Thursday, 30 June 2016

Hebrews 7:1-10 - Between God and the people

Chapter 7 of Hebrews brings us to the heart of the argument about the superiority of Christ's priesthood.  St Thomas Aquinas summarises this section as follows:
"In Chapter 5 the Apostle proved that Christ is a priest, but in Chapter 6 he interposed certain considerations to prepare the minds of his hearers. Now he returns to his main theme: for he intends to prove the excellence of Christ’s priesthood over the Levitical priesthood. In regard to this he does two things: first, he shows the excellence of Christ’s priesthood as compared to the priesthood of the Old Testament; secondly, he shows that believers should subject themselves reverently to the priesthood of Christ."

Hebrews 7:1-2a:
It was this Melchisedech, king of Salem, and priest of the most high God, who met Abraham and blessed him on his way home, after the defeat of the kings; and to him Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils. 
Hic enim Melchisedech, rex Salem, sacerdos Dei summi, qui obviavit Abrahæ regresso a cæde regum, et benedixit ei: cui et decimas omnium divisit Abraham: 

Who was Melchizedek?: He describes Melchizedek, first of all, by his name when he says, For this Melchizedek. For so the Scripture names him in Genesis, where his history, which the Apostle supposes here, is recorded.

King of Salem: Some say that Salem is called Jerusalem. But Jerome denies this in a letter, because, as he says, he could not run into him from Jerusalem, which he proves from its location. Others say that Salem is the place where John baptized, and the walls of that place still existed in Jerome’s time.

Priest of God: ...lest anyone suppose that he was a priest of idols, he adds, of the Most High God, namely, God by essence not by participation or name. For God is the Creator of all who are gods either by participation or erroneously: ‘The Lord is a great king above all gods’; ‘You shall be called priests of the Lord: to you it shall be said: You ministers of our God’.

Functions of a priest: ...he describes him from his office: who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him. For a priest is midway between God and the people. Therefore, he should confer something on the people, namely, spiritual things, and receive something from them, namely, temporal things: ‘If we then have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter, if we reap your carnal things?’

Hebrews 2b-3
Observe, in the first place, that his name means, the king of justice; and further that he is king of Salem, that is, of peace. That is all; no name of father or mother, no pedigree, no date of birth or of death; there he stands, eternally, a priest, the true figure of the Son of God.
primum quidem qui interpretatur rex justitiæ: deinde autem et rex Salem, quod est, rex pacis, 3 sine patre, sine matre, sine genealogia, neque initium dierum, neque finem vitæ habens, assimilatus autem Filio Dei, manet sacerdos in perpetuum.

Christ's likeness to Melchizedek as king: ...Melchizedek, who is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and signifies Christ, Who was a king..:He is not only called righteous, but king of righteousness, because He was made wisdom and righteousness for us. Another thing said of him is his status; hence, he is called king of Salem, that is, king of peace. But this suits Christ: ‘For he is our peace’...He does well to join justice and peace, because no one can make peace who does not observe justice...

Melchizedek is not Christ: Then when he says, without father or mother or genealogy, he presents a likeness in regard to the things not mentioned about him, because in Scripture no mention is made of his father or mother or genealogy. Hence, some of the ancients made this matter of their error, saying that since God alone is without beginning and without end, Melchizedek was the Son of God. But this has been condemned as heretical.

No mother or father: Hence, it should be noted that the Old Testament, whenever mention is made of some important person, his father is named along with the time of his birth and death, as in the case of Isaac and many others....For inasmuch as it is said, without father, the birth of Christ from the Virgin is signified, for it occurred without a father: ‘That which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit’. Now that which is proper to God should not be attributed to a creature; but it is proper to God the Father to be the Father of Christ. Therefore, in the birth of the one who prefigured Him, no mention should be made of a carnal father.   Also in regard to His eternal birth he says, without mother, lest anyone suppose that birth to be material, as the mother gives the matter to her begotten; but it is spiritual, as brightness from the sun: ‘Who being the brightness of his glory and figure of his substance'

No pedigree: ...because the generation of Christ is ineffable: ‘Who shall declare his generation’; the other is because Christ, Who is introduced as a priest, does not pertain to the Levitical priesthood, nor to a genealogy of the Old Law. This is the Apostle’s intention; hence, he says, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life. But he says this, not because Christ was not born in time or did not die, but because of His eternal generation, in which He was born without the beginning of any time: ‘In the beginning was the Word’, i.e., no matter what time you mention, the Word was before it, as Basil explains. Also, no end of life: this is true in regard to His divinity, which is eternal. But in regard to His humanity, He no longer has an end of life, because ‘Christ rising again from the dead, dies now no more’; and below: ‘Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same forever.’

A priest forever: lest anyone suppose that Christ’s priesthood is later than that of Melchizedek, the Apostle dispels this, because, although Christ as man was born after him and existed in time, nevertheless, as God and as the Son of God, He exists from eternity. Therefore, Melchizedek was like Christ, the Son of God, in regard to all those features: and this inasmuch as He continues a priest forever, which can be explained in two ways: one way, because no mention is made of the end of his priesthood or of his successor: ‘I have used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets’. He also says, a priest forever, because that which is prefigured, namely, Christ’s priesthood, lasts forever. Hence, even in Scripture it is frequently referred to as perpetual: ‘It shall be a perpetual observance’: ‘By a perpetual service and rite’, because that which was symbolized by it is perpetual. In this matter the Apostle connects the following with the preceding.

Hebrews 7:4-10
4 Consider how great a man was this, to whom the patriarch Abraham himself gave a tenth part of his chosen spoil. The descendants of Levi, when the priesthood is conferred on them, are allowed by the provisions of the law to take tithes from God’s people, although these, like themselves, come from the privileged stock of Abraham; after all, they are their brothers; here is one who owns no common descent with them, taking tithes from Abraham himself. He blesses him, too, blesses the man to whom the promises have been made; and it is beyond all question that blessings are only given by what is greater in dignity to what is less. In the one case, the priests who receive tithe are only mortal men; in the other, it is a priest (so the record tells us) who lives on. And indeed, there is a sense in which we can say that Levi, who receives the tithe, paid tithe himself with Abraham; as the heir of Abraham’s body, he was present in the person of his ancestor, when he met Melchisedech.
Intuemini autem quantus sit hic, cui et decimas dedit de præcipuis Abraham patriarcha.  Et quidem de filiis Levi sacerdotium accipientes, mandatum habent decimas sumere a populo secundum legem, id est, a fratribus suis: quamquam et ipsi exierint de lumbis Abrahæ. Cujus autem generatio non annumeratur in eis, decimas sumpsit ab Abraham, et hunc, qui habebat repromissiones, benedixit. Sine ulla autem contradictione, quod minus est, a meliore benedicitur. Et hic quidem, decimas morientes homines accipiunt: ibi autem contestatur, quia vivit. Et (ut ita dictum sit) per Abraham, et Levi, qui decimas accepit, decimatus est: adhuc enim in lumbis patris erat, quando obviavit ei Melchisedech.

Abraham's tithing: hence, he says, see how great, i.e., of what great dignity, he is, to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tithe of the spoils...Abraham is called a patriarch, i.e., the chief of fathers, not because he had no father, but because the promise of being father of the Gentiles was made to him... the Levites themselves were of the seed of Abraham and, consequently were inferior to Abraham, who paid the tithes...But this man who has not the genealogy received tithes of Abraham, he shows how it was more fitting for Melchizedek to receive tithes, because he was not of the stock of Abraham; hence, he has not their genealogy, namely, of the Levites.

Above the law: Furthermore, according to a commandment of the Law it was lawful for him [Aaron] to take tithes; consequently, their priesthood was subject to the observance of the Law. But he [Melchizedek] took tithes not by reason of any law but of himself; therefore, his priesthood was a figure of Christ’s priesthood, which is not subject to the Law. Likewise, they received from a lowly people, namely, their brethren, but he from the highest, namely, from Abraham...

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Hebrews 6:11-20 - The need for fervour

The second half of Hebrews 6 stresses the continuity between the Old and New Testaments:
11-12 And we desire that every one of you shew forth the same carefulness to the accomplishing of hope unto the end: That you become not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience shall inherit the promises.
 Cupimus autem unumquemque vestrum eamdem ostentare sollicitudinem ad expletionem spei usque in finem: ut non segnes efficiamini, verum imitatores eorum, qui fide, et patientia hæreditabunt promissiones.

The need for care: is clear that carefulness is required for doing acts of godliness: ‘Martha, Martha, you are careful’ and for one’s own salvation: ‘Carefully study to present yourself approved unto God’. Any why? To realize the full assurance of hope, namely, that by fulfilling what you have begun, you may obtain what you hope: ‘Hope confounds not’. And this, until the end: ‘For he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved’.

The danger of laziness: ...For laziness is the fear of a future good action, because one fears that he may fail or not repent: ‘The slothful man says: There is a lion in the way’. Hence, slothful persons always allege obstacles as an excuse...Be you, therefore, imitators of those who through faith, without which it is impossible to please God and patience against adversity, inherit the promises. For by formed faith and patience the promised inheritance is obtained: ‘The saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises’.

The example of the prophets: ...As if to say: Be not slothful, but rather imitate the example of the prophets: ‘For an example of suffering evil, of labor and of patience, take the prophets’; and of other saints, namely the apostles: ‘Be you followers of me, as I also am of Christ’. Be you, therefore, imitators of those who through faith, without which it is impossible to please God and patience against adversity, inherit the promises. For by formed faith and patience the promised inheritance is obtained: ‘The saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises'.
13-17 For God making promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom he might swear, swore by himself, Saying: Unless blessing I shall bless thee, and multiplying I shall multiply thee. And so patiently enduring he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves: and an oath for confirmation is the end of all their controversy. Wherein God, meaning more abundantly to shew to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed an oath: 
Abrahæ namque promittens Deus, quoniam neminem habuit, per quem juraret, majorem, juravit per semetipsum, dicens: Nisi benedicens benedicam te, et multiplicans multiplicabo te.  Et sic longanimiter ferens, adeptus est repromissionem.  Homines enim per majorem sui jurant: et omnis controversiæ eorum finis, ad confirmationem, est juramentum.  In quo abundantius volens Deus ostendere pollicitationis hæredibus, immobilitatem consilii sui, interposuit jusjurandum: 

The promise to Abraham: ‘To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed’. The reason for this is that by faith we adhere to God; consequently, by faith we obtain the promise. For the first example of faith was found in Abraham, and this because he was the first to withdraw from associating with unbelievers: ‘Go forth out of your country, and from your kindred, and out of your father’s house’; secondly, because he was the first to believe something above nature: ‘Who against hope believed in hope’. Hence, Genesis: ‘Abraham believed God and it was reputed to him unto justice.’ For he was the first to receive the seal of faith, namely, circumcision.

Genesis 12: 1-4 - 
Meanwhile, the Lord said to Abram, Leave thy country behind thee, thy kinsfolk, and thy father’s home, and come away into a land I will shew thee. Then I will make a great people of thee; I will bless thee, and make thy name renowned, a name of benediction;  those who bless thee, I will bless, those who curse thee, I will curse, and in thee all the races of the world shall find a blessing. So Abram went out, as the Lord bade him... 
Genesis 15:1-6 - 
...The Lord sent word to Abram in a vision, Have no fear, Abram, I am here to protect thee; thy reward shall be great indeed. But Abram answered, Lord God, what can this gift of thine be? I must go the way of childless men; Damascus here, the son of Eliezer, is but the son of my steward; to me (Abram added) thou hast given no children, so that all the heir I have is a slave born in my house. Whereupon the Lord sent word to him, This man shall not succeed thee; thou shalt have an heir sprung from thy own body. Then he took him out of doors, and said to him, Look up at the sky, and count, if thou canst, the stars in it; thy race, like these, shall be numberless. So Abram put his faith in God, and it was reckoned virtue in him.
 Hebrews 6:
18-20 That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have the strongest comfort, who have fled for refuge to hold fast the hope set before us.  we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil; Where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
ut per duas res immobiles, quibus impossibile est mentiri Deum, fortissimum solatium habeamus, qui confugimus ad tenendam propositam spem,  quam sicut anchoram habemus animæ tutam ac firmam, et incedentem usque ad interiora velaminis, ubi præcursor pro nobis introivit Jesus, secundum ordinem Melchisedech pontifex factus in æternum.
The anchor of faith: Then when he says, we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, he shows that faith will obtain that promise; and he makes use of a simile. For he compares hope to an anchor, which just as it secures ship in the sea, so hope secures the soul in God in this work, which is, as it were, a kind of sea: ‘So is this great sea, which stretches wide its arms’ (Ps. 103:25); hence, it is made of iron: ‘I know whom I have believed and I am certain’. Also it should be firm, so that is it is not easily removed from the ship; thus a man should be held fast to that hope as an anchor and hope is that the anchor is fixed to a low place, but hope is fixed in the highest, namely, to God. For nothing in the present life is so firm that the soul could be secure and at rest; hence, it says in Genesis that the dove found no place where her foot might rest.

The church and the tabernacle:  For the Apostle understand the present condition of the Church by the holy things that were in the tabernacle; but by the holy of holies, which was separated from the saints by a veil, he understands the state of future glory. Therefore, he wills that the anchor of our hope be fixed in that which is now veiled from our eyes: ‘The eye has not seen, O God, besides thee, what things you have prepared for them that wait for you’; ‘How great is the multitude of your sweetness, O Lord, which you have hidden for them that fear you!’.

Christ has entered behind the veil: This, our forerunner, who has entered there, has fixed there; hence, it says in John: ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ He shall go up that shall open the way before them’. Therefore, he says that Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf within the veil and has fixed our hope there, as it says in the collect of vigil and of Ascension day. Yet because the high priest alone was permitted to enter within the veil, he says that Jesus has entered on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Notice how elegantly the Apostle returns to his main theme. For he had begun to speak of the priesthood and then digressed; but now he returns to it, as is obvious.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Feast of SS Peter and Paul

Matins readings for the feast.

Nocturn I (Acts 3:1-16)

Reading 1:  Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, which is an hour of prayer,  when a man was carried by who had been lame from birth. Every day he was put down at what is called the Beautiful Gate of the temple, so that he could beg alms from the temple visitors. And he asked Peter and John, as he saw them on their way into the temple, if he might have alms from them. Peter fastened his eyes on him, as John did too, and said, Turn towards us; 5 and he looked at them attentively, hoping that something would be given him.

R. Simon Peter, before I called thee out of the ship, I knew thee, and appointed thee for a captain over My people.*And I have given unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
V. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
R. And I have given unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Reading 2: Then Peter said to him, Silver and gold are not mine to give, I give thee what I can. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. So, taking him by his right hand, he lifted him up; and with that, strength came to his feet and ankles; he sprang up, and began walking, and went into the temple with them, walking, and leaping, and giving praise to God.

R. Simon Peter, if thou lovest Me, feed My sheep. Lord, Thou knowest that I love thee. * I will lay down my life for thy sake.
V. If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.
R. I will lay down my life for thy sake.

Reading 3: All the people, as they saw him walking and praising God, recognized him for the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and were full of wonder and bewilderment at what had befallen him. And he would not let go of Peter and John, so that all the crowd gathered about them in what is called Solomon’s Porch, beside themselves with wonder.

R. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.* And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
V. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
R. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Reading 4: Peter, when he saw it, addressed himself to the people; Men of Israel, he said, why does this astonish you? Why do you fasten your eyes on us, as if we had enabled him to walk through some power or virtue of our own? It is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our forefathers, who has thus brought honour to his Son Jesus. You gave him up, and disowned him in the presence of Pilate, when Pilate’s voice was for setting him free. You disowned the holy, the just, and asked for the pardon of a murderer, while you killed the author of life. But God has raised him up again from the dead, and we are here to bear witness of it.  Here is a man you all know by sight, who has put his faith in that name, and that name has brought him strength; it is the faith which comes through Jesus that has restored him to full health in the sight of you all.

Nocturn II (From the Sermons of Pope St Leo the Great. First for the Birthday of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul).

Reading 5: Dearly beloved brethren, in the joy of all the holy Feast-days the whole world is partaker. There is but one love of God, and whatsoever is solemnly called to memory, if it hath been done for the salvation of all, must needs be worth the honour of a joyful memorial at the hands of all. Nevertheless, this feast which we are keeping to-day, besides that world-wide worship which it doth of right get throughout all the earth, doth deserve from this city of ours an outburst of gladness altogether special and our own. In this place it was that the two chiefest of the Apostles did so right gloriously finish their race. And upon this day whereon they lifted up that their last testimony, let it be in this place that the memory thereof receiveth the chiefest of jubilant celebrations. O Rome these twain are the men who brought the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine upon thee These are they by whom thou, from being the teacher of lies, wast turned into a learner of the truth.

R. Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto thee on the water
* And Jesus stretched forth His Hand, and caught him, and said unto him O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt
V. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me
R. And Jesus stretched forth His Hand, and caught him, and said unto him O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt

Reading 6: These twain be thy fathers, these be in good sooth thy shepherds, these twain be they who laid for thee, as touching the kingdom of heaven, better and happier foundations, than did they that first planned thine earthly ramparts, wherefrom he that gave thee thy name took occasion to pollute thee with a brother's blood.These are they who have set on thine head this thy glorious crown, that thou art become an holy nation, a chosen people, a city both Priestly and Kingly, whom the Sacred Throne of blessed Peter hath exalted till thou art become the Lady of the world, unto whom the world-wide love for God hath conceded a broader lordship than is the possession of any mere earthly empire.

R. Arise, O Peter! Cast thy garment about thee, gird thee with strength for the saving of the nations.
* The chains are fallen off from thine hands.
V. The Angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison and he smote Peter on the side and raised him up, saying Arise up quickly.
R. The chains are fallen off from thine hands.

Reading 7: Thou wast once waxen great by victories, until thy power was spread haughtily over land and sea, but thy power was narrower then which the toils of war had won for thee, than that thou now hast which hath been laid at thy feet by the peace of Christ. It well suited for the doing of the work which God had decreed that the multitude of kingdoms should be bound together under one rule, and that so the universal preaching of the Gospel should find easier entry into all peoples, since all were governed by the empire of one city.

R. Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, and the Prince of the Apostles, and unto thee hath God given all the kingdoms of the world.* Therefore unto thee hath He given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
V. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
R. Therefore unto thee hath He given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Reading 8: But this city, knowing not Him, Who had been pleased to make her great, used her lordship over almost all nations to make herself the minister of all their falsehoods and seemed to herself exceeding godly because there was no false god whom she rejected. But the tighter that Satan had bound her, the more wondrous was the work of Christ in setting her free.

Nocturn III (from St Jerome)

Reading 9: Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am. This question is well put, for they who speak of Him as the Son of man are men, while they that know of Him that He is God are called not men but gods. And they said Some say that Thou art John the Baptist, some, Elias I marvel that some commentators have thought it worth their while to search into the origin of each of these blunders, and to engage in a discussion of weary length as to why some thought that our Lord Jesus Christ was John the Baptist, some, Elias and others, Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. Their blunders concerning Elias and Jeremias were but of a piece with Herod's concerning John the Baptist It is John, whom I beheaded he is risen from the dead and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.

R. Peter, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not;* And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
V. Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father Which is in heaven.
R. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren

Reading 10: But who say ye that I am? Mark, discreet reader, from the context, that a distinction is here drawn between the Apostles and mere men. The Apostles are called gods. Who, asketh the Lord, do men say that I am but, on the other hand, who say ye that I am. They being but men deal in human speculations, but ye that are gods, who be ye persuaded that I am.

R. Jesus asked His disciples, saying: Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? Peter answered, and said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
* And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.
V. Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father Which is in heaven.
R. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.

Reading 11: And then Peter, as the representative of all the Apostles, uttered the testimony: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. He calleth God living, to mark the difference between Him and all other that be called gods, and who are indeed dead.And Jesus answered and said unto him Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona. The Apostle having testified of the Lord, the Lord in turn testifieth of the Apostle. Peter had said Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God and he received, in return for that his testimony to the truth, the words Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona. Why, blessed? For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father.

Reading 12:What flesh and blood could not reveal, the grace of the Holy Ghost had revealed. Meet for him therefore, because of his confession, is his name, as the name of one who hath revelation from the Holy Ghost, and therefore is called His son. Bar-jona is, being interpreted, The son-of-the-Dove.

The Gospel for the feast is from St Matthew:

13 Venit autem Jesus in partes Cæsareæ Philippi: et interrogabat discipulos suos, dicens: Quem dicunt homines esse Filium hominis? 14 At illi dixerunt: Alii Joannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero Jeremiam, aut unum ex prophetis. 15 Dicit illis Jesus: Vos autem, quem me esse dicitis? 16 Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi. 17 Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in cælis est. 18 Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. 19 Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis.

[13] And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? [14] But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. [15] Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?
[16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Vigil of SS Peter and Paul, Class II

The three readings of the Vigil are from St Augustine's Tractate 123 on John.

Reading 1: Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to John: At that time: Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? And so on, and that which followeth.

To the threefold denial there is now appended a threefold confession, that his tongue may not yield a feebler service to love than to fear, and imminent death may not appear to have elicited more from his lips than present life. Let it be the office of love to feed the Lord's flock, if it was the signal of fear to deny the Shepherd. Those who have this purpose in feeding the flock of Christ, that they may have them as their own, and not as Christ's, are convicted of loving themselves, and not Christ, from the desire either of boasting, or wielding power, or acquiring gain, and not from the love of obeying, serving and pleasing God.

R. Prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him Only * And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.
V. Return unto Him with all your hearts, and put away the strange gods from among you.
R. And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.

Reading 2: Against such, therefore, there standeth as a wakeful sentinel this thrice inculcated utterance of Christ, of whom the Apostle complaineth that they seek their own, not the things that are of Christ Jesus. For what else signifieth the words: Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep: than if it were said: If thou lovest me, think not of feeding thyself, but feed my sheep as mine, and not as thine own; seek my glory in them, and not thine own; my dominion, and not thine; my gain, and not thine; lest thou be found in the fellowship of them that belong to the perilous times, lovers of their own selves, and all else that is joined on to this beginning of evils.

R. God, Which heareth all, even He sent His Angel, and took me from keeping my father's sheep, and * Anointed me with the oil of His mercy.
V. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear
R. And anointed me with the oil of His mercy.

Reading 3: With great propriety, therefore, is Peter addressed: Lovest thou me? and found replying: I love thee; and the command applied to him: Feed my lambs, and this a second and a third time. We have it also demonstrated here that love (amor) and liking (dilectio) are one and the same thing; for the Lord also in the last question said not: Dost thou like me? (Diligis me?): but: Dost thou love me? (Amas me?) Let us, then, love not ourselves but him; and in feeding his sheep, let us be seeking the things which are his, not the things which are our own. For in some inexplicable way, I know not what, every one that loveth himself, and not God, loveth not himself; and whoever loveth God, and not himself, he it is that loveth himself. For he that cannot live by himself will certainly die by loving himself; he therefore loveth not himself that loveth himself to his own loss of life.

R. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear * He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.
V. God hath sent forth His mercy and His truth, and delivered my soul from among the lion's whelps.
R. He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Index of posts on the Gospel of St Luke

For those who try and read the Gospels's each quarter, below is a list of my previous posts on the Gospel of St Luke, divided up so as to spread it over the three months from 1 July.

I've also cross-indexed its liturgical use (in the Extraordinary Form Mass), with links to any Patristic commentaries on it used in the Office that I've posted.

Useful Resources for the Gospel of St Luke

Patristic commentaries

Catena Aurea of St Thomas
Commentary of Cornelius de Lapide
St Cyril of Alexandria


Divine Lamp's links list
Haydock's Bible Commentary

Posts on Gospel of St Luke

Reading Plan for Gospel of St Luke

Luke 1

 Luke 1:1-38
            Luke 1:26-38 (Ember Wednesday in Advent)
            Feast of the Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
            Feast of the Immaculate Conception - Luke 1:26-28

Luke 1:39-47
          Ember Friday in Advent - Luke 1:39-47
          Feast of the Visitation - Luke 1:39-47
          Feast of the Assumption - Luke 1:41-50

Luke 48-55 (Magnificat Pt 1, Overview)
Luke 1:46-50 (Magnificat Pt 2)
Luke 1:51-55 (Magnificat Pt 3)
Luke 1 56-66
Luke 1:67-79 (Benedictus Pt 1)
Luke 1:76-79 - Benedictus Pt 2

Luke 2

Luke 2:1-20
        Matins for Christmas - Luke 2:1-14; 12-20
        Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas - Luke 2:15-20
Luke 2:21-39
        Octave of the Nativity (Circumcision of Our Lord) - Luke 2:21     
        Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus - Lk 2:21
        Feast of the Purification - Luke 2:22-32
        Sunday in the Octave of Christmas - Luke 2:33-40
Luke 2: 40-52
        First Sunday after Epiphany - Lk 2:42-52

Luke 3

Luke 3:1-22
        Ember Saturday in Lent - Luke 3:1-6
        Fourth Sunday of Advent - Luke 3:1-6
Luke 3:23-38

Luke 4

Luke 4:1-21
Luke 4:22-44
        Monday in the third week of Lent - Lk4:23-30
        Thursday in the third week of Lent: Lk4:38-44
         Saturday in Octave of Pentecost - Lk4:38-44

Luke 5

Luke 5:1-16
         Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - Lk 5:1-11
Luke 5:17-39
         Friday in Octave of Pentecost - Lk 5:17-26

Luke 6

Luke 6: 1-26
Luke 6:27-38
           Luke 6: 36-42 (weekdays after Trinity Sunday)
Luke 6:39-49

Luke 7

Luke 7:1-16
        Thursday in the fourth week of Lent - Lk7:11-16
Luke 7:17-35
Luke 7:36-50
          Thursday in Passion Week - Lk7:36-50; also Ember Thurs in September

Luke 8

Luke 8:1-21
         Sexagesima Sunday - Luke 8:4-15
Luke 8:22-56

Luke 9

Luke 9:1-17
        Thursday in Octave of Pentecost - Lk 9:1-6
Luke 9:18-27
Luke 9: 28-36 (Transfiguration)
Luke 9:37-62

Luke 10

Luke 10:1-24
        Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost - Lk 10:23-37
Luke 10:25-37
Luke 10:38-42

Luke 11

Luke 11:1-4 (The Our Father)
Luke 11:5-13 (also used for Mass of Rogation days before Ascension)
Luke 11: 14-36
Luke 11:37-54

Luke 12

Luke 12:1-12
Luke 12:13-34
        Third Sunday of Lent - Lk 11:14-28
Luke 12:35-59

Luke 13

Luke 13:1-21
              Ember Saturday in September: Luke 13:6-17
Luke 13:22-35

Luke 14

Luke 14:1-35
             Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Luke 14:1-11     
             Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - Luke 14:16-24

Luke 15

Luke 15:1-32
        Third Sunday after Pentecost - Lk 15:1-10
        Saturday in the second week of Lent - Luke 15:11-32

Luke 16

Luke 16:1-18
        Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - Luke 1-9
Luke 16:19-31
        Thursday in the Second Week of Lent - Luke 16:19-31
Luke 17

Luke 17:1-19
        Thirteen Sunday after Pentecost - Luke 17:11-19
Luke 17: 20-37

Luke 18

Luke 18:1-30
        Tenth Sunday after Pentecost - Lk 18:9-14
       Quinquagesima Sunday - Luke 18:11-43
Luke 18:31-43

Luke 19

Luke 19:1-28
Luke 19: 29-40
Luke 19:41-47
        Ninth Sunday after Pentecost - Luke 19:41-47

Luke 20

Luke 20:1-18
Luke 20:19-26
Luke 20:27-40
Luke 20:41-47

Luke 21

Luke 21:1-4
Luke 21:5-24
Luke 21:25-38
      Advent 1: Luke 21:25-33

Luke 22

Luke 22:1-23
Luke 22:24-38
Luke 22:39-46
Luke 22:47-62
Luke 22:63-71
        Mass of Wednesday in Holy Week - Luke 22:1-71; 23:1-53

Luke 23

Luke 23:1-25
Luke 23:26-44
Luke 23:45-56

Luke 24

Luke 24:1-12
Luke 24:13-35
        Monday in the Octave of Easter: Lk 24:13-35
Luke 24:36-45
        Tuesday in the Octave of Easter - Lk 24:36-47
Luke 24:46-53

Friday, 24 June 2016

Hebrews 6:1-10 - Without a state of grace, good works are useless

Chapter 6 takes us through the path to perfection before finally returning to the theme of Christ's priesthood.

Hebrews 6:1:
Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God, 
Quapropter intermittentes inchoationis Christi sermonem, ad perfectiora feramur, non rursum jacientes fundamentum pœnitentiæ ab operibus mortuis, et fidei ad Deum, 2 

Evangelical counsels: ...For perfection consists in the counsels: ‘If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor’ (Mt. 19:21). But not all are bound by the counsels. I answer that there are two kinds of perfection: one is external and consists in external acts, which are signs of what is internal, such as virginity and voluntary poverty. To this perfection not all are bound. The other is internal and consists in the love of God and neighbor: ‘Have charity which is the bond of perfection’ (Col. 3:14). Not all are bound to this perfection, but all are bound to tend toward it; because if a person no longer desired to love God more, he would not be doing what charity requires...

The foundations of penance: ...For it is by faith that a soul is built into a spiritual edifice. Therefore, just as in a material building the foundation is laid first, so here the first rudiments of Christ’s doctrine are, as it were, the foundation...because penance is a departure from sin and is, as it were, the foundation of that life. For, according to Augustine, no one who is master of his own will can begin a new life without repenting of the past. Hence, at the beginning of His preaching the Lord says: ‘Do penance’...

Dead works: For works are called dead either because they are dead in themselves, or because they become dead. A thing is said to be alive, when it functions on its own power, so that wherever it fails, it is said to be dead. For our works are ordained to happiness, which is man’s end; therefore, when they do not lead to happiness or cannot be ordained to happiness, they are said to be dead: and these are works performed in mortal sin...But works performed in charity are made dead by sin; hence, they do not have the power to merit eternal life: ‘All the justices which he has done will not be remembered’. But penance makes them revive; hence they are then once more counted for eternal life.

Faith is first: For it is proper to faith that man believe and assent to things unseen by him, on the authority of another...the assent is made to what God says: ‘You believe in God; believe also in me’.
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and imposition of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 
baptismatum doctrinæ, impositionis quoque manuum, ac resurrectionis mortuorum, et judicii æterni. 

The sacraments: The second thing in that process are the sacraments of faith. But these are two sacraments of those entering: for those are the only ones the Apostle is discussing here. The first is baptism, by which are reborn; the second is confirmation, by which we are strengthened.

Three types of baptism: ...there are three kinds of baptism, namely, of water, of desire, and of blood. But the last two have no force, unless they are referred to the first, because the first one must be intended, if it cannot be actually received by a person with the use of freedom. Hence, there are not three sacraments, but one sacrament, by which we are reborn unto salvation...

Penance as a form of baptism: Penance, however, does not produce as many of baptism’s effects, because it does not take away all punishment, although it takes away all guilt. But just as a martyr conforms himself to Christ’s Passion by external suffering, so a penitent by internal suffering: ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences’. Therefore, penance can be so great that it would remove all guilt and punishment, as happened to the good thief and to Magdalene. Hence, penance is called baptism, inasmuch as it performs the function of baptism. And because baptism cannot be repeated, penance was instituted...

Confirmation: The second sacrament of those who are entering is imposed by the laying on of hands; hence, he says, and laying on of hands...For in confirmation the Holy Spirit is given for strength to enable a man to boldly confess Christ’s name before men. For just as in the natural order a man is first born and then grows and becomes strong, so, too, in the order of grace.

Resurrection of bodies: the foundation of faith, because without it our faith is in vain. Therefore, he says, of the resurrection of the dead.

Judgment: Secondly, we expect a reward, which is conferred by the judge: ‘All things that are done, God will bring into judgement’...

[3] And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, Have moreover tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making him a mockery. 
Et hoc faciemus, si quidem permiserit Deus.  Impossibile est enim eos qui semel sunt illuminati, gustaverunt etiam donum cæleste, et participes facti sunt Spiritus Sancti, gustaverunt nihilominus bonum Dei verbum, virtutesque sæculi venturi, et prolapsi sunt; rursus renovari ad pœnitentiam, rursum crucifigentes sibimetipsis Filium Dei, et ostentui habentes.

The need for God's help: ...He says less than he means, for it is not only necessary that God permit, but He must do all things: ‘In his hand are both we and our words’. Therefore, he must place all things under the confidence of divine help: ‘Without me you can do nothing’; ‘For you should say: If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we do this or that’.

The problem of apostates: ...For just as in material things no state is so dangerous as that of the [apostate], so in spiritual things one who falls into sin after grace rises with more difficulty...he shows the difficulty in rising, after one has fallen. Here it should be noted that he does not say, ‘fallen’, but ‘fallen away’, i.e. completely fallen, because if they had merely fallen, it should not be difficult to rise: ‘A just man shall fall seven times, and shall rise again’. But if the Apostle had said it is impossible for those who have fallen away to rise again, then it might be said that in this he was signifying how extremely difficult it is to rise, both because of sin and because of pride, as in the devils.

There is no sin that cannot be repented of: But because he says that those who have once fallen away cannot be renewed unto penance, and there is no sin in this world that man cannot repent of, there must be another explanation.  Hence, it should be noted that a certain Novatian, who was a priest of the church in Rome, made this the occasion of his error. For he declared that no one could rise to penance after baptism. But this opinion is false, as Athanasius says in a letter to Serapion, because Paul himself received the incestuous Corinthians; and likewise in Galatians, because he says: ‘My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you.’

Baptism cannot be repeated: ...the Jews were baptized frequently, as is shown in Mark. Consequently, it was in order to remove that error that the Apostle says this...baptism is a configuration to Christ’s death, as is clear from Romans; ‘all we who are baptized in Christ, are baptized in his death.’ But this death is not repeated, because ‘Christ rising again from the dead, dies now no more’.

Sin crucifies Christ again: Therefore, when you sin after baptism, then as far as in you lies, you give occasion for Christ to be crucified again; and in this way hold him up to contempt and stain yourself, washed in His blood: ‘He loved us and washed us fro our sins in his blood’.

[7] For the earth that drinketh in the rain which cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God. But that which bringeth forth thorns and briers, is reprobate, and very near unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt.
 7 Terra enim sæpe venientem super se bibens imbrem, et generans herbam opportunam illis, a quibus colitur, accipit benedictionem a Deo: proferens autem spinas ac tribulos, reproba est, et maledicto proxima: cujus consummatio in combustionem.

This life is our one chance: But it should be noted that according to one explanation the Apostle wished to show by the above that those who have been baptized once cannot be baptized again or be renewed again to penance in another life: ‘Whatsoever your hand is able to do, do it earnestly: for neither work nor reason nor wisdom nor knowledge shall be in hell, whither you are hastening’: ‘The night comes when no man can work’.

The good earth: ...the simile which is presented here about the earth can be connected to that which was stated above, let us go on to things more perfect, and then the sense will be: If we go on we will have a blessing like the good earth; or it can be connected with what was just said according to both explanations, either about baptism or about the other life. The one about baptism is more literal and then the sense is: Just as the cultivated earth, if it brings forth thorns again, is not cultivated but is burned, so a man who sins after baptism is not washed again...

This earth is the human heart: ‘But that on good ground are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it and bring forth fruit in patience’. It is called earth, because just as earth needs rain, so a man needs God’s grace: ‘You have visited the earth and have plentifully watered it’. ‘And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and return no more thither, but soak the earth and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it’...But the benefit it receives and the doctrine of faith is as rain which falls on the hearts of those who hear the words of preachers and teacher...
But, my dearly beloved, we trust better things of you, and nearer to salvation; though we speak thus.  For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shewn in his name, you who have ministered, and do minister to the saints.
Confidimus autem de vobis dilectissimi meliora, et viciniora saluti: tametsi ita loquimur. Non enim injustus Deus, ut obliviscatur operis vestri, et dilectionis, quam ostendistis in nomine ipsius, qui ministrastis sanctis, et ministratis.
Aquinas: Because the Apostle had said many seemingly harsh things about their state, now to keep them from despair, he shows the intention he had in saying these things, namely, to snatch them from danger. Hence, he does two things: first, he shows the confidence he had in them; secondly, the reason for this confidence... Then he gives the reasons for the confidence: one is based on their past good works; the other on God’s promise.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

The Matins readings for the feast are set out below.  Unfortunately the readings for the Second Nocturn in the Benedictine Office are no available online, but you could substitute the Roman Office readings from St Augustine if you wish, available from Divinum Officium.

Nocturn I (Jeremiah 1:1-10, 17-19)

Reading 1: These are the words of Jeremias, son of Helcias, one of the priests who dwelt at Anathoth, in the lands of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him during the reign of Josias, son of Amon, over Juda, in the thirteenth year of it; came to him during the reign of Josias’ son, Joachim, and did not cease till the men of Jerusalem went into exile, when Sedecias, that was also son to Josias, had been reigning eleven years and five months.

R. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.* The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
V. John was in the wilderness, preaching the baptism of repentance.
R. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Reading 2: The word of the Lord came to me, and his message was: I claimed thee for my own before ever I fashioned thee in thy mother’s womb; before ever thou camest to the birth, I set thee apart for myself; I have a prophet’s errand for thee among the nations. Alas, alas, Lord God (said I), I am but a child that has never learned to speak. A child, sayest thou? the Lord answered. Nay, I have a mission for thee to undertake, a message to entrust to thee.

R. Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was the mother of a mighty man, even of John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Lord,* who made straight in the desert an highway for the Lord.
V. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
R. Who made straight in the desert an highway for the Lord.

Reading 3:  Have no human fears; am I not at thy side, to protect thee from harm? the Lord says. And with that, the Lord put out his hand, and touched me on the mouth; See, he told me, I have inspired thy lips with utterance. Here and now I give thee authority over nations and kingdoms everywhere; with a word thou shalt root them up and pull them down, overthrow and lay them in ruins; with a word thou shalt build them up and plant them anew.

R. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee;* And I ordained thee a Prophet unto the nations.
V. A man beloved of God and men, he was had in honour.
R. And I ordained thee a Prophet unto the nations.

Reading 4: Up, then, gird thee like a man, and speak out all the message I give thee. Meet them undaunted, and they shall have no power to daunt thee. Strong I mean to make thee this day as fortified city, or pillar of iron, or wall of bronze, to meet king, prince, priest of Juda, and common folk all the country through; impregnable thou shalt be to their attack; am I not at thy side, the Lord says, to deliver thee?

Nocturn II 

.[Sermon 67 of St Maximus of Turin is unfortunately not available online]

Nocturn III (St Ambrose on Luke 2:30-31)

Reading 9: From the Holy Gospel according to Luke: Elisabeth's fullness of time came that she should deliver, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her, and they rejoiced with her. And so on.

Elizabeth's full time came that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours rejoiced with her. The birth of a Saint is a joy for many, for it is a good to all. Righteousness is an help to all, and therefore when a righteous man is born it is an heralding of his life, which is still to come, that the helpful excellency of his future should be hailed by the, as it were, prophetic joy of the neighbours. It is well that we should be told concerning the prophet, while he was yet in the womb, that we may know how that Mary was there; but we hear nothing of his childhood, because,we know that it was safe and strong through the nearness of the Lord, Himself then in that womb which was free from the sorrows of pregnancy.

R. The Fore-runner of the Lord cometh, to whom He Himself bare witness, saying:
* Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.
V. A Prophet? Yea, and much more than a Prophet. This is he of whom the Saviour saith:
R. Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.

Reading 10: And therefore we read in the Gospel nothing touching him save his coming, the annunciation thereof to his father, the leap which he gave in the womb, and his crying in the wilderness.It was not for him to feel childishness, who beyond all use of nature or of his age, when as yet he lay in his mother's womb, leapt at once unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . It is strange how that the Holy Evangelist hath judged meet to tell us that they thought to call the child Zacharias, after the name of his father, that thou mayest notice that the mother would have none of the names whereby their kindred were called, but only that name which the Holy Ghost had dictated, and which the Angel had told before unto Zacharias.
R. The Angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias, and said thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John;
* And many shall rejoice at his birth.
V. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.
R. And many shall rejoice at his birth.
Reading 11: The dumb man had certainly not been able to tell his wife by what name to call the child, and Elizabeth must needs have learnt by revelation what she could not have heard from her husband.His name is John; that is, it is not for us to choose a name now for him to whom God hath given a name already. He hath a name, which we know, but it is not one of our choosing.

Reading 12: To receive a name from God is one of the honours of the Saints. Thus was it that Jacob's name was no more called Jacob but Israel, because he saw God face to face. Thus was it that our Lord Jesus was named before He was born, with a name not given by an Angel, but by the Father. Thou seest that Angels tell that which they have been bidden to tell, not matters of their own choosing. Nor oughtest thou to wonder that Elizabeth named a name which she had not heard, since it had been revealed to her by the same Holy Ghost Who had commanded the Angel to tell it.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Vigil of the feast of St John the Baptist, Class II

The Vigil has three readings, from a homily by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

Reading 1: Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Luke: There was, in the days of Herod the King of Judaea, a certain Priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And so on.

The Divine Scriptures teach us that we are behoven to praise the lives, not only of those concerning whom we are to speak honourably, but the lives also of their fathers, so as to show that that which we will praise in our subjects was in them a gift inherited from the bright purity of the source from which they came. What other meaning can the holy Evangelist have had in this place but to glorify St. John the Baptist, as well for having been the offspring of such parents, as for his miracles, his life, his gifts, and his sufferings So likewise is praise ascribed to Hannah, the mother of Samuel so also did Isaac draw from his parents that noble godliness which he in his turn bequeathed to his children. Thus it is told not only that Zacharias was a Priest, but a Priest of the course of Abia, that is to say, of a family noble among the noblest.

R. Prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him Only* And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.
V. Return unto Him with all your hearts, and put away the strange gods from among you.
R. And He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies.

Reading 2: And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron. Thus we see that the noble blood of St. John was inherited not only from parents, but from an ancient ancestry, not illustrious indeed by worldly power, but worshipful for the tradition of a sacred succession. Such were the forefathers whom it well became the Fore-runner of the Christ to have, that it might manifestly fall to his lot, not as a sudden gift, but as an heir-loom, to preach belief in the coming of the Lord. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. What do they make of this text who, to take them some consolation for their own sins, hold that man cannot exist without oftentimes sinning, and quote to that end that which is written in Job: Not one is clean, even though his life on the earth be but one day.

R. God, Which heareth all, even He sent His Angel, and took me from keeping my father's sheep, and
* Anointed me with the oil of His mercy.
V. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear
R. And anointed me with the oil of His mercy.

Reading 3: To such we must reply by asking them first to tell us what they mean by a man without sin whether it be one who hath never sinned, or one who hath ceased to sin. If they mean by a man without sin one who hath never sinned, I myself agree in their position, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But if they mean to deny that he who hath reformed his old crooked ways, and changed his life for a new one, on purpose to avoid sin, cannot avoid sin, I am not able to subscribe to their opinion while I read that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing but that it should be holy and without blemish.

R. The Lord That delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear* He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.
V. God hath sent forth His mercy and His truth, and delivered my soul from among the lion's whelps.
R. He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. He will deliver me out of the hand of mine enemies.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Hebrews 5:8-14 - On the knowledge of Christ

The second half of Hebrews 5 takes us to the relevance of Melchizedek, but also reinforces some important doctrinal points relating to the knowledge of Christ (a key source of heresy in our day).

Hebrews 5:8-9
Son of God though he was, he learned obedience in the school of suffering,and now, his full achievement reached, he wins eternal salvation for all those who render obedience to him.
Et quidem cum esset Filius Dei, didicit ex iis, quæ passus est, obedientiam: et consummatus, factus est omnibus obtemperantibus sibi, causa salutis æternæ, 

Christ's compassion: He says, therefore: I have stated that a high priest should be such as to be able to have compassion. But Christ is such a high priest. For since He is the Son of God from all eternity, and, therefore, could not suffer or have compassion, He assumed a nature in which He would suffer and even have compassion.

Christ's knowledge: And this is what He says, namely, although he was a Son from all eternity, He learned obedience from time. But only the ignorant can learn; whereas Christ, being God from all eternity, had fullness of knowledge from the very instant of His conception as man. Therefore, He was not ignorant of anything; consequently, He could not learn. I answer that knowledge is of two sorts: the first is that of simple recognition, according to which the objection is valid, because He was not ignorant of anything. But there is also the knowledge gained by experience, according to which He learned obedience; hence, he says, He learned obedience through what he suffered, i.e., experienced.

The difficulty of learning obedience: ...Christ accepted our weakness voluntarily; consequently, he says that ‘he learned obedience’, i.e., how difficult it is to obey, because He obeyed in the most difficult matters, even to the death of the cross. This shows how difficult the good of obedience is, because those who have not experienced obedience and have not learned it in difficult matters, believe that obedience is very easy. But in order to know what obedience is, one must learn to obey in difficult matters, and one who has not learned to subject himself by obeying does not know how to rule others well. Therefore, although Christ knew by simple recognition what obedience is, He nevertheless learned obedience from the things He suffered, i.e., from difficult things, by suffering and dying: ‘By the obedience of one many shall be made just'.

Full achievement: ...In Christ the fruit was glorification; hence, he says, and being made perfect, for from the instant of His conception He was perfectly consummated as to the happiness of His soul, inasmuch as it was drawn to God; but he still had a nature that could suffer, although after His Passion He could not suffer. Therefore, because in this respect He was altogether perfect, He could perfect others. For it is the nature of a perfect thing to be able to engender its like.

Hebrews 5:10 -
A high priest in the line of Melchisedech, so God has called him.
appellatus a Deo pontifex juxta ordinem Melchisedech.

In the order of Melchisedek: As man He also receives the high priesthood from God: as he says also in another place: ‘You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek’. But the Apostle uses the authority of the Palms as being more famous and more often consulted. He says, priest, because He offered Himself to God the Father: ‘He loved us and gave himself for us an oblation and offering to God’. But lest anyone suppose the priesthood of Christ is that of the Old Law, he distinguishes the former on two points: first, its authority, because it is for ever, whereas the other was temporary and passed away with the coming of the One prefigured. Likewise, its victim has the power to bring one to eternal life, and it lasts for every. Secondly, its ritual, because animals were offered in the one, but bread and wine here; hence, he says, according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:11-12a -
Of Christ as priest we have much to say, and it is hard to make ourselves understood in the saying of it, now that you have grown so dull of hearing. You should, after all this time, have been teachers yourselves, and instead of that you need to be taught; taught even the first principles on which the oracles of God are based. 
 De quo nobis grandis sermo, et ininterpretabilis ad dicendum: quoniam imbecilles facti estis ad audiendum. Etenim cum deberetis magistri esse propter tempus, rursum indigetis ut vos doceamini quæ sint elementa exordii sermonum Dei: 

About this we have much to say: ‘Hear, for I will speak of great things’. They are great, because they deal with the salvation of souls..:it cannot be perfectly explained, for no words can express the things of Christ: ‘Glorify the Lord as much as you ever can, for he will yet far exceed, and his magnificence is wonderful. Blessing the Lord, exalt him as much as you can, for he is above all praise’...

Culpable slowness: For it is a sin, when a person has listened a long time, if he is still slow; but not if he is a recent hearer. For negligence is not without sin; hence, he says, for though by this time you ought to be teachers, namely, of others, for this time during which they had heard the law and the prophets: ‘Search the Scriptures, for you thing in them to have life everlasting’...

Teachers: need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. For the principles are the first things taught in grammar, i.e., the letters themselves. Therefore, the beginnings of the words of God, the first principles and elements, are the articles of faith and the precepts of the Decalogue. If a person, therefore, had studied theology a long time and failed to learn these, time would be running against him.

Hebrews 12b-14:
You have gone back to needing milk, instead of solid food. Those who have milk for their diet can give no account of what holiness means; how should they? They are only infants. Solid food is for the full-grown; for those whose faculties are so trained by exercise that they can distinguish between good and evil.
et facti estis quibus lacte opus sit, non solido cibo. Omnis enim, qui lactis est particeps, expers est sermonis justitiæ: parvulus enim est. Perfectorum autem est solidus cibus: eorum, qui pro consuetudine exercitatos habent sensus ad discretionem boni ac mali.

Sacred doctrine is, as it were, the food of the soul: ‘With the bread of life and understanding she shall feed him’ and in: ‘They that eat me shall yet hunger, and they that drink me shall yet thirst.’ Sacred doctrine, therefore, is food and drink, because it nourishes the soul. For the other sciences only enlighten the soul, but this one enlighten...

Milk for children: But in bodily food there is a difference: for children make use of one food and the perfect of another. For children use milk as being thinner and more connatural and easily digestible; but adults use more solid food. So in Sacred Scripture, those who are beginners should listen to easy things, which are like milk; but the learned should hear more difficult things...And this is what follows, and not solid food, i.e., lofty doctrine, which is concerned with the mysteries and secrets of God, which strengthen and confirm.

Adult fodder: But the Apostle had delivered many difficult things to them, namely, the mystery of the Trinity and the sacrament of the Incarnation, and many other lofty things...For this is evident in bodily food: when a man reaches maturity, he uses stronger and nobler and more solid food. But a spiritual man, when he has reached spiritual perfection, should have a more solid doctrine proposed to him.

Types of perfection: But perfection is of two kinds: one is perfection of intellect, when a person has the wisdom to discern and judge correctly about matters proposed to him; the other is perfection of love, which charity produces, and it is present when a person adheres entirely to God. Hence, after laying down the precepts of charity, the Lord continues: ‘Be you, therefore, perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect’... And because the things taught in Sacred Scripture pertain to the will and not only to the intellect, a person must be perfect in both. Consequently, the Apostle, desiring to show who are the mature, to whom solid food should be given, says that they are the ones who have their faculties trained...

Monday, 20 June 2016

Hebrews 4:14 - 5:7 - The efficacy of prayer

Now that we have looked at some of the contextual material, on with the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 4:14-16 -
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 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. 
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. 

Since we have a great high priest: ‘You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedech’. Nor is He just a high priest, but He is a great one:‘and the Lord showed me Jesus the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord’.  But He is called great, because He is not a high priest of temporal goods only, but of goods to come...:

Role of the high priest: Now two things pertained to a great high priest: one was his office, namely, to enter once a year with blood into the Holy of Holies. But this befits Christ in a special way: for the one enters with blood into a figurative Holy of Holies; but Christ through His own blood entered into the heavenly holy of holies. Hence, he says, ‘who has passed through the heavens’, i.e., He entered by His own power.

Lineage: The second thing is that he should be from a certain tribe, namely, from the stock of Aaron. But this belongs to Christ, Who is of nobler origin; hence, He is called the Son of God: ‘This is my beloved Son’; ‘You are my son; this day have I begotten you’.

Hebrews 5:1-3 -
The purpose for which any high priest is chosen from among his fellow men, and made a representative of men in their dealings with God, is to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation of their sins. He is qualified for this by being able to feel for them when they are ignorant and make mistakes, since he, too, is all beset with humiliations, and, for that reason, must needs present sin-offerings for himself, just as he does for the people.
Omnis namque pontifex ex hominibus assumptus, pro hominibus constituitur in iis quæ sunt ad Deum, ut offerat dona, et sacrificia pro peccatis: qui condolere possit iis qui ignorant et errant: quoniam et ipse circumdatus est infirmitate: et propterea debet, quemadmodum pro populo, ita etiam et pro semetipso offerre pro peccatis.

The purpose of the priesthood: The end and utility is that he is appointed to act on behalf of men, i.e., for their benefit. He is not appointed for glory or for accumulating riches or for enriching his family: ‘And ourselves, your servants through Jesus’; ‘According to the power which the Lord has given me unto edification and not unto destruction’. But if he seeks his own, he is not a shepherd, but a hireling.

The nature of the dignity is that the high priest is set over the others. For just as a leader or ruler is set over a city, so the high priest in the things that appertain to God: ‘You shall be to him in things that pertain to God’; ‘for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications’.

The act of the high priest is to offer gifts, i.e., voluntary oblations, not extorted: ‘Of every man that offers of his own accord, you shall take them’ and sacrifices for sins, i.e., which are offered to him to satisfy for sins: ‘The priest shall pray for him and for his sin, and it shall be forgiven him’. This indicates that everything offered, whether voluntary of under vow or for satisfaction, shall be offered according to the disposition of the prelate.

Hebrews 5:4-7 -
His vocation comes from God, as Aaron’s did; nobody can take on himself such a privilege as this. So it is with Christ. He did not raise himself to the dignity of the high priesthood; it was God that raised him to it, when he said, Thou art my Son, I have begotten thee this day, and so, elsewhere, Thou art a priest for ever, in the line of Melchisedech. Christ, during his earthly life, offered prayer and entreaty to the God who could save him from death, not without a piercing cry, not without tears; yet with such piety as won him a hearing.
 4 Nec quisquam sumit sibi honorem, sed qui vocatur a Deo, tamquam Aaron. 5 Sic et Christus non semetipsum clarificavit ut pontifex fieret: sed qui locutus est ad eum: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te. 6 Quemadmodum et in alio loco dicit: Tu es sacerdos in æternum, secundum ordinem Melchisedech. 7 Qui in diebus carnis suæ preces, supplicationesque ad eum qui possit illum salvum facere a morte cum clamore valido, et lacrimis offerens, exauditus est pro sua reverentia.
How one goes about attaining to the priesthood: And one does not take the honor upon himself. For it is contrary to nature for anything to raise itself to a higher state than its nature, as air does not make itself fire, but is made so by something higher. Hence, God’s discipline does not allow anyone to take the honor to himself, by favor, money, or power...but is called by God, as Aaron was. Therefore, the Lord confirmed his priesthood with a rod which flowered. Hence, those should be accepted who do not impose themselves. Hence, in olden times they were indicated by a visible sign, as was St. Nicholas and many others...

Christ did not make himself high priest: He says, therefore: so also Christ did not exalt himself...Christ not only did not make Himself high priest, he did not exalt himself to be made high priest: ‘I seek not my own glory; there is one that seeks and judges’, and later: ‘It is my Father that glorifies me’. This is true, insofar as He is man, because as God He has the same glory as the Father.

The spiritual sacrifice of prayer: His act was to offer prayers and supplications, which is the spiritual sacrifice Christ offered. But they are called prayers, i.e., petitions: ‘The continual prayer of a just man avails much’. They are also called supplications on account of the humility of the one praying: ‘He fell upon his face, praying'. To whom? To God the Father, who was able to save him from death. He was able to do this in two ways: in one way, by saving Him from death: ‘Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’. In another way, by raising Him up: ‘Because you will not leave my soul in hell’; and again: ‘But you, O Lord, have mercy on me and raise me up again’. The priesthood of Christ is ordained to that spiritual sacrifice: hence, He was appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins: ‘The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me’; ‘We will render the calves of our lips’.

His efficacy is shown by the way He prays. But two things are necessary in one who prays, namely, fervent love along with pain and groans. These are mentioned in Ps.37: ‘Lord, all my desire is before you, as to the first, and my groaning is not hidden from you’, as to the second. But Christ had these two. Therefore, in regard to the first he says, with loud cries, i.e., with a most efficacious intention: ‘And being in an agony, he prayed the longer'.. Again, in Luke: ‘and crying with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Because of the second he says, and tears: for by tears the Apostle means the internal groans of the one praying. But this is not mentioned in the Gospel; but it is probably that just as He wept at the resurrection of Lazarus, so also during His Passion. For He did many things that are not written. But He did not weep for Himself, but for us whom the Passion was to benefit: although it did benefit Him, inasmuch as He merited exaltation by it: ‘For which cause God has exalted him and given Him a name which is above every name’. Therefore, he was heard for his godly fear, which He had toward God: ‘And he filled him with the spirit of the fear of the Lord’.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Hebrews in its context/3 - Melchizedek, priest and king

As foreshadowed yesterday, the second bit of context for the next section of Hebrews is the significance of the allusion to Christ being a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews contains several references to the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, so I think it is worth having a look at the few sparse references to him elsewhere in Scripture and in the non-canonical Old Testament literature, and understand why Hebrews gives them so much weight.

Christ's superiority to David

Outside Hebrews, Melchizedek in mentioned just twice: in Psalm 109, a psalm Jesus explicitly quotes in Mark 12:
35 Then Jesus said openly, still teaching in the temple, What do the scribes mean by saying that Christ is to be the son of David? David himself was moved by the Holy Spirit to say, The Lord said to my Master, Sit on my right hand while I make thy enemies a footstool under thy feet. Thus David himself calls Christ his Master; how can he be also his son? 
And is quoted by St Peter in his sermon at Pentecost, in Acts 2:
33 And now, exalted at God’s right hand, he has claimed from his Father his promise to bestow the Holy Spirit; and he has poured out that Spirit, as you can see and hear for yourselves. David never went up to heaven, and yet David has told us, The Lord said to my Master, Sit on my right hand, while I make thy enemies a footstool under thy feet. 36 Let it be known, then, beyond doubt, to all the house of Israel, that God has made him Master and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
 Here is the whole psalm:

Psalmus David
A psalm for David.
1 Dixit Dóminus Dómino meo: * Sede a dextris meis:
The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand,
2  Donec ponam inimícos tuos, * scabéllum pedum tuórum.
until I make your enemies your footstool.
3  Virgam virtútis tuæ emíttet Dóminus ex Sion: * domináre in médio inimicórum tuórum.
2 The Lord will send forth the sceptre of your power out of Sion: rule in the midst of your enemies.
4  Tecum princípium in die virtútis tuæ in splendóribus sanctórum: * ex útero ante lucíferum génui te.
3 With you is the principality in the day of your strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the day star I begot you.
5 Jurávit Dóminus, et non pœnitébit eum: * Tu es sacérdos in ætérnum secúndum órdinem Melchísedech.
4 The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
6 Dóminus a dextris tuis, * confrégit in die iræ suæ reges.
5 The Lord at your right hand has broken kings in the day of his wrath.
7  Judicábit in natiónibus, implébit ruínas: * conquassábit cápita in terra multórum.
6 He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
8  De torrénte in via bibet: * proptérea exaltábit caput.
7 He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

The priesthood of Melchizedek

By implication, then, the comment about being a priest in the order of Melchizedek also applies to Christ.  But what exactly is the reason for the link to Melchizedek's priesthood?

A few key points to note before looking at the description if his appearance in Genesis 14.  

First, Melchizedek is the first person explicitly referred to in Scripture as being a priest.  Before him a number of people (including Abraham) offer sacrifices to God, and can be seen as acting as high priests (including Adam), but the reference is implicit, not explicit. 

Secondly, beyond the description of him as king of Salem (Jerusalem?) there is no indication that he is somehow related to Aaron or the Levites.  

Thirdly, Abraham acknowledges the superiority of his priesthood by offering him a tithe.   

Genesis 14 (Brenton's Septuagint):
And it came to pass in the reign of Amarphal king of Sennaar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, that Chodollogomor king of Elam, and Thargal king of nations, made war with Balla king of Sodom, and with Barsa king of Gomorrha, and with Sennaar, king of Adama, and with Symobor king of Seboim and the king of Balac, this is Segor. All these met with one consent at the salt valley; this is now the sea of salt. Twelve years they served Chodollogomor, and the thirteenth year they revolted.  And in the fourteenth year came Chodollogomor, and the kings with him, and cut to pieces the giants in Astaroth, and Carnain, and strong nations with them, and the Ommaeans in the city Save. And the Chorrhaeans in the mountains of Seir, to the turpentine tree of Pharan, which is in the desert. And having turned back they came to the well of judgment; this is Cades, and they cut in pieces all the princes of Amalec, and the Amorites dwelling in Asasonthamar. 
And the king of Sodom went out, and the king of Gomorrha, and king of Adama, and king of Seboim, and king of Balac, this is Segor, and they set themselves in array against them for war in the salt valley, against Chodollogomor king of Elam, and Thargal king of nations, and Amarphal king of Sennaar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, the four kings against the five.  Now the salt valley consists of slime-pits. And the king of Sodom fled and the king of Gomorrha, and they fell in there: and they that were left fled to the mountain country.  And they took all the cavalry of Sodom and Gomorrha, and all their provisions, and departed. And they took also Lot the son of Abram’s brother, and his baggage, and departed, for he dwelt in Sodom.
 And one of them that had been rescued came and told Abram the Hebrew; and he dwelt by the oak of Mamre the Amorite the brother of Eschol, and the brother of Aunan, who were confederates with Abram. And Abram having heard that Lot his nephew had been taken captive, numbered his own home-born servants three hundred and eighteen, and pursued after them to Dan. And he came upon them by night, he and his servants, and he smote them and pursued them as far as Choba, which is on the left of Damascus. And he recovered all the cavalry of Sodom, and he recovered Lot his nephew, and all his possessions, and the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after he returned from the slaughter of Chodollogomor, and the kings with him, to the valley of Saby; this was the plain of the kings.
And Melchisedec king of Salem brought forth loaves and wine, and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed Abram, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, who made heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God who delivered thine enemies into thy power. And Abram gave him the tithe of all...
 Pre-Christian traditions on Melchizedek

This acknowledgement of a non-Levite priest tradition posed obvious problems for Jewish tradition, and there are a range of different solutions that have come down to us (some only recently recovered).

One solution to be found in the Jewish midrash tradition makes him Shem, son of Noah, and hence inheritor of the priestly mantle implicitly handed down through his father (who offers a sacrifice after existing the ark) and from Adam, maintaining the patrilineal priestly tradition.  There is however no Scriptural warrant for this.

Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls preserve a pre-Christian tradition identifying Melchizedek as the Messiah, so one theory is that he is in fact the pre-incarnate Christ, and that is a reading that can arguably be found to be consistent with tradition Hebrews draws on (though St Thomas rejects as we shall see).  You can read what survives of the relevant Scroll here.

A third tradition appears in the non-canonical 2 Enoch.  The date of it is disputed - it may be pre-Christian or first century - but it essentially describes a miraculous virgin birth for Melchizedek, and his preservation in the Garden of Eden in order to escape the Flood.  It might sound fanciful, but keep in mind the line of Hebrews we are yet to come to about Melchizedek being"Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life".. 

Tomorrow back to Hebrews!