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

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 4:14-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 6, 2011

Ver 1. For a smuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,2. Even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word:3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus,4. That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed.

EUSEBIUS; St. Luke at the commencement of his Gospel has told us the reason of his writing, which was, that many others had rashly taken upon themselves to give accounts of those things of which he had a more certain knowledge. And this is his meaning when he says, Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of things.

AMBROSE; For as many among the Jewish people prophesied by inspiration of the Spirit of God, but others were false prophets rather than prophets, so now also travel many attempted to write Gospels which the good moneychanger refuses to pass. One gospel is mentioned which the twelve Apostles are said to have written; another Basilides presumed to write; and another is said to have been by Matthias.

BEDE; The many who are mentioned, he reckons not so much by their number, as by the variety of their manifold heresies; men who were not endued with the gift of the Holy Spirit, but engaging in a vain work, have rather set forth in order a relation of events, than woven a true history

AMBROSE; Now they who have attempted to set forth these things in order have labored by themselves, and have not succeeded in what they attempted. For without the assistance of man come the gifts and the grace of God, which, when it is infused, is wont so to flow, that the genius of the writer is not exhausted, but ever abounding. He well says therefore, Of things which have been fully accomplished among us, or which abound among us. For that which abounds is lacking to none, and no one doubts about that which is fulfilled, since the accomplishment builds up our faith, and the end manifests it.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS; He says, of things, because not by shadows, as the heretics say, did Jesus accomplish His advent in the flesh, but being as He was the Truth, so in very truth He performed His work.

ORIGEN; The effect upon his own mind, St. Luke explains by the expression, of the things which have been fully accomplished among us, i.e. have had their full manifestation among us, (as the Greek word signifies, which the Latin cannot not express in one word,) for he had been convinced of them by sure faith and reason, and wavered not in any thing

CHRYS; The Evangelist was so far from being content with his single testimony, that he refers the whole to the Apostles, seeking from them a confirmation of his words; and therefore he adds, as they handed them down to us, who were themselves from the beginning eyewitnesses.

EUSEBIUS; Luke is a sure witness, because he obtained his knowledge of the truth either from St. Paul’s instructions, or the instructions and traditions of the other Apostles, who were themselves eyewitnesses from the beginning.

CHRYS. He says, were eyewitnesses, because this is our chief ground for believing in a thing, that we derive it from those who were actually eyewitnesses.

ORIGEN; It is plain that of one kind of knowledge, the end is in the knowledge itself, as in geometry; but of another kind, the end is counted to be in the work, as in medicine; and so it is in the word of God, and therefore having signified the knowledge by the words were themselves eyewitnesses, he points out the work by what follows, and were ministers of the word

AMBROSE; This expression is used, not that we should suppose the ministry of the word to consist rather in seeing than hearing, but that, because by the word was meant not a word that can be spoken by the mouth, but one of real existence, we may understand that to have been not a common, but a Heavenly Word, to which the Apostles ministered.

CYRIL; In what he says of the Apostles having been eyewitnesses of the word, he agrees with John, who says, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. For the Word by means of the flesh was made visible.

AMBROSE; Now not only did they see the Lord in the body, but also in the Word. For they saw the Word, who with Moses and Elias saw the glory of the Word. Others did not see it, who could only see the body.

ORIGEN; It is written in Exodus, The people saw the voice of the Lord. Now a voice is rather heard than seen. But it was so written, to show us that men see the voice of the Lord with other eyes, which they only have who are worthy of them. Again in the Gospel, it is not the voice that is perceived, but the Word, which is more excellent than the voice.

THEOPHYL; By these words it is plainly implied, that Luke was not a disciple from the beginning but became one in course of time; others were disciples from the beginning, as Peter, and the sons of Zebedee.

THEOPHYL; Nevertheless both Matthew and John were obliged in many things that they wrote to consult those who had had means of knowing the infancy, childhood, and genealogy of our Lord, and of seeing the things which he did.

ORIGEN; St. Luke hereby explains to us the source of his writing; seeing that what things he wrote, he gained not from report, but had himself traced them up from the beginning. Hence it follows, It seemed good to me also, having carefully investigated every thing from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus.

AMBROSE; When he says, It seemed good to me, he does not deny that it seemed good to God for it is God who predisposes the wills of men. Now no one has doubted that this book of the Gospel is more full of details than the others; by these words then he claims to himself, not any thing that is false, but the truth; and therefore he says, “It seemed good to me, having investigated every thing, to write.” Not to write every thing, but from a review of every thing; “for if all the things which Jesus did were written, I do not think the world itself could contain them.” But purposely has Luke passed by things that were written by others, in order that each book of the Gospel might be distinguished by certain mysteries and miracles peculiar to itself.

THEOPHYL; He writes to Theophilus, a man probably of some distinction, and a governor; for the form, Most excellent, was not used except to rulers and governors. As for example, Paul says to Festus, Most excellent Festus.

THEOPHYL; Theophilus means, “loving God,” or “being loved by God.” Whoever then loses God, or desires to be loved by Him, let him think this Gospel to have been written to him, and preserve it as a gift presented to him, a pledge entrusted to his care. The promise was not to explain the meaning of certain new and strange things to Theophilus, but to set forth the truth of those words in which he had been instructed; as it is added, That you might know the truth of those words in which you have been instructed; that is, “that you might be able to know in what order each thing was said or done by the Lord.”

CHRYS; Or it may be, “That you might feel certain and satisfied as to the truth of those things which you have heard, now that you behold the same in writing.”

THEOPHYL; For frequently, when a thing is asserted by any one, and not expressed in writing, we suspect it of falsehood; but when a man has written what he asserts, we are the more inclined to believe it, as if, unless he thought it to be true, he would not commit it to writing.

GREEK EX. The whole preface of in this Evangelist contains two things; first, the condition of those who wrote Gospels before him, (Matthew and Mark for example;) secondly, the reason why he also himself proposed to write one.

Having said, “attempted,” a word which may be applied both to those who presumptuously engage upon a subject, and those who reverently handle it, he determines the doubtful expression by two additions; first, by the words, Of things which have been fully accomplished among us; and secondly, As they handed them down to us, who were eyewitnesses from the beginning. The word handed down seems to show, that the eye-witnesses themselves had a commission to transmit the truth. For as they handed it down, so it became others also receiving it in due order, in their turn to publish it. But from the not depositing in writing what had been delivered, several difficulties through lapse of time sprang up. Rightly then did those who had received the tradition from the first eye-witnesses of the Word, establish it in writing for the whole world; thereby repelling falsehood, destroying forgetfulness, and making up from tradition itself a perfect whole.

Ver  14. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.15. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.17. And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor: he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.20. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.21. And he began to say to them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.

ORIGEN; The Lord having overcome the tempter, power was added to Him, i.e. as far as regards the manifestation of it. Hence it is said, And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.

THEOPHYL; By the power of the Spirit he means showing forth of miracles.

CYRIL; Now He performed miracles not from any external power, and from having as it were the acquired grace of the Holy Spirit, as other saints, but rather as being by nature the Son of God, and partaking of all things which are the Father’s, He exercises as by His own power and operation that grace which is of the Holy Spirit. But it was right that from that time He should become known, and that the mystery of His humanity should shine forth among those who were of the seed of Israel. It therefore follows, And his fame went out.

THEOPHYL; And because wisdom belongs to teaching, but power to works, both are joined here, as it follows, And he taught in the synagogue.

Synagogue, which is a Greek word, is rendered in Latin congregatio. By this name then the Jews were accustomed to call not only the gathering together of people, but also the house where they met together to hear the word of God; as we call by the name of Church, both the place and the company of the faithful. But there is this difference between the synagogue which is called congregation, and the Church which is interpreted convocation, that flocks and cattle, and any thing else can be gathered together in one, but only rational beings can be called together. Accordingly the Apostolical doctors thought right to call a people which was distinguished by the superior dignity of a new grace rather by the name of Church, than Synagogue. But rightly also was the fact of His being magnified by those present proved, by actual evidence of word and deed, as it follows, And he was magnified by all.

ORIGEN; But you must not think that they only were happy, and that you are deprived of Christ’s teaching. For now also throughout the world He teaches through His instruments, and is now more glorified by all men, than at that time when those only in one province were gathered together.

CYRIL; He communicates the knowledge of Himself to those among whom He was brought up according to the flesh. As it follows, And he came to Nazareth.

THEOPHYL. That He might teach us to benefit and instruct first our brethren, then to extend our kindness to the rest of our friends.

THEOPHYL; They flocked together on the Sabbath day in the synagogues, that, resting from all worldly occupations, they might set themselves down with a quiet mind to meditate on the precepts of the Law. Hence it follows, And he entered as was his custom on the Sabbath day into the synagogue.

AMBROSE; The Lord in every thing so humbled Himself to obedience, that He did not despise even the office of a reader, as it follows, And he rose up to read, and there was delivered to him the book, &c. He received the book indeed, that He might show Himself to be the same who spoke in the Prophets, and that He might stop the blasphemies of the wicked, who say that there is one God of the Old Testament, another of the New; or who say that Christ had His beginning from a virgin. For how did He begin from a virgin, who spoke before that virgin was?

ORIGEN; He opens not the book by chance, and finds a chapter containing a prophecy of Himself, but by the providence of God. Hence it follows, And when he had opened the book, he found the place, &c.

ATHAN. He says this to explain to us the cause of the revelation made Or to the world, and of His taking upon Him the human nature. For as the Son, though He is the giver of. the Spirit, does not refuse to confess as man that by the Spirit He casts out devils, so, inasmuch as He was made man, He does not refuse to say, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.

CYRIL; In like manner we confess Him to have been anointed, inasmuch as He took upon Him our flesh, as it follows, Because he has anointed me. For the Divine nature is not anointed, but that which is cognate to us. So also when He says that He was sent, we must suppose Him speaking of His human nature. For it follows, He has sent me to preach the gospel to the poor.

AMBROSE; You see the Trinity coeternal and perfect. The Scripture speaks of Jesus as perfect God and perfect man. It speaks of the Father, and the Holy Spirit, who was shown to be a cooperator, when in a bodily form as a dove He descended upon Christ.

ORIGEN; By the poor He means the Gentile nations, for they were poor, possessing nothing at all, having neither God, nor Law, nor Prophets, nor justice, and the other virtues.

AMBROSE; Or, He is anointed all over with spiritual oil, and heavenly virtue, that He might enrich the poverty of man’s condition with the everlasting treasure of His resurrection.

THEOPHYL; He is sent also to preach the Gospel to the poor, saying, Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

CYRIL; For perhaps to the poor in spirit He declares in these words, that among all the gifts which are obtained through Christ, upon them was bestowed a free gift. It follows, To heal the broken hearted. He calls those broken hearted, who are weak, of an infirm mind, and unable to resist the assaults of the passions, and to them He promises a healing remedy.

BASIL; Or, He came to heal the broken hearted, i.e. to afford a remedy to those that have their heart broken by Satan through sin, because beyond all other things sin lays prostrate the human hears.

THEOPHYL; Or, because it is written, A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise. He says therefore, that He is sent to heal the broken hearted, as it is written, Who heals the broken hearted.

It follows, And to preach deliverance to the captives.

CHRYS. The word captivity has many meanings. There is a good captivity, which St. Paul speaks of when he says, Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. There is a bad captivity also, of which it is said, Leading captive silly women laden with sins. There is a captivity present to the senses, that is by our bodily enemies. But the worst captivity is that of the mind, of which he here speaks. For sin exercises the worst of all tyrannies, commanding to do evil, and destroying them that obey it. From this prison of the soul Christ lets us free.

THEOPHYL. But these things may be understood also of the dead, who being taken captive have been loosed from the dominion of hell by the resurrection of Christ. It follows, And recovering of sight to the blind.

CYRIL; For the darkness which the Devil has spread over the human heart, Christ the Sun of Righteousness has removed making men, as the Apostle says, children not of night and darkness, but of light and the day. For they who one time wandered have discovered the path of the righteous. It follows, To set at liberty them that are bruised.

ORIGEN; For what had been so shattered and dashed about as man, who was set at liberty by Jesus and healed?

THEOPHYL; Or, to set at liberty them that are bruised; i.e. to relieve those who had been heavy laden with the intolerable burden of the Law.

ORIGEN; But all these things were mentioned first, in order that after the recovery of sight from blindness, after deliverance from captivity, after being healed of divers wounds, we might come to the acceptable year of the Lord. As it follows, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Some say that, according to the simple meaning of the word, the Savior preached the Gospel throughout Judea in one year, and that this is what is meant by preaching the acceptable year of the Lord. Or, the acceptable year of the Lord is the whole time of the Church, during which while present in the body, it is absent from the Lord.

THEOPHYL; For not only was that year acceptable in which our Lord preached, but that also in which the Apostle preaches, saying, Behold, now is the accepted time. After the acceptable year of the Lord, he adds, And the day of retribution; that is, the final retribution, when the Lord shall give to every one according to his work.

AMBROSE; Or, by the acceptable year of the Lord, he means this day extended through endless ages, which knows of no return to a world of labor, and grants to men everlasting reward and rest. It follows, And he closed the book, and he gave it again.

THEOPHYL; He read the book to those who were present to hear Him, but having read it, He returned it to the minister; for while He was in the world He spoke openly, teaching in the synagogues and in the temple; but about to return to heaven, He committed the office of preaching the Gospel to those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. He read standing, because while explaining those Scriptures which were written of Him, He condescended to work in the flesh; but having returned the book, He sits down, because He restored Himself to the throne of heavenly rest. For standing is the part of the workman, but sitting of one who is resting or judging. So also let the preacher of the word rise up and read and work and preach, and sit down, i.e. wait for the reward of rest. But He opens the book and reads, because sending the Spirit, He taught His Church all truth; having shut the book, He returned it to the minister, because all things were not to be said to all, but He committed the word to the teacher to be dispensed according to the capacity of the hearers. It follows, And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him.

ORIGEN; And now also if we will, our eyes can look upon the Savior. For when you direct your whole heart to wisdom, truth, and the contemplation of the only-begotten Son of God, your eyes behold Jesus.

CYRIL; But then He turned the eyes of all men upon Him, wondering how He knew the writing which He had never learnt. But since it was the custom of the Jews to say that the prophecies spoken of Christ are completed either in certain of their chiefs, i.e. their kings, or in some of their holy prophets, the Lord made this announcement; as it follows, But he began to say to them that this Scripture is fulfilled.

THEOPHYL; Because, in fact, as that Scripture had foretold, the Lord was both doing great things, and preaching greater.

Ver 22. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

CHRYS. When our Lord came to Nazareth, He refrains from miracles, lest He should provoke the people to greater malice. But He sets before them His teaching no less wonderful than His miracles. For there was a certain ineffable grace in our Savior’s words which softened the hearts of the hearers. Hence it is said, And they all bare him witness.

THEOPHYL; They bare Him witness that it was truly He, as He had said, of whom the prophet had spoken.

CHRYS. But foolish men though wondering at the power of His words little esteemed Him because of His reputed father. Hence it follows, And they said, Is not this the son of Joseph?

CYRIL; But what prevents Him from filling men with awe, though He were the Son as was supposed of Joseph? Do you not see the divine miracles, Satan already prostrate, men released from their sickness?

One Response to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 4:14-22”

  1. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 4:14-22). 12:05 AM EST. […]

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