Monday, October 24, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Malachi 1:14b–2:2b, 2:8–10
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 2:7b–9, 13
Gospel Matthew 23:1–12


St. Athanasius--Malachi 2:10 demonstrates how we were first creatures by nature, but then sons through adoption:
‎‎Wherefore, that this might be, ‘The Word became flesh,’ that He might make man capable of Godhead. This same meaning may be gained also from the Prophet Malachi, who says, ‘Hath not One God created us? Have we not all one Father?’ (Mal. 2:10) for first he puts ‘created,’ next ‘Father,’ to shew, as the other writers, that from the beginning we were creatures by nature, and God is our Creator through the Word; but afterwards we were made sons, and thenceforward God the Creator becomes our Father also. Therefore ‘Father’ is proper to the Son; and not ‘creature,’ but ‘Son’ is proper to the Father. Accordingly this passage also proves, that we are not sons by nature, but the Son who is in us. (Athanasius, Four Discourses against the Arians 4.21.59, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 380)

St. Augustine--St. Paul gives thanks to God who gives the gift of faith:
‎‎What is that for which he here gives thanks to God? Assuredly it is a vain and idle thing if He to whom he gives thanks did not Himself do the thing. But, since this is not a vain and idle thing, certainly God, to whom he gave thanks concerning this work, Himself did it; that when they had received the word of the hearing of God, they received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God. God, therefore, worketh in the hearts of men with that calling according to His purpose, of which we have spoken a great deal, that they should not hear the gospel in vain, but when they heard it, should be converted and believe, receiving it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God. (Augustine, De praed. sanct. 19.39, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 517)

St. Augustine--the word of faith preached by the apostles is the word of God:
‎‎‎Accordingly, this word of faith, because principally and primarily preached by the apostles who adhered to Him, was called their word. Not, however, on that account does it cease to be the word of God because it is called their word; for the same apostle says that the Thessalonians received it from him “not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God.” (1 Thess. 2:13) “Of God,” for the very reason that it was freely given by God; but called “their word,” because primarily and principally committed to them by God to be preached. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 109.5, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 407-408)

St. Irenaeus--Christ blames those who repeat the words of the law, but without love:
‎‎“The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens, and lay them upon men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not so much as move them with a finger.” (Mt 23:2-4) He therefore did not throw blame upon that law which was given by Moses, when He exhorted it to be observed, Jerusalem being as yet in safety; but He did throw blame upon those persons, because they repeated indeed the words of the law, yet were without love. And for this reason were they held as being unrighteous as respects God, and as respects their neighbours. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 4.12.4, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 476)

St. Augustine--a clergyman who leads an unprofitable life may still be heard with profit, since he teaches not his own doctrine:
‎‎Now Christ is the truth; yet we see that the truth can be preached, though not in truth,—that is, what is right and true in itself may be preached by a man of perverse and deceitful mind. And thus it is that Jesus Christ is preached by those that seek their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ’s. But since true believers obey the voice, not of any man, but of the Lord Himself, who says, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not;” (Mt 23:3) therefore it is that men who themselves lead unprofitable lives are heard with profit by others. For though they seek their own objects, they do not dare to teach their own doctrines, sitting as they do in the high places of ecclesiastical authority, which is established on sound doctrine. Wherefore our Lord Himself, before saying what I have just quoted about men of this stamp, made this observation: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” (Mt 23:2) The seat they occupied, then, which was not theirs but Moses’, compelled them to say what was good, though they did what was evil. And so they followed their own course in their lives, but were prevented by the seat they occupied, which belonged to another, from preaching their own doctrines. (Augustine, De doctr. christ. 4.27.59, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 595)

St. Augustine--Christ blames the Scribes not for occupying places of honor, but for loving them:
‎‎“Beware of the Scribes which love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the first rooms at feasts.” (Mt 23:6; Mk 12:39) Not because they hold them, but because they love them. For in these words he accused their heart. Now none can accuse the heart, but He who can inspect it. For meet it is that to the servant of God, who holds some post of honour in the Church, the first place should be assigned; because if it were not given him, it were evil for him who refuses to give it; but yet it is no good to him to whom it is given. It is meet and right then that in the congregation of Christians their Prelates should sit in eminent place, that by their very seat they may be distinguished, and that their office may be duly marked; yet not so that they should be puffed up for their seat; but that they should esteem it a burden, for which they are to render an account. But who knows whether they love this, or do not love it? This is a matter of the heart, it can have no other judge but God. (Augustine, Serm. 91.5.5, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 399)

St. John Chysostom--he that bears authority of teaching is triply to blame in transgressing the law:
‎“For they say,” He saith, and do not.” For every one is worthy of blame in transgressing the law, but especially he that bears the authority of teaching, for doubly and triply doth he deserve to be condemned. For one cause, because he transgresses; for another, that as he ought to amend others, and then halteth, he is worthy of a double punishment, because of his dignity; and in the third place, that he even corrupts the more, as committing such transgression in a teacher’s place. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 72.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 436)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Exodus 22:20–26
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 1:5c–10
Gospel Matthew 22:34–40


St. John Chrysostom on the joy of the Holy Ghost:
‎“With joy of the Holy Ghost,” he says. That no one may say, how speakest thou of “affliction”? how “of joy”? how can both meet in one? he has added, “with joy of the Holy Ghost.” The affliction is in things bodily, and the joy in things spiritual. How? The things which happened to them were grievous, but not so the things which sprang out of them, for the Spirit does not allow it. So that it is possible both for him who suffers, not to rejoice, when one suffers for his sins; and being beaten to take pleasure, when one suffers for Christ’s sake. For such is the joy of the Spirit. In return for the things which appear to be grievous, it brings out delight. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 1, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 325)

St. Augustine--to love your neighbor is to do all in your power to commend him to the love God:
‎‎For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God. It is, if I may say so by spiritually embracing Him that the intellectual soul is filled and impregnated with true virtues. We are enjoined to love this good with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. To this good we ought to be led by those who love us, and to lead those we love. Thus are fulfilled those two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul;” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mt 22:37-40) For, that man might be intelligent in his self-love, there was appointed for him an end to which he might refer all his actions, that he might be blessed. For he who loves himself wishes nothing else than this. And the end set before him is “to draw near to God.” (Ps 73:28) And so, when one who has this intelligent self-love is commanded to love his neighbor as himself, what else is enjoined than that he shall do all in his power to commend to him the love of God? This is the worship of God, this is true religion, this right piety, this the service due to God only. If any immortal power, then, no matter with what virtue endowed, loves us as himself, he must desire that we find our happiness by submitting ourselves to Him, in submission to whom he himself finds happiness. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 10.3.2, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 182)

St. Augustine on love of God and love of neighbor:
‎‎For this is the law of love that has been laid down by Divine authority: “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself;” but, “Thou shall love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind:” (Mt 22:37-39) so that you are to concentrate all your thoughts, your whole life and your whole intelligence upon Him from whom you derive all that you bring. For when He says, “With all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” He means that no part of our life is to be unoccupied, and to afford room, as it were, for the wish to enjoy some other object, but that whatever else may suggest itself to us as an object worthy of love is to be borne into the same channel in which the whole current of our affections flows. Whoever, then, loves his neighbor aright, ought to urge upon him that he too should love God with his whole heart, and soul, and mind. For in this way, loving his neighbor as himself, a man turns the whole current of his love both for himself and his neighbor into the channel of the love of God, which suffers no stream to be drawn off from itself by whose diversion its own volume would be diminished. (Augustine, De doctr. christ. 1.22.21, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 528)

St. John Chrysostom on the likeness of the two commandments:
‎‎But wherefore “like unto this?” Because this makes the way for that, and by it is again established; “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light;”(Jn 3:20) and again, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” And what in conssequence of this? “They are corrupt, and become abminable in their ways.” (Ps 53:1) And again, “The love of money is the root of all evils; which while some coveted after they have erred from the faith;” (1 Tim 6:10) and, “He that loveth me, will keep my commandment.” (Jn 14:15)
‎‎But His commandments, and the sum of them, are, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself.” If therefore to love God is to love one’s neighbor, “For if thou lovest me,” He saith, “O Peter, feed my sheep,” (Jn 21:16, 17) but to love one’s neighbor worketh a keeping of the commandments, with reason doth He say, “On these hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:40) (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 71.1, NPNF1,  vol. 10, pg. 431)

St. Leo the Great--love of neighbor must extend to all men:
‎‎And so, when the Lord says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, from all thy heart and from all thy mind: and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” (Mt 22:37, 39) let the faithful soul put on the unfading love of its Author and Ruler, and subject itself also entirely to His will in Whose works and judgments true justice and tender-hearted compassion never fail. For although a man be wearied out with labours and many misfortunes, there is good reason for him to endure all in the knowledge that adversity will either prove him good or make him better. But this godly love cannot be perfect unless a man love his neighbour also. Under which name must be included not only those who are connected with us by friendship or neighbourhood, but absolutely all men, with whom we have a common nature, whether they be foes or allies, slaves or free. (Leo, Serm. 12.2, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 122)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 45:1, 4–6
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 1:1–5b
Gospel Matthew 22:15–21


St. John Chrysostom on the work of faith:
‎What is “the work of faith”? That nothing has turned aside your steadfastness. For this is the work of faith. If thou believest, suffer all things; if thou dost not suffer, thou dost not believe. For are not the things promised such, that he who believes would choose to suffer even ten thousand deaths? The kingdom of heaven is set before him, and immortality, and eternal life. He therefore who believes will suffer all things. Faith then is shown through his works. Justly might one have said, not merely did you believe, but through your works you manifested it, through your steadfastness, through your zeal. (Chrysotom, Hom. 1 Thess. 1, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 324)

Tertullian--render your money to Caesar, but yourself to God:
‎‎“The things which are Caesar’s are to be rendered to Caesar.” (Mt 22:21; Mk 12:17; Lk 20:25) It is enough that He set in apposition thereto, “and to God the things which are God’s.” What things, then, are Caesar’s? Those, to wit, about which the consultation was then held, whether the poll-tax should be furnished to Caesar or no. Therefore, too, the Lord demanded that the money should be shown Him, and inquired about the image, whose it was; and when He had heard it was Caesar’s, said, “Render to Caesar what are Caesar’s, and what are God’s to God; ”that is, the image of Caesar, which is on the coin, to Caesar, and the image of God, which is on man, (See Ge 1:26, 27; 9:6, and comp. 1 Co 11:7) to God; so as to render to Caesar indeed money, to God yourself. Otherwise, what will be God’s, if all things are Caesar’s? (Tertullian, De idol. 15, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 70)

St. Augustine--Christ's coin is man, bearing his image:
‎‎Truth is looked for in God’s image, not vanity. By the love of the truth then be that image, afterwhich we were created, engraven anew, and His Own tribute rendered to our Caesar. For so ye have heard from the Lord’s answer, when the Jews tempted Him, as He said, “Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites; show Me the tribute money,” (Mt 22:18, 19) that is, the impress and superscription of the image. Show me what ye pay, what ye get ready, what is exacted of you. And “they showed Him a denarius;” and “He asked whose image and superscription it had.” They answered, “Caesar’s.” So Caesar looks for his own image. It is not Caesar’s will that what he ordered to be made should be lost to him, and it is not surely God’s will that what He hath made should be lost to Him. Caesar, my Brethren, did not make the money; the masters of the mint make it; the workmen have their orders, he issues his commands to his ministers. His image was stamped upon the money; on the money was Caesar’s image. And yet he requires what others have stamped; he puts it in his treasures; he will not have it refused him. Christ’s coin is man. In him is Christ’s image, in him Christ’s Name, Christ’s gifts, Christ’s rules of duty. (Augustine, Serm. 90.10, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 397)

St. Augustine on the same theme:
‎‎We are God’s money: we have wandered away as coin from the treasury. The impression that was stamped upon us has been rubbed out by our wandering. He has come to refashion, for He it was that fashioned us at first; and He is Himself asking for His money, as Caesar for his. Therefore He says, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s:” (Mt 22:21) to Caesar his money, to God yourselves. And then shall the truth be reproduced in us. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 40.9, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 228)

St. John Chrysostom--the things which are Caesar's includes only those which are no detriment to godliness:
‎‎But thou, when thou hearest, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” know that He is speaking only of those things, which are no detriment to godliness; since if it be any such thing as this, such a thing is no longer Caesar’s tribute, but the devil’s. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 70.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 427)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Eigth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 25:6–10a
Second Reading Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20
Gospel Matthew 22:1–14 or Matthew 22:1–10


St. John Chrysostom--St. Paul's joy is in the spiritual advancement of the Philippians:
‎‎[H]e praises them, and shows that this action was for the need, not of the receiver, but of the givers. This he doth, both that they who benefited him may not be lifted up with arrogance, and that they may become more zealous in well-doing, since they rather benefit themselves; and that they who receive may not fearlessly rush forward to receive, lest they meet with condemnation. For “it is more blessed,” He saith, “to give than to receive.” (Acts xx. 35.) Why then does he say, “I rejoice in the Lord greatly”? Not with worldly rejoicing, saith he, nor with the joy of this life, but in the Lord. Not because I had refreshment, but because ye advanced; for this is my refreshment. Wherefore he also saith “greatly”; since this joy was not corporeal, nor on account of his own refreshment, but because of their advancement. (Chrysostom, Hom. Phil. 15, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 249)

St. John Chrysostom--there is great need of virtue in abundance as in need:
‎“But, says one, there is no need of wisdom or of virtue in order to abound.” There is great need of virtue, not less than in the other case. For as want inclines us to do many evil things, so too doth plenty. For many ofttimes, coming into plenty, have become indolent, and have not known how to bear their good fortune. Many men have taken it as an occasion of no longer working. But Paul did not so, for what he received he consumed on others, and emptied himself for them. This is to know. He was in nowise relaxed, nor did he exult at his abundance; but was the same in want and in plenty, he was neither oppressed on the one hand, nor rendered a boaster on the other. “Both to be filled,” saith he “and to be hungry, both to abound, and to be in want.” Many know not how to be full, as for example, the Israelites, “ate, and kicked” (Deut. xxxii. 15), but I am equally well ordered in all. He showeth that he neither is now elated, nor was before grieved: or if he grieved, it was on their account, not on his own, for he himself was similarly affected. (Chrysostom. Hom. Phil. 15, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 250)

St. Ambrose on St. Paul's humility:
‎‎“I know,” he says, “how to be abased.” (Phil. 4:12) An untaught humility has no claim to praise, but only that which possesses modesty and a knowledge of self. For there is a humility that rests on fear, one, too, that rests on want of skill and ignorance. Therefore the Scripture says: “He will save the humble in spirit.” (Ps 34:18) Gloriously, therefore, does he say: “I know how to be abased;” that is to say, where, in what moderation, to what end, in what duty, in which office. The Pharisee knew not how to be abased, therefore he was cast down. The publican knew, and therefore he was justified. (Lk 18:11) (Ambrose, De offic. 2.17.90, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 57)

John Cassian--the perfect man is affected by neither abundance nor want:
‎‎We shall then be ambidextrous, when neither abundance nor want affects us, and when the former does not entice us to the luxury of a dangerous carelessness, while the latter does not draw us to despair, and complaining; but when, giving thanks to God in either case alike, we gain one and the same advantage out of good and bad fortune. And such that truly ambidextrous man, the teacher of the Gentiles, testifies that he himself was, when he says: “For I have learnt in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith. I know both how to be brought low and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to De hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things in Him which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:11-13) (Cassian, Collat. 1.6.10, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 357)

St. Irenaeus--after our calling, we ought to be adorned with works of righteousness:
‎‎Still further did He also make it manifest, that we ought, after our calling, to be also adorned with works of righteousness, so that the Spirit of God may rest upon us; for this is the wedding garment, of which also the apostle speaks, “Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up by immortality.” (2 Co 5:4) But those who have indeed been called to God’s supper, yet have not received the Holy Spirit, because of their wicked conduct “shall be,” He declares, “cast into outer darkness.” (Mt 22:13) He thus clearly shows that the very same King who gathered from all quarters the faithful to the marriage of His Son, and who grants them the incorruptible banquet, [also] orders that man to be cast into outer darkness who has not on a wedding garment, that is, one who despises it. For as in the former covenant, “with many of them was He not well pleased;” (1 Co. 10:5) so also is it the case here, that “many are called, but few chosen.” (Mt 22:14) (Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 4.36.6, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 517)

St. Augustine applies the parable of the wedding feast to those called to the Eucharistic feast:
‎‎All the faithful know the marriage of the king’s son, and his feast, and the spreading of the Lord’s Table is open to them all who will. But it is of importance to each one to see how he approaches, even when he is not forbidden to approach It. For the Holy Scriptures teach us that there are two feasts of the Lord; one to which the good and evil come, the other to which the evil come not. So then the feast, of which we have just now heard when the Gospel was being read, has both good and evil guests. All who excused themselves from this feast are evil; but not all those who entered in are good. You therefore who are the good guests at this feast do I address, who have in your minds the words, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.” (1 Co. 11:29) All you who are such do I address, that ye look not for the good without, that ye bear with the evil within. (Augustine, Serm. 90.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 392)

St. John Chrysostom--the wedding garment is the life and practice expected of the one who is called:
‎Then in order that not even these should put confidence in their faith alone, He discourses unto them also concerning the judgment to be passed upon wicked actions; to them that have not yet believed, of coming unto Him by faith, and to them that have believed, of care with respect to their life. For the garment is life and practice.
‎And yet the calling was of grace; wherefore then doth He take a strict account? Because although to be called and to be cleansed was of grace, yet, when called and clothed in clean garments, to continue keeping them so, this is of the diligence of them that are called. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 69.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 423)