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 January 20th, 2012

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 24:7-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 20, 2012

The commentary on the first 6 verses can be read here.

7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.

Notice, in the first place, the difference of our version from the Vulgate: Lift up, ye princes, your gates. Yet the sense is the same in both: whether the gates are called on to lift up themselves, or those who have the charge of them to throw them open. Now there are five principal meanings  which have been attached to this verse: we will take them in turn.

The first would apply to Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. There is no doubt that, originally referring to the ark, the Psalmist had an eye to its many wanderings through the forty years’ desert to Gilgal,  to Shiloh, in the land of the Philistines, to Kirjathjearim,  to the house of Obed-Edom, and now finally to its appointed resting-place in the hill of Sion (attributed to Paulus Burgensis). In like manner, after so many journeyings from Nazareth to the house of S. Elizabeth, back to Nazareth, to Bethlehem, into Egypt, to Nazareth again, and thenceforward through Judaea, and Samaria, and Galilee, our Lord now came up to His final earthly abode in Jerusalem. This interpretation, however, has received but very small support; and indeed is very mean compared with the others.

St Gregory, St Athanasius, St Peter Chrysologus: The second, which is received by very great authorities, in this sense would refer it to our Lord’s descent into Hell, His bursting the gates of brass, and smiting the bars of iron in sunder. To this the Latin Church would seem to appropriate it, by appointing this Psalm as one of those for the Second Nocturn for Easter Eve, with the antiphon from this verse. S. Epiphanius has a magnificent passage, in which he represents our Lord attended by an army of angels, Michael and Gabriel in the fore-ranks, demanding admission at hell-gate; bursting open the unwilling doors, tearing them from the hinges, casting them forth into the abyss, commanding that they shall never be raised any more. “Christ,” he exclaims, Christ, the Door, is present: unto God the Lord belong the issues of death.” In the same sense, Lævinus Torrentius, in one of his poems for Easter Eve, writes:

Ferali linquens pendentia stipite membra,
Spiritus infernas Victor adibit aquas:
Debellanda illic sæevi fera numina Ditis,
Magnaque de magna præda petenda domo.
Ite Duel comites! Nondum via trita : sed ipse,
Ipse per insuetum vos bene ducet iter.

Idiomela for the Great Sabbath: To the same effect the Eastern Church, on the great Sabbath, exclaims: “To-day, Hades groans and cries out, It had been profitable for me if I had never received Him That was born of Mary; for, coming upon me. He hath dissolved my strength. He hath broken the gates of brass: He, as God, hath raised up the souls which I before held. Glory, O Lord, to Thy Cross, and to Thy Resurrection! To-day, Hades groans and cries out, My might is dissolved: I receive to myself a mortal, as one of the dead; Him I can in no way have strength to hold, but I lose with Him those over whom I rule: I detain the dead for all ages, but behold, He raiseth up all. Glory, O Lord, to Thy Cross, and to Thy Resurrection! Of this day Moses beforehand spoke mystically as in a type: ‘And God blessed the seventh day.’ For this is that blessed Sabbath, this is that day of rest, in which the Only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works, keeping Sabbath in the flesh, on account of His device which He had devised concerning death; and returning back again to that which He was by His Resurrection, He hath bestowed on us the life which is eternal, as only good, and the Lover of men.”

“Therefore,” exclaims Gerhohus, “O infernal princes, at whose persuasion the Innocent suffered unjustly, now ye must lose even them whom ye appeared to possess by a kind of justice. Away, then, with your gates! speak no more of the cause which ye seem to have of justly detaining them! keep silence when He is at hand in Whom your prince, when he came, found nothing. Be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. It is a reiteration of the command: Let Pharaoh hear whose princes ye are. For our true Joseph, though sold, is yet alive, and hath dominion over all the land of Egypt, not only in the world, but also in hell. On His part we command you, be ye lift up, ye gates, that were subject to the hard bondage of the Egyptians; for they that were retained by them shall no longer groan under that domination, but, baptized in the Red Sea of the Blood of Christ, shall enter into the land of promise.”

St Basil, Theodoret, St Cyril of Alexandria, Tertullian, St Cyprian: The third signification would see in this verse the exclamation of the angels attending our ascended Lord. None can express this meaning more beautifully than our own Giles Fletcher:

Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates,
And let the Prince of Glory enter in!
At Whose brave volley of sidereal states,
The sun to blush, and stars grow pale, were seen;
When leaping first from earth He did begin
To climb His angel flight; then open hang
Your crystal doors: so all the chorus sang
Of heavenly birds, as to the stars they nimbly sprang.

Out leap the antique patriarchs all in haste,
To see the powers of hell in triumph led;
And with small stars a garland interchased
Of olive leaves they bore to crown His head,
That was before with thorns degloried:
After them flew the Prophets, brightly stoled
In shining lawn, and wimpled manifold,
Striking their ivory harps strung all in chords of gold.

Nor can the Martyrs’ wounds them stay behind;
But out they rush among the heavenly crowd,
Seeking their heaven out of their heaven to find;
Sounding their silver trumpets out so loud
That the shrill noise brake through the starry cloud;
And all the virgin souls, in pure array.
Came dancing forth, and making joyous play:
So Him they led along into the courts of day.

So Him they led into the courts of day,
Where never war nor wounds abide Him more;
But in that house eternal peace doth play,
Acquieting the souls that, new besore.
Their way to heaven through their own blood did score:
But now, estranged from all misery,
As far as heaven and earth discoasted lie,
They bathe in quiet waves of immortality.
(Christ’s Triumph After Death)

The King of Glory shall come in. “O Faith!” exclaims Gerhohus, “O eternal gate, by whose present vision thou art perfected and exalted! And Thou, O Hope of the elect, which, fixed on eternal blessings, canst never disappoint, now exult, now rejoice; for lo! the King of Glory is about to enter in, to disappoint His servants of no part of the blessings which have been promised by Thee.” And so the Eastern Church: ” To-day the heavenly powers beholding our nature exalted to heaven, and marvelling at the strange the Ascent, doubted and said one to’ the other, Who is this that is at hand? And beholding their own Lord, they exhorted each other to lift up the celestial gates. In company with whom we praise Thee ceaselessly, Thee Who wilt in the flesh come again from that place as Judge of all, and Almighty God” (from the Idiomela for the Ascension).

The fourth meaning is that of S. Augustine, but followed by few, though Venerable Bede accepts it. According to him, the princes are the kings of the world, now called, by accepting the Gospel, to permit the King of Glory to enter into their several territories. A very poor and unworthy sense.

The fifth meaning sees in the verse a prophecy of the Incarnation; and on this account it is, that, in the Mass of the Vigil of the Nativity, it forms the offertory. This sense is adopted by S. Jerome; though here also he would find a spiritual reference to the virtual opening of the gates of heaven by the fact of our Lord’s taking flesh upon Himself.

In all the services for the dedication of a Church, this verse has been prominently used; the entrance of the Lord into His new temple being regarded as symbolical of His entrance into the “house not made with hands, eternal in
the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). For those who may be interested: Psalm 24 is still used in the Divine Office for the Dedication of a Church; it’s the first Psalm used in the Office of Readings, followed by Psalms 84 and 87. The first reading is from 1 Peter 2:1-17. The reading for Evening Prayer I is Eph 2:19-22. the Psalms are 147:1-11; 147:12-20 and Rev 19:1-7. The Morning Prayer reading in the Office is Isaiah 56:7; the Mid-morning Prayer reading is 1 Cor 3:16-17; the Midday Prayer reading is 2 Cor 6:16; the Mid-afternoon Prayer reading is Jer 2b, 4-5a, 7a. The Psalms used during these prayer hours are identical to those used for Sunday, Week I of the Four Week Psalter. The Evening Prayer II reading is Rev 21:2-3, 22, 27.  The Psalm for Evening Prayer II are 46, 122, and Rev 19:1-7.

Origen, St Bruno the Carthusian: There is yet a sixth meaning attached to this verse. Ye who once were the slaves of sin, but are now not only free, but princes, as God’s kings and priests, lift up your gates, removing the barriers which sin puts between you and God, and those once gone, be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors of virtue and holiness, which cannot pass away, and then the King of Glory will enter His palace of the believing soul. The Mozarabic Missal employs the words in a further sense, in the course of a collect said just before the consecration of the elements into the Body and Blood of Christ.

8 Who is the King of glory: it is the Lord strong and mighty, even the Lord mighty in battle.

The explanation of this must of course depend on the meaning we have attached to the demand. St Peter Chrysologus, St Epiphanius: If that demand were addressed to the spirits of darkness, then the attendant angels may well speak of the victories won by the Lord in former days: won for His people Israel, when He overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,—when the walls of Jericho fell down at the blast of the trumpet,—when the seven nations were cast out before the chosen tribes: the victories over all their enemies, from the possession of Canaan till the overthrow of Antiochus. If we see in the demand the voice of the triumphant angels at the Ascension, well may they speak of the Lord mighty in battle, when Satan and all his hosts, when sin, and death, and hell have just been utterly vanquished. The words of Vieyra are well worth notice: “When Christ ascended in triumph to heaven, the angels accompanied Him said to them that kept the guard, Lift up, O ye princes, your gates, and the King of Glory shall come in. They think the term strange; and before opening the portal, they inquire, Quis est iste Rex Gloriæ? This Whom you call the King of Glory, Who is He? To the one, and for the other band, of angels, S. Augustine replies with these noble words: ‘The heavenly spirits beheld Christ all-glorious with His wounds; and bursting into admiration at those glittering standards of Divine virtue, they poured forth the hymn, Quis est iste Rex Gloriæ?  Wonderful saying! Christ our Lord, in the day of His Ascension, went arrayed with glorious gifts, like the Blessed One that He was; but the angels called Him not King of Glory because they saw Him glorious, but because they saw Him wounded. Far greater glory they were for Christ and for the angels, those marks of His Passion, than the endowments of His blessedness.”

Then, if we refer the former verse to the Annunciation, the question here is only that of S. Mary, Who is this King of Glory? And herein is the greatness of His love, that the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, did not abhor the Virgin’s womb, and vouchsafed to tabernacle there the appointed time. Ibi—and lay great stress on that adverb-

Ibi regem de Sion
Expavescit rex Ammon;
Ibi tremit Babylon,
Quia noster Solomon
Coronatur in Gihon.
(The Hymn Quando Noctis Medium)

9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.
10 Who is the King of glory: even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

Hugo of St Victor: There remains but one observation to be made on the repeated demand and reply. In the first the Lord, victorious over the grave, was ascending into heaven, alone, so far as  human nature was concerned— alone, so far as regards His faithful servants, yet bearing the burden and heat of the day, while He was entering into rest. But now we look forward to the end of the world. And behold, He reascends, not now by Himself, but with all the multitude of the redeemed, with all His saints, from the beginning of the world to the last that was written in the Book of Life. Well, therefore, was the reply to the first question,—”The Lord, strong and mighty;” for what greater proof of might than the overthrow of death and hell? And with equal force the second reply is. The Lord of hosts. He is the King of glory: when it is not a single warrior returning in triumph, but a mighty Chief, followed by the multitude of His victorious soldiers.  “And may the Lord of Hosts,” so a mediaeval preacher (St Fulbert) concludes his sermon on this verse, ” the true David, the Victor over the spiritual Goliath, the Founder of the everlasting city on Mount Sion, be to us the pacific Solomon, the Lord, yet in another sense, of Hosts, and introduce us one day into that land where Judah and Israel shall be as many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry!” (1 Kings 4:20).

And therefore: Glory be to the Father, Whose is the earth and all that therein is; and to the Son, the King of Glory; and to the Holy Ghost, the Righteousness of the God of our salvation. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.


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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 3:22-30 (with brief introductory by me on the thematic relationship of readings for Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time)

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 20, 2012

I’ve included some brief notes of my own on the thematic relationship between the First Reading, the Responsorial and the Gospel. The Catena Aurea follows after this.

Mark 3:22-30 is the Gospel reading for Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year II. The first reading is 2 Sam 5:1-7, 10. The Responsorial Psalm is 89:20, 21-22, 25-26. There are two major themes connecting the readings:

(1). the first reading concerns the reunification of the twelve tribes under the leadership of David, and this connects nicely with our Lord’s words in Mk 3:24-26~if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan be risen up against himself, he is divided, and cannot stand, but hath an end.

(2). Jesus’ words in Mk 3:27 that the  ισχυρον (ischyron) =  “strong man” (i.e., Satan) must first be bound calls to mind the Baptist’s description of Jesus in Mk 1:7 as the Mightier One (ο ισχυροτερος = ho ischyroteros). Jesus is the one whom must “first bind the strong man”, which he does by the power of the Spirit (Mk 3:27-29).  This relates nicely to the description of David as growing more and more powerful because the God of hosts was with him” (2 Sam 5:10). The antiphon in the Responsorial Psalm is taken from verse 25 of that Psalm and reminds us of God’s promise that his faithfulness and mercy would be with David and, by prophetic implication, with the Son of David. The Psalm itself speaks of David as a champion who is made strong (κατισχυσει = katischysei) by the hand and arm of God. The Greek text makes use of a word which is derived from the same root as “Mightier One” and “strong man” above (ἰσχύς = ischys). Likewise the Psalm speaks of the horn (κέρας = keras) of David being exalted, and image of power, might, strength.

22. And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils.”

Now there is a great difference between those who do not understand the word of God from slowness of intellect, such as those who are here spoken of (i.e., in verse 21), and those who purposely blaspheme (verse 22), of whom it is added, “And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem, &c.” For what they could not deny they endeavour to pervert by a malicious interpretation, as if they were not the works of God, but of a most unclean spirit, that is, of Beelzebub, who was the God of Ekrom.

For ‘Beel’ means Baal himself, and ‘zebub’ a fly; the meaning of Beelzebub therefore is, the man of flies, on account of the filth of the blood which was offered, from which most unclean rite, they call him prince of the devils, adding, “and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils.”

Pseudo-Jerome: But mystically, the house to which they came, is the early Church. The crowds which prevent their eating bread are sins and vices; for he who eateth unworthily, “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” [1 Cor 11:29]

Bede: The Scribes also coming down from Jerusalem blaspheme. But the multitude from Jerusalem, and from other regions of Judaea, or of the Gentiles, followed the Lord, because so it was to be at the time of His Passion, that a crowd of the people of the Jews should lead Him to Jerusalem with palms and praises, and the Gentiles should desire to see Him; but the Scribes and Pharisees should plot together for His death.

Ver 23. And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.25. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.26. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.27. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.28. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:29. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:”30. Because they said, “He hath an unclean spirit.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The blasphemy of the Scribes having been detailed, our Lord shews that what they said was impossible, confirming His proof by an example.

Wherefore it says, “And having called them together unto Him, He said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?” As if He had said, A kingdom divided against itself by civil war must be desolated, which is exemplified both in a house and in a city. Wherefore also if Satan’s kingdom by divided against itself, so that Satan expels Satan from men, the desolation of the kingdom of the devils is at hand.

But their kingdom consists in keeping men under their dominion. If therefore they are driven away from men, it amounts to nothing less [p. 66] than the dissolution of their kingdom. But if they still hold their power over men, it is manifest that the kingdom of evil is still standing, and Satan is not divided against himself.

Gloss.: And because He has already shewn by an example that a devil cannot cast out a devil, He shews how he can be expelled, saying, “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, &c.”

Theophylact: The meaning of the example is this: The devil is the strong man; his goods are the men into whom he is received; unless therefore a man first conquers the devil, how can he deprive him of his goods, that is, of the men whom he has possessed?

So also I who spoil his goods, that is, free men from suffering by his possession, first spoil the devils and vanquish them, and am their enemy. How then can ye say that I have Beelzebub and that being the friend of the devils, I cast them out?

Bede, in Marc., 1, 17: The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and his goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church.

Or, He has spoiled his house, because the four parts of the world, over which the old enemy had sway, He has distributed to the Apostles and their successors, that they may convert the people to the way of life.

But the Lord shews that they committed a great sin in crying out that which they knew to be of God, was of the devil, when He subjoins, “Verily, I say unto you, All sins are forgiven, &c.” All sins and blasphemies are not indeed remitted to all men, but to those who have gone through a repentance in this life sufficient for their sins; thus neither is Novatus right [ed. note: Novatus was a Carthaginian presbyter, who, after having abetted Felicissimus in his schism against St. Cyprian, came to Rome and joined Novatian against Pope Cornelius, A.D. 251. His error, which is here opposed to Origen’s, consisted in denying that Christ had left with His Church the power of absolving from certain sins, especially from apostasy.], who denied that any pardon should be granted to penitents, who had lapsed in time of martyrdom; nor Origen, who asserts that after the general judgment, after the revolution of ages, all sinners will receive pardon for their sins, which error the following words of the Lord condemn, when He adds, “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, &c.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He says indeed, that blasphemy concerning Himself was pardonable, because He then seemed to be a man despised and of the most lowly birth, but, that contumely against God has no remission. Now blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is against God, for the operation of the Holy Ghost is the kingdom of God; and for this reason, He says, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost cannot be remitted. Instead, however, of what is here added, “But will be in danger of eternal damnation,” another Evangelist says, “Neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” By which is understood, the judgment which is according to the law, and that which is to come.

For the law orders one who blasphemes God to be slain, and in the judgment of the second law he has no remission. However, he who is baptized is taken out of this world; but the Jews were ignorant of the remission which takes place in baptism. [ed. note: A few words are left out in the Catena, which occur in Victor, and which do away with the obscurity of the passage. The missing of the whole is, that though there is no remission either in this world or in the next, yet that baptism is, as it were, a space between the two worlds, where remission can be obtained. The reason, therefore, why this blasphemy could not be remitted, was, because the Jews would not come to Christ’s baptism.]

He therefore who refers to the devil miracles, and the casting out of devils which belong to the Holy Ghost alone, has no room left him for remission of his blasphemy. Neither does it appear that such a blasphemy as this is remitted, since it is against the Holy Ghost.  Wherefore he adds, explaining it, “Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”

Theophylact: We must however understand, that they will not obtain pardon unless they repent. But since it was at the flesh of Christ that they were offended, even though they did not repent, some excuse was allowed them, and they obtained some remission.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or this is meant; that he will not deserve to work out repentance, so as to be accepted, who, understanding who Christ was, declared that He was the prince of the devils.

Bede: Neither however are those, who do not believe the Holy Spirit to be God, guilty of an unpardonable blasphemy, because they were persuaded to do this by human ignorance, not by devilish malice.Augustine, Serm., 71, 12, 22: Or else impenitence itself is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which hath no remission. For either in his thought or by his tongue, he speaks a word against the Holy Ghost, the forgiver of sins, who treasures up for himself an impenitent heart.

But he subjoins, “Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit,” that he might shew that His reason for saying it, was their declaring that He cast out a devil by Beelzebub, not because there is a blasphemy, which cannot be remitted, since even this might be remitted through a right repentance; but the cause why this sentence was put forth by the Lord, after mentioning the unclean spirit, (who as our Lord shews was divided against himself,) was, that the Holy Ghost even makes those whom He brings together undivided, by His remitting those sins, which divided them from Himself, which gift of remission is resisted by no one, but him who has the hardness of an impenitent heart.

For in another place, the Jews said of the Lord, that He had a devil [John 7:20], without however His saying any thing there about the blasphemy against the Spirit; and the reason is, that they did not there cast in His teeth the unclean spirit, in such a way, that spirit could by their own words be shewn to be divided against Himself, as Beelzebub was here shewn to be, by their saying, that it might be he who cast out devils. [ed. note: St. Augustine explains his meaning by going on to say, that as the Devil was proved by the words of the Jews to be the author of division, so the Holy Ghost was the author of unity, so that one form of blasphemy of the Holy Ghost was rending the unity of the Church, without which there is no remission. St. Ambrose, something in the same way, applies the text to the Arians, as dividing the Holy Trinity, de Fide, i, 1.]

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