Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: Mary, Mother of God

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Numbers 6:22–27
Second Reading Galatians 4:4–7
Gospel Luke 2:16–21

Irenaeus relates Gal. 4:4 to Gen. 3:15:
For indeed the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of a woman who conquered him. For it was by means of a woman that he got the advantage over man at first, setting himself up as man’s opponent. And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned (ex quo ea quae secundum mulierem est plasmatio facta est), in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death. (Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 5.21, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 549)

St. Athanasius explains how we are able to God our Father not by nature like him but by the Spirit given to us by Christ:
But if He wills that we should call His own Father our Father, we must not on that account measure ourselves with the Son according to nature, for it is because of the Son that the Father is so called by us; for since the Word bore our body and came to be in us, therefore by reason of the Word in us, is God called our Father. For the Spirit of the Word in us names through us His own Father as ours, which is the Apostle’s meaning when he says, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’ (Athanasius, De Decretis 7, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 172)

St. Augustine on our adoption:
And hence the apostolic teaching gives the name of adoption to that by which we are called to an eternal inheritance, that we may be joint-heirs with Christ. (Rom. 8:17, Gal 4:5) We are therefore made sons by a spiritual regeneration, and we are adopted into the kingdom of God, not as aliens, but as being made and created by Him: so that it is one benefit, His having brought us into being through His omnipotence, when before we were nothing; another, His having adopted us, so that, as being sons, we might enjoy along with Him eternal life for our participation. (Augustine, De serm. Dom. 1.23.78, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 32)

St. John Chrysostom on Gal. 4:6-7:
Had not we been first made sons, we could not have called Him Father. If then grace hath made us freemen instead of slaves, men instead of children, heirs and sons instead of aliens, is it not utter absurdity and stupidity to desert this grace, and to turn away backwards? (Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. 4, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 30)

St. Ambrose proposes the modesty of the Blessed Virgin as a model for all virgins:
And then, in the many subsequent wonders, when the barren bore a son, the virgin conceived, the dumb spake, the wise men worshipped, Simeon waited, the stars gave notice. Mary, who was moved by the angel’s entrance, was unmoved by the miracles. “Mary,” it is said, “kept all these things in her heart,” (Lk 2:19) Though she was the mother of the Lord, yet she desired to learn the precepts of the Lord, and she who brought forth God, yet desired to know God. (Ambrose, De virgin. 2.2.13, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 375)

St. Ambrose on the faith of the Virgin Mary:
Esteem not the words of the shepherds as mean and despicable. For from the shepherds Mary increases her faith, as it follows : Mary kept all these sayings, and pondered them in her heart. Let us learn the chastity of the sacred Virgin in all things, who no less chaste in her words than in her body, gathered up in her heart the materials of faith. (Ambrose in Cat. Aur., vol. 3, p. 75)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part VIII: Assisi 2

How December 25 Became Christmas

Biblical Archaelogy Review has an article arguing that the origin of the date of Christmas is not, as is commonly believed, borrowing from pagan celebrations, but was actually derived from celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25.

Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy mentions this in passing, but the argument is laid out pretty thoroughly and convincingly here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: Holy Family, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Sirach 3:2–7, 12–14 or 1 Samuel 1:20–22, 24–28
Second Reading Colossians 3:12–21 or Colossians 3:12–17 or 1 John 3:1–2, 21–24
Gospel Luke 2:41–52

St. John Chrysostom applies Sirach 3:10-12 to the respect owed to priests:
For it is said, “Glory not in the dishonor of thy father; for thy father’s dishonor is no glory unto thee. And if his understanding fail, have patience with him.” (Ecclus. iii. 10–12) And if this be said of our natural fathers, much more of our spiritual fathers. Reverence him, in that he every day ministers to thee, causes the Scriptures to be read, sets the house in order for thee, watches for thee, prays for thee, stands imploring God on thy behalf, offers supplications for thee, for thee is all his worship. Reverence all this, think of this, and approach him with pious respect. Say not, he is wicked. What of that? He that is not wicked, doth he of himself bestow upon thee these great benefits? By no means. Everything worketh according to thy faith. Not even the righteous man can benefit thee, if thou art unfaithful, nor the unrighteous harm thee, if thou art faithful. God, when He would save His people, wrought for the ark by Oxen. Is it the good life or the virtue of the Priest that confers so much on thee? The gifts which God bestows are not such as to be effects of the virtue of the Priest. All is of grace. His part is but to open his mouth, while God worketh all: the Priest only performs a symbol. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Tim. 2, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 483)

St. Ambrose on Col 3:17:
“Whatsoever ye do,” says he, “in word or deed, do all in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father by Him.” (Col 3:17) Let us then refer all our words and deeds to Christ, Who brought life out of death, and created light out of darkness. For as a sick body is at one time cherished by warmth, at another soothed by cool applications, and the variation of remedies, if carried out according to the direction of the physician, is healthful, but if done in opposition to his orders increases the sickness; so whatever is paid to Christ is a remedy, whatever is done by our own will is harmful. (Ambrose, De virginibus 3.5.24, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 385)

St. Gregory the Great applies St. Paul's admonitions to the responsibility of prelates:
Differently to be admonished are subjects and prelates: the former that subjection crush them not, the latter that superior place elate them not: the former that they fail not to fulfil what is commanded them, the latter that they command not more to be fulfilled than is just: the former that they submit humbly, the latter that they preside temperately. For this, which may be understood also figuratively, is said to the former, Children, obey your parents in the Lord: but to the latter it is enjoined, And ye, fathers, provoke not your children to wrath (Coloss. iii. 20, 21). Let the former learn how to order their inward thoughts before the eyes of the hidden judge; the latter how also to those that are committed to them to afford outwardly examples of good living. For prelates ought to know that, if they ever perpetrate what is wrong, they are worthy of as many deaths as they transmit examples of perdition to their subjects. Wherefore it is necessary that they guard themselves so much the more cautiously from sin as by the bad things they do they die not alone, but are guilty of the souls of others, which by their bad example they have destroyed. (Gregory the Great, Reg. Past. 3.4, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 26)

St. John Chrysostom expounds on what it means to forgive as Christ has forgiven us:
He has set before us the example, he has persuaded us that even if we had serious charges to bring, we ought to forgive. For the expression, “Even as Christ,” signifies this, and not this only, but also with all the heart; and not this alone, but that they ought even to love. For Christ being brought into the midst, bringeth in all these things, both that even if the matters be great, and even if we have not been the first to injure, even if we be of great, they of small account, even if they are sure to insult us afterwards, we ought to lay down our lives for them, (for the words, “even as,” demand this;) and that not even at death only ought one to stop, but if possible, to go on even after death. (Chrysostom, Hom. Col., 8, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 295)

1 Jn 3 is favorite passage of St. Augustine, frequently commented on:
John says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (1 Jn 3:2) Now what means this variety in the expressions, “we are,” and “we shall be,” but this —we are in hope, we shall be in reality? For he goes on to say, “We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 Jn 3:2) We have therefore even now begun to be like Him, having the first-fruits of the Spirit; but yet we are still unlike Him, by reason of the remainders of the old nature. In as far, then, as we are like Him, in so far are we, by the regenerating Spirit, sons of God; but in as far as we are unlike Him, in so far are we the children of the flesh and of the world. On the one side, we cannot commit sin; but, on the other, if we say that we have no sin, we only deceive ourselves,—until we pass entirely into the adoption, and the sinner be no more, and you look for his place and find it not. (Ps 36:10) (Augustine, De pecc. merit. et remiss., 2.8.10, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 48)

St. Gregory of Nyssa explains how the Son of God, could increase in wisdom and stature in the human nature he assumed:
Who has so childish a mind as to suppose that the Divinity passes on to perfection by way of addition? But as to the Human Nature, such a supposition is not unreasonable, seeing that the words of the Gospel clearly ascribe to our Lord iincrease in respect of His Humanity: for it says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and favour (Lk 2:52).” Which, then, is the more reasonable suggestion to derive from the Apostle’s words?—that He Who was God in the beginning became Lord by way of advancement, or that the lowliness of the Human Nature was raised to the height of majesty as a result of its communion with the Divine? (Greg. Nyss., Cont. Eun. 6.4, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 190)

St. Ambrose explains that Our Lord's dutifulness in obeying his parents does not exclude sovereignty:
Let us call to mind how kindly our Lord hath dealt with us, in that He taught us not only faith but manners also. For, having taken His place in the form of man, He was subject to Joseph and Mary. (Lk 2:51) Was He less than all mankind, then, because He was subject? The part of dutifulness is one, that of sovereignty is another, but dutifulness doth not exclude sovereignty. Wherein, then, was He subject to the Father’s law? In His body, surely, wherein He was subject to His mother.(Ambrose, De fide 5.10.88, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 235)

St. Gregory the Great proposes Christ's willingness to be taught by asking questions as an example to the young:
It is therefore to be weighed with vigilant consideration that, when Jesus at twelve years of age is spoken of as sitting in the midst of the doctors, He is found, not teaching, but asking questions. By which example it is plainly shewn that none who is weak should venture to teach, if that child was willing to be taught by asking questions, who by the power of His divinity supplied the word of knowledge to His teachers themselves. (Gregory the Great, Reg. Past., 3.25, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 54)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: Christmas Midnight

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 9:1–6
Second Reading Titus 2:11–14
Gospel Luke 2:1–14

Tertullian connects Is. 9:6 with the cross Our Lord bore on His shoulders. (Sts. Justin Martyr, Ambrose and Leo also make this connection):
Similarly, again, Isaiah says: “For a child is born to us, and to us is given a son.” (Is 9:6) What novelty is that, unless he is speaking of the “Son” of God?—and one is born to us the beginning of whose government has been made “on His shoulder.” What king in the world wears the ensign of his power on his shoulder, and does not bear either diadem on his head, or else sceptre in his hand, or else some mark of distinctive vesture? But the novel “King of ages,” Christ Jesus, alone reared “on His shoulder” His own novel glory, and power, and sublimity,—the cross, to wit; that, according to the former prophecy, the Lord thenceforth “might reign from the tree.” (Tert. Answer to the Jews, 10, ANF, vol. 8, pg. 166)

St. John Chyrosom draws out how St. Paul speaks of Christ's two comings in the Letter to Titus:
For the Scriptures speak of two advents of Christ, both this that is past, and that which is to come; and declaring these Paul said, “The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared, teaching us, that, denying! ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live l soberly, and righteously, and godly.” (Tit 2:11, 12) Behold the one, hear how he declares the other also; for having said these things, he added, “Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Tit 2:13). (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 57, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 352)

Gregory Thaumaturgus on the birth of Our Lord:
And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she broughtforth her son, the first-born of the whole creation, and wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:4-7) She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who is covered with light as with a garment. (Ps 104:2) She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who made every creature. She laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim, (Ps 80:1) and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for dumb brutes did the Word of God repose, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the perceptions of true reason. In the board from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide participation in spiritual sustenance for men who live like the beasts of the earth.(Gregory Thaumaturgus, First Homily on the Annunciation, ANF, vol. 6, pg. 60)

Leo the Great explains Christ's two natures manifested in His nativity:
The nativity of the flesh was the manifestation of human nature: the childbearing of a virgin is the proof of Divine power. The infancy of a babe is shown in the humbleness of its cradle (Lk 2:7) : the greatness of the Most High is proclaimed by the angels’ voices (Lk 2:13). He whom Herod treacherously endeavours to destroy is like ourselves in our earliest stage: but He whom the Magi delight to worship on their knees is the Lord of all. (Leo the Great, Letter 28.4, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 41)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: Christmas Vigil

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

As I'll be spending much of these holy days with family, I may not be able to get all the Christmas readings up in a timely fashion, but I'm going to try. Either way, there is enough overlap in the subject matter of the Gospel lessons that selections for one mass may apply to another.

First Reading Isaiah 62:1–5
Second Reading Acts 13:16–17, 22–25
Gospel Matthew 1:1–25 or Matthew 1:18–25

Tertullian compares the birth of the Second Adam from the virgin with the formation of the First Adam from the virgin soil:
What, then, is the sign? “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” (Is 7:14) Accordingly, a virgin did conceive and bear “Emmanuel, God with us.” (Mt 1:23) This is the new nativity; a man is born in God. And in this man God was born, taking the flesh of an ancient race, without the help, however, of the ancient seed, in order that He might reform it with a new seed, that is, in a spiritual manner, and cleanse it by the re-moral of all its ancient stains. But the whole of this new birth was prefigured, as was the case in all other instances, in ancient type, the Lord being born as man by a dispensation in which a virgin was the medium. The earth was still in a virgin state, reduced as yet by no human labour, with no seed as yet cast into its furrows, when, as we are told, God made man out of it into a living soul. (Gen 2:7) As, then, the first Adam is thus introduced to us, it is a just inference that the second Adam likewise, as the apostle has told us, was formed by God into a quickening spirit out of the ground,—in other words, out of a flesh which was unstained as yet by any human generation. (Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, Ch. 17, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 536)

Rufinus explains how all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are at work in the Virgin Birth:
See here the Trinity mutually cooperating with each other. The Holy Ghost is spoken of as coming upon the Virgin, and the Power of the Highest as overshadowing her. What is the Power of the Highest but Christ Himself, Who is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God? Whose is this Power? The Power of the Highest. There is here then the Highest, there is also the Power of the Highest, there is also the Holy Ghost. This is the Trinity, everywhere latent, and everywhere apparent, distinct in names and persons, but inseparable in the substance of the Godhead. And although the Son alone is born of the Virgin, yet there is present also the Highest, there is present also the Holy Ghost, that both the conception and the bringing forth of the Virgin may be sanctified. (Rufinus, Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, NPNF2, vol. 3, pg. 547)

St. John Damascene argues that Matthew's statement that Joseph did not know Mary "until" she gave birth to her first-born does not amount to denial of Mary's perpetual virginity:
The ever-virgin One thus remains even after the birth still virgin, having never at any time up till death consorted with a man. For although it is written, And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son (Mt 1:25), yet note that he who is first-begotten is first-born even if he is only-begotten. For the word “first-born” means that he was born first but does not at all suggest the birth of others. And the word “till” signifies the limit of the appointed time but does not exclude the time thereafter. For the Lord says, And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mt 28:20), not meaning thereby that He will be separated from us after the completion of the age. The divine apostle, indeed, says, And so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Th 4:17), meaning after the general resurrection.(John Damascene, De Fide Orthodoxa, Chapter XIV, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 86)

St. Ambrose compares the work of the Holy Spirit bringing about the conception of Christ with His work in bringing about the second birth of the believer through Baptism:
So, then, having obtained everything, let us know that we are born again, but let us not say, How are we born again? Have we entered a second time into our mother’s womb and been born again? I do not recognize here the course of nature. But here there is no order of nature, where is the excellence of grace. And again, it is not always the course of nature which brings about conception, for we confess that Christ the Lord was conceived of a Virgin, and reject the order of nature. For Mary conceived not of man, but was with child of the Holy Spirit, as Matthew says: “She was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 1:18) If, then, the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Virgin wrought the conception, and effected the work of generation, surely we must not doubt but that, coming down upon the Font, or upon those who receive Baptism, He effects the reality of the new birth. (St. Ambrose, De Myst., 9.59, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 325)

I found St. John Chrysostom's reflections in his second homily on Matthew particularly beautiful. A short excerpt:
Think not, therefore, it is of small things thou art hearing, when thou hearest of this birth, but rouse up thy mind, and straightway tremble, being told that God hath come upon earth. For so marvellous was this, and beyond expectation, that because of these things the very angels formed a choir, and in behalf of the world offered up their praise for them, and the prophets from the first were amazed at this, that “He was seen upon earth, and conversed with men (Bar 3:37).” Yea, for it is far beyond all thought to hear that God the Unspeakable, the Unutterable, the Incomprehensible, and He that is equal to the Father, hath passed through a virgin’s womb, and hath vouchsafed to be born of a woman, and to have Abraham and David for forefathers. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 2.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 9)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Micah 5:1–4a
Second Reading Hebrews 10:5–10
Gospel Luke 1:39–45

Theodoret explains Mic 5:2 as a prophecy of the Incarnation of the eternally begotten Son.Thus through Micah God says “Thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel, whose goings forth have been as of old from everlasting.” (Mt 2:6 & Mic 5:2) Now by saying “From thee shall come forth a ruler” he exhibits the oeconomy of the incarnation; and by adding “whose goings forth have been as of old from everlasting” he declares the Godhead begotten of the Father before the ages. (Theodoret, Letter 151, NPNF2, vol. 3, p. 325)
St. John Chrysostom on Hebrews 10:5.
Here he does not blame those who offer, showing that it is not because of their wickednesses that He does not accept them, as He says elsewhere, but because the thing itself has been convicted for the future and shown to have no strength, nor any suitableness to the times. What then has this to do with the “sacrifices” being offered “oftentimes”? Not only from their being “oftentimes” [offered] (he means) is it manifest that they are weak, and that they effected nothing; but also from God’s not accepting them, as being unprofitable and useless. And in another place it is said, “If Thou hadst desired sacrifice I would have given it.” (Ps. 51:16.) Therefore by this also he makes it plain that He does not desire it. Therefore sacrifices are not God’s will, but the abolition of sacrifices. Wherefore they sacrifice contrary to His will. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 18.1, NPNF1, vol. 18, p. 451)
St. Leo the Great uses Elizabeth's greeting to Mary in arguing against the Nestorian denial that Mary is "Theotokos".
[W]ithout losing that unchangeable essence which belongs to Him together with the Father and the Holy Spirit from all eternity and without respect of time, the “Word became flesh” within the Virgin’s womb in such wise that by that one conception and one parturition she was at the same time, in virtue of the union of the two substances, both handmaid and mother of the Lord. This Elizabeth also knew, as Luke the evangelist declares, when she said: “Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43). (Leo the Great, Letter 124.2. NPNF2, vol. 12, p. 91)

Gregory Thaumaturgus on the blessedness of Mary.
“And Elisabeth spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed art thou among women.” (Lk 1:42, 43) For thou hast become to women the beginning of the new creation. Thou hast given to us boldness of access into paradise, and thou hast put to flight our ancient woe. For after thee the race of woman shall no more be made the subject of reproach. No more do the successors of Eve fear the ancient curse, or the pangs of childbirth. For Christ, the Redeemer of our race, the Saviour of all nature, the spiritual Adam who has healed the hurt of the creature of earth, cometh forth from thy holy womb. (Gregory Thaumaturgus, Second Homily on the Annunciation, ANF, vol. 6, p. 64)

Ephrem the Syrian on the vivified womb of Elizabeth
Our Lord prepared his herald in a dead womb, to show that he came after a dead Adam. He vivified Elizabeth's womb first, and then vivified the soil of Adam through his body. (Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron 1.30 in Luke. ACC, 21)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sententia Patristicae: Third Sunday of Advent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Zephaniah 3:14–18a
Second Reading Philippians 4:4–7
Gospel Luke 3:10–18

St. John Chrysostom's comments on this week's second reading in his 14th Homily on Philippians are worth reading in their entirety. Here are a couple of excerpts:
“Blessed they that mourn,” and “woe unto them that laugh” (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:25), saith Christ. How then saith Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord alway”? “Woe to them that laugh,” said Christ, the laughter of this world which ariseth from the things which are present. He blessed also those that mourn, not simply for the loss of relatives, but those who are pricked at heart, who mourn their own faults, and take count of their own sins, or even those of others. This joy is not contrary to that grief, but from that grief it too is born. For he who grieveth for his own faults, and confesseth them, rejoiceth. (Chrysostom, Hom. Phil. 14. NPNF1, vol. 13, p. 246)

“The peace of God” which He hath wrought toward men, surpasseth all understanding. For who could have expected, who could have hoped, that such good things would have come? They exceed all man’s understanding, not his speech alone. For His enemies, for those who hated Him, for those who determined to turn themselves away, for these, he refused not to deliver up His Only Begotten Son, that He might make peace with us. This peace then, i.e. the reconciliation, the love of God, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts. (Ibid., p. 247)

St. Augustine takes "the peace of God" in a different direction, speculating about the peace which God himself enjoys, and in which we shall share in heaven.
 And if I should speak of my mind or understanding, what is our understanding in comparison of its excellence? For then shall be that “peace of God which,” as the apostle says, “passeth all understanding,” (Php 4:7)—that is to say, all human, and perhaps all angelic understanding, but certainly not the divine. That it passeth ours there is no doubt; but if it passeth that of the angels,—and he who says “all understanding” seems to make no exception in their favor, then we must understand him to mean that neither we nor the angels can understand, as God understands, the peace which God Himself enjoys. Doubtless this passeth all understanding but His own. But as we shall one day be made to participate, according to our slender capacity, in His peace, both in ourselves, and with our neighbor, and with God our chief good, in this respect the angels understand the peace of God in their own measure, and men too, though now far behind them, whatever spiritual advance they have made. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 22.29, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 507. cf. )

Clement of Alexandria draws a few figures out of the latchet of the shoe (Lk 3:16). (The obscurity of this translation might require reading through a few times.)
This, then, is the type of “the law and the prophets which were until John;” (Mt 11:13; Lk 16:16) while he, though speaking more perspicuously as no longer prophesying, but pointing out as now present, Him, who was proclaimed symbolically from the beginning, nevertheless said, “I am not worthy to loose the latchet of the Lord’s shoe.” (Mk 1:7; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:27) For he confesses that he is not worthy to baptize so great a Power; for it behooves those, who purify others, to free the soul from the body and its sins, as the foot from the thong. Perhaps also this signified the final exertion of the Saviour’s power toward us—the immediate, I mean—that by His presence, concealed in the enigma of prophecy, in as much as he, by pointing out to sight Him that had been prophesied of, and indicating the Presence which had come, walking forth into the light, loosed the latchet of the oracles of the [old] economy, by unveiling the meaning of the symbols. (Clem. Alex. Strom. 5.8, ANF, vol. 3, p. 457)

Tertullian on Lk 3:11:
Who fears not to lose, finds it not irksome to give. Else how will one, when he has two coats, give the one of them to the naked, (Lk 3:11) unless he be a man likewise to offer to one who takes away his coat his cloak as well? (Mt 5:40; Lk 6:29) How shall we fashion to us friends from mammon, (Lk 16:9) if we love it so much as not to put up with its loss? We shall perish together with the lost mammon. (Tert. De patientia, 7, ANF, vol. 8, p. 712)
St. Augustine uses Lk 3:14 to argue that Christianity does not condemn all wars. (Cf. also Ep. 184.4, Contra Faustum 22.74)
For if the Christian religion condemned wars of every kind, the command given in the gospel to soldiers asking counsel as to salvation would rather be to cast away their arms, and withdraw themselves wholly from military service; whereas the word spoken to such was, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages,” (Lk 3:14)—the command to be content with their wages manifestly implying no prohibition to continue in the service. (Aug. Ep. 138.2.15, NPNF1, vol. 6, p. 486)
Origen (acc. to Cat. Aur.) comments on the wheat and chaff:
Or, because without the wind the wheat and chaff cannot be separated, therefore He has the fan in His hand, which shews some to be chaff, some wheat; for when you were as the light chaff, (i. e. unbelieving,) temptation shewed you to be what you knew not ; but when you shall bravely endure temptation, the temptation will not make you faithful and enduring, but it will bring to light the virtue which was hid in you. (Origen acc. to Cat. Aur. 124)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part VI.5

Area Sacra is also famous for its stray cats:

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part VI

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme--Chapel of St. Helena

 Area Sacra Ruins


St. Peter in Chains--Michaelangelo's Moses

St. Peter in Chains--Monument from Nicholas of Cusa's Tomb

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: Second Sunday of Advent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Baruch 5:1–9
Second Reading Philippians 1:4–6, 8–11
Gospel Luke 3:1–6

Not surprisingly, St. Augustine makes use of Php 1:6 in articulating his understanding of grace against the Pelagian position:
Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will. On which account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Php 1:6) He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will. (Augustine, De grat. et lib. arb. 17.33, NPNF1, vol. 5, p. 458)
Chrysostom emphasizes, however, that God's working in us does not reduce us to passive objects:
And indeed it is no small praise, that God should work in one. For if He is “no respecter of persons,” as indeed He is none, but is looking to our purpose when He aids us in good deeds, it is evident that we are agents in drawing Him to us; so that even in this view he did not rob them of their praise. Since if His in working were indiscriminate, there would have been nothing to hinder but that even Heathens and all men might have Him working in them, that is, if He moved us like logs and stones, and required not our part. (Chrysostom, Hom Phil. 1, NPNF1, vol. 13, p. 186)
St. Gregory the Great sees significance in the historical context given in Lk 3:1-2:
For because John came to preach Him who was to redeem some from among the Jews, and many among the Gentiles, therefore the time of his preaching is marked out by making mention of the king of the Gentiles and the rulers of the Jews. But because all nations were to be gathered together in one, one man is described as ruling over the Roman state, as it is said, reign of Tiberius Caesar. ... Because John preached Him who was to be at the same time both King and Priest, Luke the Evangelist has marked the time of that preaching by the mention not only of Kings, but also of Priests. (Gregory the Great, Hom. 20 in Ev. in Cat. Aur. 3.1, 106-107. Also ACC NT 3, 58)
Origen comments on John, the Voice of the Lord:
And one who cries in the desert has need of a voice, that the soul which is deprived of God and deserted of truth—and what more dreadful desert is there than a soul deserted of God and of all virtue, since it still goes crookedly and needs instruction—may be exhorted to make straight the way of the Lord. And that way is made straight by the man who, far from copying the serpent’s crooked journey: while he who is of the contrary disposition perverts his way. Hence the rebuke directed to a man of this kind and to all who resemble him, “Why pervert ye the right ways of the Lord? ” (Ac 13:10) (Origen, Comm. on Jn, 6.10, ANF vol. 10, p. 359)
St. Augustine uses the imagery of Luke's quotation from Isaiah in reflecting on God's work within his soul:
For my memory calls upon me, and pleasant it is to me, O Lord, to confess unto Thee, by what inward goads Thou didst subdue me, and how Thou didst make me low, bringing down the mountains and hills of my imaginations, and didst straighten my crookedness, and smooth my rough ways (Lk 3:5) (Augustine, Confessions 9.3.6, NPNF1, vol. 1, p. 131)
Chrysostom on Lk 3:4-6:
Dost thou perceive how the prophet hath anticipated all by his words; the concourse of the people. Thus, when he saith, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;” he is signifying the exaltation of the lowly, the humiliation of the self-willed, the hardness of the law changed into easiness of faith. For it is no longer toils and labors, saith he, but grace, and forgiveness of sins, affording great facility of salvation. Next he states the cause of these things, saying, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God;” no longer Jews and proselytes only, but also all earth and sea, and the whole race of men. Because by “the crooked things” he signified our whole corrupt life, publicans, harlots, robbers, magicians, as many as having been perverted before afterwards walked in the right way: much as He Himself likewise said, “publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you,” (Mt 21:31) because they believed. And in other words also again the prophet declared the self-same thing, thus saying, “Then wolves and lambs shall feed together” (Is 11:6) For like as here by the hills and valleys, he meant that incongruities of character are blended into one and the same evenness of self-restraint, so also there, by the characters of the brute animals indicating the different dispositions of men, he again spoke of their being linked in one and the same harmony of godliness. Here also, as before, stating the cause. That cause is, “There shall be He that riseth to reign over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles trust:” (Is 11:10, Rom 15:12) much the same as here too he said, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God,” everywhere declaring that the power and knowledge of these our Gospels would be poured out to the ends of the world, converting the human race, from a brutish disposition and a fierce temper to something very gentle and mild. (Chrysostom, Hom. on Mt. 10.3, NPNF1, vol. 10, p. 64)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part V: St. John Lateran

St. Matthew

Tomb of Innocent III

Tomb of Leo XIII

Chesterton's The Resurrection of Rome has an interesting reflection on the tombs of these two popes, which flank the apse of the basilica. The tomb of the great medieval pope was built by Leo XIII, the great medievalist, in the medieval style with Innocent portrayed as if asleep. Leo himself, however, was given the classic baroque monument. Chesterton weaves this into an extensive exursus on medieval Rome, whose traces are barely discernible in the modern city.

St. Hilary of Poitiers


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sententiae Patristicae: First Sunday of Advent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14–16
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12–4:2
Gospel: Luke 21:25–28, 34–36

St. John Chrysostom on 1 Thess. 3:12, "may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you": the self-diffusivenss of divine love.
“Make you to increase and abound,” instead of cause you to grow. As if one should say, that with a kind of superabundance he desires to be loved by them. “Even as we do also toward you,” he says. Our part is already done, we pray that yours may be done. Do you see how he wishes love to be extended, not only toward one another, but everywhere? For this truly is the nature of godly love, that it embraces all. If you love indeed such an one, but do not love such an one, it is human love. But such is not ours. “Even as we do also toward you.” (Chrysostom, Homily IV on 1 Thess. in NPNF1, vol. 13, p. 341)

On "signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars" (Lk. 21:25), St. Thomas quotes Eusebius and Chrysostom both as seeing the darkening of the heavenly lights in the last days as their being drowned out by the light of Christ.
For at that time when the end of this perishing life shall be accomplished, and, as the Apostle says, The fashion of this world passeth away, then shall succeed a new world, in which instead of sensible light, Christ Himself shall shine as a sunbeam, and as the King of the new world, and so mighty and glorious will be His light, that the sun which now dazzles so brightly, and the moon and all the stars, shall be hidden by the coming of a far greater light. (Eusebius acc. to Cat. Aur. vol. 3, pt. 2, p. 684).

For as in this world the moon and the stars are soon dimmed by the rising of the sun, so at the glorious appearance of Christ shall the sun become dark, and the moon not shed her ray, and the stars shall fall from heaven, stripped of their former attire, that they may put on the robe of a better light. (Chrysostom acc. to Cat. Aur. loc. cit.)

St. Ambrose takes such signs in the heavens as a figure for divine light obscured by faithlessness and sin:
While many also fall away from religion, clear faith will be obscured by the cloud of unbelief, for to me that Sun of righteousness is either diminished or increased according to my faith ; and as the moon in its monthly wanings, or when it is opposite the sun by the interposition of the earth, suffers eclipse, so also the holy Church when the sins of the flesh oppose the heavenly light, cannot borrow the brightness of divine light from Christ’s rays. For in persecutions, the love of this world generally shuts out the light of the divine Sun ; the stars also fall, that is, men who shine in glory fall when the bitterness of persecution waxes sharp and prevails. And this must be until the multitude of the Church be gathered in, for thus are the good tried and the weak made manifest. (Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 10 in Cat. Aur. 3.2, 687)

On "the Son of Man coming in a cloud" (Lk. 21:27), St. Augustine sees a possible figure for Christ's coming in the Church or in His body (and, of course, the second sense doesn't exclude a literal reading).
But the words, coming in the clouds, may be taken in two ways. Either coming in His Church as it were in a cloud, as He now ceases not to come. But then it shall be with great power and majesty, for far greater will His power and might appear to His saints, to whom He will give great virtue, that they may not be overcome in such a fearful persecution. Or in His body in which He sits at His Father’s right hand He must rightly be supposed to come, and not only in His body, but also in a cloud, for He will come even as He went away, And a cloud received him out of their sight. (Augustine, Ep. 199 in Cat. Aur. 3.2, 687-688)

St. Methodius of Olympus uses Lk 21:34 in a reflection on the Nazirite vows and "two vines", Christ the true vine and the vine of Satan, which brings not just drunkenness, but the intoxication of the passions.
For we perceive from the Scriptures two kinds of vines which were separate from each other, and were unlike. For the one is productive of immortality and righteousness; but the other of madness and insanity. The sober and joy-producing vine, from whose instructions, as from branches, there joyfully hang down clusters of graces, distilling love, is our Lord Jesus, who says expressly to the apostles, (Jn 15:1, 5) “I am the true vine, ye are the branches; and my Father is the husbandman.” But the wild and death-bearing vine is the devil, who drops down fury and poison and wrath, as Moses relates, writing concerning him, (Dt 32:32, 33) “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” ... Hence, too, the heathen, becoming intoxicated, sharpen their passions for murderous battles; for man is not so much excited, nor goes so far astray through wine, as from anger and wrath. A man does not become intoxicated and go astray through wine, in the same way as he does from sorrow, or from love, or from incontinence. And therefore it is ordered that a virgin shall not taste of this vine, so that she may be sober and watchful from the cares of life, and may kindle the shining torch of the light of righteousness for the Word. “Take heed to yourselves,” says the Lord, “lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon yon unawares, as a snare.”  (Methodius of Olympus, Banquet of the Ten Virgins 5.5, in ANF, vol. 6, p. 327)

St. Gregory the Great uses Lk 21:34 in warning the pastor not to let the cares of this world distract him from tending his flock:
The ruler should not relax his care for the things that are within in his occupation among the things that are without, nor neglect to provide for the things that are without in his solicitude for the things that are within; lest either, given up to the things that are without, he fall away from his inmost concerns, or, occupied only with the things that are within bestow not on his neighbours outside himself what he owes them ... For when the head languishes, the members fail to thrive; and it is in vain for an army to follow swiftly in pursuit of enemies if the very leader of the march goes wrong. No exhortation sustains the minds of the subjects, and no reproof chastises their faults, because, while the office of an earthly judge is executed by the guardian of souls, the attention of the shepherd is diverted from custody of the flock; and the subjects are unable to apprehend the light of truth, because, while earthly pursuits occupy the pastor’s mind, dust, driven by the wind of temptation, blinds the Church’s eyes. To guard against this, the Redeemer of the human race, when He would restrain us from gluttony, saying, Take heed to yourselves that your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness (Luke 21:34), forthwith added, Or with cares of this life: and in the same place also, with design to add fearfulness to the warning, He straightway said, Lest perchance that day come upon you unawares (lbid.). (Gregory the Great, Reg. Past. 2.7. in NPNF2, vol. 12, p. 17)

Sententiae Patristicae in Lectionibus Dominicalibus

As part of my personal reflection on the Sunday readings for the coming liturgical year, I've decided to spend a bit of time each week looking at patristic commentary on and usage of these passages and then post some of what I find in hopes that it's useful to others. My primary tools/sources at this point are St. Thomas's Catena Aurea, the Ancient Christian Commentary Series and Logos Bible Software.

The Catena Aurea, at least in Newman's translation, can be somewhat scant with its citations. Since I imagine some of this could be due to mis-attribution, I will try to qualify such quotations accordingly when I can't determine the source. When I've used Logos, I'll provide a hyperlink to the passage, so that the context can be easily looked up.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part IV

St. Mary Major

St. Mary Major--Pius IX

St. Mary Major

St. Prassede

Arch of Constantine

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part II

Some pictures of St. Peter's and St. Paul's for the feast of their dedication today:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Logos 4

The big news at work is, of course, the launch of Logos Bible Software 4.

I hope to revisit the tips post I had earlier, but here are a few great improvements that I've already found helpful:

1. Early Church Fathers is now automatically recognized as a series by Logos 4.

Firstly, this works like a Libronix serial resource association. If you're in Augustine's Confesions and want to jump to Book 10 of City of God, you can type "City of God 10" in the active reference box and it will navigate to the correct volume.

Secondly, this means that you can easily prioritize the whole set if you want it to show up among the top hits in the passage guide or as possible targets when you're linking. Open "Library", click "Prioritize", type in "nicene" to get to any of the ECF volumes, and click and drag it to the right pane.

Thirdly, this means you can easily limit a search to anything in the ECF series by including "series:Early Church Fathers".

2. You can now search the description information in Library.

This gets rid of most of the guesswork that was formerly involved in figuring out the contents of each volume. Can't remember which volumes have works by St. Jerome? Open up Library and type in "jerome" and NPNF2, III and VI will show up.

3. Automatic updates.

You can only benefit from improvements to the ECF resources if you're getting the updates and Logos 4 makes this automatic. Look for more updates in the future.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ad Limina Apostolorum, Part I

A few pictures from our recent trip to Italy:

St. Peter's Square at night.

Tomb of Pope Boniface VIII (Crypt of St. Peter's)

Sarcophagus made for St. Helena (Vatican Museums)

Apse of St. Peter's viewed from inside the dome.