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

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A Brief Sermon on the Transfiguration by St Augustine

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

WE heard when the Holy Gospel was being read of the great vision on the mount, in which Jesus showed Himself to the three disciples, Peter, James, and John. “His face did shine as the sun:” this is a figure of the shining of the Gospel. “His raiment was white as the snow:”1 this is a figure of the purity of the Church, to which it was said by the Prophet, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow.”2 Elias and Moses were talking with Him; because the grace of the Gospel receives witness from the Law and the Prophets. The Law is represented in Moses, the Prophets in Elias; to speak briefly. For there are the mercies of God vouchsafed through a holy Martyr to be rehearsed. Let us give ear Peter desired three tabernacles to be made, one for Moses, one for Elias, and one for Christ. The solitude of the mountain had charms for him; he had been wearied with the tumult of the world’s business. But why sought be three tabernacles, but because he knew not as yet the unity of the Law, and of Prophecy, and of the Gospel? Lastly, he was corrected by the cloud, “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them.” Lo, the cloud hath made one tabernacle; wherefore didst thou seek for three? “And a voice came out of the cloud, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.”3 Elias speaketh; but “hear Him;” Moses speaketh; but “hear Him.” The Prophets speak, the Law speaketh; but “hear Him,” who is the voice of the Law, and the tongue of the Prophets. He spake in them, and when He vouchsafed so to do, He appeared in His own person. “Hear ye Him:” let us then hear Him. When the Gospel spake, think it was the cloud: from thence hath the voice sounded out to us. Let us hear Him; that is, let us do what He saith, let us hope for what He hath promised.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 9:1-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2017

Analysis

This chapter commences with an account of the miraculous cure, performed by our Lord in restoring sight to a man who was born blind. The questions proposed by the disciples, as to the cause of his blindness. Our Redeemer’s reply. At the same time, He declares Himself to be the light of the world (1–5). The manner in which the cure was effected (6–13). The bitter animadversion of the Pharisees, as usual, denouncing the violation of the Sabbath. The discussion among them, as to our Lord’s character. The appeal to the man who was cured, as to his opinion respecting our Lord. The appeal to the man’s parents, as to his identity (15–24) Their vile abuse of the man for showing an inclination to respect and speak in terms of praise of our Lord (24–29). His courageous reply, and his expulsion from the place of meeting, in consequence (30–34). The gift of faith or spiritual enlightenment, bestowed on him by our Lord (34–39). Our Lord’s denunciation of the Pharisees for their perversity and resistance to God’s heavenly light, thereby entailing on themselves the more grievous sin (39–41).

1 And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.

And Jesus passing by,” etc. The common opinion is, that the occurrences here referred to took place in connexion with the foregoing, immediately after our Lord left the Temple. This is, however, questioned by others, who hold that some interval elapsed. These say, it may refer to some other time, when the Pharisees sought an occasion for assailing our Redeemer, on which account, the Evangelist now records it, and they ground their opinion, chiefly on our Lord’s disappearance, coupled with the fact, that His disciples were present. There is nothing, however, to prevent one from holding, that His disciples may have met Him outside, as, most likely, on His disappearing, they, too, left the Temple.

A man blind from his birth,” which rendered his case the more difficult, and the miracle wrought more remarkable.

2 And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?

Who hath sinned,” etc. This question probably took its rise from the prevailing popular opinion, that diseases and corporal ailments were the punishment of sin. This may be true; but, not always, as may be seen from the case of Job, as well as of Tobias, etc. Great calamities, sudden deaths, by no means argue any particular commission of sin (Luke 13:1–4). Others hold, that the question was suggested by our Lord’s admonition to the man sick of the palsy. “Go, sin no more, lest anything worse,” etc. (5:14).

The question as regards the man himself committing sin, so as to induce the curse of blindness, is quite unmeaning, as if he could commit actual sin, before he was born. It is intelligible, so far as it may concern his parents, since God often punishes children, on account of the sins of their fathers. “A jealous God visiting the iniquity of the Fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5).

St. Chrysostom and Theophylact say the disciples speak thus, not by way of interrogation, as if they suspected that either child or parents were in fault, but by way of doubting, as much as to say; neither of them could give rise to it.

3 Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Neither this man sinned,” etc. The question requires the words to be added, “that he should be born blind.” Our Lord does not deny that this man or his parents had been guilty of sin, besides original sin—(the source of all our misfortunes)—in which we were all born. What He denies is that this blindness was the result or effect of any particular sin of theirs, on account of which it was inflicted.

That the works of God,” etc. It happened, in order that an occasion would be afforded, for having the works of God’s power and goodness manifested in his miraculous cure by our Lord; and that thus, it would be proved that our Lord was sent by God, and men would be stimulated to believe in Him and follow Him.

4 I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I must”—considering My Father’s decree—“work the works of Him that sent Me,” which My Father, commissioned Me, as His legate to perform, so as to bring men to the faith and to eternal salvation, “whilst it is day,” during the course of My mortal life and during my corporal presence among men. “The night cometh”—the time of My death and of My absence from among men, is fast drawing to a close. “When no man can work.” I can no more work among men, after My departure out of this world, than any one else can. After death, men can perform no work, neither can I. “Neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom in hell (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Our Lord wishes to convey that after death, He cannot work by His own visible personal operation, as He did in life. He can neither suffer, nor die, nor teach men, nor perform miracles for man’s salvation; though, indeed, after death, He works through His holy Spirit, and by means of Apostolic men.

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

As long,” etc. Therefore, must I work while it is day. I must not hide my light under a bushel. I must not be idle. I must enlighten the world. Not that He ceased to enlighten the world after His departure. For, even now, it is He, “that enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” But, He would not enlighten it, as He did during His life time, by personally working miracles, and instructing men in person.

These words are also allusive to the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man, and enlightening him, which our Lord is about to effect.

6 When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,

. “When He had said,” etc., as if to show practically, in a partial way, that He was the light of the world, destined to enlighten those who sat in darkness, whether spiritually or corporally, He, at once, proceeds to effect the cure of the blind man. He might have accomplished this by His sole word of command, but He employs the instrumentality of His creatures, in a way, that conveys some mystery, and contains some recondite, hidden meaning. “He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread it on the eyes” of the blind man.

Various conjectures are hazarded, as to why He did this. Some say, He wished to show, that as He originally formed man out of the slime of the earth; so, He employed the same material for the repairing of human nature, that He used in its formation. He makes use, in restoring sight, of the very thing, which if applied to the eyes of a sound man, would render him perfectly blind, to convey that the restoration of his sight would appear from the contrary and inadequate means employed, attributable, not to human natural agency, but solely as the effect of Divine power. Sometimes, in the Old Testament, did the Prophets employ such means and instrumentality. For instance, see Miracles of Eliseus (4 Kings 20:21; 6:5, 6), thereby showing that the wonderful results are the effects of God’s power, owing to the inadequacy of the human means employed

Similar is the economy of God’s Providence in carrying out His greatest work, the work of man’s redemption (see 1 Cor. 1. Commentary on).

Our Lord mixed with the clay, spittle, the foam of His own mouth, to show how salutary was every thing emanating from Him.

Those, who impiously jeer at the use of ceremonies, and material elements in connexion with spiritual effects, which they symbolize, have a clear refutation in this action, and several similar actions on the part of our Divine Redeemer for similar effects (Mark 7:33; 8:23).

To try his obedience, our Lord, who might have cured the blind man on the spot, tells him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloe.” He might have also in view, to have the miracle, which He wrought on the Sabbath, more generally known, when the people saw this man passing a long way through the midst of the city, towards the pool, with the clay on his eyes, thus taking away from the unbelievers all excuse for rejecting Him. The Prophet Elizeus acted similarly with Naaman, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:10).

7 And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.

Wash in the pool of Siloe.” Siloe or Siloam, had its origin in a fountain at the foot of Mount Sion, which, as we are told by St. Jerome (in Isaias 8), sent forth its waters, not continuously, but, only intermittently, at certain seasons and certain days, discharging them with great noise through subterranean passages and the fissures of the hardest rocks, till they formed the pool now spoken of, called the pool of Siloam.

St. Epiphanius (in vita Prophetarum c. 7) tells us, the waters gushed from the rock at the prayer of Isaias. The waters having passed through the cavities of the rocks with great noise, formed the pool here referred to, in the western side of the valley of Josaphat, outside, but quite close to Jerusalem; and from the pool, the waters glided gently (Isaias 8) into the little brook of Cedron, of which mention is made in the history of our Lord’s Passion (John 18:1). Allusion is made to the pool of Siloam in Nehemias (2:15).

Which is interpreted, sent,” being derived from the Hebrew Shalach, to send. It is not without some latent cause, the Evangelist gives the meaning and interpretation of “Siloe” to signify “sent.” It was a type of our Lord who was sent from the bosom of His Father to save and enlighten mankind, and of His mysteries and ordinances; especially of the rite of Baptism, instituted by Him to cleanse and wash us from our spiritual defects, and enlighten us spiritually by the light of Divine grace, of which St. Augustine tells us the waters of Siloe were a type.

He went therefore,” asking no questions, raising no doubts as to our Lord’s meaning, believing in His miraculous curative powers. “Washed,” as he was ordered, in reward of which “He came, seeing,” his sight being perfectly restored.

8 The neighbours, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.

The neighbours,” etc. This blind man was well known, and the remarks of his neighbours served to place the reality of His miraculous cure in the clearest light.

9 But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.
10 They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
11 He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.

The man called Jesus,” etc. This he did not say out of disrespect; but merely to show that he was yet a stranger to Him. He heard of Him, he knew Him only by report.

12 And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.
13 They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.
14 Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

As this miracle and the entire operation occurred on the Sabbath, the people doubt as to whether it could come from God. Hence, they bring the blind man before the Pharisees—members of the Sanhedrim—as judges in such cases. God’s Providence so arranged it, that the Pharisees themselves could not deny the fact of the miracle. “Cæcus confitebatur et cor impiorum frangebatur.” (St. Augustine.)

Our Lord, in order to refute the false notions of the Pharisees regarding Sabbatical observances, frequently fixed on the Sabbath, as the time for performing miracles.

15 Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.
16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

They had their own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, to which they wished all others to conform. The reality of the miracle they could not deny. Indeed, the reality of all our Lord’s miracles were undeniable. The facts were patent. So undeniable were they, that even in the Synagogue, they secured followers for our Lord, timid followers, however, on account of the violent persecution from the Jews.

A sinner,” an impostor or deceiver. Could God possibly grant the power of such miracles, performed in such a way, in proof of His own sanctity and Divine mission, to an impostor? Unable to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, His enemies, then, as also happened at all future periods, ascribed them to other than Divine agency.

There was a division,” etc. A schism. They were divided into two separate parties.

17 They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.

They had their own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, to which they wished all others to conform. The reality of the miracle they could not deny. Indeed, the reality of all our Lord’s miracles were undeniable. The facts were patent. So undeniable were they, that even in the Synagogue, they secured followers for our Lord, timid followers, however, on account of the violent persecution from the Jews.

A sinner,” an impostor or deceiver. Could God possibly grant the power of such miracles, performed in such a way, in proof of His own sanctity and Divine mission, to an impostor? Unable to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, His enemies, then, as also happened at all future periods, ascribed them to other than Divine agency.

There was a division,” etc. A schism. They were divided into two separate parties.

18 The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,

Seeing their views were not strengthened by the opinion of the blind man, to whom they appealed; the enemies of our Lord unable to deny the miraculous fact, now question the man’s identity, and have recourse to his parents to know if he were their son; thus, hoping in case of any difference of testimony, to discredit the miracle.

19 And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
20 His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
21 But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.

The Pharisees propose three questions. The man’s parents answer two of them. For prudential reasons, they decline answering the third, viz., how he was cured, as they did not wish to run the risk of excommunication. He is no longer an infant; he is of age to answer for himself and give testimony. The age for giving testimony among the Jews was the age of thirteen.

22 These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

Put out of the Synagogue,” was a kind of excommunication among the Jews entailing the heaviest religious and social penalties. The excommunicated were deprived of all religious intercourse; excluded from religious worship and sacrifice. They were deprived of all social intercourse also, even with their nearest and dearest friends. The very necessaries of life could not be sold to them.

23 Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.
24 They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.

Give glory to God.” This was a form of adjuration or obtestation; or of administering an oath in use among the Jews (Josue 7:19; 1 Kings 6:5; Jeremiah 12:16). They did not mean, give glory to God for thy cure. This they scornfully denied. Tell the truth, as in the presence of God, for the glory of God, whose sovereign veracity is thus honoured, as essentially loving the truth. Admit that there is an imposition in this case, that thou hast told us a lie, and endeavoured to impose on us; and thus thou wilt give glory to God, who hates and condemns all imposture, as He is the essential and eternal truth. To induce Him to make this acknowledgment, they say, “we”—who are the proper authority to decide such matters—“know,” we declare “this man,” this violator of the Sabbath, far from being a “Prophet” commissioned by God, to be “a sinner,” a blasphemous seducer.

25 He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.

I know not.” I have no opinion to offer. Facts speak for themselves. “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,” owing to His having opened my eyes.

26 They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes?

They want to confound Him by their questions, and to elicit from Him some contradiction, in order to injure the credibility of the miraculous cure.

27 He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?

Justly indignant at their conduct and factious persistency, he loses patience on clearly seeing the wicked passions that prompted this unmeaning cavilling, and asks, “will you also,” as well as His other followers, become His disciples? What other object can you have in thus sifting my case, unless after discovering the truth, to become, like others among them, myself included, “His disciples?” This stinging, reproachful irony was calculated to annoy them. He saw well their determined malice, and their incurable hatred of our Lord.

28 They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.

They reviled Him,” heaping imprecations on Him, especially by saying, what they considered the most insulting and ignominious charge. You are His disciple, “or, be you His disciple,” the follower of an impostor—a fate which your seeming attachment to Him merits for you. Or, “You are His disciple.” You show yourself so degraded, as to be a fit follower of such a blasphemous impostor.

As for us, “we are disciples of Moses.” We follow his law regarding Sabbatical and other observances, unlike the man, who impiously prides himself in trampling on them.

29 We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.

We know that God spoke to Moses.” Therefore, in following his law, we obey God’s law. “As for this man”—they speak contemptuously—“we know not from whence He is.” Whatever His country or descent may be, we know not whether He derives His commission or doctrine from God or from the devil. Of this we are totally ignorant.

30 The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes.

Herein is a wonderful thing.” It is a matter to be greatly wondered at, viz., “that you,” who are the teachers of the people, you, who boast of being so learned in the law—“know not whence He is,” cannot see, whence He derives His mission and authority. “And—yet—He hath opened my eyes.” Whence could He derive His mission, but from God, who, in proof of His Divine mission, has performed such stupendous miracles, among the rest, opening my eyes, who was born blind—a miracle that you cannot, in any way, question?

31 Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth his will, him he heareth.

Now we know,” as a matter commonly and generally believed. In this, the blind man gives expression to the opinion commonly entertained. Hence, he says, “we know.”

That God doth not hear sinners.” This, taken in a general or universal sense, is not true; for, God does hear sinners and lends an ear to their petitions when they approach Him with proper dispositions of penance and sorrow. But, the words have here a restricted meaning, from the context, which has reference to the working of miracles, and then the words mean: God does not hear sinners, who persevere in a sinful course, so as to give them the power of working miracles, in proof of their Divine mission and personal sanctity, as in the case of miracles wrought by our Divine Lord. God never gives the seal of His power in the operation of miracles, to prove men to be holy who are not so, or to be sent by Him, who were not sent, but ran of themselves.

These are the words of the blind man. We are not bound to defend their accuracy. All the Scriptures are committed to is, that he uttered the words, which is no doubt true.

But if a man be a server of God,” a true sincere worshipper, announcing true, sound doctrine, and in addition, “doth His will,” observes His commandments, “him He heareth,” whenever He calls upon him, when necessary, for power to work wonders. Then, God grants Him this power. In this, it is implied, that whenever men work miracles, they do so, not by their own innate power, but by the power of God.

32 From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.

From the beginning of the world.” In the whole history of miracles wrought from the beginning of the world, whether by Moses or the Prophets, or any one else, there is no instance of restoring sight to a man born blind in so extraordinary a way, by rubbing and wiping off clay. Hence the superiority of this man, whom you spurn and reject, over Moses or the Prophets who have gone before us.

33 Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.

. The conclusion is, that this, being so rare and stupendous a miracle, could only come from the power of God, especially as it had for object, like all the other miracles of our Redeemer, to prove His sanctity and mission from God. “Unless this man were from God, He could not do any thing,” like the miracle just wrought by Him.

34 They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Finding they could neither shake the confidence nor impugn the veracity, nor answer the arguments of this man, now laying aside their affected mildness, assumed in order to elicit inconvenient replies, they show themselves in their true colours, and indulge in abuse of the grossest kind.

Thou”—a wretched ignorant mendicant—“wast born wholly in sins,” defiled with sin, soul and body, from your birth to this day; and in punishment of these sins hast been cursed with blindness from your very birth. Likely, these men entertained the notions regarding the infliction of bodily maladies in punishment of sin, expressed by our Lord’s disciples (v. 2).

And dost thou teach us?” “Thou” and “us” are emphatic. “Teach us,” so famed for sanctity of life, and a profound knowledge of the law.

And they cast him out,” from the place of meeting, whatever it was. Some say, the Synagogue, thus excommunicating Him. This latter opinion is hardly likely, as the man did not yet explicitly declare that our Lord was the Messiah.

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God?

Our Lord arranged to find out this man, so dishonoured for his intrepid defence of his heavenly deliverer and the avowal of his miraculous cure. In order to compensate him for this injury, He now bestows on him the priceless spiritual enlightenment of faith, for which the restoration of his bodily sight had gradually disposed him.

He asked him, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” Our Lord asked him this, when there was question of his spiritual enlightenment, or the gift of faith about to be bestowed on him, to secure his co-operation; while in regard to corporal enlightenment, no co-operation was needed, according to the teaching of St. Augustine. “Qui fecit te sine te, non justificat te sine te; fecit nescientem, justificat volentem.” (Sermo. 15, de verbis Apostoli.)

He uses the words, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” rather than, “Dost thou believe in Me?” as He gradually wished to reveal Himself to him, and cause him no sudden surprise, by declaring Himself at once the Son of God. Likely, the man cured, did not know it was our Lord cured him, since he was sent to the Pool of Siloe to be healed, and had not seen our Lord up to this. He believed our Lord to be a Prophet, and proclaimed Him as such. He did not, however, as yet fully believe, though, no doubt, well disposed, to do so, in His Divinity. It may be, the man knew from His voice, that it was our Lord cured him; but, in any case, he did not believe in His Divinity. He knew in case he recognised Him as his benefactor, that He would not deceive him; and hence, he cried out.

36 He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?

Who is He, Lord?” etc. The word, “Lord,” is a term of respect, and might be rendered, “Sir.” From his heart, he was ready to believe, but he did not precisely know who the person was, in whom he was to believe. Hence, the question.

37 And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee.

Our Lord then manifests Himself to him. “Thou hast seen Him,” reminding him of the blessing of sight conferred on him, “and it is He that talketh with thee.”

38 And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him.

By words—“I believe, Lord”—by acts, “and falling down, he adored Him,” the man who was blind proclaimed his faith in our Lord’s Divinity, whom hitherto he regarded, on account of the great miracle, in the light of a holy man sent by God; but, in that light only.

39 And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world: that they who see not may see; and they who see may become blind.

And Jesus said”—as is clear from verse 40—to the Pharisees. “For judgment,” in order to exercise a judgment of discernment, to separate the humble believers from the haughty unbelievers—or, “judgment” may mean, to execute the high and mysterious decree of God, giving the faith to the blind unbelieving Gentiles, who, like this blind man, are disposed humbly to embrace the faith; and rejecting the haughty Jews, wise and enlightened in their own opinion.

That”—so that, as a consequence. For, their own perversity was the cause of the rejection of the Jews and of the haughty.

They who see not,” who are in ignorance and error of the true faith and spiritually blind, but disposed to lay aside their errors and embrace the truth.

May see,” and be enlightened.

And they who see,” who fancy they are rich in faith and gifts of sanctity, may, in punishment of their pride and haughty resistance to grace, “see not,” become obdurate and impenitent. Like the Pagan philosophers referred to by St. Paul (Rom. 1), “Dicentes se esse sapientes, stulti facti sunt.” Our Lord did not come for the purpose of blinding the Jews; but He permitted them to continue blind, as a punishment of their resistance to grace.

40 And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind?

Some of the Pharisees who were with Him,” tracking His footsteps, wherever He went, in order to catch Him in His words, “heard,” and understanding that they were pointedly alluded to as spiritually blind, “said”—in an arrogant and malignant spirit—“Are we also blind?” “We also,” as well as the man whom You pretend to have enlightened. “Are we,” the rulers and teachers of the people, pronounced by you to be struck with spiritual blindness?

41 Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.

If you were blind,” in your own estimation and judgment—it is opposed to “but now you say we see”—and humbly acknowledged yourselves blind and ignorant and foolish in the affairs of your salvation, “You should not have sin.” You would cease to be overwhelmed with the weight of sin in which you are; because, you would humbly have had recourse to Me for your spiritual cure, owing to the consciousness of your miseries. “But now you say we see.” Now, you, arrogantly regard yourselves as having light and sanctity, you scorn any exhortation to have recourse to Me—the true Son of justice—“the true light, that enlightens every man that cometh into this world.” Hence, “your sin remaineth.” You continue, on account of your self-esteem, pride and arrogance, in your infidelity and sinful state.

It may also mean, “If you were blind,” and had not the knowledge of SS. Scriptures proclaiming Me to be the Son of God, and of the many miracles wrought by Me, which should convince you that I am come from God; then, indeed, you might have some excuse. I would have treated you leniently and have attracted you to Myself by My grace. Your sin would be comparatively trifling. But, now, you sin in the face of the light, and “your sin remains” unremitted, and, so you persevere in your infidelity.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:8-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2017

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of chapter 1, followed by his comments on today’s reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF 2 TIMOTHY CHAPTER ONE

In this chapter, the Apostle, after the usual Apostolical salutation, expresses his great affection for Timothy of which he gives a proof in his unceasing remembrance of him (1–3); and he shows how deserving Timothy was of this affection (4, 5). He, next, exhorts him to re-enkindle within him the grace which he received at his ordination. To preach the gospel with fortitude, and not to be ashamed of Christ crucified (8).

After having adduced several engaging motives for enduring sufferings and labour in the cause of the Gospel, he points out the manner of preaching, and the doctrine to be preached (9–14). He notes the defection of certain parties from the faith, and commends the charity of Onesiphorus towards himself in chains, for which he prays that he may be amply remunerated by God (15–18).

2 Tim 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but labour with the gospel, according to the power of God.

Be not, therefore, ashamed to bear testimony to our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, by preaching his Gospel; nor be ashamed of me, a prisoner on his account; but labour along with me in bearing the afflictions to which all the ministers of the Gospel are subjected, according to the strength given thee by God.

The “testimony of Christ,” may mean the gospel, which means a testimony handed down by witnesses, or rather the preaching of Christ crucified. “But labour with the gospel.” The Greek, συγκακοπαθησον = synkakopatheson, means, suffer together with the gospel. This he ought to do, in virtue of that spirit of love and equanimity which he received. “According to the power of God;” distrusting himself, he should repose all his hopes in God.

2 Tim 1:9 Who hath delivered us and called us by his holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the world:

Who has saved us from sin and eternal death and has, for this end, called us to a state of sanctity, not certainly in consideration of our works; (for, they were evil), but out of his own liberal bounty, and gratuitous mercy, which was decreed from eternity to be given to us, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ.

“Who has delivered us.” (In the Greek, τοῦ σώσαντος ἡμᾶς, = tou sosantos hemas =  saved us), from sin and its consequences, temporal and eternal, “and called us by his holy calling.” He saved us, by calling us to a state of sanctification. “According to his own purpose and grace, which was given,” i.e., given from eternity on the part of God, in virtue of his unchangeable decree, though it is only in time we could enjoy its effects.

2 Tim 1:10 But is now made manifest by the illumination of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath destroyed death and hath brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel.

But this gratuitous and merciful will of God in our regard, though hidden from eternity in God, has now been manifested by the advent and apparition of Jesus Christ our Saviour, who, indeed, by his passion destroyed the dominion of death, and brought into open light, immortal and incorruptible life, and afforded us a sure hope of enjoying it, by the preaching of his Gospel throughout the world.

“By the illumination,” i.e., the apparition and coming, as appears from the Greek, which literally is, Epiphany. “Who hath destroyed death,” or, according to the Greek, καταργῆσαντος μεν τὸν θάνατον = katargesantos men ton thnaton = rendered void death, by depriving it of its dominion over man, “and hath brought to light, life and incorruption, by the gospel.” Christ did this in two ways—first, he showed incorruptible life in himself, for forty days after his Resurrection; secondly, by the preaching of the gospel, throughout the world, he gave us a certain hope of one day enjoying the same incorruptible life.

 

 

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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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