Monday, September 24, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Numbers 11:25–29
Second Reading James 5:1–6
Gospel Mark 9:38–43, 45, 47–48


St. John Chrysostom--our envy of those who do the work of God passes on to Christ:
‎And does any one by preaching His word, and benefiting His Church, obtain a good reputation? Then he is the object of envy, because he does the work of God. And we think that we envy him, but our envy passes on to Christ. We affect to wish the benefit to come not from others, but from ourselves. But this cannot be for Christ’s sake, but for our own: otherwise, it would be a matter of indifference, whether the good were done by others or ourselves. If a physician found himself unable to cure his son, who was threatened with blindness, would he reject the aid of another, who was able to effect the cure? Far from it! “Let my son be restored,” he would almost say to him, “whether it is to be by you or by me.” And why? Because he would not consider himself, but what was beneficial to his son. So, were our regard “to Christ,” it would lead us to say, “Let good be done, whether by ourselves or by any other.” As Paul said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached.” (Phil. 1:18). In the same spirit Moses answered, when some would have excited his displeasure against Eldad and Modad, because they prophesied, “Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” (Num. 11:29.) These jealous feelings proceed from vainglory; and are they not those of opponents and enemies? (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Tim. 3, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 419)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem--the Spirit descended on Eldad and Modad to show that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift:
‎This Spirit descended upon the seventy Elders in the days of Moses. (Now let not the length of the discourse, beloved, produce weariness in you: but may He the very subject of our discourse grant strength to every one, both to us who speak, and to you who listen!) This Spirit, as I was saying, came down upon the seventy Elders in the time of Moses; and this I say to thee, that I may now prove, that He knoweth all things, and worketh as He will (1 Co 12:11). The seventy Elders were chosen; And the Lord came down in a cloud, and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and put it upon the seventy Elders (1 Nu 11:24, 25); not that the Spirit was divided, but that His grace was distributed in proportion to the vessels, and the capacity of the recipients. Now there were present sixty and eight, and they prophesied; but Eldad and Modad were not present: therefore that it might be shewn that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift, but the Spirit who wrought, Eldad and Modad, who though called, had not as yet presented themselves, did also prophesy. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. 16.25, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 121-122)

St. Clement of Rome--who to those who cast a stumbling-block before others by schism:
‎Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another?” (Ro 12:5) Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, “Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones. (Comp. Mt 18:6, 26:24; Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2) Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continueth. (1 Clem. 46, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 17-18)

St. Augustine on the interpretation of the fire and worm:
‎Now they who would refer both the fire and the worm to the spirit, and not to the body, affirm that the wicked, who are separated from the kindgdom of God, shall be burned, as it were, by the anguish of a spirit repenting too late and fruitlessly; and they contend that fire is therefore not inappropriately used to express this burning torment, as when the apostle exclaims “Who is offended, and I burn not?” (2 Co 11:29) The worm, too, they think, is to be similarly understood. For it is written, they say, “As the moth consumes the garment, and the worm the wood, so does grief consume the heart of a man.” (Is 51:8) But they who make no doubt that in that future punishment both body and soul shall suffer, affirm that the body shall be burned with fire, while the soul shall be, as it were, gnawed by a worm of anguish. Though this view is more reasonable,—for it is absurd to suppose that either body or soul will escape pain in the future punishment,—yet, for my own part, I find it easier to understand both as referring to the body than to suppose that neither does; and I think that Scripture is silent regarding the spiritual pain of the damned, because, though not expressed, it is necessarily understood that in a body thus tormented the soul also is tortured with a fruitless repentance. For we read in the ancient Scriptures, “The vengeance of the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms.” (Sir 7:17) (Augustine, De civ. Dei 21.9.2, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 461)

St. Augustine--how is Mark 9:38-39 to be harmonized with Matthew 12:30:
‎It is indeed true that the Lord says in the gospel, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Mt 12:30) Yet when the disciples had brought word to Him that they had seen one casting out devils in His name, and had forbidden him, because he followed not them, He said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. For there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” (Mk 9:38-39, Lk 9:50) If, indeed, there were nothing in this man requiring correction, then any one would be safe who, setting himself outside the communion of the Church, severing himself from all Christian brotherhood, should gather in Christ’s name; and so there would be no truth in this, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” But if he required correction in the point where the disciples in their ignorance were anxious to check him, why did our Lord, by saying, “Forbid him not,” prevent this check from being given? And how can that be true which He then says, “He that is not against you is for you?” For in this point he was not against, but for them, when he was working miracles of healing in Christ’s name. That both, therefore, should be true, as both are true,—both the declaration, that “he that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad;” and also the injunction, “Forbid him not; for he that is not against you is for you,”—what must we understand, except that the man was to be confirmed in his veneration for that mighty Name, in respect of which he was not against the Church, but for it; and yet he was to be blamed for separating himself from the Church, whereby his gathering became a scattering; and if it should have so happened that he sought union with the Church, he should not have received what he already possessed, but be made to set right the points wherein he had gone astray? (Augustine, De bapt. 1.7.9, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 416)

St. Augustine--just as the name of Christ could exist outside the disciples, so there may be something Catholic outside the Catholic Church:
‎This indeed is true, that “baptism is not unto salvation except within the Catholic Church.” For in itself it can indeed exist outside the Catholic Church as well; but there it is not unto salvation, because there it does not work salvation; just as that sweet savor of Christ is certainly not unto salvation in them that perish, (2 Co 2:15) though from a fault not in itself, but in them. But “whatsoever is without the Catholic Church is mere pretense,” yet only in so far as it is not Catholic. But there may be something Catholic outside the Catholic Church, just as the name of Christ could exist outside the congregation of Christ, in which name he who did not follow with the disciples was casting out devils. (Mk 9:38) For there may be pretense also within the Catholic Church, as is unquestionable in the case of those “who renounce the world in words and not in deeds,” and yet the pretense is not Catholic. As, therefore, there is in the Catholic Church something which is not Catholic, so there may be something which is Catholic outside the Catholic Church. (Augustine, De bapt. 7.39.77, NPNF1, vol. 4, pg. 508)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 50:5–9a
Second Reading James 2:14–18
Gospel Mark 8:27–35


St. Athanasius--the impassible Word takes our sufferings upon himself:
‎the incorporeal Word made His own the properties of the Body, as being His own Body. Why, when the Body was struck by the attendant, as suffering Himself He asked, ‘Why smitest thou Me?’ (Jn 18:23) And being by nature intangible, the Word yet said, ‘I gave My back to the stripes, and My cheeks to blows, and hid not My face from shame and spitting.’ (Is 50:6) For what the human Body of the Word suffered, this the Word, dwelling in the body, ascribed to Himself, in order that we might be enabled to be partakers of the Godhead of the Word. (2 Pe 1:4) And verily it is strange that He it was Who suffered and yet suffered not. Suffered, because His own Body suffered, and He was in it, which thus suffered; suffered not, because the Word, being by Nature God, is impassible. And while He, the incorporeal, was in the passible Body, the Body had in it the impassible Word, which was destroying the infirmities inherent in the Body. But this He did, and so it was, in order that Himself taking what was ours and offering it as a sacrifice, He might do away with it, and conversely might invest us with what was His, and cause the Apostle to say: ‘This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.’ (1 Co 15:53) (Athanasius, Ep. ad Epict. 6, NPNF2, vol. 4, pg. 572)

St. Augustine--faith without works is dead:
‎I have shown from Scripture, that the faith which saves us is that which the Apostle Paul clearly enough describes when he says: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” (Ga 5:6) But if it worketh evil, and not good, then without doubt, as the Apostle James says, “it is dead, being alone.” (Jas 2:17) The same apostle says again, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” (Jas 2:14) (Augustine, Enchir. 67.18, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 259)

St. Augustine--by loving himself man is lost, by denying himself he is found:
‎We know what great things love itself can do. Very often is this love even abominable and impure; but how great hardships have men suffered, what indignities and intolerable things have they endured, to attain to the object of their love? whether it be a lover of money who is called covetous; or a lover of honour, who is called ambitious; or a lover of beautiful women, who is called voluptuous. And who could enumerate all sorts of loves? Yet consider what labour all lovers undergo, and are not conscious of their labours; and then does any such one most feel labour, when he is hindered from labour. Since then the majority of men are such as their loves are, and that there ought to be no other care for the regulation of our lives, than the choice of that which we ought to love; why dost thou wonder, if he who loves Christ, and who wishes to follow Christ, for the love of Him denies himself? For if by loving himself man is lost, surely by denying himself be is found. (Augustine, Serm. 96.1.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 408)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 35:4–7a
Second Reading James 2:1–5
Gospel Mark 7:31–37


St. Justin Martyr--Christ is the spring of living water in the desert:
“‎Be comforted, ye faint in soul: be strong, fear not. Behold, our God gives, and will give, retributive judgment. He shall come and save us. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear. Then the lame shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be distinct: for water has broken forth in the wilderness, and a valley in the thirsty land; and the parched ground shall become pools, and a spring of water shall [rise up] in the thirsty land.’ (Is 35:1-7) The spring of living water which gushed forth from God in the land destitute of the knowledge of God, namely the land of the Gentiles, was this Christ, who also appeared in your nation, and healed those who were maimed, and deaf, and lame in body from their birth, causing them to leap, to hear, and to see, by His word. (Justin Martyr, Dial. 69, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 233)

St. Augustine--injustice to the poor is as great a transgression as idolatry:
‎See how the apostle calls those transgressors of the law who say to the rich man, “Sit here,” and to the poor, “Stand there.” See how, lest they should think it a trifling sin to transgress the law in this one thing, he goes on to add: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou do not kill, yet, if thou commit adultery, thou art become a transgressor of the law,” according to that which he had said: “Ye are convinced of the law as transgressors.” Since these things are so, it seems to follow, unless it can be shown that we are to understand it in some other way, that he who says to the rich man, “Sit here,” and to the poor, “Stand there,” not treating the one with the same respect as the other, is to be judged guilty as an idolater, and a blasphemer, and an adulterer, and a murderer—in short,—not to enumerate all, which would be tedious,—as guilty of all crimes, since, offending in one, he is guilty of all.” (Augustine, Ep. 167.1.3, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 533-534)

St. Augustine--God did not choose the rich in faith, but made his chosen rich in faith:
‎Therefore God elected believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already so. The Apostle James says: “Has not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him?” (Jas 2:5) By choosing them, therefore, He makes them rich in faith, as He makes them heirs of the kingdom; because He is rightly said to choose that in them, in order to make which in them He chose them. (Augustine, De praed. sanct. 17.34, NPNF1, vol. 5, pg. 515)

St. Gregory Nazianzen--do not be deaf to the instruction of the Lord:
‎If you were deaf and dumb, let the Word sound (Mk 7:37) in your ears, or rather keep there Him Who hath sounded. Do not shut your ears to the Instruction of the Lord, and to His Counsel, like the adder to charms. (Ps 58:4, 5) (Greg. Naz., Orat. 40.34, NPNF2, vol. 7, pg. 372)

St. Ambrose explains the meaning Ephphatha Rite performed on catechumens:
‎Open, then, your ears, inhale the good savour of eternal life which has been breathed upon you by the grace of the sacraments; which was signified to you by us, when, celebrating the mystery of the opening, we said, “Epphatha, which is, Be opened,” (Mk 7:34) that whosoever was coming in quest of peace might know what he was asked, and be bound to remember what he answered.
‎Christ made use of this mystery in the Gospel, as we read, when He healed him who was deaf and dumb. But He touched the mouth, because he who was healed was dumb and was a man, as regards one point that he might open his mouth with the sound of the voice given to him; as regards the other point because that touch was seemly towards a man, but would have been unseemly towards a woman. (Ambrose, De myst. 1.3-4, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 317)

St. Ephrem the Syrian--the deaf man touched Godhead that may not be touched:
‎That Power Which may not be handled came down and clothed itself in members that may be touched; that the needy may draw near to Him, that in touching His manhood they may discern His Godhead. For that dumb man [whom the Lord healed] with the fingers of the body, discerned that He had approached his ears and touched his tongue; (Mk 7:34-37) nay, with his fingers that may be touched, he touched Godhead, that may not be touched; when it was loosing the string of his tongue, and opening the clogged doors of his ears. For the Architect of the body and Artificer of the flesh came to him, and with His gentle voice pierced without pain his thickened ears. And his mouth which was closed up, that it could not give birth to a word, gave birth to praise to Him Who made its barrenness fruitful in the birth of words. He, then, Who gave to Adam that he should speak at once without teaching, Himself gave to the dumb that they should speak easily, tongues that are learned with difficulty. (Ephrem Homily On Our Lord 10, NPNF2, vol. 13, pg. 309)