Monday, February 20, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: First Sunday of Lent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Genesis 9:8–15
Second Reading 1 Peter 3:18–22
Gospel Mark 1:12–15


For the Gospel, see also parallels in Year A and Year C.

St. Cyprian on the ark of the Church and the saving waters of baptism:
‎Moreover, Peter himself, showing and vindicating the unity, has commanded and warned us that we cannot be saved, except by the one only baptism of one Church. “In the ark,” says he, “of Noah, few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water, as also baptism shall in like manner save you.” (1 Pe 3:20, 21) In how short and spiritual a summary has he set forth the sacrament of unity! For as, in that baptism of the world in which its ancient iniquity was purged away, he who was not in the ark of Noah could not be saved by water, so neither can he appear to be saved by baptism who has not been baptized in the Church which is established in the unity of the Lord according to the sacrament of the one ark. (Cyprian, Ep. 74.11, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 389)

St. Jerome draws an extensive allegory between the ark and the Church:
‎Noah’s ark was a type of the Church, as the Apostle Peter says— (1 Pe 3:20) “In Noah’s ark few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save us, even baptism.” As in the ark there were all kinds of animals, so also in the Church there are men of all races and characters. As in the one there was the leopard with the kids, the wolf with the lambs, so in the other there are found the righteous and sinners, that is, (2 Ti 2:20) vessels of gold and silver with those of wood and of earth. The ark had its rooms: the Church has many mansions. Eight souls were saved in Noah’s ark. And (Eccl 11:2) Ecclesiastes bids us “give a portion to seven yea, even unto eight,” that is to believe both Testaments. This is why some psalms bear the inscription for the octave, and why the one hundred and nineteenth psalm is divided into portions of eight verses each beginning with its own letter for the instruction of the righteous. The beatitudes which our Lord spoke to his disciples on the mountain, thereby delineating the Church, are eight. And Ezekiel for the building of the temple employs the number eight. And you will find many other things expressed in the same way in the Scriptures. The raven also is sent forth from the ark but does not return, and afterwards the dove announces peace to the earth. So also in the Church’s baptism, that most unclean bird the devil is expelled, and the dove of the Holy Spirit announces peace to our earth. The construction of the ark was such that it began with being thirty cubits broad and gradually narrowed to one. Similarly the Church, consisting of many grades, ends in deacons, presbyters, and bishops. The ark was in peril in the flood, the Church is in peril in the world. When Noah left the ark he planted a vineyard, drank thereof, and was drunken. Christ also, born in the flesh, planted the Church and suffered. The elder son made sport of his father’s nakedness, the younger covered it: and the Jews mocked God crucified, the Gentiles honoured Him. The daylight would fail me if I were to explain all the mysteries of the ark and compare them with the Church. (Jerome, Lucif. 21, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 331)

St. Augustine--Baptism and the Eucharist are salvation and life:
‎The Christians of Carthage have an excellent name for the sacraments, when they say that baptism is nothing else than “salvation,” and the sacrament of the body of Christ nothing else than “life.” Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life? So much also does Scripture testify, according to the words which we already quoted. For wherein does their opinion, who designate baptism by the term salvation, differ from what is written: “He saved us by the washing of regeneration?” (Tit 3:5) or from Peter’s statement: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us?” (1 Pe 3:21) And what else do they say who call the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper life, than that which is written: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven;” and “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world;” (Jn 6:51) (Augustine, De pecc. merit. et remiss. 1.24.34, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 28)

St. Bede on Christ's retreat into the desert and temptation:
‎But He retires into the desert that He may teach us that, leaving the allurements of the world, and the company of the wicked, we should in all things obey the Divine commands. He is left alone and tempted by the devil, that He might teach us, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; (2 Tim. 3:12) whence it follows, And he was in the wilderness forty days and forty nights, and was tempted of Satan. But He was tempted forty days and forty nights, that He might shew us, that as long as we live here and serve God, whether prosperity smile upon us, which is meant by the day, or adversity smite us, which agrees with the figure of night, at all times our adversary is at hand, who ceases not to trouble our way by temptations. For the forty days and forty nights imply the whole time of this world, for the globe in which we are serving God is divided into four quarters. Again, there are Ten Commandments, by observing which we fight against our enemy, but four times ten are forty. (Bede, in Marc. 1.5, Cat. Aur., vol. 2, pg. 18)

St. Bede--Christ dwells among wild beasts as man, but, as God, uses the ministry of angels:
‎Consider also that Christ dwells among the wild beasts as man, but, as God, uses the ministry of Angels. Thus, when in the solitude of a holy life we bear with unpolluted mind the bestial manners of men, we merit to have the ministry of Angels, by whom, when freed from the body, we shall be transferred to everlasting happiness. (Bede, in Marc. 1.5, Cat. Aur., vol. 2, pg. 19)

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