Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: First Sunday of Lent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Deuteronomy 26:4–10
Second Reading Romans 10:8–13
Gospel Luke 4:1–13

Origen--the Word is near inasmuch as all things participate in God's existence:
Now, in Him who truly exists, and who said by Moses, “I Am Who I Am,” (Ex 3:14) all things, whatever they are, participate; which participation in God the Father is shared both by just men and sinners, by rational and irrational beings, and by all things universally which exist. The Apostle Paul also shows truly that all have a share in Christ, when he says, “Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (i.e., to bring Christ down from above;) or who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith the Scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” (Rom 10:6-8) By which he means that Christ is in the heart of all, in respect of His being the word or reason, by participating in which they are rational beings. (Origen, De princ. 1.3, ANF, vol. 4, pg. 253)

St. Augustine on the insufficiency of belief without confession:
Is it not so that almost all who have denied Christ before the persecutors, held in their heart what they believed of Him? And yet, by not confessing with the mouth unto salvation, they perished, save they which through penitence have lived again? Who can be so vain, as to think that the Apostle Peter had that in his heart which he had on his lips when he denied Christ? Surely in that denial he held the truth within and uttered the lie without. Why then did he wash away with tears the denial which he uttered with his mouth, if that sufficed for salvation that with the heart he believed? Why, speaking the truth in his heart, did he punish with so bitter weeping the lie which he brought forth with his mouth, unless because he saw it to be a great and deadly evil, that while with his heart he believed unto righteousness, with his mouth he made not confession unto salvation? (Augustine, Contra mendac. 6.13, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 486)

... and that confession without belief is not confession at all:
Hear the apostle: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” And what follows? “And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:10) That confession springs from the root of the heart. Sometimes thou hearest a man confessing, and knowest not whether he believes. But thou oughtest not to call him one confessing, if thou shouldest judge him to be one not believing. For to confess is this, to utter the thing that thou hast in thy heart: if thou hast one thing in thy heart, and another thing on thy tongue, thou art speaking, not confessing. (Augustine, Tract. en ev. Joan. 26.2, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 168)

St. John Chrysostom on the nearness of salvation:
And what meaneth the phrase, “The Word is nigh thee?” That is, It is easy. For in thy mind and in thy tongue is thy salvation. There is no long journey to go, no seas to sail over, no mountains to pass, to get saved. But if you be not minded to cross so much as the threshold, you may even while you sit at home be saved. For “in thy mouth and in thy heart” is the source of salvation. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 17, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 474)

St. Ambrose on why Our Lord underwent temptation:
He was led therefore into the wilderness, to the intent that He might provoke the devil, for if the one had not contended, the other it seems had not conquered. In a mystery, it was to deliver that Adam from exile who was cast out of Paradise into the wilderness. By way of example, it was to shew us that the devil envies us, whenever we strive after better things; and that then we must use caution, lest the weakness of our minds should lose us the grace of the mystery. Hence it follows: And he was tempted of the devil. (Ambrose in Cat. Aur. 3.1, 143)

St. Augustine on the significance of forty days:
Now that number is a sacrament of our time which under Christ’s discipline we contend against the devil, for it signifies our temporal life. For the periods of years run in courses of four, but forty contains four tens. Again, those ten are completed by the number one successively advancing on to four more. This plainly shews that the fast of forty days, i. e. the humiliation of the soul, the Law and the Prophets have consecrated by Moses and Elias, the Gospel by the fast of our Lord Himself. (Augustine in Cat. Aur. 3.1, 144-145)

Origen on the second temptation:
Or, to view the whole in another light. Two kings are earnestly contending for a kingdom; The king of sin who reigneth over sinners, that is, the devil ; The king of righteousness who ruleth the righteous, that is, Christ. The devil, knowing that Christ had come to take away his kingdom, shews Him all the kingdoms of the world; not the kingdoms of the Persians and of the Medes, but his own kingdom whereby he reigned in the world, whereby some are under the dominion of fornication, others of covetousness. And he shews Him them in a moment of time, that is, in the present course of time, which is but a moment in comparison of eternity. For the Saviour needed not to be shewn for any longer time the affairs of this world, but as soon as He turned His eyes to look, He beheld sins reigning, and men made slaves to vice. The devil therefore says unto Him, Camest Thou to contend with me for dominion ? Worship me, and behold I give Thee the kingdom I hold. Now the Lord would indeed reign, but being Righteousness itself, would reign without sin ; and would have all nations subject to Him, that they might obey the truth, but would not so reign over others as that He Himself should be subject to the devil. Hence it follows, And Jesus answering said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God. (Ambrose in Cat. Aur. 3.1, 148)

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