The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan on 1 Thess 1:2-10 for Sunday Mass, Feb 13 (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2011

Note: This post includes a summary of the first part of the Epistle, 1:1-3:13, the commentary on today’s passage follows. Text in red, if any, represent my additions.

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3:13~The salutation here (1 Thess 1:1) is unusually familiar and friendly, omitting all titles and references to controversy. The Apostle and his companions are addressing friends.

In the personal and historical section (1 Thess 1:2-3:13) the writers first give thanks for the good condition of the Church in Thessalonica (1 Thess 1:2-10), and then in a general way defend the character of their ministry in Thessalonica against certain charges that have been circulated to their discredit (1 Thess 2:1-12). After that follow renewed thanks for the success of their preaching among the Thessalonians, who have withstood persecution as boldly as did the Christians of Judea (1 Thess 2:13-16). Having been obliged to leave their new converts, the Apostles would have gladly returned to them, had that been possible (1 Thess 2:17-20) ; and in their anxiety they did send Timothy, who, on his return, brought most consoling news (1 Thess 3:1-10). The Apostles, therefore, pray that God may soon grant them a visit to the Thessalonians, and that in the meantime the faithful there may increase in spiritual perfection (1 Thess 3:11-13).

2. Grace be to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for you all; making a remembrance of you in our prayers without ceasing,

Grace . . . peace. See on Eph 1:2. Here is what Father Callan wrote there: This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.

We give thanks, etc. See on Eph 1:16. Here is what Father Callan wrote in that place: This is a frequent phrase with St. Paul, especially at the beginning of his Epistles, and Egyptian papyri show that similar phrases were used in epistolary greetings in pre-Christian times; with St. Paul, however, such words have a spiritual meaning. The Apostle continually thanks God for the spiritual benefits conferred on the saints, and he prays that these blessings may be continued and extended.

Without ceasing, i.e., continually. Some cormect this phrase with the following, but it makes better sense to join it to what goes before, as in our version.

3. Being mindful of the work of your faith, and labor, and charity, and of the enduring of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before God and our Father:

The Apostle now tells why he “gives thanks to God” for the Thessalonians, namely, because of the practical manifestations of their faith, love, and hope—the three theological virtues which constitute the essence of the Christian life (cf. 1 Cor 13:13). Here in his first Epistle St. Paul teaches what he teaches always elsewhere, that faith must be conjoined with works, it must be active: “Faith without good works is dead” (James 2:17). The faith of the Thessalonians was manifested in labors of love and in endurance of temporal losses in view of eternal rewards for which they hoped.

4. Knowing, brethren, beloved of God, your election:

The call of the Thessalonians to the faith and to membership in the Church of Christ is another reason why St. Paul gives thanks to God. These great spiritual benefits are a sure proof that they are “beloved of God,” i.e., specially favored by God in being selected from among others for faith in Christ. With St. Paul call or vocation and election really mean the same thing, namely, admission to the faith and privileges of the Gospel, but call regards rather the terminus ad quem, and election the terminus a quo; the faithful were elected by God to be called to the faith. In St. Paul, therefore, both terms have reference to a supernatural gift of God; and in the present text the word “election” has to do with membership in the Church. The question of final salvation is, then, only indirectly touched upon in this place, inasmuch as one who is elected and called is on the way to final salvation. See Voste, Thessalonians, h. I.

5. For our gospel hath not been unto you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, as you know what manner of men we have been among you for your sakes.

St. Paul here gives a reason for his conviction that the Thessalonians have been admitted to the privileges of faith and grace in the Church of Christ, recalling the circumstances of their conversion; for he and his companions preached the Gospel to them with a “power” and efficacy which only the Holy Ghost could supply, and with an “assurance” that was characteristic of the Apostolic preaching everywhere. This his readers know.

6. And you became followers of us, and of the Lord; receiving the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

The election of the Thessalonians was also made manifest in the generous way they received the preaching of the Apostles, in the persecutions they steadfastly endured for the Gospel, and in the holy joy they exhibited amid their trials.

7. So that you were made a pattern to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.

The result of the whole-hearted response of the Thessalonians to the preaching of the Gospel was that they became an example and a model in faith to all the other Greeks.

Macedonia and Achaia were the two provinces into which the Romans had divided Greece.

8. For from you was spread abroad the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia, and in Achaia, but also in every place your faith which is towards God is gone forth, so that we need not to speak anything.

For from you, etc., i.e., from your city. The international character of Thessalonica made it easy for the faith of the Christians there to become widely known; and this is what Paul means by the somewhat hyperbolical expressions, “in every place” and “so that we need not to speak anything.”

9. For they themselves relate of us, what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God,

For they themselves, etc., i.e., those Christians from “every place” are full of the report of the preaching of Paul and his companions among the Thessalonians, and of the consequent success of that preaching.

How you turned, etc, from the service of pagan gods to that of the true God.

10. And to wait for his Son from heaven (whom he raised up from the dead), Jesus, who hath dehvered us from the wrath to come.

The purpose of the conversion of the Thessalonians, like that of all others, was that they might be in readiness for the coming of Christ, our Redeemer and Judge, whether at the hour of death or at the end of the world.

Who hath delivered. Better, “who delivereth.” The present tense indicates that the work of salvation is continuous.

The wrath to come, i.e., God’s chastisement for sin.

2 Responses to “Father Callan on 1 Thess 1:2-10 for Sunday Mass, Feb 13 (Extraordinary Form)”

  1. […] Father Callan on 1 Thess 1:2-10. […]

  2. […] Father Callan on 1 Thess 1:2-10 for Sunday Mass, Feb 13 (Extraordinary Form). […]

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