Lectio Divina – First Sunday of Lent

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Hom. in Matt., xiii: Because all that Christ did and suffered was for our teaching, He began after His baptism to dwell in the wilderness, and fought against the devil, that every baptized person might patiently sustain greater temptations after His baptism, and not be troubled, as if what happened to Him was contrary to His expectation, but might bear up against all things, and come off conqueror. For although God allows that we should be tempted for many other reasons, yet for this cause also He allows it, that we may know, that man when tempted is placed in a station of greater honour. For the Devil does not approach except where he has seen someone set in a place of greater honour; and therefore it is said, “And immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.” And the reason why He does not simply say that He went into the wilderness, but was driven, is that you may understand that it was done according to the word of Divine Providence. By which also He shows that no man should thrust himself into temptation, but that those who from some other state are as it were driven into temptation, remain conquerors.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): But He was tempted forty days and forty nights that He might show us that as long as we live here and serve God, whether prosperity smile upon us, which is meant by the day, or adversity smite us, which agrees with the figure of night, at all times our adversary is at hand, who ceases not to trouble our way by temptations.

Consider also that Christ dwells among the wild beasts as man, but, as God, uses the ministry of Angels. Thus, when in the solitude of a holy life we bear with unpolluted mind the bestial manners of men, we merit to have the ministry of Angels, by whom, when freed from the body, we shall be transferred to everlasting happiness.

Lectio Divina – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catena Aurea, Mk 1:29-39, Sunday 6B

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735), in Marc., i, 9: And because the Lord said that He came “not to destroy the Law but to fulfill,” (Matt. 5:17) he who was excluded by the Law, inferring that he was cleansed by the power of the Lord, showed that grace, which could wash away the stain of the leper, was not from the Law, but over the Law. And truly, as in the Lord authoritative power is shown, so in him the constancy of faith is shown.

For there follows: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He falls on his face, which is at once a gesture of lowliness and of shame, to show that every man should blush for the stains of his life. But his shame did not stifle confession; he showed his wound, and begged for medicine, and the confession is full of devotion and of faith, for he refers the power to the will of the Lord.

Theophylact of Ochrid (1055-1107): For he said not, If you wish, pray unto God, but, “If you wish,” as thinking Him true God.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Hom. in Matt., 25:  Further, the reason why He touches the leper, and did not confer health upon him by word alone, was, that it is said by Moses in the Law, that he who touches a leper shall be unclean till the evening; that is, that he might show that this uncleanness is a natural one, that the Law was not laid down for Him, but on account of mere men. Furthermore, He shows that He Himself is the Lord of the Law; and the reason why He touched the leper, though the touch was not necessary to the working of the cure, was to show that He gives health, not as a servant, but as the Lord.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): Another reason why He touched him, was to proved that He could not be defiled, who free others from pollution.

And now it may well be asked why our Lord ordered His action to be concealed, and yet it could not be kept hidden for an hour? But we can see that the reason why, in doing a miracle, He ordered it to be kept secret, and yet for all that it was shouted abroad, was so that His elect, following the example of His teaching, should wish indeed that in the great things which they do, they should remain concealed, but should nevertheless unwillingly be brought to light for the good of others. Not then that He wished anything to be done which He was not able to bring about. But, by the authority of His teaching, He gave an example of what His members ought to wish for, and of what should happen to them even against their will.

Lectio Divina – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

Attributed to St. John Chrysostom: But the disciples, because they knew that they were to receive his goodness, without waiting for the evening, asked that Peter’s mother should be healed.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord, returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): In a mystical sense, the setting of the sun signifies the suffering and death of Him, who said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5) And when the sun was going down, more demoniacs and sick persons were healed than before: because while He lived in the flesh for a time he taught a few Jews, but he has transmitted the gifts of faith and health to all the Gentiles throughout the world. Again, mystically if by the setting of the sun, the death of the Saviour is intended, why should not His resurrection be intended by the returning dawn? For by its clear light, He went far into the wilderness of the Gentiles, and there continued praying in the person of His faithful disciples.

Theophylact of Ochrid (1055-1107): After that the Lord had cured the sick, He departed into a desert place. By this He taught us not to do any thing for the sake of appearance, but if we do any good, not to proclaim it openly. For He shows to us that we ought to attribute to God whatever we do well, and to say to Him, “Every good gift comes down from above,” (James 1:17) from Thee.

Attributed to St. John Chrysostom: In which word, He manifests the mystery of His “emptying himself,” (cf. Phil. 2:7-8) that is, of His incarnation, and the sovereignty of His divine nature, in that He here asserts, that He came willingly into the world. Luke however says, “To this end was I sent,” proclaiming the good pleasure of God the Father concerning the Incarnation of the Son.

Lectio Divina – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catena Aurea, Mk 1:21-28, Sunday 4B

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735), in Marc., 1, 7: Since by the envy of the devil death first entered into the world, it was right that the medicine of healing should first work against the author of death; and therefore it is said, “And there was in their synagogue a man, &c.”

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407): Or else the devil so speaks, as if he said, ‘by taking away uncleanness, and giving to the souls of men divine knowledge, you allow us no place in men.’

St. Augustine (354-430), Moreover, how great is the power which the lowliness of God, appearing in the form of a servant, has over the pride of devils, the devils themselves know so well, that they express it to the same Lord clothed in the weakness of flesh.

For there follows, “And he cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do we you, Jesus of Nazareth, &c.’” For it is evident in these words that there was in them knowledge, but there was not charity; and the reason was, that they feared their punishment from Him, and loved not the righteousness in Him.

For He was known to them in that degree in which He wished to be known; and He wished as much as was fitting. He was not known to them as to the holy Angels, who enjoy Him by partaking of His eternity according as He is the Word of God; but as He was to be made known in terror, to those beings from whose tyrannical power He was about to free those he had predestined. He was known therefore to the devils, not in that He is eternal Life, (see 1 John 5:20, John 17:3) but by some temporal effects of His Power

Picture: Jesus expels the demon in the Synagogue in Capernaum, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Lectio Divina – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Attr. St. Jerome: For he must repent, who would keep close to eternal good, that is, to the kingdom of God. For he who would have the kernel, breaks the shell; the sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of its root; the hope of gain makes the dangers of the sea pleasant; the hope of health takes away from the painfulness of medicine. They are able worthily to proclaim the preaching of Christ who have deserved to attain to the reward of forgiveness; and therefore after He has said, “Repent,” He subjoins, “and believe the Gospel.” For unless ye have believed, ye shall not understand.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): “Repent,” therefore, “and believe;” that is, renounce dead works; for of what use is believing without good works? The merit of good works does not, however, bring anyone to faith, but faith begins, that good works may follow.

Remigius of Auxerre (841-908): For by the net of holy preaching they drew fish, that is, men, from the depths of the sea, that is, of infidelity, to the light of faith. Wonderful indeed is this fishing! for fishes when they are caught, soon after die; when men are caught by the word of preaching, they rather are made alive.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): Now fishermen and unlettered men are sent to preach, that the faith of believers might be thought to lie in the power of God, not in eloquence or in learning.

Attr. St. Jerome: Further, we are mystically carried away to heaven, like Elijah, by this chariot, drawn by these fishers, as by four horses. On these four corner-stones the first Church is built; in these, as in the four Hebrew letters, yhwh, we acknowledge the name of the Lord, we who are commanded, after their example, to “hear” the voice of the Lord, and “to forget” the spider’s net, in the meshes of which we, like gnats, were all but fallen. Again, Simon, means obedient; Andrew, manly; James, supplanter; John, grace; by which four names, we are knit together into God’s host; by obedience, that we may listen; by manliness, that we do battle; by overthrowing, that we may persevere; by grace, that we may be preserved.

Lectio Divina – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catena Aurea, Jn 1:35-42

St. Augustine (354-430): John was the friend of the Bridegroom; he sought not his own glory, but bore witness to the truth. And therefore he did not wish his disciples to remain with him, to the hindrance of their duty to follow the Lord, but rather showed them whom they should follow.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407): He makes not a long speech, having only one object before him, to bring them and join them to Christ; knowing that they would no longer need his witness. John does not however speak to his disciples alone, but publicly in the presence of all. And so, undertaking to follow Christ, through this instruction common to all, they remained thenceforth firm, following Christ for their own advantage, not as an act of favour to their master. John does not exhort: he simply gazes in admiration on Christ, pointing out the gift He came to bestow, the cleansing from sin: and the mode in which this would be accomplished: both of which the word Lamb testifies to. Lamb has the article affixed to it, as a sign of pre-eminence.

Theophylact (1055-1107): Observe then, that it was upon those who followed Him, that our Lord turned His face and looked upon them. Unless you by your good works follow Him, you shall never be permitted to see His face, or enter into His dwelling.

Alcuin (c. 735- 804): They do not wish to be under His teaching for a time only, but inquire where He stays, wishing an immediate initiation in the secrets of His word, and afterwards meaning often to visit Him, and obtain fuller instruction. And, in a mystical sense too, they wish to know in whom Christ dwells, that profiting by their example they may themselves become fit to be His dwelling. Or, their seeing Jesus walking, and straightway inquiring where He resides, is an intimation to us, that we should, remembering His Incarnation, earnestly entreat Him to show us our eternal habitation. The request being so good a one, Christ promises a free and full disclosure. He said to them, Come and see: that is to say, “My dwelling is not to be understood by words, but by works; come, therefore, by believing and working, and then see by understanding.”

St. Augustine (354-430): What a blessed day and night was that! Let us too build up in our hearts within, and make Him a house, to which He may come and teach us.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407): The Evangelist does not mention what Christ said to those who followed Him; but we may infer it from what follows. Andrew declares in few words what he had learnt, discloses the power of that Master Who had persuaded them, and his own previous longings after Him. For this exclamation, We have found, expresses a longing for His coming, turned to exultation, now that He was really come.

Lectio Divina – The Baptism of Our Lord

Attr. to St. Jerome: Who again is mightier than the grace, by which sins are washed away, which John signifies? He who seven times and seventy times seven remits sins (Matt 18:22). Grace indeed comes first, but remits sins once only by baptism, but mercy reaches to the wretched from Adam up to Christ through seventy-seven generations, and up to one hundred and forty-four thousand.

Theophylact (1055-1107): Some persons also understand it thus; all who came to John, and were baptized, through penitence were loosed from the bands of their sins by believing in Christ. John then in this way loosed the sandal straps of all the others, that is, the bands of sin. But Christ’s sandal straps he was not able to unloose, because he found no sin in Him.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): in Marc., i, 4: He was baptized, that by being baptized Himself He might show His approval of John’s baptism, and that, by sanctifying the waters of Jordan through the descent of the dove, He might show the coming of the Holy Spirit in the washing of believers.

Whence there follows, “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit like a dove descending, and resting upon him.” But the heavens are opened, not by the opening of the elements, but to the eyes of the spirit, to which Ezekiel in the beginning of his book relates that they were opened; or that His seeing the heavens opened after baptism was done for our sakes, to whom the door of the kingdom of heaven is opened by baptism, the washing of rebirth.

Attr. to St. John Chrysostom: Or else, that from heaven sanctification might be given to men, and earthly things be joined to heavenly. But the Holy Spirit is said to have descended upon Him, not as if He then first came to Him, for He never had left Him; but that He might show forth the Christ, Who was preached by John, and point Him out to all, as it were by the finger of faith.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): Well indeed in the shape of a dove did the Holy Spirit come down, for it is an animal of great simplicity, and far removed from the malice of gall, that in a figure He might show us that He looks out for simple hearts, and deigns not to dwell in the minds of the wicked.

Attr. to St. Jerome: Again, the Holy Spirit came down in the shape of a dove, because in the Canticles it is sung of the Church: “My bride, my love, my beloved, my dove.”

They Came to Do Him Homage

On the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany

The story of the Epiphany (a word which means ‘manifestation’ or ‘showing’ in Greek) is familiar to us all. The three Magi, sometimes represented as kings, are on a journey with an obscure goal: to find the king whose star they had seen. The gospel adds a further detail: the wise men ‘have come to do him homage’. This is perhaps the most significant line in the gospel for Epiphany because it points to the essential moment in the story of the Magi: the moment of worship. Read more

Lectio Divina – Quotes related to the Third Sunday of Advent

Jn 1:6-8, 19-28, Third Sunday of Advent (B)

Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614): The way of the Lord is made straight to the heart, when the word of truth is heard with humility; the way of the Lord is made straight to the heart, when the life is formed upon the commandment.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407):There is one among you.” It was fitting that Christ should mix with the people, and be one of the many, showing everywhere His humility.

Theophylact of Ochrid (1055-1107): Or it was, that our Lord was in the midst of the Pharisees; and they not knowing Him. For they thought that they knew the Scriptures, and therefore, inasmuch as our Lord was pointed out there, He was in the midst of them, i.e. in their hearts. But they knew Him not, inasmuch as they understood not the Scriptures. Or take another interpretation. He was in the midst of them, as mediator between God and man, wishing to bring them, the Pharisees, to God. But they knew Him not.

Lectio Divina – Quotes related to the Second Sunday of Advent

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735), in Marc., i, 1: The beginning of this Gospel should be compared with that of Matthew, in which it is said, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” But here He is called “the Son of God.” Now from both we must understand one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, and of man. And fitly the first Evangelist names Him “Son of man,” the second, “Son of God,” that from less things our sense may by degrees mount up to greater, and by faith and the sacraments of the human nature assumed, rise to the acknowledgment of His divine eternity.

Theophylact of Ochrid (1055-1107): The Forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, therefore, is called an angel, on account of his angelic life and lofty reverence. Again, where he says, “Before thy face,” it is as if he said, Thy messenger is near thee: whence is shown the intimate connection of St. John the Baptist with Christ; for it is their greatest friends who walk next to kings. The “way” is the New Covenant, and the “paths” are the Old, because it is a trodden path. For it was necessary to be prepared for the way, that is, for the New Covenant; but it was right that the paths of the Old Covenant should be straightened.

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): What he cried is revealed, in that which is added, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” For whosoever preaches a right faith and good works, what else does he but prepare the way for the Lord’s coming to the hearts of His hearers?

St. Jerome: Now by John as by the bridegroom’s friend, the bride is brought to Christ, just as by a servant Rebecca was brought to Isaac (Gen 24:61).

Gregory the Great (540-614), Moralia, xxxi, 25: John pointed out the Lord, of whom he was the forerunner, even by the kind of his food; for in that our Lord took to Himself the sweetness of the barren Gentiles, he ate wild honey.