Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Hebrews 10: 32-39 - In praise of virtue

St Thomas summarises the concluding section of Hebrews 10 as follows:
After exhorting them by frightening reasons to cling to Christ by faith, hope and charity, the Apostle now gives pleasing reasons, as a good physician after cutting applies soothing lotions. For of all commendations for doing good, there is one which best stimulates a person to persevere in a good work already begun. For virtue praised acquires an immense drive, and glory is a strong stimulus. 
Hebrews 10:32-34
But call to mind the former days, wherein, being illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions. And on the one hand indeed, by reproaches and tribulations, were made a gazingstock; and on the other, became companions of them that were used in such sort. For you both had compassion on them that were in bands, and took with joy the being stripped of your own goods, knowing that you have a better and a lasting substance. 
Rememoramini autem pristinos dies, in quibus illuminati, magnum certamen sustinuistis passionum: et in altero quidem opprobriis et tribulationibus spectaculum facti: in altero autem socii taliter conversantium effecti. Nam et vinctis compassi estis, et rapinam bonorum vestrorum cum gaudio suscepistis, cognoscentes vos habere meliorem et manentem substantiam. 
Aquinas:

Call to mind our successes: ...because past success stimulates a person to do better, just as bad fortune on the contrary leads to despair, he recalls their past good deeds... i.e., the good you accomplished; the former days, i.e., the first days of your conversion, when after you were enlightened by faith, which enlightens and cleanses the soul...

Abuse and afflictions:  On the other hand...a person suffers in two ways: in himself by enduring affliction, and in someone else by taking pity on another’s affliction. But they suffered in both ways. In regard to the first way, he says, and on the one hand, i.e., with respect to yourselves, you were made a gazing stock [laughing stock], which is very disagreeable for a wise man. For if a fool is mocked, it is not serious, even if he endures a great amount of derision from others, but to a wise man it is a burden....In regard to the second he says, and on the other, became partners of those who were so treated, i.e., of those who suffered such things: and this by compassion and by administering aid: ‘Communicating to the necessities of the saints’.

Compassion on the prisoners’[them that were in bands]: ...among the Jews many were in bands; as it says in Acts that Paul made havoc in the Church, committing men and women to prison..

Took with joy: ‘...Should tribulations be loved? It certainly seems not, because Augustine says: ‘You are commanded to bear them, not love them.’ I answer that they are not loved for their own sake, but for something else: and that is the way they loved them; hence, he continues, since you knew that you had a better and abiding possession, namely, other riches more important, which are increased by the removal of those riches, by which they are called better.

Hebrews 10:35-36
Do not therefore lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. For patience is necessary for you; that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise. 
Nolite itaque amittere confidentiam vestram, quæ magnam habet remunerationem. Patientia enim vobis necessaria est: ut voluntatem Dei facientes, reportetis promissionem. 
Have confidence: ...He says, therefore: Inasmuch as you have done so many good things in the first days of your conversion, it should cause you to have much confidence in God; do not, therefore, throw away your confidence, which you will lose, if you stop doing good: which has a great reward.

The way to keep it is patience: ...For just as meekness moderates anger, so patience puts a limit to sadness, so that it will not exceed the bounds of reason. But sadness is sometimes caused by evils inflicted or by good deferred: ‘Hope that is deferred, afflicts the soul’...patience stands...not only for enduring evil, but for long-suffering in the face of good things deferred.

Why is patience necessary? That you may do the will of God and receive the promise, i.e., fulfilling God’s will, which is done by obeying God’s commandments, which are the signs of God’s will.

Hebrews 10:37
For yet a little and a very little while, and he that is to come, will come, and will not delay. 
37 Adhuc enim modicum aliquantulum, qui venturus est, veniet, et non tardabit. 38 Justus autem meus ex fide vivit: quod si subtraxerit se, non placebit animæ meæ. 39 Nos autem non sumus subtractionis filii in perditionem, sed fidei in acquisitionem animæ.

For let a little while: ...this authority seems to be from Habakkuk (chap. 32); nevertheless, the first words are taken from Hag (chap. 2.7)... he probably did this because both were speaking about the same coming.

There are two comings of the Lord: ...one is general, namely, at the end of the world in the general judgment; the other is particular, after every person’s death...as far as the length of time is concerned...[it] is much compared to the flow of time in relation to ourselves; yet it is brief compared to eternity...

Hebrews 10: 38-39
But my just man liveth by faith; but if he withdraw himself, he shall not please my soul. But we are not the children of withdrawing unto perdition, but of faith to the saving of the soul.

Strive to be good at death: ...he indicates the ones to be rewarded when he says, But my righteous [just] man lives by faith. This same text is found in Romans and Galatians. But the reward is paid only to the just: ‘The salvation of the just is from the Lord’. But justice is of two kinds: one in regard to human judgment: ‘not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own’; the other in regard to divine: ‘They were both just before the Lord’. But God requires the latter justice; hence, he says, my just man, i.e., the justice which is ordained to me, i.e., who is just to me and for me. But that by which a man is justified is faith: ‘The justice of God by faith of Jesus Christ’.

Justified by faith: ...Not only is justice by faith, but the one justified lives by faith. For just as the body lives by the soul, so the soul of God. Hence, just as the body lives by that through which the soul is first united to the body, so by that through which God is first united to the soul, the soul lives. But this is faith, because it is the first thing in the spiritual life: ‘If you will not believe, you shall not continue’ (Is. 7:9), just as a house does not remain, if the foundation is destroyed: ‘And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God’...

But if he shrinks back...: he shows the danger hanging over a person who does not continue in the justice of faith. For since it lies within the power of the believer to destroy himself or to save himself, he says, but if he shrinks back, namely, from the faith and from justice, my soul has no pleasure in him...For the will of God should be the rule of our actions. Therefore, a person who does not agree with God’s will, his soul is not right.

Children of withdrawing to perdition: ..a person is said to be a son of anything which rules him. Thus, a person is called the son of death, when that by which he is rejected by God, rules him...but of those who have faith, i.e., reborn in Christ, and save their souls. For a person who keeps God’s commandments saves his soul...Therefore, let us not fail from the faith.

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