Saturday, 16 April 2016

Matins readings for the Third Sunday after Easter

The Matins readings for the Third Sunday after Easter in the Benedictine Office are set out below/

Nocturn I (Revelation 1)

Reading 1: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass: and signified, sending by his angel to his servant John, Who hath given testimony to the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, what things soever he hath seen. Blessed is he, that readeth and heareth the words of this prophecy; and keepeth those things which are written in it; for the time is at hand. John to the seven churches which are in Asia. Grace be unto you and peace from him that is, and that was, and that is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne,  And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us a kingdom, and priests to God and his Father, to him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.

R. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; alleluia: because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God,* In thy blood, alleluia.
V. And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests.
R. In thy blood, alleluia.

Reading 2: Behold, he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of him. Even so. Amen.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.  I John, your brother and your partner in tribulation, and in the kingdom, and patience in Christ Jesus, was in the island, which is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord' s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying: What thou seest, write in a book, and send to the seven churches which are in Asia, to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamus, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.

R. As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour, alleluia
* Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits, alleluia, alleluia.
V. in me is all hope of life and of virtue.
R. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits, alleluia, alleluia.

Reading 3: And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks:  And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire,  And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And his voice as the sound of many waters.

R. And I heard a voice from heaven, the voice of great thunder, alleluia: the Lord our God shall reign for ever, alleluia:* Now is come salvation, and strength, and the power of his Christ, alleluia, alleluia.
V. And a voice came out from the throne, saying: Give praise to our God, all saints of Him that fear him, little and great.
R. Now is come salvation, and strength, and the power of his Christ, alleluia, alleluia.

Reading 4: And he had in his right hand seven stars. And from his mouth came out a sharp two edged sword: and his face was as the sun shineth in his power. And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last, And alive, and was dead, and behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell. Write therefore the things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done hereafter.

R. I saw the gate of the city, which looketh toward the East, and written thereon the names of the (Twelve) Apostles and of the Lamb.
* And upon the walls thereof a guard of Angels. alleluia.
V. I saw a new heaven and a new earth coming down out of heaven.
R. And upon the walls thereof a guard of Angels. Alleluia.

Nocturn II (Sermon147 from St. Augustine)

Reading 5: In these holy days of the Lord's resurrection, let us treat as far as we are able, of that gift of the resurrection of the body. For this is our faith, this gift is promised us in the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him we have the first example. He willed, not only to tell us of our future hope, but to show it to us.

R. One of the seven Angels talked with me, saying Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
* And I saw Jerusalem descending out of heaven, adorned with her jewels. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain
R. And I saw Jerusalem descending out of heaven, adorned with her jewels. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 6: He came to the disciples, and they were terrified when they saw him, and supposed that they seen a spirit, yet he gave them proof of the firmness of his body.He spoke to them, not only with his word for their ears, but also with his form for their eyes. He proved his identity, not only by appearing before them, but also offering himself to be touched and handled, for he said, Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet; handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

R. I heard in heaven the voice of many Angels, saying* Fear the Lord, and give glory to Him, and worship Him That made heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters. Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. I saw a strong Angel of God fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice and saying
R. Fear the Lord, and give glory to Him, and worship Him That made heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 7: Not available

R. Coming from Lebanon how sweet she is, alleluia:* And the sweet smell of her garments, above all aromatical spices, alleluia, alleluia.
V. thy lips are as a dropping honeycomb, honey and milk are under thy tongue.
R. And the sweet smell of her garments, above all aromatical spices, alleluia, alleluia.

Reading 8: It is a greater miracle that so many men are born every day, who have not already existed, than that some of them, who do already exist, should rise from the dead, and yet this is not considered a miracle at all, but it is taken for granted. Christ is risen: it is a certain fact. He was body; he was flesh; he hung on the cross; he gave up the ghost; his flesh was laid in the sepulchre. He who lived in it, showed that flesh to be living. Why are you amazed? Why do you not believe? It is God who has done this.

Nocturn III: Sermon 241 of St Augustine. 

Reading 9:This little while is the whole duration of this present world. In the same sense this same Evangelist saith in his Epistle. It is the last time. The words, because I go to the Father, refer to the first clause of the text, namely, A little while and ye shall not see Me, and not to the latter clause, that is, and again a little while, and ye shall see Me. By His going to the Father He was about to bring it to pass that they should see Him no more.

R. The people of Israel sung: Alleluia and all the multitude of Jacob sung in measure.
* And David was with the singers, (and) played upon an harp in the house of the Lord, and sung praises unto God. Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. So the Priests and the Levites were sanctified, and all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting.
R. And David was with the singers, (and) played upon an harp in the house of the Lord, and sung praises unto God. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 10: And thus it was that He said, not that He was about to die, and that after His death they should not see Him until He rose again, but that He was going to the Father, which He did when, after that He was risen again and had manifested Himself to them for forty days, He ascended up into heaven. But now, to them which were looking on Him in the Body, He saith, A little while, and ye shall not see Me, a little while, and they who now saw Him clad in a dying nature, should see Him so no more, because He was about to go to the Father.

R. Your sorrow, alleluia,
* Shall be turned into joy, alleluia.
V. The world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful: but your sorrow
R. Shall be turned into joy, alleluia.

Reading 11: But He saith : And again a little while, and ye shall see Me, and these words are a promise to the Universal Church, just as are those others : Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Our Lord delayeth not His promised coming. Again a little while, and we shall see Him. We shall see Him. And, 0, when we shall see Him, then we shall beg, we shall ask no more; for no desire will be unsatisfied, and no riddle unsolved.This little while seemeth a very long while to us now, while as it is still going on, but when it is over we shall feel indeed how truly it is but a little while.

R. Thy streets, O Jerusalem, shall be paved with pure gold, Alleluia, and the song of joy shall be sung in thee. Alleluia.
* And all that pass through all thy streets shall say Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Thy light shall be exceeding glorious, and all the ends of the earth shall worship thee.
R. And all that pass through all thy streets shall say Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 12: Therefore, may our rejoicing never be like the rejoicing of that world whereof it is said: The world shall rejoice. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, and yet, while hitherto our gladness is still coming to the birth through throes of sorrow, let us not be altogether sorrowful, but, as the Apostle hath it: Rejoicing in hope : patient in tribulation. A woman, when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come : but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And so will it be with us. And with that let me end my discourse. The next passage is one of extreme difficulty; nor is it possible to treat it briefly, if, (with the will of God,) it is to be treated satisfactorily.

R. The Angel showed me the fountain of the water of life and he said unto me, Alleluia.
* Here worship God. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. When I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the Angel, which showed me these things, and he said unto me
R. Here worship God. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. Here worship God. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Gospel  -  St John 16:16-22:

16 Modicum, et jam non videbitis me; et iterum modicum, et videbitis me: quia vado ad Patrem. 17 Dixerunt ergo ex discipulis ejus ad invicem: Quid est hoc quod dicit nobis: Modicum, et non videbitis me; et iterum modicum, et videbitis me, et quia vado ad Patrem? 18 Dicebant ergo: Quid est hoc quod dicit: Modicum? nescimus quid loquitur. 19 Cognovit autem Jesus, quia volebant eum interrogare, et dixit eis: De hoc quæritis inter vos quia dixi: Modicum, et non videbitis me; et iterum modicum, et videbitis me. 20 Amen, amen dico vobis: quia plorabitis, et flebitis vos, mundus autem gaudebit; vos autem contristabimini, sed tristitia vestra vertetur in gaudium. 21 Mulier cum parit, tristitiam habet, quia venit hora ejus; cum autem pepererit puerum, jam non meminit pressuræ propter gaudium, quia natus est homo in mundum. 22 Et vos igitur nunc quidem tristitiam habetis, iterum autem videbo vos, et gaudebit cor vestrum: et gaudium vestrum nemo tollet a vobis.

16] A little while, and now you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall see me: because I go to the Father. [17] Then some of the disciples said one to another: What is this that he saith to us: A little while, and you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall see me, and, because I go to the Father? [18] They said therefore: What is this that he saith, A little while? we know not what he speaketh. [19] And Jesus knew that they had a mind to ask him; and he said to them: Of this do you inquire among yourselves, because I said: A little while, and you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall see me? [20] Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. [21] A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. [22] So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.

Acts 7 - The trial and stoning of St Stephen

Sant Joan de Boí - lapidació de sant Esteve al MNAC.jpg
Lapidació de Sant Esteve, fresco, Church of  Sant Joan de Boí 

Acts 7 is entirely devoted to St Stephen's trial and martyrdom.  Most of the text is his response to his accusers, in the form of a summary of selected episodes of salvation history, and how it relates to the coming of Jesus.

Abraham to Jacob:
1 Then the high priest asked, Are these charges true? 2 And he answered, Brethren and fathers, listen to me. When the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, it was while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he took up his dwelling in Charan. 3 Leave thy country, he said, and thy kindred, and come to the land to which I direct thee.4 So it was that he left the country of the Chaldaeans, and lived in Charan; it was only after his father’s death that he was bidden to remove thence into this land where you now dwell. 5 There, God gave him no inheritance, not so much as a foot’s space; he only promised the possession of it to him and to his posterity after him, although at this time he had no child. 6 And this is what God told him, that his descendants would live as strangers in a foreign land, where they would be enslaved and ill-used for four hundred years. 7 But I will pass judgement, the Lord said, on the nation which enslaves them; and at last they will escape, and settle down to worship me here.8 Then he made a covenant with Abraham, the covenant that ordained circumcision. So it was that he became the father of Isaac, whom he circumcised seven days afterwards, and Isaac of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
Chrysostom (Homily 15): He shows here, that the promise was made before the Place, before Circumcision, before Sacrifice, before the Temple, and that it was not of their merit that these received either Circumcision or Law, but that the land was the reward of obedience alone. Moreover, that neither on the giving of circumcision does the promise receive its fulfillment.

Also, that these were figures, and (so was) both the leaving his country at God's command— not against the law (for home and country is where God shall lead) must do as God bids, whatever hardships be the consequence; since the Patriarch left both the grave of his father and all that he had, in obedience to God's command...

It is a contest, this life present: if so, to fight is our business now: it is war and battle. In war one does not seek to have rest, in war one does not seek to have dainty living, one is not anxious about riches, one's care is not about a wife then: one thing only he looks at, how he may overcome his foes. Be this our care likewise: if we overcome, and return with the victory, God will give us all things. Be this alone our study, how we may overcome the devil: though after all it is not our own study that does it, but God's grace does the whole business. Be it our one study, how we may attract His grace, how we may draw to ourselves that assistance.

9 The patriarchs, out of jealousy, sold Joseph as a slave, to be taken to Egypt. In Egypt, God was with him; 10 he rescued him from all his afflictions, and won him favour and a name for wisdom with Pharao, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all the royal household. 11 And now a famine came upon all Egypt and Chanaan, cruelly afflicting them, till our fathers could procure no food. 12 So Jacob, hearing that there was corn in Egypt, sent out our fathers on their first journey; 13 and on their second journey Joseph made himself known to them, and Pharao learned about Joseph’s kindred. 14 Then Joseph sent for his father Jacob, and for his family, seventy-five souls in all; 15 and Jacob went down into Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 They were removed afterwards to Sichem; and it was in the grave which Abraham had bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hemor, the man of Sichem, that they were buried. 
Chyrsostom (Homily 16): Here again, the type of Christ. Though they had no fault to find with him, and though he came on purpose to bring them their food, they thus ill-treated him. Still here again the promise, though it is a long while first, receives its fulfillment.

 Moses' birth and upbringing:
17 And when the time drew near for the fulfilment of the promise which God had made to Abraham, the people had increased and multiplied in Egypt. 18 And now a new king arose in Egypt, one who knew nothing of Joseph; 19 this king dealt treacherously with our race, using them so ill that they exposed their children, instead of rearing them. 20 It was at this time that Moses was born, and, finding favour with God, was brought up in his father’s house for three months; 21 then, when he had been exposed, he was rescued by Pharao’s daughter, who adopted him as her son. 22 Thus Moses was well trained in all the learning of the Egyptians; he was vigorous, too, in speech and in act.

 Chyrsostom: ... here again is another circumstance more wonderful still, that the king nourished the very person who was to overthrow his dominion, being himself the person that was to perish. Do you observe all along a figurative enacting, so to say, of the resurrection of the dead? But it is not the same thing for God himself to do a thing, and for a thing to come to pass in connection with man's purpose (προαίρεσις). For these things indeed were in connection with man's purpose [but the Resurrection by itself, independently.]
23 And now, when he had reached forty years of age, it came into his mind to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. 24 When he saw one of them being unjustly used, he came to the rescue and avenged the man who was wronged, by killing the Egyptian. 25 He expected them to understand, but they could not understand, that he was the means by which God was to bring them deliverance. 26 Next day, he came in sight when two of them were quarrelling, and tried to restore peace between them; Sirs, he said, you are brethren; why do you inflict injury on one another? 27 Whereupon the man who was doing his neighbour a wrong thrust him aside, asking, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Art thou ready to kill me, as thou didst kill the Egyptian yesterday? 29 And at that Moses fled, and lived as an exile in the land of Madian; it was there that two sons were born to him.30 Forty years later, a vision came to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai; a bush had caught fire; and an angel was standing among the flames. 31 Moses saw it, and was astonished at the sight; and as he drew near to look, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32 I am the God of thy fathers, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And Moses did not dare to look close; fear made him tremble. 33 Then the Lord said to him, Take the shoes off thy feet; the place on which thou standest is holy ground. 34 The affliction of my people in Egypt is before my eyes continually; I have heard their lamenting, and have come down to deliver them. Come now, I have an errand for thee in Egypt. 35 It was this same Moses, the man whom they had disowned, and asked him, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? that God sent to be their ruler and their deliverer, helped by the angel whom he saw there at the bush. 36 He it was who led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness, over a space of forty years.
Moses' prophesy and the people's rebellion:
37 It was this Moses who said to the children of Israel, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among your own brethren; to him you must listen. 38 He it was who took part with the angel that spoke to him on mount Sinai, and with our fathers, at the meeting in the desert. There he received words of life to hand on to us; 39 and yet our fathers would not give him obedience. They disowned him; they turned their thoughts towards Egypt, 40 and said to Aaron, Make us gods, to lead our march; as for this Moses, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, there is no saying what has become of him. 41 So they fashioned a calf at this time, making offerings to an idol, and keeping holiday over the works of their own hands. 42 Whereupon God turned away from them, and gave them over to the worship of all the host of heaven; so it is written in the book of the prophets, Is it true that you brought me victims and sacrifices, you sons of Israel, for forty years in the wilderness? 43 You carried about the tent of Moloch, and the star of your god Rempham, and worshipped them, images of your own fashioning. And now I will send you into exile on the further side of Babylon.
The tabernacle and the temple:
44 In the wilderness, our fathers had the tabernacle with them, to remind them of God’s covenant; he who spoke to Moses bade him fashion it after the model which had been shewn him. 45 And when God dispossessed the Gentiles, to make room for our fathers’ coming, our fathers under Josue brought this tabernacle, as an heirloom, into the land which they conquered. So it was until the time of David. 46 David, who had won favour in God’s sight, longed to devise a resting-place for the God of Israel, 47 but in the end it was Solomon that built the house for him. 48 Yet we are not to think that the most High dwells in temples made by men’s hands; the prophet says: 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is the footstool under my feet. What home will you build for me, says the Lord, what place can be my resting-place? 50 Was it not my hands that made all this?
The persecution of the prophets:
51 Stiff-necked race, your heart and ears still uncircumcised, you are for ever resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your fathers did. 52 There was not one of the prophets they did not persecute; it was death to foretell the coming of that just man, whom you in these times have betrayed and murdered; 53 you, who received the law dictated by angels, and did not keep it.54 At hearing this, they were cut to the heart, and began to gnash their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on heaven, and saw there the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; I see heaven opening, he said, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.
Chrysostom: Such is the boldness of speech of a man bearing the Cross. Let us then also imitate this: though it be not a time of war, yet it is always the time for boldness of speech. For, I spoke, says one, in Your testimonies before kings, and was not ashamed. Psalm 119:46 If we chance to be among heathens, let us thus stop their mouths. without wrath, without harshness...

 The stoning of Stephen:
56 Then they cried aloud, and put their fingers into their ears; with one accord they fell upon him, 57 thrust him out of the city, and stoned him. And the witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 58 Thus they stoned Stephen; he, meanwhile, was praying; Lord Jesus, he said, receive my spirit; 59 and then, kneeling down, he cried aloud, Lord, do not count this sin against them. And with that, he fell asleep in the Lord.Saul was one of those who gave their voices for his murder.
Chrysostom  Homily 18: Wherefore, as they attempted, besides killing him, to hurt his reputation also, they were cut to the heart. For they were afraid lest he should on the contrary become an object of even greater reverence. Therefore, just what they did in Christ's case, the same they do here also...

Observe how particularly he relates what concerns Paul, to show you that the Power which wrought in him was of God. But after all these things, not only did he not believe, but also aimed at Him with a thousand hands: for this is why it says, And Saul was consenting unto his death.— And this blessed man does not simply pray, but does it with earnestness: having kneeled down. Mark his divine death! So long only the Lord permitted the soul to remain in him. And having said this, he fell asleep. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Acts 6 - Seven deacons to aid the twelve

Estevao e os apostolos.JPG
               from the façade of church of Urgezes, Guimarães, Portugal.Photo by Usuário:Manuel Anastácio

Acts 6 deals with the appointment of seven deacons to aid the twelve apostles (verses 1-7), and the ministry of one of them, St Stephen, leading up to his arrest (8-15).

Disputes amongst the faithful:
1 At this time, as the number of the disciples increased, complaints were brought against those who spoke Hebrew by those who spoke Greek; their widows, they said, were neglected in the daily administration of relief. 
Chrysostom (Homily 14): Behold another trial! Observe how from within and from without there are warrings, from the very first! ...So then there was a daily ministration for the widows. And observe how he calls it a ministration (διακονία), and not directly alms: extolling by this at once the doers, and those to whom it was done. Were neglected. This did not arise from malice, but perhaps from the carelessness of the multitude. And therefore he brought it forward openly, for this was no small evil. Observe, how even in the beginning the evils came not only from without, but also from within. For you must not look to this only, that it was set to rights, but observe that it was a great evil that it existed.
2 So the twelve called together the general body of the disciples, and said, It is too much that we should have to forgo preaching God’s word, and bestow our care upon tables. 3 Come then, brethren, you must find among you seven men who are well spoken of, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, for us to put in charge of this business, 4 while we devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of preaching. 5 This advice found favour with all the assembly; and they chose Stephen, a man who was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, who was a proselyte from Antioch.6 These they presented to the apostles, who laid their hands on them with prayer.
Chrysostom: First he puts to them the unreasonableness of the thing; that it is not possible for both things to be done with the same attention: just as when they were about to ordain Matthias, they first show the necessity of the thing, that one was deficient, and there must needs be twelve. And so here they showed the necessity; and they did it not sooner, but waited till the murmuring arose; nor, on the other hand, did they suffer this to spread far. And, lo! They leave the decision to them: those who pleased all, those who of all were honestly reputed, them they present: not now twelve, but seven, full of the Spirit and of wisdom: well reported of for their conversation. Acts 6:3 Now when Matthias was to be presented, it was said, Therefore must one of these men which have companied with us all the time Acts 1:21: but not so here: for the case was not alike. And they do not now put it to the lot; they might indeed themselves have made the election, as moved by the Spirit: but nevertheless, they desire the testimony of the people. The fixing the number, and the ordaining them, and for this kind of business, rested with them: but the choice of the men they make over to the people, that they might not seem to act from favor: just as God also leaves it to Moses to choose as elders those whom he knew.

...But what sort of rank these bore, and what sort of office they received, this is what we need to learn. Was it that of Deacons? And yet this is not the case in the Churches. But is it to the Presbyters that the management belongs? And yet at present there was no Bishop, but the Apostles only. Whence I think it clearly and manifestily follows, that neither Deacons nor Presbyters is their designation: but it was for this particular purpose that they were ordained.

...Thus they were enabled to give their attention to things spiritual; thus were these also free to undertake long journeys; thus were these put in trust with the word. But the writer does not say this, nor extol them, but that it was not reason that they should leave the work given to them. Thus they had been taught by Moses's example not to undertake the management of everything by themselves.

...It is not simply, spiritual men, but, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, for it needed very great superiority of mind (φιλοσοφίας) to bear the complainings of widows. For what profits it, that the dispenser of alms steal not, if nevertheless he waste all, or be harsh and easily provoked?
7 By now the word of God was gaining influence, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increasing; many of the priests had given their allegiance to the faith. 
Chrysostom: And as he is about in the sequel to enlarge (αὔξειν) upon the affair of Stephen, he puts first the causes which led to it. And many, he says, of the priests were obedient to the faith...

Those crucified Him, when He had come for the very purpose of doing them good; His disciples they scourged; and after all this, He admits them to the same honor with His disciples, making them equally partakers of His gifts. I beseech you, let us be imitators of Christ: in this regard it is possible to imitate Him: this makes a man like God: this is more than human.

Let us hold fast to Mercy: she is the schoolmistress and teacher of that higher Wisdom. He that has learned to show mercy to the distressed, will learn also not to resent injuries; he that has learned this, will be able to do good even to his enemies. Let us learn to feel for the ills our neighbors suffer, and we shall learn to endure the ills they inflict. Let us ask the person himself who ill-treats us, whether he does not condemn himself? Would he not be glad to show a nobler spirit (φιλοσοφεἵν)? Must he not own that his behavior is nothing but passion, that it is little-minded, pitiful? Would he not like to be of those who are wronged and are silent, and not of those who do wrong, and are beside themselves with passion? Can he go away not admiring the patient sufferer?

Do not imagine that this makes men despicable. Nothing makes men so despicable, as insolent and injurious behavior: nothing makes men so respectable, as endurance under insolence and injury. For the one is a ruffian, the other a philosopher; the one is less than man, the other is equal to angels.
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, performed great miracles and signs among the people.9 There were those who came forward to debate with him, some of the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it is called), and of the Cyreneans and Alexandrians, and of those who came from Cilicia and Asia; 10 but they were no match for Stephen’s wisdom, and for the Spirit which then gave utterance. 11 Thereupon they employed agents to say they had heard him speaking blasphemously of Moses, and of God. 12 Having thus roused the feelings of the people, and of the elders and scribes, they set upon him and carried him off, and so brought him before the Council. 13 There they put forward false witnesses, who declared, This man is never tired of uttering insults against the holy place, and the law. 14 We have heard him say that the Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place, and will alter the traditions which Moses handed down to us. 15 And all those who sat there in the Council fastened their eyes on him, and saw his face looking like the face of an angel.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Acts 5 - If it be of God, you cannot overthrow it

Francken Death of Sapphira.jpg
Death of Ananias and Saphira
Francken, c1544-1618
Today's section of Acts opens with the confronting story of Ananias and Saphhira (verses 1-11).  Particularly since it is referred to in St Benedict's Rule (Chapter 57), it is worth considering St John Chrysostom's explanation of their sin as perjury and sacrilege.

The remainder of the chapter looks at:
  • the miracles performed by the apostles, to the point where even being in the shadow of St Peter was thought to be sufficient to heal people (verses 12-16);
  • the arrest of Peter by the authorities, and his freeing from prison by an angel (verses 17-20);
  • the resumption of his preaching (verses 21-32);
  • the consideration of them by the Council and the advice on discernment of spirits by Gamaliel (33-42).
The death of Anaias and Sapphira:
1 But there was a man called Ananias who, with his wife Sapphira, sold an estate, 2 and kept back some of the money, with his wife’s knowledge, only bringing a part of it to lay at the feet of the apostles. 3 Whereupon Peter said, Ananias, how is it that Satan has taken possession of thy heart, bidding thee defraud the Holy Spirit by keeping back some of the money that was paid thee for the land? 4 Unsold, the property was thine; after the sale, the money was at thy disposal; what has put it into thy heart so to act? It is God, not man, thou hast defrauded. 5 At these words, Ananias fell down and died; and a great fear came upon all those who heard it. 6 So the young men rose and took him up, and carried him out to burial. 7 It was about three hours later that his wife came in, knowing nothing of what had happened; 8 and Peter said to her, Tell me, woman, was it for so much that you sold the estate? Yes, she said, for so much. 9 Then Peter said to her, What is this conspiracy between you, to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Even now I hear at the door the footsteps of those who have been burying thy husband; they will carry thee out too. 10 And all at once she fell at his feet and died; so that when the young men came in they found her a corpse, and carried her out to bury her with her husband. 11 Great fear came upon the church and upon all who heard the story. 
Vir autem quidam nomine Ananias, cum Saphira uxore suo vendidit agrum, 2 et fraudavit de pretio agri, conscia uxore sua: et afferens partem quamdam, ad pedes Apostolorum posuit. 3 Dixit autem Petrus: Anania, cur tentavit Satanas cor tuum, mentiri te Spiritui Sancto, et fraudare de pretio agri? 4 nonne manens tibi manebat, et venundatum in tua erat potestate? quare posuisti in corde tuo hanc rem? non es mentitus hominibus, sed Deo. 5 Audiens autem Ananias hæc verba, cecidit, et expiravit. Et factus est timor magnus super omnes qui audierunt. 6 Surgentes autem juvenes amoverunt eum, et efferentes sepelierunt. 7 Factum est autem quasi horarum trium spatium, et uxor ipsius, nesciens quod factum fuerat, introivit. 8 Dixit autem ei Petrus: Dic mihi mulier, si tanti agrum vendidistis? At illa dixit: Etiam tanti. 9 Petrus autem ad eam: Quid utique convenit vobis tentare Spiritum Domini? Ecce pedes eorum qui sepelierunt virum tuum ad ostium, et efferent te. 10 Confestim cecidit ante pedes ejus, et expiravit. Intrantes autem juvenes invenerunt illam mortuam: et extulerunt, et sepelierunt ad virum suum. 11 Et factus est timor magnus in universa ecclesia, et in omnes qui audierunt hæc.
Chrysostom (Sermon 12): ...And the wife of Ananias was privy to the thing done: therefore he examines her. But perhaps some one will say that he dealt very harshly with her.

What do you mean? What harshness? If for gathering sticks a man is to be stoned, much rather ought he for sacrilege; for this money was become sacred. He that has chosen to sell his goods and distribute them, and then withdraws them, is guilty of sacrilege...

We neither obliged you to sell, the Apostle says, nor to give your money when you had sold; of your own free choice you did it; why have you then stolen from the sacred treasury? Why, he says, has Satan filled your heart? Acts 5:3 Well, if Satan did the thing, why is the man made guilty of it? For admitting the influence of the devil, and being filled with it.

You will say, they ought to have corrected him. But he would not have received correction; for he that has seen such things as he had seen, and is none the better, would certainly be none the better for anything else that could be done; the matter was not one to be simply passed over: like a gangrene, it must be cut out, that it might not infect the rest of the body. As it is, both the man himself is benefitted in regard that he is not left to advance further in wickedness, and the rest, in that they are made more earnest; otherwise the contrary would have ensued...

How many, since Ananias and Sapphira, have dared the same with them? How is it then, say you, that they have not met with the same fate? Not because it was allowed in them, but because they are reserved for a greater punishment. For those who often sin and are not punished, have greater reason to fear and dread than if they were punished. For the vengeance is increased for them by their present impunity and the long-suffering of God. Then let us not look to this, that we are not punished; but let us consider whether we have not sinned: if sinning we are not punished, we have the more reason to tremble...

Many like things are done now as were done before the Flood, yet no flood has been sent: because there is a hell threatened, and vengeance. Many sin as the people did in Sodom, yet no rain of fire has been poured down; because a river of fire is prepared... And what is the reason of this? God sets you a time, in which to wash yourself clean; but if you persist, at last He will send down the vengeance. You have seen the fate of liars. Consider what is the fate of false swearers, consider, and desist. It is impossible a swearer should not forswear himself, whether he will or not; and no perjurer can be saved. One false oath suffices to finish all, to draw down upon us the whole measure of vengeance. Let us then take heed to ourselves, that we may escape the punishment due to this offense, and be deemed worthy of the loving kindness of God, through the grace and mercies of His only-begotten Son, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

The miracle of the shadow:
12 And there were many signs and miracles done by the apostles before the people. They used to gather with one accord in Solomon’s porch. 13 No one else dared to join them, although the people held them in high honour, 14 and the number of those who believed in the Lord, both men and women, still increased; 15 they even used to bring sick folk into the streets, and lay them down there on beds and pallets, in the hope that even the shadow of Peter, as he passed by, might fall upon one of them here and there, and so they would be healed of their infirmities. 16 From neighbouring cities, too, the common people flocked to Jerusalem, bringing with them the sick and those who were troubled by unclean spirits; and all of them were cured.
The reaction of the Jewish authorities and the rescue of Peter by an angel:
17 This roused the high priest and those who thought with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees. 18 Full of indignation, they arrested the apostles and shut them up in the common gaol. 19 But, in the night, an angel of the Lord came and opened the prison doors, and led them out; 20 Go, he said, and take your stand in the temple; preach fully to the people the message of true life.
 The resumption of preaching:
21 So, at his word, they went into the temple at dawn, and began preaching. Meanwhile the high priest and his followers met, and summoned the Council, with all the elders of the Jewish people; and they sent to the prison-house to have them brought in. 22 When they came to look in the prison, the officers could not find them there; so they went back and reported, 23 We found the prison-house locked up with all due care, and the guards at their posts before the door; but when we opened it there was no one to be found within. 24 At hearing this, the temple superintendent and the chief priests were at a loss to know what had become of them; 25 until an eye-witness told them, The men you put in prison are standing in the temple, teaching the people there. 26 So the superintendent and his officers went and fetched them, using no violence, because they were afraid of being stoned by the people; 27 and they brought them in and bade them stand before the Council, where the high priest questioned them. 28 We warned you in set terms, he said, not to preach in this man’s name, and you have filled all Jerusalem with your preaching; you are determined to lay this man’s death at our door. 29 Peter and the other apostles answered, God has more right to be obeyed than men. 30 It was the God of our fathers that raised up Jesus, the man you hung on a gibbet to die. 31 It is God that has raised him up to his own right hand, as the prince and Saviour who is to bring Israel repentance, and remission of sins. 32 Of this, we are witnesses; we and the Holy Spirit God gives to all those who obey him.
Consideration by the Council and the advice of Gamaliel:
33 On hearing this they were cut to the quick, and designed to kill them. 34 But now one of the Pharisees in the Council, a lawyer named Gamaliel, who was held in esteem by all the people, rose and bade them send the apostles out for a little; 35 then he said to them, Men of Israel, think well what you mean to do with these men. 36 There was Theodas, who appeared in days gone by and claimed to be someone of importance, and was supported by about four hundred men; he was killed, and all his followers were dispersed, and came to nothing. 37 And after him Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the registration; he persuaded the people to rebel under his leadership, but he too perished, and all his followers were scattered. 38 And my advice is still the same; have nothing to do with these men, let them be. If this is man’s design or man’s undertaking, it will be overthrown; 39 if it is God’s, you will have no power to overthrow it. You would not willingly be found fighting against God. And they fell in with his opinion; 40 so they sent for the apostles and, after scourging them, let them go with a warning that they were not on any account to preach in the name of Jesus. 41 And they left the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer indignity for the sake of Jesus’ name. 42 And every day, both in the temple and from house to house, their teaching and their preaching was continually of Jesus Christ.
Chrysostom notes (Homily 14): This Gamaliel was Paul's teacher. And one may well wonder, how, being so right-minded in his judgment, and withal learned in the law, he did not yet believe. But it cannot be that he should have continued in unbelief to the end. Indeed it appears plainly from the words he here speaks... For if, says he, it be of man, what needs any ado on your part? But if it be of God, for all your ado you will not be able to overcome it. The argument is unanswerable. And they were persuaded by him.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Acts 4 - The apostolic community as a call to the monastic life

Luca Signorelli - The Apostles Peter and John the Evangelist - WGA21268.jpg
Signorelli: SS Peter and John

Acts 4 takes us to the reaction of the Jewish authorities to the Christians:

  • verses 1-7 chronicles the arrest and interrogation of Peter and John;
  • verses 8-22 describes their interrogation and responses;
  • verses 23-31 looks at their return to the community and prayer after the events (which I want to focus on); 
  • verses 32-37 describes the sharing of everything in the apostolic community, with the story of Barnabus' donation of his property setting the scene for the story of Ananias and Saphira in the next chapter.  St John Chrysostom provides a nice reflection on the need to revive monastic life as a continuation of the apostolic tradition.

The arrest of Peter and John:
Acts 4: Before they had finished speaking to the crowd, they were interrupted by the chief priests, the temple superintendent, and the Sadducees. 2 These, indignant at their teaching the multitude and proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, 3 laid hands on them, and put them in prison (for it was already evening) until the next day. 4 (Meanwhile, many of those who had listened to their preaching had joined the believers, so that their numbers had now risen to five thousand men.) 5 On the next day, there was a gathering of the rulers and elders and scribes in Jerusalem; 6 the high priest Annas was there, and Caiphas, and John, and Alexander, and all those who belonged to the high-priestly family. 7 And they had Peter and John brought into their presence, and asked them, By what power, in whose name, have such men as you done this? 
Their interrogation:
8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, and said to them, Rulers of the people, elders of Israel, listen to me. 9 If it is over kindness done to a cripple, and the means by which he has been restored, that we are called in question, 10 here is news for you and for the whole people of Israel. You crucified Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, and God raised him from the dead; it is through his name that this man stands before you restored. 11 He is that stone, rejected by you, the builders, that has become the chief stone at the corner. (Psalm 117) 12 Salvation is not to be found elsewhere; this alone of all the names under heaven has been appointed to men as the one by which we must needs be saved.13 Seeing the boldness of Peter and John, and discovering that they were simple men, without learning, they were astonished, and recognized them now as having been in Jesus’ company. 14 They could find no answer to make, with the man who had been healed standing there beside them; 15 so they ordered them out of the council-chamber, and conferred together. 16 What are we to do with these men? they asked. It is commonly known among all the people of Jerusalem that a notable miracle has been done by their means, and we are powerless to deny it. 17 But the news must not spread any further; we must deter them by threats from preaching to anybody in this man’s name again.  18 So they called them in, and warned them not to utter a word or give any teaching in the name of Jesus. 19 At this, Peter and John answered them, Judge for yourselves whether it would be right for us, in the sight of God, to listen to your voice instead of God’s. 20 It is impossible for us to refrain from speaking of what we have seen and heard. 21 And they, after threatening them further, let them go; they could find no means of punishing them, because all the people were exclaiming at the astonishing circumstances of what had befallen; 22 the man in whom this miracle of healing had taken place was more than forty years old.
Return to the Christian community:
23 Now that they were set free, they went back to their company, and told them all the chief priests and elders had said. 24 And they, when they heard it, uttered prayer to God with one accord; Ruler of all, thou art the maker of heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. 25 Thou hast said through thy Holy Spirit, by the lips of thy servant David, our father, What means this turmoil among the nations; why do the peoples cherish vain dreams? 26 See how the kings of the earth stand in array, how its rulers make common cause, against the Lord and his Christ. (Psalm 2) 27 True enough, in this city of ours, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel to aid them, made common cause against thy holy servant Jesus, 28 so accomplishing all that thy power and wisdom had decreed. 29 Look down upon their threats, Lord, now as of old; enable thy servants to preach thy word confidently, 30 by stretching out thy hand to heal; and let signs and miracles be performed in the name of Jesus, thy holy Son. 31 When they had finished praying, the place in which they had gathered rocked to and fro, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to preach the word of God with confidence.
23 Dimissi autem venerunt ad suos, et annuntiaverunt eis quanta ad eos principes sacerdotum et seniores dixissent. 24 Qui cum audissent, unanimiter levaverunt vocem ad Deum, et dixerunt: Domine, tu es qui fecisti cælum et terram, mare et omnia quæ in eis sunt: 25 qui Spiritu Sancto per os patris nostri David pueri tui dixisti:Quare fremuerunt gentes,et populi meditati sunt inania? 26 Astiterunt reges terræ,et principes convenerunt in unumadversus Dominum, et adversus Christum ejus. 27 Convenerunt enim vere in civitate ista adversus sanctum puerum tuum Jesum, quem unxisti, Herodes et Pontius Pilatus, cum gentibus et populis Israël, 28 facere quæ manus tua et consilium tuum decreverunt fieri. 29 Et nunc, Domine, respice in minas eorum, et da servis tuis cum omni fiducia loqui verbum tuum, 30 in eo quod manum tuam extendas ad sanitates, et signa, et prodigia fieri per nomen sancti filii tui Jesu. 31 Et cum orassent, motus est locus in quo erant congregati: et repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto, et loquebantur verbum Dei cum fiducia.

Chrysostom (Homily 11): As it was the beginning (of their work), and they had besought a sensible sign for their persuasion (πρὸς τὸ πεισθἥναι αὐτους)— but after this we nowhere find the like happening— therefore great was the encouragement they received. In fact, they had no means of proving that He was risen, save by miraculous signs. So that it was not only their own assurance (ἀ σφαλείαν) that they sought: but that they might not be put to shame, but that they might speak with boldness. 

The place was shaken, and that made them all the more unshaken. For this is sometimes a token of wrath, sometimes of favor and providence, but on the present occasion, of wrath. For in those times it took place in an unusual manner. Thus, at the Crucifixion, the earth was shaken: and the Lord Himself says, Then there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. Matthew 24:7 

But then the wrath of which it was a sign was against the adversaries: as for the disciples, it filled them with the Spirit. Observe, even the Apostles, after the prayer, are filled with the Holy Ghost. And the multitudes of them that believed, etc. Acts 4:32 Great, you perceive, is the virtue of this thing, seeing their was need of this (grace) even in that Company...

Not in word, but with power the Apostles exhibited their testimony of the Resurrection: just as Paul says, And my preaching was not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but with manifestation of the Spirit and of power. And it is not merely, With power, but, With great power. 1 Corinthians 2:4 

The life of the apostolic community:
 Acts: 32 There was one heart and soul in all the company of believers; none of them called any of his possessions his own, everything was shared in common. 33 Great was the power with which the apostles testified to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and great was the grace that rested on them all. 34 None of them was destitute; all those who owned farms or houses used to sell them, and bring the price of what they had sold 35 to lay it at the apostles’ feet, so that each could have what share of it he needed. 36 There was a Levite called Joseph, a Cypriot by birth, to whom the apostles gave the fresh name of Barnabas, which means, the man of encouragement; 37 he had an estate, which he sold, and brought the purchase-money to lay it at the apostles’ feet.
32 Multitudinis autem credentium erat cor unum et anima una: nec quisquam eorum quæ possidebat, aliquid suum esse dicebat, sed erant illis omnia communia. 33 Et virtute magna reddebant Apostoli testimonium resurrectionis Jesu Christi Domini nostri: et gratia magna erat in omnibus illis. 34 Neque enim quisquam egens erat inter illos. Quotquot enim possessores agrorum aut domorum erant, vendentes afferebant pretia eorum quæ vendebant, 35 et ponebant ante pedes Apostolorum. Dividebatur autem singulis prout cuique opus erat. 36 Joseph autem, qui cognominatus est Barnabas ab Apostolis (quod est interpretatum, Filius consolationis), Levites, Cyprius genere, 37 cum haberet agrum, vendidit eum, et attulit pretium, et posuit ante pedes Apostolorum.
Chrysostom: The dwellers in the monasteries live just as the faithful did then: now did ever any of these die of hunger? Was ever any of them not provided for with plenty of everything? Now, it seems, people are more afraid of this than of falling into a boundless and bottomless deep. But if we had made actual trial of this, then indeed we should boldly venture upon this plan (τοὕ πράγματος). What grace too, think you, would there not be! For if at that time, when there was no believer but only the three thousand and the five thousand: when all, throughout the world, were enemies, when they could nowhere look for comfort, they yet boldly entered upon this plan with such success; how much more would this be the case now, when by the grace of God there are believers everywhere throughout the world? What Gentile would be left? For my part, I think there would not be one: we should so attract all, and draw them to us? But yet if we do but make fair progress, I trust in God that even this shall be realized. Only do as I say, and let us successfully achieve things in their regular order; if God grant life, I trust that we shall soon bring you over to this way of life.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Acts 3 - A call to repentance

Healing of Aeneas.jpg
Masolino di Panicale c1383-1440
Acts 3 recounts:
  • the healing of the lame man by Peter and John (verses 1-11);
  • St Peter's homily to the crowd on the miracle (verses 12-25).
I'm going to particularly focus on the latter part of the homily, a call to repentance.

 The healing of the lame man:
Acts 3: Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, which is an hour of prayer, 2 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. 3 And he asked Peter and John, as he saw them on their way into the temple, if he might have alms from them. 4 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. 6 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. 7 So, taking him by his right hand, he lifted him up; and with that, strength came to his feet and ankles; 8 he sprang up, and began walking, and went into the temple with them, walking, and leaping, and giving praise to God. 9 All the people, as they saw him walking and praising God, 10 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. 11 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.
 Petrus autem et Joannes ascendebant in templum ad horam orationis nonam. 2 Et quidam vir, qui erat claudus ex utero matris suæ, bajulabatur: quem ponebant quotidie ad portam templi, quæ dicitur Speciosa, ut peteret eleemosynam ab introëuntibus in templum. 3 Is cum vidisset Petrum et Joannem incipientes introire in templum, rogabat ut eleemosynam acciperet. 4 Intuens autem in eum Petrus cum Joanne, dixit: Respice in nos. 5 At ille intendebat in eos, sperans se aliquid accepturum ab eis. 6 Petrus autem dixit: Argentum et aurum non est mihi: quod autem habeo, hoc tibi do: in nomine Jesu Christi Nazareni surge, et ambula. 7 Et apprehensa manu ejus dextera, allevavit eum, et protinus consolidatæ sunt bases ejus et plantæ. 8 Et exiliens stetit, et ambulabat: et intravit cum illis in templum ambulans, et exiliens, et laudans Deum. 9 Et vidit omnis populus eum ambulantem et laudantem Deum. 10 Cognoscebant autem illum, quod ipse erat qui ad eleemosynam sedebat ad Speciosam portam templi: et impleti sunt stupore et extasi in eo quod contigerat illi. 11 Cum teneret autem Petrum et Joannem, cucurrit omnis populus ad eos ad porticum quæ appellatur Salomonis, stupentes.
Chrysostom (homily 8): ...Why now did they go up to the temple? Did they still live as Jews? No, but for expediency (χρησίμως). A miraculous sign again takes place, which both confirms the converts, and draws over the rest; and such, as they were a sign for having wrought...And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up. Acts 3:7 Such was also the way of Christ. Often He healed by word, often by an act, often also He stretched forth the hand, where men were somewhat weak in faith, that the cure might not appear to be spontaneous. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up. This act made manifest the Resurrection, for it was an image of the Resurrection. And immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked. Acts 3:8 Perhaps it was by way of trying himself that he put it thus to further proof, whether perchance the thing done might not be to no purpose. His feet were weak; it was not that he had lost them. Some say that he did not even know how to walk. And entered with them into the temple. Of a truth it was marvellous. The Apostles do not urge him; but of his own accord he follows, by the act of following pointing out his benefactors. And leaping and praising God; not admiring them, but God that wrought by them. The man was grateful.
Acts: 12 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? 13 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. 14 You disowned the holy, the just, and asked for the pardon of a murderer, 15 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. 16 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. 17 Come then, brethren, I know that you, like your rulers, acted in ignorance; 18 but God has fulfilled in this way what was foretold by all the prophets about the sufferings of his Christ. 
The call to repentance:
Acts 3: 19 Repent, then, and turn back to him, to have your sins effaced, 20 against the day when the Lord sees fit to refresh our hearts. Then he will send out Jesus Christ, who has now been made known to you, 21 but must have his dwelling-place in heaven until the time when all is restored anew, the time which God has spoken of by his holy prophets from the beginning. 22 Thus, Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among your own brethren; to him, to every word of his, you must listen. 23 It is ordained that everyone who will not listen to the voice of that prophet shall be lost to his people.24 And all the prophets who spoke to you, from Samuel onwards, have foretold those days. 25 You are the heirs of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, when he said to Abraham, Every race on earth shall receive a blessing through thy posterity. 26 It is to you first of all that God has sent his Son, whom he raised up from the dead to bring you a blessing, to turn away every one of you from his sins.
19 Pœnitemini igitur et convertimini, ut deleantur peccata vestra: 20 ut cum venerint tempora refrigerii a conspectu Domini, et miserit eum qui prædicatus est vobis, Jesum Christum, 21 quem oportet quidem cælum suscipere usque in tempora restitutionis omnium quæ locutus est Deus per os sanctorum suorum a sæculo prophetarum. 22 Moyses quidem dixit: Quoniam prophetam suscitabit vobis Dominus Deus vester de fratribus vestris, tamquam me: ipsum audietis juxta omnia quæcumque locutus fuerit vobis. 23 Erit autem: omnis anima quæ non audierit prophetam illum, exterminabitur de plebe. 24 Et omnes prophetæ, a Samuel et deinceps, qui locuti sunt, annuntiaverunt dies istos. 25 Vos estis filii prophetarum, et testamenti quod disposuit Deus ad patres nostros, dicens ad Abraham: Et in semine tuo benedicentur omnes familiæ terræ. 26 Vobis primum Deus suscitans filium suum, misit eum benedicentem vobis: ut convertat se unusquisque a nequitia sua.
Chrysostom (Homily 9): Repent ye therefore, he says, and be converted. He does not add, from your sins; but, that your sins, may be blotted out, means the same thing. And then he adds the gain: So shall the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19 This betokens them in a sad state, brought low by many wars. For it is to the case of one on fire, and craving comfort, that the expression applies. And see now how he advances. In his first sermon, he but slightly hinted at the resurrection, and Christ's sitting in heaven; but here he also speaks of His visible advent. And He shall send Jesus the Christ ordained (for you), Whom the heaven must (i.e. must of necessity) receive, until the times of the restitution of all things....

Then also, on the other hand, he says, as matter of encomium (so that for this reason also ye ought to obey): You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant: i.e. heirs. Then why do you stand affected towards that which is your own, as if it were another's? True, you have done deeds worthy of condemnation; still you may yet obtain pardon. Having said this, with reason he is now able to say, Unto you God sent his Son Jesus to bless you. He says not, To save you, but what is greater; that the crucified Jesus blessed His crucifiers.

Let us then also imitate Him. Let us cast out that spirit of murder and enmity. It is not enough not to retaliate (for even in the Old Dispensation this was exemplified); but let us do all as we would for bosom-friends, as we would for ourselves so for those who have injured us. We are followers of Him, we are His disciples, who after being crucified, sets everything in action in behalf of his murderers, and sends out His Apostles to this end. And yet we have often suffered justly; but those acted not only unjustly, but impiously; for He was their Benefactor, He had done no evil, and they crucified Him. And for what reason? For the sake of their reputation. But He Himself made them objects of reverence. The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that do ye, but after their works do ye not. Matthew 23:2 And again in another place, Go your way, show yourself to the priest. Matthew 8:4 Besides, when He might have destroyed them, He saves them. Let us then imitate Him, and let no one be an enemy, no one a foe, except to the devil.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Acts 2: 37-47 - What must we do?

Cappella brancacci, Predica di San Pietro (restaurato), Masolino.jpg
Masolino di Panacale, c1383-1440

Acts 2 concludes with:
  •  the reaction of St Peter's hearers to his homily (verses 37 - 41) and
  • a description of the life of the growing band of the faithful (verses 42-47).
The first section poses a question that we need to ask ourselves as well, namely, what must we do?

Acts: 37 When they heard this, their consciences were stung; and they asked Peter and his fellow apostles, Brethren, what must we do? 38 Repent, Peter said to them, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to have your sins forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you and for your children, and for all those, however far away, whom the Lord our God calls to himself. 40 And he used many more words besides, urgently appealing to them; Save yourselves, he said, from this false-minded generation. 41 So all those who had taken his words to heart were baptized, and about three thousand souls were won for the Lord that day.
37 His autem auditis, compuncti sunt corde, et dixerunt ad Petrum et ad reliquos Apostolos: Quid faciemus, viri fratres? 38 Petrus vero ad illos: Pœnitentiam, inquit, agite, et baptizetur unusquisque vestrum in nomine Jesu Christi in remissionem peccatorum vestrorum: et accipietis donum Spiritus Sancti. 39 Vobis enim est repromissio, et filiis vestris, et omnibus qui longe sunt, quoscumque advocaverit Dominus Deus noster. 40 Aliis etiam verbis plurimis testificatus est, et exhortabatur eos, dicens: Salvamini a generatione ista prava.41 Qui ergo receperunt sermonem ejus, baptizati sunt: et appositæ sunt in die illa animæ circiter tria millia.
Chrysostom (Homily 7): And, say they, What shall we do? They did not straightway say, Well then, we repent; but they surrendered themselves to the disciples. Just as a person on the point of shipwreck, upon seeing the pilot, or in sickness the physician, would put all into his hands, and do his bidding in everything; so have these also confessed that they are in extreme peril, and destitute of all hope of salvation. They did not say, How shall we be saved? But, What shall we do?

Here again Peter, though the question is put to all, is the man to answer. Repent, says he, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 He does not yet say, Believe, but, Be baptized every one of you. For this they received in baptism.

Then he speaks of the gain; For the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you are to receive a gift, if baptism conveys remission, why delay? He next gives a persuasive turn to his address, adding, For the promise is unto you Acts 2:39: for he had spoken of a promise above. And to your children, he says: the gift is greater, when these are to be heirs of the blessings. And to all, he continues, that are afar off: if to those that are afar off, much more to you that are near: even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Observe the time he takes for saying, To those that are afar off. It is when he finds them conciliated and self-accusing. For when the soul pronounces sentence against itself, no longer can it feel envy...

This is the perfection of teaching, comprising something of fear and something of love. Save yourselves from this untoward generation. He says nothing of the future, all is about the present, by which indeed men are chiefly swayed; he shows that the Gospel releases from present evils as well. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Comment: Note the parallel with Exodus 19:1 - 50 days after first passover, law given; in Ex 32:28 3,000 die for worshipping the golden calf.

The chapter concludes with a description of the life of the rapidly growing band of the faithful:
 Acts:  42 These occupied themselves continually with the apostles’ teaching, their fellowship in the breaking of bread, and the fixed times of prayer, 43 and every soul was struck with awe, so many were the wonders and signs performed by the apostles in Jerusalem. 44 All the faithful held together, and shared all they had, 45 selling their possessions and their means of livelihood, so as to distribute to all, as each had need. 46 They persevered with one accord, day by day, in the temple worship, and, as they broke bread in this house or that, took their share of food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God, and winning favour with all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship others that were to be saved.

  42 Erant autem perseverantes in doctrina Apostolorum, et communicatione fractionis panis, et orationibus. 43 Fiebat autem omni animæ timor: multa quoque prodigia et signa per Apostolos in Jerusalem fiebant, et metus erat magnus in universis. 44 Omnes etiam qui credebant, erant pariter, et habebant omnia communia. 45 Possessiones et substantias vendebant, et dividebant illa omnibus, prout cuique opus erat. 46 Quotidie quoque perdurantes unanimiter in templo, et frangentes circa domos panem, sumebant cibum cum exsultatione et simplicitate cordis, 47 collaudantes Deum et habentes gratiam ad omnem plebem. Dominus autem augebat qui salvi fierent quotidie in idipsum.
Chrysostom: Consider what an advance was here immediately! For the fellowship was not only in prayers, nor in doctrine alone, but also in (πολιτεία) social relations. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. See what fear was wrought in them!

And they parted them, he says, showing the (τὸ οἰκονομικὸν) wise management: As every man had need. Not recklessly, like some philosophers among the Greeks, of whom some gave up their land, others cast into the sea great quantities of money; but this was no contempt of riches, but only folly and madness. For universally the devil has made it his endeavor to disparage the creatures of God, as if it were impossible to make good use of riches.

And continuing daily with one accord in the temple Acts 2:46, they enjoyed the benefit of teaching. Consider how these Jews did nothing else great or small, than assiduously attend at the temple. For, as having become more earnest, they had increased devotion also to the place. For the Apostles did not for the present pluck them away from this object, for fear of injuring them.

And breaking bread from house to house, did take their portion of food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. Acts 2:47 It seems to me that in mentioning bread, he here signifies fasting and hard life; for they took their portion of food, not of dainty fare. With gladness, he says. Do you see that not the dainty fare, but the (τροφἥς οὐ τρυφἥς) food made the enjoyment. For they that fare daintily are under punishment and pain; but not so these.

 Do you see that the words of Peter contain this also, namely, the regulation of life? [And singleness of heart.] For no gladness can exist where there is no simplicity. How had they favor with all the people? On account of their alms deeds. For do not look to the fact, that the chief priests for envy and spite rose up against them, but rather consider that they had favor with the people.— And the Lord added to the Church daily (ἐ πὶ τὸ αὐτό) [together] such as should be saved.— And all that believed were together. Once more, the unanimity, the charity, which is the cause of all good things!