Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Body and Blood of Christ, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary
First Reading Deuteronomy 8:2–3, 14b–16a
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 10:16–17
Gospel John 6:51–58

St. Jerome--Moses' own experience proof that man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord:
‎‎For forty days and forty nights Moses lived by the intimate converse which he had with God, thus proving in his own case the complete truth of the saying, “man doth not live by bread only but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Dt 8:3) (Jerome, Ep. 130.10, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 266)

St. Ambrose on the spiritual satiety that knowledge brings about:
‎‎In all things [St. Paul] was accustomed both to be full and to be hungry. Blessed is he that knows how to be full in Christ. Not corporal, but spiritual, is that satiety which knowledge brings about. And rightly is there need of knowledge: “For man lives not by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Dt 8:3) For he who knew how to be full also knew how to be hungry, so as to be always seeking something new, hungering after God, thirsting for the Lord. He knew how to hunger, for he knew that the hungry shall eat. (Mt 5:6) He knew, also, how to abound, and was able to abound, for he had nothing and yet possessed all things. (2 Co 6:10) (Ambrose, De offic. 2.18, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 58)

St. Augustine--if you wish to live in the Spirit of Christ, be in the body of Christ:
‎‎Wouldst thou then also live by the Spirit of Christ. Be in the body of Christ. For surely my body does not live by thy spirit. My body lives by my spirit, and thy body by thy spirit. The body of Christ cannnot live but by the Spirit of Christ. It is for this that the Apostle Paul, expounding this bread, says: “One bread,” saith he, “we being many are one body.” (1 Co 10:17) O mystery of piety! O sign of unity! O bond of charity! He that would live has where to live, has whence to live. Let him draw near, let him believe; let him be embodied, that he may be made to live. Let him not shrink from the compact of members; let him not be a rotten member that deserves to be cut off; let him not be a deformed member whereof to be ashamed; let him be a fair, fit, and sound member; let him cleave to the body, live for God by God: now let him labor on earth, that hereafter he may reign in heaven. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 26.13, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 172)

St. John Chrysostom on the cup of blessing:
‎“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the Blood of Christ?”. Very persuasively spake he, and awfully. For what he says is this: “This which is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and of that do we partake.” But he called it a cup of blessing, because holding it in our hands, we so exalt Him in our hymn, wondering, astonished at His unspeakable gift, blessing Him, among other things, for the pouring out of this self-same draught that we might not abide in error: and not only for the pouring it out, but also for the imparting thereof to us all. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 24.3, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 139)

St. John Chrysostom on the bread we break:
‎“The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the Body of Christ?” Wherefore said he not, the participation? Because he intended to express something more and to point out how close was the union: in that we communicate not only by participating and partaking, but also by being united. For as that body is united to Christ, so also are we united to him by this bread.
‎But why adds he also, “which we break?” For although in the Eucharist one may see this done, yet on the cross not so, but the very contrary. For, “A bone of Him,” saith one, “shall not be broken.” But that which He suffered not on the cross, this He suffers in the oblation for thy sake, and submits to be broken, that he may fill all men. (Chyrostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 24.4, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 139-140)

St. Augustine--Christ does not dwell in those who eat and drink judgment to themselves but in those who recieve in the proper manner:
‎‎That expression also of His, “He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood dwelleth in Me, and I in him,” (Jn 6:56) how must we understand? Can we include in these words those even of whom the Apostle says, “that they eat and drink judgment to themselves;” (1 Co 11:29) when they eat this flesh and drink this blood? What! did Judas the impious seller and betrayer of his Master (Lk 22:21) (though, as Luke the Evangelist declares more plainly, he ate and drank with the rest of His disciples this first Sacrament of His body and blood, consecrated by the Lord’s hands), did he “dwell in Christ and Christ in him”? Do so many, in fine, who either in hypocrisy eat that flesh and drink that blood, or who after they have eaten and drunk become apostate, do they “dwell in Christ or Christ in them”? Yet assuredly there is a certain manner of eating that Flesh and drinking that Blood, in which whosoever eateth and drinketh,” he dwelleth in Christand Christ in him.” As then he doth not “dwell in Christ and Christ in him,” who “eateth the Flesh and drinketh the Blood of Christ” in any manner whatsoever, but only in some certain manner, to which He doubtless had regard when He spake these words. (Augustine, Serm. 71.11.17, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 323)

St. Augustine--the Bread of Life refreshes and fails not:
‎‎We have heard the True Master, the Divine Redeemer, the human Saviour, commending to us our Ransom, His Blood. For He spake to us of His Body and Blood; He called His Body Meat, His Blood Drink. The faithful recognise the Sacrament of the faithful. But the hearers what else do they but hear? When therefore commending such Meat and such Drink He said, “Except ye shall eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, ye shall have no life in you;” (Jn 6:53) (and this that He said concerning life, who else said it but the Life Itself? But that man shall have death, not life, who shall think that the Life is false), His disciples were offended, not all of them indeed, but very many, saying within themselves, “This is an hard saying, who can hear it?” (Jn 6:60) But when the Lord knew this in Himself, and heard the murmurings of their thought, He answered them, thinking though uttering nothing, that they might understand that they were heard, and might cease to entertain such thoughts. What then did He answer? “Doth this offend you?”“What then if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” (Jn 6:61, 62) What meaneth this? “Doth this offend you?” “Do ye imaginethat I am about to make divisions of this My Body which ye see; and to cut up My Members, and give them to you? ‘What then if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?’ ” Assuredly, He who could ascend Whole could not be consumed. So then He both gave us of His Body and Blood a healthful refreshment, and briefly solved so great a question as to His Own Entireness. Let them then who eat, eat on, and them that drink, drink; let them hunger and thirst; eat Life, drink Life. That eating, is to be refreshed; but thou art in such wise refreshed, as that that whereby thou art refreshed, faileth not. That drinking, what is it but to live? Eat Life, drink Life; thou shalt have life, and the Life is Entire. But then this shall be, that is, the Body and the Blood of Christ shall be each man’s Life; if what is taken in the Sacrament visibly is in the truth itself eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually. (Augustine, Serm. 131.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 501)

St. John Chrysostom--by the sacred mysteries, we are blended into the flesh of Christ:
‎‎Those men then at that time reaped no fruit from what was said, but we have enjoyed the benefit in the very realities. Wherefore it is necessary to understand the marvel of the Mysteries, what it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action. We become one Body, and “members of His flesh and of His bones.” (Eph. 5:30) Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into that flesh. This is effected by the food which He hath freely given us, desiring to show the love which He hath for us. On this account He hath mixed up Himself with us; He hath kneaded up His body with ours, that we might be a certain One Thing, like a body joined to a head. For this belongs to them who love strongly; this, for instance, Job implied, speaking of his servants, by whom he was beloved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt, “Who would give us to be satisfied with his flesh?” (Job 31:31), Wherefore this also Christ hath done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He hath given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love. Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He hath shown for us. (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn 46.3, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 166)

St. Basil the Great encourages daily communion:
‎‎It is good and beneficial to communicate every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ. For He distinctly says, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.” (Jn 6:54) And who doubts that to share frequently in life, is the same thing as to have manifold life. I, indeed, communicate four times a week, on the Lord’s day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint. (Basil, Ep. 93, NPNF2, vol. 8, pg. 179)

St. Hilary--he that partakes of the body and blood of the Lord dwells with him in God:
‎‎Let us read what is written, let us understand what we read, and then fulfil the demands of a perfect faith. For as to what we say concerning the reality of Christ’s nature within us, unless we have been taught by Him, our words are foolish and impious. For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him. (Jn 6:55, 56) As to the verity of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith, it is verily flesh and verily blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us. Is not this true? Yet they who affirm that Christ Jesus is not truly God are welcome to find it false. He therefore Himself is in us through the flesh and we in Him, whilst together with Him our own selves are in God. (Hilary, De Trin. 8.14, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 141)

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