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.

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