Matt. 5:21-26 (Part 2)

ORIGEN: There are commands in the Gospel about which there is no doubt as to whether they are to be literally observed or not; for instance, that which says, “But I say to you, whoever shall be angry with his brother,” and so on; and, “But I say to you, do not swear at all.”
The Philocalia of Origen.

CYPRIAN: For since it is written, “Neither shall revilers inherit the kingdom of God,” and again the Lord says in His Gospel, “Whoever shall say to his brother, “You fool;” and whoever shall say, “Raca,” shall be in danger of the Gehenna of fire,” how can they evade the rebuke of the Lord the avenger, who heap up such expressions. The Epistles of Cyprian, 5.340.

CYPRIAN: For even in the sacrifices which Abel and Cain first offered, God did not look at their gifts, but at their hearts, so that he was acceptable in his gift who was acceptable in his heart. Abel, peaceable and righteous in sacrificing in innocence to God, taught others also, when they bring their gift to the altar, thus to come with the fear of God, with a simple heart, with the law of righteousness, with the peace of concord. With reason did he, who was such in respect of God’s sacrifice, become subsequently himself a sacrifice to God; so that he who first set forth martyrdom, and initiated the Lord’s passion by the glory of his blood, had both the Lord’s righteousness and His peace. Finally, such are crowned by the Lord, such will be avenged with the Lord in the day of judgment; but the quarrelsome and disunited, and he who does not have peace with his brethren, in accordance with what the blessed apostle and the Holy Scripture testifies, even if he have been slain for the name of Christ, shall not be able to escape the crime of fraternal dissension, because, as it is written, “He who hates his brother is a murderer,” and no murderer attains to the kingdom of heaven, nor does he live with God. He cannot be with Christ, who had rather be an imitator of Judas than of Christ. How great is the sin which cannot even be washed away by a baptism of blood—how heinous the crime which cannot be expiated by martyrdom!
The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.454.

CYPRIAN: Why do you stand like Cain? For that he who is jealous of his brother, and has him in hatred, is bound by the guilt of homicide, the Apostle John declares in his epistle, saying, “Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath life abiding in him.” And again: “He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because that darkness has blinded his eyes.” Whosoever hates, says he, his brother, walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going. For he is going unconsciously to Gehenna, in ignorance and blindness; he is hurrying into punishment, departing, that is, from the light of Christ, who warns and says, “I am the light of the world. He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” But he follows Christ who stands in His precepts, who walks in the way of His teaching, who follows His footsteps and His ways, who imitates that which Christ both did and taught; in accordance with what Peter also exhorts and warns, saying, “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps.” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.494.

5:23ff THE DIDACHE: But every Lord’s day, gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations. 7.381.

IGNATIUS: Let no man deceive himself: if any one is not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.51.

IGNATIUS: He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience. Epistle To The Trallians, 1.69.

IGNATIUS: Take heed to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to the will of God. Epistle to the Philadelphians, 1.81.

IRENAEUS: The offering of the Church, therefore, which the Lord gave instructions to be offered throughout all the world, is accounted with God a pure sacrifice, and is acceptable to Him; not that He stands in need of a sacrifice from us, but that he who offers is himself glorified in what he does offer, if his gift be accepted. For by the gift both honor and affection are shown forth towards the King; and the Lord, wishing us to offer it in all simplicity and innocence, did express Himself thus: “Therefore, when you offer your gift upon the altar, and remember that your brother has anything at all against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then return and offer your gift.” . . . . 

And the class of offerings in general has not been set aside; for there were both offerings there among the Jews, and there are offerings here among the Christians. Sacrifices there were among the people; sacrifices there are, too, in the Church: but the species alone has been changed, inasmuch as the offering is now made, not by slaves, but by freemen. For the Lord is ever one and the same; but the character of a servile offering is peculiar to itself, as is also that of freemen, in order that, by the very offerings, the indication of liberty may be set forth. For with Him there is nothing purposeless, nor without signification, nor without design. And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things hereafter; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.

For at the beginning God had respect for the gifts of Abel, because he offered with single-mindedness and righteousness; but He had no respect for the offering of Cain, because his heart was divided with envy and malice, which he cherished against his brother, as God says when reproving his hidden thoughts, “Though you offer rightly, yet, if you do not divide rightly, haven't you sinned? Be at rest;” since God is not appeased by sacrifice. For if any one shall endeavor to offer a sacrifice merely to outward appearance, unexceptionably, in due order, and according to appointment, while in his soul he does not assign to his neighbor that fellowship with him which is right and proper, nor is under the fear of God;— he who thus cherishes secret sin does not deceive God by that sacrifice which is offered correctly as to outward appearance; nor will such an offering profit him anything, but only the giving up of that evil which has been conceived within him, . . . Sacrifices, therefore, do not sanctify a man, for God stands in no need of sacrifice; but it is the conscience of the offerer that sanctifies the sacrifice when it is pure. . . .

As, therefore, He does not stand in need of these services, yet does desire that we should render them for our own benefit, lest we be unfruitful; so did the Word give to the people that very precept as to the making of offerings, although He stood in no need of them, that they might learn to serve God: thus is it, therefore, also His will that we, too, should offer a gift at the altar, frequently and without intermission. The altar, then, is in heaven, for our prayers and offerings are directed toward that place. Against Heresies, 1.484-486.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: The altar, then, that is with us here, the terrestrial one, is the congregation of those who devote themselves to prayers, having as it were one common voice and one mind. The Stromata, 2.531.

TERTULLIAN: Does the Eucharist cancel a service devoted to God, or bind it more to God? Will not your station34 be more solemn if you have stood at God’s altar? On Prayer, 3.687.

TERTULLIAN: As regards the rule of peace, which is so pleasing to God, who in the world that is prone to impatience will even once forgive his brother, I will not say “seven times,” or “seventy-seven times?” Who that is contemplating a lawsuit against his adversary will compose the matter by agreement, unless he first begin by lopping off chagrin, hardheartedness, and bitterness, which are in fact the poisonous outgrowths of impatience? How will you “remit, and remission shall be granted” you if the absence of patience makes you tenacious of a wrong? No one who is at variance with his brother in his mind, will finish offering his “duteous gift at the altar,” unless he first, with intent to “conciliate his brother,” return to patience. If “the sun go down over our wrath,” we are in jeopardy: we are not allowed to remain one day without patience. Of Patience, 3.714.

MARK MINUCIUS FELIX: Do you think that we conceal what we worship, if we do not have temples and altars?
The Octavius of Minucius Felix, 4.193.

ORIGEN: “If then you are offering your gift at the altar and there think you that your brother has anything at all against you, leave there your gift before the altar, and go back—first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift;” for what greater gift can be sent up to God from a rational creature than fragrant words of prayer that is offered from a conscience devoid of taint from sin? Similarly instructive is “Do not deprive one another, except by agreement for a season that you may give yourselves to prayer and may be together at another time again, in order that Satan may not have occasion to exalt over you by reason of your lack of self-restraint.”

For prayer “as we ought” is restrained unless the marriage mysteries which claim our silence be consummated with more of solemnity and deliberation and less of passion, the “agreement” referred to in the passage obliterating the discord of passion, and destroying lack of self-restraint, and preventing Satan's malicious exultation. Yet again instructive for prayer “as we ought” is the passage: “If you are standing at prayer, forgive anything that you have against any man;” and also the passage in Paul “Any man who prays or preaches with his head covered dishonors his head, and any woman who prays or preaches with unveiled head dishonors her head” is descriptive of the right manner of prayer.
On Prayer.

© OTR 2023