Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cyprian: "One should confess his own sin"

“I ENTREAT YOU, beloved brethren, that each one should confess his own sin, while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received, while the satisfaction and remission made by the priests are pleasing to the Lord. Let us turn to the Lord with our whole heart, and expressing our repentance for our sin with true grief, let us entreat God’s mercy.”

~St. Cyprian of Carthage: On the Lapsed, 29. (c. 200 – Sept. 14, 258)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Augustine: "Such wars as men have waged"

"AND GOD was not ignorant that man would sin, and that, being himself made subject now to death, he would propagate men doomed to die, and that these mortals would run to such enormities in sin, that even the beasts devoid of rational will, and who were created in numbers from the waters and the earth, would live more securely and peaceably with their own kind than men, who had been propagated from one individual for the very purpose of commending concord. For not even lions or dragons have ever waged with their kind such wars as men have waged with one another."

~St. Augustine:  The City of God, Bk. 12, Ch. 22.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Augustine: "God is man's chief good"

"I NEED say no more about right conduct. For if God is man's chief good, which you cannot deny, it clearly follows, since to seek the chief good is to live well, that to live well is nothing else but to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind; and, as arising from this, that this love must be preserved entire and incorrupt, which is the part of temperance; that it give way before no troubles, which is the part of fortitude; that it serve no other, which is the part of justice; that it be watchful in its inspection of things lest craft or fraud steal in, which is the part of prudence. This is the one perfection of man, by which alone he can succeed in attaining to the purity of truth. This both Testaments enjoin in concert; this is commended on both sides alike. Why do you continue to cast reproaches on Scriptures of which you are ignorant? Do you not see the folly of your attack upon books which only those who do not understand them find fault with, and which only those who find fault fail in understanding? For neither can an enemy know them, nor can one who knows them be other than a friend to them."

~St. Augustine of Hippo: Of the Morals of the Catholic Church (A.D. 388), Ch. 25, par. 46.

St. Augustine, by Tiziano Vecellio. Oil on oak panel;
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice.

Jerome: Letter to Augustine

From Jerome to Augustine (A.D. 418)

To His Holy Lord and Most Blessed Father,  Augustine, Jerome Sends Greeting.

"At all times I have esteemed your Blessedness with becoming reverence and honour, and have loved the Lord and Saviour dwelling in you. But now we add, if possible, something to that which has already reached a climax, and we heap up what was already full, so that we do not suffer a single hour to pass without the mention of your name, because you have, with the ardour of unshaken faith, stood your ground against opposing storms, and preferred, so far as this was in your power, to be delivered from Sodom, though you should come forth alone, rather than linger behind with those who are doomed to perish. Your wisdom apprehends what I mean to say. Go on and prosper! You are renowned throughout the whole world; Catholics revere and look up to you as the restorer of the ancient faith, and—which is a token of yet more illustrious glory—all heretics abhor you. They persecute me also with equal hatred, seeking by imprecation to take away the life which they cannot reach with the sword. May the mercy of Christ the Lord preserve you in safety and mindful of me, my venerable lord and most blessed father."

~St. JeromeLetter to St. Augustine, No. 195 among Letters of St. Augustine.

Gregory I: "The blessed Augustine"

“WOULD you feast on delicious food, read the works of your countryman, the blessed Augustine, nor ask us to give you what, as compared with his whole flour, is but our bran.”

~Pope St. Gregory I (c. 540-604):  Letter to Innocent, Prefect of Africa.

Augustine: "A Catholic believer"

"MY MOTHER had now come to me, resolute through piety, following me over sea and land, in all perils confiding in Thee. For in perils of the sea, she comforted the very mariners (by whom passengers unacquainted with the deep, use rather to be comforted when troubled), assuring them of a safe arrival, because Thou hadst by a vision assured her thereof. She found me in grievous peril, through despair of ever finding truth. But when I had discovered to her that I was now no longer a Manichee, though not yet a Catholic Christian, she was not overjoyed, as at something unexpected; although she was now assured concerning that part of my misery, for which she bewailed me as one dead, though to be reawakened by Thee, carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest say to the son of the widow, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; and he should revive, and begin to speak, and Thou shouldest deliver him to his mother. Her heart then was shaken with no tumultuous exultation, when she heard that what she daily with tears desired of Thee was already in so great part realised; in that, though I had not yet attained the truth, I was rescued from falsehood; but, as being assured, that Thou, Who hadst promised the whole, wouldest one day give the rest, most calmly, and with a heart full of confidence, she replied to me, “She believed in Christ, that before she departed this life, she should see me a Catholic believer.” Thus much to me. But to Thee, Fountain of mercies, poured she forth more copious prayers and tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy help, and enlighten my darkness; and she hastened the more eagerly to the Church, and hung upon the lips of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of that water, which springeth up unto life everlasting. But that man she loved as an angel of God, because she knew that by him I had been brought for the present to that doubtful state of faith I now was in, through which she anticipated most confidently that I should pass from sickness unto health, after the access, as it were, of a sharper fit, which physicians call "the crisis.""

~St. Augustine of HippoConfessions, VI.

St. Monica (on the pillar), by Bennozzo Gozzoli.
Fresco, 1464-65; Apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano.

Death of St. Monica (scene 13, south wall),  by Bennozzo Gozzoli.
1464-65; Apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Augustine: Christians should not talk nonsense to unbelievers

On interpreting the mind of the sacred writer. Christians should not talk nonsense to unbelievers.

"USUALLY, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

"The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

"Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion” (1 Tim 1:7).

~St. Augustine of Hippo: De Genesi ad Literam (The Literal Meaning of Genesis), Bk. 1; Ch. 19.

St. Augustine in His Cell, by Sandro Botticelli.
Tempera on panel, 1490-94; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ambrose: "Flesh and Blood"

“NOW we, as often as we receive the Sacraments, which by the mystery of holy prayer are transformed (transfigurantur) into Flesh and Blood, proclaim the Lord’s death.”

~St. AmbroseConcerning Faith, 4, 124.

Institution of the Eucharist (Cell 35), by Fra Angelico.
Fresco, 1441-42; Convento di San Marco, Florence.

Ephrem: "Make the priests and kings peaceful"

"INSTEAD of the priesthood praying for royalty that wars may cease from among men, they teach wars of overthrow, which set kings to combat with those round about.

"O Lord, make the priests and kings peaceful; that in one Church priests may
pray for their kings, and kings spare those round about them; and may the peace which is within You become ours, Lord, You that are within and without all things!"

~St. Ephrem the Syrian: From The Pearl, Seven Hymns on the Faith.

Also Ephraim or Ephraem; 306-373 AD; Father and Doctor of the Church.

Saint Ephrem, by Pope Benedict XV
Ephrem the Syrian, Wikipedia

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ephrem: The Pearl -- Seven Hymns on the Faith

Hymn 1

1)  ON A CERTAIN DAY a pearl did I take up, my brethren; I saw in it mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom; semblances and types of the Majesty; it became a fountain, and I drank out of it mysteries of the Son.

I put it, my brethren, upon the palm of my hand, that I might examine it: I went to look at it on one side, and it proved faces on all sides. I found out that the Son was incomprehensible, since He is wholly Light.

In its brightness I beheld the Bright One Who cannot be clouded, and in its pureness a great mystery, even the Body of our Lord which is well-refined: in its undividedness I saw the Truth which is undivided.

It was so that I saw there its pure conception—the Church, and the Son within her. The cloud was the likeness of her that bare Him, and her type the heaven, since there shone forth from her His gracious Shining.

I saw therein His trophies, and His victories, and His crowns. I saw His helpful and overflowing graces, and His hidden things with His revealed things.

2)  It was greater to me than the ark, for I was astonied thereat: I saw therein folds without shadow to them because it was a daughter of light, types vocal without tongues, utterances of mysteries without lips, a silent harp that without voice gave out melodies.

The trumpet falters and the thunder mutters; be not daring then; leave things hidden, take things revealed. You have seen in the clear sky a second shower; the clefts of your ears, as from the clouds, they are filled with interpretations.

And as that manna which alone filled the people, in the place of pleasant meats, with its pleasantnesses, so does this pearl fill me in the place of books, and the reading thereof, and the explanations thereof.

And when I asked if there were yet other mysteries, it had no mouth for me that I might hear from, neither any ears wherewith it might hear me. O you thing without senses, whence I have gained new senses!

3)  It answered me and said, The daughter of the sea am I, the illimitable sea! And from that sea whence I came up it is that there is a mighty treasury of mysteries in my bosom! Search out the sea, but search not out the Lord of the sea!

I have seen the various who came down after me, when astonied, so that from the midst of the sea they returned to the dry ground; for a few moments they sustained it not. Who would linger and be searching on into the depths of the Godhead?

The waves of the Son are full of blessings, and with mischiefs too. Have you not seen, then, the waves of the sea, which if a ship should struggle with them would break her to pieces, and if she yield herself to them, and rebel not against them, then she is preserved? In the sea all the Egyptians were choked, though they scrutinised it not, and, without prying, the Hebrews too were overcome upon the dry land, and how shall you be kept alive? And the men of Sodom were licked up by the fire, and how shall you prevail?

At these uproars the fish in the sea were moved,  and Leviathan also. Have you then a heart of stone that you read these things and run into these errors? O great fear that justice also should be so long silent!” (Ecc 8:11)

4)  Searching is mingled with thanksgiving, and whether of the two will prevail? The incense of praise rises along with the fume of disputation from the tongue, and unto which shall we hearken? Prayer and prying [come] from one mouth, James 3:10 and which shall we listen to?

For three days was Jonah a neighbour [of mine] in the sea: the living things that were in the sea were affrighted, [saying,] “Who shall flee from God? Jonah fled, and you are obstinate at your scrutiny of Him!

Hymn 2

1)  Whereunto are you like? Let your stillness speak to one that hears; with silent mouth speak with us: for whoso hears the stammerings of your silence, to him your type utters its silent cry concerning our Redeemer.

Your mother is a virgin of the sea; though he took her not [to wife]: she fell into his bosom, though he knew her not; she conceived you near him, though he did not know her. Do thou, that are a type, reproach the Jewish women that have you hung upon them. You are the only progeny of all forms which art like to the Word on High, Whom singly the Most High begot. The engraven forms seem to be the type of created things above. This visible offspring of the invisible womb is a type of great things.  Your goodly conception was without seed, and without wedlock was your pure generation, and without brethren was your single birth.

Our Lord had brethren and yet not brethren, since He was an Only-Begotten. O solitary one, you type exact of the Only-Begotten! There is a type of yours in the crown of kings, [wherein] you have brothers and sisters.

Goodly gems are your brethren, with beryls and unions as your companions: may gold be as it were your kinsman, may there be unto the King of kings a crown from your well-beloved ones! When you came up from the sea, that living tomb, you cried out. Let me have a goodly assemblage of brethren, relatives, and kinsmen. As the wheat is in the stalk, so you are in the crown with princes: and it is a just restoration to you, as if of a pledge,  that from that depth you should be exalted to a goodly eminence. Wheat the stalk bears in the field; you the head of the king upon his chariot carries about.

O daughter of the water, who hast left sea, wherein you were born, and art gone up to the dry land, wherein you are beloved: for men have loved and seized and adorned themselves with you, like as they did that Offspring Whom the Gentiles loved and crowned themselves withal.

It is by the mystery of truth that Leviathan is trodden down of mortals: the various put him off, and put on Christ. In the sacrament of oil did the Apostles  steal You away, and came up. They snatched their souls from his mouth, bitter as it was.

Your Nature is like a silent lamb in its sweetness, of which if a man is to lay hold, he lifts it in a crucial form by its ears, as it was on Golgotha. He cast out abundantly all His gleams upon them that looked upon Him.

2)  Shadowed forth in your beauty is the beauty of the Son, Who clothed Himself with suffering when the nails passed through Him. The awl passed in you since they handled you roughly, as they did His hands; and because He suffered He reigned, as by your sufferings your beauty increased.

And if they showed no pity upon you, neither did they love you: still suffer as you might, you have come to reign! Simon Peter  showed pity on the Rock; whoso has smitten it, is himself thereby overcome; it is by reason of Its suffering that Its beauty has adorned the height and the depth.

Hymn 3

1)  You do not hide yourself in your bareness, O pearl! With the love of you is the merchant ravished also, for he strips off his garments; not to cover you, [seeing] your clothing is your light, your garment is your brightness, O you that are bared!

You are like Eve who was clothed with nakedness. Cursed be he that deceived her and stripped her and left her. The serpent cannot strip off your glory. In the mysteries whose type you are, women are clothed with Light in Eden.

  Very glistening are the pearls of Ethiopia, as it is written, Who gave you to Ethiopia [the land] of black men.  He that gave light to the Gentiles, both to the Ethiopians and unto the Indians did His bright beams reach.

The eunuch of Ethiopia upon his chariot (Acts 8:27) saw Philip: the Lamb of Light met the dark man from out of the water. While he was reading, the Ethiopian was baptised and shone with joy, and journeyed on!

He made disciples and taught, and out of black men he made men white.  And the dark Ethiopic women  became pearls for the Son; He offered them up to the Father, as a glistening crown from the Ethiopians.

3)  The Queen of Sheba (1 K 10:1) was a sheep  that had come into the place of wolves; the lamp of truth did Solomon give her, who also married  her when he fell away. She was enlightened and went away, but they were dark as their manner was.

The bright spark which went down home with that blessed [Queen], held on its shining amid the darkness, till the new Day-spring came. The bright spark met with this shining, and illumined the place.

4)  There are in the sea various fishes of many cubits, and with all their greatness they are very small; but by your littleness the crown is made great, like as the Son, by whose littleness Adam was made great.

For the head is your crown intended: for the eye your beauty, for the ear your goodliness. Come up from the sea, you neighbour to the dry land, and come and sojourn by the [seat of] hearing. Let the ear love the word of life as it loves you!

In the ear is the word, and without it is the pearl. Let it as being warned by you, by you get wisdom, and be warned by the word of truth. Be its mirror: the beauty of the Word in your own beauty shall it see: in you it shall learn how precious is the Word on High! The ear is the leaf: the flesh is the tree, and you in the midst of it are a fruit of light, and to the womb that brings forth Light, you are a type that points.

You He used as a parable of that kingdom, O pearl! As He did the virgins that entered into it, five in number, clothed with the light of their lamps! To you are those bright ones like, you that are clad in light!

5)  Who would give a pearl to the daughter of the poor? For when it hangs on her, it becomes her not. Gain without price that faith, all of which becomes all the limbs of men.
But for no gold would a lady exchange her pearl.

It were a great disgrace if you should throw your pearl away into the mire for nought!
In the pearl of time let us behold that of eternity; for it is in the purse, or in the seal, or in the treasury. Within the gate there are other gates with their locks and keys. Your pearl has the High One sealed up as taking account of all.

Hymn 4

1)  The thief gained the faith which gained him, (Lk 22:42) and brought him up and placed him in paradise. He saw in the Cross a tree of life; that was the fruit, he was the eater in Adam's stead.

The fool, who goes astray, grazes the faith, as it were an eye, (Zec 2:8) by all manner of questions. The probing of the finger blinds the eye, and much more does that prying blind. the faith.

For even the diver pries not into his pearl. In it do all merchants rejoice without prying into whence it came; even the king who is crowned therewith does not explore it.

2)  Because Balaam was foolish, a foolish beast in the ass spoke with him, because he despised God Who spoke with him. You too let the pearl reprove in the ass's stead.

The people that had a heart of stone, by a Stone He set at nought, (Mt 21:42) for lo, a stone hears words. Witness its work that has reproved them; and you, you deaf ones, let the pearl reprove today.

With the swallow (Jer 8:7) and the crow did He put men to shame; with the ox, yea with the ass, (Is 1:3) did He put them to shame; let the pearl reprove now, O you birds and things on earth and things below.

3)  Not as the moon does your light fill or wane; the Sun whose light is greater than all, lo! Of Him it is that a type is shadowed out in your little compass. O type of the Son, one spark of Whom is greater than the sun!—

The pearl itself is full, for its light is full; neither is there any cunning worker who can steal from it; for its wall is its own beauty, yea, its guard also! It lacks not, since it is entirely perfect.

And if a man would break you to take a part from you, you are like the faith which with the heretics perishes, seeing they have broken it in pieces and spoiled it: for is it any better than this to have the faith scrutinised?

The faith is an entire nature that may not be corrupted. The spoiler gets himself mischief by it: the heretic brings ruin on himself thereby. He that chases the light from his pupils blinds himself.

Fire and air are divided when sundered. Light alone, of all creatures, as its Creator, is not divided; it is not barren, for that it also begets without losing thereby.

4)  And if a man thinks that you are framed [by art] he errs greatly; your nature proclaims that you, as all stones, are not the framing of art; and so you are a type of the Generation which no making framed.

Your stone flees from a comparison with the Stone [which is] the Son. For your own generation is from the midst of the deep, that of the Son of your Creator is from the highest height; He is not like you, in that He is like His Father.

And as they tell, two wombs bare you also. You came down from on high a fluid nature; you came up from the sea a solid body. By means of your second birth you showed your loveliness to the children of men.

Hands fixed you, when you were embodied, into your receptacles; for you are in the crown as upon a cross, and in a coronet as in a victory; you are upon the ears, as if to fill up what was lacking; you extend over all.

Hymn 5

1)  O gift that camest up without price (Is 55:1) with the diver! You laid hold upon this visible light, that without price rises for the children of men: a parable of the hidden One that without price gives the hidden Dayspring!

And the painter too paints a likeness of you with colours. Yet by you is faith painted in types and emblems for colours, and in the place of the image by you and your colours is your Creator painted.

O you frankincense without smell, who breathes types from out of you! You are not to be eaten, yet you give a sweet smell unto them that hear you! You are not to be drunk, yet by your story, a fountain of types are you made unto the ears!

2)  It is you which are great in your littleness, O pearl! Small is your measure and little your compass with your weight; but great is your glory: to that crown alone in which you are placed, there is none like.

And who has not perceived of your littleness, how great it is; if one despises you and throws you away, he would blame himself for his clownishness, for when he saw you in a king's crown he would be attracted to you.

3)  Men stripped their clothes off and dived and drew you out, pearl! It was not kings that put you before men, but those naked ones who were a type of the poor and the fishers and the Galileans.

For clothed bodies were not able to come to you; they came that were stript as children; they plunged their bodies and came down to you; and you much desired them, and you aided them who thus loved you.

Glad tidings did they give for you: their tongues before their bosoms did the poor [fishers] open, and produced and showed the new riches among the merchants: upon the wrists of men they put you as a medicine of life.

4)  The naked ones in a type saw your rising again by the sea-shore; and by the side of the lake they, the Apostles  of a truth, saw the rising again of the Son of your Creator. By you and by your Lord the sea and the lake were beautified.

The diver came up from the sea and put on his clothing; and from the lake too Simon Peter came up swimming and put on his coat; (Jn 21:7) clad as with coats, with the love of both of you, were these two.

5)  And since I have wandered in you, pearl, I will gather up my mind, and by having contemplated you, would become like you, in that you are all gathered up into yourself; and as you in all times are one, one let me become by you!

Pearls have I gathered together that I might make a crown for the Son in the place of stains which are in my members. Receive my offering, not that You are shortcoming; it is because of my own shortcoming that I have offered it to You. Whiten my stains!

This crown is all spiritual pearls, which instead of gold are set in love, and instead of ouches in faith; and instead of hands, let praise offer it up to the Highest!

Hymn 6

1)  Would that the memory of the fathers would exhale from the tombs; who were very simple as being wise, and reverend as believing. They without cavilling searched for, and came to the right path.

He gave the law; the mountains melted away; fools broke through it. By unclean ravens He fed Elijah at the desert stream; and moreover gave from the skeleton honey unto Samson. They judged not, nor inquired why it was unclean, why clean.

2)  And when He made void the sabbaths, the feeble Gentiles were clothed with health. Samson took the daughter of the aliens, and there was no disputing among the righteous; the prophet also took a harlot, and the just held their peace.

He blamed the righteous, (Hos 1:2) and He held up and lifted up [to view] their delinquencies: He pitied sinners, (Mt 9:13) and restored them without cost: and made low the mountains of their sins: (Lk 18:9) He proved that God is not to be arraigned by men, and as Lord of Truth, that His servants were His shadow; and whatsoever way His will looked, they directed also their own wills; and because Light was in Him, (Cant 2:17 their shadows were enlightened.

3)  How strangely perplexed are all the heretics by simple things! For when He plainly foreshadowed this New Testament by that of the Prophets, those pitiable men rose, as though from sleep, and shouted out and made a disturbance. And the Way, wherein the righteous held straight on, and by their truths had gone forth therein, that [Way] have these broken  up, because they were besotted: this they left and went out of; because they pried, an evil searching, [yea,] an evil babbling led them astray.

They saw the ray: they made it darkness, that they might grope therein: they saw the jewel, even the faith: while they pried into it, it fell and was lost. Of the pearl they made a stone, that they might stumble upon it.

4)  O Gift, which fools have made a poison! The People were for separating Your beauteous root from Your fountain, though they separated it not: [false] teachings estranged Your beauty also from the stock thereof.

By You did they get themselves estranged, who wished to estrange You. By You the tribes were cut off and scattered abroad from out of Sion, and also the [false] teachings of the seceders.

Bring Yourself within the compass of our littleness, O Gift of ours. For if love cannot find You out on all sides, it cannot be still and at rest. Make Yourself small, You Who is too great for all, Who comes unto all!

5)  By this would those who wrangle against our Pearl be reproved; because instead of love, strife has come in and dared to essay to unveil your beauty. It was not graven, since it is a progeny which cannot be interpreted.

You showed your beauty among the abjects to show whereto you are like, you Pearl that art all faces. The beholders were astonied and perplexed at you. The separatists separated you in two, and were separated in two by you, you that are of one substance throughout.

They saw not your beauty, because there was not in them the eye of truth. For the veil of prophecy, full as it was of the mysteries; to them was a covering of your glistering faces: they thought that you were other [than you are], O you mirror of ours! And therefore these blind schismatics defiled your fair beauty.

6)  Since they have extolled you too much, or have lowered you too much, bring them to the even level. Come down, descend a little from that height of infidelity and heathendom; and come up from the depth of Judaism, though you are in the Heaven.

Let our Lord be set between God and men! (1 Tim 2:5) Let the Prophets be as it were His heralds! Let the Just One, as being His Father, rejoice! That Word it is which conquered both Jews and Heathens!

7)  Come, You Gift of Holy Church, stay, rest in the midst of Her! The circumcised have troubled You, in that they are vain babblers, and so have the [false] doctrines in that they are contentious. Blessed be He that gave You a goodly company which bears You about!

In the covenant of Moses is Your brightness shadowed forth: in the new covenant You dart it forth: from those first Your light shines even unto those last. Blessed be He that gave us Your gleam as well as Your bright rays.

Hymn 7

1)  As in a race saw I the disputers, the children of strife, [trying] to taste fire, to see the air, to handle the light: they were troubled at the gleaming, and struggled to make divisions.

The Son, Who is too subtle for the mind, did they seek to feel: and the Holy Ghost Who cannot be explored, they thought to explore with their questionings. The Father, Who never at any time was searched out, have they explained and disputed of.

The sound form of our faith is from Abraham, and our repentance is from Nineveh and the house of Rahab,  and ours are the expectations of the Prophets, Genesis 15:6 ours of the Apostles.

2)  And envy is from Satan: the evil usage of the evil calf is from the Egyptians.  The hateful sight of the hateful image of four faces is from the Hittites.  Accursed disputation, that hidden moth, is from the Greeks.

The bitter [enemy] read and saw orthodox teachings, and subverted them; he saw hateful things, and sowed them; and he saw hope, and he turned it upside down and cut it off. The disputation that he planted, lo! It has yielded a fruit bitter to the tooth.

3)  Satan saw that the Truth strangled him, and united himself to the tares, and secreted his frauds, and spread his snares for the faith, and cast upon the priests the darts of the love of pre-eminence.

They made contests for the throne, to see which should first obtain it. There was that meditated in secret and kept it close: there was that openly combated for it: and there was that with a bribe crept up to it: and there was that with fraud dealt wisely to obtain it.

The paths differed, the scope was one, and they were alike. Him that was young, and could not even think of it, because it was not time for him; and him that was hoary and shaped out dreams for time beyond; all of them by his craftiness did the wicked one persuade and subdue. Old men, youths, and even striplings, aim at rank!

4)  His former books did Satan put aside, and put on others: the People who was grown old had the moth and the worm devoured and eaten and left and deserted: the moth came into the new garment of the new peoples:

He saw the crucifiers who were rejected and cast forth as strangers: he made of those of the household, pryers; and of worshippers, they became disputants. From that garment the moth gendered and wound it up and deposited it.

The worm gendered in the storehouse of wheat, and sat and looked on: and lo! The pure wheat was mildewed, and devoured were the garments of glory! He made a mockery of us, and we of ourselves, since we were besotted!

He showed tares, and the bramble shot up in the pure vineyard! He infected the flock, and the leprosy broke out, and the sheep became hired servants of his! He began in the People, and came unto the Gentiles, that he might finish.

5)  Instead of the reed which the former people made the Son hold, others have dared with their reed  to write in their tracts that He is only a Son of man. Reed for reed does the wicked one exchange against our Redeemer, and instead of the coat of many colours,  wherewith they clothed Him, titles has he dyed craftily. With diversity of names he clothed Him; either that of a creature or of a thing made, when He was the Maker.

And as he plaited for Him by silent men speechless thorns that cry out, thorns from the mind has he plaited [now] by the voice, as hymns; and concealed the spikes amid melodies that they might not be perceived.

6)  When Satan saw that he was detected in his former [frauds]; that the spitting was discovered, and vinegar, and thorns, nails and wood, garments and reed and spear, which smote him, and were hated and openly known; he changed his frauds.

Instead of the blow with the hand, by which our Lord was overcome, he brought in distractions; and instead of the spitting, cavilling entered in; and instead of garments, secret divisions; and instead of the reed, came in strife to smite us on the face.

Haughtiness called for rage its sister, and there answered and came envy, and wrath, and pride, and fraud. They have taken counsel against our Redeemer as on that day when they took counsels at His Passion.

And instead of the cross, a hidden wood has strife become; and instead of the nails, questionings have come in; and instead of hell, apostasy: the pattern of both Satan would renew again.

Instead of the sponge which was cankered with vinegar and wormwood, he gave prying, the whole of which is cankered with death. The gall which they gave Him did our Lord put away from Him; the subtle questioning, which the rebellious one has given, to fools is sweet.

7)  And at that time there were judges against them, (Lk 23:14-15) lo, the judges are, as it were, against us, and instead of a handwriting are their commands. Priests that consecrate crowns, set snares for kings.

Instead of the priesthood praying for royalty that wars may cease from among men, they teach wars of overthrow, which set kings to combat with those round about.

O Lord, make the priests and kings peaceful; that in one Church priests may pray for their kings, and kings spare those round about them; and may the peace which is within You become ours, Lord, You that are within and without all things!

~St. Ephrem the Syrian

Friday, August 23, 2013

Aphraates: "Thus is faith"

"NOW thus is faith; when a man believes in God the Lord of all, Who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them; and He made Adam in His image; and He gave the Law to Moses; He sent of His Spirit upon the prophets; He sent moreover His Christ into the world. Furthermore that a man should believe in the resurrection of the dead; and should furthermore also believe in the sacrament of baptism. This is the faith of the Church of God. And (it is necessary) that a man should separate himself from the observance of hours and Sabbaths and moons and seasons, and divinations and sorceries and Chaldæan arts and magic, from fornication and from festive music, from vain doctrines, which are instruments of the Evil One, from the blandishment of honeyed words, from blasphemy and from adultery. And that a man should not bear false witness, and that a man should not speak with double tongue. These then are the works of the faith which is based on the true Stone which is Christ, on Whom the whole building is reared up.

"Furthermore, my beloved, there is much besides in the Holy Books about faith. But these few things out of the much have I written to recall them to your love that you may know and make known and believe and also be believed. And when you have read and learned the works of faith, you may be made like that tilled land upon which the good seed fell, and produced fruit a hundred-fold and sixty-fold and thirty-fold. And when you come to your Lord, He may call you a good servant and prudent and faithful, who on account of His faith, that abounded, is to enter into the Kingdom of his Lord."

AphraatesDemonstrations, 1, Of Faith, 19-20.

Syriac writer (c. 280-367) surnamed the "Persian Sage"; Bishop of the monastery of Mar Mattai, on the eastern shore of the Tigris, near the modern Mosul in Mesopotamia.
Aphraates, "the Sage", by Pope Benedict XVI
Aphrahat, Wikipedia

Justin Martyr: "The task of philosophy"

“IS it not the task of philosophy to inquire about the divine”?
-- Dialogue with Trypho, 1.

"WHAT greater work could one accomplish than this, to show the reason which governs all, and having laid hold of it, and being mounted upon it, to look down on the errors of others, and their pursuits? But without philosophy and right reason, prudence would not be present to any man. Wherefore it is necessary for every man to philosophize, and to esteem this the greatest and most honourable work; but other things only of second-rate or third-rate importance, though, indeed, if they be made to depend on philosophy, they are of moderate value, and worthy of acceptance; but deprived of it, and not accompanying it, they are vulgar and coarse to those who pursue them.... Philosophy, then, is the knowledge of that which really exists, and a clear perception of the truth; and happiness is the reward of such knowledge and wisdom."
-- Dialogue with Trypho, 3.

~St. Justin Martyr

Philosophy (ceiling tondo), by Raffaello Sanzio.
Fresco, 1509-11; Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

John Damascene: "Queen over all created things”

“FOR the Anointer and the Anointed were one and the same, anointing in the capacity of God Himself as man. Must there not therefore be a Mother of God who bore God incarnate? Assuredly she who played the part of the Creator's servant and mother is in all strictness and truth in reality God's Mother and Lady and Queen over all created things.”

~St. John Damascene (born 676; died between 754 and787):  Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 4, Ch. 14.


“O THOU, the world’s most blessed Queen, save them that from their soul confess thee Mother of God; for thou art an invincible mediatrix, who truly didst bear God.”

~Byzantine Oktoechos, Canon of the Sixth Tone, Fifth Ode. (ca. 9th cent.)

Maximus: "Love of God"

“WHOEVER entertains in his heart any trace of hatred for anyone, regardless of what the offence may have been, is a complete stranger to the love of God. Love of God and hatred of any man are absolutely incompatible with one another.”

~St. Maximus of Constantinople: Centuries on Charity, 1, 15.

Also known as “the Theologian” and “Maximus the Confessor”, born at Constantinople about 580; died in exile 13 August, 662. St. Maximus was an abbot, mystic, and Doctor of the Church, who suffered persecution from Emperor Constans II and the Monothelitist heretics.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Augustine: "Thou hast made us for Thyself"

THOU hast made us for Thyself, and the heart of man is restless until it finds rest in Thee.” (Confessions: 1,1)

"LATE have I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee! For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside; and I sought Thee outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that Thou has made. Thou wert within me and I was not with Thee.” (Confessions: 10, 27)

~St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

St. Augustine, by Vincenzo Foppa.
Wood panel, 1465-70; Castello Sforzesco, Milan.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jerome: "Observances of the Churches"

“DON’T you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Spirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law.”

~St. Jerome: Dialogue Against the Luciferians, Ch. 8.

The Seven Sacraments II: Confirmation, by Nicolas Poussin.
Oil on canvas, 1645; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

John Chrysostom: "Tradition of the Church"

“'SO THEN, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours’ (2 Th. 2:15). Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.”

~St. John Chrysostom (c. 347 - 407): Homilies on Second Thessalonians, MG 62, 488.

Russian icon of St. John Chrysostom

Ambrose: "Mary conceived the redemption"

"MARY worked the salvation of the world and conceived the redemption of mankind."

~St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan: Letters, 49, 2.

The Coronation of the Virgin, by Fra Angelico.
Tempera on wood, 1434-35; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Irenaeus: "Mary, the cause of salvation"

“IN ACCORDANCE with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise “they were both naked, and were not ashamed,” (Gen. 2:25) inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age,  and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen;  so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first. (Mat. 19:30, Mat. 20:16) And the prophet, too, indicates the same, saying, “instead of fathers, children have been born unto you.”  For the Lord, having been born “the First-begotten of the dead,” (Rev. 1:5) and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. (1 Cor. 15:20-22) Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

St. IrenaeusAdversus haereses, III, 22, 4.

Virgin With Angels, by Adolphe-William Bouguereau.
Oil on canvas, 1900.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gregory of Tours: Assumption of Mary

"THE Lord . . . commanded the body of Mary be taken in a cloud into paradise; where now, rejoined to the soul, Mary dwells with the chosen ones."

~St. Gregory, Bishop of Tours, France (594 A.D.)

Death and Assumption of the Virgin, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Fresco, 1486-90; Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

John Damascene: On the Assumption

“IT was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a Child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to Himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who has seen her Son upon the Cross, and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to Him, should look upon Him as He sits at the right hand of the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the Handmaid of God.”

~St. John Damascene (8th cent.): Homily 2 on the Assumption, 14.

Assumption of the Virgin, by Fancisco Camilo.
Oil on canvas, 1666; The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

John Damascene: Assumption of the Virgin

“EVEN though, according to nature, your most holy and happy soul is separated from your most blessed and stainless body and the body as usual is delivered to the tomb, it will not remain in the power of death and is not subject to decay. For just as her virginity remained inviolate while giving birth, when she departed her body was preserved from destruction and only taken to a better and more divine tabernacle, which is not subject to any death…. Hence I will call her holy passing not death, but falling asleep or departure, or better still, arrival….

"Your stainless and wholly immaculate body has not been left on earth; the Queen, the Mistress, the Mother of God who has truly given birth to God has been translated to the royal palaces of heaven…

"Angels and archangels have borne you upwards, the impure spirits of the air have trembled at your ascension. The air is purified, the ether sanctified by your passing through them. . . the powers meet you with sacred hymns and much solemnity, saying something like this: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, elect like the sun? [cf. Cant 6:9] How you have blossomed forth, how sweet you have become! You are the flower of the field, a lily among the thorns [Cant 2.1] . . . Not like Elijah have you entered heaven, not like Paul have you been rapt to the third heaven; no, you have penetrated even to the royal throne of your Son himself . . . a blessing for the world, a sanctification of the universe, refreshment for those who are tired, comfort for the sorrowing, healing for the sick, a port for those in danger, pardon for sinners, soothing balm for the oppressed, quick help for all who pray to you. . .

“Good Mistress, graciously look down on us; direct and guide our destinies wheresoever you will. Pacify the storm of our wicked passions, guide us into the quiet port of the divine will and grant us the blessedness to come.”

~St. John Damascene: Excerpts from Hom. 1, on the Assumption of the Virgin.

Assumption of the Virgin, by Benozzo Gozzoli. Transferred fresco;
Biblioteca Comunale, Castelfiorentino.

Epiphanius: Dormition of the Virgin Mary

"SAY she died a natural death. In that case she fell asleep in glory, and departed in purity and received the crown of her virginity. Or say she was slain with the sword according to Simeon's prophecy. There her glory is with the martyrs, and she through whom the divine light shone upon the world is in the place of bliss with her sacred body. Or say she left this world without dying for God can do what He wills. Then she was simply transferred to eternal glory." (emphasis added)

~St. Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. 310-20 – 403): Haer. lxxix, 11.

St. Epiphanius of Salamis. Fresco,
Gracanica monastery, near Lipljan in Kosovo.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ambrose: The Creed

“LET them believe the creed of the Apostles which the church of Rome keeps and guards in its entirety.” (Letters, 42, 5)

“NOTHING is to be taken away from the apostolic writings, and nothing is to be added to them; in the same way we must expunge nothing from the Creed drawn up and handed down to us by the apostles, nor must we add anything to it. This is the Creed which the Roman church holds, where Peter, the first of the apostles, sat, and thither he brought the common decision (sententiam).” (Explicatio Symboli ad Initiandos.)

~St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan from 374-397

St. Ambrose Converting Theodosius, by Pierre Subleyras.
Oil on canvas, 1745; Galleria Nazionale, Perugia.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hippolytus: Prayer

“FATHER, Who knowest the hearts of all, grant this Thy servant Whom Thou has chosen for the episcopate to feed Thy holy flock and serve as Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly behold and propitiate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy Holy Church. And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority to forgive sins according to Thy command, to assign lots according to Thy bidding, to loose every bond according to the authority Thou gavest to the apostles, and that he may please Thee in meekness and a pure heart, offering to Thee a sweet-smelling savor.”
--The Apostolic Tradition, 3. (Excerpt from the earliest known prayer for the consecration of a bishop, 3rd cent.)

“AND let every faithful man and woman when they arise from sleep at dawn before they undertake any work wash their hands and pray to God, and so let them go to their work.”
--The Apostolic Tradition, 35.

“PRAY also before thy body rests upon thy bed.”
--The Apostolic Tradition, 36.
~St. Hippolytus of Rome

Jerome: "Drugs to procure abortion"

"I CANNOT bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother.... You may see many women widows before wedded, who try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by swelling wombs or by the crying of their infants, they walk abroad with tripping feet and heads in the air. Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder."

~St. Jerome: Letters 22, To Eustochium, para. 13 (A.D. 396).

Artwork: St. Jerome in his Study, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Fresco, 1480; Ognissanti, Florence.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans

The Epistle of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans


IGNATIUS, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father, and of the beloved Jesus Christ, which has through mercy obtained every kind of gift, which is filled with faith and love, and is deficient in no gift, most worthy of God, and adorned with holiness: the Church which is at Smyrna, in Asia, wishes abundance of happiness, through the immaculate Spirit and word of God.

Ch. 1.  Thanks to God for your faith

I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that you are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if you were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with respect to our Lord, that He was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh, Romans 1:3 and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that He was truly born of a virgin, was baptized by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled Matthew 3:15 by Him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed [to the cross] for us in His flesh. Of this fruit we are by His divinely-blessed passion, that He might set up a standard Isaiah 5:26, Isaiah 49:22 for all ages, through His resurrection, to all His holy and faithful [followers], whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of His Church.

Ch. 2.  Christ's true passion

Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians]. And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits.

Ch. 3.  Christ was possessed of a body after His resurrection

For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.”  And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors.  And after his resurrection He ate and drank with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father.

Ch. 4.  Beware of these heretics

I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that you also hold the same opinions [as I do]. But I guard you beforehand from those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance, which, however, will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life, has the power of [effecting] this. But if these things were done by our Lord only in appearance, then am I also only in appearance bound. And why have I also surrendered myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to the wild beasts? But, [in fact,] he who is near to the sword is near to God; he that is among the wild beasts is in company with God; provided only he be so in the name of Jesus Christ. I undergo all these things that I may suffer together with Him, Romans 8:17 He who became a perfect man inwardly strengthening me. Philippians 4:13

Ch. 5.  Their dangerous errors

Some ignorantly deny Him, or rather have been denied by Him, being the advocates of death rather than of the truth. These persons neither have the prophets persuaded, nor the law of Moses, nor the Gospel even to this day, nor the sufferings we have individually endured. For they think also the same thing regarding us.  For what does any one profit me, if he commends me, but blasphemes my Lord, not confessing that He was [truly] possessed of a body? But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied Him, being enveloped in death. I have not, however, thought good to write the names of such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers. Yea, far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent and return to [a true belief in] Christ's passion, which is our resurrection.

Ch. 6.  Unbelievers in the blood of Christ shall be condemned

Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Matthew 19:12 Let not [high] place puff any one up: for that which is worth all is faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.

Ch. 7.  Let us stand aloof from such heretics

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.

Ch. 8.  Let nothing be done without the bishop

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either  by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

Ch. 9.  Honour the bishop

Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for you are worthy. You have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. You have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while you endure all things, you shall attain unto Him.

Ch. 10. 
Acknowledgment of their kindness

You have done well in receiving Philo and Rheus Agathopus as servants of Christ our God, who have followed me for the sake of God, and who give thanks to the Lord in your behalf, because you have in every way refreshed them. None of these things shall be lost to you. May my spirit be for you, and my bonds, which you have not despised or been ashamed of; nor shall Jesus Christ, our perfect hope, be ashamed of you.

Ch. 11.  Request to them to send a messenger to Antioch

Your prayer has reached to the Church which is at Antioch in Syria. Coming from that place bound with chains, most acceptable to God, I salute all; I who am not worthy to be styled from thence, inasmuch as I am the least of them. Nevertheless, according to the will of God, I have been thought worthy [of this honour], not that I have any sense [of having deserved it], but by the grace of God, which I wish may be perfectly given to me, that through your prayers I may attain to God. In order, therefore, that your work may be complete both on earth and in heaven, it is fitting that, for the honour of God, your Church should elect some worthy delegate; so that he, journeying into Syria, may congratulate them that they are [now] at peace, and are restored to  their proper greatness, and that their proper constitution  has been re-established among them. It seems then to me a becoming thing, that you should send some one of your number with an epistle, so that, in company with them, he may rejoice  over the tranquility which, according to the will of God, they have obtained, and because that, through your prayers, they have now reached the harbour. As persons who are perfect, you should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when you are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you.

Ch. 12.  Salutations

The love of the brethren at Troas salutes you; whence also I write to you by Burrhus, whom you sent with me, together with the Ephesians, your brethren, and who has in all things refreshed me. And I would that all may imitate him, as being a pattern of a minister of God. Grace will reward him in all things. I salute your most worthy bishop, and your very venerable presbytery, and your deacons, my fellow-servants, and all of you individually, as well as generally, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in His flesh and blood, in His passion and resurrection, both corporeal and spiritual, in union with God and you.  Grace, mercy, peace, and patience, be with you for evermore!

Ch. 13.  Conclusion

I salute the families of my brethren, with their wives and children, and the virgins who are called widows.  Be strong, I pray, in the power of the Holy Ghost. Philo, who is with me, greets you. I salute the house of Tavias, and pray that it may be confirmed in faith and love, both corporeal and spiritual. I salute Alce, my well-beloved, and the incomparable Daphnus, and Eutecnus, and all by name. Fare well in the grace of God.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Augustine: Sermon on St. Lawrence

He administered the sacred chalice of Christ's blood

THE ROMAN CHURCH commends this day to us as the blessed Laurence’s day of triumph, on which he trod down the world as it roared and raged against him; spurned it as it coaxed and wheedled him; and in each case, conquered the devil as he persecuted him. For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood; there that he shed his own blood for the name of Christ. The blessed apostle John clearly explained the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he said Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. St Laurence understood this, my brethren, and he did it; and he undoubtedly prepared things similar to what he received at that table. He loved Christ in his life, he imitated him in his death.

And we too, brethren, if we truly love him, let us imitate him. After all, we shall not be able to give a better proof of love than by imitating his example; for Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we might follow in his footsteps. In this sentence the apostle Peter appears to have seen that Christ suffered only for those who follow in his footsteps, and that Christ’s passion profits none but those who follow in his footsteps. The holy martyrs followed him, to the shedding of their blood, to the similarity of their sufferings. The martyrs followed, but they were not the only ones. It is not the case, I mean to say, that after they crossed, the bridge was cut; or that after they had drunk, the fountain dried up.

The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes – includes not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to despair of their vocation; Christ suffered for all. It was very truly written about him: who wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the acknowledgement of the truth.

So let us understand how Christians ought to follow Christ, short of the shedding of blood, short of the danger of suffering death. The Apostle says, speaking of the Lord Christ, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal to God. What incomparable greatness! But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, and found in condition as a man. What unequalled humility!

Christ humbled himself: you have something, Christian, to latch on to. Christ became obedient. Why do you behave proudly? After running the course of these humiliations and laying death low, Christ ascended into heaven: let us follow him there. Let us listen to the Apostle telling us, If you have risen with Christ, savour the things that are above us, seated at God’s right hand.

(Excerpt from a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo on the occasion of the Feast of St. Lawrence; Sermo 304, c. 400 AD.)

St. Lawrence the Martyr, by Bartolomeo Vivarini.
Panel, Santo Stefano, Venice.

Leo: On St. Lawrence, Martyr

On the Feast of S. Lawrence the Martyr

I. The example of the martyrs is most valuable

Whilst the height of all virtues, dearly-beloved, and the fullness of all righteousness is born of that love, wherewith God and one's neighbour is loved, surely in none is this love found more conspicuous and brighter than in the blessed martyrs; who are as near to our Lord Jesus, Who died for all men, in the imitation of His love, as in the likeness of their suffering. For, although that Love, wherewith the Lord has redeemed us, cannot be equalled by any man's kindness, because it is one thing that a man who is doomed to die one day should die for a righteous man, and another that One Who is free from the debt of sin should lay down His life for the wicked Romans 5:7-8: yet the martyrs also have done great service to all men, in that the Lord Who gave them boldness, has used it to show that the penalty of death and the pain of the cross need not be terrible to any of His followers, but might be imitated by many of them. If therefore no good man is good for himself alone, and no wise man's wisdom befriends himself only, and the nature of true virtue is such that it leads many away from the dark error on which its light is shed, no model is more useful in teaching God's people than that of the martyrs. Eloquence may make intercession easy, reasoning may effectually persuade; but yet examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.

II. The Saint's martyrdom described

And how gloriously strong in this most excellent manner of doctrine the blessed martyr Laurentius is, by whose sufferings today is marked, even his persecutors were able to feel, when they found that his wondrous courage, born principally of love for Christ, not only did not yield itself, but also strengthened others by the example of his endurance. For when the fury of the gentile potentates was raging against Christ's most chosen members, and attacked those especially who were of priestly rank, the wicked persecutor's wrath was vented on Laurentius the deacon, who was pre-eminent not only in the performance of the sacred rites, but also in the management of the church's property , promising himself double spoil from one man's capture: for if he forced him to surrender the sacred treasures, he would also drive him out of the pale of true religion. And so this man, so greedy of money and such a foe to the truth, arms himself with double weapon: with avarice to plunder the gold; with impiety to carry off Christ. He demands of the guileless guardian of the sanctuary that the church wealth on which his greedy mind was set should be brought to him. But the holy deacon showed him where he had them stored, by pointing to the many troops of poor saints, in the feeding and clothing of whom he had a store of riches which he could not lose, and which were the more entirely safe that the money had been spent on so holy a cause.

III. The description of his sufferings continued

The baffled plunderer, therefore, frets, and blazing out into hatred of a religion, which had put riches to such a use, determines to pillage a still greater treasure by carrying off that sacred deposit , wherewith he was enriched, as he could find no solid hoard of money in his possession. He orders Laurentius to renounce Christ, and prepares to ply the deacon's stout courage with frightful tortures: and, when the first elicit nothing, fiercer follow. His limbs, torn and mangled by many cutting blows, are commanded to be broiled upon the fire in an iron framework , which was of itself already hot enough to burn him, and on which his limbs were turned from time to time, to make the torment fiercer, and the death more lingering.

IV. Laurentius has conquered his persecutor

You gain nothing, you prevail nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from your devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, you are vanquished. The flame of Christ's love could not be overcome by your flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within. You but served the martyr in your rage, O persecutor: you but swelled the reward in adding to the pain. For what did your cunning devise, which did not redound to the conqueror's glory, when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, Who is “wonderful in His saints,” in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world, that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon's light does shine, and Rome has become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession  we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, “who wish to live holily in Christ, suffer persecution 2 Timothy 3:12,” we may be strengthened with the spirit of love, and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

~St. Leo the Great, Sermon 85.

The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, by Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne.
Oil on canvas, c. 1660; National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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