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)

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