Monday, March 26, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Palm Sunday, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary
Gospel Mark 11:1–10 or John 12:12–16

First Reading Isaiah 50:4–7
Second Reading Philippians 2:6–11
Gospel Mk 14:14–15:47

For the First and Second Readings, see Palm Sunday, Year C.
See also, Gospel parallels in Years A and C.

St. Bede--the path to Jesus' heavenly kingdom is through contempt of death:
‎Now we read in the Gospel of John that He fled into a mountain, lest they should make him their king. Now, however, when He comes to Jerusalem to suffer, He does not shun those who call Him king, that He might openly teach them that He was King over an empire not temporal and earthly, but everlasting in the heavens, and that the path to this kingdom was through contempt of death. Observe also the agreement of the multitude with the saying of Gabriel, The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; (Luke 1:32) that is, that He Himself may call by word and deed to a heavenly kingdom the nation to which David once furnished the government of a temporal rule. (Bede, in Marc. 3, 41, Cat. Aur. vol. 2, pg. 222)

St. Bede takes the garments thrown in Christ's path as symbolic of those who put off the garment of the flesh through martyrdom or self-denial:
[M]any strew their garments in the way, because the holy martyrs put off from themselves the garment of their own flesh, and prepare a way for the more simple servants of God with their own blood. Many also strew their garments in the way, because they tame their bodies with abstinence, that they may prepare a way for God to the mount, or may give good examples to those who follow them. And they cut down branches from the trees, who in the teaching of the truth cull the sentences of the Fathers from their words, and by their lowly preaching scatter them in the path of God, when He comes into the soul of the hearer. (Bede, in Marc. 3, 41, Cat. Aur. vol. 2, pg. 224)

St. Augustine--the palm branches are emblems of Christ's victory over death and the devil:
‎The branches of palm trees are laudatory emblems, significant of victory, because the Lord was about to overcome death by dying, and by the trophy of His cross to triumph over the devil, the prince of death. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 15.2, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 283)

St. Augustine--for the Lord of the angels to become King of the Jews was condescension, not promotion:
‎But what honor was it to the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship over Israel was not for the purpose of exacting tribute, of putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, of subduing His enemies by open warfare; but He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, and hope, and love were centred in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews, is in the heavens the Lord of angels. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 51.4, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 284)

St. Cyprian--Christ directs his apostles to pray that they enter not into temptation, reminding us of our infirmity and weakness:
‎But when we ask that we may not come into temptation, we are reminded of our infirmity and weakness in that we thus ask, lest any should insolently vaunt himself, lest any should proudly and arrogantly assume anything to himself, lest any should take to himself the glory either of confession or of suffering as his own, when the Lord Himself, teaching humility, said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak;” (Mk 14:38) so that while a humble and submissive confession comes first, and all is attributed to God, whatever is sought for suppliantly with fear and honour of God, may be granted by His own loving-kindness. (Cyprian, De orat. Dom. 26, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 454)

St. Gregory Nazianzen--to suffer with Christ and for Christ is better than a life of ease with others:
‎Shall I say that which is a greater thing yet? Let us sacrifice ourselves to God; or rather let us go on sacrificing throughout every day and at every moment. Let us accept anything for the Word’s sake. By sufferings let us imitate His Passion: by our blood let us reverence His Blood: let us gladly mount upon the Cross. Sweet are the nails, though they be very painful. For to suffer with Christ and for Christ is better than a life of ease with others.
‎XXIV. If you are a Simon of Cyrene, (Mk 15:21) take up the Cross and follow. If you are crucified with Him as a robber, (Lk 23:42) acknowledge God as a penitent robber. If even He was numbered among the transgressors (Is 53:12) for you and your sin, do you become law-abiding for His sake. Worship Him Who was hanged for you, even if you yourself are hanging; make some gain even from your wickedness; purchase salvation by your death; enter with Jesus into Paradise, (Lk 23:43) so that you may learn from what you have fallen. (Rev 2:5) Contemplate the glories that are there; let the murderer die outside with his blasphemies; and if you be a Joseph of Arimathaea, (Lk 23:52) beg the Body from him that crucified Him, make thine own that which cleanses the world. (1 Jn 1:7) If you be a Nicodemus, the worshipper of God by night, bury Him with spices. (Jn 19:39) (Greg. Naz. Orat. 45.23-24, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 431-432)

St. John Damascene--Christ condemned not his own creation of Judas, but the evil Judas acquired by his own choice:
‎For simple being comes first and then good or evil being. But if the very existence of those, who through the goodness of God are in the future to exist, were to be prevented by the fact that they were to become evil of their own choice, evil would have prevailed over the goodness of God. Wherefore God makes all His works good, but each becomes of its own choice good or evil. Although, then, the Lord said, Good were it for that man that he had never been born, (Mk 14:21) He said it in condemnation not of His own creation but of the evil which His own creation had acquired by his own choice and through his own heedlessness. For the heedlessness that marks man’s judgment made His Creator’s beneficence of no profit to him. It is just as if any one, when he had obtained riches and dominion from a king, were to lord it over his benefactor, who, when he has worsted him, will punish him as he deserves, if he should see him keeping hold of the sovereignty to the end.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 2 Chronicles 36:14–16, 19–23
Second Reading Ephesians 2:4–10
Gospel John 3:14–21

For the Gospel, see also Trinity Sunday, Year A.

St. Augustine--God creates us anew as good men:
And lest men should arrogate to themselves the merit of their own faith at least, not understanding that this too is the gift of God, this same apostle, who says in another place that he had “obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful,” (1 Co 7:25) here also adds: “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8, 9) And lest it should be thought that good works will be wanting in those who believe, he adds further: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) We shall be made truly free, then, when God fashions us, that is, forms and creates us anew, not as men—for He has done that already—but as good men, which His grace is now doing, that we may be a new creation in Christ Jesus, according as it is said: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (Ps 51:10) For God had already created his heart, so far as the physical structure of the human heart is concerned; but the psalmist prays for the renewal of the life which was still lingering in his heart. (Augustine, Enchir. 31, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 247-248)

St. John Chrysostom--the Church is already raised up in Christ her head:
Beholdest thou the glory of His inheritance? That “He hath raised us up together,” is plain. But that He “hath made us sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” how does this hold? It holds as truly, as that He hath raised us together. For as yet no one is actually raised, excepting that inasmuch as as the Head hath risen, we also are raised, just as in the history, when Jacob did obeisance, his wife also did obeisance to Joseph. (Gen. 37:9, 10.) And so in the same way “hath He also made us to sit with Him.” For since the Head sitteth, the body sitteth also with it, and therefore he adds “in Christ Jesus.” Or again, if it means, not this, it means that by the laver of Baptism He hath “raised us up with Him.” How then in that case hath He made “us to sit with Him?” Because, saith he, “if we suffer we shall also reign with Him,” (2 Tim. 2:12.) if we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him. Truly there is need of the Spirit and of revelation, in order to understand the depth of these mysteries. And then that ye may have no distrust about the matter, observe what he adds further. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 4, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 66-67)

St. John Chrysostom--created in Christ Jesus for good works:
Ver. 10. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
‎Observe the words he uses. He here alludes to the regeneration, which is in reality a second creation. We have been brought from non-existence into being. As to what we were before, that is, the old man, we are dead. What we are now become, before, we were not. Truly then is this work a creation, yea, and more noble than the first; for from that one, we have our being; but from this last, we have, over and above, our well being.
‎“For good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
‎Not merely that we should begin, but that we should walk in them, for we need a virtue which shall last throughout, and be extended on to our dying day. If we had to travel a road leading to a royal city, and then when we had passed over the greater part of it, were to flag and sit down near the very close, it were of no use to us. This is the hope of our calling; for “for good works” he says. Otherwise it would profit us nothing. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 4, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 68)

St. Augustine on the serpent and the cross:
What means the uplifted serpent but the death of Christ, by that mode of expressing a sign, whereby the thing which is effected is signified by that which effects it? Now death came by the serpent, which persuaded man to commit the sin, by which he deserved to die. The Lord, however, transferred to His own flesh not sin, as the poison of the serpent, but He did transfer to it death, that the penalty without the fault might transpire in the likeness of sinful flesh, whence, in the sinful flesh, both the fault might be removed and the penalty. As, therefore, it then came to pass that whoever looked at the raised serpent was both healed of the poison and freed from death, so also now, whosoever is conformed to the likeness of the death of Christ by faith in Him and His baptism, is freed both from sin by justification, and from death by resurrection. For this is what He says: “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:15) (Augustine, De pecc. merit. et remiss. 1.32.61, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 39-40)

St. John Chrysostom on the serpent and the cross:
Seest thou the cause of the Crucifixion, and the salvation which is by it? Seest thou the relationship of the type to the reality? there the Jews escaped death, but the temporal, here believers the eternal; there the hanging serpent healed the bites of serpents, here the Crucified Jesus cured the wounds inflicted by the spiritual dragon; there he who looked with his bodily eyes was healed, here he who beholds with the eyes of his understanding put off all his sins; there that which hung was brass fashioned into the likeness of a serpent, here it was the Lord’s Body, builded by the Spirit; there a serpent bit and a serpent healed, here death destroyed and a Death saved. But the snake which destroyed had venom, that which saved was free from venom; and so again was it here, for the death which slew us had sin with it, as the serpent had venom; but the Lord’s Death was free from all sin, as the brazen serpent from venom. (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 27.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 94)

St. John Chrysostom--the hardened sinner flees even the chance of pardon:
Ver. 19, 20. “Because,” He saith, “their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
‎Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they? Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men’s former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed, so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting upon these. (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 28.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 97-98)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Third Sunday of Lent, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Exodus 20:1–17 or Exodus 20:1–3, 7–8, 12–17
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:22–25
Gospel John 2:13–25

St. Augustine--the commands of the decalogue, in the New Testament, are now written in the heart:
‎Now the promises of the Old Testament are earthly; and yet (with the exception of the sacramental ordinances which were the shadow of things to come, such as circumcision, the Sabbath and other observances of days, and the ceremonies of certain meats, and the complicated ritual of sacrifices and sacred things which suited “the oldness” of the carnal law and its slavish yoke) it contains such precepts of righteousness as we are even now taught to observe, which were especially expressly drawn out on the two tables without figure or shadow: for instance, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt do no murder,” “Thou shalt not covet,” (Ex 20:13, 14, 15) “and whatsoever other commandment is briefly comprehended in the saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Ro 13:19) Nevertheless, whereas as in the said Testament earthly and temporal promises are, as I have said, recited, and these are goods of this corruptible flesh (although they prefigure those heavenly and everlasting blessings which belong to the New Testament), what is now promised is a good for the heart itself, a good for the mind, a good of the spirit, that is, an intellectual good; since it is said, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write them,” (Je 31:33) —by which He signified that men would not fear the law which alarmed them externally, but would love the very righteousness of the law which dwelt inwardly in their hearts. (Augustine, De spir. et lit. 21.36, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 98)

St. John Chrysostom--some of the commandments are known to the conscience before they are revealed by God:
‎How was it then when He said, “Thou shalt not kill,” that He did not add, “because murder is a wicked thing.” The reason was, that conscience had taught this beforehand; and He speaks thus, as to those who know and understand the point. Wherefore when He speaks to us of another commandment, not known to us by the dictate of conscience, He not only prohibits, but adds the reason. When, for instance, He gave commandment respecting the Sabbath; “On the seventh day thou shalt do no work;” He subjoined also the reason for this cessation. (Chrysostom, De stat. 12.9, NPNF1, vol. 9, pg. 421-422)

St. John Chrysostom--the apostles prevailed with what seemed contrary to all known signs:
‎Again; the Greeks demand of us a rhetorical style, and the acuteness of sophistry. But preach we to these also the Cross: and that which, in the case of the Jews seemed to be weakness, this in the case of the Greeks is foolishness. Wherefore, when we not only fail in producing what they demand, but also produce the very opposites of their demand; (for the Cross has not merely no appearance of being a sign sought out by reasoning, but even the very annihilation of a sign;—is not merely deemed no proof of power, but a conviction of weakness;—not merely no display of wisdom, but a suggestion of foolishness;)—when therefore they who seek for signs and wisdom not only receive not the things which they ask, but even hear the contrary to what they desire, and then by means of contraries are persuaded;—how is not the power of Him that is preached unspeakable? As if to some one tempest-tost and longing for a haven, you were to shew not a haven but another wilder portion of the sea, and so could make him follow with thankfulness? Or as if a physician could attract to himself the man that was wounded and in need of remedies, by promising to cure him not with drugs, but with burning of him again! For this is a result of great power indeed. So also the Apostles prevailed, not simply without a sign, but even by a thing which seemed contrary to all the known signs. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor 4.5, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 18)

St. Ambrose--Christ, source of wisdom and power:
‎He is Wisdom, (1 Co 1:24) not as one that is ignorant acquiring wisdom, but making others wise from His own store; so, too, He is Power, (1 Co 1:24) not as having through weakness obtained increase of strength, but being Himself Power, and bestowing power upon the strong. (Ambrose, De fide 4.4.43, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 267)

St. Augustine--Christ, who in himself is alive, has power to raise himself:
‎He only was able to raise Himself, who though His Body was dead, was not dead. For He raised up that which was dead. He raised up Himself, who in Himself was alive, but in His Body that was to be raised was dead. For not the Father only, of whom it was said by the Apostle, “Wherefore God also hath exalted Him,” (Phil 2:9) raised the Son, but the Lord also raised Himself, that is, His Body. Whence He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.” (Jn 2:19) (Augustine, Serm. 67.1.2, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 311)

St. Augustine--the Creator of man knows what is in man better than man himself:
‎“Because He knew all men, and needed not that any should bear witness of man: for Himself knew what was in man.” The artificer knew what was in His own work better than the work knew what was in itself. The Creator of man knew what was in man, which the created man himself knew not. Do we not prove this of Peter, that he knew not what was in himself, when he said, “With Thee, even to death”? Hear that the Lord knew what was in man: “Thou with me even to death? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (Mt 26:33, 34; Lk 22:33, 34) The man, then, knew not what was in himself; but the Creator of the man knew what was in the man. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 11.2, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 75)

St. John Chrysostom--demanding a sign to cease from wickedness is madness:
‎And what say they? “What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?” Alas for their utter madness! Was there need of a sign before they could cease their evil doings, and free the house of God from such dishonor? and was it not the greatest sign of His Excellence that He had gotten such zeal for that House? (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 23.2, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 81)