Monday, November 29, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 11:1–10
Second Reading Romans 15:4–9
Gospel Matthew 3:1–12

St. Clement of Alexandria--the ox and bear symbolize Jew and gentile coming together:
‎‎As, then, the people was precious to the Lord, so also is the entire holy people; he also who is converted from the Gentiles, who was prophesied under the name of proselyte, along with the Jew. For rightly the Scripture says, that “the ox and the bear shall come together.” (Is 11:7) For the Jew is designated by the ox, from the animal under the yoke being reckoned clean, according to the law; for the ox both parts the hoof and chews the cud. And the Gentile is designated by the bear, which is an unclean and wild beast. And this animal brings forth a shapeless lump of flesh, which it shapes into the likeness of a beast solely by its tongue. For he who is convened from among the Gentiles is formed from a beastlike life to gentleness by the word; and, when once tamed, is made clean, just as the ox. (Clem. Alex., Strom. 6.6, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 491)

St. Ambrose on the rod and the flower:
‎‎The flower from the root is the work of the Spirit, that flower, I say, of which it was well prophesied: “A rod shall go forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise from his root.” (Is 11:1) The root of Jesse the patriarch is the family of the Jews, Mary is the rod, Christ the flower of Mary, Who, about to spread the good odour of faith throughout the whole world, budded forth from a virgin womb, as He Himself said: “I am the flower of the plain, a lily of the valley.” (Cant. 2:1)
‎‎39. The flower, when cut, keeps its odour, and when bruised increases it, nor if torn off does it lose it; so, too, the Lord Jesus, on the gibbet of the cross, neither failed when bruised, nor fainted when torn; and when He was cut by that piercing of the spear, being made more beautiful by the cob our of the outpoured Blood, He, as it were, grew comely again, not able in Himself to die, and breathing forth upon the dead the gift of eternal life. On this flower, then, of the royal rod the Holy Spirit rested.
‎‎40. A good rod, as some think, is the Flesh of the Lord, which, raising itself from its earthly root to heaven, bore around the whole world the sweet-smelling fruits of religion, the mysteries of the divine generation, pouring grace on the altars of heaven. (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct. 2.5.38–41, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 119-120)

St. John Chrysostom--the Gentiles bound to glorify God for his great mercy:
‎Ver. 9. “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.”
‎But what he means is this. Those of the Jews would have had promises, even though they were unworthy. But thou hadst not this even, but wast saved from love towards man alone, even if, to put it at the lowest, they too would not have been the better for the promises, unless Christ had come. But yet that he might amalgamate (or temper, κεραση) them and not allow them to rise up against the weak, he makes mention of the promises. But of these he says that it was by mercy alone that they were saved. Hence they are the most bound to glorify God. And a glory it is to God that they be blended together, be united, praise with one mind, bear the weaker, neglect not the member that is broken off. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 28, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 539)

St. Augustine on baptism "with fire":
‎‎Now as to John’s expression, “with fire,” though tribulation also might be understood, which believers were to suffer for the name of Christ; yet may we reasonably think that the same Holy Spirit is signified also under the name of “fire.” Wherefore when He came it is said, “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:3) (Augustine, Serm. 71.12.19, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 324)

St. Augustine--God raises up children of Abraham from stones:
‎‎And how did John show that Christ was sent to all nations? When the Jews came to him to be baptized, that they might not pride themselves on the name of Abraham, he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who has proclaimed to you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance;” that is, be humble; for he was speaking to proud people. But whereof were they proud? Of their descent according to the flesh, not of the fruit of imitating their father Abraham. What said he to them? “Say not, We have Abraham for our father: for God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Mt 3:9) Meaning by stones all nations, not on account of their durable strength, as in the case of that stone which the builders rejected, but on account of their stupidity and their foolish insensibility, because they had become like the things which they were accustomed to worship: for they worshipped senseless images, themselves equally senseless. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 9.16, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 68)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: First Sunday of Advent, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 2:1–5
Second Reading Romans 13:11–14
Gospel Matthew 24:37–44

St. Augustine's conversion is prompted by the words of Rom. 13:13, 14:
‎‎I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; take up and read.” Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon. For I had heard of Antony, that, accidentally coming in whilst the gospel was being read, he received the admonition as if what was read were addressed to him, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” (Mt 19:21) And by such oracle was he forthwith converted unto Thee. So quickly I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I put down the volume of the apostles, when I rose thence. I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell,—“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rom 13:13, 14) No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended,—by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart,—all the gloom of doubt vanished away. (Augustine, Conf. 8:12.29, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 127-128)

St. John Chrysostom on the armor of light:
‎‎“Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
‎‎Yes, for the day is calling us to battle-array, and to the fight. Yet fear not at hearing of array and arms. For in the case of the visible suit of armor, to put it on is a heavy and abhorred task. But here it is desirable, and worth being prayed for. For it is of Light the arms are! Hence they will set thee forth brighter than the sunbeam, and giving out a great glistening, and they place thee in security: for they are arms, and glittering do they make thee: for arms of light are they! What then, is there no necessity for thee to fight? yea, needful is it to fight, yet not to be distressed and toil. For it is not in fact war, but a solemn dance and feast-day, such is the nature of the arms, such the power of the Commander. And as the bridegroom goes forth with joyous looks from his chamber, so doth he too who is defended with these arms. For he is at once soldier and bridegroom. But when he says, “the day is at hand,” he does not even allow it to be but near, but puts it even now beside us. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 24, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 517-518)

John Cassian clarifies that "make no provision for the flesh" does not imply that we should neglect the health of the body:
‎‎For even if one is weak in body, he can attain to a perfect virtue and one equal to that of those who are thoroughly strong and healthy, if with firmness of mind he keeps a check upon the desires and lusts which are not due to weakness of the flesh. For the Apostle says: “And take not care for the flesh in its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14) He does not forbid care for it in every respect: but says that care is not to be taken in regard to its desires and lusts. He cuts away the luxurious fondness for the flesh: he does not exclude the control necessary for life: he does the former, lest through pampering the flesh we should be involved in dangerous entanglements of the desires; the latter lest the body should be injured by our fault and unable to fulfil its spiritual and necessary duties. (John Cassian, De Instit. Coenob. 5.8-9, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 236)

St. John Chrysostom--Our Lord does not tell us when we will return so that we will strive to be ready always:
‎For this intent He tells them not, in order that they may watch, that they may be always ready; therefore He saith, When ye look not for it, then He will come, desiring that they should be anxiously waiting, and continually. in virtuous action.
‎But His meaning is like this: if the common sort of men knew when they were to die, they would surely strive earnestly at that hour.
In order therefore that they may strive, not at that hour only, therefore He tells them not either the common hour, or the hour of each, desiring them to be ever looking for this, that they may be always striving. Wherefore He made the end of each man’s life also uncertain. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 77.2-3, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 465)

St. John Chyrsostom--the certainty of judgment should warn us against taking comfort in its delay:
‎When these things then are done, then also will be the voice of the Archangel shouting and commanding the Angels, and the trumpets, or rather the sound of the trumpet. What trembling then, what fear will possess those that remain upon the earth. For one woman is caught up and another is left behind, and one man is taken, and another is passed over. (Matt. 24:40, 41; Luke 27:34, 35) What will be the state of their souls, when they see some indeed taken up, but themselves left behind? Will not these things be able to shake their souls more terribly than any hell? Let us represent then in word that this is now present. For if sudden death, or earthquakes in cities, and threatenings thus terrify our souls; when we see the earth breaking up, and crowded with all these, when we hear the trumpets, and the voice of the Archangel louder than any trumpet, when we perceive the heaven shriveled up, and God the King of all himself coming nigh—what then will be our souls? Let us shudder, I beseech you, and be frightened as if these things were now taking place. Let us not comfort ourselves by the delay. For when it must certainly happen, the delay profits us nothing. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 8, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 356)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--ignorance of the hour of the coming of the Son of Man is an advantage:
‎‎He exhorts us to watch continually with unrelaxing faith, and withholds from us the security of certain knowledge, that our minds may be kept on the stretch by the uncertainty of suspense, and while they hasten towards and continually look for the day of His coming, may always watch in hope; and that, though we know the time must come, its very uncertainty may make us careful and vigilant. Thus the Lord says, Therefore be ye also ready, for ye know not what hour the Son of Man shall come; (Mt 24:44) and again, Blessed is that servant whom His lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing. (Mt 24:46) The ignorance is, therefore, a means not to delude, but to encourage in perseverance. It is no loss to be denied a knowledge which it is an advantage not to have, for the security of knowledge might breed negligence of the faith, which now is concealed, while the uncertainty of expectation keeps us continually prepared, even as the master of the house, with the fear of loss before his eyes, watches and guards against the dreaded com ing of the thief, who chooses the time of sleep for his work. (Hilary, De Trin. 9.67, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 178-179)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Contest

Tim, who reviews Catholic Bibles on his aptly named Catholic Bibles blog is holding a contest to give away an Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament.

I'm shamelessly plugging it as a condition for entry, of course, but--but like a radio host who only advertises what he personally uses and endorses--I will say that I've found his blog to be worth following for information on Catholic Bibles--in all different versions, editions, shapes and sizes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Christ the King, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 2 Samuel 5:1–3
Second Reading Colossians 1:12–20
Gospel Luke 23:35–43

St. Augustine on the "Son of [the Father's] Love" (filii dilectionis suae, τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ):
‎‎“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His own love.” (Col. 1:13) He did not say, “of His own Son.” If He had so said, He would have said it most truly, just as He did say it most truly, because He has often said it; but He says, “the Son of His own love.” Therefore He is the Son also of the Holy Spirit, if there is in that Trinity no love in God except the Holy Spirit. And if this is most absurd, it remains that the Holy Spirit is not alone therein love, but is specially so called for the reasons I have sufficiently set forth; and that the words, “Son of His own love,” mean nothing else than His own beloved Son,—the Son, in short, of His own substance. For the love in the Father, which is in His ineffably simple nature, is nothing else than His very nature and substance itself,—as we have already often said, and are not ashamed of often repeating. And hence the “Son of His love,” is none other than He who is born of His substance. (Augustine, De Trin. 15.19.37, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 220)

St. John Chrysostom on Col. 1:13:
‎The whole is of Him, the giving both of these things and those; for nowhere is any achievement of ours. “From the power of darkness,” he saith, that is, of error, the dominion of the devil. He said not “darkness,” but “power”; for it had great power over us, and held us fast. For it is grievous indeed even to be under the devil at all, but to be so “with power,” this is far more grievous. “And translated us,” he saith, “into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” Not then so as to deliver man from darkness only, did He show His love toward him. A great thing indeed is it to have delivered from darkness even; but to have brought into a kingdom too, is a far greater. See then how manifold the gift, that he hath delivered us who lay in the pit; in the second place, that He hath not only delivered us, but also hath translated us into a kingdom. (Chrysostom, Hom. Col. 2, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 266)

For more on Col. 1:12-20, see also under Ordinary Time 15, Year C.

St. Augustine--the good thief and the necessity of baptism for salvation:
‎‎‎That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces (Cyprian, Ep. 72.22) from the thief, to whom, though he was not baptized, it was yet said, “To-day shall thou be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43) On considering which, again and again, I find that not only martyrdom for the sake of Christ may supply what was wanting of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if recourse may not be had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism for want of time. For neither was that thief crucified for the name of Christ, but as the reward of his own deeds; nor did he suffer because he believed, but he believed while suffering. It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:10) But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment. (Augustine, De bapt. 4.22.30, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 460)

St. Augustine--Christ in respect to his Godhead, never withrdrew from paradise:
‎‎For when He said to the man that was expiating his crimes on the tree, and making confession unto salvation, “Today shall thou be with me in paradise,” (Lk 23:43) in respect to His human nature His own soul was on that very day to be in hell, His flesh in the sepulchre; but as respected His Godhead He was certainly also in paradise. And therefore the soul of the thief, absolved from his by-gone crimes, and already in the blessed enjoyment of His grace, although it could not be everywhere as He was, yet could on that very day be also with Him in paradise, from which He, who is always everywhere, had not withdrawn. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 111.2, NPNF1. vol. 7, pg. 413-414)

St. Gregory of Nyssa--Christ shows his universal sovereignty by declaring that the thief would join him in paradise:
‎‎When the dying thief besought Him to remember him, He showed His universal sovereignty by saying, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43) If then not even in the time of His Passion He is separated from His authority, where can heresy possibly discern the subordination to authority of the King of glory? (Greg. Nyss., Cont. Eun. 2.11, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 122)

St. Jerome--Christ saves the good thief to show that reprentance is never too late:
‎‎Christ Himself brought the robber from the cross to paradise, (Lk 23:43) and, to show that repentance is never too late, He turned a murderer’s death into a martyrdom. (Jerome, Ep. 16.1, NPNF2, vo.. 6, pg. 20)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--Hell could have no power over the divine nature of Christ which rules the world:
‎‎Could you believe that He feared the depths of the abyss, the scorching flames, or the pit of avenging punishment, when you listen to His words to the thief on the cross, Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shall thou be with Me in Paradise? (Lk 23:43) Such a nature with such power could not be shut up within the confines of the nether world, nor even subjected to fear of it. When He descended to Hades, He was never absent from Paradise (just as He was always in Heaven when He was preaching on earth as the Son of Man), but promised His martyr (i.e. the thief on the cross) a home there, and held out to him the transports of perfect happiness. Bodily fear cannot touch Him Who reaches indeed down as far as Hades, but by the power of His nature is present in all things everywhere. As little can the abyss of Hell and the terrors of death lay hold upon the nature which rules the world, boundless in the freedom of its spiritual power, confident of the raptures of Paradise; for the Lord Who was to descend to Hades, was also to dwell in Paradise. (Hilary, De Trin. 10.34, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 190)

Pitching the Catena Aurea ...

... over at the Logos blog.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Malachi 3:19–20a
Second Reading 2 Thessalonians 3:7–12
Gospel Luke 21:5–19

St. Cyprian on Christ, the Sun of Righteousness:
‎‎Also the prophet Malachi testifies that He is called the Sun, when he says, “But to you that fear the name of the Lord shall the Sun of righteousness arise, and there is healing in His wings.” (Mal. 4:2) But if in the Holy Scriptures the true sun and the true day is Christ, there is no hour excepted for Christians wherein God ought not frequently and always to be worshipped; so that we who are in Christ—that is, in the true Sun and the true Day—should be instant throughout the entire day in petitions, and should pray; and when, by the law of the world, the revolving night, recurring in its alternate changes, succeeds, there can be no harm arising from the darkness of night to those who pray, because the children of light have the day even in the night. For when is he without light who has light in his heart? or when has not he the sun and the day, whose Sun and Day is Christ? (Cyprian, De orat. Dom. 35, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 457)

St. Basil--the sinner, deprived of the Sun of Righteousness is worse off than the blind man:
‎‎If the sun, subject to corruption, is so beautiful, so grand. so rapid in its move-meat, so invariable in its course; if its grandeur is in such perfect harmony with and due proportion to the universe: if, by the beauty of its nature, it shines like a brilliant eye in the middle of creation; if finally, one cannot tire of contemplating it, what will be the beauty of the Sun of Righteousness? (Mal. 4:2) If the blind man suffers from not seeing the material sun, what a deprivation is it for the sinner not to enjoy the true light? (Basil, Hexaem. 6.1, NPNF2, vol. 8, pg. 82)

St. Cyprian on the help granted by God to Christians under persecution:
‎‎Nor is it difficult for God to open the mouth of a man devoted to Himself, and to inspire constancy and confidence in speech to His confessor; since in the book of Numbers He made even a she-ass to speak against the prophet Balaam. Wherefore in persecutions let no one think what danger the devil is bringing in, but let him indeed consider what help God affords; nor let human mischief overpower the mind, but let divine protection strengthen the faith; since every one, according to the Lord’s promises and the deservings of his faith, receives so much from God’s help as he thinks that he receives. Nor is there anything which the Almighty is not able to grant, unless the failing faith of the receiver be deficient and give way. (Cyprian, Ad Fort. 10, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 502)

St. Gregory the Great--patience is the gaurdian of our state:
‎ For victory over cities is a less thing, because that which is subdued is without; but a far greater thing is that which is conquered by patience, since the mind itself is by itself overcome, and subjects itself to itself, when patience compels it to bridle itself within. Let the impatient hear what the Truth says to His elect; In your patience ye shall possess your souls (Luke xxi. 19). For we are so wonderfully made that reason possesses the soul, and the soul the body. But the soul is ousted from its right of possession of the body, if it is not first possessed by reason. Therefore the Lord pointed out patience as the guardian of our state, in that He taught us to possess ourselves in it. (Gregory the Great, Pastor. 3.9, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 30)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Happened between Augustine and Martin Luther?

I've got a post up on my employer's blog in which I discuss the Middle Ages and pitch some things we sell that are useful for studying them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 2 Maccabees 7:1–2, 9–14
Second Reading 2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5
Gospel Luke 20:27–38 or Luke 20:27, 34–38

St. John Chrysostom--we need divine assistance to direct our hearts to the love of God:
‎“But the Lord,” he says, “direct your hearts into the love of God.” For there are many things that turn us aside from love, and there are many paths that draw us away from thence. In the first place the path of Mammon, laying, as it were, certain shameless hands upon our soul, and tenaciously holding it in its grasp, draws and drags us thence even against our will. Then vainglory and often afflictions and temptations, turn us aside. For this reason we need, as a certain wind, the assistance of God, that our sail may be impelled, as by some strong wind, to the love of God. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Thess. 5, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 393)

Tertullian on how the saints at the Resurrection will be like the angels:
‎‎“They shall be,” says He, “equal unto the angels.” (Lk 10:35; Mt 23:30) As by not marrying, because of not dying, so, of course, by not having to yield to any like necessity of our bodily state; even as the angels, too, sometimes. were “equal unto” men, by eating and drinking, and submitting their feet to the washing of the bath—having clothed themselves in human guise, without i the loss of their own intrinsic nature. If therefore angels, when they became as men, submitted in their own unaltered substance of spirit to be treated as if they were flesh, why shall not men in like manner, when they become “equal unto the angels,” undergo in their unchanged substance of flesh the treatment of spiritual beings, no more exposed to the usual solicitations of the flesh in their angelic garb, than were the angels once to those of the spirit when encompassed in human form? We shall not therefore cease to continue in the flesh, because we cease to be importuned by the usual wants of the flesh; just as the angels ceased not therefore to remain in their spiritual substance, because of the suspension of their spiritual incidents. Lastly, Christ said not, “They shall be angels,” in order not to repeal their existence as men; but He said, “They shall be equal unto the angels, that He might preserve their humanity unimpaired. When He ascribed an angelic likeness to the flesh,He took not from it its proper substance. (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh 62, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 593)

Tertullian--that there is no marriage after the Resurrection does not mean that no bond remains with a departed spouse:
‎‎But if we believe the resurrection of the dead, of course we shall be bound to them with whom we are destined to rise, to render an account the one of the other. “But if ’in that age they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be equal to angels,’ (See Mt 22:30, Mk 12:25, Lk 10:35, 36) is not the fact that there will be no restitution of the conjugal relation a reason why we shall not be bound to our departed consorts? ”Nay, but the more shall we be bound (to them), because we are destined to a better estate—destined (as we are) to rise to a spiritual consortship, to recognise as well our own selves as them who are ours. Else how shall we sing thanks to God to eternity, if there shall remain in us no sense and memory of this debt; if we shall be reformed in substance, not in consciousness? Consequently, we who shall be with God shall be together; since we shall all be with the one God. (Tertullian, On Monogamy 10, ANF, vol. 4, pg. 67)

St. Gregory of Nyssa argues that the condition of before the Fall, as there will be at the Resurrection, there was no marriage:
‎Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply but whatever the mode of increase in the angelic nature is (unspeakable and inconceivable by human conjectures, except that it assuredly exists), it would have operated also in the case of men, who were “made a little lower than the angels,” (Ps 8:6) to increase mankind to the measure determined by its Maker. (Greg. Nyss., De hom. opfi. 17.2, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 407)