From the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin

In the heart of the Church I will be love

Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of Saint Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.

I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.

When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which Saint Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.

Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.

From the prologue of the commentary on Isaiah by Saint Jerome, priest

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ

I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.

No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvelous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Savior of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah. Of these mysteries the author himself testifies when he writes: You will be given a vision of all things, like words in a sealed scroll. When they give the writings to a wise man, they will say: Read this. And he will reply: I cannot, for it is sealed. And when the scroll is given to an uneducated man and he is told: Read this, he will reply: I do not know how to read.

Should this argument appear weak to anyone, let him listen to the Apostle: Let two or three prophets speak, and let others interpret; if, however, a revelation should come to one of those who are seated there, let the first one be quiet. How can they be silent, since it depends on the Spirit who speaks through his prophets whether they remain silent or speak? If they understood what they were saying, all things would be full of wisdom and knowledge. But it was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears, but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says:  It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.

From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

The word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

From a letter to the Philippians by Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

Let us put on the armor of righteousness

It is not out of presumption that I write to you, my brothers, on what righteousness means, but rather because you asked me to do so. For neither I nor anyone like me can equal the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul. When he was in your city, he fully and courageously taught the men of that time the word of truth; when he was absent, he wrote you letters. By carefully studying these letters, you can strengthen yourselves in the faith that has been given to you. This faith is the mother of us all, followed by hope, preceded by love—love of God, of Christ, of our neighbor. Whoever lives within this framework has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness. For anyone who has love is far from sin.

Now the source of all evil is the desire to possess. Mindful that we brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out of it, let us put on the armor of righteousness. We must begin by teaching ourselves how to walk in the commandment of the Lord. Then you should teach your wives to walk in the faith that has been handed down to them, in love and in chastity. They must love their husbands with complete fidelity, but they must cherish all others equally, and with self-control; they must raise their children in the discipline that comes from fear of God. We must teach widows to be discreet in all that concerns the faith of the Lord; they must pray without ceasing for all men, shunning all calumny, gossip, false witness, greed, in a word, every sort of evil. They must bear in mind that they are God’s sacrificial altar. He sees everything clearly, nothing escapes his vigilance, be it calculation, thought or some secret desire of the heart.

God, as we know, is not mocked. Let us walk in a way that is worthy of his commands and his purposes. Deacons, in the same way, must be blameless in the sight of his goodness, for they are servants of God and of Christ, not of men. They must avoid calumny, hypocritical talk and greed. Merciful and diligent, they must control all their desires, walking according to the truth of the Lord who became the servant of all. If we please him in this life, we shall receive the life to come; for he has promised us that he will raise us from the dead, and that, if we lead lives worthy of him, we shall reign along with him. This is what our faith tells us.

From the beginning of a letter to the Philippians by Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

It is by grace that you are saved

From Polycarp and his fellow presbyters to the pilgrim church of God at Philippi: May you have mercy and peace in abundance from Almighty God and Jesus Christ our Savior.

I rejoice with you greatly in the Lord Jesus Christ because you have assumed the pattern of true love and have rightly helped on their way those who were in chains. Such chains are becoming to the faithful; they are the rich crown of the chosen ones of our Lord and God. I am glad, too, that your deep-rooted faith, proclaimed of old, still abides and continues to bear fruit in the life-giving power of our Lord Jesus Christ. He, for our sins, did not refuse to go down to death, and God raised him up after destroying the pains of hell. With a glorious joy that no words can express you believe in Christ without seeing him. This is the joy in which many wish to share knowing that it is by grace that you are saved and not by works, for so God has willed through Jesus Christ.

So prepare yourselves for the struggle, serve the Lord in fear and truth. Put aside empty talk and popular errors; your faith must be in him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him a share in his own glory and a seat at his right hand. To him everything was made subject in heaven and on earth; all things obey him, who will come as judge of the living and the dead. All who refuse to believe must answer to God for the blood of his Son.

He who raised him from the dead will raise us too if we do his will and keep his commandments, loving what he loved, refraining from all wrongdoing, fraud, avarice, malice and slander. We must abstain from false witness, not returning evil for evil, nor curse for curse, nor blow for blow, nor denunciation for denunciation. Always remember the words of the Lord, who taught: Do not judge and you will not be judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; be merciful and you will find mercy; the amount you measure out to others will be the amount measured out to you. Blessed are the poor and those who suffer persecution, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Hilary, bishop

The river whose streams gladden the city of God

The river of God is brimming with water. You have provided their food, for this is your way of preparing them. There can be no doubt about the river referred to, for the prophet says: There is a river whose streams gladden the city of God; and in the gospel the Lord himself says: Streams of living water welling up to eternal life will flow from the heart of anyone who drinks the water I shall give him. He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. The river of God is brimming with water; that is to say, we are inundated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and from that fountain of life the river of God pours into us in full flood.

We also have food prepared for us. And who is this food? It is he in whom we are prepared for life with God, for by receiving his holy body we receive a place in the communion of his holy body. This is what is meant by the words of the psalm: You have provided their food, for this is your way of preparing them. For as well as refreshing us now, that food also prepares us for the life to come.

We who have been reborn through the sacrament of baptism experience intense joy when we feel within us the first stirrings of the Holy Spirit. We begin to have an insight into the mysteries of faith, we are able to prophesy and to speak with wisdom. We become steadfast in hope and receive the gift of healing. Demons are made subject to our authority. These gifts enter us like a gentle rain, and once having done so, little by little, they bring forth fruit in abundance.