Wednesday, July 31, 2013

John Chrysostom: "Let us not then be weary in giving aid to the departed"

BUT I KNOW NOT whither he has gone,” say you. Wherefore do you not know, tell me? For according as he lived well or otherwise, it is evident whither he will go. “Nay, on this very account I lament,” say you, “because he departed being a sinner.” This is a mere pretext and excuse. For if this were the reason of your mourning for the departed, you ought to have formed and corrected him, when he was alive. The fact is thou dost every where look to what concerns yourself, not him.

"But grant that he departed with sin upon him, even on this account one ought to rejoice, that he was stopped short in his sins and added not to his iniquity; and help him as far as possible, not by tears, but by prayers and supplications and alms and offerings. For not unmeaningly have these things been devised, nor do we in vain make mention of the departed in the course of the divine mysteries, and approach God in their behalf, beseeching the Lamb Who is before us, Who takes away the sin of the world—not in vain, but that some refreshment may thereby ensue to them. Not in vain does he that stands by the altar cry out when the tremendous mysteries are celebrated, “For all that have fallen asleep in Christ, and for those who perform commemorations in their behalf.” For if there were no commemorations for them, these things would not have been spoken: since our service is not a mere stage show, God forbid! Yea, it is by the ordinance of the Spirit that these things are done.

"Let us then give them aid and perform commemoration for them. For if the children of Job were purged by the sacrifice of their father, why do you doubt that when we too offer for the departed, some consolation arises to them? Since God is wont to grant the petitions of those who ask for others. And this Paul signified saying, “that in a manifold Person  your gift towards us bestowed by many may be acknowledged with thanksgiving on your behalf.” (2 Cor 1:11) Let us not then be weary in giving aid to the departed, both by offering on their behalf and obtaining prayers for them: for the common Expiation of the world is even before us. Therefore with boldness do we then intreat for the whole world, and name their names with those of martyrs, of confessors, of priests. For in truth one body are we all, though some members are more glorious than others; and it is possible from every source to gather pardon  for them, from our prayers, from our gifts in their behalf, from those whose names are named with theirs. Why therefore do you grieve? Why mourn, when it is in your power to gather so much pardon for the departed?"

~St. John Chrysostom (Bishop of Constantinople): Homilies on First Corinthians, Homily 41, 8. (A.D. 392).

Byzantine Mosaic of John Chrysostom from the Hagia Sophia.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Tertullian

"Tertullian  the presbyter, now regarded as chief of the Latin writers after Victor and Apollonius, was from the city of Carthage in the province of Africa, and was the son of a proconsul or Centurion, a man of keen and vigorous character, he flourished chiefly in the reign of the emperor Severus and Antoninus Caracalla and wrote many volumes which we pass by because they are well known to most. I myself have seen a certain Paul an old man of Concordia, a town of Italy, who, while he himself was a very young man had been secretary to the blessed Cyprian who was already advanced in age. He said that he himself had seen how Cyprian was accustomed never to pass a day without reading Tertullian, and that he frequently said to him, “Give me the master,” meaning by this, Tertullian. He was presbyter of the church until middle life, afterwards driven by the envy and abuse of the clergy of the Roman church, he lapsed to the doctrine of Montanus, and mentions the new prophecy in many of his books.

"He composed, moreover, directly against the church, volumes: On modesty, On persecution, On fasts, On monogamy, six books On ecstasy, and a seventh which he wrote Against Apollonius. He is said to have lived to a decrepit old age, and to have composed many small works, which are not extant."

~St. Jerome: De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chap. 53.

Tertullian: "The soul also begins from conception"

"IN our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed." --Apology, Ch. 9, v. 8. (A.D. 197)

"ACCORDINGLY, among surgeons' tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all, and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade,  by means of which the limbs within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fœtus is extracted  by a violent delivery. There is also (another instrument in the shape of) a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: they give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes [ἐμβρυοσφάκτης], the slayer of the infant, which was of course alive." --Treatise on the Soul, Chap. 25; (A.D. 210)

"HOW, then, is a living being conceived? Is the substance of both body and soul formed together at one and the same time? Or does one of them precede the other in natural formation? We indeed maintain that both are conceived, and formed, and perfectly simultaneously, as well as born together; and that not a moment's interval occurs in their conception, so that, a prior place can be assigned to either.  Judge, in fact, of the incidents of man's earliest existence by those which occur to him at the very last. As death is defined to be nothing else than the separation of body and soul,  life, which is the opposite of death, is susceptible of no other definition than the conjunction of body and soul. If the severance happens at one and the same time to both substances by means of death, so the law of their combination ought to assure us that it occurs simultaneously to the two substances by means of life. Now we allow that life begins with conception, because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does;" --Treatise on the Soul, Chap. 27.

"THE law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion[Ex. 21:22–24], inasmuch as there exists already the rudiment of a human being, which has imputed to it even now the condition of life and death, since it is already liable to the issues of both, although, by living still in the mother, it for the most part shares its own state with the mother." --Treatise on the Soul, Chap. 37.

~Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jerome: "Ignorance of Scripture..."

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." --Explanatio in Isaiam, Prol.

“A man who is well rounded in the testimonies of the Scripture is the bulwark of the Church.” --Explanatio in Isaiam, 54, 12.

~St. Jerome

Isaiah, by Duccio di Buoninsegna. Tempera on wood,
1308-11; National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Gregory I: "Learn the heart of God in the words of God"

“THE emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joy.”

~Pope St. Gregory I ("the Great"): Letters, 5, 46.

St. Gregory the Great, by Bicci di Lorenzo.
Fresco, 1447; San Francesco, Arezzo.

Augustine: "Too late have I loved you!"

"TOO late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you!  You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace."

~St. Augustine of Hippo: Confessions, X, 27, 38.

St. Augustine, by Vincenzo Foppa.
Wood panel, 1465-70; Castello Sforzesco, Milan.
The Confessions: Saint Augustine of Hippo
(Ignatius Critical Editions)
At Amazon

Augustine: Pride

"FOR every other kind of sin finds scope in evil works, so that by it they are done, but pride lurks even in good works, so that by it they are undone..."

~St. Augustine of Hippo: "Letters," 211; from Augustine to a monastery.

Council of Ephesus: "Most blessed Peter"

"Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince (ἔξαρχος) and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation (θεμέλιος) of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Cœlestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod, which the most humane and Christian Emperors have commanded to assemble, bearing in mind and continually watching over the Catholic faith. For they both have kept and are now keeping intact the apostolic doctrine handed down to them from their most pious and humane grandfathers and fathers of holy memory down to the present time, etc."

~Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431); Extracts from the Acts, Session III.

Basil: "The destruction of the embryo"

 II. "THE woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events if we regard it as done with intent. The punishment, however, of these women should not be for life, but for the term of ten years. And let their treatment depend not on mere lapse of time, but on the character of their repentance."

~St. Basil of Caesarea: "Letters," 188, To Amphilochius, concerning the Canons.

St. Basil the Great of Caesarea:
"Bishop of Caesarea, and one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church. Born probably 329; died 1 January, 379. He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century. With his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he makes up the trio known as "The Three Cappadocians", far outclassing the other two in practical genius and actual achievement."

The Cappadocian Fathers

Clement I: Justification

“AND we also, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or by our own wisdom or understanding of piety or the works we have done in holiness of heart, but through the faith, by which Almighty God has justified all men from the beginning; to Whom be glory for all ages. Amen.”

~Pope St. Clement I: Letter to the Corinthians, 32, 4.

Justin Martyr: "On the day called Sunday"

“AND on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits …”

~St. Justin Martyr: First Apology, Ch. 67.

Augustine: "Take up and read; Take up and read"

(Tolle lege, tolle lege)

"SO WAS I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, "Take up and read; Take up and read." Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away."

~St. Augustine of Hippo: Confessions, 8, 12.

St. Augustine Reading the Epistle of St. Paul (scene 10, east wall),
by Benozzo Gozzoli. Fresco, 1464-65;Apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Athenagoras: "The Christians Condemn and Detest All Cruelty"

"WHAT MAN of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? For we cannot eat human flesh till we have killed some one. The former charge, therefore, being false, if any one should ask them in regard to the second, whether they have seen what they assert, not one of them would be so barefaced as to say that he had. And yet we have slaves, some more and some fewer, by whom we could not help being seen; but even of these, not one has been found to invent even such things against us. For when they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly; who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles. How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it."

~Athenagoras (Athenian philosopher and convert to Christianity): A Plea for the Christians," Chap. 35. ( A.D. 177)

Hippolytus: "What great impiety"

"WOMEN who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!"

~St. Hippolytus of RomeRefutation of All Heresies," Bk 9, Ch. 7. (A.D. 228)

Barnabas: "Thou shalt not slay the child"

"THE way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born."

~Epistle of Barnabas, Chap. 19. (A.D. 74)

Jerome: "The rock on which the Church has been built"

"I FOLLOW no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails."

~St. Jerome: Letters 15:2 (A.D. 396).

St. Jerome in His Study, by Antonio da Fabriano.
Tempera on wood, 1451; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Hilary: "She alone can offer bliss"

"IT IS the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted she is triumphant, when she is assaulted with argument she proves herself in the right, when she is deserted by her supporters she holds the field. It is her wish that all men should remain at her side and in her bosom; if it lay with her, none would become unworthy to abide under the shelter of that august mother, none would be cast out or suffered to depart from her calm retreat. But when heretics desert her or she expels them, the loss she endures, in that she cannot save them, is compensated by an increased assurance that she alone can offer bliss."

~St. Hilary of Poitiers (4th cent.): On the Trinity, 7, 4.

Eusebius: "The Catholic and only true Church"

"FOR the machinations of its enemies were refuted by its power and speedily vanished. One new heresy arose after another, and the former ones always passed away, and now at one time, now at another, now in one way, now in other ways, were lost in ideas of various kinds and various forms. But the splendor of the Catholic and only true Church, which is always the same, grew in magnitude and power, and reflected its piety and simplicity and freedom, and the modesty and purity of its inspired life and philosophy to every nation both of Greeks and of Barbarians."

~Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 265-c. 340): Ecclesiastical History,” 4, 7, 13.

Augustine: "Man himself is a greater miracle"

“ALTHOUGH, therefore, the standing miracle of this visible world is little thought of, because always before us, yet, when we arouse ourselves to contemplate it, it is a greater miracle than the rarest and most unheard of marvels. For man himself is a greater miracle than any miracle done through his instrumentality.”

~St. Augustine: The City of God, 10, 12.

The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo.
Ceiling fresco, circa 1511–1512; Sistine Chapel.

John Damascene: "The wickedness of the evil one"

“SINCE the wickedness of the evil one has prevailed so mightily against man’s nature as even to drive some into denying the existence of God … the disciples of the Lord and His apostles, enlightened by the Holy Spirit and working wonders in His power and grace, took them captive in the net of miracles and drew them up out of the depths of ignorance to the light of the knowledge of God.”

~St. John of Damascus:  Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1, 3.

Gregory I: Angels and Men

“HEREIN then is the nature of angels distinguished from the present condition of our own nature, that we are both circumscribed by space, and straightened by the blindness of ignorance; but the spirits of angels are indeed bounded by space, yet their knowledge extends far above us beyond comparison; for they expand by external and internal knowing, since they contemplate the very Source of knowledge Itself.”

~Pope St. Gregory I:  Morals, 2, 3. (6th cent.)

Pope St. Gregory I ("the Great"), biographical article

Angels, Catholic Encyclopedia

St. Gregory the Great with Sts. Ignatius and Francis Xavier,
by Guercino. Oil on canvas, c. 1626; National Gallery, London.

Guardian Angels and Intercessory Prayer

“THE angels must be entreated for us, who have been given us to guard us.” ~St. Ambrose:  Concerning Wisdom, 55.

“THE servants of Christ are protected by invisible, rather than visible, beings. But if these guard you, they do so because they have been summoned by your prayers.”
~St. Ambrose:  Sermo contra Auxent, 11.

"THEY are the guardians of the divisions of the earth; they are set over nations and regions allotted to them by their Creator. They govern all our affairs and bring us help. And the reason surely is because they are set over us by the divine will and command and are ever in the vicinity of God.”

~St. John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 2, 3.

The Congregation of the Archangels, by Angelos Akotantos.
Tempera on panel; Vatopediou Monastery, Mount Athos

“UNWORTHY as we are, we pray to you, O leaders of the heavenly hosts, to cover us by your prayers with the protection of the wings of your immaterial glory, preserving us who come to you and earnestly cry, Deliver us from sorrows, O chiefs of the powers above.”

~Byzantine Parakletike, Troparion for Monday, Tone 4.

"The devil...tempts all the servants of God"

“THE devil comes and tempts all the servants of God. Those who are strong in the faith resist him and he goes away from them, because he cannot find entrance. So, goes then to the empty and, finding an entrance, he goes into them. Thus he accomplishes in them whatever he pleases and makes them his slaves.” ~Shephard of Hermas, Mandate 12, 5, 4. (2nd cent.)

“THE devil rules over lovers of temporal goods belonging to this visible world, not because he is lord of this world, but because he is ruler of those covetous desires by which we long for all that passes away.”  ~St. Augustine: De Agone Christiano, 1, 1.

“FOR there is more than one way of sacrificing to the fallen angels.” ~St. Augustine:  Confessions, 1, 17.
Temptations of St. Jerome, by Giorgio Vasari.
Oil on wood, 1541; Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence.

Didache: The Second Commandment

The Second Commandment: Gross Sin Forbidden

 "And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, (Ex 20:13-14) you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you sha
ll not steal, (Ex 20:15) you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten. You shall not covet the things of your neighbour, (Ex 20:17) you shall not forswear yourself, (Matt 5:34) you shall not bear false witness, (Ex 20:16) you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbour. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life."

~from The Didache or The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. (c. 100)


Cyril: "Faith has two distinct meanings"

"FOR the name of faith is one in speech, but has two distinct meanings. For there is one kind of faith, dogmatic, involving an assent of the soul to some particular point. But there is a second kind of faith, which is bestowed by Christ as a gift of grace."

~St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Discourses, 5, 10-11. (4th cent.)

Ambrose: "Faith means battles"

"FAITH means battles; if there are no contests, it is because there are none who desire to contend."

~St. Ambrose: "Explanation of Psalm 118," 11, 21. (4th cent.)

St. Ambrose, by Cesare Fracanzano (1605-1651).
Oil on canvas, Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

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