Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Second Sunday of Lent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Genesis 22:1–2, 9a, 10–13, 15–18
Second Reading Romans 8:31b–34
Gospel Mark 9:2–10


For the Gospel, see also parallels at Lent 2, Year A and Year C.

Tertullian--the sacrifice of Isaac prefigures Christ's sacrifice:
‎Accordingly, to begin with, Isaac, when led by his father as a victim, and himself bearing his own “wood,” was even at that early period pointing to Christ’s death; conceded, as He was, as a victim by the Father; carrying, as He did, the “wood” of His own passion. (Comp. Ge 22:1-10 with Jn 19:17) (Tertullian, Adv. Jud. 10, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 165)

St. Augustine on the same prefiguring of Christ in Isaac:
‎“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. Augustine--God is said to come to know something when he causes us to know:
‎So also God is said to “know” when He causes us to know. God says to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God.” (Ge 22:12) Did He then not know it before then? But Abraham did not know himself till then: for it was in that very trial he came to know himself.… And God is said to “know” that which He had caused him to know. (Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 44.16, NPNF1, vol. 8, pg. 144)

St. John Chrysostom--God exercises his own athletes through trials:
‎And he shows another thing too, by saying, that “God tempted Abraham.” (Gen. 22:1.) What then? Did not God know that the man was noble and approved? Why then did He tempt him? Not that He might Himself learn, but that He might show to others, and make his fortitude manifest to all. And here also he shows the cause of trials, that they may not suppose they suffer these things as being forsaken [of God]. For in their case indeed, it was necessary that they should he tried, because there were many who persecuted or plotted against them: but in Abraham’s case, what need was there to devise trials for him which did not exist? Now this trial, it is evident, was by His command. The others indeed happened by His allowance, but this even by His command. If then temptations make men approved in such wise that, even where there is no occasion, God exercises His own athletes; much more ought we to bear all things nobly. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 25.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 478)

St. Ambrose--God is not pleased by blood, but by dutiful obedience:
‎The father offered indeed his son, but God is appeased not by blood but by dutiful obedience. He showed the ram in the thicket (Ge 22;13) in the stead of the lad, that He might restore the son to his father, and yet the victim not fail the priest. And so Abraham was not stained with his son’s blood, nor was God deprived of the sacrifice. The prophet spoke, and neither yielded to boastfulness nor continued obstinate, but took the ram in exchange for the lad. And by this is shown the more how piously he offered him whom he now so gladly received back. And thou, if thou offer thy gift to God, dost not lose it. But we are tenacious of our own; God gave His only Son for us, (Ro 8:32) we refuse ours. Abraham saw this and recognized the mystery, that salvation should be to us from the Tree, nor did it escape his notice that in one and the same sacrifice it was One that seemed to be offered, Another which could be slain. (Ambrose, De excessu fratris 2.98, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 190)

St. Augustine--what blessings shall God give us in the blessed life, who was willing to give his Son:
‎What blessings will He in the blessed life shower upon those for whom, even in this state of misery, He has been willing that His only-begotten Son should endure such sufferings even to death? Thus the apostle reasons concerning those who are predestined to that kingdom: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also give us all things?” (Ro 8:32) When this promise is fulfilled, what shall we be? What blessings shall we receive in that kingdom, since already we have received as the pledge of them Christ’s dying? In what condition shall the spirit of man be, when it has no longer any vice at all; when it neither yields to any, nor is in bondage to any, nor has to make war against any, but is perfected, and enjoys undisturbed peace with itself? Shall it not then know all things with certainty, and without any labor or error, when unhindered and joyfully it drinks the wisdom of God at the fountain-head? What shall the body be, when it is in every respect subject to the spirit, from which it shall draw a life so sufficient, as to stand in need of no other nutriment? For it shall no longer be animal, but spiritual, having indeed the substance of flesh, but without any fleshly corruption. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 22.24.5, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 504)

St. John Chrysostom--God's wisdom turns the plots of those who oppose us unto our salvation and glory:
‎Why, it may be said, who is there that is not against us? Why the world is against us, both kings and peoples, both relations and countrymen. Yet these that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turneth their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us! (Chrysostom, Hom. Rom. 15, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 453)

Origen--after six days, Jesus gives a glimpse of a new Sabbath in the Transfiguration:
‎For since in six days—the perfect number—the whole world,—this perfect work of art,—was made, on this account I think that he who transcends all the things of the world by beholding no longer the things which are not seen, for they are temporal, but already the things which are seen, and only the things which are not seen, because that they are eternal, is represented in the words, “After six days days Jesus took up with Him” certain persons. If therefore any one of us wishes to be taken by Jesus, and led up by Him into the high mountain, and be deemed worthy of beholding His transfiguration apart, let him pass beyond the six days, because he no longer beholds the things which are seen, nor longer loves the world, nor the things in the world, (1 Jn 2:15) nor lusts after any worldly lust, which is the lust of bodies, and of the riches of the body, and of the glory which is after the flesh, and whatever things whose nature it is to distract and drag away the soul from the things which are better and diviner, and bring it down and fix it fast to the deceit of this age, in wealth and glory, and the rest of the lusts which are the foes of truth. For when he has passed through the six days, as we have said, he will keep a new Sabbath, rejoicing in the lofty mountain, because he sees Jesus transfigured before him; for the Word has different forms, as He appears to each as is expedient for the beholder, and is manifested to no one beyond the capacity of the beholder. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 12.36, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 469-470)

Origen--Jesus appears in his divinity to those who ascend with him:
‎But hear these things, if you can, at the same time giving heed spiritually, that it is not said simply, “He was transfigured,” but with a certain necessary addition, which Matthew and Mark have recorded; for, according to both, “He was transfigured before them.” (Mt 17:2; Mk 9:2) And according to this, indeed, you will say that it is possible for Jesus to be transfigured before some with this transfiguration, but before others at the same time not to be transfigured. But if you wish to see the transfiguration of Jesus before those who went up into the lofty mountain apart long with Him, behold with me the Jesus in the Gospels, as more simply apprehended, and as one might say, known “according to the flesh,” by those who do not go up, through works and words which are uplifting, to the lofty mountain of wisdom, but known no longer after the flesh, but known in His divinity by means of all the Gospels, and beholden in the form of God according to their knowledge; for before them is Jesus transfigured, and not to any one of those below. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 12.37, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 470)

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