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)

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