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 August, 2019

The Catechism of the Council of Trent on Almsgiving

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 31, 2019

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,z John Chrysostom,a Gregory Nazianzen,b and other eminent writers on alms-deeds. 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:c Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; and: Depart from, me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.

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:d 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;e 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.f 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.g The happiness attendant on such an exercise of mercy, holy David attests: A good man showeth favour and lendeth.h

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

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St Ambrose on Hospitality

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 31, 2019

The following is excerpted from St Ambrose’s On the Duties of the Clergy, Book II, chapter XXI.

103. Hospitality also serves to recommend many.11 For it is a kind of open display of kindly feelings: so that the stranger may not want hospitality, but be courteously received, and that the door may be open to him when he comes. It is most seemly in the eyes of the whole world that the stranger should be received with honour; that the charm of hospitality should not fail at our table; that we should meet a guest with ready and free service, and look out for his arrival.

104. This especially was Abraham’s praise,12 for he watched at the door of his tent, that no stranger by any chance might pass by. He carefully kept a lookout, so as to meet the stranger, and anticipate him, and ask him not to pass by, saying: “My lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not by thy servant.”13 Therefore as a reward for his hospitality, he received the gift of posterity.

105. Lot also, his nephew,14 who was near to him not only in relationship but also in virtue, on account of his readiness to show hospitality, turned aside the punishment of Sodom from himself and his family.

106. A man ought therefore to be hospitable, kind, upright, not desirous of what belongs to another, willing to give up some of his own rights if assailed, rather than to take away another’s. He ought to avoid disputes, to hate quarrels. He ought to restore unity and the grace of quietness. When a good man gives up any of his own rights, it is not only a sign of liberality, but is also accompanied by great advantages. To start with, it is no small gain to be free from the cost of a lawsuit. Then it also brings in good results, by an increase of friendship, from which many advantages rise. These become afterwards most useful to the man that can despise a little something at the time.

107. In all the duties of hospitality kindly feeling must be shown to all, but greater respect must be given to the upright.1 For “Whosoever receiveth a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward,”2 as the Lord has said. Such is the favour in which hospitality stands with God, that not even the draught of cold water shall fail of getting a reward.3 Thou seest that Abraham, in looking for guests, received God Himself to entertain.4 Thou seest that Lot received the angels.5 And how dost thou know that when thou receivest men, thou dost not receive Christ? Christ may be in the stranger that comes, for Christ is there in the person of the poor, as He Himself says: “I was in prison and thou camest to Me, I was naked and thou didst clothe Me.”6.

108. It is sweet, then, to seek not for money but for grace. It is true7 that this evil has long ago entered into human hearts, so that money stands in the place of honour, and the minds of men are filled with admiration for wealth. Thus love of money sinks in and as it were dries up every kindly duty; so that men consider everything a loss which is spent beyond the usual amount. But even here the holy Scriptures have been on the watch against love of money, that it might prove no cause of hindrance, saying: “Better is hospitality, even though it consisteth only of herbs.”8 And again: “Better is bread in pleasantness with peace.”9 For the Scriptures teach us not to be wasteful, but liberal.

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John Cassian on Fasting

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 31, 2019

The following is excerpted from John Cassian’s 21st Conference, chapters 13-14.

CHAPTER XIII
What kind of good fasting is

WHEREFORE we must now inquire what we ought to hold about the state of fasting, whether we meant that it was good in the same sort of way as justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance, which cannot possibly be made anything else, or whether it is something indifferent which sometimes is useful when done, and may be sometimes omitted without condemnation; and which sometimes it is wrong to do, and sometimes laudable to omit. For if we hold fasting to be included in that list of virtues, so that abstinence from food is placed among those things which are good in themselves, then certainly the partaking of food will be bad and wrong. For whatever is the opposite of that which is in its own nature good, must certainly be held to be in its own nature bad. But this the authority of Holy Scripture does not allow to us to lay down. For if we fast with such thoughts and intentions, so as to think that we fall into sin by taking food, we shall not only gain no advantage by our abstinence but shall actually contract grievous guilt and fall into the sin of impiety, as the Apostle says: “Abstaining from meats which God has created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful and those who know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it is partaken of with thanksgiving.” For “if a man thinks that a thing is common, to him it is common.”2 And therefore we never read that anyone is condemned simply for taking food, but only when something was joined with it or followed afterwards, for which he deserved condemnation.

CHAPTER XIV
How fasting is not good in its own nature

AND so that it is a thing indifferent is very clearly shown from this also; viz., because as it brings justification when observed, so it does not bring condemnation when it is broken in upon; unless perhaps the transgression of a command rather than the partaking of food brings punishment. But in the case of a thing that is good in its own nature, no time should be without it, in such a way as that a man may do without it, for if it ceases, the man who is careless about it is sure to fall into mischief. Nor again is any time given for what is bad in its own nature, because what is hurtful cannot help hurting, if it is indulged in, nor can it ever be made of a praiseworthy character. And further it is clear that these things, for which we see conditions and times appointed, and which sanctify, when observed without corrupting us when they are neglected, are things indifferent, as, e.g., marriage, agriculture, riches, retirement into the desert, vigils, reading and meditation on Holy Scripture and fasting itself, from which our discussion took its rise. All of which things the Divine precepts and the authority of Holy Scripture decreed should not be so incessantly aimed at, or so constantly observed, as for it to be wrong for them to be for a time intermitted. For anything that is absolutely commanded brings death if it be not fulfilled: but whatever things we are urged to rather than commanded, when done are useful, when left undone bring no punishment. And therefore in the case of all or some of these things our predecessors commanded us either to do them with consideration, or to observe them carefully with regard to the reason, place, manner, and time, because if any of them are done suitably, it is fit and convenient, but if incongruously, then it becomes foolish and hurtful. And if at the coming of a brother, in whose person he ought to refresh Christ with courtesy and to embrace him with a most kindly welcome, a man should choose to observe a strict fast, would he not rather be guilty of incivility than gain the praise or reward of devoutness? or if when the failure or weakness of the flesh requires the strength to be restored by the partaking of food, a man will not consent to relax the rigour of his abstinence, is he not to be regarded as a cruel murderer of his own body rather than as one who is careful for his salvation? So too when a festival season permits a suitable indulgence in food and a necessarily liberal repast, if a man will resolutely cling to the strict observance of a fast he must be considered as not religious so much as boorish and unreasonable. But to those men also will these things be found bad, who are on the lookout for the praises of men by their fasts, and by a foolish show of paleness gain credit for sanctity, of whom the word of the Gospel tells us that they have received their reward in this life, and whose fast the Lord execrates by the prophet. In whose person he first objected to himself and said: “Wherefore have we fasted and Thou hast not regarded: wherefore have we humbled our souls, and Thou hast not known it?” and then at once he answered and explained the reasons why they did not deserve to be heard: “Behold,” he says, “in the days of your fast your own will is found and you exact of all your debtors. Behold you fast for debates and strife, and strike with the fist wickedly. Do not fast as ye have done unto this day, to make your cry to be heard on high. Is this such a fast as I have chosen, for a man to afflict his soul for a day? Is it this, to wind his head about like a circle, and to spread sackcloth and ashes? Will ye call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord?” Then he proceeds to teach how the abstinence of one who fasts may become acceptable, and clearly lays down that fasting cannot be good of itself alone, but only when it has the following reasons which are added: “Is not this,” he says, “the fast that I have chosen? Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the harbourless into thine house: and when thou shalt see one naked cover him, and despise not thine own flesh. Then shalt thy light break forth as the morning and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy righteousness shall go before thy face and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear: thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here am I.”1 You see then that fasting is certainly not considered by the Lord as a thing that is good in its own nature, because it becomes good and well-pleasing to God not by itself but by other works, and again from the surrounding circumstances it may be regarded as not merely vain but actually hateful, as the Lord says: “When they fast I will not hear their prayers.”2

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St John Chrysostom on Fasting

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 31, 2019

The following is excerpted from St John Chrysostom’s 3rd Homily on the Statues.

7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession. Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveller boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest. So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travellers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveller. Hence St. Paul saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole armour of God.”4 Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behoves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual armour, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual armour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow. Cultivate thy soul. Cut away the thorns. Sow the word of godliness. Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman. And Paul will say to thee, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”5 He too himself practised this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”6 Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on. And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance. Keep down the waves of inordinate desires. Repel the tempest of evil thoughts. Preserve the bark; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot. But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.

8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practise it, unless it be done according to a suitable law.7 “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.”8 To the end then, that when we have gone through the labour of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted,9 but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it. The Ninevites fasted, and won the favour of God.1 The Jews fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame.2 Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow. Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskilfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

9. Let us see then how the Ninevites fasted, and how they were delivered from that wrath—“Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything,”3 saith (the prophet). What sayest thou? Tell me—must even the irrational things fast, and the horses and the mules be covered with sackcloth? “Even so,” he replies. For as when, at the decease of some rich man, the relatives clothe not only the men servants and maid servants, but the horses also with sackcloth, and give orders that they should follow the procession to the sepulchre, led by their grooms; thus signifying the greatness of the calamity, and inviting all to pity; thus also, indeed, when that city was about to be destroyed, even the irrational nature was enveloped in sackcloth, and subjected to the yoke of fasting. “It is not possible,” saith he, “that irrational creatures should learn the wrath of God by means of reason; let them be taught by means of fasting, that this stroke is of divine infliction. For if the city should be overturned, not only would it be one common sepulchre for us, the dwellers therein, but for these likewise. Inasmuch then as these would participate in the punishment, let them also do so in the fast. But there was yet another thing which they aimed at in this act, which the prophets also are wont to do. For these, when they see some dreadful chastisement proceeding from heaven, and those who are to be punished without anything to say for themselves;—laden with shame,—unworthy of the least pardon or excuse:—not knowing what to do, nor from whence they may procure an advocacy for the condemned, they have recourse to the things irrational; and describing their death in tragical fashion, they make intercession by them, putting forward as a plea their pitiable and mournful destruction. When therefore, aforetime, famine had seized upon the Jews, and a great drought oppressed their country, and all things were being consumed, one of the prophets spoke thus, “The young heifers leaped in their stalls; the herds of oxen wept, because there was no pasture; all the cattle of the field looked upward to Thee, because the streams of waters were dried up.”4 Another prophet bewailing the evils of drought again speaks to this effect: “The hinds calved in the fields and forsook it, because there was no grass.5 The wild asses did stand in the forests; they snuffed up the wind like a dragon; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.” Moreover, ye have heard Joel saying to-day, “Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet;—the infants that suck the breast.”6 For what reason, I ask, does he call so immature an age to supplication? Is it not plainly for the very same reason? For since all who have arrived at the age of manhood, have inflamed and provoked God’s wrath, let the age, saith he, which is devoid of transgressions supplicate Him who is provoked.

10. But, as I said before, we may see what it was that dissolved such inexorable wrath. Was it, forsooth, fasting only and sackcloth? We say not so; but the change of their whole life. Whence does this appear? From the very language of the prophet. For he who hath discoursed of the wrath of God, and of their fasting,7 himself too, when speaking of the reconciliation, and teaching us the cause of the reconciliation, speaks to this effect; “And God saw their works.”8 What kind of works? That they had fasted? That they had put on sackcloth? Nothing of the sort: but passing all these points in silence, he adds, “That they turned every one from their evil ways, and the Lord repented of the evil that He had said He would do unto them.” Seest thou, that fasting did not rescue from this danger, but it was the change of life, which rendered God propitious and kind to these barbarians?

11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honour fasting; for the honour of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works! Is it said by what kind of works? If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him! If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him! If thou seest a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never1 to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,”2 it says.

12. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes;3 and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbour. Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”4 Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbour thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse;5 for should he be a wicked man, he becomes more careless when he finds a partner in his wickedness; and should he be a just man, he is lifted to arrogance, and puffed up; being led on by the sin of others to imagine great things concerning himself. Besides,6 thou hast struck at the common welfare of the Church; for all those who hear not only accuse the supposed sinner, but the reproach is fastened on the Christian community; neither dost thou hear the unbelievers saying, “Such a person is a fornicator, or a libertine;” but instead of the individual who hath sinned, they accuse all Christians. In addition to this,7 thou hast caused the glory of God to be blasphemed; for as His Name is glorified when we have good report, so when we sin, it is blasphemed and insulted!

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An Important Note on the Book of Judges

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2019

It is important to keep in mind that the book of judges is about the degeneration of leadership in Israel during the age of the judges. It’s purpose is both to justify the rise of kingship in Israel (Jud 17:6; 18:1; 21:25), which is the subject matter of 1 & 2 Samuel, and also provide foundations for the criticism of the failures (moral, religious, political) of various kings (1 & 2 Sam; 1 & 2 Kings). As Catholic biblical scholars, Dr. John Bergsma, and Dr. Brant Pitre note: “It cannot be emphasized enough that the narratives of Judges are intended by the author to be descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, he describes how things actually were during the time of the judges, not how they ought to have been. A picture of how things ‘ought to be’ is provided in the following book, Ruth. In Judges, however, the reader is meant to be repulsed by the narratives, shocked by how bad things get when ‘everyone does what is right in his own eyes’ (Judges 21:25), an ancient description of moral relativism (disbelief in any absolute moral standards) and its close cousin subjectivism (the personal subject is his own final arbiter of truth). Inasmuch as moral relativism and subjectivism are once again rampant in world culture, we see contemporary manifestations of some of the same horrific behavior found in the book of Judges.” (A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament, Pg. 134).

SUGGESTED READINGS: These are only my recommendations, not an endorsement of every position taken or interpretation given.

A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament. Catholic. By Dr. John Bergsma and Dr. Brant Pitre.

Judges and Ruth: Brazos Theological Commentary. Ecumenical. By Dr. Laura A. Smit (Judges), and Dr. Stephen E. Fowl (Ruth). Part of an ecumenical series with contributions from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox authors. Smit is Protestant, Fowl is Catholic. Chapter 1, “The Big Picture” is helpful.

Navarre Bible Commentary: Joshua to Kings. Catholic. By the Faculty of Navarre University.

Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Historical Books. Protestant. By Philip E. Satterthwaite and Dr. J. Gordon McConville. See especially the subjects treated under the heading “Key Themes.”

Handbook of the Historical Books. Protestant. By Victor P. Hamilton.

Judges: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. Berit Olam Series. Ecumenical series. By Tammi J, Schneider. I believe the author is Jewish. The General Editor is Catholic.

Joshua, Judges: With an Excursus on Charismatic Leadership in Israel (Old Testaemnt Message Series, Vol 5). Catholic. By Leslie J. Hoppe.

 

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