Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matt 4:1-11 for the First Sunday of Lent
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2011
Ver 1. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.2. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord being baptized by John with water, is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be baptized by the fire of temptation. ‘Then,’ i.e. when the voice of the Father had been given from heaven.
Chrys., Hom. 13: Whoever thou art then that after thy baptism sufferest grievous trials, be not troubled thereat; for this thou receivedst arms, to fight, not to sit idle. God does not hold all trial from us; first, that we may feel that we are become stronger; secondly, that we may not be puffed up by the greatness of the gifts we have received; thirdly, that the Devil may have experience that we have entirely renounced him; fourthly, that by it we may be made stronger; fifthly, that we may receive a sign of the treasure entrusted to us; for the Devil would not come upon us to tempt us, did he not see us advanced to greater honours.
Hilary: The Devil’s snares are chiefly spread for the sanctified, because a victory over the saints is more desired than over others.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., 16, 1: Some doubt what Spirit it was that led Jesus into the desert, for that it is said after, “The Devil took him into the holy city.” But true and without question agreeable to the context is the received opinion, that it was the Holy Spirit; that His own Spirit should lead Him thither where the evil spirit should find Him and try Him.
Aug., de Trin., 4, 13: Why did He offer Himself to temptation? That He might be our mediator in vanquishing temptation not by aid only, but by example.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He was led by the Holy Spirit, not as an inferior at the bidding of a greater. For we say, “led,” not only of him who is constrained by a stronger than he, but also of him who is induced by reasonable persuasion; as Andrew “found his brother Simon, and brought him to Jesus.”
Jerome: “Led,” not against His will, or as a prisoner, but as by a desire for the conflict.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Devil comes against men to tempt them, but since He could not come against Christ, therefore Christ came against the Devil.
Greg.: We should know that there are three modes of temptation; suggestion, delight, and consent; and we when we are tempted commonly fall into delight or consent, because being born of the sin of the flesh, we bear with us whence we afford strength for the contest; but God who incarnate in the Virgin’s womb came into the world without sin, carried within Him nothing of a contrary nature. He could then be tempted by suggestion; but the delight of sin never gnawed His soul, and therefore all that temptation of the Devil was without not within Him.
Chrys.: The Devil is wont to be most urgent with temptation, when he sees us solitary; thus it was in the beginning he tempted the woman when he found her without the man, and now too the occasion is offered to the Devil, by the Saviour’s being led into the desert.
Gloss. ap. Anselm: This desert is that between Jerusalem and Jericho, where the robbers used to resort. It is called Hammaim, i.e. ‘of blood,’ from the bloodshed which these robbers caused there; hence the man was said (in the parable) to have fallen among robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, being a figure of Adam, who was overcome by daemons. It was therefore fit that the place where Christ overcame the Devil, should be the same in which the Devil in the parable overcomes man.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Not Christ only is led into the desert by the Spirit, but also all the sons of God who have the Holy Spirit. For they are not content to sit idle, but the Holy Spirit stirs them to take up some great work, i.e. to go out into the desert where they shall meet with the Devil; for there is no righteousness wherewith the Devil is pleased.
For all good is without the flesh and the world, because it is not according to the will of the flesh and the world. To such a desert then all the sons of God go out that they may be tempted.
For example, if you are unmarried, the Holy Spirit has by that led you into the desert, that is, beyond the limits of the flesh and the world, that you may be tempted by lust. But he who is married is unmoved by such temptation. Let us learn that the sons of God are not tempted but when they have gone forth into the desert, but the children of the Devil whose life is in the flesh and the world are then overcome and obey; the good man, having a wife is content; the bad, though he have a wife is not therewith content, and so in all other things.
The children of the Devil go not out to the Devil that they may be tempted. For what need that he should seek the strife who desires not victory? But the sons of God having more confidence and desirous of victory, go forth against him beyond the boundaries of the flesh. For this cause then Christ also went out to the Devil, that He might be tempted of him.
Chrys.: But that you may learn how great a good is fasting, and what a mighty shield against the Devil, and that after baptism you ought to give attention to fasting and not to lusts, therefore Christ fasted, not Himself needing it, but teaching us by His example.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And to fix the measure of our quadragesimal fast, be fasted forty days and forty nights.
Chrys.: But He exceeded not the measure of Moses and Elias, lest it should bring into doubt the reality of His assumption of the flesh.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., 16, 5: The Creator of all things took no food whatever during forty days. We also, at the season of Lent as much as in us lies afflict our flesh by abstinence. The number forty is preserved, because the virtue of the decalogue is fulfilled in the books of the holy Gospel; and ten taken four times amounts to forty.
Or, because in this mortal body we consist of four elements by the delights of which we go against the Lord’s precepts received by the decalogue. And as we transgress the decalogue through the lusts of this flesh, it is fitting that we afflict the flesh forty-fold.
Or, as by the Law we offer the tenth of our goods, so we strive to offer the tenth of our time. And from the first Sunday of Lent to the rejoicing of the paschal festival is a space of six weeks, or forty-two days, subtracting from which the six Sundays which are not kept there remain thirty-six. Now as the year consists of three hundred and sixty-five, by the affliction of these thirty-six we give the tenth of our year to God.
Aug., Lib. 83. Quest. q. 81: Otherwise; The sum of all wisdom is to be acquainted with the Creator and the creature. The Creator is the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the creature is partly invisible, – as the soul to which we assign a threefold nature, (as in the command to love God with the whole heart, mind, and soul,) – partly visible as the body, which we divide into four elements; the hot, the cold, the liquid, the solid. The number ten then, which stands for the whole law of life, taken four times, that is, multiplied by that number which we assign for the body, because by the body the law is obeyed or disobeyed, makes the number forty. All the aliquot parts in this number, viz. 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20, taken together make up the number 50. Hence the time of our sorrow and affliction is fixed at forty days; the state of blessed joy which shall be hereafter is figured in the quinquagesimal festival, i.e. the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost.
Aug., Serm. 210, 2: Not however because Christ fasted immediately after having received baptism, are we to suppose that He established a rule to be observed, that we should fast immediately after His baptism. But when the conflict with the tempter is sore, then we ought to fast, that the body may fulfil its warfare by chastisement, and the soul obtain victory by humiliation.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord knew the thoughts of the Devil, that he sought to tempt Him; he had heard that Christ had been born into this world with the preaching of Angels, the witness of shepherds, the inquiry of the Magi, and the testimony of John. Thus the Lord proceeded against him, not as God, but as man, or rather both as God and man. For in forty days of fasting not to have been “an hungred” was not as man; to be ever “an hungred” was not as God. He was “an hungred” then that the God might not be certainly manifested, and so the hopes of the Devil in tempting Him be extinguished, and His own victory hindered.
Hilary: He was “an hungred,” not during the forty days, but after them. Therefore when the Lord hungred, it was not that the effects of abstinence then first came upon Him, but that His humanity was left to its own strength. For the Devil was to be overcome, not by the God, but by the flesh. By this was figured, that after those forty days which He was to tarry on earth after His passion were accomplished, He should hunger for the salvation of man, at which time He carried back again to God His Father the expected gift, the humanity which He had taken on Him.
Ver 3. And when the Tempter came to Him, he said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”4. But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'”
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Devil who had begun to despair when he saw that Christ fasted forty days, now again began to hope when he saw that “he was an hungred;” and “then the tempter came to him.” If then you shall have fasted and after been tempted, say not, I have lost the fruit of my fast; for though it have not availed to hinder temptation, it will avail to hinder you from being overcome by temptation.
Greg.: If we observe the successive steps of the temptation, we shall be able to estimate by how much we are freed from temptation. The old enemy tempted the first man through his belly, when he persuaded him to eat of the forbidden fruit; through ambition when he said, “Ye shall be as gods;” through covetousness when he said, “Knowing good and evil;” for there is a covetousness not only of money, but of greatness, when a high estate above our measure is sought.
By the same method in which he had overcome the first Adam, in that same was he overcome when he tempted the second Adam. He tempted through the belly when he said, “Command that these stones become loaves;” through ambition when he said, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence;” through covetousness of lofty condition in the words, “All these things will I give thee.”
Ambrose, Ambros. in Luc., c. 4. 3: He begins with that which had once been the means of his victory, the palate; “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves.” What means such a beginning as this, but that he knew that the Son of God was to come, yet believed not that He was come on account of His fleshly infirmity. His speech is in part that of an enquirer, in part that of a tempter; he professes to believe Him God, he strives to deceive Him as man.Hilary: And therefore in the temptation he makes a proposal of such a double kind by which His divinity would be made known by the miracle of the transformation, the weakness of the man deceived by the delight of food.
Jerome: But thou art caught, O Enemy, in a dilemma. If these stones can be made bread at His word, your temptation is vain against one so mighty. If He cannot make them bread, your suspicions that this is the Son of God must be vain.Pseudo-Chrys.: But as the Devil blinds all men, so is he now invisibly made blind by Christ. He found Him “an hungred” at the end of forty days, and knew not that He had continued through those forty without being hungry. When he suspected Him not to be the Son of God, he considered not that the mighty Champion can descend to things that be weak, but the weak cannot ascend to things that are high.
We may more readily infer from His not being “an hungred” for so many days that He is God, than from His being “an hungred” after that time that He is man. But it may be said, Moses and Elias fasted forty days, and were men. But they hungred and endured, He for the space of forty days hungred not, but afterwards. To be hungry and yet refuse food is within the endurance of man; not be hungry belongs to the Divine nature only.
Jerome: Christ’s purpose was to vanquish by humility;
Leo, Serm. 39, 3: hence he opposed the adversary rather by testimonies out of the Law, than by miraculous powers; thus at the same time giving more honour to man, and more disgrace to the adversary, when the enemy of the human race thus seemed to be overcome by man rather than by God.
Greg.: So the Lord when tempted by the Devil answered only with precepts of Holy Writ, and He who could have drowned His tempter in the abyss, displayed not the might of His power; giving us an example, that when we suffer any thing at the hands of evil men, we should be stirred up to learning rather than to revenge.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not, ‘I live not,’ but, “Man doth not live by bread alone,” that the Devil might still ask, “If thou be the Son of God.” If He be God, it is as though He shunned to display what He had power to do; if man, it is a crafty will that His want of power should not be detected.
Rabanus: This verse is quoted from Deuteronomy. [margin note: c. 8. 3] Whoso then feeds not on the Word of God, he lives not; as the body of man cannot live without earthly food, so cannot his soul without God’s word. This word is said to proceed out of the mouth of God, where he reveals His will by Scripture testimonies.
Ver 5. Then the Devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple,6. And saith unto Him, “If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, ‘He shall give His Angels charge concerning Thee:’ and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.”7. Jesus said unto Him, “It is written again, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ ”
Pseudo-Chrys.: From this first answer of Christ, the Devil could learn nothing certain whether He were God or man; he therefore betook him to another temptation, saying within himself; This man who is not sensible of the appetite of hunger, if not the Son of God, is yet a holy man; and such do attain strength not to be overcome by hunger; but when they have subdued every necessity of the flesh, they often fall by desire of empty glory. Therefore he began to tempt Him by this empty glory.
Jerome: “Took him,” not because the Lord was weak, but the enemy proud; he imputed to a necessity what the Saviour did willingly.
Rabanus: Jerusalem was called the Holy City, for in it was the Temple of God, the Holy of holies, and the worship of the one God according to the law of Moses.
Remig.: This shews that the Devil lies in wait for Christ’s faithful people even in the sacred places.
Gregory: Behold when it is said that this God was taken by the Devil into the holy city, pious ears tremble to hear, and yet the Devil is head and chief among the wicked; what wonder that He suffered Himself to be led up a mountain by the wicked one himself, who suffered Himself to be crucified by his members.
Gloss. ord.: The Devil places us on high places by exalting with pride, that he may dash us to the ground again.
Remig.: The “pinnacle” is the seat of the doctors; for the temple had not a pointed roof like our houses, but was flat on the top after the manner of the country of Palestine, and in the temple were three stories. It should be known that “the pinnacle” was on the floor, and in each story was one pinnacle. Whether then he placed Him on the pinnacle in the first story, or that in the second, or the third, he placed Him whence a fall was possible.
Gloss. ord.: Observe here that all these things were done with bodily sense, and by careful comparison of the context it seems probable that the Devil appeared in human form.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Perhaps you may say, How could he in the sight of all place Him bodily upon the temple? Perhaps the Devil so took Him as though He were visible to all, while He, without the Devil being aware of it, made Himself invisible.
Gloss, ap. Anselm: He set Him on a pinnacle of the temple when he would tempt Him through ambition, because in this seat of the doctors he had before taken many through the same temptation, and therefore thought that when set in the same seat, He might in like manner be puffed up with vain pride.
Jerome: In the several temptations the single aim of the Devil is to find if He be the Son of God, but he is so answered as at last to depart in doubt; He says, “Cast thyself,” because the voice of the Devil, which is always called men downwards, has power to persuade them, but may not compel them to fall.
Pseudo-Chrys.: How does he expect to discover by this proposition whether He be the Son of God or not? For to fly through the air is not proper to the Divine nature, for it is not useful to any. If then any were to attempt to fly when challenged to it, he would be acting from ostentation, and would belong rather to the Devil than to God. If it is enough to a wise man to be what he is, and he has no wish to seem what he is not, how much more should the Son of God hold it not necessary to shew what He is; He of whom none can know so much as He is in Himself?Ambrose: But as Satan transfigures himself into an Angel of light, and spreads a snare for the faithful, even from the divine Scriptures, so now he uses its texts, not to instruct but to deceive.
Jerome: This verse we read in the ninetieth Psalm, [Psa_91:11] but that is a prophecy not of Christ, but of some holy man, so the Devil interprets Scripture amiss.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For the Son of God in truth is not borne of Angels, but Himself bears them, or if He be borne in their arms, it is not from weakness, lest He dash His foot against a stone, but for the honour. O thou Devil, thou hast read that the Son of God is borne in Angels’ arms, hast thou not also read that He shall tread upon the asp and basilisk? But the one text he brings forward as proud, the other he omits as crafty.
Chrys.: Observe that Scripture is brought forward by the Lord only with an apt meaning, but by the Devil irreverently; for that where it is written, “He shall give his Angels charge over thee,” is not an exhortation to cast Himself headlong.
Gloss. ap. Anselm: We must explain thus; Scripture says of any good man, that He has given it in charge to His Angels, that is to His ministering spirits, to bear him in their hands, i.e. by their aid to guard him that he dash not his foot against a stone, i.e. keep his heart that it stumble not at the old law written in tables of stone.
Or by the stone may be understood every occasion of sin and error.
Rabanus: It should be noted, that though our Saviour suffered Himself to be placed by the Devil on a pinnacle of the temple, yet refused to come down also at his command, giving us an example, that whosoever bids us ascend the strait way of truth we should obey. But if he would again cast us down from the height of truth and virtue to the depth of error we should not hearken to him.
Jerome: The false Scripture darts of the Devil He brands with the true shield of Scripture.
Hilary: Thus beating down the efforts of the Devil, He professes Himself both God and Lord.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Yet He says not, Thou shalt not tempt me thy Lord God; but, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God;” which every man of God when tempted by the Devil might say; for whoso tempts a man of God, tempts God.
Rabanus: Otherwise, it was a suggestion to Him, as man, that He should seek by requiring some miracle to know the greatness of God’s power.
Aug., contr. Faust., 22, 36: It is a part of sound doctrine, that when man has any other means, he should not tempt the Lord his God.
Theod. non occ.: And it is to tempt God, in any thing to expose one’s self to danger without cause.
Jerome: It should be noted, that the required texts are taken from the book of Deuteronomy only, that He might shew the sacraments of the second Law.
Ver 8. Again, the Devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;9. And saith unto Him, “All these things will I give Thee, if Thee wilt fall down and worship me.”10. Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ “11. Then the Devil leaveth Him, and, behold Angels came and ministered unto Him.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Devil, left in uncertainty by this second reply, passes to a third temptation. Christ had broken the nets of appetite, had passed over those of ambition, he now spreads for Him those of covetousness; “He taketh him up into a very high mountain,” such as in going round about the earth he had noticed rising above the rest. The higher the mountain, the wider the view from it.
He shews Him not so as that they truly saw the very kingdoms, cities, nations, their silver and their gold; but the quarters of the earth where each kingdom and city lay. As suppose from some high ground I were to point out to you, see there lies Rome, there Alexandria; you are not supposed to see the towns themselves, but the quarter in which they lie. Thus the Devil might point out the several quarters with his finger, and recount in words the greatness of each kingdom and its condition; for that is said to be shewn which is in any way presented to the understanding.
Origen, in Luc., Hom. 30: We are not to suppose that when he shewed him the kingdoms of the world, he presented before Him the kingdom of Persia, for instance, or India; but he shewed his own kingdom, how he reigns in the world, that is, how some are governed by fornication, some by avarice.
Remig.: By “their glory,” is meant, their gold and silver, precious stones and temporal goods.
Rabanus: The Devil shews all this to the Lord, not as though he had power to extend his vision or shew Him any thing unknown. But setting forth in speech as excellent and pleasant, that vain worldly pomp wherein himself delighted, he thought by suggestion of it, to create in Christ a love of it.
Gloss. ord.: He saw not, as we see, with the eye of lust, but as a physician looks on disease without receiving any hurt.
Jerome: An arrogant and vain vaunt; for he hath not the power to bestow all kingdoms, since many of the saints have, we know, been make kings of God.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But such things as are gotten by iniquity in this world, as riches, for instance, gained by fraud or perjury, these the Devil bestows. The Devil therefore cannot give riches to whom he will, but to those only who are willing to receive them of him.
Remig.: Wonderful infatuation in the Devil! To promise earthly kingdoms to Him who gives heavenly kingdoms to His faithful people, and the glory of earth to Him who is Lord of the glory of heaven!
Ambrose, in Luc., c. iv, 11: Ambition has its dangers at home; that it may govern, it is first others’ slave; it bows in flattery that it may rule in honour; and while it would be exalted, it is made to stoop.
Gloss. non occ.: See the Devil’s pride as of old. In the beginning he sought to make himself equal with God, now he seeks to usurp the honours due to God, saying, “If thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Who then worships the Devil must first fall down.
Pseudo-Chrys.: With these words He puts an end to the temptations of the Devil, that they should proceed not further.
Jerome: The Devil and Peter are not, as many suppose, condemned to the same sentence. To Peter it is said, “Get thee behind me, Satan;” i.e. follow thou behind Me who art contrary to My will. But here it is, “Go, Satan,” and is not added, ‘behind Me,’ that we may understand “into the fire prepared for thee and thy angels.”
Remig.: Other copies read, “Get thee behind me;” i.e. remember thee in what glory thou wast created, and into what misery thou hast fallen.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Observe how Christ when Himself suffered wrong at the hands of the Devil, being tempted of him, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down,” yet was not moved to chide the Devil. But now when the Devil usurps the honour of God, he is wroth, and drives him away, saying, “Go thy way, Satan;” that we may learn by His example to bear injuries to ourselves with magnanimity, but wrongs to God, to endure not so much as to hear; for to be patient under our own wrongs is praiseworthy, to dissemble when God is wronged is impiety.
Jerome: When the Devil says to the Saviour, “If thou wilt fall down and worship me,” he is answered by the contrary declaration, that it more becomes him to worship Jesus as his Lord and God.
Aug., cont. Serm. Arian, 29: The one Lord our God is the Holy Trinity, to which alone we justly owe the service of piety.
Aug., City of God, book 10, ch. 1: By service is to be understood the honour due to God; as our version renders the Greek words, ‘latria,’ wherever it occurs in Scripture, by ‘service’ (servitus), but that service which is due to men (as where the Apostle bids slaves be subject to their master) is in Greek called ‘dulia;’ while ‘latria,’ always, or so often that we say always, is used of that worship which belongs to God.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Devil, we may fairly suppose, did not depart in obedience to the command, but the Divine nature of Christ, and the Holy Spirit which was in Him drove him thence, and “then the Devil left him.” Which also serves for our consolation, to see that the Devil does not tempt the men of God so long as he wills, but so long as Christ suffers. And though He may suffer him to tempt for a short time, yet in the end He drives him away because of the weakness of our nature.
Aug., City of God, book 9, ch. 21: After the temptation the Holy Angels, to be dreaded of all unclean spirits, ministered to the Lord, by which it was made yet more manifest to the daemons how great was His power.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He says not ‘Angels descended from heaven,’ that it may be known that they were ever on the earth to minister to Him, but had now by the Lord’s command departed from Him, to give opportunity for the Devil to approach, who perhaps when he saw Him surrounded by Angels would not have come near Him.
But in what matters they ministered to Him, we cannot know, whether in the healing diseases, or purifying souls, or casting out daemons; for all these things He does by the ministration of Angels, so that what they do, Himself appears to do. However it is manifest, that they did not now minister to Him because His weakness needed it, but for the honour of His power; for it is not said that they ‘succoured Him,’ but that they “ministered to Him.”
Gregory, non occ. vid. in Ezek. i. 8. n. 24. in 1 Reg. i. I. n. 1. 2: In these things is shewn the twofold nature in one person; it is the man whom the Devil tempts; the same is God to whom Angels minister.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Now let us shortly review what is signified by Christ’s temptations. The fasting is abstinence from things evil, hunger is the desire of evil, bread is the gratification of the desire. He who indulges himself in any evil thing, turns stones into bread. Let him answer to the Devil’s persuasions that man does not live by the indulgence of desire alone, but by keeping the commands of God. When any is puffed up as though he were holy he is led to the temple, and when he esteems himself to have reached the summit of holiness he is set on a pinnacle of the temple. And this temptation follows the first, because victory over temptation begets conceit.
But observe that Christ had voluntarily undertaken the fasting; but was led to the temple by the Devil; therefore do you voluntarily use praiseworthy abstinence, but suffer yourself not to be exalted to the summit of sanctity; fly high-mindedness, and you will not suffer a fall.
The ascent of the mountain is the going forward to great riches, and the glory of this world which springs from pride of heart. When you desire to become rich, that is, to ascend the mountain, you begin to think of the ways of gaining wealth and honours, then the prince of this world is shewing you the glory of his kingdom.
In the third place He provides you reasons, that if you seek to obtain all these things, you should serve him, and neglect the righteousness of God.
Hilary: When we have overcome the Devil and bruised his head, we see that Angels’ ministry and the offices of heavenly virtues will not be wanting in us.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 16: Luke has not given the temptations in the same order as Matthew; so that we do not know whether the pinnacle of the temple, or the ascent of the mountain, was first in the action; but it is of no importance, so long as it is only clear that all of them were truly done.
Gloss. ap. Anselm: Though Luke’s order seems the more historical; Matthew relates the temptations as they were done to Adam.