Sunday, July 25, 2004

Christian Heritage -- July 22-25

July 22 -- Forgive and Give
"There are two works of mercy which will set us free. They are briefly set down in the gospel in the Lord's own words: Forgive and you will be forgiven, and Give and you will receive. The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity. As regards pardon he says: "Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness." Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar too in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God. We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a gift — the gift of God himself.

"What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ who said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive."

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermon 83, 2.4

July 23 -- Humility and Charity

"To what place are we to follow Christ if not where he has already gone? We know that he has risen and ascended into heaven: there, then, we must follow him. There is no cause for despair—by ourselves we can do nothing, but we have Christ's promise. Heaven was beyond our reach before our Head ascended there, but now, if we are his members, whey should we despair of arriving there ourselves? Is there any reason? True, many fears and afflictions confront us in this world; but if we follow Christ, we shall reach a place of perfect happiness, perfect peace, and everlasting freedom from fear.

"Let me warn anyone bent on following Christ to listen to Saint Paul: One who claims to abide in Christ ought to walk as he walked. Would you follow Christ? Then be humble as he was humble; do not scorn his lowliness if you want to reach his exaltation. Human sin made the road rough but Christ's resurrection leveled it; by passing over it himself he transformed the narrowest of tracks into a royal highway.

"Two feet are needed to run along this highway; they are humility and charity. Everyone wants to get to the top—well, the first step to take is humility. Why take strides that are too big for you—do you want to fall instead of going up? Begin with the first step, humility, and you will already be climbing."

Caesarius of Arles Caesarius (AD 470-543), Sermo 159, 4: CCL 104, 653-653

Caesarius was the archbishop of Arles. He was very much influenced by Saint Augustine and combated semi-pelagianism at the Council of Orange in 529.

July 24 -- Recognize the Giver of the Gifts
"You who have wealth, recognize who has given you the gifts you have received. Consider yourself, who you are, what has been committed to your charge, from whom you have received it, why you have been preferred to most other people. You are the servant of the good God, a steward on behalf of your fellow servants. Do not imagine that everything has been provided for your own stomach. Make decisions regarding your property as though it belonged to another. Possessions give you pleasure for a short time, but then they will slip through your fingers and be gone, and you will be required to give an exact account of them.

"What am I to do? It would have been so easy to say: "I will feed the hungry, I will open my barns and call in all the poor. I will imitate Joseph in proclaiming my good will toward everyone. I will issue the generous invitation: 'Let anyone who lacks bread come to me. You shall share, each according to need, in the good things God has given me, just as though you were drawing from a common well.'"

Basil the Great (AD 330-379), Homélies sur la richesse, Courtenne, pages 15-19

Greory was the bishop of Caesarea, organized Cappadocian monasticism, and left many writings as his legacy.

July 25 -- James, The Apostle
"We salute you, James, fervent preacher of the gospel truth, who with Peter and John hold the highest position and the chief dignity among the apostles. We salute you, as one who drank Christ's cup in advance of your fellow disciples, and were baptized with the baptism of your Savior as he promised you, and are adorned with the double crown of apostle and martyr!

"We salute you, blessed eyewitness of the Word, you who see God, for you have changed one fishing-ground for another, one desire for another, and one inheritance for another; in place of things unstable you have gained those that last, and in place of an earthly passing world you have gained a changeless heavenly world.

"We salute you who, as you formerly had direct physical contact with the God-man on earth, so do you now, united with him in spirit, converse with him face to face in heaven."

Nicetas of Paphlagonia (AD 904-963), Oratio 5: PG 105, 89-100

Nicetas wrote much on the saints and the feasts of the Church.

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