Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Second Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11
Second Reading 2 Peter 3:8–14
Gospel Mark 1:1–8


For Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11, see Baptism of the Lord, Year C.

St. Ireneaus--St. Mark begins his Gospel with the confession of the prophets:
‎‎Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make the paths straight before our God.” Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in “the spirit and power of Elias,” (Lk 1:17) “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight paths before our God.” (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.10.5, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 425-426)

St. Clement of Alexandria--John the Baptist made himself an example of frugality and simplicity of life:
‎‎The blessed John, despising the locks of sheep as savouring of luxury, chose “camel’s hair,” and was clad in it, making himself an example of frugality and simplicity of life. For he also “ate locusts and wild honey,” (Mk 1:6) sweet and spiritual fare; preparing, as he was, the lowly and chaste ways of the Lord. For how possibly could he have worn a purple robe, who turned away from the pomp of cities, and retired to the solitude of the desert, to live in calmness with God, far from all frivolous pursuits—from all false show of good—from all meanness? (Clem. Alex., Paed. 2.11, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 266)

Tertullian--John's baptism prepares for the remission of sins granted through Christ:
‎‎And so “the baptism of repentance” (Ac 19:4) was dealt with as if it were a candidate for the remission and sanctification shortly about to follow in Christ: for in that John used to preach “baptism for the remission of sins,” (Mk 1:4) the declaration was made with reference to future remission; if it be true, (as it is,) that repentance is antecedent, remission subsequent; and this is “preparing the way.” (Lk 1:76) But he who “prepares” does not himself “perfect,” but procures for another to perfect. (Tertullian, De Bapt. 10, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 674)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: First Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 63:16b–17, 19b, 64:2–7
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:3–9
Gospel Mark 13:33–37

Apostolic Constitutions--God who formed us as clay will raise us up again:
‎‎Nay, and Isaiah says in his prayer to Him: “We are the clay, and Thou art the framer of us.” (Is 64:8) If, therefore, man be His workmanship, made by Christ, by Him most certainly will he after he is dead be raised again, with intention either of being crowned for his good actions or punished for his transgressions. (Apostolic Constitutions 5.7, ANF, vol. 7, pg. 439)

St. John Chrysostom on St. Paul calling God "my God":
‎‎“Unto my God.” Out of great affection he seizes on that which is common, and makes it his own; as the prophets also from time to time use to say, (Ps 43:4 and Ps 62:1) “O God, my God;” and by way of encouragement he incites them to use the same language also themselves. For such expressions belong to one who is retiring from all secular things, and moving towards Him whom he calls on with so much earnestness: since he alone can truly say this, who from things of this life is ever mounting upwards unto God, and always preferring Him to all, and giving thanks continually, not [only] for the grace already given, but whatever blessing hath been since at any time bestowed, for this also he offereth unto Him the same praise. Wherefore he saith not merely, “I give thanks,” but “at all times, concerning you;” instructing them to be thankful both always, and to no one else save God only. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 2.2, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 6)

St. John Chrysostom on the "fellowship of His Son":
‎‎But what means, “into the fellowship of His Son?” Hear him declaring this very thing more clearly elsewhere. (2 Ti 2:12) If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him. Then, because it was a great thing which He had said, he adds an argument fraught with unanswerable conviction; for, saith he, “God is faithful,” i. e. “true.” Now if “true,” what things He hath promised He will also perform. And He hath promised that He will make us partakers of His only-begotten Son; for to this end also did He call us. For (Ro 11:29) “His gifts, and the calling of God,” are without repentance. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 2.8, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 8)

St. Athanasius on the grace of God, which is given in Christ Jesus:
‎‎For though the Father gives it, through the Son is the gift; and though the Son be said to vouchsafe it, it is the Father who supplies it through and in the Son; for ‘I thank my God,’ says the Apostle writing to the Corinthians, ‘always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you in Christ Jesus.’ (1 Co 1:4) And this one may see in the instance of light and radiance; for what the light enlightens, that the radiance irradiates; and what the radiance irradiates, from the light is its enlightenment. So also when the Son is beheld, so is the Father, for he is the Father’s radiance; and thus the Father and the Son are one. (Athanastius, Four Discourses against the Arians 3.25.13, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 401)

St. Gregory the Great--all must watch the doors of their hearts:
‎For the earth is properly the place for the flesh, which was as it were carried away to a far country, when it was placed by our Redeemer in the heavens. And he gave his servants power over every work, when, by giving to His faithful ones the grace of the Holy Ghost, He gave them the power of serving every good work. He has also ordered the porter to watch, because He commanded the order of pastors to have a care over the Church committed to them. Not only, however, those of us who rule over Churches, but all are required to watch the doors of their hearts, lest the evil suggestions of the devil enter into them, and lest our Lord find us sleeping. Wherefore concluding this parable He adds, Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. (Gregory the Great, Hom. in Evang. 9, Cat. Aur. 2.271)

St. Augustine--the day of the Lord comes to each one of us when we depart this life:
‎For He not only speaks to those in whose hearing He then spake, but even to all who came after them, before our time, and even to us, and to all after us, even to His last coming. But shall that day find all living, or will any man say that He speaks also to the dead, when He says, Watch, lest when he cometh he find you sleeping? Why then does He say to all, what only belongs to those who shall then be alive, if it be not that it belongs to all, as I have said? For that day comes to each man when his day comes for departing from this life such as he is to be, when judged in that day, and for this reason every Christian ought to watch, lest the Advent of the Lord find him unprepared; but that day shall find him unprepared, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared. (Augustine, Ep. 199.3, Cat. Aur. 2.272)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Christ the King, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Ezekiel 34:11–12, 15–17
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15:20–26, 28
Gospel Matthew 25:31–46


St. Augustine on 1 Co 15:21, 22:
‎‎If, however, we pass over and make no account of those sufferings which are of brief continuance, and which, when endured, are not to be repeated, we certainly cannot, in like manner, make no account of the fact that “by one man death came, and by one man came also the resurrection of the dead; for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Co 15:21, 22) For, according to this apostolical, divine, and perspicuous declaration, it is sufficiently plain that no one goes to death otherwise than through Adam, and that no one goes to life eternal otherwise; than through Christ. For this is the force of all in the two parts of the sentence; as all men, by their first, that is, their natural birth, belong to Adam, even so all men, whoever they be, who come to Christ come to the second, that is, the spiritual birth. For this reason, therefore, the word all is used in both clauses, because as all who die do not die otherwise than in Adam, so all who shall be made alive shall not be made alive otherwise than in Christ. (Augustine, Ep. 166.7.21, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 530)

St. Augustine on "that God may be all in all":
‎‎What else was meant by His word through the prophet, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people,” (Le 26:12) than, I shall be their satisfaction, I shall be all that men honorably desire,—life, and health, and nourishment, and plenty, and glory, and honor, and peace, and all good things? This, too, is the right interpretation of the saying of the apostle, “That God may be all in all.” (1 Co 15:28) He shall be the end of our desires who shall be seen without end, loved without cloy, praised without weariness. This outgoing of affection, this employment, shall certainly be, like eternal life itself, common to all. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 22.30.1, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 510)

St. Jerome explains in what sense Christ will be subject to the Father:
‎Christ then is subject to the Father in the faithful; for all believers, nay the whole human race, are accounted members of His body. But in unbelievers, that is in Jews, heathens, and heretics, He is said to be not subject; for these members of His body are not subject to the faith. But in the end of the world when all His members shall see Christ, that is their own body, reigning, they also shall be made subject to Christ, that is to their own body, that the whole of Christ’s body may be subject unto God and the Father, and that God may be all in all. He does not say “that the Father may be all in all” but that “God” may be, a title which properly belongs to the Trinity and may be referred not only to the Father but also to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. His meaning therefore is “that humanity may be subject to the Godhead.” (Jerome, Ep. 55.5, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 111-112)

St. Hilary of Poitiers--Christ's humanity is transfigured in glory that God may be all in all:
‎‎It is thus that God shall be all in all: according to the Dispensation He becomes by His Godhead and His manhood the Mediator between men and God, and so by the Dispensation He acquires the nature of flesh, and by the subjection shall obtain the nature of God in all things, so as to be God not in part, but wholly and entirely. The end of the subjection is then simply that God may be all in all, that no trace of the nature of His earthly body may remain in Him. Although before this time the two were combined within Him, He must now become God only; not, however, by casting off the body, but by translating it through subjection; not by losing it through dissolutions, but by transfiguring it in glory: adding humanity to His divinity, not divesting Himself of divinity by His humanity. And He is subjected, not that He may cease to be, but that God may be all in all, having, in the mystery of the subjection, to continue to be that which He no longer is, not having by dissolution to be robbed of Himself, that is, to be deprived of His being. (Hilary, De Trin. 11.40, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 214-215)

St. Ambrose--Christ's subjection is without degradation or weakness:
‎A unity of power puts aside all idea of a degrading subjection. His giving up of power, and His victory as conqueror won over death, have not lessened His power. Obedience works out subjection. Christ has taken obedience upon Himself, obedience even to taking on Him our flesh, the cross even to gaining our salvation. Thus where the work lies, there too is the Author of the work. When therefore, all things have become subject to Christ, through Christ’s obedience, so that all bend their knees in His name, then He Himself will be all in all. For now, since all do not believe, all do not seem to be in subjection. But when all have believed and done the will of God, then Christ will be all and in all. And when Christ is all and in all, then will God be all and in all; for the Father abides ever in the Son. How, then, is He shown to be weak, Who redeemed the weak? (Ambrose, De fide 5.15.182, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 307)

St. Cyprian of Carthage--Christ himself is aggrieved unless the needy and poor be supplied:
‎What more could Christ declare unto us? How more could He stimulate the works of our righteousness and mercy, than by saying that whatever is given to the needy and poor is given to Himself, and by saying that He is aggrieved unless the needy and poor be supplied? So that he who in the Church is not moved by consideration for his brother, may yet be moved by contemplation of Christ; and he who does not think of his fellow-servant in suffering and in poverty, may yet think of his Lord, who abideth in that very man whom he is despising. (Cyprian, De op. et eleem. 23, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 483)

St. Augustine--alms atone for sin:
‎‎Wherefore to those whom He is about to condemn, yea, rather to those whom He is about to crown, He will impute alms only, as though He would say, “It were a hard matter for me not to find occasion to condemn you, were I to examine and weigh you accurately and with much exactness to scrutinize your deeds; but, “Go into the kingdom, for I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat.” Ye shall therefore go into the kingdom, not because ye have not sinned, but because ye have redeemed your sins by alms. And again to the others, “Go ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” They too, guilty as they are, old in their sins, late in their fear for them, in what respect, when they turn their sins over in their mind, could they dare to say that they are undeservedly condemned, that this sentence is pronounced against them undeservedly by so righteous a Judge? In considering their consciences, and all the wounds of their souls, in what respect could they dare to say, We are unjustly condemned. Of whom it was said before in Wisdom, “Their own iniquities shall convince them to their face.” (Wis 4:20) Without doubt they will see that they are justly condemned for their sins and wickednesses; yet it will be as though He said to them, “It is not in consequence of this that ye think, but ‘because I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat.’ ” For if turning away from all these your deeds, and turning to Me, ye had redeemed all those crimes and sins by alms, those alms would now deliver you, and absolve you from the guilt of so great offences; for, “Blessed are the merciful, for to them shall be shown mercy.” (Mt 5:7) But now go away into everlasting fire. “He shall have judgment without mercy, who hath showed no mercy.” (Jas 2:3) (Augustine, Serm. 60.10, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 293)

St. Augustine--it is the poor man who begs, but He that is Rich recieves and will restore what is given:
‎‎Let no one fear to lay out upon the poor, let no one think that he is the receiver whose hand he sees. He receives it Who bade thee give it. And this I say not out of mine own l heart, or by any human conjecture; hear Him Himself, who at once exhorteth thee, and giveth thee a title of security. “I was an hungred,” saith He, and ye gave Me meat.” And when after the enumeration of all their kind offices, they answered, “When saw we Thee an hungred?” He answered, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these of Mine, ye have done it unto Me.” (Mt 25:40) It is the poor man who begs, but He that is Rich receives. Thou givest to one who will make away with it, He receiveth it Who will restore it. Nor will He restore only what He receiveth; He is pleased to borrow upon interest, He promiseth more than thou hast given. Give the rein now to thy avarice, imagine thyself an usurer. If thou wert an usurer indeed, thou wouldest be rebuked by the Church, confuted by the word of God, all thy brethren would execrate thee, as a cruel usurer, desiring to wring gain from other’s tears. But now be an usurer, no one will hinder thee. Thou art willing to lend to a poor man, who whenever he may repay thee will do it with grief; but lend now to a debtor who is well able to pay, and who even exhorteth thee to receive what he promiseth. (Augustine, Serm. 86.3.3, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 369)

St. Augustine--the least of Christ's brethren are those who leave all they have and follow him:
‎Who then are these least ones of Christ? They are those who have left all they had, and followed Him, and have distributed whatever they had to the poor; that unencumbered and without any worldly fetter they might serve God, and might lift their shoulders free from the burdens of the world, and winged as it were aloft. These are the least. And why the least? Because lowly, because not puffed up, not proud. Yet weigh them in the scales, these least ones, and thou wilt find them a heavy weight. (Augustine, Serm. 113.1.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 450)

St. John Chrysostom on sheep and goats:
‎‎Then, “shall be gathered together,” He saith, “all nations,” that is, the whole race of men. “And He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd his sheep.” For now they are not separated, but all mingled together, but the division then shall be made with all exactness. And for a while it is by their place that He divides them, and makes them manifest; afterwards by the names He indicates the dispositions of each, calling the one kids, the other sheep, that He might indicate the unfruitfulness of the one, for no fruit will come from kids; and the great profit from the other, for indeed from sheep great is the profit, as well from the milk, as from the wool, and from the young, of all which things the kid is destitute. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 79.1, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 475)

St. John Chrysostom--covetousness blinds us to the easiness of the Lord's command and the greatness of his promise:
‎‎And mark how easy are His injunctions. He said not, “I was in prison, and ye set me free; I was sick, and ye raised me up again;” but, “ye visited me,” and, “ye came unto me.” And neither in hunger is the thing commanded grievous. For no costly table did He seek, but what is needful only, and His necessary food, and He sought in a suppliant’s garb, so that all things were enough to bring punishment on them; the easiness of the request, for it was bread; the pitiable character of Him that requesteth, for He was poor; the sympathy of nature, for He was a man; the desirableness of the promise, for He promised a kingdom; the fearfulness of the punishment, for He threatened hell. The dignity of the one receiving, for it was God, who was receiving by the poor; the surpassing nature of the honor, that He vouchsafed to condescend so far; His just claim for what they bestowed, for of His own was He receiving. But against all these things covetousness once for all blinded them that were seized by it; and this though so great a threat was set against it. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 79.1, NPNF1, vol. 475)

St. John Chrysostom--the fire was prepared for the devil, but the damned impute it to themselves:
‎But to the others He saith, “Depart from me, ye cursed,” (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), “into the everlasting fire, prepared,” not for you, but “for the devil and his angels.” For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, “Come, inherit the kingdom,” He added, “prepared for you before the foundation of the world;” but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, “prepared for the devil.” I, saith He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but “for the devil and his angels;” but since ye cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 79.2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 476)

St. Athanasius--the kingdom was prepared for the blessed in Christ:
‎‎Wherefore also in the Judgment, when every one shall receive according to his conduct, He says, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ (Mt 25:34) How then, or in whom, was it prepared before we came to be, save in the Lord who ‘before the world’ was founded for this purpose; that we, as built upon Him, might partake, as well-compacted stones, the life and grace which is from Him? And this took place, as naturally suggests itself to the religious mind, that, as I said, we, rising after our brief death, may be capable of an eternal life, of which we had not been capable, men as we are, formed of earth, but that ‘before the world’ there had been prepared for us in Christ the hope of life and salvation. (Athanasius, Four Discourses against the Arians 2.22, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 389-390)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Wisdom of Solomon 6:12–16
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 or 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14
Gospel Matthew 25:1–13


Tertullian--the hope of the resurrection gives us patience in the face of the loss of loved ones:
‎‎Not even that species of impatience under the loss of our dear ones is excused, where some assertion of a right to grief acts the patron to it. For the consideration of the apostle’s declaration must be set before us, who says, “Be not overwhelmed with sadness at the falling asleep of any one, just as the nations are who are without hope.” (1 Th 4:13) And justly; or, believing the resurrection of Christ we believe also in our own, for whose sake He both died and rose again. Since, then, there is certainty as to the resurrection of the dead, grief for death is needless, and impatience of grief is needless. For why should you grieve, if you believe that (your loved one) is not perished? Why should you bear impatiently the temporary withdrawal of him who you believe will return? That which you think to be death is departure. He who goes before us is not to be lamented, though by all means to be longed for. That longing also must be tempered with patience. (Tertullian, De Pat. 9, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 713)

St. Augustine--the "sleep" of death differs for the good and the bad:
‎‎Hence it was in reference to His own power that He spoke of him as sleeping: for others also, who are dead, are frequently spoken of in Scripture as sleeping; as when the apostle says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.” (1 Th 4:13) Therefore he also spoke of them as sleeping, because foretelling their resurrection. And so, all the dead are sleeping, both good and bad. But just as, in the case of those who sleep and waken day by day, there is a great difference as to what they severally see in their sleep: some experience pleasant dreams; others. dreams so frightful that the waking are afraid to fall asleep for fear of their recurrence: so every individual sleeps and wakens in circumstances peculiar to himself. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 49.9, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 273)

St. John Chrysostom on the final trumpet:
‎‎And why now doth He call them by angels, if He comes thus openly?’ To honor them in this way also. But Paul saith, that they “shall be caught up in clouds.” And He said this also, when He was speaking concerning a resurrection. “For (1 Th 4:16) the Lord Himself,” it is said, “shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel.” So that when risen again, the angels shall gather them together, when gathered together the clouds shall catch them up; and all these things are done in a moment, in an instant. For it is not that He abiding above calleth them, but He Himself cometh with the sound of a trumpet. And what mean the trumpets and the sound? They are for arousing, for gladness, to set forth the amazing nature of the things then doing, for grief to them that are left. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 76.5, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 460)

St. John Chrysostom--as He descends, we go forth to meet Him:
‎‎If He is about to descend, on what account shall we be caught up? For the sake of honor. For when a king drives into a city, those who are in honor go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see and kiss him; but those of the domestics who have offended remain within. We are carried upon the chariot of our Father. For He received Him up in the clouds, (Acts i. 9) and “we shall be caught up in the clouds.” Seest thou how great is the honor? and as He descends, we go forth to meet Him, and, what is more blessed than all, so we shall be with Him. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 8, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 356)

St. Augustine--the love of the wise virgins does not grow cold:
‎‎Where would ye have those wise virgins be? Are they not among those that “shall endure unto the end”? They would not be admitted within at all, Brethren, for any other reason, than because they have “endured unto the end.” No coldness of love then crept over them, in them love did not wax cold; but preserves its glow even unto the end. And because it glows even unto the end, therefore are the gates of the Bridegroom opened to them; therefore are they told to enter in, as that excellent servant, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Mt 25:21) (Augustine, Serm. 93.5.6, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 403)

St. Augustine--the bridegroom comes at midnight, when you are not aware:
‎‎He will come at midnight. What is, “will come at midnight”? Will come when thou art not aware. Why will He come when thou art not aware of it? Hear the Lord Himself, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Lord hath put in His own power.” (Ac 1:7) “The day of the Lord,” says the Apostle, “will come as a thief in the night.” (1 Th 5:2) Therefore watch thou by night that thou be not surprised by the thief. For the sleep of death—will ye, or nill ye—it will come. (Augustine, Serm. 93.7.8, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 403)

St. John Chrysostom--we must fill our lamps with oil now by almsgiving, for we cannot do so at the time of judgment:
‎“But go to them that sell, and buy.” And who are they that sell? The poor. And where are these? Here, and then should they have sought them, not at that time.
‎2. Seest thou what great profit arises to us from the poor? shouldest thou take them away, thou wouldest take away the great hope of our salvation. Wherefore here must we get together the oil, that it may be useful to us there, when the time calls us. For that is not the time of collecting it, but this. Spend not then your goods for nought in luxury and vainglory.For thou wilt have need of much oil there. (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt. 78.1-2, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 471)