Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Acts 9:26–31
Second Reading 1 John 3:18–24
Gospel John 15:1–8

St. Augustine on 1 Jn 3:21, 22:
“If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him.” (1 Jn 3:21, 22) The warning which he clearly has addressed to us in this passage, is to beware lest our heart should reproach us in our very prayers and petitions; that is to say, lest, when we happen to resort to this prayer, and say, “Forgive us, even as we ourselves forgive”, we should have to feel compunction for not doing what we say, or should even lose boldness to utter what we fail to do, and thereby forfeit the confidence of faithful and earnest prayer. (Augustine, De perf. justit. 15.36, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg.172)

St. Augustine--love in deed and truth opposed to vainglory:
‎Again, how many there are who for the sake of vainglory bestow much, give much, and seek therein but the praise of men and popular glory, which is full of windiness, and possesses no stability! Seeing, then, there are such, where shall be the proof of brotherly charity? Seeing he wished it to be proved, and hath said by way of admonition, “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth;” we ask, in what work, in what truth? Can there be a more manifest work than to give to the poor? Many do this of vainglory, not of love. Can there be a greater work than to die for the brethren? This also, many would fain be thought to do, who do it of vainglory to get a name, not from bowels of love. It remains, that that man loves his brother, who before God, where God alone seeth, assures his own heart, and questions his. heart whether he does this indeed for love of the brethren; and his witness is that eye which penetrates the heart, where man cannot look. (Augustine, Tract. in ep. Joan. 6.2, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 494)

St. Clement of Alexandria--the vinedresser prunes us with the knife of the Word, adjust to the conduct of each:
Further, the Lord shows very clearly of Himself, when, describing figuratively His manifold and in many ways serviceable culture,—He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” Then He adds, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit He pruneth, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (Jn 15:1, 2) For the vine that is not pruned grows to wood. So also man. The Word—the knife—clears away the wanton shoots; compelling the impulses of the soul to fructify, not to indulge in lust. Now, reproof addressed to sinners has their salvation for its aim, the word being harmoniously adjusted to each one’s conduct; now with tightened, now with relaxed cords. (Clement of  Alexandria, Paed. 1.8, ANF, vol. 2, pg. 226)
St. Cyrprian--the sacrament of the blood of Christ, the true vine, requires wine:
‎Know then that I have been admonished that, in offering the cup, the tradition of the Lord3 must be observed, and that nothing must be done by us but what the Lord first did on our behalf, as that the cup which is offered in remembrance of Him should be offered mingled with wine. For when Christ says, “I am the true vine,” (Jn 15:1) the blood of Christ is assuredly not water, but wine; neither can His blood by which we are redeemed and quickened appear to be in the cup, when in the cup there is no wine whereby the blood of Christ is shown forth, which is declared by the sacrament and testimony of all the Scriptures. (Cyprian, Ep. 63.2, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 359)

St. Augustine--the branches bear the fruit of charity:
‎For it was not in vain that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He declared Himself to be the vine, and His disciples, as it were, the branches in the vine, gave command that those which bare no fruit should be cut off, and removed from the vine as useless branches. (Jn 15:1-2) But what is really fruit, save that new offspring, of which He further says, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another?” (Jn 13:34) This is that very charity, without which the rest profiteth nothing. The apostle also says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;” (Ga 5:22-23) which all begin with charity, and with the rest of the combination forms one unity in a kind of wondrous cluster. Nor is it again in vain that our Lord added, “And every branch that beareth fruit, my Father purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit,” (Jn 15:2) but because those who are strong in the fruit of charity may yet have something which requires purging, which the Husbandman will not leave untended. (Augustine, De bapt. 1.18.28, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 423-424)

St. Augustine--we are joined to the Son in the human nature he assumed as a vine and branches:
‎This passage of the Gospel, brethren, where the Lord calls Himself the vine, and His disciples the branches, declares in so many words that the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Tim. 2:5) is the head of the Church, and that we are His members. For as the vine and its branches are of one nature, therefore, His own nature as God being different from ours, He became man, that in Him human nature might be the vine, and we who also are men might become branches thereof. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 80.1, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 343)

St. Augustine--whoever imagines that he his bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine:
‎“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” A great encomium on grace, my brethren,—one that will instruct the souls of the humble, and stop the mouths of the proud. Let those now answer it, if they dare, who, ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Ro 10:3) Let the self-complacent answer it, who think they have no need of God for the performance of good works. Fight they not against such a truth, those men of corrupt mind, reprobate concerning the faith, (2 Ti 3:8) whose reply is only full of impious talk, when they say: It is of God that we have our existence as men, but it is of ourselves that we are righteous? What is it you say, you who deceive yourselves, and, instead of establishing freewill, cast it headlong down from the heights of its self-elevation through the empty regions of presumption into the depths of an ocean grave? Why, your assertion that man of himself worketh righteousness, that is the height of your self-elation. But the Truth contradicts you, and declares, “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine.” Away with you now over your giddy precipices, and, without a spot whereon to take your stand, vapor away at your windy talk. These are the empty regions of your presumption. But look well at what is tracking your steps, and, if you have any sense remaining, let your hair stand on end. For whoever imagines that he is bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine, and he that is not in the vine is not in Christ, and he that is not in Christ is not a Christian. Such are the ocean depths into which you have plunged. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 81.2, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 345)

St. Augustine--insofar as our prayers arise from our abiding in Christ, they will be answered:
‎“If ye abide in me,” He says, “and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” For abiding thus in Christ, is there aught they can wish but what will be agreeable to Christ? So abiding in the Saviour, can they wish anything that is inconsistent with salvation? Some things, indeed, we wish because we are in Christ, and other things we desire because still in this world. For at times, in connection with this our present abode, we are inwardly prompted to ask what we know not it would be inexpedient for us to receive. But God forbid that such should be given us if we abide in Christ, who, when we ask, only does what will be for our advantage. Abiding, therefore, ourselves in Him, when His words abide in us we shall ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. For if we ask, and the doing follows not, what we ask is not connected with our abiding in Him, nor with His words which abide in us, but with that craving and infirmity of the flesh which are not in Him, and have not His words abiding in them. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 81.4, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 346)

St. John Chrysostom--God the Father and God the Son care for the disciples in common:
‎Ver. 5. “He that abideth in Me, and I in him.”
‎Seest thou that the Son contributeth not less than the Father towards the care of the disciples? The Father purgeth, but He keepeth them in Himself. The abiding in the root is that which maketh the branches to be fruit-bearing. For that which is not purged, if it remain on the root, bears fruit, though perhaps not so much as it ought; but that which remains not, bears none at all. But still the “purging” also hath been shown to belong to the Son, and the “abiding in the root,” to the Father, who also begat the Root. Seest thou how all is common, both the “purging,” and the enjoying the virtue which is from the root? (Chrysostom, Hom. Jo. 76.1, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 279)

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