Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Epiphany

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 60:1–6
Second Reading Ephesians 3:2–3a, 5–6
Gospel Matthew 2:1–12

St. Methodius of Olympus interprets Is. 60:1-4 as referring to the Church:
It is the Church whose children shall come to her with all speed after the resurrection, running to her from all quarters. She rejoices receiving the light which never goes down, and clothed with the brightness of the Word as with a robe. For with what other more precious or honourable ornament was it becoming that the queen should be adorned, to be led as a Bride to the Lord, when she had received a garment of light, and therefore was called by the Father? (Methodius of Olympus, Banquet of the Ten Virgins, 8.5, ANF, vol. 6, pg. 336)

St. John Chrysostom on how the Spirit revealed to the Apostles the calling of the Gentiles:
For reflect. Peter, had he not been instructed by the Spirit, never would have gone to the Gentiles. For hear what he says, “Then hath God given unto them the Holy Ghost, as well as unto us.” (Acts 10:47.) That it was by the Spirit that God chose that they should receive the grace. The Prophets then spoke, yet they knew it not thus perfectly; so far from it, that not even did the Apostles, after they had heard it. So far did it surpass all human calculation, and the common expectation. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 6, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 77)

St. Irenaeus explains the signficance of the gifts of the Magi. (This explanation is echoed by several other fathers)
Matthew says that the Magi, coming from the east, exclaimed “For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him;” (Mt 2:2) and that, having been led by the star into the house of Jacob to Emmanuel, they showed, by these gifts which they offered, who it was that was worshipped; myrrh, because it was He who should die and be buried for the mortal human met; gold, because He was a King, “of whose kingdom is no end;” (Lk 1:33) and frankincense, because He was God, who also “was made known in Judea,” (Ps 76:1) and was “declared to those who sought Him not.” (Is 65:1) (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.9, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 423)

St. Leo the Great on the faith of the Magi:
And so the wise men saw and adored the Child of the tribe of Judah, “of the seed of David according to the flesh,” (Rom 1:3) “made from a woman, made under the law,” (Gal 4) which He had come “not to destroy but to fulfil.” (Mt 5:17) They saw and adored the Child, small in size, powerless to help others, incapable of speech, and in nought different to the generality of human children. Because, as the testimonies were trustworthy which asserted in Him the majesty of invisible Godhead, so it ought to be impossible to doubt that “the Word became flesh,” and the eternal essence of the Son of God took man’s true nature: lest either the inexpressible marvels of his acts which were to follow or the infliction of sufferings which He had to bear should overthrow the mystery of our Faith by their inconsistency: seeing that no one at all can be justified save those who believe the Lord Jesus to be both true God and true Man. (Leo the Great, Serm. 34 (Epiphany 4).3, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 148)

St. John Chrysostom exorts us to follow the example of the Magi:
Let us then also follow the magi, let us separate ourselves from our barbarian customs, and make our distance therefrom great, that we may see Christ, since they too, had they not been far from their own country, would have missed seeing Him. Let us depart from the things of earth. For so the wise men, while they were in Persia, saw but the star, but after they had departed from Persia, they beheld the Sun of Righteousness. Or rather, they would not have seen so much as the star, unless they had readily risen up from thence. Let us then also rise up; though all men be troubled, let us run to the house of the young Child; though kings, though nations, though tyrants interrupt this our path, let not our desire pass away. For so shall we thoroughly repel all the dangers that beset us. Since these too, except they had seen the young Child, would not have escaped their danger from the king. Before seeing the young Child, fears and dangers and troubles pressed upon them from every side; but after the adoration, it is calm and security; and no longer a star but an angel receives them, having become priests from the act of adoration; for we see that they offered gifts also. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 7.6, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 47)

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