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)

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