Monday, January 2, 2012

Second Sunday after Christmas

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Sirach 24:1–2, 8–12
Second Reading Ephesians 1:3–6, 15–18
Gospel John 1:1–18 or John 1:1–5, 9–14


For Ephesians 1:15-18, see Ascension, Year C.
For John 1:1-18, see Christmas, During the Day.

St. Augustine--God chose us not because we were already holy but that we might become so:“Blessed,” says he, “be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us in all spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ; even as He hath chosen us in Himself before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted.” (Eph 1:3) Not, then, because we were to be so, but that we might be so. Assuredly it is certain,—assuredly it is manifest. Certainly we were to be such for the reason that He has chosen us, predestinating us to be such by His grace. Therefore “He blessed us with spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ Jesus, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and immaculate in His sight, order that we might not in so great a benefit of grace glory concerning the good pleasure of our will. “In which,” says he, “He hath shown us favour in His beloved Son,”—in which, certainly, His own will, He hath shown us favour. Thus, it is said, He hath shown us grace by grace, even as it is said, He has made us righteous by righteous. “In whom,” he says, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches is His grace, which has abounded to us in all was according to His own pleasure, should aid it to become so. But when he had said, “According to His good pleasure,” he added, “which He purposed in Him,” that is, in His beloved Son, “in the dispensation of the fulness of times to restore all things in Christ, which arein heaven, and which are in earth, in Him inwhom also we too have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who worketh all things according to the counsel of His will; that we should be to the praise of His glory.” (Augustine, De praed. sanct. 18.36, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 516)

St. John Chrysostom--God has blessed us with every spiritual, not carnal, blessing:
‎“With every spiritual blessing.” And what lackest thou yet? Thou art made immortal, thou art made free, thou art made a son, thou art made righteous, thou art made a brother, thou art made a fellow-heir, thou reignest with Christ, thou art glorified with Christ; all things are freely given thee. “How,” saith he, “shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom. viii: 32.) Thy First-fruits is adored by Angels, by the Cherubim, by the Seraphim! What lackest thou yet? “With every spiritual blessing.” There is nothing carnal here. Accordingly He excluded all those former blessings, when He said, “In the world ye have tribulation,” (John xvi: 33.) to lead us on to these. For as they who possessed carnal things were unable to hear of spiritual things, so they who aim at spiritual things cannot attain to them unless they first stand aloof from carnal things. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 1, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 50)

St. John Chrysostom on predestination:
“In love,” saith he, “having predestinated us.” Because this comes not of any pains, nor of any good works of ours, but of love; and yet not of love alone, but of our virtue also. For if indeed of love alone, it would follow that all must be saved; whereas again were it the result of our virtue alone, then were His coming needless, and the whole dispensation. But it is the result neither of His love alone, nor yet of our virtue, but of both. “He chose us,” saith the Apostle; and He that chooseth, knoweth what it is that He chooseth. “In love,” he adds, “having foreordained us;” for virtue would never have saved any one, had there not been love. For tell me, what would Paul have profited, how would he have exhibited what he has exhibited, if God had not both called him from the beginning, and, in that He loved him, drawn him to Himself? But besides, His vouchsafing us so great privileges, was the effect of His love, not of our virtue. Because our being rendered virtuous, and believing, and coming nigh unto Him, even this again was the work of Him that called us Himself, and yet, notwithstanding, it is ours also. But that on our coming nigh unto Him, He should vouchsafe us so high privileges, as to bring us at once from a state of enmity, to the adoption of children, this is indeed the work of a really transcendent love. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 1, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 51-52)

St. Athansius--Ephesians 1:3-5 implies that the Son existed before all creation:
‎‎How then has He chosen us, before we came into existence, but that, as he says himself, in Him we were represented beforehand? and how at all, before men were created, did He predestinate us unto adoption, but that the Son Himself was ‘founded before the world,’ taking on Him that economy which was for our sake? or how, as the Apostle goes on to say, have we ‘an inheritance being predestinated,’ but that the Lord Himself was founded ‘before the world,’ inasmuch as He had a purpose, for our sakes, to take on Him through the flesh all that inheritance of judgment which lay against us, and we henceforth were made sons in Him? and how did we receive it ‘before the world was,’ when we were not yet in being, but afterwards in time, but that in Christ was stored the grace which has reached us? (Athanasius, Cont. Ar. 2.22.76, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 389)

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