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 June, 2012

My Notes on Amos 7:10-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 30, 2012

This reading is used on Thursday of the 13th week in Ordinary Time, cycle 2 of the daily Lectionary. It is coupled with Matthew 9:1-8. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 19:8-11 (according to the NAB verse numbering). The psalm response, as usual, establishes the primary theme for the Mass: “The judgements of the Lord are true, and all of them just.” Since both the prophet Amos (Amos 7:12-14), and the Son of Man (Matt 9:3) are judged falsely, it seems to me that the judgements of God in contrast to the judgements of man would be an obvious subject for a homily.

I’m using here the text of the RSV which is under the following copyright restrictions: The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

“Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” (source)

Vs 10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.

Vs 11 for thus Amos says ‘ Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land.’”

Here begins the conflict between Amos, the prophet, and Amaziah, the priest. The conflict is very ironic since it was the duty of a king to insure right worship. As we saw in the introduction, the first of the northern kings, Jeroboam, son of Nebat (i.e., Jeroboam I), had established false worship and sanctuaries, along with a false priesthood. None of the kings who followed him, including Jeroboam, son of Joash (i.e., Jeroboam II), did anything to bring this situation to an end. So a (probably) illegitimate priest is whining to a rebellious king about a prophet’s denunciation of false worship and the dynasty which was allowing it to continue.

Vs 12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, “O you seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophecy there:

Vs 13 but prophecy no more at Bethel; for it is the kings sanctuary, and it is a royal house.”

Vs 14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees:

Vs 15 And the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said unto me, “Go, prophecy unto my people Israel.”

In this exchange we get some idea of the sorry state into which prophecy had fallen. There were in ancient times professional prophetic guilds of professional prophets whose disciples were known as sons of the prophets. Professional prophetism is an acceptable practice in the bible, however, like all offices it was open to abuse. Amaziah readily assumes not only that Amos is a member of the guild prophets, but also that he is a dishonest one who prophecies to eat bread. In other words, he believes that Amos tells people what they want to hear in order to earn money, rather than telling them what they need to hear.

Vs 16 Now therefore hear the word of the Lord: “you say, ‘prophecy not against Israel, and drop not your word against the house of Isaac;’”Vs 17 therefore, thus says the Lord: “Your wife shall be a harlot in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you shall die in a land that is unclean, and Israel will surely be led away captive out of his land.”

For his defiance of the prophetic word Amaziah will suffer greatly, His wife shall be a harlot in the city. The condemnation of Amaziah is clearly related to military catastrophe. When cities were conquered the women often were at the mercy of the victors who were not above rape or the use of death threats to get what they wanted. When the kingdom falls, Amaziah’s wife will suffer such a fate. His sons and daughters will fall by the sword. This may mean that they are young, and therefore, at least as far as the victors are concerned, more burden than booty. The priest himself will go into exile among the gentiles with most of the nation.

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Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on Matthew 5:20-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 30, 2012

Mat 5:20  For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

For I tell you,” &c. Here is contained an illustration and particular application of the preceding verse. “Least in the kingdom of heaven,” means exclusion from it. “For, I tell you . . . shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

“Your justice”. The observance of the moral law is called “justice,” because it is by keeping the law, we are justified. “Factores legis justificabuntur ” (“the doers of the law shall be justified,” Rom 2:13); “But if thou would enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt 19:17).

“Scribes” (see Matt 2:4);  ” Pharisees ” (see Matt 3:7). Our Lord here introduces “the justice ” or observance of the law by the Scribes, &c., because they were regarded as the most observant among the Jews, and still it was defective. Their observance of the law was confined to external acts; they regarded of no consequence interior acts of the will, and taught others the same. Hence, they shall be “least;” in other words, “shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.” What our Redeemer condemns, is not their observance of the law, apart from the motive and false teaching, as far as it went ; but, He condemns it as defective, not going far enough. Hence, He says, “unless it abound more,” exceeds theirs, be fuller, more perfect, either as regards teaching or practical observance, it will not do.

Mat 5:21  You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment.

Our Redeemer now proceeds to fulfil the law (5:17), so far as regards the moral or chief portion of the law is concerned. In the first place. He clears away the false glosses and interpretations put upon the precepts of the moral law by the Scribes and Pharisees, whose justice He condemns, inasmuch as they not only themselves violated certain important precepts of the law, which they regarded as of little value—those “least commandments” (v. 19); but also taught “men” (to do) “so,” i.e., do the same, by their false interpretations of the law. In the next place, it seems most likely that in the following discourse, wherein as legislator, He promulgates the New Law, He even, in a certain sense, corrects the Old Law itself, not by destroying it, as containing anything bad, or anything opposed to the New Law—for, in itself the law was “holy, spiritual ” (Rom 7:12-14), and every one of its precepts is ” holy, just, and good”—(Rom 7:12), but, as imperfect; for, “it brought nothing to perfection” (Heb 7:11). He supplies its defects, and perfects it, by more clearly evolving the precepts of the natural law which it contained, by superadding evangelical counsels, and certain points of explicit faith. He opposes Himself and the law He promulgates to Moses and his law as the more perfect to the less perfect, as the covenant of a better hope, containing and fulfilling better and more exalted promises, imperfect testament, which was only intended as an introduction to His (Heb 7:19). This shall be more clearly seen in the interpretation of each passage.

You have heard,” when the books of Moses were read for you, as usually happens each Sabbath in your synagogues (Acts 13:14-15), “that it was said to them of old,” i.e., it was enjoined by the law of Moses, on your fathers, to whom it was first promulgated in the desert of Mount Sinai. He omits the name of Moses, lest the mention of it might be any way invidious, as He is about perfecting His law and more fully developing it; and although the law given by Moses was the law of God, still we find Moses introduced as its promulgator.  “Lex per Moysem data est” (“The law was given through Moses” John 1:17).

“Thou shalt not kill,” by which is prohibited the taking away our neighbour’s life out of revenge or on our own personal, private authority; or, without some justifying cause, arising out of the just exercise of the commands of public authority, or necessary self-defence.

“And whosoever shall kill, shall he in danger of the judgment,” i.e., liable to capital punishment, or death, as a homicide, such being the punishment awarded by the law to homicides when brought before the tribunal called, “the Judgment.”  These latter words are not found in the law, but they are there in substance. The terms expressive of the punishment of such a crime in the law are, “dying, let him die” (Lev 24:17); or, as our Lord is quoting the words, according as they “heard” them from the Scribes and Pharisees, who gave the substance of the penalty contained in the law, the word, “judgment,” may mean, liable to be brought before the tribunal appointed to investigate into the cause of murder, as to whether it was justifiable or not, which is but an epitome of the several enactments on the subject (Exodus 21; Deut 19), and in case it was wilful, death was the consequence.

Cardinal Baronius (Tom. i. Annal.) relates, from the Talmudists, that there were three tribunals among the Jews. The first, consisting of three judges, who took cognizance of trivial cases, such as cases of theft, rapine, &c.; the second, composed of twenty-three judges. This tribunal, called “the Judgment,” referred to here, took cognizance of causes of grievous moment, and was armed with the power of life and death. The third, called the Sanhedrim—a term of Greek origin—composed of seventy-two judges, had jurisdiction in matters of the greatest moment, involving the public interests of religion and the State. It is a matter of doubt whether this had anything in common with the Council of Seventy Elders appointed by Moses to assist him in the government of the people (Num 11:16-17, 24). This latter tribunal (Sanhedrim) existed at Jerusalem only, and exercised judgment there only. The other tribunals, of three and of twenty-three judges, were appointed in the several cities and tribes (Deut 16:18). It is recorded (2 Chron 19), that a similar arrangement was made by king Josaphat.

Mat 5:22  But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

“But I say to you.”  Here our Redeemer fulfils the law by more fully explaining it, and correcting the false interpretations of the Scribes and Pharisees, who confined the prohibition of the precept to mere external acts, as is implied in the foregoing, and by the extension of the prohibition in this verse, in accordance with the natural law, to internal acts of consent, as entailing grievous moral guilt, and the heaviest punishment.

“But I say to you.”  “I,” the legislator of the New Law, the teacher sent down from heaven, the Prophet like unto Moses, raised up by God for you (Deut 18:18). “I say to you,’ that not only he who commits homicide, but, “whosoever is angry with his brother” (to which the Greek adds, εικη, “without cause,” but rejected by St. Jerome as spurious and as introduced by copyists).

“Angry” conveys the state of strong, passionate resentment and excitement, desiring (as is implied by the subject matter) and tending to deprive our neighbour of life, or inflict on him grievous bodily harm—just displeasure and indignation at the conduct of others if moderated by reason, is not prohibited here as sinful—”shall be in danger of judgment:” that is to say, shall sin mortally and incur eternal death, just as in verse 28, the internal desire of adultery, though punishable by no earthly tribunal, entails grievous moral guilt.

“Raca.” This supposes the internal feelings of grievous anger referred to in the preceding, to proceed to reproachful language. “Raca,” a vile, contemptible, brainless wretch. This involves a greater amount of guilt and a heavier mortal sin than the mere internal feelings of anger, similar to that of which the Council of Seventy-two took cognizance among the Jews, and shall entail a heavier punishment in hell.

“Fool,” a still more reproachful term, probably involving a charge of impiety and irreligion; since, among the Jews, impiety was regarded as folly of the greatest kind. The use of such a reproachful term involves a degree of guilt so great, that there is no analogous tribunal among the Jews to take cognizance of it, and it deserves a punishment more grievous than that inflicted by the Sanhedrim, such as the sword or stoning; it deserves, that one would burn in the unceasing fire of Gehenna, an emblem of hell.

“Hell fire.” No doubt, hell fire is the punishment reserved for the preceding sins also, according to the interpretation now given, which supposes them to be, mortal; but, to express the heinousness of this latter sin, which involves the most grievous insult and contumely, aggravated by the manner and circumstances of its utterance, relative to cause and persons, and their relation to each other, our Redeemer, who speaks in accommodation to the notions of His hearers regarding the guilt of sin, as seen from the tribunals before which it is brought, wishes to convey, that there was no tribunal on earth to award punishment analogous to that entailed by the sin of grievous contumely and insult, expressed by the word, “fool.” Others understand the passage thus: they say, that in the two preceding kinds of sin there may be some grounds for doubting their heinousness; and hence, they should form the subject of investigation. But, as regards this latter one, there can be no doubt whatever. It is clearly mortal, and, without further investigation, deserving of eternal punishment. However, looking to the kinds of crime adjudicated on and punished by the tribunals, ” Judgment” and “Council,” with which our Redeemer compares internal anger and the uttering of the contumelious word, ” Raca”’ the former interpretation seems the more probable. The sin in each case is supposed to be mortal, of course, if deliberately indulged, but differing in degree, and the intensity of the eternal punishment it entails. Similar are the degrees of mortal sin described by St. James 1:15, “when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; but sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.”

“Hell fire.” In Greek, the Gehenna of fire. This Gehenna, or Valley of Hinnom, so called from the man who possessed it, called also “the Valley of the children of Hinnom,” was a delightful valley near Jerusalem, at the foot of Mount Moria, irrigated by the waters of Siloe, as we are informed by St. Jerome, also Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16. In this valley, the Israelites, imitating the impiety of the Chanaanites, erected an altar and burnt their children as victims to Moloch, the god or idol of the Ammonites, called by others, Saturn; and as they were wont to drown the cries of the children by the beating of drums or cymbals, the place was called on this account, Topheth (Jer 7: 2 kings 16:13; 2 Kings21:20; Isa 30:33), from Toph, a cymbal or drum.—Others derive Topheth from Toph, a cymbal, owing to the music practised there as being a place of joy and merriment.—In this valley, the Israelites sacrificed their children (Ps 106:38).

This valley the pious king Josias afterwards rendered abominable by casting into it the bones of the dead (2 Kings 23:10) The Lord, moreover, menaced the Jews (Jer 7:32) that the valley would no longer be called Topheth, nor the Valley of the son of Hinnom; but the valley of slaughter, that they should bury their dead in Topheth, and that the carcases of this people should be meat for the fowls of the air (Jer 19:12), and that He would make it the receptacle of all the abominations of Jerusalem. After their return from the Babylonish captivity, the Israelites so abominated this place, that, following the example of the pious king Josias (2 Kings 23:10), they cast the carcases of the dead and all the filth of the city into it; and as perpetual fire was needed to consume all this offal, it was termed the Gehenna of fire. Hence, on account of its abominable destination, and the impious rites performed in it at the sacrifices offered to Moloch, it was a fit emblem of the receptacle of the damned, and most likely it was really regarded as an emblem of hell, although it is used in SS. Scripture, for the first time by our Divine Redeemer, in this sense.

“Of fire,” to show the everlasting burning which continues there. It means, Gehenna, ever on fire, a fit emblem of hell.

Beelen holds, that hell fire is not directly referred to here; that the words only mean, that such a man is deserving of a punishment more grievous than that awarded by even “the Council,” which was stoning or the sword. He deserves to be cast into the Valley of Innnom, ever on fire, and to be burnt there. This is, no doubt, a fit emblem of hell fire, and was regarded by the Jews, as such.

Mat 5:23  If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee;

“Therefore,” is expressive of a plain inference from the foregoing, as if He said: Such being the obligation of avoiding a grievous violation of fraternal charity, no less in thought or word, as explained by me, than in action; and such being the grievous punishment which every such violation shall entail, should you recollect, in the discharge of the most meritorious duty, such as the offering of sacrifice—an act most agreeable and pleasing to God—that you gave “your brother,” i.e., any fellow creature, just cause of offence, by calling him “raca,” or ”fool,” &c., you should at once interrupt that work, should it be practicable to do so, and become reconciled, by making due reparation to the offended party, or at least form the resolution of doing so when practicable, and as soon as circumstances shall permit; otherwise, your offering shall be displeasing to God, who prefers fraternal concord and the necessary duty of charity to any gifts whatsoever. “Offer thy gift, ” i.e., sacrifice, an act most pleasing to God. This has reference to Jewish sacrifices. But it refers still more so to the sacrifice of love and concord, so far as it concerns us, viz., the Blessed Eucharist—”unum corpus multi sumus,” &c. (“we, being many, are one” 1 Cor 10:17.)

The allusion to sacrifice may also arise from this, that, probably the Scribes taught, that all violations of the precept, “thou shalt not kill,” might be expiated by sacrifice. Our Redeemer here teaches the contrary; and shows how our justice must exceed theirs in preferring the duty of charity to sacrifice. The necessary duty of fcharity and just reparation must be first fulfilled, if we wish that God would be pleased with any act of religion, be it ever so exalted. If this be true of sacrifice, how much more so, when less exalted and less meritorious works are in question.

“Thy brother hath any thing,” &c. This supposes that he is the offended, we the offending party; he the party to whom reparation is due from us. Should we be the offended party, and “have any thing against him,” all required of us, as a matter of duty, is to pardon him from our hearts for the personal offence, as, in that case, he is the party to seek reconciliation and make due reparation. I say, as a matter of duty, for, high Christian perfection might suggest more; also there is question of personal offence; for, a man is not bound to forego injury in property; and he should, moreover, on public grounds, uphold, by the prosecution of evil-doers, the well-being of society.

Mat 5:24  Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.

“And go first to be reconciled ” &c. The mode of doing this must depend, in a great measure, on circumstances. We must go actually and seek the necessary reconciliation, unless circumstances and motives of prudence should point out an opposite line of conduct, as the most conducive to the permanence of charitable relations in future; and in this latter case, it is preceptive to go in spirit and in will. Indeed, like all affirmative precepts, this is to be a good deal modified by circumstances and considerations of prudence.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 74

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2012

1. This Psalm’s Title is, “Of the Understanding of Asaph.” Asaph in Latin is translated congregation, in Greek Synagogue. Let us see what this Synagogue hath understood. But let us understand firstly Synagogue: from thence we shall understand what the Synagogue hath understood. Every congregation is spoken of under the general name of Synagogue: one both of beasts and of men may be called a congregation; but here there is no congregation of beasts when we heard “understanding.” …for this the Psalm’s Title doth prescribe, saying, “Of the understanding of Asaph.” It is therefore a certain understanding congregation whereof we are about to hear the voice. But since properly Synagogue is said of the congregation of the people of Israel, so that wheresoever we may have heard Synagogue, we are no longer wont to understand any but the people of the Jews; let us see whether perchance the voice in this Psalm be not of that same people. But of what sort of Jews and of what sort of people of Israel? For they are not of the chaff, but perchance of the grain; not of the broken branches, but perchance of those that are strengthened. “For not all that are of Israel are Israelites.” …There are therefore certain Israelites, of whom was he concerning whom was said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom guile is not.” I do not say in the same manner as we are Israelites, for we also are the seed of Abraham. For to the Gentiles the Apostle was speaking, when he said, “Therefore the seed of Abraham ye are, heirs according to promise.” According to this therefore all we are Israelites, that follow the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham. But let us understand here the voice of the Israelites in the same manner as the Apostle saith, “For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Here therefore letus understand that whereof the Prophets have spoken, “a remnant shall be saved.” Of the remnant therefore saved let us hear in this place the voice; in order that there may speak that Synagogue which had received the Old Testament, and was intent upon carnal promises; and by this means it came to pass that their feet were shaken. For in another Psalm, where too the title hath Asaph, there is said what? “How good is the God of Israel to men right in heart. But my feet were almost moved.” And as if we were saying, whence were thy feet moved? “Well nigh,” he saith, “my steps were overthrown, because I was jealous in the case of sinners, looking on the peace of sinners.” For while according to the promises of God belonging to the Old Testament he was looking for earthly felicity, he observed it to abound with ungodly men; that they who worshipped not God were enriched with those things which he was looking for from God: and as though without cause he had served God, his feet tottered. …But opportunely it hath chanced not by our own but by God’s dispensation, that just now we heard out of the Gospel, that “the Law was given by Moses, Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ” For if we distinguish between the two Testaments, Old and New, there are not the same Sacraments nor the same promises; nevertheless, the same commandments for the most part. …When examined they are either all found to be the same, or there are scarce any in the Gospel which have not been spoken by the Prophets. The Commandments are the same, the Sacraments are not the same, the Promises are not the same. Let us see wherefore the commandments are the same; because according to these we ought to serve God. The Sacraments are not the same, for some Sacraments there are giving Salvation, others promising a Saviour. The Sacraments of the New Testament give Salvation, the Sacraments of the Old Testament did promise a Saviour. When therefore thou hast now the things promised, why dost thou seek the things promising, having now the Saviour? …God through the New Testament hath taken out of the hands of His sons those things which are like the playthings of boys, in order that He might give something more useful to them growing up, on that account must He be supposed not to have given those former things Himself. He gave both Himself. But the Law itself through Moses was given, Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ: Grace because there is fulfilled through love that which by the letter was being enjoined, Truth because there is being rendered that which was promised. This thing therefore this Asaph hath understood. In a word, all things which to the Jews had been promised have been taken away. Where is their kingdom? Where the Temple? Where the Anointing? Where is Priest? Where are now the Prophets among them? From what time there came He that by the Prophets was foretold, in that nation there is now nothing of these things; now she hath lost things earthly, and not yet doth seek things Heavenly.

2. Thou shouldest not therefore hold fast things earthly, although God doth bestow them. …See ye how that in fearing to lose things earthly, the Jews slew the King of Heaven. And what was done to them? They lost even those very things earthly: and in the place where they slew Christ, there they were slain: and when, being unwilling to lose the land, they slew the Giver of life, that same land being slain they lost; and at that very time when they slew Him, in order that by that very time they might be admonished of the reason wherefore they suffered these things. For when the city of the Jews was overthrown, they were celebrating the Passover, and with many thousands of men the whole nation itself had met together for the celebration of that festival. In that place God (through evil men indeed, but yet Himself good; through unjust men, but Himself just and justly) did so take vengeance upon them, that there were slain many thousands of men, and the city itself was overthrown. Of this thing in this Psalm “the understanding of Asaph” doth complain, and in the very plaint the understanding as it were doth distinguish things earthly from things heavenly, doth distinguish the Old Testament from the New Testament: in order that thou mayest see through what things thou art passing, what thou shouldest look for, what to forsake, to what to cleave. Thus then he beginneth.

3. “Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?”(ver. 1). “Hast repelled unto the end,” in the person of the congregation which is properly called Synagogue. “Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?” He censureth not, but inquireth “wherefore,” for what purpose, because of what hast Thou done this? What hast Thou done? “Thou hast repelled us unto the end.” What is, “unto the end”? Perchance even unto the end of the world. Hast Thou repelled us unto Christ, who is the End to every one believing? For, “Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?” “Thy spirit hath been wroth at the sheep of Thy flock.” Wherefore wast Thou wroth at the sheep of Thy flock, but because to things earthly we were cleaving, and the Shepherd we knew not?

4. “Remember Thou Thy congregation, which Thou hast possessed from the beginning” (ver. 2). Can this by any means be the voice of the Gentiles? Hath He possessed the Gentiles from the beginning? Nay, but He hath possessed the seed of Abraham, the people of Israel even according to the flesh, born of the Patriarchs our fathers: of whom we have become the sons, not by coming out of their flesh, but by imitating their faith. But those, possessed by God from the beginning, what befell them? “Remember Thy congregation which Thou hast possessed from the beginning. Thou hast redeemed the rod of Thine inheritance.” That same congregation of Thine, being the rod of Thine inheritance, Thou hast redeemed. This same congregation he hath called “the rod of the inheritance.” Let us look back to the first thing that was done, when He willed to possess that same congregation, delivering it from Egypt, what sign He gave to Moses, when Moses said to Him, “What sign shall I give that they may believe me, that Thou hast sent me? And God saith to him, What dost thou bear in thine hand? A rod. Cast it on to the ground,” etc. What doth it intimate? For this was not done to no purpose. Let us inquire of the writings of God. To what did the serpent persuade man? To death. Therefore death is from the serpent. If death is from the serpent, the rod in the serpent is Christ in death. Therefore also when by serpents in the desert they were being bitten and being slain, the Lord commanded Moses to exalt a brazen serpent in the desert, and admonish the people that whosoever by a serpent had been bitten, should look thereupon and be made whole. Thus also it was done: thus also men, bitten by serpents, were made whole of the venom by looking upon a serpent. To be made whole of a serpent is a great Sacrament. What is it to be made whole of a serpent by looking upon a serpent? It is to be made whole of death by believing in one dead. And nevertheless Moses feared and red. What is it that Moses fled from that serpent? What, brethren, save that which we know to have been done in the Gospel? Christ died and the disciples feared, and withdrew from that hope wherein they had been. …But, at that time some thousands of the Jews themselves, the crucifiers of Christ, believed: and because they had been found at hand, they so believed as that they sold all that they had, and the price of their goods before the feet of the Apostles they laid. Because then this thing was hidden, and the redemption of the rod of God was to be more conspicuous in the Gentiles: he explaineth of what he saith that which he hath said, “Thou hast redeemed the rod of Thine inheritance.” This he hath said not of the Gentiles in whom it was evident. But of what? “Mount Sion.” Yet even Mount Sion can be otherwise understood. “That one which Thou hast dwelled in the same.” In the place where the People was aforetime, where the Temple was set up, where the Sacrifices were celebrated, where at that time were all those necessary things giving promise of Christ. A promise, when the thing promised is bestowed is now become superfluous. …

5. “Lift up Thine hand upon their pride at the end” (ver. 3). As Thou didst repel us at the end, so “lift up Thine hand upon the pride of them at the end.” The pride of whom? Of those by whom Jerusalem was overthrown. But by whom was it, but by the kings of the Gentiles? Well was the hand of Him lifted up upon the pride of them at the end: for they too have now known Christ. “For the end of the Law is Christ for righteousness to every one believing.” How well doth he wish for them! As if angry he is speaking, and he is seeming to speak evil: and O that there would come to pass the evil which he speaketh: nay now in the name of Christ that it is coming to pass let us rejoice. Now they holding the sceptre are being made subject to the Word of the Cross: now is coming to pass that which was foretold, “there shall adore Him all the kings of the earth, all nations shall serve Him.” Now on the brows of kings more precious is the sign of the Cross, than the jewel of a crown. “Lift up Thine hand upon the pride of them at the end. How great things hath the enemy of malice wrought in Thy holy places!” In those which were Thy holy places, that is, in the temple, in the priesthood, in all those sacraments which were at that time. In good sooth the enemy at that time wrought. For the Gentiles at that time who did this, were worshipping false Gods, were adoring idols, were serving demons: nevertheless they wrought many evil things on the Saints of God. When could they if they had not been permitted? But when would they have been permitted, unless those holy things, at first promised, were no longer necessary, when He that had promised was Himself holden? Therefore, “how great things hath the enemy of malice wrought in Thy holy places!”

6. “And all they have boasted, that hate Thee” (ver. 4). Observe the servants of demons, the servants of idols: such as at that time the Gentiles were, when they overthrew the temple and city of God, “and they boasted.” “In the midst of Thy festival.” Remember what I said, that Jerusalem was overthrown at the time when the very festival was being celebrated: at which festival they crucified the Lord. Gathered together they raged, gathered together they perished. “They have set signs, their own signs, and they have not known” (ver. 5). They had signs to place there, their standards, their eagles, their own dragons, the Roman signs; or even their statues which at first in the temple they placed; or perchance “their signs” are the things which they heard from the prophets of their demons. “And they have not known.” Have not known what? How “thou shouldest have had no power against Me, except it had been given thee from above.” They knew not how that not on themselves honour was conferred, to afflict, to take, or overthrow the city, but their ungodliness was made as it were the axe of God. They were made the instrument of Him enraged, not so as to be the kingdom of Him pacified. For God doth that which a man also ofttime doth. Sometimes a man in a rage catcheth up a rod lying in the way, perchance any sort of stick, he smiteth therewith his son, and then throweth the stick into the fire and reserveth the inheritance for his son: so sometime God through evil men doth instruct good men, and through the temporal power of them that are to be condemned He worketh the discipline of them that are to be saved. For why do you suppose, brethren, that discipline was even thus inflicted upon that nation, in order that it might perish utterly? How many out of this nation did afterwards believe, how many are yet to believe? Some are chaff, others grain; over both however there cometh in the threshing-drag; but under one threshing-drag the one is broken up, the other is purged. How great a good hath God bestowed upon us by the evil of Judas the traitor! By the very ferocity of the Jews how great a good was bestowed upon believing Gentiles! Christ was slain in order that there might be on the Cross One for him to look to who had been stung by the serpent. …

7. Now let us hasten over the verses following after the destruction of Jerusalem, for the reason that they are both evident, and it doth not please me to tarry over the punishment even of enemies. “As if in a forest of trees with axes, they have cut down the doors thereof at once; with mattock and hammer they have thrown Her down” (ver. 6). That is, conspiring together, with firm determination, “with mattock and hammer” they have thrown Her down. “They have burned with fire Thy Sanctuary, they have defiled on the ground the Tabernacle of Thy name” (ver. 7).

8. “They have said in their heart (the kindred of them is in one)”-Have said what? “Come ye, let us suppress the solemnities of the Lord from the land” (ver. 8). “Of the Lord,” hath been inserted in the person of this man, that is, in the person of Asaph. For they raging would not have called Him the Lord whose temple they were overthrowing. “Come ye, let us suppress all the solemnities of the Lord from the land.” What of Asaph? What understanding hath Asaph in these words? What? Doth he not profit even by the discipline accorded? Is not the mind’s crookedness made straight? Overthrown were all things that were at first: nowhere is there priest, nowhere Altar of the Jews, nowhere victim, nowhere Temple. Is there then no other thing to be acknowledged which succeeded this departing? Or indeed would this promissory sign have been taken away, unless there had come that which was being promised? Let us see therefore in this place now the understanding of Asaph, let us see if he profiteth by tribulation. Observe what he saith: “Our signs we have not seen, no longer is there prophet, and us He will not know as yet” (ver. 9). Behold those Jews who say that they are not known as yet, that is, that they are yet in captivity, that not yet they are delivered, do yet expect Christ. Christ will come, but He will come as Judge; the first time to call, afterwards to sever. He will come, because He hath come, and that He will come is evident; but hereafter from above He will come. Before thee He was, O Israel. Thou wast bruised because thou didst stumble against Him lying down: that thou mayest not be ground to powder, observe Him coming from above. For thus it was foretold by the prophet: “Whoever shall stumble upon that stone shall be bruised, and upon whomsoever it shall have come, it shall grind him to powder.” He doth bruise when little, He shall grind to powder when great. Now thy signs thou seest not, now there is no prophet: and thou sayest, “and us He will not know as yet:” because yourselves know not Him as yet. “No longer is there a prophet; and us He will not know as yet.”

9. “How long, O God, shall the enemy revile?” (ver. 10). Cry out as if forsaken, as if deserted: cry out like a sick man, who hast chosen rather to smite the physician than to be made whole: not as yet doth He know thee. See what He hath done, who doth not know thee as yet. For they to whom there hath been no preaching of Him, shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand: and thou yet criest out, “No longer is there a prophet, and us He will not know as yet.” Where is thine understanding? “The adversary doth provoke Thy name at the end.” For this purpose the adversary doth provoke Thy name at the end, that being provoked Thou mayest reprove, reproving Thou mayest know them at the end: or certainly, “at the end,” in the sense of even unto the end.

10. “Wherefore dost Thou turn away Thine hand, and Thy right hand from the midst of Thy bosom unto the end?” (ver. 11). Again, another sign which was given to Moses. For in like manner as above from the rod was a sign, so also from the right hand now. For when that thing had been done concerning the rod, God gave a second sign: “thrust,” He saith, “thine hand into thy bosom, and he thrust it: draw it forth, and he drew it forth: and it was found white,” that is, unclean. For whiteness on the skin is leprosy, not fairness of complexion. For the heritage of God itself, that is, His people, being cast out became unclean. But what saith He to him? Draw it back into thy bosom. He drew it back, and it was restored to its own colour. When doest Thou this, saith this Asaph? How long dost Thou alienate Thy fight hand from Thy bosom, so that being without unclean it remaineth? Draw it back, let it return to its colour, let it acknowledge the Saviour. “Wherefore dost thou turn away Thine hand, and Thy right hand from the midst of Thy bosom unto the end?” These words he crieth, being blind, not understanding, and God doeth what He doeth. For wherefore came Christ? “Blindness in part happened unto Israel, in order that the fulness of the Gentiles might enter in, and so all Israel might be saved.” Therefore now, O Asaph, acknowledge that which hath gone before, in order that thou mayest at least follow, if thou wast not able to go before. For not in vain came Christ, or in vain was Christ slain, or in vain did the corn fall into the ground; but it fell that it might rise manifold. A serpent was lifted up in the desert, in order that it might cure of the poison him that was smitten. Observe what was done. Do not think it to be a vain thing that He came: lest He find thee evil, when He shall have come a second time.

11. Asaph hath understood, because on the Title of the Psalm there is, “understanding of Asaph.” And what saith he? “But God, our King before the worlds, hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth” (ver. 12). On the one hand we cry, “No longer is there prophet, and us He will not know as yet:” but on the other hand, “our God, our King, who is before the worlds” (for He is Himself in the beginning of the Word by whom were made the worlds), “hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth.” “God therefore, our King before the worlds,” hath done what? “hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth:” and I am yet crying as if forsaken! …Now the Gentiles are awake, and we are snoring, and as though God hath. forsaken us, in dreams we are delirious. “He hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth.”

12. Now therefore, O Asaph, amend thyself according to thy understanding, tell us what sort of Salvation God hath wrought in the midst of the earth. When that earthly Salvation of yours was overthrown, what did He do, what did He promise? “Thou didst confirm in Thy virtue the sea” (ver. 13). As though the nation of the Jews were as it were dry land severed from the waves, the Gentiles in their bitterness were the sea, and on all sides they washed about that land: behold, “Thou hast confirmed in Thy virtue the sea,” and the land remained thirsting for Thy rain. “Thou hast confirmed in Thy virtue the sea, Thou hast broken in pieces the heads of dragons in the water.” Dragons’ heads, that is, demons’ pride, wherewith the Gentiles were possessed, Thou hast broken in pieces upon the water: for those persons whom they were possessing, Thou by Baptism hast delivered.

13. What more after the heads of dragons? For those dragons have their chief, and he is himself the first great dragon. And concerning him what hath He done that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? Hear: “Thou hast broken the head of the dragon” (ver. 14). Of what dragon? We understand by dragons all the demons that war under the devil: what single dragon then, whose head was broken, but the devil himself ought we to understand? What with him hath He done? “Thou hast broken the head of the dragon.” That is, the beginning of sin. That head is the part which received the curse, to wit that the seed of Eve should mark the head of the serpent. For the Church was admonished to shun the beginning of sin. Which is that beginning of sin, like the head of a serpent? The beginning of all sin is pride. There hath been broken therefore the head of the dragon, hath been broken pride diabolical. And what with him hath He done, that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? “Thou hast given him for a morsel to the Ethiopian peoples.” What is this? How do I understand the Ethiopian peoples? How but by these all nations? And properly by black men: for Ethiopians are black. They are themselves called to the faith who were black; the very same indeed, so that there is said to them, “for ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.” …Thence was also that calf which the people worshipped, unbelieving, apostate, seeking the gods of the Egyptians, forsaking Him who had delivered them from the slavery of the Egyptians: whence there was enacted that great Sacrament. For when Moses was thus wroth with them worshipping and adoring the idol, and, inflamed with zeal for God, was punishing temporally, in order that he might terrify them to shun death everlasting; yet the head itself of the calf he cast into the fire, and ground to powder, destroyed, strawed on the water, and gave to the people to drink: so there was enacted a great Sacrament. O anger prophetic, and mind not perturbed but enlightened! He did what? Cast it into the fire, in order that first the form itself may be obliterated; piece by piece grind it down, in order that little by little it may be consumed: cast it into the water, give to the people to drink! What is this but that the worshippers of the devil were become the body of the same? In the same manner as men confessing Christ become the Body of Christ; so that to them is said, “but ye are the Body of Christ and the members.” The body of the devil was to be consumed, and that too by Israelites was to be consumed. For out of that people were the Apostles, out of that people the first Church. …Thus the devil is being consumed with the loss of his members. This was figured also in the serpent of Moses. For the magicians did likewise, and casting down their rods they exhibited serpents: but the serpent of Moses swallowed up the rods of all those magicians. Let there be perceived therefore even now the body of the devil: this is what is coming to pass, he is being devoured by the Gentiles who have believed, he hath become meat for the Ethiopian peoples. This again, may be perceived in, “Thou hast given him for meat to the Ethiopian peoples,” how that now all men bite him. What is, bite him? By reproving, blaming, accusing. Just as hath been said, by way of prohibition indeed, but yet the idea expressed: “but if ye bite and eat up one another, take heed that ye be not consumed of one another.” What is, bite and eat up one another? Ye go to law with one another, ye detract from one another, ye heap revilings upon one another. Observe therefore now how that with these bitings the devil is being consumed. What man, when angry with his servant, even a heathen, would not say to him, Satan? Behold the devil given for meat. This saith Christian, this saith Jew, this saith heathen: him he worshippeth, and with him he curseth! …

14. “Thou hast cleft the fountains and torrents” (ver. 15): in order that they might flow with the stream of wisdom, might flow with the riches of the faith, might water the saltness of the Gentiles, in order that they might convert all unbelievers into the sweetness of the faith by their watering. …In some men the Word of God becometh a well of water springing up unto life eternal; but others hearing the Word, and not so keeping it as that they live well, yet not keeping silence with tongue, they become torrents. For they are properly called torrents which are not perennial: for sometimes also in a secondary sense torrent is used for river: as hath been said, “with the torrent of Thy pleasures Thou shalt give them to drink.” For that torrent shall not ever be dried up. But torrents properly are those rivers named, which in summer fail, but with winter rains are flooded and run. Thou seest therefore a man sound in faith, that will persevere even unto the end, that will not forsake God in any trial; for the sake of the truth, not for the sake of falsehood and error, enduring all difficulties. Whence is this man so vigorous, but because the Word hath become in him a well of water springing up unto life eternal? But the other receiveth the Word, he preacheth, he is not silent, he runneth: but summer proveth whether he be fountain or torrent. Nevertheless through both be the earth watered, by Him who hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth: let the fountains overflow, let the torrents run.

15. “Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham” (ver. 15). …What is Etham? For the word is Hebrew. What is Etham interpreted? Strong, stout. Who is this strong and stout one, whose rivers God drieth up? Who but that very dragon? For “no one entereth into the house of a strong man that he may spoil his vessels, unless first he shall have bound fast the strong man.” This is that strong man on his own virtue relying, and forsaking God: this is that strong man, who saith, “I will set my seat by the north, and I will be like the Most High.” Out of that very cup of perverse strength he hath given man to drink. Strong they willed to be, who thought that they would be Gods by means of the forbidden food. Adam became strong, over whom was reproachfully said, “Behold, Adam hath become like one of us.” …As though they were strong, “to the righteousness of God they have not been made subject.” Observe ye that a man hath put out of the way his own strength, and remained weak, needy, standing afar off, not daring even to raise his eyes to Heaven; but smiting his breast, and saying, “O Lord, merciful be Thou to me a sinner.” Now he is weak, now he confesseth his weakness, he is not strong: dry land he is, be he watered with fountains and torrents. They are as yet strong who rely on their own virtue. Be their rivers dried up, let there be no advancement in the doctrines of the Gentiles, of wizards, of astrologers, of magic arts: for dried up are the rivers of the strong man: “Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham.” Let there dry up that doctrine; let minds be flooded with the Gospel of truth.

16. “Thine own is the day and Thine own is the night” (ver. 16). Who is ignorant of this, seeing that He hath Himself made all these things; for by the Word were made all things? To that very One Himself who hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth, to Him is said, “Thine own is the night.” Something here we ought to perceive which belongeth to that very Salvation which He hath wrought in the midst of the earth. “Thine own is the day.” Who are these? The spiritual. “And Thine own is the night.” Who are these? The carnal. …”Thou hast made perfect sun and moon:” the sun, spiritual men, the moon, carnal men. As yet carnal he is, may he not be forsaken, and may he too be made perfect. The sun, as it were a wise man: the moon, as it were an unwise man: Thou hast not however forsaken. For thus it is written, “A wise man endureth as the sun, but a foolish man as the moon is changed.” What then? Because the sun endureth, that is, because the wise man endureth as the sun, a foolish man is changed like the moon, is one as yet carnal, as yet unwise, to be forsaken? And where is that which hath been said by the Apostle, “To the wise and unwise a debtor I am”?

17. “Thou hast made all the ends of the earth” (ver. 17). …Behold in what manner He hath made the ends of the earth, that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth. “Thou hast made all the ends of the earth. Summer and spring Thou hast made them.” Men fervent in the Spirit are the summer. Thou, I say, hast made men fervent in the Spirit: Thou hast made also the novices in the Faith, they are the “spring.” “Summer and Spring Thou hast made them.” They shall not glory as if they have not received: “Thou hast made them.”

18. “Mindful be Thou of this Thy creature” (ver. 18). Of what creature of Thine? “The enemy hath reviled the Lord.” O Asaph, grieve over thine old blindness in understanding: “the enemy hath reviled the Lord.” It was said to Christ in His own nation, “a sinner is this Man: we know not whence He is:” we know Moses, to him spake God; this Man is a Samaritan. “And the unwise people hath provoked Thy name.” The unwise people Asaph was at that time, but not the understanding of Asaph at that time. What is said in the former Psalm? “As it were a beast I have become unto Thee, and I am alway with Thee:” because He went not to the gods and idols of the Gentiles. Although he knew not, being like a beast, yet he knew again as a man. For he said, “alway I am with Thee, like a beast:” and what afterwards in that place in the same Psalm, where Asaph is? “Thou hast held the hand of my right hand, in Thy will Thou hast conducted me, and with glory Thou hast taken me up.” In Thy will, not in my righteousness: by Thy gift, not by my work. Therefore here also, “the enemy hath reviled the Lord: and the unwise people hath provoked Thy name.” Have they all then perished? Far be it. …For even the Apostle Paul through unbelief had been broken, and through faith unto the root he was restored. So evidently “the unwise people provoked Thy name,” when it was said, “If Son of God He is let Him come down from the Cross.”

19. But what sayest thou, O Asaph, now in understanding? “Deliver not to the beasts a soul confessing to Thee” (ver. 19). …To what beasts, save to those the heads whereof were broken in pieces upon the water? For the same devil is called, beast, lion, and dragon. Do not, he saith, give to the Devil and his Angels a soul confessing to Thee. Let the serpent devour, if still I mind things earthly, if for things earthly I long, if still in the promises of the Old Testament, after the revealing of the New, I remain. But forasmuch as now I have laid down pride, and my own righteousness I will not acknowledge, but Thy Grace; against me let proud beasts have no power. “The souls of Thy poor forget Thou not unto the end.” Rich we were, strong we were: but Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham: no longer we establish our own righteousness, but we acknowledge Thy Grace; poor we are, bearken to Thy beggars. Now we do not dare to lift our eyes to Heaven, but smiting our breasts we say, “O Lord, be Thou merciful to me a sinner.”

20. “Have regard unto Thy Testament” (ver. 20). Fulfil that which Thou hast promised: the tables we have, for the inheritance we are looking. “Have regard unto Thy Testament,” not that old one: not for the sake of the land of Canaan I ask, not for the sake of the temporal subduing of enemies, not for the sake of carnal fruitfulness of sons, not for the sake of earthly riches, not for the sake of temporal welfare: “Have regard unto Thy Testament,” wherein Thou hast promised the kingdom of Heaven. Now I acknowledge Thy Testament: now understanding is Asaph, no beast is Asaph, now he seeth that which was spoken of, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, and I will accomplish with the House of Israel and of Juda a new Testament, not after the Testament which I ordered with their Fathers.” “Have regard unto Thy Testament: for they that have been darkened have been filled of the earth of unrighteous houses:” because they had unrighteous hearts. Our “houses” are our hearts: therein gladly dwell they that are blessed with pure heart. “Have regard,” therefore, “unto Thy Testament:” and let the remnant be saved: for many men that give heed to earth are darkened, and filled with earth. For there hath entered into their eyes dust, and it hath blinded them, and they have become dust which the wind sweepeth from the face of the earth. “They that have been darkened have been filled of the earth of unrighteous houses.” For by giving heed to earth they have been darkened, concerning whom there is said in another Psalm, “Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not, and their back ever bow Thou down.” With earth, then, “they that have been darkened have been filled, with the earth of unrighteous houses:” because they have unrighteous hearts. …

21. “Let not the humble man be turned away confounded” (ver. 21). For them pride hath confounded. “The needy and helpless man shall praise Thy name.” Ye see, brethren, how sweet ought to be poverty: ye see that poor and helpless men belong to God, but “poor in spirit, for of them is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Who are the poor in spirit? The humble, men trembling at the words of God, confessing their sins, neither on their own merits, nor on their own righteousness relying. Who are the poor in spirit? They who when they do anything of good, praise God, when anything of evil, accuse themselves. “Upon whom shall rest My Spirit,” saith the Prophet, “but upon the humble man, and peaceful, and trembling at My words?” Now therefore Asaph hath understood, now to the earth he adhereth not, now the earthly promises out of the Old Testament he requireth not. …

22. “Arise, O Lord, judge Thou my cause” (ver. 22) . …Because I am not able to show my God, as if I were following an empty thing, they revile me. And not only Heathen, or Jew, or heretic; but sometimes even a Catholic brother doth make a grimace when the promises of God are being preached, when a future resurrection is being foretold. And still even he, though already washed with the water of eternal Salvation, bearing the Sacrament of Christ, perchance saith, “and what man hath yet risen again?” And, “I have not heard my father speaking out of the grave, since I buried him!” “God hath given to His servants a law for time, to which let them betake themselves: for what man cometh back from beneath?” And what shall I do with such men? Shall I show them what they see not? I am not able: for not for the sake of them ought God to become visible . …I see not, he saith: what am I to believe? Thy soul is seen then, I suppose? Fool, thy body is seen: thy soul who doth see? Since therefore thy body alone is seen, why art thou not buried? He marvelleth that I have said, If body alone is seen, why art thou not buried? And he answereth (for he knoweth as much as this), Because I am alive. How know I that thou art alive, of whom I see not the soul? How know I? Thou wilt answer, Because I speak, because I walk, because I work. Fool, by the operations of the body I know thee to be living, by the works of creation canst thou not know the Creator? And perchance he that saith, when I shall be dead, afterwards I shall be nothing; hath both learned letters, and hath learned this doctrine from Epicurus, who was a sort of doting philosopher, or rather lover of folly not of wisdom, whom even the philosophers themselves have named the hog: who said that the “chief good” was pleasure of body; this philosopher they have named the hog, wallowing in carnal mire. From him perchance this lettered man hath learned to say, I shall not be, after I have died. Dried be the rivers of Etham! Perish those doctrines of the Gentiles, flourish the plantations of Jerusalem! Let them see what they can, in heart believe what they cannot see! Certainly all those things which throughout the world now are seen, when God was working Salvation in the midst of the earth, when those things were being spoken of, they were not then as yet: and behold at that time they were foretold, now they are shown as fulfilled, and still the fool saith in his heart, “there is no God.” Woe to the perverse hearts: for so will there come to pass the things which remain, as there have come to pass the things which at that time were not, and were being foretold as to come to pass. Hath God indeed performed to us all the things which He promised, and concerning the Day of Judgment alone hath He deceived us? Christ was not on the earth; He promised, He hath performed: no virgin had conceived; He promised, He hath performed: the precious Blood had not been shed whereby there should be effaced the handwriting of our death; He promised, He hath performed: not yet had flesh risen again unto life eternal; He promised, He hath performed: not yet had the Gentiles believed; He promised, He hath performed: not yet heretics armed with the name of Christ, against Christ were warring; He foretold, He hath performed: not yet the idols of the Gentiles from the earth had been effaced; He foretold, He hath performed: when all these things He hath foretold and performed, concerning the Day of Judgment alone hath He lied? It will come by all means as these things came; for even these things before they came to pass were future, and as future were first foretold, and afterwards they came to pass. It will come, my brethren. Let no one say, it will not come: or, it will come, but far off is that which will come. But to thyself it is near at hand to go hence. …If thou shall have done that which the devil doth suggest, and shalt have despised that which God hath commanded; there will come the Judgment Day, and thou wilt find that true which God hath threatened, and that false which the devil hath promised. …”Remember Thy reproaches, those which are from the imprudent man all the day long.” For still Christ is reviled: nor will there be wanting all the day long, that is, even unto the end of time, the vessels of wrath. Still is it being said, “Vain things the Christians do preach:” still is it being said, “A fond thing is the resurrection of the dead.” “Remember Thy reproaches.” But what reproaches, save those “which are from the imprudent man all the day long?” Doth a prudent man say this? Nay, for a prudent man is said to be one far-seeing. If a prudent man is one far-seeing, by faith he seeth afar: for with eyes scarce that before the feet is seen.

23. “Forget not the voice of them that implore Thee” (ver. 23). While they groan for and expect now that which Thou hast promised from the New Testament, and walk by that same Faith, “do Thou not forget the voice of them imploring Thee.” But those still say, “Where is Thy God? Let the pride of them that hate Thee come up always to Thee.” Do not forget even their pride. Nor doth He forget: no doubt He doth either punish or amend. (source)

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Ny Notes on Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2012

I posted this very quickly and my notes started to get a little scant towards the end, but I think the reader may find some useful things here. To be honest, Lamentations is not a book I’ve spent a lot of time studying.

Background~One can profitably consult the Introduction to Lamentations in the NAB. I’ve reproduced below an old article from the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia.

In the Greek and Latin Bibles there are five songs of lament bearing the name of Jeremias, which follow the Book of the Prophecy of Jeremias. In the Hebrew these are entitled Kinoth from their elegiac character, or the ‘Ekhah songs after the first word of the first, second, and fourth elegies; in Greek they are called Threnoi, in Latin they are known as Lamentationes.

Position and Genuineness of Lamentations: The superscription to Lamentations in the Septuagint and other versions throws light on the historical occasion of their production and on the author: “And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity, and Jerusalem was desolate, that Jeremias the prophet sat weeping, and mourned with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and with a sorrowful mind, sighing and moaning, he said”. The inscription was not written by the author of Lamentations, one proof of this being that it does not belong to the alphabetical form of the elegies. It expresses, however, briefly, the tradition of ancient times which is also confirmed both by the Targum and the Talmud. To a man like Jeremias, the day on which Jerusalem became a heap of ruins was not only a day of national misfortune, as was the day of the fall of Troy to the Trojan, or that of the destruction of Carthage to the Carthaginian, it was also a day of religious inanition. For, in a religious sense, Jerusalem had a peculiar importance in the history of salvation, as the footstool of Jahweh and as the scene of the revelation of God and of the Messias. Consequently, the grief of Jeremias was personal, not merely a sympathetic emotion over the sorrow of others, for he had sought to prevent the disaster by his labours as a prophet in the streets of the city. All the fibres of his heart were bound up with Jerusalem; he was now himself crushed and desolate. Thus Jeremias more than any other man was plainly called-it may be said, driven by an inner force-to lament the ruined city as threnodist of the great penitential period of the Old Covenant. He was already prepared by his lament upon the death of King Josias (2 Chronicles 35:25) and by the elegiac songs in the book of his prophecies (cf. Jer 13:20-27, a lament over Jerusalem). The lack of variety in the word-forms and in the construction of the sentences, which, it is claimed, does not accord with the character of the style of Jeremias, may be explained as a poetic peculiarity of this poetic book. Descriptions such as those in Lam 1:13-15, or Lam 4:10, seem to point to an eye witness of the catastrophe, and the literary impression made by the whole continually recalls Jeremias. To this conduce the elegiac tone of the Lamentations, which is only occasionally interrupted by intermediate tones of hope; the complaints against false prophets and against the striving after the favour of foreign nations; the verbal agreements with the Book of Prophecy of Jeremias; finally the predilection for closing a series of thoughts with a prayer warm from the heart-cf. Lam 3:19-21, Lam 3:64-66, and Lam 5, which, like a Miserere Psalm of Jeremias, forms a close to the five lamentations. The fact that in the Hebrew Bible the Kinoth was removed, as a poetic work, from the collection of prophetic books and placed among the Ketuvim, or Hagiographa (“i.e., Holy Writings), cannot be quoted as a decisive argument against its Jeremiac origin, as the testimony of the Septuagint, the most important witness in the forum of Biblical criticism, must in a hundred other cases correct the decision of the Masorah. Moreover, the superscription of the Septuagint seems to presuppose a Hebrew original.

Liturgical Use of Lamentations: The Lamentations have received a peculiar distinction in the Liturgy of the Church in the Office of Passion Week. If Christ Himself designated His death as the destruction of a temple, “he spoke of the temple of his body” (John 2:19-21), then the Church surely has a right to pour out her grief over His death in those Lamentations which were sung over the ruins of the temple destroyed by the sins of the nation.

Lam 2:2 The Lord hath cast down headlong, and hath not spared, all that was beautiful in Jacob: he hath destroyed in his wrath the strong holds of the virgin of Juda, and brought them down to the ground: he hath made the kingdom unclean, and the princes thereof.

As is often the case in the OT, Jerusalem is portrayed as a woman or girl, here called the virgin of Juda. At the beginning of chapter 1 she was portrayed as having become like a widow (Lam 1:1), but she is also portrayed as a woman of dubious character who has been betrayed by her lovers (Lam 1:2).

She has been cast down headlong. See Lam 1:7.

and all that was beautiful in Jacob (i.e., the nation) has not been spared. The remembrance of these beautiful things is a reason for bitterness (see Lam 1:7).

Her fate, as the opening words of the verse indicate, has been the Lord’s doing (see Lam 1:5).

He has destroyed in His wrath her strongholds…and brought them to the ground. “Strongholds” = fortifications, defenses, etc. The reference here is almost certainly to the famous walls of Jerusalem (see Lam 1:4~”all her gates are broken down”. See also Lam 2:5; Lam 2:8-9). Others understand the strongholds to be a reference to the fortified cities of Juda that surrounded Jerusalem and were intended to protect it. These systematically fell to the Babylonians (Jer 5:17; Jer 34:7).

He hath made the kingdom unclean, and the princes thereof. “by delivering them up to the heathen he has deprived the kingdom of its sacred character as his elect (cf.Exodus 19:6), and the princes of their sacred character as consecrated rulers in the theocratic kingdom” (Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture.

Lam 2:10  The ancients of the daughter of Sion sit upon the ground, they have held their peace: they have sprinkled their heads with dust, they are girded with haircloth, the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.

The ancients of the daughter of Sion sit upon the ground. The posture indicates mourning and distress (see Lam 1:1). In Isaiah 3:26 the city of Jerusalem is portrayed as sitting on the ground, desolate. A similar image is applied to Babylon in Isaiah 47:1.

…have sprinkled their heads with dust, they are girded with haircloth. The ancients are in grief and mourning, and practice the traditional signs to indicate it (see Job 2:12-13). The silence stands in marked contrast to the conquering foe who have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast (Lam 2:7); who clap their hands and hiss at their misfortune (Lam 2:15-16; see Jer 19:8; 25:9).

The young woman are in mourning and hang down their heads to the ground, another sign of mourning. Their enemies on the other hand wag their head at them and mock (Lam 2:15), rejoicing over the victory (Lam 2:17)

Lam 2:11  My eyes have failed with weeping, my bowels are troubled: my liver is poured out upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people, when the children, and the sucklings, fainted away in the streets of the city.
Lam 2:12 They said to their mothers: Where is corn and wine? when they fainted away as the wounded in the streets of the city: when they breathed out their souls in the bosoms of their mothers.

The prophet is here recalling the horrors of the siege, especially famine(2 Kings 25:3; Jer 52:6).  Famine was especially hard on the children (Lam 2:20, and see the quote from Josephus below) . The scenes of the tragedy which played out before the poets eyes have left his eyes failing, filled as they are with tears. His bowels (i.e., guts) are troubled (see Jer 4:9).

Josephus, the Jewish historian, gives us a gut wrenching description of the famine endured during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 and it describes scenes typical of sieges:

2 “For the wealthy,” he says, “it was equally dangerous to remain. For under pretense that they were going to desert men were put to death for their wealth. The madness of the seditions increased with the famine and both the miseries were inflamed more and more day by day.

3 Nowhere was food to be seen; but, bursting into the houses men searched them thoroughly, and whenever they found anything to eat they tormented the owners on the ground that they had denied that they had anything; but if they found nothing, they tortured them on the ground that they had more carefully concealed it.

4 The proof of their having or not having food was found in the bodies of the poor wretches. Those of them who were still in good condition they assumed were well supplied with food, while those who were already wasted away they passed by, for it seemed absurd to slay those who were on the point of perishing for want.

5 Many, indeed, secretly sold their possessions for one measure of wheat, if they belonged to the wealthier class, of barley if they were poorer. Then shutting themselves up in the innermost parts of their houses, some ate the grain uncooked on account of their terrible want, while others baked it according as necessity and6fear dictated.

6 Nowhere were tables set, but, snatching the yet uncooked food from the fire, they tore it in pieces. Wretched was the fare, and a lamentable spectacle it was to see the more powerful secure an abundance while the weaker mourned.

7 Of all evils, indeed, famine is the worst, and it destroys nothing so effectively as shame. For that which under other circumstances is worthy of respect, in the midst of famine is despised. Thus women snatched the food from the very mouths of their husbands and children, from their fathers, and what was most pitiable of all, mothers from their babes, And while their dearest ones were wasting away in their arms, they Were not ashamed to take away froth them the last drops that supported life.

8 And even while they were eating thus they did not remain undiscovered. But everywhere the rioters appeared, to rob them even of these portions of food. For whenever they saw a house shut up, they regarded it as a sign that those inside were taking food. And immediately bursting open the doors they rushed in and seized what they were eating, almost forcing it out of their very throats.

9 Old men who clung to their food were beaten, and if the women concealed it in their hands, their hair was torn for so doing. There was pity neither for gray hairs nor for infants, but, taking up the babes that clung to their morsels of food, they dashed them to the ground. But to those that anticipated their entrance and swallowed what they were about to seize, they were still more cruel, just as if they had been wronged by them.

10 And they, devised the most terrible modes of torture to discover food, stopping up the privy passages of the poor wretches with bitter herbs, and piercing their seats with sharp rods. And men suffered things horrible even to hear of, for the sake of compelling them to confess to the possession of one loaf of bread, or in order that they might be made to disclose a single drachm of barley which they had concealed. But the tormentors themselves did not suffer hunger.

11 Their conduct might indeed have seemed less barbarous if they had been driven to it by necessity; but they did it for the sake of exercising their madness and of providing sustenance for themselves for days to come.

12 And when any one crept out of the city by night as far as the outposts of the Romans to collect wild herbs and grass, they went to meet him; and when he thought he had already escaped the enemy, they seized what he had brought with him, and even though oftentimes the man would entreat them, and, calling upon the most awful name of God, adjure them to give him a portion of what he had obtained at the risk of his life, they would give him nothing back. Indeed, it was fortunate if the one that was plundered was not also slain.”

13 To this account Josephus, after relating other things, adds the following:74 “The possibility of going out of the city being brought to an end,75 all hope of safety for the Jews was cut off. And the famine increased and devoured the people by houses and families. And the rooms were filled with dead women and children, the lanes of the city with the corpses of old men.

14 Children and youths, swollen with the famine, wandered about the market-places like shadows, and fell down wherever the death agony overtook them. The sick were not strong enough to bury even their own relatives, and those who had the strength hesitated because of the multitude of the dead and the uncertainty as to their own fate. Many, indeed, died while they were burying others, and many betook themselves to their graves before death came upon them.

15 There was neither weeping nor lamentation under these misfortunes; but the famine stifled the natural affections. Those that were dying a lingering death looked with dry eyes upon those that had gone to their rest before them. Deep silence and death-laden night encircled the city.

16 But the robbers were more terrible than these miseries; for they broke open the houses, which were now mere sepulchres, robbed the dead and stripped the covering from their bodies, and went away with a laugh. They tried the points of their swords in the dead bodies, and some that were lying on the ground still alive they thrust through in order to test their weapons. But those that prayed that they would use their right hand and their sword upon them, they contemptuously left to be destroyed by the famine. Every one of these died with eyes fixed upon the temple; and they left the seditious alive

“Of those that perished by famine in the city the number was countless, and the miseries they underwent unspeakable. For if so much as the shadow of food appeared in any house, there was war, and the dearest friends engaged in hand-to-hand conflict with one another, and snatched from each other the most wretched supports of life.

79  21 Nor would they believe that even the dying were without food; but the robbers would search them while they were expiring, lest any one should feign death while concealing food in his bosom. With mouths gaping for want of food, they stumbled and staggered along like mad dogs, and beat the doors as if they were drunk, and in their impotence they would rush into the same houses twice or thrice in one hour.

22 Necessity compelled them to eat anything they could find, and they gathered and devoured things that were not fit even for the filthiest of irrational beasts. Finally they did not abstain even from their girdles and shoes, and they stripped the hides off their shields and devoured them. Some used even wisps of old hay for food, and others gathered stubble and sold the smallest weight of it for four Attic drachmae.78

23 “But why should I speak of the shamelessness which was displayed during the famine toward inanimate things? For I am going to relate a fact such as is recorded neither by Greeks nor Barbarians; horrible to relate, incredible to hear. And indeed I should gladly have omitted this calamity, that I might not seem to posterity to be a teller of fabulous tales, if I had not innumerable witnesses to it in my own age. And besides, I should render my country poor service if I suppressed the account of the sufferings which she endured.

24 “There was a certain woman named Mary that dwelt beyond Jordan, whose father was Eleazer, of the village of Bathezor79 (which signifies the house of hyssop). She was distinguished for her family and her wealth, and had fled with the rest of the multitude to Jerusalem and was shut up there with them during the siege.

25 The tyrants had robbed her of the rest of the property which she had brought with her into the city from Perea. And the remnants of her possessions and whatever food was to be seen the guards rushed in daily and snatched away from her. This made the woman terribly angry, and by her frequent reproaches and imprecations she aroused the anger of the rapacious villains against herself.

26 But no one either through anger or pity would slay her; and she grew weary of finding food for others to eat. The search, too, was already become everywhere difficult, and the famine was piercing her bowels and marrow, and resentment was raging more violently than famine. Taking, therefore, anger and necessity as her counsellors, she proceeded to do a most unnatural thing.

27 Seizing her child, a boy which was sucking at her breast, she said, Oh, wretched child, in war, in famine, in sedition, for what do I preserve thee? Slaves among the Romans we shall be even if we are allowed to live by them. But even slavery is anticipated by the famine, and the rioters are more cruel than both. Come, be food for me, a fury for these rioters,80 and a byeword to the world, for this is all that is wanting to complete the calamities of the Jews.

28 And when she had said this she slew her son; and having roasted him, she ate one half herself, and covering up the remainder, she kept it. Very soon the rioters appeared on the scene, and, smelling the nefarious odor, they threatened to slay her immediately unless she should show them what she had prepared. She replied that she had saved an excellent portion for them, and with that she uncovered the remains of the child.

29 They were immediately seized with horror and amazement and stood transfixed at the sight. But she said This is my own son, and the deed is mine. Eat for I too have eaten. Be not more merciful than a woman, nor more compassionate than a mother. But if you are too pious and shrink from my sacrifice, I have already81 eaten of it; let the rest also remain for me. (Quoted from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, book 3, chapter 5).

Lam 2:13 To what shall I compare thee? or to what shall I liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? to what shall I equal thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Sion? for great as the sea is thy destruction: who shall heal thee?

What has befallen Jerusalem is beyond compare. The extent of the damage is as vast as the sea. “O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow” (Lam 1:12). Jerusalem is without a comforter (Lam 1:9; Lam 1:16)

Lam 2:14  Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee: and they have not laid open thy iniquity, to excite thee to penance: but they have seen for thee false revelations and banishments.

The prophets failed to preach repentance. Jeremiah has very harsh words and descriptions relating to false prophets (Jer 2:8; Jer 5:12; Jer 6:13; Jer 8:10; Jer 14:14; Jer 23:9-40; Jer 29:20-32).

But they have seen for these false revelations and banishments (exile). Echoes two passages from Jeremiah: “Therefore hearken not to your prophets, and diviners, and dreamers, and soothsayers, and sorcerers, that say to you: You shall not serve the king of Babylon. For they prophesy lies to you: to remove you far from your country, and cast you out, and to make you perish” (Jer 27:9-10).  ” For I have not sent them, saith the Lord: and they prophesy in my name falsely: to drive you out, and that you may perish, both you, and the prophets that prophesy to you” (Jer 27:15).

Lam 2:18 Their heart cried to the Lord upon the walls of the daughter of Sion: Let tears run down like a torrent day and night: give thyself no rest, and let not the apple of thy eye cease.
Lam 2:19 Arise, give praise in the night, in the beginning of the watches: pour out thy heart like water, before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands to him for the life of thy little children, that have fainted for hunger at the top of all the streets.

The poet here calls upon the people to turn their mourning into prayer with a spirit of penitence. The call to arise contrasts with the sitting of the elders (ancients) in Lam 2:10; likewise, the call to praise contrasts with the ancients silence. They are to do this for the sake of the children.

 

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My Notes on Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2012

The brief outline which begins this post was previously used in my notes on Wisdom 1:1-7.

The Book of Wisdom is generally divided into three major sections (see the Introduction to the Book of Wisdom in the NAB). Today’s reading is taken from the first major section (1:1-6:11) which can be divided into five parts written in the form of a reverse parallel (technically known as a chiamus).

A1) An Exhortation to practice righteousness and a warning for those who refuse (1:1-15).

B1) The words of the wicked against the just man and a condemnation of their thoughts by the author (1:16:2:24).

C) Triumph of the just, punishment of the wicked (3:1-5:1).

B2) The words of the wicked acknowledging their foolishness in opposing the just man followed by a confirmation of their thoughts by the author (5:2-23).

A2) Closing exhortation to seek wisdom, and a warning to those who refuse (6:1-12).

Wis 1:13  For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.

These words should be seen in reference to the preceding context, Wisdom 1:7-12. Death  (see 2:24 below) here is the death men bring upon themselves via God’s judgement  (destruction) against them for the sins of their lips, which manifest their thoughts. Note the various (color-coded) references to these themes in 7-12~

For the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world: and that which containeth all things, hath knowledge of the voice. Therefore he that speaketh unjust things, cannot be hid, neither shall the chastising judgment pass him by. For inquisition shall be made into the thoughts of the ungodly, and the hearing of his words shall come to God, to the chastising of his iniquities. For the ear of jealousy (i.e., God’s “ear”) heareth all things, and the tumult of murmuring shall not be hid. Keep yourselves, therefore, from murmuring, which profiteth nothing, and refrain your tongue from detraction, for an obscure speech shall not go for nought: and the mouth that belieth, killeth the soul. Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure ye destruction by the works of your hands (Wisdom 1:7-12).

Wis 1:14  For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon the earth.

This translation differs somewhat from that found in modern translations such as the NAB and the RSV.

He created all things that they might be. I.e., He created everything to exist.

He made the nations of the earth for health. Nations is translated in the NAB in relation to creation in general; in the RSV its is translated in reference to anything that propagates life among itself (see the translations).  Health is translated as wholesomeness in the NAB and RSV. Winston, in the Anchor Bible Commentary translates the phrase in reference to creation in general, its original purpose being to preserve its existence. In my opinion (for whatever it’s worth) the translation of “nations” is far better than the more generic renderings of the RSV and NAB. The exhortation is, after all, addressed to those who love justice, and singles out judges, i.e., rulers, kings (Wis 1:1). Among such men perverse (unjust) or senseless counsel (sins of the lips) can provoke God (Wisdom 1:3; Wis 1:5).

The parallelism of the first half of verse 14 is suggestive:

a. For he created all things that they might be:
b. and he made the nations of the earth for health (“wholesomeness,” “to endure”).

Beside the parallels between (a) and (b), there are parallels within (a) and (b).

In (a) parallelism occurs  between he created and might be (i.e., exist). In (b) parallelism occurs between he made and for health (better, “to be wholesome,” “to endure”).

The basic meaning of the text is obvious enough. Pope John Paul II, invoking two verses which form part of our reading (i.e., Wis 1:13-14 and Wis 2:23-24) catches the basic meaning:

“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all things that they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; Wis 2:3-24).

The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life (cf. Gen 2:7 Wis 9:2-3), is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over man’s entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devil’s envy (cf. Gen 3:1-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf.  Gen  Gen 2:17, Gen 3:,17-19).  (The Gospel of Life #7)

And there is no poison of destruction in them. Poison could also be translated as medicine.That which is beneficial (medicine) can also be used to kill (poison). That which can foster relationships, peace, etc., (i.e., in our reading’s context: speech, evil counsel, etc.,) can also destroy. In these matters, where man is concerned, he is his own administering physician, and his free will is his prescription pad: Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure (prescribe) ye destruction by the works of your hands (Wisdom 1:12). It was God’s intention that man be open, honest, integral in speech: Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2467).

Nor kingdom of hell upon the earth. The Greek speaks of the the kingdom of Hades, the abode of the dead. This was not God’s intended lot for man: but the wicked with works and words have called it (death, destruction) to them: and esteeming it (death, destruction) a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it (death, destruction): because they are worthy to be of the part thereof (Wis 1:16).

God is in ultimate control of what takes place on earth, therefore, the thoughts of of sinners who seek to destroy the just (Wis (2:10-20) shows forth their lack of right knowledge: And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls (Wis 2:22).

Wis 1:15  For justice is perpetual and immortal.

Justice is the very opposite of sin and death, and what these have wrought. Again we quote Wisdom 1:16~the wicked with works and words have called it (death, destruction) to them: and esteeming it (death, destruction) a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it (death, destruction): because they are worthy to be of the part thereof.

Wis 2:23  For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness he made him.

These words, as the introductory for indicates, should be seen in relation to the preceding verses, especially the just quoted words of 1 :16~the wicked with works and words have called it (death, destruction) to them: and esteeming it (death, destruction) a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it (death, destruction): because they are worthy to be of the part thereof. Such men (note the theme of speech and thought)~ have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell  [hell, here meaning Hades, the abode of the dead, not the place of eternal punishment which they never give thought to] (Wis 2:1).

Those who never give thought to their creaturly  status cannot stand the  thoughts, teaching and ways of the just man:  He is become a censurer of our thoughts (see Wis 2:1-20). To men who think this way, the final words of today’s reading are applicable: Wis 2:24  But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:

 

 

 

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R.D. Byles’ Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2012

2Co 8:7  That as in all things you abound in faith and word and knowledge and all carefulness, moreover also in your charity towards us: so in this grace also you may abound

word and knowledge. Cf. 1 Cor 1:5.

word may mean the confession of your faith, but it is more probable that it means the Christian Truth considered objectively, while knowledge is the subjective apprehension of the same.

2Co 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich he became poor for your sakes: that through his poverty you might be rich

for you know. … In this verse he quotes the example of our Lord, in addition to that of the Macedonians.

the grace of our Lord, that is, the benefit which He has freely given us.

being rich. St. Paul says being rich  instead of ”having been rich” because our Lord did not lay aside the riches of His Divinity when He took upon Himself the poverty of our human nature, although His Divine glory and attributes remained concealed under the form of a servant (cf Phil 2:5-8).

through his poverty. Our Lord enriched us by the destitution of all temporal things, to which He submitted in His Incarnation, and throughout His earthly life, in two ways:

  1. by way of example, that we may be led to imitate Him in the love of poverty, and that we may be moved to be charitable towards the poor, who most resemble Him and are most loved by Him (cf. James 2:5; Matt 25:40; Luke 6:20).
  2. by sacramental efficacy. As by dying a natural death He gave to men eternal life, so by suffering want in temporal things, He has given men all spiritual wealth.

2Co 8:13  For I mean not that others should be eased and you burdened, but by an equality.

I mean. These words are supplied by the English translators to complete the sense. But it would be better to supply some such words as “this collection is not made.” St. Paul means, I do not require of you to give such alms as would leave you burthened and afflicted. The Macedonians indeed had been ready to give even beyond their power, but this is not to be asked of any one who does not offer it of his own accord. Therefore all that St. Paul asks is that they should give of their abundance, to supply the needs of their brethren, for this much Christian charity requires.

2Co 8:14  In this present time let your abundance supply their want, that their abundance also may supply your want: that there may be an equality,

your abundance. Corinth was an important centre of trade, and a wealthy town, and though it is true that the Christian converts were not generally from the most wealthy classes (1 Cor1:26), still they must have included many who were well able to give large alms.

that their abundance also may supply your want. Some modern commentators have supposed that these words mean no more than that, when you are in want of alms, the Christians of Jerusalem will help you in turn. But considering how poor the Church of Jerusalem was, and that there was no prospect of their ever being in a position to give such help to the comparatively wealthy Corinthians, such a meaning is clearly out of the question. Besides, it is equally certain that St. Paul would not ask the Corinthians to give alms only that they might receive as much again, for such a motive would destroy all the merit of their action (cf. Luke 6:33; Luke 14:12-14). It is therefore certain that we must take this passage, as it is taken by all the Fathers, to mean that their abundance of graces may supply your spiritual wants, and their prayers may bring you after your death to paradise
(cf. Luke 16:9).

2Co 8:15  As it is written: He that had much had nothing over; and he that had little had no want.

as it is written. St. Paul illustrates what he has been saying by a reference to the miraculous gift of the manna to the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16:18). This manna was so ordained by God that, when the Israelites took it to their tents and measured it, whatever any man had gathered, eveiy one was found to have the same measure, namely, one gomor. As God thus made the measure equal for all, so it is right for Christians to preserve the same equality, by those who are rich, sharing their wealth, whether temporal or spiritual, with those in want.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2012

2Co 8:7  That as in all things you abound in faith and word and knowledge and all carefulness, moreover also in your charity towards us: so in this grace also you may abound

2Co 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich he became poor for your sakes: that through his poverty you might be rich.

for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.   This is a fresh stimulus to almsgiving (concerning which St Paul has been exhorting them). Christ, the King of kings, for your sakes became poor when He was born in the stable, because there was no room for Him in the inn. Instead of His royal throne He had a manger; for bedding, hay; for fire, the breath of ox and ass; for curtains, spiders’ webs; for sweet perfumes, stable ordure; for purple, filthy rags; for His stud, ox and ass; for a crowd of nobles, Joseph and Mary. So, too, His whole after-life was stamped with poverty, or, as Erasmus renders the Greek here, with beggary. From this it appears that Christ was not merely poor, but was also an actual beggar.

That through his poverty you might be rich. Rich with spiritual riches, with lessons of godliness, with forgiveness of sins, righteousness, holiness, and other virtues. The Corinthians are tacitly bidden, if they wish to imitate Christ closely, to enrich the poor with their alms, to impoverish themselves so as to enrich others. Cf. Anselm on the riches and poverty of Christ, and Chrysostom (Hom. 17), who points out how the Christian should not be ashamed of or shrink from poverty.

S. Gregory Nazianzen (Oral. 1 in Pascha) beautifully contrasts our benefits and Christ’s loving-kindness. He says: “Christ was made poor that we through His poverty might be rich. He took the form of a servant that we might regain liberty. He descended that we might be exalted. He was tempted that we might overcome. He was despised that He might fill us with glory. He died that we might be saved. He ascended, to draw to Himself those lying prostrate on the ground through sin’s stumblingblock.” S. Augustine again says beautifully: “What will His riches do if His poverty made us rich?” Lastly, from these words of the Apostle, Bede infers: “All good faithful souls are rich: let none despise himself. The poor in his cell, being rich in his conscience, sleeps more quietly on the hard ground than he that is Rich in gold sleeps in purple.”

2Co 8:13  For I mean not that others should be eased and you burdened, but by an equality.

For I mean not that others should be eased and you burdened. I do not enjoin on you such liberal almsgiving as to enable the poor to live in luxury and you in need, but I wish every one to think of the necessities of others according to his power, without neglecting his own (Theophylact).  S. Paul does not enjoin this, but he counsels it. It is, say S. Thomas and Anselm, an evangelical counsel, and, therefore, a sign of greater perfection, to give all your goods to the poor and become wholly poor yourself. “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor,” said Christ (S. Matt 19:21). This can be done not only by those who are going to devote themselves to the religious life, but even by those who remain in the world, as, e.g., by the poor widow (S. Mark 12:43). Do not mistake me: any one may do this provided he do not bring himself into extreme necessity, and if he has no family, for whom he is bound to provide. Theophylact adds that in the next verse the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to give beyond their strength, when he says “that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want,” meaning: If you wish for a great reward, give liberally; if for the whole reward, give your all. He takes abundance to mean profuse almsgiving, abounding beyond their strength, such as S. Paul praised in the Macedonians. The reason is this, that such an act is one of supreme, heroic almsgiving, poverty, fortitude, and hope in God.

We have a striking example of this in S. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, who, after spending all his goods on the poor, at last gave himself up to the Vandals to be enslaved in the place of the son of a widow. His self-abnegation is praised by S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, lib. i. c. 10). The event showed that his action was pleasing to God, for, when he was living as a slave, he was recognised by the Vandals under the inspiration of God, and was honourably treated and sent back home.  S. Paula, again, was so liberal to the poor that her frequent prayer was heard, and, according to her wish, she had to be buried at the expense of others, and in another’s garments. S. Jerome, in his Life of her, praises her warmly for this.  S. Martin,  S. John the Almoner, and many others are examples of the same liberality. But abundance in this verse more properly denotes the abundant wealth of the Corinthians; for S. Paul contrasts it with the poverty of the Christians of Jerusalem, and desires that one may relieve the other.

2Co 8:14  In this present time let your abundance supply their want, that their abundance also may supply your want: that there may be an equality,

That their abundance also may supply your want. So their abundant supply of faith and hope and all graces will, by their prayers and merits before God, assist your spiritual poverty in this life, and in the other life they will, when you die, receive you into everlasting habitations. The kingdom of heaven is the possession of Christ’s poor (Anselm).

That there may be an equality.  I do not command so large almsgiving that your homes be pauperised while the poor have ample, but of your superfluity, which supplies the proper matter of almsgiving, I beg you to communicate with the poor, and supply their want, so that you may both have the necessities of life, and may each hold the mean between the two extremes of poverty and abundance. Let there be nothing superfluous in the means of them that give, and nothing deficient in the way of the necessaries of life to them that receive (Theophylact).

That there may be an equality. By an interchange of spiritual goods as well as temporal.

2Co 8:15  As it is written: He that had much had nothing over; and he that had little had no want.

As it is written. Exodus 16:18. Paul applies what is said of the gathering and eating of manna, to show that God wishes men to strive after equality in communion of goods.

He that had much. He that gathered much had no more than he that gathered little, and vice versâ. The passage quoted from Exodus declares that by a continuous miracle God rained down manna for forty years in the wilderness on so many hundreds of thousands of Jews, in such a way that the greedy who gathered much, and the idle who gathered little, both found, when they returned home and measured what they had got, that they had but an homer full, or enough for a day’s food for each. If they collected either more or less, God or an angel subtracted from it or added to it invisibly, to bring all to an equality. So, then, an homer was the measure for men, women, and children, and it contained as much only as a man would ordinarily eat in a day (Nyssen, de Vita Moysis, Chrysostom, Anselm, Vatablus, Theophylact).

The reason for this was (1.) that God would in this way restrain the greediness and gluttony of the Jews, and their excessive love of earthly things (Chrysostom and Theophylact). (2.) By this continuous miracle God would remind us that in all our necessity we should look to His Providence, and recollect that He provides for each all that is needful for his life; therefore, as we sit at table, let us regard God as raining down manna upon us from heaven. So now God supplies, not only to the rich but the poor also, and those that have bad health or are burdened with a large family, their daily portion, which is enough to maintain the life of all. This will seem to any one who considers the matter, and compares the small gain made with the great expenditure of so many heads of families, a wonderful and incredible thing; and by this test alone any one may see God’s sweet and wondrous care for all. Let not the poor, therefore, bewail their lot, nor desire great riches, “For since we all,” says S. Chrysostom, “have but one belly to fill, and one time to live in, and one body to cover, the rich man has no more from his abundance, nor the poor man less from his poverty; but both have food and clothing, and in this they are equal.”

Observe, again, the beautiful application S. Paul makes of the symbolic manna. As God gave of it an equal measure to all, so is it right that Christians should cultivate an equality: those who have abundant wealth should distribute to the poor, and make them equal to themselves, so far as the necessaries of life go, that all may be content, and, having what is necessary, live equally (Theophylact and Chrysostom). Observe, however, that as the rich, by giving of their superfluous wealth to the poor, make them equal to themselves, so too do the poor, by a fellowship of merits, make the rich equal to them, not altogether absolutely, but by way of proportion, in such a way that neither has any lack of either kind of benefits, or has an excessive supply when compared with others; for otherwise the rich would not by giving to the poor make them as rich as themselves, nor would the poor by giving in return his prayers and other spiritual goods give an equal gift, but rather a far more valuable gift than he received. Nor again does he give of his spiritual goods as much as he has (S. Thomas).

Analogically, S. Chrysostom and Anselm refer this passage to the glory of heaven, which all will share equally. But this must he understood of the objective bliss; for all will see the same God, and in Him will be satisfied and blessed; but in this vision, and consequently in joy and glory, there will be degrees, and a disparity proportioned to merit. It was so in the case of the manna: an equal share was given to each, satisfying all equally, yet it tasted differently to different people.

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My Notes on John 19:28-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2012

Joh 19:28  Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.
Joh 19:29  Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, put it to his mouth.
Joh 19:30  Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

28.  Afterwards.  This scene is thus closely connected with the preceding one (John 19:25-27).  The enigmatic words of Christ to His mother at Cana have been fulfilled.  Jesus has “loved His own” “to the end” (13:1), a fact bought out by the gift of His Mother to His disciple(s), who must receive her “into their own.”

Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished. Jesus knows that the end of His earthly life has come; and the “work” His Father gave Him to do on earth has come to completion (“were now accomplished).  Obviously, one cannot so interpret this as meaning that the entire work of  redemption and salvation has been brought to a close, for this would mean no redeeming or saving value could be attached to the Resurrection or the entrance into the Heavenly Tabernacle, etc.  Only by passing through the Heavenly Tabernacle with His blood has Christ achieved “eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11-12).

Our Lord had defined the salvific will of the Father and the work He had given the Son to accomplish as His “food” (John 4:34).  It was for this reason that He came down from heaven (John 6:32-33), and became flesh (John 1:14) with which he nourishes us to salvation (John6:54-59).

That the Scripture might be fulfilled said, ‘I thirst’. Jesus Desires to  drink to the bitter dregs the cup His Father has given to Him (John 18:11).  Only by assuaging His own thirst for our salvation can he give us the drink that will assuage ours (John 4:10-14).

Cornelius a Lapide: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. After about three hours. It was at the beginning of the crucifixion that He commended His mother to S. John. The scripture was Ps 69:22. He said this that He might suffer the further torment of being offered the vinegar. As S. Augustine says, ‘Ye have not yet done this. Give Me that which ye are yourselves—for ye are full of acidity and bitterness; give Me vinegar, and not wine.’

“Christ thirsted, because He had neither eaten nor drunken since His supper the night before, and He had moreover poured forth all the moisture and blood in His body, by His scourging and crucifixion. And His most bitter pains also caused Him great thirst; for, as S. Cyril says, “Sorrows enkindle the heat within us, dry up our moisture from its very depths, and burn us up with fiery heat.” Hence our jaws are dried up, and are parched with thirst. The words of the Psalmist (Ps 22:6) were fulfilled in Christ’s person. The Chancellor of Louvain, when he was dying forty years ago, said in my presence, that he never fully understood those words, as he did when he was himself suffering from like drought and thirst, and thence learned how great the thirst of Christ was. Mystically, Christ thirsted for the salvation of souls. See Bellarmine on “The seven words of Christ on the cross.” “God thirsteth to be thirsted for,” says Nazianzen in Tetrastichisis, in order that we may insatiably love and desire Him, and say with the Psalmist, “My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?” Ps 42:2.”

29.  Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about (i.e., onto) hyssop, put it to his mouth.  Hyssop is a fernlike plant with very delicate branches, rather impractical for the purpose for which it is here being used.  The oddity highlights the fulfillment of Scripture mentioned in the previous verse.  John is here alluding to the Septuagint version of Psalm 68:22 (69:22 in modern bibles): “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  This Psalm was also quoted in (John 2:17 (Ps 68:10), and in John 15:25 (Ps 68:4).

Hyssop also may be an allusion to Exodus 12:22-23.

Joh 19:30  Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

Cornelius a Lapide: “All the suffering, and all the mysteries which the Father decreed from all eternity that I should suffer and carry out, as He ordered from My very birth, and willed, moreover, that the prophets should foretell concerning Me. There remains only the final issue of death, to complete My course of suffering, to expiate thereby the penalty of death, which Adam incurred by sin, and to restore mankind to life. I therefore embrace it, and resign My spirit into the hands of My Father. (Matt 27:48, seq.)”

It is consummated.  Forms an inclusio with verse 28.  Often interpreted in reference to the work of redemption, but this is quite impossible, as previously mentioned.

He gave up the ghost. A poor translation, shared by the KJV.  More modern translations sometimes translate “He gave up his spirit”, but this too is poor.  The Greek reads: “He delivered (or handed down) the Spirit” (καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα).

Father Francis J. Moloney: “‘He bowed his head and paredoken to pneuma‘ (v. 30b).  At the celebration of Tabernacles the narrator had remarked that the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not  yet glorified (John 7:39).  Now the Spirit is poured out.  If the seamless robe was a symbol of the community of disciples and the gift of the Mother to Son and Son to Mother foreshadowed the unity of faith, faith that is the ekklesia of God (cf. Hoskyns, Gospel 530), then it is upon the nascent community that the Spirit is poured.  The words of the narrator are not a euphemism for death.  The text does not say that Jesus ‘gave up his spirit’ (cf. RSV, NRSV, JB, NJB, CEI.  See, by way of contrast, Mark 15:37: exepneusen [par. Luke 23:46]; Matt 27:50: apheken to pneuma).  The verb used has the primary meaning of ‘to hand over, to deliver, to entrust’ (BAGD 614), and the definite article used indicates ‘the Spirit’.  In bringing to perfection the task the Father had given him Jesus hands over, entrusts, the Spirit to his new family gathered at the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27).” (Quoted from pages 504-505 of his commentary THE GOSPEL OF JOHN in the Sacra Pagina Commentary Series).

A possible problem to the above interpretation is that in John 20:22 Jesus breathes on the Apostles and tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit.”  Father Moloney (if I understand his comments on John 20:22 correctly) sees this as a specific gift oriented towards mission, whereas he sees the giving of the spirit at the cross as a gift to foster unity.  Needless to say, the two are intimately connected.

Joh 19:31  The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Joh 19:32  The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him:
Joh 19:33  but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:

Once again the Jewish leaders show themselves more concerned with ritual than the reality of what they were doing (see John 18:28 and my notes on that verse).  Their concern is based upon Deuteronomy 21:23.

Cornelius a Lapide: “The Jews therefore (because it was the preparation) that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath-day was an high day) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. See Deut. xxi. 22. This was done, in order that they might not pollute and make gloomy this most solemn festival, by the horror of their sufferings, as St. Augustine says. It was necessary therefore that they should die and be buried before sunset, at which time the sabbath began. “That,” as Theophylact says, “the sun might not set on their sufferings.”
For this was the sabbath within the octave of the Passover, and for this reason a more solemn day than other sabbaths. Their legs were to be broken with the strong blows of a mallet or iron bar, to make them die the sooner, from the intensity of the pain, or the loss of blood, or because the vital force resides in the knees and legs. (See Pliny, N. H. xi. 45.)”

Doctors say that the leading cause of death among the crucified would have been asphyxiation due to the stress put on the chest/lungs as the body sagged; the fixed arms causing the constriction.  Broken legs would obviously hasten death, since the condemned would be unable to continue supporting their body’s weight.

Joh 19:34  howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water.
Joh 19:35  And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe.
Joh 19:36  For these things came to pass, that the scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
Joh 19:37  And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Believing Jesus was already dead the guards did not trouble themselves to break his legs, rather, they ensured that he was in fact dead by driving a lance into his side. The lack of broken bones is seen as fulfilling Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12.  This recalls the words of John the Baptist upon seeing Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).  Jesus fulfills the meaning of the Passover.

For more details one can profitably consult THE PASSION OF JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN by Father Donald Senior.  Father Senior makes the interesting suggestion that the text may also be alluding to what Psalm 34:30 says about the righteous man: “The Lord keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.”

Water and water symbolism are extremely important in the fourth Gospel, and refers to baptism the Spirit, and the new life which these bring (John 1:33; John 3:5; John 4:10-14; John 7:37-39).  With the water flowing from the side o f the dead Jesus a direct connection is made between His death and the theme of the gift of life which it accomplishes.  The blood is an obvious reference to the sacrificial nature of what has been done by Him, and also indicates the gift of life which comes through His death (John 6:53-54).  For a more in-depth treatment of the blood and water theme one should consult Father Senior’s previously mentioned work.

They shall look on him whom they have pierced.  A quote of Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn”.  An obvious question arises concerning this quotation: who is being referred to?  The Jewish leaders?  The soldiers?  The disciples at the foot of the cross?  All believers?  Most accept the reference as applying to the last class of people (see John 3:14-15; John 8:28; John 12:31-32).

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 19:30-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2012

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His Head, and gave up His Spirit.

When this indignity had been added to the rest, the Saviour exclaimed, It is finished; meaning that the measure of the iniquity of the Jews, and of their furious rage against Him, was completed. For what had the Jews left untried, and what extremity of atrocity had they not practised against Him? For what kind of insult was omitted, and what crowning act of outrage do they seem to have left undone? Therefore rightly did He exclaim, It is finished, the hour already summoning Him to preach to the spirits in hell. For He |638 visited them, that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead; and for our sake encountered death itself, and underwent the common lot of all humanity, that is, according to the flesh, though being as God by Nature Life, that He might despoil hell, and render return to life possible to human nature; being thus proved the firstfruits of them that are asleep, and the firstborn from the dead, according to the Scriptures. He bowed His head, therefore; for as this generally befalls the dying, through the slackening of the sinews of the flesh, when the spirit or soul that united and sustained it is fled, the Evangelist made use of this expression. The expression also, He gave up His Spirit, does not differ from language usually employed, for the vulgar use it as equivalent to “his life was extinguished, and he died.” But it is probable that it was of set purpose, and advisedly, that the holy Evangelist, instead of saying simply, He died, said, He gave up His Spirit; gave it up, that is, into the hands of God the Father, according to the saying that He spake: Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit; and for us, also, the meaning of the expression lays down a beginning and foundation of firm hope. For, I think, we ought to believe, and for this belief there is much ground, that the souls of Saints, when they quit their earthly bodies, are, by the bountiful mercy of God, almost, as it were, consigned into the hands of a most loving Father, and do not, as some infidels have pretended, haunt their sepulchres, waiting for funeral libations; nor yet are they, like the souls of sinful men, conveyed to the place of endless torment, that is, to hell. Rather, do they hasten into the hands of the Father of all, by the new way which our Saviour Christ has prepared for us; for He consigned His Soul into the hands of His Father, that we also, making it our anchor, and being firmly rooted and grounded in this belief, might entertain the bright hope that when we undergo the death of the body, we shall be in God’s hands; yea, in a far better condition than when we |639 were in the flesh. Therefore, also, the wise Paul assures us that it is better to depart, and be with Christ.

And when He gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom. The veil of the temple was of fine linen, let down to the floor of the centre of the temple, and shrouding the inner portion thereof, and allowing only the high priest to enter into the innermost shrine. For it was not in the power of any one at will to penetrate into the interior with unwashen feet, and carelessly to gaze upon the Holy of holies. How very necessary it was that this curtain should make this division, Paul shows us by his words in the Epistle to the Hebrews: For there was a tabernacle prepared; the first, which is called the Holy place. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the Holy of holies, having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot holding the manna, and the tables of the covenant, and Aaron’s rod that budded. But into the first tabernacle, he says, the priests go in, accomplishing the services; but into the second, the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offereth for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holy place hath not yet been made manifest, while as the first tabernacle is yet standing. For there can be no question, that a veil was let down at the very entrance of the temple. And so there came into his mind the first tabernacle, which he called holy; for no one could affirm that any part of the temple was not holy, or, if he did so, he would lie, for it was all holy. And after the first tabernacle came the veil which was betwixt, which is the second veil, separating the innermost portion, that is, the Holy of holies. But, as the blessed Paul said, the Spirit signified, by figures and types, that the more fitting way in which the Saints should tread had not yet been made manifest; for the people were still kept at a distance, and the |640 first tabernacle was yet standing. For there had not, as yet, in fact, appeared unto men the manner of the life that Christ gave unto those who were called by the Spirit unto sanctification; and not yet had the mystery concerning Him been made manifest, for the written commandment of the Law was still in force. Therefore, also, the Law placed the Jews in the outer court. For the dispensation of the Law was, as it were, a porch and vestibule leading unto the teaching and life of the Gospel. For the one is but a type, the other is the truth itself. The first tabernacle was, indeed, holy, for the Law is holy, and the commandment righteous and good; but the innermost portion of the temple was the Holy of holies, for though the men who partook of the righteousness of the Law were holy, they became yet holier when they accepted the faith that is in Christ, and were anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. The righteousness of faith, therefore, is greater than the righteousness of the Law; and by faith we are far more abundantly sanctified. Therefore, also, the wise Paul says, that he gladly and readily endured the loss of the righteousness that is of the Law, that he might gain Christ, and might be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law, but that which is through faith in Jesus Christ. And some fell backwards, and, after running well for a time, were bewitched; and the Galatians were of this class: after pursuing the righteousness which is of faith, turning back to the commandment of the Law, and recurring to the state of life shadowed forth by types and figures; and to these Paul administered the well-merited reproof: If ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace. But (to bring our explanation of the passage to a good and proper conclusion) we will simply repeat, that the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the |641 bottom; to signify, as it were, that God was in the very act of revealing the Holy of holies, and making the way into the inmost shrine open henceforth to those who believe on Christ. For the knowledge of the Divine mysteries is now laid bare before us; no longer shrouded in the obscurity of the letter of the Law, as it were a curtain, nor hidden by any covering from our quest, nor defended against the intrusion of the eye of the mind by types through which we could see but dimly. Rather are these mysteries now seen in simplicity of faith; yea, but few words suffice to explain them. For the word is nigh thee, says Paul, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because, if thou shalt say with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Herein is seen in its completeness the mystery of piety towards God. But, while Christ had not as yet waged the conflict for our salvation, nor undergone the death of the flesh, the veil was still spread out, for the power of the commandment of the Law still prevailed. But when the iniquitous Jews, in their presumption, had wreaked to the utmost their malice upon Christ, and He had given up the ghost for our sake, and the sufferings of Emmanuel were accomplished, the time had then come that the broad veil, that had so long been spread out, should from henceforth be rent asunder—-that is, the protection of the letter of the Law—-and that the fair vision of the truth should lie bare and open before those who had been sanctified in Christ by faith. The veil was torn throughout; for what other meaning can be put upon the words: From the top to the bottom? And why was this? It was because the revelation of the message of salvation was not partial, but our enlightenment concerning the Divine mysteries was |642 perfected thereby. Therefore, also, the Psalmist said unto God, in the person of His new people: The hidden secrets of Thy wisdom hast Thou, revealed unto me; and, furthermore, the inspired Paul thus addresses believers on Christ: I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in every thing ye were enriched in Him, in all utterance, and all wisdom, and all knowledge. The rending of the veil, then, not in part, but entirely throughout, signified then, that the worshippers of the Saviour were about to be enriched in all wisdom, and in all knowledge, and in all utterance, manifestly receiving the knowledge of the mystery concerning Him, undefiled and unclouded by blot or shadow. For this is what is meant by the words: From the top to the bottom. We say, then, that the most appropriate and fitting time for the revelation of the Divine mysteries was the occasion on which the Saviour laid down His life for us, when Israel spurned His grace, and wholly started aside from the love of God, in his frenzy against Him, and headstrong impiety. For any one may see that the measure of their iniquities was complete, when he learns that they persecuted, even unto death, the Giver of Life.

I think, therefore, that we have said enough on this subject, and that our explanation of the Divine purpose does not fall short of the mark. But, as we find the inspired Evangelist is very diligent to say: When He gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent, thereby almost signifying as essential for us to know the occasion of that event, let us supplement our remarks by a further consideration, which savours, I think, of the spirit of pious research. For it is a thought which will be found in no way abhorrent to those fundamental doctrines, which are at once a blessing and a necessity to us. To proceed, then: the following custom was in vogue, both among the people and the rulers of the Jews. When they saw anything being done which they thought would especially offend the |643 Giver of the Law, or when they heard any outrageous or blasphemous utterance, they tore their garments, and put on the appearance of mourners; thereby, in a manner, taking up the defence of God, and by the intolerance they displayed of such offences, passing sentence of condemnation on the madness of the transgressors, and acquitting themselves of complicity therein. Moreover, the disciples of the Saviour, Barnabas and Paul, when certain of those who had not yet received the faith, thinking them to be gods (for they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercury), brought sacrifices and garlands, in company with the priests, and attempted to make sacrifices in their honour, leapt down from the platform on which they stood, because of the outrage that would be inflicted upon the glory of God, if any sacrifice were offered to men, and rent their garments, as is recorded, and by fitting words prevented the ignorant endeavour of the worshippers of idols. Also, when our Saviour Christ was on His trial before the rulers of the Jews, and was required to say Who He was, and whence He came, and said plainly in reply: Verily, I say unto you, henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven, Caiaphas leapt up out of his seat, and rent his garments, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy. The temple of God, then, followed, so to say, the custom that prevailed among the Jews, and rent its veil, as it had been clothes, at the moment when our Saviour gave up the ghost. For it condemned the impiety of the Jews as an insult against itself. And the accomplishment of this was God’s work, that He might show unto us the temple itself bewailing Israel’s guilt.

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the Sabbath (for the day of that Sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

It is not with the motive of testifying to the reverence |644 for holy days felt by men inured to shed blood with brutal ferocity, and found guilty of so monstrous an iniquity, that the blessed Evangelist says this; but rather from the wish to show that, in their gross stupidity, they committed that folly of which Christ spoke. For they strained out the gnat while they swallowed the camel; for they are found to reckon as of no account at all the most outrageous and awful of all crimes against God, while they exercised the greatest diligence with reference to the most paltry and insignificant matters, showing their folly in either case. The proof of this is not far to seek. For, behold, in the very act of putting Christ to death, they put great store on the respect due to the Sabbath; and, while they insulted the Lawgiver by outrages which surpass description, they parade their reverence of the Law; and, as that Sabbath was a high day, they affect to pay honour to it—-the very men who destroyed the Lord of the high day; and they ask a favour, which well suited their cruel spirit. For they besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, wishing to embitter, by this last intolerable outrage, the pangs of approaching death, to those who were already in agony.

32-37 The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him: but when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His Legs: howbeit, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His Side, and straightway there came out blood and water. And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe. For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken. And again another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him Whom they pierced. 

In pursuance of the request of the Jews, men afflicted with a madness akin to their cruelty—-I mean the soldiers of Pilate—-break the legs of the two robbers, |645 as they were still numbered among the living, intensifying the bitter pang of their last agony, and finally despatching them by the most grievous act of violence. But when they found Jesus with His Head bowed down, and saw that He had already given up the ghost, they thought it lost labour to break His Legs; but, as they still had a faint suspicion that He might not be actually dead, they with a spear pierced His Side, which sent forth Blood, mingled with Water; God presenting us thereby with a type, as it were, and foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, and Holy Baptism. For Holy Baptism is of Christ, and Christ’s institution; and the power of the mystery of the Eucharist grew up for us out of His Holy Flesh.

By his account of what took place, the wise Evangelist confirms his hearers in the belief that He was the Christ long ago foretold by Holy Writ; for the events of His life harmonised with what was written concerning Him. For not a bone of Him was broken, and He was pierced with the spear of the soldier, according to the Scripture. He says himself, that the disciple that bare record of these things was a spectator and eye-witness of what took place, and knew, in fact, that his testimony was true; and the disciple to whom he thus alludes is none other than himself. For he shrank from speaking more openly, putting away from himself the assumption of love of glory, as an unholy thing, and as a grievous infirmity. (source)

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 19:28-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2012

Ver 28. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.30. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

AUG. He who appeared man, suffered all these things, He who was God, ordered them: After this Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished; i.e. knowing the prophecy in the Psalms, And when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink, said, I thirst: As if to say, you have not done all give me yourselves: for the Jews were themselves vinegar having degenerated from the wine of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.

Now there was a vessel full of vinegar: they had drunk from the wickedness of the world, as from a full vessel, and their heart was deceitful, as it were a sponge full of caves and crooked hiding places: And they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

CHRYS. They were not softened at all by what they saw, but were the more enraged, and gave Him the cup to drink, as they did to criminals, i.e. with a hyssop.

AUG. The hyssop around which they put the sponge full of vinegar, being a mean herb, taken to purge the breast, represents the humility of Christ, which they hemmed in and thought they had circumvented. For we are made clean by Christ s humility. Nor let it perplex you that they were able to reach His mouth when He was such a height above the ground: for we read in the other Evangelists, what John omits to mention, that the sponge was put upon a reed.

THEOPHYL. Some say that the hyssop is put here for reed, its leaves being like a reed.  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished.

AUG. viz. what prophecy had foretold so long before.

BEDE. It may be asked here, why it is said, When Jesus had received the vinegar, when another Evangelists says, He would not drink. But this is easily settled. He did not receive the vinegar, to drink it, but fulfill the prophecy.

AUG. Then as there was nothing left Him to do before He died, it follows, And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, only dying when He had nothing more to do, like Him who had to lay down His life, and to take it up again.

GREG. Ghost is put here for soul: for had the Evangelist meant any thing else by it, though the ghost departed, in the soul might still have remained.

CHRYS. He did not bow His head because He gave up the ghost, but He gave up the ghost because at that moment He bowed His head. Whereby the Evangelist intimates that He was Lord of all.

AUG. For whoever had such power to sleep when he wished, as our Lord had to die when He wished? What power must He have, for our good or evil, Who had such power dying?

THEOPHYL. Our Lord gave up His ghost to God the Father, showing that the souls of the saints do not remain in the tomb, but go into the hand of the Father of all while sinners are reserved – for the place of punishment, i.e. hell.

Ver  31. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath clay, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.32. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him,33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs:34. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.35. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knows that he says true, that you might believe.36. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.37. And again another Scripture says, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

CHRYS. The Jews who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel after their audacious wickedness, reason scrupulously about the day: The Jews therefore because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath.

BEDE. Parasceue, i. e. preparation: the sixth day was so called because the children of Israel prepared twice the number of loaves on that day. For that Sabbath day was an high day, i. e. on account of the feast of the passover.  Besought Pilate that their legs might be broken.

AUG. Not in order to take away the legs, but to cause death, that they might be taken down from the cross, and the feast day not be defiled by the sight of such horrid torments.

THEOPHYL. For it was commanded in the Law that the sun should not set on the punishment of anyone; or they were unwilling to appear tormentors and homicides on a feast day.

CHRYS. How forcible is truth: their own devices it is that accomplish the fulfillment of prophecy: Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.

But when they came to Jesus, an saw that He was dead already, they broke not His legs:  but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side.

THEOPHYL. To please the Jews, they pierce Christ, thus insulting even His lifeless body. But the insult issues in a miracle: for a miracle it is that blood should flow from a dead body.

AUG. The Evangelist has expressed himself cautiously; not struck, or wounded, but opened His side: whereby was opened the gate of life, from whence the sacraments of the Church flowed, without which we cannot enter into that life which is the true life: And forthwith came thereout blood and water. That blood was shed for the remission of sins, that water tempers the cup of salvation. This it was which was prefigured when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, by which the animals that were not to perish by the deluge entered; which animals prefigured the Church. To shadow forth this, the woman was made out of the side of the sleeping man; for this second Adam bowed His head, and slept on the cross, that out of that which came therefrom, there might be formed a wife for Him. O death, by which the dead are quickened, what can be purer than that blood, what more salutary than that wound!

CHRYS. This being the source whence the holy mysteries are derived, when you approach the awful cup, approach it as if you were about to drink out of Christ’s side.

THEOPHYL. Shame then upon them who mix not water with the wine in the holy mysteries: they seem as if they believed not that the water flowed from the side. Had blood flowed only, a man might have said that there was some life left in the body, and that that was as why the blood flowed. But the water flowing is an irresistible miracle, and therefore the Evangelist adds, And he that saw it bare record.

CHRYS. As if to say, I did not hear it from others, but saw it with mine own eyes. And his record is true, he adds, not as if he had mentioned something so wonderful that his account would be suspected, but to stop the mouths of heretics, and in contemplation of the deep value of those mysteries which he announces.  And he knows that he says true, the you might believe.

AUG. He that saw it knows; let him that saw not believe his testimony. He gives testimonies from the Scriptures to each of these two things he relates. After, they brake not His legs, He adds, For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken, a commandment which applied to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb under the old law, which sacrifice foreshadowed our Lord’s. Also after, One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, then follows another Scripture testimony; And again another Scripture said, They shall look on Him whom they pierced, a prophecy which implies that Christ will come in the very flesh in which He was crucified.

JEROME. This testimony is taken from Zacharias.

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