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

Archive for June 12th, 2011

Tuesday, June 14: St John Chrysostom’s Exegetical Commentary on Today’s First Reading (2 Cor 8:1-9)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 12, 2011

This post contains excerpts from St John Chrysostom’s homilies # 16 and 17 on 2 Corinthians. The two homilies in their entirety (covering 7:13-8:15) can be found here.

Excerpt from Homily 16~
2 Cor 8:1
. “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia.”

Having encouraged them with these encomiums (the praises in 7:1-16), he again tries exhortation. For on this account he mingled these praises with his rebuke, that he might not by proceeding from rebuke to exhortation make what he had to say ill received; but having soothed their ears, might by this means pave the way for his exhortation. For he purposeth to discourse of alms-giving; wherefore also he saith beforehand, “I rejoice that in everything I am of good courage concerning you;” by their past good works, making them the more ready to this duty also. And he said not at once, ’ Therefore give alms,’ but observe his wisdom, how he draws from a distance and from on high the preparation for his discourse. For he says, “I make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia.” For that they might not be uplifted he calleth what they did “grace;” and whilst relating what others did he worketh greater zeal in them by his encomiums on others. And he mentions together two praises of the Macedonians, or rather three; namely, that they bear trials nobly; and that they know how to pity; and that, though poor, they had displayed profuseness in almsgiving, for their property had been also plundered. And when he wrote his Epistle to them, it was as signifying this that he said, “For ye became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea, for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews.” (1Thess 2:14) Hear what he said afterwards in writing to the Hebrews, “For ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions.” (He 10, 34) But He calls what they did “grace,” not in order to keep them humble merely; but both to provoke them to emulation and to prevent what he said from proving invidious. Wherefore he also added the name of “brethren” so as to undermine all envious feeling; for he is about to praise them in high-flown terms. Listen, at least, to his praises. For having said, “I make known to you the grace of God,” he said not ’ which hath been given in this or that city,’ but praiseth the entire nation, saying, “in the Churches of Macedonia.” Then he details also this same grace.

2 Cor 8:2. “How that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy.”

Seest thou his wisdom? For he says not first, that which he wishes; but another thing before it, that he may not seem to do this of set purpose, but to arrive at it by a different connection. “In much proof of affliction.” This was what he said in his Epistle to the Macedonians themselves, “Ye became imitators of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost;” and again, “From you sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place, your faith to God-ward is gone forth.” (1 Thess 1:6 and 1Thess 1:8). But what is, “in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy?” Both, he says, happened to them in excess; both the affliction and the joy. Wherefore also the strangeness was great that so great an excess of pleasure sprang up to them out of affliction. For in truth the affliction not only was not the parent of grief, but it even became unto them an occasion of gladness; and this too, though it was “great.” Now this he said, to prepare them to be noble and firm in their trials. For they were not merely afflicted, but so as also to have become approved by their patience: yea rather, he says not by their patience, but what was more than patience, “joy.” And neither said he “joy” simply, but “abundance of joy,” for it sprang up in them, great and unspeakable.

“And their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”

Again, both these with excessiveness. For as their great affliction gave birth to great joy, yea, “abundance of joy,” so their great poverty gave birth to great riches of alms. For this he showed, saying, “abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” For munificence is determined not by the measure of what is given, but by the mind of those that bestow it.

Wherefore he nowhere says, ‘the richness of the gifts,’ but “the riches of their liberality.” Now what he says is to this effect; ‘their poverty not only was no impediment to their being bountiful, but was even an occasion to them of abounding, just as affliction was of feeling joy. For the poorer they were, the more munificent they were and contributed the more readily.’ Wherefore also he admires them exceedingly, for that in the midst of so great poverty they had displayed so great munificence. For“their deep,” that is, ‘their great and unspeakable,’ “poverty,” showed their “liberality.” But he said not ‘showed,’ but “abounded;” and he said not “liberality,” but “riches of liberality;” that is, an equipoise to the greatness of their poverty, or rather much outweighing it, was the bountifulness they displayed. Then he even explains this more clearly, saying,

2 Cor 8:3. “For according to their power, I bear witness.” Trustworthy is the witness. “And beyond their power.” That is, it “abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” Or rather, he makes this plain, not by this expression alone, but also by all that follows; for he says, “of their own accord.” Lo! yet another excessiveness.

2 Cor 8:4. “With much intreaty.” Lo! yet a third and a fourth. “Praying us.” Lo! even a fifth. And when they were in affliction and in poverty. Here are a sixth and seventh. And they gave with excessiveness. Then since this is what he most of all wishes to provide for in the Corinthians’ case, namely, the giving deliberately, he dwells especially upon it, saying, “with much intreaty,” and “praying us.” ’ We prayed not them, but they us.’ Pray us what? “That the grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints.” Seest thou how he again exalts the deed, calling it by venerable names. For since they were ambitious of spiritual gifts, he calls it by the name grace that they might eagerly pursue it; and again by that of “fellowship,” that they might learn that they receive, not give only. ‘This therefore they intreated us,’ he says, ‘that we would take upon us such a ministry.’

2 Cor 8:5. “And” this, “not as we hoped.” This he says with reference both to the amount and to their afflictions. ‘For we could never have hoped,’ he says, ‘that whilst in so great affliction and poverty, they would even have urged us and so greatly intreated us.’ He showed also their carefulness of life in other respects, by saying,

“But first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God.

‘For in everything their obedience was beyond our expectations; nor because they showed mercy did they neglect the other virtues,’ “but first gave themselves to the Lord.” What is, “gave themselves to the Lord?” ‘They offered up [themselves]; they showed themselves approved in faith; they displayed much fortitude in their trials, order, goodness, love, in all things both readiness and zeal.’ What means, “and to us?” ‘They were tractable to the rein, loved, obeyed us; both fulfilling the laws of God and bound unto us by love.’ And observe how here also he again shows their earnestness saying, “gave themselves to the Lord.” They did not in some things obey God, and in some the world; but in all things Him; and gave themselves wholly unto God. For neither because they showed mercy were they filled up with senseless pride, but displaying much lowlymindedness, much obedience, much reverence, much heavenly wisdom, they so wrought their almsdeeds also. But what is, “by the will of God?” Since he had said, they “gave themselves to us,” yet was it not “to us,” after the manner of men, but they did this also according to the mind of God.

2 Cor 8:6. “Insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace also.”

And what connexion is there here? Much; and closely bearing on what went before. ‘For because we saw them vehement,’ he says, ‘and fervent in all things, in temptations, in alms giving, in their love toward us, in the purity otherwise of their life: in order that ye too might be made their equals, we sent Titus.’ Howbeit he did not say this, though he implied it. Behold excessiveness of love. ‘For though intreated and desired by them,’ he says, ‘we were anxious about your state, lest by any means ye should come short of them. Wherefore also we sent Titus, that by this also being stirred up and put in mind, ye might emulate the Macedonians.’ For Titus happened to be there when this Epistle was writing. Yet he shows that he had made a beginning in this matter before Paul’s exhortation; “that as he had made a beginning before,” he says. Wherefore also he bestows great praise on him; for instance, in the beginning [of the Epistle]; “Because I found not Titus my brother, I had no relief for my spirit: “(2 Cor 2:13). and here all those things which he has said, and this too itself. For this also is no light praise, the having begun before even: for this evinces a warm and fervent spirit. Wherefore also he sent him, infusing amongst them in this also a very great incentive unto giving, the presence of Titus. On this account also he extols him with praises, wishing to endear him more exceedingly to the Corinthians. For this too hath a great weight unto persuading, when he who counsels is upon intimate terms. And well does he both once and twice and thrice, having made mention of almsgiving, call ‘it grace,’ now indeed saying, “Moreover, brethren, I make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia;” and now, “they of their own accord, praying us with much intreaty in regard of this grace and fellowship:” and again,“that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you this grace also.”

For this is a great good and a gift of God; and rightly done assimilates us, so far as may be, unto God; for such an one is in the highest sense a man. A certain one, at least, giving a model of a man has mentioned this, for “Man,” saith he, “is a great thing; and a merciful man is an honorable thing.” (Prov 20:6. LXX). Greater is this gift than to raise the dead. For far greater is it to feed Christ when an hungered than to raise the dead by the name of Jesus: for in the former case thou doest good to Christ, in the latter He to thee. And the reward surely comes by doing good, not by receiving good. For here indeed, in the case of miracles I mean, thou art God’s debtor. in that of almsgiving, thou hast God for a debtor. Now it is almsgiving, when it is done with willingness, when with bountifulness, when thou deemest thyself not to give but to receive, when done as if thou were benefitted,as if gaining and not losing; for so this were not a grace. For he that showeth mercy on another ought to feel joyful, not peevish. For how is it not absurd, if whilst removing another’s downheartedness, thou art thyself downhearted? for so thou no longer sufferest it to be alms. For if thou art downhearted because thou hast delivered another from downheartedness, thou furnishest an example of extreme cruelty and inhumanity; for it were better not to deliver him, than so to deliver him. And why art thou also downhearted at all, O man? for fear thy gold should diminish? If such are thy thoughts, do not give at all: if thou art not quite sure that it is multiplied for thee in heaven, do not bestow. But thou seekest the recompense here. Wherefore? Let thine alms be alms, and not traffic. Now many have indeed received a recompense even here; but have not so received it, as if they should have an advantage over those who received it not here; but some of them as being weaker than they ought, because they were not so strongly attracted by the things which are there. And as those who are greedy, and ill-mannered, and slaves of their bellies, being invited to a royal banquet, and unable to wait till the proper time, just like little children mar their own enjoyment, by taking food beforehand and stuffing themselves with inferior dishes: even so in truth do these who seek for and receive [recompense] here, diminish their reward there. Further, when thou lendest, thou wishest to receive thy principal after a longer interval, and perhaps even not to receive it at all, in order that by the delay thou mayest make the interest greater; but, in this case, dost thou ask back immediately; and that too when thou art about to be not here, but there forever; when thou art about not to be here to be judged, but to render thine account? And if indeed one were building thee mansions where thou weft not going to remain, thou wouldest deem it to be a loss; but now, desirest thou here to be rich, whence possibly thou art to depart even before the evening? Knowest thou not that we live in a foreign land, as though strangers and sojourners? Knowest thou not that it is the lot of sojourners to be ejected when they think not, expect not? which is also our lot. For this reason then, whatsoever things we have prepared, we leave here. For the Lord does not allow us to receive them and depart, if we have built houses, if we have bought fields, if slaves, if gear, if any other such thing. But not only does He not allow us to take them and depart hence, but doth not even account to thee the price of them. For He forewarned thee that thou shouldest not build, nor spend what is other men’s but thine own. Why therefore, leaving what is thine own, dost thou work and be at cost in what is another’s, so as to lose both thy toil and thy wages and to suffer the extremest punishment? Do not so, I beseech thee; but seeing we are by nature sojourners, let us also be so by choice; that we be not there sojourners and dishonored and cast out. For if we are set upon being citizens here, we shall be so neither here nor there; but if we continue to be sojourners, and live in such wise as sojourners ought to live in, we shall enjoy the freedom of citizens both here and there. For the just, although having nothing, will both dwell here amidst all men’s possessions as though they were his own; and also, when he hath departed to heaven, shall see those his eternal habitations. And he shall both here suffer no discomfort, (for none will ever be able to make him a stranger that hath every land for his city;) and when he hath been restored to his own country, shall receive the true riches. In order that we may gain both the things of this life and of that, let us use aright the things we have. For so shall we be citizens of the heavens, and shall enjoy much boldness; whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father with the Holy Ghost, be glory and power for ever. Amen.

Excerpt from Homily 17~
2 Cor 6:7
. Therefore that ye abound in everything; in faith and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness.

See again his exhortation accompanied with commendations, greater commendations. And he said not, ‘that ye give,’ but “that ye abound; in faith,” namely, of the gifts, and “in utterance,” the word of wisdom, and “knowledge,” namely, of the doctrines, and “in all earnestness,” to the attaining of all other virtue.

“And in your love,” that, namely of which I have before spoken, of which I have also made proof.

“That ye may abound in this grace also.” Seest thou that for this reason it was that he began by those praises, that advancing forward he might draw them on to the same diligence in these things also.

2 Cor 8:8. “I speak not by way of commandment.”

See how constantly he humors them, how he avoids offensiveness, and is not violent nor compulsory; or rather what he says hath both these, with the inoffensiveness of that which is uncompelled. For after he had repeatedly exhorted them and had greatly commended the Macedonians, in order that this might not seem to constitute a necessity, he says,

“I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others, the sincerity also of your love.”

‘Not as doubting it,’ (for that is not what he would here imply,) ‘but to make it approved, display it and frame it unto greater strength. For I therefore say these things that I may provoke you to the same forwardness. And I mention their zeal to brighten, to cheer, to stimulate your inclinations.’ Then from this he proceeded to another and a greater point. For he lets slip no mode of persuasion, but moves heaven and earth in handling his argument. For he exhorted them both by other men’s praises, saying, Ye know “the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia;” and by their own, “therefore that ye abound in everything, in utterance and knowledge.” For this hath power to sting man more that he falls short of himself, than that he does so of others. Then he proceeds afterwards to the head and crown of his persuasion.

2 Cor 8:9. “For ye know the grace of our Lord, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.”

‘For have in mind,’ says he, ‘ponder and consider the grace of God and do not lightly pass it by, but aim at realizing the greatness of it both as to extent and nature, and thou wilt grudge nothing of thine. He emptied Himself of His glory that ye, not through His riches but through His poverty, might be rich. If thou believest not that poverty is productive of riches, have in mind thy Lord and thou wilt doubt no longer. For had He not become poor, thou wouldest not have become rich. For this is the marvel, that poverty hath made riches rich.’ And by riches here he meaneth the knowledge of godliness, the cleansing away of sins, justification, sanctification, the countless good things which He bestowed upon us and purposeth to bestow. And all these things accrued to us through His poverty. What poverty? Through His taking flesh on Him and becoming man and suffering what He suffered. And yet he owed not this, but thou dost owe to

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St Gregory Nanzianzus’s Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 12, 2011

HOMILY BY ST. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS.
TREATISE ON THE FAITH.
On Matthew 28:18-20

Is there a Catholic in the world who does not know that the Father is a very Father, the Son a very Son, and the Holy Ghost a very Holy Ghost? The Lord
Himself said to His Apostles: All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Going, therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This is that perfect TRINITY, consisting in UNITY, of Whom we testify that His substance is ONE; for we make no division in God as divisions are made in bodies; but we testify that, according to the power of the Divine Nature, which exists not in matter, the Persons have a real existence, and that God is ONE. We also believe that these three names and the Persons meant by them, are all of one Substance, one Majesty, and one Power; and we do not say, as some have dreamt, that the begetting of the Son of God is an extension from one part to another part, neither do we say that He is the Word in the sense of a mere sound uttered by a voice, and not a reality.

We testify, therefore, that God is ONE, because this ONENESS of His Majesty forbids the use of the plural form of speech saying Gods. It is Catholic language to say Father and Son; but we cannot and must not say that the Father and the Son are two Gods. And that, not because the Son of God is not by Himself God for He is true God of true God but because we know that the Son of God is not from elsewhere, but from the One Father, therefore we say that God is ONE. This is the doctrine which the Prophets and the Apostles have transmitted to us; and it is the doctrine which our Lord Himself taught, when He said: I and the Father are one (John 10:30). One refers to the one Divinity, as I said; whereas are means the Persons. Thus the Apostle says: To us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we unto Him; and our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and we by Him. But there is not knowledge in everyone (1 Cor 8:6, 7). Concerning this truth,.and having explained these words which were a stumbling-block, not to me who know what I am saying, but to others, I believe to have removed every occasion of a false interpretation. The profession of faith is manifest: for PERSON agrees with the words used, while the Divinity is ONE. Should anything else in these words seem ambiguous to the reader, let him refer to the real meaning of the words. Though this meaning of the words is clear, the obstinacy of a biassed intellect is often shown; and since our exposition agrees with the truth, the words also ought to be clear to a sincere mind.

 

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Sunday, June 19: St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 3:16-18 for the Soelmnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 12, 2011

This post contains homilies 27 and 28 on the Gospel of John and encompasses his teaching on John 3:12-20. The part of the post dealing with the Gospel of the day (verses 16-21) is in purple text for those who may not have time to read the entire two homilies.

Homily 27~Jn 3:12-13.  “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaver, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.”

What I have often said I shall now repeat, and shall not cease to say. What is that? It is that Jesus, when about to touch on sublime doctrines, often contains Himself by reason of the infirmity of His hearers, and dwells not for a continuance on subjects worthy of His greatness, but rather on those which partake of condescension. For the sublime and great, being but once uttered, is sufficient to establish that character, as far as we are able to hear it; but unless more lowly sayings, and such as are nigh to the comprehension of the hearers, were continually uttered, the more sublime would not readily take hold on a groveling listener. And therefore of the sayings of Christ more are lowly than sublime. But yet that this again may not work another mischief, by detaining the disciple here below, He does not merely set before men His inferior sayings without first telling them why He utters them; as, in fact, He has done in this place. For when He had said what He did concerning Baptism, and the Generation by grace which takes place on earth, being desirous to admit them to that His own mysterious and incomprehensible Generation, He holds it in suspense for a while, and admits them not, and then tells them His reason for not admitting them. What is that? It is, the dullness and infirmity of His hearers. And referring to this He added the words, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” so that wherever He saith anything ordinary and humble, we must attribute this to the infirmity of His audience.

The expression “earthly things,” some say is here used of the wind; that is, “If I have given you an example from earthly things, and ye did not even so believe, how shall ye be able to learn sublimer things?” And wonder not if He here call Baptism an “earthly” thing, for He calls it so, either from its being performed on earth, or so naming it in comparison with that His own most awful Generation. For though this Generation of ours is heavenly, yet compared with that true Generation which is from the Substance of the Father, it is earthly.

(He does not say, “Ye have not understood,” but, “Ye have not believed”; for when a man is ill disposed towards those things which it is possible to apprehend by the intellect, and will not readily receive them, he may justly be charged with want of understanding; but when he receives not things which cannot be apprehended by reasoning, but only by faith, the charge against him is no longer want of understanding, but unbelief. Leading him therefore away from enquiring by reasonings into what had been said, He touches him more severely by charging him with want of faith. If now we must receive our own Generation by faith, what do they deserve who are busy with their reasonings about that of the Only-Begotten?

But perhaps some may ask, “And if the hearers were not to believe these sayings, wherefore were they uttered?” Because though “they” believed not, those who came after would believe and profit by them. Touching him therefore very severely, Christ goes on to show that He knoweth not these things only, but others also, far more and greater than these. And this He declared by what follows, when He said, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.”

“And what manner of sequel is this?” asks one. The very closest, and entirely in unison with what has gone before. For since Nicodemus had said, “We know that Thou art a teacher come from God,” on this very point He sets him right, all but saying, “Think Me not a teacher in such manner as were the many of the prophets who were of earth, for I have come from heaven (but) now. None of the prophets hath ascended up thither, but I dwell there.” Seest thou how even that which appears very exalted is utterly unworthy of his greatness? For not in heaven only is He, but everywhere, and He fills all things; but yet He speaks according to the infirmity of His hearer, desiring to lead him up little by little. And in this place He called not the flesh “Son of Man,” but He now named, so to speak, His entire Self from the inferior substance; indeed this is His wont, to call His whole Person often from His Divinity, and often from His humanity.

Jn 3:14. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

This again seems to depend upon what has gone before, and this too has a very close connection with it. For after having spoken of the very great benefaction that had come to man by Baptism, He proceeds to mention another benefaction, which was the cause of this, and not inferior to it; namely, that by the Cross. As also Paul arguing with the Corinthians sets down these benefits together, when he says, “Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” for these two things most of all declare His unspeakable love, that He both suffered for His enemies, and that having died for His enemies, He freely gave to them by Baptism entire remission of their sins.

But wherefore did He not say plainly, “I am about to be crucified,” instead of referring His hearers to the ancient type? First, that you may learn that old things are akin to new, and that the one are not alien to the other; next, that you may know that He came not unwillingly to His Passion; and again, besides these reasons, that you may learn that no harm arises to Him from the Fact, and that to many there springs from it salvation. For, that none may say, “And how is it possible that they who believe on one crucified should be saved, when he himself is holden of death?” He leads us to the ancient story. Now if the Jews, by looking to the brazen image of a serpent, escaped death, much rather will they who believe on the Crucified, with good reason enjoy a far greater benefit. For this takes place, not through the weakness of the Crucified, or because the Jews are stronger than He, but because “God loved the world,” therefore is His living Temple fastened to the Cross.

Jn 3:15. “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Seest thou the cause of the Crucifixion, and the salvation which is by it? Seest thou the relationship of the type to the reality? there the Jews escaped death, but the temporal, here believers the eternal; there the hanging serpent healed the bites of serpents, here the Crucified Jesus cured the wounds inflicted by the spiritual dragon; there he who looked with his bodily eyes was healed, here he who beholds with the eyes of his understanding put off all his sins; there that which hung was brass fashioned into the likeness of a serpent, here it was the Lord’s Body, builded by the Spirit; there a serpent bit and a serpent healed, here death destroyed and a Death saved. But the snake which destroyed had venom, that which saved was free from venom; and so again was it here, for the death which slew us had sin with it, as the serpent had venom; but the Lord’s Death was free from all sin, as the brazen serpent from venom. For, saith Peter, “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” (1 Pet 2:22). And this is what Paul also declares, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col 2:16). For as some noble champion by lifting on high and dashing down his antagonist, renders his victory more glorious, so Christ, in the sight of all the world, cast down the adverse powers, and having healed those who were smitten in the wilderness, delivered them from all venomous beasts9 that vexed them, by being hung upon the Cross. Yet He did not say, “must hang,” but, “must be lifted up” (Acts 28:4); for He used this which seemed the milder term, on account of His hearer, and because it was proper to the type.

Jn 3:16. “God,” He saith, “so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

What He saith, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that ye may be saved, for this seemeth good to the Father, and He hath so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said, “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die.” (Rom 5:7). Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, “so loved,” and that other, “God the world,” He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He “loved.” Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith, that “He gave His Only-begotten Son,” not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.

His Passion then He sets before him not very openly, but rather darkly; but the advantage of the Passion He adds in a clearer manner,  saying, “That every one that believeth in Him. should not perish, but have everlasting life.” For when He had said, “must be lifted up,” and alluded to death, test the hearer should be made downcast by these words, forming some mere human opinions concerning Him, and supposing that His death was a ceasing to be,  observe how He sets this right, by saying, that He that was given was “The Son of God,” and the cause of life, of everlasting life. He who procured life for others by death, would not Himself be continually in death; for if they who believed on the Crucified perish not, much less doth He perish who is crucified. He who taketh away the destitution of others much more is He free from it; He who giveth life to others, much more to Himself doth He well forth life. Seest thou that everywhere there is need of faith? For He calls the Cross the fountain of life; which reason cannot easily allow, as the heathens now by their mocking testify. But faith which goes beyond the weakness of reasoning, may easily receive and retain it. And whence did God “so love the world”? From no other source but on]y from his goodness.

Let us now be abashed at His love, let us be ashamed at the excess of His lovingkindness, since He for our sakes spared not His Only-begotten Son, yet we spare our wealth to our own injury; He for us gave His Own Son, but we for Him do not so much as despise money, nor even for ourselves. And how can these things deserve pardon? If we see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and deem it rather his than ours, and even so do not think that we give him the return that he deserves. But towards Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious Blood for our sakes, who were neither well-disposed nor good, while we do not pour out even our money for our own sakes, and neglect Him who died for us, when He is naked and a stranger; and who shall deliver us from the punishment that is to come? For suppose that it were not God that punishes, but that we punished ourselves; should we not give our vote against ourselves? should we not sentence ourselves to the very fire of hell, for allowing Him who laid down His life for us, to pine with hunger? But why speak I of money? had we ten thousand lives, ought we not to lay them all down for Him? and yet not even so could we do what His benefits deserve. For he who confers a benefit in the first instance, gives evident proof of his kindness, but he who has received one, whatever return he makes, he repays as a debt, and does not bestow as a favor; especially when he who did the first good turn was benefiting his enemies. And he who repays both bestows his gifts on a benefactor, and himself reaps their fruit besides.  But not even this induces us; more foolish are we than any, putting golden necklaces about our servants and mules and horses, and neglecting our Lord who goes about naked, and passes from door to door, and ever stands at our outlets, and stretches forth His hands to us, but often regarding Him with unpitying eye; yet these very things He undergoeth for our sake. Gladly  doth He hunger that thou mayest be fed; naked doth He go that He may provide for thee the materials  for a garment of incorruption, yet not even so do ye give up any of your own. Some of your garments are moth-eaten, others are a load to your coffers, and a needless trouble to their possessors, while He who gave you these and all else that you possess goeth naked.

But perhaps you do not lay them by in your coffers, but wear them and make yourself fine with them. And what gain you by this? Is it that the street people may see you? What then? They will not admire thee who wearest such apparel, but the man who supplies garments to the needy; so if you desire to be admired, by clothing others, you will the rather get infinite applause. Then too God as well as man shall praise thee; now none can praise, but all will grudge at thee, seeing thee with a body well arrayed, but having a neglected soul. So harlots have adornment, and their clothes are often more than usually expensive and splendid; but the adornment of the soul is with those only who live in virtue.

These things I say continually, and I will not cease to say them, not so much because I care for the poor, as because I care for your souls. For they will have some comfort, if not from you, yet from some other quarter; or even if they be not comforted, but perish by hunger, the harm to them will be no great matter. What did poverty and wasting by hunger injure Lazarus! But none can rescue you from hell, if you obtain not the help of the poor;  we shall say to you what was said to the rich man, who was continually broiling, yet gained no comfort. God grant that none ever hear those words, but that all may go into the bosom of Abraham; by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily 28 (excerpt)~Jn 3:17. “For God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world.”

Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.” To stop whose mouths a wise man says, “Say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth upon sinners” (Sir 5:6): and again, “As His mercy is great, so is His correction also.” (Sir 16:12). “Where then,” saith one, “is His lovingkindness, if we shall receive for our sins according to our deserts?” That we shall indeed receive “according to our deserts,” hear both the Prophet and Paul declare; one says, “Thou shalt render to every man according to his work” (Ps 62:12 LXX).; the other, “Who will render to every man according to his work.” (Rom 2:6). And yet we may see that even so the lovingkindness of God is great; in dividing our existence into two periods, the present life and that which is to come, and making the first to be an appointment of trial, the second a place of crowning, even in this He hath shown great lovingkindness.

“How and in what way?” Because when we had committed many and grievous sins, and had not ceased from youth to extreme old age to defile our souls with ten thousand evil deeds, for none of these sins did He demand from us a reckoning, but granted us remission of them by the washing of Regeneration, and freely gave us Righteousness and Sanctification. “What then,” says one, “if a man who from his earliest age has been deemed worthy of the mysteries, after this commits ten thousand sins?” Such an one deserves a severer punishment. For we do not pay the same penalties for the same sins, if we do wrong after Initiation. And this Paul declares, saying, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:28-29). Such an one then is worthy of severer punishment. Yet even for him God hath opened doors of repentance, and hath granted him many means for the washing away his transgressions, if he will. Think then what proofs of lovingkindness these are; by Grace to remit sins, and not to punish him who after grace has sinned and deserves punishment, but to give him a season and appointed space for his clearing. For all these reasons Christ said to Nicodemus, “God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world.”

For there are two Advents of Christ, that which has been, and that which is to be; and the two are not for the same purpose; the first came to pass not that He might search into our actions, but that He might remit; the object of the second will be not to remit, but to enquire. Therefore of the first He saith, “I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world” (Jn 3:17); but of the second, “When the Son shall have come in the glory of His Father, He shall set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left.” (Mt 25:31 and Mt 25:46). And they shall go, these into life; and these into eternal punishment. Yet His former coming was for judgment, according to the rule of justice. Why? Because before His coming there was a law of nature, and the prophets, and moreover a written Law, and doctrine, and ten thousand promises, and manifestations of signs, and chastisements, and vengeances, and many other things which might have set men right, and it followed that for all these things He would demand account; but, because He is merciful, He for a while pardons instead of making enquiry. For had He done so, all would at once have been hurried to perdition. For “all,” it saith, “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23). Seest thou the unspeakable excess of His lovingkindness?

Jn 3:18. “He that believeth on the Son, is not judged; but he that believeth not, is judged already.”

Yet if He “came not to judge the world,” how is “he that believeth not judged already,” if the time of “judgment” has not yet arrived? He either means this, that the very fact of disbelieving without repentance is a punishment, (for to be without the light, contains in itself a very severe punishment,) or he announces beforehand what shall be. For as the murderer, though he be not as yet condemned by the decision of the judge, is still condemned by the nature of the thing, so is it with the unbeliever. Since Adam also died on the day that he ate of the tree; for so ran the decree, “In the day that ye eat of the tree, ye shall die” (Gen 2:17 LXX).; yet he lived. How then “died” he? By the decree; by the very nature of the thing; for he who has rendered himself liable to punishment, is under its penalty, and if for a while not actually so, yet he is by the sentence.

Lest any one on hearing, “I came not to judge the world,” should imagine that he might sin unpunished, and should so become more careless, Christ stops  such disregard by saying, “is judged already”; and because the “judgment” was future and not yet at hand, He brings near the dread of vengeance, and describes the punishment as already come. And this is itself a mark of great lovingkindness, that He not only gives His Son, but even delays the time of judgment, that they who have sinned, and they who believe not, may have power to, wash away their transgressions.

“He that believeth on the Son, is not judged.” He that “believeth,” not he that is over-curious: he that “believeth,” not the busybody. But what if his life be unclean, and his deeds evil? It is of such as these especially that Paul declares, that they are not true believers at all: “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.” (Titus 1:16). But here Christ saith, that such an one is not “judged” in this one particular; for his works indeed he shall suffer a severer punishment, but having believed once, he is not chastised for unbelief.

Seest thou how having commenced His discourse with fearful things, He has concluded it again with the very same? for at first He saith, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”: and here again, “He that believeth not on the Son, is judged already.” “Think not,” He saith, “that the delay advantageth at all the guilty, except he repent, for he that hath not believed, shall be in no better state than those who are already condemned and under punishment.”

Jn 3:19. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.”

What He saith, is of this kind: “they are punished, because they would not leave the darkness, and hasten to the light.” And hence He goes on to deprive them of all excuse for the future: “Had I come,” saith He, “to punish and to exact account of their deeds, they might have been able to say, ‘this is why we started away from thee,’ but now I am come to free them from darkness, and to bring them to the light; who then could pity one who will not come from darkness unto light? When they have no charge to bring against us, but have received ten thousand benefits, they start away from us.” And this charge He hath brought in another place, where He saith, “They hated Me without a cause” (Jn 15:25): and again, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin.” (Jn 15:22). For he who in the absence of light sitteth in darkness, may perchance receive pardon; but one who after it is come abides by the darkness, produces against himself a certain proof of a perverse and contentious disposition. Next, because His assertion would seem incredible to most, (for none would prefer “darkness to light,”) He adds the cause of such a feeling in them. What is that?

Jn 3:19-20. “Because,” He saith, “their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”

Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they?  Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men’s former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed,  so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting  upon these. “For since,” He saith, “the profession of Christianity requires besides right doctrine a sound conversation also, they fear to come over to us, because they like not to show forth a righteous life. Him that lives in heathenism none would blame, because with gods such as he has, and with rites as foul and ridiculous as his gods, he shows forth actions that suit his doctrines; but those who belong to the True God, if they live a careless life, have all men to call them to account, and to accuse them. So greatly do even its enemies admire the truth.” Observe, then, how exactly He layeth down what He saith. His expression is, not “He that hath done evil cometh not to the light,” but “he that doeth it always, he that desireth always to roll himself in the mire of sin, he will not subject himself to My laws, but chooses to stay without, and to commit fornication without fear, and to do all other forbidden things. For if he comes to Me, he becomes manifest as a thief in the light, and therefore he avoids My dominion.” For instance, even now one may hear many heathen say, “that they cannot come to our faith, because they cannot leave off drunkenness and fornication, and the like disorders.”

“Well,” says some one, “but are there no Christians that do evil, and heathens that live discreetly?”  That there are Christians who do evil, I know; but whether there are heathens who live a righteous life, I do not yet know assuredly. For do not speak to me of those who by nature are good and orderly, (this is not virtue,) but tell me of the man who can endure the exceeding violence of his passions and (yet) be temperate.  You cannot. For if the promise of a Kingdom, and the threat of hell, and so much other provision;  can scarcely keep men in virtue, they will hardly go after virtue who believe in none of these things. Or, if any pretend to do so, they do it for show; and he who doth so for show, will not, when he may escape observation, refrain from indulging his evil desires. However, that we may not seem to any to be contentious, let us grant that there are right livers among the heathen; for neither doth this go against my argument, since I spoke of that which occurs in general, not of what happens rarely.

And observe how in another way He deprives them of all excuse, when He saith that, “the light came into the world.” “Did they seek it themselves,” He saith, “did they toil, did they labor to find it? The light itself came to them, and not even so would they hasten to it.” And if there be some Christians who live wickedly, I would argue that He doth not say this of those who have been Christians from the beginning, and who have inherited true religion from their forefathers, (although even these for the most part have been shaken from  right doctrine by their evil life,) yet still I think that He doth not now speak concerning these, but concerning the heathen and the Jews who ought to have come  to the right faith. For He showeth that no man living in error would choose to come to the truth unless he before had planned  for himself a righteous life, and that none would remain in unbelief unless he had previously chosen always to be wicked.

Do not tell me that a man is temperate, and does not rob; these things by themselves are not virtue. For what advantageth it, if a man has these things, and yet is the slave of vainglory, and remains in his error, from fear of the company of his friends? This is not right living. The slave of a reputation  is no less a sinner than the fornicator; nay, he worketh more and more grievous deeds than he. But tell me of any one that is free from all passions and from all iniquity, and who remains among the heathen. Thou canst not do so; for even those among them who have boasted great things, and who have, as they say, mastered avarice or gluttony, have been, most of all men, the slaves of reputation, and this is the cause of all evils. Thus it is that the Jews also have continued Jews; for which cause Christ rebuked them and said, “How can ye believe, which receive honor from men?” (Jn 5:44).

“And why, pray, did He not speak on these matters with Nathanael, to whom He testified of the truth, nor extend His discourse to any length?” Because even he came not with such zeal as did Nicodemus. For Nicodemus made this his work, and the season which others used for rest he made a season for hearing; but Nathanael came at the instance of another. Yet not even him did Jesus entirely pass by, for to him He saith, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (Jn 1:51). But to Nicodemus He spake not so, but conversed with him on the Dispensation and on eternal life, addressing each differently and suitably to the condition of his will. It was sufficient for Nathanael, because he knew the writings of the prophets, and was not so timid either, to hear only thus far; but because Nicodemus was as yet possessed by fear, Christ did not indeed clearly reveal to him the whole, but shook his mind so as to cast out fear by fear, declaring that he who did not believe was being judged, and that unbelief proceeded from an evil conscience. For since he made great account of honor from men, more than he did of the punishment; (“Many,” saith the Evangelist, “of the rulers believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess”—Jn 12:42;) on this point Christ toucheth him, saying, “It cannot be that he who believeth not on Me disbelieveth for any other cause save that he liveth an unclean life.” Farther on He saith, “I am the Light” (Jn 8:12), but here, “the Light came into the world”; for at the beginning He spoke somewhat darkly, but afterwards more clearly. Yet even so the man was kept back by regard for the opinion of the many, and therefore could not endure to speak boldly as he ought.

Fly we then vainglory, for this is a passion more tyrannical than any. Hence spring covetousness and love of wealth, hence hatred and wars and strifes; for he that desires more than he has, will never be able to stop, and he desires from no other cause, but only from his love of vainglory. For tell me, why do so many encircle themselves with multitudes of eunuchs, and herds of slaves, and much show? Not because they need it, but that they may make those who meet them witnesses of this unseasonable display. If then we cut this off, we shall slay together with the head the other members also of wickedness, and there will be nothing to hinder us from dwelling on earth as though it were heaven. Nor doth this vice merely thrust its captives into wickedness, but is even co-existent with their virtues, and when it is unable entirely to cast us out of these, it still causeth us much damage in the very exercise of them, forcing us to undergo the toil, and depriving us of the fruit. For he that with an eye to this, fasts, and prays, and shows mercy, has his reward. What can be more pitiable than a loss like this, that it should befall man to bewail himself uselessly and in vain, and to become an object of ridicule, and to lose the glory from above? Since he that aims at both cannot obtain both. It is indeed possible to obtain both, when we desire not both, but one only, that from heaven; but he cannot obtain both, who longs for both. Wherefore if we wish to attain to glory, let us flee from human glory, and desire that only which cometh from God; so shall we obtain both the one and the other; which may we all enjoy, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pope Benedict XVI: Excerpts from a Homily on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 12, 2011

In the First Reading (EX 34,4b-6,8-9) we heard a biblical text that presents to us the revelation of God’s Name. It is God himself, Eternal and Invisible, who proclaims it, passing before Moses in the cloud on Mount Sinai. And his Name is: “The Lord, a God merciful, and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. In the New Testament St John sums up this sentence in a single word: “Love” (cf. 1JN 4,8,16). Today’s Gospel also testifies to this: “God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son” (JN 3,16). Consequently this Name clearly expresses that the God of the Bible is not some kind of monad closed in on itself and satisfied with his own self-sufficiency but he is life that wants to communicate itself, openness, relationship. Words like “merciful”, “compassionate”, “rich in grace” all speak to us of a relationship, in particular, of a vital Being who offers himself, who wants to fill every gap, every shortage, who wants to give and to forgive, who desires to establish a solid and lasting bond. Sacred Scripture knows no other God than the God of the Covenant who created the world in order to pour out his love upon all creatures (cf. Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV) and chose a people with which to make a nuptial pact, to make it become a blessing for all the nations and so to form a great family of the whole of humanity (cf.  Gn  GN 12,1-3 EX 19,3-6). This revelation of God is fully delineated in the New Testament though the word of Christ. Jesus showed us the Face of God, one in Essence and Triune in Persons: God is Love, Father Love – Son Love – Holy Spirit Love. And it is precisely in this God’s Name that the Apostle Paul greets the Community of Corinth: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [the Father] and the fellowship of the Holy Sprit be with you all” (II Cor 13: 14).

There is contained, therefore, in these Readings, a principal that regards God and in effect today’s Feast invites us to contemplate him, the Lord. It invites us in a certain sense to scale “the mountain” as Moses did. This seems at first sight to take us far from the world and its problems but in fact one discovers that it is precisely by coming to know God more intimately that one receives fundamental instructions for this our life: something like what happened to Moses who, climbing Sinai and remaining in God’s presence, received the law engraved on stone tablets from which the people drew the guidance to continue, to find freedom and to form themselves as a people in liberty and justice. Our history depends on God’s Name and our journey on the light of his Face. From this reality of God which he himself made known to us by revealing his “Name” to us comes a certain image of man, that is, the exact concept of the person. If God is a dialogical unity, a being in relation, the human creature made in his image and likeness reflects this constitution: thus he is called to fulfil himself in dialogue, in conversation, in encounter.

In particular, Jesus has revealed to us that man is essentially a “son”, a creature who lives in the relationship with God the Father, and in this way in relationship with all his brothers and sisters. Man is not fulfilled in an absolute autonomy, deceiving himself that he is God but, on the contrary, by recognizing himself as a child, an open creature, reaching out to God and to his brethren in whose faces he discovers the image of their common Father. One can easily see that this concept of God and man is at the base of a corresponding model of the human community, and therefore of society. It is a model that comes before any normative, juridical or institutional regulations but I would say even before cultural specifications. It is a model of the human family transversal to all civilizations, which we Christians express confirming that human beings are all children of God and therefore all brothers and sisters. This is a truth that has been behind us from the outset and at the same time is always before us, like a project to strive for in every social construction.

The Magisterium of the Church which has developed from this vision of God and of man is a very rich one. It suffices to run through the most important chapters of the Social Doctrine of the Church, to which my venerable Predecessors have made substantial contributions, especially in the past 120 years, making themselves authoritative interpreters and guides of the social movement of Christian inspiration. Here I would like to mention only a recent Pastoral Note of the Italian Episcopate: “Rigenerati per una speranza viva’: Testimoni del grande ‘si’ di Dio all’uomo” [Regenerated by a living hope: witnesses of God’s great “yes” to man] (29 June 2007). This Note proposes two priorities. First of all, the choice of the “primacy of God”: all the Church’s life and work depend on putting God in first place, not a generic God but rather the Lord with his Name and his Face, the God of the Covenant who brought the people out of slavery in Egypt, who raised Christ from the dead and who wants to lead humanity to freedom in peace and justice. The other choice is to put the person and the unity of his life at the centre, in the various contexts in which he is deployed: emotional life, work and celebration, in his own fragility, tradition and citizenship. The Triune God and the person in relationship: these are the two references that the Church has the duty to offer to every human generation as a service to build a free and supportive society. The Church certainly does so with her doctrine, but above all through her witness which, with reason, is the third fundamental choice of the Italian Episcopate: personal and community witness in which the spiritual life, pastoral mission and the cultural dimension converge.

In a society fraught between globalization and individualism, the Church is called to offer a witness of koinonìa, of communion. This reality does not come “from below” but is a mystery which, so to speak, “has its roots in Heaven”, in the Triune God himself. It is he, in himself, who is the eternal dialogue of love which was communicated to us in Jesus Christ and woven into the fabric of humanity and history to lead it to fullness. And here then is the great synthesis of the Second Vatican Council: the Church, mystery of communion, “in Christ is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium LG 1). Here too, in this great City, as well as in its territory with the variety of the respective human and social problems, the Ecclesial Community, today as yesterday, is first of all the sign, poor but true, of God Love whose Name is impressed in the depths of the being of every person and in every experience of authentic sociability and solidarity.

After these reflections, dear brothers and sisters, I leave you some special exhortations. Take care of spiritual and catechetical formation, a “substantial” formation that is more necessary than ever to live the Christian vocation well in today’s world. I say to adults and young people: foster a thought-out faith that can engage in profound dialogue with all, with our non-Catholic brethren, with non-Christians and with non-believers. Continue your generous sharing with the poor and the weak, in accordance with the Church’s original praxis, always drawing inspiration and strength from the Eucharist, the perennial source of charity. With special affection I encourage seminarians and young people involved in a vocational journey: do not be afraid; indeed, may you feel the attraction of definitive choices, of a serious and demanding formative process. The high standard of discipleship alone fascinates and gives joy. I urge all to grow in the missionary dimension which is co-essential to communion. Indeed, the Trinity is at the same time unity and mission: the more intense love is, the stronger is the urge to pour it out, to spread it, to communicate it. Church of Genoa, be united and missionary to proclaim to all the joy of faith and the beauty of being God’s Family. My thought extends to the entire City, to all the Genoese and to all who live and work in this territory. Dear friends, look to the future with confidence and seek to build it together, avoiding factiousness and particularism, putting the common good before your own specific legitimate interests.

I would like to conclude with a wish that I have taken from the stupendous prayer of Moses which we heard in the First Reading: let the Lord always walk in the midst of you and make you his heritage (cf.  Ex  EX 34,9). May the intercession of Mary Most Holy, whom the Genoese, at home and throughout the world, invoke as the Madonna della Guardia obtain this for you. With her help and that of the Holy Patrons of your beloved City and Region, may your faith and works always be in praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Following the example of the Saints of this earth, be a missionary community: listening to God and at the service of men and women! Amen.

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St Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 6:19-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 12, 2011

Ver 19. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Chrys.: When He has driven away the disease of vanity, He does well to bring in speech of contempt of riches. For there is no greater cause of desire of money than love of praise; for this men desire troops of slaves, horses accoutred in gold, and tables of silver, not for use or pleasure, but that they may be seen of many; therefore He says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth.”

Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 13: For if any does a work with the mind of gaining thereby an earthly good, how will his heart be pure while it is thus walking on earth? For any thing that is mingled with an inferior nature is polluted therewith, though that inferior be in its kind pure. Thus gold is alloyed when mixed with pure silver; and in like manner our mind is defiled by lust of earthly things, though earth is in its own kind pure.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; As the Lord had above taught nothing concerning alms, or prayer, or fasting, but had only checked a pretence of them, He now proceeds to deliver a doctrine of three portions, according to the division which He had before made, in this order. First, a counsel that alms should be done; second, to shew the benefit of almsgiving; third, that the fear of poverty should be no hindrance to our purpose of almsgiving.

Chrys.: Saying, “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth,” He adds, “where rust and moth destroy,” in order to shew the insecurity of that treasure that is here, and the advantage of that which is in Heaven, both from the place, and from those things which harm. As though He had said; Why fear you that your wealth should be consumed, if you should give alms? Yea rather give alms, and they shall receive increase, for those treasures that are in Heaven shall be added to them, which treasures perish if ye do not give alms. He said not, You leave them to others, for that is pleasant to men.

Rabanus, ap. Anselm: Here are three precepts according to the three different kinds of wealth. Metals are destroyed by rust, clothes by moth; but as there are other things which fear neither rust nor moth, as precious stones, He therefore names a common damage, that by thieves, who may rob wealth of all kinds.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Another reading is, “Where moth and banqueting consume.” For a threefold destruction awaits all the goods of this life. They either decay and are eaten of moths as cloth; or are consumed by their master’s luxurious living; or are plundered by strangers, either by violence, or pilfering, or false accusation, or some other unjust doing. For all may be called thieves who hasten by any unlawful means to make other men’s goods their own.

But you will say, Do all who have these things, perforce lose them? I would answer by the way, that if all do not, yet many do. But ill-hoarded wealth, you have lost spiritually if not actually, because it profits you not to your salvation.

Rabanus: Allegorically; Rust denotes pride which obscures the brightness of virtue. Moth which privily eats out garments, is jealousy which frets into good intention, and destroys the bond of unity. Thieves denote heretics and demons, who are ever on the watch to rob men of their spiritual treasure.

Hilary: But the praise of Heaven is eternal, and cannot be carried off by invading thief, nor consumed by the moth and rust of envy.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 13: By heaven in this place I understand not the material heavens, for every thing that has a body is earthly. But it behoves that the whole world be despised by him who lays up his treasure in that Heaven, of which it is said, “The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s,” [Psa_115:16] that is, in the spiritual firmament. “For heaven and earth shall pass away;” [Mat_24:35] but we ought not to place our treasure in that which passes away, but in that which abides for ever.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Which then is better? To place it on earth where its security is doubtful, or in Heaven where it will be certainly preserved? What folly to leave it in this place whence you must soon depart, and not to send it before you thither, whither you are to go? Therefore place your substance there where your country is.

Chrys.: But forasmuch as not every earthly treasure is destroyed by rust or moth, or carried away by thieves, He therefore brings in another motive, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” As much as to say; Though none of these former losses should befall you, you will yet sustain no small loss by attaching your affections to things beneath, and becoming a slave to them, and in falling from Heaven, and being unable to think of any lofty thing.

Jerome: This must be understood not of money only, but of all our possessions. The god of a glutton is his belly; of a lover his lust; and so every man serves that to which he is in bondage; and has his heart there where his treasure is.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; He now teaches the benefit of almsgiving. He who places his treasure on earth has nothing to look for in Heaven; for why should he look up to Heaven where he has nothing laid up for himself? Thus he doubly sins; first, because he gathers together things evil; secondly, because he has his heart in earth; and so on the contrary he does right in a twofold manner who lays up his treasure in Heaven.

Ver 22. “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.23. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Chrys.: Having spoken of the bringing the understanding into captivity because it was not easy to be understood of many, He transfers it to a sensible instance, saying, “The light of thy body is thy eye.” As though He had said, If you do not know what is meant by the loss of the understanding, learn a parable of the bodily members; for what the eye is to the body, that the understanding is to the soul. As by the loss of the eyes we lose much of the use of the other limbs, so when the understanding is corrupted, your life is filled with many evils.

Jerome: That is an illustration drawn from the senses. As the whole body is in darkness, where the eye is not single, so if the soul has lost her original brightness, every sense, or that whole part of the soul to which sensation belongs, will abide in darkness.

Wherefore He says, “If then the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” that is, if the senses which are the soul’s light be darkened by vice, in how great darkness do you suppose the darkness itself will be wrapped?

Pseudo-Chrys.: It seems that He is not here speaking of the bodily eye, or of the outward body that is seen, or He would have said, If thine eye be sound, or weak; but He says, “single,” and, “evil.” But if one have a benign yet diseased eye, is his body therefore in light? Or if an evil yet a sound, is his body therefore in darkness?

Jerome: Those who have thick eye-sight see the lights multiplied; but the single and clear eye sees them single and clear.Chrys.: Or; The eye He speaks of is not the external but the internal eye. The light is the understanding, through which the soul sees God. He whose heart is turned to God, has an eye full of light; that is, his understanding is pure, not distorted by the influence of worldly lusts. The darkness in us is our bodily senses, which always desire the things that pertain to darkness.

Whoso then has a pure eye, that is, a spiritual understanding, preserves his body in light, that is, without sin; for though the flesh desires evil, yet by the might of divine fear the soul resists it. But whoever has an eye, that is, an understanding, either darkened by the influence of the malignant passions, or fouled by evil lusts, possesses his body in darkness; he does not resist the flesh when it lusts after evil things, because he has no hope in Heaven, which hope alone gives us the strength to resist desire.

Hilary: Otherwise; from the office of the light of the eye, He calls it the light of the heart; which if it continue single and brilliant, will confer on the body the brightness of the eternal light, and pour again into the corrupted flesh the splendor of  its origin, that is, in the resurrection. But if it be obscured by sin, and evil in will, the bodily nature will yet abide subject to all the evils of the understanding.

Aug.: Otherwise; by the eye here we may understand our purpose; if that be pure and right, all our works which we work according thereto are good. These He here calls the body, as the Apostle speaks of certain works as members; “Mortify your members, fornication and uncleanness.” [Col_3:5]

We should look then, not to what a person does, but with what mind he does it. For this is the light within us, because by this we see that we do with good intention what we do. “For all which doth make manifest is light.” [Eph_5:13] But the deeds themselves, which go forth to men’s society, have a result to us uncertain, and therefore He calls them darkness; as when I give money to one in need, I know not what he will do with it.

If then the purport of your heart, which you can know, is defiled with the lust of temporal things, much more is the act itself, of which the issue is uncertain, defiled. For even though one should reap good of what you do with a purport not good, it will be imputed to you as you did it, not as it resulted to him. If however our works are done with a single purport, that is with the aim of charity, then are they pure and pleasing in God’s sight.

Aug., cont. Mendac., 7: But acts which are known to be in themselves sins, are not to be done as with a good purpose; but such works only as are either good or bad, according as the motives from which they are done are either good or bad, and are not in themselves sins; as to give food to the poor is good if it be done from merciful motives, but evil if it be done from ostentation. But such works as are in themselves sins, who will say that they are to be done with good motives, or that they are not sins? Who would say, Let us rob the rich, that we may have to give to the poor?

Greg., Mor., xxviii, 11: Otherwise; if the light that “is in thee,” that is, if what we have begun to do well, we overcloud with evil purpose, when we do things which we know to be in themselves evil, “how great is the darkness!”

Remig., ap. Gloss. ord.: Otherwise; faith is likened to a light, because by it the goings of the inner man, that is, action, are lightened, that he should not stumble according to that, “Thy word is a light to my feet.” [Psa_119:105] If that then be pure and single, the whole body is light; but if defiled, the whole body will be dark. Yet otherwise; by the light may be understood the ruler of the Church, who may be well called the eye, as he it is that ought to see that wholesome things be provided for the people under him, which are understood by the body. If then the ruler of the Church err, how much more will the people subject to him err?

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