Thursday, March 31, 2016

He Is Good to All

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

The Lᴏʀᴅ is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lᴏʀᴅ is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.  (Ps 145:8-9)

Were He not such as this, there would be no seeking to recover us.  Consider yourself: what did you deserve, O sinner?  Despiser of God, what did you deserve?  See if anything occurs to you but penalty, if anything occurs to you but punishment.  You see, then, what was due to you, and what He has given, who gave freely.  There was given pardon to the sinner.  There was given the spirit of justification.  There was given charity and love, wherein you may do all good works.  And beyond this, He will give you also life everlasting, and fellowship with the angels: all of His mercy.… Hear the Scripture: “I do not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn, and live.”  By these words of God, he is brought back to hope, but there is another snare to be feared, lest through this very hope he sins all the more.  What then did you also say, you who through hope sins yet more?  “Whenever I shall turn, God will forgive me all; I will do whatever I desire.”  Do not say, “Tomorrow I will turn, tomorrow I will please God; and all today’s and yesterday’s deeds shall be forgiven me.”  You speak the truth: God has promised pardon to your conversion, but He has not promised a tomorrow to your delay.

Why then does He condemn?  Why does He scourge?  Are not they whom He condemns, whom He scourges, His works?  Plainly they are.  And will you know how “His compassions are over all His works”?  Thence is that long-suffering, whereby “He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good.”  Are not “His compassions over all His works, who sends rain upon the just and upon the unjust”?  In His long-suffering He waits for the sinner, saying, “Turn to Me, and I will turn to you.”  Are not “His compassions over all His works”?  And when He says, “Go into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” this is not His compassion, but His severity.  His compassion is given to His works.  His severity is not over His works, but over your works.  Lastly, if you remove your own evil works, and there remain in you nothing but His work, His compassion will not leave you, but if you do not leave your works, there will be severity over your works, not over His works.

Augustine, Expositions on the Book of Psalms 145.7-8

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

His Greatness Is Unsearchable

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Great is the Lᴏʀᴅ, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.  (Ps 145:3)

Now if any one should ask for some interpretation, and description, and explanation of the Divine essence, we are not going to deny that in this kind of wisdom we are unlearned, acknowledging only so much as this, that it is not possible that that which is by nature infinite should be comprehended in any conception expressed by words.  The fact that the Divine greatness has no limit is proclaimed by prophecy, which declares expressly that of His splendor, His glory, His holiness, “there is no end.”  And if His surroundings have no limit, much more is He Himself in His essence, whatever it may be, comprehended by no limitation in any way.  If then interpretation by way of words and names implies by its meaning some sort of comprehension of the subject, and if, on the other hand, that which is unlimited cannot be comprehended, no one could reasonably blame us for ignorance, if we are not bold in respect of what none should venture upon.  For by what name can I describe the incomprehensible?  By what speech can I declare the unspeakable?  Accordingly, since the Deity is too excellent and lofty to be expressed in words, we have learned to honor in silence what transcends speech and thought.

And if he who “thinks more highly than he ought to think,” tramples upon this cautious speech of ours making a jest of our ignorance of things incomprehensible, and recognizes a difference of unlikeness in that which is without figure, or limit, or size, or quantity (I mean in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), and brings forward to reproach our ignorance that phrase which is continually alleged by the disciples of deceit, “‘You worship what you do not know,’ if you do not know the essence of what you worship,” we shall follow the advice of the prophet, and not fear the reproach of fools, nor be led by their reviling to talk boldly of things unspeakable, making that unpracticed speaker Paul our teacher in the mysteries that transcend knowledge, who is so far from thinking that the Divine nature is within the reach of human perception, that he calls even the judgments of God “unsearchable,” and His ways “past finding out,” and affirms that the things promised to them that love Him, for their good deeds done in this life, are above comprehension so that it is not possible to behold them with the eye, nor to receive them by hearing, nor to contain them in the heart.

Learning this, therefore, from Paul, we boldly declare that, not only are the judgments of God too high for those who try to search them out, but that the ways also that lead to the knowledge of Him are even until now untrodden and impassable.  For this is what we understand that the Apostle wishes to signify, when he calls the ways that lead to the incomprehensible “past finding out,” showing by the phrase that that knowledge is unattainable by human calculations, and that no one ever yet set his understanding on such a path of reasoning, or showed any trace or sign of an approach, by way of perception, to the things incomprehensible.

Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 3.5

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

God Is Most High

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.  (Ps 145:1-2)

By nature God is most high, not having elevation in addition.  The devotees of piety proclaim it, and teach it to the ignorant.  The saying of Christ in the Gospels is like this, “Father, I glorified your name on earth.”  And a little later He teaches that He did not give Him glory that He did not have before, but revealed what He had: He said, “I made Your name known to people.”  In like manner, the Father also did not give the Son glory He did not have before, but taught the ignorant what He had: “Glorify Me, Father,” He said, “with the glory I had in Your presence before the world existed.”  So He did not take what He did not have, but what He had was made clear to those who did not know.  Here the inspired author does not promise to make God elevated, but shows to people His elevation to the extent possible.  He gives the God of all the appropriate names God and King, prompted by love to do so.  “I shall continue singing Your praises,” he is saying, “and shall allow no day to be without a role in hymn singing.”

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on Psalm 145

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He Is Not Here, for He Has Risen

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.  See, I have told you.”  So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  (Mt 28:1-8)

After the resurrection came the angel. Why then did he come he, and take away the stone?  Because of the women, for they themselves had seen Him then in the tomb.  Therefore that they might believe that He was risen again, they see the tomb void of the body.  For this reason he removed the stone.  For this reason also an earthquake took place, that they might be thoroughly aroused and awakened.  For they had come to pour oil on Him, and these things were done at night, and it is likely that some also had become drowsy.  And for what intent and reason does he say, “Fear not?”  First he delivers them from the dread, and then tells them of the resurrection.  And the ye is of one showing them great honor, and indicating, that extreme punishment awaits them that had dared to do, what the others had dared, except they repented.  For to be afraid is not for you, he means, but for them that crucified Him.

Having delivered them then from the fear both by his words, and by his appearance (for his form he showed bright, as bearing such good tidings), he went on to say, “I know that you seek Jesus the Crucified.”  And he is not ashamed to call Him “crucified” for this is the chief of the blessings.

“He is risen.”  How is it evident?  “As He said.”  So that if you refuse to believe me, he would say, remember His words, and neither will you disbelieve me.  Then also another proof, “Come and see the place where He lay.”  For this he had rolled away the stone, in order that from this too they might receive the proof.  “And tell His disciples, that you shall see Him in Galilee.”  And he prepares them to bear good tidings to others, which thing most of all made them believe.  And He said well “in Galilee,” freeing them from troubles and dangers, so that fear should not hinder their faith.

“And they departed from the tomb with fear and joy.”  Why could this be? They had seen a thing amazing, and beyond expectation, a tomb empty, where they had before seen Him laid.  Therefore also he had led them to the sight, that they might become witnesses of both things, both of His tomb, and of His resurrection.  For they considered that no man could have taken Him, when so many soldiers were sitting by Him, unless He raised up Himself.  For this reason also they rejoice and wonder, and receive the reward of continuing with Him, that they should first see and gladly declare, not only what had been said, but also what they had seen.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 89.2

Saturday, March 26, 2016

His Enemies Supported the Truth

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’  Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”  Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.  (Mt 27:62-66)

Everywhere deceit recoils upon itself, and against its will supports the truth.  And observe, it was necessary for it to be believed that He died, and that He rose again, and that He was buried, and all these things are brought to pass by His enemies.  See, at any rate, these words bearing witness to every one of these facts. … So then the proof of His resurrection has become incontrovertible by what you have put forward.  For because it was sealed, there was no unfair dealing.  But if there was no unfair dealing, and the tomb was found empty, it is evident that He is risen, plainly and incontrovertibly.  Do you see how even against their will they contend for the proof of the truth? … What then did Pilate say?  “You have a guard; make it as secure as you can.  And they made it secure, sealing the tomb and setting the guard.”  He does not allow the soldiers alone to seal, for having learned the things concerning Christ, he was no longer willing to cooperate with them.  But in order to be rid of them, he endures this also and says, “Seal it as you will, that you may not have it in your power to blame others.”  For if the soldiers only had sealed, they might have said (although the saying would have been improbable and false, yet nevertheless as in the rest they cast aside shame, so in this too they might have been able to say), that the soldiers, having given up the body to be stolen, gave His disciples opportunity to feign the history concerning His resurrection, but now having themselves made it secure, they are not able to say so much as this.

See how they labor for the truth against their will?  For they themselves came to Pilate, themselves asked, themselves sealed, setting the watch, so as to be accusers and refuters of one another.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 89.1

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cast Off and Rejected

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”  And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.  But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.  (Mt 27:45-49)

Certain people, in an outward display of piety for Jesus, because they are unable to explain how Christ could be forsaken by God, believe that this saying from the cross is true only as an expression of his humility.  We, however, who know that he who was “in the form of God” descended from the greatness of his stature and emptied himself, “taking the form of a servant” according to the will of the one who sent him, understand that he was indeed forsaken by the Father inasmuch as he who was the form of the invisible God and the image of the Father “took the form of a servant.”  He was forsaken for people so that he might shoulder so great a work and come “even to death” and “the death of the cross,” a work which seems thoroughly shameful to most people.  For it was the height of his abandonment when they crucified him and placed above his head the disdainful inscription “This is Jesus, king of the Jews.”  It was the height of his abandonment when they crucified him with thieves and when “those who passed by blasphemed him and wagged their heads.”  The chief priests and scribes said, “He saved others but cannot save himself.”  At that time “even the thieves reviled him” on the cross.  Clearly then you will be able to understand the saying “Why have you forsaken me?” when you compare the glory Christ had in the presence of the Father with the contempt he sustained on the cross, for his throne was
like the sun in the presence of God and like the moon established forever; and he was his faithful witness in heaven.  [Ps 89:36-37 LXX]
Afterwards, he also added with regard to those reasons for which he said “why have you forsaken me?”
But now you have cast off and rejected, you are full of wrath against your anointed.  You have renounced the covenant of your servant, you have defiled his crown in the dust.  [Ps 89:38-39 LXX]

Origen, Commentary on Matthew 135

He Answered Nothing

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus said, “You have said so.”  But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”  But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.  (Mt 27:11-14)

When false witnesses testified against our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He remained silent.  And when unfounded charges were brought against Him, He returned no answer, believing that His whole life and conduct among the Jews were a better refutation than any answer to the false testimony, or than any formal defense against the accusations.… Now, with respect to our Lord’s silence when false testimony was given against Him, it is sufficient at present to quote the words of Matthew, for the testimony of Mark is to the same effect.  And the words of Matthew are as follow:
And the high priest and the council sought false witness against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none, although many false witnesses came forward.  At last two false witnesses came and said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and after three days to build it up.”  And the high priest arose, and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing to what these testify against You?”  But Jesus held His peace.
And that He returned no answer when falsely accused, the following is the statement:
And Jesus stood before the governor; and he asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  And Jesus said to him, “You have said so.”  And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.  Then said Pilate unto Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”  And He answered him nothing, so that the governor marveled greatly.
It was, indeed, a matter of surprise to men even of ordinary intelligence, that one who was accused and assailed by false testimony, but who was able to defend Himself, and to show that He was guilty of none of the allegations, and who might have enumerated the praiseworthy deeds of His own life, and His miracles worked by divine power, so as to give the judge an opportunity of delivering a more honorable judgment regarding Him, should not have done this, but should have disdained such a procedure, and in the nobleness of His nature have disregarded His accusers.  That the judge would, without any hesitation, have set Him at liberty if He had offered a defense, is clear from what is related of him when he said, “Which of the two do ye wish that I should release unto you, Barabbas or Jesus, who is called Christ?” and from what the Scripture adds, “For he knew that from envy they had delivered Him.”  Jesus, however, is at all times assailed by false witnesses, and, while wickedness remains in the world, is ever exposed to accusation.  And yet even now He continues silent before these things, and makes no audible answer, but places His defense in the lives of His genuine disciples, which are a preëminent testimony, and one that rises superior to all false witness, and refutes and overthrows all unfounded accusations and charges.

Origen, Against Celsus, I.1-2

Do you see what He is first asked—which thing most of all they were continually bringing forward in every way?  For since they saw Pilate making no account of the matters of the law, they direct their accusation to the state charges.  So likewise they did in the case of the apostles, ever bringing forward these things and saying that they were going about proclaiming king one Jesus, speaking as of a mere man, and investing them with a suspicion of treason.… But all things they put forth and manipulated in order to bring Him to death.

What then did Christ say to Pilate’s question?  “You have said so.”  He confessed that He was a king, but a heavenly king, which He spoke more clearly elsewhere in replying to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Neither they nor this man should have an excuse for accusing Him of such things.  And He gives a reason that cannot be doubted, saying, “If I was of this world, my servants would fight, that I should not be handed over.”  For this reason, in order to refute this suspicion, He both paid a tax and commanded others to pay it.  And when they would make Him a king, He fled.

Why then did he not bring forward these things at that time, when accused of treason? Because having the proofs beyond number from His acts: of His power, His meekness, His gentleness.  They were willfully blind, and dealt unfairly, and the tribunal was corrupt.  For these reasons then He replies to nothing, but holds His peace, yet answering briefly (so as not to get the reputation of arrogance from continual silence) when the high priest adjured Him and when the governor asked.  But in reply to their accusations He no longer said anything, for He was not now likely to persuade them.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 86.1

Thursday, March 24, 2016

If It Be Possible ... Nevertheless

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  (Mt 26:36-39)

His words “if it be possible” referred not only to God’s power but also to his justice.  As to God’s power, whatever is just or unjust is possible.  As to his justice, which is not only powerful but also just, not everything is possible—only that which is just.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew 95

By saying then, “If it be possible, let it pass from me,” he showed his true humanity.  But by saying, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as you will,” he showed his virtue and self-command.  This too teaches us, even when nature pulls us back, to follow God.  In order to make clear that he is truly God and truly human, words alone would not suffice.  Deeds were needed.  So he joined deeds with words in order that even those who have been highly contentious may believe that he both became man and died.  Admittedly, some still do not believe that this was so.  But many more would have been unable to have believed if his face had not been seen at Gethsemane.  See in how many ways he shows the reality of the incarnation.  He demonstrates both by what he speaks and by what he suffers.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 83.1

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  See!  Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Mt 23:37-39)

Then He directs His speech unto the city, in this way too being minded to correct His hearers, and says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”  What does the repetition mean?  This is the manner of one pitying her, and bemoaning her, and greatly loving her.  For, like a woman much beloved, herself indeed ever loved, but who had despised Him that loved her, and therefore on the point of being punished, He pleads, being now about to inflict the punishment, which He does in the prophets also, using these words, “I said, Turn to me, and she returned not.”

Then having called her, He tells also her blood-stained deeds, “You who kills the prophets, and stones those that are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, and you would not,” in this way also pleading for His own dealings:
Not even with these things have you turned Me aside, nor withdrawn Me from My great affection toward you, but it was My desire even so, not once or twice, but often to draw you unto Me.
“For how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not.”  And this He says, to show that they were scattering themselves by their sins.  And His affection He indicates by the comparison, for indeed the creature is warm in its love towards its brood.  And everywhere in the prophets is this same image of the wings, and in the song of Moses and in the Psalms, indicating His great protection and care.

“But you would not,” He says. “Behold your house is left desolate,” stripped of the protection which comes from Me.  Surely it was the same, who also was before protecting them, and holding them together, and preserving them; surely it was He who was chastening them.  And He appoints a punishment, which they had dreaded exceedingly; for it declared the entire overthrow of their polity.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 74.3

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

It All Hangs on These

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  (Mt 22:34-40 NKJV)

Our Savior, Lawgiver, and Lord, was once asked, “What is the first commandment?”  His reply was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  And He added “This is the first commandment: and the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Then He said further “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

He then who keeps these, according to the definition of the Lord, plainly fulfills the Law, and he who transgresses them is guilty of transgressing the whole Law.  Let us then examine, before the exact and righteous tribunal of our conscience, whether we have fulfilled the divine commandments.  Now the first is kept by him who guards the faith given by God in its integrity, who abominates its assailants as enemies of the truth and hates heartily all those who hate the beloved.  And the second by him who most highly esteems the care of his neighbor and who, not only in prosperity but also in apparent misfortunes, observes the laws of friendship.  They, on the other hand, who look after their own safety, as they suppose, who on its account make little of the laws of friendship and take no heed of their friends when assaulted and attacked, are reckoned to belong to the number of the wicked and of them that are without.  The Lord of all requires better things at the hands of His disciples.  “Love” He says “your enemies, for if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  For the sinners and the publicans do this.”

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letter to Theoctistus, Bishop of Berea

Monday, March 21, 2016

Christ Cleanses the Temple

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”  (Mt 21:12-13)

And what reason had He for doing this and saying, and vindicating His house, if He did preach another God?  But that He might point out the transgressors of His Father’s law; for neither did He bring any accusation against the house, nor did He blame the law, which He had come to fulfill; but He reproved those who were putting His house to an improper use, and those who were transgressing the law.  And therefore the scribes and Pharisees, too, who from the times of the law had begun to despise God, did not receive His Word, that is, they did not believe on Christ.…

But as many as feared God, and were anxious about His law, these ran to Christ, and were all saved.  For He said to His disciples: “Go to the sheep of the house of Israel, which have perished.”  And many more Samaritans, it is said, when the Lord had tarried among them, two days, “believed because of His words, and said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we ourselves have heard [Him], and know that this man is truly the Savior of the world.”  And Paul likewise declares, “And so all Israel shall be saved;” but he has also said, that the law was our guardian to Christ Jesus.  Let them not therefore ascribe to the law the unbelief of certain [ones].  For the law never hindered them from believing in the Son of God; no, but it even exhorted them so to do, saying that men can be saved in no other way from the old wound of the serpent than by believing in Him who, in the likeness of sinful flesh, is lifted up from the earth upon the tree of martyrdom, and draws all things to Himself, and vivifies the dead.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV.2.7-8

Friday, March 18, 2016

Baptism: Spiritual Circumcision and Resurrection

This Sunday we have multiple baptisms.  In view of that event, I am offering some patristic commentary referencing baptismal texts.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  (Col 2:11-12)

See how near he is come to the thing.  He says, “In the putting” quite away, not putting off merely.  “The body of sins.”  He means, “the old life.”  He is continually adverting to this in different ways, as he said above, “Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and reconciled us who were alienated,” that we should be “holy and without blemish.” (Col. 1:13, 21.)  No longer, he says, is the circumcision with the knife, but in Christ Himself; for no hand imparts this circumcision, as is the case there, but the Spirit.  It circumcises not a part, but the whole man.  It is the body both in the one and the other case, but in the one it is carnally, in the other it is spiritually circumcised; but not as the Jews, for ye have not put off flesh, but sins.  When and where?  In Baptism.  And what he calls circumcision, he again calls burial.  Observe how he again passes on to the subject of righteous doings; “of the sins,” he says, “of the flesh,” the things they had done in the flesh.  He speaks of a greater thing than circumcision, for they did not merely cast away that of which they were circumcised, but they destroyed it, they annihilated it.

John Chrysostom, Homily on Colossians, VI

Through baptism comes the stripping away and circumcision of sins.… Those being baptized in the blood of Christ confess that they share in His death through baptism and that following this they enjoy the resurrection.  Resurrection is used here in a twofold sense, the one spiritual and the other physical.  All persons will rise through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  Those, however, who have not been baptized in Christ but have died without faith will share in the general resurrection. However they will not enjoy the promise of redemption.… As many as were baptized into Christ, these have freely benefited before the general resurrection from the spiritual resurrection, for they have already risen from the death of sins.  Thus, Paul also says: “in whom you were raised,” not “in whom you will be raised.”

Severian of Gabala, Pauline Commentary

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Baptized into His Death

This Sunday we have multiple baptisms.  In view of that event, I am offering some patristic commentary referencing baptismal texts.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom 6:3-4)

What does being “baptized into His Death” mean?  That it is with a view to our dying as He did. For Baptism is the Cross.  What the Cross then, and Burial, is to Christ, that Baptism hath been to us, even if not in the same respects.  For He died Himself and was buried in the Flesh, but we have done both to sin.  Therefore he does not say, planted together in His Death, but in the likeness of His Death.  For both the one and the other is a death, but not of the same subject—since the one is of the Flesh, that of Christ; the other of sin, which is our own.  As then that is real, so is this.  But if it be real, then what is of our part again must be contributed.  Here he hints, along with the duty of a careful walk, at the subject of the resurrection.  In what way?  Do you believe, he means, that Christ died, and that He was raised again?  Believe then the same of yourself.  For this is like to the other, since both Cross and Burial is yours.  For if you have shared in Death and Burial, much more will you in Resurrection and Life.  For now the greater is done away with (the sin I mean), it is not right to doubt any longer about the lesser (the doing away of death).

John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans, X

O strange and inconceivable thing!  We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again; but our imitation was in a figure, and our salvation in reality.  Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again; and all these things He has freely bestowed upon us, that we, sharing His sufferings by imitation, might gain salvation in reality.  O surpassing loving-kindness!  Christ received nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and suffered anguish; while on me without pain or toil by the fellowship of His suffering He freely bestows salvation.

Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Mysteries: Of Baptism, 5

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Baptism in the Triune Name

This Sunday we have multiple baptisms.  In view of that event, I am offering some patristic commentary referencing baptismal texts.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Mt 28:19-20)

And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, He said to them, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  For [God] promised, that in the last times He would pour [the Spirit] upon [His] servants and handmaids, that they might prophesy; wherefore He did also descend upon the Son of God, made the Son of man, becoming accustomed in fellowship with Him to dwell in the human race, to rest with human beings, and to dwell in the workmanship of God, working the will of the Father in them, and renewing them from their old habits into the newness of Christ.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.17.1

Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord.  But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the sacrament, viz., the sealing act of baptism; the clothing, in some sense, of the faith which before was bare, and which cannot exist now without its proper law.  For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: “Go,” He saith, “teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  The comparison with this law of that definition, “Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” [John 3:5] has tied faith to the necessity of baptism.  Accordingly, all thereafter who became believers used to be baptized.  Then it was, too, that Paul, when he believed, was baptized; and this is the meaning of the precept which the Lord had given him when smitten with the plague of loss of sight, saying, “Arise, and enter Damascus.  There shall be shown to you what you ought to do,” to wit—be baptized, which was the only thing lacking to him.  Except for that point, he had sufficiently learned and believed “the Nazarene” to be “the Lord, the Son of God” [Acts 9:1-31].

Tertullian, On Baptism XIII

And we in receiving Baptism, in imitation of our Lord and Teacher and Guide, are not indeed buried in the earth (for this is the shelter of the body that is entirely dead, covering the infirmity and decay of our nature), but coming to the element akin to earth, to water, we conceal ourselves in that as the Savior did in the earth.  And by doing this thrice we represent for ourselves that grace of the Resurrection which was wrought in three days.  And this we do, not receiving the sacrament in silence, but while there are spoken over us the Names of the Three Sacred Persons on Whom we believed, in Whom we also hope, from Whom comes to us both the fact of our present and the fact of our future existence.

It may be you are offended, you who contends boldly against the glory of the Spirit, and that you begrudge the Spirit that veneration wherewith He is reverenced by the godly.  Leave off contending with me.  Resist, if you can, those words of the Lord which gave to men the rule of the Baptismal invocation.  What says the Lord’s command?  “Baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  How in the Name of the Father?  Because He is the primal cause of all things.  How in the Name of the Son?  Because He is the Maker of the Creation.  How in the Name of the Holy Spirit?  Because He is the power perfecting all.  We bow ourselves therefore before the Father, that we may be sanctified.  Before the Son also we bow, that the same end may be fulfilled.  We bow also before the Holy Spirit, that we may be made what He is in fact and in Name.

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blessings for Fearing the Lord

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the Lᴏʀᴅ.  (Ps 128:3-4)

Next comes “Your sons as olive plants round about your table.”  Wisdom as wife is rightly said to have sons and not daughters.  The male sex usually denotes mental strength: in other cases, when the male sex is referenced, it embraces both male and female.  When the psalmist says elsewhere, “Blessed is the man that fears the Lord,” it is not just the man who fears the Lord that is blessed; the woman too who fears the Lord is blessed.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Adorned with the Fear of God

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lᴏʀᴅ,
    who walks in his ways!  (Ps 128:1)

His words, blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, reveal that those who with troubled mind are apprehensive of the world's dangers in loss of temporal possessions are not blessed.  These dangers make people wretched, torturing them with empty fear, so that they do not experience growth but a diminution, no ascent but a headlong fall.  By contrast, fear of the Lord is the offspring of love, is born of charity, is sprung from sweetness.  What devoted fear, consoling the fearful, refreshing the afflicted, experiencing no absence of joy unless the benefit of such fear is laid aside!  Scripture says of this fear: “Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”  How advantageous the fear is by which children are instructed, how splendid the training bestowed with sweet affection!


The inspired word declared blessed not the one from Abraham's stock or from Israel's seed but the person adorned with the fear of God.  Blessed Peter also says this in the book of Acts: “In truth I grasp the fact that God shows no partiality, but in every nation the person fearing him and performing righteousness is acceptable to him.” [Ac 10:34-35]  The inspired word also gave a glimpse of the character of the fear of God, adding those walking in his ways: “Not everyone saying to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in heaven.” [Mt 7:21]  So it is typical of those fearing the Lord not to stray from the ways of God but to travel in them without fail.

Theodoret of Cyrus

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

We Prevail through God's Care

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Ps 127:2)

Here in figurative fashion he called rest sleep; sleep gives people repose.  So with God granting His peculiar care, he is saying, we shall manage to prevail over the enemies, build without difficulty, live a secure life, sleep without care, and become parents of very many children according to the divine promise; He promised to make our race like sand on the sea shore.  He said it here, too: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lᴏʀᴅ, the fruit of the womb a reward.—that is, the divine promise and the blessing of children is given like a kind of reward to us for hoping in Him.

Theodoret of Cyrus

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Neither the Builder nor the Watcher, but God

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Solomon says in the book of Psalms (for the Song of Degrees is his, from which we shall quote the words):
Unless the Lᴏʀᴅ builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lᴏʀᴅ watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.” [Ps 127:1]
not dissuading us from building, nor teaching us not to keep watch in order to guard the city in our soul, but showing that what is built without God, and does not receive a guard from Him, is built in vain and watched to no purpose, because God might reasonably be entitled the Lord of the building; and the Governor of all things, the Ruler of the guard of the city.   As, then, if we were to say that such a building is not the work of the builder, but of God, and that it was not owing to the successful effort of the watcher, but of the God who is over all, that such a city suffered no injury from its enemies, we should not be wrong, it being understood that something also had been done by human means, but the benefit being gratefully referred to God who brought it to pass.  So, seeing that mere human desire is not sufficient to attain the end, and that the running of those who are, as it were, athletes, does not enable them to gain the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus—for these things are accomplished with the assistance of God—it is well said that “it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.” [Rom 9:16]  As if also it were said with regard to husbandry what also is actually recorded: “I planted, Apollos watered; and God gave the increase.  So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase.” [1 Co 3:6-7]

Origen, On the Freedom of the Will, 18

Monday, March 7, 2016

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

There are so many people who are governed entirely by their feelings and they do not want to use their minds and their brains.  Even in a religious service they just want happiness and enjoyment.  They want to have a good time, as they call it, to get excited, to work themselves up by singing hymns and songs and choruses, and to keep on repeating and repeating until they are in a state of mental intoxication.  They do not want to be made to think.  Life is hard enough as it is, they say, without having to struggle with this thought and that, so let us have more singing and less preaching and so on.  Feelings!  Just a riot of enjoyment—that is a foolish person.  Do you see the relevance of all this to the state of the church today?  It does not matter how crowded your churches are in whatever country you belong to.  What I want to know is, what happens when the crowd gets there? How is the time spent?  And, alas, one sees and hears more and more music and entertainment and less and less of teaching and doctrine and true understanding.  That is one of the characteristics of folly.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17,” pg. 145

HT: Glenn Chatfield

Friday, March 4, 2016

Raise the Strain!

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, O my soul!  (Ps 103:20-22)

That name, therefore, we pray may “be hallowed.”  Not that it is becoming for men to wish God well, as if there were any other god by whom He may be wished well, or as if He would suffer unless we do so wish.  Plainly, it is universally becoming for God to be blessed in every place and time, on account of the memory of His benefits ever due from every man.  But this petition also serves the turn of a blessing.  Otherwise, when is the name of God not “holy,” and “hallowed” through Himself, seeing that of Himself He sanctifies all others—He to whom that surrounding circle of angels do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy?”  Likewise, therefore, we too,... if we succeed in deserving it, begin even here on earth to learn by heart that strain hereafter to be raised unto God, and the function of future glory.

Tertullian, On Prayer, III

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Known by His Deeds

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

The Lᴏʀᴅ is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  (Ps 103:8)

For God is not an expression, neither does He have His essence in voice or utterance.  But God is of Himself what also He is believed to be, but He is named, by those who call upon Him, not what He is essentially (for the nature of Him Who alone is is unspeakable), but He receives His appellations from what are believed to be His operations in regard to our life.  To take an instance ready to our hand; when we speak of Him as God, we so call Him from regarding Him as overlooking and surveying all things, and seeing through the things that are hidden.  But if His essence is prior to His works, and we understand His works by our senses, and express them in words as we are best able, why should we be afraid of calling things by words of later origin than themselves?  For if we stay to interpret any of the attributes of God till we understand them, and we understand them only by what His works teach us, and if His power precedes its exercise, and depends on the will of God, while His will resides in the spontaneity of the Divine nature, are we not clearly taught that the words which represent things are of later origin than the things themselves, and that the words which are framed to express the operations of things are reflections of the things themselves?  And that this is so, we are clearly taught by Holy Scripture, by the mouth of great David, when, as by certain peculiar and appropriate names, derived from his contemplation of the works of God, he thus speaks of the Divine nature: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering, and of great goodness.”

Now what do these words tell us?  Do they indicate His operations, or His nature?  No one will say that they indicate anything but His operations.  At what time, then, after showing mercy and pity, did God acquire His name from their display?  Was it before man’s life began?  But who was there to be the object of pity?  Was it, then, after sin entered into the world?  But sin entered after man.  The exercise, therefore, of pity, and the name itself, came after man.  What then?  Will our adversary, wise as he is above the Prophets, convict David of error in applying names to God derived from his opportunities of knowing Him?  Or, in contending with him, will he use against him the pretense in his stately passage as out of a tragedy, saying that “he glories in the most blessed life of God with names drawn from human imagination, whereas it gloried in itself alone, long before men were born to imagine them”?  The Psalmist’s advocate will readily admit that the Divine nature gloried in itself alone even before the existence of human imagination, but will contend that the human mind can speak only so much in respect of God as its capacity, instructed by His works, will allow.  “For,” as says the Wisdom of Solomon, “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.” [Wisdom 13:5]

Gregory of Nyssa, Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

None Else Fits

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

The Lᴏʀᴅ works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.  (Ps 103:6)

[T]he Lord performs mercies for them that hope in Him, and takes vengeance for all those who suffer wrong.  Accordingly, none of them can be in doubt about what is said, once they realized that the Lord Himself is identified by this definition.  This verse is uttered as a mode of definition, when a person is being denoted by what he uniquely does.  When you ask, “What is the Lord?” the answer you give is: He who works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.  So the Lord God is adequately identified, since the words could not be apt for any other.  He does mercies to those who have shown mercy; as Christ says in the gospel: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  Next comes: and justice for all who are oppressed.  This is promised to those adorned with the gift of patience, of whom He says: Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It Is Always Possible to Sing His Praises

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!  (Ps 103:1)

Those feeling grateful for the divine graces stir up themselves to hymn-singing, repaying the Benefactor to the extent possible.  It is always possible to sing His praises and to carry about a fresh recollection of the favors.  These people also consecrate all that is within, and direct their whole thinking to the divine hymn; by within, in fact, he referred to thinking, pondering, and all the movements of the soul.

Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits.  (Ps 103:2)

Again, the soul is instructed to stir up itself, expel the cloud of forgetfulness, and renew the recollection of the favors.

Theodoret of Cyrus