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)

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