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 December, 2013

More Prayers Please: My Mother Has Taken a Turn for the Worse

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2013

Please keep my mother and family in your prayers. My mother had a bout with pneumonia and was released from the hospital less than a week ago, but she has developed serious problems and the doctors tell us it’s not looking good.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:67-79

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2013

Luk 1:67  And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost. And he prophesied, saying:

“And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost,” not merely for the effect of sanctification (for in regard to that, he had the Holy Ghost already, “being just before God,” v. 6), but for the purpose of exercising the gift of prophecy. Hence, as if to show, how he was filled with the Holy Ghost, and for what purpose or end he was so favoured, it is added:

“And he prophesied saying.” The following Canticle of Zachary—the second of the New Testament—is chiefly a prophecy, although some of it is taken up with the praises of God, which are so many ornaments of the prophecy. It commemorates past events relating to our Saviour—His Incarnation, and several other things accomplished regarding Him, as predicted in the ancient prophecies. These past occurrences he mentions in a prophetic spirit, as future; and penetrating their spiritual sense, he shows, they have reference to the remission of sin and to spiritual blessings; and he prophesies several things regarding his infant son to be accomplished at a future time. However, we need not regard the word, “prophesy,” in the strict sense of predicting future events. It is often employed to signify, expressing the Divine mind, explaining the Scriptures in an extraordinary way, as the result of inspiration at the moment (see 1 Cor. 14, Commentary on). In this Canticle, the chief thing is prophecy, in the sense of predicting future events. The other matters are accessory ornaments. Hence, Zachary may be said to have “prophesied,” in the strict sense of the term. In the first part of the Canticle, vv. 68–76 he chants the praises of God for the Mystery of the Incarnation in the Virgin’s chaste womb, and for the great blessings of Redemption thus accomplished, and for all the abundance of grace flowing therefrom. From v. 76 to v. 79, he continues the praises of God, and addressing his son, the infant Baptist, he proclaims aloud his office of Precursor to the Incarnate Son of the Most High God.

Luk 1:68  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people.

“Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel,” &c., “Blessed be,” may “the Lord God of Israel,” be for ever praised and extolled, as He is deserving of all praise and glory. Zachary, following the usage observed by sacred writers, opens his prophetic Canticle with the praises of God. “The Lord God of Israel,” the true God of heaven, in contradistinction to the false gods of the Gentiles, who are only devils, “omnes Dii gentium, Dæmonia” (Psa. 95:5). Although He is the Lord God of all mankind, He is specially said to be the “God of Israel,” of the entire Jewish race, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because by that people only was He known and honoured. He was to them specially a Father, and they were His children. They were types of the spiritual Israel, who were to be Abraham’s children by faith. They were made the chief instruments in the accomplishment, of the great work of redemption, to which Zachary chiefly refers in this Canticle. To them was it first announced. Hence he subjoins,

“Because He hath visited,” &c. The visitation to which Zachary here refers, in a prophetic spirit, is the Incarnation of the Son of God in the Virgin’s womb. This he knew from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. In Scriptural language “visit” means to bestow some great benefit on one. It is also taken sometimes in an unfavourable sense, to signify the infliction of punishment. Here, Zachary shows that it is used in a favourable sense, by adding,

“And wrought the redemption,” &c. Although the death of the Son of God, whereby the redemption of the human race was effected, and full atonement made to God, was as yet future; still, Zachary employs the past, “wrought,” according to some, in accordance with prophetic usage, in describing future events as past, on account of the certainty of their accomplishment. According to the more probable opinion of others, he regarded the work of redemption, which was to be fully accomplished by the death of Christ, as now commenced in the Incarnation of the Son of God. The Greek word for “Redemption”—λυτρωσιν—shows how this was brought about, viz., by paying the price and making full compensation. It was in this way, He redeemed mankind from the captivity of Satan and slavery of sin.

“Of His people.” This primarily refers to Israel, to whom He was specially promised, whom He was sent to save, “oves quæ perierunt domus Israel,” whom He personally visited and instructed—the nations were evangelized by the Apostles—it also includes spiritual Israel; nay, the entire human race, whom He came to save.

Luk 1:69  And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant.

“And hath raised up a horn of salvation to us,” &c. The words, “raised up,” have reference to the depressed condition of the Jewish people, and to the destruction of the Royal power of the House of David, which was, at this time, utterly prostrated, and transferred to Herod, a foreigner.

“A horn of salvation,” that is, a powerful saving kingdom or king, “for us.” Zachary identifies himself with the Jewish people. The word, “horn,” is allusive to animals whose power or strength for defence or aggression is in their horns. The word is frequently employed metaphorically in Scripture to denote strength, power, principality (Lamentations 2:3–17; Psa. 75:11, also Psa. 132:17), to which latter passage, the words of this verse are clearly allusive. This verse conveys more than the preceding. Not only did He rescue us from our enemies; but, He has established and raised up a firm bulwark to save us from future assaults and subjection, and an invincible power to war successfully with our enemies, and cause their utter discomfiture.

“In the house of His servant David,” from whose royal house the Messiah, according to the promises of God, was to spring. In magnificent terms, the prophets announced, beforehand, the glory of His reign, which would date its commencement, from the time that the sceptre had been transferred from the Tribe of Juda; and Zachary employs words almost identical with, or, at least, very similar to the language of the ancient prophets on the subject. They spoke in the primary sense of the temporal kingdom of David and Solomon; under this, however, they principally meant the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah, of which the former was a mere type and figure. They did so in accommodation to the prevailing notions and expectations of the Jewish people regarding the temporal glories of the Messiah’s reign, just as we often see in Scriptures, certain qualities attributed to God in accommodation to popular notions, such as God having hands and feet, being agitated by passion, the stars being gifted with intelligence, brute beasts with reason, &c. Our Redeemer did not correct these ideas entertained even by the Apostles themselves on this subject of the coming glorious temporal reign of the Messiah; He reserved their correction for the period after His resurrection, and the coming down of the Holy Ghost.

“David His servant,” who, being a man after God’s own heart, just in the administration of his kingdom (Psalm 78:70–72)—on which account he received a promise that his Kingdom would be eternal—(Psalm 89:36–38), was an expressive figure of our Lord. So much so, that, in many passages of Scripture, our Lord is called David (Jeremias 30:9; Ezechiel 34:24; 37:24).

Luk 1:70  As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning.

“As He spoke by the month of His holy prophets.” These words may be connected with the preceding, “He raised up a horn,” &c., as He promised to do, “by the mouth” of those who are His “prophets,” who are also “holy;” hence, entitled to credit on both grounds. The word, “holy,” distinguishes those from the false prophets, who appeared from time to time. Zachary, in referring to the “holy prophets,” conveys, that what he was after uttering was neither novel, nor from himself—that he is only repeating the utterances of the ancient prophets on the subject. They may be connected with what follows, “as He spoke (or promised) salvation from our enemies.”

“Who are from the beginning,” of the world. For, all the prophots from the beginning prophesied regarding Christ. Adam (Genesis 2:24), “Wherefore shall a man leave father and mother,” &c.; which words St. Paul (Ephes. 5:31) applies to Christ and His Church; Moses (John 5:46); and so did all the rest. Or the words may mean, ancient—“as he spoke by the mouth of the ANCIENT prophets.” Some include this verse in a parenthesis, and place, “salvation from our enemies” (v. 71), in apposition to “horn of salvation,” thus, “a horn of salvation” (v. 69), who is a Salvation or Saviour, to rescue us from our enemies (Bede, Enthymius). But as it would seem a harsh construction to say, “He raised up salvation,” it is, therefore, better connect it with “He spoke,” or promised (Jansenins). Others, however, say, as “salvation” means, a Saviour, there is no harshness in saying, “He raised up a Saviour” (Barradius).

Luk 1:71  Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us.

“Salvation from our enemies.” This is dependent on, “as He spoke,” or promised. “He raised up a horn of salvation … as He spoke,” &c., or in accordance with and in fulfilment of His promises, uttered by His prophets, that He would grant us salvation from our enemies. There is reference here to our spiritual enemies, viz., the Devil, with his hosts; the flesh, with its wicked passions; the world, or wicked men, whose bad example and vicious, corrupting principles withdraw us from God. From these enemies Christ rescues our souls here, and our souls and bodies hereafter (see Colossians 2:13, 14; 1:13, 14; 1 John 3:5). In this verse Zachary, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, interprets or explains the words spoken by the ancient prophets, relative to the salvation of the Jews from the hands of their enemies, and to their salvation from their spiritual enemies, also, as more fully and more clearly expressed in vv. 75, 77.

“And from the hands of all that hate us.” This is a repetition, in other words, for greater emphasis, of the idea conveyed in the preceding words, our enemies, which is very common in Sacred Scriptures. Reference is made to our spiritual enemies “who hate us,” who ever war against us, and strive to compass our spiritual and eternal ruin. The liberation, which Zachary ascribes to the Son of God, will bring about “the remission of our sins” (v. 17), and enable us by the spiritual conquest achieved, to live “in holiness and justice all our days.” (v. 75).

Luk 1:72  To perform mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy testament.

“To perform mercy to our fathers,” &c., may be connected with “horn of salvation,” thus, “He raised up a horn of salvation” for the purpose of performing “mercy to our fathers,” or, with “salvation,” He promised salvation from our enemies, in order “to perform mercy to our fathers.” The “mercy to our fathers,” conveys, that the Patriarchs were sharers in the mercy shown their children on their account. God showed mercy to all; to the Patriarchs, to whom, out of pure mercy, He promised Redemption and the graces afterwards bestowed by Christ; to their remotest posterity, also, whom His Son came to redeem and visit. Zachary may be said to refer, in a special way, to the mercy shown their fathers, because, by the coming of Christ, they were brought forth from prison. “By the blood of thy Testament, Thou hast sent forth thy prisoners, out of the pit, wherein is no water” (Zacharias 9:11).

“And to remember His holy covenant,” to show Himself mindful, after a long delay, which would seem to savour of utter oblivion, of the covenant or pact, (this is the meaning of “covenant,” here,) He made with Abraham, regarding the birth of Christ from His seed (Genesis 22:17, 18), which is clearly explained and applied (Acts 3:25). Zachary would seem to say, that God visited His people, and raised up a horn of salvation, for three ends. First, to fulfil the promises made through His prophets; secondly, to show mercy to the Fathers; thirdly (here), to declare Himself mindful of His covenant with Abraham, regarding the benediction of all nations in his seed, a commencement being made with “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Vulgate, “ad faciendam misericordiam … et memorari Testamenti sui sancti,” should, following the Greek, be, “facere misericordiam … et memorari,” ποιησαι ελεος … και μνησθηναι διαθηκης.

Luk 1:73  The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us.

“The oath which He swore to Abraham,” &c. The word, “oath,” is connected by some with “holy covenant,” as if He said, which holy covenant is “the oath which He swore,” &c., thus placing the word, “oath,” in apposition to “covenant;” and, although “oath” and “covenant” are in different cases, “covenant” (testamenti—διαθηκην), in the genitive; “oath” (jusjurandum, ορκον), in the accusative; still, the advocates of this interpretation say, the Greek word for “remember,” governs both cases. Hence, in the Syriac, it is put very clearly, “memorari testamenti … et jurisjurandi.” Origen reads it, ορκαῦ, in the genitive. Beelen takes ορκον, for ορκοῦ, in the genitive, in apposition to διαθηκης, as attracted into the case of the relative, ὅν, which follows (Grammat. Grec., c. 11, § 24. Others, with A. Lapide, connect “oath,” with “to perform” (v. 72), as if he said, “He raised up a horn of salvation,” among other reasons, to perform, or observe, the oath He made to “Abraham, our father,” recorded Genesis (22:16), and elsewhere, regarding the multiplication of his spiritual children, and the benediction of all nations in his seed.

“That he would grant us,” has reference to what follows, viz., “that being delivered,” &c. (v. 74). This appears from the Greek construction, τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν.

Luk 1:74  That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear:

“That being delivered,” &c., has reference to deliverance from our spiritual enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. This, already expressed in v. 71, “salvation from our enemies,” is repeated here, as connected with what follows. “We may serve Him without fear,” without any excessive, torturing fear. For, we are commanded “to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Here there is question of immoderate fear of those enemies who are vanquished by Jesus Christ (John 16:33; Col. 2:13; Jeremias 23:6); of fear of death, which is only the portal of eternal life (Heb. 2:13). In this, and the following verses, Zachary, no doubt, has also in view eternal life, to which, as its reward, and consummation, a life of persevering sanctity in this world surely conducts; and in which, according to Isaias (32:18), “God’s people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest.”

“Serve.” The Greek word, λατρευειν, denotes the supreme worship due to God alone. “Him,” who rescued us from the servitude of sin, that we might become the servants of justice and of God (Rom. 6:18–22).

Luk 1:75  In holiness and justice before him, all our days.

“In holiness and justice before Him.” “Holiness,” denotes our duties towards God, as expressed in the first table of the Decalogue. “Justice,” our duties towards ourselves and our neighbour, as expressed in the second table. “Before him,” real, true justice and sanctity. So that here is expressed the faithful observance of all God’s Commandments, with sincerity of heart, which alone is pleasing to Him, and approved by Him. Likely, there is an opposition and comparison instituted here between the Law of Christ and the Old Law. The latter only conferred external justice, the justifications of the flesh; the former brought with it and conferred real interior justice and sanctity.

“All our days,” implies, perseverance in the service of God, in the practice of justice and holiness; in a word, in the observance of God’s Commandments to our last expiring breath, since it is those alone who persevere to the end, that shall be partakers of the blessings of Redemption referred to by Zachary—and shall obtain the crown of eternal life. The words may also imply a contrast with the Old Law, which was temporary, and ceased; whereas the New was to continue to the end of ages. The passing, temporary duration of one, is contrasted with the permanent, never-failing continuance of the other.

Luk 1:76  And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt, go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:

“And thou child shalt be called,” &c. This is the second part of the Canticle, wherein Zachary, feelingly addressing the infant, predicts the dignity, office, and successful mission of the Baptist, and points to the effects and privileges of the Gospel, as also to the conversion of all men, Jews and Gentiles. “Shalt be called,” shalt be in reality, and proclaimed, “a prophet of the Highest.” John was “a prophet, and more than a prophet,” according to the testimony of truth itself (Matthew 11:9–11, see Commentary on). “Of the Highest,” has reference to our Blessed Lord, as in the following words, “For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord,” which latter words are clearly allusive to the words of Malachias (chap. 3:1), and prove the Divinity of Christ. He whom John was to precede is called, “Lord, the Highest.” Some of the Fathers are of opinion, that the child who, from his mother’s womb, saluted the Son of God in the womb of the Virgin, retained the use of reason with which it is commonly supposed, he was then miraculously imbued. Others, without having recourse to this hypothesis, explain the words of Zachary as apostrophizing his infant son, under the influence of strong emotions, as we often find, in Sacred Scripture, inanimate objects feelingly addressed, “Audite cœli, quæ loquor” (Deut. 32), “Montes Gelboe,” &c. (2 Kings 21), Josue addresses the sun and moon (Josue 10:12). Moreover, Zachary addresses his infant son, for the instruction of those present, who, on afterwards seeing John acting as the Precursor of our Lord, and, pointing Him out to the people as infinitely superior to himself, would be confirmed in their faith, by the remembrance of the prophecy, now uttered by Zachary on the subject.

“Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord,” who, though clad in human nature, is also God and Lord of all things.

“To prepare His ways,” contains an allusion to a prevalent usage, especially in the East, whenever a king visited any remarkable place in his dominions, to have a herald go before him, and point him out to his people; and also to have every obstacle, every unsightly object, that might retard his journey, or cause any disagreeable feeling, removed out of the way. John prepared the ways of our Lord, by teaching the Jews the true faith, and inculcating the practice of penance, as in following verse.

Luk 1:77  To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins.

He shall prepare the ways of the Lord, and remove all disagreeable objects and obstacles by imparting to God’s people, the saving “knowledge,” whereby they shall be taught the ways of justice and of truth, shall be brought to Him, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and shall know Him to be the Saviour promised to them, who shall bestow the salvation, of which John shall impart the knowledge, to be the Eternal Son of God, who came to redeem and rescue them from the slavery of sin and Satan; and by preaching, by word and example, the necessity of penance, to dispose them for “the remission of their sins.” This remission of sin can be obtained solely through the merits of our Lord, in the first instance, in the regenerating waters of Baptism, to which the Baptism of John served as a type and preparation.

The Greek has, “in the remission of their sins,” and will mean, that the “salvation,” preached by John, and imparted by Christ, consists in “the remission of sin,” or, if we follow the Vulgate, “in remissionem peccatorum,” &c., we can interpret it, procured through the remission of sins. For, by a Hebrew idiom, “in,” signifies, by, “per,” whether construed with an Ablative or Accusative.

Luk 1:78  Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us:

“Through the bowels of the mercy of our God.” This remission of sin, and all the other blessings connected therewith, were the result of God’s tenderest, most intense feelings of mercy and commiseration for our miseries. It is to God’s tenderest mercy alone, we are indebted for all the blessings resulting from the Incarnation of His Son—this, “Horn of Salvation of the house of David.”

The “bowels of mercy,” mean intimate, intense feelings of mercy, such as a mother feels for her offspring in distress. Thus we find it said of the mother in the judgment of Solomon (3 Kings 3:26), “her bowels were moved upon her child.” Similar, also, is the meaning of the word “bowels” (1 John 3:17).

“In which,” “bowels of mercy,” or through the strong impulse of which tender feelings of merciful love.

“The Orient from on high visited us.” It was owing to His exceeding great love for the world, that God gave up for it His only, His well-beloved Son. It was the same intense love, that moved the Eternal Son Himself to assume flesh, to visit us in person, and not through His prophets, as of old, and to come down from the highest heavens, for our sakes. “Qui propter nos, homines, et propter nostram salutem, descendit de cœlis.”—Nicene Creed. This love of God is heightened by the circumstance so clearly referred to by the Apostle, in commendation of it, that, “When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:8, 10). The words, “from on high,” are to be connected with, “visited us,” by coming down from heaven, and assuming flesh in the chaste womb of the Virgin, in order to accomplish the work of Redemption.

“The Orient.” This is a noun—ανατολη. The corresponding Hebrew word, Tzemah, is universally regarded as denoting the Messiah, or Christ; and hence, in the Chaldaic Paraphrase, or Targum of Jonathan, it is rendered, not literally, but as signifying, the Messiah. The Greek interpreters, in one passage only (Jer. 33:15), translate, Tzemah, Βλαστος, germen, “a bud.” In several others, ανατολη, or, “Orient” (Jer. 23:5; Zach. 3:8; 6:12). St. Jerome, in his translation from the original Hebrew, renders Tzemah into Latin, in some passages, germen, or bud (Isaias 4:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15), and in other passages, Orient (Zach. 3:8; 6:12). In both significations, of “bud” springing forth, and of “Orient” darting forth its rays of light (and the precise signification of Tzamar, the root from which Tzemah is derived, is to shoot forth, applicable to a bud, or light alike), the word is very applicable to Christ; as a bud, it is very applicable to “the rod out of the root of Jesse, a flower out of his root” (Isaias 11:1), who, when the house of David seemed to be destroyed for ever, and to have gone into utter oblivion, unexpectedly sprang from the family of David, and re-established the glory of His throne for ever. As a light darting forth its rays, it is equally applicable to our Lord, “the True Light that enlightens every man coming into this world” (John 1:9). Himself, “the Light of the World” (John 8:12), “The Sun of Justice to them that fear His name” (Malachias 4:2), “The Bright and Morning Star.” And it is in this latter signification of the word, as appears from the following (v. 79) “to enlighten,” &c., it is here applied to our Lord.

Luk 1:79  To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace.

“To enlighten them,” &c. This was the end for which the Orient came to visit us. The image conveyed in the words of this verse is allusive to the wretched condition of those who are forced to dwell and spend their lives in darksome dungeons or sepulchres, into which the cheering light of day is never permitted to enter. “Shadow of death” intensifies the word, “darkness,” and both mean darkness the most intense. The corresponding Hebrew word, Salmaveth, denotes the colour which death on its immediate approach impresses on the face and entire countenance of a man. Hence, it points to dense darkness from which one cannot emerge, and to the condition of extreme danger usually followed by destruction. The words, “shadow of death,” are commonly used in this sense in the Sacred Scriptures, and often applied to the darkness of the grave and of hell (Job 3:5; 10:21, 22).

The words, “darkness and shadow of death,” in the moral and spiritual sense intended here, denote the great ignorance and sinfulness in which the human race was plunged before the coming of Christ. As sunrise over the hills dissipates the mists and lights up the lowliest valleys; so, Christ dispelled this ignorance by teaching the truths of faith, by revealing those mysteries of grace and glory concealed hitherto from the children of men (Ephes. 3:5–9); thus clearing away the shocking errors regarding God’s Divine nature and attributes, regarding man’s origin and ultimate destiny which disfigured the face of the earth, and destroying the empire of Satan and sin, by meriting the grace whereby sin was remitted and cancelled, and by permanently instituting these channels of Divine grace—the sacraments of His Church, which were to subsist to the end of time. Some include among those enlightened by Christ, even the departed souls of the just shut up in the gloomy prison of Limbo, to whom Christ went, in the interval between His Passion and Resurrection, to announce their near deliverance (1 Peter 3:19). But, most likely, the words exclusively refer to the living, as explained above.

“To direct our feet,” &c. In removing the darkness of ignorance and sin, our Lord pointed out the way of justice and peace in which we should walk in future, after having culpably deflected from it in the past. He, at the same time, helps us, by His abundant grace, to walk in this road, and to direct all our affections and actions towards the performance of the works of justice, and the observance of His commandments, which alone could insure for us true peace here, with God and man, and eternal peace in the enjoyment of everlasting happiness hereafter, according to the words of Isaias (32:17, 18), “And the work of justice shall be peace, and the service of justice quietness, and security for ever. And my people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest.”

The word “peace,” by a Hebrew idiom, denotes the possession of all things desirable.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:57-66

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2013

Luk 1:57  Now Elizabeth’s full time of being delivered was come: and she brought forth a son.

While Mary remained with Elizabeth, the time of the latter for bringing forth had come, and she happily gave birth to a son, on the 8th of the Kalends of June, or 24th of June, as is held by the Church, in accordance with the Angel’s promise (v. 13). The Evangelist, before describing this in the precise order of time, first concludes the history of the Virgin’s Visitation.

Luk 1:58  And her neighbors and kinsfolks heard that the Lord had shewed his great mercy towards her: and they congratulated with her.

Her neighbours and kinsfolk heard of the great mercy the Lord had so signally displayed towards Elizabeth, not only in taking away the curse of sterility in her old age; but also in granting her the blessing of a safe delivery, and also granting her a male offspring. Seeing that God’s blessing was rendered perfect by her safe delivery, they “congratulated with her.” They came to share in her joy, thus verifying the Angel’s prediction, that, “many would rejoice in his nativity” (v. 14). The Greek for “congratulate,” συνεχαίρον, means, they rejoiced together with her.

Luk 1:59  And it came to pass that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child: and they called him by his father’s name Zachary.

“On the eighth day,” from the birth, the day prescribed by law for the circumcision of an infant (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3), “they came to circumcise the child,” that is, the priests, the friends and neighbours, who wished to honour the occasion. It is most likely, that this occurred in the house of Zachary. For, the mother, it is clear, was present, and she could not leave the house so soon after child-birth, according to the law of Moses (Leviticus 12:4). We have several examples in Scripture, of this ceremony being performed at home as well as in the synagogues, where infants are circumcised according to modern Jewish usage. See examples of Abraham (Genesis 17:23–26), of the son of Moses by Sephora (Exodus 4:25), of the Jewish people in the desert circumcised by Josue (Josue 5:3). Many of the Holy Fathers held that one of the effects—nay, the chief effect—of circumcision was, the remission of original sin in the male descendants of Abraham, which was, of course, accompanied with the infusion of sanctifying grace. This opinion seems warranted by Genesis 17:14. It was held by St. Augustine (Lib. 16, c. 17 de Civitate Dei; Lib. 4 contra Donatistas, c. 24, Ep. 57, contra Dardanum); Ambrose (Lib. 2 in Lucam); Basil (Hom. 13); Bernard (Sermo 1, de Circumcis. Domini); Innocent III. (C. Majores, &c.)

“And they called him”—the Greek, εκαλουν, were calling, in the imperfect, is expressive of an attempt, which did not take effect—“by his father’s name, Zachary.” From this, it appears to have been customary with the Jews to give names to the infants at circumcision, as is done with us at baptism. Among other reasons, circumcision being a sign of God’s covenant, to convey, that they were then aggregated to, and numbered amongst the people of God. God Himself, at circumcision, changed the name of Abraham (Genesis 17:5). It also appears, that they were wont to give them the names of their parents, or of some one among their friends or relatives. The Church recommends to give infants the names of saints at baptism, whose virtues they should imitate, in order to become, one day, sharers in their glory.

Luk 1:60  And his mother answering, said: Not so. But he shall be called John.

“And his mother answering.” His father being deaf and dumb, she was probably on this account, asked, or, she may have overheard the conversation among her neighbours and friends on the subject.

“Not so, but he shall be called John.” This she conveyed in this imperative form, without consulting her friends, or neighbours, or giving them any voice in the matter, because it was enjoined by God (v. 13). She may have learned from her husband in writing an account of the Angel’s vision and injunctions; or, more probably, she learned it from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. (For meaning of the word, “John,” see v. 13.)

Luk 1:61  And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

At this period, it was usual to give the circumcised infants the name of their parents or relatives, although, at the beginning of creation, and afterwards, in the days of the Patriarchs, it was usual, perhaps, owing to the paucity of men and names to be transferred, to impose a name derived from some remarkable event or occurrence connected with those to whom names were to be given. Thus, Adam’s first-born was named Cain (Genesis 4:1), “quia possedi hominem per Deum.” Another, Seth, for a similar reason (Genesis 4:26); Noe (Genesis 5:29); Isaac (Genesis 21:4–6). Manasses and Ephraim, Joseph’s sons, were so called for similar reasons (Genesis 41:51, 52).

Luk 1:62  And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

“And they made signs to his father,” &c., who, as appears from this, was deaf as well as dumb; otherwise, instead of addressing him by “signs” and gestures, they would have spoken to him. “And,” signifies, therefore. They wished Zachary to settle the matter by interposing his paternal authority. Likely, those present might dread, that the name so imperatively suggested by Elizabeth might not prove agreeable to him.

Luk 1:63  And demanding a writing table, he wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered.

“A writing-table,” πινακιδιον, means, a small tablet, waxed or whitened over, or prepared in some other way, to be written on by the stylus, or iron pen, in use at the time.

“He wrote, saying,” a Hebrew form of expression, which is not uncommon in the Greek also, as in the Septuagint of 2 Sam 11:15, 1 Sam 10:1–6, Josephus (Antiq. xiii. c. 4, &c.) The phrase means: he wrote, conveying in words written, but not spoken by words of mouth. In this case, it is clear, Zachary was yet dumb. For, it was immediately after this, his tongue was loosed (v. 64).

“John is his name.” “Is,” not, will be, to convey that he did not give him the name. It was given him by God, whose will no man shall dare contravene. Hence, all discussion on the subject should at once cease.

“And they all wondered,” at the strange and unexpected coincidence between his wishes and those of his wife on the subject.

Luk 1:64  And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed: and he spoke, blessing God.

“And immediately,” on his writing these words, “John is his name,” in accordance with the injunctions of the Angel, which shows, that it was owing to his having thus written, the use of speech was restored, as Origen observes (Hom. 9), “his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed,” that is, he began to speak. The Greek simply is: his mouth was opened, and his tongue. Loosed is added in our English version. It is not in the Vulgate, “apertum est os ejus et lingua ejus.” There is hardly any necessity for adding the word, loosed. For the Greek word for “opened,” Ανεωχθη, is often used to signify, loosed. The first use he made of his tongue was in “blessing God,” for His wondrous mercy shown him. This may have reference to the praises contained in the Canticle (68–79), of which a portion is taken up with the praises of God. At all events, it is very likely, Zachary’s “blessing of God,” was in the strain expressed in the inspired Canticle in question, and had reference to the Incarnation, the chiefest of God’s favours.

Luk 1:65  And fear came upon all their neighbours: and all these things were noised abroad over all the hill country of Judea.

“Fear,” φοβος, a feeling of reverential awe and wonder seized on all the country and neighbours, owing to the wonderful things that took place in connexion with the birth of the child—Elizabeth, old and barren, conceived; his father, struck dumb, and afterwards wonderfully recovering the use of his speech, &c. “All these things.” The Greek and Latin copies have, all these words. But the term, “words,” means, things, as expressed in the English version.

Luk 1:66  And all they that had heard them laid them up in their heart, saying: What an one, think ye, shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.

“Laid them up in their hearts”—a Hebrew idiom, signifying, they treasured them up—seriously reflecting and pondering on them (as in chap. 9:44, &c.)

“Saying, what then shall this child be?” How great a prophet shall he not be? What a wonderful distinction must be in store for him, whose very conception and birth have been rendered illustrious by so many miracles?

“For the hand of the Lord was with him.” These are the words of the Evangelist, and form a portion of the narrative, but not the words of the people who said, “What then shall this child be?” In some Greek copies, instead of “for,” we have, και, and. But, and, has a causal signification, as if the Evangelist meant to convey, not without cause did they reason thus. For, the power of the Lord was displayed in regard to this child and all the events connected with him. In the Vatican MS. it is και γαρ. “The hand of the Lord,” means chiefly His power and His providence, His special care and favour. These were notably displayed in everything connected with the birth of this wonderful child.

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Commentaries for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2013

Resources for the Ordinary Form (Year A) can be found here.


COMMENTARIES ON THE LESSON: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.


SERMON/HOMILY PLANS: Can be used for sermon ideas, meditation points, reflection, points for further study.


  • Christ Is Our Lord. An analysis of the Gospel, followed by an excerpt from the Catechism of the Council of Trent and two short sermons.

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This week’s Commentaries and Posts: Sunday, December 22-Sunday December 29, 2013 (4th Week of Advent)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2013


Today’s Mass Resources (Ordinary Form).

Last Week’s Commentaries and Posts.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 25.

Fatheer Berry’s Introduction to Psalm 25.

St Augustine on Psalm 25.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 25.

Lection Divina Notes on Psalm 25.

Some Rambling on Psalm 25. “Off the top of my head” reflections on St John the Baptist in relation to today’s first reading (the Baptist is the focal point of both the first and Gospel readings today).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 1:57-66.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:57-66.


Please Note: Resources for the Christmas Vigil are listed below under Christmas day.

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

St Augustine on 2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16 and Psalm 89.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 89.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 89.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 1:67-79.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Luke 1:67-79.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:67-79.


Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec 24).

Mass During the Night: The Nativity of the Lord (Midnight Mass).

Mass at Dawn: The Nativity of the Lord.

Mass During the Day: The Nativity of the Lord.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59.

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 10:17-22. Actually, this post is on verses 16-23.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 10:17-22. Actually, this post is on verses 16-23.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 10:17-22. On 16-23.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 10:17-22. On 16-23.

Pope Benedict XVI on St Stephen.

Sermon on St Stephen. By John HenryCardinal Newman (preached while still an Anglican). Pdf format.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 John 1:1-4.

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 John 1:1-4.

St Augustine’s Homily on 1 John 1:1-4.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 97.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 97.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 97.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 20:1-8.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 20:1-8. On 1-9.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 20:1-8. On 1-9.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 20:1-8. On 1-9.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 20:1-8. On 1-9.

Pope Benedict XVI on St John the Evangelist:


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

St Augustine’s Homily on 1 John 1:5-2:2.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 John 1:5-2:2.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 124.

Pope Benedict XVI on Psalm 124.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 2:13-18.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 2:13-18. On 13-23.

My Notes on Matthew 2:13-18.

Posts for Sunday are pending.

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Prayers Please

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 20, 2013

Several members of my family are in ill health, two are currently in the hospital: one with pneumonia, the other with a heart infection.

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Commentaries for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 19, 2013

READINGS AND OFFICE: Summary of Today’s Readings: Our Lord came in fulfillment of prophecy (1st, 2nd, Gosp. readings) and became “Immanuel,” “God with us” ( 1st, Gosp.) through his resurrection from the dead (2nd reading; see also Mt 28:19-20). We pray that our Lord, “the King of glory,” will come to be with us (Ps; see also Jn 14:2-3, 17:24).

Readings from the NABRE. The translation used in the United States.

Readings from the Jerusalem Bible. Translation used in most other English speaking countries.

Divine Office.


Father Maas’ Commentary on Isaiah 7:10-14. On 1-17.

Word-Sunday Notes on Isaiah 7:10-14.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Isaiah 7:10-14.


Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 24.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 24:1-6.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 24.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 24.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 24.

Word-Sunday Notes on Psalm 24.


Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 1:1-7.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Romans 1:1-7.

Father Rickaby’s Commentary on Romans 1:1-7.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 1:1-7.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 1:1-7.

Word-Sunday Notes on Romans 1:1-7.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Romans 1:1-7.


Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 1:18-24.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-24.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-24. Includes 25.

My Notes on Matthew 1:18-24.

Word-Sunday Notes on Matthew 1:18-24.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 1:18-24.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Numbers 24:2-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 15, 2013

Please note that the spelling of people and place names follows the spelling from the Greek text. The spelling in most modern bibles may differ slightly.



1. Time and Occasion of the Prophecy.—In the first month of the fortieth year after their leaving Egypt, the Israelites encamped for the second time in Cades (Num. 20). Here Mary, the sister of Moses, died; here too the people again murmured against the Lord by reason of a want of water, and here Moses and Aaron committed the sin of diffidence in the help of God. Since Moses knew that they could hardly expect to enter Palestine from the south side on account of the strongly fortified towns, he led the people around towards the east, sending messengers from Cades to the kings of Edom and Moab, in order to obtain a free passage through their territories. Permission being refused, the territories of these princes had to be avoided, and thus it was that Israel came to Mount Hor. Here Aaron died; then King Arad (Num. 21), who had at first gained some advantages over Israel, was vanquished; but on their way south, which had to be taken in order to pass around Edom, the Israelites again murmured and were punished by the fiery serpents. Finally, the people advanced along the eastern boarder of Edom northward, till they reached the Arnon. When Sehon, king of the Amorrhitcs, refused them a free passage through his territory to the Jordan, they conquered his whole kingdom from the Anion to the Jeboc; then Og, the king of Basan, was put to death, and his kingdom with its sixty fortified cities taken. Next the Israelites turned again southward, and encamped in the fields of Moab, across Jordan, opposite
Jericho (Num. 22:1 ff.).

Balac, the king of Moab, was frightened, made an alliance with the Madianites, and being not yet confident enough in their combined forces, Balac sent to Balaam, the son of Beor, who lived in the land of the Ammonites, requesting him to come and curse Israel. After the wellknown remonstrances on the part of God, the appearance of the angel, and the talking of Balaam’s ass, the soothsayer finally reaches the camp of Balac, where he is received with all possible splendor. First the prophet is led to the Baal heights (Num. 22:41; 23.), on the eastern part of Mount Abarim, where he repeats the blessing of Abraham in spite of the seven altars and the seven burnt offerings prepared by Balac. Balaam is now made to ascend the summit of Phasga (Num. 23:13 ff.), where he repeats, in spite of the same bountiful sacrifices, the blessing of Juda and the covenant blessing of Horeb. The third time Balac and Balaam ascend Phogor (Num. 23:27 ff.), where the prophet repeats the combined
blessings of Abraham and Jacob. Finally, before leaving Balac, Balaam informs him of the future of Israel (Num 24:14 ff.). They shall triumph over Edom and Moab; then the fate of the Amalecites (1. c. 20), the Cinites (1. c. 21, 22), and the Assyrians (1. c. 23, 24) is announced.

2. Character of the Prophet.—No doubt Balaam was a Gentile soothsayer, who had, however, become acquainted with the history of Israel and with their true God, Jehovah, to whom he had consecrated himself. The motives of his service may have been like the motives of Simon Magus, since he seems to have been under the sway of avarice in the latter course of his history. He must have known the truth concerning the immortality of the soul and the future retribution; why else should behave prayed: ” Let my soul die the death of the just, and my last end be like to them “? (Num. 23:10.) After being dismissed by Balac, Balaam may have gone over to Moses in order to reveal to him the prophecies enounced with the view of obtaining from the Hebrews the rich rewards which he had lost at the court of the Moabite king. Not obtaining what he desired he gave the wicked advice to the Madianites of enticing the Hebrews into sin, and thus rendering them odious to Jehovah (cf. Num. 31:8, 16; 26:1-3; Rev 2:14). He was slain among the Madianites by the avenging hands of Hebrews.

3. Authorship of the Prophecy.—It is not certain, as Driver says (Introduction to the Literature of the Old, Testament, 1892, p. 62), whether Num. 23 and 24 belong to J or E, or whether they are the work of the compiler, who has made use of both sources. Critics differ, the author continues, and it is wise to leave the question undetermined. Delitzsch (Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession, translated by S. I. Curtiss, New York, 1891, p. 65) is a little more determined: “We admit that the narrative, as it lies before us, is combined out of several sources that may be clearly distinguished, and that the historical element, as it survived in the ‘sage’, has been reproduced, not without literary co-operation, but without doubting the fact that the heathen sorcerer, contrary to his natural disposition, became a prophet of Yahweh, and that he received an insight into the future of Israel, whose significance only has its counterpart in the second part of the Book of Zechariah and the Book of Daniel.” Provided the Mosaic and inspired authorship of the prophecy in its present form is saved, we may grant any manner of composition.

4. Unchristian Applications of the Prophecy.—a. Verslmir (Bibliotheca Brem. nova class, iii. 1, pp.1-80) denies the relation of Balaam’s prophecy to the Messias in any sense, and regards it as applying alike to David, John Hyrcanus, and Alexander Jannaeus. The seventeenth verse he refers to the first two, the nineteenth verse to the last. b. Michaelis and Dathe too have denied the Messianic character of the prophecy, applying it to David alone, c. De Wette endeavors to prove from this prophecy the fictitious nature of the whole story and the spuriousness of the Pentateuch.

5. Messianic Character of Balaam’s Prophecy.—1. Jewish tradition looks upon the passage as Messianic. The Targum Onkelos reads: ” When a mighty king of Jacob’s
house will reign, and the Messias will be magnified.” The Targum Jonathan has a similar paraphrase: ” When there shall reign a strong king of the house of Jacob, and the Messias shall be anointed, and a strong sceptre shall come from Israel. . . .” Rabbi Simeon, the son of Yochai, taught: “Rabbi Akiba, my teacher, explained: There shall come a star of Jacob, Cosiba comes of Jacob; for when he saw Bar Cosiba, he exclaimed: This is the Messias ” (cf. Jerusalem Taanith, fol. G8, col. 4). A similar testimony is found in Debarim Rabba (sec. 1): “The Israelites said to God: How long shall we be in bondage? He replied: Till the day comes of which it is said: There shall come a star out of Jacob.” In the Pesikta Sotarta (fol. 58, col. 1) we read: “Our Rabbis have a tradition that in the week in which the Messias will be born there will be a bright star in the east, which is the star of the Messias.” In Shemoth Rabba (sect. 30, fol. 129, 1) we read the following passage: “Parable of a man who went into a strange
country and heard that a public trial was to be held. He asked a great talker when the trial would be held. His answer was: It is still far off. The man asked another the same question, and the answer was: It will take place very soon. The man said: I have asked the great talker, and he said it would not take place for some time. The other answered: You know that he is a talker, and do you think that he would like the trial to take place soon, not knowing whether his own case will be tried, and he will be condemned? Thus the Israelites asked Balaam: When will the redemption come? He answered (Num. 24:17): I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not near. The Holy Blessed God said: Do you not know that Balaam will go down into hell, and that he would prefer my salvation should not come?” Bechai (fol. 180, 4) reads: “I shall see him, but not now, must be understood of David; I shall behold him, but not near, of the king Messias; a star shall rise out of Jacob, of David; a sceptre shall spring up from Israel, of king Messias; and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, of David (I Kings 8:2); and shall waste all the children of Seth, of the Messias
(Ps. 73:18); he shall possess Idumea, of David (I Kings 8:14); but Israel shall do manfully, of the Messias (Obadiah 21).” Another testimony we find in Pesikta Sotarta
(fol. 58, 2): “At that time they shall blow a great trumpet, and then shall be fulfilled what is written, Num. 24:17: A star shall rise out of Jacob.” Sohar chadasch (fol. 44, 2) reads thus: “I shall see him, refers to the redemption which will be the fourth; but not now, but in the latter days. The world has six days. On the fourth, the heavenly lights shall be taken away and cease, i.e., the sun, the moon, and the stars shall be hidden on that day, as they were in the creation.” It may be noticed in passing that the Messianic times are here placed into the fourth millennium, or after the first three thousand years. The Sohar (Num. fol. 85, col. 340) has the following remarks
about Num. 24:17: ” God has decreed to build up Jerusalem, and to show a star which shines besides seventy other stars, and out of which proceed seventy satellites, and seventy other stars will be taken with the same. This star is the Messias; his satellites are the apostles and the dignitaries of the Church.” A little later the same book continues: ” At the time of the star’s appearance, the earth will tremble for forty-five miles around the place where the Temple is standing. And there shall be opened a cavern under the ground out of which shall come forth a fire that will set the earth on fire. The heavenly bird too will come forth out of the cavern, to whom empire is given, and the nations of the earth will be gathered under his sway. And the king Messias will appear in the whole world, and will take vengeance on the Edomites, and set the land of Seir on fire.” See also Sohar, fol. 58, 1; fol. 44, 4; Tikkune Sohar, c. 37; Pesikta Sotarta, fol. 58, 1; Pesikta Rabbathi, fol. 20, 4.

2. The Messianic character of the prophecy uttered by Balaam may be also recognized from the very context of the passage. For according to the verse immediately preceding the prophecy, Balaam expressly says that it regards the “latter days.” Now this phrase “latter days” is generally used of the Messianic times; (cf. Gen. 49:1; Deut. 4:30; Jer. 48:47; Is. 2:2, etc.).

3. Then again the contents of the prophecy point to the Messianic fulfilment:

a. The victories of David, no doubt, were a partial fulfilment of Balaam’s prediction, and the language in which they are reported seems to point out their reference to the present prophecy (cf. II Sam 8:2,13,14; I Kings xi. 15,1; Ps 50:8.) On the other hand, David’s victories do not exhaust Balaam’s predictions, since they do not amount to a permanent conquest of Moab and Edom.

b. The Moabite stone informs us that the Moabites were again subdued by Omri, and kept in subjection for forty years. Then followed the successful revolt of Mesha (II Kings 1:1; 3:4, 5), the new victory over the Moabites by Joram (II Kings 3:21), their offensive war against Juda in the reign of Joas (II Kings 13:20), and their final subjection by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 129.

c. As to the Edomites, they revolted under Solomon (I Kings 11:14), and more successfully under Joram (II Kings 8:20), were defeated under Amasias (II Kings 14:7), and again under Ozias (II Kings 14:22), but not completely subjugated, so that in the reign of Achaz they invaded Juda (II Chron 28:17).

d. Accordingly, we find that the prophets who lived centuries after David took up his prophecies concerning the Moabites and the Edomites, thus showing evidently that they had not been accomplished in the time of David. As to Moab, see Isa 15; 16:1-5; 25:20 ff.; Amos 2:1; Zeph 2:8 ff.; as to Edom, see Isa 34:5 ff; 63:1-6; Jer 49:7 ff; Lam. 4:21, 22; Ezek 25:12; Amos 9:11, 12; Obad 17 ff; both nations are referred to in Isa 11:14.

e. If it is evident that the prophecy has not been fully accomplished by any of the Jewish kings, it is also certain that the Moabites and the Edomites are common types in the prophetic writings signifying in general all the enemies of the kingdom of God, as they were the bitterest foes of the theocracy. Thus it is plain that the final overthrow of all those who oppose the kingdom of God is predicted by the prophet, and this final defeat is to be inflicted by the star that shall rise out of Jacob, and by the ruler who shall come out of Israel.

4. The fact that the last Jewish rebel who rose in the reign of Hadrian took the name Bar-cochab, i.e., Son of a star, proves the two propositions laid down in the preceding number: that the Jews of that period regarded the present prophecy as still unfulfilled, though Moab had long before vanished from history, and that the actual accomplishment of the prediction was expected in Messianic times. Hence when Bar-cochab proved to be a failure, the disappointed Jews called him Bar-coziba, i.e., Son of a falsehood. Why should the false Messias have been called thus in reference to his former name Bar-cochab if this had not been regarded as the name of the true Messias?

5. If it be urged against us that Balaam could not have understood his prophecy, we may freely grant this premise, but we deny the inference drawn from it. Prophets do not necessarily understand the full import of their prophetic predictions (cf. I. Pet 1:11); and if this be true of the good and faithful prophets of the Lord, why could it not happen in the case of a Gentile whose heart was perverted, and whose dominant passion seems to have been that of the traitor apostle Judas?

6. Finally, the Fathers of the Church and Christian tradition have never given any other than a Messianic interpretation to Balaam’s prophecy (cf. Tubing. Quartalsch., 1844, p. 474; 1860, p. 054; 1872, p. 025 if.; Heinke, Beitrage, vol. 4).

Num 24:15  Therefore taking up his parable, again he said: Balaam the son of Beor hath said: The man whose eye is stopped up, hath said:

Stopped up. The Hebrew word thus rendered occurs only here and in the parallel passage (Num. 24:3), and hence it has been variously interpreted. 1. Gesenius, De Wette, Hupfeld, Keil, Hengstenberg, etc., translate the word as the Vulgate does by “closed ” or “stopped up.” If this rendering be accepted, there is again a twofold way of explaining the word: a. Balaam’s eyes were closed, as far as the correction of his error was concerned (Kliaban. Maur.); b. Balaam’s bodily eyes were closed, because, being in the ecstatic state, he was bereft of the use of his senses (a Lapide, Trochon, etc.). 2. The LXX., Saad, Maurer, Fl’irst, Wogue, Knobel, etc., translate the phrase “the man whose eyes are open.” They appeal especially to the Mishna (Abod. Sar. c. v.), where the verb used in the present passage signifies the unstopping of a wine-jar. They thus put an antithesis between Balaam’s being in a trance and having his eyes open. The former rendering is much better suited to the context, and is also supported by better authority.

Num 24:16  The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the Highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty, who falling hath his eyes opened:

Who falling. The falling mentioned in this passage seems to have been the condition under which the inward opening of Balaam’s eyes took place. It indicates rather the force of the divine revelation overpowering the seer than his vision of the divine glory (cf. Dan 8:17; Rev 1:17). We find hardly any instance of such a falling in the case of God’s faithful prophets; in the case of St. Paul and of Balaam it shows that God’s word had to overcome a stubborn human will.

Num 24:17  I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth

A star. Explanations: 1. The star which appeared at the birth of Christ is foretold (Orig. c. Celsum, i. 12, 2). This is hardly probable, since that star did not “rise out of Jacob;” nor does St. Matthew, who carefully collects the Messianic fulfilments in his gospel, apply the prophecy to that event. 2. The star is the figure of a mighty king. Reasons: a. The star has served among all nations as the symbol of regal power and dignity (Virg., Eclog. ix. 47; Herat., Od. I. xii. 47; Justin, Histor. xxxvii. 2; Curtius, IX. vi. 8; Sueton. Ixxxviii. ; iEschyl., Again. 6; Isa 14:12; Dan 8:10; Rev 1:10, 20; 2:1; 9:1). b. The idea was current among the Jews, since the false Messias appearing after Jesus was called Bar-cochab, i.e., son of a star.

Children of Seth. Explanations: 1. Seth is a proper name (Vulg., LXX., and ancient versions generally), a. It refers to Seth, the son of Adam, so that children of Seth is equivalent to “all mankind.” The passage thus understood is often explained: “he shall rule all mankind” (Onkelos, Rashi, etc.). But “all mankind” is never called “the children of Seth,” though it may be called “the children of Adam or the children of Noe.” Again, the king foretold will not destroy mankind, but save it; or if the other explanation of ruling be preferred, it must be kept in mind that the verb does not bear the sense “to rule.” The passage in Jer 48:45 too demands another explanation, since that prophet evidently borrows from the present passage. b. Seth is the proper name of a Moabite prince (Winzer). This explanation is more satisfactory, but is based on a mere conjecture, c. Seth is connected with the Hebrew word ” shaon ” used in Jer 48:45, so that the children of “Seth” signifies “the children of noise,” or “tumultuous ones” (Uesen., Keil, Fiirst, Maurer, Reinke, etc.). The term “tumultuous ones” is rightly considered to designate the Moabites (cf. Ex 15:15; Is a 15:4; 16:6). 3. The word Seth is connected with the Hebrew ” shathah,” so that the children of Seth are the children of the drunkard (Hiller, Hofmann, Kurtz). The drunkard to whom allusion is made is by these authors identified with Lot (Gen 19:32), the progenitor of the Moabites. 4, The word Seth is connected with the Hebrew ” sheeth,” elevation, pride, so that we must translate “the children of boasting” (Zunz). The reference of Jeremias 48:45 to this passage seems to render the second opinion most probable, though Zunz too identifies the Moabites with the “sons of boasting.” Another explanation will be mentioned later on.

Num 24:18  And he shall possess Idumea: the inheritance of Seir shall come to their enemies, but Israel shall do manfully.

Idumea. Idumea is the country of Edom, or Esau; the Edomites had refused free passage through their territory to the Israelites when the latter asked them for it through messengers sent from Cades. It is therefore just that Edom and Moab should incur the same punishment, as they had contracted the same guilt. Seir was the older name of the mountain land south of Moab’and east of the Arabah, which the Edomites inhabited (Gen 36:8; Deut 2:1, etc.).

Num 24:19  Out of Jacob shall he come that shall rule, and shall destroy the remains of the city.

He that shall rule. This is the parallel term to the “sceptre” and the ” star ” which are foretold to spring forth from Jacob. By destroying the remains of the city, or him that remaineth of the city, the conqueror is described as hunting out the fugitives till he has cut off all of every place, after defeating his enemies in battle.

Remains of the city. Prof. A. H. Sayce (Hebraica, Oct., 1887, pp. 3 fT.) is of opinion that the passage from ” 1 shall see him” to “shall do manfully,” etc., is an old Ammorrhite song of triumph adapted by Balaam to the successes of Israel. According to this theory, the same poem occurs at least four times in Scripture in slightly varied form. Its oldest form is preserved in Num 21:28, while Jer 48:45, 46 and Am 2:2 follow Balaam’s adaptation more closely. For the right understanding of the latter, a comparison with the oldest form is of the greatest importance. It reads: “A lire is gone out of Hesebon, a flame from the city of Sehon, and hath consumed Ar of the Moabites, and the inhabitants of the high places of the Arnon.” From this we see that Balaam has substituted Jacob and Israel for Hesebon and the city of Sehon; star and sceptre for lire and flame. The verb which Balaam uses after these lines, “strike,” fits in with the sceptre only, not with the star, if it be taken literally. Hence we must interpret the star symbolically, as king or prince. The Hebrew word rendered ” chiefs” is translated “temples” by Ewald and Sayce. The latter scholar suggests the reading qadqad instead of qarqar, so that we must translate ” it has shattered the temples of Moab.”

This emendation suggests then another meaning for “the children of Seth;” for this expression is now parallel to “the temples of Moab,” as it replaces the original “inhabitants of the high places of the Arnon.” Now the latter are the Moabites who worship in the high places of the Arnon; the children of Seth must then be the same Moabite worshippers. From the analogy of Ben-Ammi or Ammonite in Gen 19:38 we infer then that Seth was a god as Arnion was, and this inference is verified by archaeological evidence, a. At the foot of the south-eastern angle of the Harem at Jerusalem, Sir C. Warren found, among other fragments of early pottery, two handles ornamented with a representation of the winged solar disk and inscriptions in Phoenician letters of the pre-exilic period. One of these reads: “belonging to Melech-Tsiph,” the other, “belonging to Melech-Sheth.” The latter name means “Moloch is Sheth” according to the analogy of Malchiel, Malchiyah, Melchizedek. Hence Seth was not only a deity, but his worshippers have left their remains in the valley of the sons of Hinnom. b. Dr. Neubauer has pointed out that this well agrees with the fact that the antediluvian patriarch Seth was the father of Enosh, or man, as well as with the proper names Mephi-bosheth and lsh-bosheth (2 Sam 2:8; I Chron 8:33), in which Bosheth is a contraction for Ben-Sheth, as Bedad has been formed out of Bendad. c. The same inference is confirmed by the meaning of Bosheth, “shame;” from II Sam 10:4 and Isa 20:4 it would seem that “Sheth” means “the phallus,” a meaning confirmed by the Assyrian sinatu, ” urine.” The phallus-worship among the ancients is too well known to need further description. As to the Moabites in particular, their Beelphegor-worship is told in Num 25:1-3. d. Sayce finds another confirmation for his rendering of the passage in Gen 4:7: ” If thou doest well, it is Sheth; but if ill, Chatath lieth at the door.” The latter he identifies with the Assyrian plague-god Nerra, of whom the inscriptions say: “Nerra lieth at the gate.” Sheth, therefore, must mean the god of generation, so that the passage means: “If thou do well, thy offspring will be abundant; but if ill, the angel of pestilence will afflict thee.” It should, however, be kept in mind that this interpretation as well as that given of Num 24:17-19 is new and is not found in Christian tradition. For though we do not deny that new light may be thrown on Scripture by new investigations, these results must be well weighed before they can be accepted.


We may point out the following Messianic notes and characteristics contained in Balaam’s prophecy: a. The predicted ruler will belong to the family of Jacob. b. He will be powerful enough to destroy all Israel’s enemies, present and future, c. As the protevangelium describes a conqueror of the serpent, who himself will have to suffer in the struggle, as the second prediction given to Sem points out that man’s salvation will be brought about by God’s mysterious dwelling in the tents of Sem, and as, finally, the series of the patriarchal blessings implies the priestly office of the future Saviour of mankind, so does the present prophecy show forth the Redeemer’s regal and princely character, d. It is also worthy of note that Balaam is the first prophet who touches the time of the future Redeemer. Its indication, however, is couched in the negative terms, “not now,” “not near.”

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Sunday, December 15-Sunday, December 22~Commentaries and Posts for the 3rd Week of Advent, Year A

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 14, 2013



Extraordinary Form Resources.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 25.

Father Berry’s Introduction and Notes on Psalm 25.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 25.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 25.

Lectio Divina Notes on Psalm 25.

My Notes on Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 21:23-27.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 21:23-27.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 21:23-27.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Genesis 49:2, 8-10. On 8-12.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 72.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 72.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 72.

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 1:1-17.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 1:1-17.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 1:1-17.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Jeremiah 23:5-8. On 23:1-8, and 33:14-26.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 72.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 72.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 72.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25.

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 1:18-25.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Pending (maybe): My Notes on Judges 13:2-7, 24-25.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 71.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 71.

My Notes on Psalm 71. Just on today’s verses.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:5-25.

Pending: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 1:5-25.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Isaiah 7:10-14.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 24.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 24:1-6. Covers today’s verses.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 24.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 24.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 1:26-38.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:26-38.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Luke 1:26-38.


Today’s Mass Readings. Note: an alternate 1st reading is allowed.

Today’s Divine Office.

Pending (maybe): St Bernard on Song of Songs 2:8-14.

Alternate First Reading: My Notes on Zephaniah 3:14-18.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 33.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 33.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 33.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 33.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 1:39-45.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 1:39-45.

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 1:39-45.



Extraordinary Form Commentaries and Posts for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Next Week’s Posts. Complete through Christmas.

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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 21:23-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 14, 2013

Mat 21:23  And when he was come into the temple, there came to him, as he was teaching, the chief priests and ancients of the people, saying: By what authority dost thou these things? And who hath given thee this authority?
Mat 21:24  Jesus answering, said to them: I also will ask you one word, which if you shall tell me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.

Our Redeemer employed the day-time in instructing the people, and at night He retired to Mount Olivet; “and all the people came early in the morning … to hear Him” (Luke 21:37, 38). “It came to pass on one of these days.” On the third day after His triumphal entry, viz., Tuesday, after Palm Sunday, “as He was teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the Gospel (Luke 20:1), the Chief Priests (St. Luke adds, ‘and Scribes’) and ancients of the people came to Him,” &c. “By what authority” (εξουσια), whether of yourself, or derived from others, “dost Thou these things?” viz., preaching to the people; receiving the honour due to the Messiah alone; making a triumphal entry into the temple; casting out the victims destined for the altar, &c. SS. Mark and Luke repeat the question, “Who hath given Thee this authority to do these things?” The question was grounded on the justly-received principle, that no one can assume to himself the ministry of religious teaching, unless he received authority to do so from God directly, or, through the hands of those commissioned by Him, “nec quisquam sibi assumat honorem sed qui vocatur a Deo tanquam Aaron” (Heb. 5:4). The question was meant captiously, in the present instance. For, although the Priests, &c., had a right to ask the question, because the ordinary permission to teach in the temple was derived from them, and they had the power of inquiring into the pretensions of a Prophet; still, in this instance, our Redeemer had already proved His mission by the incontestable miracles He wrought, and from the prophecies of SS. Scripture, verified in His regard. His enemies hoped to involve Him in a difficulty, by the answer they expected. They wished to involve Him in the guilt of schism and sedition, by intruding Himself, unsent, into a ministry, to which the Messiah alone could have pretensions; and, if He said He was the Messiah, they would have, probably, charged Him with blasphemy. Our Redeemer had already sufficiently replied to this question, by acts. The miracles He alone performed, left them no excuse, and had already proved Him to be the Messiah, and showed the authority, in virtue of which He acted. He declines answering them directly, on this occasion, not from fear (as the parables He subjoins clearly demonstrate), but from the deliberate design of confounding them, by proposing a question calculated to baffle them. With consummate wisdom, He destroys their cunning, by having recourse to a method familiar to both Jews and Greeks, of answering by interrogation, and solving one question by proposing another, which, if candidly answered, would solve the former one, and serve to condemn themselves; if the question were evasively answered, it would prove them to be unworthy of receiving a reply from Him. It was a perfectly fair course to ask a question, the answer to which would solve the question proposed by them.

Mat 21:25  The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men? But they thought within themselves, saying:

“The baptism of John,” including his doctrine and preaching; was it “from Heaven or from men?” Did John act in virtue of a Divine commission, or only from human authority?

“They thought within themselves, saying.” They discussed the question apart among themselves, probably out of the hearing of our Redeemer. The Greek word, διαλογιζοντο, means, they reasoned, among themselves.

Mat 21:26  If we shall say, from heaven, he will say to us: Why then did you not believe him? But if we shall say, from men, we are afraid of the multitude: for all held John as a prophet.

“Why, then, did you not believe him?” by receiving the baptism of penance, at his preaching, or, rather, by believing his testimony, in regard to Me, whom he proclaims to be the promised Messiah, “the Lamb of God,” &c. “We are afraid of the multitude (‘lest they stone us,’ Luke 20:6), for all held John as a prophet,” or one Divinely commissioned to preach and baptize.

Mat 21:27  And answering Jesus, they said: We know not. He also said to them: Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

To avoid the consequences of a direct answer, they have recourse to a lie, by which they condemned themselves; for, they, the teachers of others, should not be ignorant of what the whole people were convinced of, and which they should know, in virtue of their office, which warranted them in thus questioning our Redeemer’s authority.

“We know not.” Our Redeemer does not imitate their example, by uttering a falsehood, and saying, I know not by what authority I do these things; but, as they were unworthy of an answer, He tells them He will not declare by what authority He acted. He will not answer their question, as they were unwilling to answer His, which, if answered by them, would convey a reply to their own. For, if they acknowledged John’s preaching to be from God, then they could not doubt that our Redeemer was the Messiah, and thus, His Divine authority was at once declared.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, Devotional Resources, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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