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

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 6:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 19, 2012

Ver 16. “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Pseudo-Chrys.: Forasmuch as that prayer which is offered in a humble spirit and contrite heart, shews a mind already strong and disciplined; whereas he who is sunk in self-indulgence cannot have a humble spirit and contrite heart; it is plain that without fasting prayer must be faint and feeble; therefore, when any would pray for any need in which they might be, they joined fasting with prayer, because it is an aid thereof. Accordingly the Lord, after His doctrine respecting prayer, adds doctrine concerning fasting, saying, “When ye fast, be not ye as the hypocrites, of sad countenance.” The Lord knew that vanity may spring from every good thing, and therefore bids us root out the bramble of vain-gloriousness which springs in the good soil, that it choke not the fruit of fasting. For though it cannot be that fasting should not be discovered in any one, yet is it better that fasting should shew you, than that you should shew your fasting.

But it is impossible that any in fasting should be gay, therefore He said not, Be not sad, but “Be not made sad;” for they who discover themselves by any false displays of their affliction, they are not sad, but make themselves; but he who is naturally sad in consequence of continued fasting, does not make himself sad, but is so.

Jerome: The word, “exterminare,” so often used in the ecclesiastical Scriptures though a blunder of the translators, has a quite different meaning from that in which it is commonly understood. It is properly said of exiles who are sent beyond the boundry of their country. Instead of this word, it would seem better to use the word, “demoliri,” ‘to destroy,’ in translating the Greek . The hypocrite destroys his face, in order that he may feign sorrow, and with a heart full of joy wears sorrow in his countenance.

Greg., Mor., viii, 44: For by the pale countenance, the trembling limbs, and the bursting sighs, and by all so great toil and trouble, nothing is in the mind but the esteem of men.

Leo, Serm. in Epiph., iv, 5: But that fasting is not pure, that comes not of reasons of continence, but of the arts of deceit.

Pseudo-Chrys.: If then he who fasts, and makes himself of sad countenance, is a hypocrite, how much more wicked is he who does not fast, yet assumes a fictitious paleness of face as a token of fasting.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 12: On this paragraph it is to be specially noted, that not only in outward splendor and pomp, but even in the dress of sorrow and mourning, is there room for display, and that the more dangerous, inasmuch as it deceives under the name of God’s services. For he who by inordinate pains taken with her person, or his apparel, or by the glitter of his other equipage, is distinguished, is easily proved by these very circumstances to be a follower of the pomps of this world, and no man is deceived by any semblance of a feigned sanctity in him. But when any one in the profession of Christianity draws men’s eyes upon him by unwonted beggary and slovenliness in dress, if this be voluntary and not compulsory, then by his other conduct may be seen whether he does this to be seen of men, or from contempt of the refinements of dress.

Remig.: The reward of the hypocrites’ fast is shewn, when it is added, “That they may seem to men to fast; verily I say unto you, They have their reward;” that is, that reward for which they looked.

Ver 17. “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Gloss. ap. Anselm: The Lord having taught us what we ought not to do, now proceeds to teach us what we ought to do, saying, “When thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face.”

Aug.: A question is here wont to be raised; for none surely would literally enjoin, that, as we wash our faces from daily habit, so we should have our heads anointed when we fast; a thing which all allow to be most disgraceful.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Also if He bade us not to be of sad countenance that we might not seem to men to fast, yet if anointing of the head and washing of the face are always observed in fasting, they will become tokens of fasting.

Jerome: But He speaks in accordance with the manner of the province of Palestine, where it is the custom on festival days to anoint the head. What He enjoins then is, that when we are fasting we should wear the appearance of joy and gladness.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore the simple interpretation of this is, that is added as an hyperbolical explanation of the command; as though He had said, Yea, so far should ye be from any display of your fasting, that if it might be (which yet it may not be) so done, ye should even do such things as are tokens of luxury and feasting.

Chrys., Hom. xx: In almsgiving indeed, He did not say simply, ‘Do not your alms before men,’ but added, ‘to be seen of them.’ But in fasting and prayer He added nothing of this sort; because alms cannot be so done as to be altogether hid, fasting and prayer can be so done. The contempt of men’s praise is no small fruit, for thereby we are freed from the heavy slavery of human opinions, and become properly workers of virtue, loving it for itself and not for others. For as we esteem it an affront if we are loved not for ourselves but for others’ sake, so ought we not to follow virtue on the account of these men, nor to obey God for men’s sake but for His own.

Therefore it follows here, “But to thy Father which seeth in secret.”

Gloss.: That is, to thy heavenly Father, who is unseen, or who dwells in the heart through faith. He fasts to God who afflicts himself for the love of God, and bestows on others what he denies himself.

Remig.: For it is enough for you that He who sees your conscience should be your rewarder.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Spiritually interpreted – the face may be understood to mean the mental conscience. And as in the eyes of man a fair face has grace, so in the eyes of God a pure conscience has favour. This face the hypocrites, fasting on man’s account, disfigure, seeking thereby to cheat both God and man; for the conscience of the sinner is always wounded. If then you have cast out all wickedness from your heart, you have washed your conscience, and fast well.

Leo, Serm. in Quadr., vi, 2: Fasting ought to be fulfilled not in abstinence of food only, but much more in cutting off vices. For when we submit ourselves to that discipline in order to withdraw that which is the nurse of carnal desires, there is no sort of good conscience more to be sought than that we should keep ourselves sober from unjust will, and abstinent from dishonourable action. This is an act of religion from which the sick are not excluded, seeing integrity of heart may be found in an infirm body.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Spiritually again, “thy head” denotes Christ. Give the thirsty drink and feed the hungry, and therein you have anointed your head, that is, Christ, who cries out in the Gospel, “In that ye have done this to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.” [Mat_25:40]

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xvi, 6: For God approves that fasting, which before His eyes opens the hands of alms. This then that you deny yourself, bestow on another, that wherein your flesh is afflicted, that of your needy neighbour may be refreshed.

Aug.: Or; by the head we rightly understand the reason, because it is preeminent in the soul, and rules the other members of the man. Now anointing the head has some reference to rejoicing. Let him therefore joy within himself because of his fasting, who in fasting turns himself from doing the will of the world, that he may be subject to Christ.

Gloss. ord.: Behold how every thing in the New Testament is not to be taken literally. It were ridiculous to be smeared with oil when fasting; but it is behoveful for the mind to be anointed with the spirit of His love, in whose sufferings we ought to partake by afflicting ourselves.

Pseudo-Chrys.: And truly we ought to wash our face, but to anoint, and not to wash, our head. For as long as we are in the body, our conscience is foul with sin. But Christ who is our head has done no sin.

Ver 19. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Chrys.: When He has driven away the disease of vanity, He does well to bring in speech of contempt of riches. For there is no greater cause of desire of money than love of praise; for this men desire troops of slaves, horses accoutred in gold, and tables of silver, not for use or pleasure, but that they may be seen of many; therefore He says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth.”

Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 13: For if any does a work with the mind of gaining thereby an earthly good, how will his heart be pure while it is thus walking on earth? For any thing that is mingled with an inferior nature is polluted therewith, though that inferior be in its kind pure. Thus gold is alloyed when mixed with pure silver; and in like manner our mind is defiled by lust of earthly things, though earth is in its own kind pure.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; As the Lord had above taught nothing concerning alms, or prayer, or fasting, but had only checked a pretence of them, He now proceeds to deliver a doctrine of three portions, according to the division which He had before made, in this order. First, a counsel that alms should be done; second, to shew the benefit of almsgiving; third, that the fear of poverty should be no hindrance to our purpose of almsgiving.

Chrys.: Saying, “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth,” He adds, “where rust and moth destroy,” in order to shew the insecurity of that treasure that is here, and the advantage of that which is in Heaven, both from the place, and from those things which harm. As though He had said; Why fear you that your wealth should be consumed, if you should give alms? Yea rather give alms, and they shall receive increase, for those treasures that are in Heaven shall be added to them, which treasures perish if ye do not give alms. He said not, You leave them to others, for that is pleasant to men.

Rabanus, ap. Anselm: Here are three precepts according to the three different kinds of wealth. Metals are destroyed by rust, clothes by moth; but as there are other things which fear neither rust nor moth, as precious stones, He therefore names a common damage, that by thieves, who may rob wealth of all kinds.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Another reading is, “Where moth and banqueting consume.” For a threefold destruction awaits all the goods of this life. They either decay and are eaten of moths as cloth; or are consumed by their master’s luxurious living; or are plundered by strangers, either by violence, or pilfering, or false accusation, or some other unjust doing. For all may be called thieves who hasten by any unlawful means to make other men’s goods their own.

But you will say, Do all who have these things, perforce lose them? I would answer by the way, that if all do not, yet many do. But ill-hoarded wealth, you have lost spiritually if not actually, because it profits you not to your salvation.

Rabanus: Allegorically; Rust denotes pride which obscures the brightness of virtue. Moth which privily eats out garments, is jealousy which frets into good intention, and destroys the bond of unity. Thieves denote heretics and demons, who are ever on the watch to rob men of their spiritual treasure.

Hilary: But the praise of Heaven is eternal, and cannot be carried off by invading thief, nor consumed by the moth and rust of envy.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 13: By heaven in this place I understand not the material heavens, for every thing that has a body is earthly. But it behoves that the whole world be despised by him who lays up his treasure in that Heaven, of which it is said, “The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s,” [Psa_115:16] that is, in the spiritual firmament. “For heaven and earth shall pass away;” [Mat_24:35] but we ought not to place our treasure in that which passes away, but in that which abides for ever.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Which then is better? To place it on earth where its security is doubtful, or in Heaven where it will be certainly preserved? What folly to leave it in this place whence you must soon depart, and not to send it before you thither, whither you are to go? Therefore place your substance there where your country is.

Chrys.: But forasmuch as not every earthly treasure is destroyed by rust or moth, or carried away by thieves, He therefore brings in another motive, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” As much as to say; Though none of these former losses should befall you, you will yet sustain no small loss by attaching your affections to things beneath, and becoming a slave to them, and in falling from Heaven, and being unable to think of any lofty thing.

Jerome: This must be understood not of money only, but of all our possessions. The god of a glutton is his belly; of a lover his lust; and so every man serves that to which he is in bondage; and has his heart there where his treasure is.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; He now teaches the benefit of almsgiving. He who places his treasure on earth has nothing to look for in Heaven; for why should he look up to Heaven where he has nothing laid up for himself? Thus he doubly sins; first, because he gathers together things evil; secondly, because he has his heart in earth; and so on the contrary he does right in a twofold manner who lays up his treasure in Heaven.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 6:16-21”

  1. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on the Gospel Reading (Matt 6:16-21). […]

  2. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on the Gospel Reading (Matt 6:16-21). […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: