Monday, July 26, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21–23
Second Reading Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11
Gospel Luke 12:13–21

St. Jerome--creation is good since it is created by God. It is only vain in comparison with things that are better still:
‎‎“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “all is vanity.” (Eccles 1:2) But if all created things are good, (Gen 1:31; 1 Tim 4:4) as being the handiwork of a good Creator, how comes it that all things are vanity? If the earth is vanity, are the heavens vanity too?—and the angels, the thrones, the dominations, the powers, and the rest of the virtues? (Col 1:6) No; if things which are good in themselves as being the handiwork of a good Creator are called vanity, it is because they are compared with things which are better still. For example, compared with a lamp, a lantern is good for nothing; compared with a star, a lamp does not shine at all; the brightest star pales before the moon; put the moon beside the sun, and it no longer looks bright; compare the sun with Christ, and it is darkness. “I am that I am,” God says; (Ex 3:14) and if you compare all created things with Him they have no existence. (Jerome, Ep. 48.14, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 73)

St. Augustine--created things become vain when we subject ourselves to them:
‎He calls this which deceives them vanity,—not that God did not create those things, but because men choose to subject themselves by their sins to those things, which the divine law has made subject to them in well-doing. For when you consider things beneath yourself to be admirable and desirable, what is this but to be cheated and misled by unreal goods? The man, then, who is temperate in such mortal and transient things has his rule of life confirmed by both Testaments, that he should love none of these things, nor think them desirable for their own sakes, but should use them as far as is required for the purposes and duties of life, with the moderation of an employer instead of the ardor of a lover. (Augustine, De mor. Eccl. 21.39, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 52-53)

St. Irenaeus--Christ came to redeem our bodies. We cast off the old man not by shedding our bodies but by laying aside earthly lusts:
‎‎For it is not one thing which dies and another which is quickened, as neither is it one thing Which is lost and another which is found, but the Lord came seeking for that same sheep which had been lost. What was it, then, which was dead? Undoubtedly it was the substance of the flesh; the same, too, which had lost the breath of life, and had become breathless and dead. This same, therefore, was what the Lord came to quicken, that as in Adam we do all die, as being of an animal nature, in Christ we may all live, as being spiritual, not laying aside God’s handiwork, but the lusts of the flesh, and receiving the Holy Spirit; as the apostle says in the Epistle to the Colossians: “Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.” And what these are he himself explains: “Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence; and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5) The laying aside of these is what the apostle preaches; and he declares that those who do such things, as being merely flesh and blood, cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. For their soul, tending towards what is worse, and descending to earthly lusts, has become a partaker in the same designation which belongs to these [lusts, viz., “earthly”], which, when the apostle commands us to lay aside, he says in the same Epistle, “Cast ye off the old man with his deeds.” (Col 3:9) But when he said this, he does not remove away the ancient formation [of man]; for in that case it would be incumbent on us to rid ourselves of its company by committing suicide. (Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 5.12.3, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 538)

St. Augustine on the old man and the new man:
‎‎Paul tells us to put off the old man and put on the new. (Col 3:9, 10) By the old man he means Adam who sinned, and by the new man him whom the Son of God took to Himself in consecration for our redemption. For he says in another place, “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven, heavenly. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, let us also bear the image of the heavenly,” (1 Cor 15:47-49) —that is, put off the old man, and put on the new. The whole duty of temperance, then, is to put off the old man, and to be renewed in God,—that is, to scorn all bodily delights, and the popular applause, and to turn the whole love to things divine and unseen. (Augustine, De mor. Eccl. 19.36, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 51)

St. John Chrysostom on our death and rebirth in baptism:
‎If therefore we shall then be manifested, let us not grieve, when we enjoy not honor: if this life be not life, but it be hidden, we ought to live this life as though dead. “Then shall ye also,” he saith, “with Him be manifested in glory.” “In glory,” he said, not merely “manifested.” For the pearl too is hidden so long as it is within the oyster. If then we be treated with insult, let us not grieve; or whatever it be we suffer; for this life is not our life, we are strangers and sojourners. “For ye died,” he saith. Who is so witless, as for a corpse, dead and buried, either to buy servants, or build houses, or prepare costly raiment? None. Neither then do ye; but as we seek one thing only, namely, that we be not in a naked state, so here too let us seek one thing and no more. Our first man is buried: buried not in earth, but in water; not death-destroyed, but buried by death’s destroyer, not by the law of nature, but by the governing command that is stronger than nature. For what has been done by nature, may perchance be undone; but what has been done by His command, never. Nothing is more blessed than this burial, whereat all are rejoicing, both Angels, and men, and the Lord of Angels. At this burial, no need is there of vestments, nor of coffin, nor of anything else of that kind. Wouldest thou see the symbol of this? I will show thee a pool wherein the one was buried, the other raised; in the Red Sea the Egyptians were sunk beneath it, but the Israelites went up from out of it; in the same act he buries the one, generates the other. (Chrysostom, Hom. Col. 7, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 290)

(For more on Col. 3:1-4, see Easter Sunday, Year C)

St. Leo the Great--the wise man is not anxious about present goods but that he may meet his end fully prepared:
‎‎But because the snares of the devil are not at rest even in such a state of things, most rightly at certain seasons of the year the renewal of our vigour is provided for: and now in particular, when one who is greedy of present good might boast himself over the clemency of the weather and the fertility of the land, and having stored his crops in great barns, might say to his soul, “thou hast much goods, eat and drink,” let him take heed to the rebuke of the Divine voice, and hear it saying, “Thou fool, this night they require thy soul of thee, and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be?” (Lk 12:19, 20) This should be the wise man’s most anxious consideration, in order that, as the days of this life are short and its span uncertain, death may never come upon him unawares, and that knowing himself mortal he may meet his end fully prepared. (Leo, Serm. 90.4, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 201)

St. Augustine--our Lord's warning against all covetousness extends even to our own goods:
‎‎Thou hast petitioned for a kindness; hear counsel. “I say unto you, Beware of all covetousness.” (Lk 12:15) “Perhaps,” he would say, “thou wouldest call him covetous and greedy, if he were seeking another’s goods; but I say, seek not even thine own greedily or covetously.” This is “Of all, beware of all covetousness.” A heavy burden this! If by any chance this burden be imposed on them that are weak; let Him be sought unto, that He who imposes it, may vouchsafe to give us strength. For it isnot a thing to be lightly regarded, my Brethren, when our Lord, our Redeemer, our Saviour, who died for us, who gave His Own Blood as our ransom, to redeem us, our Advocate and Judge; it is no light matter when He saith, “Beware.” He knoweth well how great the evil is; we know it not, let us believe Him. “Beware,” saith He. Wherefore? of what? “of all covetousness.” I am but keeping what is mine own, I am not taking away another’s; “Beware of all covetousness.” Not only is he covetous, who plunders the goods of others; but he is covetous too, who greedily keeps his own. But if he is so blamed who greedily keeps his own; how is he condemned who plunders what is another’s! “Beware,” He saith, “of all covetousness: For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Augustine, Serm. 107.3.4, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 437)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Genesis 18:20–32
Second Reading Colossians 2:12–14
Gospel Luke 11:1–13

St. Hilary of Poitiers on God's apparent profession of ignorance in Gen. 18:20, 21:
‎‎Whenever God says that He does not know, He professes ignorance indeed, but is not under the defect of ignorance. It is not because of the infirmity of ignorance that He does not know, but because it is not yet the time to speak, or the divine Plan to act. Thus He says to Abraham, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is full, and their sin is very grievous. Therefore I will go down now, and see if they have done altogether according to the cry of it: and if not, I will know (Gen 18:20, 21) . Here we perceive God not knowing that which notwithstanding He knows. He knows that their sins are very grievous, but He comes down again to see whether they have done altogether, and to know if they have not. We observe, then, that He is not ignorant, although He does not know, but that, when the time comes for action, He knows. This knowledge is not, therefore, a change from ignorance, but the coming of the fulness of time. He waits still to know, but we cannot suppose that He does not know: therefore His not knowing what He knows, and His knowing what He does not know, is nothing else than a divine economy in word and deed. (Hilary, De Trin. 9.63, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 177)

St. John Chrysostom on Col. 3:13-14:
‎“Having forgiven us,” he saith, “all our trespasses,” those which produced that deadness. What then? Did He allow them to remain? No, He even wiped them out; He did not scratch them out merely; so that they could not be seen. “In doctrines” [ordinances], he saith. What doctrines? The Faith. It is enough to believe. He hath not set works against works, but works against faith. And what next? Blotting out is an advance upon remission; again he saith, “And hath taken it out of the way.” Nor yet even so did He preserve it, but rent it even in sunder, “by nailing it to His Cross.” “Having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Nowhere has he spoken in so lofty a strain. (Chrysostom, Hom. Col. 6, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 286)

St. Clement of Alexandria--God gives knowledge to those who ask questions in the Scriptures:
‎‎“Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; ask, and it shall be given you.” (Mt 7:7, Lk 11:9)
‎‎Accordingly, by investigation, the point proposed for inquiry and answer knocks at the door of truth, according to what appears. And on an opening being made through the obstacle in the process of investigation, there results scientific contemplation. To those who thus knock, according to my view, the subject under investigation is opened.
‎‎And to those who thus ask questions, in the Scriptures, there is given from God (that at which they aim) the gift of the God-given knowledge, by way of comprehension, through the true illumination of logical investigation. For it is impossible to find, without having sought; or to have sought, without having examined; or to have examined, without having unfolded and opened up the question by interrogation, to produce distinctness; or again, to have gone through the whole investigation, without thereafter receiving as the prize the knowledge of the point in question. (Clem. Alex., Strom. 8.1, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 557)

St. Augustine draws a parallel between the fish, egg and bread and the theological virtues:
‎‎We have here what corresponds to those three things which the apostle commends: faith is signified by the fish, either on account of the element of water used in baptism, or because it remains unharmed amid the tempestuous waves of this world,contrasted with which is the serpent, that with poisonous deceit persuaded man to disbelieve God; hope is signified by the egg, because the life of the young bird is not yet in it, but is to be is not seen, but hoped for, because “hope which is seen is not hope,” (Rom 8:24) —contrasted with which is the scorpion, for the man who hopes for eternal life forgets the things which are behind, and reaches forth to the things which are before, for to him it is dangerous to look back; but the scorpion is to be guarded against on account of what it has in its tail, namely, a sharp and venomous sting; charity, is signified by bread, for “the greatest of these is charity,” and bread surpasses all other kinds of food in usefulness,—contrasted with which is a stone, because hard hearts refuse to exercise charity. Whether this be the meaning of these symbols, or some other more suitable be found, it is at least certain that He who knoweth how to give good gifts to His children urges us to “ask and seek and knock.” (Augustine, Ep. 130.8.16, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 346, cf. Serm. 105)

Sententiae Patristicae: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Genesis 18:1–10a
Second Reading Colossians 1:24–28
Gospel Luke 10:38–42

St. John Chrysostom--Abraham's hospitality to the angels is an example to us, who are told that it is Christ whom we serve in others:
‎For he spent the whole day upon it, waiting for this goodly prey, and when he saw it, leaped upon it, and ran to meet them, and worshipped upon the ground, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away from Thy servant.” (Ge 18:3) Not as we do, if we happen to see a stranger or a poor man, knitting our brows, and not deigning even to speak to them. And if after thousands of entreaties we are softened, and bid the servant give them a trifle, we think we have quite done our duty. But he did not so, but assumed the fashion of a suppliant and a servant, though he did not know who he was going to take under his roof. But we, who have clear information that it is Christ Whom we take in, do not grow gentle even for this. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 21, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 504)

St. John Chrysostom--St. Paul's sufferings are not his own but Christ's:
‎“And fill up,” he saith, “that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” It seems indeed to be a great thing he has said; but it is not of arrogancy, far be it, but even of much tender love towards Christ; for he will not have the sufferings to be his own, but His, through desire of conciliating these persons to Him. And what things I suffer, I suffer, he saith, on His account: not to me, therefore, express your gratitude, but to him, for it is He Himself who suffers. (Chrysostom, Hom. Col. 4, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 276)

St. Jerome exorts Eustochium to follow the example of Mary in the contemplative life:
‎‎Read the gospel and see how Mary sitting at the feet of the Lord is set before the zealous Martha. In her anxiety to be hospitable Martha was preparing a meal for the Lord and His disciples; yet Jesus said to her: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But few things are needful or one. And Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:41, 42) Be then like Mary; prefer the food of the soul to that of the body. Leave it to your sisters to run to and fro and to seek how they may fitly welcome Christ. But do you, having once for all cast away the burden of the world, sit at the Lord’s feet and say: “I have found him whom my soul loveth; I will hold him, I will not let him go.” (Cant. 3:4) And He will answer: “My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her.” (Cant. 6:9) Now the mother of whom this is said is the heavenly Jerusalem. (Gal. 4:26) (Jerome, Ep. 22.24, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 32)

John Cassian on the superiority of the contemplative life exemplified by Mary:
‎For when the Lord says: “Thou art careful and troubled about many things, but few things are needful or only one,” He makes the chief good consist not in practical work however praiseworthy and rich in fruits it may be, but in contemplation of Him, which indeed is simple and “but one”; declaring that “few things” are needful for perfect bliss, i.e., that contemplation which is first secured by reflecting on a few saints: from the contemplation of whom, he who has made some progress rises and attains by God’s help to that which is termed “one thing,” i.e., the consideration of God alone, so as to get beyond those actions and services of Saints, and feed on the beauty and knowledge of God alone. “Mary” therefore “chose the good, part, which shall not be taken away from her. And this must be more carefully considered. For when He says that Mary chose the good part, although He says nothing of Martha, and certainly does not appear to blame her, yet in praising the one, He implies that the other is inferior. Again when He says “which shall not be taken away from her” He shows that from the other her portion can be taken away (for a bodily ministry cannot last forever with a man), but teaches that this one’s desire can never have an end. (Cassian, Collat. 1.1.8, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 298)

St. Augustine--Mary is a similitude of the joy of heaven which shall not be taken away:
‎‎Mary, sitting at the feet of the Lord, and earnestly listening to His word, foreshowed a similitude of this joy; resting as she did from all business, and intent upon the truth, according to that manner of which this life is capable, by which, however, to prefigure that which shall be for eternity. For while Martha, her sister, was cumbered about necessary business, which, although good and useful, yet, when rest shall have succeeded, is to pass away, she herself was resting in the word of the Lord. And so the Lord replied to Martha, when she complained that her sister did not help her: “Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:30-42) He did not say that Martha was acting a bad part; but that “best part that shall not be taken away.” For that part which is occupied in the ministering to a need shall be “taken away” when the need itself has passed away. Since the reward of a good work that will pass away is rest that will not pass away. In that contemplation, therefore, God will be all in all; because nothing else but Himself will be required, but it will be sufficient to be enlightened by and to enjoy Him alone. (Augustine, De Trin. 1.10.20, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 28)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Deuteronomy 30:10–14
Second Reading Colossians 1:15–20
Gospel Luke 10:25–37

St. Hilary of Poitiers--our confession of faith must not be vague or tardy but in our mouths and in our hearts:
‎‎But there is demanded from us an unwavering certainty. The Apostle expounding the whole secret of the Scripture passes on, Thy word is nigh, in thy mouth and in thy heart (Dt 30:14). The words of our confession must not be tardy or deliberately vague: there must be no interval between heart and lips, lest what ought to be the confession of true reverence become a subterfuge of infidelity. The word must be near us, and within us; no delay between the heart and the lips; a faith of conviction as well as of words. Heart and lips must be in harmony, and reveal in thought and utterance a religion which does not waver. (Hilary, De Trin. 10.70, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 202)

St. Athanasius--the Son of God, the "First-born of all creation" is not Himself a creature:
‎‎If then the Word also were one of the creatures, Scripture would have said of Him also that He was First-born of other creatures; but in fact, the saints saying that He is ‘First-born of the whole creation (Col 1:15),’ the Son of God is plainly shewn to be other than the whole creation and not a creature. For if He is a creature, He will be First-born of Himself. How then is it possible, O Arians, for Him to be before and after Himself? next, if He is a creature, and the whole creation through Him came to be, and in Him consists, how can He both create the creation and be one of the things which consist in Him? Since then such a notion is in itself unseemly, it is proved against them by the truth, that He is called ‘First-born among many brethren’ because of the relationship of the flesh, and ‘First-born from the dead,’ because the resurrection of the dead is from Him and after Him; and ‘First-born of the whole creation,’ because of the Father’s love to man, which brought it to pass that in His Word not, only ‘all things consist (Col 1:17),’ but the creation itself, of which the Apostle speaks, ‘waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, shall be delivered’ one time ‘from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:19, 21).’ Of this creation thus delivered, the Lord will be First-born, both of it and of all those who are made children, that by His being called first, those that come after Him may abide, as depending on the Word as a beginning. (Athanasius, Four Discourses against the Arians 2.21, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 383)

St. Basil the Great on the "image of the invisible God":
‎‎Since then, as says the Lord in the Gospels, (Jn 14:9) he that hath seen the Son sees tim Father also; on this account he says that the Only-begotten is the express image of His Father’s person. That this may be made still plainer I will quote also other passages of the apostle in which he calls the Son “the image of the invisible God,” (Col 1:15) and again “image of His goodness;” not because the image differs from the Archetype according to the definition of indivisibility and goodness, but that it may be shewn that it is the same as the prototype, even though it be different. For the idea of the image would be lost were it not to preserve throughout the plain and invariable likeness. He therefore that has perception of the beauty of the image is made perceptive of the Archetype. So he, who has, as it were mental apprehension of the form of the Son, prints the express image of the Father’s hypostasis, beholding the latter in the former, not beholding in the reflection the unbegotten being of the Father (for thus there would be complete identity and no distinction), but gazing at tile unbegotten beauty in the Begotten. (Basil, Ep. 38.8, NPNF2, vol. 8, pg. 141)

St. Clement of Alexandria--Christ is the Good Samaritan, the neighbor we are to love:
‎‎ In both the commandments, then, He introduces love; but in order distinguishes it. And in the one He assigns to God the first part of love, and allots the second to our neighbour. Who else can it be but the Saviour Himself? or who more than He has pitied us, who by the rulers of darkness were all but put to death with many wounds, fears, lusts, passions, pains, deceits, pleasures? Of these wounds the only physician is Jesus, who cuts out the passions thoroughly by the root,—not as the law does the bare effects, the fruits of evil plants, but applies His axe to the roots of wickedness. He it is that poured wine on our wounded souls (the blood of David’s vine), that brought the oil which flows from the compassions of the Father, and bestowed it copiously. He it is that produced the ligatures of health and of salvation that cannot be undone,—Love, Faith, Hope. He it is that subjected angels, and principalities, and powers, for a great reward to serve us. For they also shall be delivered from the vanity of the world through the revelation of the glory of the sons of God. We are therefore to love Him equally with God. And he loves Christ Jesus who does His will and keeps His commandments. “For not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father.” (Mt 7:21) And “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? ” (Lk 6:46) “And blessed are ye who see and hear what neither righteous men nor prophets” (have seen or heard), (Mt 13:16, 17) if ye do what I say. (Clem. Alex., Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved? 29, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 599)

St. Augustine--he is our neighbor whom it is our duty to help in his need:
‎‎And He showed him that nobody was neighbor to this man except him who took pity upon him and came forward to relieve and care for him. And the man who had asked the question admitted the truth of this when he was himself interrogated in turn. To whom our Lord says, “Go and do thou likewise;” teaching us that he is our neighbor whom it is our duty to help in his need, or whom it would be our duty to help if he were in need. Whence it follows, that he whose duty it would be in turn to help us is our neighbor. For the name “neighbor” is a relative one, and no one can be neighbor except to a neighbor. And, again, who does not see that no exception is made of any one as a person to whom the offices of mercy may be denied when our Lord extends the rule even to our enemies? “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.” (Mt 5:44) (Augustine, De doctr. christ. 1.30.31, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 531)

St. Augustine--the sinner is healed in the inn of the Church:
‎‎True it is, when man was created he received great power of free-will; but he lost it by sin. He fell into death, became infirm, was left in the way by the robbers half dead; the Samaritan, which is by interpretation keeper, passing by lifted him up on his own beast; (Lk 10:30, etc.) he is still being brought to the inn. Why is he lifted up? He is still in process of curing. “But,” he will say, “it is enough for me that in baptism I received remission of all sins.” Because iniquity was blotted out, was therefore infirmity brought to an end? “I received,” says he, “remission of all sins.” It is quite true. All sins were blotted out in the Sacrament of Baptism, all entirely, of words, deeds, thoughts, all were blotted out. But this is the “oil and wine” which was poured in by the way. Ye remember, beloved Brethren, that man who was wounded by the robbers, and half dead by the way, how he was strengthened, by receiving oil and wine for his wounds. His error indeed was already pardoned, and yet his weakness is in process of healing in the inn. The inn, if ye recognise it, is the Church. In the time present, an inn, because in life we are passing by: it will be a home, whence we shall never remove, when we shall have got in perfect health unto the kingdom of heaven. Meanwhile receive we gladly our treatment in the inn, and weak as we still are, glory we not of sound health: lest through our pride we gain nothing else, but never for all our treatment to be cured. (Augustine, Serm. 131.6, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 503)