Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ancient Christian Commentary: Acts 1:3

The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, published by IVP, is "an ecumenical project, promoting a vital link of communication between the varied Christian traditions of today and their common ancient ancestors in the faith." These volumes give a sort of Church Fathers Gloss on scripture - excellent stuff!

I own a few volumes, and was perusing their New Testament Volume V on the Books of Acts online with Amazon's handy "Search Inside!" feature. I came across this marvelous passage of St. Chrysostom on Acts 1:3 (from his Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 1) (taken from the New Advent website):

"But why did He appear not to all, but to the Apostles only? Because to the many it would have seemed a mere apparition, inasmuch as they understood not the secret of the mystery. For if the disciples themselves were at first incredulous and were troubled, and needed the evidence of actual touch with the hand, and of His eating with them, how would it have fared in all likelihood with the multitude? For this reason therefore by the miracles [wrought by the Apostles] He renders the evidence of His Resurrection unequivocal, so that not only the men of those times—this is what would come of the ocular proof—but also all men thereafter, should be certain of the fact, that He was risen. Upon this ground also we argue with unbelievers. For if He did not rise again, but remains dead, how did the Apostles perform miracles in His name? But they did not, say you, perform miracles? How then was our religion (ἔ θνος ) instituted? For this certainly they will not controvert nor impugn what we see with our eyes: so that when they say that no miracles took place, they inflict a worse stab upon themselves. For this would be the greatest of miracles, that without any miracles, the whole world should have eagerly come to be taken in the nets of twelve poor and illiterate men. For not by wealth of money, not by wisdom of words, not by any thing else of this kind, did the fishermen prevail; so that objectors must even against their will acknowledge that there was in these men a Divine power, for no human strength could ever possibly effect such great results. For this He then remained forty days on earth, furnishing in this length of time the sure evidence of their seeing Him in His own proper Person, that they might not suppose that what they saw was a phantom. And not content with this, He added also the evidence of eating with them at their board: as to signify this, the writer adds, "And being at table with them, He commanded." (v. 4.) And this circumstance the Apostles themselves always put forth as an fallible token of the Resurrection; as where they say, "Who did eat and drink with Him." (Acts x. 41.)" (All emphases mine).

We have been given not only well-equipped witnesses to the Resurrection, in the form of the Apostles and those they taught, but irrefutable evidence from the nature of the spread of the early church (we would say res ipsa loquitur, or 'the thing speaks for itself' in the law).

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Ah, I love St. John Chrysostom. It was he who broke down the walls I had constructed against the Catholic Church. It has been months since I've read him. Thanks for the reminder that I must pick him up once again and feed my soul.

He was given the Greek name Chrysostomos, which means, in the most accurate English translation, "golden-mouthed". His words are full of grace and I highly recommend all of his homilies. You can find complete works online. They are truly magnificent. He stresses almsgiving, penance, and Christian aesthetics (seeking eloquence in speech, avoiding occasions of sin, prayer, fasting, etc.) in his homilies after his very detailed commentary on Holy Scripture.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, which at the time was the feast day of St. John Chrysostom for the Roman Catholic calendar. Hence, his father gave him the name of Joannes Chrisostomos Wolfgang Amadeus (beloved of God) Mozart. Like St. John Chrysostom words, Mozart's music is "golden-mouthed". I've been listening to "Requiem" repeatedly for the last five months or more. It is so wonderful that I can't listen to anything else.

Sorry for rambling. I truly love St. John Chrysostom.