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 10:23-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 28, 2012

Ver 23. “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”

Chrys.: Having foretold the fearful things which should come upon them after His Cross, resurrection, and ascension, He leads them to gentler prospects; He does not bid them presumptuously to offer themselves for persecution, but to fly from it; “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye to another.” For because this was the first beginning of their conversion, He adapts His words to their state.

Jerome: This must be referred to the time when the Apostles were sent to preach, when it was said to them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles;” they should not fear, but may shun persecution. This we see the believers did in the beginning, when on a persecution arising in Jerusalem they were scattered throughout all Judaea, and thus the season of tribulation was made the seedtime of the Gospel.

Aug., cont. Faust., xxii, 36: Not that the Saviour was unable to protect His disciples, does He here bid them fly, and Himself give them an example of it, but He instructed man’s weakness, that he should not presume to tempt God, when he has anything that he can do for himself, but should shun all evils.

Aug., City of God, book 1, ch. 22: He might have suffered them to lay violent hands upon themselves, that they might not fall into the hands of their persecutors. Therefore if He neither commanded nor allowed this mode of departure from this world to His own, for whom He Himself had promised that He would prepare an eternal mansion; whatever instances may be brought by the Gentiles who know not God, it is clear that this is not lawful for those who believe one true God.

Chrys.: But that they should not say, What then if we fly from persecution, and again they cast us out thence whither we have fled? To remove this fear, He says, “Verily, I say unto you, ye shall not have completed, &c.” that is, ye shall not have made the circuit of Palestine and return to Me, before I shall take you to Me.

Raban.: Or; He foretels that they shall not have brought all the cities of Israel to the faith by their preaching, before the Lord’s resurrection be accomplished, and a commission given them to preach the Gospel throughout the world.

Hilary: Otherwise; He exhorts to fly from place to place; for His preaching driven from Judaea, first passing into Greece; then, wearied with divers sufferings of the Apostles up and down the cities of Greece, it takes an abiding refuge in the rest of the Gentile world. But to shew that the Gentiles would believe the preaching of the Apostles, but that the remnant of Israel should only believe at His second coming, He adds, “Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel;” i.e. After the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in, that which remains of Israel to fill up the number of the Saints shall be called into the Church in Christ’s future coming to glory.

Aug., Ep. 228: Let the servants of Christ then do as He commanded, or permitted them; as He fled into Egypt, let them fly from city to city, whenever any one of them is marked out for persecution; that the Church be not deserted, it will be filled by those who are not so sought after; and let these give sustenance to their fellow-servants whom they know cannot live by any other means. But when the threatening danger is common to all, Bishops, clergy, and laity, let not those who have need of aid be deserted by those whose aid they require.

Either therefore let them all pass to some stronghold, or let those who are obliged to remain, not be deserted by those whose province it is to supply their ecclesiastical needs; that they may either all live, or all suffer whatever their Master will have them to suffer.

Remig.: Be it known moreover, that as this precept respecting endurance under persecution specially belongs to the Apostles and their successors, men of fortitude, so the permission to fly is sufficiently proper for the weak in the faith, to whom the tender Master condescends, lest if they should offer themselves for martyrdom, under the pain they should deny the faith; and the sin of flight is lighter than that of denial. But though by their flight they shewed that they had not the constancy of perfect faith, yet their desert was great, seeing they were ready to leave all for Christ. So that if He had not given them permission to fly, some would have said that they were aliens from the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

Jerome: Spiritually, we may say; When they shall persecute you in one book or one passage of Scripture, let us flee to other volumes, for however contentious the adversary may be, protection will come from the Saviour before the victory is yielded to the enemy.

Ver 24. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”

Chrys.: Because it should come to pass that His disciples among their other persecutions should suffer loss of character, which to many is the most grievous of all calamities, He consoles them from His own example, and those things that were spoken of Him; a comfort to which no other can be compared.

Hilary: For the Lord, the Light eternal, the Captain of the faithful, the Parent of immortality, set before His disciples this solace of the sufferings that should come upon them, that we should embrace it as our glory when we are made like to our Lord in suffering; whence He says, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the slave above his lord.”

Chrys.: Understand, so long as he is a disciple or servant, he is not above his master or lord by the nature of honour. And do not here object to me such cases as rarely happen, but receive this according to the common course of things.

Remig.: He calls Himself master and lord; by disciple and servant He denotes His Apostles.

Gloss. ord.: As much as to say, Be not indignant that ye suffer things, which I also suffer, because I am your lord, who do what I will, and your master, who teach you what I know to be profitable for you.

Remig.: And because this sentence seemed not to agree with the foregoing words, He shews what they mean by adding, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more they of his household?”

Chrys.: He said not here, ‘slaves,’ but “those of his household,” to shew how dear they were to Him; as elsewhere He said, “I will not call you slaves, but my friends.” [Joh_15:15]

Remig.: As much as to say, Ye therefore will not seek worldly honours and human glory, while you see me pursuing the redemption of mankind through mocking and contumely.

Chrys.: And He says not only, If they have reviled the master of the house, but expresses the very words of railing, for they had called Him Beelzebub.

Jerome: Beelzebub is the idol of Accaron who is called in the book of Kings, the God of flies; [2Ki_1:3] ‘Bel,’ signifying, “idol;” ‘zebub,’ a “fly”. The Prince of the daemons He calls by the name of the foulest of idols, which is so called because of the uncleanness of the fly, which destroys the sweetness of ointment.

Ver 26. “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.27. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Remig.: To the foregoing consolation He adds another no less, saying, “Fear ye not them,” namely, the persecutors. And why they were not to fear, He adds, “For there is nothing hid which shall not be revealed, nothing secret which shall not be known.”

Jerome: How is it then that in the present world, the sins of so many are unknown? It is of the time to come that this is said; the time when God shall judge the hidden things of men, shall enlighten the hidden places of darkness, and shall make manifest the secrets of hearts. The sense is, Fear not the cruelty of the persecutor, or the rage of the blasphemer, for there shall come a day of judgment in which your virtue and their wickedness will be made known.

Hilary: Therefore neither threatening, nor evil speaking, nor power of their enemies should move them, seeing the judgment-day will disclose how empty, how nought all these were.

Chrys.: Otherwise; It might seem that what is here said should be applied generally; but it is by no means intended as a general maxim, but is spoken solely with reference to what had gone before with this meaning; If you are grieved when men revile you, think that in a little time you will be delivered from this evil. They call you indeed impostors, sorcerers, seducers, but have a little patience, and all men shall call you the saviours of the world, when in the course of things you shall be found to have been their benefactors, for men will not judge by their words but by the truth of things.

Remig.: Some indeed think that these words convey a promise from our Lord to His disciples, that through them all hidden mysteries should be revealed, which lay beneath the veil of the letter of the Law; whence the Apostle speaks, “When they have turned to Christ, then the veil shall be taken away.” [2Co_3:16] So the sense would be, Ought you to fear your persecutors, when you are thought worthy that by you the hidden mysteries of the Law and the Prophets should be made manifest?

Chrys.: Then having delivered them from all fear, and set them above all calumny, He follows this up appropriately with commanding that their preaching should be free and unreserved; “What I say to you in darkness, that speak ye in the light; what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.”

Jerome: We do not read that the Lord was wont to discourse to them by night, or to deliver his doctrine in the dark; but He said this because all His discourse is dark to the carnal, and His word night to the unbelieving. What had been spoken by Him they were to deliver again with the confidence of faith and confession.

Remig.: The meaning therefore is, “What I say to you in darkness,” that is, among the unbelieving Jews, “that speak ye in the light,” that is, preach it to the believing; “what ye hear in the ear,” that is, what I say unto you secretly, “that preach ye upon the housetops,” that is, openly before all men. It is a common phrase, To speak in one’s ear, that is, to speak to him privately.

Rabanus: And what He says, “Preach ye upon the housetops,” is spoken after the manner of the province of Palestine, where they use to sit upon the roofs of the houses, which are not pointed but flat. That then may be said to be preached upon the housetops which is spoken in the hearing of all men.

Gloss. ord.: Otherwise; What I say unto you while you are yet held under carnal fear, that speak ye in the confidence of truth, after ye shall be enlightened by the Holy Spirit; what you have only heard, that preach by doing the same, being raised above you bodies, which are the dwellings of your souls.

Jerome: Otherwise; What you hear in mystery, that teach in plainness of speech; what I have taught you in a corner of Judaea, that proclaim boldly in all quarters of the world.

Chrys.: As He said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater things than these shall he do;” [Joh_14:12] so here He shews that He works all things through them more than through Himself; as though He had said, I have made a beginning, but what is beyond, that I will to complete through your means. So that this is not a command but a prediction, shewing them that they shall overcome all things.

Hilary: Therefore they ought to inculcate constantly the knowledge of God, and the profound secret of evangelic doctrine, to be revealed by the light of preaching; having no fear of those who have power only over the body, but cannot reach the soul; “Fear not those that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”

Chrys.: Observe how He sets them above all others, encouraging them to set at nought cares, reproaches, perils, yea even the most terrible of all things, death itself, in comparison of the fear of God.”But rather fear him, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jerome: This word is not found in the Old Scriptures, but it is first used by the Saviour. Let us enquire then into its origin. We read in more than one place that the idol Baal was near Jerusalem, at the foot of Mount Moriah, by which the brook Siloe flows. This valley and a small level plain was watered and woody, a delightful spot, and a grove in it was consecrated to the idol. To so great folly and madness had the people of Israel come, that, forsaking the neighbourhood of the Temple, they offered their sacrifices there, and concealing an austere ritual under a voluptuous life, they burned their sons in honour of a daemon.

This place was called, Gehennom, that is, The valley of the children of Hinnom. These things are fully described in Kings and Chronicles, and the Prophet Jeremiah. [2Ki_23:10, 2Ch_26:3, Jer_7:32; Jer_32:35] God threatens that He will fill the place with the carcasses of the dead, that it be no more called Tophet and Baal, but Polyandrion, i.e. The tomb of the dead. Hence the torments and eternal pains with which sinners shall be punished are signified by this word.

Aug., City of God, book xiii, ch. 2: This cannot be before the soul is so joined to the body, that nothing may sever them. Yet it is rightly called the death of the soul, because it does not live of God; and the death of the body, because though man does not cease to feel, yet because this his feeling has neither pleasure nor health, but is a pain and a punishment, it is better named death than life.

Chrys.: Note also, that He does not hold out to them deliverance from death, but encourages them to despise it; which is a much greater thing than to be rescued from death; also this discourse aids in fixing in their minds the doctrine of immortality.

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