The Divine Lamp

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

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 20:1-2, 11-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 18, 2013

Joh 20:1  And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre: and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

On the first day of the week. Literally, of the Sabbath, the week being called the Sabbath, after its principal day, or the day of the Pasch. (see on Matt 28:1)

Mary Magdalene cometh. The other gospels speak of the other women but she only is mentioned here, as being their leader, and more zealous and active than the rest.

When it was yet dark. In the early dawn (profundo diluculo), says S. Luke. Note here her activity, watchfulness, and ardour. She seeks Christ in the dawn, and hence she is the first to see Him as the rising sun. As S. Ambrose says on the title of Ps. 55, “For the morning undertaking.” This morning undertaking we can ascribe to Mary Magdalene, who went very early in the morning to watch at the tomb, and first greeted the resurrection of the Lord, and as the sunlight grew brighter, she only, and before the rest, recognised the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and as by this morning greeting she rejoiced at the return of daylight, so did she rejoice the more that Christ was raised from the dead, and in her was fulfilled the prophecy, In the evening weeping will tarry (see vulg.) (heaviness may endure for the night, E. V.) but at morning is joy (Ps 30:6).

Unto the sepulchre. To anoint the Body of Jesus, says Nonnus.

She saw the stone taken away. And the Angels, who said that Christ had risen, but the Magdalene did not believe it, and ran to Peter and John, saying, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” See notes on S. Matt 28:8.  S. Jerome remarks (Ep. cl. Hedibiam), Her error was connected with piety—piety in longing to see Him whose Majesty she knew, but her mistake was in what she said.

Joh 20:2  She ran therefore and cometh to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre: and we know not where they have laid him.

She ran therefore and cometh to Simon Peter, as the Chief Apostle, and as designated by Christ as His Vicar and successor, (Matt 16), and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, i.e., S. John, who would be more diligent than the rest in searching for the Body of Christ.

Joh 20:11  But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre,

But Mary stood at the sepulchre without (i.e., outside), weeping. Because she anxiously looked about on every side for the Body of Jesus, as glowing in love for Him, and was beside herself; and not finding Him, wept for grief. “The eyes (says S. Augustine in loc.) who sought, but found Him not, had leisure to weep, and sorrowed more for His being taken from the tomb than that He had died on the Cross, because not even a memorial remained of so great a Teacher, whose life had been taken away.”

Now as she was weeping, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre. Though she looked in before and saw that the sepulchre was empty. For, as says S. Gregory (in loc.), “A single look suffices not one who loves. The power of love increases the earnestness of the inquiry: she persevered in seeking, and accordingly she found. And so it was that her desires expanded and increased, and could thus take in that which they found.”

Joh 20:12  And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.

And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. All these were tokens of His glorious Resurrection, and prepared the mind of the Magdalene to believe it. One sat at the head and the other at the feet, to signify that the whole Body of Christ had risen, and that, by assuming the immortal form and glory of angels, He had entered into their company, and had left these two angels, as guardians of the tomb, to announce the fact to the Magdalene.

Origen says that, mystically, the angel at the feet represented the active, the angel at the head the contemplative, life. For they are both of them from Jesus, about Jesus, through Jesus, and on account of Jesus.

Joh 20:13  They say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord: and I know not where they have laid him.

They say to her, Woman, why weepest thou? This is no place for weeping, but rather for rejoicing, and being glad. Because thou seest not here the dead Body of thy Beloved One, thou oughtest to infer that Jesus has risen, and is no longer among the dead, but among the living; and more than this, that He is passing a blessed and heavenly life among the glorious angels, such as we are ourselves.

She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord: and I know not where they have laid him. I weep for three reasons. (1.) Because of the ignominious death of my Lord. (2.) Because His Body has been taken away, for if I saw It, I should kiss It, lament over It, and anoint It. (3.) Because I do not know where to look for It. For did I know, I should haste to the spot, embrace It, and overwhelm It with kisses. See here how Jesus suffers the souls of those that love Him to remain in ignorance for a while, in order to sharpen and enkindle their desire for Him; and when it is thus sharpened and enkindled, to comfort and make them glad with the full revelation of Himself.

Joh 20:14  When she had thus said, she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing: and she knew not that it was Jesus.

When she had thus said, she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing: and she knew not that it was Jesus. Christ appeared behind the Magdalene, so that the angels who beheld Him rose up and bowed their heads, and exhibited other tokens of reverence and adoration towards Him. And this was why she turned about, viz., to see who it was whom the angels saluted so reverently. So S, Chrysostom (Hom. 85), and the author of the Quæst. ad Antioch (Quest. lxxviii.), [Pseudo-Athanasian]. Some think that Christ made a noise with His feet to attract her attention. I would suggest that she turned back to the tomb, it being the focal point of her mourning since it was the last place she had seen her Lord (DB).

And saw Jesus. “The first to share the joy: as loving more than all.”

She knew not that it was Jesus. As appearing in the form of the gardener. Just as He appeared in the form of a stranger at Emmaus. For glorified bodies can put on any appearance they please, not by changing their own appearance, but by presenting only a refracted appearance to the sight of others. Christ did this, in order that she should not be startled. He appeared to her in consequence of her intense love to Him. But because she did not believe that He was alive, He veiled Himself from her, and presented Himself to her outward sight as the person she fancied Him to be. So S. Gregory (Hom. xxiii.), speaking of the disciples at Emmaus. John had previously mentioned that there was in the place where he was crucified a garden: and in the garden a new sepulchre (Jn 19:41). This fact, coupled with Mary’s assumption that he was the “gardener” suggests to some commentators a connection with Adam (DB).

Joh 20:15  Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, thinking that it was the gardener, saith to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him: and I will take him away.

Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? S. Ambrose (Lib. iii. de Virg.) explains the whole passage minutely: “Woman, why weepest thou? He who believeth not is a woman; for he that believes rises up into the ‘perfect man, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.’ It is a reproach not on her sex, but on her slowness of belief. It is well said a woman hesitated, though a virgin had already believed. Why weepest thou? Thou thyself art in fault, as being incredulous. Dost thou weep because thou seest not Christ? Believe, and thou wilt see Him. Christ is close by thee, He never fails those that seek Him. Thou shouldest not weep, but have ready faith, as God requires. Think not of mortal things, and thou wilt not sorrow; think not of perishing things, and thou wilt have no cause for weeping. Thou weepest for that, at which others are glad. Whom seekest thou? seest thou not that Christ is at thy side?”

Origen wrote a striking Homily, and one full of devout feelings, respecting the Magdalene,** in which he says, among other things, “Love made her stand there, and sorrow caused her to weep. She stood and looked around, if perchance she could see Him whom she loved. She wept, as thinking that He whom she was looking for, had been taken away. Her grief was renewed, because at first she sorrowed for Him as dead, and now she was sorrowing for Him as having been taken away. And this last sorrow was the greater because she had no consolation.” And then he proceeds to lay open the sources of her sorrow, saying, “Peter and John were afraid, and therefore did not remain. But Mary feared not, because she felt that there was nothing left for her to fear. She had lost her Master, whom she loved with such singular affection, that she could not love or set her hopes on anything but Him. She had lost the life of her soul, and now she thought it would be better for her to die than to live, for she might perchance thus find Him when dead, whom she could not find while she lived. ‘Love is strong as death.’ What else could death do in her case? She was lifeless, she was insensible: feeling she felt not, seeing she saw not, hearing she heard not. And she was not really there, even where she seemed to be. Her whole thoughts were with her Master, and yet she knew not where He was. I seek not for the angels, who do but increase, and not remove my grief, but I seek my own Lord, and the Lord of angels.” And after a few more bursts of glowing and holy affections, he adds, “I am straitened on every side, I know not what to choose. If I remain by the tomb, I find Him not; if I retire from it, I know not where to go, or where to seek for Him: hapless that I am. To leave the tomb is death to me, to remain by it is irremediable sorrow. But it is better for me to keep watch over His tomb, than to go far away from it. For perhaps when I return, I shall find that He has been taken away, and His sepulchre destroyed. I will therefore remain here and die, that at least I may be buried by the sepulchre of my Lord. Return, my beloved one,—return, the loved one of my vows.” He then adds, “Why, Beloved Master, dost Thou trouble the spirit of this woman? Why dost Thou distress her mind? She depends entirely on Thee, she abides entirely on Thee, she hopes solely on Thee, and utterly despairs of herself. She seeks Thee, as seeking or thinking of no one besides. And perhaps she does not recognise Thee because she is not in her right mind, but quite beside herself for Thy sake. Why then dost Thou say, ‘Why weepest thou-whom seekest thou?’”

She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him. Because, as Theophylact and Euthymius say, “He was meanly dressed, and because He seemed from His dress to be at home there. She knew that Joseph of Arimathæa did not live there, and supposed that He was the person left in charge of the garden. So F. Lucas. [Pseudo]-Origen proceeds, “0 Mary, if thou art seeking for Jesus, why dost thou not recognise Him? And if thou dost recognise Him, why art thou seeking for Him? Behold Jesus cometh to thee, and He whom thou seekest asketh of thee, ‘Woman, why weepest thou?’ And thou supposest Him to be the gardener, as not knowing Him. For indeed Jesus is also the Gardener, as sowing the good seed in the garden of thy heart, and in the hearts of His faithful servants.” Whence S. Gregory (in loc.), “Is He not the Gardener who planted in her breast, through His love, the flourishing seeds of virtues?”

Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him: and I will take him away. She does not say “Whom,” but means Jesus, of Whom her heart was full.  S. Thomas and others say, that this is the feeling of those who are deeply in love. They suppose that others are thinking about the same person as themselves. Although she might have thought that He knew the answer she had already given to the angels, They have taken away my Lord, &c., as S. Chrysostom seems to indicate. [Pseudo]-Origen remarks, “Such great grief for Thy death had overwhelmed her, that she could not think of Thy resurrection. Joseph placed Thy body in the tomb, and Mary also buried her spirit there, and so indissolubly united it as it were to Thy body, that she could more easily separate her soul from the body which it animated, than she could separate her soul from Thy dead body, for which she was seeking. For the spirit of Mary was more in Thy body than in her own; and in seeking for Thy body she was at the same time seeking for her own spirit, and where she lost Thy body she lost also her own spirit. What wonder then she had no sense, since she had lost her spirit? What wonder if she knew Thee not, as not having the spirit wherewith to know Thee? Give her back then her spirit, I mean Thy body, and she will then regain her senses and abandon her error.”

And I will take Him away—”What if He is in the High Priest’s palace? What if He is in Pilate’s house? Yes, I will take Him away. Love conquers everything. It counts impossibilities as possible, nay, as easy.” So [Pseudo]-Origen and S. Chrysostom. Though S. Jerome (Quæst. v. ad Hedib.) regards them as the words of ignorance and want of consideration.

Joh 20:16  Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master).

He called her not merely by her own name, but with that tone of voice, that sweetness, grace, and efficacy, with which He used to speak to her; and she at once recognised Him. Whence [Pseudo]-Origen, wondering at the condescension of Christ, exclaims, “0 the change of this right hand of the most High (Ps 77:10). My great grief is turned into great joy; the tears of sorrow are changed into the tears of love. When she beard the word ‘Mary’ (for thus He used to address her), she perceived a wondrous sweetness in the name, and knew that He who called her was her Master. Her spirit then revived and her senses returned, and when He wished to add something more, she could not wait, but from excess of joy she interrupted Him, saying, Rabboni. For she thought that having found the ‘Word’ she did not require a single word more, and she deemed it more profitable to touch the ‘Word’ than to hear any words whatever. 0 vehement and impatient love! It was not enough for her to see Jesus and to talk with Him; unless she also touched Him, for she knew that virtue went out from Him, and healed all.”

She turning. For when He was slow in answering, she had looked away from Him towards the angels, as if to ask them who was this gardener who was talking with her, and why they stood up and greeted Him with such reverence? But when she heard Jesus addressing her by name, and recognised His voice, she was enraptured with joy, and at once looked straight towards Him. The voice of the Shepherd reaching the ears of the lamb, at once opened her eyes, and soothed all her senses with its secret power and wonted sweetness; and so carried her away out of herself, that she at once was carried away with unhoped-for and inexplicable joy, and cried out “Rabboni,” my Master. I, as Thy disciple, Thy spiritual daughter, give myself wholly to Thee. In Thee who hast risen, I myself live again, I exult and rejoice. So S. Cyril, Chrysostom, and others. And accordingly she fell down at His knees, and wished, as she was wont, reverently to touch His head and His feet, and cover them with kisses. Just as the Shunammite embraces the feet of Eliseus the prophet (2 Kings 4:27). This is plain from Christ’s instant prohibition.

Rabboni. This was a word of greater reverence than Rabbi, and was used by the Magdalene only after His Resurrection. [But see Mark 10:51.]

Joh 20:17  Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me: for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.

 Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me: for I am not yet ascended to my Father, &c. This is a difficult passage, and the connection between the two parts is even more difficult. (1.)  S. Augustine explains the connection thus, “Touch Me not, for as yet thou art not worthy to touch Me; for in thy thoughts regarding Me, I have not as yet ascended to My Father, for as yet thou dost not perfectly believe that I am the Son of God, and that I ascend to My Father.” And S. Jerome (Quæst. v. ad Hedibiam) explains it much in the same way. But this is a mystical rather than a literal explanation. As also is that of S. Leontius (Serm. ii. de Ascens.), “I do not wish you to approach Me bodily, or recognise Me with thy bodily senses. I reserve thee for higher things. I am preparing for thee greater things. When I shall have ascended to My Father, then wilt thou touch Me more perfectly and truly, for thou wilt comprehend that which thou touchest not, and believe that which thou seest not.” (2.) S. Cyril (Lib. xii. cap. i.) says, ” He forbade her to touch Him, to signify that no one ought to approach His glorified Body, which was soon to be touched and received in the Eucharist, before receiving the Holy Spirit, which He had not yet sent.” But, on this ground neither would the other women, or Thomas, or the rest have been able to touch Him—which yet they did. (3.) S. Chrysostom (in loc.), Theophylact, and Euthymius say that He forbade her to touch Him, because He wished to be touched with greater reverence than heretofore: since He would not henceforth hold converse with men, but with angels and blessed spirits. But it does not appear that the Magdalene failed in reverence. And after all, what connection has this with the reason given, “I have not yet ascended to My Father”? (4.) [Pseudo]-Justin (Quæst. a Gentibus, propos. xlvii.), and after him Toletus and others, explain it thus: Touch Me not: for I am shortly about to ascend to heaven, and I wish to withdraw you gradually from My accustomed presence. Therefore, says [Pseudo]-Justin, “He did not constantly show Himself to His disciples after His Resurrection, nor yet withdraw Himself entirely from their sight, so that He was seen, and yet not seen.” But this explanation is not clear, and requires many things to be supplied, besides misinterpreting the reason given. (5.) The best explanation is this, “Do not waste any more time in thus touching Me. Go and bear the glad tidings of My Resurrection to My disciples at once. I do not just yet ascend into heaven. You will have ample time before then to touch and converse with Me.” (See Suarez, par. iii. Disput. xlix. § 3, Ribera (in loc.), and others.) Christ afterwards allowed Himself to be touched by her and the other women, because they were then on their way to tell the Apostles that He had risen. (Matt28:9.)

1. It is said that Christ when speaking these words touched the forehead of the Magdalene, and that Sylvester Prieras saw those marks when her tomb was opened in 1497 (see Surius, in Vita S. M. Magdalenæ). 2.  S. Epiphanius (Her. xxvi) gives a moral reason, viz., that Christ did not wish to be touched by any woman, except in the presence of others; an example followed by SS. Augustine and Ambrose, S. Martin, S. Chrysostom, S. Charles Borromeo, and others. 3. Rupertus gives an allegorical reason. Mary, he says, here represented the Gentile Church which was to come to Christ, not by corporal but by spiritual contact, after His Ascension. See also Chrysostom, Serm. lxxv

It is most probable, as S. Augustine (de Consen. Evang. iii. 24), Theophylact, and Euthymius (in cap. ult. Matt.), and S. Jerome (Epist. ad Hedibiam, Quæst. v.) say, that Mary hastened away, and came up with the other women who went away with Peter and John, and that she then saw Christ again when He appeared to them all; that she then touched His feet, and adored Him (see Matt 28:9). But Toletus says it was not so.

Tropologically: Hence learn that it is more acceptable to Christ to comfort those who are in any affliction, than to look only to one’s self. So that when necessity, or piety or charity require it, it is allowable to postpone the Sermon, or even Mass, on a Feast day, for the purpose of aiding the sick and suffering. See notes on Matt 9:13.

Symbolically: S. Bernard (Serm. v. in Fest. Omn. Sanct.) says, “This is a word of glory, ‘A wise son is the glory of his father.’ Touch Me not then, says the Glory. Seek not glory as yet, rather avoid it. And touch Me not till we come to the Father, where all our glorying is secure.”

But go to My brethren. He calls them “Brethren” out of His wondrous condescension, being, as He is, not only as God but also as man, the Head and Lord of all. For all men are brethren as descended from Adam, and as the sons of God by grace. But the term properly applies to them as Apostles. And Christ was an Apostle, as being sent by God, and He associated with Him in His office Peter and the rest. The Pontiff calls in like manner the Cardinals and Bishops his brethren, though he is their superior. Christ speaks of them in this way to inspire them with courage, as though He said, Though they have forsaken Me, yet I do not forsake them; and by taking on Me the nature of man on rising again, I will show Myself to be their Brother.

And say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Remind them of what I said to them before My Passion, that after a few days I should ascend to God the Father.

He says, “My Father and your Father,” Mine by nature, yours by grace, as S. Augustine says, to show that they had in common God as their Father. He as His Father by nature, they by adoption. So S.. Ambrose (de Virginitate). Moreover, S. Hilary (de Trinit., Book xi.), “He is His Father, as of all others, in respect of His human nature; and God, as He is the God of all men, in that nature in which He is a servant for God the Only Begotten is without brethren.” But it is simpler to say that He called Him “My Father,” to designate His own Divine Nature, and “My God” to set forth the human nature He had assumed, and that thus He was Very God, and very man. So S. Ambrose (ut supra), referring to Heb 2:11.

It means then, Tell the Apostles to banish their fear and sorrow, for I have risen from the dead, and love them as brethren, and therefore shall soon ascend to heaven, to prepare a place for them, that they may follow Me thither, and that I may send them the Holy Spirit from thence, to make them resolute preachers of My Gospel.

Joh 20:18  Mary Magdalen cometh and telleth the disciples: I have seen the Lord; and these things he said to me.

She thus became an apostle and evangelist to the Apostles. And accordingly, when she was driven into exile by the Jews, and arrived at Marseilles, she preached the gospel to the people there. And she fully deserved this honour, by her glowing love to Christ, her faith and constancy, which led her to the sepulchre by herself at early dawn, where she waited patiently till she saw her Jesus.

One Response to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 20:1-2, 11-18”

  1. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel  (John 20:1-2, 11-18). […]

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: