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 January, 2017

January 31: St Marcella

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 31, 2017

JANUARY 31.—ST. MARCELLA, WIDOW

marcella

ST. MARCELLA, whom St. Jerome called the glory of the Roman women, became a widow in the seventh month after her marriage. Having determined to consecrate the remainder of her days to the service of God, she rejected the hand of Cerealis, the consul, uncle of Gallus Cæsar, and resolved to imitate the lives of the ascetics of the East. She abstained from wine and flesh-meat, employed all her time in pious reading, prayer, and visiting the churches, and never spoke with any man alone. Her example was followed by many who put themselves under her direction, and Rome was in a short time filled with monasteries. When the Goths under Alaric plundered Rome in 410, our Saint suffered severely at the hands of the barbarian, who cruelly scourged her in order to make her reveal the treasures which she had long before distributed in charity. She trembled only however for the innocence of her dear spiritual daughter, Principia, and falling at the feet of the cruel soldiers, she begged with many tears, that they would offer no insult to that pure virgin. God moved them to compassion, and they conducted our Saint and her pupil to the church of St. Paul, to which Alaric had granted the right of sanctuary, with that of St Peter. St. Marcella, who survived this but a short time, closed her eyes by a happy death, in the arms of St. Principia, about the end of August, 410.

 

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Preaching Guidelines from the Catechism of the Council of Trent Concerning Almsgiving

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

QUESTION XVI
What is to he thought concerning Alms, an Obligation implied by this Commandment

In this commandment is also implied pity towards the poor and the necessitous, and an effort on our part for the relief of their difficulties and distresses from our means, and by our offices. On this subject—which is to be treated very frequently and copiously—pastors, to enable themselves, to fulfil this duty, will borrow matter from the works of those very holy men, St. Cyprian (see here) John Chrysostom(here, here,) Gregory Nazianzen, and other eminent writers on alms-deeds (St Gregory of Nyssa: Two Homilies on Almsgiving, begins pg. 8). For the faithful are to be inflamed with a desire and with alacrity to succour those who depend on the compassion of others for subsistence. They are also to be taught the great necessity of alms-deeds, that with our means and by our co-operation we may be liberal to the poor, and this by the very true argument that, on the day of the last judgment, God will abhor those who shall have omitted or neglected the offices of charity, and hurl against them the sentence of condemnation to everlasting flames; but will invite, in the language of praise, and introduce into their heavenly country, those who have acted kindly towards the poor. Their respective sentences have already been pronounced by the lips of Christ our Lord: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; and: Depart from, me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (see Mt 35:35, 41).

QUESTION XVII
By what Means the People are to be incited to Alms-Deeds

Pastors will also employ those texts of Scripture most calculated to persuade to this duty: Give and it shall be given unto you (Lk 6:38) they will cite the promise of God, than which even imagination can picture no remuneration more abundant, none more magnificent: There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, &c., but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, and in the world to come eternal life (Mk 10:29, sq); and he will add these words of our Lord: Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations (Lk 16:9). But they will explain the different heads of this necessary duty, to wit, that whoever are unable to give, may at least lend to the necessitous wherewithal to sustain life, according to the injunction of Christ our Lord: Lend, hoping for nothing again (Lk 6:35). The happiness attendant on such an exercise of mercy, holy David attests: A good man showeth favour and lendeth (Ps 112:5).

QUESTION XVIII
We must labour to bestow Alms and to avoid Idleness

But it is an act of Christian piety, should it not be in our power otherwise to deserve well of those who stand in need of the pity of others for sustenance, to seek by the labour of our hands to procure means of relieving the wants of the indigent, and also thus to avoid idleness. To this the apostle exhorts all by his own example: For yourselves, saith he, writing to the Thessalonians, know how ye ought to follow us;i and again, to the same: And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;j and to the Ephesians: Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.k

QUESTION XIX
We must live sparingly in order to aid the Wants of Others

We should also practise frugality, and draw sparingly on the means of others, that we may not be a burden or a trouble to them. This exercise of temperance shines conspicuous in all the apostles, but pre-eminently so in St. Paul, who, writing to the Thessalonians, says: Ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail, for labouring night and day because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God;l and in another place: But wrought with labour and travail, night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.m

QUESTION XX
By what Arguments the Christian People are to be induced to the Detestation of Rapine and the Practice of Benevolence

But to the end that the faithful people may abhor all such infamous crimes, pastors will recur to the prophets and other sacred writings, to show the detestation in which God holds the crimes of theft and rapine, and the awful threats which he sets forth against their perpetrators: Hear this, exclaims the prophet Amos, O ye that swallow tip the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit.n There are also many passages in Jeremiah,o Proverbs,p and Ecclesiasticus,q to the same effect; and these, without doubt, are the seeds from which have sprung great part of the evils, with which in our times society is oppressed. But that Christian men may accustom themselves to every office of liberality and kindness towards the poor and the mendicant, an exercise of benevolence appertaining to the second part of this commandment, pastors will place before them those most ample rewards, which God promises to bestow in this life and in the next, upon the beneficent and the bountiful.

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Some Points to Consider Concerning Compassion and Benevolence

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

God shows us his love, compassion and benevolence:

  • In creating man: CCC 315.
  • In making Himself known to our first parents: CCC 54. See also CCC 51-53; 214.
  • Even after their sin (and ours): CCC 55; 410.
    • Catechism of the Council of Trent: Here the pastor will exalt and proclaim aloud the riches of the goodness of God towards the human race, [of that God,] who, although since the first parent of our race and sin, we have never ceased to offend him by innumerable crimes and enormities even up to the present day, yet retains his love for us, and never lays aside his especial care over us. To imagine that he is unmindful of man were insanity, and nothing less than to hurl against the Deity the most blasphemous insult. God is wrath with Israel, because of the blasphemy of that nation, who supposed themselves deserted by the aid of heaven; for we read in Exodus: They tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not? (Ex 17:7) And in Ezekiel, the Lord is angry with the same people for having said: The Lord seeth us not: the Lord hath forsaken the earth (Ezek 8:12). By these authorities the faithful are therefore to be deterred from the impious supposition, that God can possibly be forgetful of man. This complaint the Israelites, as we read in Isaiah, make against God; and its folly God repels by a similitude, which breathes nought but kindness; Zion said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me: to which God answers; Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands (Is 49:14-15, sq).

God has thus provided an example to us:

  • But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:44-48).
  •  But as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy (1 Pet 1:15-16).
  • be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children (Eph 4:32-5:1).

As has our Blessed Lord:

  •  I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor 8:8-9).
  • (Jesus) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).

 

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Pope St Leo the Great: The Prosperous Must Show Forth Their Thankfulness to God by Liberality to the Poor and Needy

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

I. The prosperous must show forth their thankfulness to GOD, by liberality to the poor and needy

The transcendant power of GOD’S grace, dearly beloved, is indeed daily effecting in Christian hearts the transference of our every desire from earthly to heavenly things. But this present life also is passed through the Creator’s aid and sustained by His providence, because He who promises things eternal is also the the Supplier of things temporal. As therefore we ought to give GOD thanks for the hope of future happiness towards which we run by faith, because He raises us up to a perception of the happiness in store for us, so for those things also which we receive in the course of every year, GOD should be honoured and praised, who having from the beginning given fertility to the earth and laid down laws of bearing fruit for every germ and seed, will never forsake his own decrees but will as Creator ever continue His kind administration of the things that He has made. Whatever therefore the cornfields, the vineyards and the olive groves have borne for man’s purposes, all this God in His bounteous goodness has produced: for under the varying condition of the elements He has mercifully aided the uncertain toils of the husbandmen so that wind, and rain, cold and heat, day and night might serve our needs. For men’s methods would not have sufficed to give effect to their works, had not GOD given the increase to their wonted plantings and waterings. And hence it is but godly and just that we too should help others with that which the Heavenly Father has mercifully bestowed on us. For there are full many, who have no fields, no vineyards, no olive-groves, whose wants we must provide out of the store which GOD has given, that they too with us may bless GOD for the richness of the earth and rejoice at its possessors having received things which they have shared also with the poor and the stranger. That garner is blessed and most worthy that all fruits should increase manifold in it, from which the hunger of the needy and the weak is satisfied, from which the wants of the stranger are relieved, from which the desire of the sick is gratified. For these men GOD has in His justice permitted to be afflicted with divers troubles, that He might both crown the wretched for their patience and the merciful for their loving-kindness.

II. Almsgiving and fasting are the most essential aids to prayer

And while all seasons are opportune for this duty, beloved, yet this present season is specially suitable and appropriate, at which our holy fathers, being Divinely inspired, sanctioned the Fast of the tenth month, that when all the ingathering of the crops was complete, we might dedicate to GOD our reasonable service of abstinence, and each might remember so to use his abundance as to be more abstinent in himself and more open-handed towards the poor. For forgiveness of sins is most efficaciously prayed for with almsgiving and fasting, and supplications that are winged by such aids mount swiftly to GOD’S ears: since as it is written, “the merciful man doeth good to his own soul1,” and nothing is so much a man’s own as that which he spends on his neighbour. For that part of his material possessions with which he ministers to the needy, is transformed into eternal riches, and such wealth is begotten of this bountifulness as can never be diminished or in any way destroyed, for “blessed are the merciful, for GOD shall have mercy on them2,” and He Himself shall be their chief Reward, who is the Model of His own command.

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Charity and the Coming Judgement in Light of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

But why does he (the rich man) now look at him (Lazarus, see Lk 16:23)? Very often, perhaps, the rich man had said, “What need have I of piety and goodness? All things flow to me as from a perennial fountain. I enjoy great honour, great prosperity. I suffer no unwished-for casualty. Why should I strive after goodness? This poor man, though he lives in piety and goodness, suffers a thousand ills.” Many in these days often say such things. In order, therefore, that these false notions might be completely rooted out, it is shown to the rich man, that for wickedness there is in store punishment, and for righteous toil, a crown and honour. And not only on this account did the rich man then see the poor man, but also that the rich man should endure the same that the poor man had endured, and in a higher degree. As therefore, in the case of the poor man, his being laid at the gate of the rich man, and thus seeing the prosperity of another, had made his affliction much heavier, thus also, in the case of the rich man, it made his pain greater, that he, now lying in the place of punishment,7 also sees the bliss of Lazarus; so that, not only by the very nature of torture, but by the contrast with the other’s honour, he should bear more insufferable punishment. And as God, when He drove Adam forth from Paradise, caused him to dwell opposite to Paradise, that the constant sight, ever renewing his grief, might produce in him a sense of his falling away from good; |50 thus also did He place this man within sight of Lazarus, that he might see of what he had deprived himself. “I sent to thee,” He might say, “this poor man Lazarus to thy gate, that he might be to thee a teacher of virtue, and an oportunity for the exercise of benevolence. Thou didst overlook the gain; thou wert not willing to use aright this means of salvation. From henceforth find it to be a cause of increased pain and punishment.”

We learn from this that all those whom we have de-spitefully treated or wronged will then meet us face to face. Still this man was not in any way wronged by the rich man: for the rich man did not seize any of his property; yet he bestowed not upon him any of his own. And since he did not bestow anything on him, he had the neglected poor man for his accuser. What mercy can he expect who has robbed other men’s goods, when he is surrounded by all those whom he has injured! No need is there of witnesses, none of accusers, none of evidences or proofs; but the very deeds themselves, whatsoever we have committed, will then be placed before our own eyes.

Behold, then, it is said, the man and his works. This also is robbery—-not to impart our good things to others. Very likely it may seem to you a strange saying; but wonder not at it, for I will, from the Divine Scriptures, bring testimony showing that not only robbery of other men’s goods, but also the not imparting our own good things to others,—-that this also is robbery, and covetous-ness, and fraud. What then is this testimony? God, rebuking the Jews, speaks thus through the prophet: “The earth has brought forth her fruit, and ye have not brought in the tithes; but the plunder of the poor is in |51 your houses,” (Mal. iii. 10.) Since, it is said, ye have not given the customary oblations, ye have robbed the poor. This is said in order to show to the rich that they possess things which belong to the poor, even if their property be gained by inheritance,—-in fact, from what source soever their substance be derived. And, again, in another place, it is said, “Do not deprive the poor of life,” (Ecclus. iv. 1.) Now, he who deprives, deprives some other man of property. It is said to be deprivation when we retain things taken from others. And in this way, therefore, we are taught that if we do not bestow alms, we shall be treated in the same way as those who have been extortioners. Our Lord’s things they are, from whencesoever we may obtain them. And if we distribute to the needy we shall obtain for ourselves great abundance. And for this it is that God has permitted you to possess much,—-not that you should spend it in fornication, in drunkenness, in gluttony, in rich clothing, or any other mode of luxury, but that you should distribute it to the needy. And just as if a receiver of taxes, having in charge the king’s property, should not distribute it to those for whom it is ordered, but should spend it for his own enjoyment, he would pay the penalty and come to ruin; thus also the rich man is, as it were, a receiver of goods which are destined to be dispensed to the poor—-to those of his fellow-servants who are in want. If he then should spend upon himself more than he really needs, he will pay hereafter a heavy penalty. For the things he has are not his own, but are the things of his fellow-servants.

5. Let us then be as sparing of our possessions as we |52 should be of those of other people, that they may become really our own. In what manner, then, can we be as sparing of them as of those of other people? By not expending them on superfluous wants, nor for our own needs only, but by imparting them also to the poor. Even if you are a rich man, if you spend more than you need, you will render an account of the property which has been entrusted to you. This same thing happens in great households. Many in this way entrust their entire property into the hands of dependants; yet those who are thus trusted take care of the things delivered to them, and do not squander the deposit, but distribute to whomsoever and whensoever the master orders. The same thing do you. If you have received more than others, you have received it, not that you only should spend it, but that you should be a good steward of it for the advantage of others.

It is worth while to inquire here, why it was that the rich man beheld Lazarus, not in company with any other of the just, but in the bosom of Abraham? Abraham was hospitable, and that there might be this rebuke of his own inhospitality, therefore it was that the rich man saw Lazarus there. Abraham used to lie in wait for those who passed by, and constrain them to enter his abode; but this rich man neglected even one that lay within his very porch; and while he had such a treasure, such an opportunity of salvation, overlooked it each day, and did not show kindness to the poor man, even with respect to the necessaries of life. But the patriarch was not like this. He was the very opposite. Sitting at the |53 tent-door he captured,8 as it were, all those that passed by, and as a fisher casting his net into the sea, draws up fishes, and draws up also, it may be, sometimes gold or pearls, so also he, a fisher of men, once entertained even angels; and there was this wonderful circumstance, that he did so without knowing it. The same thing also St Paul with much admiration insists on, in these words: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” (Heb. xiii. 2.) And well does he say unawares, (e1laqon.) For if they had knowingly received them with such good-will, they would have done no great or wonderful thing: all the praise depends on the fact that not knowing who they were that passed by, and supposing them to be simply wayfaring men, they with such alacrity invited them to enter. If when you receive some noble and honourable man you display such zeal as this, you do nothing wonderful; for the nobility of the guest obliges even the inhospitable often to show all kindness. It is this that is great and admirable,—-that when they are chance guests, wanderers, people of limited means, we receive them with great good-will. Thus also Christ, speaking of those who acted thus, said: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me,” (Matt. xxv. 45.) And again, “It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish,” (Matt. xviii. 14.) And again, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea,” (Matt. xviii. 6.) And at |54 all times Christ said much on behalf of the poor and lowly.

Since Abraham also was wise in this respect, he did not inquire of travellers as to who they were, or from whence they came, as we do in these days; but he simply received all who passed by. It becomes him that is truly well-disposed not to require an account of a man’s past life, but simply to relieve poverty and to satisfy want. The poor man has only one plea—-his poverty, and his being in want. Demand from him nothing more; but if he be the most wicked of all, and be in need of necessary food, you ought to satisfy his hunger. Thus did Christ command us to do, when he said, “Be ye like your Father which is in heaven, for He maketh His sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matt. v. 45.) The merciful man is as a harbour to those who are in need; and the harbour receives all who are escaping shipwreck, and frees them from danger, whether they be evil or good; whatsoever kind of men they be that are in peril, it receives them into its shelter. You also, when you see a man suffering shipwreck on land through poverty, do not sit in judgment on him, nor require explanations, but relieve his distress. Why do you give yourself unnecessary trouble? God frees you from all such anxiety and labour. How many things would many men have said, and how many difficulties would they have caused, if God had commanded us to inquire accurately into a man’s life, his antecedents, the things which each man had previously done; and after this, to have pity on him! But now are we free from |55 all this trouble. “Why, then, do we burden ourselves with superfluous cares? To be a judge is one thing, to be merciful is another. Mercy is called by that name for this reason, that it gives even to the unworthy. This again St Paul teaches, when he says, “Be not weary in doing good, indeed to all, but especially unto them that are of the household of faith,” (Gal. vi. 10.) If we are concerned and troubled about keeping the unworthy away, it will not be likely that the worthy come within our reach; but if we impart to the unworthy, also the worthy —-even those who are so worthy as to counterbalance all the rest—-will assuredly come under our influence. In this way it befell Abraham, of blessed memory, who, not troubling himself nor being inquisitive about these wayfarers, was once privileged to entertain even angels. Him let us zealously imitate, and also his descendant Job. For even he imitated with all diligence the magnanimity of his progenitor, and therefore spoke thus: “My door was open to every traveller,” (Job xxxi. 32, LXX.) It was not open to one and. closed to another, but open to all alike.

6. Thus, I beseech you, let us also do, not making a more minute inquiry than is necessary. For the need of the poor man is a sufficient cause of itself; and whosoever with this qualification should at any time come to us, let us not trouble ourselves further; for we do not minister to the character, but to the man: we have pity on him, not on account of his virtue, but on account of his calamity, in order that we also may gain that great mercy from the Lord—-that we also, though unworthy, may gain |56 His favour. For if we seek for worthiness in our fellow-servants, and make diligent inquiry, the same also will God do to us; and if we demand explanations from our fellow-servants, we ourselves shall fail to gain favour from above. “With what judgment,” it is said,9 “ye judge, ye shall be judged,” (Matt. viii. 2.)

But let us again turn our discourse to the subject on hand. Seeing this poor man, therefore, in the bosom of Abraham, the rich man said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus.” Why does he not address his words to Lazarus? It seems to me that he was ashamed and daunted, and that he thought that Lazarus would assuredly retain an angry remembrance of the things done to him. He would say within himself, “If I, while I enjoyed such abundance, and without any just complaint against him, neglected this man when he lived in such misery, and did not bestow upon him even the crumbs, much more will he who has been thus neglected, not yield to pity.” We do not say this to disparage Lazarus; for he was not at all thus disposed—-far from it; but the rich man, fearing such things as this, did not address him, but raised his voice to Abraham, whom he might suppose to be ignorant of what had happened. And now he strove to gain the service of that finger which he had often allowed to be licked by dogs.

What then did Abraham say to him? “Son! thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things,” (Luke xvi. 25.) Mark the wisdom—-mark the tenderness of the saint! He |57 did not say, “Inhuman and cruel man! full of all wickedness! Having inflicted such evils on this man, dost thou now speak of benevolence, or pity, or compassion! Dost thou not blush! Art thou not ashamed!” But what does he say? “Son,” he saith, “thou receivedst thy good things.” For it is also written, “Thou shalt not add trouble to an afflicted soul,” (Ecclus. iv. 3.) The trouble which he has brought upon himself is sufficient. Besides this, and to the end that you may not suppose that he hinders Lazarus from going to the rich man because of any feeling of revenge for the past, Abraham addresses him as “son,” as if he would by this mode of address apologise for himself. “Whatever is in my power,” he implies, “I grant to thee; but to leave this place is not now in my power. Thou didst receive thy good things.” Why also did he not say “thou hadst” (ἔλαβες), but “thou receivedst” (ἀπέαβες)? Here I perceive a vast sea of thought opening out before us.

Therefore, keeping in mind with all care the things which have been already said, as well those now said as those yesterday, let us safely store them in the mind. By means of that which has been said, make yourselves better prepared to hear that which will be spoken on another occasion, and, if possible, remember all that has been said; and if that be not possible, I beg that, chiefest of all, you will remember constantly that not to share our own riches with the poor is a robbery of the poor, and a depriving them of their livelihood; and that that which we possess is not only our own, but also theirs. If our minds are disposed in accordance with this truth, we shall freely use |58 all our possessions; we shall feed Christ while hungering here, and we shall lay up great treasures there; we shall, be enabled to attain future blessedness, by the grace and favour of our Lord, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, honour, might, now and ever, even to all eternity. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom on Almsgiving

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

3. And thou then, art thou unable to practise virginity? Be chaste in marriage. Art thou unable to strip thyself of thy possessions? Give of thy substance. Canst thou not bear that burden? Share thy goods with Christ. Art thou unwilling to yield Him up all? Give Him but the half, but the third part. He is thy brother, and joint-heir, make Him joint-heir with thee here too. Whatsoever thou givest Him, thou wilt give to thyself. Hearest thou not what saith the prophet? “Them that pertain to thy seed thou shalt not overlook.”3 But if we must not overlook our kinsmen, much less our Lord, having towards thee, together with His authority as Lord, the claim also of kindred, and many more besides. Yea, for He too hath made thee a sharer in His goods, having received nothing of thee, but having begun with this unspeakable benefit. What then can it be but extreme senselessness, not even by this gift to be made kind towards men, not even to give a return for a free gift, and less things for greater? Thus whereas He hath made thee heir of Heaven, impartest thou not to Him even of the things on earth? He, when thou hadst done no good work, but wert even an enemy, reconciled thee: and dost thou not requite Him, being even a friend and benefactor?
Yet surely, even antecedently to the kingdom, and to all the rest, even for the very fact of His giving, we ought to feel bound to Him. For so servants too, when bidding their masters to a meal, account themselves not to be giving but receiving; but here the contrary hath taken place: not the servant the Lord, but the Lord hath first bidden the servant unto His own table; and dost thou not bid Him, no not even after this? He first hath introduced thee under His own roof; dost thou not take Him in, so much as in the second place? He clad thee, being naked; and dost thou not even after this receive Him being a stranger? He first gave thee to drink out of His own cup, and dost thou not impart to Him so much as cold water? He hath made thee drink of the Holy Spirit, and dost thou not even soothe His bodily thirst? He hath made thee drink of the Spirit, when thou wast deserving of punishment; and dost thou neglect Him even when thirsty, and this when it is out of His own, that thou art to do all these things? Dost thou not then esteem it a great thing, to hold the cup out of which Christ is to drink, and to put it to His lips? Seest thou not that for the priest alone is it lawful4 to give the cup of His blood? But I am by no means strict about this, saith He; but though thyself should give, I receive; though thou be a layman, I refuse it not. And I do not require such as I have given: for not blood do I seek, but cold water. Consider to whom thou art giving drink, and tremble. Consider, thou art become a priest of Christ, giving with thine own hand, not flesh but bread, not blood, but a cup of cold water. He clothed thee with a garment of salvation, and clothed thee by Himself; do thou at least by thy servant clothe Him. He made thee glorious in Heaven, do thou deliver Him from shivering, and nakedness, and shame. He made thee a fellow-citizen of angels, do thou impart to Him at least of the covering of thy roof, give house-room to Him at least as to thine own servant. “I refuse not this lodging and that, having opened to thee the whole Heaven. I have delivered thee from a most grievous prison; this I do not require again, nor do I say, deliver me; but if thou wouldest look upon me only, when I am bound, this suffices me for refreshment. When thou wert dead, I raised thee; I require not this again of thee, but I say, visit me only when sick.”
Now when His gifts are so great, and His demands exceeding easy, and we do not supply even these; what deep of hell must we not deserve? Justly shall we depart into the fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels, being more insensible than any rock. For how great insensibility is it, tell me, for us, who have received, and are to receive so much, to be slaves of money, from which we shall a little while hence be separated even against our will? And others indeed have given up even their life, and shed their blood; and dost thou not even give up thy superfluities for Heaven’s sake, for the sake of so great crowns?
And of what favor canst thou be worthy? of what justification? who in thy sowing of the earth, gladly pourest forth all, and in lending to men at usury sparest nothing; but in feeding thy Lord through His poor art cruel and inhuman?
Having then considered all these things, and calculated what we have received, what we are to receive, what is required of us, let us show forth all our diligence on the things spiritual. Let us become at length mild and humane, that we may not draw down on ourselves the intolerable punishment. For what is there that hath not power to condemn us? Our having enjoyed so many and such great benefits; our having no great thing required of us; our having such things required, as we shall leave here even against our will; our exhibiting so much liberality in our worldly matters. Why each one of these, even by itself, were enough to condemn us; but when they all meet together, what hope will there be of salvation?
In order then that we may escape all this condemnation, let us show forth some bounty towards those who are in need. For thus shall we enjoy all the good things, both here, and there; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.

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St Cyprian’s Treatise on Works and Alms

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

ARGUMENT
HE POWERFULLY EXHORTS TO THE MANIFESTATION OF FAITH BY WORKS, AND ENFORCES THE WISDOM OF OFFERINGS TO THE CHURCH AND OF BOUNTY TO THE POOR AS THE BEST INVESTMENT OF A CHRISTIAN’S ESTATE. THIS HE PROVES OUT OF MANY SCRIPTURES

1. Many and great, beloved brethren, are the divine benefits wherewith the large and abundant mercy of God the Father and Christ both has laboured and is always labouring for our salvation: that the Father sent the Son to preserve us and give us life, in order that He might restore us; and that the Son was willing2 to be sent and to become the Son of man, that He might make us sons of God; humbled Himself, that He might raise up the people who before were prostrate; was wounded that He might heal our wounds; served, that He might draw out to liberty those who were in bondage; underwent death, that He might set forth immortality to mortals. These are many and great boons of divine compassion. But, moreover, what is that providence, and how great the clemency, that by a plan of salvation it is provided for us, that more abundant care should be taken for preserving man after he is already redeemed! For when the Lord at His advent had cured those wounds which Adam had borne,3 and had healed the old poisons of the serpent,4 He gave a law to the sound man and bade him sin no more, lest a worse thing should befall the sinner. We had been limited and shut up into a narrow space by the commandment of innocence. Nor would the infirmity and weakness of human frailty have any resource, unless the divine mercy, coming once more in aid, should open some way of securing salvation by pointing out works of justice and mercy, so that by almsgiving we may wash away whatever foulness we subsequently contract.5
2. The Holy Spirit speaks in the sacred Scriptures, and says, “By almsgiving and faith sins are purged.”6 Not assuredly those sins which had been previously contracted, for those are purged by the blood and sanctification of Christ. Moreover, He says again, “As water extinguisheth fire, so almsgiving quencheth sin.”7 Here also it is shown and proved, that as in the laver of saving water the fire of Gehenna is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued. And because in baptism remission of sins is granted once for all, constant and ceaseless labour, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of God. The Lord teaches this also in the Gospel. For when the disciples were pointed out, as eating and not first washing their hands, He replied and said, “He that made that which is within, made also that which is without. But give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you;”8 teaching hereby and showing, that not the hands are to be washed, but the heart, and that the foulness from inside is to be done away rather than that from outside; but that he who shall have cleansed what is within has cleansed also that which is without; and that if the mind is cleansed, a man has begun to be clean also in skin and body. Further, admonishing, and showing whence we may be clean and purged, He added that alms must be given. He who is pitiful teaches and warns us that pity must be shown; and because He seeks to save those whom at a great cost He has redeemed, He teaches that those who, after the grace of baptism, have become foul, may once more be cleansed.
3. Let us then acknowledge, beloved brethren, the wholesome gift of the divine mercy; and let us, who cannot be without some wound of conscience, heal our wounds by the spiritual remedies for the cleansing and purging of our sins. Nor let any one so flatter himself with the notion of a pure and immaculate heart, as, in dependence on his own innocence, to think that the medicine needs not to be applied to his wounds; since it is written, “Who shall boast that he hath a clean heart, or who shall boast that he is pure from sins?”9 And again, in his epistle, John lays it down, and says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”10 But if no one can be without sin, and whoever should say that he is without fault is either proud or foolish, how needful, how kind is the divine mercy, which, knowing that there are still found some wounds in those that have been healed, even after their healing, has given wholesome remedies for the curing and healing of their wounds anew!
4. Finally, beloved brethren, the divine admonition in the Scriptures, as well old as new, has never failed, has never been silent in urging God’s people always and everywhere to works of mercy; and in the strain and exhortation of the Holy Spirit, every one who is instructed into the hope of the heavenly kingdom is commanded to give alms. God commands and prescribes to Isaiah: “Cry,” says He, “with strength, and spare not. Lift up thy voice as a trumpet, and declare to my people their transgressions, and to the house of Jacob their sins.”1 And when He had commanded their sins to be charged upon them, and with the full force of His indignation had set forth their iniquities, and had said, that not even though they should use supplications, and prayers, and fastings, should they be able to make atonement for their sins; nor, if they were clothed in sackcloth and ashes, be able to soften God’s anger, yet in the last part showing that God can be appeased by almsgiving alone, he added, saying, “Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are without a home into thy house. If thou seest the naked, clothe him; and despise not the household of thine own seed. Then shall thy light break forth in season, and thy garments shall arise speedily; and righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of God shall surround thee. Then shalt thou cry, and God shall hear thee; whilst yet thou art speaking, He shall say, Here I am.”2
5. The remedies for propitiating God are given in the words of God Himself; the divine instructions have taught what sinners ought to do, that by works of righteousness God is satisfied, that with the deserts of mercy sins are cleansed. And in Solomon we read, “Shut up alms in the heart of the poor, and these shall intercede for thee from all evil.”3 And again: “Whoso stoppeth his ears that he may not hear the weak, he also shall call upon God, and there will be none to hear him.”4 For he shall not be able to deserve the mercy of the Lord, who himself shall not have been merciful; nor shall he obtain aught from the divine pity in his prayers, who shall not have been humane towards the poor man’s prayer. And this also the Holy Spirit declares in the Psalms, and proves, saying, Blessed is he that considereth of the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.”5 Remembering which precepts, Daniel, when king Nebuchodonosor was in anxiety, being frightened by an adverse dream, gave him, for the turning away of evils, a remedy to obtain the divine help, saying, “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee; and redeem thy sins by almsgivings, and thine unrighteousness by mercies to the poor, and God will be patient6 to thy sins.”7 And as the king did not obey him, he underwent the misfortunes and mischiefs which he had seen, and which he might have escaped and avoided had he redeemed his sins by almsgiving. Raphael the angel also witnesses the like, and exhorts that alms should be freely and liberally bestowed, saying, “Prayer is good, with fasting and alms; because alms doth deliver from death, and it purgeth away sins.”8 He shows that our prayers and fastings are of less avail, unless they are aided by almsgiving; that entreaties alone are of little force to obtain what they seek, unless they be made sufficient9 by the addition of deeds and good works. The angel reveals, and manifests, and certifies that our petitions become efficacious by almsgiving, that life is redeemed from dangers by almsgiving, that souls are delivered from death by almsgiving.
6. Neither, beloved brethren, are we so bringing forward these things, as that we should not prove what Raphael the angel said, by the testimony of the truth. In the Acts of the Apostles the faith of the fact is established; and that souls are delivered by almsgiving not only from the second, but from the first death, is discovered by the evidence of a matter accomplished and completed. When Tabitha, being greatly given to good works and to bestowing alms, fell sick and died, Peter was summoned to her lifeless body; and when he, with apostolic humanity, had come in haste, there stood around him widows weeping and entreating, showing the cloaks, and coats, and all the garments which they had previously received, and praying for the deceased not by their words, but by her own deeds. Peter felt that what was asked in such a way might be obtained, and that Christ’s aid would not be wanting to the petitioners, since He Himself was clothed in the clothing of the widows. When, therefore, falling on his knees, he had prayed, and—fit advocate for the widows and poor—had brought to the Lord the prayers entrusted to him, turning to the body, which was now lying washed on the bier,10 he said, “Tabitha, in the name of Jesus Christ, arise!”11 Nor did He fail to bring aid to Peter, who had said in the Gospel, that whatever should be asked in His name should be given. Therefore death is suspended, and the spirit is restored, and, to the marvel and astonishment of all, the revived body is quickened into this worldly light once more; so effectual were the merits of mercy, so much did righteous works avail! She who had conferred upon suffering widows the help needful to live, deserved to be recalled to life by the widows’ petition.
7. Therefore in the Gospel, the Lord, the Teacher of our life and Master of eternal salvation, quickening the assembly of believers, and providing for them for ever when quickened, among His divine commands and precepts of heaven, commands and prescribes nothing more frequently than that we should devote ourselves to almsgiving, and not depend on earthly possessions, but rather lay up heavenly treasures. “Sell,” says He, “your goods, and give alms.”1 And again: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.”2 And when He wished to set forth a man perfect and complete by the observation of the law,3 He said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”4 Moreover, in another place He says that a merchant of the heavenly grace, and a gainer of eternal salvation, ought to purchase the precious pearl—that is, eternal life—at the price of the blood of Christ, from the amount of his patrimony, parting with all his wealth for it. He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls. And when he found a precious pearl, he went away and sold all that he had, and bought it.”5
8. In fine, He calls those the children of Abraham whom He sees to be laborious in aiding and nourishing the poor. For when Zacchæus said, “Behold, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have done any wrong to any man, I restore fourfold,” Jesus answered and said, “That salvation has this day come to this house, for that he also is a son of Abraham.”6 For if Abraham believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, certainly he who gives alms according to God’s precept believes in God, and he who has the truth of faith maintains the fear of God; moreover, he who maintains the fear of God considers God in showing mercy to the poor. For he labours thus because he believes—because he knows that what is foretold by God’s word is true, and that the Holy Scripture cannot lie—that unfruitful trees, that is, unproductive men, are cut off and cast into the fire, but that the merciful are called into the kingdom. He also, in another place, calls laborious and fruitful men faithful; but He denies faith to unfruitful and barren ones, saying, “If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to you that which is true? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”7
9. If you dread and fear, lest, if you begin to act thus abundantly, your patrimony being exhausted with your liberal dealing, you may perchance be reduced to poverty; be of good courage in this respect, be free from care: that cannot be exhausted whence the service of Christ is supplied, whence the heavenly work is celebrated. Neither do I vouch for this on my own authority; but I promise it on the faith of the Holy Scriptures, and on the authority of the divine promise. The Holy Spirit speaks by Solomon, and says, “He that giveth unto the poor shall never lack, but he that turneth away his eye shall be in great poverty;”8 showing that the merciful and those who do good works cannot want, but rather that the sparing and barren hereafter come to want. Moreover, the blessed Apostle Paul, full of the grace of the Lord’s inspiration, says: “He that ministereth seed to the sower, shall both minister bread for your food, and shall multiply your seed sown, and shall increase the growth of the fruits of your righteousness, that in all things ye may be enriched.”9 And again: “The administration of this service shall not only supply the wants of the saints, but shall be abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;”10 because, while thanks are directed to God for our almsgivings and labours, by the prayer of the poor, the wealth of the doer is increased by the retribution of God. And the Lord in the Gospel, already considering the hearts of men of this kind, and with prescient voice denouncing faithless and unbelieving men, bears witness, and says: “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For for these things the Gentiles seek. And your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”11 He says that all these things shall be added and given to them who seek the kingdom and righteousness of God. For the Lord says, that when the day of judgment shall come, those who have laboured in His Church are admitted to receive the kingdom.
10. You are afraid lest perchance your estate should fail, if you begin to act liberally from it; and you do not know, miserable man that you are, that while you are fearing lest your family property should fail you, life itself, and salvation, are failing; and whilst you are anxious lest any of your wealth should be diminished, you do not see that you yourself are being diminished, in that you are a lover of mammon more than of your own soul; and while you fear, lest for the sake of yourself, you should lose your patrimony, you yourself are perishing for the sake of your patrimony. And therefore the apostle well exclaims, and says: “We brought nothing into this world, neither indeed can we carry anything out. Therefore, having food and clothing, let us therewith be content. For they who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many and hurtful desires, which drown a man in perdition and in destruction. For covetousness is a root of all evils, which some desiring, have made shipwreck from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”1
11. Are you afraid that your patrimony perchance may fall short, if you should begin to do liberally from it? Yet when has it ever happened that resources2 could fail the righteous man, since it is written, “The Lord will not slay with famine the righteous soul?”3 Elias in the desert is fed by the ministry of ravens; and a meal from heaven is made ready for Daniel in the den, when shut up by the king’s command for a prey to the lions; and you are afraid that food should be wanting to you, labouring and deserving well of the Lord, although He Himself in the Gospel bears witness, for the rebuke of those whose mind is doubtful and faith small, and says: “Behold the fowls of heaven, that they sow not, nor reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them: are you not of more value than they?”4 God feeds the fowls, and daily food is afforded to the sparrows; and to creatures which have no sense of things divine there is no want of drink or food. Thinkest thou that to a Christian—thinkest thou that to a servant of the Lord—thinkest thou that to one given up to good works—thinkest thou that to one that is dear to his Lord, anything will be wanting?
12. Unless you imagine that he who feeds Christ is not himself fed by Christ, or that earthly things will be wanting to those to whom heavenly and divine things are given, whence this unbelieving thought, whence this impious and sacrilegious consideration? What does a faithless heart do in the home of faith? Why is he who does not altogether trust in Christ named and called a Christian? The name of Pharisee is more fitting for you. For when in the Gospel the Lord was discoursing concerning almsgiving, and faithfully and wholesomely warned us to make to ourselves friends of our earthly lucre by provident good works, who might afterwards receive us into eternal dwellings, the Scripture added after this, and said, “But the Pharisees heard all these things, who were very covetous, and they derided Him.”5 Some suchlike we see now in the Church, whose closed ears and darkened hearts admit no light from spiritual and saving warnings, of whom we need not wonder that they contemn the servant in his discourses, when we see the Lord Himself despised by such.
13. Wherefore do you applaud yourself in those vain and silly conceits, as if you were withheld from good works by fear and solicitude for the future? Why do you lay out before you certain shadows and omens of a vain excuse? Yea, confess what is the truth; and since you cannot deceive those who know,6 utter forth the secret and hidden things of your mind. The gloom of barrenness has besieged your mind; and while the light of truth has departed thence, the deep and profound darkness of avarice has blinded your carnal heart. You are the captive and slave of your money; you are bound with the chains and bonds of covetousness; and you whom Christ had once loosed, are once more in chains. You keep your money, which, when kept, does not keep you.7 You heap up a patrimony which burdens you8 with its weight; and you do not remember what God answered to the rich man, who boasted with a foolish exultation of the abundance of his exuberant harvest: “Thou fool,” said He, “this night thy soul is required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”9 Why do you watch in loneliness over your riches? why for your punishment do you heap up the burden of your patrimony, that, in proportion as you are rich in this world, you may become poor to God? Divide your returns with the Lord your God; share your gains with Christ; make Christ a partner with you in your earthly possessions, that He also may make you a fellow-heir with Him in His heavenly kingdom.
14. You are mistaken, and are deceived, whosoever you are, that think yourself rich in this world. Listen to the voice of your Lord in the Apocalypse, rebuking men of your stamp with righteous reproaches: “Thou sayest,” says He, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear in thee; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.”1 You therefore, who are rich and wealthy, buy for yourself of Christ gold tried by fire; that you may be pure gold, with your filth burnt out as if by fire, if you are purged by almsgiving and righteous works. Buy for yourself white raiment, that you who had been naked according to Adam, and were before frightful and unseemly, may be clothed with the white garment of Christ. And you who are a wealthy and rich matron in Christ’s Church,2 anoint your eyes, not with the collyrium of the devil,3 but with Christ’s eye-salve, that you may be able to attain to see God, by deserving well of God, both by good works and character.
15. But you who are such as this, cannot labour in the Church. For your eyes, overcast with the gloom of blackness, and shadowed in night, do not see the needy and poor. You are wealthy and rich, and do you think that you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, not at all considering the offering,4 who come to the Lord’s Supper Without a sacrifice, and yet take part of the sacrifice which the poor man has offered? Consider in the Gospel the widow that remembered the heavenly precepts, doing good even amidst the difficulties and straits of poverty, casting two mites, which were all that she had, into the treasury; whom when the Lord observed and saw, regarding her work not for its abundance, but for its intention, and considering not how much, but from how much, she had given, He answered and said, “Verily I say unto you, that that widow hath cast in more than they all into the offerings of God. For all these have, of that which they had in abundance, cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had,”5 Greatly blessed and glorious woman, who even before the day of judgment hast merited to be praised by the voice of the Judge! Let the rich be ashamed of their barrenness and unbelief. The widow, the widow needy in means,6 is found rich in works. And although everything that is given is conferred upon widows and orphans, she gives, whom it behoved to receive, that we may know thence what punishment, awaits the barren rich man, when by this very instance even the poor ought to labour in good works. And in order that we may understand that their labours are given to God, and that whoever performs them deserves well of the Lord, Christ calls this “the offerings of God,” and intimates that the widow has cast in two farthings into the offerings of God, that it may be more abundantly evident that he who hath pity on the poor lendeth to God.
16. But neither let the consideration, dearest brethren, restrain and recall the Christian from good and righteous works, that any one should fancy that he could be excused for the benefit of his children; since in spiritual expenditure we ought to think of Christ, who has declared that He receives them; and not prefer our fellow-servants, but the Lord, to our children, since He Himself instructs and warns us, saying, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”7 Also in Deuteronomy, for the strengthening of faith and the love of God, similar things are written: “Who say,” he saith, “unto their father or mother, I have not known thee; neither did they acknowledge their children, these have observed Thy words, and kept Thy covenant.”8 For if we love God with our whole heart, we ought not to prefer either our parents or children to God. And this also John lays down in his epistle, that the love of God is not in them whom we see unwilling to labour for the poor. “Whoso,” says he, “hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”9 For if by almsgiving to the poor we are lending to God—and when it is given to the least it is given to Christ—there is no ground for any one preferring earthly things to heavenly, nor for considering human things before divine.
17. Thus that widow in the third book of Kings, when in the drought and famine, having consumed everything, she had made of the little meal and oil which was left, a cake upon the ashes, and, having used this, was about to die with her children, Elias came and asked that something should first be given him to eat, and then of what remained that she and her children should eat. Nor did she hesitate to obey; nor did the mother prefer her children to Elias in her hunger and poverty. Yea, there is done in God’s sight a thing that pleases God: promptly and liberally is presented what is asked for. Neither is it a portion out of abundance, but the whole out of a little, that is given, and another is fed before her hungry children; nor in penury and want is food thought of before mercy; so that while in a saving work the life according to the flesh is contemned, the soul according to the spirit is preserved. Therefore Elias, being the type of Christ, and showing that according to His mercy He returns to each their reward, answered and said: “Thus saith the Lord, The vessel of meal shall not fail, and the cruse of oil shall not be diminished, until the day that the Lord giveth rain upon the earth.”1 According to her faith in the divine promise, those things which she gave were multiplied and heaped up to the widow; and her righteous works and deserts of mercy taking augmentations and increase, the vessels of meal and oil were filled. Nor did the mother take away from her children what she gave to Elias, but rather she conferred upon her children what she did kindly and piously.2 And she did not as yet know Christ; she had not yet heard His precepts; she did not, as redeemed by His cross and passion, repay meat and drink for His blood. So that from this it may appear how much he sins in the Church, who, preferring himself and his children to Christ, preserves his wealth, and does not share an abundant estate with the poverty of the needy.
18. Moreover, also, (you say) there are many children at home; and the multitude of your children checks you from giving yourself freely to good works. And yet on this very account you ought to labour the more, for the reason that you are the father of many pledges. There are the more for whom you must beseech the Lord. The sins of many have to be redeemed, the consciences of many to be cleansed, the souls of many to be liberated. As in this worldly life, in the nourishment and bringing up of children, the larger the number the greater also is the expense; so also in the spiritual and heavenly life, the larger the number of children you have, the greater ought to be the outlay of your labours. Thus also Job offered numerous sacrifices on behalf of his children; and as large as was the number of the pledges in his home, so large also was the number of victims given to God. And since there cannot daily fail to be sins committed in the sight of God, there wanted not daily sacrifices wherewith the sins might be cleansed away. The Holy Scripture proves this, saying: “Job, a true and righteous man, had seven sons and three daughters, and cleansed them, offering for them victims to God according to the number of them, and for their sins one calf.”3 If, then, you truly love your children, if you show to them the full and paternal sweetness of love, you ought to be the more charitable, that by your righteous works you may commend your children to God.
19. Neither should you think that he is father to your children who is both changeable and infirm, but you should obtain Him who is the eternal and unchanging Father of spiritual children. Assign to Him your wealth which you are saving up for your heirs. Let Him be the guardian for your children; let Him be their trustee; let Him be their protector, by His divine majesty, against all worldly injuries. The state neither takes away the property entrusted to God, nor does the exchequer intrude on it, nor does any forensic calumny overthrow it. That inheritance is placed in security which is kept under the guardianship of God.4 This is to provide for one’s dear pledges for the coming time; this is with paternal affection to take care for one’s future heirs, according to the faith of the Holy Scripture, which says: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed wanting bread. All the day long he is merciful, and lendeth;5 and his seed is blessed.”6 And again: “He who walketh without reproach in his integrity shall leave blessed children after him.”7 Therefore you are an unfair and traitorous father, unless you faithfully consult for your children, unless you look forward to preserve them in religion and true piety. You who are careful rather for their earthly than for their heavenly estate, rather to commend your children to the devil than to Christ, are sinning twice, and allowing a double and twofold crime, both in not providing for your children the aid of God their Father, and in teaching your children to love their property more than Christ.
20. Be rather such a father to your children as was Tobias. Give useful and saving precepts to your pledges, such as he gave to his son; command your children what he also commanded his son, saying: “And now, my son, I command thee, serve God in truth, and do before Him that which pleaseth Him; and command thy sons, that they exercise righteousness and alms, and be mindful of God, and bless His name always.”8 And again: “All the days of thy life, most dear son, have God in your mind, and be not willing to transgress His commandments. Do righteousness all the days of thy life, and be not willing to walk in the way of iniquity; because if thou deal truly, there will be respect of thy works. Give alms of thy substance, and turn not away thy face from any poor man. So shall it be, that neither shall the face of God be turned away from thee. As thou hast, my son, so do. If thy substance is abundant, give alms of it the more. If thou hast little, communicate of that little. And fear not when thou doest alms; for thou layest up a good reward for thyself against the day of necessity, because that alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into Gehenna. Alms is a good gift to all that give it, in the sight of the most high God.”1
21. What sort of gift is it, beloved brethren, whose setting forth is celebrated in the sight of God? If, in a gift of the Gentiles, it seems a great and glorious thing to have proconsuls or emperors present, and the preparation and display is the greater among the givers, in order that they may please the higher classes; how much more illustrious and greater is the glory to have God and Christ as the spectators of the gift! How much more sumptuous the preparation and more liberal the expense to be set forth in that case, when the powers of heaven assemble to the spectacle, when all the angels come together: where it is not a four-horsed chariot or a consulship that is sought for the giver, but life eternal is bestowed; nor is the empty and fleeting favour of the rabble grasped at, but the perpetual reward of the kingdom of heaven is received!
22. And that the indolent and the barren, and those, who by their covetousness for money do nothing in respect of the fruit of their salvation, may be the more ashamed, and that the blush of dishonour and disgrace may the more strike upon their sordid conscience, let each one place before his eyes the devil with his servants, that is, with the people of perdition and death, springing forth into the midst, and provoking the people of Christ with the trial of comparison—Christ Himself being present, and judging—in these words: “I, for those whom thou seest with me, neither received buffets, nor bore scourgings, nor endured the cross, nor shed my blood, nor redeemed my family at the price of my suffering and blood; but neither do I promise them a celestial kingdom, nor do I recall them to paradise, having again restored to them immortality. But they prepare for me gifts how precious! how large! with how excessive and tedious a labour procured! and that, with the most sumptuous devices, either pledging or selling their means in the procuring of the gift! and, unless a competent manifestation followed, they are cast out with scoffings and hissings, and by the popular fury sometimes they are almost stoned! Show, O Christ, such givers as these of Thine2—those rich men, those men affluent with abounding wealth—whether in the Church wherein Thou presidest and beholdest, they set forth a gift of that kind,—having pledged or scattered their riches, yea, having transferred them, by the change of their possessions for the better, into heavenly treasures! In those spectacles of mine, perishing and earthly as they are, no one is fed, no one is clothed, no one is sustained by the comfort either of any meat or drink. All things, between the madness of the exhibitor and the mistake of the spectator, are perishing in a prodigal and foolish vanity of deceiving pleasures. There, in Thy poor, Thou art clothed and fed; Thou promisest eternal life to those who labour for Thee; and scarcely are Thy people made equal to mine that perish, although they are honoured by Thee with divine wages and heavenly rewards.
23. What do we reply to these things, dearest brethren? With what reason do we defend the minds of rich men, overwhelmed with a profane barrenness and a kind of night of gloom? With what excuse do we acquit them, seeing that we are less than the devil’s servants, so as not even moderately to repay Christ for the price of His passion and blood? He has given us precepts; what His servants ought to do He has instructed us; promising a reward to those that are charitable, and threatening punishment to the unfruitful. He has set forth His sentence. He has before announced what He shall judge. What can be the excuse for the laggard? what the defence for the unfruitful? But when the servant does not do what is commanded, the Lord will do what He threatens, seeing that He says: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit in the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them that shall be on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom that is prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came to me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, and in prison, and came unto Thee? Then shall the King answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Insomuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me. Then shall He say also unto those that shall be at His left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which my Father hath prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me not to drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and ministered not unto Thee? And He shall answer them, Verily I say unto you, In so far as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me. And these shall go away into everlasting burning: but the righteous into life eternal”1 What more could Christ declare unto us? How more could He stimulate the works of our righteousness and mercy, than by saying that whatever is given to the needy and poor is given to Himself, and by saying that He is aggrieved unless the needy and poor be supplied? So that he who in the Church is not moved by consideration for his brother, may yet be moved by contemplation of Christ; and he who does not think of his fellow-servant in suffering and in poverty, may yet think of his Lord, who abideth in that very man whom he is despising.
24. And therefore, dearest brethren, whose fear is inclined towards God, and who having already despised and trampled under foot the world, have lifted up your mind to things heavenly and divine, let us with full faith, with devoted mind, with continual labour, give our obedience, to deserve well of the Lord. Let us give to Christ earthly garments, that we may receive heavenly raiment; let us give food and drink of this world, that we may come with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob to the heavenly banquet. That we may not reap little, let us sow abundantly. Let us, while there is time, take thought for our security and eternal salvation, according to the admonition of the Apostle Paul, who says: “Therefore, while we have time, let us labour in what is good unto all men, but especially to them that are of the household of faith. But let us not be weary in well-doing, for in its season we shall reap.”2
25. Let us consider, beloved brethren, what the congregation of believers did in the time of the apostles, when at the first beginnings the mind flourished with greater virtues, when the faith of believers burned with a warmth of faith as yet new. Then they sold houses and farms, and gladly and liberally presented to the apostles the proceeds to be dispensed to the poor; selling and alienating their earthly estate, they transferred their lands thither where they might receive the fruits of an eternal possession, and there prepared homes where they might begin an eternal habitation. Such, then, was the abundance in labours, as was the agreement in love, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “And the multitude of them that believed acted with one heart and one soul; neither was there any distinction among them, nor did they esteem anything their own of the goods which belonged to them, but they had all things common.”3 This is truly to become sons of God by spiritual birth; this is to imitate by the heavenly law the equity of God the Father. For whatever is of God is common in our use; nor is any one excluded from His benefits and His gifts, so as to prevent the whole human race from enjoying equally the divine goodness and liberality. Thus the day equally enlightens, the sun gives radiance, the rain moistens, the wind blows, and the sleep is one to those that sleep, and the splendour of the stars and of the moon is common. In which example of equality,4 he who, as a possessor in the earth, shares his returns and his fruits with the fraternity, while he is common and just in his gratuitous bounties, is an imitator of God the Father.
26. What, dearest brethren, will be that glory of those who labour charitably—how great and high the joy when the Lord begins to number His people, and, distributing to our merits and good works the promised rewards, to give heavenly things for earthly, eternal things for temporal, great things for small; to present us to the Father, to whom He has restored us by His sanctification; to bestow upon us immortality and eternity, to which He has renewed us by the quickening of His blood; to bring us anew to paradise, to open the kingdom of heaven, in the faith and truth of His promise! Let these things abide firmly in our perceptions, let them be understood with full faith, let them be loved with our whole heart, let them be purchased by the magnanimity of our increasing labours. An illustrious and divine thing, dearest brethren, is the saving labour of charity; a great comfort of believers, a wholesome guard of our security, a protection of hope, a safeguard of faith, a remedy for sin, a thing placed in the power of the doer, a thing both great and easy, a crown of peace without the risk of persecution; the true and greatest gift of God, needful for the weak, glorious for the strong, assisted by which the Christian accomplishes spiritual grace, deserves well of Christ the Judge, accounts God his debtor. For this palm of works of salvation let us gladly and readily strive; let us all, in the struggle of righteousness, run with God and Christ looking on; and let us who have already begun to be greater than this life and the world, slacken our course by no desire of this life and of this world. If the day shall find us, whether it be the day of reward1 or of persecution, furnished, if swift, if running in this contest of charity, the Lord will never fail of giving a reward for our merits: in peace He will give to us who conquer, a white crown for our labours; in persecution, He will accompany it with a purple one for our passion.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 29, 2017

This post opens with Father’s brief analysis of 2 Corinthians 5, followed by his comments on today’s reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrase of scripture.

Analysis

In the first part of this chapter, the Apostle proceeds to account for his own cheerful intrepidity, as well as that of his colleagues, in the midst of dangers and persecutions. It proceeds from the consideration of their future glory, from their firm belief in the future glorification of their bodies (verse 1), which glory they are anxious to have imparted to them without bodily dissolution, as nature recoils so strongly from death (2, 3, 4). But bearing in mind, that it is God who fits them for future glory, of which he has given them a sure earnest, they have great courage and confidence in undergoing all hardships for the Gospel with the hope of arriving at this supreme felicity (5–9), to attain which they endeavour, under all circumstances to please God; and keeping before their eyes his tremendous judgement, they so act as to prove to men their sincerity, lest they should be a stumbling-block or a scandal to anyone (10, 11). He guards against the misconstruction which the false teachers might put upon the circumstance of his praising himself, by an assurance that whether he praises or speaks humbly of his own exploits—he has, in both cases, the glory of God and his neighbour’s good in view (12, 13). He is moved to pursue this disinterested line of conduct by the example of Christ, whose purchased slaves we are all become by Redemption, who has, therefore, a right to all our services (14, 15). Hence, the Apostles, dead to themselves and living only to Christ, regard no one, not even the Redeemer himself, from human considerations; but they regard all from the highest spiritual motives (16). This should not be peculiar to the Apostles, as every Christian, after having entered on his new spiritual existence, should do the same (17). He refers the merit of all these blessings resulting from our new spiritual existence, to their true source, viz., God, who made us sharers in them by having reconciled us with himself (18). He explains the mode in which this reconciliation was effected (19). He points out the exalted dignity of the ministers of religion (20); and, lastly, assigns a new reason for confidently expecting reconciliation with God, founded on the death of Christ.

2 Cor 5:20 For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us, for Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.  

We, Apostles, are, therefore, in the place of Christ, the ambassadors of God with man. Our exhortations and entreaties, to you to return to penance, should be regarded by you, as emanating from God himself. In the name of Christ, therefore, and in his person, we beseech you to become reconciled to God, mindful of his infinite mercy.

We, Apostles, are ambassadors, of Christ; hence, when we exhort or encourage you, it is the same as if this were done by Christ himself; because Christ speaks through us. “For Christ,” i.e., in the name and person of Christ, “we beseech you,” &c. The ministers of the gospel are, then, the ambassadors of Christ. With what reverence and respect are they not, therefore, to be treated, when acting in this capacity. The respect or contempt shown them is shown to Christ himself, by whom they are sent, and in whose name and authority they act. Whosoever touches them might as well touch the apple of his eye. On the other hand, with what circumspection should not the ministers of religion walk, and how cautious should they not be to avoid the least offence, that might mar or obstruct the interests of him by whom they were sent. What sanctity of life should they not practise, both in the presence of God and before men, in order to be fit representatives, before men, of their heavenly Master.

2 Cor 5:21 Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us: that we might be made the justice of God in him.  

A reason for seeking and confidently hoping for reconciliation with God, is grounded on his infinite benignity and mercy in making his Son, who had as little commerce with sin, as if he were utterly ignorant of its nature, a victim of sin for us, that through him we might receive real and inherent justice, being made sharers in God’s justice by the infusion of sanctifying grace.

In this verse is assigned a motive to inspire us with confidence in seeking and hoping for reconciliation with God, viz., because he made his Son, who had no experimental knowledge of sin, or who had no more knowledge of it than if he knew not what it was. “Sin,” i.e., a victim of sin, according to the Scripture usage, which often uses the word “sin” to express the victim for sin, (v.g.) Osee, 4, verse 8; Leviticus, 4, verse 24. “That we might be made,” &c., i.e., that we might be made really and internally just, by a justice like the justice of God, of which we are rendered, by sanctifying grace, sharers through his merits.

2 Cor 6:1 And we helping do exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. 

As co-operating, therefore, with Christ in the work of your redemption, we exhort you not to receive in vain—that is, not to render unavailing—the great grace of redemption, applied to you through our ministry.

“Helping.” The Greek word, συνεργουντες, means, co-operating in the great work of redemption and reconciliation with God. “Grace of God,” viz., the great benefit of redemption and reconciliation through Christ, applied to mankind by the ministry of the Apostles. Under it are included the particular graces necessary to attain the great end of redemption. “In vain”; rendering it useless and of no avail to you for want of due correspondence.

2 Cor 6:2 For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time: behold, now is the day of salvation.  

2. For, God has promised, through his Prophet Isaias (49:8), that in an accepted time, he would hear his Son praying for the salvation of the world; and, that in the day of salvation he would assist him, while labouring in the same cause. Behold, now is the acceptable time referred to by the Prophet; now is the day of salvation, of which you should avail yourselves.

For the purpose of conveying a stronger inducement to the Corinthians to correspond the more faithfully with divine grace, and to attend to their salvation, he says that the present is the time of grace and salvation referred to by the Prophet, Isaias (49:8). These words of the Prophet are generally understood to have been spoken by the Eternal Father to his Son, promising that at a future day, at a time acceptable to all, and to be desired by them, when he was to call the Gentiles to the faith, he would listen to his prayers in their behalf, and assist him in the work of salvation. The prophetic quotation is read in the past tense, although it has a future signification, a thing not unusual in prophetic writings. “Behold now is the acceptable time referred to by the prophet,” “now is the day,” &c. The fulfilment of this promise has been reserved for the time of the New Law, which may be justly termed, the law of grace.

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Commentaries for the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2017

EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Note: We are in Year A

YEAR A: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN  ORDINARY TIME.

YEAR B: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

YEAR C: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

MONDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 17:20-24.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 32.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 32.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 32.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 32.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:17-27.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 10:17-27.

Pope Benedict’s Homily on Mark 10:17-27.

Another Homily on Mark 10:17-27 by Pope Benedict.

TUESDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 35:1-12.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 50.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 50.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 50.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:28-31.

Navarre Commentary on Mark 10:28-31.

St Catherine of Siena on Mark 10:28-31.

PLEASE NOTE: IN 2017 ASH WEDNESDAY WILL START TOMORROW, MARCH 1. COMMENTARIES FOR THE LENTEN SEASON CAN BE FOUND HERE.

WEDNESDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Commentary on Sirach 36:1, 4-5a, 10-17.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 79.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 79.

My Background Notes on Psalm 79:8, 9, 11, 13. Contains background on the psalm with notes on the responsorial verses.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:32-45.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 10:32-45.

The Catechism on Today’s Gospel Mark 10:32-45.

THURSDAY O F THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Commentary on Sirach 42:15-25.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 33.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 33.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 33.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 33.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:46-52.

Navarre Commentary on Mark 10:46-52.

FRIDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 44:1, 9-13.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 149.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 149.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 149.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 149.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 11:11-26.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 11:11-26.

SATURDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 51:12cd-20.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 19.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 19.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 19.

Navarre Commentary on Mark 11:27-33.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 11:27-33.

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Commentaries for Ash Wednesday Through Easter Sunday

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2017

Please Note: Each week contains its current and following Sunday (e.g., the Second Week of Lent begins with the 2nd Sunday and ends with the 3rd).

Commentaries for Ash Wednesday Through the Second Sunday of Lent.

Commentaries for the Second Week of Lent.

Commentaries for the Third Week of Lent.

Commentaries for the Fourth Week of Lent.

Commentaries for the Fifth Week of Lent.

Commentaries for Holy Week.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Daily Catholic Lectionary, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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