Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Hebrews 4: 11-16 - God's word can pierce as a sword

Hebrews 4:11 summarises one of the themes St Benedict repeatedly stresses in his rule, namely the name to hurry to run towards salvation:

Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest; lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief. 
 Festinemus ergo ingredi in illam requiem: ut ne in idipsum quis incidat incredulitatis exemplum.
St Thomas comments:

....we must hurry, because the time is very short: ‘The days of man are short’ (Jb. 14:5), and because that time, besides being short and brief, is uncertain: ‘Man knows not his own end’ (Ec. 9:12) and because the call is urgent: for an inner call drives us with the goad of charity: ‘When he shall come as violent stream, which the spirit of the Lord drives on’ (Is. 59:19); The charity of Christ presses us’ (2 Cor. 5:14); ‘I have run the way of your commandments’ (Ps. 118:32), and because there is a danger in delay, as is clear form the foolish virgins who arrived late and could not enter...

...there are two ways of hurrying: one is by being headlong and this I reprehensible; the other is by being energetic, and this is praiseworthy. For, as the Philosopher says: All men should take a long time to consider, but be quick to carry out their decisions. Therefore, when hurry destroys counsel, it is precipitate and vicious. In this sense the objection is valid; but hurry in executing one’s decision is virtuous and praiseworthy. This is the type of hurry to which the Apostle exhorts us here.

Hebrews 4:12
12 God’s word to us is something alive, full of energy; it can penetrate deeper than any two-edged sword, reaching the very division between soul and spirit, between joints and marrow, quick to distinguish every thought and design in our hearts. 
Vivus est enim sermo Dei, et efficax et penetrabilior omni gladio ancipiti: et pertingens usque ad divisionem animæ ac spiritus: compagum quoque ac medullarum, et discretor cogitationum et intentionum cordis.  
Aquinas: .

The Word: ..where we have sermo the Greek has logos, which is the same as verbum, ‘word’; hence a saying, i.e., a word. This is the way Augustine explains Johns’ statement: ‘The word that I have spoken’, i.e., I who am the Word: ‘Your almighty word leapt down from heaven from the royal throne’ (Wis. 18:15).   Similarly here, the word (sermo) of God is living, i.e., the living Word (Verbum) of God...

Piercing: For God’s action and knowledge reach into the inmost parts of a thing...And because the word of God is sharp in its action and its knowledge, it is compared to a two-edged sword: ‘And the sword of the spirit which is the word of God’ (Eph. 6:17); ‘In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword shall visit Leviathan’ (Is. 27:1). Or it is called two-edged in regard to its activity, because it is sharp enough to promote good and destroy evil: ‘From his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword’ (Rev. 1:16)....

There are three things in man: body, soul, and spirit: ‘That you wholly spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord’ (1 Th. 5:23). For we know what the body is. But the soul is that which gives life to the body; whereas the spirit in bodily things is something subtle and signifies immaterial substance..the spirit in us is that by which we are akin to spiritual substances; but the soul is that through which we are akin to the brutes. Consequently, the spirit is the human mind, namely, the intellect and will...
13 From him, no creature can be hidden; everything lies bare, everything is brought face to face with him, this God to whom we must give our account.
Et non est ulla creatura invisibilis in conspectu ejus: omnia autem nuda et aperta sunt oculis ejus, ad quem nobis sermo.

Aquinas: To Him, therefore, is our speech, when we render an account of our works: ‘For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the proper things of the body, according as he has done, whether it be good of evil’ (2 Cor. 5:10). Therefore, because He is so powerful, so knowing and so great, let us hasten to enter into that rest...
14 Let us hold fast, then, by the faith we profess. We can claim a great high priest, and one who has passed right up through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. It is not as if our high priest was incapable of feeling for us in our humiliations; he has been through every trial, fashioned as we are, only sinless.  Let us come boldly, then, before the throne of grace, to meet with mercy, and win that grace which will help us in our needs.
14 Habentes ergo pontificem magnum qui penetravit cælos, Jesum Filium Dei, teneamus confessionem. Non enim habemus pontificem qui non possit compati infirmitatibus nostris: tentatum autem per omnia pro similitudine absque peccato. Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad thronum gratiæ: ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportuno.
A great high priest: But He is called great, because He is not a high priest of temporal goods only, but of goods to come: ‘but Christ being come a high priest of the good things to come’ (below 9:11)...

Here it should be noted that Christ does not merely have the power, but is most ready to have compassion on our infirmities, because He has experienced our wretchedness, which, as God, He knew form all eternity by simple knowledge: ‘The Lord has compassion on them that fear him: for he knows our frame’ (Ps. 102:13)...

Then when he says, Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace, he urges us to have confidence in him. As if to say: Since He can have compassion, let us go with confidence: ‘Behold, God is my savior; I will deal confidently and will not fear’ (Is. 12:2)...But this throne has a twofold state: one, of justice in the future: ‘You have sat on the throne, who judge justice’ (Ps. 9:5). This will occur in the future: ‘When I shall take a time, I will judge justice’ (Ps. 74:3).

The other throne is that of grace, which is meant here; hence, he adds, of his grace, namely, in the present, which is the time of mercy: ‘He shall give equal grace to the grace thereof’ (Zech 4:7). But by the grace of Christ we are freed of all misery, because we are freed from sin, which makes people wretched; hence, he says, that we may obtain mercy.

Furthermore, by the grace of Christ we are aided in doing good; hence he says, and find grace; ‘You have found grace with God’ (Lk. 1:30); and this to help in time of need, i.e., to do good: ‘My help is from the Lord’ (Ps. 120:2). But that help comes through grace: ‘I have labored more abundantly than all they’ (1 Cor. 15:10). But this should come at a seasonable time; hence, he says, in time of need: ‘There is a time and opportunity for every business’ (Ec. 8:6). This is the present time, which is the time of mercy.

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