The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 16:9-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 29, 2011

This post contains commentary on verses 9-18.

Ver 9. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.10. And she went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.11. And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.12. After that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.13. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

Augustine, de Con. Evan., iii, 25: Now we must consider how the Lord appeared after the Resurrection. For Mark says, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.”

Bede: John tells us most fully how and when this appearance took place. But the Lord rose in the morning from the sepulchre in which He had been laid in the evening, that those words of the Psalm might be fulfilled, “Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” [Psa_29:6]

Theophyact: Or else put a stop at, “Now when Jesus was risen,” and then read, “early the first day of the week He appeared,” &c.

Greg.: For as Samson at midnight not only left Gaza, but also carried away the gates of it, so also our Redeemer rising before the light, did not only come out free from hell, but destroyed also the very gates of hell.

[Hom. in Evan., 33] But Mark here testifies that seven devils were cast out of Mary; and what is meant by “seven devils” save all vices? for as by seven days is understood all time, so by the number seven  a whole is fitly figured.

Theophylact: But Mary had seven devils, because she was filled with all vices. Or else, by seven devils are meant seven spirits contrary to the seven virtues, as a spirit without fear, without wisdom, without understanding, and whatsoever else is opposed to the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Pseudo-Jerome: Again, He is shewn to her, out of whom He had cast seven devils, because harlots and publicans shall go before the synagogue into the kingdom of heaven, as the thief reached it before the Apostles.

Bede: In the beginning also woman brought man into sin, now she, who first tasted death, first sees the Resurrection, lest she should have to bear the reproach of perpetual guilt amongst men; and she who had been the channel of guilt to man, now has become the first channel of grace.

For it goes on: “And she went and told them that had been with Him as they mourned and wept.”

Pseudo-Jerome: They mourn and weep because they had not yet seen, but after a short time they shall receive a consolation. For blessed are they that weep now, for they shall be comforted.

Bede: Fitly too is this woman, who was the first to announce the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection, said to have been cured of seven devils, lest any one worthily repenting of his sins should despair of pardon for what he had done, and that is might be shewn that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” [Rom_5:20]

Severianus, Chrysologus: Mary brings the news, not now as a woman, but in the person of the Church, so that, as above woman was silent, here as the Church she might bring tidings and speak.

There follows: “And they when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, believed not.”

Greg.: That the disciples were slow in believing our Lord’s Resurrection was not so much a weakness of theirs as it is our strength. For the Resurrection itself through their doubts was manifested by many proofs; and whilst we read and acknowledge them, what do we but become firmer through their doubting?

There follows: “After this He appeared in another form unto two of them as they walked and went to a farm house.”

Augustine: Luke relates the whole story respecting these two, one of whom was Cleophas, but Mark here touches but slightly upon it. That village of which Luke speaks may without absurdity be supposed to be what is here called a farm house, and indeed in some Greek manuscripts it is called, the country. But by this name are understood not only villages, but also boroughs and country towns, because they are without the city, which is the head and mother of all the rest.

That which Mark expresses by the Lord’s appearance “in another form,” is what Luke means by saying that “their eye were holden that they could not know Him.” For something was upon their eyes, which was allowed to remain there, until the breaking of bread.

Severianus, Chrysologus: But let no one suppose that Christ changed the form of His face by His Resurrection, but the form is changed when of mortal it becomes immortal, so that this means that He gained a glorious countenance, not that He lost the substance of His countenance. But He was seen of two; because faith in the Resurrection is to be preached and shewn to two people, that is, the Gentiles and the Jews.

There follows: “And they went and told it unto the residue, neither believed they them.”

How are we to understand the words of Mark compared with the account of Luke, that they then said, “The Lord hath risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon,” [Luk_24:34] if we do not suppose that there were some there who would not believe?

Theophylact: For he does not say this of the eleven, but of some others, whom He calls the residue.

Pseudo-Jerome: But in a mystic sense we may understand that faith here labours, leading the active life, but there it reigns secure in the contemplative vision. Here we see His face through a glass, there we shall see the truth face to face, wherefore He was shewn to them as they were walking, that is, labouring, in another form. And when it was told, the disciples did not believe, because they saw, like Moses, that which was not enough for them, for he said, “Shew me Thyself;” [Ex 33:18] forgetting his flesh, he prays in this life for that which we hope for in the life to come.

Ver 14. Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.15. And He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believed not shall be damned.”17. “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;”18. “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Gloss: Mark, when about to finish his Gospel, relates the last appearance of our Lord to His disciples after His Resurrection, saying, “For the last time He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat.”

Greg.: We should observe that Luke says in the Acts, “As He was eating with them [convescens] He commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem,” [Act_1:4] and shortly afterwards, “while they beheld He was taken up.” [Act_1:9] For He ate, and then ascended, that by the act of eating, the truth of the flesh might be declared.

Wherefore it is also here said that “He appeared to them for the last time as they sat at meat.”

Pseudo-Jerome: But He appeared when all the eleven were together, that all might be witnesses, and relate to all men what they had seen and heard in common.

It goes on: “And upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen Him after His Resurrection.”

Augustine: But how was this done “the last time?” The last occasion on which the Apostles saw the Lord upon earth happened forty days after the Resurrection; but would He then have upbraided them for not believing those who had seen Him risen, when they themselves had so often seen Him after His Resurrection? It remains therefore that we should understand that Mark wished to say it in few words, and said “for the last time,” because it was the last time that He shewed Himself that day, as night was coming on, when the  disciples returned from the country into Jerusalem, and found, as Luke says, [Luk_24:33] the eleven and those who were with them, speaking together concerning the Resurrection of our Lord.

But there were some there who did not believe; when these then were sitting at meat, (as Mark says,) and were still speaking, (as Luke relates,) “The Lord stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you;” [Luk_24:36] as Luke and John [Joh_20:19] say. The rebuke therefore which Mark here mentions must have been amongst those words, which Luke and John say, that the Lord at that time spoke to the disciples. But another question is raised, how Mark says that He appeared when the eleven sat at meat, if the time was the first part of the night on the Lord’s day, when John plainly says that Thomas was not with them, who, we believe, had gone out, before the Lord came in to them, after those two had returned from the village, and spoken with the eleven, as we find in Luke’s Gospel. But Luke in his relation leaves room for supposing that Thomas went out first, while they spoke these things, and that the Lord entered afterwards; Mark however from his saying, “for the last time He appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat,” forces us to believe that he was there, unless indeed, though one of them was absent, he chose to call them, the eleven, because the company of the Apostles was then called by this number, before Matthias was chosen into the place of Judas.

Or if this be a harsh way of understanding it, let us understand that it means that after many appearances, He shewed Himself for the last time, that is, on the fortieth day, to the Apostles, as they sat at meat, and that since He was about to ascend from them, He rather wished on that day to reprove them for not having believed those who had seen Him risen before seeing Him themselves, because after His ascension even the Gentiles on their preaching were to believe a Gospel, which they had not seen.

And so the same Mark immediately after that rebuke says, “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” And lower down, “He that believeth not shall be condemned.” Since then they were to preach this, were not they themselves to be first rebuked, because before they saw the Lord they had not believed those to whom He had first appeared? [p. 345]

Greg.: Another reason also why our Lord rebuked His disciples, when He left them as to His bodily presence, was, that the words which He spoke on leaving them might remain more deeply impressed upon the hearts of His hearers.

Pseudo-Jerome: But He rebukes their want of faith, that faith might take its place; He rebukes the hardness of their stony heart, that the fleshy heart, full of love, might take its place.

Greg.: After rebuking the hardness of their hearts, let us hear the words of advice which He speaks. For it goes on: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Every man must be understood by “every creature;” for man partakes something of every creatures; he has existence as have stones, life as trees, feeling as animals, understanding as have Angels. For the Gospel is preached to every creature, because He is taught by it, for whose sake all are created, whom all things are in some way like, and from whom therefore they are not alien.

By the name of every creature also every nation of the Gentiles may be meant. For it had been said before, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles.” [Mat_10:5] But now it is said, “Preach the Gospel to every creature,” so that the preaching of the Apostles which was thrust aside by Judaea, might be an assistance to us, since Judaea had haughtily rejected it, thus witnessing to her own damnation.

Theophylact: Or else; to every creature, that is, whether believing or unbelieving.

It goes on: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” For it is not enough to believe, for he who believeth and is not baptized, but is a catechumen, has not yet attained to perfect salvation.

Greg.: But perhaps some one may say in himself, I have already believed, I shall be saved. He says what is true, if he keeps his faith by works; for that is a true faith, which does not contradict by its deeds what it says in words.

There follows: “But he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Bede: What shall we say here about infants, who by reason of their age cannot yet believe; for as to older persons there is no question. In the Church then of our Saviour, children believe by others, as also they drew from others the sins which are remitted to them in baptism.

It goes on: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents.”

Theophlyact: That is, they shall scatter before them serpents, whether intellectual or sensible, as it is said, Ye shall tread upon serpents and scorpions, [Luk_10:19] which is understood spiritually. But it may also mean sensible serpents, as when Paul received no hurt from the viper.

There follows: “And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” We read of many such cases in history, for many persons have drank poison unhurt, by guarding themselves with the sign of Christ.It goes on: “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Greg.: Are we then without faith because we cannot do these signs? Nay, but these things were necessary in the beginning of the Church, for the faith of believers was to be nourished by miracles, that it might increase. Thus we also, when we plant groves, strong in the earth; but when once they have firmly fixed their roots, we leave off irrigating them.

These signs and miracles have other things which we ought to consider more minutely. For Holy Church does every day in spirit what then the Apostles did in body; for when her Priests by the grace of exorcism lay their hands on believers, and forbid the evil spirits to dwell in their minds, what do they, but cast out devils?

And the faithful who have left earthly words, and whose tongues sound forth the Holy Mysteries, speak a new language; they who by their good warnings take away evil from the hearts of others, take up serpents; and when they are hearing words of pestilent persuasion, without being at all drawn aside to evil doing, they drink a deadly thing, but it will never hurt them; whenever they see their neighbours growing weak in good works, and by their good example strengthen their life, they lay their hands on the sick, that they may recover.

And all these miracles are greater in proportion as they are spiritual, and by them souls and not bodies are raised.

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3 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 16:9-15”

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