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A Symposium with the Fathers

{ Tags: , \ Aug30 }

Let us imagine a Symposium where we invite speakers on the different Sunday gospels, but instead of inviting our contemporaries, we look to the resources of Christian classical times, the Fathers of the Church. The Fathers of the Church are our bridge to the apostles. After the apostles, they are the witness to the traditioning of the faith. In fact, the canon of the Christian Scriptures as we know it now derive from their period. Below are the selections for the 22nd to the 24th Sunday. The last selection is something from the eighties; I include it here if only because it gives us an insight into the primitive layers behind the gospels. We know that the literary gospels were formed in three stages, first the Jesus stage, second the apostles’ stage, and third the evangelists’ stage. The article from Aherns though needing to be updated allows us to see beyond the latest layers of the Gospel on the theme of the Cross (the finished stage) and allows us a peek into the apostles’ preachings about the cross.

Our Way of the Cross (22nd Sunday)
For the 22nd Sunday of OT (A), the liturgy proposes for our reflection the Way of the Cross. The selection from Matthew 16:21-28 is associated with Romans 12:1-2, a passage that when understood in the light of Matthew 16:21-28 highlights the Christian’s association with the sacrifice of Christ. Below are some passages from John Chrysostom and Pseudo-Clement on the topic … more

Fraternal Correction, True Love and Prayer (23rd Sunday)
For the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Gospel reading is on Matthew 18:15-20. The gospel passage lends itself to two divisions: vv. 15-18 on fraternal correction and 19-20 on unanimity in prayer. And so our patristic symposium will deal on three subjects. Augustine speaks on frathernal correction and John Chrysostom on the spirit of Christian love. In the end, Cyprian speaks on unanimity in prayer… more
The Adoration of the Cross of Christ (24th Sunday)
On the occassion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we have a selection from “De fide orthoxa” of John Damascene. This selection is interesting for me on three counts: first, because it brings the original text which are quoted in Catholic ritual prayers involving the cross. Unfortunately, fundamentalists who read these ritual prayers not knowing the original context of such quotations, make it look as if Catholic devotion to the cross has been concocted by some priest. Well, here is a Father of the Church who is closer to the time of the apostles than are the founders of these fundamentalist sects who justifies the veneration of the cross and the Catholic devotion to it… more
The Cross in the Early Church (For the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross)
The article comes from a time when the status of the Passion Narratives as the earliest layer of Christian proclamation has not yet been established. Since the 1970s when the article first came out, there has been quite a lot of work done in the area of the gospels not covered in this article. However, it is still worth studying because of the interesting insights the author has to offer on the way the mystery of the cross of Christ was appropriated by the Church. The principal apostolic layers covered here are those of the main Pauline Letters, the Letter to the Hebrews and 1 Peter, dealing on two main topics: the Cross in the mystery of salvation, and the Cross in the life of Christians. Under this second theme, the author discusses Jesus’ sayings on the cross of discipleship and offers an interesting interpretation of: “Whosoever wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself carry his cross and follow me.” Also interesting is the discussion on the way 1 Peter and the Letter to the Hebrews offer the Christian nuance for “perfection”… more

Update: September 12, 2008

The Hours of the Divine Call (25th Sunday OT A)

Matthew 20:1-16 has different applications. Pope St. Gregory the Great gives us two possible applications, the first regards salvation history itself and second, more psychological, the ages of a human being. Thus, on the one hand, one can think of the owner of the vineyard as God who comes out at different stages in history to call in the elects of Israel and finally, on the eleventh hour, he also calls in the Gentiles. On the other hand, one can also think of it as God calling people at different ages, beginning from boyhood until old age, to the Christian life.1 It is also interesting how the Pope applies the parable to the good thief and Peter on the one hand, and Stephen the Martyr and Paul, on the other. The whole point of the homily is given in two points:

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On The Parable of the Two Sons (26th Sunday OT A)

For the parable of the two sons, we have two selections: one from thebiblical scholar Jerome and another from St. Fulgentius of Ruspe.

Jerome passes on to us two ways of looking at the parable: the first one is to see it as an allegory of the Jews and the Gentiles; the other is to take it at its value as referring to the sinners and those who think themselves just. Interesting here is the way Jerome employs typology to explain the parable as an allegory about the Jews and the Gentiles. Towards the end of the selection, he makes an observation in textual criticism. It would seem that there were those who had copies of the gospel where the answer of the priests and elders to the question “Which of the two did the father’s will?” was “the last one”, and not as appearing in our modern translations, “the first one.” Here, Jerome follows the insight of Origen that variants of the text opens up to us the rich fare offered by the Holy Spirit and gives a possible interpretation of the variant instead of dismissing it as spurious.

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The Vineyard of the Lord (27th Sunday)

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants in the original Marcan version is Jesus’ response to the question: “By what authority do you do these things?” The answer is that He has come with the authority of the Son of the vineyard’s owner, looking for the fruits of vineyard. Ambrose, working on the version of the parable in the Lucan gospel, explains it allegorically. The tenants are the Jews who murder the prophets. Interesting here is his mention of Naboth, who defends his vineyard with his own blood (see the story of Naboth in 1 Kings 21). Ambrose uses it as a prophetic story, prefiguring the sacrifice of the prophets and the martyrs for the Lord’s vineyard.

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The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (28th Sunday)

For the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, the gospel theme for the 28th Sunday in OT A, Jerome explains to us the meaning of the wedding garment and the symbol of the man whom the king found without. it The whole scenario of the wedding banquet points to the Last Judgment. His interpretation of the nuptial garment is not different from the one I propose in this article.

Gregory the Great gives Matthew 22:1-14 an allegorical meaning, which is suggested by the text itself. His extended homily (it must have been long in the delivery) gives a large picture of salvation history ending at the Last Judgment. For him the wedding garment is charity, and the one who did not have it is one who has been baptized and has received the faith, but has not integrated into his life the love of God. What he says about the “darknesses outside” has become a classic in the Church’s teaching about conscience. He who does not listen now to his conscience will be forced later on to listen to the Judgment of the King. And when he hears that Judgment, he won’t be able to say anything, since, he will recognize the King’s voice as that same one who has spoken to him from within all throughout his life.
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