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 March, 2011

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 81

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2011

Note: This meditative commentary on Psalm 81 was delivered as part of the Pope’s weekly catechesis which, at the end of his life, was dedicated to expounding the Psalms and Canticles used in the Church’s Morning and Evening Prayer. You can read Psalm 81 here.



Wednesday 24 April 2002

Psalm 80 [81] of Lauds
A love that frees the oppressed from their burdens

1. “Blow the trumpet at the full moon, on our feast day” (Ps 80 [81],4). These words of Psalm 80 [81], that we just proclaimed, refer to a liturgical celebration according to the lunar calendar of ancient Israel. It is difficult to identify the precise festival to which the Psalm refers; what is certain is that the biblical liturgical calendar, although it is based on the cycle of the seasons and thus of nature, it is clearly presented as firmly anchored to the history of salvation and, in particular, to the capital event of the exodus from Egyptian slavery, that is linked to the full moon of the first month (cf. Ex 12,2.6; Lv 23,5). There, God is revealed as Liberator and Saviour.

As verse 7 of the Psalm poetically states, God himself relieved the Hebrew slave in Egypt of the basket on his back, full of the bricks needed to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses (cf. Ex 1,11.14). God had stood beside the oppressed people and with his power removed the bitter sign of slavery, the basket of bricks baked in the sun, a symbol of the forced labour to which the children of Israel were constrained.

2. Let us see how this canticle of the liturgy of Israel develops. It opens with an invitation to celebrate, to sing, to make music. It is the official convocation of the liturgical assembly according to the ancient precept of worship, already established in Egypt with the celebration of the Passover (cf. Ps 80 [81],2-6a). After this call, the voice of the Lord himself is raised through the oracle of the priest in the temple of Zion, and his divine words fill the rest of the Psalm (cf. vv. 6b-17).

The theme developed is simple and rotates round two ideal poles. On the one hand there is the divine gift of freedom offered to Israel, oppressed and wretched: “In distress you called, and I delivered you” (v. 8). The Psalm also mentions the Lord’s support of Israel on the journey through the desert, that is, the gift of the waters at Meribah, in a context of hardship and trial.

3. On the other hand, along with the divine gift, the Psalmist introduces another significant element. The Biblical religion is not a solitary monologue of God, an action of God destined not to be performed. Instead, it is a dialogue, a word followed by a response, a gesture of love that calls for acceptance. For this reason ample room is given to the invitations that God addresses to Israel.

The Lord first invites it to observe faithfully the First Commandment, the pillar of the whole Decalogue, that is, faith in the one Lord and Saviour and the rejection of idols (cf. Ex 20,3-5). The words of the priest speaking in God’s name are punctuated by the verb “to listen”, dear to the Book of Deuteronomy, which expresses obedient adherence to the Law of Sinai and is a sign of Israel’s response to the gift of freedom. In fact, we hear repeated in our Psalm: “Hear, O my people … O Israel, if you would but listen to me! … But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would have none of me…. O that my people would listen to me…!” (Ps 80[81],9.12.14).

Only through faithful listening and obedience can the people receive fully the gifts of the Lord. Unfortunately, God must attest with bitterness to Israel’s many infidelities. The journey through the desert, to which the Psalm alludes, is strewn with these acts of rebellion and idolatry which reach their climax in the representation of the golden calf (cf. Ex 32,1-14).

4. The last part of the Psalm (cf. Ps 80[81],14-17) has a melancholic tone. In fact, God expresses a longing that has not yet been satisfied: “O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!” (v. 14).

However, this melancholy is inspired by love and is united with his deep desire to fill the chosen people with good things. If Israel were to walk in the ways of the Lord, he would soon subdue their enemies (cf. v. 15), feed them “with the finest of the wheat” and satisfy them “with honey from the rock” (v. 17). It would be a joyful feast of fresh bread accompanied by honey that seems to run from the rocks of the Promised Land, representing prosperity and total well-being, a recurrent theme in the Bible (cf. Dt 6,3; 11,9; 26,9.15; 27,3; 31,20). In offering this wonderful perspective, the Lord obviously seeks to obtain his people’s conversion, a response of sincere and effective love to his own love that is more generous than ever.

In the Christian interpretation, the divine offering is revealed in its fullness. Indeed, Origen gives us this interpretation: the Lord “made them enter into the promised land; there he does not feed them with manna as he did in the desert, but with the wheat that has fallen to the ground (cf. Jn 12,24-25) that is risen…. Christ is the wheat; again, he is the rock whose water quenched the thirst of the people of Israel in the desert. In the spiritual sense, he satisfied them with honey and not with water, so that all who believe and receive this food, may taste honey in their mouths” (Omelia sul Salmo 80, n. 17 [Homily on Psalm 80, n. 17]: Origen-Jerome, 74 Omelie sul Libro dei Salmi, [74 Homilies on the Book of the Psalms] Milan 1993, pp. 204-205).

5. As is always the case in the history of salvation, the last word in the contrast between God and his sinful people is never judgement and chastisement, but love and pardon. God does not want to judge and condemn, but to save and deliver humanity from evil. He continues to repeat to us the words we read in the Book of the Prophet Ezechiel: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God; so return and live” (Ez 18,23.31-32).

The liturgy becomes the privileged place in which to hear the divine call to conversion and return to the embrace of God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34,6).


Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, John Paul II Catechesis, liturgy, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, PAPAL COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, Quotes, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

March 31: Aquinas’ Cantena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:14-23)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2011

Ver 14. And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spoke; and the people wondered.15. But some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.16. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.

GLOSS. The Lord had promised that the Holy Spirit should be given to those that asked for it; the blessed effects whereof He indeed clearly shows in the following miracle. Hence it follows, And Jesus was casting out a devil, and it was dumb.

THEOPHYL. Now he is called as commonly meaning one who does not speak. It is also used for one who does not hear, but more properly who neither hears nor speaks. But he who has not heard from his birth necessarily cannot speak. For we speak those things which we are taught to speak by hearing. If however one has lost his hearing from a disease that has come upon him, there is nothing to hinder him from speaking. But He who was brought before the Lord was both dumb in speech, and deaf in hearing.

TIT. BOST. Now He calls the devil deaf or dumb, as being the cause of this calamity, that the Divine word should not be heard. For the devil, by taking away the quickness of human feeling, blunts the hearing of our soul. Christ therefore comes that He might cast out the devil, and that we might hear the word of truth. For He healed one that He might create a universal foretaste of man’s salvation. Hence it follows, And when he: he had cast out the devil, tile dumb spoke.

BEDE; But that demoniac is related by Matthew to have been not only dumb, but blind. Three miracles then were performed at the same time on one man. The blind see, the dumb speaks, and he that was possessed by a devil is set free. The like is daily accomplished in the conversion of believers, so that the devil being first cast out, they see the light, and then those mouths which were before silent are loosened to speak the praises of God.

CYRIL; Now when the miracle was performed, the multitude extolled Him with loud praises, and the glory which was due to God. As it follows, And the people wondered.

BEDE; But since the multitudes who were thought ignorant always marveled at our Lord’s actions, the Scribes and Pharisees took pains to deny them, or to pervert them by an artful interpretation, as though they were not the work of a Divine power, but of an unclean spirit. Hence it follows, But some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Beelzebub was the God Accaron. For Beel is indeed Baal himself. But Zebub means a fly. Now he is called Beelzebub as the man of flies, from whose most foul practices the chief of the devils was so named.

CYRIL; But others by similar darts of envy sought from Him a sign from heaven. As it follows, And others tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. As if they said, “Although you have cast out a devil from the man, this is no proof however of Divine power. For we have not yet seen any thing like to the miracles of former times. Moses led the people through the midst of the sea, and Joshua his successor stayed the sun in Gibeon. But you have shown us none of these things.” For to seek signs from heaven showed that the speaker was at that time influenced by some feeling of this kind towards Christ.

Ver 17. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falls.18. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.19. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out, therefore shall they be your judges.20. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

CHRYS. The suspicion of the Pharisees being utterly without reason, they dared not divulge it for fear of the multitude, but pondered it in their minds. Hence it is said, But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself will be brought to desolation.

BEDE; He answered not their words but their thoughts, that so at least they might be compelled to believe in His power, who saw into the secrets of the heart.

CHRYS. He did not answer them from the Scriptures, since they gave no heed to them, explaining them away falsely; but he answers them from things of every day occurrence. For a house and a city if it be divided is quickly scattered to nothing; and likewise a kingdom, than which nothing is stronger. For the harmony of the inhabitants maintains houses and kingdoms. If then, says He, I cast out devils by means of a devil, there is dissension among them, and their power perishes.

Hence He adds, But if Satan be divided against himself, how shall he stand? For Satan resists not himself, nor hurts his soldiers, but rather strengthens his kingdom. It is then by Divine power alone that I crush Satan under my feet.

AMBROSE; Herein also He shows His own kingdom to be undivided and everlasting. Those then who possess no hope in Christ, but think that He casts out devils through the chief of the devils, their kingdom, He says, is not everlasting. This also has reference to the Jewish people. For how can the kingdom of the Jews be everlasting, when by the people of the law Jesus is denied, who is promised by the law? Thus in part does the faith of the Jewish people impugn itself; the glory of the wicked is divided, by division is destroyed. And therefore the kingdom of the Church shall remain for ever, because its faith is undivided in one body.

BEDE; The kingdom also of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not divided, because it is sealed with an eternal stability. Let then the Arians cease to say that the Son is inferior to the Father, but the Holy Spirit inferior to the Son, since whose kingdom is one, their power is one also.

CHRYS. This then is the first answer; the second which relates to His disciples He gives as follows, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? He says not, “My disciples,” but your sons, wishing to soothe their wrath.

CYRIL; For the disciples of Christ were Jews, and sprung from Jews according to the flesh, and they had obtained from Christ power over unclean spirits, and delivered those who were oppressed by them in Christ’s name. Seeing then that your sons subdue Satan in My name, is it not very madness to say that I have My power from Beelzebub? you are then condemned by the faith of your children. Hence He adds, Therefore shall they be your judges.

CHRYS. For since they who come forth from you are obedient to Me, it is plain that they will condemn those who do the contrary.

BEDE; Or else, By the sons of the Jews He means the exorcists of that nation, who cast out devils by the invocation of God. As if He says, If the casting out of devils by your sons is ascribed to God, not to devils, why in My case has not the same work the same cause? Therefore shall they be your judges, not in authority to exercise judgment, but in act, since they assign to God the casting out of devils, you to Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.

CYRIL; Since then what you say bears upon it the mark of calumny, it is plain that by the Spirit of God I cast out devils. Hence He adds, But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

AUG. That Luke speaks of the finger of God, where Matthew has said, the Spirit, does not take away from their agreement in sense, but it rather teaches us a lesson, that we may know what meaning to give to the finger of God, whenever we read it in the Scriptures.

AUG. Now the Holy Spirit is called the finger of God, because of the distribution of gifts which are given through Him, to every one his own gift, whether he be of men or angels. For in none of our members is division more apparent than in our fingers.

CYRIL; Or the Holy Spirit is called the finger of God for this reason. The Son was said to be the hand and arm of the Father, for the Father works all things by Him. As then the finger is not separate from the hard, but by nature a part of it; so the Holy Spirit is consubstantially united to the Son, and through Him the Son does all things.

AMBROSE; Nor would you think in the compacting together of our limbs any division of power to be made, for there can be no division in an undivided thing. And therefore the appellation of finger must be referred to the form of unity, not to the distinction of power.

ATHAN. But at this time our Lord does not hesitate because of His humanity to speak of Himself as inferior to the Holy Spirit, saying, that He cast out devils by Him, as though the human nature was not sufficient for the casting out of devils without the power of the Holy Spirit.

CYRIL; And therefore it is justly said, The kingdom of God is come upon you, that is, “If I as a man cast out devils by the Spirit of God, human nature is enriched through Me, and the kingdom of God is come.”

CHRYS. But it is said, upon you, that He might draw them to Him; as if He said, If prosperity comes to you, why do you despise your good things?

AMBROSE; At the same time He shows that it is a regal power which the Holy Spirit possesses, in whom is the kingdom of God, and that we in whom the Spirit dwells are a royal house.

TIT. BOST. Or He says, The kingdom of God is come upon you, signifying, “is come against you, not for you.” For dreadful is the second coming of Christ to faithless Christians.

Ver  21. When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace:22. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him and overcome him, he takes from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divides his spoils.23. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathers not with me scatters.

CYRIL; As it was necessary for many reasons to refute the cavils of His opponents, our Lord now makes use of a very plain example, by which He proves to those who will consider it that He overcomes the power of the world, by a power inherent in Himself, saying, When a strong man armed keeps his palace.

CHRYS. He calls the devil a strong man, not because he is naturally so, but referring to his ancient dominion, of which our weakness was the cause.

CYRIL; For he used before the coming of the Savior to seize with great violence upon the flocks of another, that is, God, and carry them as it were to his own fold.

THEOPHYL. The Devil’s arms are all kinds of sins, trusting in which he prevailed against men.

BEDE; But the world he calls his palace, which lies in wickedness, wherein up to our Savior’s coming he enjoys supreme power, because he rested in the hearts of unbelievers without any opposition. But with a stronger and mightier power Christ has conquered, and by delivering all men has cast him out. Hence it is added, But if a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome, &c,

CYRIL; For as soon as the Word of the Most High God, the Giver of all strength, and the Lord of Hosts, was made man, He attacked him, and took away his arms.

BEDE; His arms then are the craft and the wiles of spiritual wickedness, but his spoils are the men themselves, who have been deceived by him.

CYRIL; For the Jews who had been a long time entrapped by him into ignorance of God and sin, have been called out by the holy Apostles to the knowledge of the truth, and presented to God the Father, through faith in the Son.

BASIL; Christ also divides the spoil, showing the faithful watch etch which angels keep over the salvation of men.

BEDE; As conqueror too Christ divides the spoils, which is a sign of triumph, for leading captivity captive He gave gifts to men, ordaining some Apostles, some Evangelists, some Prophets, and some Pastors and Teachers.

CHRYS. Next we have the fourth answer, where it is added, He who is not with me is against me; as if He says, I wish to present men to God, but Satan the contrary. How then would he who does not work with Me, but scatters what is Mine, become so united with Me, as with Me to cast out devils? It follows, And he who gathers not with me, scatters.

CYRIL; As if He said, I came to gather together the sons of God whom he has scattered. And Satan himself as he is not with Me, tries to scatter those which I have gathered and saved. How then does he whom I use all My efforts to resist, supply Me with power?

CHRYS. But if he who does not work with Me is My adversary, how much more he who opposes Me? It seems however to me that he here under a figure refers to the Jews, ranging them with the devil. For they also acted against, and scattered those whom He gathered together.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2011

Ver 1. After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.2. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.3. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.4. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.5. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come to him, he said to Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?6. And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.7. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.8. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, says to him,9. There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?10. And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.11. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.12. When they were filled, he said to his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.13. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.14. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.

CHRYS. As missiles rebound with great force from a hard body, and fly off in all directions, whereas a softer material retains and stops them; so violent men are only excited to greater rage by violence on the side of their opponents, whereas gentleness softens them. Christ quieted the irritation of the Jews by retiring from Jerusalem. He went into Galilee, but not to Cana again, but beyond the sea: After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.ALCUIN. This sea has different names, from the different places with which it is connected; the sea of Galilee, from the province; the sea of Tiberias, from the city of that name. It is called a sea, though it is not salt water, that name being applied to all large pieces of water, in Hebrew. This sea our Lord often passes over, in going to preach to the people bordering on it.

THEOPHYL. He goes from place to place to try the dispositions of people, and excite a desire to hear Him: And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.

ALCUIN. viz. His giving sight to the blind, and other like miracles. And it should be understood, that all, whom He healed in body, He renewed likewise in soul.

CHRYS. Though favored with such teaching, they were influenced less by it, than by the miracles; a sign of their low state of belief: for Paul says of tongues, that they are for a sign, not to them that believe, I but to them that believe not. They were wiser of whom it is said, that they were astonished at His doctrine. The Evangelist does not say what miracles He wrought, the great object of his book being to give our Lord’s discourses. It follows: And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there sat with His disciples. He went up into the mountain, on account of the miracle which was going to be done. That the disciples alone ascended with Him, implies that the people w ho stayed behind were in fault for not following. He went up to the mountain too, as a lesson to us to retire from the tumult and confusion of the world, and leave wisdom in solitude. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. Observe, in a whole year, the Evangelist has told us of no miracles of Christ, except His healing the impotent man, and the nobleman’s son. His object was to give not a regular history, but only a few of the principal acts of our Lord. But why did not our Lord go up to the feast? He was taking occasion, from the wickedness of the Jews, gradually to abolish the Law.

THEOPHYL. The persecutions of the Jews gave Him reason for retiring, and thus setting aside the Law. The truth being now revealed, types were at an end, and He was under no obligation to keep the Jewish feasts. Observe the expression, a feast of the Jews, not a feast of Christ.

BEDE. If we compare the accounts of the different Evangelists, we shall find very clearly, that there was an interval of a year between the beheading of John, and our Lord’s Passion. For, since Matthew says that our Lord, on hearing of the death of John, withdrew into a desert place, where He fed the multitude; and John says that the Passover was nigh, when He fed the multitude; it is evident that John was beheaded shortly before the Passover. And at the same feast, the next year Christ suffered. It follows, When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come to Him, He said to Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? When Jesus lifted up His eyes, this is to show us, that Jesus was not generally with His eyes lifted up, looking about Him, but sitting calm and attentive, surrounded by His disciples.

CHRYS. Nor did He only sit with His disciples, but conversed with them familiarly, and gained possession of their minds. Then He looked, and saw a crowd advancing. But why did He ask Philip that question? Because He knew that His disciples, and he especially, needed further teaching. For this Philip it was who said afterwards, Show us the Father, and it suffices us. And if the miracle had been performed at once, without any introduction, the greatness of it would not have been seen. The disciples were made to confess their own inability, that they might see the miracle more clearly; And this He said to prove him.

AUG. One kind of temptation leads to sin, with which God never tempts any one; and there is another kind by which faith is tried. In this sense it is said that Christ proved His disciple. This is not meant to imply that He did not know what Philip would say; but is an accommodation to men’s way of speaking. For as the expression, Who searches the hearts of men, does not mean the searching of ignorance, but of absolute knowledge; so here, when it is said that our Lord proved Philip, we must understand that He knew him perfectly, but that He tried him, in order to confirm his faith. The Evangelist himself guards against the mistake which this imperfect mode of speaking might occasion, by adding, For He Himself knew what He would do.

ALCUIN. He asks him this question, not for His own information, but in order to show His yet unformed disciple his dullness of mind, which he could not perceive of himself.

THEOPHYL. Or to show others it. He was not ignorant of His disciple’s heart Himself.

AUG. But if our Lord, according to John’s account, on seeing the multitude, asked Philip, tempting him, whence they could buy food for them, it is difficult at first to see how it can be true, according to the other account, that the disciples first told our Lord, to send away the multitude; and that our Lord replied, They need not depart; give you them to eat. We must understand then it was after saying this, that our Lord saw the multitude, and said to Philip what John had related, which has been omitted by the rest.

CHRYS. Or they are two different occasions altogether.

THEOPHYL. Thus tried by our Lord, Philip was found to be possessed which human notions, as appears from what follows, Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

ALCUIN. Wherein he shows his dullness: for, had he perfect ideas of his Creator, he would not be thus doubting His power.AUG. The reply, which is attributed to Philip by John, Mark puts in the mouth of all the disciples, either meaning us to understand that Philip spoke for the rest, or else putting the plural number for the singular, which is often done.

THEOPHYL. Andrew is in the same perplexity that Philip is; only he has rather higher notions of our Lord: There its a lad here which has five barley loaves and two small fishes.

CHRYS. Probably He had some reason in his mind for this speech. He would know of Elijah’s miracle, by which a hundred men were fed with twenty loaves. This was a great step; but here he stopped. He did not rise any higher. For his next words are, But what are these among so many? He thought that less could produce less in a miracle, and more more; a great mistake; inasmuch as it was as easy for Christ to feed the multitude from a few fishes as from many. He did not really want any material to work from, but only made use of created things for this purpose in order to show that no part of the creation was severed from His wisdom.

THEOPHYL. This passage confounds the Manicheans, who say that bread and all such things were created by an evil Deity. The Son of the good God, Jesus Christ, multiplied the loaves. Therefore they could not have been naturally evil; a good God would never have multiplied what was evil.

AUG. Andrew’s suggestion about the five loaves and two fishes, is given as coming from the disciples in general, in the other Evangelists, and the plural number is used.

CHRYS. And let those of us, who are given to pleasure, observe the plain and abstemious eating of those great and wonderful men. He made the men sit down before the loaves appeared, to teach us that with Him, things teat are not are as things that are, as Paul says, Who calls those things that be not, as though they were. The passage proceeds then: And Jesus said, Make the men sit down.

ALCUIN. Sit down, i.e. lie down, as the ancient custom was, which they could do, as there was much grass in the place.

THEOPHYL. i.e. green grass. It was the time of the Passover, which was kept the first month of the spring. So the men sat down in number about five thousand. The Evangelist only counts the men following the direction in the law. Moses numbered the people from twenty years old and upwards, making no mention of the women; to signify that the manly and juvenile character is especially honorable in God’s eyes. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to them that were sat down: and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

CHRYS. But why when He is going to heal the impotent, to raise the dead, to calm the sea, does He not pray, but here does give thanks? To teach us to give thanks to God, whenever we sit down to eat. And He prays more in lesser matters, in order to show that He does not pray from any motive of need. For had prayer been really necessary to supply His wants, His praying would have been in proportion to the importance of each particular work. But acting, as He does, on His own authority, it is evident, He only prays out of condescension to us. And, as a great multitude was collected, it was an opportunity of impressing on them, that His coming was in accordance with God’s will. Accordingly, when a miracle was private, He did not pray; when numbers were present, He did.

HILARY. Five loaves are then set before the multitude, and broken. The broken portions pass through into the hands of those who break, that from which they are broken all the time not at all diminishing. And yet there they are, the bits taken from it, in the hands of the persons breaking. There is no catching by eye or touch the miraculous operation: that is, which was not, that is seen, which is not understood. It only remains for us to believe that God can do all things.

AUG. He multiplied in His hands the five loaves, just as He produces harvest out of a few grains. There was a power in the hands of Christ; and those five loaves were, as it were, seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth.

CHRYS. Observe the difference between the servant and the lord. The Prophets received grace, as it were, by measure, and according to that measure performed their miracles: whereas Christ, working this by His own absolute power, produces a kind of super abundant result. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments. This was not done for needless ostentation, but to prevent men from thinking the whole a delusion; which was the reason why He made use of an existing material to work from. But why did He give the fragments to His disciples to carry away, and not to the multitude? Because the disciples were to be the teachers of the world, and therefore it was most important that the truth should be impressed upon them. Wherefore I admire not only the multitude of the loaves which were made, but the definite quantity of the fragments; neither more nor less than twelve baskets full, and corresponding to the number of the twelve Apostles.

THEOPHYL. We learn too from this miracle, not to be pusillanimous in the greatest straits of poverty.

BEDE. When the multitude saw the miracle our Lord had done, they marveled; as they did not know yet that He was God. Then those men, the Evangelist adds, i.e. carnal men, whose understanding was carnal, when they had perceived the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.

ALCUIN. Their faith being as yet weak, they only call our Lord a Prophet not knowing that He was God. But the miracle had produced considerable effect upon them, as it made them call our Lord that Prophet, singling Him out from the rest. They call Him a Prophet, because some of the Prophets had worked miracles; and properly, inasmuch as our Lord calls Himself a Prophet; It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

AUG. Christ is a Prophet and the Lord of Prophets; as He is an Angel, and the Lord of Angels. In that He came to announce something, He was an Angel; in that He foretold the future, He was a Prophet; in that He was the Word made flesh, He was Lord both of Angels and Prophets; for none can be a Prophet without the word of God.

CHRYS. Their expression, that should come into the world, shows that they expected the arrival of some great Prophet. And this is why they say, This is of a truth that Prophet: the article being put in the Greek, to show that He was distinct from other Prophets.

AUG. But let us reflect a little here. Forasmuch as the Divine Substance is not visible to the eye, and the miracles of the divine government of the world, and ordering of the whole creation, are overlooked in consequence of their constancy; God has reserved to Himself acts, beside the established course and order of nature, to do at suitable times; in order that those who overlooked the daily course of nature, might be roused to wonder by the sight of what was different from, though not at all greater, than what they were used to. The government of the world is a greater miracle, than the satisfying the hunger of five thousand with five loaves; and yet no one wonders at this: the former excited wonder; not from any real superiority in it, but because it was uncommon. But it would be wrong to gather no more than this from Christ’s miracles: for, the Lord who is on the mount, and the Word of God which is on high, the same is no humble person to be lightly passed over, but we must look up to Him reverently.

ALCUIN. Mystically, the sea signifies this tumultuous world. In the fullness of time, when Christ had entered the sea of our mortality by His birth, trodden it by His death, passed over it by His resurrection, then followed Him crowds of believers, both from the Jews and Gentiles.

BEDE. Our Lord went up to the mountain, when He ascended to heaven, which is signified by the mountain.

ALCUIN. His leaving the multitude below, and ascending the heights with His disciples, signifies, that lesser precepts are to be given to beginners, higher to the more matured. His refreshing the people shortly before the Passover signifies our refreshment by the bread of the divine word; and the body and blood, i.e. our spiritual passover, by which we pass over from vice to virtue. And the Lord’s eyes are spiritual gifts, which he mercifully bestows on His Elect. He turns His eyes upon them, i.e. has compassionate respect to them.

AUG. The five barley loaves signify the old law; either because the law was given to men not as yet spiritual, but carnal, i.e. under the dominion of the five senses, (the multitude itself consisted of five thousand:) or because the Law itself was given by Moses in five books. And the loaves being of barley is also an allusion to the Law, which concealed the soul’s vital nourishment, under carnal ceremonies. For in barley the corn itself is buried under the most tenacious husk. Or, it alludes to the people who were not yet freed from the husk of carnal appetite, which cling to their heart.

BEDE. Barley is the food of cattle and slaves: and the old law was given to slaves and cattle, i.e. to carnal men.

AUG. The two fishes again, that gave the pleasant taste to the bread, seem to signify the two authorities by which the people were governed, the Royal, viz. and the Priestly; both of which prefigure our Lord, who sustained both characters.

BEDE. Or, by the two fishes are meant the saying or writings of the Prophets, and the Psalmist. And whereas the number five refers to the five senses, a thousand stands for perfection. But those who strive to obtain the perfect government of their five senses, are called men, in consequence of their superior powers: they have no womanly weaknesses; but by a sober and chaste life, earn the sweet refreshment of heavenly wisdom.

AUG. The boy who had these is perhaps the Jewish people, who, as it were, carried the loaves and fishes after a servile fashion, and did not eat them. That which they carried, while shut up, was only a burden to them; when opened became their food

BEDE. And well is it said, But what are these among so many? The Law was of little avail, till He took it into His hand, i.e. fulfilled it, and gave it a spiritual meaning. The Law made nothing perfect.

AUG. By the act of breaking He multiplied the five loaves. The five books of Moses, when expounded by breaking, i.e. unfolding them, made many books.

AUG. Our Lord by breaking, as it were, what was hard in the Law, and opening what was shut, that time when He opened the Scriptures to the disciples after the resurrection, brought the Law out in its full meaning.

AUG. Our Lord’s question proved the ignorance of His disciples, i.e. the people’s ignorance of the Law. They lay on the grass, i.e. were carnally minded, rested in carnal things, for all flesh is grass. Men are filled with the loaves, when what they hear with the ear, they fulfill in practice.

AUG. And what are the fragments, but the parts which the people could not eat? An intimation, that those deeper truths, which the multitude cannot take in, should be entrusted to those who are capable of receiving them, and afterwards teaching them to others; as were the Apostles. For which reason twelve baskets were filled with them.ALCUIN. Baskets are used for servile work. The baskets here are the Apostles and their followers, who, though despised in this present life, are within filled with the riches of spiritual sacraments. The Apostles too are represented as baskets, because, that through them, the doctrine of the Trinity was to be preached in the four parts of the world. His not making new loaves, but multiplying what there were, means that He did not reject the Old Testament, but only developed and explained it.

Ver 15. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone

BEDE. The multitude concluding, from so great a miracle, that He was merciful and powerful, wished to make Him a king. For men like having a merciful king to rule over them, and a powerful one to protect them. Our Lord knowing this, retired to the mountain: When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone. From this we gather, that our Lord went down from the mountain before, where He was sitting with His disciples, when He saw the multitude coming, and had fed them on the plain below. For how could He go up to the mountain again, unless He had come down from it.

AUG. This is not at all inconsistent with what we read, that He went up into a mountain apart to pray: the object of escape being quite compatible with that of prayer. Indeed our Lord teaches us here, that whenever escape is necessary, there is great necessity for prayer.

AUG. Yet He who feared to be made a king, was a king; not made king by men, (for He ever reigns with the Father, in that He is the Son of God,) but making men kings: which kingdom of His the Prophets had foretold. Christ by being made man, made the believers in Him Christians, i.e. members of His kingdom, incorporated and purchased by His Word. And this kingdom will be made manifest, after the judgment; when the brightness of His saints shall be revealed. The disciples however, and the multitude who believed in Him thought that He had come to reign now; and so would have taken Him by force, to make Him a king, wishing to anticipate His time, which He kept secret.

CHRYS. See what the belly can do. They care no more for the violation of the Sabbath; all their zeal for God is fled, now that their bellies are filled: Christ has become a Prophet, and they wish to enthrone Him as king. But Christ makes His escape; to teach us to despise the dignities of the world. He dismisses His disciples, and goes up into the mountain. – These, when their Master had left them went down in the evening to the sea; as we read; And when even was now come, His disciples went down to the sea. They waited till evening, thinking He would come to them; and then, as He did not come, delayed no longer searching for Him, but in the ardor of love, entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. They went to Capernaum thinking they should find Him there.

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Bernardin de Piconio on Galatians 4:22-31 for Sunday Mass, April 3, (4th Sunday of Lent, Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2011

Since de Piconio begins a new section of his commentary with verse 21 I’ve included it in these notes.

21. Tell me, you who would be under the law, have you not read the law?
22. For it is written; that Abraham had two sons, one of a maid-servant, and one of a freewoman.
23. But he who was born of a maid-servant, was born according to the flesh: and he who of the free, through the promise.

24. Which is said in allegory. For these are the two Testaments; one indeed in Mount Sina (Sinai), generating to bondage, which is Agar (Hagar).
25. For Sina is a mountain in Arabia, which is joined to that Jerusalem which is now, and serves with her
26. But that Jerusalem which is above, is free, who is our mother.

(vs 21) Since I do not know, at this distance, your disposition towards me, or how far you are prepared to listen to what I say, tell me at least, you who are so anxious to be under the control of the law, have you not read it, the law to
which you defer? The Greek, heard it? (vs 22) For it is written in the law (Gen 16:15, 21:2-3), that Abraham had a son by Agar, and another by Sara.  Agar was young (vs 23a), and fit to become a mother, and in the birth of her son there was nothing remarkable, or beyond the ordinary course of nature. Sara was old and sterile (vs 23b), and the birth of Isaac was supernatural and miraculous, in fulfilment of the promise God had made to him long before. But these facts (vs 24), beyond their historical sense, have a higher and figurative meaning, contemplated and intended by the Holy Spirit, who dictated these inspired and ancient records. These two mothers are the Old Testament, or covenant, and the New. One in, or (in the Greek) given from Mount Sina in Arabia, has brought forth the Jews, under the yoke of the law, serving God, but doing so as slaves, and for fear of punishment.

In verse 25 the Greek text reads: Agar is Mount Sina in Arabia; and so the Syriac. The name Agar, on the testimony of St. Chrysostom and Thcophylact, is the Arabian appellation of Mount Sina, and is therefore an additional illustration of the allegory; and Grotius says the mountain, or the region in which it rises, is so called because it contains the town of Agar, or Agara, for which statement he cites Pliny, Dion, and Strabo. Hence the term Agarenes, Ps 83:7.

Mount Sina is distant from Jerusalem twenty days’ journey, and is therefore only figuratively joined to Jerusalem. The Greek text and all the interpreters have corresponds with, or answers to. The Jerusalem which now is, is a slave, like Agar, and can only be the mother of slaves. She serves with her sons.

(Vs 26)  Sara is a figure of the New Testament, or of the Church of Christ, a statement which, as being obviously implied, and therefore unnecessary, the Apostle has omitted. This is the Jerusalem which is above, or on high. I John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, descending from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, Rev 21:1, because the Son of God, descending from heaven, founded the Church on earth. Jerusalem signifies the vision of peace. Peace I leave to you, my peace I give you, Jn 14:27. This Jerusalem is free, bearing children to freedom, by the spirit of adoption of sons, by which we cry Abba, Father. Lastly, she is the fruitful mother of us all, Jews and Gentiles. “Lift thine eyes all around and see; these all are assembled and come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall spring up at thy side. Then shalt thou see, and overflow, and thy heart shall be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be turned unto thee, and the might of the nations has come to thee. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows ? (Isa 60:4, 5, 8.) “Thy deserts and solitudes, and the land of thy ruin, shall be too narrow for its inhabitants. And the sons of thy sterility shall say in thine ears: the place is too narrow, give us space to dwell. And thou shalt say in thy heart, Who has begotten me these?” (Isa 49:19, 20.)

27. For it is written; Rejoice sterile one, who bearest not; break forth and cry, thou who dost not bring forth children; for many are the sons of the forsaken, more than of her who has a husband.

For it is written: Isa 54:1. The sterile one and the forsaken is the Gentile world, which before the coming of Christ brought forth no fruit to God. She who has a husband is the synagogue, and the prophecy implies that the children of the Catholic Church would be beyond all comparison more numerous than the Jewish nation, a prediction which had only begun to be fulfilled when these words of Saint Paul were written. The Apostle proceeds
to give three applications of his parable.

28. And we, brethren, like Isaac are sons of promise.

We, like Isaac, are the children of promise, the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that in him, and in Christ, who was to descend from him, all nations should be blessed. This the Jews cannot claim, for the benediction of all nations is through Christ alone; any more than Ismael could claim it of old.

29. But as then he who was born after the flesh persecuted him who was born after the spirit, so also now.

He who was born after the flesh persecuted him who was born after the Spirit. The words referred to in Gen 21:9, are, Sara saw the son of Agar the Egyptian playing with Isaac her son. This is variously explained as a quarrel about the inheritance, in which Isaac, as the younger, would of course be worsted; or that Ismael mocked at the piety of Isaac; or that Ismael had made
gods of clay, after the Egyptian fashion, and endeavoured to induce Isaac to worship them; or by other conjectures. It was undoubtedly persecution, corporal or spiritual, and stands for a figurative representation of the persecution of the early Christian Church by the Jews. So also now.

30. But what says the Scripture? Cast out the maidservant and her son; for the son of the maidservant shall not be heir, with the son of the free.

What says the Scripture? Gen 21:10: Cast out the maidservant and her son. This is the third and principal application of the allegory, and signifies the exclusion of the synagogue and the unbelieving portion of the Jewish nation from the communion of the Church of God, into which admittance can be found only through faith in Christ. The Galatians could not but see that the synagogue being cast out, or repudiated, they had reason to dread the loss of their inheritance, like Ishmael, if by persisting; in legal observances, they made themselves children of the synagogue, and therefore slaves.

31. Therefore, brethren, we are not sons of the maidservant, but of the free; for with this liberty Christ has made us free.

You therefore, Galatian Christians, are not sons of the synagogue, nor bound to the rites and obligations of the Jewish law; but to the commands of God, as your Father, and the precepts of the Church of Christ, your spiritual mother, who is free. And this freedom we owe, not to merit of our own, but to the grace of Christ, who by his passion and death has emancipated us from the
yoke of that law which, in fulfilling, he has abrogated and done away with.

It may be observed, with reference to this allegory, that the Scriptures of the Old Testament have throughout a prophetic reference to the New, and are intended to be read with that fact in view. This prophetic meaning was doubtless not always known to the ancient writers, who could not have had within their mental vision the whole series of the events of future times; but it was known to, and intended by, the Spirit of God, who inspired and dictated the sacred records. Neither is it confined to such notices and references to the Old Testament as the writings of the New Testament contain; for the whole of the ancient narrative is full of such applications, which may often be found by those who look for them diligently, and are sometimes striking and startling. Nevertheless, this imposes upon students of the Old Testament the obligation of carefully observing that these typical correspondences and coincidences are to be found and noted for edification only, and as probable and reasonable conjectures, and are never absolutely certain, except where
they are confirmed by the authority of Christ, or the sacred writers of the New Testament, or other writers of approved authority. Subject to this caution, any reader can find many for himself, or study with profit and pleasure those which have been collected by Catholic writers. The acts and proceedings of the patriarchs, kings, and leaders of the ancient people of Israel, very often have this prophetic character, and the incidents in their lives which have not, are generally omitted in the sacred narrative, in which many are inserted which, but for this prophetic reference, would not seem to be greatly important ; such as the comparatively trivial incident of Esau’s pretending to sell his birthright for pottage.


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Cornelius a Lapide on Galatians 4:22-31 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2011

Gal 4:22  For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman and the other by a free woman.

Abraham had two sons. Ishmael, by his handmaiden, Hagar, who was, therefore, but a wife of secondary rank; and Isaac, by Sarah, his wife of honour. The latter was his heir; the former received such gifts as the father chose to give him. Cf. Gen 25:5, 6.

Gal 4:23  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh: but he of the free woman was by promise.

He who was of the bondwoman. Ishmael was born according to the laws of natural generation, by which Abraham, though an old man, was able to raise up seed from his youthful bondwoman, Hagar.

He of the freewoman was by promise. Isaac was not born according to the usual laws of generation, for Sarah, his mother, was then sterile by age, so that Abraham could not in the order of nature beget a son by her. He was born by promise, i.e., by the supernatural power of God, in fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham.

Gal 4:24  Which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments. The one from Mount Sinai, engendering unto bondage, which is Agar (i.e., Hagar).

Which things are said by an allegory. An allegory with rhetoricians is a continued metaphor. With ecclesiastical writers it is identical with a type or figure in which things and events of the Old Testament represented their parallels in the New.

For these are the two testaments. Sarah and Hagar signify respectively the two covenants, the New and the Old. There are four senses of Scripture: (1.) The literal, as e.g., when it is said that Abraham begat Ishmael of Hagar naturally, and Isaac of Sarah supernaturally; (2.) the allegorical, as when it is said, “These are the two testaments;” (3.) the tropological, of which we find an example in verse 29; (4.) the anagogical, which is used in verse 26.

The first covenant referred to here is that made by God with Moses on Mount Sinai, in which God promised to be the God of the Hebrews, and to give them the land of Canaan, and the Hebrews on their part promised to keep the law of their God, whether moral, judicial, or ceremonial. The second covenant is that made with Christ and Christians at Jerusalem, in which God promised to be the God of the Christians, and to give them a heavenly inheritance; and the Christians on their part promised by Christ and His Apostles to preserve the faith of Christ, and to obey His precepts. This latter appears throughout the Gospels, and especially in the record of the Last Supper, given by S. John in chap. xiii. et seq. There Christ confirmed this covenant in His own blood, as is narrated by SS. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul.

The one from the Mount Sinai. The Old Covenant, given from Mount Sinai, made slaves of the Jews, by bringing them under the shadows of burdensome ceremonies, obliging them to obedience under fear of punishment, or by the promise of earthly goods, such as abundance of corn and wine and oil.

Which is Agar. Hagar the slave typifies the covenant of slavery.

Gal 4:25  For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia, which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is: and is in bondage with her children.

For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia. Mount Sinai was called Hagar by the Arabs, according to Chrysostom and others. But this explanation is forced, and leaves a gap in the argument. As we have just seen, Hagar represents the Old Covenant given on Mount Sinai, and this is the sense of the passage.

In Arabia. Even the Arabs typify this Jewish slavery, for they themselves are subject to it. Hence the saying, “the Arabian pipe,” mentioned by Julius Pollux, which shows their servile condition, since slaves only (and they for the most part came from Arabia) used to practise the art of music. The Old Covenant of slavery was, therefore, fitly entered into in Arabia, i.e., on Mount Sinai. Chrysostom adds: “Hagar in Hebrew denotes dwelling, Sinai temptation, Arabia falling, Ishmael the hearing of God.” Jerome says: “Hagar shows by its meaning that the Old Covenant would not be for ever; Sinai, that it would be a temptation; Arabia, that it would perish; Ishmael, as the name of one who heard only the commandments of God but did not do them, a rough man, a man of blood, the enemy of his brethren, that the Jews would be hard and harsh, enemies of Christians, hearers only of the law, and not doers.”

S. Jerome again says tropologically: “Those Christians are born of Hagar who look only at the shell of Holy Scripture, and serve the Lord in fear. Those are born of Sarah who treat the Old Covenant as an allegory, and seek for its spirit, and who serve the Lord in love.” See also the remarks of S. Augustine (contra Duas Epp. Pelag. cap. 4), where he lays down that Abraham, Noah, Moses, and all the righteous men of the Old Covenant, were really children of the New, inasmuch as they were justified by the same faith in the Incarnation and Passion of Christ as Christians, and lived by the same grace and the same love of Christ; while, on the other hand, Christians who keep the law from fear of punishment are children of the Old and not of the New Covenant.

Which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is. So the Vulgate. S. Jerome and Chrysostom take it of a literal vicinity to Jerusalem, inasmuch as Jerusalem borders on the desert in which Sinai is situated, the hills of Idumæa alone intervening. But these hills comprise the whole of Idumæa, which is a large tract, and, therefore, it cannot be said Sinai is joined to Judæa. It would be more accurate to say that it was widely separated from it.

S. Thomas interprets it to mean that Sinai is joined to Jerusalem, not by nearness, but by a continuous road, because the Hebrews went from Egypt by a straight road through Sinai into Judæa. But this is too far fetched. In the same way the Red Sea, and Egypt itself, might be said to be joined to Judæa.

Accordingly, it is better to understand the words to mean that the conjunction is not of place but of likeness.

With this agrees the Greek word here, συστοιχεί, which means kinship or likeness. Στοίχειν means to go forward in order, or to stand in one’s place. So grammarians call the letters of the alphabet στοιχει̃α, because they are joined in a certain order. Philosophers call the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—by the same name, because each of them has its due place, and its relation to the others. Also verses are called στίχοι, and lines in order, στίχαι. Hence, as Budæus says, kindred things are called σύστοιχα, and συστοιχία is a series of similar things duly arranged. So here, of Mount Sinai it is said that it, συστοιχει̃, i.e., it has a similarity, it is in the same series or order of things as Jerusalem, because it represents it by a convenient type.

This it does (1.) because, as Mount Sinai is sterile in the desert, so is Jerusalem in its ceremonies. Moreover, the law was given in the first, preserved in the second. (2.) Sinai was outside the Promised land; the Jerusalem of the law is outside the Church of Christ, whether militant or triumphant. (3.) Which is more germane to the Apostle’s purpose; as Sinai nourished and brought up slaves whether Jews or Arabs, and as from it proceeded a servile law, with the sound of the trumpet, with thundering and earthquake, which, therefore, suitably drove its votaries into obedience by fear; so is now Jerusalem, so far as its life and doctrine are concerned, Sinaitic, and produces slaves to the shadows of the law, who obey through fear only. (4.) Sinai is related to Jerusalem also, because the Jews, who received the law at Sinai, were the fathers of those who kept it in Jerusalem; and as the I fathers were, so are the sons.

By metonymy, Sinai and Jerusalem are put for their inhabitants. As Hagar the bondwoman signified the bondage of the Old Covenant, so Mount Sinai, in bringing forth slaves, typified Jerusalem, which did the same. Such as Sinai was, such is Jerusalem. The former was the parent of the slaves, so too is the latter.

Thus there were two wives: Agar the bondwoman and Sarah the freewoman.

There were two sons: Ishmael, a slave born after the flesh and Issac, born according to the promise.

There were two covenants: the Law given at Sinai, and the Gospel given at Sion.

There were two cities: the earthly Jerusalem, the synagogue of the Jews in bondage, and the heavenly Jerusalem, by grace the mother of all the faithful, free.

There were two sons: the Jews immersed in the shadow of the ceremonial law, and the faithful who enjoy the grace of Christ.

Jerusalem which now is. The earthly Jerusalem is contrasted with the heavenly, the transitory with that which is to endure for ever.

It may be noted that Jerusalem is not compounded of Jebus and Salem, as Erasmus and others have thought, but of a Hebrew word meaning he shall see, and Salem, in allusion to Gen 22:14. Hence the meaning of the word is the vision of peace.

And is in bondage with her children. The reference is of course to Hager. As she, a bondwoman, bore Ishmael, he and his descendants inherit their mother’s status; so does the Old Covenant, typified by her, bring forth bondmen. On the other hand, as Sarah was a free woman, her children are free, as are the children of the New Covenant.

The slavery of the Old Covenant consisted mainly in two things, in its obliging men to obedience by fear, and in burdening them with a multitude of dumb ceremonies, which were of no avail to justification. On the other hand, the liberty of the Gospel consists in its leading us to obedience through love, and in teaching us to worship God in spirit and in truth. It has no doubt its own ceremonies, nut they are all aids only to the spiritual life.

Gal 4:26  But that Jerusalem which is above is free: which is our mother.

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother. The Christian Church, typified by Sarah, the mistress, is contrasted with the Jewish synagogue, typified by Hagar, the bondwoman, in four points: It is above; it is Jerusalem; it is free; it is a fruitful mother.

1. Why is it said to be above? Because (a) Christ, its Head, descended from heaven, and thither ascended to rule the Church from above. (b) Because the Church is perfected by heavenly things, faith, hope, and charity, which come from above (c) Because, the efficacy of the Sacraments is from above, and shows God Himself present in His Church, as though He had come down from above. (d) Because her conversation is in heaven, and there with her Spouse are her heart and treasure. (e) Because she is striving for her eternal crown laid up in heaven. Cf. Rev 21:2.

2. Why is she called Jerusalem? Because Jerusalem means the vision of peace. This God provides for His Church, so that she rejoices, not in earthly but in heavenly peace, according to the promise of her Lord. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” (S. John 14:27). This peace comes from a good conscience towards God, self, and all men. Literally too the Church is entitled to be called Jerusalem, because there she had her beginning, as the Jewish Church had at Sinai. Hence the prophets repeatedly designate the Christian Church by the names of Sion or Jerusalem.

3. Why is she called free? Freedom is fourfold: (a) Civil, to which is opposed the status of slaves. (b) Moral, by which is excluded slavery to passion and lust, to the fear of adversity. In this the Stoics placed the perfection of happiness, and desired that every man should be able to say of himself: Though the world were shattered around him, its fragments would strike, but not daunt him (Hor. Odes, iii. 3, 7). (c) Spiritual, springing from that perfect charity which casts out fear, by which we are able to serve God, not in servile fear, but in filial love; not with material ceremonies, but in spirit and in truth. This is the freedom in the Apostle’s mind here. (d) Celestial, which excludes all slavery of mind or body to pain, and is the perfect bliss of mankind.

The Church already enjoys moral and spiritual liberty; by hope and desire it tastes beforehand the heavenly freedom it is one day to possess.

4. Why is she called a mother? Because out of Gentile barrenness, which was subject to devils, the Church has been collected, and has borne, and still bears, many spiritual children to Christ, and this not from Jews alone, but from Jews and Gentiles, without distinction.

Gal 4:27  For it is written: Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry thou that travailest not: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband.

Rejoice, thou barren. Rejoice, 0 Church, called out of the Gentiles; thou who wast once barren, without faith in God, and formerly not wont to bear children to Him—now that thou art espoused to Him break forth and cry. The synagogue, whose husband was the law, or even God Himself, not as a father tender, but as a lawgiver terrible, brought forth Jews only according to the flesh. But the Church embraces as a mother all the nations that believe on Christ. Therefore the synagogue has borne to God comparatively a small number of spiritual children. She bare the Prophets, the Patriarchs, and a few other righteous men, and that not in her own strength, but by the power of Christ, the father of the New Covenant.

The Apostle quotes Isa. liv. 1. The Jews indeed interpret the passage of their return to the earthly Jerusalem. The Millenarians understood it of the thousand years of sensual happiness which they pretended that the Saints would spend on earth after the Day of judgment, as Jerome testifies of them. S. Paul, however, makes it clear that Isaiah was speaking of the happiness and fruitfulness of the Christian Church. Of this S. Ambrose writes very beautifully (de Virgin. lib. i.): “The Church is immaculate in conception, fruitful in offspring, a virgin in chastity, a mother in her family. We are born of a virgin who has been impregnated, not by a man but by the Spirit; who brings forth, not with bodily pain but with angelic rejoicing; who feeds her children with milk, not of earth but of the Apostles. She is a virgin in the Sacraments, and a mother in the virtues she produces. She is a mother to the nations, and Scripture testifies to her fruitfulness, saying: ‘The desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.’ Whether we interpret this of the Church among the nations, or the soul of each individual, in either case she is married to her heavenly Spouse by the word of God, without any deviation from the path of chastity.”  S. Jerome, too, says, in his comments on this passage: “The Church, long time barren, bore no children before Christ was born of the Virgin; but when she bore to Abraham, i.e., the elect father, Christ as Isaac, the laughter of the world, whose very name spoke of heavenly mysteries, then she brought forth many children to God.”

Abraham in Hebrew is (according to Jerome) the elect father, with a mighty sound.

1. Abraham was first called Abram, the lofty father, and as such begat Ishmael from Hagar. Then when he entered into a covenant with God, and received the promise of the birth of Isaac, and of the possession by his seed of the land of Canaan, his name was changed to Abraham, the father of a great multitude, i.e., of a numerous offspring, to be begotten of Isaac according to the flesh, and of Christ according to the spirit. This is a sounder interpretation of the name than that given by Jerome.

2. Symbolically, Abraham represents God. From Hagar, the bondwoman, i.e., from the synagogue, he begat Ishmael, the bondservant, i.e., Moses and the Jews, who were under subjection to the Old Law. To them Abraham was a lofty father, giving the law in thunder from the heights of Sinai, and manifesting himself as a great and terrible Lord. On the other band, Abraham, i.e., God, begat from Sarah, the freewoman, i.e., the Church, Isaac, laughter, who represented Christ and His followers, heirs of the promises. To them Abraham was the father of a great multitude, gathered by Christ out of all nations, and regenerated by faith and baptism. Or if we take S. Jerome’s interpretation of Abraham as denoting the elect father with a mighty sound, then we see the fulfilment of the name in the preaching of John Baptist, of Christ, and the Apostles, who with a loud voice called all nations to enter into the kingdom of God.

3. Isaac, i.e., Christ, is said to be born of Sarah, i.e., the Church, not as though the Church were actually the mother of Christ, or existed before Him, but because, in the Divine mind, the Church was, as it were, prior to Christ, and stood for His mother. For God first called the synagogue into existence, and then substituted for it the Church. Consequently, He had in His mind the idea of the synagogue first, of the Church second; and out of this He decreed that Moses should be born as the eldest son of this idea, and that he should reduce to actuality the remaining parts of the idea by instituting the synagogue. Similarly, He willed the creation of the Church, and the birth of Christ, as the first-born of His idea of the Church, who should carry out the idea, and found the Church of which He should be Himself the chief cornerstone. Hence Christ and Christians are called children of the promise and of the predestined purpose of God, because their existence was the product of the Divine will as the father, and of the Divine thought as the mother.

Gal 4:28  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. Since he was born of one barren through age—not according to the flesh, but according to the promise of God.

Gal 4:29  But as then he that was born according to the flesh persecuted him that was after the spirit: so also it is now.

He that was born according to the flesh. Ishmael, born naturally of Hagar, persecuted Isaac, born supernaturally of Sarah, according to the Divine promise, and so a type of the spiritual children of the New Law. The reference is to Gen 21:9. From a comparison of these two passages it is evident that the mockery mentioned was a sort of persecution, the sort of sport that cats have with mice. So in 2 Sam 2:14: “Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise and play before us,” where the play was a mortal combat. Jerome and others think that the reason why Ishmael persecuted Isaac was because his envy was stirred up by the festivities indulged in at Isaac’s weaning, and because he was jealous of the birthright assigned to his brother by promise. Hence it appears that he was hostile to the promised Seed, i.e., to Christ.

So also it is now. As formerly Ishmael mocked and persecuted Isaac, so now have the Jews mocked and crucified Christ, the King of liberty, and are still pursuing with bitter hatred His followers. So too are they persecuting you, 0 Galatians, that they may enslave you, and turn you from the right way. See the comments of Jerome and Rupert on Gen 21:9.

Gal 4:30  But what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.

but what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son. Although Abraham shrank from this proposal of Sarah, yet God approved it, and bade Abraham do as Sarah demanded, not only because her demand was lawful and right, but also because his action would be a type of future events. The rejection of Hagar and Ishmael would typify the rejection of the Jewish synagogue, and its exclusion from the blessings of the Church, for persecuting Christ and His followers. Allegorically, Christians, as freemen, are inheritors of Abraham’s blessing, while the Jews are shut out from it, because they are envious bondmen, persecutors of Christian freemen, just as Ishmael was forbidden to share with Isaac the paternal roof. The bondman was driven away from the freeman.

Gal 4:31  So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman but of the free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.

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Mass Resources for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2011

This post contains resources (mostly biblical) for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman rite.

This post will be updated latter today and throughout the rest of the week. These will be marked UPDATE.

*************************Ordinary Form***************************


UPDATE: Homily on Psalm 23.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:8-14 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

UPDATE: Dr. Peter Williamson on the Sunday Epistle. A brief excerpt from his book EPHESIANS, a volume in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (concerning which, see here).

Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

UPDATE: Navarre Bible Commentary:

UPDATE: The Figure of a Blind Man in the Light Papyrological Evidence A scholarly  article which appeared in the Journal BIBLICA in 2010Scrool down below the abstract for the text. Requires Greek font download. See “font instructions” in the left sidebar.

UPDATE: To Worship the Johannine ‘Son of Man.’ John 9:38 as Refocusing on the Father. Another scholarly article from BIBLICA. Also requires a Greek font download.

UPDATE: Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. From the perspective of Ignatian Spirituality.

Catholic Matters. Readings with brief commentary.

Bible Study. St Charles Borromeo Parish.

Dr Scott Hahn Podcast. Brief, does good job of highlighting the themes of the reading.

St Martha’s Podcast. Looks at all the readings in some detail.

Franciscan Sisters Bible Study Podcast. Usually posted on Thursdays. Looks at all the readings.

Father Robert Barron’s Audio Homily. Fr. Barron is a well known and respected theologian and speaker.

Word Sunday:

  • MP3 PODCAST In this week’s audio podcast, we discuss why people are skeptical of miracles. Why don’t people believe? Is it fear or pride, cynicism or laziness?
  • FIRST READING In the reading from First Samuel, God directed the prophet-judge to anoint a new king. The emphasis here is on God’s initiative. He measures the human heart. He is the one who works his will for the good of all.
  • PSALM Psalm 23 spoke to an utter dependance upon the Lord. He is my shepherd and he cares for me, even through the “valley of the shadow of death.” He is Lord on the pilgrim’s journey
  • SECOND READING In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul urged the faithful to “walk in the light,” to live a private life that was as moral as the public persona that Christianity demanded.
  • GOSPEL In the second narrative of John’s great gospel trilogy, a blind man was cured by Jesus, only to be questioned and rejected by family, neighbors, and the leadership of his synagogue. John used the controversy to highlight the connection between physical sight and spiritual sight. In the end, the man received both.
  • CHILDREN’S READINGS In the First Reading, Sara saw a new sight in the forest that took her breathe away. In the Gospel Reading, Jake knew what sight meant to a blind person: freedom!
  • CATECHISM LINK In the Catechism Link, we discuss faith in the Church, with its four marks and three images.
  • FAMILY ACTIVITY Play a variation of the game “Marco Polo.” Blind fold a family member and have that person “Find Jesus” in the midst of others speaking nonsense phrases.

Gospel Meditation. Gospel reading with brief meditation and prayer.

Lector Notes. Brief, helpful historical and theological background. Can be printed out and used as a bulletin insert.

Historical Cultural Context.

Thoughts From the Early Church. Excerpt from St Ambrose.

Scripture in Depth.

******************EXTRAORDINARY FORM***********************

UPDATE: Roman Missal for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. (English and Latin).

UPDATE: Cornelius a Lapide on Galatians 4:22-31.

UPDATE: St John Chrysostom on Galatians 4. This is on the entire chapter.

UPDATE: Bernardin de Piconio on Galatians 4:22-31.

UPDATE: St Augustine on John 6:1-15.

UPDATE: St John Chrysostom’s Homily on John 6:1-7.

UPDATE: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:1-15.

THE FOLLOWING links were added Thursday, Mar 31. Most are on the Gospel (Jn 6:1-15), but a couple are on the Epistle (Gal 4:22-31).

Homily on the Real Presence. Gospel.

Homily on the Epistle.

Homily on the Gospel.

Agar and Sara as Types Respectively of the Jewish and Christian Church. Epistle.

The Miraculous Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. Gospel.

The Firm Purpose of Amendment. Gospel.

The Lenten Masses. Gospel.

Five Loaves of Bread for the Sanctification of Man. Gospel.

How We Are to go to Communion. Gospel.

Christian Benevolence. Gospel.


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Cornelius a Lapide Commentary on Matthew 5:17-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2011

Mat 5:17  Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Do not think that I am come to destroy (Gr. καταλϋσαι, to dissolve, abolish) the law, or the prophets. Christ’s special meaning in this place is that He came to fulfil the moral precepts of the Law by teaching and expounding them more perfectly, and by substituting the sanction of eternal for temporal rewards and punishments, and by adding to things of precept evangelical counsels of perfection, as will be plain from what follows. It is also meant that Christ supplied the imperfection of the Law of Moses by justifying us through faith and the sacraments of the New Law, which He instituted, which the Law of Moses could not do.

Mat 5:18  For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.

For amen I say, &c. Amen—i.e., “in truth;” whence Aquila translates the Hebrew amen by πεπιστομενως—i.e., faithfully, truly, certainly. As S. Jerome says (Epist. ad Sophron.), “Amen is the word not of one who swears, but of one who affirms something he is about to say, or confirms something which he has said. In the former case it is prefixed, in the latter it is affixed, as it were a seal.” This may be seen from Deut 27:26, &c., and 1 Cor 14:16. Wherefore the LXX translate the word by γενοιτο, may it be done. In this place Amen has the meaning of affirming and gravely asserting.

Moreover, Christ Himself is called Amen, Rev 3:14: “Thus saith the Amen, the Faithful Witness.”

Til heaven and earth pass. Not by nature and the perishing of nature, but by the mutation of its condition—that is, until heaven be changed from this state of corruption to a new and glorious state at the Resurrection. In other words, before the end of the world, when heaven and earth shall pass away, i.e., shall be renewed, it is necessary that all things which are written of Me in the Law be fulfilled. Or, rather, until heaven pass away means until it wholly perish. The sentence is a hypothetical one, and means, sooner may heaven be destroyed, sooner the earth be riven in twain, sooner the universe come to an end, than the minutest point of the Law not be fulfilled, either in this life or in the life to come. So long, therefore, as heaven and earth shall stand, so long the whole Law shall stand. Heaven and earth shall endure for ever, much more shall the whole Law endure eternally, according to these words of Christ, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Whence the Greek is in the past tense, έως άν παρέλθη, meaning, the whole frame of the universe shall perish sooner than the Law of God.

Hear S. Irenæus. “Now, of the name Ίησοϋς, Jesus, the letters iota and eta, i and e, make up the number 18. These, say the Valentinians, are the eighteen Æons; and this is why the Saviour said, one jot or one tittle, &c.”

A similar phrase is used in a similar sense (Ps 72:7): “In his days justice shall arise, and abundance of peace until the moon be taken away;” also Ps 89:37, meaning, “The sun and moon shall endure for ever, much more shall the throne of Christ remain eternally.”

One jot. Christ, speaking to Hebrews, said, one yod, as the Syriac has. For the Greek translator substituted the equivalent, iota. Yod in Hebrew, like iota in Greek and i in Latin, is the smallest letter in the alphabet. From the letter yod, although the least, Valentinus, as S. Irenæus testifies, constructed the greatest heresy—viz., that of his Æons, in truth portents of names, rather than names of real existences.

Or one tittle (Vulg. apex) of the law. He calls the apices of the law, not the Hebrew points and accents, which were not invented by the Rabbin until long after the time of Christ, but the tops or little extremities of the letters in which the Law was written.

Till all be fulfilled. All things, that is, which have been spoken concerning Me and My acts, My Church and Sacraments in the Law and the Prophets.  Again, all things mean all which have been commanded, or promised, or threatened.

Mat 5:19  He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

He therefore that shall break, &c. Of these least commandments—viz., which the Law just spoken of commands, or in respect of which I am about to explain and perfect the Law. This is why He subjoins, I say unto you that unless your righteousness, &c (verse 20). It does not mean, then, that all the commandments of the Law are very small; but that he should be condemned who should break one of even its smallest precepts, or, like the Pharisees, pervert them by a false interpretation, as by teaching, for example, that only outward adultery, not inward concupiscence, was forbidden by the Law. We must observe in this place that commandment is to be taken strictly for a weighty precept binding under the penalty of mortal sin, like the Ten Commandments. For he who shall break one such commandment, although the least in the Decalogue, shall surely be condemned. For it is entirely probable that certain trifling things in the Old Law, although they were commanded by God Himself, bind only under venial sin and temporal punishment. Such, I mean, as taking a bird together with her young ones in the nest, seething a kid in its mother’s milk, &c. Not such as these are here called least commandments, but those which are least amongst the great commandments, such as to look upon a woman to lust after her, which the Pharisees considered a very small thing, and scarcely a sin at all.

Shall be called the least. Shall be accounted the least; shall be looked upon as vile; shall be had in contempt by God and the holy angels, as the last of men, and altogether unworthy to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, but to be damned and cast into hell. Wherefore S. Chrysostom and Theophylact interpret least to mean not at all, because in heaven there are none who are not great, as S. Augustine says, “all kings of heaven, sons of God.”

In the kingdom of heaven. Strictly so called, say S. Chrysostom and Theophylact. But S. Augustine and others interpret the kingdom of heaven here to mean the Church.

But he that shall do and teach, &c. Great, viz., a doctor, father, and prince of the disciples whom he has taught. And all the commandments of the Law are reckoned as having been done, when whatsoever has not been done is pardoned by God, says S. Augustine. For a fault is corrected and compensated for by penitence. As S. Bernard says (Tr. de dispensat. et præcept.), “A part of rule is regular correction.” When, therefore, the guilty one undergoes this, he fulfils the rule.

Moraliter. Learn from hence the right way and method of teaching, that a doctor should first do what he is about to teach. Christ, says S. Luke, began to do and to teach. He was first Himself poor, humble, meek, a mourner, and then He taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Let a doctor therefore examine his conscience before God before he teach, whether he be poor in spirit, meek, and soon; let him see whether he cleave to the world or to Christ, for that he may be Christ’s he ought to break his pledge of friendship with the world, and be able to say with S. Paul, “If I yet pleased men I should not be the servant of Christ.”

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:8-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011

This post contains Father Callan’s brief introduction to chapter 5 of Ephesians followed by his notes on verses 8-14.


A Summary of Ephesians 5:1-21~This Chapter continues the thought of the preceding Chapter, and verses 1-2 here really belong at the end of Chapter 4, with which they are so intimately connected. The Apostle has just been saying that his readers, in forgiving one another, should imitate God who has pardoned them for the sake of Christ; and now he continues that thought, and makes the further plea that in their relations with one another they should imitate the charity of Christ who gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for us all.

Verses 1-21 here, apparently having in view pagan pleasures and festivities, contain five commands mainly for self-guidance regarding Christian love, light, wisdom, gladness and submission, as Chapter 4:25-32, contained five prohibitions regarding others.

8. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.

The Apostle now gives other reasons to show why the faithful ought to avoid the sins mentioned above (in verses 3-5). Before their conversion they were “darkness,” i.e., the very embodiment of moral ignorance and corruption; but now as Christians they embody “light,” possessing the truth of Him and living in union with Him who said: “I am the light of the world, etc.” (John 8:12 ff.). Their lives, therefore, ought to be in conformity with the knowledge and grace they have received. This and the two following verses constitute a parenthesis in which the Apostle is again contrasting (as in Eph 2:11-22 and Eph 4:17-24) the new condition of his readers with their old condition.

9. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth;

Fruit of the light. The Textus Receptus and some other lesser MSS. have: “fruit of the Spirit,” which is certainly not the best reading, as the context shows. It was doubtless introduced from Gal 5:22.

Is in, etc., i.e., consists in, etc.

Goodness is the quality by which a person Is good in himself and shows himself benevolent to others: it is opposed to anger (Eph 4:31).

Justice, as here used and in general, is the rectitude of moral acts, and in particular it is understood as the virtue which regulates our dealings with our neighbor; it is opposed to avarice (verse3).

Truth is the supreme rule of life, governing our obligations to ourselves, our neighbor, and God; it is opposed to lying (Eph 4:25). This verse is a parenthesis within the parenthesis of ver. 8-10. Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

10. Proving what is well pleasing to God:

Proving, etc., i.e., testing all things by the touchstone of God’s will and good pleasure, and conforming in our actions to the results thus ascertained.

To God should be “to the Lord,” according to the Greek, Thus, our Lord is here supposed to be God, because He is made the judge and norm of our actions: the judgment of the Lord is the judgment of God. The parenthesis closes with this verse, and the thought goes back to that of verse 7.

11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Here the Christians are warned not only to have no part in the sinful works of the pagans, but by their own good lives and example they are to register their disapproval of them. Perhaps their disapproval is to be expressed also in words, if necessary; but from the following verse it seems they are not even to speak of those works, if this can be avoided. The sinful practices of the pagans are said to be “unfruitful,” as being devoid of all merit for eternal life and deserving of eternal damnation; they are the opposite of the fruits of the light (ver. 9).

12. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.

The dark deeds here referred to are mentioned in Rom 8:13, St. Paul is alluding to certain nocturnal feasts and mysteries which the pagans celebrated with an idolatry and an immorality that were unspeakable,

13. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light.

The Apostle is telling his readers that, whereas they were formerly moral darkness because of their sins, they are now moral light in the Lord (ver. 8), and that the spiritual radiance now emanating from their good lives and example is able to convert the moral darkness of the gross paganism around them into moral light like themselves. Nothing can resist the influence and light of a truly holy life; spiritual light makes manifest sin and works of darkness, and turns them from darkness to light ; everything that is thus made manifest becomes light in its turn.

14. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that steepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Wherefore he saith. Who saith? It is difficult to determine. Many moderns think the Apostle is here referring to some ancient hymn or baptismal formula of the early Church, which was well known to the faithful. Others think he is citing some apocryphal work. With greater probability still others hold that we have here a free citation of Isa 60:: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, etc.” The application is clear: Let those who are asleep and dead in sin, arise, and they shall be enlightened by Christ, and thus enabled in their turn to shed their light on the pagan darkness around them.

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Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011

In the following narrative we have the account of another symbolical miracle, one illustrative of the great truth that Christ is the Light of the world. Hence our Lord heals the man s spiritual blindness (35-38) as well as his bodily blindness.

Joh 9:1  And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.

The narrative is closely connected with the preceding narrative, and the events flow on uninterruptedly. Jesus went out of the Temple, and passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth. The Holy Name does not occur in the first verse of the original text, but has been repeated from 8:59.

Joh 9:2  And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?

Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents? That such inflictions as blindness, disease, &c., are punishments sometimes inflicted for sin, is quite certain; but it was a widespread Jewish opinion that all such calamities were punishments for personal sin, and that children were afflicted because of the sins of their parents. Besides, according to the Rabbis, evil impulse begins its dominion even from birth. We must suppose, therefore, that the disciples, impressed deeply by the greatness of the man s calamity, and with the current notions of the time running vaguely through their minds, put the question to our Lord. The very question is an incidental proof of their belief that our Lord knew all things. Our Lord answered, that the blindness was not the punishment of personal sin.

Joh 9:3  Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

But (it happened) that (in order that) the works of God (i.e., what God works) should be made manifest in him. The cause of the man’s blindness was the natural working of the natural forces that work through all nature. God permits the ill results that occasionally spring from those forces; but for a high moral purpose. Our Lord declares the reasonableness of such results when they are viewed in connection with that moral purpose. The actual case of the blind man is made an instance in point. His calamity had been permitted in order that the glory of God might be manifested by the miracle that was about to be performed.

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I must work (the better attested reading is, We must work ) the works of him that sent me (a weakly attested reading gives us ), whilst it is day. Under the form of a general principle, applicable to the Apostles in their association with Christ in the work of converting the world, our Lord gives a reason why He is now about to heal the man’s bodily and spiritual blindness. He must accomplish, while in the flesh on earth, the works which the Father had given Him to accomplish, in the present visible mode and action, on earth.

Joh 9:5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

As long as I am in the world, explains what is meant by day and night of ver. 4, i.e., the day of life, and the night of death which brought Christ s mortal life to an end (cf. Jn 3:17, 19, 6:14, 8:26). Hence our Lord is speaking of His visible mission on earth, when, in a special way, He was the Light of the world; for, in fact, He has always been the Light (Jn 1:4, 5). The Greek runs literally, When I am in the world, I am Light to the world. That is, I cannot be in the world unless at the same time enlightening the world. The when also suggests a time when He would withdraw His visible presence from the world.

Joh 9:6  When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,

Made clay of the spittle. Our Lord, although usually working miracles by a word (cf. Jn 5: 8), sometimes added, as in the present instance, some ceremony (cf. Mark 7:33, 8:23). St. John does not inform us for what reason our Lord anointed the eyes of the blind man, and we can therefore only conjecture. But we learn, at any rate, how our Lord could have imparted to the sacramental signs their spiritual efficacy.

Joh 9:7  And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.

Go, wash in (wash into, i.e., wash away the clay into) the pool of Siloe (Siloam). Or the εις (“in”) may belong, not to νιψαι (wash), but to υπαγε (go) = Go to the pool (see verse 11). The name of the pool still survives in Birket Silwan, situated at the entrance of the Tyropoeon Valley, on the south-east of the hill of Sion. The pool is probably that referred to in Isa 8:6; Neh 3:15.

Which is interpreted, Sent. The term might be either a noun, “ascending forth”, i.e., of water, or a participial adjective, sent. St. John shows that the name was providentially intended to be symbolical; and the prominence given to the pool in the Feast of Tabernacles (see on Jn 7:37) points to such symbolism. In the command, therefore, to wash in Siloe there is a symbolism of Him who was the Sent of the Father.

And he came (ηλθεν: perhaps, “came home”, see verse 8) seeing.

Joh 9:8  The neighbours, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.
Joh 9:9  But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.

No, but he is like him. The acquisition of sight altered his expression of face.

Joh 9:10  They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
Joh 9:11  He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.
Joh 9:12  And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.

Where is he? The people were evidently perplexed about the violation of the Sabbath (verses 13, 14); and as they could not themselves answer the question, they seek the authority of the leaders.

Joh 9:13  They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.

To the Pharisees. Not, however, to the Sanhedrin, for St. John never designates the Sanhedrin by the simple term, “the Pharisees” (see Jn 7:32, 45, 11:47, 56, 18:3).

Joh 9:14  Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

Now it was the sabbath. The ground on which the charge would rest was plain: the healing involved a manifold breach of the Sabbath-law. The first of these was that Jesus had made clay. Next, it would be a question whether -any remedy might be applied on the holy-day. Such could only be done in diseases of the internal organs (from the throat downwards) except when danger to life or the loss of an organ was involved. It was, indeed, declared lawful to apply, for example, wine to the outside of the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing; but it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye. And as regards saliva, its application to the eye is expressly forbidden on the ground that it was evidently intended as a remedy (Eders. l.c., p. 334).

Our Lord worked seven specific miracles of healing on the Sabbath : (1) A man with an unclean spirit (Mk 1:23); (2) Simon’s wife’s mother, Mk 1:29); (3) a man with a withered hand (Matt 12:10); (4) a woman with a spirit of infirmity (Lk 13: 11, 14); (5) a dropsical man (Lk 14:2, 3); (6) a paralytic at Bethesda (Jn 5:10); (7) man born blind.

Joh 9:15  Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.

Again therefore the Pharisees (και οι φαρισαιοι = “the Pharisees also”). The statement looks back to the question put previously by the crowd (verse 10). They had evidently not been satisfied with the account given by those who had brought the man, and so made the man himself repeat it. The shortness of the man’s reply shows that he is getting somewhat angry at the questioning.

Joh 9:16  Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Some therefore . . . but others. The undeniable truth of the fact creates a great dilemma. Is their Sabbath-observance Divine, or is the miracle Divine? They are puzzled to find an answer, and therefore ask the man for his opinion. The man readily replied.

Joh 9:17  They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.
Joh 9:18  The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,
Joh 9:19  And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
Joh 9:20  His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
Joh 9:21  But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.

He is a prophet, i.e., a man sent by God (cf. Jn 3:2). The same conclusion had been drawn by Nicodemus, one of themselves; there was force, therefore, in the inference. Only one course was now open to call in question the truth of the already-admitted fact. The man’s parents were summoned. They attested that their son had been born blind; but, fearing the Jews, they prudently declined to make any statement as to the manner in which he had recovered his sight, and reasonably referred the Pharisees to the son himself. In v. 21 there is a strong emphasis on the pronouns ” “we know not,”he is of age.”

Joh 9:22  These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

For the Jews had already agreed (συνετεθειντο). Not necessarily by a formal decree of the Sanhedrin (see Lk 22:5; Acts 23:20. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T.).

That (ινα) if any man. The particle represents what they had agreed upon as the purpose or intention of their agreement.

He should be put out of the synagogue (αποσυναγωγος γενηται = he should become unsynagogued). Two, or perhaps three, kinds of excommunication are mentioned in Jewish writings. The first two were comparatively mild punishments, and took the form of an admonition or rebuke. The third, called the Cherem or ban, was the real casting out or unsynagoguing. The culprit became as a leper. He might buy the necessaries of life, but he was obliged to wear a culprit s dress, so that all might avoid him; for it was forbidden to eat or drink with him, to show him the road, or to hold intercourse with him.

Joh 9:23  Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.

Therefore: cf. verse 16.

Joh 9:24  They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.
Joh 9:25  He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.
Joh 9:26  They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes?

Give glory to God (A.V. give God the praise). This is not an invitation to give praise to God for the cure, the truth of which the Pharisees do not wish to admit, but an adjuration to speak the truth, Give glory to God by speaking the truth (cf. Joshua 7:19). They desire the man to withdraw his profession of faith that Christ was a prophet (verse 17).

We (very emphatic -We, the leaders) know that this man is a sinner.

Joh 9:27  He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?

I have told (better, I told) you already, and you have heard (ουκ ηκουσατε = you did not hear). Better, interrogatively, “I told you already, and did you not hear?”

Joh 9:28  They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.

Be thou his disciple. Better, “Thou art that man’s disciple.”

Joh 9:29  We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.

We know that God spoke (hath spoken: for the Mosaic revelation still remained) to Moses.

Joh 9:30  The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes.

Why, herein is a wonderful thing. Better, “Herein ( = in this) certainly is the marvel, that you (the leaders of the people) should not know whence he is, and ( = although) he hath opened my eyes.” Moses by miracle had proved that he was sent by God; the Pharisees, therefore, believe in Moses Divine mission: Jesus works miracles, and says He is sent by God; but the Pharisees know not whence He is!

Joh 9:31  Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth his, will, him he heareth.

Now we (i.e., both you and I) know that God doth not hear sinners. It was a Rabbinic maxim, a maxim constantly repeated by them, that answers to prayer depended on a man s being pious. The maxim was an exaggeration and perversion of an undoubted Scriptural truth (Prov 15:29, 28:9; Job 27:8, 9; Isa 1:15, 59:2). But it was their own maxim, and the man urges it against them.

Joh 9:32  From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.
Joh 9:33  Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.
Joh 9:34  They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

He could not do anything, i.e., miraculous anything like the wonder wrought in me. The Pharisees had nothing to answer. They turn on the man with bitter reproach. Would he presume to teach them? he who was through and through a born reprobate (“wholly born in sins”: cf. verse 2), as was proved by his being born blind.

And they cast him out (και εξεβαλον αυτον εξω), i.e., out of the place of assembly; not excommunicated or unsynagogued him (cf. the different phrases in verse 22). But perhaps some form of excommunication is implied (verse 35).

Joh 9:35  Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God?
Joh 9:36  He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?

Who is he, Lord? ( = sir). As the man had already declared Jesus to be a prophet, he naturally believed He could point out the Messiah.

Joh 9:37  And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee.

Thou hast both seen him. The Greek may be literally rendered, “Thou even (actually) seest (perfect in sense of present) Him, and He that speaketh with thee is He” (cf. Jn 4:26).

Joh 9:38  And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him.

Falling down he adored. Although the verb προσεκυνησεν does not of itself necessarily imply supreme worship, yet St. John uses it solely of such supreme and Divine worship (Jn 4:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 12:20).

Joh 9:39  And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world: that they who see not may see; and they who see may become blind.

For judgment (κριμα) I am come (came) into this world. As the man knelt at our Lord’s feet in humble adoration (verse 38) our Lord, turning to the bystanders, explains the deep lesson of the miracle. The man had been blind both in mind and body; but in both he can now see. The Pharisees, although really blind of heart, had boasted that they could see (29, 34); but their pride involves them in still denser darkness. The term κριμα, employed only in this place of the Gospel of St. John, occurs in the Apocalypse thrice (Rev 17:1, 18:20, 20:4), and in all three places it means a sentence, favourable or unfavourable. Outside the Apocalypse the term is used in the New Testament twenty-four times, so that it is easy to gather its meaning a decree, a judgment which is formed or passed, a sentence. It can also have the sense of a simple decision.

That (ινα = in order that) they who see not (i.e., those who are involved in the darkness of sin and ignorance) may see (of course, through their acceptance of grace and their obedience to the truth, Jn 1:9, 12): and they who see (i.e., wrap themselves up in the pride of self-sufficiency and boasted knowledge, as did the Pharisees), may become blind (i.e., by God’s decree and just sentence be buried in deeper darkness). Man’s obstinacy is punished by withdrawal of grace. These results, on the one side salutary, on the other side condemnatory, of the Divine decree already passed, must not be confounded with the future judgment of eternal condemnation to be given by Christ (Jn 5:22), from which judgment Christ desires to save all men (Jn 3:17); but such results are, in the case of the obstinate, true consequences, taking effect even in this life, that overtake those who believe not, and who are therefore “already judged” (Jn 3:18), and upon whom “the wrath of God abideth” (Jn 3:36). Compare, for the whole sentence, Jn 1:4, 9, 12, 3:14-21, 36, 5:22-24, 8:21, 26.  God’s justice makes men eat the fruit of their own way.

Joh 9:40  And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind?

And some of the Pharisees. Better, “And those of the Pharisees, who were with Him (probably for the purpose of malicious espionage), heard; (and, perceiving the spiritual drift of Christ’s words) they said unto Him: But surely we also are not blind?”

Joh 9:41  Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.

If you were blind (i.e., from simplicity and mere ignorance), you should (would) not have sin: but now you say : We see (are proudly self-reliant and boastful).

Your sin remaineth (abideth: cf. Jn 5:38, 6:27, 57).

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Father Callan on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20a

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011


A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:12-20a~Before coming to the main theme of the present chapter, which is the resurrection of the just, and of all the dead, St. Paul wishes still further to strengthen and enlighten the belief of the Corinthians in Christ’s glorious Resurrection, for it is upon this latter that he will base his great argument for the truth of the former. Therefore, after having cited in the preceding section what he considers to be the best witnesses for our Saviour’s corporal Resurrection, he proceeds now to show the dire consequences that would necessarily follow if Christ were not truly risen. In such an event both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of Christians would be without foundation. Wherefore, he concludes, we must accept the Resurrection of Christ.

12. Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again.

These verses show that some among the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the dead, but they imply that those same sceptics believed that Christ was truly risen; otherwise St. Paul’s argument here would avail nothing against those who thought corporal resurrection was absurd and impossible (against MacR.). If they admitted, as seems evident, that Christ was risen, then it is possible for others to rise; and since the faithful form one mystical body of which Christ is the head (1 Cor 6:15; 12:27), their resurrection must naturally follow upon His. It is unseemly that the head should live without the body. Moreover, Christians, by reason of their union and fellowship with Christ, have become the adopted children of God, having a right to share in Christ’s inheritance and in the glory and honor, of body as well as soul, which is His. Thus the admitted Resurrection of Christ makes necessary the further admission that His members will also rise.

If it be objected that this argument proves only the resurrection of the just, of Christians who are united with Christ, we may reply with St. Chrysostom and St. Thomas that St. Paul was writing to, and arguing against those among the faithful of Corinth who denied the resurrection, but who did not consider that they thereby ceased to be Christians, united to Christ.

14. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up if the dead rise not again.

Terrible consequences would follow, if Christ were not risen again, (a) Both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of their converts would be vain, i.e., without foundation, because Christ pointed to His Resurrection as the supreme proof of His Divinity and Messiahship (Matt 12:38 ff.; John 2:18 ff.); and if He be not truly risen, then we must conclude that He was a false prophet and has deceived both preachers and believers, and that there is no reason for either the Gospel or faith.

The Apostles always proved the divine origin and authority of their preaching by appealing to the Resurrection of Jesus, holding that God would not have raised Him from the dead had He not been all He claimed to be, and had His doctrine not been true (Acts 1:22; 2:24, 32; 3:15, 21; 4:10, 33; 5:30; 10:37; 17:31 ; Rom 1:4; 4:24, etc.).

(b) The Apostles would be false witnesses of God, because they have attributed to Him something He never did, namely, the raising of Christ from the grave. And if it is an evil thing falsely to attribute something of grave moment to another human being, what a serious offence it would be to bear similar false witness to God!

Again, both in verse 14 and in verse 15 should be omitted, as not represented in the Greek.

16. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again.

For if the dead, etc., a solemn repetition of the conclusion stated above, in verse 13, from which still further evils would result.

Again in this and in the following verse should be away.

17. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.
18. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.

Your faith is vain, i.e., useless to you, for you could not be redeemed and freed from your sins by an impostor who claimed to be the true Messiah and Saviour of the world.

Then they also, etc. In the event that Christ is not truly risen, then those that died believing in Him and hoping for the remission of their sins through His redeeming merits, have died with their sins still upon them and are lost forever.

19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, faith in Him is not only useless for the living and the dead, but it is also a great detriment to Christians. If all our faith in Christ does for us is to give us in the present life a groundless hope of something false, causing us to deny ourselves many things which unbelievers enjoy, and bringing upon us numberless persecutions, then indeed we are of all men more to be pitied (ελεεινοτεροι) than others.

20a. But now Christ is risen from the dead…

But all these terrible consequences that have just been described are false, because Christ is truly risen from the dead, and neither our preaching nor your faith is vain.

Posted in Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, Notes on 1 Corinthians, Quotes, Scripture | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

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