Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 6:1–2a, 3–8
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 or 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, 11
Gospel Luke 5:1–11

St. John Damascene--the purifying coal as a figure for the Eucharist:
Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, in order that the fire of the longing, that is in us, with the additional heat derived from the coal may utterly consume our sins and illumine our hearts, and that we may be inflamed and deified by the participation in the divine fire. Isaiah saw the coal. (Is 6:6) But coal is not plain wood but wood united with fire: in like manner also the bread of the communion is not plain bread but bread united with divinity. But a body which is united with divinity is not one nature, but has one nature belonging to the body and another belonging to the divinity that is united to it, so that the compound is not one nature but two. (John Damascene, De fide Orth. 4.13, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 83)

St. Ambrose understands the fire of the coal as symbolizing the grace of the Spirit or the passion of Christ, which take away sins:
But perhaps some one will say that the Seraph said to Isaiah: “Behold, this hath touched thy lips, and shall take away thine iniquities, and purge away thy sins.” (Is 6:7) Shall take away, he says, and shall purge, not I will take away, but that fire from the altar of God, that is, the grace of the Spirit. For what else can we piously understand to be on the altar of God but the grace of the Spirit? Certainly not the wood of the forests, nor the soot and coals. Or what is so in accordance with piety as to understand according to the mystery that it was revealed by the mouth of Isaiah that all men should be cleansed by the passion of Christ, Who as a coal according to the flesh burnt up our sins, as you read in Zechariah: “Is not this a brand cast forth from the fire? And that was Joshua clothed in filthy garments.” (Zech 3:2, 3) (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct 1.10.108, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 108)

... and the "Holy, Holy, Holy" of the Seraphim as proclaiming the holiness of the three persons of the Trinity:
111. So, then, the Father is holy, the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy, but they are not three Holies; for there is one Holy God, one Lord. For the true holiness is one, as the true Godhead is one, as that true holiness belonging to the Divine Nature is one.
112. So everything which we esteem holy proclaims that Sole Holiness. Cherubim and Seraphim with unwearied voices praise Him and say: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Sabaoth.” (Is 6:3) They say it, not once, lest you should believe that there is but one; not twice, lest you should exclude the Spirit; they say not holies[in the plural], lest you should imagine that there is plurality, but they repeat thrice and say the same word, that even in a hymn you may understand the distinction of Persons in the Trinity, and the oneness of the Godhead and while they say this they proclaim God. (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct. 3.16.111-112, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 150. cf. also Greg. Nyss. Cont. Eun. 1.23, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 64)

St. Augustine--St. Paul, little in himself and great in the Lord:
See Paul a small portion of this inheritance, see him in weakness, who said, “I am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” Why then art thou an Apostle? “By the grace of God I am what I am. I am not meet, but by the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul was “weak,” but Thou hast “perfected” him. But now because by “the grace of God he is what he is,” look what follows; “And His grace in me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all.” (1 Co 15:9 etc.) Take heed lest thou lose by presumption what thou hast attained (meruisti) through weakness. This is well, very well; that “I am not meet to be called an Apostle. By His grace I am what I am, and His grace in me was not in vain:” all most excellent. But, “I laboured more abundantly than they all;” thou hast begun, it would seem, to ascribe to thyself what a little before thou hadst given to God. Attend and follow on; “Yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” Well! thou weak one; thou shalt be exalted in exceeding strength, seeing thou art not unthankful. Thou art the very same Paul, little in thyself; and great in the Lord. (Augustine, Serm. 76.5.7, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 341)

St. John Chrysostom on how St. Paul passes on what he recieved:
Neither here doth he say, “I said unto you,” nor, “I taught you,” but uses the same expression gain, saying, “I delivered unto you that which also I received:” nor again here doth he say, “I was taught,” but, “I received:” establishing these two things; first, that one ought to introduce nothing from one’s self; next, that by demonstration from his deeds they were fully persuaded, not by bare words: and by degrees while he is rendering his argument credible, he refers the whole to Christ, and signifies that nothing was of man in these doctrines. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 38.2, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 227)

St. Augustine sees the two boats as symbolizing the one Church called from two peoples, Jews & gentiles:
Therefore there were two ships (Lk 5:2) out of which He had called His disciples. They figured these two people, when they let down their nets, and took up so great a draught and so large a number of fishes, that the nets were almost broken. “And they laded,” it is said, “both the ships.” The two ships figured the One Church, but made out of two peoples, joined together in Christ, though coming from different parts. (Augustine, Serm. 137.6, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 519. cf. also Cat. Aur. for further elaborations on this by St. Ambrose and St. Bede)

... and the boat weighted down by the enormous catch as the Church weighed down by the subversion of discipline by the multitude that seek to enter without reforming their lives:
There the multitude of fishes caught was so great, that the two vessels were filled and began to sink, (Lk 5:3-7) that is, were weighed down to the point of sinking; for they did not actually sink, but were in extreme jeopardy. For whence exist in the Church the great evils under which we groan, save from the impossibility of withstanding the enormous multitude that, almost to the entire subversion of discipline, gain an entrance, with their morals so utterly at variance with the pathway of the saints? (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 122.7, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 441)

St. Gregory Nazianzen on Christ the Fisherman:
Jesus Who Chose The Fishermen, Himself also useth a net, and changeth place for place. Why? Not only that He may gain more of those who love God by His visitation; but also, as it seems to me, that He may hallow more places. To the Jews He becomes as a Jew that He may gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law as under the Law, that He may redeem them that are under the Law; to the weak as weak, that He may save the weak. He is made all things to all men that He may gain all. Why do I say, All things to all men? For even that which Paul could not endure to say of himself I find that the Saviour suffered. For He is made not only a Jew, and not only doth He take to Himself all monstrous and vile names, but even that which is most monstrous of all, even very sin and very curse; not that He it such, but He is called so. For how can He be sin, Who setteth us free from sin; and how can He be a curse, Who redeemeth us from the curse of the Law? (Gal 3:10, 13) But it is in order that He may carry His display of humility even to this extent, and form us to that humility which is the producer of exaltation. As I said then, He is made a Fisherman; He condescendeth to all; He casteth the net; He endureth all things, that He may draw up the fish from the depths, that is, Man who is swimming in the unsettled and bitter waves of life. (Greg. Naz., Orat 37.1, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 338)

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