Friday, June 24, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.  (1 Thess 4:1-3)

There is only one calamity for a Christian, which is disobedience to God.  But all the other things, such as loss of property, exile, peril of life, he does not even reckon to be a grievance at all.  And that which all dread, departure hence to the other world,—this is to him sweeter than life itself. For as when one has climbed to the top of a cliff and gazes on the sea and those who are sailing upon it, he sees some being washed by the waves, others running upon hidden rocks, some hurrying in one direction, others being driven in another, like prisoners, by the force of the gale, many actually in the water, some of them using their hands only in the place of a boat and a rudder, and many drifting along upon a single plank, or some fragment of the vessel, others floating dead, a scene of manifold and various disaster.  Even so he who is engaged in the service of Christ drawing himself out of the turmoil and stormy billows of life takes his seat upon secure and lofty ground.  For what position can be loftier or more secure than that in which a man has only one anxiety, “How he ought to please God?”

John Chrysostom, Letters to Theodore 2.5

For the devil tempting us, knowing what we are, but not knowing if we will hold out, but wishing to dislodge us from the faith, attempts also to bring us into subjection to himself.  This is all that is allowed to him, partly from the necessity of saving us from ourselves, who have taken opportunity of the commandment—partly for the confusion of him* who has tempted and failed, but also for the confirmation of the members of the Church, and the conscience of those who admire such constancy.… For neither did the Lord suffer by the will of the Father, nor are those who are persecuted persecuted by the will of God.  Indeed, either of two things is the case: either persecution in consequence of the will of God is a good thing, or those who decree and afflict are guiltless.  But nothing is without the will of the Lord of the universe.  It remains to say that such things happen without the prevention of God, for this alone saves both the providence and the goodness of God.  We must not therefore think that He actively produces afflictions (far be it that we should think this!).… Providence is a disciplinary art—in the case of others for each individual’s sins, and in the case of the Lord and His apostles for ours.  To this point the divine apostle says: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.”

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 4.12

* I.e., the devil.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.  (1 Thess 3:11-13)

This is a proof of excessive love, that he not only prays for them by himself, but even in his epistles inserts his prayer.  This argues a fervent soul, and one truly not to be restrained.  This is a proof of the prayers made there also, and at the same time also an excuse, as showing that it was not voluntarily, nor from lack of effort, that they did not go to them.  As if he had said, “May God Himself cut short the testings that everywhere distract us, so that we may come directly to you.”  Do you see the unrestrainable madness of love that is shown by his words?  “Make you to increase and abound,” instead of cause you to grow.  As if one should say, that with a kind of superabundance he desires to be loved by them.  “Even as we do also toward you,” he says.  Our part is already done, we pray that yours may be done.  Do you see how he wishes love to be extended, not only toward one another, but everywhere?  For this truly is the nature of godly love, that it embraces all.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Thessalonians

Friday, June 10, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.  For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.  For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.  For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.  (1 Thess 3:1-5)

Whenever anything happens to the helmsman, either the officer in command at the bows, or the seaman of highest rank, takes his place, not because he becomes a self-appointed helmsman, but because he looks out for the safety of the ship.  So again in war, when the commander falls, the chief tribune assumes the command, not in the attempt to lay violent hands on the place of power, but because he cares for his men.  So too the thrice blessed Timothy when sent by the divine Paul took his place.  It is therefore becoming to your piety to accept the responsibilities of helmsman, of captain, of shepherd, gladly to run all risk for the sake of the sheep of Christ, and not to leave His creatures abandoned and alone.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letter to Eusebius

Friday, June 3, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.  For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins.  But wrath has come upon them at last!  (1 Thess 2:13-16)

Do you see how he introduces this as containing great consolation? And constantly he refers to it.  And upon a close examination one may find it in nearly all his epistles, how variously, upon all occasions of temptation, he brings forward Christ.  Observe accordingly, that here also, when accusing the Jews, he puts them in mind of the Lord, and of the sufferings of the Lord; so well does he know that this is a matter of the greatest consolation.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Thessalonians

Then he brings out the manner of the hostility.  The example suffices for encouragement: the similarity of the suffering provides adequate consolation.  The text teaches us that the believers in Thessalonica were ravaged by the non-believers and deprived of their possessions; and those who accepted the saving message in Judea suffered the same fate.  He also prophesied the destruction of the Jews, Wrath has come upon them at last: there will be no revoking the sentence for them.  Blessed David spoke in similar terms, "O God, why do You cast us off forever?"  Now the phrase oppose all mankind should be taken this way: We were bidden to offer the saving message to everyone, but they resisted us; so they are in opposition to everyone.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on 1 Thessalonians