The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for February, 2010

3rd Sunday of Lent: Helps for Meditation, Study, Homiletics

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2010

I hope to add more resources to this post.  I also hope to post notes on at least the Gospel and Epistle readings for this Sunday(March 7).

Today’s Themes:

1.  God’s actions on behalf of his creature, such as the promises made to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, and His fulfilling of them (first reading), are thoroughly gratuitous and one cannot presume upon this graciousness of God or, worse, raise hell with the relationship (second reading), hence the need for repentance (Gospel).

St Peter Chrysologus: Therefore, God, seeing the world falling into ruin because of fear, continuously acts to recall it with love, invite it back by grace, hold it tight in charity, and embrace it with affection…This is why He summons Moses by His fatherly voice, addresses him with paternal love, and invites him to be the liberator of his people.  Why should I say more?  He makes him a god; He sets him up as a god before Pharaoh.  He makes him a god, fortifies him with signs, arms him with virtues, wins wars through mere commands, grants to him as a soldier victory gained by a mere word.  By His orders He concedes him a triumph and leads him through all the crowns of virtues to His own friendship, gives him an opportunity to share in His heavenly kingdom, and allows him to be a legislator.  However, Moses received all this that he might love-that at length he might be so inflamed with the love of God that he would burn with it himself and encourage others to have it, too.  (Sermon 147, The Mystery of the Incarnation).

2.  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

God calls Moses from the midst of a bush that bums without being consumed: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”(9) God is the God of the fathers, the One who had called and guided the patriarchs in their wanderings. He is the faithful and compassionate God who remembers them and his promises; he comes to free their descendants from slavery. He is the God who, from beyond space and time, can do this and wills to do it, the God who will put his almighty power to work for this plan.

“I Am who I Am” Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’. . . this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”(10)

In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH (“I AM HE WHO IS”, “I AM WHO AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is – infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the “hidden God”, his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.(11)

By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past (“I am the God of your father”), as for the future (“I will be with you”).(12) God, who reveals his name as “I AM”, reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them.

Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God’s holiness.(13) Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: “Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.”(14) Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”(15) But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: “I will not execute my fierce anger. . . for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.”(16) The apostle John says likewise: “We shall. . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”(17) (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 205-208)

Here again the initiative is God’s. From the midst of the burning bush he calls Moses.(20) This event will remain one of the primordial images of prayer in the spiritual tradition of Jews and Christians alike. When “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” calls Moses to be his servant, it is because he is the living God who wants men to live. God reveals himself in order to save them, though he does not do this alone or despite them: he caLls Moses to be his messenger, an associate in his compassion, his work of salvation. There is something of a divine plea in this mission, and only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he balks, makes excuses, above all questions: and it is in response to his question that the Lord confides his ineffable name, which will be revealed through his mighty deeds. (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2575)

Biblical references in the above texts of the CCC will be found at the bottom of this post.

From St Thomas Aquinas:

Objection 4.  Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 3) that “he who deems himself less worthy than he is, is said to be fainthearted.” Now sometimes holy men deem themselves less worthy than they are; for instance, Moses and Jeremias, who were worthy of the office God chose them for, which they both humbly declined (Ex 3,11 Jr 1,6). Therefore pusillanimity is not a sin.

On the contrary Nothing in human conduct is to be avoided save sin. Now pusillanimity is to be avoided: for it is written (Col 3,21): “Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.” Therefore pusillanimity is a sin.
I answer that Whatever is contrary to a natural inclination is a sin, because it is contrary to a law of nature. Now everything has a natural inclination to accomplish an action that is commensurate with its power: as is evident in all natural things, whether animate or inanimate. Now just as presumption makes a man exceed what is proportionate to his power, by striving to do more than he can, so pusillanimity makes a man fall short of what is proportionate to his power, by refusing to tend to that which is commensurate thereto. Wherefore as presumption is a sin, so is pusillanimity. Hence it is that the servant who buried in the earth the money he had received from his master, and did not trade with it through fainthearted fear, was punished by his master (Mt 25 Lc 19).

Reply to objection 4.  Moses and Jeremias were worthy of the office to which they were appointed by God, but their worthiness was of Divine grace: yet they, considering the insufficiency of their own weakness, demurred; though not obstinately lest they should fall into pride. (Summa Th II-II Qu.133 a.1)

CCC References.

9 EX 3,6
10 EX 3,13-15
11 Is 45,15 Jg 13,18.
12 EX 3,6,12 EX 3,6,
13 EX 3,5-6
14 Is 6,5
15 Lc 5,8
16 Os 11,9

20 3,1-10

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Notes on Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2010

Currently this post contains notes only on verse 1-8.  I hope to update and complete the text sometime this week.

Exo 3:1  Now Moses fed the sheep of Jethro, his father in law, the priest of Madian: and he drove the flock to the inner parts of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, Horeb.

The fact that Moses is tending sheep implies his break with his adoptive Egyptian past, for the Egyptians loathed shepherds (Gen 43:32).  Shepherding was-or at least could be-a rugged, hard, and dangerous  life (Gen 31:38-41; 1 Sam 17:34-37).  The pampered life of a member of the Egyptian royal court was certainly not suited for the task God had planned for Moses, hence we should see his forty years of exile as a period of preparation.

His situation was no doubt favorable to contemplation and communion with God.  He could scarcely fail to make progress in that divine knowledge which would do more to qualify him for his future mission than all the learning he had acquired in Egypt.  The life too which he had led was happily adapted to work within him that hardihood of constitution and character, of which he would afterwards stand so much in need, and of which the sequel of his story affords us so many striking instances. Newman and Ivison, Notes, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Exodus.

Still, his time in the Egyptian court and the family of Pharaoh were not without its advantages for his mission:  As having to deal, in the first instance, with a great king and his court, it was necessary that the Deliverer should be familiar with the habits of the court, should be able to assume its manners, speak its language, and not unwittingly infringe its etiquette.  Not being sent merely to petition, but to require-to prefer demands-it was requisite that he should feel himself, socially, on a par with the monarch, so as not to be timid or abashed before him, but able without difficulty to assert himself, to use freedom of speech, to talk as prince with prince, and not as mere courtier with monarch.  Again, as having to meet and baffle the Egyptian priests, and further, to be not only the Deliverer, but the Teacher and Educator of his nation, it was to the last degree necessary that he should be ‘learned in all the wisdom” of the time; that he should have had as good an education as any other man of the day; be able to foil the priests with their own weapons; and, after delivering his people out of bondage, be capable of elevating them, instructing them, advancing them from a rabble of slaves into an orderly, self-sufficient, fairly-enlightened, if not highly-civilized, nation.  The Pulpit Commentary.

Fed the sheep.  The Haydock Commentary: Fed for the space of forty years.  During which time, he composed the books of Genesis and Job, for the consolation of his countrymen; (Menochius) though others believe he wrote all the Pentateuch in the desert.  (Theodoret; &c.) — Of God, on account of its height; or on account of God’s appearing to Moses. — Horeb is so close to Mount Sinai, that the shadow of the latter reaches it when the sun rises.  It is watered with three springs; and the summit is adorned with fruit trees.  (Calmet)

The inner parts of the desert…Horeb: Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament (hereafter referred to as K & D): When Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, he drove them on one occasion behind the desert, and came to the mountains of Horeb.  “he was feeding:” (רֹעֶה הָיָה) the participle expresses the continuance of the occupation. הַמִּדְבָּר אַחַר does not mean ad interiora deserti (Jerome); but Moses drove the sheep from Jethro’s home as far as Horeb, so that he passed through a desert with the flock before he reached the pasture land of Horeb. For “in this, the most elevated ground of the peninsula, you find the most fertile valleys, in which even fruit-trees grow. Water abounds in this district; consequently it is the resort of all the Bedouins when the lower countries are dried up” (Rosenmüller). Jethro’s home was separated from Horeb, therefore, by a desert, and is to be sought to the south-east, and not to the north-east. For it is only a south-easterly situation that will explain these two facts: First, that when Moses returned from Midian to Egypt, he touched again at Horeb, where Aaron, who had come from Egypt, met him (Exo_4:27); and, secondly, that the Israelites never came upon any Midianites on their journey through the desert, whilst the road of Hobab the Midianite separated from theirs as soon as they departed from Sinai (Num_10:30).

We might then say that this little episode which forms part of the call of Moses foreshadows God’s intention to take Israel under the leadership of Moses through the desert to a garden land.

Exo 3:2  And the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire, and was not burnt.  Mount Horeb is later named Mount Sinai, and this is probably due to a word play with the Hebrew word seneh (burning bush).  The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia: But at Sinai “the glory of Yahweh was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exo_24:17); and, indeed, the glory of the Lord still dyes the crags of Jebel Mûsa (the “mountain of Moses”) with fiery red, reflected from its red granite and pink gneiss rocks, long after the shadows have fallen on the plain beneath. Sinai is mentioned, as a desert and a mountain, in 35 passages of the Old Testament. In 17 passages the same desert and mountain are called “Horeb,” or “the waste.” This term is chiefly used in Deuteronomy, though Sinai also occurs (Deu_33:2). In the other books of the Pentateuch, Sinai is the usual name, though Horeb also occurs (Exo_3:1; Exo_17:6; Exo_33:6), applying both to the “Mount of God” and to the desert of Rephidim, some 20 miles to the Northwest.

The Lord appeared to him.  The Hebrew reads literally: “The angel of the Lord…”, the translation takes account of the fact that the “angel” is later identified as God Himself (vss 4 & 14).  Such a designation is fairly common in the earlier books of Scripture.  Sometimes even an element such as the wind could be termed an angel (2 Samuel 5:23, 24; 1 Chronicles 14:14, 15).

In a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.  The Christian Tradition has long seen a great deal of meaning in the bush and the fire, and K & D admirably summarize: The symbolical meaning of this miraculous vision, – that is to say, the fact that it was a figurative representation of the nature and contents of the ensuing message from God, – has long been admitted. The thorn-bush in contrast with the more noble and lofty trees (Jdg_9:15) represented the people of Israel in their humiliation, as a people despised by the world. Fire and the flame of fire were not “symbols of the holiness of God;” for, as the Holy One, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1Jo_1:5), He “dwells in the light which no man can approach unto” (1Ti_6:16); and that not merely according to the New Testament, but according to the Old Testament view as well, as is evident from Isa_10:17, where “the Light of Israel” and “the Holy One of Israel” are synonymous. But “the Light of Israel became fire, and the Holy One a flame, and burned and consumed its thorns and thistles.” Nor is “fire, from its very nature, the source of light,” according to the scriptural view. On the contrary, light, the condition of all life, is also the source of fire. The sun enlightens, warms, and burns (Job_30:28; Sol. Son_1:6); the rays of the sun produce warmth, heat, and fire; and light was created before the sun. Fire, therefore, regarded as burning and consuming, is a figurative representation of refining affliction and destroying punishment (1Co_3:11.), or a symbol of the chastening and punitive justice of the indignation and wrath of God. It is in fire that the Lord comes to judgment (Dan_7:9-10; Eze_1:13-14, Eze_1:27-28; Rev_1:14-15). Fire sets forth the fiery indignation which devours the adversaries (Heb_10:27). He who “judges and makes war in righteousness’ has eyes as a flame of fire (Rev_19:11-12). Accordingly, the burning thorn-bush represented the people of Israel as they were burning in the fire of affliction, the iron furnace of Egypt (Deu_4:20). Yet, though the thorn-bush was burning in the fire, it was not consumed; for in the flame was Jehovah, who chastens His people, but does not give them over unto death (Psa_118:18). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had come down to deliver His people out of the hand of the Egyptians (Exo_3:8). Although the affliction of Israel in Egypt proceeded from Pharaoh, yet was it also a fire which the Lord had kindled to purify His people and prepare it for its calling. In the flame of the burning bush the Lord manifested Himself as the “jealous God, who visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate Him, and showeth mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments” (Exo_20:5; Deu_5:9-10), who cannot tolerate the worship of another god (Exo_34:14), and whose anger burns against idolaters, to destroy them (Deu_6:15). The “jealous God” was a “consuming fire” in the midst of Israel (Deu_4:24). These passages show that the great sight which Moses saw not only had reference to the circumstances of Israel in Egypt, but was a prelude to the manifestation of God on Sinai for the establishment of the covenant (Exo 19 and 20), and also a representation of the relation in which Jehovah would stand to Israel through the establishment of the covenant made with the fathers. For this reason it occurred upon the spot where Jehovah intended to set up His covenant with Israel. But, as a jealous God, He also “takes vengeance upon His adversaries” (Nah_1:2.). Pharaoh, who would not let Israel go, He was about to smite with all His wonders (Exo_3:20), whilst He redeemed Israel with outstretched arm and great judgments (Exo_6:6).

Exo 3:3  And Moses said, I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
Exo 3:4  And when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Note the repeated use of the term “turned aside.”  The phrase is often used in Scripture to designate apostasy from God and the covenant, a very anti-Moses thing to do (see 1 Sam 12:20; 2 Kings 10:29; Hosea 7:14; see also Deut 17:20; Psalm 119:102).

Moses!  Moses! Only seven times in the entire Bible do we read of a name being repeated during a call/commissioning narrative ( besides here see: Gen 22:11; 46:2; 1 Sam 3:10; Lk 10:41; 22:31; Acts 9:4).  Father Georg Fischer, S.J., and Father Martin Hasitschka, S.J., in their book THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLE, note that “On each occasion it represents a high point or turning point for the one addressed.  The naming of the name makes the call personal; the doubling of the name makes it urgent” (pg 14).

Here am I.  Moses’ ready response will soon turn hesitant (see his objections in 3:11, 13, 4:1; and his entreaties 4:10, 13).  In many respects Moses reminds me of St Peter.

Exo 3:5  And he said: Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet; for the place, whereon thou standest, is holy ground.
Exo 3:6  And he said: I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face: for he durst not look at God.

The basic meaning of the Hebrew word translated as “holy” is “to be set apart,” in the sense of separated for a special reason.  The manifestation of the divine presence and His will to save his people are sacrosanct.

Exo 3:7  And the Lord said to him: I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of the rigour of them that are over the works;
Exo 3:8  And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey.

These verses allude to 2:23-25, the passage immediately preceding today’s reading.  The verbs here (e.g., ‘cry’ and ‘know’) are intensified, emphasizing that God has experienced their suffering as something personal.

K & D: Jehovah had seen the affliction of His people, had heard their cry under their taskmasters, and had come down (יָרַד, vid., Gen_11:5) to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up to a good and broad land, to the place of the Canaanites; and He was about to send Moses to Pharaoh to bring them forth. The land to which the Israelites were to be taken up is called a “good” land, on account of its great fertility (Deu_8:7.), and a “broad” land, in contrast with the confinement and oppression of the Israelites in Egypt. The epithet “good” is then explained by the expression, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (זָבַת, a participle of זוּב in the construct state; vid., Ges. §135); a proverbial description of the extraordinary fertility and loveliness of the land of Canaan (cf. Exo_3:17; Exo_13:5; Exo_16:14, etc.). Milk and honey are the simplest and choicest productions of a land abounding in grass and flowers, and were found in Palestine in great abundance even when it was in a desolate condition (Isa_7:15, Isa_7:22; see my Comm. on Jos_5:6). The epithet broad is explained by an enumeration of the six tribes inhabiting the country at that time (cf. Gen_10:15. and Gen_15:20, Gen_15:21).

I have seen.  Literally, “seeing, I have seen,” apparently emphasizing for the sake of assurance.  Matthew Henry: The notice God takes of the afflictions of Israel (Exo_3:7, Exo_3:9): Seeing I have seen, not only, I have surely seen, but I have strictly observed and considered the matter. Three things God took cognizance of: – 1. Their sorrows, Exo_3:7. It is likely they were not permitted to make a remonstrance of their grievances to Pharaoh, nor to seek relief against their task-masters in any of his courts, nor scarcely durst complain to one another; but God observed their tears. Note, Even the secret sorrows of God’s people are known to him. 2. Their cry: I have heard their cry (Exo_3:7), it has come unto me, Exo_3:9. Note, God is not deaf to the cries of his afflicted people. 3. The tyranny of their persecutors: I have seen the oppression, Exo_3:9. Note, As the poorest of the oppressed are not below God’s cognizance, so the highest and greatest of their oppressors are not above his check, but he will surely visit for these things.

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Saints and Holy People on Matthew 15:21-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2010

Matthew 15:21-28 is the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent according to the Extraordinary Form of the Rite.  Online resources for this Sunday’s Mass for both forms of the Rite can be found here.

What this women teaches: Prayer should always accompany Fasting.  St Vincent Ferrer wrties: At this Lenten Season, prayer and fasting are combined, as leading us onwards to a sincere repentance; they are combined because of our two-fold nature.  We are all formed of the flesh, and the substance of the flesh, which belongs to earth, ever tempts us to sin; and also we possess a heart which, except it is hindered by the flesh, longs for things spiritual and heavenly…Because there is no peace between them, the Church seeing this controversy, helps the soul, and ordains these afflictions and fastings for the subjugation of the flesh.  She brings before us today prayer, by means of which the soul is lifted up to God, and by such an ascension gains not only victory over the flesh, but also over all the powers of evil…By this one fast of forty days and forty nights, our Blessed Lord incites us to fast; Jesus fasted; and if Christ, who had no contradiction between the flesh and the spirit, did so, how much rather ought we”

Maldonatus: “We should pray with undoubting faith.  Christ seems to have wondered at the faith of none except Gentiles-i.e., of this woman and of the Centurion.  The faith of the Gentiles was greater than that of his own People.”

“O woman, great is thy faith!”  St John Chrysostom: He had repelled her that the event of the matter might be suitable to this saying, that He might adorn the woman with a resplendent crown.

Prayer ought to be persevering~Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.

“Her purpose was unshaken, though she met with three discouragements.  To her prayer Jesus ‘answered not a word,’ treating her with contumacy as if excommunicated, and, therefore, unworthy of any reply to her petition.  She evidently continued in her request, as if to say, I may be excommunicated, but I fly to Thee alone for mercy, who hast the power of healing.  ‘Have mercy on em, Lord.”  Teh very disciples were moved with compassion for her, and the ‘besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.’  O Lord, the nations may say indeed now that thou art cruel!  Then Jesus, seeming on one side to be hard-hearted, yet on the other to be compassionate, said, repulsing the woman a second time, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  He came to bring man a universal redemption; He was sent to all, and He came to all, ‘That all through Him might be saved;’ but all shall not be saved, because they will not be so; as slaves, sometimes, when the price of their ransom had been paid, refused their liberty, saying, I would rather remain here, and as I am…In this sense Jesus Christ was sent to all men; but in anther, as to His bodily advent, preaching and working miracles, personally, as it were, He was sent only to the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel….’  This being the case, the constancy of the woman becomes more marked; three times was she repulsed, and yet she ceased not to pray.  In the issue of her prayer she could say with David, “Blessed be God, who hath not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me” (Ps 66:20).  A story is told of a man visiting the Holy Sepulchre, and being preserved by daily continuous prayer, amidst infidels in whose possession it was.  The journey homewards was accomplished, and the the pilgrim said, ‘I am safe now,’ and the prayer for protection was omitted.  Alas! as he reached his home, a fire broke out, and several members of his family perished in the flames.” St Vincent Ferrer.

“It is recorded, that a certain soldier, much loved by his general, asked an apple of him as a token of his regard.  The general, firstly, gave him the command of a fortress, then presented him with a war horse, and then with splendid armor.  Still the soldier begged for the apple, which at last was given to him.  Had it been given at first he would have lacked the other gifts.  So was it with this poor woman; Jesus by keeping her waiting continuously, added to His gifts.  He gave her faith, stability, humility, and love, first, and then granted her one petition after all. St Vincent Ferrer.

Prayer ought to be humble:  “For our sakes, too, this answer was delayed; that we might humble ourselves in devoted prayer, and our souls so much the more ascend on high.  They in a church who kneel afar off are sooner heard than they who, in their loftier notions, take up their station near the altar; humility adds to efficacy.” St Vincent Ferrer.

“It was and especially humble prayer that St Francis made, when he passed whole nights in repeating these words, ‘My God, what art Thou, and what am I?’  At the sight of a God so great and so good, he bowed himself down to the dust; thinking on his nothingness, he was penetrated by a contrition to which charity gave birth, and besought Him with tears to hasten to his help.” Dictionary of Christian Anecdotes.

St Ignatius was once traveling with many of his companions.  Each of them carried on his shoulders a little bag containing what was most necessary to him; a good Christian perceived that they were tired, and was inwardly moved to relieve them by carrying their baggage; he offered his services, and conjured them to accept his offer, as if he had demanded a great favor of them; they yielded to his prayers.  When they had arrived at the hotel where they were compelled to rest, the man who had followed them, seeing that the good fathers set themselves at some distance from one another to pray, fell on his knees at their example, and kept in that position as long as the fathers were praying.  The space of time which they had fixed to devote to the exercise of prayer having expired, they rose, and what was their surprise to see that this man without letters and little instructed had prayed like them for a considerable time.  They expressed this to him.  ‘What have you done all this time?’ they asked of him.  His answer edified them much, for he replied, ‘I had nothing to say but: those who pray so devoutly are saints, and I am their beast of burden; Lord, my intention is to do what they do, I say to you all that they say.’  This for the rest of the journey was his ordinary prayer, and he attained, by this course, to a sublime dgree of prayer.”  Dictionary of Christian Anecdotes.

The efficacy and the consolation of prayer.  “It is related of the virgins Flora and Mary, who were beheaded the 24th November, in A.D. 851, that they promised to pray as soon as they should be with God, that their fellow-prisoners might be restored to their liberty.  Accordingly St Eulogius and the rest were enlarged (i.e., freed from their constraint) six days after there death. Lives Of The Saints.

“The life of St Cuthbert was almost a continual prayer.  There was no business, no company, no place, how public soever, which did not afford him an opportunity, and even a fresh motive to pray.  Not content to pass the day in this exercise, he continued it constantly for several hours of the night, which was to him a time of light and interior delights.  Whatever he saw seemed to speak to him of God, and invite him to His love.  His conversation was on God or heavenly things, and he would have regretted a single moment which had not been employed with God or for His honor, as utterly lost.  The inestimable riches which he found in God showed him how precious every moment is, in which he had it in his power to enjoy the Divine converse.

“The immensity of God, who is present in us and all creatures, and whom millions of worlds cannot confine or contain; His eternity, to which all time co-exists, and which has neither beginning, end, nor succession; the unfathomed abyss of His judgments; the sweetness of His Providence; His adorable sanctity; His justice; wisdom, goodness, mercy, and love, especially as displayed in the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation, and in the doctrine, actions, and sufferings, of our Blessed Redeemer; in a word, all the incomprehensible attributes of the Divinity, and the mysteries of His grace and mercy, successively filled his mind and heart, and kindled in his soul the most sweet and ardent affections, in which his thirst and his delight, which were always fresh and always insatiable, gave him a kind of anticipated taste of paradise.  For holy contemplation discovers to a soul a new, most wonderful world, whose beauty, riches, and pure delights, astonish and transport her out of herself.  St Teresa, coming from prayer, said she came from a world greater and more beautiful beyond comparison than a thousand worlds, like that which we behold with our corporeal eyes, could be.  St Bernard was always torn from this holy exercise with regret.” Lives Of The Saints.

This post was excerpted from SERMONS ANCIENT AND MODERN.

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Aquinas Epistle Notes for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 27, 2010

The readings used in the Extraordinary Form of the Rite (the so-called Latin Mass) differ from those used in the Ordinary Form (the so-called Mass of Vatican II).  Below you will find Aquinas’ sermon notes on the Epistle used in the Extraordinary Form.  For a number of online resources for the Mass according to both forms of the Rite (Scripture study, homilies, etc.,), click here.


“we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received from us how ye ought to walk and to please God,” &c.-1 Thess 4:1.

The Apostle exhorts in this Epistle to five things. Firstly, that we should walk according to God: “How ye ought to walk.”  Secondly, that we may be pleasing to God: “To please God.”  Thirdly, as holy: “Your sanctification.”  Fourthly, that we should do no injury to our neighbor: “That no man go beyond and defraud.”  Fifthly, that we should avoid sins of sensuality: Ye should abstain from fornication.”

I.  Walking according to God: It is to be noted that the Apostle taught us twelve ways of walking; five of them will be mentioned here, and the rest in the Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent.

1.  In humility, lest inflated with pride we are not able to pass up the narrow way.

2.  In patience, that we may bear cheerful toils and the misfortunes of the way.

3.  In meekness, that we may have companions on our way, and may  not perturb them in the journey.

4.  In charity, that we may communicate good words to our companions.

5.  In compassion, that we may help the infirmities of the saints.

Concerning these five Ephesians 4:1-2 teaches (note the color coding etc., with what preceded).

1.  “That ye walk worthy of the vocation, with all lowliness.

2.  Long suffering.

3.  Meekness.

4.  Forbearing one another.

5.  In love.

II.  How to please God.  Five things are necessary.

1. That we should fear Him above all as omnipotent and just.

2.  That we should hope in Him above all as if in a liberator.

Of these two Ps 147 states: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in them that hope in his mercy.”

3.  That we should love Him above all, as our highest good: “I love them that love Me” (Prov 8:17).

4.  That we shall sustain tribulations willingly for His sake: “All that pleased God passed through many tribulations, remaining faithful.

5.  That for His sake we should despise fleshly delights, and live after the Spirit: They that are in the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” &c.

III.  Concerning sanctification (holiness): We ought to be holy for five reasons.

1.  That we may become like God: “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16).

2.  Lest we should do injury to Christ, Who cleansed us with such great toil and cost: “Loved us, and washed us from our sins in His Own Blood” (Apoc 1:5).

3.  Lest we should be prevented from entering the Heavenly City: “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth” (Apoc 21:27).

4.  That we may be made capable of receiving wisdom: “Conveyeth herself into holy souls; she maketh the friends of God and prophets” (Wisd 7:27).

5.  That we may be worthy to see God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” which vision Christ has procured for us (Mt 5:8).

Note: For some reason the notes end here, without Aquinas dealing with the fourth and fifth things mentioned in the opening paragraph.  He does refer to the fifth thing in his homily on the Epistle for the Third Sunday in Lent.

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Notes on Luke 9:28b-36

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 27, 2010

Background:  Luke may have written “an orderly account” but this does not mean that it is simple in its structure, or that one can understand it with a cursory reading.  The narrative/theological structure of the Gospel is rich and complex, and the Transfiguration is one of the most important elements in Luke’s structure.  An attempt to adequately present the background here is both beyond my capabilities and my available time, and so I will merely note that the broader context of the Transfiguration is Luke 5:1-9:50, and point out some connections between the first several episodes of this context and then move on to present my notes on Luke 9:28b-36.

Luke 5:1-9:50 opens with an epiphany story which focuses on Simon (Peter), his response to Jesus’ word, the promise of his future mission, and the following of Jesus by Simon (Peter) James and John [see Luke 5:1-11].  This relates to the transfiguration [Luke 9:28-36] which is also an epiphany story, with the same four characters, and a focus on Jesus’ word [Luke 9:35].  This is immediately followed by the healing of a leper [Luke 5:12-16], an event that highlights Jesus fidelity to the Law given through Moses [Ex 19-20] and ardently defended by Elijah [1 Kings 18-19], both of whom will appear at the Transfiguration.  There then follows a series of confrontations, and questions relating to Jesus authority [Luke 5:17-26], followed by events relating to the interpretation of the Law of Moses, and it’s practice/observance [Luke 5:27-6:11].  These confrontations foreshadow our Lord’s death, and the cross the disciples will have to bear as well.  This also helps prepare for the Transfiguration, which is immediately preceded by the first passion prediction, and the demand that the disciples carry their cross daily [Luke 9:22-27].

These questions and confrontations regarding the Law and piety pit Jesus (and by implication) the disciples against the Jewish leaders.  It is against this background that Jesus chooses twelve from among his disciples [Luke 6:12-16].  The significance of this is hinted at by the naming of Simon Peter first, who had been promised some sort of mission earlier in the Gospel [Luke 5:10], as we noted above.  Here again preparation is being made for the immediate context of the transfiguration, for at the beginning of chapter 9 we see that the twelve are sent out on a mission [Luke 9:1-6].

Having established twelve men through whom he will continue to teach and act with authority [see Lk 9:1; Acts 1:1], Jesus begins to minister to a great multitude of people, both Jews and Pagans (Tyre and Sidon) [Lk 6:17-20], giving us some indication of what he meant when he defined his mission in reference to Elijah, who had been sent to a woman of Sidon, and in reference to Elisha’s healing of a Syrian [see Lk, 4:16-30].  It is against this backdrop that Jesus delivers his teaching on morality and piety [Lk 6:20-49].  Again, this relates to the Transfiguration and its command to “listen” to Jesus as Moses and Elijah recede out of sight.  Jesus’ authority surpasses that of the Law’s mediator, Moses, and its greatest defender, Elijah.  The teaching authority within Judaism pales in comparison, and it will be replaced [see Lk 20:9-19].

Jesus had demanded that we love our enemies [Lk 6:27-36], and it is against this background that he heals the Pagan Roman Centurion’s servant [Lk 7:1-10], recognizing his faith.  This healing is immediately followed by an act of mercy towards a fellow Jew, emphasizing that earlier healing of a Roman “enemy” and again recalling the mention of Elijah and Elisha mentioned above.  It is no accident then the the Transfiguration, with its command to “listen” to Jesus, is followed by the command that we are not to oppose those who are open to Jesus even though they are not a part of our company [Lk 9:49-50].  As the old adage has it: you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Hearing of Jesus’ sermon on the plain, his openness to Gentiles, and his ability to raise the dead produced some questions in the mind of the imprisoned Baptist.  He had presented Jesus as a fiery Prophet (NOT THE MESSIAH) sent in judgment (Lk 3:15-18), but the reality turned out to be rather different.  Jesus himself identifies John as fulfilling the Elijah prophecy of Malachi 3:1, 23-24 (Mal 3:1 & Mal 4:5 in some translations).  The Baptist may have been the greatest of the prophets (Lk 7:26-28), but even his knowledge is not on a par with the Son we should listen to. 

Notes on Luke 9:28b-36~ See also Matt 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; 2 Pet 1:17-18

Concerning the Transfiguration in Luke the Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture states: As Lagrange says, it is impossible to read the Gospel without seeing the relation of this scene to the parallel scene in Gethsemani: ‘they stand in opposition to one another like strophe and antistrophe, but the Transfiguration serves as a sure pledge of Christ’s future glory, while Gethsemani shows him to us in the lowest depths of human abasement’. The incident must be joined with the prediction of the Passion; these predictions always end (except in Lk_9:44b) with a promise of resurrection, and it is the glory of the risen Christ that is foreshadowed in the Transfiguration. The chief additions in Lk are characteristic: our Lord is again at prayer while the events begin to happen (cf. Lk 3:21); his Passion is the subject of his conversation with Moses and Elias, who like Jesus (Lk 9:32) appear in glory; the disciples are heavy with sleep as at Gethsemani; it is only when Moses and Elias are on the point of departure that Peter breaks in with his suggestion.

It’s no accident that the Transfiguration scene follows immediately upon the first Passion prediction and the teaching on discipleship which follows (Lk 9:18-27).

Luk 9:28  (H)e took Peter and James and John and went up into a mountain to pray.
Today’s reading is identified as beginning at Lk 9:28b, the “b” identifying the second half of the verse as the starting point.  The verse actually begins: “It came to pass about eight days after these words…” which connects the transfiguration with what was narrated in Lk 9:10 and following.  The non-appearance of the words in the lectionary reading is a reminder that the liturgical readings are designed to be seen in relation to one or more of the other readings of the day, and not as the basis for a formal study of the Gospel itself.
The reference to our Lord and the three Apostles recalls the narrative of Lk 5:1-11 where Peter is told he will be catching men and, as a result, he, along with James and John, follow Jesus.  In the Second Epistle of Peter the Transfiguration is presented as a kind of Apostolic commissioning (2 Pet 1:16-21).  In addition, these three are the first to be named Apostles (along with Andrew) in Lk 6:12-16; an event also associated with the prayer of Jesus on a mountain.

The same three disciples were privileged to see the raising of Jarius’ daughter (see Lk 8:40-56, especially vs 51), an event that comes right before the naming of the twelve Apostles.

Commenting on the Transfiguration taking place on a mountain Remigius, commenting on the text of Matthew writes: Remig.: When the Lord was about to shew His disciples the glory of His brightness, He led them into the mountain, as it follows, “And he took them up into a high mountain apart.” Herein teaching, that it is necessary for all who seek to contemplate God, that they should not grovel in weak pleasures, but by love of things above should be ever raising themselves towards heavenly things; and to shew His disciples that they should not look for the glory of the divine brightness in the gulph of the present world, but in the kingdom of the heavenly blessedness. He leads them apart, because the saints are separated from the wicked by their whole soul and devotion of their faith, and shall be utterly separated in the future; or because many are called, but few chosen.  It follows, “And he was transfigured before them.”

Luk 9:29  And whilst he prayed, the shape of his countenance was altered and his raiment became white and glittering.
Important events in Luke often take place after or within the context of prayer. Jerome concerning the change in our Lord’s appearance: Such as He is to be in the time of the Judgment, such was He now seen of the Apostles.

Whereas Matthew speaks of the Lord’s μεταμορφώθη (metamorphoō = Transfigured), Luke uses the term  ἐγένετο ἕτερον “was altered.”  The Protestant reference work Vine’s Word Study gives a common reason for this difference: In classical Greek very indefinite as an expression of color; being used, not only of the whiteness of the snow, but of gray dust. Its original sense is clear. All three evangelists use the word, but combined with different terms. Thus, Matthew, as the light. Mark, στίλβοντα, glistering (see on Mark 9:3). Luke, ἐξαστράπτων (only here in New Testament), flashing as with the brilliance of lightning. Rev., dazzling. (“Rev” indicates the Revised Version.)

The Protestant Commentary Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown: Matthew says, “His face did shine as the sun” (Matt 17:2), and Mark says (Mark 9:3), “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mark 9:3). The light, then, it would seem, shone not upon Him from without, but out of Him from within; He was all irradiated, was in one blaze of celestial glory. What a contrast to that “visage more marred than men, and His form than the sons of men!” (Isa 52:14).

The glory of Christ on this occasion is often seen as a foreshadowing of the glory the saints will enjoy in heaven, as the Gloss states: (The) raiment of Christ shadows out the saints, of whom Esaias (Isaiah) says, “With all these shalt thou clothe thee as with a garment;” [Isa 49:18] and they are likened to snow because they shall be white with virtues, and all the heat of vices shall be put far away from them.

Luk 9:30  And behold two men were talking with him. And they were Moses and Elias.
Luk 9:31  Appearing in majesty. And they spoke of his decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem.

 They spoke of his decrease.  Vine’s Word Study: The Rev. retains the word of the A. V., though it has, to modern ears, a somewhat formal sound. No word, however, could more accurately represent the original, which is compounded of ἐξ, out of, and ὁδός, a journeying; and thus corresponds to the Latin decessus, a going away, whence the word decease. The Greek word is familiar to us as exodus, applied principally to the migration of the Hebrews from Egypt, and thus used at Heb_11:22, departing. In the mouth of Christ it covers the ideas both of death and ascension. Peter uses it of his own death (2 Pet 1:15, where see note). 

Moses and Elias (Elijah) embodying the Law and the Prophets.  The Haydock Commentary quoting St Cyril states: Moses and Elias, by ministering to our Lord in his glory, shewed him to be the Lord of both the Old and New Testament.  The disciples also, upon seeing the glory of their fellow-creatures, would be filled with admiration at the condescension of their divine Master; and considering the delights of future happiness, be stirred up to a holy emulation of those who had laboured before them, and be fortified in their ensuing conflicts; for nothing so much lightens the present labour, as the consideration of the future recompense. (St. Cyril).

St John Chrysostom links the appearance of these two figures to the question of Jesus Identity which precedes and is closely related to the Transfiguration. See Luke 9:19; Matt16:14; Mark 8:28There are inane reasons why these should appear. The first is this; because the multitudes said He was Elias, or Jeremias, or one of the Prophets, He here brings with Him the chief of the Prophets, that hence at least may be seen the difference between the servants and their Lord.

Luk 9:32  But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep. And waking, they saw his glory and the two men that stood with him.
Theophylact writes: While Christ is engaged in prayer, Peter is heavy with sleep, for he was weak, and did what was natural to man; as it is said, But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep. But when they awake, they behold His glory, and the two men with Him; as it follows, And when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.  It’s not hard to see an allusion to the scene in Gethsemane (Lk 22:39-46).

St Thomas Aquinas admirably summarizes a number of points concerning the theological context of the Transfiguration, linking it to the Lord’s suffering and the demands of disciplehip: Our Lord, after foretelling His Passion to His disciples, had exhorted them to follow the path of His sufferings (Mt 16:21-28; Mk 8:31-38; Lk 9:22-27 ). Now in order that anyone go straight along a road, he must have some knowledge of the end: thus an archer will not shoot the arrow straight unless he first see the target. Hence Thomas said (Jn 14:5): “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?” Above all is this necessary when hard and rough is the road, heavy the going, but delightful the end. Now by His Passion Christ achieved glory, not only of His soul, which He had from the first moment of His conception, but also of His body; according to Luke (Lk 24:26): “Christ ought [Vulg.: ‘ought not Christ’] to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory (?).” To which glory He brings those who follow the footsteps of His Passion, according to Acts 14:21: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Therefore it was fitting that He should show His disciples the glory of His clarity (which is to be transfigured), to which He will configure those who are His; according to Philippians 3:21 “(Who) will reform the body of our lowness configured [Douay: ‘made like’] to the body of His glory.” Hence Bede says on Mark 8:39: “By His loving foresight He allowed them to taste for a short time the contemplation of eternal joy, so that they might bear persecution bravely.” (Summa Theologica III Qu.45 a.1)

Luk 9:33  And it came to pass that, as they were departing from him, Peter saith to Jesus: Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses; and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
The Haydock Commentary quoting St John Damascene and Titus Bostrensis: It is good for us.  It is not good, O Peter, for Christ to remain always.  Should he have remained there, the promise he had made thee would never have been fulfilled.  Thou wouldst never have obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the reign of death would not have been destroyed.  Seek not for joys before the time, as Adam sought to be made like God.  The time will come, when thou shalt for eternity behold him, and reign with him who is life and light. (Damasus, Orat. de Transfigurat. Domini.) — Three tabernacles.  The Lord does appoint thee the builder, not of tabernacles, but of his whole Church.  Thy disciples, thy sheep, have fulfilled thy desire, by erecting tabernacles for Christ and his faithful servants.  These words of St. Peter, let us make, &c. were not spoken of himself, but by the prophetic inspiration of the Holy Ghost.  Therefore it is added, he knew not what he said. (Damasus, Orat. de Transfigurat. Domini.) — St. Peter knew not what he said, because by proposing to make three tabernacles for these three personages, he improperly ranked together, the servants and their Lord, the creature and the Creator. (Titus Bostrensis).

Peter, it appears, attempts to put our Blessed Lord on the same level as Moses and Elijah, a fine place for any other man to be, but Christ is the Father’s Son, His chosen One (Lk 9:35).  His words come as they (Moses and Elijah) were departing.  Does this imply that his suggestion regarding the three tabernacles was intended to make this situation of glory last?  If so we see that Peter still has not yet grasped the fact that Christ must accomplish his decease (exodus) in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31).  Peter is thus still thinking the thoughts of man rather than the thoughts of God (see Mt 16:23).  As the next verses indicate, God has other thoughts.

Luk 9:34  And as he spoke these things, there came a cloud and overshadowed them. And they were afraid when they entered into the cloud.
Luk 9:35  And a voice came out of the cloud; saying: This is my beloved son. Hear him.
A Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture: The cloud comes as if in answer to Peter’s words, here as elsewhere signifying the divine presence; he had suggested making shelters and the divine cloud covers them. God now enters on the scene and speaks as he spoke with Moses on Sinai about the Law, of which Christ is the end; Gal 3:24; cf.Ex 19.9:9 ff. 35. MS authority is divided between ‘beloved’ (only) and ‘elect’.  The former looks like a borrowing from Mk and Mt or from Lk 3:22. ‘Elect’ is a traditional Jewish Messianic title; cf. Lk 23:35 and Isa 42:1. The relation between the Transfiguration and the Confession of Peter is emphasized here by the similar command of silence (implied in Lk, explicitly stated in Mk and Mt) with which they both conclude.

Theophylact: But while Peter spoke, our Lord builds a tabernacle not made with hands, and enters into it with the Prophets. Hence it is added, While he thus spoke there came a cloud and overshadowed them, to show that He was not inferior to the Father. For as in the Old Testament it was said, the Lord dwelt in the cloud, so now also a cloud received our Lord, not a dark cloud, but bright and shining.

Protestant Commentator Matthew Henry: It is here added, concerning the cloud that overshadowed them, that they feared as they entered into the cloud. This cloud was a token of God’s more peculiar presence. It was in a cloud that God of old took possession of the tabernacle and temple, and, when the cloud covered the tabernacle, Moses was not able to enter (Ex 40:34, Ex 40:35), and, when it filled the temple, the priests could not stand to minister by reason of it, 2 Chron5:14. Such a cloud was this, and then no wonder that the disciples were afraid to enter into it. But never let any be afraid to enter into a cloud with Jesus Christ; for he will be sure to bring them safely through it.

Luk 9:36  And whilst the voice was uttered Jesus was found alone. And they held their peace and told no man in those days any of these things which they had seen.
St Ambrose: They then departed, when our Lord’s manifestation had begun. There are three seen at the beginning, one at the end; for faith being made perfect, they are one. Therefore are they also received into the body of Christ, because we also shall be one in Christ Jesus; or perhaps, because the Law and the Prophets came out from the Word.

Theophylact: Now those things which began from the Word, end in the Word. For by this he implies that up to a certain time the Law and the Prophets appear, as here Moses and Elias; but afterwards, at their departure, Jesus is alone. For now abides the Gospel, legal things having passed away.

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February 28: Resources For Sunday Mass (Both Forms of the Rite)

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 25, 2010

Ordinary Form:


St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on LukeAn exegetical sermon on Luke 9:28-36.

Commentary on Philippians 3:17-4:1By Bernardine de Picquigny.

My Notes on Philippians 3:17-4:1.

My Notes on Luke 9:28b-36.

Navarre Bible Commentary.

First reading/commentary.

Second reading/commentary.

Gospel reading/commentary.

Readings with Haydock Bible Commentary. Reading from the Douay-Rheims translation, followed by notes from the old Haydock Commentary.

Sunday Gospel Scripture StudyAudio, 54 minutes.  Excellent.

Prepare For MassInspirational and music video’s related to the readings.

Word Sunday.  Site has more resources than just those listed below.

  • FIRST READING Genesis 15 presents the vision of Abram. In that vision, YHWH confirmed his covenant with the Patriarch through the sign of a burn ember, a flaming torch.
  • PSALM Psalm 27 spoke of the divine experience. We touch God. When that touch is over, we want more. Encounter and yearning, these are touchstones to faith.
  • SECOND READING In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul pointed his audience away from daily trials and parochial controversies to something greater, life with the Lord Jesus.
  • GOSPEL In Luke’s gospel, the Transfiguration of Jesus challenged his followers to their core. They looked to the past for context, but Jesus looked to the future for fulfillment.

Lector Notes: These notes try to serve the Church by helping lectors prepare to proclaim the Scriptures in our Sunday assemblies. For each day’s first and second readings (and occasionally for the gospel), the Notes give the historical and theological background, plus suggestions on oral interpretation.

Scripture in DepthConcise and informative.

Extraordinary Form: Please note that the readings in the EF differ from those used in the OF.  In this form of the Rite the Transfiguration account is taken from Matthew.

St John Chrysostom on the Transfiguration: An exegetical homily on Matthew’s account.

Devout Instructions on the Epistle and GospelContains the readings, followed by instructions based upon them, concludes with a short essay with advice on how to keep the Commandments.

Homily on the EpistlePrefaced by the Epistle reading.

Homily on the Gospel.  Prefaced by the Gospel reading.

The Imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ Crucified. A sermon based on Matt 17:5.

Homily by Pope St Leo the Great.

Note: The next several links are to sermon notes which you may find useful for providing points for meditation or further study.

St Thomas Aquinas on the EpistleNotes for a sermon “The Christian’s Life.”

Sanctification of the SoulBased upon 1 Thess 4:3.

ImpurityBased upon 1 Thess 4:7.

The TransfigurationBased upon Matt 17:2.

HeavenBased upon Matt 17:7.

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St John Chrysostom on the Transfiguration

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 24, 2010

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, There are some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Thus, inasmuch as He had discoursed much of dangers and death, and of His own passion, and of the slaughter of the disciples, and had laid on them those severe injunctions; and these were in the present life and at hand, but the good things in hope and expectation:—for example, “They save their life who lose it;” “He is coming in the glory of His Father;” “He renders His rewards: “—He willing to assure their very sight, and to show what kind of glory that is wherewith He is to come, so far as it was possible for them to learn it; even in their present life He shows and reveals this; that they should not grieve any more, either over their own death, or over that of their Lord, and especially Peter in His sorrow.

And see what He doth. Having discoursed of hell,1 and of the kingdom (for as well by saying, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose it for my sake, shall find it; “2 as by saying, “He shall reward every man according to his works,”3 He had manifested both of these): having, I say, spoken of both, the kingdom indeed He shows in the vision, but hell not yet.

Why so? Because had they been another kind of people, of a grosser sort, this too would have been necessary; but since they are approved and considerate, He leads them on the gentler way. But not therefore only doth He make this disclosure, but because to Himself also it was far more suitable.

Not however that He passes over this subject either, but in some places He almost brings even before our eyes the very realities of hell; as when He introduces the picture of Lazarus, and mentions him that exacted the hundred pence, and him that was clad in the filthy garments, and others not a few.

2. “And after six days He taketh with Him Peter and James and John.

Now another says, “after eight,”5 not contradicting this writer, but most fully agreeing with him. For the one expressed both the very day on which He spake, and that on which He led them up; but the other, the days between them only.

But mark thou, I pray thee, the severe goodness of Matthew, not concealing those who were preferred to himself. This John also often doth, recording the peculiar praises of Peter with great sincerity. For the choir of these holy men was everywhere pure from envy and vainglory.

Having taken therefore the leaders, “He bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was6 white as the light. And there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him.7

Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his answer which he answered with his brother, saying, “We are able to drink the cup;8 nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him.

But wherefore doth He not lead them up straightway? To spare the other disciples any feeling of human weakness: for which cause He omits also the names of them that are to go up. And this, because the rest would have desired exceedingly to have followed, being to see a pattern of that glory; and would have been pained, as overlooked. For though it was somewhat in a corporeal way that He made the disclosure, yet nevertheless the thing had much in it to be desired.

Wherefore then doth He at all foretell it? That they might be readier to seize the high meaning, by His foretelling it; and being filled with the more vehement desire in that that round of days, might so be present with their mind quite awake and full of care.

3. But wherefore doth He also bring forward Moses and Elias? One might mention many reasons. And first of all this: because the multitudes said He was, some Elias, some Jeremias, some one of the old prophets, He brings the leaders of His choir, that they might see the difference even hereby between the servants and the Lord; and that Peter was rightly commended for confessing Him Son of God.

But besides that, one may mention another reason also: that because men were continually accusing Him of transgressing the law, and accounting Him to be a blasphemer, as appropriating to Himself a glory which belonged not to Him, even the Father’s, and were saying, “This Man is not of God, because He keepeth not the Sabbath day;”9 and again, “For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God:”10 that both the charges might be shown to spring from envy, and He be proved not liable to either; and that neither is His conduct a transgression of the law, nor His calling Himself equal to the Father an appropriation of glory not His own; He brings forward them who had shone out in each of these respects: Moses, because he gave the law, and the Jews might infer that he would not have overlooked its being trampled on, as they supposed, nor have shown respect to the transgressor of it, and the enemy of its founder: Elias too for his part was jealous for the glory of God, and were any man an adversary of God, and calling himself God, making himself equal to the Father, while he was not what he said, and had no right to do so; he was not the person to stand by, and hearken unto him.

And one may mention another reason also, with those which have been spoken of. Of what kind then is it? To inform them that He hath power both of death and life, is ruler both above and beneath. For this cause He brings forward both him that had died, and him that never yet suffered this.

But the fifth motive, (for it is a fifth, besides those that have been mentioned), even the evangelist himself hath revealed. Now what was this? To show the glory of the cross, and to console Peter and the others in their dread of the passion, and to raise up their minds. Since having come, they by no means held their peace, but “spake,” it is said, “of the glory11 which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem;12 “ that is, of the passion, and the cross; for so they call it always.

And not thus only did He cheer them, but also by the excellency itself of the men, being such as He was especially requiring from themselves. I mean, that having said, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me;” them that had died ten thousand times for God’s decrees, and the people entrusted to them, these persons He sets before them. Because each of these, having lost his life, found it. For each of them both spake boldly unto tyrants, the one to the Egyptian, the other to Ahab; and in behalf of heartless and disobedient men; and by the very persons who were saved by them, they were brought into extreme danger; and each of them wishing to withdraw men from idolatry; and each being unlearned; for the one was of a “slow tongue,”13 and dull of speech, and the other for his part also somewhat of the rudest in his bearing: and of voluntary poverty both were very strict observers; for neither had Moses made any gain, nor had Elias aught more than his sheepskin; and this under the old law, and when they had not received so great a gift of miracles. For what if Moses clave a sea? yet Peter walked on the water, and was able to remove mountains, and used to work cures of all manner of bodily diseases, and to drive away savage demons, and by the shadow of his body to work those wonderful and great prodigies; and changed the whole world. And if Elias too raised a dead man, yet these raised ten thousand; and this before the spirit was as yet vouchsafed to them. He brings them forward accordingly for this cause also. For He would have them emulate their winning ways toward the people, and their presence of mind and inflexibility; and that they should be meek like Moses, and jealous for God like Elias, and full of tender care, as they were. For the one endured a famine of three years for the Jewish people; and the other said, “If thou wilt forgive them their sin, forgive; else blot me too out of the book, which thou hast written.”14 Now of all this He was reminding them by the vision.

For He brought those in glory too, not that these should stay where they were, but that they might even surpass their limitary lines. For example, when they said, “Should we command fire to come down from heaven,” and made mention of Elias as having done so, He saith, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of;”15 training them to forbearance by the superiority in their gift.

And let none suppose us to condemn Elias as imperfect; we say not this; for indeed he was exceedingly perfect, but in his own times, when the mind of men was in some degree childish, and they needed this kind of schooling. Since Moses too was in this respect perfect; nevertheless these have more required of them than he. For “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no ease enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”16 For not into Egypt did they enter, but into the whole world, worse disposed than the Egyptians; neither were they to speak with Pharaoh, but to fight hand to hand with the devil, the very prince of wickedness. Yea, and their appointed struggle was, both to bind him, and to spoil all his goods; and this they did cleaving not the sea, but an abyss of ungodliness, through the rod of Jesse,—an abyss having waves far more grievous. See at any rate how many things there were to put the men in fear; death, poverty, dishonor, their innumerable sufferings; and at these things they trembled more than the Jews of old at that sea. But nevertheless against all these things He persuaded them boldly to venture, and to pass as along dry ground with all security.

To train them therefore for all this, He brought forward those who shone forth under the old law.

4. What then saith the ardent Peter? “It is good for us to be here.”17 For because he had heard that Christ was to go to Jerusalem and to suffer, being in fear still and trembling for Him, even after His reproof, he durst not indeed approach and say the same thing again, “Be it far from thee;18 but from that fear obscurely intimates the same again in other words. That is, when he saw a mountain, and so great retirement and solitude, his thought was, “He hath great security here, even from the place; and not only from the place, but also from His going away no more unto Jerusalem.” For he would have Him be there continually: wherefore also he speaks of “tabernacles.” For “if this may be,” saith he, “we shall not go up to Jerusalem; and if we go not up, He will not die, for there He said the scribes would set upon Him.”

But thus indeed he durst not speak; but desiring however to order things so, he said undoubtingly, “It is good for us to be here,” where Moses also is present, and Elias; Elias who brought down fire on the mountain, and Moses who entered into the thick darkness, and talked with God; and no one will even know where we are.”

Seest thou the ardent lover of Christ? For look not now at this, that the manner of his exhortation was not well weighed, but see how ardent he was, how burning his affection to Christ. For in proof that not so much out of fear for himself he said these things, hear what he saith, when Christ was declaring beforehand His future death, and the assault upon Him: “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.19 Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.20

And see how even in the very midst of the actual dangers he counselled amiss21 for himself. We know that when so great a multitude encompassed them, so far from flying, he even drew the sword, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. To such a degree did he disregard his own interest, and fear for his Master. Then because he had spoken as affirming a fact, he checks himself, and thinking, what if he should be again reproved, he saith, “If Thou wilt, let us make22 here three tabernacles, one for Thee and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

What sayest thou, O Peter? didst thou not a little while since distinguish Him from the servants? Art thou again numbering Him with the servants? Seest thou how exceedingly imperfect they were before the crucifixion? For although the Father had revealed it to him, yet he did not always retain the revelation, but was troubled by his alarm; not this only, which I have mentioned, but another also, arising from that sight. In fact, the other evangelists, to declare this, and to indicate that the confusion of his mind, with which he spake these things, arose from that alarm, said as follows; mark, “He wist not what to say, for they were sore afraid;”23 but Luke after his saying, “Let us make three tabernacles,” added, “not knowing what he said.”24 Then to show that he was holden with great fear, both he and the rest, he saith, “They were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake they saw His glory;”25 meaning by deep sleep here, the deep stupor engendered in them by that vision. For as eyes are darkened by an excessive splendor, so at that time also did they feel. For it was not, I suppose, night, but day; and the exceeding greatness of the light weighed down the infirmity of their eyes.

5. What then? He Himself speaks nothing, nor Moses, nor Elias, but He that is greater than all, and more worthy of belief, the Father, uttereth a voice out of the cloud.

Wherefore out of the cloud? Thus doth God ever appear. “For a cloud and darkness are round about Him;”26 and, “He sitteth on a light cloud;”27 and again, “Who maketh clouds His chariot;”28 and, “A cloud received Him out of their sight;”29 and, “As the Son of Man coming in the clouds.”30

In order then that they might believe that the voice proceeds from God, it comes from thence.

And the cloud was bright. For “while he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

For as, when He threatens, He shows a dark cloud;—as on Mount Sinai; for “Moses,” it is said, “entered into the cloud, and into the thick darkness; and as a vapor, so went up the smoke;”32 and the prophet said, when speaking of His threatening, “Dark water in clouds of the air;”33 —so here, because it was His desire not to alarm, but to teach, it is a bright cloud.

And whereas Peter had said “Let us make three tabernacles,” He showed a tabernacle not made with hands. Wherefore in that case it was smoke, and vapor of a furnace; but in this, light unspeakable and a voice.

Then, to signify that not merely concerning some one of the three was it spoken, but; concerning Christ only; when the voice was uttered, they were taken away. For by no means, had it been spoken merely concerning any one of them, would this man have remained alone, the two being severed from Him.

Why then did not the cloud likewise receive Christ alone, but all of them together? If it had received Christ alone, He would have been thought to have Himself uttered the voice. Wherefore also the evangelist, making sure this same point, saith, that the voice was from the cloud, that is, from God.

And what saith the voice? “This is my beloved Son.” Now if He is beloved, fear not thou, O Peter. For thou oughtest indeed to know His power already, and to be fully assured touching His resurrection; but since; thou knowest not, at least from the voice of the Father take courage. For if God be mighty, as surely He is mighty, very evidently the Son is so likewise. Be not afraid then of those fearful things.

But if as yet thou receive it not, consider at least that other fact, that He is both a Son, and is beloved. For “This,” it is said, “is My beloved Son.” Now if He is beloved, fear not. For no one gives up one whom he loves. Be not thou therefore confounded; though thou lovest Him beyond measure, thou lovest Him not as much as He that begat Him.

“In whom I am well pleased.” For not because He begat Him only, doth He love Him, but because He is also equal to Him in all respects, and of one mind with Him. So that the charm of love is twofold, or rather even threefold, because He is the Son, because He is beloved, because in Him He is well pleased.

But what means, “In whom I am well pleased ?” As though He had said,” In whom I am refreshed, in whom I take delight;” because He is in all respects perfectly equal with Himself, and there is but one will in Him and in the Father, and though He continue a Son, He is in all respects one with the Father.

“Hear ye Him.” So that although He choose to be crucified, you are not to oppose Him.

6. “And when they heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”

How was it that, when they heard these words, they were dismayed? And yet before this also a like voice was uttered at Jordan, and a multitude was present, and no one felt anything of the kind; and afterwards again, when also they said, “It thundered, …. yet neither at that time did they experience anything like this. How then did they fall down in the mount? Because there was solitude, and height. and great quietness, and a transfiguration full of awe, and a pure light, and a cloud stretched out; all which things put them in great alarm. And the amazement came thick on every side, and they fell down both in fear at once and in adoration.

But that the fear abiding so long might not drive out their recollection, presently He puts an end to their alarm, and is seen Himself alone, and commands them to tell no man this, until He is risen from the dead.

For “as they came down from the mount, He charged them to tell the vision to no man, until He were risen from the dead.”35 For the greater the things spoken of Him, the harder to be received by the generality at that time; and the offense also from the cross was the more increased thereby.

Therefore He bids them hold their peace; and not merely so, but He again reminds them of the passion, and all but tells them also the cause, for which indeed He requires them to keep silence. For He did not, you see, command them never to tell any man, but “until He were risen from the dead.” And saying nothing of the painful part, He expresses the good only.

What then? Would they not afterwards be offended? By no means. For the point required was the time before the crucifixion. Since afterwards they both had the spirit vouchsafed them, and the voice that proceeded from the miracles pleading with them, and whatsoever they said was thenceforth easy to be received, the course of events proclaiming His might more clearly than a trumpet, and no offense of that sort interrupting36 what they were about.

7. Nothing then is more blessed than the apostles, and especially the three, who even in the cloud were counted worthy to be under the same roof with the Lord. But if we will, we also shall behold Christ, not as they then on the mount, but in far greater brightness. For not thus shall He come hereafter. For whereas then, to spare His disciples, He discovered so much only of His brightness as they were able to bear; hereafter He shall come in the very glory of the Father, not with Moses and Elias only, but with the infinite host of the angels, with the archangels, with the cherubim, with those infinite tribes, not having a cloud over His head, but even heaven itself being folded up. For as it is with the judges; when they judge publicly, the attendants drawing back the curtains show them to all; even so then likewise all men shall see Him sitting, and all the human race shall stand by, and He will make answers to them by Himself; and to some He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; “37 to others,” Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things.38 And again passing an opposite sentence, to some He will answer, “Depart into the everlasting fire, that is prepared for the devil and his angels,”39 and to others, “O thou wicked and slothful servants.”40 And some He will “cut asunder,” and “deliver to the tormentors;” but others He will command to “be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness? And after the axe the furnace will follow; and all out of the net, that is east away, will fall therein. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun; “41 or rather more than the sun. But so much is said, not because their light is to be so much and no more, but since we know no other star brighter than this, He chose by the known example to set forth the future brightness of the saints.

Since on the mount too, when He says, “He did shine as the sun,” for the same cause did He so speak. For that the comparison did not come up to His light, the apostles showed by falling down. For had the brightness not been unalloyed, but comparable to the sun; they would not have fallen, but would easily have borne it.

The righteous therefore will shine as the sun, and more than the sun in that time; but the sinners shall suffer all extremities. Then will there be no need of records, proofs, witnesses. For He who judges is Himself all, both witness, and proof, and judge. For He knows all things exactly; “For all things are naked and opened unto His eyes.”42

No man will there appear rich or poor, mighty or weak, wise or unwise, bond or free; but these masks will be dashed in pieces, and the inquiry will be into their works only. For if in our courts, when any one is tried for usurpation, or murder, whatever he may be, whether governor, or consul, or what you will, all these dignities fleet away, and he that is convicted suffers the utmost penalty; much more will it be so there.

8. Therefore that this may not be so, let us lay aside our filthy garments, let us put on the armor of light, and the glory of God will wrap us around. For what is even grievous in the injunctions? or what is there not easy? Hear, for instance, the prophet speaking, and then thou shalt know the easiness thereof. “Neither though thou bow as a collar thy neck, and strew beneath thee sackcloth and ashes, not even so shalt thou call a fast acceptable; but loose every bond of iniquity, unloose the twisted knots of oppressive bargains.”43

See a prophet’s wisdom, how stating first whatever was irksome, and removing it, he exhorts them to obtain salvation by the duties that are easy; signifying, that God needs not toils, but obedience.

Then implying that virtue is easy, but vice grievous and galling, he makes it out by the bare names; “For,” saith he, “vice is a bond,” and “a twisted knot,” but virtue is a disengagement and release from all these.

“Tear in sunder every unjust compact;” thus calling men’s bills about the interest due to them, and the sums they have lent.

“Set at liberty them that are bruised;’ them that are afflicted. For such a being is the debtor; when he sees his creditor, his mind is broken, and he fears him more than a wild beast.

“Bring in the poor that are cast out to thy house; if thou seest one naked, clothe him, and them that belong to thy seed thou shalt not overlook.”44

Now in our late discourse which we made unto you when declaring the rewards, we showed the wealth arising from these acts; but now let us see if any of the injunctions be grievous, and transcending our nature. Nay, nothing of the kind shall we discover, but quite the contrary; that while these courses are very easy, those of vice are full of labor. For what is more vexatious than to be lending, and taking thought about usuries and bargains, and demanding sureties, and fearing and trembling about securities, about the principal, about the writings, about the interest, about the bondsmen ?

For such is the nature of worldly things; yea, nothing is so unsound and suspicious as that which is accounted security, and contrived for that purpose; but to show mercy is easy, and delivers from all anxiety.

Let us not then traffic in other men’s calamities, nor make a trade of our benevolence. And I know indeed that many hear these words with displeasure; but what is the profit of silence? For though I should hold my peace, and give no trouble by my words, I could not by this silence deliver you from your punishment; rather it has altogether the opposite result; the penalty is enhanced, and not to you only, but to me also, doth such a silence procure punishment. What then signify our gracious words, when in our works they help us not, but rather do harm? What is the good of delighting men in word, while we vex them in deed, bringing pleasure to the ears, and punishment to the soul? Wherefore I must needs make you sorry here, that we may not suffer punishment there.

9. For indeed a dreadful disease, beloved, dreadful and needing much attendance, hath fallen on the church. Those, namely, who are enjoined not even by honest labors to lay up treasures, but to open their houses to the needy, make a profit of other men’s poverty, devising a specious robbery, a plausible covetousness.

For tell me not of the laws that are without; since even the publican fulfills the law that is without, but nevertheless is punished: which will be the case with us also, unless we refrain from oppressing the poor, and from using their need and necessity as an occasion for shameless trafficking.

For to this intent thou hast wealth, to relieve poverty, not to make a gain of poverty; but thou with show of relief makest the calamity greater, and sellest benevolence for money. Sell it, I forbid thee not, but for a heavenly kingdom. Receive not a small price for so good a deed, thy monthly one in the hundred,45 but that immortal life. Why art thou beggarly, and poor, and mean, selling thy great things for a little, even for goods that perish. when it should be for an everlasting kingdom? Why dost thou leave God, and get human gains? Why dost thou pass by the wealthy one, and trouble him that hath not? and leaving the sure paymaster make thy bargain with the unthankful? The other longs to repay, but this even grudges in the act of repaying. This hardly repays a hundredth part, but the other “an hundredfold and eternal life.” This with insults and revilings, but the other with praises and auspicious words. This stirs up envy against thee, but the other even weaves for thee crowns. This hardly here, but the other both there and here.

Surely then is it not the utmost senselessness, not so much as to know how to gain? How many have lost their very principal for the interest’s sake? How many have fallen into perils for usurious gains. How many have involved both themselves and others in extreme poverty through their unspeakable covetousness !

For tell me not this, that he is pleased to receive, and is thankful for the loan. Why, this is a result of thy cruelty. Since Abraham too,46 contriving how his plan might take with the barbarians, did himself give up his wife to them; not however willingly, but through fear of Pharaoh. So also the poor man, because thou countest him not even worth so. much money, is actually compelled to be thankful for cruelty.

And it seems to me as though, shouldest thou deliver him from dangers, thou wouldest exact of him a payment for this deliverance. “Away,” saith he; “let it not be.” What sayest thou? Delivering him from the greater evil, thou art unwilling to exact money, and for the lesser dost thou display so much inhumanity?

Seest thou not how great a punishment is appointed for the deed? hearest thou not that even in the old law this is forbidden?47 But what is the plea of the many? “When I have received the interest, I give to the poor;” one tells me. Speak reverently, O man; God desires not such sacrifices. Deal not subtilly with the law. Better not give to a poor man, than give from that source; for the money that hath been collected by honest labors, thou often makest to become unlawful because of that wicked increase; as if one should compel a fair womb to give birth to scorpions.

And why do I speak of God’s law? Do not even ye call it “filth”? But if ye, the gainers, give your voice so, consider what suffrage God will pass upon you.

And if thou wilt ask the Gentile lawgivers too, thou wilt be told that even by them this thing is deemed a proof of the most utter shamelessness. Those, for example, who are in offices of honor, and belong to the great council, which they call the senate, may not legally disgrace themselves with such gains; there being a law among them which prohibits the same.

How then is it not a horrible thing, if thou ascribe not even so much honor to the polity of Heaven, as the legislators to the council of the Romans; but Heaven is to obtain less than earth, and thou art not ashamed even of the very folly of the thing? For what could be more foolish than this, unless one without! land, rain, or plough, were to insist upon sowing?49 Tares therefore, to be committed to the fire, do they reap, who have devised this evil husbandry.

Why, are there not many honest trades? in the fields, the flocks, the herds, the breeding of cattle, in handicrafts, in care of property? Why rave and be frantic, cultivating thorns for no good? What if the fruits of the earth are subject to mischance; hail, and blight, and excessive rain? yet not to such an extent as are money dealings. For in whatsoever cases of that sort occur, the damage of course concerns the produce, but the principal remains, I mean, the land. But herein many often have suffered shipwreck in their principal; and before the loss too they are in continual dejection. For never cloth the money-lender enjoy his possessions, nor find pleasure in them; but when the interest is brought, he rejoices not that he hath received gain, but is grieved that the interest hath not yet come up to the principal. And before this evil offspring is brought forth complete, he compels it also to bring forth,50 making the interest principal, and forcing it to bring forth its untimely and abortive brood of vipers. For of this nature are the gains of usury; more than those wild creatures do they devour and tear the souls of the wretched.51 This “is the bond of iniquity:” this “the twisted knot of oppressive bargains.”

Yea, “I give,” he seems to say, “not for thee to receive, but that thou mayest repay more.” And whereas God commands not even to receive what is given (for “give,” saith He, “to them from whom ye look not to receive”),52 thou requirest even more than is given, and what thou gavest not, this as a debt, thou constrainest the receiver to pay.

And thou indeed supposest thy substance to be increased hereby, but instead of substance thou art kindling the unquenchable fire.

That this therefore may not be, let us cut out the evil womb of usurious gains, let us deaden these lawless travailings, let us dry up this place of pernicious teeming, and let us pursue the true and great gains only. “But what are these?” Hear Paul saying “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”53

Therefore in this wealth alone let us be rich, that we may both here enjoy security, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and world without end. Amen.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary On Luke 9:28-36

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 24, 2010

9:27-36. But I say unto you truly, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste of death, until they have seen the kingdom of God. And there were after these things about eight days, and He took Peter, and John, and James, and went up to the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the look of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white, shining like lightning: and behold! two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah: who having appeared in glory, spake of His departure, that He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: but having roused themselves, they both saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him. And it came to pass, that when they were separating from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee: and one for Moses: and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said. While he spake these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them; and they feared as they entered the cloud. And there was a voice from the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, hear Him. And when there was the voice, Jesus was found alone; and they kept silence, and told no man in those days ought of the things they had seen.

THOSE who are skilful in the combat rejoice when the spectators clap their hands, and are roused to a glorious height of courage by the hope of the chaplets of victory: and so those whoso desire it is to be counted worthy of the divine gifts, and who thirst to be made partakers of the hope prepared for the saints, joyfully undergo combats for piety’s sake towards Christ, and lead elect lives, not setting store by a thankless indolence, nor indulging in a mean timidity, but rather manfully resisting every temptation, and setting at nought the violence of persecutions, while they count it gain to suffer in His behalf. For they remember that the blessed Paul thus writes, |227 “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy of the glory that is about to be revealed in us.”

Observe, therefore, how perfectly beautiful is the method which our Lord Jesus Christ uses here also for the benefit and edification of the holy Apostles. For He had said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day, and follow Me. For he that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” The commandment is indeed both for the salvation and honour of the saints, and the cause of the highest glory, and the means of perfect joy: for the choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ is not a thankless duty, but on the contrary makes us sharers in everlasting life, and the glory that is prepared. But as the disciples had not yet obtained power from on high, it probably occasionally happened, that they also fell into human weaknesses, and when thinking over with themselves any such saying as this, may have asked “how does a man deny himself?” or how having lost himself does he find himself again? And what reward will compensate those who thus suffer? Or of what gifts will they be made partakers? To rescue them therefore from such timid thoughts, and, so to speak, to mould them unto manliness, by begetting in them a desire of the glory about to be bestowed upon them, He says, “I say unto you, there are some of those standing here, who shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God.” Does He mean that the measure of their lives will be so greatly prolonged as even to reach to that time when He will descend from heaven at the. consummation of the world, to bestow upon the saints the kingdom prepared for them? Even this was possible for Him: for He is omnipotent: and there is nothing impossible or difficult to His all-powerful will. But by the kingdom of God He means the sight of the glory in which He will appear at His manifestation to the inhabitants of earth: for He will come in the glory of God the Father, and not in low estate like unto us. How therefore did He make those who had received the promise spectators of a thing so wonderful? He goes up into the mountain taking with Him three chosen disciples: and is transformed to so surpassing and godlike a brightness, that His garments even |228 glittered with rays of fire, and seemed to flash like lightning. And besides, Moses and Elijah stood at Jesus’ side, and spake with one another of His departure, which He was about, it says, to accomplish at Jerusalem: by which is meant the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh; and of His precious suffering upon the cross. For it is also true that the law of Moses, and the word of the holy prophets, foreshewed the mystery of Christ: the one by types and shadows, painting it, so to speak, as in a picture; while the rest in manifold ways declared beforehand, both that in due time He would appear in our likeness, and for the salvation and life of us all, consent to suffer death upon the tree. The standing, therefore, of Moses and Elijah before Him, and their talking with one another, was a sort of representation, excellently displaying our Lord Jesus Christ, as having the law and the prophets for His body guard, as being the Lord of the law and the prophets, and as foreshown in them by those things which in mutual agreement they before proclaimed. For the words of the prophets are not at variance with the teachings of the law. And this I imagine was what Moses the most priestly and Elijah the most distinguished of the prophets were talking of with one another.

But the blessed disciples sleep awhile, as Christ continued long in prayer:—-for He performed these human duties as belonging to the dispensation:—-and afterwards on awaking they became spectators of changes thus splendid and glorious: and the divine Peter, thinking perchance, that the time of the kingdom of God was even now come, proposes dwellings on the mountain, and says that it is fitting there should be three tabernacles, one for Christ, and the others for the other two, Moses and Elijah: “but he knew not,” it says, “what he was saying.” For it was not the time of the consummation of the world, nor for the saints to take possession of the hope promised to them; for as Paul says, “He will change our humble body into the likeness of His,—-that is, Christ’s—-glorious body.” As therefore the dispensation was still at its commencement, and not yet fulfilled, how would it have been fitting for Christ to have abandoned His love to the world, and have departed from His purpose of suffering in its behalf? For He redeemed all under heaven, by both undergoing death |229 in the flesh, and by abolishing it by the resurrection from the dead. Peter therefore knew not what he said 9.

But besides the wonderful and ineffable sight of Christ’s glory, something else was done, useful and necessary for the confirmation of their faith in Him: and not for the disciples only, but even for us too. For a voice was given forth from the cloud above, as from God the Father, saying: “This is My beloved Son, hear Him. And when there was the voice,” it says, “Jesus was found alone.” What then will he who is disputatious and disobedient, and whose heart is incurable, say to these things? Lo! Moses is there, and does the Father command the holy apostles to hear him? Had it been His will that they should follow the commandments of Moses, He would have said, I suppose, Obey Moses; keep the law. But this was not what God the Father here said, but in the presence of Moses and the prophets, He commands them rather to hear Him. And that the truth might not be subverted by any, affirming that the Father rather bade them hear Moses, and not Christ the Saviour of us all, the Evangelist has clearly marked it, saying, “When there was the voice, Jesus was found alone.” When therefore God the Father, from the cloud overhead, commanded the holy apostles, saying, “Hear Him,” Moses was far away, and Elijah too was no longer nigh; but Christ was there alone. Him therefore He commanded them to obey.

For He also is the end of the law and the prophets: for which reason He cried aloud to the multitudes of the Jews: “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me also: for he wrote of Me 10.” But as they persevered even unto the end in despising the commandment given by most wise Moses, and in rejecting the word of the holy prophets, they have justly been alienated and expelled from those blessings that were |230 promised to their fathers. For “obedience is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” as the Scripture saith. And thus much then of the Jews: but upon us who have acknowledged the revelation, all these blessings have necessarily been bestowed, by means of and as the gift of the same Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen. |231

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Bernardine de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 3:17-4:3

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 21, 2010

3:17.  Be imitators of me, brethren, and observe those who so walk as you have our form.

Be imitators of me.  The Greek has, “be imitators together, or by common consent, of me, and observe those who walk, as you have a type in us.”  It is to be explained that the Apostle says, imitate me, rather than imitate Christ, because there were ostensibly two types or standards of what was called the Christian life, one set by the Apostles, the other by the heretics, who systematically lived in sin, and seriously maintained that this was serving Christ.  These were the dogs referred to in 3:2.  He said there, observe the dogs, to avoid them; here he says, observe those who walk as we do, to follow and imitate them.  This is further stated in the next verse.  The Apostles, St Chrysostom says, were a type and exemplar of holy living.  So should every prelate be.  Yet the faults of the prelate do not excuse the subjects, because Christ said Learn of me.  And we have in the Scripture the examples of all virtues.

3:18.  For many walk, who I have often told you, and now also tell you weeping, are enemies of the cross of Christ,

Many walk, who though they profess to preach the cross of Christ, are not to be imitated in their lives.  I often told you of them when I was with you, and now I mention them again with tears.  Those who live in pleasure, says St Chrysostom, are truly to be wept for.  The same Father adds these remarks: They are enemies of the cross of Christ, first, because they attributed justification to the law and not to grace, the fruit of the cross.  Secondly, because while they made a profession of Christian faith, they lived in ease and pleasure, which is in direct opposition to the cross.  Nothing is so unlike a Christian as to seek for rest and ease.  Thy Lord was led to his cross, and thou seekest rest.  Thy Lord was pierced with nails, and thou indulgest in pleasures!  Is this like a generous soldier?  If thou lovest thy Lord, live his life, and die his death, crucify thyself, not so as to die, but so as to say with St Paul, To me the world is crucified.

3:19.  Whose end is death, whose God is their stomach, and their glory in their own confusion, who think of the things of earth.

Whose end is death.  The end to which their steps are directed, at which they must arrive if they pursue the course on which they have entered, is ruin, destruction, death eternal.  Whose god is their stomach.  Who have in reality no higher object in their religious teaching that to secure their own maintenance and support, and live upon the credulity of their disciples.  Their boast and glory is everything of which they ought to be ashamed.  And their care and pride is exclusively for what belongs to this world, nor do they, in truth and reality, sincerely believe in any other.  It is not improbable, from the phrase used in the next verse, that the persons to whom the Apostle refers were Roman citizens who prided themselves on that distinction, which St Paul also possessed, as well as the citizens of Philippi.

3:20  But our conversation is in the heavens: whence also we look for a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our conversation is in the heavens.  In the Greek, our city (commonwealth) stands, and is even now existing, in the heavens, πολίτευμα (politeuma) our civic municipality, or incorporation.  The Syriac has, our military constitution, as an army.  The Ethiopic has, our state, city, or republic.  Tertullian has our municipality,  In heaven is our home and refuge, our safety and protection, our friends and comrades, our rights and freedom.  We are citizens of heaven, and live under the laws and government of a celestial kingdom.  And from heaven we look for the Lord Jesus Christ, who will come at the last day, not as our judge or enemy, but our Savior, and set us, his friends, free for ever from care or sorrow of mind or body, clothe soul and body with eternal splendor and glory.

3:21  Who will reform the body of our humility, made to resemble the body of his splendor, according to the operation by which he is also able to subject to himself all things.

For he will reform, the Greek has “transfigure” or “transform,” turn into another form as regards its accidents, rendering it no longer subject to suffering or corruption, but impassible, incorruptible, and eternal, the body of our humility, a Hebraism for our lowly, abject, miserable body, bringing it to the likeness of his most glorious body, the body of his splendor, or glory,in and through which his glory is made manifest.  And this change he will effect by the exertion of the almighty power he possesses, by which all material things are subject to his will.

The heretics believe that the human body will perish for ever in the grave, and only immaterial nature survive for eternity; and further, that all material existence being essentially impure, the body is in itself vile and unholy, so our treatment of it does not affect the spirit, and becomes therefore insignificant.  In opposition to these dreadful errors, the Apostle maintains, in the concluding verses, 1. That there is a material existence prepared for us in the heavens; 2. that Christ dwells materially in the heavens, exalted in glory at the right hand of God; 3. that his body is glorious and beautiful beyond imagination or description; 4. that our own will be transfigured into the same splendid image at the last great day; 5. that his empire extends over the material world, which, according to his good pleasure and imperial will, is destined to share his eternity.

Chapter 4~In this chapter the Apostle earnestly exhorts the Philippian Christians to perseverance in the faith, unity among themselves, and a holy and Christian life, and takes leave of them with several salutations and his Apostolic benediction.

4:1. Therefore, my brethren, dearest and most desired, my joy and my crown, so stand in the Lord, most beloved.

Therefore, in consideration of the indescribable glory and happiness of the resurrection of the body, incorruptible, sinless, impassible, and immortal, which Christ has promised you, and to which you look forward, as explained in the concluding verses of the last chapter, I entreat you, my brethren, and the objects of my most ardent affection, the cause and occasion of my greatest joy, and whose salvation is to be my crown and reward at the last day, to continue steadfast, as you have stood hitherto, in the faith of Jesus Christ, and in the communion of his one, true, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. They are not only his joy, says St. Chrysostom, but his glory; not only his glory, but his crown. Could there be a higher testimony to their faith and Christian virtue, than to be the crown of Paul? Happy is the prelate who will be able to say of his subjects at the last day what Paul said of the Philippians: my joy and crown. For if not his joy they will be his sorrow ; if not his crown of glory, his confusion and condemnation.

Stand, so as to inherit the promise of Christ’s resurrection Do not follow those whose end is death.

If St. Paul missed a crown by his allegiance to Jesus Christ, which is not absolutely impossible, he found another at Philippi.

4:2. I request Evodia, and I entreat Syntiche, to agree together in the Lord.
4:3. I also request thee, my brother and comrade, help those women who laboured with me in the Gospel, with Clement and my other coadjutors, whose names are in the book of life.

Evodia and Syntiche were two women of position and influence in the Church at Philippi, who were employed in the conversion or instruction of women. Access to women was not permitted without difficulty to the other sex in the countries bordering on the Levant, and they were consequently, as a rule, instructed by women in the principles of the Christian faith. There was apparently some disagreement between the two women here named. All the Greek and Latin writers so understand the words. St. Paul proceeds to recommend them, as well as the others who were engaged in the same holy work, to the care of some man of high reputation, whom he does not name, but whom he calls his brother and comrade. In the Greek the word rendered by the
Vulgate germane, brother, is an adjective: συζυγε γνησιε. The first of these words signifies fellow-labourer, the figure being taken from a pair of bullocks drawing together under the same yoke. γνησιε  is true, sincere, and genuine. There is much difference of opinion as to who was the person referred to. Some suppose he was one of the bishops or deacons saluted at the beginning of this Epistle; others, that he was the husband or brother of one of the two women whom St. Paul has named. Vatablus and Grotius think it was Epaphroditus, and that St. Paul had written down in the Epistle what he had already in all probability communicated to the Bishop of Philippi by word of mouth, in order that it might be publicly known to the Philippian Church. And certainly the Bishop was the right person to be entrusted with the task of affording encouragement, support, and possibly maintenance to the female ministers and officers of the Church of which he was in charge, and reconcile them in case of any difference or disagreement. St. Chrysostom remarks that the point is not of great importance, and what is interesting is to observe the high value which the Apostle sets upon the services of these holy women, the care he took of their welfare, and the prominence he gives to their office and their names.

To the same care and solicitude St. Paul recommends also Clement, and the’rest of his fellow-labourers, whose names it is not necessary for him to record, because they are written in God’s book of life. The list of God’s faithful servants, predestined to life eternal. There is possibly a reference to Exodus 32:32. If thou do it not, blot me also out of the book which thou hast written. And the Lord answered, I will blot him out of my book, who has sinned against me. Mortal sin, therefore, or final apostasy, may occasion the erasure of a name once entered in the book of life. In Ps 69:29 we read, Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written among the just. In the book of the prophet Daniel, 12:1, in the day when Michael the great prince shall rise up, all thy people shall be saved who are found inscribed in the book. And Christ said to the seventy disciples, Rejoice, not that demons are subject to you, but because your names are written in the heavens, Luke 10:20. In the Apocalypse 3:5, Christ says to the angel of the Church of Sardis: Who overcometh, I will not blot his name out of the booh of life. But what if he is overcome? In the same mysterious prophecy we read, 13:8, that all who dwell on earth will worship the wild beast, whose names are not inscribed in the book of life of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. And in 20:12: I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened, and another book was opened, which is that of life. And the dead were judged by their works, according to what was written in the books. Lastly, in the vision of the holy, triumphant Church, shown in figure to St. John as the City of God, we are told, 21:27. There shall never enter there anything that defiles, and causes abomination and a lie, but only those who are written in the book of life of the Lamb. In this book of life were inscribed the names of the fellow-labourers of St. Paul, unknown to us. The Clement here mentioned was in all probability a different person from the celebrated Pontiff, St. Clement I., Bishop of Rome.

It would be unnecessary to refer, were it not that it has attracted the attention of St. Chrysostom, to an extraordinary interpretation which some writers have placed upon the opening words of verse 3, as if the faithful colleague referred to meant the Apostle’s wife. To begin with, it is certain from what St. Paul says in 1 Cor 7:7, as well as from the unbroken current of tradition, that he never was married. Besides, the terms used in this verse are in the masculine, not only in the Greek text and the Vulgate, but in all the versions, and are so understood by all the Fathers, Greek and Latin, as well as by Calvin and Beza. The Syriac has: my true associate. The Ethiopic, my brother and comrade. The
Arabic adopts the Greek word as a proper name, and reads, in the masculine, O fair, or noble, Syzyga. This view is also taken by some other writers, who consider Syzygus a proper name. O noble Syzygus. St. Chrysostom refers to the other interpretation as meaning the Apostle’s wife, only to reject it as false, and Theodoret stigmatizes it as absurd. Nevertheless some modern writers, and among them Faber Stapulensis, Erasmus, Cajetan, and Catharinus have adopted it. Their arguments are criticized and refuted at considerable length by Estius.



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My Notes On Philippians 3:17-4:3

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 21, 2010


Peter F. Ellis, in his book SEVEN PAULINE LETTERS, suggests a concentric structure, in three major parts which I’ve outlined below and put into my own words.  (Note that the first major part, A1. 1:1-3:1, consists of 3 concentrically arranged subsections which I’ve coded using colors, italics, boldface and underlining).

Concentrism is a common form of writing in the Bible, and it is recognized that the middle part of the structure, the “hinge” around which the parallel(s) are built, provides an interpretive key to the entire structure and establishes the writing as a unified product (pace some modern critics who think the letter is a compilation of disparate fragments from other writings).

A1.  (1:1-3:1) The advance of the Gospel and Growth in Christ.

a1. (1:1-30) Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus are, like good soldiers in the face of conflict and death, serving defending and fighting for the Gospel in partnership with the Philippians. Paul has joy and rejoices.

b. (2:1-18) Unity and Growth According to the Mind of Christ.

a2. (2:19-3:1) Timothy serves with Paul in the GospelEpaphroditus had been sent by the Philippians to serve Paul, and he nearly died in this service.  Paul bids them to have joy and rejoice.

B.  (3:2-16)  Having the Mind of Christ is Dependent on Faith/Knowledge, not Law.

A2.  (3:17-4:21)  The Advance of the Gospel and Growth in Christ.

Notice how the first major section (A1. 1:1-3:1) parallels the last major section (A2. 3:17-4:21).  Our Epistle reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent is taken from the third major section, and so, as a result of the letter’s structure and what it implies, my notes will take account-at least to a certain extent-of what is said in the A1 and B sections.

Notes: Using the RSV Text.  See copyright statement at end of post.

3:17-19.   17 Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Paul began the letter by mentioning the fact that they were “all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel” (1:7).  The grace he has in mind here is somewhat shocking, it is nothing less than his imprisonment, for he goes on to mention that what had befallen him (imprisonment) “has really served to advance the Gospel”, even among “the whole praetorian guard”, with the result that “most of the brothers have been made confident in the Lord” because of that imprisonment, and have become “more bold to speak the word of God without fear” (see 1:12-14).  All of this has caused St Paul to “rejoice”, in spite of the fact that some rivals (enemies) are preaching Christ out of pretense, to cause him “affliction’ (see 1:15-18).

In writing this, Paul, who had identified himself as a “slave of Christ Jesus” in the opening verse of the letter, shows that he has the mind of Christ who, “though he was in the form of God…took the form of a slave” and “humbled himself, obediently accepting even death” (see 2:5-8).  He can then, with good reason and humility, hold himself up as an example to be imitated (3:17) in the face of enemies of the cross of Christ (3:18), who belong to a “crooked and perverse generation” (2:15), who have their minds set on earthly things (3:19), for he is being poured out like a libation, a sacrificial offering for the Philippians (2:17).

3:20-4:1.    20 But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.
4:1 Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

“Our commonwealth is in heaven, opposed to the “many” whose “end is destruction,” whose “god is their belly,”   “who glory in their shame”, and who “have their minds set on earthly things” (3:18-19).  As “enemies of the cross of Christ” they live by the bodily pleasures of this world, and are not fit to have their “lowly (bodies) to be like his glorious body” (3:21).

“The concepts and even the words Paul uses here bear a strong resemblance to the words of the hymn in 2:6-11 and show that Paul still has that hymn on his mind.  The Greek word for ‘change,’ or better ‘transform,’ used here is metaschematisei, a verb built on the word schemati found in 2:8.  The word for ‘like’ is symmorphon, from the noun morphe found in 2:6.  The word ‘lowly’ tapeinoseos, suggests the words ‘he humbled himself in 2:8.  And the whole transformation from lowly to glorious recalls the contrast between Jesus’ condition before the cross 2:6-8, and after the cross 2:9-11.” (Peter F. Ellis, SEVEN PAULINE LETTERS, pg. 135).

“Stand firm thus in the Lord” (4:1) recalls St Paul’s description of his own conflict and his confidence that he would come through it (see 1:15-26, especially vss 19-20).  It also calls to mind St Paul’s exhortation that the Philippian’s “manner of life be worth of the Gospel of Christ” so that they might “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel, and not be frightened in  anything by opponents.”  If they do stand firm it is a sure “omen” of the opponents “destruction” and their “salvation” (see Philipp 1:27-30).  Likewise, it also calls to mind these words: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me (Philipp 2:12-18).

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.

Entreat. The Greek παρακαλω is derived from παρακαλέω (parakaleō), meaning to draw near, alongside, etc. St Paul wants the two to get with him concerning the issue at hand, namely he wants them to agree in the Lord.

Agree in the Lord. Literally, have the same mind. See 2:2~complete my joy by being of the same mind. The word agree is the same as that which was used in 2:5 to introduce the famous Kenotic Hymn of Phil 2:6-11~Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus. The two women are clearly engaged is some sort of conflict which is contrary to the example of the Lord’s self-emptying humility that the hymn celebrates and extolls. See St Paul’s introductory to the hymn in Philippians 2:1-4 which begins with the words: So if there is any encouragement (παρακλησις) in Christ… παρακλησις is related to the word entreat (παρακαλω) used twice in this verse.

3 And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

And I ask thee also, true yokefellow, help these women. The manuscripts differs concerning the first word of the verse. This translation is based upon the Greek και (kai = “and”). Other manuscripts use ναι (nai = “yes”). If  the reading, yes, I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women is correct, it suggests that the unnamed yokefellow has sent a request to St Paul seeking to intervene in the conflict in order to reconcile the women. The very fact that St Paul is aware of the conflict and that the yokefellow is not named, suggests that some sort of communication between St Paul and the yokefellow has occurred.

For they (the women) have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  These words are often taken as proof that these two women were leaders in the early church, indeed, even ordained to official ministry. But St Paul is actually building upon his entreaty (παρακαλω) to the women given in verse 2, calling them to his side of things (see commentary above). The phrasing here calls to mind the beginning of the missive in keeping with its parallel structure outlined above. These women, along with Clement and others, provided encouragement and financial assistance to St Paul during his ministry and imprisonment, thus sharing in both: I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (see Philippians 1:3-7). The Philippians served the Gospel by serving Paul, sending him Epaphroditus whom he describes as the Philippians’ messenger and minister to my need.
Epaphorditus had apparently been sent to St Paul bearing a monetary gift from the Philippians (Philippians 4:10-20), and it seems likely that the two women were major contributors.

For they have labored side by side with me in the gospel. The words side by side should be seen as basically synonymous with “being of the same mind,” or like phrasing (see comments on verse 2 above). St Paul is subtly reminding them that their manner of life must be worthy of the gospel for the sake of Christ: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine (Philippians 1:27-30).

Whose names are in the book of life. In the Mediterranean world of St Paul’s day the legal citizens of a city had their names recorded in a book. We may thus understand the book of life  as the official registry of the citizens of heaven. See Philippians 3:20~But our commonwealth (πολιτευμα = community, citizenship) is in heaven.  See also Philippians 1:27~Only let your manner of life (πολιτευεσθε = how a citizen acts) be worthy of the gospel of Christ.

RSV Copyright Statement:

The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

“Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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