Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Jeremiah 1:4–5, 17–19
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:13 or 1 Corinthians 13:4–13
Gospel Luke 4:21–30

Tertullian uses Jer 1:5 to argue that the soul is received before birth:
Accordingly you read the word of God which was spoken to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.” (Jer 1:5) Since God forms us in the womb, He also breathes upon us, as He also did at the first creation, when “the Lord God formed man, and breathed into him the breath of life.” (Gen 2:7) Nor could God have known man in the womb, except in his entire nature: “And before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.” (Jer 1:5) Well, was it then a dead body at that early stage? Certainly not. For “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Tert., De anima 26, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 207)

St. Jerome exhorts the monk to follow Jeremiah in being an iron pillar before the judgments of men:
It is a monk’s first virtue to despise the judgments of men and always to remember the apostle’s words:—“If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10) In the same sense the Lord says to the prophets that He has made their face a brazen city and a stone of adamant and an iron pillar, (cf. Jer 1:18; Ezek 3:8, 9) to the end that they shall not be afraid of the insults of the people but shall by the sternness of their looks discompose the effrontery of those who sneered at them. A finely strung mind is more readily overcome by contumely than by terror. And men whom no tortures can overawe are sometimes prevailed over by the fear of shame. (Jerome, Ep. 66, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 136)

John Cassian on how perfection is only found in charity:
And from this it clearly follows that perfection is not arrived at simply by self-denial, and the giving up of all our goods, and the casting away of honours, unless there is that charity, the details of which the Apostle describes, which consists in purity of heart alone. For “not to be envious,” “not to be puffed up, not to be angry, not to do any wrong, not to seek one’s own, not to rejoice in iniquity, not to think evil” etc. what is all this except ever to offer to God a perfect and clean heart, and to keep it free from all disturbances? (Cassian, Conf. 1.1.6, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 297)

St. John Chrysostom argues that to giving without love is not enough--love must join us in sympathy with the needy:
Either then we may say this, or that his meaning is for those who give to be also joined closely to those who retire, and not merely to give without sympathy, but in pity and condescension, bowing down and grieving with the needy. For therefore also hath almsgiving been enacted by God: since God might have nourished the poor as well without this, but that he might bind us together unto charity and that we might be thoroughly fervent toward each other, he commanded them to be nourished by us. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 32.9, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 190)

Chrysostom on how the virtues listed by St. Paul are each necessary, complementing and completing each other in love:
“Is not puffed up.” For so we see many who think highly of themselves on the score of these very excellencies; for example, on not being envious, nor grudging, nor mean-spirited, nor rash: these evils being incidental not to wealth and poverty only, but even to things naturally good. But love perfectly purges out all. And consider: he that is long-suffering is not of course also kind. But if he be not kind, the thing becomes a vice, and he is in danger of falling into malice. Therefore she supplies a medicine, I mean kindness, and preserves the virtue pure. Again, the kind person often becomes over-complaisant; but this also she corrects. For “love,” saith he, “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up:” the kind and long-suffering is often ostentatious; but she takes away this vice also. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 33.1, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 195)

St. Athanasius explains that our Lord walked away from those who would kill him because he knew that his hour had not yet come:
Our Lord therefore, although as God, and the Word of the Father, He both knew the time measured out by Him to all, and was conscious of the time for suffering, which He Himself had appointed also to His own body; yet since He was made man for our sakes, He hid Himself when He was sought after before that time came, as we do; when He was persecuted, He fled; and avoiding the designs of His enemies He passed by, and ‘so went through the midst of them.’ (Lk 4:30) But when He had brought on that time which He Himself had appointed, at which He desired to suffer in the body for all men, He announces it to the Father, saying, ‘Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son.’ (Jn 17:1) And then He no longer hid Himself from those who sought Him, but stood willing to be taken by them. (Athanasius, Defence of His Flight 15, NPNF2, vol 4, pg. 260)

Chrysostom on why our Lord would not perform miracles in Nazareth:
What then saith Christ unto them? “A prophet,” saith He, “is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house: and He did not,” it is said, “many mighty works, because of their unbelief.” (Mt 13:57, 58) But Luke saith, “And He did not there many miracles.” (cf. Mk 6:5) And yet it was to be expected He should have done them. For if the feeling of wonder towards Him was gaining ground (for indeed even there He was marvelled at), wherefore did He not do them? Because He looked not to the display of Himself, but to their profit. Therefore when this succeeded not, He overlooked what concerned Himself, in order not to aggravate their punishment. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 48.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 297)

St. Ambrose on how Nazareth is an example to us that we ought not be jealous of blessings the Lord gives to others:
But this is given for an example, that in vain can you expect the aid of Divine mercy, if you grudge to others the fruits of their virtue. The Lord despises the envious, and withdraws the miracles of His power from them that are jealous of His divine blessings in others. For our Lord’s Incarnation is an evidence of His divinity, and His invisible things are proved to us by those which are visible. See then what evils envy produces. For envy a country is deemed unworthy of the works of its citizen, which was worthy of the conception of the Son of God. (Quoted in Cat. Aur. 3.2, 159-160)

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