Saturday, 14 May 2016

Acts 28 and what's coming

The 4,000 year old Fresco was restored using a  laser
Icon of St Paul, Catacomb of St Thekla, Rome, c4th

And today, the conclusion of Acts, with St Paul's survival of shipwreck and a snake attack (verses 1-6); miracles performed on the island of Melita (verses 7-10); subsequent voyage and eventual arrival in Rome (verses 11-14); and preaching and teaching there (verses 15-31).

Acts 28:
1. When we were safe on land, we found that the island was called Melita. The kindness which the natives shewed to us was beyond the ordinary; they welcomed us all by making a fire for us, because rain was coming on, and it was cold. Paul had collected a bundle of faggots and had just put them on the fire, when a viper, coming out to escape the heat, fastened on his hand; and the natives, when they saw the beast coiled round his hand, said to one another, This must be some murderer; he has been rescued from the sea, but divine vengeance would not let him live. He, meanwhile, shook the beast into the fire, and was none the worse. They still waited to see him swell up, or fall down dead on a sudden; but when they had waited a long time, and found that there was nothing amiss with him, they changed their minds, and declared that he must be a god.
 Et cum evasissemus, tunc cognovimus quia Melita insula vocabatur. Barbari vero præstabant non modicam humanitatem nobis. Accensa enim pyra, reficiebant nos omnes propter imbrem qui imminebat, et frigus. Cum congregasset autem Paulus sarmentorum aliquantam multitudinem, et imposuisset super ignem, vipera a calore cum processisset, invasit manum ejus. Ut vero viderunt barbari pendentem bestiam de manu ejus, ad invicem dicebant: Utique homicida est homo hic, qui cum evaserit de mari, ultio non sinit eum vivere. Et ille quidem excutiens bestiam in ignem, nihil mali passus est.  At illi existimabant eum in tumorem convertendum, et subito casurum et mori. Diu autem illis exspectantibus, et videntibus nihil mali in eo fieri, convertentes se, dicebant eum esse deum.
Chrysostom (Homily 54):The Jews then, beholding all the many miracles they did, persecuted and harassed (Paul); but the barbarians, who had seen none, merely on the ground of his misfortune, were kind to him. They do not simply pronounce their judgment, but say, No doubt, (i.e.) as any one may see and vengeance, say they, suffers him not to live.

Why then, they held also the doctrine of a Providence, and these barbarians were far more philosophic than the philosophers, who allow not the benefit of a Providence to extend to things below the moon: whereas (these barbarians) suppose God to be present everywhere, and that although a (guilty) man may escape many (a danger), he will not escape in the end. And they do not assail him immediately, but for a time respect him on account of his misfortune: nor do they openly proclaim their surmise, but speak it among themselves: a murderer; for the bonds led them to suspect this. They showed no small kindness, and yet (some of them) were prisoners.

Let those be ashamed that say, Do not do good to those in prison: let these barbarians shame us; for they knew not who these men were, but simply because they were in misfortune (they were kind): thus much they perceived, that they were human beings, and therefore they considered them to have a claim upon their humanity.
7. Among the estates in that part were some which belonged to the leading citizen of the island, a man named Publius, who took us in and for three days entertained us hospitably; and it so happened that Publius’ father had taken to his bed, laid up with fever and dysentery. Paul, who had gone to visit him, laid his hands upon him with prayer, and healed him; whereupon all the other folk in the island who were suffering from infirmities came to him and found a cure. These paid us great honour, and when we embarked they loaded us with all the supplies we needed.
 In locis autem illis erant prædia principis insulæ, nomine Publii, qui nos suscipiens, triduo benigne exhibuit. Contigit autem patrem Publii febribus et dysenteria vexatum jacere. Ad quem Paulus intravit: et cum orasset, et imposuisset ei manus, salvavit eum. Quo facto, omnes qui in insula habebant infirmitates, accedebant, et curabantur:  qui etiam multis honoribus nos honoraverunt, et navigantibus imposuerunt quæ necessaria erant.
Chrys:  It is plain that having thus received them, they also received the word of the preaching: for it is not to be supposed, that during an entire three months they would have had all this kindness shown them, had these persons not believed strongly, and herein exhibited the fruits (of their conversion): so that from this we may see a strong proof of the great number there was of those that believed. Even this was enough to establish (Paul's) credit with those (his fellow-voyagers). Observe how in all this voyage they nowhere touched at a city, but (were cast) on an island, and passed the entire winter (there, or) sailing— those being herein under training for faith, his fellow-voyagers, I mean.
11 It was at the end of three months that we sailed, in a ship from Alexandria which had wintered at the island; its sign was Castor and Pollux. We put in at Syracuse, where we waited for three days then we coasted round the further shore, and so arrived at Rhegium. When we had spent a day there, a South wind came on, and we made Puteoli on the second day out. Here we found some brethren, who prevailed on us to stay with them for a week. And so we ended our journey at Rome.
 Post menses autem tres navigavimus in navi Alexandrina, quæ in insula hiemaverat, cui erat insigne Castorum. Et cum venissemus Syracusam, mansimus ibi triduo. Inde circumlegentes devenimus Rhegium: et post unum diem, flante austro, secunda die venimus Puteolos: ubi inventis fratribus rogati sumus manere apud eos dies septem: et sic venimus Romam. 
15 The brethren there, who had heard our story, came out as far as Appius’ Forum, and on to the Three Taverns, to meet us; Paul gave thanks to God and took courage when he saw them. Once we were in Rome, Paul was allowed to have his own residence, which he shared with the soldier who guarded him.
 Et inde cum audissent fratres, occurrerunt nobis usque ad Appii forum, ac tres Tabernas. Quos cum vidisset Paulus, gratias agens Deo, accepit fiduciam.Cum autem venissemus Romam, permissum est Paulo manere sibimet cum custodiente se milite.
17 It was three days later that he called a meeting of the leading men among the Jews. When they had assembled, he told them, Brethren, I am one who has done nothing to the prejudice of our people, or of our ancestral customs; yet, in Jerusalem, they handed me over to the Romans as a prisoner. These, when they had examined me, had a mind to release me, since no capital charge lay against me; but the Jews cried out against it, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, though it is not as if I had any fault to find with my own nation. That is why I have asked for the opportunity of seeing you and speaking to you. It is because I hope as Israel hopes, that I wear this chain.  
Post tertium autem diem convocavit primos Judæorum. Cumque convenissent, dicebat eis: Ego, viri fratres, nihil adversus plebem faciens, aut morem paternum, vinctus ab Jerosolymis traditus sum in manus Romanorum, qui cum interrogationem de me habuissent, voluerunt me dimittere, eo quod nulla esset causa mortis in me.Contradicentibus autem Judæis, coactus sum appellare Cæsarem, non quasi gentem meam habens aliquid accusare. Propter hanc igitur causam rogavi vos videre, et alloqui. Propter spem enim Israël catena hac circumdatus sum.  
21 At this they said to him, We have not received any letter about thee from Judaea, nor has any of the brethren come here with any ill report or hard words about thee. We ask nothing better than to hear what thy opinions are; all we know of this sect is, that it is everywhere decried. So they made an appointment with him, and met him at his lodging in great numbers. And he bore his testimony and told them about the kingdom of God, trying to convince them from Moses and the prophets of what Jesus was, from dawn till dusk.  
At illi dixerunt ad eum: Nos neque litteras accepimus de te a Judæa, neque adveniens aliquis fratrum nuntiavit, aut locutus est quid de te malum. Rogamus autem a te audire quæ sentis: nam de secta hac notum est nobis quia ubique ei contradicitur. Cum constituissent autem illi diem, venerunt ad eum in hospitium plurimi, quibus exponebat testificans regnum Dei, suadensque eis de Jesu ex lege Moysi et prophetis a mane usque ad vesperam. 
24 Some were convinced by his words, others refused belief; and they took their leave still at variance among themselves, but not till Paul had spoken one last word, It was a true utterance the Holy Spirit made to our fathers through the prophet Isaias: Go to this people, and tell them, You will listen and listen, but for you there is no understanding; you will watch and watch, but for you there is no perceiving.  The heart of this people has become dull, their ears are slow to listen, and they keep their eyes shut, so that they may never see with those eyes, or hear with those ears, or understand with that heart, and turn back to me, and win healing from me. Take notice, then, that this message of salvation has been sent by God to the Gentiles, and they, at least, will listen to it.
 Et quidam credebant his quæ dicebantur: quidam vero non credebant. Cumque invicem non essent consentientes, discedebant, dicente Paulo unum verbum: Quia bene Spiritus Sanctus locutus est per Isaiam prophetam ad patres nostros, dicens: Vade ad populum istum, et dic ad eos: Aure audietis, et non intelligetis, et videntes videbitis, et non perspicietis. Incrassatum est enim cor populi hujus,et auribus graviter audierunt,et oculos suos compresserunt: ne forte videant oculis, et auribus audiant, et corde intelligant, et convertantur, et sanem eos. Notum ergo sit vobis, quoniam gentibus missum est hoc salutare Dei, et ipsi audient.
Chrys: And having called together the chief of the Jews, he discourses to them, who both depart gainsaying, and are taunted by him, yet they dare not say anything: for it was not permitted them to deal with his matter at their own will.

For this is a marvellous thing, that not by the things which seem to be for our security, but by their very opposites, all comes to be for us. And that you may learn this— Pharaoh commanded the infants to be cast into the river. Exodus 1:22 Unless the infants had been cast forth, Moses would not have been saved, he would not have been brought up in the palace. When he was safe, he was not in honor; when he was exposed, then he was in honor. But God did this, to show His riches of resource and contrivance. The Jew threatened him, saying, Would you kill me? Exodus 1:14 and this too was of profit to him. It was of God's providence, in order that he should see that vision in the desert, in order that the proper time should be completed, that he should learn philosophy in the desert, and there live in security. And in all the plottings of the Jews against him the same thing happens: then he becomes more illustrious.

As also in the case of Aaron; they rose up against him, and thereby made him more illustrious Numbers 16 and 17: that so his ordination should be unquestionable, that he might be held in admiration for the future also from the plates of brass (τὥν πετάλων τοὕ χαλκοὕ). Of course you know the history: wherefore I pass over the narration. And if you will, let us go over the same examples from the beginning {he gives the examples of Cain and Abel; the three children in the furnace; Adam and Eve; Joseph]...

Do you see not, that Christ also thus trains His own disciples? If they needed these things, much more do we. But if we need them, let us not grieve, but even rejoice in our afflictions. For these are remedies, answering to our wounds, some of them bitter, others mild; but either of them by itself would be useless.

Let us therefore return thanks to God for all these things: for He does not suffer them to happen at random, but for the benefit of our souls. Therefore, showing forth our gratitude, let us return Him thanks, let us glorify Him, let us bear up courageously, considering that it is but for a time, and stretching forward our minds to the things future, that we may both lightly bear the things present, and be counted worthy to attain unto the good things to come...,
29 So much he told the Jews, and then they left him, with much dissension among themselves. And for two whole years he lived in a lodging hired at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming God’s kingdom, and teaching them the truths which concern our Lord Jesus Christ, boldly enough, without let or hindrance.
Et cum hæc dixisset, exierunt ab eo Judæi, multam habentes inter se quæstionem.  Mansit autem biennio toto in suo conducto: et suscipiebat omnes qui ingrediebantur ad eum,  prædicans regnum Dei, et docens quæ sunt de Domino Jesu Christo cum omni fiducia, sine prohibitione.
Homily 55: But of his affairs after the two years, what say we?  (The writer) leaves the hearer thirsty for more: the heathen authors do the same (in their writings), for to know everything makes the reader dull and jaded...

Up next...

I do hope you have found reading Acts afresh fruitful, and St John Chrysostom's comments on the Acts of the Apostles helpful.

Next week being the Octave of Pentecost, there are Matins readings set for each day (Patristic readings), so I will post them instead of Scriptural posts.  The Epistle each day at Mass (in the EF) up until Thursday (when it shifts to Joel) though are from Acts:

Sunday: Acts 2:1-11
Monday Acts 10 34, 42-48
Tuesday:Acts 8:14-17
Wednesday: Acts 2:14-21; 5:12-16
Thursday: 8:5-8.

Friday and Saturday's readings from Joel 2 (which in older versions of the Benedictine Office were read at Matins earlier in the week) and other Old Testament texts (from Leviticus and Deuteronomy) and make the link between the Old Testament feast of seven weeks (Pentecost) and the Christian feast.

 After Pentecost, by way of a change of pace I thought I'd look at St Paul's letter to Hebrews fairly slowly, primarily with the help of St Thomas Aquinas' commentary.  I was then planning on looking at Revelations with the help of St Bede's commentary. But I'm open to suggestions, feel free to email me or put something in the comments box (along with any other comments on how to make the notes more useful to you).

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