Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Trinity Sunday, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Proverbs 8:22–31
Second Reading Romans 5:1–5
Gospel John 16:12–15

Tertullian on the role of the Word in creation:
‎ “When He prepared the heaven,” says Wisdom, “I was present with Him; and when He made His strong places upon the winds, which are the clouds above; and when He secured the fountains, (and all things) which are beneath the sky, I was by, arranging all things with Him; I was by, in whom He delighted; and daily, too, did I rejoice in His presence.” (Pr 8:27-30) Now, as soon as it pleased God to put forth into their respective substances and forms the things which He had planned and ordered within Himself, in conjunction with His Wisdom’s Reason and Word, He first put forth the Word Himself, having within Him His own inseparable Reason and Wisdom, in order that all things might be made through Him through whom they had been planned and disposed, yea, and already made, so far forth as (they were) in the mind and intelligence of God. This, however, was still wanting to them, that they should also be openly known, and kept permanently in their proper forms and substances. (Tertullian, Adv. Prax. 6, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 601)

St. Athanasius explains that if Proverbs refers to the Word as a creature, it only does so in regard to the manhood he assumed:
‎For the passage in the Proverbs, as I have said before, signifies, not the Essence, but the manhood of the Word; for if He says that He was created ‘for the works,’ He shews His intention of signifying, not His Essence, but the Economy which took place ‘for His works,’ which comes second to being. For things which are in formation and creation are made specially that they may be and exist, and next they have to do whatever the Word bids them, as may be seen in the case of all things. (Athanasius, Discourses against the Arians 2.20.51, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 376)

St. Augustine--we are only able to love our duty through the Holy Spirit:
‎A man’s free-will, indeed, avails for nothing except to sin, if he knows not the way of truth; and even after his duty and his proper aim shall begin to become known to him, unless he also take delight in and feel a love for it, he neither does his duty, nor sets about it, nor lives rightly. Now, in order that such a course may engage our affections, God’s “love is shed abroad in our hearts,” not through the free-will which arises from ourselves, but “through the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.” (Rom 5:5) (Augustine, De spir. et litt. 3.5, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 84)

St. John Chrysostom--God's gift is so great that we glory in the struggle just as much as the rewards:
‎Now, consider how great the things to come are, when even at things that seem to be distressful we can be elated; so great is God’s gift, and such a nothing any distastefulness in them! For in the case of external goods, the struggle for them brings trouble and pain and irksomeness along with it; and it is the crowns and rewards that carry the pleasure with them. But in this case it is not so, for the wrestlings have to us no less relish than the rewards. For since there were sundry temptations in those days, and the kingdom existed in hopes, the terrors were at hand, but the good things in expectation, and this unnerved the feebler sort, even before the crowns he gives them the prize now, by saying that we should “glory even in tribulations.” (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 9, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 397)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--the Son possesses all the divine attributes of the Father:
‎The Father gave all, the Son received all; as is plain from His words, All things, whatsoever the Father hath, are Mine (Jn 16:15). He is not speaking here of species of created things, and processes of material change, but He unfolds to us the glory of the blessed and perfect Divinity, and teaches us that God is here manifested as the sum of His attributes, His power, His eternity. His providence, His authority; not that we should think that He possesses these as something extraneous to Himself, but that by these His qualities He Himself has been expressed in terms partly comprehensible by our sense. (Hilary, De Trin. 9.31, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 166)

St. Ambrose--the Son and Holy Spirit receive all things from the Father through unity of substance:
‎But if you are willing to learn that the Son of God knows all things, and has foreknowledge of all, see that those very things which you think to be unknown to the Son, the Holy Spirit received from the Son. He received them, however, through Unity of Substance, as the Son received from the Father. “He,” says He, “shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine and shall declare it unto you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine, therefore said I, He shall receive of Mine, and shall declare it unto you.” (Jn 16:14, 15). What, then, is more clear than this Unity? What things the Father hath pertain to the Son; what things the Son hath the Holy Spirit also has received. (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct. 2.11.118, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 130)

St. Augustine--the apostles could not yet bear all Christ had to say because they had not yet recieved the Holy Spirit:
‎In the same way, therefore, one may say that Christian people, even when desiring to hear, ought not to be told what those things are of which the Lord then said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” If the apostles were still unable, much more so are ye: although it may be that many now can bear what Peter then could not, in the same way as many are able to be crowned with martyrdom which at that time was still beyond the power of Peter, more especially that now the Holy Spirit has been sent, as He was not then, of whom He went on immediately to add the words “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth,” thereby showing of a certainty that they could not bear what He had still to say, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 96.1, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 371)

St. Augustine--the Holy Spirit does not "hear" in a carnal sense, but receives knowledge, and all His being from the Father from Whom He proceeds:
‎Accordingly, “He shall not speak of Himself;” because He is not of Himself. “But whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak:” He shall hear of Him from whom He proceedeth. To Him hearing is knowing; but knowing is being, as has been discussed above. Because, then, He is not of Himself, but of Him from whom He proceedeth, and of whom He has essence, of Him He has knowledge; from Him, therefore, He has hearing, which is nothing else than knowledge. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 99.4, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 382)

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