The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 28:5-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2013

Mat 28:8  And they (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples.

And they went out quickly, &c., with fear. That is, with a sacred trembling, which was caused by the sepulchre of Christ and the angels, and the resurrection of Christ announced by the angels to them, which came upon them in their sorrow for the death of Christ, and in their thoughts about anointing Him, as a thing not only unexpected but well-nigh incredible; wherefore a new fear was added, lest this vision of angels was only a phantom which deceived them, and lest the body of Jesus had been stolen.

And  great joy. Because they had seen the angels, and had received from them the joyful news of His resurrection. Their minds, therefore, were alternating between joy and fear. So S. Jerome says, “A twofold feeling possessed the minds of the women, fear and joy; fear at the greatness of the miracle, joy in their desire for Him that was risen.”

Tell His disciples. Matthew does not mention what they told; but John and Luke explain it, but in different ways. For John says that Magdalene only said to Peter, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre: and we know not where they have laid him (Jn 20:2). But Luke says that they related to the Apostles all the things they had seen and heard.

You will say, Whence this difference? I answer, It arises from the women being possessed with fear and doubt, and therefore they told no one anything by the way. And because they did not firmly and certainly believe that Christ had risen, they spoke alternating words, in accordance with the alternations of their thoughts; for at one time they speak of the vision of angels, at another they declare their opinion that the body of the Lord had been taken away.

At this point we must bring into the history what S. John relates (Jn 20:2-19).

Magdalene, then, was the first to see Christ, as Mark says. Afterwards, at the command of Christ, she hastened after the other women, and overtook them, and then with them again saw Christ, and heard His salutation. So SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, and others.

Mat 28:9  And behold, Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet and adored him.

And, behold, Jesus met them, &c. As after the courtiers follows the king, as after the priests the High Priest, so here after the angels follows Christ, and confirms His resurrection by showing Himself alive to the pious women. For it was His will that the angels should prepare the way for Him, to this end, both that they might more easily believe that He had risen, and that they might not be terrified, as they would have been if, without warning, He had unexpectedly shown Himself to them.

Met them. Because they were seeking Him with greater affection and desire than the men. For he who seeks Jesus with fervour finds Jesus lovingly coming to meet him, according to that saying, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find (Matt 7:7). So S. Jerome says, “They who thus desired, and who thus ran, merited to have their risen Lord come to meet them, and first to hear the word ‘Hail,’ that the curse of the woman Eve might be removed in these women.”

Tropologically: Rabanus says, “Jesus sometimes meets those who are entering on the path of virtue by helping them.” Moreover, Eve is to us the mother of perdition and of sorrow. But these women, instead of the word “Eva,” bear the word “Ave,” because they are the messengers of resurrection, salvation, and joy. Hence we sing to the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ, the queen of these women, the hymn “Ave Maris Stella,” &c.

Hail. In the Greek χαίζετε—that is, rejoice; in the Syriac, Peace be to you. For this is the proper salutation of the Hebrews, in which, under the name of peace, they pray for every blessing and every felicity. In the Arabic, Rejoice, because ye see your Master now alive again. So, after the example of Christ, blessed souls and angels, when they appear to men, cause joy; but demons, and the souls of the damned, cause sorrow, fear, and despair.

They came up and took hold of his feet. That is, with reverence and love for His majesty, and with joy at His glorious resurrection, they embraced and kissed His feet. So the Shunamite laid hold of Elisha’s feet, praying him to raise her dead son to life again. So the faithful embrace and kiss the feet of the Pope, and of men illustrious for their sanctity. Christ on this occasion allows Himself to be touched by the women, that He may prove to them that He is really risen, and make them witnesses and heralds of His resurrection. Whence S. Chrysostom says, “When with great joy they had hastened towards, they by touching Him received a certain proof of His resurrection.”

And adored him. With the worship of latria, as the true Messiah or Christ the Son of God, who by the power of His Deity had raised His humanity from death, as He Himself had predicted when alive. The vision, therefore, of Christ risen confirmed and increased their faith in His Divinity, and in the other mysteries which they had been taught by Him when He was alive, but had not fully understood; so that with Thomas they said, if not with the mouth, yet certainly with the heart, My Lord and my God (Jn 20:28).

Mat 28:10  Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee. There they shall see me.

Then said Jesus to them, Fear not, &c. The vision of what is supernatural and celestial, as was the resurrection of Christ strikes and alarms the nature of the beholders; whence S. Jerome says, “This may be always observed both in the Old and New Testament, that when there is an appearance of any majestic person, the first thing done is to banish fear, that the mind being tranquillised may receive the things that are said.”

Go, tell My brethren. Christ now made glorious, in order to give us an example of humility, calls His disciples brethren, so as to console them and raise them up from their sorrow. As if He had said, Tell the Apostles, who are the sons of one and the same God and Father with Me; but adopted sons through grace, whereas I am His Son by nature through the Deity which I have received from Him as God, and through the hypostatic union with the Deity which I have received from Him as man. S. Chrysostom says, “Because a woman was made the cause of sorrow to man, now women are made the ministers of joy to men.” Luther wrongly concludes from these words of Christ that women may preach; for it is one thing to tell, another to preach. But if Christ had said to Magdalene preach, she might and ought to have preached.

There they shall see Me. In Galilee they shall see Me frequently and openly, and talk with Me face to face, but not so in Judæa, although even there I shall appear to them sometimes. For in Judæa on the day of His resurrection Christ appeared six times. First, He appeared to His mother, as S. Ambrose, S. Anselm, and others teach, and this is the common opinion of the Doctors and of the faithful. Secondly, He appeared to the Magdalene at the sepulchre (Mark 16:9). Thirdly, He appeared to her again with the other women as they returned to Jerusalem (Matt 28:9). Fourthly, He appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). Fifthly, to the two disciples as they went to Emmaus (Luke 24:13). Sixthly, to all—that is, to ten of the Apostles, for Thomas was not with them, and Judas had hanged himself. After the day of the resurrection He appeared, first, to the eleven Apostles, when Thomas was with them, on the eighth day (John 20:26). Secondly, He appeared to eleven disciples, among whom were Peter and John, as they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee (John xxi.). Thirdly, He appeared on a mountain in Galilee to many—that is, to more than five hundred (Mat 28:10; 1 Cor 15:6). Fourthly, He appeared to James the brother of the Lord in the same place. Fifthly, He appeared to all the Apostles, and to others of the faithful, on the Mount of Olives, when He was going to ascend into Heaven (Acts 1:9). Sixthly, He appeared to Saul when He made him Paul. Christ appeared often on other occasions, which are not mentioned by the Evangelists.

Mat 28:11  Who when they were departed, behold, some of the guards came into the city and told the chief priests all things that had been done.

When they were departed, behold, some of the guards came into the city, &c. We may conclude from this, that when the soldiers saw the angel rolling away the stone they fled and hid themselves behind the hedges, and there remained half dead with fear, so that they could not and dared not stir from the place; and this was according to the purpose of God, that they might, from their hiding-places, see and hear all that the angels said to the women about the resurrection of Jesus, so that they might report the same things to the Chief Priests, and so become messengers of the resurrection of Christ. Wherefore neither the women, nor Peter and John, saw the soldiers, who were lying hid in the hedges. But after the vision of angels had disappeared, and when the women had departed from the sepulchre, the soldiers, coming to themselves, approached the sepulchre, and seeing it empty, they formed a plan, and sent some of their number to the Chief Priests to tell them all they had seen and heard, and to show that it was not through their carelessness that the body of Christ had left the sepulchre.

Mat 28:12  And they being assembled together with the ancients, taking counsel, gave a great sum of money to the soldiers,

And they being assembled together with the ancients, &c. See here the perversity of the priests and elders, who, not content with having put Christ to death, persecute Him after His death, and try to do away with His resurrection, so as to cover their crime, and lest any one should rise against them as the slayers of Christ, and avenge His death. This was the design of the devil, who was attempting to destroy the Church and all Christians in Christ. The priests corrupt the soldiers with money, who were witnesses of the truth, that they might become witnesses of a lie. S. Jerome says that they took this money from the treasury of the Temple, and therefore were guilty of sacrilege. “The money,” he says, “which was given for the use of the Temple they convert for the purchase of a lie, as before they had given thirty pieces of silver to the traitor Judas.”

Mat 28:13  Saying: Say you, His disciples came by night and stole him away when we were asleep.

Say you, His disciples came by night, &c By their perversity, says S. Chrysostom, the High Priests increased the faith which they endeavoured to extinguish, for they speak things impossible and incredible. For first, says Remigius, “If the soldiers slept, how could they see the theft?”

Secondly, The disciples were afraid and had fled; how, then, would they have dared to steal the body of Christ, which they knew to be guarded by so many soldiers?

Thirdly, It is incredible that Roman soldiers, who were so faithful and watchful, should all have slept at the sepulchre of Christ, especially when they knew that their own lives were in danger. And let it be granted that they all slept, they would certainly have been awakened by the noise caused by the removal of the stone. So S. Chrysostom says, “How should the disciples carry Him away by stealth, who did not dare to show themselves? They fled when they saw Him alive; how, when He was dead, would they not have feared the soldiers? And why did they not rather steal the body on the first night, when there was no one there? Truly they confirm the truth of the resurrection, for they confess that the body was not in the sepulchre.”

Mat 28:14  And if the governor shall hear of this, we will persuade him and secure you.

And if the governor shall hear of this, &c. That is, we will persuade Pilate that your sleep and negligence in guarding the body of Christ was a light matter, and that no harm can happen from it; for he knows that this business does not concern himself, but us, and so he, to please us and against his own conscience, condemned Jesus to be crucified; for if he was so yielding when he unjustly condemned Jesus, in compliance with our urgent request, he will be much more yielding in absolving you at our request. But the soldiers secretly disclosed the whole matter to Pilate, and confirmed the truth of Christ’s resurrection, and Pilate wrote the account to Tiberius, who forthwith was desirous of enrolling Christ among the gods. So Hegesippus relates from the acts of Pilate himself. “The chief of the Jews,” Pilate says, “falsely asserted to me that Jesus was a sorcerer, and had broken their law. And I believed that it was so, and delivered Him to be scourged, according to their will; but they crucified Him, and set a watch at the sepulchre. But He rose again on the third day, while my soldiers were keeping watch. But the wickedness of the Jews was inflamed to such a pitch that they gave money to the watch, and said, Say ye that His disciples stole away His body. But when they had received the money they were not able to be silent about what had been done; for they testified that they had seen Him rise, and that they had received money from the Jews. I have therefore made a statement of these things, that no one may falsely allege otherwise, and suppose that credit ought to be given to the falsehoods of the Jews,”

Mat 28:15  So they taking the money, did as they were taught: and this word was spread abroad among the Jews even unto this day.

So they taking the money, did as they were taught: and this word was spread abroad among the Jews even unto this day.  That is, among the common people and those of little sense; for the wiser men easily saw through the deceit, and found out the whole matter in secret from the soldiers. Moreover, Longinus, the centurion, asserted that Christ had risen, and on that account died as a martyr for Him. But this false story was chiefly confuted by the Apostles, who affirmed that Christ had appeared alive again to them, and who confirmed the same by many miracles. It is also confuted by Josephus, although he was of the nation and sect of the Jews. Let the Jews then listen to him, and believe one of their own nation, though they will not believe Christ. For thus he writes (Antiq., book 18, ch. 4), “At the same time lived Jesus, a wise man—if it is right to speak of Him as a man. For He was a performer of wonderful works, and a Teacher of those who willingly received Him, and had very many followers both from among the Jews and the Greeks. This was Christ whom, on His being accused by the chiefs of our nation, Pilate had sentenced to the Cross; yet those who had begun to love Him from the first, did not cease to do so. For He appeared to them on the third day alive, for the Prophets had foretold this and many other wonderful things concerning Him. And to this very day the body of Christians, so called from Him, still continue.”


One Response to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 28:5-18”

  1. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 28:8-15). […]

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