Monday, March 21, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Second Sunday of Lent, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Genesis 12:1–4a
Second Reading 2 Timothy 1:8b–10
Gospel Matthew 17:1–9

St. Augustine--God commands Abram to leave his country not just in body but also in soul:
‎‎But when, on his having already settled in Mesopotamia, that is, already gone out of the land of the Chaldeans, God says, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house,” (Ge 12:1) this means, not that he should cast out his body from thence, for he had already done that, but that he should tear away his soul. For he had not gone out from thence in mind, if he was held by the hope and desire of returning, —a hope and desire which was to be cut off by God’s command and help, and by his own obedience. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 16.15.2, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 320)

St. Jerome--Abram seeks what he knows not, not to lose Him whom he has found:
‎‎To Abraham it is said: “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” (Ge 12:1) He leaves Chaldaea, he leaves Mesopotamia; he seeks what he knows not, not to lose Him whom he has found. He does not deem it possible to keep both his country and his Lord; even at that early day he is already fulfilling the prophet David’s words: “I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” (Ps 39:12) He is called “a Hebrew,” in Greek περατης, a passer-over, for not content with present excellence but forgetting those things which are behind he reaches forth to that which is before. (Php 3:13) He makes his own the words of the psalmist: “they shall go from strength to strength.” (Ps 84:7) Thus his name has a mystic meaning and he has opened for you a way to seek not your own things but those of another. You too must leave your home as he did, and must take for your parents, brothers, and relations only those who are linked to you in Christ. “Whosoever,” He says, “shall do the will of my father … the sameis my brother and sister and mother.” (Mt 12:50) (Jerome, Ep. 71.2, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 152-153)

St. John Chrysostom--God called us according to his own eternal purpose:
‎“And this not of ourselves, it was the gift of God.” If then He is mighty in calling us, and good, in that He hath done it of grace and not of debt, we ought not to fear. For He Who, when we should have perished, saved us, though enemies, by grace, will He not much more cooperate with us, when He sees us working? “Not according to our own works,” he says, “but according to his own purpose and grace,” that is, no one compelling, no one counseling Him, but of His own purpose, from the impulse of His own goodness, He saved us; for this is the meaning of “according to His own purpose.” “Which was given us before the world began.” That is, it was determined without beginning that these things should be done in Christ Jesus. This is no light consideration, that from the first He willed it. It was not an after-thought. How then is not the Son eternal? for He also willed it from the beginning. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Tim. 2, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 480)

Tertullian--in the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah speak face to face with God:
‎‎Since, therefore, He reserves to some future time His presence and speech face to face with Moses—a promise which was afterwards fulfilled in the retirement of the mount (of transfiguration), when as we read in the Gospel,” Moses appeared talking with Jesus” (Mk 9:4; Mt 17:3)—it is evident that in early times it was always in a glass, (as it were,) and an enigma, in vision and dream, that God, I mean the Son of God, appeared—to the prophets and the patriarchs, as also to Moses indeed himself. (Tertullian, Adv. Praxeas 14, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 609)

Origen--he who sees Jesus in his transfiguration sees the Law and the prophets in converse with him: 
‎‎But when the Son of God in His transfiguration is so understood and beheld, that His face is a sun, and His garments white as the light, straightway there will appear to him who beholds Jesus in such form Moses,—the law—and Elijah,—in the way of synecdoche, not one prophet only, but all the prophets—holding converse with Jesus; for such is the force of the words “talking with Him; ” (Mt 17:3) but, according to Luke, “Moses and Elijah appeared in glory,” down to the words, “in Jerusalem.” But if any one sees the glory of Moses, having understood the spiritual law as a discourse in harmony with Jesus, and the wisdom in the prophets which is hidden in a mystery, (1 Co 2:7) he sees Moses and Elijah in glory when he sees them with Jesus. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 12.38, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 470)

St. John Chrysostom on why only Peter, James and John are taken up the mountain:
‎‎Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his answer which he answered with his brother, saying, “We are able to drink the cup; (Mt 20:20, 22) nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 56.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 345)

St. John Chrysostom on the fear of the apostles:
‎How was it that, when they heard these words, they were dismayed? And yet before this also a like voice was uttered at Jordan, and a multitude was present, and no one felt anything of the kind; and afterwards again, when also they said, “It thundered, … yet neither at that time did they experience anything like this. How then did they fall down in the mount? Because there was solitude, and height. and great quietness, and a transfiguration full of awe, and a pure light, and a cloud stretched out; all which things put them in great alarm. And the amazement came thick on every side, and they fell down both in fear at once and in adoration.
‎But that the fear abiding so long might not drive out their recollection, presently He puts an end to their alarm, and is seen Himself alone, and commands them to tell no man this, until He is risen from the dead. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 56.6, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 348)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--the Father wills that we listen to his Son: 
‎The glory which they saw was not sufficient attestation of His majesty; the voice proclaims, This is My Son. The Apostles cannot face the glory of God; mortal eyes grow dim in its presence. The trust of Peter and James and John fails them, and they are prostrate in fear. But this solemn declaration, spoken from the Father’s knowledge, comes to their relief; He is revealed as His Father’s own true Son. And over and above the witness of This and My to His true Sonship, the words are uttered, Hear Him. It is the witness of the Father from heaven, in confirmation of the witness borne by the Son on earth; for we are bidden to hear Him. Though this recognition by the Father of the Son removes all doubt, yet we are bidden also to accept the Son’s self-revelation. When the Father’s voice commands us to shew our obedience by hearing Him, we are ordered to repose an absolute confidence in the words of the Son. Since, therefore, the Father has manifested His will in this message to us to hear the Son, let us hear what it is that the Son has told us concerning Himself. (Hilary, De Trin. 6.24, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 106)

Pope St. Leo the Great--in the Transfiguration, Christ fulfills his promise that some of his disciples would see him coming in his kingdom:
‎[A]lthough they had recognised the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know. And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom,” (Mt 16:28) that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun’s brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow. (Leo, Serm. 51.2, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 163)

For the Transfiguration, see also Second Sunday of Lent, Year C.

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