Monday, May 14, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Ascension, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Acts 1:1–11
Second Reading Ephesians 1:17–23 or Ephesians 4:1–13 or Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13
Gospel Mark 16:15–20


For the First Reading and for the Second Reading, Option A, see Ascension, Year C.

St. Cyprian--the unity and peace of the Church rely on the love and patience of the brethren:
‎“Forbearing one another,” he says, “in love, using every effort to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”6 He proved that neither unity nor peace could be kept unless brethren should cherish one another with mutual toleration, and should keep the bond of concord by the intervention of patience. (Cyprian, De bono pat. 15, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 488)

St. Augustine--the gift given by Christ after his ascension is the Holy Spirit:
‎Paul the apostle also says, “To each of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ;” and then, that he might show that by the gift of Christ he meant the Holy Spirit, he has gone on to add, “Wherefore He saith, He hath ascended up on high, He hath led captivity captive, and hath given gifts to men.” (Eph 4:7, 8) And every one knows that the Lord Jesus, when He had ascended into heaven after the resurrection from the dead, gave the Holy Spirit, with whom they who believed were filled, and spake with the tongues of all nations. (Augustine, De Trin. 15.19.34, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 218)

St. John Chrysostom on the unity of the Spirit:
‎“Giving diligence,” he proceeds, “to keep the unity of the Spirit.” What is this “unity of Spirit?” In the human body there is a spirit which holds all together, though in different members. So is it also here; for to this end was the Spirit given, that He might unite those who are separated by race and by different manners; for old and young, rich and poor, child and youth, woman and man, and every soul become in a manner one, and more entirely so than if there were one body. For this spiritual relation is far higher than the other natural one, and the perfectness of the union more entire; because the conjunction of the soul is more perfect, inasmuch as it is both simple and uniform. And how then is this unity preserved? “In the bond of peace.” It is not possible for this to exist in enmity and discord. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 9, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 96-67)

St. John Chrysostom on our unity in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism":
‎There is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Behold “the hope of your calling. One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” For can it be, that thou art called by the name of a greater God, another, of a lesser God? That thou art saved by faith, and another by works? That thou hast received remission in baptism, whilst another has not? “There is one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” “Who is over all,” that is, the Lord and above all; and “through all,” that is, providing for, ordering all; and “in you all,” that is, who dwelleth in you all. Now this they own to be an attribute of the Son; so that were it an argument of inferiority, it never would have been said of the Father. (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 11, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 103)

St. Hilary--Christ is one:
‎The Apostle knew nothing else, and he determined to know nothing else: we men of feebler wit, and feebler faith, split up, divide and double Jesus Christ, constituting ourselves judges of the unknown, and blaspheming the hidden mystery. For us Christ crucified is one, Christ the wisdom of God another: Christ Who was buried different from Christ Who descended from Heaven: the Son of Man not at the same time also Son of God. We teach that which we do not understand: we seek to refute that which we cannot grasp. We men improve upon the revelation of God: we are not content to say with the Apostle, Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus, that died, yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession far us. (Ro 8:33, 34) Is He Who intercedes for us other than He Who is at the right hand of God? Is not He Who is at the right hand of God the very same Who rose again? Is He Who rose again other than He Who died? He Who died than He Who condemns us? Lastly, is not He Who condemns us also God Who justifies us? Distinguish, if you can, Christ our accuser from God our defender, Christ Who died from Christ Who condemns, Christ sitting at the right hand of God and praying for us from Christ Who died. Whether, therefore, dead or buried, descended into Hades or ascended into Heaven, all is one and the same Christ: as the Apostle says, Now this ‘He ascended’ what is it, but that He also descended to the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that He may fill all things. (Eph 4:9, 10) How far then shall we push our babbling ignorance and blasphemy, professing to explain what is hidden in the mystery of God? He that descended is the same also that ascended. Can we longer doubt that the Man Christ Jesus rose from the dead, ascended above the heavens and is at the right hand of God? We cannot say His body descended into Hades, which lay in the grave. If then He Who descended is one with Him, Who ascended; if His body did not go down into Hades, yet really arose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, what remains, except to believe in the secret mystery, which is hidden from the world and the rulers of this age, and to confess that, ascending or descending, He is but One, one Jesus Christ for us, Son of God and Son of Man, God the Word and Man in the flesh, Who suffered, died, was buried, rose again, was received into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God: Who possesses in His one single self, according to the Divine Plan and nature, in the form of God and in the form of a servant, the Human and Divine without separation or division. (Hilary, De Trin. 10.65, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 200)

John Cassian--the Son of Man who ascended is the same Person as the Word of God who descended:
‎Consider then this at last, and note that the Son of man is the same Person as the Word of God: for He is the Son of man since He is truly born of man, and the Word of God, since He who speaks on earth abideth ever in heaven. And so when He truly terms Himself the Son of man, it refers to His human birth, while the fact that He never departs from heaven, refers to the Infinite character of His Divine nature. And so the Apostle’s teaching is admirably in accordance with those sacred words: (“for He that descended,” says He, “is the same that ascended also above all heavens, that He might fill all things,” [Eph 4:10]) when He says that He that descended is the same that ascended. But none can descend from heaven except the Word of God: who certainly “being in the form of God, emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.” (Php 2:6-8) Thus the Word of God descended from heaven: but the Son of man ascended. But He says that the same Person ascended and descended. Thus you see that the Son of man is the same Person as the Word of God. (Cassian, De incarn. 4.6, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 576-577)

Apostolic Constitutions--gifts of miracles are given not for the advantage of those who perform them, but for the conviction of unbelievers:
‎With good reason did He say to all of us together, when we were perfected concerning those gifts which were given from Him by the Spirit: “Now these signs shall follow them that have believed in my name: they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them: they shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mk 16:17, 18) These gifts were first bestowed on us the apostles when we were about to preach the Gospel to every creature, and afterwards were of necessity afforded to those who had by our means believed; not for the advantage of those who perform them, but for the conviction of the unbelievers, that those whom the word did not persuade, the power of signs might put to shame: for signs are not for us who believe, but for the unbelievers, both for the Jews and Gentiles. (Const. Apost. 8.1, ANF, vol. 7, pg. 479)

St. Augustine--not any faith saves, but only that which works through love:
‎So again when we hear, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” (Mk 16:16) we do not of course understand it of one who believes in such a way “as the devils believe and tremble;” (Jas 2:19) nor of those who receive baptism in such sort as Simon Magus,7 who though he could be baptized, could not be saved. As then when He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” He had not in his view all who believe and are baptized, but some only; those, to wit, who are settled in that faith, which, according to the Apostle’s distinction, “worketh by love:” (Gal 5:6) (Augustine, Serm. 71.10.16, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 323)

St. Ambrose--the Son of God, preached to all creation, cannot himself be a creature:
‎We have yet to confute another blasphemy, and to show that the Son of God is not a created being. Herein is the quickening word that we read as our help, for we have heard the passage read where the Lord saith: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to all creation.” (Mk 16:15) He Who saith “all creation” excepts nothing. How, then, do they stand who call Christ a “creature”? If He were a creature, could He have commanded that the Gospel should be preached to Himself? It is not, therefore, a creature, but the Creator, Who commits to His disciples the work of teaching created beings. (Ambrose, De fide 1.14.86, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 215-216)

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