Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Easter Sunday, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Acts 10:34a, 37–43
Second Reading Colossians 3:1–4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b–8
Gospel John 20:1–9 or Luke 24:1–12 or Luke 24:13–35

St. Gregory of Nyssa on thinking of things that are above:
So, likewise, on the contrary, if reason instead assumes sway over such emotions, each of them is transmuted to a form of virtue; for anger produces courage, terror caution, fear obedience, hatred aversion from vice, the power of love the desire for what is truly beautiful; high spirit in our character raises our thought above the passions, and keeps it from bondage to what is base; yea, the great Apostle, even, praises such a form of mental elevation when he bids us constantly to “think those things that are above (Col. 3:2);” and so we find that every such motion, when elevated by loftiness of mind, is conformed to the beauty of the Divine image. (Greg. Nyss., De hom. opif. 18.5, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 408)

St. Ambrose on our life being hidden with Christ:
As the Apostle says: “Our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3) Let, then, no one here strive to shine, let none show pride, let none boast. Christ willed not to be known here, He would not that His Name should be preached in the Gospel whilst He lived on earth. He came to lie hid from this world. Let us therefore likewise hide our life after the example of Christ, let us shun boastfulness, let us not desire to be made known. It is better to live here in humility, and there in glory. “When Christ,” it says, “shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3:4) (Ambrose, De offic. 3.5.36, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 73)

St. Leo the Great on Christ our Passover:
For by this transference the propitiation of the spotless Lamb and the fulfilment of all mysteries passed from the circumcision to the uncircumcision, from the sons according to the flesh to the sons according to the spirit: since as the Apostle says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” (1 Cor 5:7) Who offering Himself to the Father a new and true sacrifice of reconciliation, was crucified not in the temple, whose worship was now at an end, and not within the confines of the city which for its sin was doomed to be destroyed, but outside, “without the camp,” (Heb. 13:12) that, on the cessation of the old symbolic victims, a new Victim might be placed on a new altar, and the cross of Christ might be the altar not of the temple but of the world. (Leo the Great, Serm. 59.5, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 172)

St. John Chrysostom--the life of a Christian is a feast:
It is festival, therefore, the whole time in which we live. For though he said, “Let us keep the feast,” not with a view to the presence of the Passover or of Pentecost did he say it; but as pointing out that the whole of time is a festival unto Christians, because of the excellency of the good things which have been given. For what hath not come to pass that is good? The Son of God was made man for thee; He freed thee from death; and called thee to a kingdom. Thou therefore who hast obtained and art still obtaining such things, how can it be less than thy duty to “keep the feast” all thy life? (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 15.6, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 85-86)

St. Bede the Venerable sees in Luke 12 a figure of the Sacrament of the Altar:
According to the mystical meaning, by the women coming early in the morning to the sepulchre, we have an example given us, that having cast away the darkness of our vices, we should come to the Body of the Lord. For that sepulchre also bore the figure of the Altar of the Lord, wherein the mysteries of Christ s Body, not in silk or purple cloth, but in pure white linen, like that in which Joseph wrapped it, ought to be consecrated, that as He offered up to death for us the true substance of His earthly nature, so we also in commemoration of Him should place on the Altar the flax, pure from the plant of the earth, and white, and in many ways refined by a kind of crushing to death. But the spices which the women bring, signify the odour of virtue, and the sweetness of prayers by which we ought to approach the Altar. The rolling back of the stone alludes to the unclosing of the Sacraments which were concealed by the veil of the letter of the law which was written on stone, the covering of which being taken away, the dead body of the Lord is not found, but the living body is preached; for although we have known. Christ according to the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. But as when the Body of our Lord lay in the sepulchre, Angels are said to have stood by, so also at the time of consecration are they to be believed to stand by the mysteries of Christ. Let us then after the example of the devout women, whenever we approach the heavenly mysteries, because of the presence of the Angels, or from reverence to the Sacred Offering, with all humility, bow our faces to the earth, recollecting that we are but dust and ashes. (Bede in Cat. Aur. 3.2, 771-772)

St. Augustine--Christ "goes further" from those who do not come to know him in the breaking of the bread:
I see that one may say, Explain to me; what did that signify, that “He made a pretence of going further”? For if it had no further meaning, it is a deceit, a lie. We must then according to our rules of exposition, and distinctions, tell you what this “pretence of going further,” signified; “He made a pretence of going further,” and is kept back from going further. In so far then as the Lord Christ being as they supposed absent in respect of His Bodily presence, was thought to be really absent, He will as it were “go further.” But hold Him fast by faith, hold Him fast at the breaking of Bread. What shall I say more? Have ye recognised Him? If so, then have ye found Christ. I must not speak any longer on this Sacrament. They who put off the knowledge of this Sacrament, Christ goeth further from them. Let them then hold It fast, let them not let Him go; let them invite Him to their home, and so they are invited to heaven. (Augustine, Serm. 89.7, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 391)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Palm Sunday, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

Procession:
Gospel Luke 19:28–40

Mass:
First Reading Isaiah 50:4–7
Second Reading Philippians 2:6–11
Gospel Luke 22:14–23:56 or Luke 23:1–49


St. Gregory Nazianzen on Christ's entry into Jerusalem:
He rode upon a colt, almost, blame me not for folly, as my Jesus did upon that other colt, (Lk 19:35) whether it were the people of the Gentiles, whom He mounts in kindness, by setting it free from the bonds of ignorance, or something else, which the Scripture sets forth. He was welcomed with branches of trees, and garments with many Bowers and of varied hue were torn off and strewn before him and under his feet: there alone was all that was glorious and costly and peerless treated with dishonour. Like, once more, to the entry of Christ were those that went before with shouts and followed with dances; only the crowd which sung his praises was not of children only, but every tongue was harmonious, as men contended only to outdo one another. I pass by the universal cheers, and the pouring forth of unguents, and the nightlong festivities, and the whole city gleaming with light, and the feasting in public and at home, and all the means of testifying to a city’s joy, which were then in lavish and incredible profusion bestowed upon him. Thus did this marvellous man, with such a concourse, regain his own city. (Greg. Naz. Orat. 21.29, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 278)

St. Irenaeus--Christ does away with the disobedience of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil with the obedience of the Tree of the Cross:
And not by the aforesaid things alone has the Lord manifested Himself, but [He has done this] also by means of His passion. For doing away with [the effects of] that disobedience of man which had taken place at the beginning by the occasion of a tree, “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;” (Phil 2:8) rectifying that disobedience which had occurred by reason of a tree, through that obedience which was [wrought out] upon the tree [of the cross]. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 5.16, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 544)

St. Augustine on "even the death of the cross":
For when the apostle was commending to us His obedience even unto death, it was not enough for him to say, “He became obedient unto death;” for it was not unto death of any kind whatever: but he added, “even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) Among all kinds of death, there was nothing worse than that death. In short, that wherein one is racked by the most intense pains is called cruciatus, which takes its name from crux, a cross. For the crucified, hanging on the tree, nailed to the wood, were killed by a slow lingering death. To be crucified was not merely to be put to death; for the victim lived long on the cross, not because longer life was chosen, but because death itself was stretched out that the pain might not be too quickly ended. He willed to die for us, yet it is not enough to say this; He deigned to be crucified, became obedient even to the death of the cross. He who was about to take away all death, chose the lowest and worst kind of death: He slew death by the worst of deaths. To the Jews who understood not, it was indeed the worst of deaths, but it was chosen by the Lord. For He was to have that very cross as His sign; that very cross, a trophy, as it were, over the vanquished devil, He was to put on the brow of believers, so that the apostle said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14) (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan 36.4, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 209)

St. John Chrysostom--when Christ is glorified, the Father is also glorified:
“And every tongue,” should “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That is, that all should say so; and this is glory to the Father. Seest thou how wherever the Son is glorified, the Father is also glorified? Thus too when the Son is dishonored, the Father is dishonored also. If this be so with us, where the difference is great between fathers and sons, much more in respect of God, where there is no difference, doth honor and insult pass on to Him. If the world be subjected to the Son, this is glory to the Father. And so when we say that He is perfect, wanting nothing, and not inferior to the Father, this is glory to the Father, that he begat such a one. (Chrysostom, Hom. Phil. 7, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 216)

St. Irenaeus on how our Lord teaches us to love our enemies from the Cross:
And from this fact, that He exclaimed upon the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Lk 23:34) the long-suffering, patience, compassion, and goodness of Christ are exhibited, since He both suffered, and did Himself exculpate those who had maltreated Him. For the Word of God, who said to us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those that hate you,”349 Himself did this very thing upon the cross; loving the human race to such a degree, that He even prayed for those putting Him to death. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.18.5, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 447)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--Christ's prayer in the garden shows his fellowhip with human anxiety and his association with the Will that he shares with the Father:
He prays that the cup may pass from Him, when it was certainly already before Him: for even then was being fulfilled that pouting forth of His blood of the New Testament for the sins of many. He does not pray that it may not be with Him; but that it may pass away from Him. Then He prays that His will may not be done, and wills that what He wishes to be effected, may not be granted Him. For He says, Yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt: signifying by His spontaneous prayer for the cup’s removal His fellowship with human anxiety, yet associating Himself with the decree of the Will which He shares inseparably with the Father. (Hilary, De. Trin. 10.37, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 191)

St. Ambrose--the temptation of St. Peter warns us against presumption:
Peter also, though full of faith and devotion, yet because, not yet conscious of our common weakness, he had presumptuously said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Thy sake,” (Jn 13:37) fell into the trial of his presumption before the cock crowed thrice. (Lk 22:60, 61) Although, indeed, that trial was a lesson for our salvation, that we might learn not to think little of the weakness of the flesh, lest through thus thinking little of it we should be tempted. If Peter was tempted, who can presume? who can maintain that he cannot be tempted? And without doubt for our sakes was Peter tempted, so that, the proving of the temptation did not take place in a stronger than he, but that in him we should learn how, resisting in temptations, although tried even by care for our lives, we might yet overcome the sting of the temptation with tears of patience. (Ambrose, De excessu fratris 2.27, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 177)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 43:16–21
Second Reading Philippians 3:8–14
Gospel John 8:1–11

St. Irenaeus on the promise of a new covenant announced by Isaiah:
“And remember ye not the things of old: behold, I make new things which shall now arise, and ye shall know it; and I will make a way in the desert, and riven in a dry land, to give drink to my chosen people, my people whom I have acquired, that they may show forth my praise,” (Is 43:19-21)—plainly announced that liberty which distinguishes the new covenant, and the new wine which is put into new bottles, (Mt 9:17)[that is], the faith which is in Christ, by which He has proclaimed the way of righteousness sprung up in the desert, and the streams of the Holy Spirit in a dry land, to give water to the elect people of God, whom He has acquired, that they might show forth His praise, but not that they might blaspheme Him who made these things, that is, God. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 4.33.14, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 510)

St. Jerome on Paul's striving for perfection:
He further declares that he always forgot the past, and ever stretched forward to the things in front, thus teaching that no heed should be paid to the past, but the future earnestly desired; so that what to-day he thought perfect, while he was stretching forward to better things and things in front, to-morrow proves to have been imperfect. And thus at every step, never standing still, but always running, he shows that to be imperfect which we men thought perfect, and teaches that our only perfection and true righteousness is that which is measured by the excellence of God. (Jerome, Cont. Pelag. 1.14a, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 455)

St. Augustine on the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of God:
So great, then, is the difference between the law and grace, that although the law is undoubtedly of God, yet the righteousness which is “of the law” is not “of God,” but the righteousness which is consummated by grace is “of God.” The one is designated “the righteousness of the law,” because it is done through fear of the curse of the law; while the other is called “the righteousness of God,” because it is bestowed through the beneficence of His grace, so that it is not a terrible but a pleasant commandment, according to the prayer in the psalm: “Good art Thou, O Lord, therefore in Thy goodness teach me Thy righteousness; “ (Ps 119:68) that is, that I may not be compelled like a slave to live under the law with fear of punishment; but rather in the freedom of love may be delighted to live with law as my companion. When the freeman keeps a commandment, he does it readily. And whosoever learns his duty in this spirit, does everything that he has learned ought to be done. (Augustine, De grat. Christi 1.13.14, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 223)

St. John Chrysostom--the Law not loss in and of itself, but only esteemed as such because grace is greater:
And how has the law become gain? And it was not counted gain, but was so. For consider how great a thing it was, to bring men, brutalized in their nature, to the shape of men. If the law had not been, grace would not have been given. Wherefore? Because it became a sort of bridge; for when it was impossible to mount on high from a state of great abasement, a ladder was formed. But he who has ascended has no longer need of the ladder; yet he does not despise it, but is even grateful to it. For it has placed him in such a position, as no longer to require it. And yet for this very reason, that he doth not require it, it is just that he should acknowledge his obligation, for he could not fly up. And thus is it with the Law, it hath led us up on high; wherefore it was gain, but for the future we esteem it loss. How? Not because it is loss, but because grace is far greater. (Chrysostom, Hom. Phil. 11, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 235)

St. Augustine on the gentleness and justice of Christ toward the adulteress:
What else does He signify to you when He writes with His finger on the ground? For the law was written with the finger of God; but written on stone because of the hard-hearted. The Lord now wrote on the ground, because He was seeking fruit. You have heard then, Let the law be fulfilled, let the adulteress be stoned. But is it by punishing her that the law is to be fulfilled by those that ought to be punished? Let each of you consider himself, let him enter into himself, ascend the judgment-seat of his own mind, place himself at the bar of his own conscience, oblige himself to confess. For he knows what he is: for “no man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of man which is in him.” Each looking carefully into himself, finds himself a sinner. Yes, indeed. Hence, either let this woman go, or together with her receive ye the penalty of the law. Had He said, Let not the adulteress be stoned, He would be proved unjust: had He said, Let her be stoned, He would not appear gentle: let Him say what it became Him to say, both the gentle and the just, “Whoso is without sin of you, let him first cast a stone at her.” This is the voice of Justice: Let her, the sinner, be punished, but not by sinners: let the law be fulfilled, but not by the transgressors of the law. This certainly is the voice of justice: by which justice, those men pierced through as if by a dart, looking into themselves and finding themselves guilty, “one after another all withdrew.” (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 33.5, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 198)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

St. Irenaeus on the Salvation of Adam

Adversus Heareses Book III, chapter 23 is an extended argument against Tatian's opinion that Adam has not been saved.

Several interesting things emerge in St. Irenaeus's argument. Irenaeus points out that while God utters curses on the ground and on the serpent, He does not curse Adam and Eve. Secondly, he interprets their hiding after their transgression as a fear of the Lord manifesting itself as feelings of unworthiness and their fig-leaf garments as a sign of penitence (i.e. a sort of leafy hairshirt underwear. I read that fig sap is an irritant to the skin, but I don't know if this shows up in the leaves ... anyway, God mercifully put a quick stop to that first, unfortunate, fashion trend).

As Irenaeus sees it, central to Christ's work of redemption is what he calls "recapitulation", following Eph 1:10: ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, which the Jerusalem Bible translates as "bring everything together under Christ as Head" (acc. to Balthasar, The Scandal of the Incarnation, p. 53). In other words, Christ, the Second Adam, is made a new "head" of the human family. Consequently, Irenaeus argues that there would be something incomplete in God's work of salvation if the First Adam was not redeemed by the Second:
Therefore, when man has been liberated, “what is written shall come to pass, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death  where is they sting?” (1 Co 15:54, 55) This could not be said with justice, if that man, over whom death did first obtain dominion, were not set free. For his salvation is death’s destruction. When therefore the Lord vivifies man, that is, Adam, death is at the same time destroyed. (Adv. Haer. 3.23.7, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 457)
Particularly interesting is Irenaeus's argument that God drove man out of Eden not as a punishment, but as an act of mercy, that death would put an end to sin:
Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some venture to assert, but because He pitied him, [and did not desire] that he should continue a sinner for ever, nor that the sin which surrounded him should be immortal, and evil interminable and irremediable. But He set a bound to his [state of] sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, (Rom 6:7) putting an end to it by the dissolution of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God. (Adv. Haer. 3.23.6, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 457)
This reminded me somewhat of death as the"gift of men" in the mythology of Middle Earth, but I can't claim to understand Tolkien well enough to know how valid that comparison is.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Joshua 5:9a, 10–12
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:17–21
Gospel Luke 15:1–3, 11–32

St. Hilary of Poitiers on how God creates and reconciles through His Word:
For through Himself He creates the things which are created in Him, just as through Himself all things are reconciled in Him. Inasmuch as they are reconciled in Him, recognise in Him the nature of the Father’s unity, reconciling all things to Himself in Him. Inasmuch as all things are reconciled through Him, perceive Him reconciling to the Father in Himself all things which He reconciled through Himself. For the same Apostle says, But all things are from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation: to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. (2 Cor 18, 19) Compare with this the whole mystery of the faith of the Gospel. For He Who is seen when Jesus is seen, Who works in His works, and speaks in His words, also reconciles in His reconciliation. And for this cause, in Him and through Him there is reconciliation, because the Father abiding in Him through a like nature restored the world to Himself by reconciliation through and in Him. (Hilary, De Trin. 8.51, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 152)

St. Augustine on how Christ was made sin for us that we might be made righteousness in Him:
And He, of whom all these sacrifices were types and shadows, was Himself truly made sin. Hence the apostle, after saying, “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God,” forthwith adds: “for He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:20, 21) He does not say, as some incorrect copies read, “He who knew no sin did sin for us,” as if Christ had Himself sinned for our sakes; but he says, “Him who knew no sin,” that is, Christ, God, to whom we are to be reconciled, “hath made to be sin for us,” that is, hath made Him a sacrifice for our sins, by which we might be reconciled to God. He, then, being made sin, just as we are made righteousness (our righteousness being not our own, but God’s, not in ourselves, but in Him); He being made sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us, showed, by the likeness of sinful flesh in which He was crucified, that though sin was not in Him, yet that in a certain sense He died to sin, by dying in the flesh which was the likeness of sin; and that although He Himself had never lived the old life of sin, yet by His resurrection He typified our new life springing up out of the old death in sin. (Augustine, Enchir. 41.13, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 251-252)

St. John Chrysostom--God's mercy manifested in the ongoing ministry of reconciliation entrusted to the Church:
“And gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Here again he sets forth the dignity of the Apostles; showing how great a thing was committed to their hands, and the surpassing greatness of the love of God. For even when they would not hear the Ambassador that came, He was not exasperated nor left them to themselves, but continueth to exhort them both in His own person and by others. Who can be fittingly amazed at this solicitude? The Son Who came to reconcile, His True and Only-Begotten, was slain, yet not even so did the Father turn away from His murderers; nor say, “I sent My Son as an Ambassador, but they not only would not hear Him, but even slew and crucified Him, it is meet henceforth to leave them to themselves:” but quite the contrary, when the Son departed, He entrusted the business to us; for he says, “gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor. 11.4, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 333)

St. Athanasius on the abundance of grace given to the penitent, as seen in the parable of the Prodigal Son:
For this is the work of the Father’s loving-kindness and goodness, that not only should He make him alive from the dead, but that He should render His grace illustrious through the Spirit. Therefore, instead of corruption, He clothes him with an incorruptible garment; instead of hunger, He kills the fatted calf; instead of far journeys, [the Father] watched for his return, providing shoes for his feet; and, what is most wonderful, placed a divine signet-ring upon his hand; whilst by all these things He begot him afresh in the image of the glory of Christ. These are the gracious gifts of the Father, by which the Lord honours and nourishes those who abide with Him, and also those who return to Him and repent. (Athanasius, Festal Letter 7.10, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 527)

St. Ambrose--the reception of the Prodigal Son and the reception of the penitant back into the Church:
So quickly does he gain forgiveness, that, as he is coming, and is still a great way off, his father meets him, gives him a kiss, which is the sign of sacred peace; orders the robe to be brought forth, which is the marriage garment, which if any one have not, he is shut out from the marriage feast; places the ring on his hand, which is the pledge of faith and the seal of the Holy Spirit; orders the shoes to be brought out, (Ex 12:11) for he who is about to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, about to feast on the Lamb, ought to have his feet protected against all attacks of spiritual wild beasts and the bite of the serpent; bids the calf to be slain, for “Christ our Passover hath been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5:7) For as often as we receive the Blood of the Lord, we proclaim the death of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:26) As, then, He was once slain for all, so whensoever forgiveness of sins is granted, we receive the Sacrament of His Body, that through His Blood there may be remission of sins. (Ambrose, De paenit. 2.3.18, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 347)

St. Augustine on how the Prodigal Son "came to himself":
“And when he returned to himself.” If“he returned to himself,” he had gone away from himself. Because he had fallen from himself, had gone away from himself, he returns first to himself, that he may return to that state from which he had fallen away by falling from himself. For as by falling away from himself, he remained in himself; so by returning to himself, he ought not to remain in himself, lest he again go away from himself. Returning then to himself, that he might not remain in himself, what did he say? “I will arise and go to my Father.” (Lk 15:18) See, whence he had fallen away from himself, he had fallen away from his Father; he had fallen away from himself, he had gone away from himself to those things which are without. He returns to himself, and goes to his Father, where he may keep himself in all security. If then he had gone awayfrom himself, let him also in returning to himself, from whom he had gone away, that he may “go to his Father,” deny himself. What is “deny himself”? Let him not trust in himself, let him feel that he is a man, and have respect to the words of the prophet, “Cursed is every one that putteth his hope in man.” (Jer 17:5) Let him withdraw himself from himself, but not towards things below. Let him withdraw himself from himself, that he may cleave unto God. (Augustine, Serm. 96.2.2, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 409)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Third Sunday of Lent, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Exodus 3:1–8a, 13–15
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 10:1–6, 10–12
Gospel Luke 13:1–9

St. Athanasius--we know that God is, though we cannot comprehend His essence:
For though to comprehend what the essence of God is be impossible, yet if we only understand that God is, and if Scripture indicates Him by means of these titles, we, with the intention of indicating Him and none else, call Him God and Father and Lord. When then He says, ‘I am that I am,’ and ‘I am the Lord God,’ (Ex 3:14, 15) or when Scripture says, ‘God,’ we understand nothing else by it but the intimation of His incomprehensible essence Itself, and that He Is, who is spoken of. (Athanasius, De decretis 5, NPNF2, vol.4, pg. 165)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--existence God's most characteristic property:
While my mind was dwelling on these and on many like thoughts, I chanced upon the books which, according to the tradition of the Hebrew faith, were written by Moses and the prophets, and found in these words spoken by God the Creator testifying of Himself ‘I Am that I Am, and again, He that is hath sent me unto you.’ (Ex. 3:14) I confess that I was amazed to find in them an indication concerning God so exact that it expressed in the terms best adapted to human understanding an unattainable insight into the mystery of the Divine nature. For no property of God which the mind can grasp is more characteristic of Him than existence, since existence, in the absolute sense, cannot be predicated of that which shall come to an end, or of that which has had a beginning, and He who now joins continuity of being with the possession of perfect felicity could not in the past, nor can in the future, be non-existent; for whatsoever is Divine can neither be originated nor destroyed. Wherefore, since God’s eternity is inseparable from Himself, it was worthy of Him to reveal this one thing, that He is, as the assurance of His absolute eternity. (Hilary, De Trin. 1.5, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 41)

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the crossing of the Red Sea as prefiguring Baptism:
Again, according to the view of the inspired Paul (cf. 1 Co 10:1, 2) , the people itself, by passing through the Red Sea, proclaimed the good tidings of salvation by water. The people passed over, and the Egyptian king with his host was engulfed, and by these actions this Sacrament was foretold. For even now, whensoever the people is in the water of regeneration, fleeing from Egypt, from the burden of sin, it is set free and saved; but the devil with his own servants (I mean, of course, the spirits of evil), is choked with grief, and perishes, deeming the salvation of men to be his own misfortune. (Greg. Nyss., On the Baptism of Christ, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 522)

St. John Chrysostom--the punishment of the Israelites who displeased God after passing through the Red Sea and eating the manna is a warning to Christians who recieve the Sacraments unworthily:
 For as the gifts are figures, even so are the punishments figures: and as Baptism and the Table were sketched out prophetically, so also by what ensued, the certainty of punishment coming on those who are unworthy of this gift was proclaimed beforehand for our sake that we by these examples might learn soberness. Wherefore also he adds,
“To the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” For as in the benefits the types went before and the substance followed, such shall be the order also in the punishments. Seest thou how he signifies not only the fact that these shall be punished, but also the degree, more severely than those ancients? For if the one be type, and the other substance, it must needs be that the punishments should as far exceed as the gifts. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 23.4, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 134)

St. Augustine on the parable of the fig tree:
With this ax does the Householder in the Gospel threaten, saying, “Behold these three years I come to this tree, and find no fruit on it.” Now I must clear the ground; wherefore let it be cut down. And the husbandman intercedes, saying, “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then Thou shalt come and cut it down.” (Lk 13:7, etc) So the Lord hath visited mankind as it were three years, that is, at three several times. The first time was before the Law; the second under the Law; the third is now, which is the time of grace. For if He did not visit mankind before the Law, whence was Abel, and Enoch, and Noe, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, whose Lord He was pleased to be called? And He to whom all nations belonged, as though He were the God of three men only, said, “I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.” (Ex 3:15) But if He did not visit under the Law, He would not have given the Law itself. After the Law, came the very Master of the house in person; He suffered, and died, and rose again; He gave the Holy Spirit, He made the Gospel to be preached throughout all the world, and yet a certain tree remained unfruitful. Still is there a certain portion of mankind, which doth not yet amend itself. The husbandman intercedes; the Apostle prays for the people; “I bow my knees,” he saith, “unto the Father for you, that being rooted and grounded in love, ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”12 By bowing the knees, he intercedes with the Master of the house for us, that we be not rooted up. Therefore since He must necessarily come, let us take care that He find us fruitful. The digging about the tree is the lowliness of the penitent. For every ditch is low. The dunging it, is the filthy robe of repentance. For what is more filthy than dung; yet if well used, what more profitable?
Let each one then be a good tree; let him not suppose that he can bear good fruit, if he remain a corrupt tree. There will be no good fruit, but from the good tree. Change the heart, and the work will be changed. Root out desire, plant in charity. “For as desire is the root of all evil,” (1 Ti 6:10) so is charity the root of all good. (Augustine, Serm. 62.2, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 332)

St. John Chrysostom on why God chastens some and not others:
On this account some he chastens, and others he does not chasten, profiting both those who are chastened, and those who are not chastened. For he separates their wickedness from those, and he makes the others by their punishment, more self-restrained. And this is manifest from what Christ himself said. For when they announced to him that a tower had been brought to the ground, and had buried certain men, he saith to them “What think ye? that these men were sinners only? I say to you nay, but if ye do not repent ye also shall suffer the same thing.” (Lk 13:4)
Dost thou see how those perished on account of their sin, and the rest did not escape on account of their righteousness, but in order that they might become better by the punishment of the others? (Chrysostom, De diab. 1.7, NPNF1, vol. 9, pg. 184-185)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Logos Blog Post on Newman

I've got a post up at the Logos Blog aboutVen. John Henry Cardinal Newman (and pitching the great collection of his works on pre-pub).