Saturday, 23 April 2016

Fourth Sunday after Easter

Nocturn I: St James 1

Reading 1: James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, sends greeting to the members of the twelve tribes scattered throughout the world. Consider yourselves happy indeed, my brethren, when you encounter trials of every sort,  as men who know well enough that the testing of their faith breeds endurance.  Endurance must do its work thoroughly, if you are to be men full-grown in every part, nothing lacking in you.

R. If I forget thee, Alleluia, let my right hand forget me.* If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion
R. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 2: Is there one of you who still lacks wisdom? God gives to all, freely and ungrudgingly; so let him ask God for it, and the gift will come. 6 (Only it must be in faith that he asks, he must not hesitate; one who hesitates is like a wave out at sea, driven to and fro by the wind; 7 such a man must not hope to win any gift from the Lord.

R. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee and they were afraid.* There was a noise as of many waters the clouds sent out a sound. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. thy lightnings lightened the world the earth saw it and shook.
R. There was a noise as of many waters the clouds sent out a sound. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 3: No, a man who is in two minds will find no rest wherever he goes.) Is one of the brethren in humble circumstances? Let him be proud of it; it exalts him, whereas the rich man takes pride in what in truth abases him. (The rich man will pass by like the bloom on the grass;  the sun gets up, and the scorching wind with it, which dries up the grass, till the bloom on it falls, and all its fair show dies away; so the rich man, with his enterprises, will disappear.)

R. I will declare thy Name unto my brethren Alleluia.* In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people, and sing unto thee among the nations.
R. In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 4: Blessed is he who endures under trials. When he has proved his worth, he will win that crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Nobody, when he finds himself tempted, should say, I am being tempted by God. God may threaten us with evil, but he does not himself tempt anyone. No, when a man is tempted, it is always because he is being drawn away by the lure of his own passions.  When that has come about, passion conceives and gives birth to sin; and when sin has reached its full growth, it breeds death. 16 Beloved brethren, do not deceive yourselves over this.

R: Dicant nunc qui redempti sunt, alleluia,
V: Quos redemit de manu inimici, et de regionibus congregavit eos.
R: a Domino, alleluia.
Gloria Patri...
A Domino...

Nocturn II: Tract of St Cyprian

Reading 5: In speaking of patience, beloved brethren, and in preaching on its benefits and advantages, how can I better begin than by pointing out the fact that now, just for you to listen to me, I see that patience is necessary, as you could not even do this, namely, listen and learn, without patience. For only then is the word of God and way of salvation effectively learned, if one listens with patience to what is being said. Dearly beloved brethren, there are divers paths of heavenly wisdom, wherein we are invited to walk, if we would reach in the end the reward which God hath prepared to crown hope and faith but I find no path more useful to life - ward, nor more sure to glory -ward than this, that while we humbly strive, in all fear, and in all godliness, to obey the commandments of the Lord, we should set our chiefest guard in an unceasing watch over our patience.

R. Bless ye God in the congregations Alleluia.* Even the Lord, ye that are of the fountains of Israel Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Sing forth the honour of His Name, make His praise glorious.
R. Even the Lord, ye that are of the fountains of Israel Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 6: The philosophers also say that they take this path, but their patience is as much a sham as their wisdom is a cheat, for who can be wise or patient who knoweth nothing of God's wisdom or God's patience are the lives of servers and worshippers of God. Let it be ours, then, to show forth by spiritual watchfulness that patience which is a part of the teaching which we have learnt from heaven. Patience is one of His Own virtues whereof God hath made us partakers with Him our Great Head is the Captain of the patient, and it is through patience that He hath crowned Himself with glory and honour.

R. With my whole heart Alleluia have I sought thee Alleluia.* O let me not wander from thy commandments Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Blessed art Thou, O Lord teach me thy statutes.
R. O let me not wander from thy commandments Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 7:But as for us, dearly beloved brethren, we are the real philosophers, whose wisdom lieth not in words but in deeds, and is manifested not in dresses but in the truth. We are they whose knowledge hath the inward consciousness, not the idle boasting, of strength. We are not speakers of high-sounding words, but our lives. Yea, God is Himself the Source, the Fountain, and the Greatness of patience, and it behoveth man to love what is beloved of God. That good thing which he loveth is commended unto him of God's Majesty. If God be our Lord and Father, let us follow after the ensample of our Lord and Father's patience, since it is the duty of servants to be obedient, and of sons to be home-minded.

R. Sing us a song Alleluia.
* How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. There they that carried us away captive required of us a song.
R. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 8: By our patience God draweth us toward Himself, and keepeth us His Own. Patience doth soothe anger, bridle the tongue, govern the mind, keep peace, set rules of self-control, break the onset of lust, still the swelling of temper, put out the fire begotten of hatred, make the rich meek, and relieve the need of the poor patience doth guard in virgins their blessed wholeness in widows, their careful purity in such as be married, their single-hearted love one toward the other. Patience doth teach such as be successful to be lowly-minded such as be unfortunate, to be brave and all to be gentle when they are wronged and insulted. Patience maketh a man soon to forgive them that trespass against him, and if he have trespassed against any, long and humbly to ask his pardon. Patience doth fight down temptations, bear persecution, and endure unto the end in suffering, and in uplifting of our testimony. Patience is the moat that guardeth the stout foundations of the castle of our faith.

V: Cantate deo alleluia psalmum dicite ei alleluia *Psalmum dicite nomini ejus date gloriam laudi ejus
V: Afferte domino gloriam et honorem afferte domino gloriam nomini ejus
Psalmum dicite nomini ejus date gloriam laudi ejus
Psalmum dicite nomini ejus date gloriam laudi ejus

Nocturn III: (St Augustine, Tract 94 on John)

Reading 9: The Lord Jesus told His disciples what things they should suffer after that He was gone away from them, and then He said: "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you ; but now I go My way to Him That sent Me." Let us first see whether it had been that He had not told them before this what they were to suffer in time coming. That He had done so amply before the night of the last Supper, is testified by the three first Evangelists, but it was when that Supper was ended that, according to John, He said: "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you."

R. I will sing a new song unto thee, O God Alleluia.
* Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee Thou art my God, and I will exalt thee.

R. Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 10: Are we then to try and loose the knot of this difficulty by asserting that, according to these three Evangelists, it was on the eve of the Passion, albeit before the Supper, that He had said these things unto them, and therefore not at the beginning, when He was with them, but when He was about to leave them, and go His way to the Father And in this way we might reconcile the truthfulness of what this Evangelist saith here "These things I said not unto you at the beginning" with the truthfulness of the other three. 

R. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord Alleluia
* And to sing praises Alleluia.
V. Upon an instrument of ten strings, upon the harp with a solemn sound.

R. And to sing praises Alleluia.

Reading 11: But this explanation is rendered impossible by the Gospel according to Matthew, who telleth us how that the Lord spake to His Apostles concerning their sufferings to come, not only when He was on the point of eating the Passover with them, but at the very beginning, when the names of the twelve are first given, and they were sent forth to do the work of God.

R: Alleluia audivimus ea in Ephrata invenimus eam in campis silvae introibimus in tabernaculum ejus adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus alleluia alleluia
V: Surge domine in requiem tuam tu et arca sanctificationis tuae
R: introibimus in tabernaculum ejus adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus alleluia alleluia

Reading 12: It would seem then that when He said: "These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you," He meant by "these things," not the sufferings which they were to bear for His sake, but His promise of the Comforter Who should come to them, and testify while they suffered, xv. 26, 27. This Comforter then, or Advocate, (for the Greek word "Parakletos" will bear either interpretation,) would be needful to them when they saw Christ no more, and therefore it was that Christ spoke not of Him "at the beginning" (of the Gospel Dispensation) while He Himself " was with " His disciples, because His visible Presence was then their sufficient Comfort.

R. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, alleluia, for therein is my desire, alleluia.
* Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
V. O turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way.
R. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.

R. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Easter is St John 16:5-14:

5 Hæc autem vobis ab initio non dixi, quia vobiscum eram. Et nunc vado ad eum qui misit me; et nemo ex vobis interrogat me: Quo vadis? 6 sed quia hæc locutus sum vobis, tristitia implevit cor vestrum. 7 Sed ego veritatem dico vobis: expedit vobis ut ego vadam: si enim non abiero, Paraclitus non veniet ad vos; si autem abiero, mittam eum ad vos. 8 Et cum venerit ille, arguet mundum de peccato, et de justitia, et de judicio. 9 De peccato quidem, quia non crediderunt in me. 10 De justitia vero, quia ad Patrem vado, et jam non videbitis me. 11 De judicio autem, quia princeps hujus mundi jam judicatus est. 12 Adhuc multa habeo vobis dicere, sed non potestis portare modo. 13 Cum autem venerit ille Spiritus veritatis, docebit vos omnem veritatem: non enim loquetur a semetipso, sed quæcumque audiet loquetur, et quæ ventura sunt annuntiabit vobis. 14 Ille me clarificabit, quia de meo accipiet, et annuntiabit vobis. 

[5] But I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? [6] But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. [7] But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. [8] And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment. [9] Of sin: because they believed not in me. [10] And of justice: because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer. [11] And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. [12] I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. [13] But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you. [14] He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you. [15] All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you. [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.

Acts 12 - The value of prayer and the work of our guardian angels

Jan Pynas - Bevrijding van St. Peter (Rembrandthuis).jpg
Jan Pynas 
Acts 12 provides the final chapter on the life of King Herod (Agrippa I, 11 BC - 44 AD):
  • verses 1-2 deal with the resumption of his persecutions of the Church, and the martyrdom of St James;
  • verses 3-11 are about the arrest of St Peter, followed by his escape from prison through the offices of an angel;
  • in verses 12-17 Peter tells of his escape to the local community 
  • verses 18-23 chronicle Herod's horrible death
  • verses 24-25 foreshadow the next chapter in the spread of the faith.
Acts 12:
1 It was at this same time that Herod exerted his authority to persecute some of those who belonged to the Church. 2 James, the brother of John, he beheaded, 3 and then, finding that this was acceptable to the Jews, he went further, and laid hands on Peter too. It was the time of unleavened bread; 4 and he imprisoned Peter, after arresting him, with a guard of four soldiers, relieved four times a day; when paschal-time was over, he would bring him out in the presence of the people. 5 Peter, then, was well guarded in prison, but there was a continual stream of prayer going up to God from the church on his behalf. 
Eodem autem tempore misit Herodes rex manus, ut affligeret quosdam de ecclesia. 2 Occidit autem Jacobum fratrem Joannis gladio. 3 Videns autem quia placeret Judæis, apposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum. Erant autem dies Azymorum. 4 Quem cum apprehendisset, misit in carcerem, tradens quatuor quaternionibus militum custodiendum, volens post Pascha producere eum populo. 5 Et Petrus quidem servabatur in carcere. Oratio autem fiebant sine intermissione ab ecclesia ad Deum pro eo.
Chrysostom: (Homily 27): Some persons, it is likely, are at a loss how to explain it, that God should quietly look on while (His) champions are put to death, and now again the soldiers on account of Peter: and yet it was possible for Him after (delivering) Peter to rescue them also. But it was not yet the time of judgment, so as to render to each according to his deserts.
6 And now the day was coming when Herod was to bring him out; that night, Peter was sleeping with two chains on him, between two soldiers, and there were warders at the door guarding his prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood over him, and a light shone in his cell. He smote Peter on the side, to rouse him; Quick, he said, rise up; and thereupon the chains fell from his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, Gird thyself up, and put on thy shoes; and, when he had done this, Throw thy cloak over thee, and follow me. 9 So he followed him out, unaware that what the angel had done for him was true; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 Thus they passed one party of guards, then a second, and reached the iron gate which leads out into the city; this opened for them of its own accord. They came out, and as soon as they had passed on up one street, the angel left him.11 At this, Peter came to himself. Now I can tell for certain, he said, that the Lord has sent his angel, to deliver me out of Herod’s hands, and from all that the people of the Jews hoped to see.12 After some thought, he made for the house belonging to Mary the mother of John, also called Mark. Here many had gathered for prayer; 13 a girl named Rhoda came to answer, when he knocked at the porch door, 14 and she, recognizing Peter’s voice, was too overjoyed to open the gate for him; she ran in, and told them that Peter was, standing at the gate. 15 Thou art mad, they told her, but she still insisted that it was so; and then they said, It must be his guardian angel. 16 Meanwhile, Peter went on knocking; so they opened, and found him there, and stood astonished.17 Calling for silence by a gesture of his hand, he told them how the Lord had delivered him from prison; Give news of this, he said, to James and the rest of the brethren. And so he left them, and went elsewhere.
 Cum autem producturus eum esset Herodes, in ipsa nocte erat Petrus dormiens inter duos milites, vinctus catenis duabus: et custodes ante ostium custodiebant carcerem. 7 Et ecce angelus Domini astitit, et lumen refulsit in habitaculo: percussoque latere Petri, excitavit eum, dicens: Surge velociter. Et ceciderunt catenæ de manibus ejus. 8 Dixit autem angelus ad eum: Præcingere, et calcea te caligas tuas. Et fecit sic. Et dixit illi: Circumda tibi vestimentum tuum, et sequere me. 9 Et exiens sequebatur eum, et nesciebat quia verum est, quod fiebat per angelum: existimabat autem se visum videre. 10 Transeuntes autem primam et secundam custodiam, venerunt ad portam ferream, quæ ducit ad civitatem: quæ ultro aperta est eis. Et exeuntes processerunt vicum unum: et continuo discessit angelus ab eo.11 Et Petrus ad se reversus, dixit: Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus angelum suum, et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et de omni exspectatione plebis Judæorum. Consideransque venit ad domum Mariæ matris Joannis, qui cognominatus est Marcus, ubi erant multi congregati, et orantes. 13 Pulsante autem eo ostium januæ, processit puella ad audiendum, nomine Rhode. 14 Et ut cognovit vocem Petri, præ gaudio non aperuit januam, sed intro currens nuntiavit stare Petrum ante januam. 15 At illi dixerunt ad eam: Insanis. Illa autem affirmabat sic se habere. Illi autem dicebant: Angelus ejus est. 16 Petrus autem perseverabat pulsans. Cum autem aperuissent, viderunt eum, et obstupuerunt. 17 Annuens autem eis manu ut tacerent, narravit quomodo Dominus eduxisset eum de carcere, dixitque: Nuntiate Jacobo et fratribus hæc. Et egressus abiit in alium locum.
Chrysostom (Homily 26) on the importance of prayer: Here indeed my discourse is for both men and women. Bend your knees, send forth groans, beseech your Master to be merciful: He is more moved by prayers in the night, when you make the time for rest a time for mourning.  Remember what words that king uttered: I have been weary with my groaning: every night will I wash my bed, I will water my couch with my tears. However delicate a liver you may be, you are not more delicate than he: however rich you may be, you are not richer than David.

And again the same Psalmist says, At midnight I rose to give thanks unto You for the judgments of Your righteousness. No vainglory then intrudes upon you: how can it, when all are sleeping, and not looking at you? Then neither sloth nor drowsiness invades you: how can they, when your soul is aroused by such great things? After such vigils come sweet slumbers and wondrous revelations. Do this, thou also the man, not the woman only.

Let the house be a Church, consisting of men and women. For think not because you are the only man, or because she is the only woman there, that this is any hindrance. For where two, He says, are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them. Where Christ is in the midst, there is a great multitude. Where Christ is, there needs must Angels be, needs must Archangels also and the other Powers be there. Then you are not alone, seeing you have Him Who is Lord of all. Hear again the prophet also saying, Better is one that does the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors. comp.  Nothing more weak than a multitude of unrighteous men, nothing more strong than one man who lives according to the law of God...

But you will say: I have labored much during the day, and I cannot. Mere pretext this and subterfuge. For however much you have labored, you will not toil like the smith, who lets fall such a heavy hammer from a great height upon the (metal flying off in) sparks, and takes in the smoke with his whole body: and yet at this work he spends the greater part of the night. You know also how the women, if there is need for us to go into the country, or to go forth unto a vigil, watch through the whole night. Then have thou also a spiritual forge, to fashion there not pots or cauldrons, but your own soul, which is far better than either coppersmith or goldsmith can fashion.

Your soul, waxen old in sins, cast thou into the smelting-furnace of confession: let fall the hammer from on high: that is, the condemnation of your words (τὥν ῥημάτων τὴν κατάγνωσιν): light up the fire of the Spirit. You have a far mightier craft (than theirs). You are beating into shape not vessels of gold, but the soul, which is more precious than all gold, even as the smith hammers out his vessel. For it is no material vessel that you are working at, but you are freeing your soul from all imaginations belonging to this life.

 Let a lamp be by your side, not that one which we burn, but that which the prophet had, when he said, Your law is a lamp unto my feet. Bring your soul to a red heat, by prayer: when you see it hot enough, draw it out, and mould it into what shape you will. Believe me, not fire so effectual to burn off rust, as night prayer to remove the rust of our sins...

Why did Christ Himself pass a whole night on the mountain? Was it not, that He might be an example to us? Then is it that the plants respire, in the night, I mean: and then also does the soul take in the dew even more than they. What the sun has parched by day becomes cool again at night. More refreshing than all dew, the tears of the night descend upon our lusts and upon all heat and fever of the soul, and do not let it be affected in any such way. But if it do not enjoy the benefit of that dew, it will be burnt up in the daytime.

But God forbid (it should be so )! Rather, may we all, being refreshed, and enjoying the mercy of God, be freed from the burden of our sins, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
18 When day broke, there was a great to-do among the soldiers, to know what had become of Peter. 19 Herod, after searching for him without avail, questioned the warders and had them punished. Then he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and spent his time there. 20 He was much out of humour with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and these, since their country depended on the king’s country for its supplies, waited upon him by common consent, and tried (by winning over Blastus, the royal chamberlain) to make their peace.21 So, on an appointed day, Herod put on his royal finery and sat down on a raised dais to harangue them; 22 whereupon the people cried out in applause, It is no man, it is a god that speaks. 23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, for not referring the glory to God; and he was eaten up by worms, and so died.
 Facta autem die, erat non parva turbatio inter milites, quidnam factum esset de Petro. 19 Herodes autem cum requisisset eum et non invenisset, inquisitione facta de custodibus, jussit eos duci: descendensque a Judæa in Cæsaream, ibi commoratus est. 20 Erat autem iratus Tyriis et Sidoniis. At illi unanimes venerunt ad eum, et persuaso Blasto, qui erat super cubiculum regis, postulabant pacem, eo quod alerentur regiones eorum ab illo. 21 Statuto autem die Herodes vestitus veste regia sedit pro tribunali, et concionabatur ad eos. 22 Populus autem acclamabat: Dei voces, et non hominis. 23 Confestim autem percussit eum angelus Domini, eo quod non dedisset honorem Deo: et consumptus a vermibus, expiravit.
Homily 27:  Josephus also says this, that he fell into a lingering disease. Now the generality were not aware of this, but the Apostle sets it down: yet at the same time their ignorance was an advantage, in regard that they imputed what befell (Agrippa) to his putting James and the soldiers to death...
24 And still the word of God grew strong and spread wide. 25 Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, their mission of relief fulfilled, and took John, also called Mark, in their company.
 24 Verbum autem Domini crescebat, et multiplicabatur. 25 Barnabas autem et Saulus reversi sunt ab Jerosolymis expleto ministerio assumpto Joanne, qui cognominatus est Marcus.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Acts 11 continued - Called Christians

Map showing believers scattered

Acts 11 continues
19 Meanwhile, those who had been dispersed owing to the persecution that was raised over Stephen had travelled as far away as Phoenice and Cyprus and Antioch, without preaching the word to anyone except the Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they found their way to Antioch, spoke to the Greeks as well, preaching the Lord Jesus to them. 21 And the Lord’s power went with them, so that a great number learned to believe, and turned to the Lord.
19 Et illi quidem qui dispersi fuerant a tribulatione quæ facta fuerat sub Stephano, perambulaverunt usque Phœnicen, et Cyprum, et Antiochiam, nemini loquentes verbum, nisi solis Judæis. 20 Erant autem quidam ex eis viri Cyprii et Cyrenæi, qui cum introissent Antiochiam, loquebantur et ad Græcos, annuntiantes Dominum Jesum. 21 Et erat manus Domini cum eis: multusque numerus credentium conversus est ad Dominum. 
 Chrysostom (Homily 24): The persecution turned out to be no slight benefit as to them that love God all things work together for good.  If they had made it their express study how best to establish the Church, they would have done no other thing than this— they dispersed the teachers...

Do you mark how even in the tribulation instead of falling to lamentations and tears, as we do, they give themselves up to a great and good work? Travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, and there with more security preached the word...trusting in the grace of God, they applied themselves to the work of teaching, nor did these (Gentiles) themselves think scorn to learn anything of them.
22 The story of this came to the ears of the Church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas on a mission to Antioch. 23 When he came there and saw what grace God was bestowing on them, he was full of joy, and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with steady purpose of heart, 24 like the good man he was, full of the Holy Spirit, full of faith; a great multitude was thus won over to the Lord.25 He went on to Tarsus, to look for Saul, and when he found him, brought him back to Antioch. 26 For a whole year after this they were made welcome in the Church there, teaching a great multitude. And Antioch was the first place in which the disciples were called Christians.
 22 Pervenit autem sermo ad aures ecclesiæ quæ erat Jerosolymis super istis: et miserunt Barnabam usque ad Antiochiam. 23 Qui cum pervenisset, et vidisset gratiam Dei, gavisus est: et hortabatur omnes in proposito cordis permanere in Domino: 24 quia erat vir bonus, et plenus Spiritu Sancto, et fide. Et apposita est multa turba Domino. 25 Profectus est autem Barnabas Tarsum, ut quæreret Saulum: quem cum invenisset, perduxit Antiochiam. 26 Et annum totum conversati sunt ibi in ecclesia: et docuerunt turbam multam, ita ut cognominarentur primum Antiochiæ discipuli, christiani.
Chrysostom: Mark how by small means all is brought about: mark the preaching how it spreads: mark those in Jerusalem, having like care for all, holding the whole world as one house. They heard that Samaria had received the word, and to Samaria they send the Apostles: they heard what had befallen at Antioch, and to Antioch they send Barnabas: they also send again, and (these) prophets. For the distance was great, and it was not meet the Apostles at present should separate from thence, that they might not be thought to be fugitives, and to have fled from their own people.

But then, almost precisely, is the time of their parting from Jerusalem, when the state (of the Jews) was shown to be past remedy, when the war was close at hand, and they must needs perish: when the sentence was made absolute.
27 At this time, some prophets from Jerusalem visited Antioch; 28 and one of these, Agabus by name, stood up and prophesied through the Spirit that a great famine was to come upon the whole world, as it did in the reign of the emperor Claudius. 29 Thereupon it was decided that each of the disciples should contribute according to his means, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judaea. 30 And so they did; and in sending it to the presbyters they entrusted it to the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
27 In his autem diebus supervenerunt ab Jerosolymis prophetæ Antiochiam: 28 et surgens unus ex eis nomine Agabus, significabat per spiritum famem magnam futuram in universo orbe terrarum, quæ facta est sub Claudio. 29 Discipuli autem, prout quis habebat, proposuerunt singuli in ministerium mittere habitantibus in Judæa fratribus: 30 quod et fecerunt, mittentes ad seniores per manus Barnabæ et Sauli.
 Chrysostom: It was need that the fruit of alms should also be planted there...Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea.  Mark how the famine becomes to them the means of salvation, an occasion of almsgiving, a harbinger of many blessing. And (so it might have been) to you, one may say, if you were so minded, but you would not... Do you mark them, that no sooner do they believe than they bring forth fruit, not only for their own but for those afar off?

Meditation on almsgiving from St John: 

 ...There is no sin, which alms cannot cleanse, none, which alms cannot quench: all sin is beneath this: it is a medicine adapted for every wound. What worse than a publican? The very matter (ὑ πόθεσις) (of his occupation) is altogether one of injustice: and yet Zaccheus washed away all these (sins). Mark how even Christ shows this, by the care taken to have a purse, and to bear the contributions put into it. And Paul also says, Only that we remember the poor: and everywhere the Scripture has much discourse concerning this matter. The ransom, it says, of a man's soul is his own wealth: and with reason: for, says (Christ), if you would be perfect, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.  This may well be part of perfection.

But alms may be done not only by money, but by acts. For example: one may kindly stand (προστἥναι) by a person (to succor and defend him), one may reach to him a helping hand: the service rendered (προστασία) by acts has often done more good even than money. Let us set to work all the different kinds of almsgiving. Can you do alms by money? Be not slack. Can you by good offices? Say not, Because I have no money, this is nothing. This is a very great point: look upon it as if you had given gold. Can you do it by kind attentions (θεραπείας)? Do this also. For instance, if you be a physician, (give) your skill: for this also is a great matter. Can you by counsel? This (service) is much greater than all: this (alms) is better than all, or it is also more, by how much the gain it has is greater... 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Acts 11 - Debating with Peter

Peter's vision of the sheet with animals.jpg
St Peter's vision, from Henry Davenport Northrop, "Treasures of the Bible," 1894
Acts 11 chronicles the continuing expansion of the mission to the Gentiles:
  • verses 1-18 has St Peter justifying his decision to visit Cornelius, relating to the two visions to the apostles;
  • verses 19-30 with the establishment of the church in Antioch.
Today a look at the first half of the chapter, which dealswith that most traditional of all past-times in the Church, disputes with Peter:
And now the apostles and brethren in Judaea were told how the word of God had been given to the Gentiles. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who held to the tradition of circumcision found fault with him; 3 Why didst thou pay a visit, they asked, to men who are uncircumcised, and eat with them? 
Audierunt autem Apostoli et fratres qui erant in Judæa, quoniam et gentes receperunt verbum Dei. 2 Cum autem ascendisset Petrus Jerosolymam, disceptabant adversus illum qui erant ex circumcisione, 3 dicentes: Quare introisti ad viros præputium habentes, et manducasti cum illis?
 Chrysostom (Homily 24): After such great things, they of the circumcision contended: not the Apostles; God forbid! It means, they took no small offense. And see what they allege. They do not say, Why did you preach? But, Why did you eat with them? But Peter, not stopping to notice this frigid objection— for frigid indeed it is— takes his stand (ἵ σταται) on that great argument...

Do you note what zeal they had for the Law? Not Peter's authority abashed them, not the signs which had taken place, not the success achieved, what a thing it was, the Gentiles having received the word: but they contended about those petty things. For if none of those (signs) had taken place, was not the success (itself) enough?
4 Whereupon Peter told them the story point by point from the beginning; 5 I was in the city of Joppa, he said, at my prayers, when I fell into a trance and saw a vision. A bundle, like a great sheet, came down from heaven, lowered by the four corners, till it reached me. 6 I looked closely to find out what it was, and there I saw four-footed creatures of earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and the birds that fly in heaven. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, Rise up, Peter, lay about thee and eat. 8 So I answered, It cannot be, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. 9 And a second utterance came from heaven in answer, It is not for thee to call anything profane, which God has made clean. 10 Three times this happened, and then all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And at that very moment three men appeared at the door of the house where I was, with a message to me from Caesarea. 12 The Spirit bade me accompany them without misgiving; so these six brethren came with me, and together we entered the man’s home.13 There he told us how he had had a vision of an angel in his house; this angel stood before him, and said, Send to Joppa, and bid Simon, who is also called Peter, come to thee. 14 He will have such a message for thee as will bring salvation to thee and to all thy household. 15 And then, when I had set about speaking to them, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as it was with us at the beginning. 16 Then I was reminded of what the Lord said to us, John’s baptism was with water, but there is a baptism with the Holy Spirit which you are to receive. 17 And now, if God has made them the same free gift, which he made to us when faith in the Lord Jesus had gone before it, who was I, what power had I, to stay God’s hand? 18 At these words, they were content, and gave glory to God; Why then, they said, it seems God has granted life-giving repentance of heart to the Gentiles too.
Incipiens autem Petrus exponebat illis ordinem, dicens: 5 Ego eram in civitate Joppe orans, et vidi in excessu mentis visionem, descendens vas quoddam velut linteum magnum quatuor initiis summitti de cælo, et venit usque ad me. 6 In quod intuens considerabam, et vidi quadrupedia terræ, et bestias, et reptilia, et volatilia cæli. 7 Audivi autem et vocem dicentem mihi: Surge, Petre: occide, et manduca. 8 Dixi autem: Nequaquam Domine: quia commune aut immundum numquam introivit in os meum. 9 Respondit autem vox secundo de cælo: Quæ Deus mundavit, tu ne commune dixeris. 10 Hoc autem factum est per ter: et recepta sunt omnia rursum in cælum. 11 Et ecce viri tres confestim astiterunt in domo in qua eram, missi a Cæsarea ad me. 12 Dixit autem Spiritus mihi ut irem cum illis, nihil hæsitans. Venerunt autem mecum et sex fratres isti, et ingressi sumus in domum viri. 13 Narravit autem nobis quomodo vidisset angelum in domo sua, stantem et dicentem sibi: Mitte in Joppen, et accersi Simonem qui cognominatur Petrus, 14 qui loquetur tibi verba in quibus salvus eris tu, et universa domus tua. 15 Cum autem cœpissem loqui, cecidit Spiritus Sanctus super eos, sicut et in nos in initio. 16 Recordatus sum autem verbi Domini, sicut dicebat: Joannes quidem baptizavit aqua, vos autem baptizabimini Spiritu Sancto. 17 Si ergo eamdem gratiam dedit illis Deus, sicut et nobis qui credidimus in Dominum Jesum Christum: ego quis eram, qui possem prohibere Deum? 18 His auditis, tacuerunt: et glorificaverunt Deum, dicentes: Ergo et gentibus pœnitentiam dedit Deus ad vitam.
 Chrysostom: Do you mark that it is to the Spirit the enacting of laws belongs! ... And not content with this, he reminds them also of the words of the Lord: Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.  He means, that no new thing has happened, but just what the Lord foretold.


St John goes on to provide some reflections on the importance of living up to our own baptism:

Have you been thrown? Have you taken grievous hurt? Stand up, recover yourself: you are still in the course, the meeting (θέατρον) is not yet broken up. Do you not see how many that have been thrown in the wrestling have afterwards resumed the combat? Only do not willingly come by your fall. Do you count him a happy man for departing this life? Much rather count yourself happy. Was he released of his sins? But you, if you will, shall not only wash away your sins, but shall also have achievements (of good works), which in his case is not possible. It is in our power to recover ourselves.

Great are the medicinal virtues (φάρμακα) of repentance: let none despair of himself. That man truly deserves to be despaired of, who despairs of himself; that man has no more salvation, nor any hopes. It is not the having fallen into a depth of evils, it is the lying there when fallen, that is dreadful, it is not the having come into such a condition, it is the making light of it that is impious. The very thing that ought to make you earnest, say, is it this that makes you reckless?

Having received so many wounds, have you fallen back? Of the soul, there can be no incurable wound; for the body, there are many such, but none for the soul: and yet for those we cease not in our endeavors to cure them, while for these we are supine. Do you see not the thief (on the cross), in how short a time he achieved (his salvation)? Do you see not the Martyrs, in how short a time they accomplished the whole work?

But martyrdom is not to be had nowadays. True, but there are contests to be had, as I have often told you, if we had the mind. For they that wish, says the Apostle, to live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. They that live godly are always undergoing persecution, if not from men, at any rate from evil spirits, which is a more grievous persecution.... 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Acts 10 - Vision of St Peter on the conversion of the gentiles

File:'Vision of the Centurion Cornelius' by Zanobi Rosi.jpg
Vision of the Centurion Cornelius by Zanobi Rosi,
1 There was, at Caesarea, a centurion named Cornelius, belonging to what is called the Italian cohort, 2 a pious man who worshipped the true God, like all his household, gave alms freely to the people, and prayed to God continually.
Vir autem quidam erat in Cæsarea, nomine Cornelius, centurio cohortis quæ dicitur Italica, 2 religiosus, ac timens Deum cum omni domo sua, faciens eleemosynas multas plebi, et deprecans Deum semper. 
 Chrysostom (Homily 22):  This man is not a Jew, nor of those under the Law, but he had already forestalled our manner of life. Observe, thus far, two persons, both of high rank, receiving the faith, the eunuch at Gaza and this man; and the pains taken on behalf of these men. But do not imagine that this was because of their high rank: God forbid! It was because of their piety. For that the Scripture mentions their dignified stations, is to show the greatness of their piety; since it is more wonderful when a person being in a position of wealth and power is such as these were. What makes the praise of the former is, his undertaking so long a journey, and this when there was no (festival) season to require it, and his reading on his road, and while riding in his chariot, and his beseeching Philip, and numberless other points: and the great praise of the latter is, that he makes alms and prayers, and is a just man, holding such a command.
3 He, about the ninth hour of the day, had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and address him by his name. 4 What is it, Lord? he asked, gazing at him in terror. And he answered, Thy prayers and alms-deeds are recorded on high in God’s sight.
 Is vidit in visu manifeste, quasi hora diei nona, angelum Dei introëuntem ad se, et dicentem sibi: Corneli. 4 At ille intuens eum, timore correptus, dixit: Quid est, domine? Dixit autem illi: Orationes tuæ et eleemosynæ tuæ ascenderunt in memoriam in conspectu Dei. 
Chrysostom (Homily 23): ... At the ninth hour, when he was released from his cares and was at quiet, when he was engaged in prayers and compunction...Observe how what the angel speaks he does not speak immediately, but first rouses and elevates his mind. At the sight, there was fear, but a fear in moderation, just so far as served to fix his attention. Then also the words relieved him of his fear. The fear roused him: the praise mitigated what was unpleasant in the fear.
 5 And now he would have thee send men to Joppa, to bring here one Simon, who is surnamed Peter; 6 he lodges with a tanner, called Simon, whose house is close to the sea; thou wilt learn from him what thou hast to do. 7 So the angel visitor left him, and thereupon he summoned two of his servants, and one of the soldiers who were in attendance on him, a man of piety; 8 he told them all that had passed, and sent them on their way to Joppa.
 5 Et nunc mitte viros in Joppen, et accersi Simonem quemdam, qui cognominatur Petrus: 6 hic hospitatur apud Simonem quemdam coriarium, cujus est domus juxta mare: hic dicet tibi quid te oporteat facere. 7 Et cum discessisset angelus qui loquebatur illi, vocavit duos domesticos suos, et militem metuentem Dominum ex his qui illi parebant. 8 Quibus cum narrasset omnia, misit illos in Joppen.
Chrysostom: Do you mark how the Apostles, for love of solitude and quiet, affected the retired quarters of the cities?...
9 Next day, while these were on their journey and were drawing near the city, Peter went up to the house-top about noon, to pray there. 10 He was hungry, and waiting for a meal; and while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opening, and a bundle, like a great sheet, let down by its four corners on to the earth; 12 in it were all kinds of four-footed beasts, and things that creep on the earth, and all the birds of heaven. 13 And a voice came to him, Rise up, Peter, lay about thee and eat. 14 It cannot be, Lord, answered Peter; never in my life have I eaten anything profane, anything unclean. 15 Then the voice came to him a second time, It is not for thee to call anything profane, which God has made clean. 16 Three times this happened, and then the bundle was drawn up again into heaven.
 9 Postera autem die, iter illis facientibus, et appropinquantibus civitati, ascendit Petrus in superiora ut oraret circa horam sextam. 10 Et cum esuriret, voluit gustare. Parantibus autem illis, cecidit super eum mentis excessus: 11 et vidit cælum apertum, et descendens vas quoddam, velut linteum magnum, quatuor initiis submitti de cælo in terram, 12 in quo erant omnia quadrupedia, et serpentia terræ, et volatilia cæli. 13 Et facta est vox ad eum: Surge, Petre: occide, et manduca. 14 Ait autem Petrus: Absit Domine, quia numquam manducavi omne commune et immundum. 15 Et vox iterum secundo ad eum: Quod Deus purificavit, tu commune ne dixeris. 16 Hoc autem factum est per ter: et statim receptum est vas in cælum.
 Chrysostom: ...The earth then, this is what the linen sheet denotes, and the wild beasts in it, are they of the Gentiles, and the command, Kill and eat, denotes that he must go to them also; and that this thing is thrice done, denotes baptism. What God has cleansed, says it, call not thou common...
17 Peter was still puzzling in his mind over the meaning of his vision, when Cornelius’ messengers, who had now found their way to Simon’s house, were seen standing at the gate; 18 where they called out and asked if Simon, who was also called Peter, lodged there. 19 To Peter, as he was turning over the vision in his mind, the Spirit said, Here are three men asking for thee; 20 rise and go down, and accompany them without misgiving; it is I who have sent them. 21 So Peter went down to the men; Here I am, he said, the man you are looking for; what is your errand?22 The centurion Cornelius, they said, a man who worships the true God and keeps his law, as all the Jewish people will testify, has received a revelation from one of the holy angels; he was to have thee brought to his house, and listen to what thou wouldst say. 23 Thereupon Peter bade them come in, and made them welcome; and next day he set out with them, accompanied by some of the brethren from Joppa.
Et dum intra se hæsitaret Petrus quidnam esset visio quam vidisset, ecce viri qui missi erant a Cornelio, inquirentes domum Simonis astiterunt ad januam. 18 Et cum vocassent, interrogabant, si Simon qui cognominatur Petrus illic haberet hospitium. 19 Petro autem cogitante de visione, dixit Spiritus ei: Ecce viri tres quærunt te. 20 Surge itaque, descende, et vade cum eis nihil dubitans: quia ego misi illos. 21 Descendens autem Petrus ad viros, dixit: Ecce ego sum, quem quæritis: quæ causa est, propter quam venistis? 22 Qui dixerunt: Cornelius centurio, vir justus et timens Deum, et testimonium habens ab universa gente Judæorum, responsum accepit ab angelo sancto accersire te in domum suam, et audire verba abs te. 23 Introducens ergo eos, recepit hospitio. Sequenti autem die, surgens profectus est cum illis, et quidam ex fratribus ab Joppe comitati sunt eum.
 Chrysostom: Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate...And this again is a plea for Peter in answer to the disciples, that he did doubt, and was instructed to doubt nothing.
24 The day after that, they reached Caesarea, where Cornelius was awaiting them; he had gathered his kinsmen and his closest friends about him. 25 And as soon as Peter had entered, he was met by Cornelius, who fell at his feet and did reverence to him; 26 but Peter raised him; Stand up, he said, I am a man like thyself. 27 So he went in, still conversing with him, and found a great company assembled. 28 You know well enough, he told them, that a Jew is contaminated if he consorts with one of another race, or visits him; but God has been shewing me that we ought not to speak of any man as profane or unclean; 29 and so, when I was sent for, I came without demur. Tell me then, why you have sent for me. 30 And Cornelius said, Three days ago, at this very time, I was making my afternoon prayer in my house, when suddenly I saw a man standing before me, in white clothes, 31 who said to me, Cornelius, thy prayer has been heard, thy almsdeeds have won remembrance in God’s sight. 32 Thou art to send to Joppa, and summon thence that Simon who is also called Peter; he is lodging with a tanner called Simon, close to the sea. 33 I lost no time, therefore, in sending for thee, and thou hast done me a favour in coming. Now thou seest us assembled in thy presence, ready to listen to whatever charge the Lord has given thee.
24 Altera autem die introivit Cæsaream. Cornelius vero exspectabat illos, convocatis cognatis suis et necessariis amicis. 25 Et factum est cum introisset Petrus, obvius venit ei Cornelius, et procidens ad pedes ejus adoravit. 26 Petrus vero elevavit eum, dicens: Surge: et ego ipse homo sum. 27 Et loquens cum illo intravit, et invenit multos qui convenerant: 28 dixitque ad illos: Vos scitis quomodo abominatum sit viro Judæo conjungi aut accedere ad alienigenam: sed mihi ostendit Deus neminem communem aut immundum dicere hominem. 29 Propter quod sine dubitatione veni accersitus. Interrogo ergo, quam ob causam accersistis me? 30 Et Cornelius ait: A nudiusquarta die usque ad hanc horam, orans eram hora nona in domo mea, et ecce vir stetit ante me in veste candida, et ait: 31 Corneli, exaudita est oratio tua, et eleemosynæ tuæ commemoratæ sunt in conspectu Dei. 32 Mitte ergo in Joppen, et accersi Simonem qui cognominatur Petrus: hic hospitatur in domo Simonis coriarii juxta mare. 33 Confestim ergo misi ad te: et tu benefecisti veniendo. Nunc ergo omnes nos in conspectu tuo adsumus audire omnia quæcumque tibi præcepta sunt a Domino.
Chrysostom (Homily 23):  ..But observe again, how humbly he speaks. For he says, From the fourth day I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, your prayer is heard, and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. And at the ninth hour, he says, I was praying. (v. 30, 31.) It seems to me, that this man had also fixed for himself set times of a life under stricter rule, and on certain days. For this is why he he says, From the fourth day. See how great a thing prayer is! When he advanced in piety, then the Angel appears to him. From the fourth day: i.e. of the week; not four days ago. For, on the morrow Peter went away with them, and on the morrow after they entered into Cæsarea: this is one day: and the day on which the persons sent came (to Joppa) one day: and on the third (the Angel) appeared: so that there are two days after that on which (Cornelius) had been praying.
34 Thereupon Peter began speaking; I see clearly enough, he said, that God makes no distinction between man and man; 35 he welcomes anybody, whatever his race, who fears him and does what piety demands. 36 God has sent his word to the sons of Israel, giving them news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You have heard the story, a story which ran through the whole of Judaea, though it began in Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed; 38 about Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, so that he went about doing good, and curing all those who were under the devil’s tyranny, with God at his side. 39 We are witnesses of all he did in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem. And they killed him, hanging him on a gibbet; 40 but on the third day God raised him up again, and granted the clear sight of him, 41 not to the people at large, but to us, the witnesses whom God had appointed beforehand; we ate and drank in his company after his rising from the dead. 42 And he gave us a commission to preach to the people, and to bear witness that he, and none other, has been chosen by God to judge the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets bear him this testimony, that everyone who has faith in him is to find remission of sins through his name.44 Before Peter had finished speaking to them thus, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who were listening to his message. 45 The faithful who had come over with Peter, holding to the tradition of circumcision as they did, were astonished to find that the free gift of the Holy Spirit could be lavished upon the Gentiles, 46 whom they heard speaking with tongues, and proclaiming the greatness of God. 47 Then Peter said openly, Who will grudge us the water for baptizing these men, that have received the Holy Spirit just as we did? 48 And he gave orders that they should be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And after this, they asked him to stay on some days with them.
34 Aperiens autem Petrus os suum, dixit: In veritate comperi quia non est personarum acceptor Deus; 35 sed in omni gente qui timet eum, et operatur justitiam, acceptus est illi. 36 Verbum misit Deus filiis Israël, annuntians pacem per Jesum Christum (hic est omnium Dominus). 37 Vos scitis quod factum est verbum per universam Judæam: incipiens enim a Galilæa post baptismum quod prædicavit Joannes, 38 Jesum a Nazareth: quomodo unxit eum Deus Spiritu Sancto, et virtute, qui pertransiit benefaciendo, et sanando omnes oppressos a diabolo, quoniam Deus erat cum illo. 39 Et nos testes sumus omnium quæ fecit in regione Judæorum, et Jerusalem, quem occiderunt suspendentes in ligno. 40 Hunc Deus suscitavit tertia die, et dedit eum manifestum fieri, 41 non omni populo, sed testibus præordinatis a Deo: nobis, qui manducavimus et bibimus cum illo postquam resurrexit a mortuis. 42 Et præcepit nobis prædicare populo, et testificari, quia ipse est qui constitutus est a Deo judex vivorum et mortuorum. 43 Huic omnes prophetæ testimonium perhibent remissionem peccatorum accipere per nomen ejus omnes qui credunt in eum.44 Adhuc loquente Petro verba hæc, cecidit Spiritus Sanctus super omnes qui audiebant verbum. 45 Et obstupuerunt ex circumcisione fideles qui venerant cum Petro, quia et in nationes gratia Spiritus Sancti effusa est. 46 Audiebant enim illos loquentes linguis, et magnificantes Deum. 47 Tunc respondit Petrus: Numquid aquam quis prohibere potest ut non baptizentur hi qui Spiritum Sanctum acceperunt sicut et nos? 48 Et jussit eos baptizari in nomine Domini Jesu Christi. Tunc rogaverunt eum ut maneret apud eos aliquot diebus.
 Chrysostom (Homily 24):  Observe God's providential management. He does not suffer the speech to be finished, nor the baptism to take place upon a command of Peter, but, when He has made it evident how admirable their state of mind is, and a beginning is made of the work of teaching, and they have believed that assuredly baptism is the remission of sins, then immediately comes the Spirit upon them. Now this is done by God's so disposing it as to provide for Peter a mighty ground of justification...Mark the issue to which he brings it; how he has been travailing to bring this forth. So (entirely) was he of this mind!

Can any one, he asks, forbid water? It is the language, we may almost say, of one triumphantly pressing his advantage (ἐ πεμβαίνοντος) against such as would forbid, such as should say that this ought not to be. The whole thing, he says, is complete, the most essential part of the business, the baptism with which we were baptized. And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. After he has cleared himself, then, and not before, he commands them to be baptized: teaching them by the facts themselves. Such was the dislike the Jews had to it! Therefore it is that he first clears himself, although the very facts cry aloud, and then gives the command. Then prayed they him— well might they do so— to tarry certain days: and with a good courage thenceforth he does tarry.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Acts 9 - Conversion of St Paul

St Peter heals Aeneas and raises Tabitha from the dead
Ottheinrich-Bibel, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 8010, c1530
Acts 9 juxtaposes key events in the missions of SS Peter and Paul:

  • the conversion of St Paul (verses 1-25;
  •  his escape from Damascus return to Jerusalem and then to Tarsus (verses 26-31);
  • the healing of Aeneas and raising of Tabitha from the dead by St Peter (verses 32-43).
Saul continues to persecute the faithful:
Saul, with every breath he drew, still threatened the disciples of the Lord with massacre; and now he went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters of commendation to the synagogues at Damascus, so that he could arrest all those he found there, men and women, who belonged to the way, and bring them back to Jerusalem. 
Chrysostom (Homily 19): He fitly mentions Paul's zeal, and shows that in the very midst of his zeal he is drawn. Yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter, and not yet sated with the murder of Stephen, he was not yet glutted with the persecution of the Church, and the dispersion. Lo, this was fulfilled which was spoken by Christ, that they which kill you shall think they offer worship to God. J He then in this wise did it, not as the Jews: God forbid! For that he did it through zeal, is manifest from his going abroad even to strange cities: whereas they would not have cared even for those in Jerusalem; they were for one thing only, to enjoy honor. But why went he to Damascus? It was a great city, a royal city: he was afraid lest that should be preoccupied...
3 Then, on his journey, when he was nearly at Damascus, a light from heaven shone suddenly about him. 4 He fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? 5 Who art thou, Lord? he asked. And he said, I am Jesus, whom Saul persecutes. This is a thankless task of thine, kicking against the goad. 6 And he, dazed and trembling, asked, Lord, what wilt thou have me do? 7 Then the Lord said to him, Rise up, and go into the city, and there thou shalt be told what thy work is. His companions stood in bewilderment, hearing the voice speak, but not seeing anyone. 8 When he rose from the ground he could see nothing, although his eyes were open, and they had to lead him by the hand, to take him into Damascus. 9 Here for three days he remained without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
 3 Et cum iter faceret, contigit ut appropinquaret Damasco: et subito circumfulsit eum lux de cælo. 4 Et cadens in terram audivit vocem dicentem sibi: Saule, Saule, quid me persequeris? 5 Qui dixit: Quis es, domine? Et ille: Ego sum Jesus, quem tu persequeris: durum est tibi contra stimulum calcitrare. 6 Et tremens ac stupens dixit: Domine, quid me vis facere? 7 Et Dominus ad eum: Surge, et ingredere civitatem, et ibi dicetur tibi quid te oporteat facere. Viri autem illi qui comitabantur cum eo, stabant stupefacti, audientes quidem vocem, neminem autem videntes. 8 Surrexit autem Saulus de terra, apertisque oculis nihil videbat. Ad manus autem illum trahentes, introduxerunt Damascum. 9 Et erat ibi tribus diebus non videns, et non manducavit, neque bibit.
Acts presents Paul as a 'replacement', for Stephen, describing him in similar terms in various places, and mirroring his ministry to the Greek speaking faithful, bringing the number of Greek named ordained ministers back up to the sacred number of seven, as Chrysostom notes:

To compensate the discouragement in the matter of Stephen, here is encouragement, in the bringing in of Paul: though that sadness had its consolation in the fact of Stephen's making such an end, yet it also received this further consolation: moreover, the bringing in of the villages of the Samaritans afforded very great comfort.
10 There was, in Damascus, a disciple named Ananias; to him the Lord called in a vision, Ananias. Here I am, Lord, he answered. 11 And the Lord said to him, Rise up and go to the road called Straight Street; and enquire at the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus, named Saul. Even now he is at his prayers: 12 and he has had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him, to cure him of blindness. 13 At this, Ananias answered, Lord, many have told me about this man, and all the hurt he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; 14 and he has come here with authority from the chief priests to imprison all those who call upon thy name. 15 But the Lord said to him, Go on thy errand; this is a man I have chosen to be the instrument for bringing my name before the heathen and their rulers, and before the people of Israel too. 16 I have yet to tell him, how much suffering he will have to undergo for my name’s sake. 17 So Ananias set out; and as soon as he came into the house he laid his hands upon him, and said, Brother Saul, I have been sent by that Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy way as thou camest here; thou art to recover thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
10 Erat autem quidam discipulus Damasci, nomine Ananias: et dixit ad illum in visu Dominus: Anania. At ille ait: Ecce ego, Domine. 11 Et Dominus ad eum: Surge, et vade in vicum qui vocatur Rectus: et quære in domo Judæ Saulum nomine Tarsensem: ecce enim orat. 12 (Et vidit virum Ananiam nomine, introëuntem, et imponentem sibi manus ut visum recipiat.) 13 Respondit autem Ananias: Domine, audivi a multis de viro hoc, quanta mala fecerit sanctis tuis in Jerusalem: 14 et hic habet potestatem a principibus sacerdotum alligandi omnes qui invocant nomen tuum. 15 Dixit autem ad eum Dominus: Vade, quoniam vas electionis est mihi iste, ut portet nomen meum coram gentibus, et regibus, et filiis Israël. 16 Ego enim ostendam illi quanta oporteat eum pro nomine meo pati. 17 Et abiit Ananias, et introivit in domum: et imponens ei manus, dixit: Saule frater, Dominus misit me Jesus, qui apparuit tibi in via qua veniebas, ut videas, et implearis Spiritu Sancto. 
 Chrysostom (Homily 20): ...the Lord, it says, spoke unto him in a vision, and Ananias answered and said, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to Your saints at Jerusalem. Acts 9:13 For if he spoke in objection to Him, much more would he have done so, had He sent an Angel. And this is why, in the former instance, neither is Philip told what the matter is; but he sees the Angel, and then the Spirit bids him go near to the chariot. But observe here how the Lord relieves him of his fear: He is blind, says He, and prays, and are you afraid? In the same way Moses also is afraid: so that the words betokened that he was afraid, and shrunk from the task, not that he did not believe. He said, have heard from many concerning this man. What do you say? God speaks, and you hesitate. They did not yet well know the power of Christ.
18 And with that, a kind of film fell away from his eyes, and his sight was recovered. He rose up, and was baptized; 19 and now, when he had taken food, his strength returned to him.For some days he lived with the disciples at Damascus, 20 and from the first, in the synagogues, he preached that Jesus was the Son of God. 21 All those who heard it were amazed; Why, they said, is not this the man who brought ruin on all those who invoked this name, when he was in Jerusalem; the man who came here for the very purpose of arresting such people and presenting them to the chief priests? 22 But Saul was inspired with ever greater strength, and silenced the Jews who lived at Damascus by shewing them clearly that this was the Christ.23 So many days passed, and then the Jews plotted against his life.24 Saul was aware of the plot; and, since they kept watch over the gates, day and night, to make an end of him, 25 the disciples contrived to let him down by night along the face of the wall, lowering him to the ground in a hamper.
Chrysostom: (That he fled from Damascus) this was no cowardice: he preserved himself for the preaching. Had he been a coward, he would not have gone to Jerusalem, would not immediately have commenced teaching: he would have abated somewhat of his vehemence: for he had been taught by the fate of Stephen. He was no coward, but he was also prudent (οἰκονομικός) (in husbanding himself). Wherefore he thought it no great thing to die for the Gospel's sake, unless he should do this to great advantage: willing not even to see Christ, Whom most of all he longed to see, while the work of his stewardship among men was not yet complete.

Such ought to be the soul of a Christian...Nothing is more frigid than a Christian, who cares not for the salvation of others...Such too were those Virgins, chaste indeed, and decent, and modest, but profitable to none wherefore they are burned. Such are they who have not nourished Christ. For observe that none of those are charged with particular sins of their own, with fornication, for instance, or with perjury; in short, with no sin but the having been of no use to another. Such was he who buried his talent, showing indeed a blameless life, but not being useful to another. How can such an one be a Christian?
26 So he reached Jerusalem, where he tried to attach himself to the disciples; but they could not believe he was a true disciple, and all avoided his company. 27 Whereupon Barnabas took him by the hand and brought him in to the apostles, telling them how, on his journey, he had seen the Lord and had speech with him, and how at Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he came and went in their company at Jerusalem, and spoke boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He preached, besides, to the Jews who talked Greek, and disputed with them, till they set about trying to take his life.30 As soon as they heard of this, the brethren took him down to Caesarea, and put him on his way to Tarsus.31 Meanwhile, all through Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, the church enjoyed peace and became firmly established, guided by the fear of God and filled with encouragement by the Holy Spirit.
Mission of St Peter:
32 And now Peter, as he visited the saints everywhere, came down to see those who dwelt at Lydda. 33 There he found a man called Aeneas, who had not left his bed for eight years, being palsied. 34 And Peter said to him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ sends thee healing; rise up, and make thy bed; whereupon he rose up at once. 35 All those who dwelt at Lydda and Saron came to see him, and their hearts turned to the Lord.
Chrysostom (Homily 21): Like the commander of an army, he went about, inspecting the ranks, what part was compact, what in good order, what needed his presence. See how on all occasions he goes about, foremost. When an Apostle was to be chosen, he was the foremost: when the Jews were to be told, that these were not drunken, when the lame man was to be healed, when harangues to be made, he is before the rest: when the rulers were to be spoken to, he was the man; when Ananias, he ch. 1:15; 2:15; 3:4-12; 4:8; 5:3-15: when healings were wrought by the shadow, still it was he. And look: where there was danger, he was the man, and where good management (was needed); but where all is calm, there they act all in common, and he demands no greater honor (than the others). When need was to work miracles, he starts forward, and here again he is the man to labor and toil.
36 And there was a disciple at Joppa called Tabitha, which means the same as Dorcas, a gazelle. She abounded in acts of charity and in almsdeeds; 37 and it so happened that at this time she fell sick, and died, and they washed the body and laid it in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was close to Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to find him; Come to us, they urged him, without delay. 39 So Peter rose and went with them; and when he came there they took him into the upper room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, shewing him the coats and cloaks which Dorcas used to make while she was among them. 40 Peter sent them all out, and went on his knees to pray; then, turning to the body, he said, Tabitha, rise up; and she opened her eyes and looked at Peter, and sat up on the bed. 41 So he gave her his hand, and raised her to her feet; and then, calling in the saints and the widows, he shewed her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many learned to believe in the Lord. 43 He stayed in Joppa a number of days after this, lodging with a tanner whose name was Simon. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Acts 8 - The baptism of the Ethiopian and spread of the faith outside of Jerusalem

File:Menologion of Basil 006.jpg
Philip with the Ethiopian
Menologion of St Basil, C11th

Acts 8 chronicles the early spread of the faith outside Jerusalem, spurred by those who fled Saul's persecution.  It covers:
  • the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem following the death of St Stephen, including by Saul (verses 1-4)
  • the missionary work that spread as a result, including St Philip's mission to the Samarians (v 4-13);
  • the visit to SS Peter and John (v14-25), who confirmed the newly baptised, and the encounter with Simon;
  • the baptism of the eunuch by St Philip (verses 26-40).
The spread of the disciples as a result of persecution:
The church in Jerusalem was much persecuted at this time, and all except the apostles were scattered about over the countryside of Judaea and Samaria. 2 Stephen was buried by devout men, who mourned greatly over him. 3 Saul, meanwhile, was making havoc of the church; he made his way into house after house, carrying men and women off and committing them to prison.4 Those who had been driven away spread the gospel as they went from place to place;
Chrysostom (Homily 18): And now without scruple they had intercourse with Samaria, whereas it had been said to them, Go not into the way of the Gentiles and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. Matthew 10:5 Except the Apostles, it says: they, in this way also, wishing to win the Jews—but not to leave the city—and to be the means of inspiring others with boldness...

The persecution, say you, gained strength. True, but at that very time to men possessed before (by a hostile power) it brought deliverance. For it planted the miracles like a stronghold, in the heart of the enemy's country.— Not even the death of Stephen quenched their rage, nay, increased it rather: it scattered wide the teachers, so that the greater became the discipleship.— And there was joy. And yet there had been great lamentation: true; but mark again the good— Of a long time was the malady, but this man brought them deliverance.
 5 and Philip, who had gone down to one of the cities of Samaria, preached Christ there. 6 The multitude listened with general accord to what Philip said, as their own eyes and ears witnessed the miracles he did. 7 There were many possessed by unclean spirits, and these came out, crying aloud; 8 many, too, were healed of the palsy, and of lameness, 9 and there was great rejoicing in that city.And there was a man called Simon, who had been in the city before Philip came there, misleading the people of Samaria with sorcery, and pretending to have great powers, 10 so that high and low hung upon his words; This, they said, is an angel called the great angel of God. 11 Long misled by his sorceries, they continued to pay attention to him, 12 until Philip came and preached to them about God’s kingdom. Then they found faith and were baptized, men and women alike, in the name of Jesus Christ; 13 and Simon, who had found faith and been baptized with the rest, kept close to Philip’s side; he was astonished by the great miracles and signs he saw happening.
Chrysostom: Observe another trial, this affair of Simon. Giving out, it says, that he was himself some great one. To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14 And now the apostles at Jerusalem, hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, sent Peter and John to visit them. 15 So these two came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 who had not, as yet, come down on any of them; they had received nothing so far except baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus.17 Then the apostles began to lay their hands on them, so that the Holy Spirit was given them, 
 Chrysostom: ...And (yet) great signs had been done: how then had they not received the Spirit? They had received the Spirit, namely, of remission of sins: but the Spirit of miracles they had not received. For as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (v. 16, 17.)...

Why had not these received the Holy Ghost, when baptized? Either because Philip kept this honor for the Apostles; or, because he had not this gift (to impart); or, he was one of the Seven: which is rather to be said. Whence, I take it, this Philip was one of the Apostles. But observe; those went not forth: it was Providentially ordered that these should go forth and those be lacking, because of the Holy Ghost: for they had received power to work miracles, but not also to impart the Spirit to others: this was the prerogative of the Apostles. And observe (how they sent) the chief ones: not any others, but Peter [and John ].
18 and Simon, seeing that the Holy Spirit was granted through the imposition of the apostles’ hands, offered them money; 19 Let me too, he said, have such powers that when I lay my hands on anyone he will receive the Holy Spirit. Whereupon Peter said to him, 20 Take thy wealth with thee to perdition, thou who hast told thyself that God’s free gift can be bought with money. 21 There is no share, no part for thee in these doings; thy heart is not true in the sight of God. 22 Repent of this baseness of thine, and pray to God, in the hope of finding pardon for the thought which thy heart has conceived. 23 I see plainly that a bitter poison has taken hold of thee; thou art the bondsman of iniquity. 24 And Simon answered, Pray for me to the Lord, that none of this harm you have spoken of may fall upon me.25 So, when they had borne their full witness and preached the word of the Lord, they began their journey back to Jerusalem, carrying the gospel into many Samaritan villages.
Chrysostom: For, to show that this was the case, and that it was the Spirit of miracles they had not received, observe how, having seen the result, Simon came and asked for this. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the Apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. (v. 18, 19.)...And how came he to baptize Simon also? Just as Christ chose Judas.— And beholding the signs which he did, forasmuch as the others did not receive the (power of working) signs, he dared not ask for it.

How was it then that they did not strike him dead, as they did Ananias and Sapphira? Because even in the old times, he that gathered sticks (on the sabbath-day) was put to death as a warning to others (Numbers 15:32) and in no other instance did any suffer the same fate. So too on the present occasion, Peter said to him, Your money perish, because you have imagined that the gift of God is to be purchased with money....

Why do they go there again where was the tyranny of the bad, where were those most bent upon killing them? Just as generals do in wars, they occupy that part of the scene of war which is most distressed. And preached the Gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. Observe them again, how they do not (προηγουμένως) of set purpose come to Samaria, but driven by stress of persecution, just as it was in the case of Christ; and how when the Apostles go there, it is to men now believers, no longer Samaritans. But when the Apostles, it says, which were at Jerusalem heard this, they sent unto them Peter and John. Sent them, again, to rid them of magic. And besides, (the Lord) had given them a pattern at the time when the Samaritans believed. And in many villages, it says, of the Samaritans, they preached the Gospel. John 4:39 Observe how actively employed even their journeys were, how they do nothing without a purpose.
26 Meanwhile, Philip was commanded by an angel of the Lord, Rise up, and go south to meet the road which leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, out in the desert. 27 So he rose up and went; and found there an Ethiopian. This man was a eunuch, a courtier of Candace, queen of Ethiopia, and had charge of all her wealth; he had been up to worship at Jerusalem, 28 and was now on his way home, driving along in his chariot and reading the prophet Isaias. 29 The Spirit said to Philip, Go up to that chariot and keep close by it. 30 And Philip, as he ran up, heard him reading the prophet Isaias, and asked, Canst thou understand what thou art reading? 31 How could I, said he, without someone to guide me? And he entreated Philip to come up and sit beside him. 32 The passage of scripture which he was reading was this; He was led away like a sheep to be slaughtered; like a lamb that is dumb before its shearer, he would not open his mouth. 33 He was brought low, and all his rights taken away; who shall tell the story of his age? His life is being cut off from the earth. 34 And the eunuch turned to Philip, and said, Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Himself, or some other man? 35 Then Philip began speaking, and preached to him about Jesus, taking this passage as his theme. 36 As they went on their way, they came to a piece of water, and the eunuch said, See, there is water here; why may I not be baptized? 37 Philip said, If thou dost believe with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 So he had the chariot stopped, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him there. 39 But when they came up from the water, Philip was carried off by the spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch did not see him any longer; he went on his way rejoicing. 40 As for Philip, he was next heard of at Azotus; and from there he went preaching all round the villages, until he reached Caesarea.
Chrysostom (Homily 19): It seems to me, this (Philip) was one of the seven...

Observe how it is Providentially ordered. First he reads and does not understand; then he reads the very text in which was the Passion and the Resurrection and the Gift...

But why did the Spirit of the Lord bear him away? (Hereby) the occurrence was shown to be more wonderful. Even then, the eunuch did not know him. Consequently this was done, that Philip might afterwards be a subject of wonder to him. For, it says, he went on his way rejoicing.

But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Cæsarea. Acts 8:40 This (Philip, therefore) was one of the seven; for there in fact he is afterwards found at Cæsarea. It was well and expedient therefore that the Spirit caught Philip away; else the eunuch would have desired to go with him, and Philip would have grieved him by declining to comply with his request, the time being not yet come.  But at the same time here was an encouraging assurance for them that they shall also prevail over the heathen: for indeed the high character (τὸ ἀξιόπιστον) of the (first) believers was enough to move them. If however the eunuch had stayed there, what fault could have been found? [But he knew him not]: for this is why it says, he went on his way rejoicing: so that had he known him, he would not have been (so) delighted...

See Angels assisting the preaching, and not themselves preaching, but calling these (to the work). But the wonderful nature of the occurrence is shown also by this: that what of old was rare, and hardly done, here takes place with ease, and see with what frequency!