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 December 8th, 2010

Father Maas’s Commentary on Isaiah 35:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2010

This post contains a brief statement about the prophecy and its context, followed by a presentation of the messianic character of the passage, and concludes with notes on the text.

1. THE PROPHECY AND ITS CONTEXT. The prophet an nounces in Is 34 an approaching judgment that will embrace all nations. In Edom especially is a great sacrifice prepared, that will strip the country of its inhabitants, and leave it a desolation, the haunt of wild animals. The future of the redeemed Israelites will be far different from this. The desert soil will produce for them fruit in plenty, human infirmities will cease to vex, human needs will be relieved. The exiles will return to Sion free from all molestation, and obtain there never-ending joys. This contrasted future of Israel is described in Is 35.

2. MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY. a. We know that all misery and infirmity has been introduced into the world through sin; it is, therefore, antecedently probable that the redemption from sin will be outwardly manifested by a release from those external afflictions of the body. And since the present chapter fully describes a future state of such liberation, we naturally refer it to him who is the liberator and redeemer from sin, to the Messias. b. Jesus Christ himself appeals, according to St. Matthew 11:5, to such signs as are described in the present chapter in order to prove his Messiasship. Then shall the eyes of the blind be open, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. . . . c. The evangelist, too, proves the Messiasship of Jesus (Matt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4) by appealing to outward signs of the same nature, d. It is the general custom of Isaias not to rest in the mere description of the Assyrian destruction or of the ruin of Israel s enemies; he passes over to the destruction of Israel’s true enemies and to the Messianic age, so much so as to represent the Messias even as Israel s temporal restorer (cf. Is 8:9, 10). We must, therefore, suppose that the prophet has been faithful to his usual way of proceeding, passing from the ruin of the Edomites to the greatest glory of the Israelites, the Messianic times, e. The Jewish writers agree with us in applying Is 35 to the Messias:

Verse 1. Tanchuma on Deut 1:1 (ed. Warsh, p. 99 a) quotes this passage as containing one of the miracles which God will do to redeemed Sion in the latter days, i.e., in the Messianic times.

Verses 5, 6. Midrash on Genesis 46:28 (sect. 85; cf. Yalkut, 1 Sam 28:24) has the following passage: “Come and see; all that the Holy One has wounded in
this world he will heal in the future.1 The blind shall be healed; for it is said: ‘Then shall the lame man leap as a hart. The dumb shall be healed; as it is said, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free.'” Yalkut (on Josue 10:12) says:
“The word then may refer to the past and to the future. To the latter refers ‘then thou shalt see and flow together’ [Is 40:5]; ‘then shall thy light break forth as the morning’ [Is 58:8]; ‘then shall the lame man leap, then shall the eyes of the blind . ..” (Is 35:5,6).

Verse 10. Midrash on Ps 107:1 applies this passage to Messianic times, noting, however, that the deliverance will be effected by God himself, and not either by Elias or the king Messias. Yalkut (vol. ii. p. 162 d, at the close on
Par.) says that in this world the deliverance of Israel is accomplished by man and is followed by fresh captivities, but that in the latter or Messianic days their deliverance will be accomplished by God, and will not be followed by
another captivity.

Isa 35:1  The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily.
Isa 35:2  It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel, and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God.
Isa 35:3  Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees.
Isa 35:4  Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not: behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense: God himself will come and will save you.

The land that was desolate. The prophet employs in the description all the greatest natural beauties that Palestine possessed: the glory of Libanus, the beauty of Carmel, the lily of Saron. Nor is the prophet’s beauty lifeless: all is filled with joy and praise and exultation. The description begins very aptly with the land that was desolate, since the world in its fallen state was really a desert and a wilderness. It is owing to the Messianic blessings that mountains, and woods, and fields (Libanus, Carmel, Saron) have become the true symbols of God’s divine beauty and goodness. Hence the prophetic address concerning the feeble hands and the weak knees and the faint-hearted.

Isa 35:5  Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Isa 35:6  Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free: for waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness.

Then shall the eyes of the blind. Explanations: a. The promises convey in general that all evils shall be healed by means of the Messianic benefits; and as in Is 34. God’s curse is signified by the different evils which befall Israel s enemies, so here God s blessing is indicated by the cessation of all manner of diseases, b. The single benefits described must be understood in a spiritual manner: the eyes shall see the heavenly truths of the Messianic doctrine; the ears shall obediently hear the Messianic precepts and counsels; the lame shall make rapid progress in the way of Christian perfection; the dumb shall sing the praises of God (Osorio, Eusebius, Barhebraeus, Sanchez). One of the reasons for this spiritual interpretation is taken from the following words: Waters are broken out in the desert. For since this has been verified only spiritually, the preceding words too must be understood spiritually, c. Others, again, explain the passage in both its literal and spiritual meaning: literally the prediction was verified when Jesus gave sight to the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, loosened the tongue of the dumb, etc.; but spiritually the prophecy is still verified day after day by the conversion of the Gentiles to the doctrine of the Messias, and by their seeing and hearing and living according to the truths of Christianity (Jerome, Cyril, Haimo, Maldonatus, Pinto, Sasbout, Foreiro, Menochius, Gordon), d. There is a class of writers who explain the passage metaphorically, if it is applied to the time after the Assyrian captivity; literally if applied to the time of the Messias (St. Thomas, Ephrem). e. Mariana, Tirinus, Calmet restrict the application of the prophecy to the time of the Messias alone; but no one explains how the prediction applies immediately to Christ. Perhaps it is best to conceive the prophecy as promising spiritual sight and hearing, and power of moving; but these spiritual benefits brought to us by the Redeemer were externally symbolized by him in the many outward miracles he performed in favor of the blind, the deaf, the lame, etc. The promise, finally, God himself will come and will save you (verse 4), is surely most amply verified in the mystery of the incarnation; still it can hardly be maintained that the prophet himself understood the promise in such a magnificent manner, since the same words refer in other passages (Is 30:27; 31:4; 33:10,22) mainly to God’s help in distress, and not necessarily to his becoming man. We may, however, safely maintain that the Holy Ghost in inspiring these expressions intended to reveal not merely the substantial promise of God s certain help, but also the manner in which God has helped us, the incarnation of the Word.

Isa 35:7  And that which was dry land, shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. In the dens where dragons dwelt before, shall rise up the verdure of the reed and the bulrush.
Isa 35:8  And a path and a way shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it, and this shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein.

Isa 35:9  No lion shall be there, nor shall any mischievous beast go up by it, nor be found there: but they shall walk there that shall be delivered.
Isa 35:10  And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

And that which was dry land. After predicting how the wilderness of nature and the wilderness of men shall be changed in the Messianic days, the prophet continues to describe the condition of that time: a. The goods are not false and deceptive, but true and reliable: that which presented a delusive mirage of water shall be come a real pool of living water, and the habitations of the jackal and the dragon shall afford perfect safety. b. There shall be holiness and peace and security: there shall be a holy way; no unclean persons and no mischievous beast shall go up by it. c. The Messianic
goods shall last for ever: after their peaceful and secure journey through this life, the adherents of the Messias shall have everlasting joy heaped upon their heads in the heavenly Sion.

It follows from what has been said that the miracles of Jesus are predicted in the prophecy in so far as they are symbols of the inward and spiritual blessings which he has brought us.

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St Jerome: Homily on the Gospel of Matthew 11:2-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2010

Text in red are my additions.

Gospel: Matt 11:2-10

At that time : When John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples, he said to Him: Art Thou He that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer, said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them; and blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes, concerning John: What went ye out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold, they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings. But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.

Homily By St Jerome:

I. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus, in order to question Him about His mission, he was not ignorant either of His advent or of His dignity as the Messiah. He knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world, for he had shown Him to others who had no knowledge of His divine nature. Indeed, the precursor had heard the almighty voice of the Father giving testimony : This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased (Matt 3:17). Now we know that our Saviour asked the Jews to show Him the place where Lazarus had been buried, though He knew it well, so that those who would accompany Him thither, should begin to believe in His divine mission, when witnessing the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, that was to follow. In the same way John, who was to be condemned to death by Herod, sent his disciples to Jesus, that by witnessing His miracles and the operation of His divine and almighty power, they might believe in Him, as well as receive instruction from the Divine Teacher Himself, Whom they could then question as their personal teacher. It seems that St. John s disciples were angry with our Lord; for the question shortly before addressed to Him by them, sufficiently disclosed their pride and envy. The Evangelist tells us how the disciples of John came to Him saying: Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Thy disciples do not fast? (Matt 9:14). At another time the same disciples complained to John and said to him: Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to Whom thou gavest testimony, behold He baptizeth, and all men come to Him. (John 3:26). It was as if they said: We are a small number and almost forsaken, for the multitude are with Jesus Christ, and they follow Him.

II. St. John does not say to our Lord: Art Thou He that is come? But he asks: Art Thou He that art to come? As if to say : Let me know whether, after announcing Thy coming into this world, I shall not also announce Thy coming into Limbo, whither I shall soon be going? For is it right and just that the Son of God should die? And is it not Thy own wish to send someone to the just in Limbo and announce to them the mystery of Thy advent? Note: The limbo being spoken of here is the limbus patrum, the Limbo of the Fathers. At the end of this sermon I’ve appended an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia on this subject.

And Jesus answered the inquiring disciples and said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again. John had through his disciples asked this question of Jesus : Art Thou He that art to come, or look we for another? Yet, instead of answering this question, instead of removing with one word whatsoever had scandalized them, Jesus mentioned His miracles and said to them: Go and relate to John the miracles you have seen; speak of the blind who now see, of the lame who now walk, and of all other miraculous cures you have witnessed. And tell him another fact, no less astonishing, that the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Under the name of poor our Saviour meant both the poor in spirit and the poor deprived of the goods of this world; for there will not be any difference between rich and poor, nobleman and serf, when the Gospel is preached to them. This also shows how just and wise and true the Divine Teacher is, Who, when working for the salvation of their souls, considers them all equal. And the words which He added, Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me, contain a reproof addressed to the disciples of John, as we shall see later on.

IV. And when these messengers went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes, concerning John: What went ye out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with, the wind? But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings. Had our Lord condemned St. John by these words, Blessed is he that is not scandalized in Me, as many pretend, why does He overwhelm him with praises? Indeed, Jesus praised John the Baptist, because the multitude did not understand the meaning of the disciples question, and thought that even John was still in doubt as to whether Jesus really were the Messiah, though he had already pointed Him out as the true Lamb of God. In order, therefore, to give the multitude to understand that John did not send his disciples for the purpose of clearing up his doubt, but to have them instructed, our Lord said: What went ye out into the desert to see? Was it to see a man who like a reed is shaken with every wind; an inconstant man who is still in doubt about the mission of Him Whom he had already announced? Do you think he envies Me, and that by his preaching he seeks only his own honour and glory and even personal interest? And how could riches and dainty dishes delight one who makes his food of locusts and wild honey?

Would soft garments be more useful to him, since he is clothed with camel’s hair and a leathern girdle about his loins? Such food and such garments are the appanage of those who look for no other dwelling than a prison; for this will be the abode of them that preach the truth. Flatterers and self-interested people, that is, those who are eager in the pursuit of money and of luxurious living, you find them and their desires in the houses of kings. All this clearly shows that those who lead a severe and penitential life, and who announce the truth in all its purity, without deceit and flattery, must remain away from royal courts and from the palaces of sensual people.

V. The testimony which Truth Itself gave to John the Baptist, saying that he was more than a prophet, exalted him above all other prophets, because, whilst other prophets had, many hundreds of years before, announced again and again the coming of Jesus, John had pointed Him out as already come. Moreover, he was distinguished above all other prophets by the privilege accorded to him of baptizing Jesus in the waters of the Jordan. And in order to point out to all- the special dignity of John, our Lord added: This is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send My angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee (Mark 3:2). Not that John possessed the angelic nature, but that, announcing to us the coming of the Saviour, he performed one of the duties of the celestial messengers.

Excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Limbo of the Fathers:

LIMBUS PATRUM ~Though it can hardly be claimed, on the evidence of extant literature, that a definite and consistent belief in the limbus patrum of Christian tradition was universal among the Jews, it cannot on the other hand be denied that, more especially in the extra-canonical writings of the second or first centuries B.C., some such belief finds repeated expression; and New Testament references to the subject remove all doubt as to the current Jewish belief in the time of Christ. Whatever name may be used in apocryphal Jewish literature to designate the abode of the departed just, the implication generally is

  • that their condition is one of happiness,
  • that it is temporary,
  • and that it is to be replaced by a condition of final and permanent bliss when the Messianic Kingdom is established.

In the New Testament, Christ refers by various names and figures to the place or state which Catholic tradition has agreed to call the limbus patrum. In Matt. 8:11, it is spoken of under the figure of a banquet “with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven” (cf. Luke 8:29; 14:15), and in Matt. 25:10 under the figure of a marriage feast to which the prudent virgins are admitted, while in the parable of Lazarus and Dives it is called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) and in Christ’s words to the penitent thief on Calvary the name paradise is used (Luke 23:43). St. Paul teaches (Ephesians 4:9) that before ascending into Heaven Christ “also descended first into the lower parts of the earth,” and St. Peter still more explicitly teaches that “being put to death indeed, in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,” Christ went and “preached to those souls that were in prison, which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:18-20).

It is principally on the strength of these Scriptural texts, harmonized with the general doctrine of the Fall and Redemption of mankind, that Catholic tradition has defended the existence of the limbus patrum as a temporary state or place of happiness distinct from Purgatory. As a result of the Fall, Heaven was closed against men. Actual possession of the beatific vision was postponed, even for those already purified from sin, until the Redemption should have been historically completed by Christ’s visible ascendancy into Heaven. Consequently, the just who had lived under the Old Dispensation, and who, either at death or after a course of purgatorial discipline, had attained the perfect holiness required for entrance into glory, were obliged to await the coming of the Incarnate Son of God and the full accomplishment of His visible earthly mission. Meanwhile they were “in prison,” as St. Peter says; but, as Christ’s own words to the penitent thief and in the parable of Lazarus clearly imply, their condition was one of happiness, notwithstanding the postponement of the higher bliss to which they looked forward. And this, substantially, is all that Catholic tradition teaches regarding the limbus patrum.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2010

Ver 26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

THEOPHYL; Because either the Incarnation of Christ was to be in the sixth age of the world, or because it was to serve to the fulfilling of the law, rightly in the sixth month of John’s conception was an angel sent to Mary, to tell her that a Savior should be born. Hence it is said, And in the sixth month, &c. We must understand the sixth month to be March, on the twenty-fifth day of which our Lord is reported to have been conceived, and to have suffered, as also to have been born on the twenty-fifth day of December. But if either the one day we believe to be the vernal equinox, or the other the winter solstice, it happens that with the increase of light He was conceived or born Who lightens every man that comes into the world. But if any one shall prove, that before the time of our Lord’s nativity or conception, light began either to increase, or supersede the darkness, we then say, that it was because John, before the appearance of His coming, began to preach the kingdom of heaven.

BASIL. The heavenly spirits visit us, not as it seems fit to them, but as the occasion conduces to our advantage, for they are ever looking upon the glory and fullness of the Divine Wisdom; hence it follows, The angel Gabriel was sent.

GREG. To the virgin Mary was sent, not any one of the angels, but the archangel Gabriel; for upon this service it was meet that the highest angel should come, as being the bearer of the highest of all tidings. He is therefore marked by a particular name, to signify what was his effectual part in the work. For Gabriel is interpreted, “the strength of God.” By the strength of God then was He to be announced Who was coming as the God of strength, and mighty in battle, to put down the powers of the air.

GLOSS. But the place is also added whither he is sent, as it follows, To a city, Nazareth. For it was told that He would come a Nazarite, (i.e. the holy of the holy.)

THEOPHYL; It was as a fit beginning for man’s restoration, that an angel should be sent down from God to consecrate a virgin by a divine birth, for the first cause of man’s perdition was the Devil sending a serpent to deceive a woman by the spirit of pride.

AUG. To a virgin, for Christ could be born from virginity alone, seeing He could not have an equal in His birth. It was necessary for our Head by this mighty miracle to be born according to the flesh of a virgin gin’ that He might signify that his members were to be born in the spirit of a virgin Church.JEROME; And rightly an angel is sent to the virgin, because the virgin state is ever akin to that of angels. Surely in the flesh to live beyond the flesh is not a life on earth but in heaven.

CHRYS. The angel announces the birth to the virgin not after the conception, lest she should be thereby too much troubled, but before the conception he addresses her, not in a dream, but standing by her in visible shape. For as great indeed were the tidings she receives, she needed before the issue of the event an extraordinary visible manifestation.

AMBROSE; Scripture has rightly mentioned that she was espoused, as well as a virgin, a virgin, that she might appear free from all connection with man; espoused, that she might not be branded with the disgrace of sullied virginity, whose swelling womb seemed to bear evident marks of her corruption. But the Lord had rather that men should cast a doubt upon His birth than upon His mother’s purity. He knew how tender is a virgin’s modesty, and how easily assailed the reputation of her chastity, nor did He think the credit of His birth was to be built up by His mother’s wrongs. It follows therefore, that the holy Mary’s virginity was of as untainted purity as it was also of unblemished reputation. Nor ought there, by an erroneous opinion, to be left the shadow of an excuse to living virgins, that the mother of our Lord even seemed to be evil spoken of. But what could be imputed to the Jews, or to Herod, if they should seen to have persecuted an adulterous offspring? And how could He Himself say, I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, if He should seem to have had his beginning from a violation of the law, for the issue of an unmarried person is condemned by the law? Not to add that also greater credit is given to the words of Mary, and the cause of falsehood removed? For it might seem that unmarried becoming pregnant, she had wished to shade her guilt by a lie; but an espoused person has no reason for lying, since to women child-birth is the reward of wedlock, the grace of the marriage bed. Again, the virginity of Mary was meant to baffle the prince of the world, who, when he perceived her espoused to a mall, could cast no suspicion on her offspring.

ORIGEN; For if she had had no husband, soon would the thought have stolen into the Devil’s mind, how she who had known no man could be pregnant. It was right that the conception should be Divine, something more exalted than human nature.

AMBROSE; But still more has it baffled the princes of the world, for the malice of devils soon detects even hidden things, while they who are occupied in worldly vanities, can not know the things of God. But moreover, a more powerful witness of her purity is adduced, her husband, who might both have been indignant at the injury, and revenged the dishonor, if he also had not acknowledged the mystery; of whom it is added, Whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.

THEOPHYL; Which last applies not only to Joseph, but also to Mary, for the Law commanded that every one should take a wife out of his own tribe or family. It follows, And the virgin’s name was Mary.

ID. Maria, in Hebrew, is the star of the sea; but in Syriac it is interpreted Mistress, and well, because Mary was thought worthy to be the mother of the Lord of the whole world, and the light of endless ages.

Ver  28. And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

AMBROSE; Mark the virgin by her manner of life. Alone in an inner chamber, unseen by the eyes of men, discovered only by an angel; as it is said, And the angel came in to her. That she might not be dishonored by any ignoble address, she is saluted by an angel.

GREG. NYSS. Far different then to the news formerly addressed to the woman, is the announcement now made to the Virgin. In the former, the cause of sin was punished by the pains of childbirth; In the latter, through gladness, sorrow is driven away. Hence the angel not unaptly proclaims joy to the Virgin, saying, Hail.

GREEK EX. But that she was judged worthy of the nuptials is attested by his saying, Full of grace. For it is signified as a kind of token or marriage gift of the bridegroom, that she was fruitful in graces. For of the things which he mentions, the one appertains to the bride, the other to the bridegroom.

JEROME; And it is well said, Full of grace, for to others, grace comes in part; into Mary at once the fullness of grace wholly infused itself. She truly is full of grace through whom has been poured forth upon every creature the abundant rain of the Holy Spirit. But already He was with the Virgin Who sent the angel to the Virgin. The Lord preceded His messenger, for He could not be confined by place Who dwells in all places. Whence it follows, The Lord is with you.

AUG. More I than with me, for He Himself is in your heart, He is (made) in you womb, He fills your soul, He fills your womb.

GREEK EX. But this is the sum of the whole message. The Word of God, as the Bridegroom, effecting an incomprehensible union, Himself, as it were, the same both planting, and being planted, has molded the whole nature of man into Himself. But comes last the most perfect and comprehensive salutation; Blessed are you among women. i.e. Alone, far before all other women; that women also should be blessed in you, as men are in your Son; but rather both in both. For as by one man and one woman came at once both sin and sorrow, so now also by one woman and one man has both blessing and joy been restored, and poured forth upon all.

AMBROSE; But mark the Virgin by her bashfulness, for she was afraid, as it follows; And when she heard, she was troubled. It is the habit of virgins to tremble, and to be ever afraid at the presence of man, and to be shy when he addresses her. Learn, O virgin, to avoid light talking. Mary feared even the salutation of an angel.

GREEK EX. But as she might be accustomed to these visions, the Evangelist ascribes her agitation not to the vision, but to the things told her, saying, she was troubled at his words. Now observe both the modesty and wisdom of the Virgin; the soul, and at the same time the voice. When she heard the joyful words, she pondered them in her mind, and neither openly resisted through unbelief, nor forthwith lightly complied; avoiding equally the inconstancy of Eve, and the insensibility of Zacharias. Hence it is said, And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this was, it is not said conception for as yet she knew not the vastness of the mystery. But the salutation, was there aught of passion in it as from a man to a virgin? or was it not of God, seeing that he makes mention of God, saying, The Lord is with you.

AMBROSE; She wondered also at the new form of blessing, unheard of before, reserved for Mary alone.

ORIGEN; For if Mary had known that similar words had been addressed to others, such a salutation would never have appeared to her so strange and alarming.

Ver 30. And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary for you have found favor with God.31. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS.32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David:33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

When the angel saw that she was troubled at this unusual salutation, calling her by her name as if she was well known to him, he tells her she must not fear, as it follows, And the angel said, Fear not, Mary.

GREEK EX. As if he said, I came not to deceive you, nay rather to bring down deliverance from deception; I came not to rob you of your inviolable virginity, but to open a dwelling-place for the Author and Guardian of your purity, I am not a servant of the Devil but the ambassador of Him that destroys the Devil. I am come to form a marriage treaty, not to devise plots. So far then was he from allowing her to be harassed by distracting thoughts, lest he should be counted a servant unfaithful to his trust.

CHRYS. But he who earns favor in the sight of God has nothing to fear. Hence it follows, For you have found favor before God. But how shall any one find it, except through the means of his humility. For God gives grace to the humble.

GREEK EX. For the Virgin found favor with God, in that decking her own soul in the bright robes of chastity, she prepared a dwelling-place pleasing to God. Not only did she retain her virginity inviolate, but her conscience also she kept from stain. As many had found favor before Mary, he goes on to state what was peculiar to her. Behold, you shall conceive in your womb.

GREEK EX. By the word behold, he denotes rapidity and actual presence, implying that with the utterance of the word the conception is accomplished.

GREEK EX. You shall conceive in your womb, that he might show that our Lord from the very Virgin’s womb, and of our substance, took our flesh upon Him. For the Divine Word came to purify man’s nature and birth, and the first elements of our generation. And so without sin and human seed, passing through every stage as we do, He is conceived in the flesh, and carried in the womb for the space of nine months.

GREEK EX. But since it happens also that to the spiritual mind is given in an especial manner to conceive the Divine Spirit, and bring forth the Spirit of salvation, as says the Prophet; therefore he added, And you shall bring forth a Son.

AMBROSE; But all are not as Mary, that when they conceive the word of the Holy Spirit, they bring forth; for some put forth the word prematurely, others have Christ in the womb, but not yet formed.

GREG. NYSS. While the expectation of child-birth strikes a woman with terror, the sweet mention of her offspring calms her, as it is added, And you shall call his name Jesus. The coming of the Savior is the banishing of all fear.

THEOPHYL; Jesus is interpreted Savior, or Healing.

GREEK EX. And he says, You shall call, not His father shall call, for He is without a father as regards His lower birth, as He is without a mother in respect of the higher.

CYRIL; But, this name was given anew to the Word in adaptation to His nativity in the flesh; as that prophecy said, You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord has named.

GREEK EX. But as this name was common to Him with the successor of Moses, the angel therefore implying that He should not be after Joshua’s likeness, adds, He shall be great.

AMBROSE; It was said also of John, that he shall be great, but of him indeed as of a great man, of Christ, as of the great God. For abundantly is poured forth the power of God; widely the greatness of the heavenly substance extended, neither confined by place, nor grasped by thought; neither determined by calculation, nor altered by age.

ORIGEN; See then the greatness of the Savior, how it is diffused over the whole world. Go up to heaven, see there how it has filled the heavenly places; carry your thoughts down to the deep, behold, there too He has descended. If you see this, then, in like manner, behold you fulfilled in very deed, He shall be great.

GREEK EX. The assumption of our flesh does not diminish ought from the loftiness of the Deity, but rather exalts the lowness of man’s nature. Hence it follows, And he shall be called the Son of the Highest. Not, you shall give Him the name, but He Himself shall be called. By whom, but His Father of like substance with Himself? For no one has known the Son but the Father. But He in Whom exists the infallible knowledge of His Son, is the true interpreter as to the name which should be given Him, when He says, This is my beloved Son; for such indeed from everlasting He is, though His name was not revealed till now; therefore he says, He shall be called, not shall be made or begotten. For before the worlds He was of like substance with the Father. Him therefore you shall conceive; His mother you shall become; Him shall your virgin shrine enclose, Whom the heavens were not able to contain.

CHRYS. But since it seems shocking or unworthy to some men that God should inhabit a body, is the Sun, I would ask, the heat whereof is felt by each body that receives its rays, at all sullied as to its natural purity? Much more then does the Sun of Righteousness, in taking upon Himself a most pure body from the Virgin’s womb, escape not only defilement, but even show forth His own mother in greater holiness.

GREEK EX. And to make the Virgin mindful of the prophets, he adds, And the Lord God shall give to him the seat of David, that she might know clearly, that He Who is to be born of her is that very Christ, Whom the prophets promised should be born of the seed of David.

CYRIL; Not however from Joseph proceeded the most pure descent of Christ. For from one and the same line of connection had sprung both Joseph and the Virgin, and from this the only-begotten had taken the form of man. BASIL; Our Lord sat not on the earthly throne of David, the Jewish kingdom having been transferred to Herod. The seat of David is that on which our Lord reestablished His spiritual kingdom which should never be destroyed. Hence it follows, And he shall reign over the house of Jacob.

CHRYS. Now He assigns to the present house of Jacob all those who were of the number of the Jews that believed on Him. For as Paul says, They are not all Israel which are of Israel, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

THEOPHYL; Or by the house of Jacob he means the whole Church which either sprang from a good root, or though formerly a wild olive branch, has yet been for a reward of its faith grafted into the good olive tree.

GREEK EX. But to reign for ever is of none save God alone; and hence though because of the incarnation- t nation Christ is said to receive the seat of David, yet as being Himself God He is acknowledged to be the eternal King. It follows, And his kingdom shall have no end, not in that He is God, but in that He is man also. Now indeed He has the kingdom of many nations, but finally he shall reign over all, when all things shall be put under Him.

THEOPHYL; Let Nestorius then cease to say that the Virgin’s Son is only man, and to deny that He is taken up by the Word of God into the unity of the Person. For the Angel when he says that the very same has David for His father whom he declares is called the Son of the Highest, demonstrates the one Person of Christ in two natures. The Angel uses the future tense not because, as the Heretics say, Christ was not before Mary, but because in the same person, man with God shares the same name of Son.

Ver 34. Then said Mary to the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?35. And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall he born of you shall be called the Son of God.

AMBROSE; It was Mary’s part neither to refuse belief in the Angel, nor too hastily take to herself the divine message. How subdued her answer is, compared with the words of the Priest. Then said Mary to the Angel, How shall this be? She says, How shall this be? He answers, Whereby shall I know this? He refuses to believe that which he says he does not know, and seeks as it were still further authority for belief. She avows herself willing to do that which she doubts not will be done, but how, she is anxious to know. Mary had read, Behold, she shall conceive and bear a son. She believed therefore that it should be but how it was to take place she had never read, for even to so great a prophet this had not been revealed. So great a mystery was not to be divulged by the mouth of man, but of an Angel.

GREG. NYSS. Hear the chaste words of the Virgin. The Angel tells her she shall bear a son, but she rests upon her virginity, deeming her inviolability a more precious thing than the Angel’s declaration. Hence she says, Seeing that I know not a man.

BASIL; Knowledge is spoken of in various ways. The wisdom of our Creator is called knowledge, and an acquaintance with His mighty works, the keeping also of His commandments, and the constant drawing near to Him; and besides these the marriage union is called knowledge as it is here.

GREG. NYSS. These words of Mary are a token of what she was pondering in the secrets of her heart; for if for the sake of the marriage union she had wished to be espoused to Joseph, why was she seized with astonishment when the conception was made known to her? seeing in truth she might herself be expecting at the time to become a mother according to the law of nature. But because it was meet that her body being presented to God as an holy offering should be kept inviolate, therefore she says, Seeing that I know not a man. As if she said, Notwithstanding that you who speak are an Angel, yet that I should know a man is plainly an impossible thing. How then can I be a mother, having no husband? For Joseph I have acknowledged as my betrothed.

GREEK EX. But mark, how the Angel solves the Virgin’s doubts, and shows to her the unstained marriage and the unspeakable birth. And the Angel answered, and said to her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you.

CHRYS. As if he said, Look not for the order of nature in things which transcend and overpower nature. Do you say, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Nay rather, shall it happen to you for this very reason, that you have never known a husband. For if you had, you would not have been thought worthy of the mystery, not that marriage is unholy, but virginity more excellent. It became the common Lord of all both to take part with us, and to differ with us in His nativity; for the being born from the womb, He shared in common with us, but in that He was born without cohabitation, He was exalted far above us.

GREG. NYSS. O blessed is that womb which because of the overflowing purity of the Virgin Mary has drawn to itself the gift of life! For in others scarcely indeed shall a pure soul obtain the presence of the Holy Spirit, but in her the flesh is made the receptacle of the Spirit.

ID. For the tables of our nature which guilt had broken, the true Lawgiver has formed anew to Himself from our dust without cohabitation, creating a body capable of taking, His divinity, which the finger of God has carved, that is to say, the Spirit coming upon the Virgin.

ID. Moreover, the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Christ is the power of the most high King, who by the coming of the Holy Spirit is formed in the Virgin.

GREG By the term overshadowing, both natures of the Incarnate God are signified. For shadow is formed by light and matter. But the Lord by His Divine nature is light. Because then immaterial light was to be embodied in the Virgin’s womb, it is well said to her, The power of the Highest shall overshadow you, that is, the human body in you shall receive an immaterial light of divinity. For this is said to Mary for the heavenly refreshing of her soul.

THEOPHYL; You shall conceive then not by the seed of man whom you know not, but by the operation of the Holy Spirit with which you are filled. There shall be no flame of desire in you when the Holy Spirit shall overshadow you.

GREG. NYSS. Or he says, overshadow you, because as a shadow takes its shape from the character of those bodies which go before it, so the signs of the Son’s Deity will appear from the power of the Father. For as in us a certain life-giving power is seen in the material substance, by which man is formed; so in the Virgin, has the power of the Highest in like manner, by the life-giving Spirit, taken from the Virgin’s body a fleshly substance inherent in the body to form a new man. Hence it follows, Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you.

ATHAN. For we confess that which then was taken up from Mary to be of the nature of man and a most real body, the very same also according to nature with our own body. For Mary is our sister, seeing we have all descended from Adam. BASIL; Hence also, St. Paul says, God sent forth his Son, born not (by a woman) but of a woman. For the words by a woman might convey only a mere passing expression of birth, but when it is said, of a woman, there is openly declared a communion of nature between the son and the parent.

GREG. To distinguish His holiness from ours, Jesus is stated in an especial manner to be born holy. For we although indeed made holy, are not born so, for we are constrained by the very condition of our corruptible nature to cry out with the Prophet, Behold, I was conceived in iniquity. But He alone is in truth holy, who was not conceived by the cementing of a fleshly union, nor as the heretics rave, one person in His human nature, another in His divine; not conceived and brought forth a mere man, and afterwards by his merits, obtained that He should be God, but the Angel announcing and the Spirit coming, first the Word in the womb, afterwards within the womb the Word made flesh. Whence it follows, Shall be called the Son of God.

GREEK EX. But observe, how the Angel has declared the whole Trinity to the Virgin, making mention of the Holy Spirit, the Power, and the Most High, for the Trinity its indivisible.

Ver 36. And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.

CHRYS. Seeing that his previous words had overcome the mind of the virgin, the angel drops his discourse to a humbler subject, persuading her by reference to sensible things. Hence he says, And, behold, Elisabeth your cousin, &c. Mark the discretion of Gabriel; he did not remind her of Sarah, or Rebecca, or Rachel, because they were examples of ancient times, but he brings forward a recent event, that he might the more forcibly strike her mind. For this reason also he noticed the age, saying, She also has conceived a son in her old age; and the natural infirmity also. As it follows, And this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For not immediately at the beginning of Elisabeth’s conception did he make this announcement, but after the space of six months, that the swelling of her womb might confirm its truth.

GREG. NAZ. But some one will ask, How is Christ related to David, since Mary sprang from the blood of Aaron, the angel having declared Elisabeth to be her kinswoman? But this was brought about by the Divine counsel, to the end that the royal race might be united to the priestly stock; that Christ, Who is both King and Priest, might be descended from both according to the flesh. For it is written, that Aaron, the first High Priest according to the law, took from the tribe of Judah for his wife Elisabeth, the daughter of Aminadab. And observe the most holy administration of the Spirit, in ordering that the wife of Zacharias should be called Elisabeth, so bringing us back to that Elisabeth whom Aaron married.

THEOPHYL; So it was then, lest the virgin should despair of being able to bear a son, that she received the example of one both old and barren about to bring forth, in order that she might learn that all things are possible with God, even those which seem to be opposed to the order of nature. Whence it follows, For there shall be no word impossible with God.

CHRYS. For the Lord of nature can do all things as He will, Who executes and disposes all things, holding the reins of life and death.

AUG, But whoever says, “If God is omnipotent, let Him cause those things which have been done to have not been done,” does not perceive that he says, “Let Him cause those things which are true, in that very respect in which they are true to be false.” For He may cause a thing not to be which was, as when He makes a man who began to be by birth, not to be by death. But who can say that He makes not to be that which no longer is in being? For whatever is past is no longer in being. But if aught can happen to a thing, that thing is still in being to which any thing happens, and if it is, how is it past? Therefore that is not in being which we have truly said has been, because the truth is, in our opinions, not in that thing which no longer is. But this opinion God can not make false; and we do not so call God omnipotent as supposing also that He could die. He plainly is alone truly called omnipotent, who truly is, and by whom alone that is, whatever in any wise exists, whether spirit or body.

AMBROSE; Behold now the humility, the devotion of the virgin. For it follows, But Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. She calls herself His handmaid, who is chosen to be His mother, so far was she from being exalted by the sudden promise. At the same time also by calling herself handmaid, she claimed to herself in no other way the prerogative of such great grace than that she might do what was commanded her. For about to bring forth One meek and lowly, she was bound herself to show forth lowliness. As it follows, Be it to me according to your word. You have her submission, you see her wish. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, signifies the readiness of duty. Be it to me according to your word, the conception of the wish.

GREEK EX. Some men will highly extol one thing, some another, in these words of the virgin. One man, for example, her constancy, another her willingness of obedience; one man her not being tempted by the great and glorious promises of the great archangel; another, her self-command in not giving an instant assent, equally avoiding both the heedlessness of Eve and the disobedience of Zacharias. But to me the depth of her humility is an object no less worthy of admiration

GREG. Through an ineffable sacrament of a holy conception and a birth inviolable, agreeable to the truth of each nature, the same virgin was both the handmaid and mother of the Lord.

THEOPHYL; Having received the consent of the virgin, the angel soon returns heavenward, as it follows, And the angel departed from her.

EUSEB. Not only having obtained what he wished, but wondering at her virgin beauty, and the ripeness of her virtue.

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