Saturday, 23 April 2016

Acts 12 - The value of prayer and the work of our guardian angels

Jan Pynas - Bevrijding van St. Peter (Rembrandthuis).jpg
Jan Pynas 
Acts 12 provides the final chapter on the life of King Herod (Agrippa I, 11 BC - 44 AD):
  • verses 1-2 deal with the resumption of his persecutions of the Church, and the martyrdom of St James;
  • verses 3-11 are about the arrest of St Peter, followed by his escape from prison through the offices of an angel;
  • in verses 12-17 Peter tells of his escape to the local community 
  • verses 18-23 chronicle Herod's horrible death
  • verses 24-25 foreshadow the next chapter in the spread of the faith.
Acts 12:
1 It was at this same time that Herod exerted his authority to persecute some of those who belonged to the Church. 2 James, the brother of John, he beheaded, 3 and then, finding that this was acceptable to the Jews, he went further, and laid hands on Peter too. It was the time of unleavened bread; 4 and he imprisoned Peter, after arresting him, with a guard of four soldiers, relieved four times a day; when paschal-time was over, he would bring him out in the presence of the people. 5 Peter, then, was well guarded in prison, but there was a continual stream of prayer going up to God from the church on his behalf. 
Eodem autem tempore misit Herodes rex manus, ut affligeret quosdam de ecclesia. 2 Occidit autem Jacobum fratrem Joannis gladio. 3 Videns autem quia placeret Judæis, apposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum. Erant autem dies Azymorum. 4 Quem cum apprehendisset, misit in carcerem, tradens quatuor quaternionibus militum custodiendum, volens post Pascha producere eum populo. 5 Et Petrus quidem servabatur in carcere. Oratio autem fiebant sine intermissione ab ecclesia ad Deum pro eo.
Chrysostom: (Homily 27): Some persons, it is likely, are at a loss how to explain it, that God should quietly look on while (His) champions are put to death, and now again the soldiers on account of Peter: and yet it was possible for Him after (delivering) Peter to rescue them also. But it was not yet the time of judgment, so as to render to each according to his deserts.
6 And now the day was coming when Herod was to bring him out; that night, Peter was sleeping with two chains on him, between two soldiers, and there were warders at the door guarding his prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood over him, and a light shone in his cell. He smote Peter on the side, to rouse him; Quick, he said, rise up; and thereupon the chains fell from his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, Gird thyself up, and put on thy shoes; and, when he had done this, Throw thy cloak over thee, and follow me. 9 So he followed him out, unaware that what the angel had done for him was true; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 Thus they passed one party of guards, then a second, and reached the iron gate which leads out into the city; this opened for them of its own accord. They came out, and as soon as they had passed on up one street, the angel left him.11 At this, Peter came to himself. Now I can tell for certain, he said, that the Lord has sent his angel, to deliver me out of Herod’s hands, and from all that the people of the Jews hoped to see.12 After some thought, he made for the house belonging to Mary the mother of John, also called Mark. Here many had gathered for prayer; 13 a girl named Rhoda came to answer, when he knocked at the porch door, 14 and she, recognizing Peter’s voice, was too overjoyed to open the gate for him; she ran in, and told them that Peter was, standing at the gate. 15 Thou art mad, they told her, but she still insisted that it was so; and then they said, It must be his guardian angel. 16 Meanwhile, Peter went on knocking; so they opened, and found him there, and stood astonished.17 Calling for silence by a gesture of his hand, he told them how the Lord had delivered him from prison; Give news of this, he said, to James and the rest of the brethren. And so he left them, and went elsewhere.
 Cum autem producturus eum esset Herodes, in ipsa nocte erat Petrus dormiens inter duos milites, vinctus catenis duabus: et custodes ante ostium custodiebant carcerem. 7 Et ecce angelus Domini astitit, et lumen refulsit in habitaculo: percussoque latere Petri, excitavit eum, dicens: Surge velociter. Et ceciderunt catenæ de manibus ejus. 8 Dixit autem angelus ad eum: Præcingere, et calcea te caligas tuas. Et fecit sic. Et dixit illi: Circumda tibi vestimentum tuum, et sequere me. 9 Et exiens sequebatur eum, et nesciebat quia verum est, quod fiebat per angelum: existimabat autem se visum videre. 10 Transeuntes autem primam et secundam custodiam, venerunt ad portam ferream, quæ ducit ad civitatem: quæ ultro aperta est eis. Et exeuntes processerunt vicum unum: et continuo discessit angelus ab eo.11 Et Petrus ad se reversus, dixit: Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus angelum suum, et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et de omni exspectatione plebis Judæorum. Consideransque venit ad domum Mariæ matris Joannis, qui cognominatus est Marcus, ubi erant multi congregati, et orantes. 13 Pulsante autem eo ostium januæ, processit puella ad audiendum, nomine Rhode. 14 Et ut cognovit vocem Petri, præ gaudio non aperuit januam, sed intro currens nuntiavit stare Petrum ante januam. 15 At illi dixerunt ad eam: Insanis. Illa autem affirmabat sic se habere. Illi autem dicebant: Angelus ejus est. 16 Petrus autem perseverabat pulsans. Cum autem aperuissent, viderunt eum, et obstupuerunt. 17 Annuens autem eis manu ut tacerent, narravit quomodo Dominus eduxisset eum de carcere, dixitque: Nuntiate Jacobo et fratribus hæc. Et egressus abiit in alium locum.
Chrysostom (Homily 26) on the importance of prayer: Here indeed my discourse is for both men and women. Bend your knees, send forth groans, beseech your Master to be merciful: He is more moved by prayers in the night, when you make the time for rest a time for mourning.  Remember what words that king uttered: I have been weary with my groaning: every night will I wash my bed, I will water my couch with my tears. However delicate a liver you may be, you are not more delicate than he: however rich you may be, you are not richer than David.

And again the same Psalmist says, At midnight I rose to give thanks unto You for the judgments of Your righteousness. No vainglory then intrudes upon you: how can it, when all are sleeping, and not looking at you? Then neither sloth nor drowsiness invades you: how can they, when your soul is aroused by such great things? After such vigils come sweet slumbers and wondrous revelations. Do this, thou also the man, not the woman only.

Let the house be a Church, consisting of men and women. For think not because you are the only man, or because she is the only woman there, that this is any hindrance. For where two, He says, are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them. Where Christ is in the midst, there is a great multitude. Where Christ is, there needs must Angels be, needs must Archangels also and the other Powers be there. Then you are not alone, seeing you have Him Who is Lord of all. Hear again the prophet also saying, Better is one that does the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors. comp.  Nothing more weak than a multitude of unrighteous men, nothing more strong than one man who lives according to the law of God...

But you will say: I have labored much during the day, and I cannot. Mere pretext this and subterfuge. For however much you have labored, you will not toil like the smith, who lets fall such a heavy hammer from a great height upon the (metal flying off in) sparks, and takes in the smoke with his whole body: and yet at this work he spends the greater part of the night. You know also how the women, if there is need for us to go into the country, or to go forth unto a vigil, watch through the whole night. Then have thou also a spiritual forge, to fashion there not pots or cauldrons, but your own soul, which is far better than either coppersmith or goldsmith can fashion.

Your soul, waxen old in sins, cast thou into the smelting-furnace of confession: let fall the hammer from on high: that is, the condemnation of your words (τὥν ῥημάτων τὴν κατάγνωσιν): light up the fire of the Spirit. You have a far mightier craft (than theirs). You are beating into shape not vessels of gold, but the soul, which is more precious than all gold, even as the smith hammers out his vessel. For it is no material vessel that you are working at, but you are freeing your soul from all imaginations belonging to this life.

 Let a lamp be by your side, not that one which we burn, but that which the prophet had, when he said, Your law is a lamp unto my feet. Bring your soul to a red heat, by prayer: when you see it hot enough, draw it out, and mould it into what shape you will. Believe me, not fire so effectual to burn off rust, as night prayer to remove the rust of our sins...

Why did Christ Himself pass a whole night on the mountain? Was it not, that He might be an example to us? Then is it that the plants respire, in the night, I mean: and then also does the soul take in the dew even more than they. What the sun has parched by day becomes cool again at night. More refreshing than all dew, the tears of the night descend upon our lusts and upon all heat and fever of the soul, and do not let it be affected in any such way. But if it do not enjoy the benefit of that dew, it will be burnt up in the daytime.

But God forbid (it should be so )! Rather, may we all, being refreshed, and enjoying the mercy of God, be freed from the burden of our sins, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
18 When day broke, there was a great to-do among the soldiers, to know what had become of Peter. 19 Herod, after searching for him without avail, questioned the warders and had them punished. Then he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and spent his time there. 20 He was much out of humour with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and these, since their country depended on the king’s country for its supplies, waited upon him by common consent, and tried (by winning over Blastus, the royal chamberlain) to make their peace.21 So, on an appointed day, Herod put on his royal finery and sat down on a raised dais to harangue them; 22 whereupon the people cried out in applause, It is no man, it is a god that speaks. 23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, for not referring the glory to God; and he was eaten up by worms, and so died.
 Facta autem die, erat non parva turbatio inter milites, quidnam factum esset de Petro. 19 Herodes autem cum requisisset eum et non invenisset, inquisitione facta de custodibus, jussit eos duci: descendensque a Judæa in Cæsaream, ibi commoratus est. 20 Erat autem iratus Tyriis et Sidoniis. At illi unanimes venerunt ad eum, et persuaso Blasto, qui erat super cubiculum regis, postulabant pacem, eo quod alerentur regiones eorum ab illo. 21 Statuto autem die Herodes vestitus veste regia sedit pro tribunali, et concionabatur ad eos. 22 Populus autem acclamabat: Dei voces, et non hominis. 23 Confestim autem percussit eum angelus Domini, eo quod non dedisset honorem Deo: et consumptus a vermibus, expiravit.
Homily 27:  Josephus also says this, that he fell into a lingering disease. Now the generality were not aware of this, but the Apostle sets it down: yet at the same time their ignorance was an advantage, in regard that they imputed what befell (Agrippa) to his putting James and the soldiers to death...
24 And still the word of God grew strong and spread wide. 25 Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, their mission of relief fulfilled, and took John, also called Mark, in their company.
 24 Verbum autem Domini crescebat, et multiplicabatur. 25 Barnabas autem et Saulus reversi sunt ab Jerosolymis expleto ministerio assumpto Joanne, qui cognominatus est Marcus.

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