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, 2013

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 9:14-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

Ver 14. Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?”15. And Jesus said unto them, “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.16. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.17. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”

Gloss., ap. Anselm: When He had replied to them respecting eating and converse with sinners, they next assault Him on the matter of food; “Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples fast not?”

Jerome: O boastful enquiry and ostentation of fasting much to be blamed, nor can John’s disciples be excused for their taking part with the Pharisees who they knew had been condemned by John, and for bringing a false accusation against Him whom they knew their master had preached.

Chrys.: What they say come to this, Be it that you do this as Physician of souls, but why do your disciples neglect fasting and approach such tables? And to augment the weight of their charge by comparison, they put themselves first, and then the Pharisees. They fasted as they learnt out of the Law, as the Pharisee spoke, “I fast twice in the week;” [Luk_18:12] the others learnt it of John.

Rabanus: For John drank neither wine, nor strong drink, increasing his merit by abstinence, because he had no power over nature. But the Lord who has power to forgive sins, why should He shun sinners that eat, since He has power to make them more righteous than those that cannot? Yet doth Christ fast, that you should not avoid the command; but He eats with sinners that you may know His grace and power.

Aug.: Through Matthew mentions only the disciples of John as having made this enquiry, the words of Mark rather seem to imply that some other persons spoke of others, that is, the guests spoke concerning the disciples of John and the Pharisees – this is still more evident from Luke [ref. Luk_5:33]; why then does Matthew here say, “Then came unto him the disciples of John,” unless that they were there among other guests, all of whom with one consent put this objection to Him?

Chrys.: Or; Luke relates that the Pharisees, but Matthew that the disciples of John, said thus, because the Pharisees had taken them with them to ask the question, as they afterwards did the Herodians. Observe how when strangers, as before the Publicans, were to be defended, He accuses heavily those that blamed them; but when they brought a charge against His disciples, He makes answer with mildness. “And Jesus saith unto them, Can the children of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” Before He had styled Himself Physician, now Bridegroom, calling to mind the words of John which he had said, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom.” [Joh_3:29]

Jerome: Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride. Of this spiritual union the Apostles were born; they cannot mourn so long as they see the Bridegroom in the chamber with the Bride. But when the nuptials are past, and the time of passion and resurrection is come, then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast.

“The days shall come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”

Chrys.: He means thus; The present is a time of joy and rejoicing; sorrow is therefore not to be now brought forward; and fasting is naturally grievous, and to all those that are yet weak; for to those that seek to contemplate wisdom, it is pleasant; He therefore speaks here according to the former opinion. He also shews that this they did was not of gluttony, but of a certain dispensation.

Jerome: Hence some think that a fast ought to follow the forty days of Passion, although the day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit immediately bring back our joy and festival. From this text accordingly, Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla enjoin a forty days abstinence after Pentecost, but it is the use of the Church to come to the Lord’s passion and resurrection through humiliation of the flesh, that by carnal abstinence we may better be prepared for spiritual fulness.

Chrys.: Here again He confirms what He has said by examples of common things; “No man putteth a patch of undressed cloth into an old garment; for it taketh away its wholeness from the garment, and the rent is made worse;” which is to say, My disciples are not yet become strong, but have need of much consideration; they are not yet renewed by the Spirit. On men in such a state it is not behoveful to lay a burden of precepts. Herein He establishes a rule for His disciples, that they should receive with leniency disciples from out of the whole world.

Remig.: By the old garment He means His disciples, who had not yet been renewed in all things. The patch of undressed, that is, of new cloth, means the new grace, that is, the Gospel doctrine, of which fasting is a portion; and it was not meet that the stricter ordinances of fasting should be entrusted to them, lest they should be broken down by their severity, and forfeit that faith which they had; as He adds, “It taketh its wholeness from the garment, and the rent is made worse.”Gloss., ap. Anselm: As much as to say, An undressed patch, that is, a new one, ought not to be put into an old garment, because it often takes away from the garment its wholeness, that is, its perfection, and then the rent is made worse. For a heavy burden laid on one that is untrained often destroys that good which was in him before.

Remig.: After two comparisons made, that of the wedding, and that of the undressed cloth, He adds a third concerning wine skins; “Neither do men put new wine into old skins.” By the old skins He means His disciples, who were not yet perfectly renewed. The new wine is the fulness of the Holy Spirit, and the depths of the heavenly mysteries, which His disciples could not then bear; but after the resurrection they became as new skins, and were filled with new wine when they received the Holy Spirit into their hearts. Whence also some said, “These men are full of new wine.” [Act_2:13]

Chrys.: Herein He also shews us the cause of those condescending words which He often addressed to them because of their weakness.

Jerome: Otherwise; By the “old garment,” and “old skins,” we must understand the Scribes and Pharisees; and by the “piece of new cloth,” and “new wine,” the Gospel precepts, which the Jews were not able to bear; so “the rent was made worse.” Something such the Galatians sought to do, to mix the precepts of the Law with the Gospel, and to put new wine into old skins. The word of the Gospel is therefore to be poured into the Apostles, rather than into the Scribes and Pharisees, who, corrupted by the traditions of the elders, were unable to preserve the purity of Christ’s precepts.

Gloss., non occ.: This shews that the Apostles being hereafter to be replenished with newness of grace, ought not now to be bound to the old observances.

Aug., Serm., 210, 3: Otherwise; Everyone who rightly fasts, either humbles his soul in the groaning of prayer, and bodily chastisement, or suspends the motion of carnal desire by the joys of spiritual meditation. And the Lord here makes answer respecting both kinds of fasting; concerning the first, which is in humiliation of soul, He says, “The children of the bridegroom cannot mourn.”

Of the other which has a feast of the Spirit, He next speaks, where He says, “No man putteth a patch of undressed cloth.” Then we must mourn because the Bridegroom is taken away from us. And we rightly mourn if we burn with desire of Him. Blessed they to whom it was granted before His passion to have Him present with them, to enquire of Him what they would, to hear what they ought to hear. Those days the fathers before His coming sought to see, and saw them not, because they were placed in another dispensation, one in which He was proclaimed as coming, not one in which He was heard as present. For in us was fulfilled that He speaks of, “The days shall come when ye shall desire to see one of these days, and shall not be able.” [Luk_17:22] Who then will not mourn this? Who will not say, “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?” [Psa_42:3] With reason then did the Apostle seek “to die and to be with Christ.”

Aug., De Cons. Evan., ii, 27: That Matthew writes here “mourn,” where Mark and Luke write “fast,” shews that the Lord spake of that kind of fasting which pertains to humbling one’s self in chastisement; as in the following comparisons He may be supposed to have spoken of the other kind which pertains to the joy of a mind wrapt in spiritual thoughts, and therefore averted from the food of the body; shewing that those who are occupied about the body, and owing to this retain their former desires, are not fit for this kind of fasting.

Hilary: Figuratively, this His answer, that while the Bridegroom was present with them, His disciples needed not to fast, teaches us the joy of His presence, and the sacrament of the holy food, which none shall lack, while He is present, that is, while one keeps Christ in the eye of the mind. He says, they shall fast when He is taken away from them, because all who do not believe that Christ is risen, shall not have the food of life. For in the faith of the resurrection the sacrament of the heavenly bread is received.

Jerome: Or, when He has departed from us for our sins, then is a fast to be proclaimed, then is mourning to be put on.

Hilary: By these examples He shews that neither our souls nor bodies, being so weakened by inveteracy of sin, are capable of the sacraments of the new grace.

Rabanus: The different comparisons all refer to the same thing, and yet are they different; the garment by which we are covered abroad signifies our good works, which we perform when we are abroad; the wine with which we are refreshed within is the fervor of faith and charity, which creates us anew within.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 20:19-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

Ver  19. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for feel of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be to you.20. And when he had so said, he showed to them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.21. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be to you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.22. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and says to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost:23. Whosesoever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained.24. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.25. The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

CHRYS. The disciples, when they heard what Mary told them, were obliged either to disbelieve, or, if they believed, to grieve that He did not count them worthy to have the sight of Him. He did not let them however pass a whole day in such reflections, but in the midst of their longing trembling desires to see Him, presented Himself to them: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.

BEDE. Wherein is strewn the infirmity of the Apostles. They assembled with doors shut, through that same fear of the Jews, which had before scattered them: Came Jesus, and stood in the midst. He came in the evening, because they would be the most afraid at that time.

THEOPHYL. Or because He waited till all were assembled: and with shut doors, that he might show how that in the very same way he had risen again, i.e. with the stone lying on the sepulcher.

AUG. Some are strongly indisposed to believe this miracle, and argue thus: If the same body rose again, which hung upon the Cross, how could that body enter through shut doors? But if you comprehend the mode, it is no miracle: when reason fails, then is faith edified.

AUG. The shut door did not hinder the body, wherein Divinity resided. He could enter without open doors, who was as born without a violation of His mother’s virginity

CHRYS. It is wonderful that they did not think him a phantom. But Mary had provided against this, by the faith she had wrought in them. And He Himself too showed Himself so openly, and strengthened their wavering minds by His voice: And says to them, Peace be to you, i.e. Be not disturbed. Wherein too He reminds them; of what He had said before His crucifixion; My peace 1 give to you; and again, In Me you shall have peace.

GREG. And because their faith wavered even with the material body before them, He showed them His hands and side: And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.

AUG. The nails had pierced His hands, the lance had pierced His side. For the healing of doubting hearts, the marks of the wounds were still preserved.

CHRYS. And what He had promised before the crucifixion, I shall see you again, and you, heart shall rejoice, is now fulfilled: Then were the disciples glad when they say the Lord.

AUG. The glory, wherewith the righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, i.e. in Christ’s body, we must believe to have been rather veiled than not to have been there at all. He accommodated His presence to man’s weak sight, and presented Himself in such form, as that His disciple could look at and recognize Him.

CHRYS. All these things brought them to a most confident faith. As they were in endless war with the Jews, He says again, Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be to you.

BEDE. A repetition is a confirmation: whether He repeats it because the grace of love is twofold, or because He it is who made of twain one.

CHRYS. At the same time He shows the efficacy of the cross, by which He undoes all evil things, and gives all good things; which is peace. To the women above there was announced joy; for that sex was in sorrow, and had received the curse, In sorrow shall you bring forth. All hindrances then being removed, and every thing made straight, he adds, As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you

GREG. The Father sent the Son, appointed Him to the work of redemption. He says therefore, As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you; i.e. I love you, now that I send you to persecution, with the same love wherewith My Father loved Me, when He sent Me to My sufferings.

AUG. We have learnt that the Son is A equal to the Father: here He shows Himself Mediator; He Me, and I you.

CHRYS. Having then given them confidence by His own miracles, and appealing to Him who sent Him, He uses a prayer to the Father, but of His own authority gives them power: And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and says to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost.

AUG. That corporeal breath was not the substance of the Holy Ghost, but to show, by meet symbol, that the Holy Ghost proceeded not only from the Father, but the Son. For who would be so mad as to say, that it was one Spirit which He gave by breathing, and another which He sent after His ascension?

GREG. But why is He first given too the disciples on earth, and afterwards sent from heaven? Because there are two commandments of love, to love God, and to love our neighbor. The spirit to love our neighbor is given on earth, the spirit to love God is given from heaven. As then love is one, and there are two commandments; so the Spirit is one, and there are two gifts of the Spirit. And the first is given by our Lord while yet upon earth, the second from heaven, because by the love of our neighbor we learn how to arrive at the love of God.

parCHRYS. Some say that by breathing He did not give them the Spirit, but made them meet to receive the Spirit. For if Daniel’s senses were so overpowered by the sight of the Angel, how would they have been overwhelmed in receiving that unutterable gift, if He had not first prepared them for it! It would not be wrong however to say that they received then the gift of a certain spiritual power, not to raise the dead and do miracles, but to remit sins: Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted to them, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained.

AUG. The love of the Church, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, remits the sins of those who partake of it; but retains the sins of those who do not. Where then He has said, Receive you the Holy Ghost, He instantly makes mention of the remission and retaining of sins.

GREG. We must understand that those who first received the Holy Ghost, for innocence of life in themselves, and preaching to a few others, received it openly after the resurrection, that they might profit not a few only, but many. The disciples who were called to such works of humility, to what a height of glory are they led! Lo, not only have they salvation for themselves, but are admitted to the powers of the supreme Judgment-seat; so that, in the place of God, they retain some men’s sins, and remit others. Their place in the Church, the Bishops now hold; who receive the authority to bind, when they are admitted to the ram; of government. Great the honor, but heavy the burden of the place. It is ill if one who knows not how to govern his own life, shall be judge of another’s.

CHRYS. A priest though he may have ordered well his own life, yet, if he have not exercised proper vigilance over others, is sent to hell with the evil doers. Wherefore, knowing the greatness of their danger, pay them all respect, even though they be not men of notable goodness. For they who are in rule, should not be judged by those who are under them. And their incorrectness of life will not at all invalidate what they do by commission from God. For not only cannot a priest, but not even angel or archangel, do any thing of themselves; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost do all. The priest only furnishes the tongue, and the hand. For it were not just that the salvation of those who come to the Sacraments in faith, should be endangered by another’s wickedness.

At the assembly of the disciples all were present but Thomas, who probably had not returned from the dispersion: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

ALCUIN. Didymus, double or doubtful, because he doubted in believing: Thomas, depth, because with most sure faith he penetrated into the depth of our Lord’s divinity.

GREG. It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The Divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith, than the belief of the other disciples; for, the touch by which he is brought to believe, confirming our minds in belief, beyond all question.

BEDE. But why does this Evangelist say that Thomas was absent, when Luke writes that two disciples on their return from Emmaus found the eleven assembled? We must understand that Thomas had gone out, and that in the interval of his absence, Jesus came and stood in the midst.

CHRYS. As to believe directly, and any how, is the mark of too easy a mind, so is too much inquiring of a gross one: and this is Thomas’s fault. For when the Apostle said, We have seen the Lord, he did not believe, not because he discredited them, but from an idea of the impossibility of the thing itself: The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe. Being the grossest of all, he required the evidence of the grossest sense, viz. the touch, and would not even believe his eyes: for he does not say only, Except I shall see, but adds, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side.

Ver 26. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be to you.27. Then says he to Thomas, Reach hither your finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.28. And Thomas answered and said to him, My Lord and My God.29. Jesus says to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.30. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:31. But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name.

CHRYS. Consider the mercy of the Lord, how for the sake; of one soul, He exhibits His wounds. And yet the disciples deserved credit, and He had Himself foretold the event. Notwithstanding, because one person, Thomas, would examine Him, Christ allowed him. But He did not appear to him immediately, but waited till the eighth day, in order that the admonition being given in the presence of the disciples, might kindle in him greater desire, and strengthen his faith for the future. And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be to you.

AUG. You ask; If He entered by the shut door, where is the nature of His body? And I reply; If He walked on the sea, where is the weight of His body? The Lord did that as the Lord; and did He, after His resurrection, cease to be the Lord?

CHRYS Jesus then comes Himself, and does not wait till Thomas interrogates Him. But to show that He heard what Thomas said to the disciples, He uses the same words. And first He rebukes him; Then says He to Thomas, Reach hither your finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side: secondly, He admonishes him; And be not faithless, but believing. Note how that before they receive the Holy Ghost faith wavers, but afterward is firm. We may wonder how an incorruptible body could retain the marks of the nails. But it was done in condescension; in order that they might be sure that it was the very person Who was crucified.

AUG. He might, had He pleased, have wiped all spot and trace of wound from His glorified body; but He had reasons for retaining them. He showed them to Thomas, who would not believe except he saw and touched, and He will show them to His enemies, not to say, as He did to Thomas, Because you have seen, you have believed, but to convict them: Behold the Man whom you crucified, see the wounds which you inflicted, recognize the side which you pierced, that it was by you, and for you, that it was opened, and yet you cannot enter there.

AUG. We are, as I know not how, afflicted with such love for the blessed martyrs, that we would wish in that kingdom to see on their bodies the marks of those wounds which they have borne for Christ’s sake. And perhaps we shall see them; for they will not have deformity, but dignity, and, though on the body, shine forth not with bodily, but with spiritual beauty. Nor yet, if any of the limbs of martyrs have been cut off, shall they therefore appear without them in the resurrection of the dead; for it is said, There shall not an hair of your head perish. But if it be fit that in that new world, the traces of glorious wounds should still be preserved on the immortal flesh, in the places where the limbs were cut off there, though those same limbs withal be not lost but restored, shall the wounds appear. For though all the blemishes of the body shall then be no more, yet the evidences of virtue are not to be called blemishes.

GREG. Our Lord gave that flesh to be touched which He had introduced through shut doors: wherein two wonderful, and, according to human reason, contradictory things appear, viz. that after the resurrection He had a body incorruptible, and yet palpable. For that which is palpable must be corruptible, and that which is incorruptible must be impalpable. But He showed Himself incorruptible and yet palpable, to prove that His body after His resurrection was the same in nature as before, but different in glory.

GREG. Our body also in that resurrection to glory will be subtle by means of the action of the Spirit, but palpable by its true nature, not, as Eutychius says, impalpable, and subtler than the winds and the air.

AUG. Thomas saw and touched the man, and confessed the. God whom he neither saw nor touched. By means of the one he believed the other undoubtingly: Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and My God.

THEOPHYL. He who had been before unbelieving, after touching the body showed himself the best divine; for he asserted the twofold nature and one Person of Christ; by saying, My Lord, the human nature by saying, My God, the divine, and by joining them both, confessed that one and the same Person was Lord and God.

Jesus says to him, Because you have seen Me, you have believed.

AUG. He says not, has touched me, but, has seen me; the sight being a kind of general sense, and put in the place often of the other four senses; as when we say, Hear, and see how well it sounds; smell, and see how sweet it smells; taste, and see how well it tastes, touch, and see how warm it is. Wherefore also our Lord says, Reach hither your finger, and behold My hands. What is this but, Touch and see? And yet he had not eyes in his finger. He refers them both to seeing and to touching, when He says, Because you have seen, you have believed. Although it might be said, that the disciple did not dare to touch, what was offered to be touched.

GREG. But when the Apostle says, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, it is plain that things which are seen, are objects not of faith, but of knowledge. Why then is it said to Thomas who saw and touched, Because you have seen Me, you have believed? Because he saw one thing, believed another; saw the man, confessed the God. But what follows is very gladdening; Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. In which sentence we are specially included, who have not seen Him with the eye, but retain Him in the mind, provided we only develop our faith in good works. For he only really believes, who practices what he believes.

AUG. He uses the past tense, in the future to His knowledge having already taken place by His own predestination.

CHRYS. If any one then says, Would that I had lived in those times, and seen Christ doing miracles! let him reflect, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

THEOPHYL. Here He means the disciples who had believed without seeing the print of the nails, and His side.

CHRYS. John having related less than the other Evangelists, adds, And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. Yet neither did the others relate all, but only what was sufficient for the purpose of convincing men. He probably here refers to the miracles which our Lord did after His resurrection, and therefore says, In the presence of His disciples, and they being the only persons with whom He conversed after His resurrection.

Then to let you understand, that the miracles were not done for the sake of the disciples only, He adds, But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; addressing Himself to mankind generally. And, this belief, he then profits ourselves, not Him in Whom we believe. And that believing you might have life through His name, i.e. through Jesus, which is life.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 20:24-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

Ver. 24.—But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didimus, was not with them when Jesus came. Didymus means a twin. See notes on. chap. xi. 16. But here he is so called (double, doubtful) because he wavered and doubted as to Christ’s resurrection. He was at that time weaker than the other Apostles, but afterwards (after Christ again appeared) was bolder and more full of faith than all of them, inasmuch as he alone traversed nearly the whole world in preaching the Gospel. Stapleton (de Vita Thomæ) says that he went to the furthest part of India, to Abyssinia and China, and even to America.

Was not with them. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius suppose that having fled away with the other Apostles, he had not yet returned. But S. Augustine, Bede, Lyranus, D. Thomas, and others say in reply that he was with the other Apostles when the two disciples returned from Emmaus, but that he disbelieved their story, and went away. It is supposed that when S. Luke says (xxiv. 11), “their words seemed to them as idle tales,” he was referring to S. Thomas.

Ver. 25.—The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.

Thomas sinned in this—(1) by unbelief, (2) by obstinacy, (3) by pride, (4) by irreverence (for when all the other Apostles said that He had risen, he obstinately stood out, and refused to believe, (5) by presumption, because he would not believe, unless he thrust his hands into the wounds (canst thou then presume, 0 Thomas, to lay down laws for Christ?), (6) by persisting in this unbelief for eight days when, it may be, the Mother of Christ urged him to believe—to be not merely unbelieving as to the mode of the resurrection (as S. Ambrose supposes), but even as to its truth, as though the other Apostles were taken in and deceived, having seen only a ghost or phantom, and not Christ Himself (See Origen, Lib. ii. Contr. Celsum; S. Augustine, Lib. xvi. Contra Faust. cap. 33; and S. Gregory, Hom. xxvi.)

Besides, this unbelief of S. Thomas’ arose partly from his not believing Christ to be God. For had he believed this, he would easily have understood that Christ could have raised His Body to life again, and it is surprising that Cyril should say that Thomas believed Him to be God; and it partly arose from His excessive sorrow, especially because he alone had not seen Christ at the same time as the other Apostles. This wounded him much, and caused him to utter these bitter words. So Cyril, xii. 57. But God allowed it to be thus, in order that Thomas and we should be confirmed in humility, and in belief in the resurrection by this fresh appearance of Christ. So S. Gregory, Hom. xxvi., S. Augustine, Serm. clxi. (opus spurium), and others.

The print. In Vulgate, fixura, “the driving in” the mark which the nails made. (Pseudo)-Augustine (Serm. clix.) says, “He was seeking for the hands and the side, and while he was too curiously (dwelling on the wounds, he risked the death of his faith. The Lord wished him to see Him lest he should lose his soul by unbelief.”

Ver. 26.—And after eight days. The eighth day after the Lord’s resurrection, the Octave of the Passover, when we commemorate this mystery, and read this Gospel. And from this S. Cyril observes that the Apostles, from these appearances of Christ, began from this time to hold the assemblies of the Church on the Lord’s day, and to consecrate it, as it were, because He rose on that day, and thus guided the Apostles to observe the Lord’s day instead of the Sabbath.

Again His disciples where within, in that upper chamber before mentioned. It is therefore far from probable, as S. Jerome (in Matt. ult.), Rupertus, and Ribera here suppose, that Christ appeared to S. Thomas and the Apostles, not in Jerusalem, but in Galilee, where He afterwards appeared, not only to the Apostles, but to all the disciples.

And Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you. Notice here, the wondrous condescension of Christ, who, in order to convert this unbelieving and obstinate Thomas, offered Himself a second time, not only to be seen, but also to be handled by him. And this He did, not for his sake only, but for the sake of the other Apostles, to strengthen both them and us also in the belief of His resurrection.

Ver. 27.—Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side. Behold the kindness of Christ in humbling Himself to all Thomas’ requests, and in all things complying with his wishes, in order to convert him. See, says S. Chrysostom, how for one single soul He displays His wounds, and because he was somewhat dull of comprehension seeks to give him proof by means of the dullest of his senses, I mean his touch.

And be not faithless, but believing. Thou thinkest, forsooth, that I did not know what thou saidst of Me when I was not present. But rest assured that I knew, and was present to hear thy words of unbelief. Do then as thou hast said, I offer thee My wounded hands and side to touch and handle, nay more, that thou mayest measure them with thy hand, that so thou mayest lay aside thy unbelief, and believe henceforth that I have risen, I the very same that hung on the Cross, and no other. And in this way Christ heals another wound of unbelief, for He shows that He knows even all secrets, and is a searcher of hearts, and consequently God. He therefore radically cures the disease, for Thomas did not believe that Christ had risen, because he did not believe Him to be God.

It may be asked whether Thomas really touched Christ’s wounds. The Gloss doubts it. Euthymius denies it. But S. Augustine (in loc.) thinks the contrary. For he says, “He saw and touched the man, and confessed the God, whom he neither saw nor touched; but by means of that which he saw and touched, his doubts were all removed and he believed. So, too, S. Cyril, Theophylact, and Bede, and S. Chrysostom seems to be of the same opinion. Nor can it be thought that when the Lord said, “Reach hither thy finger,” John would have omitted to state, if this had not been done, and that Thomas believed without having touched Him.

Besides, this was an express command, which Thomas doubtless obeyed. And He intended to leave thus a convincing proof of His resurrection to believers of all ages. Whence S. Augustine (Serm. cxlvii. [al. ccxlii.]), “He wished to exhibit in His flesh the scars of His wounds to some who doubted, to heal the wound of their unbelief.” And S. Ambrose (in ult. Lucæ), “He would teach me by His touch, as Paul also taught.” Hear S. Gregory (Hom. xxvi.): “This took place not by chance, but by Divine ordering. For the mercy of God wrought in wondrous wise, so that the doubting disciple, by touching the wounds in his Master’s body, healed in us the wounds of unbelief. For the unbelief of Thomas availed more to confirm our faith, than even the faith of the disciples who believed. For while he is by his touch brought back to belief, our mind, putting aside all doubt, is confirmed in the faith.” Again [Pseudol Augustine, Serm. clxi. [clxxii. in Append.], “Thomas being a holy, believing, and righteous man, carefully inquired into all these points, not as having any doubt himself, but to do away with the slightest suspicion of unbelief. For it would have sufficed for his own faith to have seen Him whom he knew. But it was for us that he brought it about that he touched Him whom he beheld. So that we might perchance say that our eyes were deceived, but we could not say that our hands had missed their mark. For we might have some doubt as to what we see in the dazzling glory of the resurrection, but we can have no doubt as to what we touch.”

But it may be urged, Christ said, “See My hands.” He did not say, Touch My hands. “Thomas therefore saw, but did not touch them.” I answer, By seeing is meant, you may see by your very touch—may know assuredly that I who was crucified have risen—the very same person. “The sight,” says S. Augustine (in loc.), “is a kind of general sense, and the noblest of all,” and is here taken for any sense, even that of touch. See notes on Exo_20:10.

2. But it is said, “The glorified Body of Christ is subtile, and cannot be touched.” S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Leontius, Theophylact say that it was by divine ordering here touched by Thomas, to furnish proof of the resurrection. For this kind of resistance, which exists in a body (wherewith one body resists another, and is, therefore capable of being touched) which is the property of bulk, is in the power of Christ and the Blessed, so as to remain, or be taken away by God, as they wish. And so also as regards their visibility, so that Christ was seen when He wished it, and not seen when He did not wish it. See notes on Luke ult. ver. 39.

This finger of St. Thomas is said to be preserved, with many other relics, in the Church of Santa Croce at Rome.

From Christ’s own words, “Thrust thy hand into My side,” it appears that this wound was very large, and Thomas, astonished that this wound was inflicted for him, exclaimed “My Lord and my God.” Many Saints, as S. Bernard, S. Francis, and others, have longed to enter through that wound into the heart of Christ. See S. Bernard, Serm. lxii. in Song

Ver. 28.—Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God. This was after he had fully ascertained that it was indeed Christ Himself, who had received these wounds on the cross, and who was now alive again. See Tertullian, de Anima, cap. xxviii.; S. Ambrose, in Ps. xliii. (xliv.); S. Hilary, de Trinit. Lib. iii.; S. Cyril, xii. 58; S. Gregory, Hom. xxvi.

My Lord and my God. That is, Thou art my Lord and my God. Thus showing that He was Very and true God by nature. Thomas here humbly and penitently confesses and condemns his former incredulity, with great profession of faith, hope, penitence, and love. By the word “Lord” he confesses Christ’s human nature, by the word “God” His divine nature. “I,” he would say, “because I believed not that thou wast God, did not believe that Thou hadst risen. But now I both believe that Thou art God, and that by the power of Thy Godhead Thou didst raise Thy Body to life again.” So St. Hilary (Lib. vii. de Trinit.) and S. Ambrose (in Ps. xliii.), who also adds that the word “Lord” signifies that Christ is our Redeemer as having purchased us by His Blood, and thus becoming our Lord by the right of purchase and redemption. By these words, Suarez says that Thomas offered Christ the adoration of Latria. As S. Augustine said, “He saw and touched the man,” &c. (see above on ver. 27). Consequently the fifth Œcumenical Council (in Constit. Vigilii Papæ) anathematise Theodore of Mopsuestia, who maintained that these words were not a confession of Christ’s Godhead, but merely an expression of astonishment. Note the words, “My Lord,” &c. For though Christ is the Lord and God of all, yet He is especially mine, having as the good Shepherd sought me, as a sheep that was lost, and I love and venerate Him in return from my inmost soul, as specially my Lord and my God. Thou, 0 Jesus, art my God and my Lord, because by these Thy wounds, which I have now touched, and know to be most real, Thou hast procured and obtained for me that faith with which I believe that Thou hast really risen, and this hope of obtaining grace and glory through the merit of Thy wounds, and such fervent charity as to love Thee most ardently as my God and Lord, and to offer and devote myself entirely to Thee as Thy servant for ever, so as henceforth to wish to do nothing, but that which pleases, lauds, and glorifies Thee. Would that I could lay open and breathe forth this my heartfelt feeling to the whole world! Would that I could proclaim and set forth to all the world this my faith, hope, and love towards Thee! Thus S. Francis frequently used to say, “My God and my all;” and the Royal Prophet, “What have I in heaven but Thee,” &c., Psa 73:24.

Ver. 29.—Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen Me (that is, touched and thus surely known), thou hast believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed, Because there “faith has greater merit, where human reason does not afford a test,” says S. Gregory. He used the past tense, because many had already believed, but does not exclude the present and the future. They both are, and will be blessed, who believe in Me, without seeing.  S. Augustine (in loc.) adds that they who will believe, did already believe in God’s foreknowledge and predestination. But this remark is more subtle and acute than solid.

Hence S. Gregory (Hom. xxvi.), S. Hilary (de Trinit. lib. xii.), and S. Augustine (in loc.), say that Thomas saw one thing and believed another: he saw that Christ had risen, he believed that He was God, and consequently had raised Himself. By touching My human nature which has been raised (Christ would say) thou hast believed My Godhead which lay hid within, and which raised it up. For the resurrection of Christ had confirmed all His teachings, one of which was that He was the Messiah the Son of God, who would die on the cross for the salvation of men, and on the third day rise again. All which Thomas believed. Again, that which comes under our senses, which we see and touch, we can believe on divine authority, but for another formal reason. We see a thing because we behold it with our eyes, but we believe it because God has revealed it, especially if our senses can err, or if the matter involve anything which is not seen, as was the case with the resurrection of Christ, which was already past, for Thomas here doubted and was convinced of Christ’s resurrection.

Thou wilt reply, that S. Augustine says, Tract xl. (on S. John), Faith is believing what thou seest not. I answer, This is true in the sense that the chief material objects of faith are such as cannot be seen. But the formal object of faith, that is to say, divine revelation, is always of such a kind, that is to say invisible. And therefore Thomas, so far as he beheld Christ, did not formally believe it. But because he saw and heard Christ, when raised, assert the same thing, he believed God, who by the mouth of Christ and the Apostles, stated and revealed to him that it was no phantom in the form of Christ (as he had before supposed), but Christ Himself who had really risen and appeared to the Apostles. Just as we say, “Because thou hast seen miracles, because thou hast heard the Gospel preached, therefore thou hast believed.” The word therefore does not signify the reason or the formal cause of belief (for that is only the Divine Revelation), but only the predisposing cause which moves us to believe.

But thirdly, the words can be explained as signifying merely assent, and not properly faith. Just as we believe the things we see and know. So Toletus. Hear S. Gregory: “He touched the man, and confessed Him to be God;” and Theophylact, “He who before was unbelieving, showed himself, after he had touched His side, to be an excellent theologian, in asserting the twofold nature, and the one Person of Christ. For by calling Him Lord he confessed His human nature, and by calling Him God he confessed the divine Nature in one and the same Person.”

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 20:24-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

This is excerpted from a longer commentary which I previously posted in two parts. Part 1 on 20:19-23; Part 2 on 24-31.

24, 25 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His Hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His Side, I will not believe.

The greatest marvels are always attended by incredulity, and any action which seems to exceed the measure of probability is ill-received by those who hear of it. But the sight of the eyes succeeds in banishing these doubts, and, as it were, compels a man by force to assent to the evidence before him. This was the state of mind of the wise Thomas, who did not readily accept the true testimony of the other disciples to our Saviour’s Resurrection, although, according to the Mosaic Law, in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. I think, however, that it was not so much that the disciple discredited what was told him, but rather that he was distracted with the utmost grief, because he had not been thought worthy to see our Saviour with his own eyes. For he, perhaps, thought that he would never receive that blessing. He knew that the Lord was by Nature Life, and that He was able to escape death itself, and to destroy the power of corruption; for surely He “Who released others from its trammels could deliver His own Flesh. In his exceeding great joy he affected incredulity, and though he well-nigh leapt in his ecstasy of delight, he longed to see Him before his very sight, and to be perfectly satisfied that He had risen again to life according to His promise. For our Saviour said: Children, a little while and ye behold Me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me, and your heart shall rejoice. I think that the disciple’s want of faith was extremely opportune and well-timed, in order that, through the satisfaction of his mind, we also who come after him might be |682 unshaken in our faith that the very Body that hung upon the Cross and suffered death was quickened by the Father through the Son. Therefore, also, Paul saith: 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 since it was not the nature of flesh itself which brought back life, but the deed was rather accomplished by the working of the ineffable Nature of God, in which naturally abides a quickening power, the Father through the Son manifested His power upon the Temple of Christ’s Body; not as though the Word was powerless to raise His own Body, but because the Father doeth whatsoever He doeth through the Son, for He is His Power, and whatsoever the Son bringeth to effect proceedeth also of a surety from the Father. We, therefore, are taught, through the slight want of faith shown by the blessed Thomas, that the mystery of the Resurrection is effected upon our earthly bodies, and in Christ as the Firstfruits of the race; and that He was no phantom or ghost, fashioned in human shape, and simulating the features of humanity, nor yet, as others have foolishly surmised, a spiritual body that is compounded of a subtle and ethereal substance different from the flesh. For some attach this meaning to the expression “spiritual body.” For since all our expectation and the significance of our irrefutable faith, after the confession of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, centres in the mystery concerning the flesh, the blessed Evangelist has very pertinently put this saying of Thomas side by side with the summary of what preceded. For observe that Thomas does not desire simply to see the Lord, but looks for the marks of the nails, that is, the wounds upon His Body. For he affirmed that then, indeed, he would believe and agree with the rest that Christ had indeed risen again, and risen again in the flesh. For that which is dead may rightly be said to return to life, and the Resurrection surely |683 was concerned with that which was subject unto death.

26, 27 And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see My Hands; and reach hither thy hand, and put it into My Side: and be not faithless, but believing.

Christ appeared once more unto His disciples miraculously by His Divine power. For He did not, like unto us, bid them open the doors for Him to enter in, but disdaining, as it were, the natural sequence of events, passed within the doors, and unexpectedly appeared in the middle of the room, presenting the same kind of miracle before the sight of the blessed Thomas as He had performed on the former occasion. For he that was most deficient in faith had need of healing medicine. He made use of the greeting so often on His Lips, and solemnly gave them the blessed assurance of peace, as a pattern unto us, as we have said before. One may well be amazed at the minuteness of detail shown in this passage. For such was the extreme accuracy that the compiler of this book took pains to observe, that he is not content with simply saying that Christ manifested Himself to the holy disciples, but explains that it was after eight days, and that they were gathered together. For what else can their being all brought together in one house mean? We say this to point out the diligent care that the Apostle so admirably displays, and because Christ hereby has made clear unto us the occasion of our assembling, and gathering ourselves together on His account. For He visits, and in some sort dwells with, those assembled together for His sake, especially on the eighth day, that is, the Lord’s day. Let us reckon it up, if you so please: On the one occasion He appeared unto the other disciples; on the other, He manifested Himself to them, when Thomas was also |684 present. It is written in the preceding passage: When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut, He stood in the midst. Note, that it was on the first day of the week, that is, the Lord’s day, when the disciples were gathered together, that He was seen of them, and that likewise also He appeared unto them on the eighth day following. And we must not, because he says eight days after, suppose that he means the ninth day, but that when he says this he includes the eighth day itself, on which He appeared, in the number given.

With good reason, then, are we accustomed to have sacred meetings in churches on the eighth day. And, to adopt the language of allegory, as the idea necessarily demands, we indeed close the doors, but yet Christ visits us and appears unto us all, both invisibly and also visibly; invisibly as God, but also visibly in the Body. He suffers us to touch His holy Flesh, and gives us thereof. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands, to the intent that we may firmly believe that He did in truth raise up the Temple of His Body. For that the partaking of the blessed Eucharist is a confession of the Resurrection of Christ is clearly proved by His own Words, which He spake when He Himself performed the type of the mystery; for He brake bread, as it is written, and gave it to them, saying: This is My Body, which is given for you unto remission of sins: this do in remembrance of Me. Participation, then, in the Divine mysteries, in addition to filling us with Divine blessedness, is a true confession and memorial of Christ’s dying and rising again for us and for our sake. Let us, therefore, after touching Christ’s Body, shrink back from unbelief in Him as utter ruin, and rather be found well grounded in the full assurance of faith.

Let the attentive reader call to mind that our Lord repulsed Mary Magdalene from touching Him, saying |685 plainly: Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended unto the Father. Yet He allows Thomas to touch His Side, and to feel with his fingers the print of the nails. We have already explained why our Lord did this, but none the less will we call back to mind the reason, briefly recapitulating what we said. For not yet had the time arrived for Mary to touch Him, because she had not yet been sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit; for while Christ was yet in our midst, and had not yet ascended to the Father in heaven, it was impossible to see the descent of the Comforter fully accomplished among men. It was meet, however, for Thomas to touch Him, as he, as well as the rest, had been enriched with the Spirit. For, as we said before, he was not on account of his absence without his share in the Spirit. For the munificence of the Giver reached unto him also, when the boon was granted to the entire company of the holy disciples.

I think we ought also to investigate the following question. Thomas felt our Saviour’s Side, and found the wounds made by the soldier’s spear, and saw the print of the nails. Then how was it, someone may inquire, that the marks of corruption were apparent in an incorruptible Body? For the abiding trace of the holes bored through the Hands and Side, and the marks of wounds and punctures made by steel, affords proof of physical corruption, though the true and incontrovertible fact that Christ’s Body was transformed into incorrup-tion points to a necessary discarding of all the results of corruption, together with corruption itself. For will any man who is lame, at the Resurrection have a maimed foot or limb? And if any man have lost the sight of his eyes in this life, will he be raised again blind? How then, someone may say, can we have shaken off the yoke of corruption, if its results still remain and rule over our members? It is essential, I think, to inquire into this question; and this we say, with reference to the difficulties raised by the |686 passage. We are as far as possible anxious to assent to the contention that at the time of the resurrection there will be no remnant of adventitious corruption left in us, but, as the wise Paul said concerning this body of ours, that which is sown in weakness is raised in power, and that which is sown in dishonour is raised in glory. And what can we expect the resurrection of this body in power and glory to be, if it does not imply that it will cast off all the weakness and dishonour of corruption and disease, and return to its original purity? For the human body was not made for death and corruption. But, inasmuch as Thomas required this proof for his perfect satisfaction, our Lord Jesus Christ, of necessity, therefore, in order to leave no excuse for our want of faith, appears even as he sought to see Him; for even when He ascended into heaven itself, and made known the meaning of the mystery concerning Himself to the rulers, principalities, and powers above, and to those who commanded the legions of angels, He appeared also unto them in this same guise that they might believe that in very truth the Word That was of the Father, and in the Father, became Man for our sake, and that they might know that such was His care for His creatures that He died for our salvation. And, in order to make the meaning of my explanation clearer to my hearers, I will add the very words spoken by the mouth of Isaiah on this subject. He saith: Who is This That cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra? They who raise this shout, I mean the cry: Who is This That cometh from Edom? that is, from the earth, are angels and rational powers, for they are marvelling at the Lord ascending into heaven. And, seeing Him almost, as it were, dyed in His own Blood, they say unto Him, not yet apprehending the mystery: Why is Thy apparel red, and why are Thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vats? For they compare the colour of the blood to new wine, lately trodden in the press. And what saith |687 Christ unto them? First, in order that He may be known to be the living God, He saith: I speak righteousness; using the word speak, instead of “teach.” And most assuredly. He that teacheth righteousness must be a Lawgiver, and if a Lawgiver, surely also God. Then say the angels unto Him, as Christ showeth them the marks of the nails: What are these wounds in Thy Hands? and the Lord answereth: Those with which I was wounded in the house of My beloved. For Israel was the house that the Lord loved, and Israel smote Him with nails and spear. For the outrages of the soldiers may justly be ascribed unto the Jews, for they brought the Lord to His death. Therefore, when He wished to satisfy the holy angels that He was, in fact, a Man, and that He had undergone the Cross for us, and that He was risen again to life from the dead, Christ was not content with mere words, but showed unto them the marks of His suffering. What is there to astonish us in the fact, that when He desired to rid the blessed Thomas of his unbelief He showed the print of the nails, appearing unto him, contrary to expectation, for the advantage of all men, and to the intent that we might believe without question that the mystery of the Resurrection was actually accomplished, no other body being raised but that which suffered death?

28 Thomas answered Him, and saith unto Him, My Lord and my God.

He that had shortly before been slack in the duty of faith was now eager to profess it. and in a short time his fault was wholly cured. For after an interval of only eight days the hindrances to his faith were removed by Christ, Who showed unto him the print of the nails and His wounded Side. But, perhaps, someone will ask the question: “Tell me why did the minds of the holy disciples carry out so rigid an inquiry, and so careful a scrutiny? For would not the sight of the Lord’s Body, the features of His Face, and the measure of His Stature, |688 have sufficed to prove that He had indeed risen from the dead, and to secure His recognition?” What do we reply? The inspired disciples were not free from doubt, although they had seen the Lord. For. they thought that He was not in very truth the same as He Who of old had lived and dwelt among them, and had hung upon the Cross, but rather that He was a Spirit, cunningly fashioned like unto our Saviour’s Image, and simulating the features of the form which they knew. For they fell into this delusion not without some apparent excuse, as He miraculously entered when the doors were closed; in spite of the fact that a body of coarse earthy mould requires a hole through which it can pass, and necessitates the aperture of the door to correspond in width with the size of the body. For this cause our Lord Jesus Christ, greatly to our profit, laid bare His Side to Thomas, and exposed the wounds on His Person, through his agency giving adequate proof to all. For though of Thomas alone is recorded the saying: Except I shall put my hands and see the prints of the nails, and put my hand into His Side, I will not believe, yet was the charge of lack of faith common to them all; and we shall find that the minds of the other disciples were not free from perplexity, though they said unto the holy Thomas: We have seen the Lord. And that what we say does not err from the truth we may easily perceive by what the Divine Luke tells us: As they spake these things, He stood in the midst of them, that is, of course, Christ, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do reasonings arise in your hearts? See My Hands and My Feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold Me having. And when He had said this, He showed them His Hands and His Feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said unto them, Have ye here anything to |689 eat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them. You see how the thought of unbelief is found lurking, not in the blessed Thomas alone, but that the minds of the other disciples were afflicted with a kindred disease. For, lo and behold! seeing that their faith wavered even after the sight of the wounds upon the Cross, He thought it right to convince them by another act, in nowise suited to a spirit, but specially appropriate to earthly bodies and the nature of flesh. For He ate the fish that was brought unto Him, or the portion of one. For when no mark at all of corruption any longer remained after the Resurrection of His holy Flesh, because He lived again to incorruption, and when it was incredible that His Body stood in need of food as heretofore, He yet showed unto them the print of the nails, and did not refuse to partake of food, in order that He might establish the great mystery of the Resurrection, and cause faith in it to spring up in the souls of us all. He does acts wholly alien to the nature of spirits. For how, and in what way, could the prints of nails, and the traces of wounds, and participation in bodily food, be found to exist in a naked spirit unconnected with flesh, to which all these things are suitable by the law of its being and the conditions under which it exists? In order, then, that none might think that Christ rose again a mere spirit, or an impalpable body, shadowy and ethereal, to which some give the name of spiritual, but that the selfsame body that was sown in corruption, as Paul saith, might be believed to have risen again, He openly did acts suitable to a palpable human form. What we said at first, however, namely, that the blessed disciple did not so much lack faith owing to infirmity of judgment, but rather was affected in this way by excess of joy, will not be wide of the mark. For we have heard the saying of the blessed Luke concerning all the others: And while they disbelieved for joy and wondered. It |690 was wonder, therefore, that made the disciples slow to be convinced. But as henceforward there was no excuse for unbelief, as they saw with their own eyes, the blessed Thomas accordingly unflinchingly confessed his faith in Him, saying: My Lord and my God. For we must all confess that it follows of a surety that He That is Lord by Nature and Ruler over all is also God, just as also universal dominion and the glory of sovereignty is clearly seen to appertain to the living God.

Observe, too, that when he says My Lord and my God, he uses the article to show that there was One Lord and One God. For he does not say without the qualification of the article, My Lord and my God, to prevent any one from imagining that he called Him Lord or God as he might have done one of ourselves or of the holy angels. For there are gods many and lords many, in this sense, in heaven and on earth, as the wise Paul has taught us; but rather he recognises Him as, in a special sense, the One Lord and God, as begotten of the Father, Who is by Nature Lord and God, when he says, My Lord and my God; and, what is a still greater indication of the truth, the Saviour heard His disciple saying this, and saw that he rested in the firm conviction that He was, in fact, the Lord and God, and thought it not right to rebuke him. Christ, then, approved his faith, and with justice. And you may easily see that what I say is true. For to him that was possessed of this faith He says, at the end of the Gospel, as unto the rest: Go ye and make disciples of all the nations. And if He bids him who was thus minded teach all nations, and appointed him to instruct the world in His mysteries, He wishes us to have a like faith. For He is, in fact, Lord and God by Nature, even when Incarnate Man. For observe that the disciple, when he had touched His Hands, and Feet, and Side, made unto Him this confession of faith, not severing Emmanuel into a duality of Sons, but recognising Him as one and the same in the Flesh, for Jesus Christ is One Lord, according to the Scripture. |691

29 Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.

This saying of the Saviour is very pertinent and we may derive the greatest profit therefrom. For hereby He showed His great care for our souls; for He is good, and willeth that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, according to the Scripture. What is here said may not unlikely excite surprise. It was, indeed, necessary for Him to be long-suffering, as was His wont, with Thomas, who uttered that saying, and also with the other disciples with him, who thought that He was a spirit or apparition; and also to exhibit, as He very readily did for universal satisfaction, the print of the nails and His pierced Side; and also, contrary to use and need, to partake of food, that no plea for their unbelief might be left to those who sought to gain the benefits of His death. But it was also essential to have regard to the security of our faith. It was necessary also to have another end in view, namely, that those who should come at the last times should not easily be drawn into unbelief. For it was likely that some should err from the straight path, and from ignorance, practising a spurious kind of caution, refuse to accept the resurrection of the dead, and put themselves forward, and say unto us, like that unbelieving disciple: Except I shall see in His Hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His Side, I will not believe. What sufficient means of satisfying them would there have been, Christ being no longer on earth but having ascended into heaven? And would they not have been, at times, thought to be justified in thus speaking, when they appeared to be imitating therein the disciple of the Saviour, and, considering it a noble thing not to believe off-hand, but rather to require more for their complete assurance, claimed for themselves the sight that was shown to the holy disciples? Christ, therefore, restrains |692 men from such an inclination, and keeps them from falling. For being truly God, He knew well the malicious designs of the devil and his practice to deceive. And, therefore, He declares that blessed are they who believe without seeing, for they are surely worthy of admiration. And why? Because unquestioning belief is due to what lies before our eyes, for there is nothing at all to raise doubt in us. But if a man accept what he has not seen, and believe that to be true which the words of his instructor in mysteries have brought to his ears, then he honours with praiseworthy faith Him that is preached. Blessed, therefore, shall be the lot of every man that believeth through the voice of the holy Apostles, which were eye-witnesses of Christ’s actions, and ministers of the Word, as Luke says. To them must we hearken if we are enamoured of life eternal, and cherish in our hearts the desire to abide in the mansions above.

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A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 103

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

ARGUMENT

ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST, sitting in the heavens, extends His kingdom and dominion over all nations. The Voice of the Church to her people, that the creature should praise the Creator.

VEN. BEDE. After those most lowly prayers of the happy poor man, and the utterance of his sighs of penitence, the whole of this Psalm overflows with the praise of the LORD, and the gladness of laudation follows the previous tears, for to David always means CHRIST, to Whom praise is given.

Throughout the whole Psalm the Prophet is speaking. In the first part he enjoins his soul to bless the LORD and to remember His benefits. Bless the Lord, O my soul. In the second place, he tells what things He did for Moses and His other faithful ones, that He may be understood to have been ever bountiful from all ages. He showed His ways unto Moses. Thirdly, he directs his words to the Angels and heavenly powers, and summons the other rational creatures to busy themselves constantly in the praise of the LORD. Bless the Lord, all ye angels of His.

SYRIAC PSALTER. Of David, concerning the coldness which mastered him in the time of his old age. Also an acknowledgment and thanksgiving offered by men of GOD.

EUSEBIUS OF CÆSAREA. The doctrine of thanksgiving.

S. ATHANASIUS. A Psalm of counsel, and, as it were, of command.

COMMENTARY

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me praise his holy Name.

The notes of confession and lamentation in the previous Psalm change into those of praise and thanksgiving found in this and the five succeeding ones; whence the Greek Fathers suggest that this may very well be a Temple-Psalm of acknowledgment of the merciful restoration of Sion prayed for just before.* And we may take it as the thanksgiving of the pardoned sinner, who has made his acknowledgment of guilt and has received absolution,* breaking out thereupon into a song of thanksgiving, like Moses after the overthrow of the Egyptians. Praise the Lord, O my soul. There is no special occasion of thanksgiving mentioned, no particular time for it prescribed here, whence we may gather that every event of our life gives us sufficient reason, every moment of it a fitting opportunity, to praise the LORD. In the hymns of the Church during public worship, in the conduct of business, in taking food, in slumber itself, innocent and free from all evil thoughts and dreams which the memory of past sins may excite, praise the LORD, O my soul.* All that is within me, my secret plans, my thoughts, desires, inclinations, whatever goes on within and appears not externally, for it is not enough to praise with the voice alone, unless all that is within praise too, unless desires, thoughts, and reason combine in one act of earnest thanksgiving to the holy Name of GOD as He is in heaven, FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST,* to the holy Name JESUS,* by which He is revealed to us on earth.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul: and forget not all his benefits;

He repeats his opening words, for the more effect of kindling the ardour of his soul, (A.) to show that the praise of GOD should never cease,* and that both the active and passive faculties of the soul should join in praise.* If thou forget,  thou wilt be silent. Thou canst not have the LORD’S benefits before thine eyes, unless thine own sins are there too, not pleasure in past sin, but condemnation of it, condemnation by thyself, remission from GOD. Several of the commentators, dwelling on the Vulgate word here for benefits, retributions,* dwell on its meaning as teaching us how GOD repays us good for evil, how He has given us back, over and over again, all the gifts of grace which we lost by our first parents’ fall; how He bestows on us afresh, with large and accumulated interest,  any benefit for which we have yielded Him hearty thanks,* how all His bounties are double, first in withholding the punishment which is our due, and then in conferring the prize we could never win.

3 Who forgiveth all thy sin: and healeth all thine infirmities;
4 Who saveth thy life from destruction: and crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things: making thee young and lusty as an eagle.

The Psalmist counts up six benefits which we have received from CHRIST in redemption. First, that He has remitted our guilt, making satisfaction by His own death. Secondly, He hath healed our infirmities, by allaying the heat of our carnal passions, and by doing away in Baptism with the imputation of original sin. Thirdly, He has delivered us from the ruin and death of wickedness by the teaching of the Gospel. Fourthly, He bestows on us reward for the faithful observance of the Gospel precepts. Fifthly, He has purchased for us the kingdom of heaven and all its happiness, with His own Blood. Sixthly, He has obtained for us, by His own Resurrection, the immortality of the body, when our forms shall be renewed in youth and vigour, and soar upward to the celestial heights.* Who forgiveth all thy sin: that is, both original and actual. And healeth all thine infirmities: that is, all the weakness and tendency towards sin engendered partly by original guilt, and partly by former evil habit and all outward occasions, such as ignorance, forgetfulness, and other frailties, which make it easy for us to err.* And the fulness of the claim made here by the Psalmist for that great Physician Who “hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,”* teaches us that no sin is unpardonable, that no trace of the sickness of the soul will finally remain in the forgiven penitents who are to swell the ranks of heaven. They take occasion to remind us, too, of the bodily cures wrought by the LORD JESUS during His earthly sojourn, and of His being still the one source of all healing wrought for us still by human agency. Who saveth thy life. The A. V. more exactly, with LXX. and Vulgate, redeemeth thy life, teaching us that we, who were sold under sin, have been bought back by the Blood of CHRIST, and that our life, the principle of grace,* is not given over to destruction, that is, to the evil one,* nor our soul to the second death. Who crowneth thee.* And that either by encircling us for a defence,* as though with armour or a ring of soldiery; or in the more usual acceptance, with the royal diadem of the kingdom,* or the wreath of a victorious struggle here and in the world to come. Cardinal Hugo enumerates many crowns named in Holy Writ, first of which is the LORD JESUS Himself, of Whom is written, “In that day shall the LORD of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people.”* And He is thus Himself the chief reward and glory conferred upon His Saints.* There are, besides this chief and imperial diadem, various others; as the Church, of which the Prophet saith, “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy GOD.”* There is the Manhood of CHRIST, that “crown wherewith His Mother crowned Him in the day of His espousals”* to the human race. There are the converts made by the preachers of righteousness, “for what is our life, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye?”* There is everlasting blessedness, “Thou hast crowned him with glory and worship.”* There is wisdom, for “much experience is the crown of old men.”* And “the fear of the LORD is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of rejoicing.”* With these, and others like them, the LORD crowns us in His mercy and loving-kindness, crowning His own gifts, not our merits.

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, and especially that good thing of the Holy Eucharist, the rich food of His own Body and Blood, as well as with the blessedness of heaven and the crowning felicity of the Beatific Vision,* satiating and surpassing all our desire (Vulg.) And a Jewish commentator wisely adverts here to the proof of GOD’S preeminent skill as a Physician, in that He not only heals us, and snatches us out of the very jaws of death, but that when we are faint, and loathe not only medicine, but even food, He, instead of exhibiting nauseous drugs, offers such pleasant and dainty remedies, that they are eagerly swallowed, and bring back appetite, health, and vigour to the patient,* so that his youth is renewed as an eagle’s (A. V., LXX., Vulg.) This renovation of the eagle is correctly referred by S. Jerome to the moulting of that bird, after which all feathered creatures seem to obtain fresh strength and activity, which is of course more noteworthy in the large and powerful eagle than in smaller birds.* But a wild Rabbinical legend that the eagle, once in every ten years,* till it reaches a century of life, flies so high in air that its wings are scorched to cinders in the blaze of the sun, and that it then falls headlong into the sea,* whence it emerges with new plumage and renewed strength,* has been eagerly caught up by some of the mediæval commentators, who allegorize it of man, having his old sins scorched up by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and then, plunging into the waters of Baptism, coming forth born again to GOD. S. Augustine recounts another piece of natural history, only less wonderful, to the effect that the upper beak of the eagle gradually enlarges with time, till it completely overgrows and as it were locks the under one by curving round it, so that the bird is on the point of starvation, till instinct urges it to break the upper beak away by dashing it violently against a rock, whereupon it resumes its feeding and recovers its strength; which the Saint explains of the sinner’s recourse to that Rock which is CHRIST, and of the food which He bestows on the famished soul.  The interpretations of the renewal here as that of regeneration, of repentance, or of resurrection, are common to all the expositors;* as also the notion of the lofty and rapid ascent in holiness and glory of the soul which has thus obtained new vigour, “for they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: they shall walk, and not faint.”

6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment: for all them that are oppressed with wrong.

This He did for us men,* when we were oppressed by the wrong-doing of the enemy that held us in bondage, for He executed righteousness,* or, as LXX. and Vulgate read, mercies, for man in redeeming him with His own Blood,* while at the same time executing judgment in overthrowing the dominion of our spiritual foes, triumphing over them openly on the Cross; of which twofold operation the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt,* accompanied by the plagues and destruction of their oppressors,* was a type. And the verse teaches us that lesson inculcated in another place, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the LORD,”* warning us therefore not to take the office of revenging our wrongs with our own hands, but to imitate the patience of the Saints in leaving it in His, for, as the Wise Man has written, “He that revengeth shall find vengeance of the LORD, and He will surely retain his sins.”*

7 He showed his ways unto Moses: his works unto the children of Israel.

Those ways of GOD were the precepts He delivered to Moses,* and they are so named, partly because they were designed for the Israelites to walk in, and partly because the Law itself was but a transition to the Gospel, a road to the fuller dispensation of grace. And in that it is said in another place, “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,”* He showed His ways unto Moses when the Prophet besought Him,* saying, “Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee,”* and He made that proclamation before him as He passed by, “The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”* He made known His works unto the children of Israel,* in permitting them to behold the miracles He wrought in the deliverance out of Egypt, and for their sustenance or their chastisement in the wilderness. The LXX. and Vulgate for works read wills, and they explain that though the will of GOD is one and indivisible, yet in its multiplicity of effects it may be spoken of as manifold. Some will have it that there is a marked distinction to be drawn here between the knowledge communicated to Moses, as GOD’S faithful servant and interpreter, who was suffered to know His ways, and that given to the rebellious people, who were told His will, which they did not obey, and therefore never attained to true knowledge of His ways, so as to walk in them.* And as He literally taught Moses the road by which the Israelites were to journey towards Canaan, while enjoining on them simply obedience to the leader He had set over them, so in the Church He makes known His ways to His Saints, teaching them the inner secrets of the spiritual life and of the path to heaven, while instructing the general mass of believers simply as to what His will is, which is plainly set before us, “for this is the will of GOD; even your sanctification.”*

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, and of great goodness.

These four titles denote all the bounties of GOD,* from the first to the last. The first is the grace of predestination,* or the eternal love of GOD; then follow the gift of justification and the remission of our various sins, and finally there is added the crown of glory, which He bestows on penitent sinners.

9 He will not alway be chiding: neither keepeth he his anger for ever.

He does chide us in this world, from the cradle to the grave, in chastising us for our sins, and in purifying us with trials and afflictions; but He reserves His mercies for us in the perfect happiness of His kingdom. We have a pledge of this in that, while we were yet in our sins, He justified us, and gave us blessings instead of parental punishments. And, spoken especially of His chosen people, the words tell us of the final restoration and conversion of Israel, so long suffering under the wrath of GOD.* They are careful to warn us that the verse does not prove the Universalist theory, as it is dealing only with the promises of GOD to His elect and to all penitent souls,* not to such as harden themselves in sin, who must look for wrath and fiery indignation.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins: nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses.

That is as some will have it, He has not punished our original guilt,* but has rather shown us how we may be cleansed from it,* nor has He straightway taken vengeance on our actual transgressions, but has given us time and means of repentance. And others remind us that when He does punish,* it is with far greater leniency than our guilt merits. So Ezra makes his confession: “And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our GOD hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given such deliverance as this, should we again break Thy commandments?”*

11 For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth: so great is his mercy also towards them that fear him.
12 Look how wide also the east is from the west: so far hath he set our sins from us.

Lorinus, writing at a time when Galileo was but on the track of his astronomical discoveries, and when the almost total lack of instruments narrowed the range of observation and even of conjecture, endeavours to exhibit the forcible nature of these similes by setting before his readers some calculations as to the vast distances of the heavenly bodies from us, the extent of the firmament which is penetrable to our gaze. It is enough to say, in briefly substituting some of the incomparably greater results of modern science for those which the learned Jesuit offered his readers two centuries and a half ago, that there are nebula? visible to the telescope now, but too distant to be resolvable into separate stars, whence light, travelling at the rate of twelve millions of miles in a minute, must have required seven hundred thousand years to reach our earth; that at the very least one hundred millions of stars believed to be suns, the centres of planetary systems like our own, are countable, each of which systems revolves in a minimum orbit of six thousand millions of miles, and is probably distant from its next neighbour nineteen billions of miles; while all this inconceivable vastness is merely one tiny point in space which our feeble organs and imperfect instruments have enabled us to observe and map out. So great is His mercy, so far hath He set our sins from us. For He hath caused our sins to set in the grave of Baptism, and made the Man,* Whose Name is the East, the Sun of Righteousness, the Day-star,* to arise in our hearts, so that we, who were sometimes darkness, are now light in the LORD,* Who ascended to the height of heaven from the earth, shows His mercy thence to those that fear Him, by His perpetual mediation on behalf of His tried and suffering Church. In the mention of the East and West there may be very possibly a reference to the restoration of the Jewish exiles from Babylon to their own land.* And a Rabbinical commentator observes that we do not find the North and South named, because much of the space lying between their extreme points is uninhabitable by man, owing to the bitter cold, whereas life can be supported in every part of East and West, which therefore serve as better types of the fostering love of GOD.

13 Yea, like as a father pitieth his own children: even so is the LORD merciful unto them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth whereof we are made: he remembereth that we are but dust.

Let Him be as stern as He will, He is our FATHER. He hath scourged us, hath afflicted us, hath crushed us; He is our FATHER. Son, if thou weepest, weep under a FATHER’S hand, be not angered nor violent in pride. What thou sufferest, what thou lamentest, is not punishment, but medicine, it is chastisement, not condemnation. Refuse not the scourge, if thou wouldst not be ousted from thine heritage. Think not of the pain of the scourge, but of thy place in the testament;* for He knoweth whereof we are made, He knoweth our weakness, our proneness to sin, the fuel of evil that abides within us. He knows what He made, how it fell, how it may be restored, adopted, enriched. Behold, we were made out of clay. “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the LORD from heaven.”* Observe, too, that a father’s affection for his children is of much earlier date than theirs for him. He cares for them even before their birth, bears with their childish faults, provides them with all necessaries, and rules them, usually, with more justice and firmness than their mother;* while, on the other hand, children need to emerge out of infancy before they begin to have any intelligent love for their fathers, and it rarely becomes their task to contribute to their support. Whence we are here taught the lesson that GOD’s love and care for us does not depend on our goodness, but on His own, and that we are not less His children, nor less the objects of His tenderness when we rebel against Him,* for He remembereth that we are but dust, and making full allowance for our frailty, is more ready to forgive than we to sin.

15 The days of man are but as grass: for he flourisheth as a flower of the field.
16 For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone: and the place thereof shall know it no more.

The simile of man’s frailty which occurs in Ps. 110:5, 6, is here presented afresh, with two additional circumstances to heighten it; the comparison with the flower of the field, and the mention of the wind as sufficient to destroy it, instead of the scythe implied in the former passage.* The commentators dwell on the contrast between a flower of the field, left to itself, untended, and therefore withering for lack of moisture when the heats come, and the flower of a garden, sheltered from the too scorching rays of the sun, and carefully watered.* And, further, as a field is designed for the plough, unlike a wood or a meadow, a field-flower has little prospect of being allowed to live out its span, as it is uprooted or cut down in the act of making the furrows, if it be not even sooner cropped by cattle as they graze. As soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.* This is the true sense of the text, confirmed by the parallel passage in Isaiah: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it;”* and the reference is to the hot wind of the desert,* parching up the herbage suddenly. But the LXX. And Vulgate, taking a different sense of the Hebrew רוּחַ, translate it as spirit, and most of the commentators then explain it as meaning either the breath, the vital principle, or the soul of man, thus: For the spirit will pass (hath passed, LXX.) through him, and he will not abide, meaning either that he will cease to draw his breath, and will therefore die; or that vital power will forsake him;* or, again, that the soul will be parted from the body.* And this meaning can be fairly defended by a similar passage in another Psalm, “For He considered that they were but flesh: and that they were even a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”* There are one or two mystical senses proposed also,* of which the most noteworthy are, that the words refer to the unseen passage of the Angel of Death, as he comes to take the soul away; or else to the loss of the principle of grace and strength on the part of our first parents, so that they could not abide, but fell from Paradise, so that their place knew them no more. The last clause is slightly changed in construction by LXX. and Vulgate, He shall know his place no more. That is, the dead cannot return to animate their bodies,* nor to resume their former state and employment; and we may gather also from the words a presage of the fuller teaching of S. Paul on the Resurrection, that our revived bodies will not be numerically and physically identical with those which died, nor will the revival itself be according to natural laws. Others deduce from the words an argument for the unconsciousness of the dead as to what takes place in this world, save in the case of special revelation. Cardinal Bellarmine suggests a more profitable lesson,* by bidding us observe how the heavenly bodies, albeit constantly moving, revolve in vast orbits, and do return, unchanged, to their former place, whereas things sprung from earth are in constant process of change and decay, and can never retain, much less recover, the vigour of their prime, an allegory which needs no explanatory gloss.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear him: and his righteousness upon children’s children;
18 Even upon such as keep his covenant: and think upon his commandments to do them.

The LXX. and Vulgate mode of rendering for ever and ever here is from eternity to eternity,* whence the commentators explain the sense as denoting the everlasting predestination of GOD* to save mankind by the sacrifice of the immaculate Lamb,* and the everlasting duration of the blessedness thereby obtained for us. And we may notice the contrast between His mercy and ours, for it is written, “Your goodness (mercy, marg.) is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”* Upon them that fear Him. This holds not only under the Law, but under the Gospel, for the same condition is expressed by the Blessed Virgin in the Magnificat;* and we may obtain the merciful goodness of the LORD by penitence, as He will grant us justification in return for contrition, sanctification for confession, and the grace of obedience when we make satisfaction.

And His righteousness upon children’s children.* Hence we may gather the continuance of mercy for Israel, whatever time it may repent and believe, for, as S. Peter declared to the Jews in his Pentecostal sermon, “the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the LORD our GOD shall call.”* And S. Augustine bids us remember that this does not exclude the barren,* for men’s works are, in a sense, their offspring, so that the promise here is first that GOD’S mercy,* in approval and co-operation, is upon these works,* and then upon the children of all such works,* namely, the rewards which follow them. And with this interpretation we shall do well in understanding the eighteenth verse as referring not to the children, as it seems at the first glance, (which, however, would be mere iteration of the first clause) but to the parents, for whose sake, and because of whose faithfulness and obedience, blessing is bestowed on their descendants, though not necessarily on all without distinction. So we read that when the dying patriarch Jacob was laying his hands in benediction on Ephraim and Manasseh, it is not said that he blessed them, but “he blessed Joseph,”* that is, he knew that the most precious benediction to Joseph would be one which descended to his children. There is a difference between keeping the covenant of GOD,* and thinking upon His commanaments to do them. The first need not necessarily imply more than observance of the prohibitory laws, while the second denotes fulfilment of the positive ones; or yet more fully, keeping is storing the seed carefully in a granary; doing is planting it in the ground, that it may bring forth abundant fruit; a notion well brought out by the Talmudic parable of the man who left a bag of corn in charge of a friend; and on his return from a journey, asked for his deposit, and was shown a field of waving wheat instead of the small parcel which he expected.* We are all bound to GOD in the covenant made with Him in Baptism, and have His Scriptures to teach us what are the commandments thereby made binding upon us. But Holy Writ, to those who merely think upon it, and admire its beauties, but do not put its precepts in action, is as the voice of Ezekiel to the rebellious Jews, “They hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but do them not.”* Accordingly, the Fathers use many similes to describe the uselessness of mere reading of Scripture apart from living it.* It is like, says one, having a table spread with meat and drink,* but taking no food from it.* It is like an armoury, whence you borrow no weapon,* observes a second. It is a well whence you draw no water, a dispensary whence you take no medicine, a garden whence you gather no flowers, a treasury whence you extract no wealth, as the Golden-mouthed preacher forcibly urges.

19 The LORD hath prepared his seat in heaven: and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Not on earth,* in the sanctuary of the Temple, ruling over the Jews alone, as aforetime; but now ascended, the LORD, the SON,* assumes the throne which the LORD, the FATHER, hath prepared for Him and rules all creation, Jews, Gentiles, angels, and spirits alike. And therefore we, if we wish to stand by that throne, if we would gain the merciful goodness of the former verse, must have “our conversation in heaven,”* “where CHRIST sitteth on the right hand of GOD.”* The LORD hath prepared His seat not merely as a throne,* but as the place of judgment, and it is added that His Kingdom ruleth over all,* to teach us that He is not a Judge under a king, but is Himself at once supreme Judge and King, Whose citation none can resist, against Whose sentence none may appeal.* Mystically, they remind us that the Church, the practice of holiness,* and the devout soul, are all seats of the LORD, and true heavens, as well as that celestial home of the Angels, where He is lifted above the Thrones. And as the word seat may be used in three senses, for the chair of a teacher, the tribunal of a judge,* and the throne of a king, be CHRIST the LORD dwells in this threefold fashion in the righteous soul, as Teacher of its reasoning faculties, as Judge over its passions, as King over its will and desires.

20 O praise the LORD, ye angels of his, ye that excel in strength: ye that fulfil his commandment, and hearken unto the voice of his words.
21 O praise the LORD, all ye his hosts: ye servants of his that do his pleasure.

Conscious of his own infirmity, the Psalmist desires that not only his weak powers,* his soul and all within him, should praise the LORD, but that a worthier homage may be done to Him, and therefore invokes the Angels to take up the strain in clearer and more fitting accents.* He calls not only on the Angels,* as a special order of celestial beings, but upon all those that excel in strength, all GOD’S hosts, the whole chivalry of heaven throughout the nine ranks of its hierarchy, to swell the song. And we may observe the apparent inversion in the latter clause of the twentieth verse, where fulfil stands before hearken, contrary to the natural order. There are three explanations of it. First, that the sentence should run,* “fulfil … that ye may hearken;” implying that the Angels are not like men, who do GOD’S will in hope of reward, but that obedience itself is the reward, pleasure, and glory of the heavenly spirits,* who look for nothing further. The second is, that the phrase denotes the swiftness of their obedience and execution, in that their task is accomplished at the instant when the command is uttered. Thirdly, and best; they not only obey such orders as are given them,* but stand waiting and listening intently, to catch the first intimation of the Divine will.

Who best
Bear His mild yoke,* they serve Him best: His state
Is kingly, thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest,
They also serve who only stand and wait.

The frequent use of the word Angel to denote a messenger,* has led some of the commentators to apply these verses in a secondary sense to the preachers of the Gospel or to the priests of the Church,* alike bound to serve and praise GOD in voice and acts. Ye servants of His. In this epithet the majesty of GOD is set before us, in that they who just before are described as excelling in strength, are now declared to be but ministers to do His pleasure. And that pleasure that they should minister to the heirs of salvation.* In Holy Writ, before the coming of CHRIST, we find that the Angels who appeared to men accepted their reverence and homage, as when David and the elders fell down before the destroying angel,* and Daniel before Gabriel; but after the Ascension of CHRIST, the Angels refuse all such marks of respect,* saying, as twice to the Beloved Disciple, “See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant,”* for now they see that human nature, once so far below them, is exalted above them in supreme dominion.

The Angels tremble as they see
The lot of mortals altering,*
Flesh sins, but flesh again sets free,
And GOD, the Flesh of GOD, is King.

22 O speak good of the LORD, all ye works of his, in all places of his dominion: praise thou the LORD, O my soul.

It is possible for all the works of GOD to praise Him,* though not in the same fashion. His intellectual creatures praise Him consciously and audibly, as witnesses of His might and glory, His irrational and inanimate works praise Him silently, by fulfilling exactly the end of their creation, and by teaching men somewhat of His power and goodness, so that they are quickened to praise Him anew,

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,*
Earth, with ten thousand voices, praises GOD.

In all places of His dominion.* Where GOD has no dominion, there is no need to praise Him; but wherever He hath dominion, He is to be praised,* and as that is everywhere, no one can be excused from paying this homage. They are no words for the Jews, observes a Greek Father, for they, tied to one spot for their worship, asked “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?”* But we have been taught by the LORD Himself in His words to the woman of Samaria, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the FATHER;.… but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the FATHER in spirit and in truth;”* in that Holy Catholic Church which is made up of all nations, and spread through all lands, so that from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,* in every place incense is offered unto the Name of GOD,* and a pure offering, because all the earth has been purged with the Blood of CHRIST, and men may now “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.”* Praise the Lord, O my soul. The last verse is the same as the first, praise at the outset, praise at the close; we have set out with praise, may it be our lot to return thither, and reign where it is everlasting, where the heavenly hosts praise the FATHER, where all the works of creation praise the WORD by Whom all things were made, where the souls of ransomed men praise the SPIRIT, Who hath sanctified them.

Wherefore: Glory be to the FATHER, Who pitieth His own children; glory be to the SON, Who hath prepared His seat for judgment in heaven; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who healeth all our infirmities. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

 

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 9:51-62

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2013

Ver 51. And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,52. And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.53. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?55. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, you know not what manner of spirit you are of.56. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

CYRIL; When the time was near at hand in which it behoved our Lord to accomplish His-life-giving Passion, and ascend up to heaven, He determines to go up to Jerusalem, as it is said, And it came to pass, &c.

TIT. BOST. Because it was necessary that the true Lamb should there be offered, where the typical lamb was sacrificed; but it is said, he steadfastly set his face, that is, He went not here and there traversing the villages and towns, but kept on His way straight towards Jerusalem.

THEOPHYL; Let then the Heathen cease to mock the Crucified, as if He were a man, who it is plain, as God, both foresaw the time of His crucifixion, and going voluntarily to be crucified, sought with steadfast face, that is, with resolute and undaunted mind, the spot where He was to be crucified.

CYRIL; And He sends messengers to make a place for Him and His companions, who when they came to the country of the Samaritans were not admitted, as it follows, And sent messengers before his face; and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him.

AMBROSE; Mark that He was unwilling to be received by those who He knew had not turned to Him with a simple heart. For if He had wished, He might have made them devout, who were undevout. But God calls those whom He thinks worthy, and whom He wills He makes religious. But why they did not receive Him the Evangelist mentions, saying, Because his face was as if he would go to Jerusalem.

THEOPHYL. But if one understands that they did not receive Him for this reason, because He had determined to go to Jerusalem, an excuse is found for them, who did not receive Him. But we must say, that in the words of the Evangelist, And they did not receive him, is implied that He did not go into Samaria, but afterwards as if some one had asked Him, He explained in these words, why they did not receive Him. And He went not to them, i.e. not that He was unable, but that He did not wish to go there but rather to Jerusalem.

THEOPHYL; Or the Samaritans see that our Lord is going to Jerusalem, and do not receive Him. For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans, as John shows.

CYRIL; But our Lord, Who knew all things before they came to pass, knowing that His messengers would not be received by the Samaritans, nevertheless commanded them to go before Him, because it was His practice to make all things conduce to the good of His disciples. Now He went up to Jerusalem as the time of His suffering drew near. In order then that they might not be offended, when they saw Him suffer, bearing in mind that they must also endure patiently when men persecute them, He ordained beforehand as a land of prelude this refusal of the Samaritans.

It was good for them also in another way. For they were to be the teachers of the world, going through towns and villages, to preach the doctrine of the Gospel, meeting sometimes with men who would not receive the sacred doctrine, allowing not that Jesus sojourned on earth with them. He therefore taught them, that in announcing the divine doctrine, they ought to be filled with patience and meekness, without bitterness, and wrath, and fierce enmity against those who had done any wrong to them.

But as yet they were not so, nay, being stirred up with fervid zeal, they wished to bring down fire from heaven upon them. It follows, And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, &c.

AMBROSE; For they knew both that when Phineas had slain the idolaters it was counted to him for righteousness; and that at the prayer of Elijah fire came down from heaven, that the injuries of the prophet might be avenged.

THEOPHYL; For holy men who well knew that that death which detaches the soul from the body was not to be feared, still because of their feelings who feared it, punished some sins with death, that both the living might be struck with a wholesome dread, and those who were punished with death might receive helm not from death itself but from sin, which would be increased were they to live.

AMBROSE; But let him be avenged who fears. He who fears not, seeks not vengeance. At the same time the merits of the Prophets are likewise shown to have been in the Apostles, seeing that they claim to themselves the right of obtaining the same power of which the Prophet was thought worthy; and fitly do they claim that at their command fire should come down from heaven, for they were the sons of thunder.

TIT. BOST. They thought it much juster that the Samaritans should perish for not admitting our Lord, than the fifty soldiers who tried to thrust down Elijah.

AMBROSE; But the Lord is not moved against them, that He might show that perfect virtue has no feeling of revenge, nor is there any anger where there is fullness of love. For weakness must not be thrust out; but assisted. Let indignation be far from the religious, let the high-souled have no desire of vengeance. Hence it follows, But he turned and rebuked them, and said, you know not what manner of spirit you are of.

THEOPHYL; The Lord blames them, not for following the example of the holy Prophet, but for their ignorance in taking vengeance while they were yet inexperienced, perceiving that they did not desire correction from love, but vengeance from hatred. After that He had taught them what it was to love their neighbor as themselves, and the Holy Ghost also had been infused into them, there were not lacking these punishments, though far less frequent than in the Old Testament, because the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. As if He said, And do you therefore who are sealed with His Spirit, imitate also His actions, now determining charitably, hereafter judging justly.

AMBROSE; For we must not always punish the offender, since mercy sometimes does more good, leading you to patience, the sinner to repentance. Lastly, those Samaritans believed the sooner, who were in this place saved from fire.

Ver 57. And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go.58. And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.59. And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.60. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead, but go you and preach the kingdom of God.61. And another also said, Lord, I will follow you; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.62. And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

CYRIL; Although the Almighty Lord is bountiful, He does not grant to every one absolutely and indiscriminately heavenly and divine gifts, but to those only who are worthy to receive them, who free themselves and their souls from the stains of wickedness. And this we are taught by the force of the angelic words, And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you. First indeed there is much tardiness implied in the manner of his coming. It is next shown that he is filled with too great presumption. For he sought not to follow Christ simply as several others of the people, but rather caught at the honor of the Apostleship. Whereas Paul says, No one takes the honor to himself but he that is called of God.

ATHAN. He dared also to match himself with the incomprehensible power of the Savior, saying, I will follow you wherever you go; for to follow the Savior simply to hear His teaching is possible to human nature, as it directs itself towards men, but it is not possible to go with Him wherever He is; for He is incomprehensible, and is not confined by place.

CYRIL; In another respect also our Lord deservedly gives him a refusal, for He taught that to follow the Lord, a man must take up his cross, and renounce the affection of this present life. And our Lord finding this lacking in him does not blame him, but corrects him.  It follows, And Jesus says to him, The foxes have holes, &c.

THEOPHYL. For having seen our Lord drawing much people to Him, he thought that he received reward from them, and that if he followed our Lord, he might obtain money.

THEOPHYL; Therefore it is said to him, Why do you seek to follow Me for the riches and gain of this world, when so great is My poverty that I have not even a place of rest, and take shelter under another man’s roof.

CHRYS See how our Lord sets forth by his works the poverty which he taught. For him was no table spread, no lights, no house, nor any such thing.

CYRIL; Now under a mystical signification He applies the name of foxes and birds of the air to the wicked and crafty powers of evil spirits. As if He said, Since foxes and birds of the air have their abode in you, how shall Christ rest in you? What fellowship has light with darkness?

ATHAN. Or herein our Lord teaches the greatness of His gift, as if He said, All created things may be confined by place, but the Word of God has incomprehensible power. Say not then, I will follow you wherever you go. But if you would be a disciple, cast off foolish things, for it is impossible for him who remains in foolishness to become a disciple of the Word.

AMBROSE; Or, He compares foxes to heretics, because they are indeed a wily animal, and, ever intent upon fraud, commit their robberies by stealth. They let nothing be safe, nothing be at rest, nothing secure, for they hunt their prey into the very abodes of men. The fox again, an animal full of craft, makes no hole for itself, yet likes to lie always concealed in a hole. So the heretics, who know not how to construct a house for themselves, circumscribe and deceive others. This animal is never tamed, nor is it of use to man. Hence the Apostle, A heretic after the first and second admonition reject. But the birds of the air, which are frequently brought in to represent spiritual wickedness, build as it were their nests in the breasts of the wicked, and as long as deceit reigns over the affections, the divine principle has no opportunity to take possession.

But when a man has proved his heart to be innocent, upon him Christ leans in some measure the weight of His greatness, for by a more abundant shedding of grace He is planted in the breasts of good men. So then it does not seem reasonable that we should think him faithful and simple, who is rejected by the judgment of the Lord, notwithstanding that he promised the service of unwearied attendance; but our Lord cares not for this kind of service, but only purity of affection, nor is his attendance accepted whose sense of duty is not proved. For the hospitality of faith should be given with circumspection, lest while opening the interior of our house to the unbelieving, through our imprudent credulity we fall a snare to the treachery of others. Therefore that you may be aware that God despises not attendance upon him but deceit, He who rejected the deceitful man chose the innocent.

For it follows, And he said to another, Follow me. But He says this to him, whose father He knew to be dead. Hence it follows, But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

THEOPHYL; He did not refuse the discipleship, but his wish was, having fulfilled the filial duty of burying his father, to follow Christ more freely.

AMBROSE; But the Lord calls those upon whom He has compassion. Hence it follows, And Jesus said, Let the dead bury their dead. Since we have received as a religious duty the burial of the human body, how is it thus that the burial even of a father’s dead body is forbidden, unless you are to understand that human things are to be postponed to divine? It is a good employment, but the hindrance is greater, for he who divides his pursuits, draws down his affections; he who divides his care, delays his advances. We must first set abort the things which are most important. For the Apostles also, that they might not be occupied in the office of distributing alms, ordained ministers for the poor.

CHRYS. But what more necessary than the burial of his father, what more easy, seeing that there would not be much time given to it? We are then hereby taught that it becomes us not to spend even the slightest portion of our time in vain, although we have a thousand things to compel us, nay to prefer spiritual things to even our greatest necessities. For the devil watchfully presses close upon us, wishing to find any opening, and if he causes a slight negligence, he ends in producing a great weakness.

AMBROSE; The performance of a father’s burial is not then prohibited, but the observance of religious duty is preferred to the ties of relationship. The one is left to those in like condition, the other is commanded to those who are left. But how can the dead bury the dead? unless you here understand a twofold death, one a natural death, the other the death of sin. There is also a third death, by which we die to sin, live to God.

CHRYS. By thus saying, their dead, he shows that this man’s father was not his dead, for I suppose that the deceased was of the number of the unbelieving.

AMBROSE; Or because the throat of the ungodly is an open sepulcher, their memory is ordered to be forgotten whose services die together with their bodies. Nor is the son recalled from his duty to his father, but the faithful is separated from the communion of the unbelieving; there is no prohibition of duty, but a mystery of religion, that is, that we should have no fellowship with the dead Gentiles.

CYRIL; Or else, his father was borne down with years, and he thought he was doing an honorable act in proposing to pay the kind offices which were due to him, according to Exodus, Honor your father and your mother. Hence when calling him to the ministry of the Gospel, our Lord said, Follow me, he sought for a time of respite, which should suffice for the support of his decrepit father, saying, Permit me first to go and bury my father, not that he asked to bury his deceased father, for Christ would not have hindered the wish to do this, but he said, Bury, that is, support in old age even till death. But the Lord said to him, Let the dead bury their dead. For there were other attendants also bound by the same tie of relationship, but as I consider dead, because they had not yet believed Christ. Learn from this, that our duty to God is to be preferred to our love for our parents, to whom we show reverence, because through them have we been born. But the God of all, when hen as yet we e were not, brought us into being, our parents were made the ministers of our introduction.

AUG. Our Lord spoke this to the man to whom He had said, Follow me. But another disciple put himself forward, to whom no one had spoken any thing, saying, I will follow you, O Lord; but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at home, lest perchance they look for me as they are wont.

CYRIL; Now this promise is worthy of our admiration and full of all praise, but to bid farewell to those who are at home, to get leave from them, shows that he was still somehow divided from the Lord, in that he had not yet resolved to make this venture with his whole heart. For to wish to consult relations who would not agree to his proposal because one somewhat wavering. Wherefore our Lord condemns this, saying, No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. He puts his hand to the plough who is ambitious to follow, yet looks back again who seeks an excuse for delay in returning home, and consulting with his friends.

AUG. As if he said to him, The East calls you, and you turn to the West.

THEOPHYL: To put one’s hand to the plough, is also, (as it were by a certain sharp instrument,) by the wood and iron of our Lord’s passion, to wear away the hardness of our heart, and to open it to bring forth the fruits of good works. But if any one, having begun to exercise this, delights to look back with Lot’s wife to the things which he had left, he is deprived of the gift of the kingdom to come.

GREEK EX. For the frequent looking upon the things which we have forsaken, through the force of habit draws us back to our past way of life. For practice has great power to retain to itself. Is not habit generated of use, and nature of habit? But to get rid of or change nature is difficult; for although when compelled it for a while turns aside, it very rapidly returns to itself.

THEOPHYL; But if the disciple about to follow our Lord is reproved for wishing even to bid farewell at home, what will be done to such as for no advantage-sake frequently visit the houses of those whom they have left in the world?

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A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 25, 2013

This post opens with a brief series of “arguments” (in the literary sense, i.e., summaries of the Psalm’s content, intentions, etc.). The commentary then follows. The post ends by indicating the various uses this psalm exercised in the liturgical tradition, along with traditional antiphons and collects used in relation to it.

TITLE. Michtam of David. Vulgate: The inscription of the title: To David himself. Probably, A golden Psalm of David.

ARGUMENT

ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST, when He had suffered for us, was not left in hell. The voice of the Church. The voice of CHRIST to the FATHER, and of His members to their head. Through this whole Psalm the Person of the SAVIOUR is introduced. At its commencement, He speaks according to His humanity to the FATHER, beseeching that He may be preserved, because He hath ever set His hope on Him: He adds how His Saints are chosen, not by the desires of the flesh, but by the virtues of the SPIRIT: He affirms that everything that He endured was for the glory of His heritage. In the second part, He returns thanks to the same FATHER, Who, standing on His right hand, overcame the iniquity of this world by the power of His omnipotence: whence He affirms that His soul was set free from hell, and after the glory of His Resurrection, had its dwelling among the pleasures of GOD’s right hand.

VEN. BEDE. When all the headings of the Psalms may he called Inscriptions of Titles, I know not with what peculiar mystical signification this Psalm has this especial title. But since a title was written over our LORD when Crucified, “This is the King of the Jews,” not without reason in the Psalm in which that same King is about to speak of His Passion and Resurrection, is commemoration made of that inscription: for that which is added, to David himself, is not to be applied to any other person than to the LORD, the SAVIOUR to Whom it is sung.

EUSEBIUS of CÆSAREA. The election of the Church and the Resurrection of CHRIST.

ÆTHIOPIC PSALTER. The covenant of David which he proposed as peculiar to himself.

COMMENTARY

1 Preserve me, O GOD: for in thee have I put my trust.

Have I put My trust. And “they that trust in the LORD,”* it is the promise of the prophet, “shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” But we may put the text, so far as He is man, into our LORD’s mouth: for He was preserved by the FATHER, as well as preserved Himself. Or when He says, Preserve Me, we may so interpret it, as if He were praying for those that are His, and with Whom He is one. Gerhohus beautifully paraphrases the prayer: “Preserve in them, Me, the Way, that they may not err; Me, the Truth, that they may neither deceive, nor be deceived; Me, the Life, that although they be dead, they may live,—that although they be sick through any sin, this sickness may not be unto death; but that every one that liveth and believeth in Thee may not die everlastingly. Thus, O FATHER, preserve Me, Who am the Resurrection and the Life, so that if even any one of Mine should die through sin, he may yet live again through penitence: to the end that none of My own may perish, preserve me, O God.” But further notice that this and the following verses teach us six mysteries concerning CHRIST. The virtue of His prayer, Preserve Me, O God: the efficacy of His teaching, “All My delight is upon the Saints,”—or, as it is in the Vulgate, “In the Saints He hath wonderfully declared My will:” the gathering together of His Church, “Their drink-offerings of blood,” &c.: the safeguard of His Passion, “Thou maintainest My lot:” the glory of His Resurrection, “Thou shalt not leave My soul in hell:” the blessedness of His Ascension, “At Thy Right Hand there is pleasure for evermore.” On this verse the schoolmen raise a question whether our LORD can be said, in so far as He was man, to have possessed hope as a theological virtue. And S. Thomas decides that He cannot: a decision somewhat modified by Cardinal Hugo and others, who say that, although He possessed not hope in respect of the beatific object, which was always His own, yet so far as hope imparts an expectation of a certain, separate, future thing, as for example, the incorruptibility of His own Body in the grave, He may be said to have possessed it.

2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD: Thou art my GOD, my goods are nothing unto thee.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, “Thou hast no need of my goods.” Others would more literally translate it, “My Good, there is nothing beside Thee.” They dispute whether this verse may be put into the mouth of our LORD, Thou art My God. No doubt it may be, as He Himself taught us on the Cross. Hence also the whole question arises, How, and how far, human works may be said to have merit: taken in connection with that speech of Elihu, “Thinkest thou this to be right that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than GOD’s?* If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him, or what receiveth He of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.” It is sufficient to notice the fact, without entering into this, the most boundless controversy that has ever been agitated, and in which the Church has always allowed so great a latitude on either side. This only is to be observed: if we can from our very hearts take the first clause of the verse on our lips, then indeed we possess a blessing which nothing can destroy, and for which nothing could compensate.

[Modern critics translate the last clause, as practically do the Syriac and Symmachus, I have no good except Thee. And on this there is no better comment than that brief saying of the Doctor of Grace,* “Thou hast made us for Thee, and our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee.” And they explain the ordinary rendering as spoken in the person of CHRIST, and meaning that the WORD took flesh not for Himself, but for us, and therefore that the Divine Glory, essentially incapable of increase, as already infinite, was not augmented by the Manhood of the SAVIOUR.]

3 All my delight is upon the saints, that are in the earth: and upon such as excel in virtue.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, “In the Saints which are in His earth He hath magnified all My wills among them.” For He Who, just before His Passion, said, “Nevertheless, not My Will, but Thine be done,” has, in so far as He was Man, had His reward and His joy in this: that His will, and not their own, is the pole-star which directs the course of His people across the stormy ocean of this world. Or, if we take the verse according to our own translation: the greatest of heathen philosophers could say that there was no sight more pleasing to the gods, than that of a good man suffering affliction wrongfully. And so we may not doubt that, among the innumerable cloud of witnesses, He, the Martyr of martyrs, is continually to be found. Or, if we put the words into our own mouths, then we find an especial emphasis in the clause, that are in the earth: as if it were natural to find more comfort from their struggles who are compassed about with the same infirmity, and exposed to the same attacks as ourselves, than from the peace of the blessed ones who have already entered into their rest.

4a But they that run after another god: shall have great trouble. “4a” is a reference to the first half of verse 4. According to the Vulgate, this part of the verse reads: Their infirmities were multiplied: afterwards they made haste.

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, “Their infirmities are multiplied: after that they made haste.” It is wonderful how the different versions vary in this place, till one could hardly think that it was the same passage of Scripture that was translated. Thus, for example, one would read: “Multiplied be their sorrows who run headlong elsewhere.” Another: “As for those profane earthly idols, and all the great who in them delight, multiplied be their sorrows.” But, to take the words of the Vulgate, there are two senses, both most true, both most beautiful, in which they may be understood. The first, of the wicked: Their infirmities, that is, the afflictions which GOD sends, to bring them back to Himself, are multiplied in His love: because one is not enough, He sends another: as the Prophet says, “Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”* And yet, when thus afflicted, they made haste; they became impatient; they fretted at the chastisement of the LORD. Or, quite in the opposite sense. Their infirmities were multiplied: that is, the true servants of GOD, the more they try to walk worthy of their vocation, the more they endeavour to tread in the footsteps of their LORD, the more Satan assaults them with his temptations, the more their infirmities are multiplied. But in them is that prophecy fulfilled, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall also arise.” After that they made haste: they advanced in their spiritual course; they fulfilled the homely proverb, “He that stumbles without falling, goes on faster than before.” After that they made haste. As Saul the persecutor, who became Paul the Apostle, laboured more abundantly than they all; as the penitent thief who, after grace had touched his heart, so confessed CHRIST, as none other before nor since; as S. Mary Magdalene, who, after having fallen so deeply into that sin, which, more than any other, cuts us off from the grace of GOD, nevertheless merited first to behold Him after He had risen from the dead.

[Again, their infirmities were multiplied when they learnt, for the first time, the true number and nature of their sins from holy preachers, and then, after that, they made haste to be converted and baptized. Haste, like Peter and Andrew, James and John, leaving their nets, and Matthew’s quitting his office.]

4b Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer: neither make mention of their names within my lips. The Vulgate for this part of the verse reads: I will not gather together their meetings for bloodofferings: nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips.

I will not gather together their meetings for blood-offerings. And think first of those sacrifices of blood which have been offered from the time of righteous Abel to Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar: and then, beyond and above all, of that sacrifice of blood which, so far as they that offered it were concerned, has never yet been expiated, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips. A reference to the Mosaic law, which not only forbade the worship of the idols of the seven nations, but the very mention of their names. And so is the prophecy in Zechariah: “It shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of Hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered.”* It is not, perhaps, necessary, with S. Paulinus, to put these words into our LORD’s mouth, and to understand the lips of the two Testaments,* by both of which, and especially by their coherence and contact, He reveals His Will; and to which, also, he would refer that verse in the Canticles, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.”* For it is remarkable how the names of the wicked are, as it were, passed over and kept silence about in Holy Scripture. The old prophet of Bethel,—we know his deeds; of his name we are not informed. So in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; the name of the beggar that was carried by Angels into Abraham’s bosom is known to the whole world; that of him who in hell lift up his eyes, being in torment, is involved in obscurity. So again of him who said, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years,” and to whom GOD said, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” In like manner the young man is not named who went away sorrowful from our LORD, because he had great possessions.

[I will not gather together their meeting for blood-offerings, because My offering is My own Blood, the Cup of the New Testament;* nor will I be mindful of their names, because the titles Jew and Gentile have been done away by the new name of Christian,* which I have given to My Saints. Nay, I will not call them by the names their old sins have deserved, thieves, harlots, murderers, and the like, but brethren.]

5 The LORD himself is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: thou shalt maintain my lot.

One can hardly explain the portion of mine inheritance better than by the words of S. Augustine on another Psalm: “What better than GOD can be given to me? GOD loveth me, GOD loveth thee. Behold, He hath set it before thee: ask what thou wilt. If the Emperor were to say to thee, Ask what thou wilt: what office of tribune or of count wilt thou receive? then what wouldest thou demand both to be received by thyself and to be given to others? Well, when GOD saith, Ask what thou wilt; what wilt thou demand? stir up thy mind, exercise thy avarice, stretch forward as far as thou canst, dilate thy cupidity: it is no ordinary person, but the Omnipotent GOD Who saith to thee, Ask what thou wilt have.… Thou wilt find nothing dearer, thou wilt find nothing better, than Him Who said, Ask what thou wilt. Seek for JESUS, Who made all things: and in Him, and from Him thou wilt have all things which He made.… And He desires to give thee nothing so much as Himself. If thou canst find anything better, ask it. But if thou askest anything else, thou wilt do Him dishonour, thou wilt do injury to thyself, by preferring His works to Himself.… The Lord is the portion of my inheritance. Let Him possess thee, that thou mayest possess Him: He possesses thee that He may benefit thee; He is possessed by thee, that He may benefit thee.” Thus S. Augustine speaks on the 40th Psalm, but his words are at least equally applicable to this. Thou shalt maintain my lot. Or, as it is in the Vulgate, “Thou art He that shall restore me mine inheritance.” And one cannot but notice the similar difference between our translation and that of the Vulgate in the parable of the Prodigal Son: where our translation has, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him,” it is in the Vulgate, “Bring forth the first robe,” that is, the robe of baptismal innocence, to be restored in a certain degree by penitence. And thus in this verse, Thou shalt restore my heritage manifestly refers to our being made heirs of GOD, and joint heirs with CHRIST, in our Baptism. Neither must we fail to see how the two great Sacraments are set forth to us in this verse. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance,—namely, that HOLY GHOST, Whose temples at the baptismal font we became: and of my cup,—namely, that dear LORD, Whose Blood in the Eucharistic chalice we drink. Thus we have the Sacrament of Life, and the Sacrament of Food, immediately followed by that of medicine. Literally, these references to the cup, The Lord is the portion of my cup, “I will receive the cup of salvation,” “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” are allusions to the Jewish custom of ratifying and confirming a covenant, such as the transfer of land, by drinking from a common cup. But how unspeakably poor and mean is that literal sense in the Psalms, compared with the mystical signification which shall be in force till the end of the world! Or we may put the words into our LORD’s mouth, Thou shalt restore Mine inheritance. It is the same prayer as that, “And now, O FATHER, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”* Thou shalt restore. After My thirty and three years of suffering, after My crown of thorns, after My reed of mockery, after My Cross, Thou shalt restore My everlasting years of glory, Thou shalt set a crown of pure gold upon My Head, Thou shalt give Me the sceptre of everlasting dominion, and the throne that is at Thy Right Hand for evermore.

O grande cunctis gaudium,*
Quod partus nostræ Virginis
Post sputa, flagra, post crucem,
Scdi Paternæ jungitur.

6 The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground: yea, I have a goodly heritage. The Vulgate reads: The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me. The term “lines” translates the Hebrew  חבל, a rope or cord used for measuring, especially land. The term came to be applied to the boundaries measured (a plot or lot). Land was supposed to be kept within the family, so the word was often associated with “inheirtance”. The NAB give a good idea of the meaning: Pleasant places were measured out to me; fair to me indeed is my inheritance.

Had we not such authority for the application, I should almost have shrunk from applying this verse to the SON of GOD, as exulting over, and glorying in, His union of human nature to the Eternal Word. This is the fair ground in which He cast His lot at Bethlehem: this is the goodly heritage, goodly only to the exceeding greatness of His love, which He came into this world to vindicate to Himself. And S. Peter Chrysologus carries out the allegory still further, and shows how the lines, as the Vulgate and our own Bible translation give the word, were meted out by the HOLY GHOST, when He came down on the Blessed Virgin, preparing in her a habitation for the SON of GOD. And there is no doubt a reference to the division of the inheritance of the tribes by Him,* as it is described in the book of Joshua. The expression in the Vulgate, “The ropes are fallen unto Me,” is piously interpreted in more than one sense by the Fathers. Euthymius will have them to be those material ropes by which the SON of GOD was bound in the garden: the fair ground referring literally to the beauty of its flowers, but spiritually to the inheritance which that binding, as the first-fruits of, and entrance on, His Passion, procured for Him. S. Augustine takes them of the bands of love by which CHRIST was drawn to His work on earth, and with reference to which the Bride prays, “Draw Me, we will run after Thee.” I have a goodly heritage. Or we may take it of the SON of GOD thus consoling Himself amidst the toils and afflictions of His earthly pilgrimage: “I suffer these things, because without them mankind cannot be restored to their country: I endure the contempt, the insults, the rejection of those that ought to be My own here, to the end they may be in very deed My own there. Nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. I HAVE a goodly heritage, Mine before the foundation of the world; and Mine, but belonging also to those that are Mine, when I shall have returned to My country, and resumed My throne to all eternity.” And yet in one sense more: may not we, who have been led into the green pastures of Scriptural interpretation by the primitive and mediæval Saints, whom, at however great a distance, we are following,—may not we say, The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground: the fair, wide ground, which, taking us away from the narrow construction of the literal sense, enables us to lift up our eyes to the everlasting hills; yea, I have a goodly heritage, in the application to things seen and eternal, of words in their literal sense, spoken of things seen and temporal.

7 I will thank the LORD for giving me warning: my reins also chasten me in the night-season. The term reins translates the Hebrew כּליה, a term usually used to denote any essential inner organ of the body. By extension it came to denote the inner self.  As Pope John Paul II noted, the word became “a symbol of the most secret passions and hidden inner feelings.”

Or, as it is in the Vulgate, I will bless the Lord Who hath given me understanding. But to take it in the sense of our own version: see how continually from the very beginning that HOLY SPIRIT has warned against sin and danger. The hundred and twenty years given to the sinners of the old world; the vision of Abimelech; the repeated messages to Pharaoh; the continual warnings given to Saul: the threatening pronounced by the prophet sent against Bethel: all these show how mercifully GOD would fence in both His servants and His enemies from sin. Who hath given me understanding. They see a reference here to the first Adam: to him also the lines fell in pleasant places; he also had a goodly heritage: but because “being in honour he had no understanding,” he lost all, and became like the beasts that perish. But if we take this sentence as spoken by our LORD, the greater number of the Fathers have taught us that the knowledge of CHRIST, in so far as He was man, was not communicated to Him by degrees, and in the course of years, but at once and from the very instant of the Incarnation. It is true that the opposite opinion has been held by S. Athanasius, S. Cyril of Alexandria, S. Ambrose, S. Fulgentius, S. Epiphanius, and to a certain extent by S. Augustine; but, notwithstanding, the other is the more general belief, except in so far as that which is termed experimental understanding, the wisdom and knowledge arising from experience, is concerned. My reins also chasten me in the night-season, or as it is in the Vulgate, My reins have also corrected me even till the night. Either version will give the same sense. He did indeed suffer all the miseries and labours, all the hardness and weariness in the night-season of this life: or till the night, the deep, dark night of His Passion. And notice that this is one of the blessings for which He returns thanks: He, the Captain of our salvation, for the pains and labours which purchased for Him, in so far as He was Man, the Throne above every throne, and the Name above every name: as we, the soldiers of that Captain, ought to do for the pain which renders us like Him here, and which is intended to transform us into His image there. As the German poet well says:

“Could I face the coming night,
If Thou wert not near?
Nay, without Thy love and might,
I must sink with fear:
Round me falls the evening gloom,
Sights and sounds all cease,
But within this narrow room
Night will bring no peace.

“Then if I must wake and weep
All the long night through,
Thou the watch with me wilt keep,
Friend and Guardian true:
In the darkness Thou wilt speak
Lovingly with me,
Though my heart may vainly seek
Words to breathe to Thee.”

[My reins. Taking it of our LORD, these words denote the Jewish nation,* from whose reins His Mother sprang, which did indeed chasten Him by revilings and tortures until that night-season of the three hours’ darkness, when they could do no more. And if we apply the passage to Christians, it tells of the temptations of the flesh,* the law in the members warring against the law of the mind,* and that, even in Saints, till the night of bodily death, but in sinners till the night of voluntary spiritual darkness.]

8 I have set GOD always before me: for he is on my right hand, therefore I shall not fall.

And again the verse may be said by our LORD with a depth of meaning in which it can be taken by none other. For, from the very instant of His conception hypostatically united to the FATHER,* how could it be that the LORD was not always before Him? And if we could but do that by grace which He did by nature,—if in all the goings out and comings in of this life, it might be said of that dear LORD and of us, “So they two went on together,”—if, whether we be sent to Bethel, or Jericho, or Jordan, our own resolution is, “As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee,”*—oh, with what a reality may we take the beginning of the next verse on our lips, “Wherefore my heart was glad!” But now, how is this? If He is to be on our right hand, then we are making for ourselves the same awful petition, which the wife of Zebedee put up for one of her sons, and should ourselves be found on his left hand. Are we to say, with some of the commentators, that we are not to press the text too closely? or, with others, that first of all, at the beginning of the manifestation of His love towards us, we were indeed on His left hand, and He, stretching forth the right hand of His Majesty, succoured us from this peril, and gave us a good hope of being placed among the sheep at the last day? Or, once more, are we to imagine ourselves as looking up to, standing face to face with Him, as He sits on His Throne,—He thus on our right hand, so that we shall not be moved; we not the less on His right hand, the place and the heritage of perpetual joy? Take it which way you will, the end of the verse will be fulfilled: therefore I shall not fall. One indeed, but One only, could say, absolutely and fully, I shall not fall: even as He said, “The Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” But we—“The righteous man falleth seven times a day, and we, exceeding sinners, seventy times seven.” But we may so fall as to be able to say with the Prophet, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; for when I fall, I shall also arise.” We may so fall as, after we have suffered for a while, to be more than conquerors through Him That loved us.

9  Wherefore my heart was glad, and my glory rejoiced: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

We can take these words in our own mouths, and see how beautifully they set forth to us the love of our LORD. Because we have set GOD always before us, therefore He that is indeed our heart, the heart of all our affection, trust, joy, our Heart was glad, and our Glory,—for Who but He, That bare all shame for us, is our Glory?—rejoices. For if there be joy in the presence of the Angels over one sinner that repenteth, how much more in the sight of the LORD of the Angels, Whose love is to theirs, as the ocean to the drop of a bucket? My flesh shall rest in hope. In hope indeed: for from that one sepulchre in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, life and light and hope have gone forth into all the graves of the earth; have changed burial grounds into cemeteries, graves into beds, death into sleep: “LORD, if he sleep he shall do well.”* My flesh shall rest. And they take it as more especially appertaining to our LORD,* because He, the Martyr of Martyrs, after the struggle was over, reposed in peace: as it is written; “All the kings of the nations, even all of them lie in glory, every one in his own house.”* Whereas the martyrs His followers so often had no grave in which to repose: their dead bodies were “cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.”* Or they were burnt to ashes in the furnace, or entombed in the maws of wild beasts, or torn to pieces on the rack. But our LORD’S Body, during those solemn hours, rested in peace, rested as a king under a guard of honour, in a garden, in the spring of the year. So well was it foretold by the Prophet: “His rest shall be glorious.”*

10 For why? thou shalt not leave my soul in hell: neither shalt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.

Let us first hear the Apostolic interpretation of David’s prophecy: “Wherefore he saith also in another Psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of GOD, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. But He Whom GOD raised again, saw no corruption.”* Such was S. Paul’s interpretation: now let us hear S. Peter’s. “For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the LORD always before My face, for He is on My right hand that I should not be moved:* therefore did My heart rejoice and My tongue was glad. Moreover My flesh also shall rest in hope: because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to Me the ways of life. Thou shalt make Me full of joy with Thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a Prophet, and knowing that GOD had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, He would raise up CHRIST to sit on his throne: he seeing this before spake of the Resurrection of CHRIST, that His soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption.” Thus it is that the two great Apostles explained this verse: and we can only tread in their steps. It is well said by Pseudo-Dionysius,* in the famous book of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, with reference to this verse: “When they approach to death who have led a holy life, looking to the true promises of GOD, the verity of which they have seen made manifest in the Resurrection of CHRIST, with a firm and a lively hope and a Divine joy, they advance to the goal of death as to the end of their conflicts; because they know for certain that all they care for, because of their future resurrection, (A.) will be safe in that perfect and eternal life and blessedness.” How many of GOD’s saints these words have consoled in death, who can tell us? Who can say what part of the earth is not hallowed by the body of a saint? It is a noble thought of the earliest of Christian poets, where he represents the different cities presenting their various saints, as so many offerings to the second Adam:

Wherefore this dwelling,* full of mighty Angels,
Fears not the wide world’s universal ruin,
While in her hands she bears a rich oblation
Unto her SAVIOUR.

Thus, when the LORD shall shake His flaming right arm,
Coming, His throne a purple cloud, to judgment,
Weighing each nation in His ready balance
Strictly and justly,

Each of those cities, rising from her ruins,
Shall to her monarch emulously hasten,
Bearing those gifts, so precious and so loving,
Home in their casket.

11 Thou shalt show me the path of life; in thy presence is the fulness of joy: and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore.

And, in the first place Who is the Path of Life but the LORD Himself? “I am,” saith He, “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”* And so the Apostle speaks of Him as “the Author and Finisher of our faith.”* The Fathers well remind us that what He said to S. Thomas, He says to all of us: that of us, as well as of that generation, the saying is true, “No man cometh to the FATHER but by Me.”* S. Ambrose and S. Gregory apply these words to our LORD and dilate upon them with great emphasis; but we may also take them in another sense, and putting them in our own mouths, address them to the Captain of our Salvation: Thou shalt show me the Path of Life: for the Path of Life is that path by which our LORD ascended from the Mount of Olives to the Right Hand of the FATHER. As He left us an example by rising from the grave, how we ourselves should burst the bands of death, so, by His Ascension into heaven, He taught us how of us that saying should be fulfilled, “Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air, and so shall we ever be with the LORD.”*

[In Thy presence. The LXX. and Vulgate read, Thou shalt fill me with joy with Thy countenance, and thus bring out more vividly the thought of the Beatific Vision:

Sunt hi viventes,*
Me vitâ fruentes,
Pulchre lucentes,
Me lumen videntes,
Sunt et divini
Dii quoque igniti
Mihi uniti.]

And therefore: Glory be to the FATHER, Who resto

res our lot to us; and to the SON, Who is the portion of our inheritance: and to the HOLY GHOST, Who is on our right hand that we should not fall; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Sunday: II. Nocturn. [Easter Eve: Matins. Corpus Christi: I. Nocturn. Feasts of the Precious Blood and Shroud: Matins. Common of Many Martyrs: II. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Friday: Prime.

Parisian. Wednesday: Compline.

Lyons. Sunday: II. Nocturn.

Ambrosian. Monday of the First Week: II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Tuesday: Compline.

ANTIPHONS

Gregorian. My goods* are nothing unto Thee: in Thee have I hoped; save me, O GOD. [Easter Eve: My flesh also shall rest in hope. Corpus Christi: With the Communion of the Cup, whereby GOD Himself is received, not with the blood of bulls, the LORD hath gathered us together. Common of Many Martyrs: In the Saints which are in the earth, He hath magnified all my wills among them.]

Parisian. Preserve me, O GOD: for in Thee have I put my trust.

Mozarabic. I said unto the LORD, Thou art my GOD.

COLLECTS

Preserve,* O LORD, them that put their trust in Thee, and conform our will to Thine; that we, enlightened by the joy of Thy Resurrection, may merit to be made happy at Thy Right Hand with all Thy saints. Who livest (5.)

Preserve us,* O LORD, in the fear which Thou lovest, and separate us from the contagion of sin; that since our goods are nothing unto Thee, we may receive Thine everlasting gifts. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)

Make known to us,* O LORD, the paths of life, and fill us with the pleasures that are at Thy Right Hand; and by the governance of Thine arm, cause us to submit our necks to Thy light yoke. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)

[O most merciful GOD, (D. C.) preserve under Thy protection us who put our trust in Thee, show us the path of life, that we walking steadfastly therein unto the end with Thee as our Leader, may be filled with eternal joy, and be satisfied with the pleasure of Thy countenance. Through (1.)]

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 25, 2013

Psa 16:1  The inscription of a title to David himself. Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in thee.
Psa 16:2  I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.

The inscription of a title to David himself. Our King in this Psalm speaks in the character of the human nature He assumed, of whom the royal title at the time of His passion was eminently set forth.

Now he saith as follows: Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in thee (vs. 1).  I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods (vs. 2): or with my goods Thou, O God,  dost not look to be made blessed.

Psa 16:3  To the saints, who are in his land, he hath made wonderful all my desires in them.

To the saints, who are in his land (the earth): to the saints who have placed their hope in the land of the living, the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, whose spiritual conversation is, by the anchor of hope, fixed in that country, which is rightly called God’s earth; although as yet in this earth too they be conversant in the flesh. “He hath made wonderful all my desires in them.” To those saints then He hath wonderfully fulfilled all My wishes in their advancement, whereby they have perceived, how both the humanity of My divinity hath profited them that I might die, and the divinity of the humanity that I might rise again.

Psa 16:4  Their infirmities were multiplied: afterwards they made haste. I will not gather together their meetings for bloodofferings: nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips.

Their infirmities were multiplied: their infirmities have been multiplied not for their destruction, but that they might long for the Physician. “Afterwards they made haste.” Accordingly after infirmities multiplied they made haste, that they might be healed. “I will not gather together their meetings for blood-offerings.” For their assemblies shall not be carnal, nor will I gather them together as one propitiated by the blood of cattle. “Nor will I be mindful of their names by My lips.” But by a spiritual change what they have been shall be forgotten; nor by Me shall they be any more called either sinners, or enemies, or men; but righteous, and My brethren, and sons of God through My peace.

Psa 16:5  The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.

The Lord is the portion of Mine inheritance, and of My cup. For together with Me they shall possess the inheritance, the Lord Himself. Let others choose for themselves portions, earthly and temporal, to enjoy: the portion of the Saints is the Lord eternal. Let others drink of deadly pleasures, the portion of My cup is the Lord. In that I say, “Mine,” I include the Church: for where the Head is, there is the body also. For into the inheritance will I gather together their assemblies, and by the inebriation of the cup I will forget their old names. “it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me:” that to these too, whom I free, may be known “the glory wherein I was with Thee before the world was made” (Jn 17:5). For Thou wilt not restore to Me that which I never lost, but Thou wilt restore to these, who have lost it, the knowledge of that glory: in whom because I am, Thou wilt restore to Me.

Psa 16:6  The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me.

The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places. The boundaries of my possession have fallen in Thy glory as it were by lot, like as God is the possession of the Priests and Levites (cf. Num 18:20). “For My inheritance is goodlyto Me.” For Mine inheritance is glorious, not to all, but to them that see; in whom because I am, it is to Me.

Psa 16:7  I will bless the Lord, who hath given me understanding: moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night.

I will bless the Lord, who hath given Me understanding: whereby this inheritance may be seen and possessed. “Moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night.” Yea besides understanding, even unto death, My inferior part, the assumption of flesh, hath instructed Me, that I might experience the darkness of mortality, which that understanding hath not.

Psa 16:8  I set the Lord always in my sight: for he is at my right hand, that I be not moved.

I set the Lord always in My sight. But coming into things that pass away, I removed not Mine eye from Him who abideth ever, foreseeing this, that to Him I should return after passing through the things temporal. “For He is at My right hand, that I be not moved.” For He favoureth Me, that I should abide fixedly in Him.

Psa 16:9  Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover, my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced. Wherefore both in My thoughts is gladness, and in my words exultation. “Moreover, My flesh shall rest in hope.” Moreover too My flesh shall not fail unto destruction, but shall sleep in hope of the resurrection.

Psa 16:10  Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption.
Psa 16:11  Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end.

Because thou wilt not leave My soul in hell (vs. 10). For Thou wilt neither give My soul for a possession to those parts below. “Nor wilt Thou give Thy Holy One to see corruption.” Neither wilt Thou suffer that sanctified body, whereby others are to be also sanctified, to see corruption. “Thou hast made known to Me the ways of life” (vs. 11). Thou hast made known through Me the paths of humiliation, that men might return to life, from whence they fell through pride; in whom because I am, “Thou hast made known to Me.” “Thou shalt fill Me with joy with Thy countenance.” Thou wilt fill them with joy, that they should seek nothing further, when they shall see Thee “face to face;” in whom because I am, “Thou shalt fill Me.” “At thy right hand are delights even to the end.” Delights is in Thy favour and mercy in this life’s journey, leading on even to the end of the glory of Thy countenance (cf. Acts  2:25 and 13:34).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Resources for Sunday Mass (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 25, 2013

ORDINARY FORM OF THE ROMAN RITE
SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013
THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
DAY 10: FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM
To destroy a man wrongfully in his judgment, the Lord hath not approved (Lamentation 3:36).

READINGS AND OFFICE:

  • Anglican Use Daily Office. ”Briefly, it is a provision for an “Anglican style” liturgy similar to the Book of Common Prayer as an ecclesiastically approved variant on the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.” More info.

COMMENTARIES ON TODAY’S FIRST READING: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Galatians 5:1, 13-18.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Luke 9:51-62.

GENERAL RESOURCES:.

  • Sacerdos. Gives theme of the readings, doctrinal message, suggested pastoral applications.
  • The Bible Workshop. Guide to the Gospel; review of the readings, suggestions for a lesson (i.e., homily).
  • Lector Notes. Brief historical and theological background.

PODCASTS:

Dr, Scott Hahn’s Podcast. Very brief. Does good job of highlighting the major theme(s) of the readings. Text available.

Fr. Robert Barron’s Podcast Homily: Elisha and the Path of True Freedom.From a noted speaker and theologian.

Institute of Catholic Culture’s Podcast on Galatians. Two lectures on the letter.

St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast on Luke 8 & 9.

Sunday Gospel Scripture Study. YouTube Video presentation looks at the Gospel in some detail.

Father Francis Martin’sReflections in Four Parts: Each approx. 15 minutes.

Part 1: The Theme: Discipleship.

Part 2: First Reading and Psalm.

Part 3: The Second Reading.

Part 4: The Gospel Reading.

EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE ROMA RITE
SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Dominica VI Post Pentecosten ~ II. classis

MISSAL AND BREVIARY:

COMMENTARIES ON THE LESSON: Romans 6:3-11.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL: Mark 8:1-9.

HOMILY NOTES: The following four homily notes can be used for sermon ideas, points of meditation, further study.

HOMILIES:

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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 9:51-62

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 24, 2013

Luk 9:51  And it came to pass, when the days of his assumption were accomplishing, that he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.

“The days of His assumption” (αναληψεως). “Assumption” means, His Ascension, His being taken up into heaven, when “He was to pass out of this world unto the Father” (John 13:1). Similar is the term (Acts 1:2–11; Mark 16:19). The Evangelist refers to His Ascension rather than to His Passion, though the latter event was nearer; because, in their journey, our Lord had before His eyes, His glory, rather than His suffering, “qui proposito sibi gaudio sustinuit crucem” (“who, having joy set before him, endured the cross” Hebrews 12:2).

“Were accomplishing,” the days of his assumption were approaching their accomplishment, εν τω συμπληροῦσθαί, an interval of over six months was yet to elapse.

“He steadfastly set His face.” This form of words is often employed in Scripture to denote a firmness of purpose in carrying out one’s resolves (Ezek4:3; Ezek 14:8; Jer21:10). By His countenance, gait, language, &c., which caused surprise to His Apostles (Mark 10:32), our Lord showed His determined, unwavering purpose in going straightway to Jerusalem, without looking back or deflecting from the direct road, in order to preach or instruct, as was His wont. It showed His firm resolution to embrace death voluntarily for our sakes, which He knew He was to suffer in Jerusalem. This determination of his contrasts with the request made by would be disciples in verses 59-62. This (his turn towards Jerusalem) occurred about the Feast of Tabernacles (Scenopegia). Our Lord did not suffer on this occasion, nor was He assumed till after the Feast of the Passover, six months later on. In the meantime, He went about Judea, preaching, as He had hitherto done in Galilee. The Evangelist conveys here, that He is now about recording our Lord’s labours in Judea, as He had hitherto been describing His works and labours in Galilee.

Luk 9:52  And he sent messengers before his face: and going, they entered into a city of the Samaritans, to prepare for him.

“Sent messengers before His face.” Very likely, He was accompanied by a large number of followers, and He thought it right to provide beforehand for their accommodation, in the way of food and lodging. These messengers are generally supposed to be “James and John,” on account of what is recorded of them (verse 54). “To prepare for Him,” and those who were with Him, whom no one house could probably lodge or accommodate.

“Into a city of the Samaritans.” The straight way between Galilee and Judea lay through Samaria (John 4:4). It is disputed whether the “city” here referred to, was the chief city, or some other of minor importance, among the Samaritans.

Luk 9:53  And they received him not, because his face was of one going to Jerusalem.

“And they received Him not, because His face was,” &c. The reason why the Samaritans refused to receive or accommodate our Lord and His followers was, because they perceived, from all the circumstances of His journey, time, manner, &c., that He was going to worship in Jerusalem at the approaching festival. The messengers sent before Him also may have informed them of it. The Samaritans did not always refuse to extend hospitality to the Jews—as appears from the example of the good Samaritan and the wounded Jew, and also from that of our Lord and the Samaritan woman at the well—but only whenever the latter were going to the Temple of Jerusalem; then, the Samaritans, between whom and the Jews, there existed a deadly enmity, which was particularly awakened by the controversy regarding the proper place for worship, Jerusalem or Garazim—at once refused all intercourse with them in religious matters. For, the Samaritans held, that the Temple erected by them in Mount Garazim was the place, where alone, men could lawfully worship (John 4:20; Matthew 10:6).

The Samaritans saw from our Lord’s whole exterior, His mode of acting and proceeding, that He was going to Jerusalem for the purpose of adoration in the Temple. At this, they felt indignant, as they themselves kept at Garazim the same feasts, which the Jews observed at Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:32; 2 Kings 17:41). There was some difference as to time in both celebrations, in order to prevent collision between these parties, should they meet on their way, at the same time, to the rival Temples of Jerusalem and Garazim. The Samaritans were particularly offended by our Lord going to Jerusalem, passing by their temple; because, He was then regarded as a celebrated Doctor and Prophet; on which account, the Samaritans resented still more the slight, they fancied He put on their temple and worship.

Luk 9:54  And when his disciples, James and John, had seen this, they said: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?

“James and John” were, probably, the messengers sent forward on this occasion, and on their return, resenting the indignity offered their Divine Master, they addressed our Lord, as follows; or it may be, that the people came forward to meet them and prevent them from entering their city, on which occasion, these two disciples, who may have from this been called by our Lord, “Boanerges,” or “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), said, “Lord, wilt thou … and consume them,” to which is added in the ordinary Greek, “even as Elias did.” It is evident the Apostles had in mind the act of Elias destroying his enemies, the soldiers of the king of Samaria, by fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10)—the countrymen of those, who treated our Lord so contumeliously.

Luk 9:55  And turning, he rebuked them, saying: you know not of what spirit you are.

“Turning.” Probably, they walked behind Him, and He turned back to address them. “He rebuked them” in the following words, “You know not of what spirit you are” (compare with the rebuke of Peter, Matt 16:23). You imagine you are influenced by zeal for God’s glory and a feeling of just resentment in imitation of Elias of old. But you seem not to be aware, that the spirit you are influenced by is a human spirit of impatience and vengeance; or, you know not to what spirit you are called. The spirit you manifest is that of the Old Law under which Elias acted—the spirit of retaliation, demanding or permitting “an eye for an eye,” &c.; but, My spirit, which you are to imitate—the spirit of My New Law which I inculcate by word and example, is a spirit of meekness; of patient forbearance and forgiveness. Of this you seem to be forgetful, in the present instance. When the Apostles after Pentecost received the Holy Ghost, they then occasionally exercised a spirit of severity in vindication of God’s honour. They could do so then safely, because they would not be actuated, as they were before receiving the Spirit, by human passions. Although the same spirit dictated the Old Law and the New; still, the effects manifested were different, owing to the difference of circumstances, in both instances. The effects of the spirit of the Old were generally severity and rigour. These were its characteristics, though, occasionally, clemency was shown. The effects of the New were mildness, clemency, though, sometimes, severity and Christian justice were displayed (as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas the Magician; also 2 Cor. 10); but clemency and forgiveness and patient endurance of injuries were its distinguishing characteristics. Our Lord referring to the spirit He wished to inculcate on His followers in cases of personal offences and injuries, adds,

Luk 9:56  The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went into another town.

“The Son of Man came,” at His first coming into this world, “not to destroy souls,” that is, men, a part being used for the entire man, “but to save.” The Apostles wished to destroy the bodies of the offending Samaritans; but they should rather imitate Him who came to save their souls by exhibiting meekness, forbearance, forgiveness of injuries, both on His own part and on that of His followers, and thus entice them to penance and reparation for their misdeeds.

The subject matter of verses 57-60 also appears in Matt 8:19-22 and it is to the comments on that passage that he sends his readers. I’ve reproduced them below (in lime)  with some slight modifications.

Luk 9:57  And it came to pass, as they walked in the way, that a certain man said to him: I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

According to Matthew 8:18, 23, Jesus is heading for a boat when this encounter with would-be disciples takes place. He identifies the first man as a scribe. When our Redeemer was on His way to the lake, which He was soon to cross, this scribe or doctor of the law, of his own accord, offered to become one of His constant followers. St. Hilary reads the words interrogatively, “Master, shall I follow Thee?” &c.

Luk 9:58  Jesus said to him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Our Redeemer, without either accepting or refusing his offer, and seeing the interested views by which he was very probably actuated (as interpreters of Scripture and the holy Fathers, generally, infer from the words addressed to him by our Redeemer), tells him if he expected in Christ’s kingdom, worldly glory, or wealth, he was greatly mistaken. Similar was His reply to the sons of Zebedee following their mother’s request (Matt 20:22), and the young man mentioned (Matt 19:21).

“The foxes,” animals which, far from being protected, are hunted down by man.

“The birds of the air,” which seem to be utterly careless about any provision for themselves, subsisting solely on the chance pittance which Providence throws in their way. Some of the Holy Fathers interpret these words mystically, as denoting the man’s cunning and dissimulation, represented by the word, “foxes;” his pride and boasting, by “the birds of the air;” others suppose the scribe to be sincere in his offer, and they take the words of our Redeemer not to imply insincerity, but to indicate the difficulties and privations to be largely shared in by His constant followers.

“The Son of man,” a child descended from the first man, Adam (Barradius) Ezechiel, who was a type of Christ, was called so, also, by the Angels, who addressed him. These words indicate the great humiliation and self-denial of our Redeemer in the mystery of His Incarnation. Although “Son of God,” He vouchsafed, for our sakes, to become also the Son of (sinful) man, to assume all the common infirmities of human nature (its corruption and sinfulness excepted); and, all who wish to be partakers of His plentiful redemption, must, like Him, endure crosses and privations. This is implied in the words of our Redeemer to the scribe in question.

Luk 9:59  But he said to another: Follow me. And he said: Lord, suffer me first to go and to bury my father.

But he said to another. This individual is identified as a disciple in Matthew. All the disciples of our Lord did not attach themselves to Him constantly. Thus, we see, Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of our Lord; but, occult, from fear of the Jews. The same is probably true of the man in question. And now, he is invited to become a constant follower of our Lord. This man, whose chief drawback, as far as we can gather from this passage, was, that he seemed to have rather too much sensibility in regard to natural ties and human affections, was pressed by our Redeemer to forego the pious duty of burying his father, the urgent call to follow Christ being one of still more imperative necessity. Some commentators considering our Redeemer’s refusal to grant so short a space of time for discharging a natural and religious duty, a corporal work of mercy, to be rather harsh and apparently opposed to that spirit of kindness He always displayed, think, the father of the young man was not dead at all, but only in extreme old age. So that the young man meant to ask to be left with his aged father till he closed his eyes and performed the last offices dictated by filial piety. However, from the following words, it seems more probable, the father was actually dead; and our Redeemer must have seen, from the peculiar circumstances of the case and person, good reasons, unknown to us, for urging his immediate compliance, without any delay whatsoever.

Luk 9:60  And Jesus said to him: Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

“Suffer (let) the dead,” i.e., those who are dead in infidelity and sin, “to bury their dead,” i.e., whose souls are, by death, separated from their bodies. Hence, the word, “dead,” bears a different signification in both cases. In the first place, it means, spiritually dead—“suffer the dead”—who are only concerned about the present world, and never think of following Christ; in the second, “to bury their dead,” those corporally dead. St. Luke (9:60), says, our Lord added, “but, go thou and preach the kingdom of of God.” From these words of St. Luke, we see that if two incompatible duties occur, we must attend to the more necessary and important. The duty of “preaching the kingdom of God” and ministering to the necessities of the soul and concerns of spiritual life and death, being a spiritual work, should be attended to before the performance of a corporal work of mercy, such as ministering to the necessities of the body and the concerns of this life.

Luk 9:61  And another said: I will follow thee, Lord; but let me first take my leave of them that are at my house.

St. Luke alone mentions this third case; St. Matthew mentions the two former, as above. Whether all the occurrences recorded here by St. Luke in verses 57–61, took place at the same time, of which the third is omitted by St. Matthew, is uncertain. It is conjectured by some commentators, that the third case mentioned by St. Luke alone in this verse did not occur at the same time, with the two preceding ones; but, that St. Luke, seeing they were very similar in their import, narrated them consecutively, as if they occurred in immediate succession.

“Take leave of them, that are in my house”—my domestics. In this interpretation, the words, “them that are in my house,” are taken to be in the masculine gender, while others understand them to be in the neuter gender (as in Luke 14:33), τοις εις τον οικον μου, and to signify, to dispose of all his possessions and divide them among his friends as he might deem fit.

Luk 9:62  Jesus said to him: No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

“No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for,” &c. The first part should terminate thus, “No man putting his hand … and looking back, is a good ploughman, or fit to plough.” But our Redeemer concludes the sentence which commenced with a metaphor, by expressing the thing signified by the metaphor, “fit for the kingdom of God,” which is the application of the metaphorical allusion. As the man, who holds the ploughshare, must always look before him, in order to make straight furrows; so must the disciple of Christ devote himself with a direct, pure intention exclusively to the duties of his calling. The words, “putting his hand to the plough,” are probably allusive to Eliseus leaving the plough at the call of Elias and following him (3 Kings 19:19).

“Fit for the kingdom of God,” may mean, fit for labouring in the ministry of the Gospel—for ploughing the field of the Lord. Similar is the idea (2 Timothy 2:4), “nemo militans Deo,” &c.; or, it may be expressive of a general truth regarding all who are determined to follow Christ and embrace the tenets of the Gospel. Such persons must be detached from earthly cares; and must not allow worldly concerns or worldly interests to divide their hearts or turn them aside from the service of God, to whose glory everything in this world should be subservient.

It is clear our Lord saw, that this man had an inordinate hankering after the things of this world, a heart divided between following Christ and solicitude for earthly concerns; as He otherwise would not have censured what would seem to contain nothing deordinate, save, in the supposition made.

In the Matthean parallel Bishop MacEvilly also writes this in reference to the Lucan account: St. Luke states (9:61), that our Redeemer rejected, with a sharp rebuke, another, who before following Him, wished for some time to settle his temporal affairs; or, rather, to take leave of his friends and domestics, telling him impliedly, that by “putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, he became unfit for the kingdom of God.” From this, we can easily see, with what undivided care, a minister of the Gospel must devote himself to the exclusive discharge of his spiritual duties, without embarrassing himself with temporal matters, save in as far as they subserve the spiritual and eternal interests, which frequently does occur. “No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with worldly business.” (2 Tim. 2) No doubt, this is universally true, and should be ever attended to by the ministers of religion; and to every good minister of religion, it is a cross, and a great source of annoyance, to be placed in circumstances, where temporal, political, and other worldly matters become a matter of duty, in defence of the rights of the Church, of his own people, of Christian education, &c. But, however annoying and irksome, they still become a duty, especially in a country like ours. Woe to those men, who, out of love of ease or Pharisaical affectation of superior sanctity, and detachment from the world, or from the corrupt motive of catering to the prejudices of the great, and of thus becoming accepted partakers of their bounty, by inglorious indolence and love of ease, betray the rights of the Church, the best interests of religion, and the permanent, enduring interests of civil society.

From the preceding verses (20–22), we can clearly see the dispositions which should animate all those who wish to enter on the Gospel ministry—1st. Disinterestedness; 2ndly. A generous promptitude in obeying the higher Divine call, to be retarded by no obstacles, no considerations of other duties, however urgent or plausible.

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