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)

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