Wednesday, July 30, 2014

St. Peter Chrysologus: On the Incarnation

July 30th: Optional Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus (early Church Father, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church). 

On the Incarnation, by St. Peter Chrysologus

"A VIRGIN conceived, bore a son, and yet remained a virgin. This is no common occurrence, but a sign; no reason here, but God’s power, for he is the cause, and not nature. It is a special event, not shared by others; it is divine, not human. Christ’s birth was not necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men. He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for our salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him.

"Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvellous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation. And the Creator still works to devise things that can add to your glory. He has made you in his image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative. Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in man, just as he had wished to be revealed in man as in an image. Now he would be in reality what he had submitted to be in symbol.

"And so Christ is born that by his birth he might restore our nature. He became a child, was fed, and grew that he might inaugurate the one perfect age to remain for ever as he had created it. He supports man that man might no longer fall. And the creature he had formed of earth he now makes heavenly; and what he had endowed with a human soul he now vivifies to become a heavenly spirit. In this way he fully raised man to God, and left in him neither sin, nor death, nor travail, nor pain, nor anything earthly, with the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, for all the ages of eternity. Amen."

~Excerpt from Sermon 148.

"Petros Chrysologos" meaning Peter the "golden-worded" (c. 380 – c. 450). St. Peter Chrysologus was an adult convert to the Church. He became a deacon, then priest, before taking office as Bishop of Ravenna, Italy in 433.  St. Peter Chrysologus fought paganism and the Monophysite heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. As a preacher with great language skills, he was given given the name "Chrysologus," referring to his golden word. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

St. Ephraem: "Thou art the head of My disciples"

“SIMON, My disciple, I have made thee a foundation of holy Church. I called thee Rock on a previous occasion, because thou shalt be the support of all the buildings; thou are the overseer of those who will build My Church on earth. If they try to build anything evil, thou, the foundation, shalt reprimand them. Thou art the head of the foundation from which My doctrine shall be drunk, thou art the head of My disciples; I will give all people to drink through thee; yours is that life-giving sweetness I pour forth; I have chosen thee to be as it were the firstborn in My establishment and thou shalt become the heir of My treasures. The keys of My kingdom I have given thee. Lo, I have established thee prince over all my treasures.”

~St. Ephraem of Syria: Sermons on Holy Week, 4, 1.

The Statue of Saint Peter, by Arnolfo di Cambio.
Bronze, c. 1300; Treasury of San Pietro, Vatican.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

St. John Chrysostom: "The law which God ingrafted in man"

“WE use not only Scripture but also reason in arguing against the pagans. What is their argument? They say they have no law of conscience, and that there is no law implanted by God in nature. My answer is to question them about their laws concerning marriage, homicide, wills, injuries to others, enacted by their legislators. Perhaps the living have learned from their fathers, and their fathers from their fathers and so on. But go back to the first legislator! Was it not by his own conscience and conviction? Nor can it be said that they heard Moses and the prophets, for Gentiles could not hear them. It is evident that they derived their laws from the law which God ingrafted in man from the beginning.”

~St. John Chrysostom: Ad pop. Ant., XII, 4.

See also:
• Romans 2:12-15
• St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily V

Byzantine mosaic of St. John Chrysostom from the Hagia Sophia

Friday, July 4, 2014

St. Ambrose: "Without the protection of faith good works cannot stand"

"FAITH, then, has [the promise of] eternal life, for it is a good foundation. Good works, too, have the same, for an upright man is tested by his words and acts. For if a man is always busy talking and yet is slow to act, he shows by his acts how worthless his knowledge is: besides it is much worse to know what one ought to do, and yet not to do what one has learned should be done. On the other hand, to be active in good works and unfaithful at heart is as idle as though one wanted to raise a beautiful and lofty dome upon a bad foundation. The higher one builds, the greater is the fall; for without the protection of faith good works cannot stand. A treacherous anchorage in a harbour perforates a ship, and a sandy bottom quickly gives way and cannot bear the weight of the building placed upon it. There then will be found the fullness of reward, where the virtues are perfect, and where there is a reasonable agreement between words and acts."

~St. AmbroseOn the Duties of the Clergy, Bk. II, Chap. 2.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

St. Isidore of Seville: "Socrates"

"SOCRATES first established ethics with a view to correcting and regulating conduct, and he devoted all his attention to the discussion of right living, dividing it into the four virtues of the soul, namely prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance."

~St. Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 636): Etymologies, 2, 24.

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David.
Oil on canvas, 1787; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

St. Hilary of Poitiers: "The true nature of the body and the blood"

“WE speak in an absurd and godless manner about the divinity of Christ’s nature in us—unless we have learned it from Him. He Himself declares: ‘For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him’ (Jn. 6:56, 7). It is no longer permitted us to raise doubts about the true nature of the body and the blood, for, according to the statement of the Lord Himself as well as our faith, this is indeed flesh and blood. And these things that we receive bring it about that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is not this the truth? Those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God are welcome to regard these words as false. He Himself, therefore, is in us through His flesh, and we are in Him, while that which we are with Him is in God.”

~St. Hilary of Poitiers: On the Trinity, Bk. 8, Chap. 14.

The Victory of Eucharistic Truth over Heresy, by Peter Paul Rubens.
Oil on panel, c. 1626; Museo del Prado, Madrid.

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