Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Baptism of the Lord, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7
Second Reading Acts 10:34–38
Gospel Matthew 3:13–17

For the First and Second Readings, see Baptism of the Lord, Year C.

St. Augustine--Jesus was baptized to consecrate the path of humilty:
‎‎Nor do I conceive that the function of baptizing was assigned to John, so that it should be called John’s baptism, for any other reason except that the Lord Himself, who had appointed it, in not disdaining to receive the baptism of His servant, (Mt 3:6, 13) might consecrate the path of humility, and show most plainly by such an action how high a value was to be placed on His own baptism, with which He Himself was afterwards to baptize. For He saw, like an excellent physician of eternal salvation, that overweening pride would be found in some, who, having made such progress in the understanding of the truth and in uprightness of character that they would not hesitate to place themselves, both in life and knowledge, above many that were baptized, would think it was unnecessary for them to be baptized, since they felt that they had attained a frame of mind to which many that were baptized were still only endeavoring to raise themselves. (Augustine, De bapt. 4.22.30, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 461)

St. Augustine--the Trinity is made manifest at Jesus' baptism:
‎‎Here then we have the Trinity in a certain sort distinguished. The Father in the Voice,—the Son in the Man,—the Holy Spirit in the Dove. It was only needful just to mention this, for most obvious is it to see. For the notice of the Trinity is here conveyed to us plainly and without leaving room for doubt or hesitation. For the Lord Christ Himself coming in the form of a servant to John, is doubtlessly the Son: for it cannot be said that it was the Father, or the Holy Spirit. “Jesus,” it is said, “cometh;” (Mt 3:13) that is, the Son of God. And who hath any doubt about the Dove? or who saith, “What is the Dove?” when the Gospel itself most plainly testifieth, “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove.” (Mt 3:16) And in like manner as to that voice there can be no doubt that it is the Father’s, when He saith, “Thou art My Son.” (Mt 3:17, Mk 1:13) Thus then we have the Trinity distinguished. (Augustine, Serm. 52.11, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 259)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ's submission to baptism follows from his becoming man:
‎With the servants the Lord, with the criminals the Judge, cometh to be baptized. But be not thou troubled; for in these humiliations His exaltation doth most shine forth. For He who vouchsafed to be borne so long in a Virgin’s womb, and to come forth thence with our nature, and to be smitten with rods, and crucified, and to suffer all the rest which He suffered;—why marvellest thou if He vouchsafed also to be baptized, and to come with the rest to His servant. For the amazement lay in that one thing, that being God, He would be made Man; but the rest afar this all follows in course of reason. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 12.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 75)

St. John Chrysostom on the Holy Spirit descending like a dove:
‎‎But why in the fashion of a dove? Gentle is that creature, and pure. Forasmuch then as the Spirit too is “a Spirit of meekness,” (Gal 6:1) He therefore appears in this sort. And besides, He is reminding us of an ancient history. For so, when once a common shipwreck had overtaken the whole world, and our race was in danger of perishing, this creature appeared, and indicated the deliverance from the tempest, and bearing an olive branch, (Gen 8) published the good tidings of the common calm of the whole world; all which was a type of the things to come. For in fact the condition of men was then much worse, and they deserved a much sorer punishment. To prevent thy despairing, therefore, He reminds thee of that history. Because then also, when things were desperate, there was a sort of deliverance and reformation; but then by punishment, now, on the contrary, by grace and an unspeakable gift. (2 Cor 9:15)Therefore the dove also appears, not bearing an olive branch, but pointing out to us our Deliverer from all evils, and suggesting the gracious hopes. For not from out of an ark doth she lead one man only, but the whole world she leads up into heaven at her appearing, and instead of a branch of peace from an olive, she conveys the adoption to all the world’s offspring in common. (Chryostom, Hom. Mt. 12.3, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 77)

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