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)

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