Pacian of Barcelona: St Paul, the Law, Sin, Death and Grace Tuesday, Jul 16 2013 

Fathers_of_the_ChurchLearn then, dearly beloved, in what death man was placed before Baptism.

You know that assuredly of old, how Adam was returned to his earthly origin; what condemnation imposed upon him the law of eternal death.

You know that this death had dominion over all his posterity, as being held under this one law, over the whole race from Adam to Moses. 

But through Moses one only people was chosen, the seed that is of Abraham, if they had been able to keep the commands of righteousness.

Meanwhile we all were held under sin, that we might eat the fruits of death.

We were appointed to feed on husks and to keep swine, that is to filthy works, by wicked angels, whose dominion allowed us neither to do nor to know righteousness.

For our very condition compelled us to obey such masters.

How we were delivered from these powers and from this death, now listen. When Adam sinned, (as I have mentioned,) the Lord then saying, Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return, he was assigned unto death.

This assignment was transmitted to the whole race, for all sinned, nature herself now impelling them, as St Paul says, As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. 

Sin therefore reigned, in whose bonds we were dragged, as it were captives unto death, death, that is, eternal.

But this sin, before the time of the Law, was not even understood, as Paul says, Until the Law was, sin in the world was not accounted, that is, was not seen; at the coming of the Law, it revived. 

For it was made manifest, that it might be seen; but to no purpose, for hardly anyone kept it. For the Law said, Thou shall not commit adultery, thou shall not kill, thou shall not covet, yet concupiscence with all vices still continued.

So then before the Law this sin slew man with a concealed, under the Law, with a drawn, sword. What hope therefore had man? Without the Law he perished, because he could not see sin, and under the Law, because he ran into that very sin which he saw.

Who could free him from death? Hear St Paul, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Grace (he says) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what is grace? The remission of sin, that is, a free gift. For grace is a free gift. Christ therefore, coming and taking upon Him the nature of man, first presented before God this very human nature pure from the power of sin and innocent.

Pacian of Barcelona (c.310-391): Discourse on Baptism, 2-4.

Origen Adamantius: Building an Ark of Salvation Within the Heart Wednesday, Aug 22 2012 

Just as at that time Noah made an ark, so also our Noah, who is Christ Jesus, is told by the Father to make himself an ark of squared planks and give it dimensions filled with heavenly mysteries.

[…] There are two lower decks and three upper decks to show that in the Church, although all are contained within the one faith and are washed in the one baptism, progress is not one and the same for all, but each one in his own order.

Since God orders that the ark be constructed not only with two decks but also with three, let as also make sure we join to our twofold exposition of the Scriptures also a third meaning.

For the literal meaning which comes first is a kind of foundation at the lower level. The mystical interpretation comes second, being higher and loftier. Let us attempt, if we can, to add a moral exposition as the third level.

If there is anyone who, while evils are increasing, can turn from the things which are in flux, and can hear the word of God, this man is building an ark of salvation within his own heart and is dedicating a library, so to speak, of the divine word within himself.

He does not construct this library from planks which are unhewn and rough, but from planks which have been squared and arranged in a uniform line, that is, not from the volumes of secular authors, but from the prophetic and apostolic volumes and from the works of those who have followed them in the right lines of faith.

You shall make it with two decks and with three decks. From this library learn the historical narratives; from it recognise the great mystery which is fulfilled in Christ and in the Church.

From it also learn how to correct habits and to curtail vices. You ought also to bring in animals of every kind, the unclean as well as the clean.

I think that concupiscence and wrath, which are in every soul, are necessarily said to be unclean in the sense that they serve to make man sin.

But because the human race is not renewed without concupiscence nor can any correction or discipline exist without anger, they are said to be necessary and must be preserved.

Let us pray, however, the mercy of the omnipotent God to make us not only hearers of his word, but also doers and to bring upon our souls also a flood of his water and destroy in us what he knows should be destroyed and quicken what he knows should be quickened, through Christ our Lord and through his Holy Spirit.

Origen Adamantius (c.185-254): Homilies on Genesis 2.1, 3, 6; FoC 71 (1981) tr. Heine, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Bonaventure: The Lord’s Prayer and the Gifts of the Spirit Tuesday, Jul 19 2011 

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are touched upon in the Lord’s Prayer.

Those gifts are not had except from the Father of lights. For that reason Christ, wanting to teach us in what manner we can obtain them, teaches us to ask for them in the Lord’s Prayer.

In the first part the gift of fear is asked for, when He says: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.

Secondly piety is asked for, when He says: May Thy Kingdom come.

Third the gift of knowledge is asked for, when He says: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Fourth the gift of fortitude is asked for, when He says: Give us this day our daily bread. Bread strengthens the heart of a man.

Fifth the gift of counsel is asked for, when He says: And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

Sixth the gift of understanding is asked for, when He says: And put us not to the test.

Seventh the gift of wisdom is asked for, when He says: But free us from evil. Amen.

In the first our sanctification is asked for, and this through the gift of fear, when He says, Our Father, who art in Heaven; hallowed be Thy Name.

Isaiah says: Hallow the Lord of Hosts, He is both thy trembling and they fear.

In the second the consummation of human salvation is asked for, which is not had except through the gift of piety; let there be judgment without mercy for him who has not worked mercy.

That gift is touched upon, when He says: Thy Kingdom come.

In the third part the fulfillment of the divine law is asked for through the gift of knowledge, because it teaches how to ask well and avoid evils.

This gift is touched upon, when He says: Thy will be done etc..

In the fourth part the reheating of eternal virtue is asked for, and through this the gift of virtue or of fortitude, when He says: Give us this day our daily bread. For Bread strengthens the heart of a man.

In the fifth the remission of sins is asked for through the gift of counsel, when He says: And forgive us our debts, as etc..

In the sixth petition the warding off of hostile deceit is asked for through the gift of understanding, when He says: And put us not to the test.

In the seventh petition the subjugation of carnal concupiscence is asked for through the gift of wisdom, when He says: But free us from evil. Amen.

It is impossible, that the soul tame its flesh, unless it be filled full with the gift of wisdom.

Bonaventure of Bagnorea (1221-1274): Conferences on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Cap. 2,3-4.

John of the Cross: The Dazzling Power of Desire Saturday, Jul 16 2011 

The soul that is clouded by the desires is darkened in the understanding, and allows neither the sun of natural reason nor that of the supernatural Wisdom of God to shine upon it and illumine it clearly.

[…] And, at this same time, when the soul is darkened in the understanding, it is benumbed also in the will, and the memory becomes dull and disordered in its due operation.

For, as these faculties in their operations depend upon the understanding, it is clear that, when the understanding is impeded, they will become disordered and troubled.

And thus David says: “My soul is sorely troubled”. Which is as much as to say, “disordered in its faculties.”

For, as we say, the understanding has no more capacity for receiving enlightenment from the wisdom of God than has the air, when it is dark, for receiving enlightenment from the sun.

Neither has the will any power to embrace God within itself in pure love, even as the mirror that is clouded with vapour has no power to reflect clearly within itself any visage.

And even less power has the memory, which is clouded by the darkness of desire, to take clearly upon itself the form of the image of God, just as the muddled water cannot show forth clearly the visage of one that looks at himself therein.

Desire blinds and darkens the soul; for desire, as such, is blind, since of itself it has no understanding in itself, the reason being to it always, as it were, a child leading a blind man.

And hence it comes to pass that, whensoever the soul is guided by its desire, it becomes blind; for this is as if one that sees were guided by one that sees not, which is, as it were, for both to be blind.

[…] And even so we may say that one who feeds upon desire is like a fish that is dazzled, upon which the light acts rather as darkness, preventing it from seeing the snares which the fishermen are preparing for it.

[…] And it is this that desire does to the soul, enkindling its concupiscence and dazzling its understanding so that it cannot see its light.

For the cause of its being thus dazzled is that when another light of a different kind is set before the eye, the visual faculty is attracted by that which is interposed so that it sees not the other.

And, as the desire is set so near to the soul as to be within the soul itself, the soul meets this first light and is attracted by it.

And thus it is unable to see the light of clear understanding, neither will see it until the dazzling power of desire is taken away from it.

John of the Cross (1542-1591): Ascent of Mount Carmel, 1, 8, 1-3.