John Chrysostom: “And Jesus seeing the multitudes went up into the mountain…” Monday, Aug 3 2015 

John_Chrysostom“And Jesus seeing the multitudes went up into the mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him. And He opened His mouth, and taught them…” (Matthew 5:1-2; prologue to the Sermon on the Mount)….

See how unambitious He was, and void of boasting, in that He did not lead people about with Him.

When healing was required, He had Himself gone about everywhere, visiting both towns and country places.

Now when the multitude is become very great, He sits in one spot; and that not in the midst of any city or forum, but on a mountain and in a wilderness.

And He instructs us to do nothing for display, and to separate ourselves from the tumults of ordinary life, and this most especially, when we are to study wisdom, and to discourse of things needful to be done.

But when He had gone up into the mount, and “was set down, His disciples came unto Him.”

Do you see their growth in virtue, and how in a moment they became better men?

Since the multitude were but gazers on the miracles, but these from that hour desired also to hear some great and high thing.

And indeed this it was set Him on His teaching, and made Him begin this discourse.

For it was not men’s bodies only that He was healing, but He was also amending their souls; and again from the care of these He would pass to attendance on the other.

Thus He at once varied the succour that He gave, and likewise mingled with the instruction afforded by His words the manifestation of His glory from His works.

And besides, He stopped the shameless mouths of the heretics, signifying by this His care of both parts of our being, that He Himself is the Maker of the whole creation.

Therefore also on each nature He bestowed abundant providence, now amending the one, now the other. And in this way He was then employed. For it is said, that “He opened His mouth, and taught them.”

And wherefore is the clause added, “He opened His mouth”? To inform us  that in His very silence He gave instruction, and not when He spoke only, but at one time by “opening His mouth,” at another uttering His voice by the works which He did.

But when you hear that He taught them, do not think of Him as discoursing with His disciples only, but rather with all through them.

For since the multitude was such as a multitude ever is, and consisted moreover of such as creep on the ground,  He withdraws the choir of His disciples, and makes His discourse unto them.

In His conversation with them He provides that the rest also, who were yet very far from the level of His sayings, might find His lesson of self-denial no longer grievous unto them.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 1 (on Matthew 5:1-2); slightly adapted.

John Chrysostom: “You are the Salt of the Earth” Sunday, Feb 9 2014 

John_Chrysostom“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).

Now then, after giving the disciples due exhortation [i.e. in the Beatitudes], Jesus refreshes them again with praises.

The injunctions being high, and far surpassing those in the Old Testament; lest they should be disturbed and confounded, He does not want them to say, “How shall we be able to achieve these things?”

Hear, then,  what He says: “Ye are the salt of the earth.”

[…] For “not for your own life apart,” says He, “but for the whole world, shall your account be.

“For not to two cities, nor to ten or twenty, nor to a single nation am I sending you, as I sent the prophets; but to earth, and sea, and the whole world; and that in evil case.”

For by saying, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” He signified all human nature to have “lost its savor,”and to be decayed by our sins.

For which cause, you see, He requires of them such virtues, as are most necessary and useful for the superintendence of the common sort.

For first, the meek, and yielding, and merciful, and righteous, shuts not up his good deeds unto himself only, but also provides that these good fountains should run over for the benefit of others.

And he again who is pure in heart, and a peacemaker, and is persecuted for the truth’s sake; he again orders his way of life for the common good.

“Think not then,” He says, “that ye are drawn on to ordinary conflicts, or that for some small matters you are to give account.”

“Ye are the salt of the earth.” What then? Did they restore the decayed? By no means; for neither is it possible to do any good to that which is already spoilt, by sprinkling it with salt.

This therefore they did not. But rather, what things had been before restored, and committed to their charge, and freed from that ill savor, these they then salted, maintaining and preserving them in that freshness,which they had received of the Lord.

For that men should be set free from the rottenness of their sins was the good work of Christ; but their not returning to it again any more was the object of these men’s diligence and travail.

[…]  “But if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

[…] He tells them, “unless ye are prepared to combat with all this, ye have been chosen in vain.” For it is not evil report that ye should fear, but lest ye should prove partners in dissimulation. For then, “Ye will lose your savor, and be trodden under foot.”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 10.

Cyril of Alexandria: To Heal those who were Sick whether in Body or Spirit… Tuesday, Oct 29 2013 

cyril_alexandriaOur Lord Jesus Christ has appointed certain men to be guides and teachers of the world and stewards of his divine mysteries.

Now he bids them to shine out like lamps and to cast out their light not only over the land of the Jews but over every country under the sun and over people scattered in all directions and settled in distant lands.

That man has spoken truly who said: No one takes honor upon himself, except the one who is called by God, for it was our Lord Jesus Christ who called his own disciples before all others to a most glorious apostolate.

These holy men became the pillar and mainstay of the truth, and Jesus said that he was sending them just as the Father had sent him.

By these words he is making clear the dignity of the apostolate and the incomparable glory of the power given to them, but he is also, it would seem, giving them a hint about the methods they are to adopt in their apostolic mission.

For if Christ thought it necessary to send out his intimate disciples in this fashion, just as the Father had sent him, then surely it was necessary that they whose mission was to be patterned on that of Jesus should see exactly why the Father had sent the Son.

And so Christ interpreted the character of his mission to us in a variety of ways. Once he said: I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. 

And then at another time he said: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Accordingly, in affirming that they are sent by him just as he was sent by the Father, Christ sums up in a few words the approach they themselves should take to their ministry.

From what he said they would gather that it was their vocation to call sinners to repentance, to heal those who were sick whether in body or spirit, to seek in all their dealings never to do their own will but the will of him who sent them, and as far as possible to save the world by their teaching.

Surely it is in all these respects that we find his holy disciples striving to excel. To ascertain this is no great labor, a single reading of the Acts of the Apostles or of Saint Paul’s writings is enough.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel of John, book 12, c.3 (PG 74, 707-710) from the Office of Readings for the Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, on October 28th, @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory the Great: When the Words of Exhortation have Established Truth in Our Minds, the Lord Comes to Live Within Us Friday, Oct 18 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistBeloved brothers, our Lord and Saviour sometimes gives us instruction by words and sometimes by actions.

His very deeds are our commands; and whenever he acts silently he is teaching us what we should do.

For example, he sends his disciples out to preach two by two, because the precept of charity is twofold-love of God and of one’s neighbour.

The Lord sends his disciples out to preach in two’s in order to teach us silently that whoever fails in charity toward his neighbour should by no means take upon himself the office of preaching.

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go.

For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

To those who preach Isaiah says: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. And the psalmist tells them: Make a way for him who rises above the sunset.

The Lord rises above the sunset because from that very place where he slept in death, he rose again and manifested a greater glory. He rises above the sunset because in his resurrection he trampled underfoot the death which he endured.

Therefore, we make a way for him who rises above the sunset when we preach his glory to you, so that when he himself follows after us, he may illumine you with his love.

Let us listen now to his words as he sends his preachers forth: The harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.

That the harvest is good but the labourers are few cannot be said without a heavy heart, for although there are many to hear the good news there are only a few to preach it.

Indeed, see how full the world is of priests, but yet in God’s harvest a true labourer is rarely to be found; although we have accepted the priestly office we do not fulfil its demands.

Think over, my beloved brothers, think over his words: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may be able to labour worthily on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, that after we have taken up the office of preaching our silence may not bring us condemnation from the just judge.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homily 17, 1-3, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Luke @ Universalis.  

 

Luis Beltrán: Truly Seek Prayer, a Place of Retreat and Solitude Monday, Oct 14 2013 

Louis_BertrandOctober 9th was the feast of St Luis Beltrán (1526–1581).

“From the desert you should go forth as a good preacher.”

The Holy Spirit kept John in the desert, lest he see or come to know Christ, because of the importance of the testimony that he would give later concerning him.

John testified that he had never seen Christ until the moment that he saw the dove descending upon his head in the Jordan River.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

That was the place where the voice of the Father was heard speaking about the Son.

There the Holy Spirit adorned him with such great virtues – humility, meekness, and all the rest – that he came forth from the desert changed into that salt which would save the human race from corruption,

changed into that light which would illumine the blind, changed into a fortified city where the holy and virtuous would find refuge.

This is the high office of a preacher, and from this it is clear that it demands such a preparation.

Why should you wonder, brother, that your teaching does not bring forth fruit, when you come to preach not from the desert but from the confused tumult of your own soul, not from the vicinity of virtue but of pride?

From the desert you should go forth as a good preacher. If Christ our Lord spent the whole night in prayer to send out his disciples to preach and to have their preaching bear fruit, what can a preacher accomplish without devotion?

If you do not come from the desert, your preaching will not bear fruit. And because you have the voice of Jacob but the hands of Esau, concern yourselves with being effective preachers.

Truly seek prayer, a place of retreat and solitude, otherwise you can never attain the reward of good preachers.

God called John to be a preacher and this was a great penance for him, for every state of life demands a certain amount of penance, if it is received from the hand of God.

It is for God to place you upon that cross on which you ought to serve God.

Truly it is not up to you to choose that cross, because although you may choose a heavier cross, you might not be saved by it since God has not placed you upon it.

Luis Beltrán, (1526–1581) from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, feast of St Luis Beltrán, October 9th.

Bede the Venerable: Theodore of Canterbury – Never were there Happier Times since the English Came into Britain Thursday, Sep 19 2013 

icon_bede-September 19th is the feast of St Theodore of Canterbury, also known as Theodore of Tarsus (602-690).

There was…in the monastery of Niridanum, which is not far from Naples in Campania, an abbot called Hadrian, by nation an African, well versed in Holy Scripture, trained in monastic and ecclesiastical teaching, and excellently skilled both in the Greek and Latin tongues.

[…] There was at that time in Rome, a monk, called Theodore, known to Hadrian, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, a man instructed in secular and Divine writings, as also in Greek and Latin; of high character and venerable age, being sixty-six years old.

[…] Theodore, being ordained subdeacon, waited four months for his hair to grow, that it might be shorn into the shape of a crown; for he had before the tonsure of St. Paul, the Apostle, after the manner of the eastern people.

He was ordained by Pope Vitalian, in the year of our Lord 668, on Sunday, the 26th of March, and on the 27th of May was sent with Hadrian to Britain.

[…] Theodore came to his Church in the second year after his consecration, on Sunday, the 27th of May, and spent in it twenty-one years, three months, and twenty-six days.

Soon after, he visited all the island, wherever the tribes of the English dwelt, for he was gladly received and heard by all persons; and everywhere attended and assisted by Hadrian, he taught the right rule of life, and the canonical custom of celebrating Easter.

This was the first archbishop whom all the English Church consented to obey. And forasmuch as both of them were, as has been said before, fully instructed both in sacred and in secular letters, they gathered a crowd of disciples, and rivers of wholesome knowledge daily flowed from them to water the hearts of their hearers; and, together with the books of Holy Scripture, they also taught them the metrical art, astronomy, and ecclesiastical arithmetic.

A testimony whereof is, that there are still living at this day some of their scholars, who are as well versed in the Greek and Latin tongues as in their own, in which they were born.

Nor were there ever happier times since the English came into Britain; for having brave Christian kings, they were a terror to all barbarous nations, and the minds of all men were bent upon the joys of the heavenly kingdom of which they had but lately heard; and all who desired to be instructed in sacred studies had masters at hand to teach them.

From that time also they began in all the churches of the English to learn Church music, which till then had been only known in Kent.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 1-2.

Bede the Venerable: Such a Light Shone in Cuthbert’s Angelic Face that None Dared to Conceal from Him the Secrets of His Heart Wednesday, Sep 4 2013 

icon_bede-September 4th is the feast of St Cuthbert in England and Wales and the feast of the translation of St Cuthbert’s relics in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle

Cuthbert adopted the name and habit of a monk when he was quite a young man. He first entered the monastery of Mailros, which is on the bank of the river Tweed.

[…] Cuthbert became provost of that monastery, where he instructed many in the rule of monastic life, both by the authority of a master, and the example of his own behaviour.

Nor did he bestow his teaching and his example in the monastic life on his monastery alone, but laboured far and wide to convert the people dwelling round about from the life of foolish custom, to the love of heavenly joy.

For many profaned the faith which they held by their wicked actions. And some also, in the time of a pestilence, neglecting the mysteries of the faith which they had received, had recourse to the false remedies of idolatry, as if they could have put a stop to the plague sent from God, by incantations, amulets, or any other secrets of the devil’s art.

In order to correct the error of both sorts, he often went forth from the monastery, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, and went to the neighbouring townships, where he preached the way of truth to such as had gone astray.

[…] It was then the custom of the English people, that when a clerk or priest came to a township, they all, at his summons, flocked together to hear the Word, willingly heard what was said, and still more willingly practised those things that they could hear and understand.

And such was Cuthbert’s skill in speaking, so keen his desire to persuade men of what he taught, such a light shone in his angelic face, that no man present dared to conceal from him the secrets of his heart, but all openly revealed in confession what they had done, thinking doubtless that their guilt could in nowise be hidden from him. And having confessed their sins, they wiped them out by fruits worthy of repentance, as he bade them.

He was wont chiefly to resort to those places and preach in those villages which were situated afar off amid steep and wild mountains, so that others dreaded to go thither, and whereof the poverty and barbarity rendered them inaccessible to other teachers.

But he, devoting himself entirely to that pious labour, so industriously ministered to them with his wise teaching, that when he went forth from the monastery, he would often stay a whole week, sometimes two or three, or even sometimes a full month, before he returned home, continuing among the hill folk to call that simple people by his preaching and good works to the things of Heaven.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 27.

Benedict XVI: Gregory the Great – “The Preacher Must Dip His Pen into the Blood of His Heart” Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

Pope_Benedictus_XVI(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

He was a passionate reader of the Bible, which he approached not simply with a speculative purpose:

from Sacred Scripture, he thought, the Christian must draw not theoretical understanding so much as the daily nourishment for his soul, for his life as man in this world.

For example, in the Homilies on Ezekiel, he emphasized this function of the sacred text:

to approach the Scripture simply to satisfy one’s own desire for knowledge means to succumb to the temptation of pride and thus to expose oneself to the risk of sliding into heresy.

Intellectual humility is the primary rule for one who searches to penetrate the supernatural realities beginning from the sacred Book.

Obviously, humility does not exclude serious study; but to ensure that the results are spiritually beneficial, facilitating true entry into the depth of the text, humility remains indispensable.

Only with this interior attitude can one really listen to and eventually perceive the voice of God.

On the other hand, when it is a question of the Word of God understanding it means nothing if it does not lead to action.

In these Homilies on Ezekiel is also found that beautiful expression according which “the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; then he can also reach the ear of his neighbour”.

Reading his homilies, one sees that Gregory truly wrote with his life-blood and, therefore, he still speaks to us today.

[…] Of notable importance and beauty are also the Homilies on the Gospel.

[…]  The guiding principle, which links the different homilies, is captured in the word preacher: not only the minister of God, but also every Christian, has the duty “to preach” of what he has experienced in his innermost being, following the example of Christ who was made man to bring to all the good news of salvation.

[…] The expectation of the fulfilment of all things in Christ…ended by becoming the guiding reason of his every thought and activity. From here sprang his incessant reminders to be vigilant and to perform good works.

[…] The great Pontiff insisted on the Pastor’s duty to recognize daily his own unworthiness in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, so that pride did not negate the good accomplished.

For this the final chapter of the Pastoral Rule is dedicated to humility: “When one is pleased to have achieved many virtues, it is well to reflect on one’s own inadequacies and to humble oneself: instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what was neglected”.

All these precious indications demonstrate the lofty concept that St Gregory had for the care of souls, which he defined as the ars artium, the art of arts.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Gregory the Great (General Audience, 4th June 2008.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Power of the Divine Message Resembles a Live Coal and Fire Sunday, Aug 18 2013 

cyril_alexandriaI am come to cast fire upon the earth: and how I wish that it were already kindled! And I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened, until it be accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50).

“One of the Seraphim was sent unto me, and in his hand he had a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs from the altar, and he touched with it my mouth, and said, Lo! this has touched your lips, and it shall take away your sins, and cleanse you of your iniquities” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

What interpretation then are we to put upon the coal which touched the prophet’s lips, and cleansed him from all sin?

Plainly it is the message of salvation, and the confession of faith in Christ, which whosoever receives with his mouth is forthwith and altogether purified.

And of this Paul thus assures us; “that if you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

We say then that the power of the divine message resembles a live coal and fire.

And the God of all somewhere said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, I have made My words in your mouth to be fire, and this people to be wood, and it shall devour them.”

And again, “Are not My words as burning fire, says the Lord?

Rightly therefore did our Lord Jesus Christ say unto us, “I am come to throw fire upon earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

[…] And the fire being once kindled was soon to seize upon the whole world, immediately that the whole dispensation had attained to its completion: as soon, that is, as He had borne His precious passion upon the Cross, and had commanded the bonds of death to cease.

For He rose on the third day from the dead. And this He teaches us by saying, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!”

And by His baptism He means His death in the flesh: and by being straitened because of it He means, that He was saddened and troubled until it was accomplished.

For what was to happen when it was accomplished? That henceforth not in Judaea only should the saving message of the Gospel be proclaimed.

Comparing this to fire He said, “I am come to send fire upon earth:”—-but that now it should be published even to the whole world…:

“Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to observe all those things which I have commanded you.”

Behold therefore, yes see, that throughout all nations was that sacred and divine fire spread abroad by means of the holy preachers.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 114.

Augustine of Hippo: Solomon’s Temple was a Type and Figure of the Future Church and of the Lord’s Body Sunday, Jul 28 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaSolomon had built a Temple for the Lord that was a type and figure of the future Church and of the Lord’s body.

That is why the Lord says in the Gospel: Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Since Solomon had built that Temple, Jesus Christ, the true Solomon, the true man of peace, also built a Temple for himself.

The name ‘Solomon’ means ‘man of peace’; but the true man of peace is he of whom the Apostle says: He is our peace, who made the two one.  

He is the true man of peace who united in himself as their cornerstone the two walls coming from different directions – the believers coming from the Jews and the believers coming from the Gentiles.

Out of these two peoples he made a single Church with himself as its cornerstone; that is why he is the true man of peace.

Since, then, he is the true Solomon and since the earlier Solo­mon, David’s son by Bathsheba and King of Israel, simply prefig­ured this true man of peace when he built a Temple, do not think that Solomon was the real builder of God’s house, for Scripture shows you a different Solomon at the beginning of the psalm: unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.

It is the Lord, then, who builds the house; the Lord Jesus Christ builds his own house. Many labour to build it, but if he does not build it, its builders labour in vain.

Who are the labourers engaged on the building? All those in the Church who preach the word of God, and all the ministers of God’s Sacraments.

We all run, we all toil, we are all building in our own day; and before us others have run and toiled and built. But unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.

We speak to the outer ear: he builds within. We notice whether you are listening, but only he who sees your thoughts knows what you are thinking. He builds, he teaches, he frightens; he opens your minds and draws your thoughts toward faith.

The house of God is also a city. For the house of God is God’s people; and because they are God’s house, they are his Temple. What does the Apostle say? The Temple of God is holy, and you are that Temple.

[…] All ­the holy believers who are to be taken from mankind to be the ­equals and companions of God’s angels, who are not pilgrims now but await us when we return from our pilgrimage – all these together form a single house of God and a single city.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 126, 2-3 (CSEL 40:1857-8); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

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