“Stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”
Father Alexis Trader writes:
“Like Gregory of Nyssa, Blessed Augustine praises the aim of love [dilectio], emphasizing its immediate value as a guide for the believer’s daily life: ‘Once and for all, a brief precept is give to you: Love, and do what you wish: if you hold your peace, out of love hold your peace; if you cry out, out of love cry out; if you correct, out of love correct; if you spare, out of love spare. Let the inner root be love, for from this root nothing else can shoot forth except for that which is good.’ Thus, love as an immediate goal protects the believer from straying from Christian conduct and gives him a proper focus in the course of action.” (Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy: A Meeting of Minds, pg. 173)
St. Matthew (21:33-42) has the Lord Jesus telling the following parable:
At that time, Jesus said, “Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Homiletic Professor Michael P. Knowles comments on the various last line of the Gospel Lesson about the stone rejected by the builders which comes from Psalm 118:22-23:
“’Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”? Although rabbinic applications of this text to Abraham, David, and the Messiah are apparently of later provenance, and contemporary Jewish interpretations refer either to the literal temple (Sol. 22:7-8;23:4) or to the community of the faithful (1QS 8:7), Jesus boldly applies the passage to himself. He himself is its fulfillment.” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament, pg. 65-66)
Jesus Himself thus uses a Christological rather than literal interpretation of Psalm 118. At the time of Jesus, Jewish interpretation of that same text as Knowles points out referred the text to the temple in Jerusalem or to the Jewish people as a whole.
Jesus’ question to His fellow Jews, “Have you never read in the scriptures….?”, isn’t about just literally reading the words. Of course they had read the words and that is why He can ask about them. They all were familiar with the text. What Jesus challenges them on is their understanding of the text: their interpretation of the words. As is done often in the New Testament, the words of the Old Testament Scriptures – the Jewish scriptures – are interpreted to refer to Christ Himself. Whatever their original context, and whatever other purposes they may have served in Judaism, are superseded by their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
The idea of Christ both fulfilling and giving meaning to all of the Scriptures is reflected in the hymn below from Vespers for September 1, the Church’s New Year’s Eve.
HE WHO WROTE THE LAW ON MOUNT SINAI IN DAYS OF OLD
CAME INCARNATE TO THE TOWN OF NAZARETH:
CHRIST OUR GOD TOOK THE SCROLL OF THE PROPHET IN HIS HANDS.
AFTER HE READ, HE ROLLED IT UP AND TAUGHT THE PEOPLE
THAT THE SCRIPTURES REACH THEIR FULFILLMENT IN HIM!
Note that in the hymn it is Christ, the Word of God, who wrote the Law given to Moses on the mountain. This is a common assumption of many Eastern Patristic writers; the theophanies of God recorded in the Old Testament are encounters with God’s Word, the pre-incarnate Christ. The hymn goes on to say that the incarnate Christ in reading the scroll aloud is speaking the words He wrote in scripture! He then interprets for His fellow, contemporary Jews these Scriptures which He gave to the Israelites of old and says that these ancient words, prophesies and promises are all fulfilled in Him. The pre-incarnate Christ spoke to the Jews of old, so that when He appeared on earth He the Messiah would be recognized through His words which they recorded in their Scriptures.
Thus when the Jews of Christ’s day encountered the Word become flesh (John 1) in Jesus Christ, the Word which their ancestors had received and recorded in their Scriptures would be recognizable to them and finally made clear. The purpose of the Word speaking to the ancient Jews was not just for the sake of the ancient Jews, but to prepare the future generations to recognize Him when He became flesh.