Friday, January 28, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12–13
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:26–31
Gospel Matthew 5:1–12a

St. Augustine--those who hunger and thirst for righteous, thirst for Christ, who is made unto us righteousness:
‎‎‎Lastly, in the precept it is written, “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness;” but in the reward, “Because they shall be filled.” (Mt 5:6)Whence, I ask, shall they be filled, except with what they hunger and thirst after? Who, then, is so abhorrent, not only from the divine perception, but also from the human perception, as to say that in man there can be such righteousness while he is hungering and thirsting for it, as there will be when he shall be filled with it? But when we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, if the faith of Christ is watchful in us, what is it to be believed that we are hungering and thirsting for, save Christ?“For He is made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that, as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Co 1:30, 31) And because we only believe on Him not seeing Him, therefore we thirst and hunger after righteousness. For as long as we are in the body, we wander from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by appearance. But when we shall see Him, and attain certainly to the appearance, we shall rejoice with joy unspeakable; and then we shall be filled with righteousness, since now we say to Him with pious longing, “I shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall be manifested.” (Ps 17:15) (Augustine, Contra duas epist. Pelag. 3.7.17, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 410)

St. John Chrysostom on God's passing over the mighty and noble:
‎“Not many mighty, not many noble;” for these also are filled with pride. And nothing is so useless towards an accurate knowledge of God as arrogance, and being nailed down (προσηλωσθαι) to wealth: for these dispose a man to admire things present, and make no account of the future; and they stop up the ears through the multitude of cares: but “the foolish things of the world God chose:” which thing is the person one meets in the market more of a philosopher than themselves. Wherefore also he said himself, “That He might put to shame the wise.” And not in this instance alone hath he done this, also in the case of the other advantages of life. For, to proceed, “the weak sons only, but needy also, and contemptible and obscure He called, that He might humble those who were in high places. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 5.2, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 23)

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the humble backgrounds of the apostles called by Christ:
‎‎The prophet Amos was a goat-herd; Peter was a fisherman, and his brother Andrew followed the same employment; so too was the sublime John; Paul was a tent-maker, Matthew a publican, and the rest of the Apostles in the same way—not consuls, generals, prefects, or distinguished in rhetoric and philosophy, but poor, and of none of the learned professions, but starting from the more humble occupations of life: and yet for all that their voice went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. “Consider your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world.” (1 Co 1:26, 27) Perhaps even now it is thought something foolish, as things appear to men, when one is not able to do much from poverty, or is slighted because of meanness of extraction5, not of character. But who knows whether the horn of anointing is not poured out by grace upon such an one, even though he be less than the lofty and more illustrious? Which was mere to the interest of the Church at Rome, that it should at its commencement be presided over by some high-born and pompous senator, or by the fisherman Peter, who had none of this world’s advantages to attract men to him6? What house had he, what slaves, what property ministering luxury, by wealth constantly flowing in? But that stranger, without a table, without a roof over his head, was richer than those who have all things, because through having nothing he had God wholly. (Gregory of Nyssa, Ep. 13, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 536)

St. Clement of Alexandria on the Beatitudes:
‎‎“Blessed, then, are the peacemakers,” (Mt 5:9) who have subdued and tamed the law which wars against the disposition of the mind, the menaces of anger, and the baits of lust, and the other passions which war against the reason; who, having lived in the knowledge both of good works and true reason, shall be reinstated in adoption, Which is dearer. It follows that the perfect peacemaking is that which keeps unchanged in all circumstances what is peaceful; calls Providence holy and good; and has its being in the knowledge of divine and human affairs, by which it deems the opposites that are in the world to be the fairest harmony of creation. They also are peacemakers, who teach those who war against the stratagems of sin to have recourse to faith and peace. And it is the sum of all virtue, in my opinion, when the Lord teaches us that for love to God we must gnostically despise death. “Blessed are they,” says He, “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for they shall be called the sons of God; ” (Mt 5:10) or, as some of those who transpose the Gospels say, “Blessed are they who are persecuted by righteousness, for they shall be perfect.” And, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for my sake; for they shall have a place where they shall not be persecuted.” And, “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, when they shall separate you, when they shall cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake; ” (Lk 6:22) if we do not detest our persecutors, and undergo punishments at their hands, not hating them under the idea that we have been put to trial more tardily than we looked for; but knowing this also, that every instance of trial is an occasion for testifying. (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 4.6, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 416)

St. Augustine on seeing God:
‎‎And let us hasten on to that good which has no motion in space or advancement in time, from which all natures in space and time receive their sensible being and their form. To see this good let us purify our heart by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt 5:8) For the eyes needed in order to see this good are not those with which we see the light spread through space, which has part in one place and part in another, instead of being all in every place. The sight and the discernment we are to purify is that by which we see, as far as is allowed in this life, what is just, what is pious, what is the beauty of wisdom. He who sees these things,values them far above the fullness of all regions in space, and finds that the vision of these things requires not the extension of his perception through distances in space, but its invigoration by an immaterial influence. (Augustine, Contra fund. 42.48, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 150)

St. Augustine--the Christian mourns the loss of the worldly things he turned from, but is comforted by the Paraclete:
‎‎ “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Mourning is sorrow arising from the loss of things held dear; but those who are converted to God lose those things which they were accustomed to embrace as dear in this world: for they do not rejoice in those things in which they formerly rejoiced; and until the love of eternal things be in them, they are wounded by some measure of grief. Therefore they will be comforted by the Holy Spirit, who on this account chiefly is called the Paraclete, i.e. the Comforter, in order that, while losing the temporal joy, they may enjoy to the full that which is eternal. (Augustine, De serm. Dom. in mont. 1.2.5, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 5)

St. John Chrysostom on poverty in spirit:
‎What is meant by “the poor in spirit?” The humble and contrite in mind. For by “spirit” He hath here designated the soul, and the faculty of choice. That is, since many are humble not willingly, but compelled by stress of circumstances; letting these pass (for this were no matter of praise), He blesses them first, who by choice humble and contract themselves. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 15.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 92)

St. Ambrose--the Lord promises a future reward:
‎‎Is not he unjust who gives the reward before the end of the contest? Therefore the Lord says in the Gospel: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3) He said not: “Blessed are the rich,” but “the poor.” By the divine judgment blessedness begins there whence human misery is supposed to spring. “Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled; Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the merciful, for God will have mercy on them; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you for righteousness’ sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for plentiful is your reward in heaven.” (Mt 5:4) A reward future and not present,—in heaven, not on earth,—has He promised shall be given. What further dost thou expect? What further is due? Why dost thou demand the crown with so much haste, before thou dost conquer? Why dost thou desire to shake off the dust and to rest? Why dost thou long to sit at the feast before the course is finished? As yet the people are looking on, the athletes are in the arena, and thou—dost thou already look for ease? Ambrose, De offic. 1.16.59, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 11)

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