Monday, April 9, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary
First Reading Acts 4:32–35
Second Reading 1 John 5:1–6
Gospel John 20:19–31

For the Second Reading, see Baptism of the Lord, Year B. For the Gospel, see Easter 2, Year B.

St. Cyprian--the prayers of the first believers were effectual because of their unity of heart and soul:
‎This unanimity formerly prevailed among the apostles; and thus the new assembly of believers, keeping the Lord’s commandments, maintained its charity. Divine Scripture proves this, when it says, “But the multitude of them which believed were of one heart and of one soul.” (Ac 4:32) And again: “These all continued with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” (Ac 1:14) And thus they prayed with effectual prayers; thus they were able with confidence to obtain whatever they asked from the Lord’s mercy. (Cyprian, De unit. eccl. 25, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 429)

St. Cyprian--the early Church held goods in common just as God gives his gifts to all:
‎“And the multitude of them that believed acted with one heart and one soul; neither was there any distinction among them, nor did they esteem anything their own of the goods which belonged to them, but they had all things common.” (Ac 4:32)This is truly to become sons of God by spiritual birth; this is to imitate by the heavenly law the equity of God the Father. For whatever is of God is common in our use; nor is any one excluded from His benefits and His gifts, so as to prevent the whole human race from enjoying equally the divine goodness and liberality. Thus the day equally enlightens, the sun gives radiance, the rain moistens, the wind blows, and the sleep is one to those that sleep, and the splendour of the stars and of the moon is common. In which example of equality, he who, as a possessor in the earth, shares his returns and his fruits with the fraternity, while he is common and just in his gratuitous bounties, is an imitator of God the Father. (Cyprian, De op. et eleem. 25, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 483)

St. Augustine invokes the example of the early Church in directing nuns to hold all goods in common:
‎Also call not anything the property of any one, but let all things be common property, and let distribution of food and raiment be made to each of you by the prioress,—not equally to all, because you are not all equally strong, but to every one according to her need. For you read in the Acts of the Apostles: “They had all things common: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need.” (Ac 4:32, 35) Let those who had any worldly goods when they entered the monastery cheerfully desire that these become common property. Let those who had no worldly goods not ask within the monastery for luxuries which they could not have while they were outside of its walls; nevertheless, let the comforts which the infirmity of any of them may require be given to such, though their poverty before coming in to the monastery may have been such that they could not have procured for themselves the bare necessaries of life; and let them in such case be careful not to reckon it the chief happiness of their present lot that they have found within the monastery food and raiment, such as was elsewhere beyond their reach. (Augustine, Ep. 211.5, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 564)

St. Augustine--the unity and charity of believers is but a shadow of the love and unity of the Trinity:
‎One God the Father, God Christ the Son of God. Both are what? One God. And how are both said to be One God? How? Dost thou marvel? In the Acts of the Apostles, “There was,” it says, “in the believers, one soul and one heart.” (Ac 4:32) There were many souls, faith had made them one. So many thousands of souls were there; they loved each other, and many are one: they loved God in the fire of charity, and from being many they are come to the oneness of beauty. If all those many souls the dearness of love made one soul, what must be the dearness of love in God, where is no diversity, but entire equality! If on earth and among men there could be so great charity as of so many souls to make one soul, where Father from Son, Son from Father, hath been ever inseparable, could They both be other than One God? Only, those souls might be called both many souls and one soul; but God, in Whom is ineffable and highest conjunction, may be called One God, not two Gods. (Augustine, De symb. 2.4, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 370, cf. Tract. in ev. Joan 14.9)

St. John Chrysostom--a true friend is as careful of his friend's soul as of his own:
‎I wish to give you an example of friendship. Friends, that is, friends according to Christ, surpass fathers and sons. For tell me not of friends of the present day, since this good thing also has past away with others. But consider, in the time of the Apostles, I speak not of the chief men, but of the believers themselves generally; “all,” he says, “were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own … and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need.” (Acts 4:32, 35.) There were then no such words as “mine” and “thine.” This is friendship, that a man should not consider his goods his own, but his neighbor’s, that his possessions belong to another; that he should be as careful of his friend’s soul, (or "life") as of his own; and the friend likewise. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Thess. 2, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 331)

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