Thursday, September 23, 2004

Christian Heritage - September 17-22

Holy Church is Called the Body of Christ - September 17

"It is by analogy with the human body that holy Church, that is, all believers, is called the body of Christ, for it has received the Spirit of Christ whose presence in a person is indicated by the name Christian which Christ has given him. This name designates Christ's members, those who share in the Spirit of Christ, those who are anointed by him who is the anointed one; for the name Christian comes from Christ, and Christ means anointed, anointed with the toil of gladness which he has received in fullness above all his fellows, in order to pour it out on all his companions as the head upon the members of the body: like precious ointment upon the head which runs down from the head to the beard and then to the edge of the garment to flow over all and give life to all. So it is that when you become a Christian, you become a member of Christ, a member of the body of Christ sharing in the Spirit of Christ."

Hugh of Saint Victor (AD 1096-1141), De Sacramentis IIm II, 1-11: PL 176, 415-417

Hugo was an Augustinian canon and became one of the most profound theologians of his time. He wrote many biblical commentaries and other works.

The Wedding Garment - September 18

"What precisely does the parable of the wedding garment mean? Can it be one of the sacraments? Hardly, for these, as we know, are common to good and bad alike. Take baptism for example. It is true that no one comes to God except through baptism, but not every baptized person comes to him. We cannot take this sacrament as the wedding garment, then, for it is a robe worn not only by good people but also by wicked people. Perhaps, then, it is our altar that is meant, or at least what we receive from it. But we know that many who approach the altar eat and drink to their own damnation. Well, then, maybe it is fasting? The wicked can fast too. What about going to church? Some bad people also go to church.

"Whatever can this wedding garment be, then? For an answer we must go to the apostle, who says: The purpose of our command is to arouse the love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. There is your wedding garment. It is not love of just any kind. Many people of bad conscience appear to love one another, but you will not find in them the love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Only that kind of love is the wedding garment."

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermon 90, 1.5-6

Much Greater Was Your Mercy - September 19

“The painter who has painted a very perfect picture may go away to another country, but the picture continues to exist without him; even if he dies, it lasts for many years, because he made it out of something and his own contribution was simply the form. You, however, Lord, bestow everything, and therefore no creature can be conserved unless your mercy that gave it being continues to give it existence at every moment and thus conserves it. In you, Lord, we live and move and have our being. Great was the mercy shown in producing me, for before I existed I was nothing, and no less in giving me so noble a being that is capable of receiving your glory. But much greater was the mercy you showed me, Lord of my soul, by redeeming me at such a cost to you in blood, honor, and life. This was the great mercy which King David had in mind when he said, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. This blessing was an ocean of mercies: blessed be you for your kindness and goodness!”

Alsonso de Oroczo, O.S.A. (AD 1500-1591), Confessions 9

Alonso was an Augustinian friar and great preacher of the court of Spain under Charles V, was author of many spiritual treatises and prominent in the golden age of Spanish literature.

God Protects Us - September 20

After providing a school of virtue in our own nature and in the created world, God gave us the angels to protect us, he raised up the patriarchs and prophets to guide us, he showed us signs and wonders to lead us to faith, and gave us the written law as a supplement to the law of our rational soul and the teaching of the world around us. Then at last, when we had scorned all this in our indolence — how different from his own continuing love and care for us! — he gave himself to us for our salvation. He poured out the wealth of his divinity into our lowly condition; he took our nature and became a human being like us, and was with us as our teacher. He teaches us the greatness of his love and proves it by word and deed, at the same time persuading those who obey him not to be hardhearted, but to imitate his compassion.

“Those who manage worldly affairs have a certain love for them, as do shepherds for their flocks and owners for their personal possessions, but this cannot be compared with the love of those who share the same flesh and blood, and especially the love of parents for their children. Therefore, to make us realize how much he loves us, God called himself our Father; for our sake he became man, and then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism, he caused us to be born anew.

Gregory Palamos (AD 1296-1359), Hom. 3: PG 151, 36

Palamos (I way prefer the Grecian spelling to the more common Western “Palamas”) was the bishop of Thessalonica and stressed the biblical teaching that the human body and soul form a single united whole. His theology has been the center of much controversy between the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church. I also read that understanding his theology is absolutely essential to understanding Eastern theology in general. He is, I suppose, the Eastern Aquinas or Bonaventure; and perhaps St. John Damascene is the Eastern Augustine or Jerome. Ach, but what know I?

Matthew, the Apostle - September 21

“Christ made Matthew not only his disciple but also an apostle, and gave him authority not only to preach but to write a gospel as well, so that, sharing a title with the heavenly spirits, he is called, and is, an evangelist.

“There were three reasons why the almighty and loving God chose to act in this way. The first was to show us how his omnipotence enables him to justify anyone, however, vicious, as quickly as he chooses. The second was to show us the immensity of his mercy, which even the most shameful sins can never exhaust. The third was to offer everyone, no matter how depraved, the hope of forgiveness.

“But sinners, attend to this! It is not as a sinner that Matthew the tax collector's example is set before you, but as a penitent. Take care not to sin, but if you do sin, do not despair; for if you follow Matthew's example and admit your sin, you also can rise again through repentance.

Ralph the Fervent (ca. AD 1101), Hom. de tempore XXXVII: PL 155, 1450-1452

Ralph the Fervent (great handle!) was a conscientious, erudite curé in the diocese of Poiters, who earned the sobriquet "ardens" by the ardor of his parochial sermons.

The Bishop is a Shepherd - September 22

"Today's shepherds watch carefully over income and tithes, and the flock is the least of their concerns. One shepherd spends his time in the court of princes, another is entangled in secular business, another devotes himself to games and the hunt, another goes off to Rome to acquire a higher rank. Meanwhile the flock of Christ is left to mercenaries to despoil and ravage and scatter; care of the sheep is left to wolves. What else will a hungry wolf do but tear and destroy and kill? This is why nowadays knowledge of divine secrets and the light of spiritual revelations has passed from prelates to the least little lambs of the flock.

"Where shall we find today a bishop who is famous for miracles, conspicuous for holiness, fervent in spirit, an explorer of the scriptures, outstanding for doctrine, a searcher of things heavenly, and a despiser of the things of time? Where is the bishop who from unbounded intimacy with God is both aware of God's secrets and able, like a new Moses, to stand like a wall between an angry God and the house of Israel, and who by his extraordinary holiness and outstanding doctrine has become an example to the Lord's flock and a model of virtue?"

Thomas of Villanova, O.S.A. (AD 1486-1555), The Birth of Jesus, sermon 1, 17: Opera Omnia IV, 12

Thomas was an Augustinian friar and archbishop of Valencia. He became known as the Beggar Bishop and father of the poor for his devotion to the poor. His many sermons had an influence on Spanish spiritual literature.

What's more, he poses some very good and timely questions. It's at least, strangely, comforting to know the same problems of episcopal indigence and indulgence) are not new. If God brought us through those dark days He can do it again today.

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