Monday, 8 August 2016

Hebrews 12:22-29 The city of God

Today's verses of Hebrews are, I think, its climax, in taking us to the City of God.  St Thomas Aquinas summarises this section as follows:
Then he mentions the conditions of the New Testament, saying: But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God. Here he shows the things proposed to us in it; and three things are promised to us, namely, the hope of future glory, participation in the Church, and familiarity with God.
Hebrews 12:22-23
But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, And to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, 
Sed accessistis ad Sion montem, et civitatem Dei viventis, Jerusalem cælestem, et multorum millium angelorum frequentiam, et ecclesiam primitivorum, qui conscripti sunt in cælis, et judicem omnium Deum, et spiritus justorum perfectorum, 

The joy of heaven: In heavenly glory there are two things which will particularly gladden the just, namely, the enjoyment of the godhead and companionship with the saints. For no good is joyfully possessed without companions, as Boethius says: and in Ps. 132: ‘Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together.’

The peace of divine contemplation: But enjoyment consists in two things, namely, in the intellect’s vision and in the will’s delight. For, as Augustine says: ‘We enjoy the things we know, in which the delighted will rests.’ Because of the vision he says, You have come to mount Zion, for Zion signifies the loftiness of divine contemplation: ‘Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnity’. The gladness and pleasure of the will is signified by the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the city of the living God: ‘Jerusalem, which is built as a city’ (Ps. 121); ‘Who has placed peace in your borders: and filled you with the fat of corn’ (Ps. 147); ‘That Jerusalem which is above is free’. Hence, there will be nothing further to be desired: ‘Since I am become in his presence as one finding peace’.

The company of the angels:...‘Their angels always see the face of my Father in heaven. That there are thousands is clear from Daniel: ‘Thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him’; ‘Is there any numbering of his soldiers?’; ‘And the number of them was thousands of thousands’.

The members of the Church: And to the assembly of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven: these are the members of the Church, which is called the house of God. The firstborn saints, who received the gifts of grace first and more abundantly, are the apostles, through whom it flows to others: ‘And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit’; ‘Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets’....

A judge who is God of all: he shows how they have attained familiarity with God: first, with God the Father, because you are come to a judge Who is God of all, i.e., God the Father, from Whom judicial authority proceeds. For it is from the Father that the Son has power to judge... Secondly, familiarity with the Holy Spirit when he says, and to the spirits of just men made perfect...For all justice and perfection is from the Holy Spirit...

Hebrews 12:24-29
And to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh better than that of Abel.  See that you refuse him not that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke upon the earth, much more shall not we, that turn away from him that speaketh to us from heaven. Whose voice then moved the earth; but now he promiseth, saying: Yet once more, and I will move not only the earth, but heaven also. And in that he saith, Yet once more, he signifieth the translation of the moveable things as made, that those things may remain which are immoveable. Therefore receiving an immoveable kingdom, we have grace; whereby let us serve, pleasing God, with fear and reverence.  For our God is a consuming fire.
et testamenti novi mediatorem Jesum, et sanguinis aspersionem melius loquentem quam Abel. Videte ne recusetis loquentem. Si enim illi non effugerunt, recusantes eum, qui super terram loquebatur: multo magis nos, qui de cælis loquentem nobis avertimus. Cujus vox movit terram tunc: nunc autem repromittit, dicens: Adhuc semel, et ego movebo non solum terram, sed et cælum. Quod autem, Adhuc semel, dicit: declarat mobilium translationem tamquam factorum, ut maneant ea quæ sunt immobilia.  Itaque regnum immobile suscipientes, habemus gratiam: per quam serviamus placentes Deo, cum metu et reverentia. Etenim Deus noster ignis consumens est.
Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant: As if to say: You have come to Christ, Who is the mediator of that new pact in which spiritual things are promised to us... And the Apostle speaks according to the rite of the Old Law where, after the Law was given, the People were sprinkled with blood, which was a figure of Christ’s blood, by which the faithful were to be cleansed...For the shedding of Christ’s blood was prefigured in the shedding of the blood of all the just from the beginning of the world: Therefore, the shedding of Abel’s blood was a sign of that shedding. But Christ’s blood speaks better than Abel’s blood, which cries for vengeance, but Christ’s blood cried for pardon...

Listen: Beware of excusing yourselves from listening to him who is speaking to you. There was no escape for those others, who tried to excuse themselves when God uttered his warnings on earth; still less for us, if we turn away when he speaks from heaven. 26 His voice, even then, made the earth rock; now, he has announced to us that it shall happen again, only once; he will shake earth and heaven too. Only once again; that means that what is shaken, this created universe, will be removed; only the things which cannot be shaken are to stand firm. 28 The kingdom we have inherited is one which cannot be shaken; in gratitude for this, let us worship God as he would have us worship him, in awe and reverence; no doubt of it, our God is a consuming fire...

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken: ...after commending in many ways the grace and benefits conferred and to be conferred upon us by Christ, his main desire is to induce us to serve Him. he concludes that inasmuch as immovable things are promised in the New Testament, we should serve Christ Who promised them, in fear and reverence. And that is the principal conclusion.

Whereby let us serve: For natural reason dictates that we are obligated to show reverence and honor to anyone from whom we receive many favors; therefore, much more to God, Who has given us the greatest things and has promised us an infinitude of them. Hence, he says that by that grace, namely, given and to be given to us, let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

Outward and inward action: For it is not enough merely to serve God, which can be done by outward action; we must also please Him by a right intention and by love...But God is especially served by an inward service: ‘Let us serve him in holiness and justice’. Now by reason of creation God is called Lord, but by reason of regeneration, Father. But to a Lord fear is owed, and to a Father love and reverence: ‘The son honors the father, and the servant fears his lord. If I am your father, where is my honor; and if I am your Lord, where is my fear’. Therefore, the Lord should be served in fear and in reverence: ‘Serve the Lord in fear; and rejoice unto him with trembling’.

God is the fire that consumes sins: That we should serve God in that manner he proves by the authority of Deuteronomy (4:24): For our God is a consuming fire. When God is said to be a fire, it does not mean that He is something corporeal, but it is because intelligible things are designated by sense-perceptible things, among which fire has greater nobility and clarity; and greater activity; and a higher natural place; and is more cleansing and more consuming. Therefore, God is especially called fire on account of His clarity, because He inhabits light inaccessible, and because He is supremely active: ‘You have worked all our works in us’, and He is in a loftier place: ‘The Lord is high above all nations; and his glory above the heavens’. Furthermore, he cleanses and as it were, consumes sins; hence, he says that he is a consuming fire: ‘He is like a refining fire’; and he continues: ‘And he shall purify the sons of Levi’; ‘making purgation of sins’...

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