He had declared His flesh to be “the bread which cometh down from heaven,” (Jn 6:51) impressing on (His hearers) constantly under the figure of necessary food the memory of their forefathers, who had preferred the bread and flesh of Egypt to their divine calling. (Jn 6:31, 49, 58) (Tertullian, De  res. 37, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 572)

St. Augustine--only in the unity of Christ's body do the faith profit by recieving the body of the Lord in the Sacrament:
‎And therefore we may reasonably inquire how we are to understand these words of the Lord Jesus: “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” (Jn 6:50, 51) And those, indeed, whom we are now answering, are refuted in their interpretation of this passage by those whom we are shortly to answer, and who do not promise this deliverance to all who have received the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s body, but only to the catholics, however wickedly they live; for these, say they, have eaten the Lord’s body not only sacramentally, but really, being constituted members of His body, of which the apostle says, “We being many are one bread, one body.” (1 Co 10:17) He then who is in the unity of Christ’s body (that is to say, in the Christian membership), of which body the faithful have been wont to receive the sacrament at the altar, that man is truly said to eat the body and drink the blood of Christ. And consequently heretics and schismatics being separate from the unity of this body, are able to receive the same sacrament, but with no profit to themselves,—nay, rather to their own hurt, so that they are rather more severely judged than liberated after some time. For they are not in that bond of peace which is symbolized by that sacrament. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 21.25.2, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 472)

St. Augustine--the Father draws the elect to will:
‎“No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him”! (Jn 6:44) For He does not say, “except He lead him,” so that we can thus in any way understand that his will precedes. For who is “drawn,” if he was already willing? And yet no man comes unless he is willing. Therefore he is drawn in wondrous ways to will, by Him who knows how to work within the very hearts of men. Not that men who are unwilling should believe, which cannot be, but that they should be made willing from being unwilling. (Augustine, Contra duas epist. Pelag. 1.19.37, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 389)

St. Augustine--in what sense are all taught by God:
‎And yet in a certain sense the Father teaches all men to come to His Son. For it was not in vain that it was written in the prophets, “And they shall all be teachable of God.” (Jn 6:45) And when He too had premised this testimony, He added, “Every man, therefore, who has heard of the Father, and has learned, cometh to me.” As, therefore, we speak justly when we say concerning any teacher of literature who is alone in a city, He teaches literature here to everybody,—not that all men learn, but that there is none who learns literature there who does not learn from him,—so we justly say, God teaches all men to come to Christ, not because all come, but because none comes in any other way. (Augustine, De praed. sanct. 8.14, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 505)

St. Augustine--to have Christ is to have eternal life:
‎Let what follows admonish us: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath eternal life.” He willed to reveal Himself, what He was: He might have said in brief, He that believeth on me hath me. For Christ is Himself true God and eternal life. Therefore, he that believeth on me, saith He, goeth into me; and he that goeth into me, hath me. But what is the meaning of “to have me”? To have eternal life. Eternal life took death upon itself; eternal life willed to die; but of thee, not of itself; of thee it received that whereby it may die in thy behalf. Of men, indeed, He took flesh, but yet not in the manner of men. For having His Father in heaven, He chose a mother on earth; both there begotten without mother, and here horn without father. Accordingly, life took upon itself death, that life might slay death. “For he that believeth on me,” saith He, “hath eternal life:” not what is open, but what is hid. For eternal life is the Word, that “in the beginning was with God, and the Word was God, and the life was the light of men.” The same eternal life gave eternal life also to the flesh which it assumed. He came to die; but on the third day He rose again. Between the Word taking flesh and the flesh rising again, death which came between was consumed. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 26.10, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 171)

St. Augustine--we, too, will eat bread and die if we do not bring innocence to the altar:
‎But so far as relates to that death, concerning which the Lord warns us by fear, and in which their fathers died: Moses ate manna, Aaron ate manna, Phinehas ate manna, and many ate manna, who were pleasing to the Lord, and they are not dead. Why? Because they understood the visible food spiritually, hungered spiritually, tasted spiritually, that they might be filled spiritually. For even we at this day receive visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another. How many do receive at the altar and die, and die indeed by receiving? Whence the apostle saith, “Eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.” (1 Co 11:29) For it was not the mouthful given by the Lord that was the poison to Judas. And yet he took it; and when he took it, the enemy entered into him: not because he received an evil thing, but because he being evil received a good thing in an evil way. See ye then, brethren, that ye eat the heavenly bread in a spiritual sense; bring innocence to the altar. Though your sins are daily, at least let them not be deadly. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 26.11, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 171)