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 2 Corinthians 10:17-18, 11:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 8, 2012

2Co 10:17  But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Let him glory in truth as before the Lord. Secondly, and better, to glory in the Lord is to glory with the glory given by the Lord, which alone commends a man, and vouches for him by the wonders which it works through him. This is the genuine meaning, for S. Paul contrasts glorying in one’s self with glorying in the Lord. To glory in self is to commend self; to glory in the Lord is to be commanded by the Lord, and to glory in that commendation. Still it follows from this, thirdly, that he who truly glories should glory not in himself but in the Lord, by referring all that has been received to Him, whose gifts they are, by giving to Him all the glory, and directing everything to His praise and glory (Chrysostom).

By these words the Apostle shows where, when, and in what we should glory, and at the same time clears himself of all charge of ostentation and desire of vain-glory. He says implicitly: These great and fine things I say about myself, not because I wish to glory in myself, but because I wish to give the praise to the Lord, from whom I have received all my glory, and the ground of my glorying. Cf. 1 Cor 1:31, note.

Learn from this that true praise and glory come from God alone, and far excel all human glory; for, (1.) man’s praise is but small and poor, men being but worms of earth; but God’s glory is, as He is, boundless. (2.) Man’s glory is outward and apparent only—within it is empty and ready to vanish away; but God’s glory is inward and substantial; hence it fills and satisfies the soul. (3.) Man’s glory is untrustworthy, feigned, and hypocritical—many laugh at you behind your back while praising you to your face; but God’s glory is faithful and true. (4.) Man’s glory is unstable, and, like a reed, is shaken by the slightest breath of rumour—they who praise you to-day will rail at you to-morrow; but God’s glory is stable and constant. (5.) Man’s glory is short-lived: mortals to die to-morrow praise you, and your praise will die with them. Where now are the praises of Cæsar, Pompey, Augustus? They have passed away—they are gone like smoke; but the praise of God is eternal. God will praise thee for ever before the angels and blessed ones, because thou didst despise the worlds glory, and sought for that true glory which lasts for ever with God. (6.) Man’s glory is imperfect, maimed, and alloyed; a man is praised by some, blamed by others; as many men as there are, so many opinions and judgments are there. God’s glory is entire and perfect, for whoever God praises is praised also by the inhabitants of heaven. (7.) Man’s glory is erroneous and groundless. Men glorify the high-born, the rich, the powerful, even if they be villains, crime-stained, and tyrants. God’s glory is most true and most certain, for He praises none but those endowed with virtue and true wisdom. Again, men glory in themselves, in their sagacity, virtue, fortitude—all things of naught; and therefore they glory in what is false, in nothing, in what is not. God’s glory is to glory in God, of whom is all good and from whom flow all things to us, and to say, “Not unto us, not unto us, 0 Lord, but unto Thy name give the praise.” (8.) Man’s glory stands in the mouth of them that praise, confers no benefit on thee, impresses on thee no good. Therefore it is not in thee, but in Him that glorifies thee; just as honour is not in him that is honoured, but in him that confers it. But God’s glory is both in God and in thee, for it is efficacious and fruitful. God does not merely beatify thee in thy soul with the light of glory, and in thy body with glorious gifts, but He communicates to the Blessed His own very Divine and uncreated glory, to be possessed and enjoyed. Oh, blind and insensate children of Adam, by nature greedy of praise, created and born to glory! Why do ye not seek after glory instead of its smoke and shadows? Why strive for what is false and fallacious and leave the true? Why seek for glory where it is not? You seek it on earth: it is not there, but in heaven. You seek it among men: it dwells among the angels and before God. You seek it in time: it is found in eternity. Thou, then, 0 Lord, art my glory; Thou art the joy of my heart. In thee will I glory and exalt all the day long. For myself I will glory in nothing save my infirmities. Let Jews, let worldly men seek glory from one another. I will require that which is from God alone. All human glory, all worldly honour, all temporal heights, when compared with Thy eternal glory are but vanity, foolishness, and reproach. 0 my Truth, my Mercy, my Glory, my God, 0 Blessed Trinity, to Thee alone be praise, honour, and glory; to Thee alone be blessing, wisdom, and thanksgiving; to Thee, our God, be honour, virtue, and strength for ever and ever. Amen.

2Co 10:18  For not he who commendeth himself is approved: but he, whom God commendeth.

For not he that commendeth himself is approved. How is it, then, that Saints have sometimes commended themselves, as, e.g., Hezekiah, in Isa 38:3, and S. Paul in the next chapter, and in 2 Tim 4.? I answer, They do indeed commend themselves, but at the same time they tacitly refer all their praise to God’s grace as its first cause, and say: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Again, this self-commendation came not from themselves, but was inspired into them by the Holy Spirit, who spoke by their mouth. The Holy Spirit suggested to each writer of the Holy Scriptures what he should write.

2Co 11:1  Would to God you could bear with some little of my folly! But do bear with me.

Would to God you could bear with some little of my folly! In my boasting, which sounds like folly. It is, however, a mark of the highest wisdom on my part, for I do it out of zeal to protect the faith of the Gospel against the false apostles (Chrysostom and Anselm).  S. Paul anticipates an objection: he is about to praise himself, and he meets beforehand any charge of vainglory or self-seeking. The last clause, “and indeed bear with me,” may be also indicative, and then it is a correction to his request for forbearance: “I need hardly make such a request: you do indeed bear with me.”

At the commencement of his self-praise he thrice excuses himself: (1.) by saying, “Would ye could bear with me;” (2.) by calling himself foolish; (3.) when he says. “I am jealous over you”—he takes such pains to excuse himself that the Corinthians may see the violence he does to his feelings when he descends to self-praise. Chrysostom says: “Just as a horse, when about to leap some deep and precipitous ravine, collects its strength, as though it would cross it at a bound, but when it looks down on the yawning gulf refuses the leap; then, under the spur of the rider, approaches again and admits its ability to leap and the necessity of it by standing still for a time, till at last it takes courage, and of its own accord boldly makes the attempt; so too S. Paul, like one about to throw himself over a precipice, when going to sing his own praises, retreats once, twice, and thrice, and at length falls to the task of praising himself.”

2Co 11:2  For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ

For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God.  I cannot endure any rivals, such as these false apostles, who seek to seduce you. Paul calls his great and unbounded love “jealousy,” implying that he seeks to be first in the affections of the Corinthians.  S. Chrysostom remarks on this jealousy being a jealousy of God, which implies that Paul does not seek the bride for himself but for Christ and God—not for his own glory, pleasure, or gain. Christ is the Bridegroom, he is but the paranymph.

For I have espoused you to one husband. “I have fitted you” (Augustine, contra Manich. lib. ii.); “I have prepared you” (Ambrose); “I have united you ” (Theophylact). The Greek verb may well bear the three meanings of, “I have invited you,” “I have betrothed you,” I have united you in wedlock.” The three duties of the paranymph are: (1.) to gain the maiden’s affections for the bridegroom, and to do all he can to get her to be the wife of his friend; (2.) to see that she is espoused to him; and, (3.) when betrothed, to unite them in marriage. S. Paul says in effect: I, as the paranymph of a spiritual marriage, have by my preaching betrothed you to one husband, Christ, and by betrothing you I have persuaded you to present yourselves to Christ as His espoused bride. Or better still, with Anselm and Theophylact: I have now espoused you to Christ through baptizing you into the Christian faith, that I may show you, or present you in the day of judgment, as virgins, i.e., pure in faith, hope, and charity, fitted for the nuptial couch of the glory of Christ.

Chrysostom remarks that the betrothal takes place in this life, the union in the next, when the espoused Church, i.e., all the elect, shall be brought to the marriage of the Lamb and the eternal kingdom (Rev 21:2).

The Church of Corinth is described by S. Paul as the virgin spouse of Christ, whose paranymph he is. Then he transfers to himself the jealous love of the Bridegroom, and protests against Christ’s bride being stolen by false apostles, and handed over to the tender mercies of heretics. Just as true Apostles and preachers are paranymphs of Christ and His Church (S. John 3:29), so, on the other hand, false preachers are Satan’s panders.

This passage of the espousal of the Church and each faithful soul is famous and full of consolation. It has been commented on beautifully by most of the Fathers, and still is frequently treated in pulpits and elsewhere. That it may be clearly and fully understood, let us then dwell on it a little more at length.

Observe, then, firstly, that this espousal takes place by faith and hope and other virtues. For, as S. Augustine says (Tract. xiii. in Johan.), “the mind’s virginity consists in perfect faith, well-grounded hope, and unfeigned love.” On the other hand, the soul becomes an adulteress or prostitute when she consents to unbelief, to sin, to the suggestions and wiles of the devil. “If, therefore,” says Origen (Hom. 12 in Lev 2), “you have admitted an adulterous devil into the chamber of your soul, then your soul has committed fornication with the devil. If there has entered there the spirit of anger, envy, pride, uncleanness, and you have welcomed in and listened to its words, and taken pleasure in its suggestions, then you have committed fornication with him.”

Secondly, this betrothal makes the goods of each common to both, and therefore endows the Church and each faithful soul with the abundant riches of Christ. Hence, since the Bridegroom is a King, He makes His bride, even if she be a slave, however lowly and poor she be, a queen. S. Basil (de Vita Virgin.) says, quoting Ps 45~ “Upon thy right hand did stand the queen, in a vesture of gold wrought about with divers colours. Wherefore, she who now is counted vile for her sordid dress and servile habit, is ennobled by her station at the King’s hand, and found in the kingdom of heaven to be a queen. Let her, then, despise all visible things, and with open face beholding her Spouse, let her be filled with His love, and make all her faculties His handmaidens. In no respect should a virgin be an adulteress, not in tongue, in ears, eyes, or any other sense, no, nor yet in thought; but let her keep her body as a temple, or bride-chamber ready for her Spouse. No unfaithfulness can escape the eye of Him of whom it is said, ‘He that planted the ear, shall He not hear; or He that made the eye, shall He not see.”

S. Bernard (Serm. 2, Domin. 1, post Epiph.) thus describes the election, dignity, and glory of this bride: “For the sake of that Ethiopian woman, the Son of God came from afar to espouse her to Himself. Moses, indeed, married an Ethiopian wife, but her colour he could not change; but Christ, loving the Church, who till then was contemptible and foul, presented her to Himself, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Whence, 0 human soul, whence comes this to thee? Whence is the inestimable glory of meriting to be His spouse on whom the angels desire to gaze? Whence is it to thee that thou art the spouse of Him, whose beauty sun and moon wonder at, at whose will all things are changed? . . . What reward, then, will you give unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto you, in making you a sharer of His table, of His Kingdom, of His chamber? See with what arms of love should He be in turn lovingly embraced, who has thought so much of you, and made you so great. Leave all carnal affections, forget all worldly ways, undo all evil habits. For what thinkest thou? Does not the angel of the Lord stand ready to cut thee asunder, if perchance, which may He prevent, thou admittest any other lover?” Then he goes on to describe the nuptial feast: “Now thou art espoused to Him, now the wedding feast is being celebrated, for the banquet is prepared in heaven. There the wine will not fail for we shall be inebriated with the fulness of the house of Gad, and shall drink of the torrent of His pleasure. For that marriage, truly, there is got ready a river of wine, which maketh glad the heart, an impetuous stream, which maketh glad the city of God.”

Thirdly, be it observed that from this betrothal and union of the soul to God, the fairest offspring are born. Origen (Hom. 20 in Num 25) thus Describes them. “When the soul, therefore, clings to her Spouse, and listens to His voice, and embraces Him, she doubtless receives from Him seed, even as He said: ‘Of Thy fear, 0 Lord, have I conceived in the womb, and brought forth, and caused on the earth the spirits of Thy salvation.’ Thence will proceed a noble offspring—thence will be born chastity, righteousness, patience, meekness, and charity, and a fair family of all the virtues. . . . But if the unhappy soul forsakes the chaste embraces of the Divine Word, and surrenders herself to the devil’s adulterous endearments, without a doubt she will bring forth children, but they will be such as those of whom it is written: ‘The adulterous children shall be imperfect, and the seed of the wicked bed shall be destroyed.’ All sins, therefore, are children of adultery and fornication.”

Fourthly, although this espousal is brought about by any virtues, yet the chief agent among them is charity. Charity carries with it towards God all the powers and affections of the soul, so much so that the more charity increases in a soul, the more closely is that soul united to God. Hence those whose souls are on fire with charity, and who are ever exercising themselves in it, enjoy the bliss of betrothal to God and the possession of His nuptial gifts of Divine joys. For charity is a marriage-union, the welding of two wills, the Divine and human, into one, whereby God and man mutually agree in all things. Hence springs familiar intercourse between the soul and God, hence spring peace and a wondrous delight of the soul. So great becomes the thirst for the Divine love that all other affections of the soul are absorbed in it and lost in God. S. Bernard (Serm. 38 Cantic.) says: “Such conformity weds the soul to the Word, that, though naturally like Him, she none the less exhibits that likeness in the will, by loving as she has been loved. If, then, she loves perfectly, she is wedded to Him. What is more pleasant than this conformity? what more to be longed for than this charity? By it it comes to pass that you are not content, 0 my soul, to rest on human teaching, but you boldly approach the Word, and cling closely to Him, hang lovingly on His lips, and consult Him on everything. You are as bold in your longings will allow. Surely this is a holy and spiritual wedding contract. Contract, do I say?—nay, it is an embrace; for where the same will to have or not have is, where one spirit is made out of two, there there must have been an embrace. Nor need we fear that the disparity of the persons can make this union of wills imperfect, for love knows no fear. Love is self-sufficient: wherever he comes he draws to himself and makes prisoners all the other affections. Therefore she loves what he loves, and knows nought else. There is a bride and there is a bridegroom. What other relation or connection do you seek between them that are wedded than that of loving and being loved?”

If you say that the soul is so far inferior to God in its nature and love as to make it impossible for friendship to exist between them, and much less betrothal and marriage union, all of which can only be between equals, then S. Bernard replies: “It is true that there is not the same copious flow in the soul that Loves as in Love Himself, in the soul as in the Word, and in the bride as in the Bridegroom, in the creature as in the Creator, ably more than there is the same in him that is athirst and the spring that quenches his thirst. But what of that? Are we therefore to lose and see destroyed utterly the devotion of her that is about to wed, the desire of the longing soul—the eagerness of the lover, the confidence of one that boldly draws near—just because a dwarf cannot run on equal terms with a giant, because sweetness cannot rival honey, gentleness cannot compare with a lamb, whiteness with the lily, brightness with the sun, charity with Him who is charity? No, for though the creature’s love is less because it is itself less, yet if it loves with all its might, it withholds nothing, and its love is entire. Therefore have I said, ‘So to love is to be wedded already,’ unless any one doubt that the soul is first loved and more loved by the Word. But truly He prevents and surpasses the soul in love. Happy the soul that has merited to be prevented with the blessings of goodness.”

Fifthly, it follows that this espousal is most perfectly brought about by virginity and vows of chastity and religion.  S. Augustine (Tract. 9 in Johan.) says: “They who vow to God virginity, although they may hold a higher position of honour and dignity in the Church, yet are they not without nuptials; for they belong to those nuptials in which the whole Church is united to Christ as her Bridegroom.” And the reason is, that as a bride gives her heart and all her goods to her husband, so does a virgin, or a religious, consecrate herself and all that she has to Christ. Hence religion is called and is a state of perfection, or of perfect charity. Moreover, as a bride in contracting matrimony says. “I take thee for mine,” so does a religious say: “I vow to God poverty, chastity, obedience,” and by these she is bound to Christ as a wife to her husband. Hence Tertullian (de Veland. Virgin. c. 16) says: “Thou hast been wedded to Christ, thou hast committed to Him thy body; thou hast betrothed to Him the bloom of thy life; walk, therefore, according to the will ,of thy Spouse.” For this reason S. Jerome (Ep. 27) dared to call the mother of a virgin consecrated to God, “God’s mother-in-law,” and for this he was found fault with hypercritically by Ruffinus. A ring used to be given to virgins, in token that by it they were betrothed to Christ. “He gave me a ring,” says S. Agnes (Ambrose, Serm. 90), “as an earnest of my betrothal to His faith.” For this virgins were given veils, even as those who are married to husbands, and that solemnly, by priests, on appointed days alone, as Gelasius says (ad Episc. Lucaniæ, c. 14), and Optatus Milevit. (lib. 6). He says: “Spiritual wedlock is of this kind. In will and profession they had already come to be betrothed to their spouse; and to show that they had abjured all secular nuptials, they had cut off their hair for their spiritual Bridegroom, and had already celebrated their heavenly nuptials.” Ambrose (ad Virg. Lapsam) says: “She who has betrothed herself to Christ, and received the sacred veil, is already wedded, is already united to an immortal husband; and if she now wishes to marry under the common law, she commits adultery, and is made the handmaiden of death.” S. Cyprian too (Ep. 62) calls such lapsed virgins adulteresses. From all this it is evident, whatever Marloratus may say, that the Church applies this passage of the Apostle to virgins, and reads it as the Epistle in the Mass of Holy Virgins.

Let these virgins ponder this, and recognise their dignity, so as to religiously keep these nuptials pure, and give themselves wholly to their one Bridegroom, Christ.  S. Jerome says to Eustochius: “Hear, 0 daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father’s house, and then shall the King take pleasure in thy beauty. It is not enough for thee to leave thy land, unless thou also forget thy own peop1e and thy father’s house, and, despising the flesh, yield thyself to the embraces of thy spouse. You will say perhaps: ‘I have come from the house of my shame; I have forgotten the house of my father; I am born again in Christ. What reward for this am I to receive?’ It tells you: ‘So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty.’ This then is a great sacrament: there-fore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cling to his wife, and they twain shall be not one flesh but one spirit. Thy Spouse is not haughty; He has married an Ethiopian woman. As soon as you desire to hear the wisdom of the true Solomon and come to Him, He will tell you all that He knows; He will as a King lead you into His chamber, and thy colour being wondrously changed, the words will apply to you, ‘Who is this that cometh up all white?’ . . . The bride of Christ is, like the Ark of the Covenant, covered within and without with gold, the guardian of the law of the Lord. As in it there was nothing save the tables of the law, so in thee let there be no other thought. Over this mercy-seat, as upon the cherubim, the Lord wills to sit. The Lord wishes to set you free from earthly cares, that leaving the bricks and straw of Egypt, you may follow Moses in the wilderness and enter the Promised Land. Whenever in your virgin breast there rages anxiety about earthly business, immediately the veil of the temple is rent in twain, your Bridegroom rises in wrath and says: ‘Your house is left unto you desolate’ . . . Do thou once for all cast aside every burden of the world, sit at the feet of thy Lord, and say: ‘I have found Him in whom my soul delighteth; I have held Him fast; I will not let Him go.’ He will answer: ‘My dove, any undefiled, is but one.’ Let the secret places of thy chamber ever keep thee, let thy Spouse ever play with thee within. When thou prayest thou speakest to thy Spouse. When thou readest He speaks to thee; and when sleep oppresses thee, He will come behind the wall; and when thou art awakened thou wilt say: ‘I am sick with love,’ and in return thou wilt hear Him say: ‘A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse.'”

That I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. There is something strange in such a marriage. “In the world,” says Theophylact after Chrysostom, “brides do not remain virgins after marriage. But Christ’s brides, as before marriage they were not virgins, so after marriage they become virgins most pure in faith, whole, and uncorrupt in life. So is the whole Church a virgin.” “The virginity of the flesh,” says S. Augustine (in Senten. 79), “is an undefiled body; the virginity of the soul is uncorrupted faith.”

S. Paul converted to Christ at Iconium that most illustrious virgin Thecla: he drew her from marriage and espoused her to Christ.  S. Gregory of Nyssa is our authority for this. He says (Hom. 4 in Cantic.): “Such myrrh did Paul once pour from his mouth, mingled with the pure lily of chastity, into the ears of a holy virgin. That virgin was Thecla, who, as the drops fell from the lily into her soul, to her salvation put to death the outward man and quenched the heat of lust within.” S. Epiphanius too (Hæres. 78) says: “Thecla fell in with S. Paul, and was by him set free from wedlock, though she had a husband at once surpassingly handsome, rich, nobly-born, and famous.” S. Augustine (contra Faustum, lib. xxx. c. 4) says: “This Saint in her lifetime despised all earthly things, that she might gain possession of things heavenly, and, though bound in wedlock, she was kindled by the eloquence of S. Paul with love of life-long virginity.” Through this Thecla overcame fire, lions, bulls, and serpents, and when thrown for her virginity into the midst of flames, she, like asbestos, remained unharmed. So did S. Paul arm the harlot Poppæa and virgins against the blandishments of Nero, to despise his embraces and dedicate themselves to Christ. For this he was condemned by Nero to the sword, and obtained the martyr’s and virgin’s crown, and therefore from his neck there flowed, when his head was cut off, a stream of white milk instead of red blood.

5 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10:17-18, 11:1-2”

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