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 August 11th, 2010

Aquinas’ Catnea Aurea on John 1:1

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 11, 2010

For more notes on John from various sources see here.

Ver 1a. In the beginning was the Word,

CHRYS. While all the other Evangelists begin with the Incarnation, John, passing over the Conception, Nativity, education, and growth, speaks immediately of the Eternal Generation, saying, In the beginning was the Word.

AUG. The Greek word “logos” signifies both Word and Reason. But in this passage it is better to interpret it Word; as referring not only to the Father, but to the creation of things by the operative power of the Word; whereas Reason, though it produce nothing, is still rightly called Reason.

AUG. Words by their daily use, sound, and passage out of us, have become common things. But there is a word which remains inward, in the very man himself; distinct from the sound which proceeds out of the mouth. There is a word, which is truly and spiritually that, which you understand by the sound, not being the actual sound. Now whoever can conceive the notion of word, as existing not only before its sound, but even before the idea of its sound is formed, may see enigmatically, and as it were in a glass, some similitude of that Word of Which it is said, In the beginning was the Word. For when we give expression to something which we know, the word used is necessarily derived from the knowledge thus retained in the memory, and must be of the same quality with that knowledge. For a word is a thought formed from a thing which we know; which word is spoken in the heart, being neither Greek nor Latin, nor of any language, though, when we want to communicate it to others, some sign is assumed by which to express it. . . Wherefore the word which sounds externally, is a sign of the word which lies hid within, to which the name of word more truly appertains. For that which is uttered by the mouth of our flesh, is the voice of the word; and is in fact called word, with reference to that from which it is taken, when it is developed externally.

BASIL; This Word is not a human word. For how was there a human word in the beginning, when man received his being last of all? There was not then any word of man in the beginning, nor yet of Angels; for every creature is within the limits of time, having its beginning of existence from the Creator. But what says the Gospel? It calls the Only-Begotten Himself the Word.

CHRYS. But why omitting the Father, does he proceed at once to speak of the Son? Because the Father was known to all; though not as the Father, yet as God; whereas the Only-Begotten was not known. As was meet then, he endeavors first of all to inculcate the knowledge of the Son on those who knew Him not; though neither in discoursing on Him, is he altogether silent on the Father. And inasmuch as he was about to teach that the Word was the Only-Begotten Son of God, that no one might think this a possible generation, he makes mention of the Word in the first place, in order to destroy the dangerous suspicion, and show that the Son was from God impassibly. And a second reason is, that He was to declare to us the things of the Father. But he does not speak of the Word simply, but with the addition of the article, in order to distinguish It from other words. For Scripture calls God’s laws and commandments words; but this Word is a certain Substance, or Person, an Essence, coming forth impassibly from the Father Himself.

BASIL; Wherefore then Word? Because born impassibly, the Image of Him that begat, manifesting all the Father in Himself; abstracting from Him nothing, but existing perfect in Himself.

AUG. As our knowledge differs from God’s, so does our word, which arises from our knowledge, differ from that Word of God, which is born of the Father’s essence; we might say, from the Father’s knowledge, the Father’s wisdom, or, more correctly, the Father Who is Knowledge, the Father Who is Wisdom. The Word of God then, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father, is in all things like and equal to the Father; being altogether what the Father is, yet not the Father; because the one is the Son, the other the Father. And thereby He knows all things which the Father knows; yet His knowledge is from the Father, even as is His being: for knowing and being are the same with Him; and so as the Father’s being is not from the Son, so neither is His knowing. Wherefore the Father begat the Word equal to Himself in all things as uttering forth Himself. For had there been more or less in His Word than in Himself, He would not have uttered Himself fully and perfectly. With respect however to our own inner word, which we find, in whatever sense, to be like the Word, let us not object to see how very unlike it is also. A word is a formation of our mind going to take place, but not yet made, and something in our mind which we toss to and fro in a slippery circuitous way, as one thing and another is discovered, or occurs to our thoughts. When this, which we toss to and fro, has reached the subject of our knowledge, and been formed therefrom, when it has assumed the most exact likeness to it, and the conception has quite answered to the thing; then we have a true word. Who may not see how great the difference is here from that Word of God, which exists in the Form of God in such wise, that It could not have been first going to be formed, and afterwards formed, nor can ever have been unformed, being a Form absolute, and absolutely equal to Him from Whom It is. Wherefore; in speaking of the Word of God here nothing is said about thought in God; lest we should think there was any thing revolving in God, which might first receive form in order to be a Word, and afterwards lose it, and be canted round and round again in an unformed state.

AUG. Now the Word of God is a Form, not a formation, but the Form of all forms, a Form unchangeable, removed form accident, from failure, from time, from space, surpassing all things, and existing in all things as a kind of foundation underneath, and summit above them.  BASIL; Yet has our outward word some similarity to the Divine Word. For our word declares the whole conception of the mind; since what we conceive in the mind we bring out in word. Indeed our heart is as it were the source, and the uttered word the stream which flows therefrom.

CHRYS. Observe the spiritual wisdom of the Evangelist. He knew that men honored most what was as most ancient, and that honoring what is before every thing else, they conceived of it as God. On this account he mentions first the beginning, saving, In the beginning was the Word.

ORIGEN; There are many significations of this word beginning. For there is a beginning of a journey, and beginning of a length, according to Proverbs, The beginning of the right path is to do justice. There is a beginning too of a creation, according to Job, He is the beginning of the ways of God. Nor would it be incorrect to say, that God is the Beginning of all things. The preexistent material again, where supposed to be original, out of which any thing is produced, is considered as the beginning. There is a beginning also in respect of form: as where Christ is the beginning of those who are made according to the image of God. And there is a beginning of doctrine, according to Hebrews; When for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. For there are two kinds of beginning of doctrine: one in itself, the other relative to us; as if we should say that Christ, in that He is the Wisdom and Word of God, was in Himself the beginning of wisdom, but to us, in that He was the Word incarnate. There being so many significations then of the word, we may take it as the Beginning through Whom, i.e. the Maker; for Christ is Creator as The Beginning, in that He is Wisdom; so that the Word is in the beginning, i.e. in Wisdom; the Savior being all these excellences at once. As life then is in the Word, so the Word is in the Beginning, that is to say, in Wisdom. Consider then if it be possible according to this signification to understand the Beginning, as meaning that all things are made according to Wisdom, and the patterns contained therein; or, inasmuch as the Beginning of the Son is the Father, the Beginning of all creatures and existences, to understand by the text, In the beginning was the Word, that the Son, the Word, was in the Beginning, that is, in the Father.

AUG. Or, In the beginning, as if it were said, before all things.

BASIL; The Holy Ghost foresaw that men would arise, who should envy the glory of the Only-Begotten, subverting their hearers by sophistry; as if because He were begotten, He was not; and before He was begotten, he was not. That none might presume then to babble such things, the Holy Ghost says, In the beginning was the Word.

HILARY; Years, centuries, ages, are passed over, place what beginning you will in your imagining, you grasp it not in time, for He, from Whom it is derived, still was.

CHRYS. As then when our ship is near shore, cities and port pass in survey before us, which on the open sea vanish, and leave nothing whereon to fix; the eye; so the Evangelist here, taking us with him in his flight above the created world, leaves the eye to gaze in vacancy on an illimitable expanse. For the words, was in the beginning, are significative of eternal and infinite essence.

AUG. They say, however, if He is the Son, He was born. We allow it. They rejoin: if the Son was born to the Father, the Father was, before the Son was born to Him. This the Faith rejects. Then they say, explain to us how the Son could; be born from the Father, and yet be coeval with Him from whom He is born: for sons are born after their fathers, to succeed them on their death. They adduce analogies from nature; and we must endeavor likewise to do the same for our doctrine. But how can we find in nature a coeternal, when we cannot find an eternal? However, if a thing generating and a thing generated can be found any where coeval, it will be a help to forming a notion of coeternals. Now Wisdom herself is called in the Scriptures, the brightness of Everlasting Light, the image of the Father. Hence then let us take our comparison, an from coevals form a notion of coeternals. Now no one doubts that brightness proceeds from fire: fire then we may consider the father of the brightness. Presently, when I light a candle, at the same instant with the fire, brightness arises. Give me the fire without the brightness, and I will with you believe that the Father was without the Son. An image is produced by a mirror. The image exists as soon as the beholder appears; yet the beholder existed before he came to the mirror. Let us suppose then a twig, or a blade of grass which has grown up by the water side. Is it not born with its image? If there had always been the twig, there would always have been the image proceeding from the twig. And whatever is from another thing, is born. So then that which generates may be coexistent from eternity with that which is generated from it. But some one will say perhaps, Well, I understand now the eternal Father, the coeternal Son: yet the Son is like the emitted brightness, which is less brilliant than the fire, or tile reflected image, which is less real than the twig. Not so: there is complete equality between Father and Son. I do not believe, he says; for you have found nothing whereto to liken it. However, perhaps we can find something in nature by which we may understand that the Son is both coeternal with the Father, and in no respect inferior also: though we cannot find any one material of comparison that will be sufficient singly, and must therefore join together two, one of which has been employed by our adversaries, the other by ourselves. For they have drawn their comparison from things which are preceded in time by the things which they spring from, man, for example, from man. Nevertheless, man is of the same substance with man. We have then in that nativity an equality of nature; an equality of time is wanting. But in the comparison which we have drawn from the brightness of fire, and the reflection of a twig, an equality of nature you cost not find, of time you lost. In the Godhead then there is found as a whole, what here exists in single and separate parts; and that which is in the creation, existing in a manner suitable able to the Creator.

EX GESTIS CONCILII EPHESINI; Wherefore in one place divine Scripture calls Him the Son, in another the Word, in another the Brightness of the Father; names severally meant to guard against blasphemy. For, forasmuch as your son is of the same nature with yourself, the Scripture wishing to show that the Substance of the Father and the Son is one, sets forth the Son of the Father, born of the Father, the Only-Begotten. Next, since the terms birth and son, convey the idea of passibleness, therefore it calls the Son the Word, declaring by that name the impassability of His Nativity. But inasmuch as a father with us is necessarily older shall his son, lest thou should think that this applied to the Divine nature as well, it calls the Only-Begotten the Brightness of the Father; for brightness, though arising from the sun, is not posterior to it. Understand then that Brightness, as revealing the co-eternity of the Son with the Father; Word as proving the impassability of His birth, and Son as conveying His consubstantiality.

CHRYS. But they say that In the beginning does not absolutely express in eternity: for that the same is said of the heaven and the earth: In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. But are not made and was, altogether different For in like manner as the word is, when spoken of man, signifies the present only, but when applied to God, that which always and eternally is; so too was, predicated of our nature, signifies the past, but predicated of God, eternity.

ORIGEN; The verb to be, has a double signification, sometimes expressing the motions which take place in time, as other verbs do; sometimes the substance of that one thing of which it is predicated, without reference to time. Hence it is also called a substantive verb.

HILARY; Consider then the world, understand what is written of it. In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. Whatever therefore is created is made in the beginning, and you would contain in time, what, as being to be made, is contained in the beginning. But, lo, for me, an illiterate unlearned fisherman is independent of time, unconfined by ages, advances beyond all beginnings. For the Word was, what it is, and is not bounded by any time, nor commenced therein, seeing It was not made in the beginning, but was.  ALCUIN. To refute those who inferred from Christ’s Birth in time, that He had not been from everlasting, the Evangelist begins with the eternity of the Word, saying, In the beginning was the Word.

Ver 1b. And the Word was with God.

CHRYS. Because it is an especial attribute of God, to be eternal and without a beginning, he laid this down first: then, lest any one on hearing in the beginning was the Word, should suppose the Word Unbegotten, he instantly guarded against this; saying, And the Word was with God.

HILARY; From the beginning He is With God: and though independent of time, is not independent of an Author.

BASIL; Again he repeats this, was, because of men blasphemously saying, that there was a time when He was not. Where then was the Word? Illimitable things are not contained in space. Where was He then? With God. For neither is the Father bounded by place, nor the Son by aught circumscribing.

ORIGEN; It is worth while noting, that, whereas the Word is said to come [be made] to some, as to Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, with God it is not made, as though it were not with Him before. But, the Word having been always with Him, it is said, and the Word was with God: for from the beginning it was not separate from the Father.

CHRYS. He has not said, was in God, but was with God: exhibiting to us that eternity which He had in accordance with His Person.

THEOPHYL. Sabellius is overthrown by this text. For he asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one Person, Who sometimes appeared as the Father, sometimes as the Son, sometimes as the Holy Ghost. But he is manifestly confounded by this text, and the Word was with God; for here the Evangelist declares that the Son is one Person, God the Father another.

Ver 1c. And the Word was God.

HILARY; You will say, that a word is the sound of the voice, the enunciation of a thing, the expression of a thought: this Word was in the beginning with God, because the utterance of thought is eternal, when He who thinks is eternal. But how was that in the beginning, which exists no time either before, or after, I doubt even whether in time at all? For speech is neither in existence before one speaks, nor after; in the very act of speaking it vanishes; for by the time a speech is ended, that from which it began does not exist. But even if the first sentence, in the beginning was the Word, was through your inattention lost upon you, why dispute you about the next; and the Word was with God? Did you hear it said, “In God,” so that you should understand this Word to be only the expression of hidden thoughts? Or did John say with by mistake, and was not aware of the distinction between being in, and being with, when he said, that what was in the beginning, was not in God, but with God? Hear then the nature and name of the Word; and the Word was God. No more then of the sound of the voice, of the expression of the thought. The Word here is a Substance, not a sound; a Nature, not an expression; God, not a nonentity.

HILARY; But the title is absolute, and free from the offense of an extraneous subject. To Moses it is said, I have given you for a god to Pharaoh: but is not the reason for the name added, when it is said, to Pharaoh? Moses is given for a god to Pharaoh, when he is feared, when he is entreated, when he punishes, when he heals. And it is one thing to be given for a God, another thing to be God. I remember too another application of the name in the Psalms, I have said, you are gods. But there too it is implied that the title was but bestowed; and the introduction of, I said, makes it rather the phrase of the Speaker, than the name of the thing. But when I hear the Word was God, I not only hear the Word said to be, but perceive It proved to be, God.

BASIL; Thus cutting off the cavils of blasphemers, and those who ask what the Word is, he replies, and the Word was God.

THEOPHYL. Or combine it thus: From the Word being with God, it follows plainly that there are two Persons. But these two are of one Nature; and therefore it proceeds, In the Word was God: to show that Father and Son are of One Nature, being of One Godhead.

ORIGEN; We must add too, that the Word illuminates the Prophets with Divine wisdom, in that He comes to them; but that with God He ever is, because He is God. For which reason he placed and the Word was with God, before and the Word was God.

CHRYS. Not asserting, as Plato does, one to be intelligence, the other soul; for the Divine Nature is very different from this. . . But you say, the Father is called God with the addition of the article, the Son without it. What say you then, when the Apostle writes, The great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; and again, Who is over all, God; and Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father; without the article? Besides, too, it were superfluous here, to affix what had been affixed just before. So that it does not follow, though the article is not affixed to the Son, that He is therefore an inferior God.

Ver 1b. And the Word was with God.

CHRYS. Because it is an especial attribute of God, to be eternal and without a beginning, he laid this down first: then, lest any one on hearing in the beginning was the Word, should suppose the Word Unbegotten, he instantly guarded against this; saying, And the Word was with God.

HILARY; From the beginning He is With God: and though independent of time, is not independent of an Author.

BASIL; Again he repeats this, was, because of men blasphemously saying, that there was a time when He was not. Where then was the Word? Illimitable things are not contained in space. Where was He then? With God. For neither is the Father bounded by place, nor the Son by aught circumscribing.

ORIGEN; It is worth while noting, that, whereas the Word is said to come [be made] to some, as to Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, with God it is not made, as though it were not with Him before. But, the Word having been always with Him, it is said, and the Word was with God: for from the beginning it was not separate from the Father.

CHRYS. He has not said, was in God, but was with God: exhibiting to us that eternity which He had in accordance with His Person.

THEOPHYL. Sabellius is overthrown by this text. For he asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one Person, Who sometimes appeared as the Father, sometimes as the Son, sometimes as the Holy Ghost. But he is manifestly confounded by this text, and the Word was with God; for here the Evangelist declares that the Son is one Person, God the Father another.

Ver 1c. And the Word was God.

HILARY; You will say, that a word is the sound of the voice, the enunciation of a thing, the expression of a thought: this Word was in the beginning with God, because the utterance of thought is eternal, when He who thinks is eternal. But how was that in the beginning, which exists no time either before, or after, I doubt even whether in time at all? For speech is neither in existence before one speaks, nor after; in the very act of speaking it vanishes; for by the time a speech is ended, that from which it began does not exist. But even if the first sentence, in the beginning was the Word, was through your inattention lost upon you, why dispute you about the next; and the Word was with God? Did you hear it said, “In God,” so that you should understand this Word to be only the expression of hidden thoughts? Or did John say with by mistake, and was not aware of the distinction between being in, and being with, when he said, that what was in the beginning, was not in God, but with God? Hear then the nature and name of the Word; and the Word was God. No more then of the sound of the voice, of the expression of the thought. The Word here is a Substance, not a sound; a Nature, not an expression; God, not a nonentity.

HILARY; But the title is absolute, and free from the offense of an extraneous subject. To Moses it is said, I have given you for a god to Pharaoh: but is not the reason for the name added, when it is said, to Pharaoh? Moses is given for a god to Pharaoh, when he is feared, when he is entreated, when he punishes, when he heals. And it is one thing to be given for a God, another thing to be God. I remember too another application of the name in the Psalms, I have said, you are gods. But there too it is implied that the title was but bestowed; and the introduction of, I said, makes it rather the phrase of the Speaker, than the name of the thing. But when I hear the Word was God, I not only hear the Word said to be, but perceive It proved to be, God.

BASIL; Thus cutting off the cavils of blasphemers, and those who ask what the Word is, he replies, and the Word was God.

THEOPHYL. Or combine it thus: From the Word being with God, it follows plainly that there are two Persons. But these two are of one Nature; and therefore it proceeds, In the Word was God: to show that Father and Son are of One Nature, being of One Godhead.

ORIGEN; We must add too, that the Word illuminates the Prophets with Divine wisdom, in that He comes to them; but that with God He ever is, because He is God. For which reason he placed and the Word was with God, before and the Word was God.

CHRYS. Not asserting, as Plato does, one to be intelligence, the other soul; for the Divine Nature is very different from this. . . But you say, the Father is called God with the addition of the article, the Son without it. What say you then, when the Apostle writes, The great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; and again, Who is over all, God; and Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father; without the article? Besides, too, it were superfluous here, to affix what had been affixed just before. So that it does not follow, though the article is not affixed to the Son, that He is therefore an inferior God.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 18:15-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 11, 2010

Mat 18:15  But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.

But if thy brother shall offend against thee. Syriac, shall err, in allusion to the wandering sheep, of which He had been speaking. Christ passes appropriately from little ones to sinners, because they are little, that is despised and abject. For what is more worthless than sin and sinners? As therefore He taught that the little ones who are offended must not be despised, so now He likewise teaches that sinners who offend and injure others must not be despised, nor must vengeance be inflicted upon them for the injuries they have done, but that they must be corrected in love, that they may be restored to God’s grace, and to salvation. Christ therefore gives this as the remedy by which scandals may be taken away, even by the correction of him who caused the scandal.

Offend against thee.  Certain Protestants expound the words against thee, to mean, thou alone knowing; if any one sin secretly and privately, secretly correct him; for the public sinner must be publicly corrected, as an example to others. But the words against thee, are no where taken as meaning, thou alone being conscious. And Luke explains it as against thee. For he says, (Luk_17:3), If thy brother sin against thee, rebuke him, but if he repent, forgive him; that, namely in which he has sinned against thee. This is the way in which S. Peter understood the expression, for he, having reference to these words of Christ, asks the question, how often shall my brother offend against me? Christ alludes to Lev_19:17. “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but openly rebuke him.” Meaning do not cherish secret hatred against thy neighbour who has injured thee, but tell him plainly and openly that thou hast been wronged by him, that he may amend and make satisfaction to thyself and God by repentance. Whence Tertullian (l. 4, contra Marc. c. 35), understands this passage of Leviticus concerning brotherly correction, as if it had been commanded to the Jews.

You may say then, our neighbour is to be corrected only for sins against ourselves, not for those against God. I answer by denying the consequence, because Christ by synecdoche, speaking of injuries done to us, means to include all other sins. For there is the same, yea, a greater application to other sins. For if our neighbour is to be corrected for injuries done to us, much more for the offences by which he had offended God. We ought to love God better than ourselves: therefore we ought to ward off from Him their injuries, more than from ourselves. Christ however makes mention only of sin against ourselves, that He may put a bridle upon revenge, and substitute charity instead of it, and from charity brotherly correction. It is as though He said, if thy neighbour have offended or injured thee, do not make it publicly known or avenge it, but first reprove him lovingly and secretly. We must understand, if there be hope of amendment by such means, otherwise, omitting the private correction, we must proceed to correction in the presence of witnesses. But if there be no hope from this, we must tell it to the Church, i.e., to the pastor or the prelate. But if not even from this there be hope of amendment, this correction must be altogether omitted, and left to God. The reason is an à priori one. As charity obliges me to succour my neighbour when he is in any grave corporal necessity, so much more does it oblige me to succour him in any spiritual necessity, such as a state of sin and condemnation. Rightly argues Suarez, (2. 2. q. 33.). In addition to the hope of profit, in order that this precept may bind, it is necessary that my neighbour should stand in need of my correction. If for instance I am reasonably afraid that unless I correct him he will fall in the like sins. This is proved, because this is an affirmative precept of mercy. It is therefore only binding according to the rules of similar precepts; therefore, only in a case of necessity.

It may be asked whether this correction be a matter of precept, or of counsel only? Again, whether it binds all the faithful, or priests and superiors only? 1. SS. Augustine, Chrysostom, Hilary, Basil, Theophylact, Bonaventura, and others, think that the correction of which Christ here speaks, has regard only to such as sin against us. As much as to say, Do not inflict vengeance upon him who has injured thee, but lovingly correct him; and so this correction would be of precept rather than of counsel. Salmeron attempts to prove this view by many reasons, but what he says must be read with the greatest caution. For he might seem in his eleventh tractate to do away with this correction sanctioned by Christ altogether, and to find fault with it as useless, and often pernicious. But he does not express his own opinion, but that of others whom he cites, as he says expressly in the beginning of his eleventh chapter. Again he does not set aside the declaration of Christ, but the opinion of those scholastics and interpreters, who extend Christ’s declaration to every kind of case whatsoever, who maintain that this mode of correction should be observed with respect to all sins, though Christ only enjoins it expressly with reference to the correction of those who sin against us. And Suarez himself shews that frequently this method cannot be observed, except to the detriment of the commonwealth, as clearly appears in a case of heresy, which creeps secretly like a cancer.

2. Johannes Archias (in cap. Nativ. de Judiciis), think that this correction is of precept to priests and prelates only; and of counsel to the laity. But this is too lax.

3. Others think that this correction is of precept to the neighbours only, since it would be incongruous that a man who is guilty of the same, or a similar fault, should reprove another for that fault. Abulensis seems to favour this opinion. But I say that the correction which is here enjoined by Christ is not merely of counsel, but of precept, and is binding upon all the faithful. For although Christ says in express words only that those who have sinned against us are to be corrected, yet by parity of reasoning He intended it to be extended to all sinners. So the interpreters and scholastics, with S. Thomas, passim (2. 2. quæst. 33). This is plain from the expression, thy brother. For brother denotes any Christian believer, and an equal rather than a superior. For although unbelievers are at times to be corrected, yet Christ is here speaking only of the faithful as belonging to Himself and subject to His Church. For infidels cannot be punished and excommunicated by the Church, inasmuch as they do not belong to it.

The reason is à priori, because this precept of correction is, both as regards its substance, as well as its method and order, not so much a positive command; and, according to the jus divinum, as of the jus naturæ, belonging naturally to charity and grace. For charity requires that we should bring back our neighbour when he sins into the way of salvation by correcting him; and that we should have regard to his shame as well as his good name. For as S. Jerome says, “If he lose shame and modesty, he will remain in sin.” For it is not public and judicial correction which is here treated of, which deals with the just punishment of offences committed against the commonwealth, but that private correction which tends to the salvation of our neighbour when he sins. This reason is urged by S. Augustine (Serm. 16, de Verb. Apost.). “Rebuke thy neighbour,” he says, “between thee and him alone, for the sake of the correction, and sparing his shame. For perchance he may, through shame, begin to defend his sin; and thus him, whom thou wishest to become better, thou makest worse.” And again, “Forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s fall, nor suffer him to perish through thy silence. If thou alone knowest his fault, and reprovest it before others, thou art not a corrector, but a betrayer.”

Wherefore, in order that this correction, which of itself is an odious thing, may be fruitful and efficacious, two principal things are needed; namely, charity and prudence, or discretion. Charity; that he who sins may feel that the correction proceeds not from hatred, or pride, but from love and compassion. Prudence, that it may be done modestly and gently, and with such circumstances of time and place and manner, as that he who has sinned may receive it gratefully, and may amend, according to the Apostle’s words, “Instruct in the spirit of meekness, &c.” (Gal 6:1.) As S. Leo says (Epist. 84.), “Let there be benevolence rather than severity uppermost in the corrector; let there be more of exhortation than of fussiness; more of love than of power.”

Moreover so great is the need of mutual correction of faults that a certain holy father was wont to say that there was nothing so great a cause of ruin as the lack of brotherly correction, and the violation of the precept to avoid impurity. S. Augustine (l. 1. de Civit. Dei. c. 9.) testifies that because of the omission of this brotherly correction, the good as well as the bad in this world are afflicted with very grievous calamities. The Gloss says, he who sees his brother commit a sin, and keep silence, is equally in fault with him who does not forgive him who repents. The very elements teach us the benefit of this correction. For so fire chastises, and by burning purifies the air. The air by the blasts of winds chastises and purifies the water. In like manner so does the water the earth. There can be no Christian charity in any one unless he afford the medicine of correction to an erring brother.

In the last place, ordinarily, brotherly correction is only of obligation when the sin is mortal. Although indeed Cajetan, Valentia and D. Soto, think we are under an obligation to correct when the sin is venial. But this does not seem to be generally true, nor is it usual in practice, unless grave loss or scandal follow from the venial sin. For otherwise the burden of correcting every single trifling fault and, being corrected for them, would be equally intolerable both to the corrector and the corrected: Indeed it would be morally impossible. (See Suarez 2. 2. tract. de charitate, disp. 8. sect. 2).

If he shall hear thee, &c. Thou hast saved him who was ready to perish, and hast gained for God and heaven, him who was in danger of hell; yea thou hast gained him for thyself, because both thou and he had suffered loss from discord, as S. Chrysostom says. “By the salvation of another, salvation is gained for ourselves also,” says S. Jerome.

Mat 18:16  And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.

And if he will not hear thee, &c. Christ orders that if the person corrected reject a secret admonition, he must be corrected in the presence of one or two others, and this for two reasons. The first is that he who is not ashamed in the presence of one may be ashamed in the presence of a greater number, and that several witnesses may the more easily and effectually convince him of sin, and persuade him to amend.

Mat 18:17  And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

But if he will not hear them, &c. This is the third stage to be observed in the order of correction, that those who are unwilling to listen to him who admonishes them, nor yet to the witnesses, may be brought before the Church, that is to a pastor and superior, or a prelate, as to a spiritual father and a judge, that he may paternally, but with greater authority, correct the sin, and so bring about amendment. But that if the sinner will not be reformed, he may as a judge cut him off from the company of the faithful. Five acts, says Suarez, are to be noted in this order of correction, as given by S. Matthew. The 1st is private admonition: rebuke him between thee and him alone. 2. Correction, take with thee one or two more (witnesses). 3. Denunciation: Tell the Church. 4. The rebuke of the prelate, if he will not hear the Church. 5. Coercion by means of excommunication: let him be to thee as a heathen.

For various reasons this order may be omitted, or inverted. And there are times when it is right that he who has sinned should be immediately brought to a superior, as Salmeron shews upon this passage. The first of such cases is when the sin is public, so that it is impossible by means of secret admonition to preserve the good name of the offender. 2. When the sin is against a third person, or the commonwealth, such as heresy, which eats like a cancer, and which ought therefore to be at once repressed with the utmost rigour by the pastor and bishop. 3. If it be evident that private monition, or before witnesses will be of no avail. For as Adrian says, “To strive in vain, and to labour for no other end than to gain hatred, is a mark of the utmost folly.” 4. If he who is corrected waives his right, and is content that his transgression be straightway laid before the superior. As it is in the Society of Jesus, those who enter it are expressly asked about this matter, whether they be willing that it shall be so. Among the Jesuits therefore, and other similar religious orders, a different method of correction is prescribed, namely that the case shall be immediately taken before the Superior, for this rule is set before the religious at their entrance. They waive this particular right of caring for their reputation. No wrong therefore is done them.

The first reason is because it is expedient for the general good, lest the sin should infect others, and that the superior should take immediate steps to guard against it. 2. Because Religion is the school of humility and mortification, and of contempt of honour and reputation. 3. Because Religious are brethren. And he who corrects seems to set himself up as the superior of him who is corrected. Hence, our rule commands that no one shall reprove another. S. Augustine (Epist. 109), in his rules for monks, ordains that if a monk shall see another casting a wanton glance, he shall admonish him privately—if he repeat the glance, he shall tell it to the superior. S. Basil has a similar rule (Reg. 46). Rashly, therefore, have some persons carped at this rule of religious orders. For these statutes have been approved by the Apostolic See. The statutes of the Dominicans have a similar provision. So S. Thomas, Richard, Angelus, Salmeron, Suarez, and others. Vide Suarez (tom. 4, de relig. cap. 7), where he adds that in the Society of Jesus and other religious orders, this rule of Christ is observed wherever there is any certain hope that secret correction will produce amendment. Moreover, in episcopal and abbatial visitations a different order is observed. For then it is ordered, on pain of censure, that sins shall be denounced. But bishops and abbots proceed not according to the method of fraternal correction, but of judicial enquiry. And of this Christ says nothing in this place.

Lastly, let the three following canons be noted, for if they be observed, nothing will be done amiss as regards brotherly correction. 1. Let the general good—that is, of the state, or the community—overweigh everything else; and, therefore, individual advantage. 2. Let the good of the soul, and the salvation of our neighbour, take precedence of the care of his reputation. 3. Always consider your neighbour’s reputation, as far as is consistent with the general good, and the salvation of his soul.

Tell the church: that is, to the pastor who presides over your own Church. You ask, What is here meant by the Church? SS. Jerome and Anselm in this passage, and S. Gregory (lib. 4, Epist. 38) understand the company of the faithful; as if Christ here intended that an offender should be reproved before them, and put to shame, and so corrected. Zwinglius and the Protestants follow this with avidity, that they may find a sanction for their democratic and popular form of Church government. Whence Castalini profanely translates tell the Church, tell the republic. Others render, tell the community. But S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, and others (passim) understand by Church the pastors and prelates of the Church, who represent the Church (either individually or in Synod) as magistrates represent a republic, and a king a kingdom. This is proved—1. Because Christ here orders the Church to be heard, i.e., obeyed by him who is accused; otherwise he is to be accounted as a heathen. But this obedience is only rendered to the prelates of the Church, as is plain; yea, this reason persuaded Calvin to agree with our opinion. 2. Because Christ—explaining what is meant by the Church—subjoins, whatsoever ye shall bind; as if to say, Ye, 0 ye Apostles, as princes of the Church, and those who shall succeed you as bishops and pastors. 3. Because the universal custom of the Church has been that such a one should be brought to Pastors, Bishops, the Pope, or a General Council; not before the people. 4. Because to do otherwise would be contrary to the law of nature and a grievous wrong to our neighbour. It would be to defame him, if his crime were a secret one. Those Calvinists therefore who denounce the crimes of their adulterous members and other sinners publicly in the Church, as though Christ here commanded it, offend grievously, and sin against charity. The true meaning is, if a brother, when reproved, will not hearken to him who corrects him in private, or even before two or three witnesses, let him be brought to the Prelate, who as Rector represents the Church, that he who despises private persons, may at least reverence the Prelate, and give heed to his correction. But if he will not, that then the Prelate, who not only has the office of private correction, but has the care of the whole Church, may provide that the wickedness of him who is reproved may not affect the whole body; but that he may separate him as a diseased sheep from the rest of the flock, and may excommunicate and expel him. Hence it is plain against the same Protestants that the Church is visible, forasmuch as it ought to be approached by him who corrects, and seen and obeyed by him who is corrected.

You may say, If, then, the prelates themselves, and especially if the Pope sin, he ought in like manner to be brought before a general council, and therefore the Pope is subject to it, and consequently the government of the church is aristocratic—not monarchical. So Abulensis (quæst. 108), Panormitanus, Gerson, Almain, and others, who, in accordance with this opinion, deposed Pope Eugenius IV., in the Council of Basle. But this rash act of theirs was shortly afterwards annulled and repudiated by the Council of Florence. I reply, therefore, by denying the consequence, as far as the Pope is concerned. For if Bishops sin they must be brought before the Pope, that they may be corrected by him. For the rule of which we have been speaking does not apply to the Pope, but to all others who have superiors. But the Pope has no superior upon earth—not even the Church, or a general council. For he is the head of the whole Church, as the perpetual usage and consent of the Church holds with the Lateran Council under Leo X. (Sess. 11). This is why it was once declared by acclamation in a council of one hundred and eighty Bishops at Sinuessa to Pope S. Marcellinus, when he repented after a fall. “Thou judgest thyself by thine own mouth: it is not our judgment, for the chief See is judged by none.” S. Damasus is the authority for this, and Platina in his Life. The Pope is greater in the Church than a king in his kingdom. For a king receives his power from the state, but the Pope receives his power not from the Church, but directly from Christ. Wherefore, under no circumstances can he be deposed by the Church, but can only be declared to have fallen from his Pontificate, if, for the sake of example, he should chance (which God forbid) to fall into public heresy, and should therefore, ipso facto, cease to be Pope, yea, to be a Christian believer.

And if he will not hear, &c. For he who despises the Prelate of the Church giving him admonition, despises the Church of which he is a ruler, and shows thereby that he will not be a son and citizen of the Church. Wherefore he must be accounted not a faithful Christian, but a heathen and a publican, that is to say, a public sinner.

Again, let him be to thee as a heathen, implies that you must not eat with him, nor greet him (1Cor 5:11, and 2John1:10), that he may be confounded by the disgrace, and acknowledge his fault, and return to the Church. For excommunication is pronounced against a sinner, not to cause him to perish, but in order that he may amend.

Mat 18:18  Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.

Amen I say unto you, &c. Christ here explains what His Church is, and its power and authority; viz., that by the Church, Apostles and Prelates are meant, to whom He has given the power of binding and loosing both from sins and from excommunication, so that whomsoever they shall absolve from their sins on earth, God will absolve in Heaven: and whomsoever they, by excommunication shall eject from the company of the faithful, God will blot out his name from the Book of Life, and from the number of the blessed.

Whatsoever you shall bind: Origen, Theophylact and Anastasius of Nice (q. 74) think that these words likewise pertain to the precept about correction, and therefore apply to all Christians. They explain as follows:—To whatsoever penitents you, 0 ye faithful, remit any offence which they have committed against you, God will remit it to them in heaven: but to those to whom ye do not remit, neither will God remit it to them. But this is an explanation which cannot be upheld. This is plain from the following consideration, that Christ speaks of the Church in opposition to private sinners, and those who correct them. Therefore by the Church He means her Prelates, and not the faithful generally. Again, because He assigns judgment and a tribunal to the Church, (and this belongs only to Prelates) to which obedience ought to be rendered, on pain of being considered a heathen, and afterwards refers to that judgment of the Church this general power of binding and loosing, both internal, in foro conscientiæ, and external, in foro externo, by excommunication, the opinion of Origen cannot be correct. For the sinner is brought to the Pastor of the Church, that he may be moved to repentance and confession, and so be absolved from his sin, and be justified and reformed, but if not that he may be excommunicated. So SS. Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, and others, passim. Wherefore theologians rightly gather and prove from this passage, the power of excommunication, as well as the sacrament of penance after the method of judgment and absolution. The Emperor Theodosius understood this, when being expelled from the Church by S. Ambrose because of his slaughter of the Thessalonians, he made his moan, “Even to slaves and beggars there is access to the temple of God, but I am shut out. For I know the Lord hath said, ‘Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.'” Wherefore as a suppliant, he asked for absolution from S. Ambrose. This he obtained, and fulfilled the penance which he enjoined upon him. The Council of Basle take note from S. Thomas that there are three kinds of binding and loosing recognised by Catholics. The first is of authority, which belongs to God alone. The second of excellency, which is peculiar to Christ. The third, which has been granted by Christ to priests alone. Moreover this power of binding and loosing is a very ample one, and embraces various particulars, as I have shown in chapter Mat_16:19.

Observe here the beautiful order of Christ’s discourse. In the beginning of the chapter, when the Apostles were disputing about precedence, He puts the humility of the little ones, as it were a bridle upon them: and warns them lest by their ambition they offend the simple folk, and those who are as yet feeble in the faith of Christ. Then in Mat_18:15, He gives a remedy against scandal, brotherly correction; and He says all these things to the Apostles, as representing all the faithful. Then because He gives as the final stage of correction, that the Church must be told, that is to say, the Prelate of the Church, He intimates what His authority is, by saying, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, &c. For this power of binding and loosing appertains to Prelates, not to the rest of the faithful.

Mat 18:19  Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.

Again I say unto you, &c. The connection of these words with what precedes is difficult to be traced. Therefore it has been taken in various ways. 1. Some are of opinion that the words refer to the two witnesses, of whom Christ speaks in Mat_18:16. Then the Gloss expounds, if two of you shall agree upon earth either in receiving one who is repentant, or in rejecting one who is proud, or about any other matter, about which they shall ask, it shall be done for them by My Father in Heaven.

2. Jansen draws out the connection thus—If two shall ask anything of God, He will grant it: how much more therefore will He ratify the judgment of the Church in binding and loosing? And Maldonatus thus—”In order that ye may not err in the judgment of binding and loosing, let prayer precede it. For if ye judge in My Name, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, ye shall obtain.” 3. Francis Lucas thus—To you, 0 ye Apostles, not only do I give the power of binding and loosing, but another great gift as well. It is that if two of you agree to ask anything of God, ye shall obtain it. 4. Clearly and correctly, SS. Jerome, Hilary, Chrysostom, refer the words to the advantage of unity, of which He makes mention, verse 15, Mat_18:15: for the sake of which He instituted the precept of fraternal correction. It is as though Christ said, I have ordained that if any one sin against thee, thou shalt not pursue him with hatred, but shalt kindly correct him, with this end in view, that if two of you, especially if ye have been previously at enmity, or disagreement, should agree together, and unitedly ask anything of God, they may obtain it. Hear S. Jerome, “Christ’s entire preceding discourse had invited to concord; and now He makes a promise of a reward, that we may with eagerness hasten unto peace. For He says that He will be in the midst of two, or three. Thus the Apostles persevering in prayer with one accord, obtained the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.” (Act_1:14.)

If two: S. Chrysostom and Euthymius restrict this promise to the Apostles. Anastasius to the corrector and the corrected. Origen, to a husband and wife, that if they agree to abstain from the use of matrimony, that they may give themselves to prayer, they shall obtain whatever they ask. But I say that the words refer to all faithful Christians, for to them Christ was speaking in the persons of the Apostles, who alone were present.

Concerning anything, any proper thing, whether it be small or great, whether easy or difficult. Only you will understand that they must ask faithfully, hopefully, humbly and perseveringly : also that the thing asked for is expedient for them. For if it be not expedient, God will not give them what they ask, but something else which is far better and more profitable for them.

Mat 18:20  For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

In My Name, i.e., for My sake; in respect of Me; for My sake and My love, seeking nothing but Me and My glory.

There am I, &c, i.e., there I stand, and co-operate, and guide their desires and prayers, and fulfil them. I am in the midst of them, as the Holy Ghost is in the midst of the Father and the Son, as it were the love and bond of both. S. Hilary gives the reason, “Because He who is peace and love will make his dwelling-place with good and peaceful dispositions.” And Origen says, we often fail to be heard of God, because we disagree among ourselves, and he gives the cause. “As in music, unless there be harmony and concord between the sounds, the hearer is not gratified. So is it with the Church; unless there be agreement, God does not delight in it, nor listen to its voice.”

Some writers, arguing from the major to the minor, prove, not inaptly, the authority of Councils. For the declaration is a general one, and has proportionally greater force as respects Councils, than as regards other things. For if Christ be in the midst of two, much more must He be in the midst of the whole Church, gathered together in His Name, and represented by the Prelates and Bishops. For Councils are properly gathered together in the Name of Christ, i.e., by His authority, that they may increase and propagate His faith and glory. Wherefore when they ask in the Name of Christ that they may not err in faith, that they may reform the manners of the faithful, that they may have the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they certainly obtain these things. This is especially true of (Ecumenical Councils, but it is applicable to Provincial Councils also, when they are legitimately constituted, and approved by the Pope.

In Heaven. The Gloss says, By this He shows that God is above all things, and that He can fulfil what He is asked to do. Or, in Heaven may mean in the Saints, which is equivalent to saying, that whatever they ask shall be done for them, because they have Him with them, from Whom they ask.

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