Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 55:1–3
Second Reading Romans 8:35, 37–39
Gospel Matthew 14:13–21

St. Gregory Nazianzen--the Lord gives salvation freely:
‎‎Do not hesitate either at length of journey, or distance by sea; or fire, if this too lies before you; or of any other, small or great, of the hindrances that you may attain to the gift. But if without any labour and trouble at all you may obtain that which you desire, what folly it is to put off the gift: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,” (Is 55:1) Esaias invites you, “and he that hath no money, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” O swiftness of His mercy: O easiness of the Covenant: This blessing may be bought by you merely for willing it; He accepts the very desire as a great price; He thirsts to be thirsted for; He gives to drink to all who desire to drink; He takes it as a kindness to be asked for the kindness; He is ready and liberal; He gives with more pleasure than others receive. (Ac 30:35) (Greg. Naz., Orat. 40.27, NPNF2, vol. 7. pg. 369-370)

St. Cyprian--persecution is a kind of examination for those who cling to Christ:
‎‎The Father corrects and protects us, if we still stand fast in the faith both in afflictions and perplexities, that is to say, cling closely to His Christ; as it is written, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Rom 8:35) None of these things can separate believers, nothing can tear away those who are clinging to His body and blood. Persecution of that kind is an examination and searching out of the heart. God wills us to be sifted and proved, as He has always proved His people; and yet in His trials help has never at any time been wanting to believers. (Cyprian, Ep. 7.5, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 287)

St. Augustine--we cling to Christ by love, not fear of punishment:
‎Observe how he does not say simply, “Who shall separate us from Christ?” but, indicating that by which we cling to Christ, he says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” We cling to Christ, then, by love, not by fear of punishment. Again, after having enumerated those things which seem to be sufficiently fierce, but have not sufficient force to effect a separation, he has, in the conclusion, called that the love of God which he had previously spoken of as the love of Christ. (Augustine, Ep. 145.6, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 497)

St. John Chrysostom--we are conquerors by the very things meant to plot against us:
‎For what is indeed wonderful is this, not that we are conquerors only, but that we are so by the very things meant as plots against us. And we are not merely conquerors, but we are “more than conquerors,” that is, are so with ease, without toil and labor. For without undergoing the real things, by only setting our mind aright, we raise our trophies against our enemies. And with good reason. For it is God that striveth together with us. Do not then be doubtful, if though beaten we get the better of our beaters, if driven out we overcome our persecutors, if dying we put the living to fight. For when you take the power and also the love of God into account, there is nothing to prevent these wondrous and strange things from coming to pass, and that victory the most advantageous should shine upon us. For they did not merely conquer, but in a wondrous way, and so that one might learn that those who plotted against them had a war not against men, but against that invincible Might. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 15, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 456)

St. John Chrysostom--if tribulation shall not separate us from the love of Christ, will we let money do so?:
‎‎For mighty is the sovereignty of love, it alienates the soul from all things else, and chains to the desired object. If thus we love Christ, all things here will seem to be a shadow, an image, a dream. We too shall say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress?” (Rom. 8:35.) He said not, “money, or wealth, or beauty,” (these are very mean and contemptible,) but he hath put the things which seem to be grievous, famines, persecutions, deaths. He then spat on these even, as being nought; but we for the sake of money separate ourselves from our life, and cut ourselves off from the light. And Paul indeed prefers “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature,” to the love which is towards Him; but we, if we see a little portion of gold, are fired, and trample on His laws. (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 87.3, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 330)

Origen--as Jesus healed the sick before he fed the crowd, so we must examine ourselves and be healed before approaching the Eucharist:
‎‎And first observe that when about to give to the disciples the loaves of blessing, that they might set them before the multitudes, He healed the sick, in order that, having been restored to health, they might participate in the loaves of blessing; for while they are yet sickly, they are not able to receive the loaves of the blessing of Jesus. But if any one, when he ought to listen to the precept, “But let each prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread,” etc., (1 Co 11:28) does not obey these words, but in haphazard fashion participates in the bread of the Lord and His cup, he becomes weak or sickly, or even—if I may use the expression—on account of being stupefied by the power of the bread, asleep. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 10.25, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 431)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ works miracles both with authority and with prayer:
‎Wherefore did He look up to Heaven, and bless? It was to be believed of Him, both that He is of the Father, and that He is equal to Him. But the proofs of these things seemed to oppose one another. For while His equality was indicated by His doing all with authority, of His origin from the Father they could no otherwise be persuaded, than by His doing all with great lowliness, and with reference to Him, and invoking Him on His works. Wherefore we see that He neither did these actions only, nor those, that both might be confirmed; and now He works miracles with authority, now with prayer. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 49.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 304-305)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ instructs the crowd in self-denial, humility, temperance and charity:
‎And He commands them to sit down on the trampled grass, instructing the multitudes in self-denial. For His will was not to feed their bodies only, but also to instruct their souls. As well by the place therefore, as by His giving them nothing more than loaves and fishes, and by setting the same before all, and making it common, and by affording no one more than another, He was teaching them humility, and temperance, and charity, and to be of like mind one towards another, and to account all things common. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 49.3, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 305-306)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 1 Kings 3:5, 7–12
Second Reading Romans 8:28–30
Gospel Matthew 13:44–52 or Matthew 13:44–46

St. Augustine--all things, both pleasant and painful, work together for the good of those that love God:
‎[Y]ou do well to regard the evils of this world as easy to bear because of the hope of the world to come. For thus, by being rightly used, these evils become a blessing, because, while they do not increase our desires for this world, they exercise our patience; as to which the apostle says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God:” (Rom 8:28) all things, he saith—not only, therefore, those which are desired because pleasant, but also those which are shunned because painful; since we receive the former without being carried away by them, and bear the latter without being crushed by them, and in all give thanks, according to the divine command, to Him of whom we say, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth,” (Ps 34:1) and, “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I might learn Thy statutes.” (Ps 119:71 [LXX]) (Augustine, Ep. 131, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 469)

St. Augustine--we will be conformed to Christ's immortality just as he was conformed to our mortality:
‎‎Then, again, these words, “Predestinate to be conformed to the image of the Son of God,” (Rom 8:29) may be understood of the inner man. So in another place He says to us, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed in the renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2) In so far, then, as we are transformed so as not to be conformed to the world, we are conformed to the Son of God. It may also be understood thus, that as He was conformed to us by assuming mortality, we shall be conformed to Him by immortality; and this indeed is connected with the resurrection of the body. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 22.16.1, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 495)

St. John Chrysostom--more than just preventing grevious things, God is able to turn them into the opposite:
‎For should even tribulation, or poverty, or imprisonment, or famines, or deaths, or anything else whatsoever come upon us, God is able to change all these things into the opposite. For this is quite an instance of His unspeakable power, His making things seemingly painful to be lightsome to us, and turning them into that which is helpful to us. And so he does not say, that “them that love God,” no grievance approacheth, but, that it “works together for good,” that is to say, that He useth the grievous things themselves to make the persons so plotted against approved. And this is a much greater thing than hindering the approach of such grievances, or stopping them when they have come. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 15, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 452-543)

St. John Chrysostom--the elect become by grace what the Only-begotten is by nature, justified in the laver of baptism:
‎‎Ver. 29. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the Image of His Son.”
‎‎See what superb honor! for what the Only-begotten was by Nature, this they also have become by grace. And still he was not satisfied with this calling of them conformed thereto, but even adds another point, “that He might be the first-born.” And even here he does not come to a pause, but again after this he proceeds to mention another point, “Among many brethren.” So wishing to use all means of setting the relationship in a clear light. Now all these things you are to take as said of the Incarnation. For according to the Godhead He is Only-begotten. See, what great things He hath given unto us! Doubt not then about the future. For he showeth even upon other grounds His concern for us by saying, that things were fore-ordered in this way from the beginning. For men have to derive from things their conceptions about them, but to God these things have been long determined upon, and from of old He bare good-will toward us (προς ημας διεκειτο), he says.
‎‎Ver. 30. “Moreover whom He did pre-destinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified.”
‎‎Now He justified them by the regeneration of the laver. “And whom He justified, them He also glorified” by the gift, by the adoption. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 15, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 453)

St. Gregory of Nyssa--Christ the first-born in body, in baptism and in the resurrection:
‎‎Again, He becomes “the first-born among many brethren,” Who is born before us by the new birth of regeneration in water, for the travail whereof the hovering of the Dove was the midwife, whereby He makes those who share with Him in the like birth to be His own brethren, and becomes the first-born of those who after Him are born of water and of the Spirit: and to speak briefly, as there are in us three births, whereby human nature is quickened, one of the body, another in the sacrament of regeneration, another by that resurrection of the dead for which we look, He is first-born in all three:—of the twofold regeneration which is wrought by two (by baptism and by the resurrection), by being Himself the leader in each of them; while it, the flesh He is first-born, as having first and alone devised in His own case that birth unknown to nature, which no one in the many generations of men had originated. (Gregory of Nyssa, Cont. Eun. 4.3, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 158)

Origen--the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures is like the treasure hidden in the field:
[A]ll which things, as we have said, are kept hidden and covered in the narratives of holy Scripture, because “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hid in a field; which when a man findeth, he hideth it, and for joy thereof goeth away and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” (Mt 13:44) By which similitude, consider whether it be not pointed out that the very soil and surface, so to speak, of Scripture—that is, the literal meaning—is the field, filled with plants and flowers of all kinds; while that deeper and profounder “spiritual” meaning are the very hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge which the Holy Spirit by Isaiah calls the dark and invisible and hidden treasures, for the finding out of which the divine help is required. (Origen, De princ. 4.1.23, ANF, vol. 4, pg. 373)

Origen likens the Scriptures to the net cast into the sea:
‎‎And the kingdom of heaven is likened unto the variegated texture of a net, with reference to the Old and the New Scripture which is woven of thoughts of all kinds and greatly varied. As in the case of the fishes that fall into the net, some are found in one part of the net and some in another part, and each at the part at which it was caught, so in the case of those who have come into the net of the Scriptures you would find some caught in the prophetic net; for example, of Isaiah, according to this expression, or of Jeremiah or of Daniel; and others in the net of the law, and others in the Gospel net, and some in the apostolic net; for when one is first captured by the Word or seems to be captured, he is taken from some part of the whole net. And it is nothing strange if some of the fishes caught are encompassed by the whole texture of the net in the Scriptures, and are pressed in on every side and caught, so that they are unable to escape but are, as it were, absolutely enslaved, and not permitted to escape from the net. And this net has been cast into the sea—the wave—tossed life of men in every part of the world, and which swims in the bitter affairs of life. And before our Saviour Jesus Christ this net was not wholly filled; for the net of the law and the prophets had to be completed by Him who says, “Think not that I came to destroy the law and the prophets, I came not to destroy but to fulfil.” (Mt 5:17) And the texture of the net has been completed in the Gospels, and in the words of Christ through the Apostles. (Origen, Comm. Mattt. 10.12, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 420)

St. Augustine--the good and the reprobate mix in the net of the Church until it is brought ashore:
‎‎In this wicked world, in these evil days, when the Church measures her future loftiness by her present humility, and is exercised by goading fears, tormenting sorrows, disquieting labors, and dangerous temptations, when she soberly rejoices, rejoicing only in hope, there are many reprobate mingled with the good, and both are gathered together by the gospel as in a drag net; (Mt 13:47-50) and in this world, as in a sea, both swim enclosed without distinction in the net, until it is brought ashore, when the wicked must be separated from the good, that in the good, as in His temple, God may be all in all. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 18.49.1, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 391)

St. John Chrysostom on the perl of great price:
‎We are then to learn not this only, that we ought to strip ourselves of everything else, and cling to the gospel, but also that we are to do so with joy; and when a man is dispossessing himself of his goods, he is to know that the transaction is gain, and not loss.
‎Seest thou how both the gospel is hid in the world, and the good things in the gospel?
‎Except thou sell all, thou buyest not; except thou have such a soul, anxious and inquiring, thou findest not. Two things therefore are requisite, abstinence from worldly matters, and watchfulness. For He saith “One seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one of great price, sold all and bought it.” For the truth is one, and not in many divisions.
‎And much as he that hath the pearl knows indeed himself that he is rich, but others know not, many times, that he is holding it in his hand (for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel, they that have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth. (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt. 47.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 293-294)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16–19
Second Reading Romans 8:26–27
Gospel Matthew 13:24–43 or Matthew 13:24–30

St. Augustine--God's wrath is not like a man's wrath, for he judges with calmness:
For the wrath of God is not, as is that of man, a perturbation of the mind; but it is the wrath of Him to whom Holy Scripture says in another place, “But Thou, O Lord, mastering Thy power, judgest with calmness.” (Wisd. 12:18) (Augustine, De Trin. 13.16.21, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 179)

St. Augustine--the Holy Spirit teaches us to sigh after our native country:
‎‎Now if the dove’s note is a moaning, as we all know it to be, and doves moan in love, hear what the apostle says, and wonder not that the Holy Ghost willed to be manifested in the form of a dove: “For what we should pray for as we ought,” says he, “we know not; but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26) What then, my brethren? shall we say this, that the Spirit groans where He has perfect and eternal blessedness with the Father and the Son? For the Holy Spirit is God, even as the Son of God is God, and the Father God. I have said “God” thrice, but not three Gods; for indeed it is God thrice rather than three Gods; because the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God: this you know full well. It is not then in Himself with Himself in that Trinity, in that blessedness, in that His eternal substance, that the Holy Spirit groans; but in us He groans because He makes us to groan. Nor is it a little matter that the Holy Spirit teaches us to groan, for He gives us to know that we are sojourners in a foreign land, and He teaches us to sigh after our native country; and through that very longing do we groan. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 6.2, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 39)

St. John Chrysostom--man, in his feebleness, needs the Spirit even to know what is desirable:
‎“For we know not what we should pray for as we ought.”
‎And this he said to show the Spirit’s great concern about us, and also to instruct them not to think for certainty that those things are desirable which to man’s reasonings appear so. For since it was likely that they, when they were scourged, and driven out, and suffering grievances without number, should be seeking a respite, and ask this favor of God, and think it was advantageous to them, by no means (he says) suppose that what seem blessings to you really are so. For we need the Spirit’s aid even to do this. So feeble is man, and such a nothing by himself. (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 14, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 446-447)

St. Hilary--man, who knows nott how to pray, has no right to demand that he shall be heard:
‎‎The words of St. Paul teach us that no man knows how he ought to pray: For we know not how to pray as we ought. (Rom. 8:26) Man in his weakness, therefore, has no right to demand that his prayer shall be heard: for even the teacher of the Gentiles does not know the true object and scope of prayer, and that, after the Lord had given a model. (Hilary, Tract. super Ps. 53.6, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 244)

Origen--the evil one sows false opinions in the minds of those who do not watch and pray:
‎‎But while men are asleep who do not act according to the command of Jesus, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation,” (Mt 26:41) the devil on the watch sows what are called tares—that is, evil opinions—over and among what are called by some natural conceptions, even the good seeds which are from the Word. And according to this the whole world might be called a field, and not the Church of God only, for in the whole world the Son of man sowed the good seed, but the wicked one tares,—that is, evil words,—which, springing from wickedness, are children of the evil one. And at the end of things, which is called “the consummation of the age,” (Mt 13:39) there will of necessity be a harvest, in order that the angels of God who have been appointed for this work may gather up the bad opinions that have grown upon the soul, and overturning them may give them over to fire which is said to burn, that they may be consumed. And so the angels and servants of the Word will gather from all the kingdom of Christ all things that cause a stumbling-block to souls and reasonings that create iniquity, which they will scatter and cast into the burning furnace of fire. Then those who become conscious that they have received the seeds of the evil one in themselves, because of their having been asleep, shall wail and, as it were, be angry against themselves; for this is the “gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 13:42) (Origen, Comm. Matt. 10.2, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 414-415)

St. Augustine encourages patience until the harvest:
‎‎O ye Christians, whose lives are good, ye sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! the harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes. We in this time present are like those servants of whom it was said, “Wilt Thou that we go and gather them up?” (Mt 13:28) for we were wishing, if itmight be so, that no evil ones should remain among the good. But it has been told us, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Mt 13:30) Why? For ye are such as may be deceived. Hear finally; “Lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” (Mt 13:29) What good are ye doing? Will ye by your eagerness make a waste of My harvest? The reapers will come, and who the reapers are He hath explained, “And the reapers are the angels.” (Mt 13:39) We are but men, the reapers are the angels. We too indeed, if we finish our course, shall be equal to the angels of God; but now when we chafe against the wicked, we are as yet but men. (Augustine, Serm. 73.4, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 335)

St. John Chrysostom--the error comes after the truth, like the enemy who sows tares:
‎Then He mentions also the manner of his device. For “while men slept,” saith He. It is no small danger, which He hereby suspends over our rulers, to whom especially is entrusted the keeping of the field; and not the rulers only, but the subjects too.
‎And He signifies also that the error comes after the truth, which the actual event testifies. For so after the prophets, were the false prophets; and after the apostles, the false apostles; and after Christ, Antichrist For unless the devil see what to imitate, or against whom to plot, he neither attempts, nor knows how. Now then also, having seen that “one brought forth a hundred, another sixty, another thirty,” he proceeds after that another way. That is, not having been able to carry away what had taken root, nor to choke, nor to scorch it up, he conspires against it by another craft, privily casting in his own inventions. (Chrysotom, Hom. Mt. 46.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 288)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ sows in person but punishes through angels:
‎For whereas He Himself is the sower, and that of His own field, and out of His own kingdom He gathers, it is quite clear that the present world also is His.
‎But mark His unspeakable love to man, and His leaning to bounty, and His disinclination to punishment; in that, when He sows, He sows in His own person, but when He punishes, it is by others, that is, by the angels. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 47.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 293)

St. Gregory of Nyssa--the mind of man shines like the sun when it leaves the darkness of the earth:
‎‎In like manner, then, as this air round the earth is forced upwards by some blast and changes into the pure splendour of the ether, so the mind of man leaves this murky miry world, and under the stress of the spirit becomes pure and luminous in contact with the true and supernal Purity; in such an atmosphere it even itself emits light, and is so filled with radiance, that it becomes itself a Light, according to the promise of our Lord that “the righteous should shine forth as the sun.” (Mt 13:43) We see this even here, in the case of a mirror, or a sheet of water, or any smooth surface that can reflect the light; when they receive the sunbeam they beam themselves; but they would not do this if any stain marred their pure and shining surface. We shall become then as the light, in our nearness to Christ’s true light, if we leave this dark atmosphere of the earth and dwell above. (Gregory of Nyssa, De virg. 11, NPNF2, vol. 5, pg. 356)