Friday, June 11, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Third Sunday after Pentecost

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well-pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Co 5:1–10)

Paul is saying that people are yearning that when they rise again they may be clothed in the promised heavenly glory. They are earnest in their prayers that they should not be excluded from the glory which is promised. This is what being found naked means. For when the soul is clothed in a body it must also be clothed with the glory which is its transformation into brightness.

Death comes from the earth but resurrection from the heavens, as long as there is a change into glory. There will be, but only if on departing out of this body we are clothed in Christ, because everyone who is baptized in Christ puts Him on like a garment. So if we have remained in the form and faith of our baptism, we shall be found with our body stripped, but not naked, because Christ dwells in our inner selves, and when we are clothed (or when the Holy Spirit has been given to us), we shall be worthy of being clothed in the promised glory of heaven. The promised brightness will fall on the person whom He sees as having the sign of adoption.…

Paul is right to be of good courage, because relying on the promise of God and knowing that it is much better to be in that other place than it is to remain in this world, they are willing to leave the body and rest until the day of resurrection under the throne of God. [He] is saying that we must do this and put our energy into good works in order to please God, whether we remain in this life or go to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. If we keep up our self-discipline, we will be pleasing both here and there, because someone who is pleasing here will hardly be displeasing there. If, on the day of Christ’s judgment, we are going to receive what we have done in the body, it is clear that we shall not be judged without a body, good or bad.

Ambrosiaster, Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5

Friday, June 4, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Second Sunday after Pentecost

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor 4:13–5:1)

It was very relevant for him to site this testimony: blessed David in the previous psalm had said, “He rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears and my feet from stumbling for me to be pleasing in the sight of the in the land of the living” (though this land was not seen), he began the next psalm with the words, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” The same Spirit, he is saying, spoke also through them and speaks through us.

The Lord accepted death for the sake of all so that we might all share resurrection with him. Consequently, we believe that he will also through him render us superior to death and present both you and us together before the fearsome tribunal. Everything is for your sake, after all - that is, the believers: he refers not only to the Corinthians but to all who have accepted the message. So that grace may increase on account of thanksgiving by the greater number and abound to God’s glory: concerned for the salvation of all in common. he arranged things in keeping with Christ the Lord; so he was obliged to repay him unceasingly in thanksgiving hymns.

Far from being distraught or depressed, we bear everything nobly: the soul gains the greatest advantage from recourse to courage. He then compares the troubles of the present life to the good things awaiting in the future: The slight momentary tribulation is preparing an everlasting weight f glory for us beyond all measure. On the one hand, he brings out through momentary the brevity and temporary character, while on the other he contrasts everlasting with momentary, and weighty (that is, valuable) and beyond all measure with slight and light, and not repose but glory, which is far greater, with tribulation. Since the latter are visible but the former not apparent, he was right to proceed, We consider not what is seen but what is no what is seen is temporary, what is not seen is eternal. The tribulations that are temporary but also the repose of the present life; so we should not be attached to the passing things, but look forward to the enjoyment of the eternal goods.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians 4

Friday, May 28, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Holy Trinity Sunday

Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29–32)

Observe how, at the beginning of his discourse, he does not say that Jesus Himself had sent Him, but the Father: now, however, that he has mentioned His signs and the things done to Him by the Jews, and has spoken of His resurrection, he boldly introduces what he has to say about these matters, again adducing themselves as witnesses by both senses: which you now see and hear. And of the resurrection, he has made continual mention, but of their outrageous deed he has spoken once for all. And having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit. This again is great. The promise, he says: because before His Passion. Observe how he now makes it all His, covertly making a great point. For if it was He that poured it forth, it is of Him that the Prophet has spoken above, In the last days I will pour forth of My Spirit on My servants, and on My handmaids, and I will do wonders in the heaven above. Observe what he secretly puts into it! But then, because it was a great thing, he again veils it with the expression of His having received of the Father. He has spoken of the good things fulfilled, of the signs; has said, that He is king, the point that touched them; has said, that it is He that gives the Spirit. (For, however much a person may say, if it does not issue in something advantageous, he speaks to no purpose.) Just as John: The Same, says he, shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. And it shows that the Cross not only did not make Him less, but rendered Him even more illustrious, seeing that of old God promised it to Him, but now has given it. Or the promise which He promised to us. He so foreknew it about to be and has given it to us greater after the resurrection. And, has poured Him out, he says; not requiring worthiness: and not simply given, but with abundance.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 6

Friday, May 21, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Pentecost

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1–4)

But let us look over what has been said from the beginning. It filled, he says, the house. That wind was a very pool of water. This betokened the copiousness, as the fire did the vehemence. This nowhere happened in the case of the Prophets: for to uninebriated souls such accesses are not attended with much disturbance; but “when they have well drunken,” then indeed it is as here, but with the Prophets, it is otherwise. The scroll of a book is given to him, and Ezekiel ate what he was about to utter. And it became in his mouth, it is said, like honey for sweetness. (And again the hand of God touches the tongue of another Prophet; but here it is the Holy Spirit Himself: so equal is He in honor with the Father and the Son.) And again, on the other hand, Ezekiel calls it, Lamentations, and mourning, and woe. To them, it might well be in the form of a book; for they still needed similitudes. Those had to deal with only one nation, and with their own people; but these with the whole world, and with men whom they never knew. Also, Elisha receives the grace through the medium of a mantle; another by oil, like David; and Moses by fire, as we read of him at the bush. But in the present case it is not so; for the fire itself sat upon them. (But wherefore did the fire not appear so as to fill the house? Because they would have been terrified.) But the story shows that it is the same here as there. For you are not to stop at this, that there appeared unto them cloven tongues, but note that they were of fire. Such a fire as this is able to kindle infinite fuel. Also, it is well said, Cloven, for they were from one root: that you may learn, that it was an operation sent from the Comforter.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 4

Friday, May 14, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:11b–19)

Those then, He says, who have received Your Word, O Father, through Me, show forth My Likeness in themselves and are conformed to the pattern of Your own Son, who, like Him, pass unscathed through the ocean of the world’s wickedness, and have shown themselves foreigners and strangers to the love of pleasure in this life, and every kind of vice. Therefore sanctify them in Your truth, for exceeding purity is inherent in Christ. For He is truly God, and cannot be subject to sin nor endure it, but is rather the fountain of all goodness, and the beauty of holiness. For the Divine Nature, that rules over all, can do nothing but what is in truth suitable and belongs thereto. And the holy disciples, I mean all who believe on Him, cannot otherwise exhibit purity unspotted by the wickedness of this world than by means of forgiveness and grace from above, which puts away the defilement of previous offenses and the accusing sins of their past lives; and, further, conferring on them the glory of a life of sanctification, though their continuance therein is not free from conflict, as Paul wisely teaches us, saying: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. For our life is cast upon the deep, and we are tossed by several storms, as the devil tempts without ceasing, and continually assails and strives to defile if he can, by the insidious inventions of malice, even those who have been already made pure. For his meat is well-chosen, as the prophet says. Having then borne witness to His disciples that their life was out of the world, and that they were conformed to the likeness of His own essential purity, He proceeds to pray to His Father to keep them.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John 11.9

Friday, May 7, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Sixth Sunday of Easter

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:9–17)

How great a measure can a man then find to the love of Christ, He Himself shows when He says that nothing can be greater than such love, which excites to forsake life itself for those one loves. And by all this, He not only exhorts His own disciples that it becomes them so little to shrink from fearing to encounter dangers for those they love but that also He Himself without shrinking held Himself in utmost readiness to undergo the death of the flesh. For the power of our Savior’s love attained so great a measure. And these words were borne out by His action, and by His encouragement to His disciples to attain an exceedingly great and extraordinary courage, and by His exhorting them to the perfection of brotherly love, and fencing their hearts with the armor of enthusiasm and love of God, and raising them up into a zeal invincible and undaunted, so as impetuously to hasten to establish everything according to His good pleasure.…

When therefore, then, he has abundantly comforted them with the words of consolation, and with respect to those things at which they would be likely to be cast down, persuading them in turn to rejoice, He again incites them by His injunctions to diligence to a confident courage; persuading them to change their minds and rather to rejoice at those things at which they had not without reason been dismayed, and charges them to display the utmost zeal, and put into practice an overflowing measure of brotherly love, and to benefit those as yet without faith, and to hasten by the words and deeds that make for righteousness to draw those who are astray to a willingness to be united to God by faith.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John 10

Friday, April 30, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fifth Sunday of Easter

So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:34–-38)

But, as I said, for the present let us take shame to ourselves (when we think of) the eunuch, both in his baptism and his reading. Do ye mark how he was in a station of great authority, how he was in possession of wealth, and even on his journey allowed himself no rest? What must he have been at home, in his leisure hours, this man who rested not even on his travels? What must he have been at night? You who are in stations of dignity, hear: imitate his freedom from pride, his piety. Though about to return home, he did not say to himself: “I am going back to my country, there let me receive Baptism:” those cold words which most men use! No need had he of signs, no need of miracles: from the Prophet merely, he believed. But why is it that he does not see Philip before he goes to Jerusalem, but after he has been there? It was not helpful that he should see the Apostles under persecution. Because he was yet weak, the Prophet was not easy yet catechized him. For even now, if any of you would apply himself to the study of the Prophets, he would need no miracles. And, if you please, let us take in hand the prophecy itself. He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth: in His humiliation, His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth. It is likely he had heard that He was crucified, that His life is taken away from the earth, and the rest: that He did no sin, nor deceit in His mouth: that He prevailed to save others also: who He is, Whose generation is unutterable. It is likely he had seen the split rocks there, and heard how the veil was rent, and how there was darkness, and so forth: and all these things Philip mentioned, merely taking his text from the Prophet. It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures! That was fulfilled which was spoken by Moses, Sitting, lying down, rising up, and walking, remember the Lord your God.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 19

Friday, April 23, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fourth Sunday of Easter

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:5–12)

The builders were the Jews, while all the Gentiles remained in the wasteland of idols. The Jews alone were daily reading the law and the prophets for the building up of the people. As they were building, they came to the cornerstone, which embraces two walls—that is, they found in the prophetic Scriptures that Christ, who would bring together in Himself two peoples, was to come in the flesh. And, because they preferred to remain in one wall, that is, to be saved alone, they rejected the stone, which was not one-sided but two-sided. Nevertheless, although they were unwilling, God by Himself placed this at the chief position in the corner, so that from two Testaments and two peoples there might rise up a building of one and the same faith.

If the salvation of the world is in no other but in Christ alone, then the fathers of the Old Testament were saved by the incarnation and passion of the same Redeemer, by which we also believe and hope to be saved. For although the sacramental signs differed by reason of the times, nevertheless there was agreement in one and the same faith because through the prophets they learned as something to come the same dispensation of Christ which we learned through the apostles as something which has been done. For there is no redemption of human captivity except in the blood of Him who gave Himself as a redemption for all.

Bede, Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles 4.11–12

Friday, April 16, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Third Sunday of Easter

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44–49)

When He had quieted their reasonings by what He said, by the touch of their hands, and by partaking of food, He then opened their mind to understand, that “so it behooved Him to suffer,” even upon the wood of the cross. The Lord, therefore, recalls the minds of the disciples to what He had before said: for He had forewarned them of His sufferings upon the cross, according to what the prophets had long before spoken: and He opens also the eyes of their heart, so as for them to understand the ancient prophecies.

The Savior promises the disciples the descent of the Holy Spirit, which God had announced of old by Joel, and power from above, that they might be strong and invincible, and without all fear preach to men everywhere the divine mystery.

He says unto them now that they had received the Spirit after the resurrection, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and adds, “But tarry at Jerusalem, and wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard from Me. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit;” in water no longer, for that they had received, but with the Holy Ghost: He does not add water to water, but completes that which was deficient by adding what was lacking to it.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 24

Friday, April 9, 2021

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Second Sunday of Easter

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20)

Hereby, also, the blessed Evangelist testifies to the truth of our Savior’s Words, when he says that the disciples were full of peace and joy of heart when they saw Jesus. For we remember the mysterious utterance that He spoke to them concerning His precious Cross and Resurrection from the dead, saying: A little while, and you behold Me no more; and again a little while, and you shall see Me; and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one takes away from you. The Jews, indeed, whose minds were transported by a frenzy of fury, rejoiced when they saw Jesus nailed to the Cross, while the heart of the holy disciples was heavy laden with an intolerable burden of sorrow. But as He is by Nature Life, He overcame the power of death, and rose again, and the joy of the Jews was extinguished, while the heaviness of the holy disciples was turned into joy, and nothing could rob or deprive them of their soul’s delight. Christ, having died once for all to put away sin, dies no more, as is written. For He is alive forevermore, and of a surety, He will preserve those whose hope is in Him, in joy without ceasing. He once more greets them with the oft-repeated assurance: Peace be unto you; laying down, as it were, this law for the children of the Church. Therefore, also, more especially in the assembling and gathering of ourselves together in holy places, at the very commencement of the blessed mystery of the Eucharist, we repeat this saying to one another. For our being at peace with each other and with God must be accounted a fountain and source of all good. Therefore, also, Paul, when he prays that those who are called may enjoy the highest of all blessings, says: Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and also, when he invites those who have not yet believed to make their peace with God, he says: We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Nonetheless, also, the Prophet Isaiah exhorts us, crying out: Let us make peace with Him, let us make peace who come. The meaning of the saying well befits the Dispenser of Peace, or rather the Peace of all men; that is, Christ, for He is our peace, according to the Scripture.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John 12.1