Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Baptism of the Lord, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7 or Isaiah 55:1–11
Second Reading Acts 10:34–38 or 1 John 5:1–9
Gospel Mark 1:7–11


For the readings from Isaiah 42 and Acts and the Gospel's parallel in Luke, see Baptism of the Lord, Year C. For the Gospel's parallel in Matthew, see Year A.

St. Clement of Alexandria--the inheritance of the Christian:
‎‎Ye that thirst, come to the water; and ye that have no money, come, and buy and drink without money. (Is 55:1) He invites to the laver, to salvation, to illumination, all but crying out and saying, The land I give thee, and the sea, my child, and heaven too; and all the living creatures in them I freely bestow upon thee. Only, O child, thirst for thy Father; God shall be revealed to thee without price; the truth is not made merchandise of. He gives thee all creatures that fly and swim, and those on the land. These the Father has created for thy thankful enjoyment. What the bastard, who is a son of perdition, foredoomed to be the slave of mammon, has to buy for money, He assigns to thee as thine own, even to His own son who loves the Father; for whose sake He still works, and to whom alone He promises, saying, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity,” for it is not destined to corruption. (Clem. Alex., Prot. 10, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 198)

St. Augustine--the Lord is to be sought even when found:
‎‎For it is not said, The heart shall rejoice of them that find, but of them that seek, the Lord. And yet the prophet Isaiah testifies, that the Lord God can be found when He is sought, when he says: “Seek ye the Lord; and as soon as ye have found Him, call upon Him: and when He has drawn near to you, let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” (Is 55:6, 7) If, then, when sought, He can be found, why is it said, “Seek ye His face evermore?” Is He perhaps to be sought even when found? For things incomprehensible must so be investigated, as that no one may think he has found nothing, when he has been able to find how incomprehensible that is which he was seeking. Why then does he so seek, if he comprehends that which he seeks to be incomprehensible, unless because he may not give over seeking so long as he makes progress in the inquiry itself into things incomprehensible, and becomes ever better and better while seeking so great a good, which is both sought in order to be found, and found in order to be sought? For it is both sought in order that it may be found more sweetly, and found in order that it may be sought more eagerly. (Augustine, De Trin. 15.2.2, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 199-200)

St. Augustine--God's commands are not grievous to those with the right disposition:
‎‎Now all things are easy for love to effect, to which (and which alone) “Christ’s burden is light,” (Mt 11:30) —or rather, it is itself alone the burden which is light. Accordingly it is said, “And His commandments are not grievous;” (1 Jn 5:3) so that whoever finds them grievous must regard the inspired statement about their “not being grievous” as having been capable of only this meaning, that there may be a state of heart to which they are not burdensome, and he must pray for that disposition which he at present wants, so as to be able to fulfil all that is commanded him. (Augustine, De nat. et grat. 69.83, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 151)

St. Augustine--the love of God and of his Son and of his members is compacted into one love:
‎‎“In this we know that we love the sons of God, in that we love God.” And how? Are not the sons of God one thing, God Himself another? But he that loves God, loves His precepts. And what are the precepts of God? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Let none excuse himself by another love, for another love; so and so only is it with this love: as the love itself is compacted in one, so all that hang by it doth it make one, and as fire melts them down into one. It is gold: the lump is molten and becomes some one thing. But unless the fervor of charity be applied, of many there can be no melting down into one. “That we love God,” by this “know we that we love the sons of God.” (Augustine, Tract. in ep. Joan. 10.3, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 521-522)

St. Ambrose--the three witnesses in the adoption. baptism and redemption of the Christian:
‎‎‎Hear how they are witnesses: The Spirit renews the mind, the water is serviceable for the laver, and the blood refers to the price. For the Spirit made us children by adoption, the water of the sacred Font washed us, the blood of the Lord redeemed us. So we obtain one invisible and one visible testimony in a spiritual sacrament, for “the Spirit Himself beareth witness to our spirit.” (Ro 8:16) Though the fulness of the sacrament be in each, yet there is a distinction of office; so where there is distinction of office, there certainly is not equality of witness. (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct. 3.10.68, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 144)

St. Bede--John the Baptist proclaims Christ only as a man greater than himself to those not yet capable of recieving the mystery of his divinity:
‎Thus then John proclaims the Lord not yet as God, or the Son of God, but only as a man mightier than himself. For his ignorant hearers were not yet capable of receiving the hidden things of so great a Sacrament, that the eternal Son of God, having taken upon Him the nature of man, had been lately born into the world of a virgin; but gradually by the acknowledgment of His glorified lowliness, they were to be introduced to the belief of His Divine Eternity. To these words, however, he subjoins, as if covertly declaring that he was the true God, I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. For who can doubt, that none other but God can give the grace of the Holy Ghost. (Bede, in Marc. 1.2, Cat. Aur. 2.14)

St. Bede on the reason for Our Lord's baptism:
‎‎He was baptized, that by being baptized Himself He might shew His approval of John’s baptism, and that, by sanctifying the waters of Jordan through the descent of the dove, He might shew the coming of the Holy Ghost in the laver of believers; whence there follows, And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit like a dove descending, and resting upon him. But the heavens are opened, not by the unclosing of the elements, but to the eyes of the spirit, to which Ezekiel in the beginning of his book relates that they were opened; (Ezek. 1.) or this His seeing the heavens opened after baptism was done for our sakes, to whom the door of the kingdom of heaven is opened by the laver of regeneration. (Bede, in Marc. 1.4, Cat. Aur. 2.15)

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