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)

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