Monday, December 27, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Holy Family, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Sirach 3:2–7, 12–14
Second Reading Colossians 3:12–21 or Colossians 3:12–17
Gospel Matthew 2:13–15, 19–23

For the First and Second Readings, see Holy Family, Year C

St. John Chrysostom on the reasons for the flight into Egypt:
But wherefore, it may be said, is the young Child sent into Egypt? In the first place, the evangelist himself hath mentioned the cause, saying,” That it might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” And at the same time beginnings of fair hopes were thenceforth proclaimed before to the world. That is, since Babylon and Egypt, most in the whole earth, were burnt up with the flame of ungodliness, He, signifying from the first that He means to correct and amend both, and inducing men hereby to expect His bounties in regard of the whole world likewise, sent to the one the wise men, the other He Himself visited with His mother. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 8.3, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 51)

St. John Chrysostom on the the faith of St. Joseph:
Now the angel having thus appeared, talks not with Mary, but with Joseph; and what saith he? “Arise, and take the young Child and His mother.” Here, he saith not any more, “thy wife,” but “His mother.” For after that the birth had taken place, and the suspicion was done away, and the husband appeased, thenceforth the angel talks openly, calling neither child nor wife his, but “take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt;” and he mentions the cause of the flight: “For Herod,” saith he, “will seek the young Child’s life.”
‎Joseph, when he had heard these things, was not offended, nether did he say. “The thing is hard to understand: Didst thou not say just now, that He should ‘save His people?’ and now He saves not even Himself: but we must fly, and go far from home, and be a long time away: the facts are contrary to the promise.” Nay, none of these things doth he say (for the man was faithful): neither is he curious about the time of his return; and this though the angel had put it indefinitely thus: “Be thou there until I tell thee.” But nevertheless, not even at this did he shudder, but submits and obeys, undergoing all the trials with joy. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 8.4, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 52)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Christmas, During the Day

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 52:7–10
Second Reading Hebrews 1:1–6
Gospel John 1:1–18 or John 1:1–5, 9–14

St. John Chrysostom--the Gospel brings tidings of peace between God and man:
‎And again Isaiah saith, “How beautiful are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.” (Isa. lii. 7.) Who would not run, who would not serve in such a cause; to publish the good tidings of peace, peace between God and man, peace, where men have toiled not, but where God hath wrought all? (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 24, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 168)

Origen on the Christ, the brightness of the glory of God rendering us capable of seeing God, who is light:
‎‎But since we quoted the language of Paul regarding Christ, where He says of Him that He is “the brightness of the glory of God, and the express figure of His person,” (Heb 1:3) let us see what idea we are to form of this. According to John, “God is light.” The only-begotten Son, therefore, is the glory of this light, proceeding inseparably from (God) Himself, as brightness does from light, and illuminating the whole of creation. For, agreeably to what we have already explained as to the manner in which He is the Way, and conducts to the Father; and in which He is the Word, interpreting the secrets of wisdom, and the mysteries of knowledge, making them known to the rational creation; and is also the Truth, and the Life, and the Resurrection,—in the same way ought we to understand also the meaning of His being the brightness: for it is by its splendour that we understand and feel what light itself is. And this splendour, presenting itself gently and softly to the frail and weak eyes of mortals, and gradually training, as it were, and accustoming them to bear the brightness of the light, when it has put away from them every hindrance and obstruction to vision, according to the Lord’s own precept,” Cast forth the beam out of thine eye,” (Lk 6:42) renders them capable of enduring the splendour of the light, being made in this respect also a sort of mediator between men and the light. (Origen, De princ. 1.2.7, ANF, vol. 4, pg. 248)

Origen--the Son is begotten in the eternal "today" of God:
‎‎[W]hen the words are addressed to Him, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” (Mk 1:12, Ps 2:7, Heb 1:5) this is spoken to Him by God, with whom all time is to-day, for there is no evening with God, as I consider, and there is no morning, nothing but time that stretches out, along with His unbeginning and unseen life. The day is to-day with Him in which the Son was begotten, and thus the beginning of His birth is not found, as neither is the day of it. (Origen, Comm. Jo. 1.32, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 314)

St. John Chrysostom--not even the prophets saw God as the Son does, who reveals God to us:
‎‎And well did he begin thus, “At sundry times and in divers manners,” for he points out that not even the prophets themselves saw God; nevertheless, the Son saw Him. For the expressions, “at sundry times and in divers manners” are the same as “in different ways.” “For I” (saith He) “have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the ministry of the Prophets.” (Hos. xii. 10.) Wherefore the excellency consists not in this alone, that to them indeed prophets were sent, but to us the Son; but that none of them saw God, but the Only-begotten Son saw Him. He doth not indeed at once assert this, but by what he says afterwards he establishes it, when he speaks concerning His human nature; “For to which of the Angels said He, Thou art My Son,” (ver. 5), and, “Sit thou on My right hand”? (Ver. 13.) (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 1.1, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 366)

St. Gregory of Nyssa--Hebrews 1:3 shows that the Son is eternally begotten:
‎‎“Being,” he says (not becoming), “the brightness of His glory;” (Heb 1:3) so that clearly we may rid ourselves for ever of the blasphemy which lurks in either of those two conceptions; viz., that the Only-begotten can be thought of as Ungenerate (for he says “the brightness of His glory,” the brightness coming from the glory, and not, reversely, the glory from the brightness); or that He ever began to be. For the word “being” is a witness that interprets to us the Son’s continuity and eternity and superiority to all marks of time. (Gregory of Nyssa, Cont. Eun. 1.39, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 94)

Origen--Christ the light of the intellectual world:
‎Now the sensible light of the world is the sun, and after it comes very worthily the moon, and the same title may be applied to the stars; but those lights of the world are said in Moses to have come into existence on the fourth day, and as they shed light on the things on the earth, they are not the true light. But the Saviour shines on creatures which have intellect and sovereign reason, that their minds may behold their proper objects of vision, and so he is the light of the intellectual world, that is to say, of the reasonable souls which are in the sensible world, and if there be any beings beyond these in the world from which He declares Himself to be our Saviour. (Origen, Comm. Jo. 1.24, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 311)

St. Augustine--the Word became flesh like our own words take an outward form in speech:
‎‎In what way did He come but this, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”? (Jn 1:14) Just as when we speak, in order that what we nave in our minds may enter through the ear into the mind of the hearer, the word which we have in our hearts becomes an outward sound and is called speech; and yet our thought does not lose itself in the sound, but remains complete in itself, and takes the form of speech without being modified in its own nature by the change: so the Divine Word, though suffering no change of nature, yet became flesh, that He might dwell among us. (Augustine, De doctr. christ. 1.13, NPNF1. vol. 2, pg. 526)

St. Augustine--if all things were made by the Word, the Word himself can not be made:
‎‎Was the Word therefore made by the Father? No. “All things were made by Him.” (Jn 1:3) If by Him all things were made, was He too made by Himself? Do not imagine that He by whom thouhearest all things were made was Himself made among all things. For if He were made Himself, all things were not made by Him, but Himself was made among the rest. You say, “He was made;” what, by Himself? Who can make himself? If then He was made, how by Him were all things made? See, Himself too was made, as you say, not I, for that He was begotten, I do not deny. If then you say that He was made, I ask by what, by whom? By Himself? Then He “was,” before He was made, that He might make Himself. But if all things were made by Him, understand that He was not Himself made. (Augustine, Serm. 118.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 465)

St. Augustine on the wondrous exchange of the Incarnation:
‎‎Lo, they are born of God; whereby is it brought to pass that they should be born of God, who were first born of men? Whereby is it brought to pass, whereby? “And the Word was made Flesh, that It might dwell among us.” (Jn 1:14) Wondrous exchange; He made Flesh, they spirit. What is this? What condescension is here, my brethren! Lift up your minds to the hope and comprehension of better things. Give not yourselves up to worldly desires. “Ye have been bought with a Price; “ (1 Co 6:20) for your sakes the Word was made Flesh; for your sakes He who was the Son of God, was made the Son of man: that ye who were the sons of men, might be made sons of God. What was He, what was He made? What were ye, what were ye made? He was the Son of God. What was He made? The Son of man. Ye were the sons of men. What were ye made? The sons of God. He shared with us our evil things, to give us His good things. (Augustine, Serm. 121.5, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 470)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Christmas Dawn

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 62:11–12
Second Reading Titus 3:4–7
Gospel Luke 2:15–20

St. Augustine--in baptism, we recieve the certain hope of salvation:
‎It is true we have not yet risen as Christ has, but we are said to have risen with Him on account of the hope which we have in Him. So again he says: “According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration.” (Tit 3:5) Evidently what we obtain in the washing of regeneration is not the salvation itself, but the hope of it. And yet, because this hope is certain, we are said to be saved, as if the salvation were already bestowed. (Augustine, Contra Faustum 11.7, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 181)

For more on Titus 3:4-7, see Baptism of the Lord, Year C.
For Luke 2:15-20, see Mary, Mother of God.

Readings for Christmas Vigil and Christmas Midnight are the same in all three years and were posted last year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 7:10–14
Second Reading Romans 1:1–7
Gospel Matthew 1:18–24

St. Justin Martyr on prophecy preparing for faith and on the difference between the virgin birth and pagan myths:
‎‎And hear again how Isaiah in express words foretold that He should be born of a virgin; for he spoke thus: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall say for His name, ‘God with us.’ ” (Is 7:14) For things which were incredible and seemed impossible with men, these God predicted by the Spirit of prophecy as about to come to pass, in order that, when they came to pass, there might be no unbelief, but faith, because of their prediction. But lest some, not understanding the prophecy now cited, should charge us with the very things we have been laying to the charge of the poets who say that Jupiter went in to women through lust, let us try to explain the words. This, then, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” signifies that a virgin should conceive without intercourse. For if she had had intercourse with any one whatever, she was no longer a virgin; but the power of God having come upon the virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her while yet a virgin to conceive. (Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 33, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 174)

St. Irenaeus on the translation of Is. 7:14:
‎‎God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus: ] “Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son,” (Is 7:14) as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvellous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God. For truly this prediction was uttered before the removal of the people to Babylon; that is, anterior to the supremacy acquired by the Medes and Persians. But it was interpreted into Greek by the Jews themselves, much before the period of our Lord’s advent, that there might remain no suspicion that perchance the Jews, complying with our humour, did put this interpretation upon these words. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.21.1, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 451)

St. Jerome--Death came through Eve, but life came through Mary. Through Christ's birth of a virgin, the gift of continence has been bestwowed richly on women:
‎‎In those days, as I have said, the virtue of continence was found only in men: Eve still continued to travail with children. But now that a virgin has conceived (Is 7:14) in the womb and has borne to us a child of which the prophet says that “Government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called the mighty God, the everlasting Father,” (Is 9:6) now the chain of the curse is broken. Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary. And thus the gift of virginity has been bestowed most richly upon women, seeing that it has had its beginning from a woman. As soon as the Son of God set foot upon the earth, He formed for Himself a new household there; that, as He was adored by angels in heaven, angels might serve Him also on earth. (Jerome, Ep. 22.21, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 30)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem--Christ's birth from a woman without a man pays a debt of gratitude for Eve's creation from a man without a woman:
‎This debt of gratitude was due to men from womankind: for Eve was begotten of Adam, and not conceived of a mother, but as it were brought forth of man alone. Mary, therefore, paid the debt, of gratitude, when not by man but of herself alone in an immaculate way she conceived of the Holy Ghost by the power of God. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. 12.29, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 80)

Tertullian uses Rom. 1:3, 4 in explaining the Incarnation:
‎‎Thus does the apostle also teach respecting His two substances, saying, “who was made of the seed of David; ” (Rom 1:3) in which words He will be Man and Son of Man. “Who was declared to be the Son of God, according to the Spirit; ” (Rom 1:4) in which words He will be God, and the Word—the Son of God. We see plainly the twofold state, which is not confounded, but conjoined in One Person—Jesus, God and Man. (Tertullian, Against Praxeas 27, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 624)

St. Paul mentions Christ's generation according to the flesh not because it preceded his divinity but to lead his hearer from understanding his humanity to understanding his divinity:
‎For our discourse is not, saith he, of any bare man. Such was my reason for adding, “according to the flesh;” as hinting that there is also a Generation of the Same after the Spirit. And why did he begin from that and not from this the higher? It is because that was what Matthew, and Luke, and Mark, began from. For he who would lead men by the hand to Heaven, must needs lead them upwards from below. So too was the actual dispensation ordered. First, that is, they saw Him a man upon earth, and then they understood Him to be God. In the same direction then, as He Himself had framed His teaching, did His disciple also shape out the way which leadeth thither. Therefore the generation according to the flesh is in his language placed first in order, not because it was first, but because he was for leading the hearer from this up to that. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 1, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 340)

St. Augustine on St. Joseph, the "just man":
‎‎“When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with Child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily;” (Mt. 1:19) for because he knew that she was not with child by him, he thought that she was so to say necessarily an adulteress. “Being a just man,” as the Scripture saith,” and not willing to make her a public example,” (that is, to divulge the matter, for so it is in many copies), “he was minded to put her away privily.” The husband indeed was in trouble, but as being a just man he deals not severely; for so great justice is ascribed to this man, as that he neither wished to keep an adulterous wife, nor could bring himself to punish and expose her. “He was minded to put her away privily,” because he was not only unwilling to punish, but even to betray her; and mark his genuine justice; for he did not wish to spare her, because he had a desire to keep her; for many spare their adulterous wives through a carnal love, choosing to keep them even though adulterous, that they may enjoy them through a carnal desire. But this just man has no wish to keep her, and so does not love in any carnal sort; and yet he does not wish to punish her; and so in his mercy he spares her. How truly just a man is this! He would neither keep an adulteress, lest he should seem to spare her because of an impure affection, and yet he would not punish or betray her. Deservedly indeed was he chosen for the witness of his wife’s virginity: and so he who was in trouble through human infirmity, was assured by Divine authority. (Augustine, Serm. 51.6.9, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 248-249)

St. John Chrysostom on why Christ was not concieved before Mary and Joseph's espousal:
‎And wherefore did she not conceive before her espousal? It was, as I said at first, that what had been done might be concealed awhile, and that the Virgin might escape every evil suspicion. For when he, who had most right of all to feel jealousy, so far from making her a show, or degrading her, is found even receiving and cherishing her after her conception; it was quite clear that, unless he had fully persuaded himself that what was done was of the operation of the Holy Spirit, he would not have kept her with him, and ministered to her in all other things. And most properly hath he said, that “she was ‘found’ with child,” the sort of expression that is wont to be used with respect to things strange, and such as happen beyond all expectation, and are unlooked for. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 4.5, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 22)

See also Christmas Vigil for more on Mt 1:18-25.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Third Sunday of Advent, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 35:1–6a, 10
Second Reading James 5:7–10
Gospel Matthew 11:2–11

St. Gregory of Nyssa--the thirsty wilderness a figure for the soul thirsting for God:
‎‎And where shall we place that oracle of Isaiah, which cries to the wilderness, “Be glad, O thirsty wilderness: let the desert rejoice and blossom as a lily: and the desolate places of Jordan shall blossom and shall rejoice” (Is 35:1, 2) ? For it is clear that it is not to places without soul or sense that he proclaims the good tidings of joy: but he speaks, by the figure of the desert, of the soul that is parched and unadorned, even as David also, when he says, “My soul is unto Thee as a thirsty land,” (Ps 143:6) and, “My soul is athirst for the mighty, for the living God.” (Ps 42:2) (Greg. Nyss. On the Baptism of Christ, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 523)

St. Augustine--John the Baptist's greatness due to his both foretelling and seeing Christ:
‎‎‎ So John saw his brother, a brother in the family of Abraham, and from the relationship of Mary and Elisabeth; and the same person he recognised as his Lord and his God, for, as he himself says, he received of His fullness. (Jn 1:6) On account of this vision, among those born of woman, there has arisen no greater than he; (Mt 11:11) because, of all who foretold Christ, he alone saw what many righteous men and prophets desired to see and saw not. He saluted Christ from the womb; (Lk 1:44) he knew Him more certainly from seeing the dove; and therefore, as the Adullamite, he gave testimony by water. (Augustine, Contra Faustum 22.85, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 307)

St. John Chrysostom--John sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was the Messiah not because he did not know but in order that they might learn for themselves:
‎‎Now if he had said, “Go ye away unto Him, He is better than I,” he would not have persuaded them, minded as they were not easily to be separated from him, but rather he would have been thought to say it out of modesty, and they would have been the more rivetted to him; or if he had held his peace, then again nothing was gained. What then doth he? He waits to hear from them that Christ is working miracles, and not even so doth he admonish them, nor doth he send all, but some two (whom he perhaps knew to be more teachable than the rest); that the inquiry might be made without suspicion, in order that from His acts they might learn the difference between Jesus and himself. And he saith, Go ye, and say, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another? “ (Mt 11:3) (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 36.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, p. 239)

St. Jerome uses Mt 11:11 to argue there is diversity, greater and lesser, in heaven:
‎‎Certainly amongst them that have been born of women, there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. But the term greater implies others who are less. And (Mt 11:11) “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” You see then that in heaven one is greatest and another is least, and that among the angels and the invisible creation there is a manifold and infinite diversity. (Jerome, Adv. Jov. 2.27, NPNF2, vol. 2, pg. 408-409)