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.

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