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)

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