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

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 9, 2011

Mat 11:28  Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.

Come unto Me all, &c. Syriac, who are weary and bear burdens. Arabic, who are worn with labour and heavily burdened. After He has shown the Majesty and Deity, lest any one should be affrighted at it, Christ adds the Humanity, and most kindly invites all to Him.

Come, not with the feet of the body, but with the affections of faith, hope, love, religion, devotion, and piety.

All you that labour, none are excluded. For there is no one who does not labour under some disease, and need Christ’s medicine. Therefore Christ offers Himself to all, that they may receive from Him health and safety. Thus did He kindly correct and heal Magdalen, Matthew, Paul, and Peter. Thus even now, in the Eucharist, He inviteth all and saith, Come unto me, ye infirm, hungry, afflicted ones I will refresh you.

That labour. Gr. οί κυπιω̃ντες, i.e., who suffer trouble and are burdened, &c., who are fatigued and depressed, and are sinking under the burden, both of sins (as SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustin say), as well as of the law of Moses (as Theophylact), and also of the troubles and temptations of this life.

And I will refresh you. Gr. α̉ναπαύσω, i.e., I will give rest to the weary, as the Syriac translates. I will place you in all quietness, says St. Chrysostom, by most soothing words, by Sacraments, as most efficacious medicines, by grace, and most sweet inward consolations; lastly by most felicitous glory in Heaven.

Mat 11:29  Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: And you shall find rest to your souls.

Take, Syr., bear, My yoke. He means, ye have borne a heavy and well nigh intolerable yoke, and the burden of the old law of sin and concupiscence. Come unto Me, I will take it away, and will change it into the sweet yoke of the evangelical law of grace and charity. I will refresh you by My yoke, which indeed is a yoke because it is a law binding the soul, but at the same time it is medicine, yea a bed, in which ye may sweetly rest, especially, by means of the humility which it teaches and commands. For it is the one and only medicine of all diseases, both of soul and body, and the alleviation and rest of all burthens. For nothing is harsh to the meek, nothing difficult to the lowly, says S. Leo. For as wool receives cannon balls and breaks their force by its softness, so meekness and humility break and soften all hard and rugged things. This yoke, therefore, is the gospel of Christ, and the law of grace. Whence S. Bernard (Serm. 15. in Ps. 91) says, “He invites those who labour to refreshment. He calls those who are laden to rest; and yet He does not take away either burden or labour, but He exchanges them for another burden, another labour, but a light burden, a sweet yoke, wherein rest or refreshment, even though it appear not, nevertheless is found.”

And learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart, i.e., in the affection of the heart, viz., will, says S. Bernard (Serm. 49 in Cant). For many are lowly in word, few in heart. And you shall find, &c. Listen to S. Augustine. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, not to frame a world, not to create all things, visible and invisible, not to do miracles in the world and to raise the dead; but that I am meek and lowly in heart. Dost thou wish to be great, begin from the least. Thou art thinking of constructing a mighty fabric of loftiness, think first of the foundation of humility. And as great as each one wishes to build up his edifice, the greater the building, so much the more deeply let him dig his foundation.” Wisely says Climacus (Gradu 25). “Humility is a grace of the soul without a name, being named by those alone who have made trial of it, an inexhaustible treasure, having obtained a name from God, a singular gift of God. Learn, He says, not of an angel, not of a man, not out of a book, but from Me, that is, from My dwelling in you, and working in you, because I am meek and lowly in heart, and in thought, and in sense, and in sense, and ye shall find rest from internal conflicts in your souls.

2. And better, Auctor Imperf. and Maldonat. Learn of Me, i.e., do not fear to come to Me, and to take the yoke of My gospel on your neck, for if ye come and receive it, ye shall indeed learn that I am no tyrant, nor a severe and rigid King, but a lowly, meek, element and benign Lord.

Moreover, Christ was of so great humility and meekness in bearing with the Scribes, His disciples, and the multitude, in bearing injuries, derision, the scourge, the cross and death, that even if He had wrought no miracle He would, by such meekness, have proved sufficiently, and more than sufficiently, that He was the Man from Heaven and the true Prophet sent from God. I verify admire more Christ’s meekness, than His miracles and His raising the dead.

Moraliter: Learn from hence how great, and how dear to Christ is humility. It is as if He said, learn of Me not to create a world, not subtilely to dispute concerning God and the Holy Trinity, not to perform Herculean labours, but that I am meek and lowly in heart.

2d. Humility is the secret of peace. There is no rest for the mind, save in humility. Do you wish for rest? Embrace humility, a lowly place, a lowly office, humble food, clothing, &c. It is impossible for the proud to have peace of soul, because they always desire great things, and often are unable to attain them.

3d. Humility takes from man every labour and all burdens. Humility is the alleviator of every labour, and the renewer of strength: as a certain Doctor has well said, humility is a medicine against all diseases; and health of soul and body. Moreover, Hippocrates hath said, Creatures without gall are long lived, i.e., animals which have no gall, such as stags, live long. The meek, therefore, and the humble, are healthy and long lived; for meekness brings into due order both the mental character and the humours of the body, which bile disorders, hence diseases.

4th. Humility is the virtue of Christ. Learn of Me, He says. This is mine own especial virtue, dear to Me above all others, which, by descending from Heaven to this lower world, and by stooping to the shameful death of the cross, I manifested in such a manner that none should be more illustrious and more wonderful in My life and in My death. Thus on the contrary, pride is the sin of Lucifer. Humility, therefore, makes us most like Christ. What more worthy? What more desirable?

Well says S. Augustine (Epist. 112). “They who have learnt of the Lord Jesus to be meek and lowly in heart make greater progress by praying and meditating, than by reading and hearing.”

Finally, Christ here joins meekness with humility, because they are, as it were, twin sisters, or as mother and daughter. Whence S. Bernard (Sermon 2, on those words in the Apocalypse, cap. 12, A great sign Rev 12:1) says, Like as naughtiness is the mother of presumption, so true meekness proceeds only from true humility.

Hear Climacus (Gradu. 24). The light of dawn goes before the sun, meekness precedes humility. Therefore, let us hear first Christ the Light, who disposes those things, as it were, by steps. Learn, He says, of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. After that, He thus defines meekness: Meekness is the immutable state of the mind which preserves an equable frame in good fortune and in disgrace. Meekness is sincerely and ex animo to pray for those who trouble you without being troubled yourself. Meekness is a jutting rock against the fury of the sea, which breaks all its waves, whilst itself remains unmoved and unbroken. Meekness is the prop of patience, the gate of charity, yea its very parent, the proof of prudence. For He will teach, saith the Lord, the meek His ways. It is the procurer of pardon, the confidence of sinners in prayer, the habitation of the Holy Spirit. “For upon whom shall I look, save upon the meek and quiet person?” (Psalm 66, Vulg.)

Mat 11:30  For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

For My yoke is sweet (Vulg.). The yoke and burden of Christ is the gospel, say SS. Hilary, Bede, and others. The law of the gospel, therefore, is a yoke, because it binds us to discipline, lest any one should depart from justice. The Gr. for sweet is not γλυκὺς, i.e., sweet like sugar, but χρηστὸς, i.e., benefical, humane, kind (Arab.), good in comparison with the old law. 1st Because it has fewer and easier precepts; 2d. Because it gives greater grace, which much lightens the burden of the command; 3d. Because it rules us as sons, not by fear, as servants, like the ancient law; 4th because it does not threaten, nor bring in death, like the old law, but takes it away; 5th Because it promises to those who keep it the most felicitous life, and as it were, leads them by the hand to the sweetness of celestial joys, according to the words, “They shall be satisfied with the fulness of Thy house: Thou shalt give them drink of thy pleasures as out of a river.” Ps 36:9.

He says, therefore, take My yoke upon you, because in the yoke of Divine servitude, perfect consolation and refreshment are included. Whence S. Ambrose (Lib. de Helia et jejun. Cap. 22): Receive, therefore, the yoke of Christ, do not fear because it is a yoke. Make haste, because it is light. It doth not bruise the neck, but dignifies it. Why do ye doubt? Why delay? It does not bind your neck with chains, but couples it with grace. It does not constrain of necessity, but directs the will to good works.

My, because indeed I, Christ, lay it upon you, yea, indeed, I beat it with you, and put My neck under the burden, yea I bear and carry all the burden, and you yourself with it. For that is called a yoke, which two beasts joined together bear. Christ then places one portion only of the yoke, i.e., the Evangelical Law, upon our neck; He himself bears the other and heavier part, and therefore He draws this yoke with us, and infuses strength and courage into us to draw it, both by His grace and by His example. So lately there was a certain priest in Japan of the Society of Jesus, who generously endured a dreadful death for Christ’s sake, who was often wont to say. “Christ therefore makes the yoke putrescent before the face of the oil.” Isa 10:27. (Vulg.)

We may apply what we read in the life of S. Mechtildes, who when she was tormented with fearful headaches and could find no rest, heard these words from Christ as He showed her the wound in His side, enter now, and be at rest. This straightway she did, and entered in with gladness. And it seemed to her that He had as many silken pillows as she had felt pangs of headache. And the Lord said, “Silk worms carry silk, and of Me it has been written, I am a worm and no man. Hitherto thou hast served Me devotedly in labours; from henceforth thou shall study to serve Me in pleasing exercises of virtues by My example; and the things which shall be insupportable to thee, I will carry with thee.”

This yoke, therefore, of Christ is not so much a yoke as a silken pillow, because it does not press us with trouble, but releases us from the weight of earthly things, and raises us to Heaven.

Wherefore S. Bernard appositely compares this burden to the plumage of birds. Thus he writes to the monks (Epist. 341), “In the way of life the more swiftly, the more easily we run; and the larger the Saviour’s light burden grows, the more portable it becomes. Does not the quantity of plumage a bird has lighten, rather than weigh it down? Take away its feathers, and what remains of it is borne down to the ground by its own weight.”

Thus, likewise, is Christ’s discipline, thus His sweet yoke, thus His light burden; if we lay it down, we are ourselves depressed, because He carries us rather than is carried by us. S. Ambrose adds (in Ps. cxix. Serm. 3), “To carry the yoke of Christ is sweet, if you consider it an ornament to your neck, not a burden. Lift up, therefore, thine eyes to the Lord thy God, seek God, and thou shalt find Him. Erect thy neck; thou earnest a necklace, not a chain. Many creatures delight in a necklace, and seem to themselves to be adorned rather than made naked; like as the cheeks of the turtle-dove will bear the marks of her modesty, the necklace of her neck will raise the presumption of her liberty. There is nothing more glorious than that yoke of Christ.” Lastly, S. Bernard (Serm. 15 in Ps. Qui habitat) by yoke and burden understands the load of God’s gifts and favours, because the burden of the law which is imposed is the gift of grace, the perfect observance of which brings all other gifts into the mind. “God burdens us when He unburdens us. He lades us with benefits when He unlades us of our sins. This is the voice of him who is burdened, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto me?” The voice of him who is burdened, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Moreover, to the proud and carnal, the yoke of Christ and the law of humility, abstinence, continence, mortification, seems very heavy and intolerable, because they are devoid of the Spirit, and only love and think of the flesh and fleshly things. Truly says S. Chrysostom (Hom. 14, in 1 ad Cor.), “Virtue is rugged if it be compared with our weakness; for that it is easy and light, hear Christ testifying, My yoke is sweet, and My burden is light. But if thou dost not understand, let not wonder seize thee, for thou art not of a brave mind: for as, when strength of mind is present heavy things become light, so when it is absent, light things become heavy. What, I ask, was sweeter than manna? What readier to their hand? Nevertheless the Jews murmured when they were feeding on delicacies. What more dreadful than the hunger and the other labours which Paul endured? Nevertheless he rejoiced and was glad, saying, Now I rejoice in mine infirmities. What, then, was the cause of these things? Diversity of mind, which, if thou wouldst make it such as it ought to be, thou wouldst discern the easiness of virtue.”

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4 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30”

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