Monday, December 26, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Holy Family, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Sirach 3:2–6, 12–14 or Genesis 15:1–6, 21:1–3
Second Reading Colossians 3:12–21 or Colossians 3:12–17 or Hebrews 11:8, 11–12, 17–19
Gospel Luke 2:22–40 or Luke 2:22, 39–40


For Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14 and Col. 3:12-21, see Holy Family, Year C.
For Luke 2:22-40, see The Presentation of the Lord.

St. Justin Martyr--Abraham was accounted righteous on account of his faith:
‎‎For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith. For before he was circumcised the following statement was made regarding him: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.’ (Ge 15:6) And we, therefore, in the uncircumcision of our flesh, believing God through Christ, and having that circumcision which is of advantage to us who have acquired it—namely, that of the heart—we hope to appear righteous before and well-pleasing to God: since already we have received His testimony through the words of the prophets. (Justin Martyr, Dial. 92, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 245)

St. Irenaeus--Christ raises up heirs to Abraham in faith:
‎‎For not alone upon Abraham’s account did He say these things, but also that He might point out how all who have known God from the beginning, and have foretold the advent of Christ, have received the revelation from the Son Himself; who also in the last times was made visible and passable, and spake with the human race, that He might from the stones raise up children unto Abraham, and fulfil the promise which God had given him, and that He might make his seed as the stars of heaven, (Ge 15:5) as John the Baptist says: “For God is able from these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Mt 3:9) Now, this Jesus did by drawing us off from the religion of stones, and bringing us over from hard and fruitless cogitations, and establishing in us a faith like to Abraham. As Paul does also testify, saying that we are children of Abraham because of the similarity of our faith, and the promise of inheritance. (Ro 4:12; Ga 4:28) (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 4.7.2, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 470)

St. Augustine--Isaac a symbol of Christ:
‎‎“By faith,” he says, “Abraham overcame, when tempted about Isaac: and he who had received the promise offered up his only son, to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: thinking that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead;” therefore he has added, “from whence also he received him in a similitude.” (He 11:17-19) In whose similitude but His of whom the apostle says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all?” (Ro 8:32) And on this account Isaac also himself carried to the place of sacrifice the wood on which he was to be offered up, just as the Lord Himself carried His own cross. Finally, since Isaac was not to be slain, after his father was forbidden to smite him, who was that ram by the offering of which that sacrifice was completed with typical blood? For when Abraham saw him, he was caught by the horns in a thicket. What, then, did he represent but Jesus, who, before He was offered up, was crowned with thorns by the Jews? (Augustine, De civ. Dei 16.32.1, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 329)

St. John Chrysostom on the faith of Abraham:
‎‎He heard the opposite of the promises from Him who had made them; and yet he was not disturbed, but did them as if they had been in harmony [therewith]. For they were in harmony; being opposed indeed according to human calculations, but in harmony [when viewed] by Faith. And how this was, the Apostle himself has taught us, by saying, “accounting that God was able to raise Him up, even from the dead.” By the same faith (he means) by which he believed that God gave what was not, and raised up the dead, by the same was he persuaded that He would also raise him up after he had been slain in sacrifice. For it was alike impossible (to human calculation, I mean) from a womb which was dead and grown old and already become useless for child-bearing to give a child, and to raise again one who had been slain. But his previous faith prepared the way for things to come. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 25.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 478)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem--Christians are children of Abraham through faith and baptism:
‎‎Let us see, then, how Abraham is the father of many nations (Ro 4:17, 18). Of Jews he is confessedly the father, through succession according to the flesh. But if we hold to the succession according to the flesh, we shall be compelled to say that the oracle was false. For according to the flesh be is no longer father of us all: but the example of his faith makes us all sons of Abraham. How? and in what manner? With men it is incredible that one should rise from the dead; as in like manner it is incredible also that there should be offspring from aged persons as good as dead. But when Christ is preached as having been crucified on the tree, and as having died and risen again, we believe it. By the likeness therefore of our faith we are adopted into the sonship of Abraham. And then, following upon our faith, we receive like him the spiritual seal, being circumcised by the Holy Spirit through Baptism, not in the foreskin of the body, but in the heart, according to Jeremiah, saying, And ye shall be circumcised unto God in the foreskin of your heart: (Je 4:4) and according to the Apostle, in the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, and the rest (Col 2:11, 12). (Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. 5.6, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 30)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Season Readings

The lectionary uses the same readings every year for Christmas; Mary, Mother of God; and Epiphany, so relevant excerpts from the Fathers can be found at:
Christmas Vigil
Christmas Midnight
Christmas Dawn
Christmas Day
Mary, Mother of God
Epiphany

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16
Second Reading Romans 16:25–27
Gospel Luke 1:26–38


St. Augustine--God's promise to David is fulfilled only in Christ:
‎‎He who thinks this grand promise was fulfilled in Solomon greatly errs; for he attends to the saying, “He shall build me an house,” but he does not attend to the saying, “His house shall be faithful, and his kingdom for evermore before me.” Let him therefore attend and behold the house of Solomon full of strange women worshipping false gods, and the king himself, aforetime wise, seduced by them, and cast down into the same idolatry: and let him not dare to think that God either promised this falsely, or was unable to fore-know that Solomon and his house would become what they did. But we ought not to be in doubt here, or to see the fulfillment of these things save in Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, (Ro 1:3) lest we should vainly and uselessly look for some other here, like the carnal Jews. For even they understand this much, that the son whom they read of in that place as promised to David was not Solomon; so that, with wonderful blindness to Him who was promised and is now declared with so great manifestation, they say they hope for another. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 17.8.2, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 348)

St. Ireneaus--Christ shall reign for ever:
‎‎And again, speaking in reference to the angel, he says: “But at that time the angel Gabriel was sent from God, who did also say to the virgin, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God.” (Lk 1:26) And he says concerning the Lord: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” (Lk 1:32) For who else is there who can reign uninterruptedly over the house of Jacob for ever, except Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of the Most High God, who promised by the law and the prophets that He would make His salvation visible to all flesh; so that He would become the Son of man for this purpose, that man also might become the son of God? (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.10.2, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 424)

Origen on the virginity of Mary:
‎‎And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, “Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? ” (Mt 13:55, 56) They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or “The Book of James,” (PJ 9) that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee,” (Lk 1:35) might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 10.17, ANF, vol. 10, pg. 424)

St. Justin Martyr--Eve and Mary:
‎‎For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; (Lk 1:35) and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word.’ ” (Lk 1:38) And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him. (Justin Martyr, Dial. 100, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 249)

St. Augustine--Mary dedicated her virginity to God:
‎‎Her virginity also itself was on this account more pleasing and accepted, in that it was not that Christ being conceived in her, rescued it beforehand from a husband who would violate it, Himself to preserve it; but, before He was conceived, chose it, already dedicated to God, as that from which to be born. This is shown by the words which Mary spake in answer to the Angel announcing to her her conception; “How,” saith she, “shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Lk 1:34) Which assuredly she would not say, unless she had before vowed herself unto God as a virgin. But, because the habits of the Israelites as yet refused this, she was espoused to a just man, who would not take from her by violence, but rather guard against violent persons, what she had already vowed. Although, even if she had said this only, “How shall this take place?” and had not added, “seeing I know not a man,” certainly she would not have asked, how, being a female, she should give birth to her promised Son, if she had married with purpose of sexual intercourse. She might have been bidden also to continue a virgin, that in her by fitting miracle the Son of God should receive the form of a servant, but, being to be a pattern to holy virgins, lest it should be thought that she alone needed to be a virgin, who had obtained to conceive a child even without sexual intercourse, she dedicated her virginity to God, when as yet she knew not what she should conceive, in order that the imitation of a heavenly life in an earthly and mortal body should take place of vow, not of command; through love of choosing, not through necessity of doing service. (Augustine, De sancta virgin. 4.4, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 418)

St. Hilary on the Annunciation:
‎‎an Angel blesses Mary and promises that she, a virgin, shall be the mother of the Son of God. Conscious of her virginity, she is distressed at this hard thing; the Angel explains to her the mighty working of God, saying, The Holy Ghost shall come from above into thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. (Lk 1:35) The Holy Ghost, descending from above, hallowed the Virgin’s womb, and breathing therein (for The Spirit bloweth where it listeth [Jn 3:8]), mingled Himself with the fleshly nature of man, and annexed by force and might that foreign domain. And, lest through weakness of the human structure failure should ensue, the power of the Most High overshadowed the Virgin, strengthening her feebleness in semblance of a cloud east round her, that the shadow, which was the might of God, might fortify her bodily frame to receive the procreative power of the Spirit. Such is the glory of the conception. (Hilary, De Trin. 2.26, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 59)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Third Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 61:1–2a, 10–11
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24
Gospel John 1:6–8, 19–28


St. Irenaeus on the anointing of Christ:
‎‎For in the name of Christ is implied, He that anoints, He that is anointed, and the unction itself with which He is anointed. And it is the Father who anoints, but the Son who is anointed by the Spirit, who is the unction, as the Word declares by Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me,” (Is 61:1)—pointing out both the anointing Father, the anointed Son, and the unction, which is the Spirit. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.18.3, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 446)

Tertullian--the fullment of Is 61:1-2 in the Beatitudes:
‎‎He who began (His course) with consolation for the poor, and the humble, and the hungry, and the weeping, was at once eager to represent Himself as Him whom He had pointed out by the mouth of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the poor.” (Is 61:1) “Blessed are the needy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Lk 6:21) “He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.” (Is 61:1) “Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled.” (Lk 6:21) “To comfort all that mourn.” (Is 61:2) “Blessed are they that weep, for they shall laugh.” (Lk 6:21) (Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.14, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 367)

St. Augustine on praying without ceasing:
‎‎When we cherish uninterrupted desire along with the exercise of faith and hope and charity, we “pray always.” But at certain stated hours and seasons we also use words in prayer to God, that by these signs of things we may admonish ourselves, and may acquaint ourselves with the measure of progress which we have made in this desire, and may more warmly excite ourselves to obtain an increase of its strength. For the effect following upon prayer will be excellent in proportion to the fervour of the desire which precedes its utterance. And therefore, what else is intended by the words of the apostle: “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Th 5:17) than, “Desire without intermission, from Him who alone can give it, a happy life, which no life can be but that which is eternal”? This, therefore, let us desire continually from the Lord our God; and thus let us pray continually. (Augustine, Ep. 130.9.18, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 465)

St. John Chrysostom on rejoicing always, even in affliction:
‎Ver. 16. “Rejoice alway.”
‎This is said with respect to the temptations that bring in affliction. Hear ye, as many as have fallen into poverty, or into distressing circumstances. For from these joy is engendered. For when we possess such a soul that we take revenge on no one, but do good to all, whence, tell me, will the sting of grief be able to enter into us? For he who so rejoices in suffering evil, as to requite even with benefits him that has done him evil, whence can he afterwards suffer grief? And how, you say, is this possible? It is possible, if we will. Then also he shows the way. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 10, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 367)

St. John Chrysostom--let not the wind of temptation, which comes through the opening of the senses, quench the Spirit in us:
‎On this account Paul says, “Quench not the Spirit,” that is, the gift of grace, for it is his custom so to call the gift of the Spirit. But this an impure life extinguishes. For as any one, who has sprinkled both water and dust upon the light of our lamp, extinguishes it, and if he does not this, but only takes out the oil—so it is also with the gift of grace. For if you have cast over it earthly things, and the cares of fluctuating matters, you have quenched the Spirit. And if you have done none of these things, but a temptation coming from some other quarter has vehemently assailed it, as some wind, and if the light be not strong, and it has not much oil, or you have not closed the opening, or have not shut the door, all is undone. But what is the opening? As in the lamp, so is it also in us: it is the eye and the ear. Suffer not a violent blast of wickedness to fall upon these, since it would extinguish the lamp, but close them up with the fear of God. The mouth is the door. Shut it, and fasten it, that it may both give light, and repel the attack from without. For instance, has any one insulted and reviled you? Do you shut the mouth; for if you open it, you add force to the wind. Do you not see in houses, when two doors stand directly opposite, and there is a strong wind, if you shut one, and there is no opposite draught, the wind has no power, but the greater part of its force is abated? So also now, there are two doors, thy mouth, and his who insults and affronts thee; if thou shuttest thy mouth, and dost not allow a draught on the other side, thou hast quenched the whole blast but if thou openest it, it will not be restrained. Let us not therefore quench it. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 11, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 370-371)

St. John Chrysostom on "prove all things":
‎Seest thou that this is what he means by, “Prove all things”? Because he had said, “Despise not prophesyings,” lest they should think that he opened the pulpit to all, he says, “Prove all things,” that is, such as are really prophecies; “and hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil”; not from this or that, but from all; that you may by proof distinguish both the true things and the false, and abstain from the latter, and hold fast the former. For thus both the hatred of the one will be vehement and the love of the other arises, when we do all things not carelessly, nor without examination, but with careful investigation. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 11, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 371)

St. Augustine on John's denial that he is Elijah:
‎‎Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that John was in the spirit of Elias. And what John was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two, but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come tobe judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what John was in the first.
‎‎6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.” (Lk 1:17) What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that John was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did John reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did John speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 4.5-7, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 27)

St. John Chrysostom--John is a prophet but is not the prophet:
‎Then they ask, “Art thou that prophet? and he answered, No.” (Matt. xvii. 10.) Yet surely he was a prophet. Wherefore then doth he deny it? Because again he looks to the intention of his questioners. For they expected that some especial prophet should come, because Moses said, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet of thy brethren like unto me, unto Him shall ye harken.” (Deut. xviii. 15.) Now this was Christ. Wherefore they do not say, “Art thou a prophet?” meaning thereby one of the ordinary prophets; but the expression, “Art thou the prophet?” with the addition of the article, means, “Art thou that Prophet who was foretold by Moses?” and therefore he denied not that he was a prophet, but that he was “that Prophet.” (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 16.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 56)