Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Hebrews 1:-9a - Christ as King, Creator and Son

As we embark on this project of reading Hebrews prayerfully, I thought it might be useful to remind ourselves of the key stages of the lectio divina process, which can be summarised as: read (slowly and carefully, memorise if possible); think (ponder, consider what questions you need to answer to understand the text and what it is saying to you); study (with the help of the commentary); meditate (on the key messages that stand out to you); pray (turn those messages into a prayer); contemplate; work (put into action).

One useful way of making sure you do the read stage thoroughly, I find, is to listen to it read aloud.  If you have some Greek or Latin, try in those languages, otherwise there are many audio Bibles around the web you could use.

Hebrews 1:1 
In old days, God spoke to our fathers in many ways and by many means, through the prophets; 
 Multifariam, multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in prophetis: 

The time: ...he touches upon the time, when this teaching was delivered, i.e., the past, because he spoke of old, i.e., not suddenly, because the things that were spoken about Christ were so great as to be incredible, unless they had been taught bit by bit as time went on. Hence St. Gregory says: ‘As time went on, the knowledge of divine things grew.’ ‘The former things of old I have declared, and they went forth out of my mouth, and I have made them to be heard’ (Is. 48:3).

The author: Thus, he mentions the author, namely, God, Who speaks: ‘I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me’ (Ps. 84:9) For He does not lie: ‘God is not a man that he should lie’ (Num. 23:19). These, then, are the first three things which commend the Old Testament: authorship, because it is from God; secondly, subtlety and sublimity, because in so many and various ways; thirdly, duration, because of old.

To whom it was given:  Fourthly, he shows to whom it is delivered, namely, to our fathers. This is why it is familiar and known to us: ‘We declare unto you the promise which was made to our fathers’ (Ac. 13:32); ‘As he spoke to our fathers’ (Lk. 1:55).

The Ministers: Fifthly, he indicates the ministers, because it was delivered not by jesters but by prophets: ‘Which he had promised before by his prophets’ (Rom. 1:2); ‘To whom all the prophets give testimony’ (Ac. 10:43).

Christ: Creator  and Son
now at last in these times he has spoken to us with a Son to speak for him; a Son, whom he has appointed to inherit all things, Just as it was through him that he created this world of time;  a Son, who is the radiance of his Father’s splendour, and the full expression of his being; all creation depends, for its support, on his enabling word. 
 novissime, diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit hæredem universorum,per quem fecit et sæcula: 3 qui cum sit splendor gloriæ, et figura substantiæ ejus, portansque omnia verbo virtutis suæ
Aquinas: ...for by the fact that he is the brightness, he shows his co-eternity with the Father; for in creatures splendor is coeval, and the Word is co-eternal...But when he says, the image of his substance, he shows the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. For since splendor is not of the same nature as the resplendent thing, then lest anyone suppose that it is not similar in nature, he says that it is the image or figure of His substance. But because the Son, even though He is of the same nature with the Father, would be lacking power, if He were weak, he adds, supporting all things by the word of his power. Therefore, the Apostle commends Christ on three points, namely, co-eternity, consubstantiality and equality of power.
3b Now, making atonement for our sins he has taken his place on high, at the right hand of God’s majesty, 
 purgationem peccatorum faciens, sedet ad dexteram majestatis in excelsis: 
Aquinas: It belongs to Christ to cleanse by reason of His divine nature and by reason of His special sonship. By reason of His divine nature, because guilt or sin is uniquely an evil of the rational creature, and God alone can repair such an evil. For sin lies in the will, which God alone can move: ‘The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable; who can know it? I am the Lord who searches the heart and proves the reins’ (Jer. 17:9)...But the will is concerned with the ultimate end, because it is made for enjoying God; therefore, it is moved by God alone. Therefore, since Christ is true God, it is obvious that He can cause purification from sins: ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (Lk. 5:21)

Superior to the angels
4 superior to the angels in that measure in which the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Did God ever say to one of the angels, Thou art my Son, I have begotten thee this day? And again, He shall find in me a Father, and I in him a Son? Why, when the time comes for bringing his first-born into the world anew, then, he says, Let all the angels of God worship before him. What does he say of the angels? He will have his angels be like the winds, the servants that wait on him like a flame of fire.
tanto melior angelis effectus, quanto differentius præ illis nomen hæreditavit.Cui enim dixit aliquando angelorum: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te? Et rursum: Ego ero illi in patrem, et ipse erit mihi in filium? Et cum iterum introducit primogenitum in orbem terræ, dicit: Et adorent eum omnes angeli Dei. Et ad angelos quidem dicit: Qui facit angelos suos spiritus, et ministros suos flammam ignis.
 Aquinas: ...Christ had two things according to the human nature in this life, namely, the infirmity of the flesh; and in this way He was lower than the angels: but He also had fullness of grace, so that even in His human nature he was greater than the angels in grace and glory: ‘We have seen him as it were the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (Jn. 1:14). But this is not how the Apostle understood it, for he does not mean that He was made better in regard to grace, but by reason of the union of human nature with the divine; so He is said to be made, inasmuch as by effecting that union He became better than the angels, and should be called and really be the son of God.

... as to the signification of the name, because the proper name of angels is that they are called angels, which is the name of a messenger. For an angel is a messenger. But the proper name of Christ is that He is called the Son of God; and this name is vastly different from ‘angel’, because no matter how great a difference you might imagine, there would still remain a greater difference, because they are infinitely apart: ‘What is his name, and what is the name of his son, if thou knowest?’ (Pr. 30:4). For the name of the Son, as that of the Father, is incomprehensible: ‘He gave him a name which is above every name’ (Phil. 2:9)...the second difference, because they differ as to mode: ‘Who among the sons of God shall be like to God?’ (Ps. 88:7). As if to say: No one by nature. As to the third he says that He inherited that name; for inheritance follows upon origin. Hence, Christ is the Son by origin and by nature, but the angels by a gift of grace: ‘Here is the heir:’ (Mt. 21:38). Hence, He inherited that name, but not so the angels...

Kingship of Christ
8  And what of the Son? Thy throne, O God, stands firm for ever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingship is a rod that rules true.  Thou hast been a friend to right, an enemy to wrong; 
 Ad Filium autem: Thronus tuus Deus in sæculum sæculi: virga æquitatis, virga regni tui. Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem

Royal dignity:..a throne is the king’s seat, a chair is the teacher’s seat and a tribunal the judge’s seat. All of these belong to Christ, because He is our king: ‘He will reign in the house of Jacob’ (Lk. 1:32) and, therefore, deserves a throne: ‘His throne is as the sun’ (Ps. 88:38). He is a teacher and, therefore, needs a chair: ‘We know that you have been sent a teacher from God’...For He reigns in order to direct men to eternal life. But this is not so of human kingdoms; hence, their kingdoms end with the present life. Another reason is that the Church, which is His kingdom, will last until the end of the world, when Christ will deliver the kingdom to God and to the Father to be consummated and made perfect.

The equity of his rule: Then he commends his kingdom on its equity when he says, a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. And this kingdom is fittingly described by the scepter: for a tyrannical kingdom differs from that of a king, because the former exists for the tyrant’s benefit with great harm to the subjects; but a kingdom is particularly ordained to the benefit of the subjects...

But it should be noted that sometimes a person rules according to the rigor of the law, as when he observes things that according to themselves are just. But it happens that something is just according to itself, but when compared to something else, it causes suffering, if it is observed; consequently, it is necessary that the common law be applied, and if this is done, then there is a rule of equity...

The goodness of the ruler: For some observe equity not for the love of justice but from fear or for glory. And such a kingdom does not last...But one who does not love justice is not just: ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice’ (Mt. 5:6). Yet some love justice but are lax in correcting injustice. However, Christ hates, i.e., reproves justice: ‘I have hated the unjust’ (Ps. 118:113). Similarly, He hates the wicked and his wickedness: ‘The highest hates sinners, and has mercy on the penitent’ (Sir. 12:3). Therefore, he says, you have hated iniquity.

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