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)

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