Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary
First Reading Acts 2:14a, 36–41
Second Reading 1 Peter 2:20b–25
Gospel John 10:1–10

St. John Chrysostom--with gentleness, Peter wins over those who had cricified the Lord:
‎Do you see what a great thing gentleness is? More than any vehemence, it pricks our hearts, inflicts a keener wound. For as in the case of bodies which have become callous the man that strikes upon them does not affect the sense so powerfully, but if he first mollify them and make them tender, then he pierces them effectually; so in this instance also, it is necessary first to mollify. But that which softens, is not wrath, not vehement accusation, not personal abuse; it is gentleness. The former indeed rather aggravate the callousness, this last alone removes it. If then you are desirous to reprove any delinquent, approach him with all possible mildness. For see here; he gently reminds them of the outrages they have committed, adding no comment; he declares the gift of God, he goes on to speak of the grace which bore testimony to the event, and so draws out his discourse to a still greater length. So they stood in awe of the gentleness of Peter, in that he, speaking to men who had crucified his Master, and breathed murder against himself and his companions, discoursed to them in the character of an affectionate father and teacher. Not merely were they persuaded; they even condemned themselves, they came to a sense of their past behavior. For he gave no room for their anger to be roused, and darken their judgment, but by means of humility he dispersed, as it were, the mist and darkness of their indignation, and then pointed out to them the daring outrage they had committed.  (Chrysostom, Hom. Act. 7, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 44)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem on the power of Baptism to purify from all sin, even that of crucifying the Lord:
‎‎What can be a greater sin than to crucify Christ? Yet even of this Baptism can purify. For so spake Peter to the three thousand who came to him, to those who had crucified the Lord, when they asked him, saying, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37) For the wound is great. Thou hast made us think of our fall, O Peter, by saying, Ye killed the Prince of Life. (Acts 3:15) What salve is there for so great a wound? What cleansing for such foulness? What is the salvation for such perdition? Repent, saith he, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:58) O unspeakable loving-kindness of God! They have no hope of being saved, and yet they are thought worthy of the Holy Ghost. Thou seest the power of Baptism! If any of you has crucified the Christ by blasphemous words; if any of you in ignorance has denied Him before men; if any by wicked works has caused the doctrine to be blasphemed; let him repent and be of good hope, for the same grace is present even now. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. 3.15, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 17-18)

St. Ambrose--Acts 2:36 does not imply that the Son of God is a created being, but rather refers to the manhood he assumed:
‎‎To no purpose, then, is the heretics’ customary citation of the Scripture, that “God made Him both Lord and Christ.” Let these ignorant persons read the whole passage, and understand it. For thus it is written. “God made this Jesus, Whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36, cf. 1 Jn 4:3) It was not the Godhead, but the flesh, that was crucified. This, indeed, was possible, because the flesh allowed of being crucified. It follows not, then, that the Son of God is a created being. (Ambrose, De fide 1.15.95, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 217)

St. Augustine--let us imitate Christ in forgiving others:
‎‎ Thou art just on the point of saying to me, “But I am not God, I am a man, a sinner.” God be thanked that thou dost confess thou hast sins. Forgive then, that they may be forgiven thee. Yet the Lord Himself our God exhorteth us to imitate Him. In the first place God Himself, Christ, exhorteth us, of whom the Apostle Peter said, “Christ hath suffered for us, leaving you an example that ye should follow His steps, who did no sin, neither was guile, found in His mouth.” (1 Pe 2:21, 22) He then verily had no sin, yet did He die for our sins, and shed His Blood for the remission of sins. He took upon Him for our sakes what was not His due, that He might deliver us from what was due to us. Death was not due to Him, nor life to us. Why? Because we were sinners. Death was not due to Him, nor life to us; He received what was not due to Him, He gave what was not due to us. (Augustine, Serm. 114.3, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 453)

St. Augustine--he enters through the gate, who imitates the passion of Christ:
‎‎Ye heard when the Gospel was being read, “He that entereth in by Door, is the shepherd; but he that goeth up another way, is a thief and a robber; and he seeketh to disperse, and to scatter, and to spoil.” (Jn 10:1 etc.) Who is he that entereth in by the Door? He that entereth in by Christ. Who is he? He who imitateth the Passion of Christ, who acknowledgeth the Humility of Christ; that whereas God was made Man for us, man may acknowledge himself to be, not God, but man. For whose wisheth to appear God, when he is man, doth not imitate Him, who, being God, was made Man. But to thee it is not said,Be anything less than thou art; but acknowledge what thou art. Acknowledge thyself feeble, acknowledge thyself man, acknowledge thyself a sinner; acknowledge that it is He That justifieth, acknowledge that thou art full of stains. Let the stain of thine heart appear in thy confession, and thou shalt belong to Christ’s flock. (Augustine, Serm. 137.4.4, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 518)

St. Augustine--living well is of no benefit to those who do not enter by the gate into the sheepfold:
‎Pagans may say, then, We live well. If they enter not by the door, what good will that do them, whereof they boast? For to this end ought good living to benefit every one, that it may be given him to live for ever: for to whomsoever eternal life is not given, of what benefit is the living well? For they ought not to be spoken of as even living well, who either from blindness know not the end of a right life, or in their pride despise it. But no one has the true and certain hope of living always, unless he know the life, that it is Christ; and enter by the gate into the sheepfold. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 45.2, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 250)

St. Augustine on going in and out by the gate:
‎‎But what is this, “He shall go in and out, and find pasture”? To enter indeed into the Church by Christ the door, is eminently good; but to go out of the Church, as this same John the evangelist saith in his epistle, “They went out from us, but they were not of us,” (Jn 17:24) is certainly otherwise than good. Such a going out could not then be commended by the good Shepherd, when He said, “And he shall go in and out, and find pasture.” There is therefore not only some sort of entrance, but some outgoing also that is good, by the good door, which is Christ. But what is that praiseworthy and blessed outgoing? I might say, indeed, that we enter when we engage in some inward exercise of thought; and go out, when we take to some active work without: and since, as the apostle saith, Christ dwelleth in our hearts by faith,29 to enter by Christ is to give ourselves to thought in accordance with that faith; but to go out by Christ is, in accordance also with that same faith, to take to outside works, that is to say, in the presence of others. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 45.15, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 255)

St. John Chrysostom--the Scriptures are a door that bring us to God:
‎‎And with good cause He calleth the Scriptures “a door,” for they bring us to God, and open to us the knowledge of God, they make the sheep, they guard them, and suffer not the wolves to come in after them. For Scripture, like some sure door, barreth the passage against the heretics, placing us in a state of safety as to all that we desire, and not allowing us to wander; and if we undo it not, we shall not easily be conquered by our foes. By it we can know all, both those who are, and those who are not, shepherds. But what is “into the fold”? It refers to the sheep, and the care of them. For he that useth not the Scriptures, but “climbeth up some other way,” that is, who cutteth out for himself another and an unusual way, “the same is a thief.” (Chrysostom, Hom. 59.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 213)

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