Intro to St. Paul

December 30, 2010

Why the Church reads St. Paul immediately after Christmas (my thoughts)

It is fitting that since Emmanuel, “God with us,” has finally come, we learn what the effects of His coming are.  This is best done by reading the epistles of St. Paul, which contains all the fundamentals of the Christian religion and describes its necessity for all men, Jews and Gentiles.  In particular Romans, the first epistle to be read, deals with the necessity of the Gospel for the salvation of all men, and contrasts the state of the Jews and Gentiles before Christ with their state after Christ.

Intro to St. Paul

Cornelius describes St. Paul under eight headings:

1. his birth and character (tribe of Benjamin, Roman citizen by reason of his birth in Tarsus, excellent education in the knowledge of both the Gentiles, at Tarsus, and Jews, at Jerusalem under Gamaliel; a Pharisee)

2. his vocation and grace (only Apostle called by Christ after His Ascension, i.e. from heaven; received the grace necessary for the enormous vocation of evangelizing the Gentiles)

3. his exceptional wisdom and knowledge (the Epistles of St. Paul contain the quintessence of the Christian religion: grace, predestination, redemption through Christ, marriage and celibacy, the Blessed Sacrament, the sacrifice of the Mass, the nine angelic choirs, the ecclesiastical hierarchy – much of which was revealed directly to him by Christ in heaven, II. Cor. xii)

4. his virtues (humility – “I am the least of the Apostles”; penance – “I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps I myself should become a reprobate”; temperance – “Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst”; chastity – “He that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better”; contempt of the world, love of the Cross, love of Christ, heavenly desires, devotion and above all charity)

5. the fruit of his preaching (such that he is called antonomastically The Apostle; the educator of the greatest doctors of the Church, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas, etc.)

6. his martyrdom (SS. Peter and Paul fight against Simon Magus, Nero’s magician, at Rome, A.D. 68; St. Paul converts one of Nero’s mistresses; Nero has the two apostles cast into the Mamertine prison; Paul beheaded at Rome, at Aquas Salvias [location of present-day Abbey of Three Fountains], June 29, A.D. 69, the same day St. Peter was crucified at the Vatican; see C’s preface to Acts)

7. his miracles (the gift of tongues, necessary for evangelizing so many countries; prophecy; raised the dead; after his death, obtained the baptism of Emperor Constantine by Pope St. Sylvester; appeared to numerous great saints)

8. his fame and glory (as Moses was the doctor and legislator of the Jews, so Paul is of the Gentiles; with St. Peter, one of the two princes of the Church; his deeds excel the accomplishments of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and saints)

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