Monday, February 7, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary
First Reading Sirach 15:15–20
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 2:6–10
Gospel Matthew 5:17–37 or Matthew 5:20–22a, 27–28, 33–34a, 37

St. Augustine counters a Pelagian reading of Sirach 15:15 by explaining that the will to keep the commandments comes from God:
‎‎‎Or again, because it is said, “The commandments, if thou wilt, shall save thee,” (Ecclus 15:15) —as if a man ought not to thank God, because he has a will to keep the commandments, since, if he wholly lacked the light of truth, it would not be possible for him to possess such a will. “Fire and water being set before him, a man stretches forth his hand towards which he pleases;” (Ecclus 15:16) and yet higher is He who calls man to his higher vocation than any thought on man’s own part, inasmuch as the beginning of correction of the heart lies in faith, even as it is written, “Thou shall come, and pass on from the beginning of faith.” (Cant 5:8) Every one makes his choice of good, “according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith;” (Rom 12:3) and as the Prince of faith says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (Jn 6:44) (Augustine, De perf. jusitit. 19.41, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 175)

St. Augustine--the Lord of glory took the form of a servant and was crucified in his human nature:
‎‎Yet unless the very same were the Son of man on account of the form of a servant which He took, who is the Son of God on account of the form of God in which He is; Paul the apostle would not say of the princes of this world, “For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Co 2:8) For He was crucified after the form of a servant, and yet “the Lord of glory” was crucified. For that “taking” was such as to make God man, and man God. Yet what is said on account of what, and what according to what, the thoughtful, diligent, and pious reader discerns for himself, the Lord being his helper. For instance, we have said that He glorifies His own, as being God, and certainly then as being the Lord of glory; and yet the Lord of glory was crucified, because even God is rightly said to have been crucified, not after the power of the divinity, but after the weakness of the flesh: (2 Co 13:4) (Augustine, De Trin. 1.13.28, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 33)

St. Augustine--we believe in order that we may know:
‎‎For we believe in order that we may know, we do not know in order that we may believe. For what we shall yet know, neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered the heart of man. (Is 54:5, 1 Co 2:9) For what is faith, but believing what you see not? Faith then is to believe what you see not; truth, to see what you have believed, as He Himself saith in a certain place. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 40.9, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 228)

St. John Chrysostom--in what sense the Gospel is a "mystery":
‎‎And though it be everywhere preached, still is it a mystery; for as we have been commanded, “what things we have heard in the ear, to speak upon the house tops,” so have we been also charged, “not to give the holy things unto dogs nor yet to cast our pearls before swine.” (Mt 7:9) For some are carnal and do not understand: others have a veil upon their hearts and do not see: wherefore that is above all things a mystery, which everywhere is preached, but is not known of those who have not a right mind; and is revealed not by wisdom but by the Holy Ghost, so far as is possible for us to receive it. And for this cause a man would not err, who in this respect also should entitle it a mystery, the utterance whereof is forbidden. For not even unto us, the faithful, hath been committed entire certainty and exactness. Wherefore Paul also said, (1 Co 13:9) “We know in part, and we prophesy in part: for now we see in a mirror darkly; but then face to face.” (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 7.3, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 35)

St. Irenaeus--Christ does not overturn the law, but fulfills it in the Sermon on the Mount:
‎‎‎ And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Mt 5:27, 28) And again: “It has been said, Thou shalt not kill. But I say unto you, Every one who is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Mt 5:21, 22) And, “It hath been said, Thou shalt not forswear thyself. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; but let your conversation be, Yea, yea, and Nay, nay.” (Mt 5:33) And other statements of a like nature. For all these do not contain or imply an opposition to and an overturning of the [precepts] of the past, as Marcion’s followers do strenuously maintain; but [they exhibit] a fulfilling and an extension of them, as He does Himself declare: “Unless your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:20) For what meant the excess referred to? In the first place, [we must] believe not only in the Father, but also in His Son now revealed; for He it is who leads man into fellowship and unity with God. In the next place, [we must] not only say, but we must do; for they said, but did not. And [we must] not only abstain from evil deeds, but even from the desires after them. Now He did not teach us these things as being opposed to the law, but as fulfilling the law, and implanting in us the varied righteousness of the law. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 4.13.1, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 477)

Tertullian on sins of the will:
‎‎ In fact, how does the Lord demonstrate Himself as adding a superstructure to the Law, except by interdicting sins of the will as well (as other sins); while He defines not only the man who had actually invaded another’s wedlock to be an adulterer, but likewise him who had contaminated (a woman) by the concupiscence of his gaze? (Mt 5:27, 28) Accordingly it is dangerous enough for the mind to set before itself what it is forbidden to perform, and rashly through the will to perfect its execution. And since the power of this will is such that, even without fully sating its self-gratification, it stands for a deed; as a deed, therefore, it shall be punished. It is utterly vain to say, “I willed, but yet I did not.” Rather you ought to carry the thing through, because you will; or else not to will, because you do not carry it through. But, by the confession of your consciousness, you pronounce your own condemnation. For if you eagerly desired a good thing, you would have been anxious to carry it through; in like manner, as you do not carry an evil thing through, you ought not to have eagerly desired it. Wherever you take your stand, you are fast bound by guilt; because you have either willed evil, or else have not fulfilled good. (Tertullian, On Repentance 3, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 659)

St. Augustine on how the righteousness of the Christian must exceed that of the Pharisees:
‎The righteousness of the Pharisees is, that they shall not kill; the righteousness of those who are destined to enter into the kingdom of God, that they be not angry without a cause. The least commandment, therefore, is not to kill; and whosoever shall break that, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall fulfil that commandment not to kill, will not, as a necessary consequence, be great and meet for the kingdom of heaven, but yet he ascends a certain step. He will be perfected, however, if he be not angry without a cause; and if he shall do this, he will be much further removed from murder. For this reason he who teaches that we should not be angry, does not break the law not to kill, but rather fulfils it; so that we preserve our innocence both outwardly when we do not kill, and in heart when we are not angry. (Augustine, De serm. Dom. in mont. 1.9, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 11)

St. John Chrysostom on Mt 5:23, 34:
‎‎First, as I have said, His will is to point out that He highly values charity and considers it to be the greatest sacrifice: and that without it He doth not receive even that other; next, He is imposing such a necessity of reconciliation, as admits of no excuse. For whoso hath been charged not to offer before he be reconciled, will hasten, if not for love of his neighbor, yet, that this may not lie unconsecrated, to run unto him who hath been grieved, and do away the enmity. For this cause He hath also expressed it all most significantly, to alarm and thoroughly to awaken him. Thus, when He had said, “Leave thy gift,” He stayed not at this, but added, “before the altar” (by the very place again causing him to shudder); “and go away.” And He said not merely, “Go away,” but He added, “first, and then come and offer thy gift.” By all these things making it manifest, that this table receives not them that are at enmity with each other. (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt 16.12, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 112)

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