Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Second Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Acts 5:12–16
Second Reading Revelation 1:9–11a, 12–13, 17–19
Gospel John 20:19–31

St. Irenaeus on St. John's vision of the Son of Man:
John also, the Lord’s disciple, when beholding the sacerdotal and glorious advent of His kingdom, says in the Apocalypse: “I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks One like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment reaching to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle; and His head and His hairs were white, as white as wool, and as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if He burned in a furnace. And His voice [was] as the voice of waters; and He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shining in his strength.” (Rev 1:12) For in these words He sets forth something of the glory [which He has received] from His Father, as [where He makes mention of] the head; something in reference to the priestly office also, as in the case of the long garment reaching to the feet. And this was the reason why Moses vested the high priest after this fashion. Something also alludes to the end [of all things], as [where He speaks of] the fine brass burning in the fire, which denotes the power of faith, and the continuing instant in prayer, because of the consuming fire which is to come at the end of time. But when John could not endure the sight (for he says, “I fell at his feet as dead;” (Rev 1:17) that what was written might come to pass: “No man sees God, and shall live” [Ex 33:20]), and the Word reviving him, and reminding him that it was He upon whose bosom he had leaned at supper, when he put the question as to who should betray Him, declared: “I am the first and the last, and He who liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of hell.” (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 4.20.10, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 491)

St. Ambrose--The Church's ministry of forgiveness of sins is exercised by the power of the Holy Spirit:
Let us now see whether the Spirit forgives sins. But on this point there can be no doubt, since the Lord Himself said: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whosesoever sins ye forgive they shall be forgiven.” (Jn 20:22) See that sins are forgiven through the Holy Spirit. But men make use of their ministry for the forgiveness of sins, they do not exercise the right of any power of their own. For they forgive sins not in their own name but in that of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. They ask, the Godhead gives, the service is of man, the gift is of the Power on high. (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct. 3.18.139, NPNF2, vol. 18, pg. 154)

St. Leo the Great--the Lord's wounds were retained in his resurrected body to heal the wounds of unbelieving hearts:
And in the course of these and other miracles, when the disciples were harassed by bewildering thoughts, and the Lord had appeared in their midst and said, “Peace be unto you,” (Lk 14:36; Jn 20:19) that what was passing through their hearts might not be their fixed opinion (for they thought they saw a spirit not flesh), He refutes their thoughts so discordant with the Truth, offers to the doubters’ eyes the marks of the cross that remained in His hands and feet, and invites them to handle Him with careful scrutiny, because the traces of the nails and spear had been retained to heal the wounds of unbelieving hearts, so that not with wavering faith, but with most stedfast knowledge they might comprehend that the Nature which had been lain in the sepulchre was to sit on God the Father’s throne. (Leo the Great, Serm. 73.3, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 187)

St. Augustine argues that Jn 20:23 implies that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father:
And we are so taught that He proceeds from both, because the Son Himself says, He proceeds from the Father. And when He had risen from the dead, and had appeared to His disciples, “He breathed upon them, and said, Receive the Holy Ghost,” (Jn 20:23) so as to show that He proceeded also from Himself. And Itself is that very “power that went out from Him,” as we read in the Gospel, “and healed them all.” (Lk 6:19) (Augustine, De Trin. 15.26, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 224)

St. Augustine compares the bestowal of the Spirit by the breath of our Lord to His breathing on Adam:
But after His resurrection, when He first appeared to His disciples, He said to them: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Of this giving then it is said, “The Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. And He breathed upon their faces,” (Jn 20:22) He who with His breath enlivened them first man, and raised him up from the clay, by which breath He gave a soul to the limbs; signifying that He was the same who breathed upon their faces, that they might rise out of the mire and renounce their miry works. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 32.6, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 195)

St. John Chrysostom on Jn 20:29:
Ver. 29. “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”
For this is of faith, to receive things not seen; since,“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. xi. 1.) And here He pronounceth blessed not the disciples only, but those also who after them should believe. “Yet,” saith some one, “the disciples saw and believed.” Yes, but they sought nothing of the kind, but from the proof of the napkins, they straightway received the word concerning the Resurrection, and before they saw the body, exhibited all faith. When therefore any one in the present day say, “I would that I had lived in those times, and had seen Christ working miracles,” let them reflect, that, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 87.1, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 327-328)

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