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

Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 4:4-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2012

4:4. Rejoice in the Lord always; I say again, rejoice.

Trouble and sorrow spring continually from the vexations and disappointments of daily life. But the Christian is nevertheless, in all reason and all duty, called upon to rejoice always and continually on account of the glorious hope that is set before him, his adoption to be the child of God, the merit of suffering endured for Christ’s sake. But it is in these privileges and hopes he is to rejoice, and not, like the Gentiles, in worldly prosperity, pleasure, or success. Rejoice in the Lord, and especially in your communion
with him through the holy Sacraments and prayer. And since, when sufferings increase and multiply, they seem sometimes hard to bear, and we are instinctively tempted to murmur and complain, therefore I say again, in spite of them all, still rejoice. Or rather, rejoice on account of them, for suffering is the seed from which glory will spring up, and our momentary and light affliction will produce an infinite weight of glory hereafter (see 2 Cor 4:17). Rejoice, partaking the sufferings of Christ; for if we suffer with him, we shall also with him be glorified. Your cause of joy is greater than your cause of mourning, whatever that may be, as heaven is higher than earth, and eternity longer than time.

4:5.  Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is near.

Yet let this rejoicing be manifested and expressed with modesty, decorum, and sobriety, in the sight of all men. For the Lord is near. He will soon come to render you the reward you look for, to set you free from all pain and suffering for ever, to vindicate your confidence in him, and to judge the world which hates you.  This is an additional reason for rejoicing; your Lord is coming; he is almost come. But it is also a reason for sobriety, gravity, quiet and patient expectation. Let your loins be girded, and your torches lighted in your hands, Luke 12:35.

4:6.  In nothing be solicitous: but in all prayer and entreaty, with thanksgiving, let your petitions become known before God.

In nothing he solicitous. For the Lord is near, and all the system of this mortal life is shortly to close and terminate. In a very short time you must leave everything you possess. The Saviour you look for from heaven will crown your patience and your toils. There is, therefore, no room for solicitude regarding temporal things. As we now know, the coming of the Lord was not near in the literal sense in which the Apostle seems to have expected it, for centuries have rolled by, and he is not yet come. This contingency is, however, provided for in the words that follow. In all, at all times, on all occasions, in every business, let your petitions become known in the presence of God, and rise before his throne. The word all should not be joined with prayer, the adjective and substantive being of different genders in the Greek; at all times by prayer. And with thanksgiving, because the omnipotence and the mercy of God render it certain that your prayers will be heard and granted, if not precisely in the terms of your petition, in some still better way. Saint Chrysostom observes that we are in reason and duty bound to give thanks to God for all things, even trouble and affliction, because we can be by faith firmly persuaded that all things will turn to our advantage and eternal profit, though we do not always understand how. Prayers, he adds, that are thus accompanied with thanksgiving, God accepts and recognises, and they become known before the presence of God, otherwise he will not always notice them.

4:7.  And may the peace of God, which exceeds all sense, keep your hearts and your understanding, in Jesus Christ.

The peace of God, the knowledge and conviction that you are at peace with God, which is a source of comfort and satisfaction greater than the intelligence can understand, keep your hearts and minds. The Greek text and the Syriac read shall keep. As a garrison keeps a fortress, safe from the assaults of despondency and sorrow, doubt or unbelief. In Christ Jesus, by the power of Christ, and by thje assurance of his divine compassion and human sympathy.

8. For the rest, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever modest, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovely, whatever of good fame; if there is any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.

For the rest, brethren. This is the second time the Apostle has begun anew with these words : In Philippians 3:1, he said, For the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord, and then he proceeded to show how and why; because by standing firm in the faith of Christ and in the communion of his true Church, we are assured of sharing the glory of his resurrection. Now, in concluding, he still finds a few more words to say. He has told the Philippians what to believe, what to expect, what to do, and whom to imitate; now he tells them what to think of. For the direction of the mind, and choice of subjects of reflection, are to a great extent in our own power. The human mmd, in waking hours, is ceaselessly active, and many more thoughts pass through its wonderful mechanism than can be communicated in speech to others. It is a common remark that we could easily tell the character and disposition of any man if we knew what he habitually thinks of. What a Christian should habitually think of, St. Paul tells us in these well-known words. All things that are true. We know what is true about Almighty God, his power, his wisdom, his goodness, and providence. And we know what is true of ourselves. But about our neighbour we know not what is true, because we cannot see his heart, and our judgment of him will therefore most likely not be among the things that are true. All things that are modest, in the Greek σεμνα (semna) means worthy of respect, honour, and veneration. All things just, dwelling on the good we see, rather than the evil. All things holy; the present Greek text has pure, αγνα (agna). The translator of the Vulgate seems to have read αγια (agia=holy); but that which is holy is pure, and that which is pure is holy, and in the result it will be very much the same. All things lovely, or amiable; all things that are good and beautiful, as all God’s works are, as they came from his hands, and when they are not degraded by sin. All that is of good fame; held in honour and respect among men. For the human heart, in all its ruin, although it has lost the power of attaining and accomplishing what is truly good and noble, has never lost its appreciation of it, and admiration for it; and by this faculty the pagan world turned to Jesus Christ, when they knew him, and adored and acknowledged him as the ideal and crown of perfection, the embodiment of the divine in human nature. That which men acknowledge that they truly reverence and hold in honour, will not be an unfit subject of Christian meditation. If there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, the subjugation of vice, the triumph of the spiritual over the lower nature, in any instances we know or hear of: think of these things. The words of discipline are not in the Greek, and are added by the Vulgate. But it is probable also that the Apostle says all this in a practical sense. Think on these things to do them, cogitate, habitually plan and purpose, to act with sincerity and honesty, with chastity and modesty, truth and justice, as becomes believers in Jesus Christ, cultivating the manners and dispositions which give you favour with God and man, which will render your name and reputation an honour to the faith you profess. Imitate the holy examples of the Saints, who by the discipline of the Christian life have triumphed over sin. The religious life undoubtedly affords the fullest and fairest opportunity for cultivating such habits of thought as these; and they are happy whom God has called to lead thus on earth the life of angels. But to all Christians, even in the secular life, St. Paul has given, in these words, a standard to aim at, and a guide to follow. The lives of the Saints who have flourished in this mortal life, and entered Paradise, since the great Apostle lived on earth, and which have been so amply recorded for our devotion, afford an unfailing store of illustration of these beautiful words, of instances, multiplied and varied by every variety of human character and disposition, and of outward circumstances, of all that is lovely, and of good fame, of the victory of virtue, and the praise of discipline.

9. Those things also which you learned, and received, and heard, and saw in me, these do; and the God of peace will be with you.

What you learned from my teaching when I was at Philippi; what you have read in this Epistle; what you have heard of me during my absence from you; what you saw in me while I was with you; this do. Do what I have preached and written, said and done. This, St. Chrysostom observes, is the best way of teaching, namely by example. And we have in these words the three great rules of Christian belief and life; namely, the doctrine preached or written by the Apostles in their own words; Apostolic tradition; and the life and example of the Apostles. It is indeed not usual for a Christian teacher to hold himself forth as a model of perfect practice. What the Apostle means is that there were others professing to be Christian teachers who taught a very different doctrine and exhibited a very different example, and that systematically, and that these heretical guides were to be avoided and his own example followed.

2 Responses to “Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 4:4-9”

  1. […] Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 4:4-9. […]

  2. […] Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 4:4-9. […]

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