Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Ezekiel 37:12–14
Second Reading Romans 8:8–11
Gospel John 11:1–45 or John 11:3–7, 17, 20–27, 33b–45

For Rom. 8:1-11, see Pentecost, Year C.

St. Cyprian--the Christian has hope in the face of death:
‎‎But we who live in hope, and believe in God, and trust that Christ suffered for us and rose again, abiding in Christ, and through Him and in Him rising again, why either are we ourselves unwilling to depart hence from this life, or do we bewail and grieve for our friends when they depart as if they were lost, when Christ Himself, our Lord and God, encourages us and says, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall not die eternally?” (Jn 11:25) If we believe in Christ, let us have faith in His words and promises; and since we shall not die eternally, let us come with a glad security unto Christ, with whom we are both to conquer and to reign for ever. (Cyprian, De mort. 21, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 474)

Origen--Jesus himself is the resurrection and the other good things announced in the Gospel:
‎‎Now what the Gospels say is to be regarded in the light of promises of good things; and we must say that the good things the Apostles announce in this Gospel are simply Jesus. One good thing which they are said to announce is the resurrection; but the resurrection is in a manner Jesus, for Jesus says: (Jn 11:25) “I am the resurrection.” (Origen, Comm. Jo. 1.10, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 302)

St. Augustine--Christ's own example shows that sorrow over death is not altogether prohibited:
‎There is nothing in the sorrow of mortals over their dearly beloved dead which merits displeasure; but the sorrow of believers ought not to be prolonged. If, therefore, you have been grieved till now, let this grief suffice, and sorrow not as do the heathen, “who have no hope.” (1 Th 4:12) For when the Apostle Paul said this, he did not prohibit sorrow altogether, but only such sorrow as the heathen manifest who have no hope. For even Martha and Mary, pious sisters, and believers, wept for their brother Lazarus, of whom they knew that he would rise again, though they knew not that he was at that time to be restored to life; and the Lord Himself wept for that same Lazarus, whom He was going to bring back from death; (Jn 11:19-35) wherein doubtless He by His example permitted, though He did not by any precept enjoin, the shedding of tears over the graves even of those regarding whom we believe that they shall rise again to the true life. (Augustine, Ep. 263.3, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 592)

St. Augustine--Christ raises the sinner buried by the load of evil habit:
‎‎But the sinner is dead, especially he whom the load of sinful habit presseth down, who is buried as it were like Lazarus. For he was not merely dead, he was buried also. (Jn 11:17) Whosoever then is oppressed by the load of evil habit, of a wicked life, of earthly lusts, I mean, so that that in his case is true which is piteously described in a certain Psalm, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,” (Ps 14:1) he is such an one, of whom it is said, “Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not.” And who shall raise him up, but He who when the stone was removed, cried out, and said, “Lazarus, Come forth?” (Jn 11:43) Now what is to “come forth,” but to bring forth what was hidden? He then who confesseth “cometh forth.” “Come forth” he could not were he not alive; he could not be alive, had he not been raised again. And therefore in confession the accusing of one’s self, is the praise of God. (Augustine, Serm. 67.1.2, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 311)

St. Augustine--the four days Lazarus was dead signify four deaths by sin of mankind:
‎‎When a man is born, he is born already in a state of death; for he inherits sin from Adam. Hence the apostle says: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so that passed upon all men, wherein all have sinned.” (Ro 5:12) Here you have one day of death because man inherits it from the seed stock of death. Thereafter he grows, and begins to approach the years of reason that he may know the law of nature, which every one has had implanted in his heart: What thou wouldst not have done to thyself, do not to another. Is this learned from the pages of a book, and not in a measure legible in our very nature? Hast thou any desire to be robbed? Certainly not. See here, then, the law in thy heart: What thou art unwilling to suffer, be unwilling to do. This law also is transgressed by men; and here, then, we have the second day of death. The law was also divinely given through Moses, the servant of God; and therein it is said,” Thou shall not kill; thou shall not commit adultery; thou shall not bear false witness; honor thy father and mother; thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property; thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” (Ex 10:12-17) Here you have the written law, and it also is despised: this is the third day of death. What remains? The gospel also comes, the kingdom of heaven is preached, Christ is everywhere published; He threatens hell, He promises eternal life; and that also is despised. Men transgress the gospel; and this is the fourth day of death. Now he deservedly stinketh. But is mercy to be denied to such? God forbid; for to raise such also from the dead, the Lord thinks it not unfitting to come. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 49.12, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 247)

St. Hilary--Christ prayed not because of his own need but for our benefit:
‎‎When He was about to restore Lazarus, He prayed to the Father: but what need had He of prayer, Who said, Father, I thank Thee, that Thou hast heard Me; and I know that Thou hearest Me always, but because of the multitude I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me? (Jn 11:41, 42) He prayed then for us, that we may know Him to be the Son; the words of prayer availed Him nothing, but He said them for the advancement of our faith. He was not in want of help, but we of teaching. (Hilary, De Trin. 10.71, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 202)

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