Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Ascension, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Acts 1:1–11
Second Reading Ephesians 1:17–23 or Hebrews 9:24–28, 10:19–23
Gospel Luke 24:46–53

St. Augustine--Christ ascended into heaven, but His Body, the Church, remains on earth:
I am ascended into heaven, but still I lie on earth: here I sit at the right hand of the Father, but there I yet hunger, thirst, and am a stranger. In what manner then did He commend to us His Body, when about to ascend into heaven? When the disciples asked Him, saying, “Lord, wilt thou at this time present thyself, and when shall be the kingdom of Israel?” (Ac 1:6-8) He made answer, now at the point to depart, “It is not for you to know the time which the Father hath put in His own power: but ye shall receive strength of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me.” See where His Body is spread abroad, see where He will not be trodden upon: “Ye shall be witnesses to me, unto Jerusalem, and unto Judea, and even unto all the earth.” Lo, where I lie that am ascending! For I ascend, because I am the Head: my Body lies yet beneath. Where lies? Throughout the whole earth. Beware thou strike not, beware thou hurt not, beware thou trample not: these be the last words of Christ about to go into heaven. (Augustine, Tract. in ep. Joan. 10.9, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 525)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ commands the disciples to remain in Jerusalem that they might not go out before they have been armed with the Spirit:
“He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father.” (v. 4.) First, He led them out to Galilee, afraid and trembling, in order that they might listen to His words in security. Afterwards, when they had heard, and had passed forty days with Him, “He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem.” Wherefore? Just as when soldiers are to charge a multitude, no one thinks of letting them issue forth until they have armed themselves, or as horses are not suffered to start from the barriers until they have got their charioteer; so Christ did not suffer these to appear in the field before the descent of the Spirit, that they might not be in a condition to be easily defeated and taken captive by the many. (Chrysostom, Hom. Act. 1, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 5-6)

St. Hilary draws a lesson in Christology from Eph 1:16, 17:
No one disputes that God the Father is also the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, but this reverent confession offers no occasion for irreverence. God is His God but not as possessing a different order of divinity from His. He was begotten God of the Father, and born a servant by the Dispensation: and so God is His Father because He is God of God, and God is His God, because He is flesh of the Virgin. All this the Apostle confirms in one short and decisive sentence, Making mention of you in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:16, 17). When he speaks of Him as Jesus Christ, he mentions His God: when his theme is the glory of Christ, he calls God His Father. To Christ, as having glory, God is Father: to Christ, as being Jesus, God is God. (Hilary, De Trin. 11.17, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 208)

St. Hilary--the subjection of all things under Christ's feet can be spoken of as future and as past:
 The language of the Apostle, as befits the power of God, speaks of the future as already past: for that which is to be wrought by the completion of time already exists in Christ, in Whom is all fulness, and ‘future’ refers only to the temporal order of the Dispensation, not to a new development. Thus, God has put all things under His feet, though they are still to be subjected. By their subjection, conceived as already past, is expressed the immutable power of Christ: by their subjection, as future, is signified their consummation at the end of the ages as the result of the fulness of time. (Hilary, De Trin. 11.31, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 212)

St. John Chrysostom--the Church shares on the glory of Christ, Her Head:
“And gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church.”
Amazing again, whither hath He raised the Church? as though he were lifting it up by some engine, he hath raised it up to a vast height, and set it on yonder throne; for where the Head is, there is the body also. There is no interval to separate between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then were it no longer a body, then were it no longer a head. “Over all things,” he says. What is meant by “over all things?” He hath suffered neither Angel nor Archangel nor any other being to be above Him. But not only in this way hath He honored us, in exalting that which is of ourselves, but also in that He hath prepared the whole race in common to follow Him, to cling to Him, to accompany His train. (Chrysotom, Hom. Eph. 3, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 62)

St. John Chrysostom on Hebrews 10:22:
“Let us draw near” (he says) “with a true heart.” To what should we “draw near”? To the holy things, the faith, the spiritual service. “With a true heart, in full assurance of faith,” since nothing is seen; neither the priest hence-forward, nor the sacrifice, nor the altar. And yet neither was that priest visible, but stood within, and they all without, the whole people. But here not only has this taken place, that the priest has entered into the holy of holies, but that we also enter in. Therefore he says,“in full assurance of faith.” For it is possible for the doubter to believe in one way, as there are even now many who say, that of some there is a resurrection and of others not. But this is not faith. “In full assurance of faith” (he says); for we ought to believe as concerning things that we see, nay, even much more; for “here” it is possible to be deceived in the things that are seen, but there not: “here” we trust to the senses, but there to the Spirit. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 19.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 455)

St. Gregory the Great--Christ's admonition to the apsotles to remain in the city until the descent of the Holy Spirit teaches us the office of preaching should not be undertaken without proper preparation:
For hence it is that the Truth Himself, Who could all at once have strenghted whom He would, in order to give an example to His followers that they should not presume to preach while imperfect, after He had fully instructed His disciples concerning the power of preaching, forthwith added, But tarry ye in the city until ye be endued withpower from on high (Luke 24:49). For indeed we tarry together in the city, if we restrain ourselves within the enclosures of our souls from wandering abroad in speech; so that, when we are perfectly endued with divine power, we may then go out as it were from ourselves abroad, instructing others also. (Gregory the Great, Pastor. 3.25, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 54)

St. John Chrysostom on the Ascension:
But you will say, How does this concern me? Because thou also shalt be taken up in like manner into the clouds. For thy body is of like nature to His body, therefore shall thy body be so light, that it can pass through the air. For as is the head, so also is the body; as the beginning, so also the end. See then how thou art honoured by this beginning. Man was the lowest part of the rational creation, but the feet have been made the head, being lifted up aloft into the royal throne in their head. (Chyrsostom in Cat. Aur. 3.2, 794)

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