Monday, 25 April 2016

Acts 13/1 - St Paul's ordination

Acts 13 covers St Paul's 'first missionary journey' encompassing:
  • Cyprus and the conversion of the governor of Paphos (v1-12);
  • a visit to Antioch  and Paul's sermon in the synogogue there (v13-42); and 
  • the visit to Iconium (v43-52).
Today, a look at verses 1-12, not least because it covers an issue modern Catholics are often confused about, namely was St Paul formally ordained?

St John Chrysostom certainly thought so, as his commentary on this chapter makes clear.  Nor is this a lone view: Acts 13:2 is cited twice in Vatican II's Presbyterorum Ordinis, as well as in Lumen Gentium in the context of the apostles appointing helpers and successors.

St John also provides some comments on the virtues of fasting, and more particularly on the avoidance of excessive indulgence in luxurious food, a subject all too apt for our time.

Acts 13:
The Church at Antioch had as its prophets and teachers Barnabas, and Simon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manahen, foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 These were offering worship to God and fasting, when the Holy Spirit said, I must have Barnabas and Saul dedicated to the work to which I have called them. 3 Thereupon they fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, and so took leave of them. 
Erant autem in ecclesia quæ erat Antiochiæ, prophetæ et doctores, in quibus Barnabas, et Simon qui vocabatur Niger, et Lucius Cyrenensis, et Manahen, qui erat Herodis Tetrarchæ collactaneus, et Saulus. 2 Ministrantibus autem illis Domino, et jejunantibus, dixit illis Spiritus Sanctus: Segregate mihi Saulum et Barnabam in opus ad quod assumpsi eos. 3 Tunc jejunantes et orantes, imponentesque eis manus, dimiserunt illos. 
Chrysostom (Homily 27): A great, yes a great good is fasting: it is circumscribed by no limits. When need was to ordain, then they fast: and to them while fasting, the Spirit spoke. Thus much only do I enjoin: (I say) not fast, but abstain from luxury.

Let us seek meats to nourish, not things to ruin us; seek meats for food, not occasions of diseases, of diseases both of soul and body: seek food which has comfort, not luxury which is full of discomfort: the one is luxury, the other mischief; the one is pleasure, the other pain; the one is agreeable to nature, the other contrary to nature.

For say, if one should give you hemlock juice to drink, would it not be against nature? If one should give you logs and stones, would you not reject them? Of course, for they are against nature. Well, and so is luxury. For just as in a city, under an invasion of enemies when there has been siege and tumult, great is the uproar, so is it in the soul, under invasion of wine and luxury.
4 And they, sent on their travels by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there took ship for Cyprus.5 So they reached Salamis, where they preached God’s word in the Jewish synagogues; they had John, too, to help them. 6 And when they had been through the whole island up to Paphos, they encountered there a magician who claimed to be a prophet, a Jew named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was in the company of the governor, Sergius Paulus, a man of good sense, who had sent for Barnabas and Saul and asked if he might hear the word of God. 8 And Elymas, the magician (that is what his name means when translated), opposed them, trying to turn the governor away from the faith. 9 Then Saul, whose other name is Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, 10 and said; Child of the devil, versed in all trickery and cunning, enemy of all honest dealing, wilt thou never have done with trying to twist the straight paths of the Lord? 11 See, then, if the hand of the Lord does not fall upon thee now. Thou shalt become blind, and see the sun no more for a while. At this, a dark mist fell upon him, and he had to go about looking for someone to lead him by the hand.12 And now the governor, seeing what had happened, and overcome with awe at the Lord’s teaching, learned to believe.
 Chrysostom: (Homily 28) As soon as they were ordained they went forth, and hasted to Cyprus, that being a place where was no ill-design hatching against them, and where moreover the Word had been sown already. In Antioch there were (teachers) enough, and Phœnice too was near to Palestine; but Cyprus not so. However, you are not to make a question of the why and wherefore, when it is the Spirit that directs their movements: for they were not only ordained by the Spirit, but sent forth by Him likewise... But Saul, who is also Paul - here his name is changed at the same time that he is ordained, as it was in Peter's case.

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