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)

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