Friday, May 20, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thess 1:2-3)

It is necessary not only to give evidence of faith in peace and tranquility, but also to cling to it amid storm and tempest.  Likewise love also does not experience untroubled enjoyment but as well effort.  One has to put up with the brethren’s failings, whether envy, rage, conceit, or the weakness of ingratitude.  For this reason he linked labor with love, and associated persistence with hope.  Christ the Lord gave us hope in the resurrection of the dead, immortal life, and the kingdom of heaven.  The person in receipt of this hope must persist and bear nobly the troubles that befall.  He is saying, “The God of all has an eye to everything.”

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on First Thessalonians

What labor is it to love?  Merely to love is no labor at all, but to love genuinely is great labor.  For tell me, when a thousand things are stirred up that would draw us from love, and we hold out against them all, is it not labor?  For what did not these men suffer, that they might not revolt from their love?  Did not they that warred against the preaching go to Paul’s host, and not having found him, drag Jason before the rulers of the city? (Acts 17:5-6)  Tell me, is this a slight labor, when the seed had not yet taken root, to endure so great a storm, so many trials?  And they demanded security of him.  And having given security, he says, Jason sent away Paul.  Tell me, is this a small thing?  Did not Jason expose himself to danger for him?  And this he calls a labor of love, because they were bound to him in this manner.

And observe: first he mentions their good actions, then his own, that he may not seem to boast, nor yet to love them by anticipation.  “And patience,” he says.  For that persecution was not confined to one time, but was continual, and they warred not only with Paul, the teacher, but with his disciples also.  For if they were affected in this manner towards those who worked miracles, those venerable men, what do you think were their feelings towards those who dwelt among them, their fellow-citizens, who had all of a sudden revolted from them?  For this reason he also testifies of them, saying, “For you became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea.”

“And of hope,” he says, “in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father.”  For all these things proceed from faith and hope, so that what happened to them showed not their fortitude only, but that they believed with full assurance in the rewards laid up for them.  For on this account God permitted that persecutions should arise immediately, that no one might say, that the preaching was established lightly or by flattery, and that their fervor might be shown, and that it was not human persuasion, but the power of God, that persuaded the souls of the believers, so that they were prepared even for ten thousand deaths, which would not have been the case, if the preaching had not immediately been deeply established and remained unshaken.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Thessalonians I

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