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

My Own Catena Aurea on Wisdom 2:23-3:9

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 6, 2011

Those who know what a Catena Aurea actually is may be disappointed.

Wis 2:23  For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness he made him.

Gaudium et Spes 12: For Sacred Scripture teaches that man was created “to the image of God,” is capable of knowing and loving his Creator, and was appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures(Gen 1:26, Wis 2:23)) that he might subdue them and use them to God’s glory (cf. Sirach 17:3-10). “What is man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet” (Ps 8:5-7).

Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 34: In the biblical narrative, the difference between man and other creatures is shown above all by the fact that only the creation of man is presented as the result of a special decision on the part of God, a deliberation to establish a particular and specific bond with the Creator: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). The life which God offers to man is a gift by which God shares something of himself with his creature.

Israel would ponder at length the meaning of this particular bond between man and God. The Book of Sirach too recognizes that God, in creating human beings, “endowed themwith strength like his own, and made them in his own image” (Sir 17:3). The biblical author sees as part of this image not only man’s dominion over the world but also those spiritual faculties which are distinctively human, such as reason, discernment between good and evil, and free will: “He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil” (Sir17:7). The ability to attain truth and freedom are human prerogatives inasmuchas man is created in the image of his Creator, God who is true and just (cf. Deut 32:4). Man alone, among all visible creatures, is “capable of knowing and loving his Creator” (GS 12) The life which God bestows upon man is much more than mere existence in time. It is a drive towards fullness of life; it is the seed of an existence which transcends the very limits of time: “For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wis 2:23).

Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei Socialis 29: Development which is not only economic must be measured and oriented according to the reality and vocation of man seen in his totality, namely, according to his interior dimension. There is no doubt that he needs created goods and the products of industry, which is constantly being enriched by scientific and technological progress. And the ever greater availability of material goods not only meets needs but also opens new horizons. The danger of the misuse of material goods and the appearance of artificial needs should in no way hinder the regard we have for the new goods and resources placed at our disposal and the use we make of them. On the contrary, we must see them as a gift from God and as a response to the human vocation, which is fully realized in Christ.

However, in trying to achieve true development we must never lose sight of that dimension which is in the specific nature of man, who has been created by God in his image and likeness (cf.  Gen 1:26). It is a bodily and a spiritual nature, symbolized in the second creation account by the two elements: the earth, from which God forms man’s body, and the breath of life which he breathes into man’s nostrils (cf.  Gen 2:7).

Thus man comes to have a certain affinity with other creatures: he is called to use them, and to be involved with them. As the Genesis account says (cf.  Gen 2:15), he is placed in the garden with the duty of cultivating and watching over it, being superior to the other creatures placed by God under his dominion (cf.  Gen 1:25-26). But at the same time man must remain subject to the will of God, who imposes limits upon his use and dominion over things (cf.  Gen 2:16-17), just as he promises his mortality (cf. Gen 2:9; Wis 2:23). Thus man, being the image of God, has a true affinity with him too. On the basis of this teaching, development cannot consist only in the use, dominion over and indiscriminate possession of created things and the products of human industry, but rather in subordinating the possession, dominion and use to man’s divine likeness and to his vocation to immortality. This is the transcendent reality of the human being, a reality which is seen to be shared from the beginning by a couple, a man and a woman (cf.  Gen 1:27), and is therefore fundamentally social.

Wis 2:24  But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:
Wis 2:25  And they follow him that are of his side.

Please note that in modern translations such as the NAB verses 24 and 25 are combined, thus the NAB has no verse 25. I’m here using the Douay-Rheims.

Pope St Gregory the Great, The Pastoral Rule, part 3, chapter 10: The envious are to be admonished how great is their blindness who fail by other men’s advancement, and pine away at other men’s rejoicing; how great is their unhappiness who are made worse by the bettering of their neighbour, and in beholding the increase of another’s prosperity are uneasily vexed within themselves, and die of the plague of their own heart. What can be more unhappy than these, who, when touched by the sight of happiness, are made more wicked by the pain of seeing it? But, moreover, the good things of others which they cannot have they might, if they loved them, make their own. For indeed all are constituted together in faith as are many members in one body; which are indeed diverse as to their office, but in mutually agreeing with each other are made one. Whence it comes to pass that the foot sees by the eye, and the eyes walk by the feet; that the hearing of the ears serves the mouth, and the tongue of the mouth concurs with the ears for their benefit; that the belly supports the hands, and the hands work for the belly. In the very arrangement of the body, therefore, we learn what we should observe in our conduct. It is, then, too shameful not to act up to what we are. Those things, in fact, are ours which we love in others, even though we cannot follow them; and what things are loved in us become theirs that love them. Hence, then, let the envious consider of how great power is charity, which makes ours without labour works of labour not our own. The envious are therefore to be told that, when they fail to keep themselves from spite, they are being sunk into the old wickedness of the wily foe. For of him it is written, But by envy of the devil death entered into the world (Wis 2:24). For, because be had himself lost heaven, he envied it to created man, and, being himself ruined, by ruining others he heaped up his own damnation. The envious are to be admonished, that they may learn to how great slips of ruin growing under them they are liable; since, while they cast not forth spite out of their heart, they are slipping down to open wickedness of deeds. For, unless Cain had envied the accepted sacrificeof his brother, he would never have come to taking away his life. Whence it is written, And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell (Gen 4:4). Thus spite on account of the sacrifice was the seed-plot of fraticide. For him whose being better than himself vexed him he cut off from being at all. The envious are to be told that, while they consume themselves with this inward plague, they destiny whatever good they seem to have within them. Whence it is written, Soundness of heart is the life of the flesh, but envy the rottenness of the bones (Prov 14:30). For what is signified by the flesh but certain weak and tender actions, and what by the bones but brave ones? And for the most part it comes to pass that some, with innocence of heart, in some of their actions seem weak; but others, though performing some stout deeds before human eyes, still pine away inwardly with the pestilence of envy towards what is good in others. Wherefore it is well said, Soundness of heart is the life of the flesh; because, if innocence of mind is kept, even such things as are weak outwardly are in time strengthened. And rightly it is there added, Envy is the rottenness of the bones; because through the vice of spite what seems strong to human eyes perishes in the eyes of God. For the rotting of the bones through envy means that certain even strong things utterly perish.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1008: Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin(Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; Denzinger 1511).  Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin (Wis 2:23-24). “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered (GS 18, #2; 1 Cor 15:26).

Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 7: “God did not make death, andhe does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all thingsthat they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in theimage of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered theworld, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24).

The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life (cf. Gen 2:7; Wis 9:2-3), is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over man’s entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devil’s envy (cf. Gen 3:1, 4-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf.  Gen 2:17,). And death entered it in a violent way, through the killing of Abel by his brother Cain:”And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel,and killed him” (Gen 4:8).

This first murder is presented with singular eloquence in a page of the Book of Genesis which has universal significance: it is a pagerewritten daily, with inexorable and degrading frequency, in the book of human history.

Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 53: God proclaims that he is absolute Lord of the life ofman, who is formed in his image and likeness (cf.  Gen 1:26-28). Human lifeis thus given a sacred and inviolable character, which reflects the inviolability of the Creator himself. Precisely for this reason God will severely judge every violation of the commandment “You shall notkill”, the commandment which is at the basis of all life together in society. He is the “goel” (Hebrew גּאל,) the defender of the innocent (cf. Gen 4:9-15; Isa 41:14 Jer 50:34 Ps 19:14). God thus shows that he does not delight in the death of the living (cf.  Wis 1:13). Only Satan can delight therein: for through his envy death entered the world (cf.  Wis 2:24). He who is”a murderer from the beginning”, is also “a liar and the fatherof lies” (Jn 8:44). By deceiving man he leads him to projects of sin and death, making them appear as goals and fruits of life.

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ I-II, 81, 1: The Apostle says (Rom 5:12): “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death.” Nor can this be understood as denoting imitation or suggestion, since it is written (Wis 2:24): “By the envy of the devil, death came into this world.” It follows therefore that through origin from the first man sin entered into the world.

I answer that According to the Catholic Faith we are bound to hold that the first sin of the first man is transmitted to his descendants, by way of origin. For this reason children are taken to be baptized soon after their birth, to show that they have to be washed from some uncleanness. The contrary is part of the Pelagian heresy, as is clear from Augustine in many of his books [*For instance, Retract. i, 9; De Pecc. Merit. et Remiss. ix; Contra Julian. iii, 1; De Dono Persev. xi, xii.]In endeavoring to explain how the sin of our first parent could be transmitted by way of origin to his descendants, various writers have gone about it in various ways. For some, considering that the subject of sin is the rational soul, maintained that the rational soul is transmitted with the semen, so that thus an infected soul would seem to produce other infected souls. Others, rejecting this as erroneous, endeavored to show how the guilt of the parent’s soul can be transmitted to the children, even though the soul be not transmitted, from the fact that defects of the body are transmitted from parent to child—thus a leper may beget a leper, or a gouty man may be the father of a gouty son, on account of some seminal corruption, although this corruption is not leprosy or gout. Now since the body is proportionate to the soul, and since the soul’s defects redound into the body, and vice versa, in like manner, say they, a culpable defect of the soul is passed on to the child, through the transmission of the semen, albeit the semen itself is not the subject of the guilt.But all these explanations are insufficient. Because, granted that some bodily defects are transmitted by way of origin from parent to child, and granted that even some defects of the soul are transmitted in consequence, on account of a defect in the bodily habit, as in the case of idiots begetting idiots; nevertheless the fact of having a defect by the way of origin seems to exclude the notion of guilt, which is essentially something voluntary. Wherefore granted that the rational soul were transmitted, from the very fact that the stain on the child’s soul is not in its will, it would cease to be a guilty stain binding its subject to punishment; for, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 5), “no one reproaches a man born blind; one rather takes pity on him.”Therefore we must explain the matter otherwise by saying that all men born of Adam may be considered as one man, inasmuch as they have one common nature, which they receive from their first parents; even as in civil matters, all who are members of one community are reputed as one body, and the whole community as one man. Indeed Porphyry says (Praedic., De Specie) that “by sharing the same species, many men are one man.” Accordingly the multitude of men born of Adam, are as so many members of one body. Now the action of one member of the body, of the hand for instance, is voluntary not by the will of that hand, but by the will of the soul, the first mover of the members. Wherefore a murder which the hand commits would not be imputed as a sin to the hand, considered by itself as apart from the body, but is imputed to it as something belonging to man and moved by man’s first moving principle. In this way, then, the disorder which is in this man born of Adam, is voluntary, not by his will, but by the will of his first parent, who, by the movement of generation, moves all who originate from him, even as the soul’s will moves all the members to their actions. Hence the sin which is thus transmitted by the first parent to his descendants is called “original,” just as the sin which flows from the soul into the bodily members is called “actual.” And just as the actual sin that is committed by a member of the body, is not the sin of that member, except inasmuch as that member is a part of the man, for which reason it is called a “human sin”; so original sin is not the sin of this person, except inasmuch as this person receives his nature from his first parent, for which reason it is called the “sin of nature,” according to Ep 2,3: “We . . . were by nature children of wrath.”

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, II-II 36, 4: It does not follow from the passage quoted (from Pope Gregory the Great’s Moralia) that envy is the greatest of sins, but that when the devil tempts us to envy, he is enticing us to that which has its chief place in his heart, for as quoted further on in the same passage, “by the envy of the devil, death came into the world” (Sg 2,24).There is, however, a kind of envy which is accounted among the most grievous sins, viz. envy of another’s spiritual good, which envy is a sorrow for the increase of God’s grace, and not merely for our neighbor’s good. Hence it is accounted a sin against the Holy Ghost, because thereby a man envies, as it were, the Holy Ghost Himself, Who is glorified in His works.

Wis 3:1  But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.

Saint Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, The Seven Words on the Cross, chapter 19: We have come to the last word which our Lord pronounced. At the point of death Jesus, “crying with a loud voice said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). We will explain each word separately. “Father.” Deservedly does He call God His Father, for He was a Son who had been obedient to His Father even unto death, and it was proper that His last dying request, which was certain to be heard, should be prefaced by such a tender name. “Into Thy hands.” In the Sacred Scriptures the hands of God signify the intelligence and will of God, or in other words His wisdom and power, or, again, the intelligence of God which knows all things, and the will of God which can do all things. With these two attributes as with hands, God does all things, and stands not in need of any instruments in the accomplishment of His will. St. Leo says: “The will of God is His omnipotence.”  Consequently, with God to will is to do. “He hath done all things, whatsoever He would.” (Ps 115:3) “I commend.” I hand over to your keeping My life, with the sure faith of its being restored when the time of My resurrection shall come. “My Spirit.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this word. Ordinarily the word spirit is synonymous with soul, which is the substantial form of the body, but it can also mean life itself, since breathing is the sign of life. Those who breathe live, and those die who cease to breathe. If by the word spirit we here understand the Soul of Christ, we must take care not to think that His Soul at the moment of it’s separation from the Body was in any danger. We are accustomed to commend with many prayers and much anxiety the souls of the agonizing, because they are on the point of appearing at the tribunal of a strict Judge to receive the reward or the punishment of their thoughts, words, and deeds. The Soul of Christ was in no such need, both because it enjoyed the Beatific Vision from the time of its creation, was hypostatically united to the person of the Son of God, and could even be called the Soul of God, and also because it was leaving the body victorious and triumphant, an object of terror to the devils, not a soul to be scared by them. If the word spirit then is to be taken as synonymous with soul, the meaning of these words of our Lord, “I commend my spirit,” is that the Soul of Christ which was enclosed in the body as in a tabernacle was about to throw itself into the hands of the Father as into a place of trust until it should return to the body, according to the words of the Book of Wisdom: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God.” (Wis 3:1). However, the more generally accepted meaning of the word in this passage is the life of the body. With this interpretation the word may be thus amplified. I now give up My breath of life, and as I cease to breathe I cease to live. But this breath, this life I intrust to you, My Father, that in a short time you may again restore it to My Body. In your keeping nothing perishes. In you all things live. By a word you call into existence things which were not, and by a word you give life to those who had it not.

Wis 3:2  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:
Wis 3:3  And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.
Wis 3:4  And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.
Wis 3:5  Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself.
Wis 3:6  As gold in the furnace, he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust, he hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them.
Wis 3:7  The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.
Wis 3:8  They shall judge nations, and rule over people, and their Lord shall reign for ever.
Wis 3:9  They that trust in him shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love, shall rest in him: for grace and peace are to his elect.

Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, November 5, 2009“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God” (Wis 3:1). The First Reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, speaks of the righteous who are persecuted, unjustly put to death. But, the sacred Author emphasizes, even if their deaths occurred in circumstances so humiliating and painful as to seem shocking, in truth, for those who have faith this is not so, for “they are at peace”. And even if they undergo punishment in the eyes of men, “their hope is full of immortality” (Wis 3:3-4). The loss of loved ones is painful. The event of death is a disquieting enigma; but for believers, however it occurs, it is always illumined by the “hope of immortality”. Faith sustains us in these moments, charged with human sadness and discouragement. “In your eyes, life is not taken away but transformed,” the Liturgy recalls, “and whilst the land of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal home is being prepared in Heaven” (Preface, Mass for the Dead). Dear brothers and sisters, we know well and we experience in our own journeys that there is no lack of difficulties and problems in this life. There are situations of suffering and of pain, difficult moments to understand and accept. All this, however, acquires worth and meaning if it is considered in the perspective of eternity. In fact, every challenge, accepted with persevering patience and offered for the Kingdom of God, already works to our spiritual advantage here on earth and above all in the next life, in Heaven. In this world we are in transit; we are tested in the crucible like gold, as the Sacred Scripture affirms (cf.  Wis 3:6). United mysteriously to Christ’s passion, we can make of our existence a pleasing offering to the Lord, a voluntary sacrifice of love.

2 Responses to “My Own Catena Aurea on Wisdom 2:23-3:9”

  1. […] (Luke17:11-19) « St Cyril of Alexandria’s Exegetical Homily on Luke 17:1-6 My Own Catena Aurea on Wisdom 2:23-3:9 […]

  2. […] My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Wisdom 2:23-3:9). […]

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