Monday, January 31, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Presentation of the Lord

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Malachi 3:1–4
Second Reading Hebrews 2:14–18
Gospel Luke 2:22–40 or Luke 2:22–32

St. Augustine on Mal 3:1, 2:
‎‎Nor is it to be wondered at that Christ Jesus is called the Angel of the Almighty God. For just as He is called a servant on account of the form of a servant in which He came to men, so He is called an angel on account of the evangel which He proclaimed to men. For if we interpret these Greek words, evangel is “good news,” and angel is “messenger.” Again he says of Him, “Behold I will send mine angel, and He will look out the way before my face: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come into His temple, even the Angel of the testament, whom ye desire. Behold, He cometh, saith the Lord Almighty, and who shall abide the day of His entry, or who shall stand at His appearing?” (Mal 3:1, 2) In this place he has foretold both the first and second advent of Christ: the first, to wit, of which he says, “And He shall come suddenly into His temple;” that is, into His flesh, of which He said in the Gospel, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” (Jn 2:19) And of the second advent he says, “Behold, He cometh, saith the Lord Almighty, and who shall abide the day of His entry, or who shall stand at His appearing?” (Augustine, De civ. Dei 18.35.3, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 381)

St. Augustine--the death of the body came about through the instigation of the devil:
‎‎Hence the Lord Himself willed to die, “in order that,” as it is written of Him, “through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb 2:14) From this passage it is shown with sufficient clearness that even the death of the body came about by the instigation and work of the devil,— in a word, from the sin which he persuaded man to commit; nor is there any other reason why he should be said in strictness of truth to hold the power of death. (Augustine, De pecc. merit. et remiss. 2.31.51, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 65)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ used the devil's own strongest weapon, death, to overcome him:
‎‎Next he sets down also the cause of the economy. “That through death,” he says, “He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
‎‎Here he points out the wonder, that by what the devil prevailed, by that was he overcome, and the very thing which was his strong weapon against the world, [namely], Death, by this Christ smote him. In this he exhibits the greatness of the conqueror’s power. Dost thou see how great good death hath wrought? (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 4.6, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 384)

St. Methodius of Olympus--Simeon and Anna represent the peoples of the Old and New Covenants:
‎When, then, to these sacred rites, prophecy and the priesthood had been jointly called, and that pair of just ones elected of God—Simeon, I mean, and Anna, bearing in themselves most evidently the images of both peoples—had taken their station by the side of that glorious and virginal throne,—for by the old man was represented the people of Israel, and the law now waxing old; whilst the widow represents the Church of the Gentiles, which had been up to this point a widow,—the old man, indeed, as personating the law, seeks dismissal; but the widow, as personating the Church, brought her joyous confession of faith100 and spake of Him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem, even as the things that were spoken of both have been appositely and excellently recorded, and quite in harmony with the sacred festival. (Methodius of Olympus, Oration Concerning Simeon and Anna, ANF, vol. 6, pg. 391)

St. Jerome on prophecy of Simeon:
‎‎The righteous Simeon says in the gospel: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many,” (Lk 2:34) for the fall, that is, of sinners and for the rising again of the penitent. (Jerome, Ep. 122.3, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 228)

St. John Damascene on the sword that pierced Mary's soul:
‎‎But this blessed woman, who was deemed worthy of gifts that are supernatural, suffered those pains, which she escaped at the birth, in the hour of the passion, enduring from motherly sympathy the rending of the bowels, and when she beheld Him, Whom she knew to be God by the manner of His generation, killed as a malefactor, her thoughts pierced her as a sword, and this is the meaning of this verse: Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own saul also (Lk 2:35). But the joy of the resurrection transforms the pain, proclaiming Him, Who died in the flesh, to be God. (John Damascene, De Fide Orth. 4.14, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 86)

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