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)

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