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

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 14:19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 2, 2015

Acts 14:20. “Disciples.” His late converts, fancying him dead, and preparing to perform the rites of sepulture.

“He rose up.” Which was regarded by many as miraculous, as happened St. Sebastian under Diocletian. Some conjecture that his rapture into Paradise may have occurred then (2 Cor. 12:2, &c.).

Acts 14:21-22. “Returned again” courageously to the scene of their former persecution to exhort their converts not to deflect from the right path on account of sufferings, since, “through many tribulations,” &c. It is a fixed law of God’s adorable providence that the road to Heaven is the royal highway of the Cross, the only gate for entering it, the narrow gate of tribulations, which are “many.” It was in this way the Head entered; so must also the members. “All who wish to live piously in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). This life is a time for suffering here; the next, for enjoying the reward of suffering.

Acts 14:23. “Ordained to them Priests.” The Greek word for “ordained” literally means, in classic authors, to choose or elect, by holding out the hands (χειροτονησατες). It was originally applied to the voting of the people in public assemblies in favour of candidates for office. It is clear that here the election, appointment, or ordination, strictly speaking, took place irrespective of any voting on the part of the people. The whole operation, as the context shows, was performed solely by Paul and Barnabas. The threefold action was performed by the same persons, viz., ordaining, praying, with fasting, commending to the Lord.

Who else but Paul and Barnabas “commended their converts to the Lord”? Considering all the actions and circumstances, viz., praying with fasting, which accompanied this “ordaining,” it clearly can refer to nothing else save the conferring of the Sacrament of Holy Orders which was given by the imposition of the hands of Paul and Barnabas.
The word, χειροτονια, is well known to have been employed by the Greek Fathers to designate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, of which it became with them the official designation, probably grounded on this passage. While χειροθεσια, imposition of hands, is the term they used for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
It is also deserving of remark that the conjunction “and” is omitted in Greek before “had prayed.” The passage would then read thus: “And when they ordained to them Priests, praying with fasting,” &c. From this it is clear that all the operations performed together, viz., praying, fasting, imposing hands, manifestly refer to the same sacred rite, whereby the members of the Church were consecrated Priests.”
The word, “Priest,” comprises the clergy as well of the first as of the second order. The term, “Bishop,” by ecclesiastical and Apostolic usage, is applied only to the clergy of the first order, whom we know, as a defined point of faith, to be superior to the Priests in order and jurisdiction (Council of Trent, SS. xxiii. c. 4 canon 7).
“Commended to the Lord.” This was their valedictory farewell on leaving them.
Acts 14:24. “Pisidia” (Acts 13:14). This would be Pisidian Antioch in the lakes region of the province of Antalya inmodern day Turkey.
Acts 14:25. “Attalia,” in Pamphylia, on the sea coast. Also in Turkey.
Acts 14:26. “Antioch” of Syria (Acts 11:19; Acts 13:1). “Delivered to the grace of God.” Commended to the Divine protection on entering on the great missionary work, which they brought to a successful conclusion.
Acts 14:27. “Opened the door of faith,” &c. Supplied the means and opportunity of preaching the faith to the Gentiles, which, by God’s grace, they embraced.
Acts 14:28. How long cannot be exactly determined. The next we hear of them is at the Council of Jerusalem (c. 15).
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