Saturday, 6 August 2016

Readings for First Sunday of August (Nocturns I&II)

From the first week of August, the first and second Nocturn readings at Sunday Matins are of the week of the month.  Note that the Roman and Benedictine calendars are out of step with each other this year.

Nocturn I: Proverbs 1

Reading 1: The parables of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. To know wisdom, and instruction:  To understand the words of prudence: and to receive the instruction of doctrine, justice, and judgment, and equity: To give subtilty to little ones, to the young man knowledge and understanding. A wise man shall hear and shall be wiser: and he that understandeth, shall possess governments.He shall understand a parable, and the interpretation, the words of the wise, and their mysterious sayings.

R. God possessed me in the beginning, before He made the earth, before He created the depths, before He caused the fountains of water to spring.
* Before the mountains were settled, before there were any hills, did the Lord beget me.
V. When He prepared the heavens, I was there with Him, ordering all things.
R. Before the mountains were settled, before there were any hills, did the Lord beget me.

Reading 2: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: That grace may be added to thy head, and a chain of gold to thy neck. My son, if sinners shall entice thee, consent not to them. If they shall say: Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us hide snares for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow him up alive like hell, and whole as one that goeth down into the pit.

R. I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked on the waves of the sea. In every nation and in every people, I held the first place.* In the greatness of my strength have I trodden under my feet the necks of such as be haughty and proud.
V. I dwell in the highest places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar.
R. In the greatness of my strength have I trodden under my feet the necks of such as be haughty and proud.

Reading 3: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoils. Cast in thy lot with us, let us all have one purse. My son, walk not thou with them, restrain thy foot from their paths.
For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

R. O send out wisdom from the throne of thy glory, O Lord, to be with me, and to labour with me,
* That I may know at all times what is pleasing unto thee.
V. Give me wisdom, O Lord, that sitteth by thy throne.
R. That I may know at all times what is pleasing unto thee.

Reading 4: But a net is spread in vain before the eyes of them that have wings.  And they themselves lie in wait for their own blood, and practise deceits against their own souls.  So the wage of every covetous man destroy the souls of the possessors. Wisdom preacheth abroad, she uttereth her voice in the streets: At the head of multitudes she crieth out, in the entrance of the gates of the city she uttereth her words, saying: O children, how long will you love childishness, and fools covet those things which are hurtful to themselves, and the unwise hate knowledge?

R. O Lord, Father and Governor of my life, leave me not, lest I fall before mine adversaries,* and mine enemy rejoice over me.
V. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.
R. Lest mine enemy rejoice over me.


Nocturn II: St Ambrose (On Psalm 118)

Reading 5: The Prophet saith that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." And what is the first act of wisdom but to renounce the world since to love the things of the world is folly. So indeed saith the Apostle "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."  But the very fear of the Lord itself is useless, nay, harmful, if it be not according to knowledge.

R. Give me wisdom, O Lord, that sitteth by thy throne, and reject me not from among thy children.
* For I am thy servant and son of thine handmaid.
V. O send her out from the throne of thy glory, to be with me and to labour with me.
R. For I am thy servant and son of thine handmaid.

Reading 6: The Jews have a truly fervent zeal for God, but since they have not knowledge, their very zeal and fear do cause them to do things contrary to God's will. That they circumcise their children, that they keep holy the Sabbath-Day, showeth how they fear the Lord, but knowing not the spiritual meaning of the Law, they circumcise the body and not the heart.

R. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
* A good understanding have all they that do His commandments. His praise endureth for ever.
V. Love is the keeping of her laws, for all wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
R. A good understanding have all they that do His commandments. His praise endureth for ever.

Reading 7: But wherefore should I speak of Jews There are those among ourselves who have the fear of God, but not according to knowledge, and set up hard ordinances which the weakness of man is not able to bear. They fear God in this, that they seem to themselves to be looking to discipline, and to be enforcing the practice of godliness, but they lack knowledge, in that they feel not for the weakness of nature, nor consider whether a thing can, or cannot be done. Let not then the fear of God be unreasonable. True wisdom beginneth with the fear of God, neither is it spiritual wisdom without the fear of God, but neither ought the fear of God to be without wisdom.

R. Lord, remove far from me vanity and lies.
* Give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me with food convenient for me.
V. Two things have I required of thee deny me them not before I die.
R. Give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me with food convenient for me.

Reading 8: Holy fear is the foundation of all good instruction. Just as a statue is set up upon a pedestal, and thereby receiveth both beauty and strength, even so doth it become the word of God to be set forth based upon an holy fear, and it is in the heart of him that feareth that it getteth the firmest root, even an home wherefrom it droppeth not, neither do the fowls of the air come and carry it away, as from the heart of him that is careless and deceiving.

R. Great are thy judgments, O Lord, and thy words cannot be expressed.* Thou didst make thy people mighty and honourable.
V. Thou broughtest them through the Red Sea, and leddest them through much water.
R. Thou didst make thy people mighty and honourable.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Feast of the Transfiguration (Aug 6)

Nocturn I (1 Peter 1)

Reading 1:  Wherefore, brethren, labour the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time. For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  For which cause I will begin to put you always in remembrance of these things: though indeed you know them, and are confirmed in the present truth.

R. Arise, shine, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come:* And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
V. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
R. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Reading 2: But I think it meet as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. Being assured that the laying away of this my tabernacle is at hand, according as our Lord Jesus Christ also hath signified to me.  And I will endeavour, that you frequently have after my decease, whereby you may keep a memory of these things.

R. The Holy Ghost was manifested in the bright cloud and the Father was heard:* This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.
V. There was a cloud that overshadowed them, and the voice of the Father came out thereof in thunder.
R. This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.

Reading 3: For we have not by following artificial fables, made known to you the power, and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ; but we were eyewitnesses of his greatness. For he received from God the Father, honour and glory: this voice coming down to him from the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.  And this voice we heard brought from heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount.

R. Behold what manner of love God the Father hath bestowed upon us,* That we should be called, and should be, the sons of God.
V. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
R. That we should be called, and should be, the Sons of God.

Reading 4: And we have the more firm prophetical word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost.

Nocturn II:  Sermon of St Leo the Great

Reading 5: The Lord taketh chosen witnesses, and in their presence, revealeth His glory. That form of body which He had in common with other men, He so transfigured with light, that His Face did shine as the sun, and His raiment became exceeding white as snow. Of this metamorphosis the chief work was to remove from the hearts of the disciples the stumbling at the Cross. Before their eyes was unveiled the splendour of His hidden majesty, that the lowliness of His freely-chosen suffering might not confound their faith.

R. They were abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and* Thou madest them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
V. For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light shall we see light.
R. And Thou madest them drink of the river of thy pleasures.

Reading 6: But none the less was there here laid by the Providence of God a solid foundation for the hope of the Holy Church, whereby the whole body of Christ should know with what a change it is yet to be honoured. The members of that body whose Head hath already been transfigured in light may promise themselves a share in His glory. For the strengthening the Apostles and bringing them forward into all knowledge, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias that is, the Law and the Prophets talking with Him. Before five witnesses did His glorification take place, as though to fulfill that which is written: At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

R. Master, it is good for us to be here.* Let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
V. For he wist not what to say.
R. Let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Reading 7: What can be more certain, what can be better attested than this matter, which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both the Old and the New Testaments, and concerning which the witness of ancient testimony uniteth with the teaching of the Gospel. The pages of either Covenant strengthen one another, and the brightness of open glory maketh manifest and distinct Him Whom the former prophecies had promised under the veil of mysteries.

R. If the ministration of death, written and engraven on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance which is done away:* How shall not the ministration of the Spirit, which abideth, be rather glorious?
V. For Christ was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
R. How shall not the ministration of the Spirit, which abideth, be rather glorious?

Reading 8: The unveiling of such mysteries roused the mind of the Apostle Peter to an outburst of longing for the things eternal, which despised and disdained the things worldly and earthly overflowing with gladness at the vision, he yearned to dwell with Jesus there, where the revelation of His glory had rejoiced him. And so he said Master, it is good for us to be here if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. To this proposal the Lord answered nothing, this signifying, that what Peter wished was not wrong, but out of place, since the world could not be saved but by the death of Christ. And the Lord's example was to call the faith of believers to this, that albeit we are behoven to have no doubts concerning the promise of eternal blessedness, yet we are to understand that, amid the trials of this life, we are to seek for endurance before glory.

Nocturn III (from St John Chrysostom)

Reading 9: Since the Lord had spoken much concerning dangers, much concerning His Own sufferings, much concerning death, and the killing of His disciples, and had laid upon them many hard and grievous things, and since all these were in this present life, and already hanging over them, whereas the good things were matter for hope and waiting as, for example, that whosoever should lose his life for His sake should find it, for that the Son of Man should come in the glory of His Father, and reward every man according to his works. Matth. xvi. 25, 27. Therefore, to assure them by their own eyes, and show them what the glory is wherein He will come, He manifested and unveiled it to them, as far as in this life they were able to grasp it, lest they and especially Peter should grieve over their own deaths, or the death of their Lord.

R. God hath called us with an holy calling, according to His own grace, which is now made manifest;
* By the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
V. Who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.
R. By the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Reading 10: Behold what He doth, when He treateth of heaven and hell. Where He saith Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. And again He shall reward every man according to his works in these words He pointeth at heaven and hell.

R. God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,
* To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the Face of Jesus Christ.
V. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness he is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous.
R. To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the Face of Jesus Christ.

Reading 11: But although He speaketh concerning both, He giveth a glimpse of heaven only and not of hell. To see hell would have profited the brutish and stupid, but His disciples were upright and clear-sighted, and therefore for them it was enough to be strengthened by the better things. This was what suited Him the best. Yet He left not the other altogether undone. Sometimes He set the horrors of hell, as it were, before the eyes, as for instance in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and that of him who was fain to wring the hundred pence from his fellow-servant.

Reading 12: But mark well Matthew's good will, in not concealing the names of those who were preferred. John also likewise often recordeth the special praises of Peter with great truthfulness and care. For in this companionship of the Apostles, there was no envy, nor did vainglory find place. It was therefore the leaders of the Apostles whom Christ took apart from the others. And wherefore did he take these only? Because there were evidently superior to the rest. And why did he not do this straightway, and not until after six days? Evidently to spare the natural feelings of the other disciples; and for the same reason Christ did not for six days announce who were to go up.

St Matthew 17:1-9:

And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: [2] And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. [3] And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. [4] And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. [5] And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him. [6] And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid. [7] And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them, Arise, and fear not. [8] And they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus. [9] And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Hebrews 12:18-21 - The difference between the New and Old Testaments

Hebrews 12: 18-21
For you are not come to a mountain that might be touched, and a burning fire, and a whirlwind, and darkness, and storm, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which they that heard excused themselves, that the word might not be spoken to them: For they did not endure that which was said: And if so much as a beast shall touch the mount, it shall be stoned. And so terrible was that which was seen, Moses said: I am frighted, and tremble. 
 Non enim accessistis ad tractabilem montem, et accensibilem ignem, et turbinem, et caliginem, et procellam, et tubæ sonum, et vocem verborum, quam qui audierunt, excusaverunt se, ne eis fieret verbum. Non enim portabant quod dicebatur: Et si bestia tetigerit montem, lapidabitur.  Et ita terribile erat quod videbatur. Moyses dixit: Exterritus sum, et tremebundus. 
The Old vs the New Testaments: Having warned them to avoid the evils of guilt, the Apostle now assigns the reason, which is based on a comparison between the Old and New Testaments...it should be noted that, as Augustine says: ‘The slight difference between the Law and the Gospel is fear and love,’ for the Law was as our pedagogue in Christ. But children are influenced by fear; ‘The wicked man being scourged, the fool shall be wiser’. Therefore, the Apostle says here that when the Law was given, certain fearful things took place...

The zeal to punish is designated by fire: ...‘The Lord, your God, is a consuming fire, a jealous God’: ‘He is like a refining fire’. Hence, God frequently calls Himself jealous, because He does not let His spouse’s crime go unavenged: ‘I am the Lord, your God, mighty, jealous’; ‘The Lord, his name is Jealous’; ‘The jealousy and rage of the husband will not spare in the day of revenge'...But in the New Law the fire of the Holy Spirit was given (Ac. 2). For as the fire of emulation appeared to the Jews fifty days after their departure from Egypt, so the Holy Spirit’s fire, which could not be sensed, but perceived by the mind, appeared to the disciples on the fiftieth day after the resurrection: ‘From above he sent fire into my bones and has instructed me’. But that fire was infinite in nature and place, for ‘he inhabits light inaccessible’ and could not be approached.

The severity of the punishment is signified by the whirlwind:..Or it can refer to temptations. For the Law did not restrain concupiscence, because it did not give grace that would aid ex opere operato, but it only repressed the act; consequently, it generated a whirlwind of temptations.

The concealment of the lawgiver is signified by the darkness: which showed that the state of the Law was hidden, i.e., veiled: ‘Even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart’. But in the New Law that veil is removed: as a sign of this the veil of the temple was rent in Christ’s passion, because ‘we behold the glory of the Lord with open face’. Likewise, that darkness signifies the divine excellence. For just as that which is in the dark cannot be clearly seen, and a strong light blinds the eye, so He Who inhabits light inaccessible made Himself dark.

Storm: ...he mentions the things terrifying to the hearing on the part of the Law. Now there were three terrifying things to the Law, namely, the severity of the threats, the strictness of the precepts, and the large number of precepts...it signifies the strictness of the precepts, whose fulfillment was enjoined on man as though he were waging war against himself.

The voice of words signifies the vast number of precepts...

The reason why they excused themselves: namely, because they could not endure God’s words; hence, they could not endure the order that was given: ‘What is all flesh that it should hear the voice of the living God, who speaks out of the midst of the fire, as we have heard, and be able to live’. For God’s words are said to be unendurable either when they cannot be understood by the intellect or transcend the affections.

The threatened punishment:..‘Everyone that touches the mount, dying he shall die. No hands shall touch him, but he shall be stoned to death, or be shot through with arrows. Whether it be beast or man, he shall not live’ (Ex. 19:12). The Apostle, to heighten the terror, mentions here only the beasts which the Law commands to be killed, in order to show the gravity of sin. Yet mystically the mountain is the loftiness of the divine mysteries, and the beast is a man living bestially...This indicates the difference between the New and Old Testaments, because the Old Testament was given in terror to terrify the hearts of Jews, who were prone to idolatry; but the New was given in love: ‘You have not received the spirit of slavery again in fear, but you have received the spirit of the adoption of sons, whereby we cry Abba: Father’. Hence Christ did not begin His preaching with fearful things, but promised the kingdom of heaven: ‘Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’; ‘The law of clemency is on his tongue’.

The yoke of the law: ...Now if Moses himself in giving the Law was so frightened as to say, I am frightened inwardly and I tremble outwardly, and he was more perfect than the rest, this was a sign that the Law was terrifying even to the perfect: because it did not give grace but merely disclosed guilt. Hence, it was a heavy yoke of which Peter says: ‘which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.’ But Christ’s law is a sweet yoke, because ‘the charity of God has been poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Hebrews 12: 5-17 - Seek after peace

Hebrews 12:5-11
yet you have lost sight, already, of those words of comfort in which God addresses you as his sons; My son, do not undervalue the correction which the Lord sends thee, do not be unmanned when he reproves thy faults. It is where he loves that he bestows correction; there is no recognition for any child of his, without chastisement. Be patient, then, while correction lasts; God is treating you as his children. Was there ever a son whom his father did not correct? No, correction is the common lot of all; you must be bastards, not true sons, if you are left without it. We have known what it was to accept correction from earthly fathers, and with reverence; shall we not submit, far more willingly, to the Father of a world of spirits, and draw life from him? They, after all, only corrected us for a short while, at their own caprice; he does it for our good, to give us a share in that holiness which is his. For the time being, all correction is painful rather than pleasant; but afterwards, when it has done its work of discipline, it yields a harvest of good dispositions, to our great peace.
et obliti estis consolationis, quæ vobis tamquam filiis loquitur, dicens: Fili mi, noli negligere disciplinam Domini: neque fatigeris dum ab eo argueris. Quem enim diligit Dominus, castigat: flagellat autem omnem filium, quem recipit. In disciplina perseverate. Tamquam filiis vobis offert se Deus: quis enim filius, quem non corripit pater?  quod si extra disciplinam estis, cujus participes facti sunt omnes: ergo adulteri, et non filii estis. Deinde patres quidem carnis nostræ, eruditores habuimus, et reverebamur eos, non multo magis obtemperabimus Patri spirituum, et vivemus?  Et illi quidem in tempore paucorum dierum, secundum voluntatem suam erudiebant nos: hic autem ad id quod utile est in recipiendo sanctificationem ejus.  Omnis autem disciplina in præsenti quidem videtur non esse gaudii, sed mœroris: postea autem fructum pacatissimum exercitatis per eam, reddet justitiæ.
Aquinas

Persevere and embrace discipline: Having exhorted them to endure evil patiently, according to the example of the ancient fathers and Christ, the Apostle now exhorts them to do the same on the authority of Scripture...if he chastises, He does not hate; but His chastisement is directed to our good, because He speaks to us as to sons...God chastises you for discipline; do not regard lightly [neglect], i.e., do not despise it by negligence: ‘He that rejects wisdom and discipline is unhappy'. By reason of the second he says, Do not lose courage [be wearied] when you are punished by him. For some, even though they do not hate a harsh correction, bear it impatiently; therefore, he says, Be not wearied, while you are rebuked [punished] by him. For a man is spiritually wearied, when he is so sad that he faints: ‘That you be not wearied, fainting in your mind’; ‘Be not grieved with her bonds’.

The harvest: ...later it yields fruit, for fruit implies sweetness: hence, fruition is delight in the end now achieved. Most peaceful, for fruit is had here with disturbance of external inconveniences and internal trials; therefore, it is not most peaceful, as there. In glory, indeed, there will be no inward gnawing of conscience, no inclination to sin, no outward affliction. For according to Augustine, whatever you desire will be there; therefore, the fruit will be most peaceful...But fruit is brought forth only to them that are exercised in it, i.e., by discipline: ‘Strong meat is for the perfect; for those who by custom have their senses exercised’.

Hebrews 12:12-13
 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, And make straight steps with your feet: that no one, halting, may go out of the way; but rather be healed. 
Propter quod remissas manus, et soluta genua erigite, et gressus rectos facite pedibus vestris: ut non claudicans quis erret, magis autem sanetur.
Drooping hands are failure to do good: A sin of omission occurs in two ways: one, when a person fails to do good; another, by failing to endure evil and adversity. In regard to the first he says, Therefore, i.e., because chastisement yields the most peaceable fruit, then to obtain this fruit, lift your drooping hands. For since the hand is the organ of the organs, it is said to droop, when it stops performing good works; therefore, it must be lifted up by a right intention to do things pleasing to God... As a sign of this, when Moses lifted up his hands, Israel conquered; but when he let them fall, Amalek overcame them.

Weak knees are failure to endure adversity bravely: In regard to the other sin of omission he says, strengthen your weak knees. The entire weight of the body is held up by the knees. Therefore, those who have not the courage to endure adversity bravely have weak knees. Therefore, this weakness must be put aside: ‘You have strengthened the weary hands; your words have confirmed them that were staggering, and you have strengthened the trembling knees’; ‘Strengthen the feeble hands and confirm the weak knees’. Therefore, lift up the hand and knees and do not give in to idleness or hesitate because of weakness.

Make straight and the sin of transgression: ...For that is straight whose middle does not point to a direction different from the extremes, i.e., whose action does not depart from its proper intention and end. But there are three kinds of obliqueness: namely in the affections, in action and in understanding. From sinful affection follows obliqueness in the understanding and depravity in loving...so that what is lame as to outward action. For just as the tibia is said to be lame, when it does not follow the rule of the locomotive power, so an action is lame when it turns to the right in prosperity or to the left in adversity, and does not follow the rule of divine law...In regard to obliqueness of the understanding he says, may not be put out of joint. For an intellectual error follows an evil action: ‘They err that do evil’; ‘These things they thought and were deceived; for their own malice blinded them’. Therefore, a person who would avoid those two deviations must have his feet and his affects right; hence, he says, but rather be healed. For just as bodily health consists in the proper balance of the humors, so spiritual health in the proper arrangement of the affections: ‘Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed’.

Hebrews 12;14-17
Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God.  Looking diligently, lest any man be wanting to the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up do hinder, and by it many be defiled. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau; who for one mess, sold his first birthright. For know ye that afterwards, when he desired to inherit the benediction, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, although with tears he had sought it.
 Pacem sequimini cum omnibus, et sanctimoniam, sine qua nemo videbit Deum:  contemplantes nequis desit gratiæ Dei: ne qua radix amaritudinis sursum germinans impediat, et per illam inquinentur multi.  Ne quis fornicator, aut profanus ut Esau: qui propter unam escam vendidit primitiva sua: scitote enim quoniam et postea cupiens hæreditare benedictionem, reprobatus est: non enim invenit pœnitentiæ locum, quamquam cum lacrimis inquisisset eam.

The objectives of our action: ....there are various ends of human actions: for some are ordained to another, as justice ordains a man to his neighbor; and the end is peace; hence, ‘Peace will be the work of justice.’ Others are ordained to the one acting, as fasting, and the end is purity. For we fast for the sake of cleanness and purity. In regard to the first, he says, Strive for peace, i.e., do not only have it, but seek how to have it with all men: ‘If it be possible, as much as in you lies, have peace with all men’; ‘Seek after peace and pursue it’. In regard to the second he says, and for the holiness: ‘Let us wash ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit’.

Peace and holiness are necessary to see God: He shows that those remedies are necessary by indicating the two injuries we incur without them: first, the loss of glory in the future and of grace in the present. In regard to the first he says, without which no man shall see God, in which happiness consists...As if to say: Without peace toward our neighbor, and cleanness and purity in regard to ourselves, we cannot be happy: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’. But the inheritance of the beatific vision is owed only to sons: ‘Nothing defiled shall enter into it’; ‘Lord, who shall dwell in your tabernacle? He that enters without stain’; ‘Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? The innocent in hands and the clean of heart’.

Loss of God’s grace in the present:  he says, see to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God. For grace is lost by discord and uncleanness... grace is not obtained by merit; otherwise, grace would not be grace. Yet a man must do what he can. But God in His most generous will gives it to all who prepare themselves: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man open to me, I will come in to him’; ‘He will that all men be saved’. Therefore, God’s grace is not wanting to any one, but it communicates itself to all, as far as it is concerned, just as the sun is not wanting to the eyes of the blind. He says, therefore: see that no on fail to obtain the grace of God..

Grace and the error of Pelagianism: ...if anyone places an obstacle and his heart is moved to remove it, this is due to the gift of God’s grace calling by His mercy: ‘But when it pleased him who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace’. But this gift of grace is not sanctifying grace. Therefore, the fact that a person removes that obstacle is owing to God’s mercy; if it is not removed, it is owing to God’s justice. But he does not say, ‘lest you fail,’ but lest anyone fail, because everyone should be solicitous for his neighbor: ‘He gave everyone commandment concerning his neighbor’.

Avoidance of sins:  Then he comes specifically to advising the avoidance of sins contrary to each of the aforesaid medicines: first, he advises them to avoid sins contrary to peace; secondly, contrary to holiness...Esau came and asked for a blessing, which he did not obtain, although his father did it unknowingly, because in that stupor which he experienced, he was in ecstasy and learned from the Holy Spirit that he was not to retract what he had done; hence, he said: ‘I have blessed him and he shall be blessed’... For he found no place to repent, though he sought it with tears. For as it is recorded in Genesis: ‘He roared out with a great cry, and being in great consternation, said: Bless me also, my father.’ But on the other hand it says in Ezekiel: ‘If the wicked do penance for all his sins, which he has committed, and keep all my commandments and do judgement and justice, living he shall live, and he shall not die.’

Repentance is always possible while we are in this world: I  answer that as long as one is living in this world, he can do true penance. But sometimes a person repents not from a love of justice, but from the fear of punishment or temporal harm. This is the way Esau repented, not because he had sold his birthright, but for the rejection. Consequently, his penance was not accepted, because it was not genuine. For this is the way the damned in hell repent, as it says in Wisdom: ‘Repenting,’ not because they had sinned, but because they have been excluded.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Hebrews 12:1-4 - The cloud of witnesses

Hebrews 12:1
And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: 
Ideoque et nos tantam habentes impositam nubem testium, deponentes omne pondus, et circumstans nos peccatum, per patientiam curramus ad propositum nobis certamen: 
Aquinas:

The cloud of witnesses and the imitation of the saints: ...the saints, although approved by the testimony of faith, did not obtain the promises; nevertheless, their hope did not fail. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, because in word and deed God is glorified by them...Secondly, on account of their fecund doctrine...Thirdly, on account of the usefulness of spiritual consolation, for as clouds bring refreshment, so also the examples of the saints...the lives of the saints impose on us the need of imitating them...the deeds of the saints, which are for us a pattern and precept of life’ (Augustine).

The weight of sin: By a weight can be understood past sin, which is called a weight, because it bends the soul down to what is below and inclines it to commit other sins: ‘As a heavy burden my iniquities are become heavy upon me’: ‘If a sin is not dissolved by penance, its weight soon leads to another’ (Gregory)... Or weight is earthly affection, and sin which surrounds us, carnal affection, which is caused by the flesh surrounding us. As if to say: Put aside your love of temporal and carnal things, if you want to run freely.

Sin which surrounds us: can be understood the occasion of sin which is present, i.e., everything that surrounds us, namely, in the world, the flesh, our neighbor and the devil. Laying aside every weight, i.e., past sin, which is called a weight, and sin which surrounds us, namely, the occasion of sin: ‘Laying away all malice and all guile’.

Persevere: ...not only what is imposed on us to endure patiently, but we should run willingly: ‘I have run the way of your commandments’. But this struggle is proposed to us for justice: ‘Even unto death fight for justice’.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. 
aspicientes in auctorem fidei, et consummatorem Jesum, qui proposito sibi gaudio sustinuit crucem, confusione contempta, atque in dextera sedis Dei sedet.  
If you wish to be saved, look on the face of your Christ: ...Christ is the author of faith. Therefore, if you wish to be saved you must look to His example. Hence, he says, Looking on Jesus in His sufferings. This was signified by the brazen serpent lifted up as a sign, so that all who looked upon it were cured; ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believes in him may not perish; but may have life everlasting’

Christ's passion as an example to us:...He is the author [pioneer] of faith in two ways: first, by teaching it by word...secondly, by impressing it on the heart: ‘Unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him’. Likewise, He is the finisher [perfecter] of our faith in two ways: in one way by confirming it through miracles..and by rewarding faith. For since faith is imperfect knowledge, its reward consists in perfectly understanding it: ‘I will love him and will manifest myself to him’ (Jn. 14:21).

The lessons of the Passion: ..three things should be considered in the passion of Christ: first, what He despised; secondly, what He endured; thirdly, what he merited...Then he indicates the fruit of this consideration...

Hebrews 12:3-4
For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. For you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin:  And you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him.
Recogitate enim eum qui talem sustinuit a peccatoribus adversum semetipsum contradictionem: ut ne fatigemini, animis vestris deficientes. Nondum enim usque ad sanguinem restitistis, adversus peccatum repugnantes:
Consider him who endured: Three things: the type of suffering; hence, he endured hostility, i.e., affliction in words...,Secondly, from whom he suffered, namely, from sinners, for whom He suffered: ‘Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust’... Thirdly, the person suffering, for He suffered in His members from the beginning of the world before His passion, but then in His own person; hence, he says, against himself: ‘I have made you, and I will bear’; ‘I paid that which I took not away’ (Ps. 68:5); ‘He bore our sins in his body upon the tree’...

Martyrdom: As if to say: You should not grow weary in your tribulations, because you have not endured as much as Christ. For He shed His blood for us: ‘This is the blood of the new covenant which shall be shed for you’. But you have suffered the loss of your goods. Yet it is a greater work to give one’s life than external possessions; although sometimes the root from which it springs, namely, charity, might be less. Hence he says, In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood for Christ.