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

Cornelius a Lapide on Galatians 5:1, 13-18 for Sunday Mass (June 27)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 21, 2010

This post includes Lapide’s summary of Galatians 5.  Text in purple, if any, are my additions.

1. S. Paul proceeds to urge the Galatians not to submit to the yoke of the Old Law, lest they be deprived of the fruits of Christ’s righteousness, since in Him neither circumcision nor uncircumcision will avail anything, but only faith which worketh by love.
2. He invites them (ver. 13) to Christian liberty, and shows that it is based on charity, which causes him to pass from the dogmatic to the ethical portion of the Epistle.
3. He points out (ver. 17) how the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and then he enumerates the works of each respectively.

Gal 5:1  Stand fast and be not held again under the yoke of bondage.

You once served idols and devils: why do you now wish to serve the shadows and burdensome ceremonies of the Mosaic law? The Greek for be not held is rendered by the Vulgate contained, by Vatablus implicated, by Erasmus ensnared. The Judaisers, says S. Paul, are enticing you to their law as into a net, in which, if you are once entangled, you will be unable to escape from its legal windings and toils.  See Acts 15:10; 1 Tim 6:1.  Contrast  with Matt 11:29-30.

Gal 5:13  For you, brethren, have been called unto liberty. Only make not liberty an occasion to the flesh: but by charity of the spirit serve one another.

You, brethren,  have been called unto liberty. Liberty from the burden of so many useless ceremonies of the law. Christian liberty throughout the Epistle is contrasted with Jewish slavery.

It is obvious, therefore, how grossly the Protestants pervert the Apostle’s words, when they argue from this that Christians are free from all positive law, and owe no obedience to prelates, to magistrates, or to parents. This is contrary to the law of nature and the Decalogue, subversive of all civil government, of all ecclesiastical order, of all human society. There has never been a nation, however barbarous, without its magistrates and laws, nor without them could the peace be kept, nor any nation continue, as all nations have clearly seen. If once men are persuaded that the civil or the ecclesiastical law does not oblige in conscience, but only as its sanctions constrain our fears, they will violate the law without any scruple, whenever they think it safe to do so. Accordingly, Christ, Paul, and the Apostles in general frequently order Christians to obey Cæsar and other unbelieving magistrates, not only for wrath’s sake, but also for conscience’s sake. Cf. Rom. 13.

It may be objected that at all events, by parity of reasoning, Christians, since they live under a law of liberty, ought to be free from subjection to so many canons and rules, the burden of which is equal to that imposed by the older law. I answer that no just comparison can be drawn—(1.) Because the laws of the Church, so far as they concern the laity, are much fewer in number, and are all reducible to the five precepts of the Church. The canons, it is true, which deal with the clergy, are more numerous, but no one is obliged by them unless he, of his own tree will, chooses to become a clerk. Moreover, it is the duty of the Pope and the Bishops to see that the number of canons and censures be reduced rather than added to. Many men of unquestioned piety are anxious lest too heavy a burden of rules be laid on the clergy, and so become a snare to them. (2.) Because the older laws were more burdensome and more difficult of observance, as may be seen in the number of sacrifices and lustrations. (3.) Because they were shadows of the laws of the New Testament. These latter, therefore, as being of easier observance, succeed to the former; and, surely, it is better to serve the reality than to serve shadows. (4.) The older laws were unable to excite internal piety, and could only keep the people from idolatry, as the Fathers lay down unanimously; but the laws of the Church are ordained for the special purpose of exciting piety, as is clearly shown by the laws about fasting, hearing Mass, confessing, and communicating.

Only make not liberty an occasion to the flesh.  Do not (as the Protestants in our time are doing) use your freedom from Jewish ceremonies as an excuse for rushing into the lusts of the flesh. Do not let the flesh take what the Jew has been forced to give up.  Lapide’s statement reflects the belief that the Protestant doctrine of sola fide leads to antnomianism.  Here is the 1909 Catholic Dictionary entry for this topic: (Greek: anti, against; nomos, law)  A term made familiar by the heresy of Antinomianism preached by Johannes Agricola as a deduction of Luther’s teaching on justification by faith alone. If good works, argued Agricola, do not help to salvation so evil ones do not hinder it and therefore justified Christians are not bound to observe the law. The deduction is logical, but Luther repudiated it and preached earnestly against it. Though often acted upon by some extremists in Germany and England, it was never favored by any Protestant sect. For more detail see the Catholic Encyclopedia.

But by charity of the spirit serve one another. As Chrysostom says: “Having removed one yoke, he, lest they should wax wanton, imposes another, the yoke of charity, so much the more strong as it is more light and pleasant.” Do not, says the Apostle, serve ceremonies, nor yet the flesh; I would have you free from both, and subject to one another through the spirit of love. The love of the Spirit is opposed to that love of the flesh so much boasted of by Adamites and other obscene sectaries.

1. The Apostle, as Chrysostom says, here cuts at the root of the evil, viz., the heresy and schism which induced some of the Galatians to try and draw others away to Judaism, and declares it to be pride and the love of power. He then applies the remedy, viz., charity. “Since you have been torn asunder, while you were trying to get the mastery one over the other, now serve one another and return to unity. As fire melts wax, so does love more readily disperse all pride and arrogance” (Chrysostom in loco).

2. Chrysostom does not here say love one another, but serve one another, because charity makes men servants, not by compulsion, but by glad choice, even to the extent of performing the meanest services for the poor and the afflicted. This holy and free service is not bondage, but a noble freedom, to be sought for by all Christians.

3. From the liberty of the law and the liberty of the flesh the Apostle now passes, by an easy transition, to the second part of the Epistle. From doctrine he proceeds to morals, with the view of improving the conduct of the Galatians.

Gal 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word. That is, the whole law so far as it concerns our neighbour, or according to what was said in the preceding verse, as we serve one another. Cf. Rom_13:8. S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. viii.), S. Thomas, Anselm, however, say that the whole law rests on the love of God or of our neighbour, but that the latter presupposes the former, inasmuch as our neighbour is to be loved for the sake of God. Therefore he who loves his neighbour both fulfils the law, which says, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and also loves God and fulfils the law, which says, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.

Gal 5:15  But if you bite and devour one another: take heed you be not consumed one of another.

But if ye bite and devour one another. Beware, if you attack one another with calumnies, lest you be mutually consumed. Two men calumniating and enviously pursuing each other are like two dogs fighting, and biting each other. They consume each other, nay, they devour themselves. Well said the poet: “Than envy nothing is more just, for it forthwith bites and tortures its author.” And therefore: “Than envy not even Sicilian tyrants have found a greater torment.” See my notes on Phil 1:18, where I enumerate the properties of envy. Wisely and piously said S. Augustine (Sent. 179): “To a religious man it ought to be little not to excite enmities, or to excite them only by awkward speech; he ought to strive to extinguish them by seasonable discourse.”

Gal 5:16  I say then: Walk in the spirit: and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit. The summary, the one aim of the whole of this Epistle, is this: Walk not in the law, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The root of all your trouble is want of the Spirit: if you had Him, you would shut out as well the legal as the carnal life.

To walk in the Spirit is to order our whole life after the impulse of the Spirit, who inspired us to works of piety, to prayer, faith, charity, and works of mercy. This Spirit the Apostles received abundantly at Pentecost, as did the first Christians, and they added to the gift they then received by loyally following His workings, by labouring and suffering everything, if only they might bring others to Christ, by fiery charity and burning zeal. Whither has fled that Spirit now? Lord Jesus, kindle in us that fire which Thou camest to send on earth, and which Thou didst will to burn vehemently.

Gal 5:17  For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh: For these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would.

The flesh lusteth against the Spirit. From this the Manichæans inferred that man has two souls—one spiritual, which is good and the gift of a good god, and another carnal, which is evil and the gift of an evil god. Some philosophers, too, hold that man has two souls—one sensational, by which he feels, eats, and generates as do the beasts; and another rational, by which he reasons and understands as do the angels; and they depend for this conclusion on the contrary appetites and mental operations found in the same individual.

1. But it is certain that in man there is but one soul, and that a rational one, but which also in a special degree embraces vegetative and sensational powers. Hence, as man has in him both sets of powers, it is no wonder if he experiences contrary appetites, carrying him to diverse objects, and exciting him to action when they are present. In its powers the soul of man is twofold or rather threefold.

2. The word flesh stands by metonymy for that concupiscence which is in the flesh, impressing on it its own ideas and desires.

3. This concupiscence resides not only in the sensitive appetite, but also in the rational, as S. Augustine points out (Conf. viii. 5); for as in the domain of desire, it excites the appetites of hunger and procreation, in the domain of self-protective instinct the passions of envy and hatred, so in the domain of reason it arouses the desire to excel and the spirit of curiosity. All our mental powers are infected by the leaven of original sin, but they are described as the flesh, because the desires of the flesh are those that are most frequently and most violently aroused, and so are the principal part of our desires, and give their name to the whole. Hence the Apostle uses the phrase “works of the flesh,” i.e., of concupiscence, not only for fornication, drunkenness, and revellings, which are strictly fleshly sins, but also for such things as the service of idols and envy, which are strictly sins of the rational part of our nature.

4. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, because it lusteth for carnal things, and the Spirit against the flesh, because it desires spiritual goods. This warfare is carried on within between the flesh and the Spirit; their forces are marshalled by the Apostle when he says, on the one side, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, &c., and on the other, But the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, &c. Prudentius gives a vivid description of this warfare in his Psychomachia, and S. Augustine in his “Confessions” (viii. 11). Cassian (Collat. iv. 11) describes it as follows: “The flesh delights in lust and lasciviousness; the spirit can hardly be brought to acknowledge the existence of these natural desires. The flesh seeks for sleep and food; the spirit is so engaged in fasting and watching that with difficulty it brings itself to consent to the necessities of nature. The flesh would abound in this world’s goods; the spirit is content with the slenderest provision of daily bread. The flesh loves the baths, and troops of flatterers; the spirit rejoices in squalor, and in the silence of the desert. The flesh is fed on honours and praises; the spirit joys in the persecutions and injuries inflicted on it.” See to the motives of grace and of nature depicted by Thomas à Kempis in his “Imitation of Christ” (lib. iii. c. 59), in his own simple but vigorous style.

The Abbot Pamenius, in his “Lives of the Fathers” (vii. 27), rightly describes concupiscence as an evil will, a devil attacking us; or, as Abbot Achilles in the same passage puts it, as a handle of the devil.

Augustine at one time thought that this warfare was waged in a sinner under the law, not in one living under grace; but he afterwards modified this opinion (Retract. i. 24). It is beyond question that it is found in the Saints, nay, is the more fierce in proportion as they strive to live more spiritually. Accordingly, S. Augustine says (Serm. 43 de Verbis Domini): “The Spirit lusteth against the flesh in good men, not in evil men, who have not the spirit of God for the flesh to lust against.”

Again, commenting on Psa_76:2. (A.V.), S. Augustine says: “You have to meet an attack not only from the wiles of the devil, but also from within yourself—against your bad habits, against your old evil life, which is ever drawing you to its wonted courses. On the other hand you are held back by the new life, while you still belong to the old. Hence you are lifted up by the joy of the new, you are weighed down by the burden of the old. The war is against yourself; but just where it is irksome to yourself it is pleasing to God, and where it is pleasing to God you gain power to conquer, for He is with you who overcometh all things. Hear what the Apostle saith: ‘With my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.’ How with the mind? Because your evil life is hateful to you. How with the flesh? Bemuse you are beset by evil suggestions and delights. But from union with God comes victory. In part you go before; in part you follow after. Betake yourself to Him who will lift you up. Being weighed down with the burden of the old man, cry aloud and say: ‘0 wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death, from the burden which is weighing me down’—for the body which is corrupted weigheth down the soul. But why is this warfare permitted to last so long, even till all evil lusts are swallowed up? It is that you may understand that the punishment is in yourself. Your scourge is in yourself, and proceeds from yourself, and therefore your quarrel is against yourself. This is the penalty imposed on any one who rebels against God, that as he would not have peace with God he shall have war within himself. But do you hold your members bound against your evil lusts. If anger, for example, is roused, remain close to God and hold your hand. It will not do more than rise if it finds no weapons. The attack is on the side of anger; the arms, however, are with you; let the attacking force find no arms, and he will soon learn not to rise if he finds that his rising is to no purpose.” Cf. my comments on Rom. vii. in fine.

These are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. You would wish to be free from the feelings of lust, anger, and gluttony, so as not to be hindered from charity, temperance, chastity, and prayer; and yet you are not free, nor can be free in this life. Or, on the other hand, you would wish to do cheerfully heroic deeds of virtue, but often you cannot, because the flesh is contrary. Anselm well says: “Your lusts do not allow you to do what you wish; do not permit them to do what they wish, and then neither you nor they will attain your ends. Although lusts rise in you, yet they are not consummated if you withhold your consent. In the same way, though there may be in you good works of the Spirit, yet they are not consummated either, because you cannot do them cheerfully and perfectly, while you have the pain of resisting your lusts.”

Gal 5:18  But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.

But if you are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. This anticipates a possible objection of the Galatians that they had apparently only exchanged one yoke for another heavier one, under which they had constantly to fight a tedious and irksome battle. The Apostle replies to this that if they were led by the Spirit they were not the slaves of concupiscence but its masters, and so were not under the law, inasmuch as they kept its provisions not from fear, but by spontaneously doing what it bade, and restraining the motions of concupiscence forbidden by it.

The Galatians were not, says S. Paul, under the law as a compelling force, still less under it as accusing and condemning, but they were under it as binding the conscience. Even so, however, they kept the law of their own accord, and so might be said to be outside the law, or above the law; not under it, but rather under the Spirit. This is why, after enumerating the fruits of the Spirit, he adds, Against such there is no law.  See Gal 5:23

2 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide on Galatians 5:1, 13-18 for Sunday Mass (June 27)”

  1. […] Cornelius a Lapide on Galatians 5:1, 13-18 for Sunday Mass (June 27).  […]

  2. […] ***Father Cornelius a Lapide on Galatians 5:1, 13-18. […]

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