Saturday, 30 April 2016

Acts 17: To the unknown God


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St.Paul preaching in Beroia, a comtemporary mosaic from Veria,
photo by Anton Lefterov

Acts 17 traces Paul and Silas' journey to:
  • Thessalonica (verses 1-8) where they are driven out by the Jew;
  •  Beroea (verses 10-14), a set of verses beloved of Jehovah's Witnesses,who use it to claim we should reject tradition  (based on a mistranslated and heavily edited) approach, so worth knowing well; and 
  • Athens (verses 15-34) where he debates the philosophers and makes his famous speech at the Areopagus.
Acts 17:
They continued their journey through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and so reached Thessalonica. Here the Jews had a synagogue, 2 and Paul, as his custom was, paid them a visit there. Over a space of three sabbaths he reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 expounding these and bringing proofs from them that the sufferings of Christ and his rising from the dead were fore-ordained; the Christ, he said, is none other than the Jesus whom I am preaching to you. 4 Some of them were convinced, and threw in their lot with Paul and Silas; a great number, too, of those Gentiles who worshipped the true God, and not a few of the leading women. 
Chrysostom (Homily 37): Although he had said, We turn to the Gentiles Acts 13:46, he did not leave these alone: such was the longing affection he had towards them. For hear him saying, Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved Romans 10:1: and, I wished myself accursed from Christ for my brethren. Romans 9:3...

...he reasoned with them, opening out of the Scriptures: for so used Christ also to do: as on many occasions we find Him reasoning from the Scriptures, and not on all occasions (urging men) by miracles. Because to this indeed they stood in a posture of hostility, calling them deceivers and jugglers; but he that persuades men by reasons from the Scriptures, is not liable to this imputation. And on many occasions we find (Paul) to have convinced men simply by force of teaching...
5 The Jews were indignant at this, and they found confederates among the riff-raff of the market-place, to make a disturbance and throw the city into an uproar. Then they made a sudden descent on Jason’s house, in the hope of bringing Paul and Silas out into the presence of the people; 6 but, as they could not find them, they dragged Jason  and some of the brethren before the city council, crying out, Here they are, the men who are turning the state upside down; they have come here too; 7 and Jason has given them hospitality. All these folk defy the edicts of Caesar; they say there is another king, one Jesus. 8 Both the crowd and the city council took alarm at hearing this, 9 and they demanded bail from Jason and the others before they would let them go.10 Thereupon the brethren sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea; where, as soon as they arrived, they made their way to the Jewish synagogue. 11 These were of a better breed than the Thessalonians; they welcomed the word with all eagerness, and examined the scriptures, day after day, to find out whether all this was true; 12 so that many of them learned to believe, as certain Greek women of fashion did, and not a few of the men as well. 13 But now some of the Thessalonian Jews, hearing that the word of God had been preached by Paul at Beroea too, came on there, to upset and disturb the minds of the multitude; 14 whereupon the brethren sent Paul away, to continue his journey up to the coast; Silas and Timothy remained there still.
 5 Zelantes autem Judæi, assumentesque de vulgo viros quosdam malos, et turba facta, concitaverunt civitatem: et assistentes domui Jasonis quærebant eos producere in populum. 6 Et cum non invenissent eos, trahebant Jasonem et quosdam fratres ad principes civitatis, clamantes: Quoniam hi qui urbem concitant, et huc venerunt, 7 quos suscepit Jason, et hi omnes contra decreta Cæsaris faciunt, regem alium dicentes esse, Jesum. 8 Concitaverunt autem plebem et principes civitatis audientes hæc. 9 Et accepta satisfactione a Jasone et a ceteris, dimiserunt eos. 10 Fratres vero confestim per noctem dimiserunt Paulum et Silam in Berœam. Qui cum venissent, in synagogam Judæorum introierunt. 11 Hi autem erant nobiliores eorum qui sunt Thessalonicæ, qui susceperunt verbum cum omni aviditate, quotidie scrutantes Scripturas, si hæc ita se haberent. 12 Et multi quidem crediderunt ex eis, et mulierum gentilium honestarum, et viri non pauci. 13 Cum autem cognovissent in Thessalonica Judæi quia et Berœæ prædicatum est a Paulo verbum Dei, venerunt et illuc commoventes, et turbantes multitudinem. 14 Statimque tunc Paulum dimiserunt fratres, ut iret usque ad mare: Silas autem et Timotheus remanserunt ibi.
Chrys: See what zeal the rest of the disciples showed with respect to their leaders: not as it is now with us, who are separated and divided into great and small: some of us exalted, while others are envious: for this is the reason why those are envious, because we are puffed up, because we will not endure to be put upon a par with them.   The reason why there is harmony in the body, is because there is no puffing up: and there is no puffing up, because the members are of necessity made to stand in need of each other, and the head has need of the feet. And God has made this to be the case with us, and, for all that, we will not endure it: although even without this, there ought to be love among us. ...On this account the assembly of the whole Church has more power: and what each cannot do by himself singly, he is able to do when joined with the rest. Therefore most necessary are the prayers offered up, here, for the world, for the Church, from the one end of the earth to the other, for peace, for those who are in adversities.
15 Those who were escorting Paul on his journey saw him as far as Athens, and then left him, with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him as soon as possible. 16 And while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his heart was moved within him to find the city so much given over to idolatry, 17 and he reasoned, not only in the synagogue with Jews and worshippers of the true God, but in the market-place, with all he met. 18 He encountered philosophers, Stoics and Epicureans, some of whom asked, What can his drift be, this dabbler? while others said, He would appear to be proclaiming strange gods; because he had preached to them about Jesus and Resurrection. 19 So they took him by the sleeve and led him up to the Areopagus; May we ask, they said, what this new teaching is thou art delivering? 20 Thou dost introduce terms which are strange to our ears; pray let us know what may be the meaning of it. 21 (No townsman of Athens, or stranger visiting it, has time for anything else than saying something new, or hearing it said.) 22 So Paul stood up in full view of the Areopagus, and said, Men of Athens, wherever I look I find you scrupulously religious. 23 Why, in examining your monuments as I passed by them, I found among others an altar which bore the inscription, To the unknown God. And it is this unknown object of your devotion that I am revealing to you. 24 The God who made the world and all that is in it, that God who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples that our hands have made; 25 no human handicraft can do him service, as if he stood in need of anything, he, who gives to all of us life and breath and all we have.
 15 Qui autem deducebant Paulum, perduxerunt eum usque Athenas, et accepto mandato ab eo ad Silam et Timotheum ut quam celeriter venirent ad illum, profecti sunt. 16 Paulus autem cum Athenis eos exspectaret, incitabatur spiritus ejus in ipso, videns idololatriæ deditam civitatem. 17 Disputabat igitur in synagoga cum Judæis et colentibus, et in foro, per omnes dies ad eos qui aderant. 18 Quidam autem epicurei et stoici philosophi disserebant cum eo, et quidam dicebant: Quid vult seminiverbius hic dicere? Alii vero: Novorum dæmoniorum videtur annuntiator esse: quia Jesum et resurrectionem annuntiabat eis. 19 Et apprehensum eum ad Areopagum duxerunt, dicentes: Possumus scire quæ est hæc nova, quæ a te dicitur, doctrina? 20 nova enim quædam infers auribus nostris: volumus ergo scire quidnam velint hæc esse. 21 (Athenienses autem omnes, et advenæ hospites, ad nihil aliud vacabant nisi aut dicere aut audire aliquid novi.)22 Stans autem Paulus in medio Areopagi, ait: Viri Athenienses, per omnia quasi superstitiosiores vos video. 23 Præteriens enim, et videns simulacra vestra, inveni et aram in qua scriptum erat: Ignoto Deo. Quod ergo ignorantes colitis, hoc ego annuntio vobis. 24 Deus, qui fecit mundum, et omnia quæ in eo sunt, hic cæli et terræ cum sit Dominus, non in manufactis templis habitat, 25 nec manibus humanis colitur indigens aliquo, cum ipse det omnibus vitam, et inspirationem, et omnia: 
Chrysostom (Homily 38): God, he says, that made the world. Acts 17:24 He uttered one word, by which he has subverted all the (doctrines) of the philosophers. For the Epicureans affirm all to be fortuitously formed and (by concourse) of atoms, the Stoics held it to be body and fire (ἐ κπύρωσιν). The world and all that is therein. Do you mark the conciseness, and in conciseness, clearness? Mark what were the things that were strange to them: that God made the world! Things which now any of the most ordinary persons know, these the Athenians and the wise men of the Athenians knew not. Seeing He is Lord of heaven and earth: for if He made them, it is clear that He is Lord. Observe what he affirms to be the note of Deity— creation. Which attribute the Son also has.

For the Prophets everywhere affirm this, that to create is God's prerogative. Not as those affirm that another is Maker but not Lord, assuming that matter is uncreated. Here now he covertly affirms and establishes his own, while he overthrows their doctrine.

Dwells not in temples made with hands. For He does indeed dwell in temples, yet not in such, but in man's soul. He overthrows the corporeal worship. What then? Did He not dwell in the temple at Jerusalem? No indeed: but He wrought therein...How then was He worshipped by men's hands among the Jews? Not by hands, but by the understanding.
26 It is he who has made, of one single stock, all the nations that were to dwell over the whole face of the earth. And he has given to each the cycles it was to pass through and the fixed limits of its habitation,27 leaving them to search for God; would they somehow grope their way towards him? Would they find him? And yet, after all, he is not far from any one of us; 28 it is in him that we live, and move, and have our being; thus, some of your own poets have told us, For indeed, we are his children. 29 Why then, if we are the children of God, we must not imagine that the divine nature can be represented in gold, or silver, or stone, carved by man’s art and thought. 30 God has shut his eyes to these passing follies of ours; now, he calls upon all men, everywhere, to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day when he will pronounce just judgement on the whole world. And the man whom he has appointed for that end he has accredited to all of us, by raising him up from the dead.
Chrys: These words were spoken indeed to the Athenians: but it were seasonable that one should say to us also, that all men everywhere must repent, because he has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world. See how he brings Him in as Judge also: Him, both provident for the world, and merciful and forgiving and powerful and wise, and, in a word possessing all the attributes of a Creator.

St John's suggestion on how to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming:

...How then, how shall we love Him?...One way I seem to myself to have discovered, a very great and admirable way. Namely, after acknowledging to Him our general obligations—what none shall be able to express (I mean), what has been done for each of us in his own person, of these also let us bethink ourselves, because these are of great force: let each one of us reckon them up with himself, and make diligent search, and as it were in a book let him have the benefits of God written down; for instance, if at any time having fallen into dangers he has escaped the hands of his enemies; if ever having gone out on a journey at an untimely hour, he has escaped danger; if ever, having had an encounter with wicked men, he has got the better of them; or if ever, having fallen into sickness, he has recovered when all had given him over: for this avails much for attaching us to God.

For if that Mordecai, when the services done by him were brought to the king's remembrance, found them to be so available, that he in return rose to that height of splendor Esther 6:2-11: much more we, if we call to mind, and make diligent enquiry of these two points, what sins we have committed against God, and what good He has done to us, shall thus both be thankful, and give Him freely all that is ours. But no one gives a thought to any of these things: but just as regarding our sins we say that we are sinners, while we do not enquire into them specifically, so with regard to God's benefits (we say), that God has done us good, and do not specifically enquire, where, and in how great number and at what time.

But from this time forth let us be very exact in our reckoning. For if any one can recall even those things which happened long ago, let him reckon up all accurately, as one who will find a great treasure.

This is also profitable to us in keeping us from despair. For when we see that he has often protected us, we shall not despair, nor suppose that we are cast off: but we shall take it as a strong pledge of His care for us, when we bethink us how, though we have sinned, we are not punished, but even enjoy protection from Him.
32 When resurrection from the dead was mentioned, some mocked, while others said, We must hear more from thee about this. 33 So Paul went away from among them. 34 But there were men who attached themselves to him and learned to believe, among them Dionysius the Areopagite; and so did a woman called Damaris, and others with them.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Acts 15:30 - 16:40 - It is a great evil to be ignorant of Scripture

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Source: mission bible class.org

Acts 16 provides a strange contrast to the decisions made at the Council of Jerusalem.  The second half of Acts 15 describes Paul and Barnabas' return to Antioch after the Council of Jerusalem and delivery of the letter announcing its decisions (verses 30-41).  Paul and Barnabas don't see eye to eye on the compositon of the mission team, so split, with Barnabas taking Mark (almost certainly his cousin the evangelist) to Cyprus, and Paul taking Silas.

Curiously though, the opening verses of Acts 16, though, talk about Paul's decision to circumcise his next convert, Timothy...um what?!

The rest of the chapter deals with key events on St Paul's second missionary journey:

  • conversion of Lydia and expelling of a demon from a slave girl used for divining the future (verses 9-18), an event which leads to them being beaten and  jailed;
  • earthquake and conversion of their jailor (verses 19-34);
  • Paul's protest at his beating and imprisonment in breach of his citizenship rights (verses 35-40).

St John Chrystom's sermons on these chapters includes a little exposition on the evils of not knowing Scripture, and I've provided some key extracts from it at the end of the post.

Acts 15:
30 So they took their leave and went down to Antioch, where they called the multitude together and delivered the letter to them; 31 and they, upon reading it, were rejoiced at this encouragement. 32 Judas and Silas, for they were prophets too, said much to encourage the brethren and establish their faith; 33 they stayed there for some time before the brethren let them go home, in peace, to those who had sent them. 34 But Silas had a mind to remain there; so Judas went back alone to Jerusalem. 35 Paul and Barnabas waited at Antioch, teaching and preaching God’s word, with many others to help them;36 and then, after some days, Paul said to Barnabas, Let us go back and visit the brethren in all the cities where we have preached the word of the Lord, to see how they are doing. 37 And Barnabas was for taking John, also called Mark, with them. 38 But Paul said, here was a man who left them when they reached Pamphylia, and took no part with them in the work; it was not right to admit such a man to their company. 39 So sharp was their disagreement, that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed off to Cyprus, 40 while Paul chose Silas for his companion and went on his journey, commended by the brethren to the Lord’s grace. 41 And he travelled all through Syria and Cilicia, establishing the churches in the faith, and bidding them observe the commands which the apostles and presbyters had given.
Acts 16:
1 So he reached Derbe, and Lystra. Here he met a disciple, named Timothy, son of a believer who was a Jewess and a Gentile father. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium, 3 and Paul resolved to take him as a companion on his journey. But he was careful to circumcise him; he was thinking of the Jews living in those parts, who all knew that Timothy’s father was a Gentile. 4 As they passed from city to city, they recommended to their observance the decree laid down by the apostles and presbyters at Jerusalem. 5 They found the churches firmly established in the faith, and their numbers daily increasing. 6 Thus they passed through Phrygia and the Galatian country; the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the word in Asia. 7 Then, when they had come as far as Mysia on their journey, they planned to enter Bithynia; but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow it.[1] 8 So they crossed Mysia, and went down to the sea at Troas.
1 Pervenit autem Derben et Lystram. Et ecce discipulus quidam erat ibi nomine Timotheus, filius mulieris Judææ fidelis, patre gentili. 2 Huic testimonium bonum reddebant qui in Lystris erant et Iconio fratres. 3 Hunc voluit Paulus secum proficisci: et assumens circumcidit eum propter Judæos qui erant in illis locis. Sciebant enim omnes quod pater ejus erat gentilis. 4 Cum autem pertransirent civitates, tradebant eis custodiri dogmata quæ erant decreta ab Apostolis et senioribus qui erant Jerosolymis. 5 Et ecclesiæ quidem confirmabantur fide, et abundabunt numero quotidie. 6 Transeuntes autem Phrygiam et Galatiæ regionem, vetati sunt a Spiritu Sancto loqui verbum Dei in Asia. 7 Cum venissent autem in Mysiam, tentabant ire in Bithyniam: et non permisit eos Spiritus Jesu. 8 Cum autem pertransissent Mysiam, descenderunt Troadem:
Chrysostom (Homily 34): Amazing, the wisdom of Paul! He that has had so many battles about circumcision, he that moved all things to this end, and did not give over until he had carried his point, now that the decree is made sure, circumcises the disciple. He not only does not forbid others, but himself does this thing...Because of the Jews, it says, which were in those parts: for they would not endure to hear the word from one uncircumcised...

Macedonia and the conversion of Lydia:
Here Paul saw a vision in the night; a certain Macedonian stood by him in entreaty, and said, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 That vision once seen, we were eager to sail for Macedonia; we concluded that God had called us there to preach to them. 11 So we put out from Troas, made a straight course to Samothrace, and next day to Neapolis. 12 Thence we reached Philippi, which is a Roman colony and the chief city in that part of Macedonia; in this city we remained for some days, conferring together. 13 On the sabbath day we went out beyond the city gates, by the river side, a meeting-place, we were told, for prayer; and we sat down and preached to the women who had assembled there. 14 One of those who were listening was a woman called Lydia, a purple-seller from the city of Thyatira, and a worshipper of the true God; and the Lord opened her heart, so that she was attentive to Paul’s preaching. 15 She was baptized, with all her household; and she was urgent with us; Now you have decided that I have faith in the Lord, she said, come to my house and lodge there; and she would take no denial. 16 And now, as we were on our way to the place of prayer, we chanced to meet a girl who was possessed by a divining spirit; her predictions brought in large profits to her masters. 17 This girl used to follow behind Paul and the rest of us, crying out, These men are the servants of the most high God; they are proclaiming to us the way of salvation. 18 And when she had done this for a number of days, Paul was distressed by it; he turned round and said to the spirit, I command thee to come out of her, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and there and then it came out of her.19 Her masters, who saw that all their hopes of profit had vanished, took hold of Paul and Silas and dragged them off to justice in the market-place. 20 When they brought them before the magistrates, they said, These men, Jews by origin, are disturbing the peace of our city; 21 they are recommending customs which it is impossible for us, as Roman citizens, to admit or to observe.
 Scourged and jailed:
22 The crowd gathered round, to join in the accusation; and the magistrates, tearing their clothes off them, gave orders that they should be beaten; 23 then, when they had inflicted many lashes on them, put them in prison, and bade the gaoler keep them in safe custody. 24 Thus instructed, he put them in the inner ward, and secured their feet in the stocks. 25 At midnight, Paul and Silas were at their prayers, praising God, while the prisoners listened to them. 26 And all at once there was a violent earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison rocked; whereupon every door opened, and every man’s chains were undone. 27 The gaoler, who had been awakened, saw the prison doors open, and drew his sword as if to kill himself, thinking the prisoners had escaped; 28 but Paul cried with a loud voice, Do no hurt to thyself; we are all here. 29 And so, when he had called for a light, he came running in and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas, all trembling; 30 Sirs, he asked, as he led them out, what am I to do, to save myself? 31 Have faith, they said to him, in the Lord Jesus; there lies salvation for thee, and for thy household. 32 Then they preached the word of the Lord to him, and to all that were in his house; 33 and he, there and then, at dead of night, took them away to wash their wounds, and without delay he and all his were baptized. 34 So he led them to his home, where he put food before them, and he and all his household made rejoicing at having found faith in God.
22 Et cucurrit plebs adversus eos: et magistratus, scissis tunicis eorum, jusserunt eos virgis cædi. 23 Et cum multas plagas eis imposuissent, miserunt eos in carcerem, præcipientes custodi ut diligenter custodiret eos. 24 Qui cum tale præceptum accepisset, misit eos in interiorem carcerem, et pedes eorum strinxit ligno. 25 Media autem nocte Paulus et Silas orantes, laudabant Deum: et audiebant eos qui in custodia erant. 26 Subito vero terræmotus factus est magnus, ita ut moverentur fundamenta carceris. Et statim aperta sunt omnia ostia: et universorum vincula soluta sunt. 27 Expergefactus autem custos carceris, et videns januas apertas carceris, evaginato gladio volebat se interficere, æstimans fugisse vinctos. 28 Clamavit autem Paulus voce magna, dicens: Nihil tibi mali feceris: universi enim hic sumus. 29 Petitoque lumine, introgressus est: et tremefactus procidit Paulo et Silæ ad pedes: 30 et producens eos foras, ait: Domini, quid me oportet facere, ut salvus fiam? 31 At illi dixerunt: Crede in Dominum Jesum, et salvus eris tu, et domus tua. 32 Et locuti sunt ei verbum Domini cum omnibus qui erant in domo ejus. 33 Et tollens eos in illa hora noctis, lavit plagas eorum: et baptizatus est ipse, et omnis domus ejus continuo. 34 Cumque perduxisset eos in domum suam, apposuit eis mensam, et lætatus est cum omni domo sua credens Deo.
Chrysostom (Homily 36): What could equal these souls? These men had been scourged, had received many stripes, they had been misused, were in peril of their lives, were thrust into the inner prison, and set fast in the stocks: and for all this they did not suffer themselves to sleep, but kept vigil all the night. Do you mark what a blessing tribulation is? But we, in our soft beds, with none to be afraid of, pass the whole night in sleep. But belike this is why they kept vigil, because they were in this condition. Not the tyranny of sleep could overpower them, not the smart of pain could bow them, not the fear of evil east them into helpless dejection: no, these were the very things that made them wakeful: and they were even filled with exceeding delight...

Let us compare, beloved, with that night these nights of ours, with their revellings, their drunkenness, and wanton excesses, with their sleep which might as well be death, their watchings which are worse than sleep. For while some sleep without sense or feeling, others lie awake to pitiable and wretched purpose, plotting deceits, anxiously thinking about money, studying how they may be revenged upon those who do them wrong, meditating enmity, reckoning up the abusive words spoken during the day: thus do they rake up the smouldering embers of wrath, doing things intolerable.

Mark how Peter slept. Acts 12:6 Both there, it was wisely ordered (that he should be asleep); for the Angel came to him, and it behooved that none should see what happened; and on the other hand it was well ordered here (that Paul should be awake), in order that the keeper of the prison might be prevented from killing himself.
35 When day came, the magistrates sent their officers to say, Those men are to be discharged. 36 And the gaoler reported the message to Paul; The magistrates have sent ordering your discharge; it is time you should come out, and go on your way in peace. 37 But Paul said to them, What, have they beaten us in public, without trial, Roman citizens as we are, and sent us to prison, and now would they let us out secretly? That will not serve; they must come here themselves, 38 and fetch us out in person. When the officers gave this message to the magistrates, they were alarmed by this talk of Roman citizenship; 39 so they came and pleaded with them, urging them, as they brought them out, to leave the city. 40 On leaving the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they saw the brethren and gave them encouragement; then they set out on their travels.
Chrysostom: Even upon the declaration of the magistrates Paul does not go out, but for the sake both of Lydia and the rest he puts them in fear: that they may not be supposed to have come out upon their own request, that they may set the rest in a posture of boldness. The impeachment was twofold: that being Romans, and uncondemned, they had openly cast them into prison. You see that in many things they took their measures as men.

Ignorance of Scripture

At the end of Homily 34, St John Chrysostom makes some comments on the importance of knowing Scripture, so I thought I'd conclude today's post with a short extract from them:

"...It is a great evil to be ignorant of the Scriptures: from the things we ought to get good from, we get evil. Thus also medicines of healing virtue, often, from the ignorance of those who use them, ruin and destroy: and arms which are meant to protect, are themselves the cause of death unless one know how to put them on.

But the reason is, that we seek everything rather than what is good for ourselves. And in the case of a house, we seek what is good for it, and we would not endure to see it decaying with age, or tottering, or hurt by storms: but for our soul we make no account: nay, even should we see its foundations rotting, or the fabric and the roof, we make no account of it. Again, if we possess brute creatures, we seek what is good for them: we call in both horse-feeders and horse-doctors, and all besides: we attend to their housing, and charge those who are entrusted with them, that they may not drive them at random or carelessly, nor take them out by night at unseasonable hours nor sell away their provender; and there are many laws laid down by us for the good of the brute creatures: but for that of our soul there is no account taken....

Be ashamed of yourselves: teach your bellies to be as philosophic. You have no excuse. When you have been able to implant such philosophic self-command in an irrational nature, which neither speaks nor hears reason, shall you not much more be able to implant it in yourself? For that it is the effect of man's care, not of nature is plain...

If you build a splendid house, you know what is good for the house, not what is good for yourself: if you take a beautiful garment, you know what is good for the body, not for yourself: and if you get a good horse, it is so likewise. None makes it his mark how his soul shall be beautiful; and yet, when that is beautiful, there is no need of any of those things: as, if that be not beautiful, there is no good of them...

Let us then make our soul beauteous, if at least we would fain be rich. What profit is it, when your mules indeed are white and plump and in good condition, but you who are drawn by them are lean and scurvy and ill-favored? What is the gain, when your carpets indeed are soft and beautiful, full of rich embroidery and art, and your soul goes clad in rags, or even naked and foul?...

Let us, though late, come at last to our senses, that we may be enabled by having much care for our soul, and laying hold upon virtue, to obtain eternal good things, 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 evermore, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Acts 15/1 - The Council of Jerusalem

Photo: © Dombauarchiv Köln
Cologne Cathedral

Acts 15 deals with the Council of Jerusalem, which dealt with the dispute over what requirements should be imposed on gentile converts.  Verses 30 to 41 reports on Paul and Barnabus' return to Antioch and start of the next missionary trip, so I'll look at it tomorrow.

Acts 15:
1.  But now some visitors came down from Judaea, who began to tell the brethren, You cannot be saved without being circumcised according to the tradition of Moses. 
Et quidam descendentes de Judæa docebant fratres: Quia nisi circumcidamini secundum morem Moysi, non potestis salvari.
Chrysostom (Homily 32): Mark how at every step of the right progress in respect of the Gentiles, the beginning is brought in as matter of necessity. Before this (Peter) being found fault with, justified himself, and said all that he said in the tone of apology, which was what made his words acceptable: then, the Jews having turned away, upon this (Paul) came to the Gentiles. Here again, seeing another extravagance coming in, upon this (the apostle) enacts the law. For as it is likely that they, as being taught of God, discoursed to all indifferently, this moved to jealousy them of the Jews (who had believed). And they did not merely speak of circumcision, but they said, You cannot even be saved. Whereas the very opposite to this was the case, that receiving circumcision they could not be saved...
2 Paul and Barnabas were drawn into a great controversy with them; and it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and certain of the rest should go up to see the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem about this question. 3 So the church saw them on their way, and they passed through Phoenice and Samaria, relating how the Gentiles were turning to God, and so brought great rejoicing to all the brethren. 4 When they reached Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, and by the apostles and presbyters; and they told them of all that God had done to aid them.5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees came forward and declared, They must be circumcised; we must call upon them to keep the law of Moses.6 When the apostles and presbyters assembled to decide about this matter. 7 there was much disputing over it, until Peter rose and said to them, Brethren, you know well enough how from early days it has been God’s choice that the Gentiles should hear the message of the gospel from my lips, and so learn to believe. 8 God, who can read men’s hearts, has assured them of his favour by giving the Holy Spirit to them as to us. 9 He would not make any difference between us and them; he had removed all the uncleanness from their hearts when he gave them faith. 10 How is it, then, that you would now call God in question, by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as we and our fathers have been too weak to bear? 11 It is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we hope to be saved, and they no less.
 2 Facta ergo seditione non minima Paulo et Barnabæ adversus illos, statuerunt ut ascenderent Paulus et Barnabas, et quidam alii ex aliis ad Apostolos et presbyteros in Jerusalem super hac quæstione. 3 Illi ergo deducti ab ecclesia pertransibant Phœnicen et Samariam, narrantes conversionem gentium: et faciebant gaudium magnum omnibus fratribus. 4 Cum autem venissent Jerosolymam, suscepti sunt ab ecclesia, et ab Apostolis et senioribus, annuntiantes quanta Deus fecisset cum illis. 5 Surrexerunt autem quidam de hæresi pharisæorum, qui crediderunt, dicentes quia oportet circumcidi eos, præcipere quoque servare legem Moysi.6 Conveneruntque Apostoli et seniores videre de verbo hoc. 7 Cum autem magna conquisitio fieret, surgens Petrus dixit ad eos: Viri fratres, vos scitis quoniam ab antiquis diebus Deus in nobis elegit, per os meum audire gentes verbum Evangelii et credere. 8 Et qui novit corda Deus, testimonium perhibuit, dans illis Spiritum Sanctum, sicut et nobis, 9 et nihil discrevit inter nos et illos, fide purificans corda eorum. 10 Nunc ergo quid tentatis Deum, imponere jugum super cervices discipulorum quod neque patres nostri, neque nos portare potuimus? 11 sed per gratiam Domini Jesu Christi credimus salvari, quemadmodum et illi.
 Chrys: Observe Peter from the first standing aloof (κεχωρισμένον) from the affair, and even to this time judaizing. And yet (says he) ye know.  Perhaps those were present who of old found fault with him in the matter of Cornelius, and went in with him (on that occasion): for this reason he brings them forward as witnesses.

From old days, he says, did choose among you. What means, Among you? Either, in Palestine, or, you being present. By my mouth. Observe how he shows that it was God speaking by him, and no human utterance. And God, that knows the hearts, gave testimony unto them: he refers them to the spiritual testimony: by giving them the Holy Ghost even as unto us. Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.  From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts...
12 Then the whole company kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had performed among the Gentiles by their means.13 And when they had finished speaking, James answered thus, Listen, brethren, to what I have to say. 14 Simon has told us, how for the first time God has looked with favour on the Gentiles, and chosen from among them a people dedicated to his name. 15 This is in agreement with the words of the prophets, where it is written: 16 Afterwards, I will come back, and build up again David’s tabernacle that has fallen; I will build up its ruins, and raise it afresh; 17 so that all the rest of mankind may find the Lord, all those Gentiles among whom my name is named, says the Lord, who is the doer of all this.18 God has known from all eternity what he does to-day.19 And so I give my voice for sparing the consciences of those Gentiles who have found their way to God; 20 only writing to bid them abstain from what is contaminated by idolatry, from fornication, and from meat which has been strangled or has the blood in it. 21 As for Moses, ever since the earliest times he has been read, sabbath after sabbath, in the synagogues, and has preachers in every city to expound him.
 12 Tacuit autem omnis multitudo: et audiebant Barnabam et Paulum narrantes quanta Deus fecisset signa et prodigia in gentibus per eos.13 Et postquam tacuerunt, respondit Jacobus, dicens: Viri fratres, audite me. 14 Simon narravit quemadmodum primum Deus visitavit sumere ex gentibus populum nomini suo. 15 Et huic concordant verba prophetarum: sicut scriptum est: 16 Post hæc revertar, et reædificabo tabernaculum David quod decidit: et diruta ejus reædificabo, et erigam illud: 17 ut requirant ceteri hominum Dominum,et omnes gentes super quas invocatum est nomen meum, dicit Dominus faciens hæc. 18 Notum a sæculo est Domino opus suum. 19 Propter quod ego judico non inquietari eos qui ex gentibus convertuntur ad Deum, 20 sed scribere ad eos ut abstineant se a contaminationibus simulacrorum, et fornicatione, et suffocatis, et sanguine. 21 Moyses enim a temporibus antiquis habet in singulis civitatibus qui eum prædicent in synagogis, ubi per omne sabbatum legitur.
Chrys (Homily 33): This (James) was bishop, as they say, and therefore he speaks last, and herein is fulfilled that saying, In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established....

His also is a more complete oration, as indeed it puts the completion to the matter under discussion. (a) Symeon, he says, declared: (namely,) in Luke, in that he prophesied, Which You have prepared before the face of all nations, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. (c) How God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name. Luke 2:25 Then, since that (witness), though from the time indeed he was manifest, yet had not authority by reason of his not being ancient, therefore he produces ancient prophecy also, saying, And to this agree the words of the Prophets, as it is written: After this I wilt return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up...

What? Was Jerusalem raised up? Was it not rather thrown down?... But if one would look into the matter closely, the kingdom of David does in fact now stand, his Offspring reigning everywhere. For what is the good of the buildings and the city, with none obeying there? And what is the harm arising from the destruction of the city, when all are willing to give their very souls? There is that come which is more illustrious than David: in all parts of the world is he now sung. This has come to pass: if so, then must this also come to pass,

And I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: to what end? that the residue of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My Name is called. If then it was to this end that the city rose again (namely) because of Him (that was to come) of them, it shows that of the building of the city the cause is, the calling of the Gentiles.
 22 Thereupon it was resolved by the apostles and presbyters, with the agreement of the whole church, to choose out some of their own number and despatch them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas who was called Barsabas, and Silas, who were leading men among the brethren. 23 And they sent, by their hands, this message in writing; To the Gentile brethren in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, their brethren the apostles and presbyters send greeting. 24 We hear that some of our number who visited you have disquieted you by what they said, unsettling your consciences, although we had given them no such commission; 25 and therefore, meeting together with common purpose of heart, we have resolved to send you chosen messengers, in company with our well-beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have staked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have given this commission to Judas and Silas, who will confirm the message by word of mouth. 28 It is the Holy Spirit’s pleasure and ours that no burden should be laid upon you beyond these, which cannot be avoided; 29 you are to abstain from what is sacrificed to idols, from blood-meat and meat which has been strangled, and from fornication. If you keep away from such things, you will have done your part. Farewell.
Chrys: Let us not then be offended on account of the heretics. For look, here at the very outset of the preaching, how many offenses there were: I speak not of those which arose from them that were without; for these were nothing: but of the offenses which were within.

For instance, first Ananias, then the murmuring, then Simon the sorcerer; afterwards they that accused Peter on account of Cornelius, next the famine, lastly this very thing, the chief of the evils. For indeed it is impossible when any good thing has taken place, that some evil should not also subsist along with it. Let us not then be disturbed, if certain are offended, but let us thank God even for this, because it makes us more approved. For not tribulations only, but even temptations also render us more illustrious. A man is no such great lover of the truth, only for holding to it when there is none to lead him astray from it: to hold fast to the truth when many are drawing him away, this makes the proved man...Let us not look (only at this), that men are offended: this very thing is itself a proof of the excellence of the doctrine— that many stimulate and counterfeit it: for it would not be so, if it were not good.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Acts 14


DUJARDIN Karel St Paul Healing the Cripple at Lystra.jpg
DUJARDIN Karel St Paul Healing the Cripple at Lystra

Acts 14 chronicles:

  • the missinaries being driven out of Iconium (v1-6);
  • the healing of a lame man at Lystra, resulting in attempts to worship them as gods(v7-17);
  • Paul is once again stoned and left for dead, so they leave after appointing presbyters for Lystra (v18-22);
  • their further voyages and return to Antioch (v23-27).

Acts 14:
1 While they were at Iconium, they went into the Jewish synagogue together, and preached in such a way that a great number both of Jews and of Greeks found faith, 2 although the Jews who would not believe stirred up trouble among the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 For a long time, then, they remained there, speaking boldly in the Lord’s name, while he attested the preaching of his grace by allowing signs and wonders to be performed by their means; 4 the common folk of the city were divided in opinion, some taking part with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5 Then, when both Gentiles and Jews, in concert with their rulers, made a movement to assault and stone them, 6 they thought it best to take refuge in the Lycaonian cities, Lystra and Derbe, and the country round them; and they preached the gospel there.
Chrysostom (Homily 30): No small matter this dividing. And this was what the Lord said, I am not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34..Again, as if they purposely wished to extend the preaching after it was increased, they once more sent them out. See on all occasions the persecutions working great good, and defeating the persecutors, and making the persecuted illustrious...
7 There was a lame man sitting at Lystra, crippled from birth, so that he had never walked, 8 who listened to Paul’s preaching; and Paul, looking closely at him, and seeing that there was saving faith in him, 9 said aloud, Stand upright on thy feet; whereupon he sprang up, and began to walk.10 The multitudes, seeing what Paul had done, cried out in the Lycaonian dialect, It is the gods, who have come down to us in human shape. 11 They called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercury, because he was the chief speaker; 12 and the priest of Jupiter, Defender of the City, brought out bulls and wreaths to the gates, eager, like the multitude, to do sacrifice.13 The apostles tore their garments when they heard of it; and both Barnabas and Paul ran out among the multitude, crying aloud: 14 Sirs, why are you doing all this? We too are mortal men like yourselves; the whole burden of our preaching is that you must turn away from follies like this to the worship of the living God, who made sky and earth and sea and all that is in them. 15 In the ages that are past, he has allowed Gentile folk everywhere to follow their own devices; 16 yet even so he has not left us without some proof of what he is; it is his bounty that grants us rain from heaven, and the seasons which give birth to our crops, so that we have nourishment and comfort to our heart’s desire. 17 With words like this they persuaded the people, not easily, to refrain from offering sacrifice to them.
 7 Et quidam vir Lystris infirmus pedibus sedebat, claudus ex utero matris suæ, qui numquam ambulaverat. 8 Hic audivit Paulum loquentem. Qui intuitus eum, et videns quia fidem haberet ut salvus fieret, 9 dixit magna voce: Surge super pedes tuos rectus. Et exilivit, et ambulabat. 10 Turbæ autem cum vidissent quod fecerat Paulus, levaverunt vocem suam lycaonice, dicentes: Dii similes facti hominibus descenderunt ad nos. 11 Et vocabant Barnabam Jovem, Paulum vero Mercurium: quoniam ipse erat dux verbi. 12 Sacerdos quoque Jovis, qui erat ante civitatem, tauros et coronas ante januas afferens, cum populis volebat sacrificare.13 Quod ubi audierunt Apostoli, Barnabas et Paulus, conscissis tunicis suis exilierunt in turbas, clamantes 14 et dicentes: Viri, quid hæc facitis? et nos mortales sumus, similes vobis homines, annuntiantes vobis ab his vanis converti ad Deum vivum, qui fecit cælum, et terram, et mare, et omnia quæ in eis sunt: 15 qui in præteritis generationibus dimisit omnes gentes ingredi vias suas. 16 Et quidem non sine testimonio semetipsum reliquit benefaciens de cælo, dans pluvias et tempora fructifera, implens cibo et lætitia corda nostra. 17 Et hæc dicentes, vix sedaverunt turbas ne sibi immolarent.
Chrysostom: Let us imitate them: let us think nothing our own, seeing even faith itself is not our own, but more God's (than ours). For by grace are you saved through faith; and this, says he, not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 Then let us not think great things of ourselves, nor be puffed up, being as we are, men, dust and ashes, smoke and shadow.

For say, Why do you think great things of yourself? Have you given alms, and lavished your substance? And what of that? Think, what if God had chosen not to make you rich? Think of them that are impoverished, or rather, think how many have given (not their substance only, but) their bodies moreover, and after their numberless sacrifices, have felt still that they were miserable creatures!

You gave for yourself, Christ (not for Himself, but) for you: you did but pay a debt, Christ owed you not.— See the uncertainty of the future, and be not high-minded, but fear Romans 11:20; do not lessen your virtue by boastfulness. Would you do something truly great? Never let a surmise of your attainments as great enter your mind...

Have you utterance and grace of teaching? Do not for this account yourself to have anything more than other men. For this cause especially you ought to be humbled, because you have been vouchsafed more abundant gifts. For he to whom more was forgiven, will love more Luke 7:47: if so, then ought thou to be humbled also, for that God having passed by others, took notice of you. Fear thou because of this: for often this is a cause of destruction to you, if you be not watchful.

Why do you think great things of yourself? Because you teach by words? But this is easy, to philosophize in words: teach me by your life: that is the best teaching. Do you say that it is right to be moderate, and do you make a long speech about this thing, and play the orator, pouring forth your eloquence without a check? But better than thou is he shall one say to you, who teaches me this by his deeds— for not so much are those lessons wont to be fixed in the mind which consist in words, as those which teach by things: since if you have not the deed, thou not only hast not profited him by your words, but hast even hurt him the more— better thou were silent...
18 But some of the Jews from Antioch and Iconium had followed them; these won over the multitude to their side, and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, leaving him there for dead. 19 But the disciples formed a ring about him, and soon he rose up and went back into the city; next day he left, with Barnabas, for Derbe. 20 In that city too they preached, and made many disciples; then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 21 where they fortified the spirits of the disciples, encouraging them to be true to the faith, and telling them that we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without many trials. 22 Then, with fasting and prayer, they appointed presbyters for them in each of the churches, and commended them to the care of the Lord in whom they had learned to believe. 23 So they passed through Pisidia, and reached Pamphylia. 24 They preached the word of the Lord in Perge, and went down to Attalia, 25 taking ship there for Antioch, where they had been committed to God’s grace for the work they had now achieved. 26 On their arrival, they called the Church together, and told the story of all God had done to aid them, and how, through faith, he had left a door open for the Gentiles. 27 And they stayed there a considerable time with the disciples.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Acts 13 continued - Jesus as a fulfilment of Scripture

Apostle Paul's First Missionary Journey Map

The second half of chapter 13 of Acts is largely taken up with a homily of St Paul which summarises the basic Gospel message in terms pitched at the Jewish community he was preaching to in the Synagogue, focusing on Christ as the fulfilment of the promises of Scripture.

 The sermon is rich in biblical number symbolism that would have been extremely meaningful to his audience, but is less so to us.  The numbers he uses - 40/400/4, 7, 50 and 3 - recur very frequently indeed in Scripture, ad by using them, St Paul is reminding his audience of the Old Testament prophesies that these types of the Old Testament would be fulfilled in the Messiah, and this is now occurring.  So the forty years of hardened hearts in the desert are replaced by the forty days in which Christ appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection for example.

Acts 13:
13 After this Paul and his companions took ship from Paphos and made for Perge in Pamphylia; here John left them, and went back to Jerusalem. 14 They passed on from Perge, and reached Pisidian Antioch, where they went and took their seats in the synagogue on the sabbath day.15 When the reading from the law and the prophets was finished, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them to say, Brethren, if you have in your hearts any word of encouragement for the people, let us hear it. 16 Then Paul stood up, and made a gesture with his hand to claim audience. Listen, he said, men of Israel, and all you who worship the true God. 17 The God of this people of Israel chose out our fathers, and made his people great at the time when they were strangers in the land of Egypt, stretching out his arm to deliver them from it.
 Chrysostom (Homily 29): Then Paul stood up, it says—this was a custom of the Jews— and beckoned with his hand. And see how he prepares the way beforehand for his discourse: having first praised them, and showed his great regard for them in the words, you that fear God, he so begins his discourse... See, he calls God Himself their God peculiarly, Who is the common God of men; and shows how great from the first were His benefits, just as Stephen does.

This they do to teach them, that now also God has acted after the same custom, in sending His own Son; Luke 20:13: as (Christ) Himself (does) in the parable of the vineyard— And the people, he says, He exalted when it sojourned in the land of Egypt— and yet the contrary was the case: true, but they increased in numbers; moreover, the miracles were wrought on their account: and with an high arm brought He them out of it. Of these things (the wonders) which were done in Egypt, the prophets are continually making mention.
18 For forty years he bore with their hard hearts in the wilderness; 19 then he overthrew seven nations in the land of Chanaan, whose lands he gave them for an inheritance.
 et per quadraginta annorum tempus mores eorum sustinuit in deserto. 19 Et destruens gentes septem in terra Chanaan, sorte distribuit eis terram eorum, 
 Chrysostom: And observe, how he passes over the times of their calamities, and nowhere brings forward their faults, but only God's kindness, leaving those for themselves to think over...Here he shows that God varied His dispensations towards them (at various times).
20 By now, some four hundred and fifty years had passed; and after this he appointed judges over them, up to the time of the prophet Samuel. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned forty years; 22 but afterwards dispossessed him, and raised up David to be their king. To him, he gave this testimony, I have found in David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will accomplish all that is my will.23 It is out of this man’s posterity, according to the promise made to him, that God has brought us a Saviour, Jesus.
quasi post quadringentos et quinquaginta annos: et post hæc dedit judices, usque ad Samuel prophetam. 21 Et exinde postulaverunt regem: et dedit illis Deus Saul filium Cis, virum de tribu Benjamin, annis quadraginta: 22 et amoto illo, suscitavit illis David regem: cui testimonium perhibens, dixit: Inveni David filium Jesse, virum secundum cor meum, qui faciet omnes voluntates meas.23 Hujus Deus ex semine secundum promissionem eduxit Israël salvatorem Jesum,
Chrysostom: And afterward they desired a king: and (still) not a word of their ingratitude, but throughout he speaks of the kindness of God.... This was no small thing that Christ should be from David.
 24 John had prepared the way for his coming, by proclaiming a baptism in which all the people of Israel was to repent; 25 but John himself, when he was coming to the end of his life’s course, told them, I am not what you suspect me to be; look rather for one who comes after me; I am not worthy to untie the shoes on his feet.
Chrysostom: Then John bears witness to this: When John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom do you think that I am? I am not He. But, behold, there comes one after me, whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy to loose. (v. 24, 25.) And John too not merely bears witness (to the fact), but (does it in such sort that) when men were bringing the glory to him, he declines it: for it is one thing (not to affect) an honor which nobody thinks of offering; and another, to reject it when all men are ready to give it, and not only to reject it, but to do so with such humility.
26 Brethren, you who are sons of Abraham, and you others who fear God, this message of salvation is sent to you. 27 The people at Jerusalem, like their rulers, did not recognize Jesus for what he was; unwittingly they fulfilled, by condemning him, those utterances of the prophets which they had heard read, sabbath after sabbath. 28 And although they could find no capital charge against him, they petitioned Pilate for his death. 29 So, when they had fulfilled all that had been written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb.
 Chrysostom: On all occasions we find them making a great point of showing this, that the blessing is peculiarly theirs, that they may not flee (from Christ), as thinking they had nothing to do with Him, because they had crucified Him. Because they knew Him not, he says: so that the sin was one of ignorance. See how he gently makes an apology even on behalf of those (crucifiers). And not only this: but he adds also, that thus it must needs be. And how so? By condemning Him, they fulfilled the voices of the prophets.
 30 And, on the third day, God raised him from the dead. 31 He was seen, over a space of many days, by the men who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem; it is they who now bear witness of him before the people. 32 And this is the message we preach to you; there was a promise made to our forefathers, 33 and this promise God has redeemed for our posterity, by raising Jesus to life.Thus, it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my son; I have begotten thee this day.34 And this is how he describes raising him from the dead, never to return to corruption again, I will grant you the privileges I have promised to David; 35 to which purpose he says in another psalm, Thou wilt not allow thy faithful servant to see corruption. 36 David saw corruption; he served God’s purpose in his own generation, and then fell asleep, and rested with his fathers; 37 but he whom God raised to life saw no corruption at all.38 Here is news for you, then, brethren; remission of your sins is offered to you through him. There are claims from which you could not be acquitted by the law of Moses, 39 and whoever believes in Jesus is quit of all these. 40 Beware, then, of incurring the prophets’ rebuke; 41 Look upon this, you scornful souls, and lose yourselves in astonishment. Such wonders I am doing in your days, that if a man told you the story you would not believe him.ourselves in astonishment. .
30 Deus vero suscitavit eum a mortuis tertia die: qui visus est per dies multos his 31 qui simul ascenderant cum eo de Galilæa in Jerusalem: qui usque nunc sunt testes ejus ad plebem. 32 Et nos vobis annuntiamus eam, quæ ad patres nostros repromissio facta est: 33 quoniam hanc Deus adimplevit filiis nostris resuscitans Jesum, sicut et in psalmo secundo scriptum est: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te. 34 Quod autem suscitavit eum a mortuis, amplius jam non reversurum in corruptionem, ita dixit: Quia dabo vobis sancta David fidelia. 35 Ideoque et alias dicit: Non dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem. 36 David enim in sua generatione cum administrasset, voluntati Dei dormivit: et appositus est ad patres suos, et vidit corruptionem. 37 Quem vero Deus suscitavit a mortuis, non vidit corruptionem. 38 Notum igitur sit vobis, viri fratres, quia per hunc vobis remissio peccatorum annuntiatur, et ab omnibus quibus non potuistis in lege Moysi justificari, 39 in hoc omnis qui credit, justificatur. 40 Videte ergo ne superveniat vobis quod dictum est in prophetis: 41 Videte contemptores, et admiramini, et disperdimini:quia opus operor ego in diebus vestris, opus quod non credetis, si quis enarraverit vobis.
 Chrysostom: Observe how Paul here is more vehement in his discourse: we nowhere find Peter saying this. Then too he adds the terrifying words: Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you...
42 As they left, they were implored to preach the same message there on the next sabbath. 43 And when the synagogue broke up, many Jews and many who worshipped the true God as proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; and they preached to them, urging them to be true to the grace of God. 44 On the following sabbath almost all the city had assembled to hear God’s word. 45 The Jews, when they saw these crowds, were full of indignation, and began to argue blasphemously against all that Paul said. 46 Whereupon Paul and Barnabas told them roundly, We were bound to preach God’s word to you first; but now, since you reject it, since you declare yourselves unfit for eternal life, be it so; we will turn our thoughts to the Gentiles. 47 This, after all, is the charge the Lord has given us, I have appointed thee to be a light for the Gentiles, that thou mayst bring salvation to the ends of the earth. 48 The Gentiles were rejoiced to hear this, and praised the word of the Lord; and they found faith, all those of them who were destined to eternal life. 49 And the word of the Lord spread far and wide all through the country. 50 But the Jews used influence with such women of fashion as worshipped the true God, and with the leading men in the city, setting on foot a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and driving them out of their territory; 51 so they shook off the dust from their feet as they left them, and went on to Iconium. 52 The disciples, meanwhile, were filled with rejoicing, and with the Holy Spirit.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Acts 13/1 - St Paul's ordination



Acts 13 covers St Paul's 'first missionary journey' encompassing:
  • Cyprus and the conversion of the governor of Paphos (v1-12);
  • a visit to Antioch  and Paul's sermon in the synogogue there (v13-42); and 
  • the visit to Iconium (v43-52).
Today, a look at verses 1-12, not least because it covers an issue modern Catholics are often confused about, namely was St Paul formally ordained?

St John Chrysostom certainly thought so, as his commentary on this chapter makes clear.  Nor is this a lone view: Acts 13:2 is cited twice in Vatican II's Presbyterorum Ordinis, as well as in Lumen Gentium in the context of the apostles appointing helpers and successors.

St John also provides some comments on the virtues of fasting, and more particularly on the avoidance of excessive indulgence in luxurious food, a subject all too apt for our time.

Acts 13:
The Church at Antioch had as its prophets and teachers Barnabas, and Simon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manahen, foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 These were offering worship to God and fasting, when the Holy Spirit said, I must have Barnabas and Saul dedicated to the work to which I have called them. 3 Thereupon they fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, and so took leave of them. 
Erant autem in ecclesia quæ erat Antiochiæ, prophetæ et doctores, in quibus Barnabas, et Simon qui vocabatur Niger, et Lucius Cyrenensis, et Manahen, qui erat Herodis Tetrarchæ collactaneus, et Saulus. 2 Ministrantibus autem illis Domino, et jejunantibus, dixit illis Spiritus Sanctus: Segregate mihi Saulum et Barnabam in opus ad quod assumpsi eos. 3 Tunc jejunantes et orantes, imponentesque eis manus, dimiserunt illos. 
Chrysostom (Homily 27): A great, yes a great good is fasting: it is circumscribed by no limits. When need was to ordain, then they fast: and to them while fasting, the Spirit spoke. Thus much only do I enjoin: (I say) not fast, but abstain from luxury.

Let us seek meats to nourish, not things to ruin us; seek meats for food, not occasions of diseases, of diseases both of soul and body: seek food which has comfort, not luxury which is full of discomfort: the one is luxury, the other mischief; the one is pleasure, the other pain; the one is agreeable to nature, the other contrary to nature.

For say, if one should give you hemlock juice to drink, would it not be against nature? If one should give you logs and stones, would you not reject them? Of course, for they are against nature. Well, and so is luxury. For just as in a city, under an invasion of enemies when there has been siege and tumult, great is the uproar, so is it in the soul, under invasion of wine and luxury.
4 And they, sent on their travels by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there took ship for Cyprus.5 So they reached Salamis, where they preached God’s word in the Jewish synagogues; they had John, too, to help them. 6 And when they had been through the whole island up to Paphos, they encountered there a magician who claimed to be a prophet, a Jew named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was in the company of the governor, Sergius Paulus, a man of good sense, who had sent for Barnabas and Saul and asked if he might hear the word of God. 8 And Elymas, the magician (that is what his name means when translated), opposed them, trying to turn the governor away from the faith. 9 Then Saul, whose other name is Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, 10 and said; Child of the devil, versed in all trickery and cunning, enemy of all honest dealing, wilt thou never have done with trying to twist the straight paths of the Lord? 11 See, then, if the hand of the Lord does not fall upon thee now. Thou shalt become blind, and see the sun no more for a while. At this, a dark mist fell upon him, and he had to go about looking for someone to lead him by the hand.12 And now the governor, seeing what had happened, and overcome with awe at the Lord’s teaching, learned to believe.
 Chrysostom: (Homily 28) As soon as they were ordained they went forth, and hasted to Cyprus, that being a place where was no ill-design hatching against them, and where moreover the Word had been sown already. In Antioch there were (teachers) enough, and Phœnice too was near to Palestine; but Cyprus not so. However, you are not to make a question of the why and wherefore, when it is the Spirit that directs their movements: for they were not only ordained by the Spirit, but sent forth by Him likewise... But Saul, who is also Paul - here his name is changed at the same time that he is ordained, as it was in Peter's case.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Feast of St Mark (April 25)

The readings at Matins in the Benedictine Office for the feast of St Mark (during Eastertide) are set out below.

Nocturn I: (Common of Apostles) - 1 Corinthians 4: 1-4; 5-7; 8-10; 11-15)

Reading 1: That is how we ought to be regarded, as Christ’s servants, and stewards of God’s mysteries.  And this is what we look for in choosing a steward; we must find one who is trustworthy. Yet for myself, I make little account of your scrutiny, or of any human audit-day; I am not even at pains to scrutinize my own conduct. My conscience does not, in fact, reproach me; but that is not where my justification lies; it is the Lord’s scrutiny I must undergo.

Reading 2: You do ill, therefore, to pass judgement prematurely, before the Lord’s coming; he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and reveal the secrets of men’s hearts; then each of us will receive his due award from God.All this, brethren, I have applied to myself and to Apollo, but it is meant for you. The lesson you must learn from our example is, not to go beyond what is laid down for you, one man slighting another out of partiality for someone else. After all, friend, who is it that gives thee this pre-eminence? What powers hast thou, that did not come to thee by gift? And if they came to thee by gift, why dost thou boast of them, as if there were no gift in question?

Reading 3: Well, you are already fully content; already you have grown rich; already you have come into your kingdom, without waiting for help from us. Would that you had come into your kingdom indeed; then we should be sharing it with you. As it is, it seems as if God had destined us, his apostles, to be in the lowest place of all, like men under sentence of death; such a spectacle do we present to the whole creation, men and angels alike. We are fools for Christ’s sake, you are so wise; we are so helpless, you so stout of heart; you are held in honour, while we are despised.

Reading 4: Still, as I write, we go hungry and thirsty and naked; we are mishandled, we have no home to settle in,  we are hard put to it, working with our own hands. Men revile us, and we answer with a blessing, persecute us, and we make the best of it, speak ill of us, and we fall to entreaty. We are still the world’s refuse; everybody thinks himself well rid of us. I am not writing this to shame you; you are my dearly loved children, and I would bring you to a better mind.Yes, you may have ten thousand schoolmasters in Christ, but not more than one father; it was I that begot you in Jesus Christ, when I preached the gospel to you.

Nocturn II: St Jerome, Book upon Church Writers; St Gregory on Ezekiel

Reading 5 (from St Jerome): Mark was the disciple and interpreter of Peter, and it was from what he had heard' Peter tell, that, at the request of the brethren at Rome, he wrote the shortest of the Gospels. When Peter had heard it, he approved it, and gave it to the Church to be read, by his authority. Mark betook himself to Egypt, with the Gospel which he had compiled, and was the first man who preached Christ at Alexandria. There he founded a Church with such teaching and austerity of life, that all who followed Christ were constrained to imitate him.

R. Eternal light will shine over your saints, O Lord
* And the eternity of the times, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads, they shall obtain joy and gladness.
R. And the eternity of the times, alleluia, alleluia.

Reading 6: Last of all, Philo, that most learned Jew, observing that the first Church of Alexandria still kept the law of Moses, wrote a book concerning their manners, as if in praise of his own nation, wherein he saith that under the teaching of Mark, the Christians of Alexandria had all things in common, just as Luke telleth us was the case with all them that believed at Jerusalem. Mark died in the eighth year of Nero, and was buried at Alexandria. Anianus succeeded him.

Reading 7: The Prophet writeth very minutely touching the four holy living creatures, whom he saw in the spirit as being to come. He saith: "Every one had four faces, and every one had four wings." What signifieth the face save likeness whereby we are known? or wings, save the power to fly since it is by the face that man is known from man, and by their wings that the birds' bodies are carried up into the air. So the face pertaineth to certitude, and the wings to contemplation. With certitude we are known of God Almighty, Who saith: "I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine." And again: "I know whom I have chosen.".

Reading 8: And by contemplation, whereby we rise above ourselves, we as it were fly heavenwards."Verily one had four faces" four faces, that is, and one body. If thou seek to know what Matthew teacheth concerning the Incarnation of the Lord, he teacheth no other doctrine than teacheth Mark, or Luke, or John. If thou seek to know what John teacheth, it is beyond all doubt that his doctrine is the doctrine of Matthew, and Mark, and Luke. If thou ask concerning Mark, he hath that which hath Matthew, and John, and Luke. If thou wilt know of Luke, know that he teacheth as doth Matthew, and Mark, and John.

R. These are they which have conquered, and are become the friends of God, who recked not of the commandments of princes, and earned the everlasting reward.
* And now have they crowns on their heads, and palms in their hands.
V. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
R. And now have they crowns on their heads, and palms in their hands.

Nocturn III (Common of Apostles and Evangelists) - St Gregory the Great Homily 17

Reading 9:From the Holy Gospel according to Luke: At that time, the Lord appointed other seventy-two also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. And so on.

Homily by Pope St Gregory the Great: Dearly beloved brethren, our Lord and Saviour doth sometimes admonish us by words, and sometimes by works. Yea, His very works do themselves teach us for that which He doth silently His example still moveth us to copy. Behold how He sendeth forth His disciples to preach by two and two since there are two commandments to love, that is, a commandment to love God, and a commandment to love our neighbour and where there are not two, the one, being alone, hath not whereon to do the Lord's commandment.

R. I am the vine: you the branches.
* He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit, alleluia, alleluia.
V. As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you.
R. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit, alleluia, alleluia.

Reading 10: And no man can properly be said to love himself: for love tendeth outward toward our neighbour, if it be the love whereto the Gospel doth oblige us.Behold, the Lord sendeth forth His disciples to preach by two and two and thus doing, He doth silently teach us that whosoever loveth not his neighbour, such an one it behoveth not to take upon him the office of a preacher.

R. Her Nazarites are become pure, Alleluia: they reflect the glory of God, Alleluia.
* They are whiter than milk. Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. They are purer than snow, they are whiter than milk, they are more ruddy in body than coral, their polishing is of sapphire.
R. They are whiter than milk. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 11: Well also is it said that He sent them before His face into every city and place whither He Himself would come. The Lord followeth His preachers first cometh preaching, and then the Lord Himself cometh to the house of our mind, whither the word of exhortation hath come before and so cometh the truth into our mind.

Reading 12: Therefore, to preachers saith Isaiah: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight an highway for our God."  And again the Psalmist saith: "Spread a path before him that rideth upon the West." . The Lord rideth upon the West above that from which in death He veiled His glory, hath He royally exalted that glory that excelleth, even the glory of His rising again. He rideth upon the West, Who, being risen again from the dead, is throned high above the death to which He bowed. Before Him, therefore, That rideth upon the West, we spread a path, when we set forth His glory before the eyes of your mind, to the end that He Himself may come after, and Himself enlighten the same your minds by His presence and His love.

Gospel (Luke 10: 1-9)

After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them before him, two and two, into all the cities and villages he himself was to visit. 2 The harvest, he told them, is plentiful enough, but the labourers are few; you must ask the Lord to whom the harvest belongs to send labourers out for the harvesting. 3 Go then, and remember, I am sending you out to be like lambs among wolves. 4 You are not to carry purse, or wallet, or shoes; you are to give no one greeting on your way. 5 When you enter a house, say first of all, Peace be to this house; 6 and if those who dwell there are men of good will, your good wishes shall come down upon it; if not, they will come back to you the way they went. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they have to give you; the labourer has a right to his maintenance; do not move from one house to another. 8 When you enter a city, and they make you welcome, be content to eat the fare they offer you: 9 and heal those who are sick there; and tell them, The kingdom of God is close upon you.

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
Gloria
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.