Monday, June 25, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Wisdom of Solomon 1:13–15, 2:23–24
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15
Gospel Mark 5:21–43 or Mark 5:21–24, 35b–43

St. Cyprian on the envy of the devil:
‎From this source, even at the very beginnings of the world, the devil was the first who both perished (himself) and destroyed (others). He who was sustained in angelic majesty, he who was accepted and beloved of God, when he beheld man made in the image of God, broke forth into jealousy with malevolent envy—not hurling down another by the instinct of his jealousy before he himself was first hurled down by jealousy, captive before he takes captive, ruined before he ruins others. While, at the instigation of jealousy, he robs man of the grace of immortality conferred, he himself has lost that which he had previously been. How great an evil is that, beloved brethren, whereby an angel fell, whereby that lofty and illustrious grandeur could be defrauded and overthrown, whereby he who deceived was himself deceived! Thenceforth envy rages on the earth, in that he who is about to perish by jealousy obeys the author of his ruin, imitating the devil in his jealousy; as it is written, “But through envy of the devil death entered into the world.” (Wis 2:24) Therefore they who are on his side imitate him. (Cyprian, De zel. et liv. 4, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 492)

St. Augustine--God was not himself the cause of death:
[I]t is written, “God made not death,” (Wis 1:13) since He was not Himself the cause of death; but yet death was inflicted on the sinner, through His most just retribution. Just as the judge inflicts punishment on the guilty; yet it is not the justice of the judge, but the desert of the crime, which is the cause of the punishment. (Augustine, De Trin. 4.12.15, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 77)

St. Ambrose--for fallen man, death is a merciful end to the evils of this life, and, thus, a good:
‎And, indeed, death was no part of man’s nature, but became natural; for God did not institute death at first, but gave it as a remedy. Let us then take heed that it do not seem to be the opposite. For if death is a good, why is it written that “God made not death, (Wis 1:13ff) but by the malice of men death entered into the world”? For of a truth death was no necessary part of the divine operation, since for those who were placed in paradise a continual succession of all good things streamed forth; but because of transgression the life of man, condemned to lengthened labour, began to be wretched with intolerable groaning; so that it was fitting that an end should be set to the evils, and that death should restore what life had lost. For immortality, unless grace breathed upon it, would be rather a burden than an advantage. (Ambrose, De excessu fratris 2.47, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 181)

St. John Chrysostom on 2 Cor 8:9:
‎Christ raised up the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue who was dead in the house. (Mk 5:35) She was in the house, she had not yet been carried out. So is the man who hath determined on some wickedness in his heart; he is dead, but he lies within. But if he has come as far as to the action of the members, he has been carried out of the house. But the Lord raised also the young man, the widow’s son, when he was being carried out dead beyond the gate of the city. (Lk 7:12) So then I venture to say, Thou hast determined in thine heart, if thou call thyself back from thy deed, thou wilt be cured before thou put it into action. For if thou repent in thine heart, that thou hast determined on some bad and wicked and abominable and damnable thing; there where thou wast lying dead, within, so within hast thou arisen. But if thou have fulfilled, now hast thou been carried out; but thou hast One to say to thee, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” Even though thou have perpetrated it, repent thee, return at once, come not to the sepulchre. But even here I find a third one dead, who was brought even to the sepulchre. He has now upon him the weight of habit, a mass of earth presses him down exceedingly. For he has been practised much in unclean deeds, and is weighed down exceedingly by his immoderate habit. Here too Christ crieth, “Lazarus, come forth.” (Jn 11:43) For a man of very evil habit “now stinketh.” With good reason did Christ in that case cry out; and not cry out only, but with a loud Voice cried out. For at Christ’s Cry even such as these, dead though they be, buried though they be, stinking though they be, yet even these shall rise again, they shall rise again. For of none that lieth dead need we despair under such a Raiser up. (Augustine, Serm. 128.12, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 495)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Birth of John the Baptist

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 49:1–6
Second Reading Acts 13:22–26
Gospel Luke 1:57–66, 80

For the First Reading, see Ordinary Time 2, Year A.

St. John Chrysostom on the humility of John the Baptist:
‎Then John bears witness to this: “When John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not He. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy to loose.” (v. 24, 25.) And John too not merely bears witness (to the fact), but (does it in such sort that) when men were bringing the glory to him, he declines it: for it is one thing (not to affect) an honor which nobody thinks of offering; and another, to reject it when all men are ready to give it, and not only to reject it, but to do so with such humility. (Chrysostom, Hom. Ac. 29, NPNF1, vol. 11, pg. 182-183)

St. Ambrose on the naming of John the Baptist:
‎The holy Evangelist has especially remarked, that many thought the child should be called after his father Zacharias, in order that we might understand, not that any name of his kinsfolk was displeasing to his mother, but that the same word had been communicated to her by the Holy Spirit, which had been foretold by the Angel to Zacharias. And in truth, being dumb, Zacharias was unable to mention his son’s name to his wife, but Elisabeth obtained by prophecy what she had not learnt from her husband. Hence it follows, And she answered, &c. Marvel not that the woman pronounced the name which she had never heard, seeing the Holy Spirit who imparted it to the Angel revealed it to her; nor could she be ignorant of the forerunner of the Lord, who had prophesied of Christ. And it well follows, And they said unto her, &c. that you might consider that the name belongs not to the family, but to the Prophet. Zacharias also is questioned, and signs made to him, as it follows, And they made signs to the father, &c. But since unbelief had so bereft him of utterance and hearing, that he could not use his voice, he spoke by his hand-writing, as it follows, And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John; that is, we give no name to him who has received his name from God. (Ambrose, in Luc., Cat. Aur. 2.51-52)

St. Ambrose--the tongue of Zacariah is loosed by faith:
‎Rightly also, from that moment was his tongue loosed, for that which unbelief had bound, faith set free. Let us then also believe, in order that our tongue, which has been bound by the chains of unbelief, may be loosed by the voice of reason. Let us write mysteries by the Spirit if we wish to speak. Let us write the forerunner of Christ, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tablets of the heart. For he who names John, prophesies Christ. For it follows, And he spake, giving thanks. (Ambrose, in Luc., Cat. Aur. 2.52)

St. Bede--the celebration of John's birth symbolizes the beginning of the grace of the New Covenant:
‎Now in an allegory, the celebration of John’s birth was the beginning of the grace of the New Covenant. His neighbours and kinsfolk had rather give him the name of his father than that of John. For the Jews, who by the observance of the Law were united to him as it were by ties of kindred, chose rather to follow the righteousness which is of the Law, than receive the grace of faith. But the name of John, (i. e. the grace of God,) his mother in word, his father in writing, suffice to announce, for both the Law itself as well as the Psalms and the Prophecies, in the plainest language foretel the grace of Christ; and that ancient priesthood, by the foreshadowing of its ceremonies and sacrifices, bears testimony to the same. And well doth Zacharias speak on the eighth day of the birth of his child, for by the resurrection of the Lord, which took place on the eighth day, i. e. the day after the sabbath, (septimam sabbati.) the hidden secrets of the legal priesthood were revealed. (Bede, in Luc., Cat. Aur. 1.52-53)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Ezekiel 17:22–24
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:6–10
Gospel Mark 4:26–34

St. Polycarp--knowing that we will be judged, let us serve God in fear and forgive as we hope to be forgiven:
If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; (Mt 6:12-14) for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and “we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself.” (Ro 14:10-12; 2 Co 5:10) Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error. (Polycarp 6, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 34)

Tertullian--2 Corinthians 5:6 implies no disparagement of the flesh:
‎In the same way, when he says, “Therefore we are always confident, and fully aware, that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not be sight,” (2 Co 5:6, 7) it is manifest that in this statement there is no design of disparaging the flesh, as if it separated us from the Lord. For there is here pointedly addressed to us an exhortation to disregard this present life, since we are absent from the Lord as long as we are passing through it—walking by faith, not by sight; in other words, in hope, not in reality. Accordingly he adds: “We are indeed confident and deem it good rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord;” (2 Co 5:8) in order, that is, that we may walk by sight rather than by faith, in realization rather than in hope. Observe how he here also ascribes to the excellence of martyrdom a contempt for the body. For no one, on becoming absent from the body, is at once a dweller in the presence of the Lord, except by the prerogative of martyrdom, he gains a lodging in Paradise, not in the lower regions. Now, had the apostle been at a loss for words to describe the departure from the body? Or does he purposely use a novel phraseology? For, wanting to express our temporary absence from the body, he says that we are strangers, absent from it, because a man who goes abroad returns after a while to his home. Then he says even to all: “We therefore earnestly desire to be acceptable unto God, whether absent or present; for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ Jesus.”1 If all of us, then all of us wholly; if wholly, then our inward man and outward too—that is, our bodies no less than our souls. “That every one,” as he goes on to say, “may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Co 5:10) Now I ask, how do you read this passage? Do you take it to be confusedly constructed, with a transposition of ideas? Is the question about what things will have to be received by the body, or the things which have been already done in the body? Well, if the things which are to be borne by the body are meant, then undoubtedly a resurrection of the body is implied; and if the things which have been already done in the body are referred to, (the same conclusion follows): for of course the retribution will have to be paid by the body, since it was by the body that the actions were performed. Thus the apostle’s whole argument from the beginning is unravelled in this concluding clause, wherein the resurrection of the flesh is set forth; and it ought to be understood in a sense which is strictly in accordance with this conclusion. (Tertullian, De res. 43, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 576)

St. Augustine--walk by faith that you may attain to sight:
‎So then before thou seest what thou canst not now see, believe what as yet thou seest not. “Walk by faith,” that thou mayest attain to sight. Sight will not gladden him in his home whom faith consoleth not by the way. For so says the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body, we are in pilgrimage from the Lord.” (2 Co 5:6) And he subjoins immediately why we are still “in pilgrimage,” though we have now believed; “For we walk by faith,” He says, “not by sight.” (Augustine, Serm. 88.4.4, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 380)

St. John Chrysostom--to be pleasing to God is what makes departing or remaining good:
‎‘For what we seek for is this,’ saith he, ‘whether we be there or here, to live according to His will; for this is the principal thing. So that by this thou hast the kingdom already in possession without a probation.’ For lest when they had arrived at so great a desire of being there, they should again be disquieted at its being so long first, in this he gives them already the chief of those good things. And what is this? To be well “pleasing.” For as to depart is not absolutely good, but to do so in [God’s] favor, which is what makes departing also become a good; so to remain here is not absolutely grievous, but to remain offending Him. Deem not then that departure from the body is enough; for virtue is always necessary. For as when he spoke of a Resurrection, he allowed [them] not by it alone to be of good courage, saying, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked;” so also having showed a departure, lest thou shouldest think that this is enough to save thee, he added that it is needful that we be well pleasing. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor. 10.4, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 328)

Tertullian--the Lord ordained the apostles to be teachers, explaining all things to them:
‎But inasmuch as the proof is so near at hand, that if it were at once produced there would be nothing left to be dealt with, let us give way for a while to the opposite side, if they think that they can find some means of invalidating this rule [the rule of faith], just as if no proof were forthcoming from us. They usually tell us that the apostles did not know all things: (but herein) they are impelled by the same madness, whereby they turn round to the very opposite point, and declare that the apostles certainly knew all things, but did not deliver all things to all persons,—in either case exposing Christ to blame for having sent forth apostles who had either too much ignorance, or too little simplicity. What man, then, of sound mind can possibly suppose that they were ignorant of anything, whom the Lord ordained to be masters (or teachers), keeping them, as He did, inseparable (from Himself) in their attendance, in their discipleship, in their society, to whom, “when they were alone, He used to expound” (Mk 4:34) all things which were obscure, telling them that “to them it was given to know those mysteries,” (Mt 13:11) which it was not permitted the people to understand? (Tertullian, De praesc. adv. haer. 22, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 253)

Origen on the difference between parable and similitude:
‎Now a similitude differs from a parable; for it is written in Mark, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or in what parable shall we set it forth?” (Mk 4:30) From this it is plain that there is a difference between a similitude and a parable. The similitude seems to be generic, and the parable specific. And perhaps also as the similitude, which is the highest genus of the parable, contains the parable as one of its species, so it contains that particular form of similitude which has the same name as the genus. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 10.4, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 416)

Origen on the explanation of parables:
‎But we ought to think in a general way about every parable, the interpretation of which has not been recorded by the evangelists, even though Jesus explained all things to His own disciples privately; (Mk 4:34) and for this reason the writers of the Gospels have concealed the clear exposition of the parables, because the things signified by them were beyond the power of the nature of words to express, and every solution and exposition of such parables was of such a kind that not even the whole world itself could contain the books that should be written (Jn 21:25) in relation to such parables. But it may happen that a fitting heart be found, and, because of its purity, able to receive the letters of the exposition of the parable, so that they could be written in it by the Spirit of the living God. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 14.12, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 502)