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)

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