The Blesssing of Jacob as a prophecy for Christ – Augustine of Hippo

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Isaac’s two sons, Esau and Jacob, grew up together. The primacy of the elder was transferred to the younger by a bargain and agreement between them, when the elder immoderately lusted after the lentils the younger had prepared for food, and for that price sold his birthright to him, confirming it with an oath. We learn from this that a person is to be blamed, not for the kind of food he eats, but for immoderate greed.

Isaac grew old, and old age deprived him of his eyesight. He wished to bless the elder son, and instead of the elder, who was hairy, unwittingly blessed the younger, who put himself under his father’s hands, having covered himself with kid-skins, as if bearing the sins of others. Lest we should think this guile of Jacob’s was fraudulent guile, instead of seeking in it the mystery of a great thing, the Scripture has predicted in the words just before, Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a simple man, dwelling at home. Genesis 25:27 Some of our writers have interpreted this, without guile. But whether the Greek ἄλαστος means without guile, or simple, or rather without reigning, in the receiving of that blessing what is the guile of the man without guile? What is the guile of the simple, what the fiction of the man who does not lie, but a profound mystery of the truth?

But what is the blessing itself? See, he says, the smell of my son is as the smell of a full field which the Lord has blessed: therefore God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fruitfulness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine: let nations serve you, and princes adore you: and be lord of your brethren, and let your father’s sons adore you: cursed be he that curses you, and blessed be he that blesses you. Genesis 27:27-29 The blessing of Jacob is therefore a proclamation of Christ to all nations.

It is this which has come to pass, and is now being fulfilled. Isaac is the law and the prophecy: even by the mouth of the Jews Christ is blessed by prophecy as by one who knows not, because it is itself not understood. The world like a field is filled with the odor of Christ’s name: His is the blessing of the dew of heaven, that is, of the showers of divine words; and of the fruitfulness of the earth, that is, of the gathering together of the peoples: His is the plenty of grain and wine, that is, the multitude that gathers bread and wine in the sacrament of His body and blood. Him the nations serve, Him princes adore. He is the Lord of His brethren, because His people rules over the Jews. Him His Father’s sons adore, that is, the sons of Abraham according to faith; for He Himself is the son of Abraham according to the flesh. He is cursed that curses Him, and he that blesses Him is blessed.

Christ, I say, who is ours is blessed, that is, truly spoken of out of the mouths of the Jews, when, although erring, they yet sing the law and the prophets, and think they are blessing another for whom they erringly hope. So, when the elder son claims the promised blessing, Isaac is greatly afraid, and wonders when he knows that he has blessed one instead of the other, and demands who he is; yet he does not complain that he has been deceived, yea, when the great mystery is revealed to him, in his secret heart he at once eschews anger, and confirms the blessing. Who then, he says, has hunted me venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before you came, and have blessed him, and he shall be blessed? Genesis 27:33 Who would not rather have expected the curse of an angry man here, if these things had been done in an earthly manner, and not by inspiration from above? O things done, yet done prophetically; on the earth, yet celestially; by men, yet divinely! If everything that is fertile of so great mysteries should be examined carefully, many volumes would be filled; but the moderate compass fixed for this work compels us to hasten to other things.

[Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book 16]

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Why do I not understand glorious mysteries? – The Spiritual Elder

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If you ask, my brother, why you do not see things that are to come, or observe hidden things, or speak wonders, or understand glorious mysteries, then hear me, my brother, and I will tell you the reason you are cut off from these benefits.

Truly, my beloved, there is no logical mind that is not appointed to be the seer of all things that have been and shall be, unless it is blind in the things that are seen. There is no human heart that would not be a fountain of the mysteries hidden in the bosom of the Father, if its courses were not blocked up by the mud of the passions.

There is no tongue of any man in the image of God that would not be speaking the wonders of God and revealing his hidden mysteries, if it were not stuttering from the cold of evil. There is no soul that would not bear Christ in its bosom, if it had not become depraved with its enemies through its laxity.

Nevertheless, repentance causes us to be born again in the image of God and restores all these things to us. Blessed is the giver of repentance, who grants it to us for the revival of our deadness. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 14]

Who pays your wages at the sunset of your parting? – The Spiritual Elder

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Upbraid your soul constantly, my brother, and say: “My soul, your release from the body is near, so why do you delight in these temporal things, when today you are leaving them and are to be deprived of the sight and remembrance of them forever?

Look at what is before you; consider the nature of the things you have done. With whom have you spent your days of work? Who has accepted the fruits of your labour? To whom have you given joy through your struggles, so that he comes out to meet you at your departure? Whom have you delighted with your run, so that you are granted rest in his haven?

For whose sake have you toiled and been buffeted, so that you may come to him in gladness? Who is the friend you have acquired in the eternal place who will now receive you on your departure? In which field have you strenuously laboured, and who pays your wages at the sunset of your parting?”

Examine yourself, my soul, and see which place you will be conveyed to when you fly away from your body. Who are the companions with whom your are journeying to their inheritance? Perhaps they are angels of light, so how would they not shine the radiance of their beauty upon you because of their love towards you, and how would they not delight you in commingling with them before the parting?

But perhaps they are loathsome creatures, child-stealers, who by means of desire entice one into their place of darkness, cut off from consolation. Woe to me because of their company; woe to me for associating with them; woe to me for communication with them separates me from my God; woe to me, for in approaching them I have moved away from my Lord; woe to me for having hearkened to their guile and deprived myself of the vision of the Beautiful One; woe to me for having of my own accord estranged myself from the Good One and become a fellow of the Evil One.

While I am in the place where I contracted my diseases I will prepare medicines to heal my sores. While the plea of the petitioners is being received, I will compose bitter chants, to appease my God, whom I have angered. I will weep and groan over the days that have been spent in the field that makes its tillers eat wormwood. I will cry aloud with grief and groanings, which are more pleasing to my God than sacrifices. My mouth will utter sorrowful chants, the sound of which the angels desire to hear. My cheeks will be wet with tears from my eyes, so that the Spirit will rest upon my head to purify me of my vices. I will assuage my Lord, that he may come to me when I implore. I will call upon Martha and Mary to teach me chants of lamentation.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 11]

And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly – St. John Chrysostom

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And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly [Mat 6:5-6]

These too again He calls hypocrites, and very fitly; for while they are feigning to pray to God, they are looking round after men; wearing the garb not of suppliants, but of ridiculous persons. For he, who is to do a suppliant’s office, letting go all other, looks to him alone, who has power to grant his request. But if you leave this one, and go about wandering and casting around your eyes everywhere, you will depart with empty hands. For this was your own will. Therefore He did not say “such shall not receive a reward”, but, “they have it”: that is, they shall indeed receive one, but from those of whom they themselves desire to have it. For God does not want this: He rather for His part was willing to bestow on men the recompense that comes from Himself; but they seeking that which is from men, can be no longer justly entitled to receive from Him, for whom they have done nothing.

But mark, I pray you, the lovingkindness of God, in that He promises to bestow on us a reward, even for those good things which we ask of Him.

Having then discredited them, who order not this duty as they ought, both from the place and from their disposition of mind, and having shown that they are very ridiculous: He introduces the best manner of prayer, and again gives the reward, saying, go into your room. What then, it may be said, should we not pray in church? Indeed we should by all means, but in such a spirit as this. Because everywhere God seeks the intention of all that is done. Since even if you should go into your room, and having shut the door, should do it for display, the doors will do you no good.

It is worth observing in this case also, how exact the definition, which He made when He said, That they may be seen by men. So that even if you shut the doors, this He desires you duly to perform, rather than the shutting of the doors: to shut the doors of the mind. For as in everything it is good to be freed from vainglory, so most especially in prayer. For if even without this, we wander and are distracted, when shall we pay attention to the things which we are saying, if we have this disease also? And if we who pray and beseech do not pay attention, how do we expect God to pay attention?

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily 19 on the Gospel of St. Matthew]