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 March, 2016

Commentaries for Divine Mercy Sunday, Year C

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2016


Readings from the NABRE. Used in the USA.

Mass Readings in the NJB Translation. Scroll down. Used in most English speaking countries. For some reason the site has the Gospel reading before the second reading.

Divine Office.

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


Father MacEvily’s Commentary On Acts 5:12-16.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Acts 5:12-16.

My Notes On Acts 5:12-16.

Word Sunday on Acts 5:12-16.

Homilist’s Catechism on Acts 5:12-16.


Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 118.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 118.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 118.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 118.

Word Sunday on Psalm 118.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19.

Father Elwood Berry’s Commentary on Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19. On 11-13, 17-19.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19.

Word Sunday on Rev1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19.

Homilist’s Catechism on Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19.

Dr. Peter Williamson’s Reflections on the Second Reading. A brief excerpt from his  Book on Revelation, part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series.


St Cyril Of Alexandria’s Commentary On John 20:19-31 in Two Parts:

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 20:19-31.

Father John MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 20:19-31.

Navarre Bible Commentary on John 20:19-31.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on John 20:19-31. Read Lectures 4, 5 & 6.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 20:19-31. Commentary compiled from the Fathers of the Church.

St Augustine’s Tractate 121 on the Gospel of John. Rather brief.

Haydock Commentary on John 20:19-31. Notes on whole chapter.

Word Sunday on John 20:19-31.

Homilists Catechism on John 20:19-31.


Homily On The Gospel By Pope St Gregory. Prefaced by Gospel Reading.

Homiletic Sketch On The Two Apparitions Of The Lord. Prefaced by Gospel.

Dogmatical Sketch On Faith. Based on Gospel. May have to scroll down slightly.

Symbolical Sketch On The Wounds Of Christ As Mementos Of Our Peace. Based on the Gospel.

Moral Sketch On Peace. Based on the Gospel.

GENERAL RESOURCES: sites that usually deal with the readings as a whole (with some occasional specialty studies).

Doctrinal Homily Outline.  Gives the theme of the readings, the doctrinal message, and pastoral application.

Lector Notes. Brief historical and theological background on the readings. Can be printed out, copied, and used as bulletin insert.

The Wednesday Word.  It’s about the Sunday readings, but the document is posted on Wednesday, hence the name. Designed for prayer and reflection, the pdf document ends with Father Dom Henry Wansbrough’s reflections on the first and second readings. Fr. Wansbrough is General Editor of the New Jerusalem Bible and contributed commentaries on Matt, Mark, and the Pastorals in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture.

St Charles Borromeo Parish’s Bible Study Notes. Notes on all the readings, usually with some background info as well.

Sacred Page Blog:Divine Mercy Sunday. Reflection on the readings by Catholic biblical scholar Dr. John Bergsma.

Glancing Thoughts. Brief reflections from philosopher Eleanore Stump.

Thoughts From The Early Church. Excerpt on the Gospel from St Augustine.

Scripture In Depth. Succinct summary of the readings and their relation to one another.


Catholic Mom.  Scroll down to this Sunday. Resources appear oriented towards 7-14 years of age.

Word Sunday’s Children’s Reading. Please note only the gospel reading is applicable this year. Usually has two very short stories seeking to draw a lesson from the first and Gospel readings.

We Believe. Activities geared towards Kindergarten through 8th grade. Also has resources for catechists, clergy, etc.

Domestic Church. Lent and Easter activities arranged for families, younger children, older children.

Sunday Connection. Resources for different grade levels, and family activities.


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

Father Robert Barron’s Podcast Homily. I’ve linked to the archive page, homily not yet available.

St Martha’s Sunday Bible Study. Looks at all of the readings in some detail. From St Martha’s Church, Texas.

Franciscan Bible Study Podcast. Looks at all of the readings.

Father Francis Martin’s Reflections. In four 15 minute parts. The first is introductory, the remaining 3 on the readings.

Institute of Catholic Culture’s Podcast Study Acts of Apostles. Listen to part 4 which looks at chapters 3-5.

EWTN’s Gospel of the Holy Spirit (on Acts of Apostles). Listen to episode 4.

Institute of Catholic Culture’s Podcast Study of Revelation. Three part study provides background and overview to the book.

Podcast Study of Revelation, chapter 1. From St Martha’s Church, Texas.

St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study of John in Two Parts:

EWTN’s Gospel of John. Listen to episode 13.

Discerning Hearts Radio/Seeking Truth Bible Study on John 20.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Catholic Sunday Lectionary, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 4:1-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

ACTS IV. 1.-“And as they spake unto the people, there came unto them the priests, and the captain of the temple.”

Ere yet their had time to take breath after their first trials, straightway they enter into others. And observe how the events are disposed. First, they were all mocked together; this was no small trial: secondly, they enter into dangers. And these two things do not take place in immediate succession; but when first the Apostles have won admiration by their two discourses, and after that have performed a notable miracle, thereupon it is that, after they are waxen bold, through God’s disposal, they enter the lists. But I wish you to consider, how those same persons, who in the case of Christ must need look out for one to deliver Him up to them, now with their own hands arrest the Apostles, having become more audacious and more impudent since the Crucifixion. In truth, sin, while it is yet struggling to the birth, is attended with some sense of shame; but when once fully born, it makes those more shameless who practise it. “And the captain of the temple,” it is said. The object again was to attach a public criminality to what was doing, and not to prosecute it as the act of private individuals: such in fact was constantly their plan of proceeding.

“Being grieved that they taught the people.” (v. 2.) Not merely because they taught, but because they declared, not alone that Christ Himself was risen from the dead, but moreover, that we through Him do rise again. “Because they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” So mighty was His Resurrection, that to others also He is the cause of a resurrection.1 “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day; for it was now eventide. (v. 3.) What impudence! They2 feared not the multitude; for this also the captain of the temple was with them: they had their hands still reeking with the blood of the former victim. “For it was now eventide,” it is said. It was with the wish to abate their spirit that those men did this, and guarded them; but the delay only served to make the Apostles more intrepid. And consider who these are who are arrested. They are the chiefs of the Apostles, who are now become a pattern to the rest, that they should no longer crave each other’s support, nor want to be together. “Howbeit, many having heard the word, believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” (v. 4.) How was this? Did they see them in honor? Did they not behold them put in bonds? How then did they, believe? Do you see the evident efficacy? And yet even those that believed already might well have become weaker. But no, it is no longer so: for Peter’s sermon had laid the seed deep into them, and had taken a hold upon their understandings. Therefore were [their enemies] incensed, that they did not fear them, that they made no account of their present troubles. For, say they, if He that was crucified effects such great things, and makes the lame to walk, we fear not these men either.3 This again is of God’s ordering. For those who now believe were more numerous than the former. Therefore it was that in their presence they bound the Apostles, to make them also more fearful. But the reverse took place. And they examine them not before the people, but privately, that the hearers may not profit by their boldness.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the High Priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the High Priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.” (v. 5, 6.) For now along with the other evils (of the times4 ), the Law was no longer observed. And again they set off the business with the form of a tribunal, to constitute them guilty by their iniquitous sentence. “And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (v. 7.) And yet they knew it well; for it was because they were “grieved that they preached through Jesus the resurrection” that they arrested them. Then for what purpose do they question them? They expected the numbers present would make them recant, and thought by this means to have put all right again. Observe then what they say: “And by what name have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them.” (v. 8.) And now, I pray you, call to mind Christ’s saying; “When they deliver you up unto the synagogues, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall speak; for it is the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Luke xii. 11, 14.) So that it was a mighty Power they enjoyed. What then says Peter? “Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel.” Mark the Christian wisdom of the man; how full of confidence it is: he utters not a word of insult, but says with respect, “Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we be this day called to account of the good deed done to the impotent man.” He takes them in hand right valiantly; by the opening of his speech he exposes5 them, and reminds them of the former things: that it is for a work of beneficence they are calling them to account. As if he had said, “In all fairness we ought to have been crowned for this deed, and proclaimed benefactors; but since “we are even put upon our trial for a good deed done to an impotent man,” not a rich man, not powerful, not noble-and yet who would feel envy in a case like this?” It is a most forcible (apaggelia, al. epaggelia) way of putting the case; and he shows that they are piercing their own selves:-” By what means this man is made whole: be it known unto you all, and to all the people Israel; that by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth: “-this is what would vex them most. For this was that which Christ had told the disciples, “What ye hear in the ear that preach ye upon the housetops.-That in the name of Jesus Christ,” he says, “of Nazareth, Whom ye crucified, WhOm God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.” (v. 10). (Matt. x. 27.) Think not, he says that we conceal the country, or the nature of the death. “Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole.” Again the death, again the resurrection. “This is the stone,” he says, “which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (v. 11.) He reminds them also of a saying which was enough to frighten them. For it had been said, “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Matt. xxi. 44.)-Neither is there salvation in any other, (v. 12.) Peter says. What wounds, think you, must these words inflict on them! “For there is none other name,” he continues, “under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Here he utters also lofty words. For when6 the object is, not to carry some point successfully, but only to show boldness he does not spare; for he was not afraid of striking too deep. Nor does be say simply, “By another;” but, “Neither is there salvation in any other: that is, He is able to save us. In this way he subdued their threatening.

“Now when they saw the, boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (v. 13.) The two unlearned men beat down with their rhetoric them and the chief priests. For it was not they that spake, but the grace of the Spirit. “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” (v. 14.) Great was the boldness of the man; that even in the judgment-hall he has not left them. For had they said that the fact was not so, there was he to refute them. “But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What are we to do to these men?” (v. 15.) See the difficulty they are in, and how the fear of men again does everything. As in the case of Christ, they were not able (as the saying is) to undo what is done,7 nor to cast it into the shade, but for all their hindering, the Faith did but gain ground the more; so was it now. “What shall we do?” O the folly! to suppose that those who had tasted of the conflict, would now take fright at it: to expect, impotent as their efforts had proved in the beginning, to effect something new, after such a specimen of oratory as had been exhibited! The more they wished to hinder, the more the business grew upon their hands. But what say they? “For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach, in the name of Jesus.” (v. 16-18.) See what effrontery is shown by these, and what greatness of mind by the Apostles. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people.” (v. 19-21.) The miracles shut their mouths: they would not so much as let them finish their speech, but cut them short in the middle, most insolently. “For all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was showed.” (v. 22.) But let us look over what has been said from the beginning.

“And as they spake unto the people, etc. Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” (Recapitulation, v. 1, 2.) So8 then at first they did all for the sake of man’s opinion (or glory): but now another motive was added: that they should not be thought guilty of murder, as they said subsequently, “Do ye wish to bring this man’s blood on us?” (ch. v. 28.) O the folly! Persuaded that He was risen, and having received this proof of it,9 they expected that He Whom death could not hold, could be cast into the shade by their machinations! What can match the folly of this!10 Such is the nature of wickedness: it has no eyes for anything, but on all occasions it is thrown into perturbation. Finding themselves overborne, they felt like persons who have been outwitted: as is the case with people who have been forestalled and made a sport of in some matter. And yet11 they everywhere affirmed that it was God that raised Him: but12 it was “in the Name of Jesus” that they spake showing that Jesus was risen. “Through Jesus, the resurrection of the dead”: for they themselves also held a resurrection: a cold and puerile doctrine, indeed, but still they held it. Why this alone, was it not sufficient to induce them to do nothing to them-I mean, that the disciples with such boldness bore themselves in the way they did? Say, wherefore, O Jew, dost thou disbelieve? Thou oughtest to have attended to the sign done, and to the words, not to the evil disposition of the many. “By their teaching the people.”13 For already they were in ill repute with them by reason of what they had done to Christ; so that they were rather increasing their own obloquy. “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold until the morrow; for it was now eventide.” (v. 3.) In the case of Christ, however, they did not so; but having taken Him at midnight, they immediately led him away, and made no delay, being exceedingly in fear of the multitude: whereas in the case of the Apostles here, they were bold. And they no more take them to Pilate, being ashamed and blushing at the thought of the former affair, lest they should also be taken to task for that.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes. were gathered together at Jerusalem.” (v. 5.) Again in Jerusalem: and there it is that men’s blood is poured out; no reverence for their city either; “And Annas, and Caiaphas,” etc. (v. 6.) “And Annas,” it says, “and Caiaphas.” His maid-servant it was that questioned Peter, and he could not bear it: in his house it was that Peter denied, when Another was in bonds there: but now, when he has come into the midst of them all, see how he speaks! “By what name have ye done this?” Why dost thou not speak it, what it is, but keepest that out of sight? “By what name have ye done this?” (v. 7.) And yet he affirmed, It was not we that did it. “Ye rulers of the people,” etc. (v. 8.) Observe his wisdom: he does not say outright, “In the Name of Jesus we did it,” but how? “In His Name this man “-He does not say, “was made whole by us;” but-” doth stand here before you whole.” And again, “If we be examined concerning the good deed done to the impotent man.” (v. 9.) He hits them hard, that they are always making a crime of such acts, finding fault with works of beneficence done to men: and he reminds them of their former doings, that they run to do murder, and not only so, but make a crime of doing good deeds. Do you observe too (in point of rhetoric) with what dignity they express themselves?14 Even in the use of words they were becoming expert by practice, and henceforth they were not to be beaten down.15 “Be it known unto you all,” etc. (v. 10.) Whereby he shows them that they rather do, in spite of themselves, preach Christ; themselves extol the doctrine, by their examining and questioning. O exceeding boldness-” Whom ye crucified! Whom God raised up”-this is bolder still! Think not that we hide what there is to be ashamed of. He says this all but tauntingly: and not merely says it, but dwells upon the matter. “This,” says he, “is the Stone which was set at naught by you builders; “and then he goes on to teach them, saying in addition, “Which is made the head of the corner” (v. 11.); that is to say, that the Stone is indeed approved! Great was the boldness they now had, in consequence of the miracle. And when there was need to teach, observe how they speak and allege many prophecies; but when the point was to use boldness of speech, then they only speak peremptorily. Thus “Neither,” says he, “is there any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (v. 12.) It is manifest to all, he says, because not to us alone was that Name given; he cites even themselves as witnesses. For, since they asked, “In what name did ye it?” “In Christ’s,” says he: “there is none other name. How is it that ye ask? On all hands this is palpable. “For there exists not another name under heaven, whereby we must be saved.” This is the language of a soul which has renounced (kategnwkuiaj) this present life. His exceeding out-spokenness proves here, that when he speaks in lowly terms of Christ, he does it not of fear, but of wise forbearance (sugkatabainwn): but now that it was the fitting time, he speaks not in lowly terms: by this very thing intending to strike dismay into them. Behold another miracle not less than the former. “And beholding the boldness of Peter and John,” etc. “And they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” (v. 13.) Not without a meaning has the Evangelist set down this passage; but in saying, “they recognized them that they had been with Jesus,” he means, in His Passion: for only these were [with Him] at that time, and then indeed they had seen them humble, dejected: and this it was that most surprised them: the greatness of the change. For in fact Annas and Caiaphas with their company were there, and these then also had stood by Him, and their boldness now amazed them. “And beholding the boldness.” For16 not only their words; their very bearing showed it; that they should stand there so intrepidly to be tried in a cause like this, and with uttermost peril impending over them! Not only by their words, but by their t gesture also, and their look and voice, and, in short, by everything about them, they manifested the boldness with which they confronted the people. From the things they uttered, they marvelled, perhaps: “that they were unlearned and common men:” for one may be unlearned, yet not a common or private man, and a common man, yet not unlearned. “Having perceived,” it says. Whence? From17 what they said? Peter does not draw out long speeches, but then by his very manner and method (thj apaggeliaj kai thj sunqhkhj) he declares his confidence. “And they recognized them that they had been with Jesus.” Which circumstance made them believe that it was from Him they had learned these things, and that they did all in the character of His disciples.18 But not less than the voice of these, the miracle uttered a voice of its own: and that sign itself stopped their mouths. “And beholding the man,” etc.] So that they would have been peremptory (epeskhyan) with them, if the man had not been with them. “We cannot deny it.” So that they would have denied it, if the thing had not been so: if the testimony had not been that of the people in general. “But that it spread no further among the people.” (v. 17.) And yet it was palpable to all men! But such is the nature of wickedness: everywhere it is shamed. “Let us straitly threaten them.” What sayest thou? Threaten? And expect ye to stop the preaching? And19 yet all beginnings are hard and trying. Ye slew the Master, and did not stop it: and now, if ye threaten, do ye expect to turn us back? The imprisonment did not prevail with us to speak submissively, and shall ye prevail? “And they called them, and commanded them,” etc. (v. 18, 19.) It20 had been much better for them to let them go. “And Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” When the terror was abated (for that command was tantamount to their being dismissed), then also the Apostles speak more mildly: so far were they from mere bravery: “Whether21 it be right,” says he: and “We cannot [but speak]. Whether it be right in the sight of God to obey you rather than God.” (v. 20.) Here [by “God”] they mean Christ, for he it was that commanded them. And once more they confirm the fact of His Resurrection. “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard:” so that we are witnesses who have a right to be believed. “So when they had further threatened them.” (v. 21.) Again they threatened in vain. “They let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.” So then the people glorified God, but these endeavored to destroy them: such fighters against God were they! Whereby they made them more conspicuous and illustrious. “For My strength,” it is said, “is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. xii. 9.)

Already these as martyrs have borne testimony: set in the battle against all, they said, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” If the things we speak be false, reprehend them; if true, why hinderest thou? Such is philosophy! Those, in perplexity, these in gladness: those covered with exceeding shame, these doing all with boldness: those in fear, these in confidence. For who, I would ask, were the frightened? those who said, “That it spread no further among people,” or these who said, “we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard?” And these had a delight, a freedom of speech, a joy surpassing all; those a despondency, a shame, a fear; for they feared the people. But these were not afraid of those; on the contrary, while these spake what they would, those did not what they would. Which were in chains and dangers? was it not these last?

Let us then hold fast to virtue; let not these words end only in delight, and in a certain elevation of the spirits. This is not the theatre, for singers (kiqarwdwn), and tragedians, and musicians (kiqaristwn), where the fruit consists only in the enjoyment and where the enjoyment itself passes with the passing day. Nay, would that it were enjoyment alone, and not mischief also with the enjoyment! But so it is: each man carries home with him much of what he has witnessed there, sticking to him like the infection of a plague: and one indeed, of the younger sort, having culled such snatches of song here and there of those satanic plays,22 as he could fix in his memory, goes singing them about the house: while another, a senior, and forsooth too staid for such levity, does not this indeed, but what is there spoken, both the preachments and the very words, he remembers it all; and another again, some filthy and absurd ditty. From this place you depart, taking nothing with you.-We have laid down a law-nay, not we: God forbid! for it is said, “Call no man your master upon the earth” (Matt. xxiii. 8); Christ has laid down a law that none should swear. Now, say, what has been done with regard to this law? For I will not cease speaking of it; “lest,” as the Apostle saith, “if I come again, I must not spare.” (2 Cor. xiii. 2.) I ask then, have you laid the matter to heart? have you thought of it seriously? have you been in earnest about it, or must we again take up the same subject? Nay, rather, whether you have or not, we will resume it, that you may think seriously about it, or, if you have laid it to heart, may again do this the more surely, and exhort others also. With what then, I pray you, with what shall we begin? Shall it be with the Old Testament? For indeed this also is to our shame, that the precepts of the Law, which we ought to surpass, we do not even thus observe! For we ought not to be hearing such matters as these: these are precepts adapted to the poor Jewish level (thj ‘Ioudaikhj euteleiaj): we ought to be hearing those counsels of perfection; “Cast away thy property, stand courageously, and give up thy life in behalf of the Gospel, scorn all the goods of earth, have nothing in common with this present life; if any wrong thee, do him good; if any defraud thee, bless him; if any revile thee, show him honor; be above everything.” (S. Ambros. de Off. i. 2.) These and such as these are what we ought to be hearing. But here are we discoursing about swearing; and our case is just the same as if, when a person ought to be a philosopher, one should take him away from the great masters, and set him to spell syllables letter by letter! Just think now what a disgrace it would be for a man having a flowing beard, and with staff in hand, and cope on shoulders,23 to go to school with children, and be set the same tasks with them would it not be above measure ridiculous? And yet the ridicule which belongs to us is even greater. For not as the difference between philosophy and the spelling-lesson, so is that between the Jewish polity and ours: no indeed, but as the difference between angels and men. Say now, if one could fetch down an angel from heaven, and should bid him stand here and listen to our preaching, as one whose duty it is to conform himself thereto, would it not be shameful and preposterous? But if to be yet, like children, under teaching about these things be ridiculous; what must it be, not even to attend to these things: how great the condemnation, how great the shame To be Christians still, and to have to learn that it is not right to swear! However, let us put up with that, lest we incur even worse ridicule.

Well, then, let us speak to you to-day from the Old Testament. What does it tell us? “Accustom not thy mouth to swearing; neither use thyself to the naming of the Holy One.” And why? “For as a servant that is continually beaten shall not be without a blue mark, so he that sweareth.” (Ecclus. xxiii. 10.) See the discernment of this wise man. He did not say, “Accustom not to swearing” thy mind, but “thy mouth”; because being altogether an affair of the mouth, thus it is easily remedied. For at last it becomes a habit without intention; as for instance, there are many who entering the public baths, as soon as they have passed the threshold, cross (Hom. in 1 Cor. xi. 7) themselves (sfragizontai).24 This the hand has got to do, without any one’s bidding, by force of habit. Again, at the lighting of a candle, often when the mind is intent on something else, the hand makes the sign. In the same way also the mouth, without concurrence of the mind, articulates the word, from mere habit, and the whole affair is in the tongue. “Neither use thyself,” he says, “to the naming of the Holy One. For as a servant that is continually beaten shall not be without a blue mark, so he that sweareth.” He speaks not here of false oaths, but he cuts down all oaths, and to them also assigns their punishment. Why then, swearing is a sin. For such in truth is the soul; full of all these ulcers, all these scars. But you do not see them? Yes, this is the mischief of it; and yet you might see if you wished; for God has given you eyes. With eyes of this kind did the Prophet see, when he said, “My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness.” (Ps. xxxviii. 5.) We have despised God, we have hated that good Name, we have trodden Christ under foot, we have lost all reverence, none names the Name of God with honor. Yet if you love any one, even at his name you start to your feet; but God you thus continually invoke, and make nothing of it. Call upon Him for the benefit of your enemy; call upon Him for the salvation of your own soul; then he will be present, then you will delight Him; whereas now you provoke Him to anger. Call upon Him as Stephen did; “Lord,” he said, “lay not this sin to their charge.” (ch. vii. 59.) Call upon Him as did the wife of Elkanah, with tears and sobs, and prayers. (1 Sam. i. 10.) I prevent you not, rather I earnestly exhort you to it. Call upon him as Moses called upon Him, yea, cried, interceding for those25 who had driven him into banishment. For you to make mention at random of any person of consideration, is taken as an insult: and do you bandy God about in your talk, in season, out of season? I do not want to hinder you from keeping God always in your mind: nay, this I even desire and pray for, only that you should do this, so as to honor Him. Great good would this have done us, if we had called upon God only when we ought, and for what we ought. And why, I would ask, were such miracles wrought in the Apostles’ times, and not in ours? And yet it is the same God, the same Name. But no, the case is not the same. For then they called upon Him only for those objects which I have mentioned; whereas we call upon Him not for these, but quite other purposes.-If a man refuse to believe you, and that is why you swear, say to him, “Believe me:” however, if you will needs make oath, swear by yourself. I say this, not to set up a law against Christ’s law; God forbid; for it is said. “Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay (Matt. v. 37): but by way of coming down to your present level, that I may more easily lead you to the practice of this commandment, and divert you from this tyrannical habit. How many who have done well in other respects, have been undone by these practices! Shall I tell you why it was permitted the ancients to take oaths? (for to take false oaths, was not permitted to them either.) Because they swore by idols. But are you not ashamed to rest in laws, by which they in their infirmity were led on to something better? It is true, when I take a Gentile in hand, I do not immediately lay this injunction upon him, but in the first place I exhort him to know Christ; but if the believer, who has both learnt Him and heard Him, must needs crave the same forbearance with the Gentile, what is the use, what the gain (of his Christianity?)-But the habit is strong, and you cannot detach yourself from it? Well then, since the tyranny of habit is so great, transfer it into another channel. And how is this to be done? you will ask. What I have said often, I say also now; let there be many monitors (logistai), let there be many examiners and censors (ecetasrai, dokimastai). Say, if you chance to put on your26 mantle inside out, you allow your servant to correct your mistake, and are ashamed to learn of him, although there is much to be ashamed of in this; and here when you are getting hurt to your soul, are you ashamed to be taught better by another? You suffer your menial to put your dress in order, and to fasten your shoes, and will you not endure him that would put your soul in order? Let even your menial, your child, your wife, your friend, your kinsman, your neighbor, be your teachers on this point. For as when a wild beast is hunted down from all sides, it is impossible for it to escape; so he that has so many to watch him, so many to reprove him, who is liable to be struck at from all sides, cannot help being on his guard. The first day he will find it hard to put up with, and the second, and the third; but after that it will come easier, and, the fourth passed, there will not even be anything to do. Make the experiment, if you doubt me; take it into consideration, I beseech you. It is not a trifling matter to be wrong in, nor yet to come fight in; on both sides it is great for evil and for good. May the good be effected, through the grace and loving-mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Acts of Apostles, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 3:12-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

ACTS III. 12.-“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we have made this man to walk?”

There is greater freedom of speech in this harangue, than in the former. Not that he was afraid on the former occasion, but the persons whom he addressed there, being jesters and scoffers, would not have borne it. Hence in the beginning of that address he also bespeaks their attention by his preamble; “Be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.” (ch. ii. 14.) But here there is no need of this management. (kataskeuhj.) For his hearers were not in a state of indifference. The miracle had aroused them all; they were even full of fear and amazement. Wherefore also there was no need of beginning at that point, but rather with a different topic; by which, in fact, he powerfully conciliated them, namely, by rejecting the glory which was to be had from them. For nothing is so advantageous, and so likely to pacify the hearers, as to say nothing about one’s self of an honorable nature, but, on the contrary, to obviate all surmise of wishing to do so. And, in truth, much more did they increase their glory by despising glory, and showing that what had just taken place was no human act, but a Divine work; and that it was their part to join with the beholders in admiration, rather than to receive it from them. Do you see how clear of all ambition he is, and how he repels the honor paid to him? In the same manner also did the ancient fathers; for instance, Daniel said, “Not for any wisdom that is in me.” (Dan. ii. 30.) And again Joseph, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen. xi. 8.) And David, “When the lion and the bear came, in the name of the Lord I rent them with my hands.” (1 Sam. xvii. 34.) And so likewise here the Apostles, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (v. 13.) Nay, not even this;1 for not by our own merit did we draw down the Divine influence. “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers.” See how assiduously he thrusts himself (eiswqei) upon the fathers of old, lest he should appear to be introducing a new doctrine. In the former address he appealed to the patriarch David, here he appeals to Abraham and the rest. “Hath glorified His Servant2 Jesus.” Again a lowly expression, like as in the opening address.

But at this point he proceeds to enlarge upon the outrage, and exalts the heinousness of the deed, no longer, as before, throwing a veil over it. This he does, wishing to work upon them more powerfully. For the more he proved them accountable, the better his purpose were effected. “Hath glorified,” he says, ‘His Servant Jesus, Whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” The charge is twofold: Pilate was desirous to let Him go; you would not, when he was willing. “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince (or Author) of Life: Whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (v. 14, 15.) Ye desired a robber instead of Him. He shows the great aggravation of the act. As he has them under his hand, he now strikes hard. “The Prince of Life,” he says. In these words he establishes the doctrine of the Resurrection. “Whom God hath raised from the dead.” (ch. ii. 26.) “Whence doth this appear?” He no longer refers to the Prophets, but to himself, inasmuch as now he has a right to be believed. Before, when he affirmed that He was risen, he adduced the testimony of David; now, having said it, he alleges the College of Apostles. “Whereof we are witnesses”, he says.

“And His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” Seeking to declare the matter (zhtwn to pragma eipein), he straightway brings forward the sign: “In the presence,” he says, “of you all.” As he hid borne hard upon them, and had shown that He Whom they crucified had risen, again he relaxes, by giving them the power of repentance; “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” (v. 17.) This is one ground of excuse. The second3 is of a different kind. As Joseph speaks to his brethren, “God did send me before you (Gen. xlv. 5); what in the former speech he had briefly said, in the words, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken,”-this he here enlarges upon: “But what God before had showed by the mouth of all His Prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” (v. 18.) At the same time showing, that it was not of their doing, if this be proved, that it took place after God’s counsel. He alludes to those words with which they had reviled Him on the Cross, namely “Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him; for He said, I am the Son of God. If4 He trust in God, let Him now come down from the cross.” (Matt. xxvii. 42, 43.) O foolish men, were these idle words? It must needs so come to pass, and the prophets bear witness thereunto. Therefore if He descended not, it it was for no weakness of His own that He did not come down, but for very power. And Peter puts this by way of apology for the Jews, hoping that they may also close with what he says. “He hath so fulfilled,” he says. Do you see now how he refers everything to that source? “Repent ye therefore,” he says, “and be converted.” He does not add, “from your sins;” but, “that your sins, may be blotted out,” means the same thing. And then he adds the gain: “So shall the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.” (v. 19.) This betokens them in a sad state, brought low by many wars.5 For it is to the case of one on fire, and craving comfort, that the expression applies. And see now how he advances. In his first sermon, he but slightly hinted at the resurrection, and Christ’s sitting in heaven; but here he also speaks of His visible advent. “And He shall send Jesus the Christ ordained6 (for you), “Whom the heaven must (i.e. must of necessity) receive, until the times of the restitution of all things.” The reason why He does not now come is clear. “Which God hath spoken,” he continues, “by the mouth7 of His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Before, he had spoken of David, here he speaks of Moses. “Of all things,” he says, “which He hath spoken.” But he does not say, “which Christ,” but, “which God hath spoken8 by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (v. 20, 21.) Then he betakes him to the ground of credibility, saying, “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things.” And then the greatness of the punishment: “And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those that follow, after, as many as have spoken have likewise foretold of these days.” (v. 23, 24.) He has done well to set the distinction here. For whenever he says anything great, he appeals to them of old. And he found a text which contained both truths; just as in the other discourse he said, “Until He put His foes under His feet.” (ch. ii. 35.) The remarkable circumstance is, that the two things stand together; that is, subjection and disobedience, and the punishment. “Like unto me,” he says. Then why are ye alarmed? “Ye are the children of the prophets” (v. 25): so that to you they spake, and for your sakes have all these things come to pass. For as they deemed that through their outrage they had become alienated (and indeed there is no parity of reason, that He Who now is crucified, should now cherish them as His own), he proves to them that both the one and the other are in accordance with prophecy. “Ye are the children,” he says, “of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, `And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’ Unto you first,” he continues, “God having raised up His Son (ton Paida) sent Him.” “To others indeed also, but to you first who crucified Him.” “To bless you,” he adds, “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (v. 26.)

Now let us consider again more minutely what has been read out. (Recapitulation.) In the first place, he establishes the point that the miracle was performed by them9 ; saying, “Why marvel ye?” And he will not let the assertion be disbelieved: and to give it more weight, he anticipates their judgment. “Why look ye,” he says, “so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (v. 12.) If this troubles and confounds you, learn Who was the Doer, and be not amazed. And observe how on all occasions when he refers to God, and says that all things are from Him, then he fearlessly chides them: as above where he said, “A man approved of God among you.” (ch. ii. 22.) And on all occasions he reminds them of the outrage they had committed, in order that the fact of the Resurrection may be established. But here he also subjoins something else; for he no more says, “of Nazareth,” but what? “The God of our fathers hath glorified His Servant Jesus.” (v. 13.) Observe also the modesty. He reproached them not, neither did he say at once, “Believe then now: behold, a man that has been forty years lame, has been raised up through the name of Jesus Christ.” This he did not say, for it would have excited opposition. On the contrary, he begins by commending them for admiring the deed, and again calls them after their ancestor: “Ye men of Israel.” Moreover, he does not say, It was Jesus that healed him: but, “The God of our fathers hath glorified,” etc. But then, lest they should say, How can this stand to reason-that God should glorify the transgressor? therefore he reminds them of the judgment before Pilate, showing that, would they but consider, He was no transgressor; else Pilate had not wished to release Him. And he does not say, “when Pilate was desirous,” but, “was determined to let Him go.” “But ye denied the Holy One,” etc. (v. 13, 14.) Him who had killed others, ye asked to be released; Him Who quickeneth them that are killed, ye did not wish to have! And that they might not ask again, How should it be that God now glorifies Him, when before He gave no assistance? he brings forward the prophets, testifying that so it behooved to be. “But those things which God before had showed,” etc., (infra v. 18.) Then, lest they should suppose that God’s dispensation was their own apology, first he reproves them. Moreover, that the denying Him “to Pilate’s face,” was no ordinary thing; seeing that he wished to release Him. And that ye cannot deny this, the man who was asked in preference to Him is witness against you. This also is part of a deep dispensation. Here it shows their shamelessness and effrontery; that a Gentile, one who saw Him for the first time, should have discharged Him, though he had heard nothing striking; while they who had been brought up among His miracles, have done the very opposite! For, as be has said, “When he (Pilate) had determined to let Him go,” that it may not be imagined that he did this of favor, we read, “And he said, It is a custom with you to release one prisoner: will ye therefore that [ release unto you this man? (Matt. xxvii. 15.) “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just.” (Mark xv. 6.) He does not say, “Ye delivered up;” but everywhere, “Ye denied.” For, said they, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John xix. 15.) And he does not say only, Ye did not beg off the innocent, and, “Ye denied” Him but, “Ye slew” Him. While they were hardened, he refrained from such language; but when their minds are most moved, then he strikes home, now that they are in a condition to feel it. For just as when men are drunk we say nothing to them, but when they are sober, and are recovered from their intoxication then we chide them; thus did Peter: when they were able to understand his words, then he also sharpened his tongue, alleging against them many charges; that, Whom God had glorified, they had delivered up; Whom Pilate would have acquitted they denied to his face; that they preferred the robber before Him.

Observe again how he speaks covertly concerning Christ’s power, showing that He raised Himself: just as in his first discourse he had said, “Because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (ch. ii. 24), so here he says, “And killed the Prince of Life.” (v. 15.) It follows that the Life He had was not from another. The prince (or author) of evil would be he that first brought forth evil; the prince or author of murder, he who first originated murder; so also the Prince (or Author) of Life must be He Who has Life from Himself.10 “Whom God raised up,” he continues: and now that he has uttered this, he adds, “And his name, upon faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by Him hath given Him this perfect soundness. [The faith which is by Him h di autou pistij.] And11 yet it was h eij autou pistij, “the faith which is in Him” (as its object) that did all. For the Apostles did not say, “By the name,” but, “In the name,” and it was in Him (eij autou) that the man believed. But they did not yet make bold to use the expression, “The faith which is in Him.” For, that the phrase “By Him” should not be too low, observe that after saying, “Upon the faith of His name,” he adds, “His name hath made him strong,” and then it is that he says, “Yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness.” Observe how he implies, that in the kai ekeino former expression also “Whom God raised up,” he did but condescend to their low attainments. For that Person needed not Another’s help for His rising again, Whose Name raised up a lame man, being all one as dead. Mark how on all occasions he adduces their own testimony. Thus above, he said, “As ye yourselves also know;” and, “In the midst of you:” and here again, “Whom ye see and know: in the presence of you all.” (ch. ii. 22.) And yet that it was, “In His name,” they knew not: but they did know that the man was lame, that he stands there whole.12 They that had wrought the deed themselves confessed, that it was not by their own power, but by that of Christ. And had this assertion been unfounded, had they not been truly persuaded themselves that Christ had risen again, they would not have sought to establish the honor of a dead man instead of their own, especially while the eyes of the multitude were upon them. Then, when their minds were alarmed, immediately he encourages them, by the appellation of Brethren, “And now, brethren, I wot, etc.” For in the former discourse he foretold13 nothing, but only says concerning Christ, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly:” here he adds an admonition. There he waited till the people spoke: here, he knew how much they had already effected, and that the present assembly was better disposed toward them. “That through ignorance ye did it.” And yet the circumstances mentioned above were not to be put to the score of ignorance. To choose the robber, to reject Him Who had been adjudged to be acquitted, to desire even to destroy Him-how should this be referred to ignorance? Nevertheless, he gives them liberty to deny it, and to change their mind about what had happened. “Now this indeed, that you put to death the innocent, ye knew: but that you were killing “the Prince of Life,” this, belike, ye did not know.” And he exculpated not them alone, but also the chief contrivers of the evil, “ye and your rulers:” for doubtless it would have roused their opposition, had he gone off into accusation. For the evil-doer, when you accuse him of some wickedness that he has done, in his endeavor to exonerate himself, grows more vehement. And he no longer says, “Ye crucified,” “Ye killed,” but, “Ye did it;” leading them to seek for pardon. If those rulers did it through ignorance, much more did these present.14 “But these things which God before had showed,” etc. (v. 18.) But it is remarkable, that both in the first and in the second discourse, speaking to the same effect, that is, in the former, “By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God;” and in this, “God before had showed that Christ should suffer;” in neither does he adduce any particular text in proof. The fact is, that each one of such passages is accompanied with many accusations, and with mention of the punishment in store for them [as]; “I will deliver up,” says one, “the wicked in requital for His grave, and the rich in return for His death.” (Is. liii. 9.) And again, * * * “Those things,” he says, “which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” It shows the greatness of that “counsel,”15 in that all spoke of it, and not one only. It does not follow, because the event was through ignorance, that it took place irrespectively of God’s ordinance. See how great is the Wisdom of God, when it uses the wickedness of others to bring about that which must be. “He hath fulfilled,” he says: that they may not imagine that anything at all is wanting; for whatsoever Christ must needs suffer, has been fulfilled. But do not think, that, because the Prophets said this, and because ye did it through ignorance, this sufficeth to your exculpation. However, he does not express himself thus, but in milder terms says, “Repent ye therefore.” (v. 19.) “Why? For16 either it was through ignorance, or by the dispensation of God.” “That your sins may be blotted out.” I do not mean the crimes committed at the Crucifixion; perhaps they were through ignorance; but so that your other sins may be blotted out: this17 only. “So shall the times of refreshing come unto you.” Here he speaks of the Resurrection, obscurely.18 For those are indeed times of refreshing, which Paul also looked for, when he said, “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened.” (2 Cor. v. 4.) Then to prove that Christ is the cause of the days of refreshing, he says, “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was for you ordained.” (v. 20.) He said not, “That your sin may be blotter out,” but, “your sins;” for he hints at that sin also. “He shall send.” And whence?19 “Whom the heaven must receive.” (v. 21.) Still [“must”] “receive?” And why not simply, Whom the heaven hath received? This, as if discoursing of old times: so, he says, it is divinely ordered, so it is settled: not a word yet of His eternal subsistence.-” For Moses indeed said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord raise up for you:” “Him shall ye hear in all things that He shall speak unto you:” and having said, “All things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets,” (v. 22) now indeed he brings in Christ Himself. For, if He predicted many things and it is necessary to hear Him, one would not be wrong in saying that the Prophets have spoken these things. But, besides, he wishes to show that the Prophets did predict the same things. And, if any one will look closely into the matter, he will find these things spoken in the Old Testament, obscurely indeed, but nevertheless spoken. “Who was purposely designed,” says he: in Whom20 there is nothing novel. Here he also alarms them, by the thought that much remains to be fulfilled. But if so, how says he, “Hath fulfilled?” (v. 18.) The things which it was necessary “that Christ should suffer,” are fulfilled: the things which must come to pass, not yet. “A prophet shall the Lord God raise up for you from among your brethren, like unto me.” This would most conciliate them. Do you observe the sprinkling of low matters and high, side by side,-that He Who was to go up into the heavens should be like unto Moses? And yet it was a great thing too. For in fact He was not simply like unto Moses,21 if so be that “every soul which will not hear shall be destroyed.” And one might mention numberless other things which show that He was not like unto Moses; so that it is a mighty text that he has handled. “God shall raise Him up unto you,” says Moses, “from among your brethren,” etc.: consequently Moses himself threatens those that should not hear. “Yea, and all the prophets,” etc.: all this22 is calculated to attract “Yea, and all the prophets,” says the Apostle. “from Samuel.” He refrains from enumerating them singly, not to make his discourse too long; but having alleged that decisive testimony of Moses, he passes by the rest. “Ye,” he says, “are the children of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made.” (v. 25) “Children of the covenant;” that is, heirs. For test they should think that they received this offer from the favor of Peter, he shows, that of old it was due to them, in order that they may the rather believe that such also is the will of God. “Unto you first,” he continues, “God having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him.” (v. 26.) He does not say simply, “Unto you He sent His Son,” but also, after the resurrection, and when He had been crucified. For that they may not suppose that he himself granted them this favor, and not the Father, he says, “To bless you.” For if He is your Brother, and blesses you, the affair is a promise. “Unto you first.” That is, so far are you from having no share in these blessings, that He would have you become moreover promoters and authors of them to others. For23 you are not to feel like castaways. “Having raised up”: again, the Resurrection. “In turning away,” he says, “every one of you from his iniquities.” In this way He blesses you: not in a general way. And what kind of blessing is this? A great one. For of course not the turning a man away from his iniquities is itself sufficient to remit them also. And if it is not sufficient to remit, how should it be to confer a blessing? For it is not to be supposed that the transgressor becomes forthwith also blessed; he is simply released from his sins. But this,24 “Like unto me,” would no wise apply. “Hear ye Him,” he says; and not this alone, but he adds, “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” When he has shown them that they had sinned, and has imparted forgiveness to them, and promised good things, then indeed, then he says, “Moses also says the same thing.” What sort of connection is this: “Until the times of the restitution;” and then to introduce Moses, saying, that25 all that Christ said shall come to pass? Then also, on the other hand, he says, as matter of encomium (so that for this reason also ye ought to obey): “Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant:” i.e. heirs. Then why do you stand affected towards that which is your own, as if it were another’s? True, you have done deeds worthy of condemnation; still you may yet obtain pardon. Having said this, with reason he is now able to say, “Unto you God sent his Son Jesus to bless you.” He says not, To save you, but what is greater; that the crucified Jesus blessed His crucifiers.

Let us then also imitate Him. Let us cast out that spirit of murder and enmity. It is not enough not to retaliate (for even in the Old Dispensation this was exemplified); but let us do all as we would for bosom-friends, as we would for ourselves so for those who have injured us. We are followers of Him, we are His disciples, who after being crucified, sets everything in action in behalf of his murderers, and sends out His Apostles to this end. And yet we have often suffered justly; but those acted not only unjustly, but impiously; for He was their Benefactor, He had done no evil, and they crucified Him. And for what reason? For the sake of their reputation. But He Himself made them objects of reverence. “The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that do ye, but after their works do ye not.” (Matt. xxiii. 2.) And again in another place, “Go thy way, show thyself to the priest.” (ib. viii. 4.) Besides, when He might have destroyed them, He saves them. Let us then imitate Him, and let no one be an enemy, no one a foe, except to the devil.

Not a little does the habit of not swearing contribute to this end: I mean to the not giving way to wrath:26 and by not giving way to wrath, we shall not have an enemy either. Lop off the oaths of a man, and you have clipt the wings of his anger, you have smothered all his passion. Swearing, it is said, is as the wind to wrath. Lower the sails; no need of sails, when there is no wind. If then we do not clamor, and do not swear, we have cut the sinews of passion. And if you doubt this, just put it to experiment. Impose it as a law upon the passionate man that he shall never swear, and you will have no necessity of preaching moderation to hint. So the whole business is finished. For27 even though you do not forswear yourselves [yet], by swearing at all, do you not know in what absurd consequences you involve yourselves-binding yourselves to an absolute necessity and as with a cord, and putting yourselves to all manner of shifts, as men studying how to rescue their soul from an evil which there is no escaping, or, failing of that, obliged [by that self-imposed necessity] to spend your life thenceforth in vexation, in quarrels, and to curse your wrath? But all is in vain, and to no purpose. Threaten, be peremptory (diorisai), do all, whatever it be, without swearing; [so]: it is in your power to reverse analusai) both what you have said and what you have done if you have the mind. Thus on the present day I must needs speak more gently to you. For since ye have heard me, and the greater part of the reformation is achieved by you, now then let us see for what purpose the taking of oaths was introduced, and why allowed to be. In relating to you their first origin, and when they were conceived, and how, and by whom we shall give you this account in requital for your obedience. For it is fit that he who has made his practice right, should be taught the philosophy of the matter, but he who is not yet doing the right, is not worthy to be told the history.

They made many covenants in Abraham’s time, and slew victims, and offered sacrifices, and as yet oaths were not. Whence then did they come in? When evil increased, when all was confusion, upside down, when men had turned aside to idolatry: then it was, then, when men appeared no longer worthy to be believed, that they called God as witness, as if thereby giving an adequate surety for what they said. Such in fact is the Oath: it is a security where men’s principles cannot be trusted.28 So that in the indictment of the swearer the first charge is this,-that he is not to be trusted without a surety, and a great surety too: for such is the exceeding faithlessness, that they ask not man as surety, but will needs have God! Secondly, the same charge lies against him who receives the oath: that, in a question of compact, he must drag in God for warranty, and refuse to be satisfied unless he get Him. O the excessive stupidity, the insolence of such conduct! Thou, a worm, earth and dust, and ashes, and vapor, to drag in thy Lord as the, surety, and to compel the other to drag Him in likewise! Tell me, if your servants were disputing with each other, and exchanging29 assurances with each other, and the fellow-servant should declare that for his part he would not be satisfied till he had their common master given him for surety, would he not have stripes given him without number, and be made to know that the master is for other purposes, and not to be put to any such use as this? Why do I speak of a fellow-servant?30 For should he choose any respectable person, would not that person consider it an affront? But I do not wish to do this, say you.31 Well: then do not compel the other to do so either: since where men only are in question, this is done-if your party says, “I give such an one as my surety,” you do not allow him. “What then,” say you, “am I to lose what I have given?” I am not speaking of this; but that you allow him to insult God. For which reason greater shall be the inevitable punishment to him who forces the oath upon another, than to him who takes it: the same holds with regard to him who gives an oath when no one asks him. And what makes it worse, is, that every one is ready to swear, for one farthing, for some petty item, for his own injustice. All this may be said, when there is no perjury; but if perjury follow in the train, both he that imposes and he that takes the oath have turned everything upside down. “But there are some things,” you will say, “which are unknown.” Well take these into account, and do nothing negligently; but, if you do act negligently, take the loss to yourself as your punishment. It is better to be the loser thus, than in a very different way. For tell me-you force a man to take an oath, with what expectation? That he will forswear himself? But this is utter insanity; and the judgment will fall upon your own head; better you should lose your money, than he be lost. Why act thus to your own detriment, and to the insulting of God? This is the spirit of a wild beast, and of an impious man. But you do this in the expectation that he will not forswear himself? Then trust him without the oath. “Nay, there are many,” you reply, “who in the absence of an oath would presume to defraud; but, once the oath taken, would refrain.” You deceive yourself, man. A man having once learnt to steal, and to wrong his neighbor, will presume full oft to trample upon his oath; if on the contrary he shrinks from swearing, he will much more shrink from injustice. “But he is influenced against his will.” Well then, he deserves pardon.

But why am I speaking of this kind of oaths, while I pass over those in the market-place? For as regards these last, you can urge none of these pleas. For ten farthings you there have swearing and forswearing. In fact, because the thunderbolt does not actually fall from heaven, because all things are not overthrown, you stand holding God in your bonds: to get a few vegetables, a pair of shoes, for a little matter of money, calling Him to witness. What is the meaning of this? Do not let us imagine, that because we are not punished, therefore we do not sin; this comes of God’s mercy; not of our merit. Let your oath be an imprecation upon your own child, upon your own self: say, “Else let the hangman lash my ribs.” But you dare not. Is God less valuable than thy ribs? is He less precious than thy pate? Say “Else let me be struck blind.” But no. Christ so spares us, that He will not let us swear even by our own head; and yet we so little spare the honor of God, that on all occasions we must drag Him in! Ye know not what God is, and with what sort of lips he behooves to be invoked. Why, when we speak of any man of eminent worth, we say, “First wash your mouth, and then make mention of him:” and yet, that precious Name which is above every name, the Name which is marvellous in all the earth, the Name which devils hear and tremble, we haul about as we list! Oh! the force of habit! thereby has that Name become cheap. No doubt, if you impose on any one the necessity of coming into the sacred edifice to take his oath there, you feel that you have made the oath an awful one. And yet how is it that it seems awful in this way, but because we have been in the habit of using that at random, but not this? For ought not a shudder of awe to be felt when God is but named? But now, whereas among the Jews His Name was held to be so reverend, that it was written upon plates, and none was allowed to wear the characters except the high-priest alone: we bandy about His Name like any ordinary word. If simply to name God was not allowed to all; to call Him to witness, what audacity is it! nay, what madness! For if need were (rather than this)to fling away all that you have, ought you not readily to part with all? Behold, I solemnly declare and testify; reform these oaths of the forum, these superfluous oaths,32 and bring to me all those who wish to take them. Behold, in the presence of this assembly, I charge those who are set apart for the tending of the Houses of Prayer, I exhort and issue this order to them, that no person be allowed to take such oaths at his own discretion: or rather, that none be allowed to swear in any other way, but that the person be brought to me, whosoever he be, since even for these matters less will not serve but they must needs come before us, just as if one had to do with little children. May there be no occasion! It is a shame in some things still to need to be taught. Do you dare to touch the Holy Table, being a person unbaptized? No, but what is still worse, you the baptized dare to lay your hand upon the Holy Table, which not even all ordained persons are allowed to touch, and so to take your oath. Now you would not go and lay your hand upon the head of your child,33 and yet do you touch the Table, and not shudder, not feel afraid? Bring these men to me; I will judge, and send them away rejoicing, both the one and the other.34 Do what you choose; I lay it down as a law that there be no swearing at all. What hope of salvation, while we thus make all to have been done in vain? Is this the end of your bills, and your bonds, that you should sacrifice your own soul? What gain do you get so great as the loss? Has he forsworn himself? You have undone both him and yourself. But has he not? even so still you have undone (both), by forcing him to transgress the commandment.35 Let us cast out this disease from the soul: at any rate let us drive it out of the forum, out of our shops, out of our other work-places; our profits will but be the greater. Do not imagine that the success of your worldly plans is to be ensured by transgressions of the Divine laws. “But he refuses to trust me,” say you; and in fact I have sometimes heard this said by some: “Unless I swear oaths without number, the man will not trust me.” Yes, and for this you may thank yourself, because you are so off-hand with your oaths. For were it not so, but on the contrary were it clear to all men that you do not swear, take my word for it, you would be more readily believed upon your mere nod, than those are who swallow oaths by thousands. For look now: which do you more readily believe? me who do not swear, or those that do swear? “Yes,” say you, “but then you are ruler and bishop.” Then suppose I prove to you that it is not only for that reason? Answer me with truth, I beseech you; were I in the habit of perpetually swearing, would my office stand me in that stead? Not a whir. Do you see that it is not for this reason? And what do you gain at all? Answer me that. Paul endured hunger; do you then also choose to hunger rather than to transgress one of the commandments of God. Why are you so unbelieving? Here are you, ready to do and suffer all things for the sake of not swearing: and shall not He reward you? Shall He, Who sustains day by day both takers and breakers of oaths, give you over to hunger, when you have obeyed Him? Let all men see, that of those who assemble in this Church not one is a swearer. By this also let us become manifest, and not by our creed alone; let us have this mark also to distinguish us both from the Gentiles and from all men. Let us receive it as a seal from heaven, that we may everywhere be seen to be the King’s own flock. By our mouth and tongue let us be known, in the first place, just as the barbarians are by theirs: even as those who speak Greek are distinguished from barbarians, so let us be known. Answer me: the birds which are said to be parrots, how are they known to be parrots? is it not by speaking like men? Let us then be known by speaking like the Apostles; by speaking like the Angels. If any one bid you swear tell him, “Christ has spoken, and I do not swear.” This is enough to make a way for all virtue to come in. It is a gate to religion, a high road leading to the philosophy of piety;36 a kind of training-school. These things let us observe, that we may obtain also the future blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, power and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen. (source)

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Acts of Apostles, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 3:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

ACTS III. 1.-“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple, at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”

Everywhere we find these two Apostles in great harmony together. “To him Simon Peter beckoned.” (John xiii. 24.) These two also “came together to the sepulchre. (Ib. xx. 3 et seq.) And concerning John, Peter said unto Christ, “And what shall this man do?” (Ib. xxi. 21.) Now as for the other miracles, the writer of this book omits them; but he mentions the miracle by which they were all1 put in commotion. Observe again that they do not come to them purposely; so clear were they of ambition, so closely did they imitate their Master. Why now did they go up to the temple? Did they still live as Jews? No, but for expediency (xrhsimwj).2 A miraculous sign again takes place, which both confirms the converts, and draws over the rest; and such, as they were a sign for having wrought.3 The disease was in the nature of the man, and baffled the art of medicine. He had been forty years lame (ch. iv. 20), as the writer says afterwards, and no one during all that time had cured him. And the most obstinate diseases are those which are born with men. It was a great calamity, insomuch that even to provide for himself his necessary sustenance was impossible for him. The man was conspicuous both from the place, and from his malady. Hear how the matter is related. “And a certain man, lame from his mother’s womb, was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.” (v. 2.) He sought to receive alms, and he did not know who the men were. “Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us.” (v. 3, 4.) Yet, not even so were the man’s thoughts elevated, but he persisted in his importunity. For such is poverty; upon a refusal, it compels people still to persist. Let this put us to shame who fall back in our prayers. But observe, I pray you, Peter’s gentleness: for he said, “Look on us.” So truly did their very bearing, of itself, betoken their character. “And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give thee.” (v. 5, 6.) He did not say, I give thee something much better than silver or gold: but what? “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.” (v. 7.) Such was also the way of Christ. Often He healed by word, often by an act, often also He stretched forth the hand, where men were somewhat weak in faith, that the cure might not appear to be spontaneous. “And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.” This act made manifest the Resurrection, for it was an image of the Resurrection. “And immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked.” (v. 8.) Perhaps it was by way of trying himself that he put it thus to further proof, whether perchance the thing done might not be to no purpose. His feet were weak; it was not that he had lost them. Some say that he did not even know how to walk.4 “And entered with them into the temple.” Of a truth it was marvellous. The Apostles do not urge him; but of his own accord he follows, by the act of following pointing out his benefactors. “And leaping and praising God;” not admiring them, but God that wrought by them. The man was grateful.

[“Now5 Peter and John went up together into the temple,” etc.] You observe how they continued in prayer. “The ninth hour:” there they prayed together. [“And a certain man,” etc.] The man was in the act of being carried at that instant. [“Whom they laid daily:”] (his bearers carried him away:) [“at the gate,” etc.] just when people went into the temple. And that you may not suppose that they carried him for some other purpose, but that it was in order that he might receive alms, hear what the writer says: “so that he might receive alms of those entering into the temple.” (Recapitulation of vv. 1-8.) And this is the reason why he also makes mention of the places, to give evidence of what he relates. “And how was it,” you may ask, “that they did not present him to Christ?” Perhaps they were certain unbelieving men, that haunted the temple, as in fact neither did they present him to the Apostles, when they saw them entering, after having done such great miracles. “He asked,” it is written, “to receive an alms.” (v. 3.) Their bearing marked them as certain devout and righteous men. [“And Peter fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said,” etc.] (v. 4, 5.) And observe how John is everywhere silent, while Peter makes excuse for him also; “Silver and gold,” he says, “have I none.” (v. 6.) He does not say, I have none here, as we are wont to speak, but absolutely, I have none. “What then?” he might say, “do you take no notice of me, your suppliant?” Not so, but of what I have, receive thou. Do you remark how unassuming Peter is, how he makes no display even to the object of his beneficence? [“In the name,” etc. “And he took him by the hand,” etc.] (v. 7.) And the mouth and the hand did all. Such6 sort of persons were the Jews; lame, and the right thing being to ask for health, these same ask for money, grovelling on the ground: for this it was that they beset the temple-to get money. What then does Peter? He did not despise him; he did not look about for some rich subject; he did not say, If the miracle is not done to some great one (eij ekeinon), nothing great is done: he did not look for some honor from him, no, nor heal him in the presence of people; for the man was at the entrance, not where the multitude were, that is, within. But Peter sought no such object; nor upon entering did he proclaim the matter: no, it was by his bearing that he attracted the lame man to ask. And the wonder is, that he believed so readily. For those who are set free from diseases of long standing, hardly believe their very eyesight. Once healed, he remains with the Apostles, giving thanks to God. “And he entered,” it is said, “with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” (v. 8.) Observe how restless he is, in the eagerness of his delight, at the same time shutting the mouths of the Jews. Also, that he leaped, was to prevent the suspicion of hypocrisy; for after all, this was beyond the possibility of deception. For if previously he was totally unable to walk, even when hunger pressed hard (and indeed he would not have chosen to share with his bearers the proceeds of his begging, if he had been able to manage for himself), this holds still more in the present ease. And how should he have feigned in behalf of those who had given him no alms? But the man was grateful, even after his recovery. And thus on either side his faith is shown, both by his thankfulness, and by the recent event.

He was so7 well known to all, that “they recognized him. And all the people,” it says, “saw him walking and praising God; and they recognized (epeginwskon) that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple.” (v. 9.) It is well said, “they recognized,” inasmuch as he was one unknown now by reason of what had happened: for we use this term with regard to objects, which we find a difficulty in recognizing. [“And they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.”] Needs must it be believed that8 the name of Christ remits sins, seeing it produces even such effects as this. (“And as he held Peter and John, all the people came together at the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” (v. 11.) From his good feelings and love towards the Apostles, the lame man would not leave them; perhaps he was thanking them openly, and praising them. “And all the people,” it is said, “ran together unto them. And when Peter saw them, he answered.” (v. 12.) Again it is he who acts, and addresses the people.

And in the former instance, it was the circumstance of the tongues that aroused them to hearing, now it was this miracle; then, he took occasion to speak from their accusations now, from their supposition. Let us then consider, in what this address differs from the former, and in what it agrees with that. The former was held in a house, before any one has come over, and before they themselves have wrought anything; this, when all are wondering, and the healed man is standing by; when none doubt, as in the other case where some said “These men are full of new wine.” (Acts xii. 13.) At the one, he was surrounded by all the Apostles as he spoke; but at this, he has John alone; for by this time he is bold, and become more energetic. Such is the nature of virtue; once started, it advances, and never stops. Observe also how it was divinely ordered, that the miracle should take place in the temple, that others also might wax bold, while the Apostles work not in holes (eij kataduseij) and corners, and in secret: though not in the interior of the temple either, where the greater number were. How then, I pray you, was it believed? The man himself who was healed proclaimed the benefit. For there was no reason why he should lie, nor why he should have joined a different set of people.9 Either then it was because of the spaciousness of the place, that he there wrought the miracle, or because the spot was retired. And observe the event. They went up for one object, and they accomplished another. Thus also did Cornelius: he prayed and fasted10 * * *. But hitherto they always call Him, “of Nazareth.” “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” said Peter, walk. For in the first instance, the thing required was, that He should be believed in.

Let us not, I pray you, give over at the beginning of the story:11 and if one has named some particular achievement of virtue, and then has dropped it for awhile, let us begin over again. If we get into the right mood (en ecei), we shall soon arrive at the end, soon reach the summit. For earnestness, it is said, begets earnestness, and dulness begets dulness. He who has effected some little reformation, thereby receives encouragement to approach greater things, and thence again to go on something more than that; and just as it is with fire, the more wood it lays hold on, the more vehement it becomes, so likewise zeal, the more pious reflections it kindles, the more effectually is it armed against their opposites. As, for example: There are set in us, like so many thorns, perjury, falsehood hypocrisy, deceit, dishonesty, abusiveness, scoffing, buffoonery, indecency, scurrility; again under another head, covetousness, rapacity, injustice, calumny, insidiousness; again, wicked lust, uncleanness, lewdness, fornication, adultery; again, envy, emulation, anger, wrath, rancor, revenge, blasphemy, and numberless others. If we effect a reformation in the first instances, not only in them will the success have been achieved, but through them in the following cases also. For reason has then gained more strength to overthrow those other vices. For instance, if he, who has frequently sworn, once extirpates that satanic habit, he has not only gained this point, but a habit of piety in other respects will have been brought in. For no one, I suppose, averse to swearing would easily consent to do any other wicked act; he will feel a reverence for the virtue already acquired. Just as the man who wears a beautiful robe, will blush to roll himself in the mire; so is it also here. From this beginning he will come to learn not to be angry, not to strike, not to insult. For if once he has come right in little matters, the whole affair is done. Often, however, something of this sort takes place, that a person has once reformed, and then again through carelessness falls back into the old sins but too readily, so that the case becomes irremediable. For instance, we have made it a law to ourselves not to swear; we have got on well, for some three, or even four days; after that being hard put to it, we scattered away the whole of our collected gain; we then fall into indolence and recklessness. Still it is not right to give over; one must set to work zealously again. For it is said, he that has built up a house, and then sees his building pulled down, will have less spirit for building again. Yes, but for all this, one must not be dispirited, but must once more set to work zealously.

Let us then lay down daily laws for ourselves. For a time let us begin with the easier. Let us retrench all that superfluity of paths, and put a bridle on our tongues; let no one swear by God. Here is no outlay, here is no fatigue, here is no cost of time. It is sufficient to will, and all is done. It is a matter of habit. I beseech and entreat you, let us contribute thus much of zeal. Tell me, if I had bid you contribute your money, would not each one of you readily cast in according to his ability? If you saw me in extreme danger, would you not, if it had been possible, have cut off your own flesh to give me? Well, I am in danger now, and in great danger, such indeed that, were I withal confined to a dungeon, or had I received ten thousand stripes, or were a convict in the mines, I could not suffer more. Reach me then the hand. Consider how great is the danger, that I should not have been able to reform this which is least: I say “least” in regard to the labor required. What shall I have to say hereafter, when thus called to account? “Why did you not remonstrate? why did you not enjoin? why did you not lay the law before them? why did you not cheek the disobedient?” It will not be enough for me to say, that I did admonish. It will be answered, “You ought to have used more vehement rebuke; since Eli also admonished.” (1 Sam. ii. 24.) But God forbid I should compare you with Eli’s sons. Indeed, he did admonish them and say, “Nay, my sons, do not so; evil is the report that I hear of you.” (1 Sam. iii. 13.) But subsequently the Scripture saith, that he did not admonish his sons: since he did not admonish them severely, or with threats. For is it not strange indeed, that in the synagogues of the Jews the laws are in such force, and whatever the teacher enjoins is performed; while here we are thus despised and rejected? It is not my own glory that I care for (my glory is your good report), but it is for your salvation. Every day we lift up our voice, and shout in your ears. But there is none to hear. Still we take no strong measures. I fear we shall have to give an account at the coming Day of this excessive and unseasonable leniency.

Wherefore, with a loud and clear voice, I proclaim to all and testify, that those who are notorious for this transgression, who utter words which come “of the evil one,” (Matt. v. 37.) (for such is swearing,) shall not step over the threshold of the Church. Let this present month be the time allowed you for reforming in this matter. Talk not to me, “Necessity of business compels me to use oaths, else people do not believe me.” To begin with this, retrench those oaths which come merely of habit. I know many will laugh, but it is better to be laughed at now, than wept for hereafter. They will laugh, who are mad. For who, I ask, in his right mind would laugh at the keeping of the commandment? But suppose they do; why, it will not be at us, but at Christ, that such men will laugh. You shudder at the word! I knew you would. Now if this law were of my making, at me would be the laughing; but if Another be the Lawgiver, the jeering passes over to Him. Yes, and Christ was once spit upon, and smitten with the palm, smitten upon the face. Now also He bears with this, and it is no wonder (ouden apeikoj)! For this, hell is prepared; for this, the worm that dieth not. Behold, again I say and testify; let him laugh that will, let him scoff that listeth. Hereunto are we set, to be laughed at and mocked, to suffer all things. We are “the offscouring” (1 Cor. iv. 13) or the world, as blessed Paul says. If any man refuse to conform to this order, that man I, by my word, as with a trumpet’s blast, do prohibit to set foot over the Church’s threshold, be he prince, be he even the crowned head. Either depose me from this station, or if I am to remain, expose me not to danger. I cannot bear to ascend this throne, without effecting Some great reformation. For if this be impossible, it is better to stand below. Nothing more wretched than a ruler who does his people no good. Do exert yourselves, and attend to this, I entreat you; and let us strive, and of a surety more will come of it. Fast, entreat God (and we will do the same with you) that this pernicious habit may be eradicated. It is no great matter,12 to become teachers to the world; no small honor to have it said everywhere, that really in this city there is not a man that swears. If this come to pass, you will receive the reward not only of your own good works; indeed what I am to you, this you will become to the world. Assuredly others also will emulate you; assuredly you will be a candle set upon a candlestick.

And is this, you will say, the whole matter? No, this is not all, but this is a beginning of other virtues. He who swears not, will certainly attain unto piety in other respects, whether he will or not, by dint of self-respect and awe. But you will urge that most men do not keep to it, but fall away. Well, better one man that doeth the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors. In fact, hereby is everything subverted, everything turned upside down, I mean, because after the fashion of the Theatre we desire numbers not a select number. For what indeed will a multitude be able to profit? Would you learn that it is the saints, not the numbers, which make the multitude? Lead out to war ten hundred thousand men, and one saint, and let us see who achieves the most? Joshua the son of Nun went out to war, and alone achieved all; the rest were of no use.13 Wouldest thou see, beloved, that the great multitude, when it does not the will of God, is no better than a thing of naught? I wish indeed, and desire, and with pleasure would be torn in pieces, to adorn the Church with a multitude, yea, but a select multitude; yet if this be impossible, that the few should be select, is my desire. Do you not see, that it is better to possess one precious stone, than ten thousand farthing pieces? Do you not see that it is better to have the eye sound, than to be loaded with flesh, and yet deprived of sight? Do you not see that it is better to have one healthy sheep, than ten thousand with the murrain; that fine children, though few, are better than many children diseased withal; that in the Kingdom there will be few, but in hell many? What have I to do with a multitude? what profit therein? None. Rather they are a plague to the rest. It is as if one who had the option of ten healthy persons of ten thousand sick folks, should take to himself the latter in addition to the ten. The many who do nothing well, will avail us only for punishment hereafter, and disgrace for the time being. For no one will urge it as a point in our favor that we are many; we shall be blamed for being unprofitable. In fact, this is what men always tell us, when we say, We are many; “aye, but bad,” they answer.

Behold again: I give warning, and proclaim with a loud voice, let no one think it a laughing matter: I will exclude and prohibit the disobedient; and as long as I sit on this throne, I will give up not one of its rights. If any one depose me from it, then I am no longer responsible; as long as I am responsible, I cannot disregard them; on account not of my own punishment, but of your salvation. For I do exceedingly long for your salvation. To advance it, I endure pain and vexation. But yield your obedience, that both here and hereafter you may receive a plentiful reward, and that we may in common reap eternal blessings; through the grace and mercy of the only-begotten Son of God; to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen. (source)

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Acts of Apostles, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 2:34-41

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

The following is excerpted from St. Chrysostom’s 6th and 7th homilies on Acts of Apostles. The homilies can be read in full here.

Excerpt from Homily VI on Acts 4:34-36~Now if He be David’s Lord, much more shall they not disdain Him. “Sit thou on My right hand;” he has set the whole matter here; “until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool:” here also he has brought upon them a great terror, just as in the beginning he showed what He does to His friends, what to his enemies. And again, as to the act of subjugation, not to provoke unbelief, he ascribes it to the Father. Since then these are great things that he has uttered, he again brings his discourse down to lowly matters. “Let therefore,” he says, “the whole house of Israel know assuredly: i.e. question ye not, nor doubt ye: then also in the tone of command it follows; “that God hath made Him both Lord-” this he says from David- “and Christ,” (v. 36), this from the Psalm:14 For when it would have been rightly concluded, “Let therefore the whole house of Israel know assuredly that” He sitteth on the right hand of God, this, which would have been great, he forbears, and brings in a different matter which is much more humble, and the expression “Hath made;” i.e. hath ordained: so that there is nothing about (ousiwsij) communication of substance here, but the expression relates to this which has been mentioned. “Even this Jesus, Whom ye crucified.” He does well to end with this, thereby agitating their minds. For when he has shown how great it is, he has then exposed their daring deed, so as to show it to be greater, and to possess them with terror. For men are not so much attracted by benefits as they are chastened by fear.15

But the admirable and great ones, and beloved of God, need none of these motives: men, such as was Paul: not of the kingdom, not of hell, made he account. For this is indeed to love Christ, this to be no hireling, nor to reckon it a matter of trafficking and trading, but to be indeed virtuous, and to do all for the love of God. (Rom. ix. 3.) Then what tears does it not deserve, when, owing so large a measure, we do not even like traders seek the kingdom of heaven! He promises us so great things, and not even so is He worthy to be heard? What can come up to this enmity!16 And yet, they are mad after money-making, though it be with enemies, though it be with slaves, though it be with persons most hostile to them, that they come in contact, though it be with persons utterly evil, if only they expect that they shall be enabled by their means to make money, they will do everything, will flatter, and be obsequious, and make themselves slaves, and will esteem them more to be revered than all men, to get some advantage out of them: for the hope of money does not allow them to give a thought to any such considerations as these. But the Kingdom is not so powerful as money is; nay, rather, not in the smallest proportion as powerful. For17 it is no ordinary Being that promises: but this is greater than even the Kingdom itself that we receive it ‘from such a Giver! But now the case is the same as if a king, wishing, after ten thousand other benefits, to make us his heirs and coheirs with his son [should be despised]: while some captain of a band of robbers, who has done ten thousand wrongs to us and to our parents, and is himself fraught with ten thousand wickednesses, and has utterly marred our honor and our welfare, should, on presenting a single penny, receive our worship. God promises a Kingdom, and is despised: the Devil helps us to hell, and he is honored! Here God, there Devil. But let us see the difference of the tasks enjoined. For if there were none of these considerations in the case: if it were not, here God, there Devil; not, here one helping to a kingdom, there to a hell: the nature itself of the tasks enjoined were sufficient to induce us to comply with the former For what does each enjoin? The one,18 the things which make glorious; the other the things which put to shame: one, the things which involve in ten thousand calamities and disgraces; the other, the things which have with them abundant refreshment. For look: the one saith, “Learn ye of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. xi. 29): the other saith, Be thou savage, and ungentle, and passionate, and wrathful, and more a wild beast than a man. Let us see which is more useful, which, I pray you, more profitable. “Speak not of this,” say you.19 * * * But consider that he is the devil: above all indeed, if that be shown: there is need also to undergo toils, and, on the other hand, the prize of victory will be greater. For not he that enjoins easy tasks is the kind (khdemwn) benefactor, but he that enjoins what is for our good. Since fathers also enjoin disagreeable tasks; but for this20 they are fathers: and so again do masters to slaves: but kidnappers and destroyers (lumewnej) on the other hand, do just the reverse. And21 yet that the commands of Christ are attended with a pleasure, is manifest from that saying. For to what sort do you take the passionate man to belong, and to what the forbearing and meek? Does not the soul of the (ekeinou) one22 seem to be in a kind of solitary retreat, enjoying exceeding quiet; while that of (toutou) the other is like a market-place and tumult and the midst of cities, where great is the clamor of those: going out, the noise of camels, mules, asses: of men shouting loud to those that meet them, that they may not be trodden under foot: and again, of silver-beaters, of braziers, of men thrusting and pushing this way and that and some overborne, some overbearing? But the soul of (toutou) the former is like some mountain-top, with its delicate air, its pure sunshine, its limpid gushing fountains, its multitude of charming flowers, while the vernal meads and gardens put on their plumage of shrubs and flowers, and glance with rifling waters: and if any sound is heard there, it is sweet, and calculated to affect the ear with a sense of much delight. For either the warbling birds perch on the outermost spray of the branching trees, and cicadas, nightingales and swallows, blended in one harmony, perform a kind of concerted music; or the zephyr gently stirring the leaves, draws whistling tones from pines and firs, resembling oft the notes of the swan: and roses, violets, and other flowers, gently swayed, and (kuanizonta) dark-dimpling, show like a sea just rippled over with gentle undulations. Nay, many are the images one might find. Thus, when one looks at the roses, one shall fancy that he beholds in them the rainbow; in the violets a waving sea; in the lilies, the sky. But23 not by the spectacle alone, and the beholding, does such an one then cause delight: but also in the very body of him that looks to the meadow, rather it refreshes him, and causes him to breathe freely, so that he thinks himself more in heaven than on earth. There is withal a sound of a different kind, when water from the mountain-steep, borne by its own force through ravines gently plashes over its pebbly bed with lulling noise, and so relaxes our frame with the pleasurable sensations, as quickly to draw over our eyes the soft languor of slumber. You have heard the description with pleasure: perhaps also it has made you enamored of solitude. But sweeter far than this solitude is the soul * * of the long-suffering. For it was not for the sake of describing a meadow, nor for the sake of making a display of language, that we have broached this similitude: but the object was, that, seeing how great is the delight of the long suffering, and how, by converse with a long suffering man, one would be far more both delighted and benefited, than by frequenting such spots, ye may follow after such men. For when not even a breath of violence proceeds from such a soul, but mild and engaging words, then indeed does that gentle softness of the zephyr find its counterpart: entreaties also, devoid of all arrogance, but forming the resemblance to those winged warblers,-how is not this far better? For not the body is fanned by the soft breeze of speech; no, it refreshes our souls24 heated and glowing. A physician, by ever so great attention, could not so speedily rid a man of the fever, as a patient man would cool, by the breath of his own words, a person who was passionate and burning with wrath. And why do I speak of a physician? Not even iron, made red-hot and dipped into water, so quickly parts with its heat, as does the passionate man when he comes in contact with the soul of the long-suffering. But as, if it chance that singing birds find their way into the market, they go for nothing there, just so is it with our precepts when they light upon souls addicted to wrathful passions. Assuredly, sweeter is gentleness than bitterness and frowardness. -Well, but the one was God’s bidding, the other the devil’s. Do you see that it was not for nothing that I said, even if there were no devil or God in the case, the things enjoined would be enough in themselves to (aposthsai) revolt us? For the one is both agreeable to himself, and serviceable to others, the other displeasing to himself, and hurtful to others. Nothing is more unpleasant than a man in a passion, nothing more noisome, more odious, more shocking, as also nothing more pleasing than one who knows not what it is to be in a passion. Better dwell with a wild beast than with a passionate man. For the beast, when once tamed, abides by its law; but the man, no matter how often you have tamed him, again turns wild, unless25 however he should of himself settle down into some such habit (of gentleness).

For as a bright sunny day and winter with all its gloom, so are the soul of the angry and that of the gentle. However, let us at present look not to the mischievous consequences resulting to others, but to those which affect the persons themselves: though indeed it is also no slight mischief (to one’s self) to cause ill to another, for the present, however, let that be the consideration. What executioner with his lash can so lacerate the ribs, what red-hot lancets (obeliskoi) ever so pierced the body, what madness can so dispossess a man of his natural reason, as anger and rage do,? I know many instances of persons engendering diseases by giving loose to anger: and the worst of fevers are precisely these. But if they so injure the body, think of the soul. For do not argue that you do not see the mischief, but rather consider, if that which is the recipient of the malignant passion is so hurt, what must be the hurt sustained by that which engenders it! Many have lost their eyes, many have fallen into most grievous disease. Yet he that bears bravely, shall endure all things easily. But, however, both such are the troublesome tasks the devil enjoins, and the wages he assigns us for these is hell. He is both devil and foe to our salvation, and we rather do his bidding than Christ’s, Saviour as He is, and Benefactor and Defender, and speaking as He does such words, which are both sweeter, and more reverend, and more profitable and beneficial, and are both to ourselves and to those who live in our company the greatest of blessings. Nothing worse than anger, my beloved, nothingworse than unseasonable wrath. It will not have any long delay; it is a quick, sharp passion. Many a time has a mere word been blurted out in anger, which needs for its curing a whole lifetime, and a deed been done which was the ruin of the man for life. For the worst of it is this, that in a little moment, and by one act, and by a single word, full oft has it cast us out from the possession of eternal good, and brought to nought a world of pains. Wherefore I beseech you to do all you can to curb this savage beast. Thus far, however, I have spoken concerning meekness and wrath; if one should take in hand to treat of other opposites, as covetousness and the mad passion for glory, contrasted with contempt of wealth and of glory; intemperance with sobriety; envy with benevolence; and to marshal them each against its opposite, then one would know how great the difference. Behold how from the very things enjoined it is plainly shown, that the one master is God, the other the devil! Why then, let us do God’s bidding, and not cast ourselves into bottomless pits; but while there is time, let us wash off all that defiles the soul, that we may attain unto the eternal blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and Holy Ghost together be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Excerpt from Homily VII on Acts 2:37-41~“Now when they heard these words (E. V. `this,’) they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Do you see what a great thing gentleness is? More than any vehemence, it pricks our hearts, inflicts a keener wound. For as in the case of bodies which have become callous the man that strikes upon them does not affect the sense so powerfully, but if he first mollify them and make them tender, then he pierces them effectually; so in this instance also, it is necessary first to mollify. But that which softens, is not wrath, not vehement accusation, not personal abuse; it is gentleness. The former indeed rather aggravate the callousness, this last alone removes it. If then you are desirous to reprove any delinquent, approach him with all possible mildness. For see here; he gently reminds them of the outrages they have committed, adding no comment; he declares the gift of God, he goes on to speak of the grace which bore testimony to the event, and so draws out his discourse to a still greater length. So they stood in awe of the gentleness of Peter, in that he, speaking to men who had crucified his Master, and breathed murder against himself and his companions, discoursed to them in the character of an affectionate father and teacher. Not merely were they persuaded; they even condemned themselves, they came to a sense of their past behavior. For he gave no room for their anger to be roused, and darken their judgment, but by means of humility he dispersed, as it were, the mist and darkness of their indignation, and then pointed out to them the daring outrage they had committed. For so it is; when we say of ourselves that we are injured, the opposite party endeavor to prove that they have not done the injury; but when we say, we have not been injured, but have rather done the wrong, the others take the contrary line. If, therefore, you wish to place your enemy (eij agwna) in the wrong, beware of accusing him; nay (agwnisai), plead for him, he will be sure to find himself guilty. There is a natural spirit of opposition in man. Such was the conduct of Peter. He did not accuse them harshly; on the contrary, he almost endeavored to plead for them, as far as was possible. And this was the very reason that he penetrated into their souls. You will ask, where is the proof that they were pricked? In their own words; for what say they? “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Whom they had called deceivers, they call “brethren:” not that hereby they put themselves on an equality with them, but rather by way of attracting their brotherly affection and kindness: and besides,1 because the Apostles had deigned to call them by this title. And, say they, “What shall we do?” They did not straightway say, Well then, we repent; but they surrendered themselves to the disciples. Just as a person on the point of shipwreck, upon seeing the pilot, or in sickness the physician, would put all into his hands, and do his bidding in everything; so have these also confessed that they are in extreme peril, and destitute of all hope of salvation. They did not say, How shall we be saved? but, “What shall we do?” Here again Peter, though the question is put to all, is the man to answer. “Repent,” says he, “and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.” (v. 38.) He does not yet say, Believe, but, “Be baptized every one of you.” For2 this they received in baptism. Then he speaks of the gain; “For the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” If you are to receive a gift, if baptism conveys remission, why delay? He next gives a persuasive turn to his address, adding, “For the promise is unto you” (v. 39): for he had spoken of a promise above. “And to your children,” he says: the gift is greater, when these are to be heirs of the blessings. “And to all,” he continues, “that are afar off:” if to those that are afar off, much more to you that are near: “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Observe the time he takes for saying, “To those that are afar off.” It is when he finds them conciliated and self-accusing. For when the soul pronounces sentence against itself, no longer can it feel envy. “And with many other words did he testify, and exhort, saying.” (v. 40.) Observe how, throughout, the writer studies brevity, and how free he is from ambition and display. “He testified and exhorted, saying.” This is the perfection of teaching, comprising something of fear and something of love. “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” He says nothing of the future, all is about the present, by which indeed men are chiefly swayed; he shows that the Gospel releases from present3 evils as well. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (v. 41.) Think you not this cheered the Apostles more than the miracle?

Posted in Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Acts of Apostles, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 3:11-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 26, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s very brief analysis of Acts chapter 3, followed by his comments on verses 11-26. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


In this chapter we have an account of the miraculous cure, by St. Peter, of a lame man, with several accompanying circumstances, which placed the reality of the miracle beyond all cavil or dispute, and elicited the wonder and amazement of the people (1–12). The address of Peter, showing that this miracle was brought about, not by human agency, but by the power of Christ and by faith in Him (12–17). His exhortation to penance recommended on several grounds (19–26).

Act 3:11 And as he held Peter and John, all the people ran to them, to the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.

“Held Peter and John.” Closely clinging to them in token of gratitude as they were leaving the Temple after prayer.

“All the people” moved by curiosity at what occurred assembled in this place of public resort at the hour of prayer, which furnished St. Peter with a suitable opportunity of preaching the truth of the Christian faith. “Porch,” a covered passage on the east side of the Temple, “of Solomon.” This was a part of the great Temple of Solomon, which escaped demolition at the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nabuchodonozor (2 Kings 25:15). It was to the East of the Temple. Hence, called by Josephus the Oriental Portico (Antiq. xx. 9, 7).

Act 3:12 But Peter seeing, made answer to the people: Ye men of Israel, why wonder you at this? Or why look you upon us, as if by our strength or power we had made this man to walk?

“Made answer,” does not always mean a reply to a question. Frequently it is used, as here, to signify making a statement or entering on a discourse with or without a previous question.

“Strength or power.” The Greek word for “power” means piety or religious merit. This is preferred by some, as the Vulgate reading would seem to be a more tautology. The Vulgate, however, is preferred by many eminent commentators, as more emphatically describing the feelings of the people who regarded not the piety or personal merits of the Apostles, but their power only.

Act 3:13 The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom you indeed delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate, when he judged he should be released.

“The God of Abraham,” &c. The friend, the protector and bountiful rewarder of Abraham, &c. Speaking to Moses (Exod. 3:6, &c.) God first called Himself by that epithet.

“The God of our Fathers.” He it is that performed this wonder (v. 16).

“Hath glorified,” honoured His Son, Jesus. “Whom you delivered up” to the Romans to be crucified, “and denied” to be your Messiah, your promised deliverer, “before the face of Pilate,” who, convinced of His innocence, “for he could find no cause in Him,” judged that He should be released. Against the deliberate judgment of a Pagan judge, who through fear afterwards consented to condemn Him, they insisted on His death, thus displaying the intensity of their malice and deliberate hate.

Act 3:14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just: and desired a murderer to be granted unto you.

“The Holy One.” An epithet frequently applied to our Lord (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). The article prefixed in the Greek designates Him as “Holy” of His own essence and Divine nature. Infinite sanctity itself.

“A murderer,” Barabbas. Here their conduct is powerfully contrasted with that of Pilate, a pagan, not favoured with the lights vouchsafed to them.

Act 3:15 But the author of life you killed, whom God hath raised from the dead: of which we are witnesses.

“Author of life.” Our Lord is the source of all life, physical and spiritual. A powerful contrast here between Barabbas, the destroyer of life, and Jesus, the source of it in all.

“God raised from the dead.” The Resurrection of Christ, the foundation of all Christian faith, is frequently insisted on in several passages of the New Testament.

“We are witnesses.” The Apostles, disciples, and several followers of our Lord, amounting to a vast number, saw our Lord after His Resurrection, and conversed with Him. God Himself confirmed their testimony regarding this fundamental truth, with miracles.

Act 3:16 And in the faith of his name, this man, whom you have seen and known, hath his name strengthened. And the faith which is by him hath given this perfect soundness in the sight of you all.

“In the faith,” &c. The faith of Peter and John. It don’t appear the man cured had any faith or knowledge of Him previously.

“Hath his name,” that is, himself, “strengthened,” by our power and strength, “whom you have seen and known” to be a cripple from his birth.

“Faith which is in Him.” In our Lord Jesus Christ, as author and finisher of our faith.

“Perfect soundness.” The Greek conveys complete restoration to the use of his limbs.

“In the sight of you all.” It is incontestible, and will stand the test of investigation.

Act 3:17 And now, brethren, I know that you did it through ignorance: as did also your rulers.

After having proved, by a freedom of speech truly Apostolic, that they were guilty of the hideous crime of Deicide, and uttered hard truths. He now wishes to extenuate their guilt, addressing them “as brethren,” and by kindness He wishes to inspire them with hope of pardon. He puts forward the same excuse, “ignorance,” which our Lord Himself advanced in their behalf—“they know not what they do.” He by no means insinuates that they were innocent. He had stated the contrary (v. 14). But, with a view of moving them to repentance by the hope of pardon, He says, their crime, in itself enormous, was extenuated by the fact of their not knowing Him to be their long-expected Messiah.

“As did also your rulers.” The chief men among the Jews were more guilty than the masses of the people. From the evidences placed before them, they could have known that He was their long expected Messiah. Blinded by passion, they, in their fury, proceeded to compass the death of a just man, whom a pagan judge pronounced innocent. Had they known Him to be the long expected Deliverer of their nation, they would not have treated Him as they had done. Still, they were not innocent or free from guilt.

Act 3:18 But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

Anticipating an objection that might suggest itself—viz., if Christ were the Messiah, why suffer Himself to be thus treated? St. Peter shows, if He did not, He could not be regarded as the Messiah at all, since, all the prophets concurred in predicting his death and sufferings. All these occurrences were predicted beforehand, and God caused them to be fulfilled in the manner predicted. Without altogether excusing them or pronouncing them innocent—for they were afterwards called upon to repent for their wickedness—St. Peter prudently mitigates the hard sentence passed upon them, and wishes to excite them to sorrow and the hope of pardon, from the consideration that, although sinning, they were the instruments in carrying out the merciful design of God in the way in which it occurred—viz., through Jewish malice, the redemption of all mankind, themselves included. The foreknowledge of God did not diminish their guilt. For God foresaw it in the way it was to happen—viz., freely, through their deliberate guilt and malice. The Apostle mentions it to inspire them with the hope of pardon. How all the prophets foretold is not so clear. It is understood of the prophets in a general way, or taken on the whole, without stating that each individual prophet foretold it. However, it may be said that they all either literally or mystically, explicitly or implicitly, foretold it. Hence, of our Lord on His way to Emmaus, it is said that “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded the things said concerning Him” (Luke 24:27).

Act 3:19 Be penitent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.

“Therefore,” as your sin so heinous, though extenuated by ignorance, resulted in the redemption of mankind, “repent and be converted” to the Lord, who mercifully ransomed you, in order that, with the hope of pardon in your hearts, “your sins may be blotted out” and cleansed away by a full remission. The idea, according to some, is borrowing from the practice among the ancients of effacing with the blunt end of the stylus, characters impressed on soft wax by the sharp point of same. It also is allusion to the act of creditors blotting out debts due (Coll. 2:14). According to others, the idea is borrowed from the practice of washing parchment and effacing the characters impressed. This would very appropriately apply to the remission of sins in the waters of Baptism.

Act 3:20 That when the times of refreshment shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send him who hath been preached unto you, Jesus Christ.

“When the times,” &c. The Greek for “when” is ὁπως—that, or, in order that, signifying the final cause. The passage, which is not free from difficulties in its construction, would mean—in order that the times of refreshment would be accelerated when, after the toils and warfare of this life, they shall be admitted to that everlasting rest, that sabbatism which God enjoys and shares with His servants (Heb. 4:3–7); a refreshment which “shall come from the presence of the Lord.” “Presence of the Lord,” by a Hebrew idiom means the Lord Himself, who is to confer it.

“And He shall send Him,” His eternal Son, “Jesus Christ,” who hath been preached to you.” The Greek word for “preached” means pre-ordained, or marked out by God, at the end of time, at his second coming to judgment, to confirm the promises made your Fathers (Rom. 15:8). The final end of all things is not to arrive, till after the conversion of the Jews (Rom. 11:26–29). The passage would then seem to convey, that the conversion of the Jewish people would have the effect of bringing on the final end of all things sooner, than would otherwise occur, in the designs of God’s Providence.

Act 3:21 Whom heaven indeed must receive, until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets, from the beginning of the world.

“Whom heaven, indeed, must receive.” It was a common belief among the Jews, that the Messiah would reign on earth for ever (John 12:34). St. Peter meets this prejudice by declaring he ascended into Heaven, as seen by the Apostles and others.

“Until the time of the restoration of all things,” the full restoration of all things had already commenced with our Lord’s coming, to be completed on the day of judgment (2 Peter 3:13). It would be a “restoration” of mankind to the condition destined for them, if man had not fallen.

The visible creation has been deteriorated by sin. It now groans and yearns for its emancipation from the slavery of corruption, to the full enjoyment of the liberty suited to the Sons of God (Rom. 8; 2 Peter 3:10–13). The Apostle in this passage wishes to convey, that if the Jewish nation became repentant and turned to God, the end of all things would soon come, and the human race put in the enjoyment of peace and rest, after being restored to the condition they would have been in, had man originally not fallen, and continued faithful to God.

Act 3:22 For Moses said: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me: him you shall hear according to all things whatsoever he shall speak to you.

“For, Moses,” &c. Among the other Prophets who prophesied regarding our Lord as their Messiah, was Moses whose authority, as their Lawgiver, was of the greatest weight with the Jews. St. Peter shows here that far from opposing or giving up the Law of Moses—in preaching our Lord, they are only carrying out the express commands of Moses, who himself uttered a prediction regarding Him and inculcated obedience to Him.

“A Prophet shall the Lord your God,” &c., “raise up,” commission, authorize to come to you.

Looking to the context of Deut., whence these words are taken (18:15–17) several commentators include under the word “Prophet” a series of authorized teachers, whom God would, from time to time, send to withhold the Jewish people from the false teachers, Diviners, &c., of the neighbouring Idolotrous Gentiles. Whatever may be the truth of that opinion, the word admittedly, refers to our Lord, who was by excellence the greatest among these teachers. The Jews themselves would seem to understand it so. “Art thou the Prophet?” (John 1.) Moses commands them to obey Him, which they can still do, since He lives and exercises supreme authority in Heaven. They should, therefore, attend to the injunctions of Moses in reference to Him.

“Of your own brethren,” your own race and nation, “like unto me.” There are several points of similarity, not equality. They were not, however, similar in all things, but only in some points, especially as to making known the will of God to the people, both being “raised up,” or commissioned by God to do this. The comparison can be urged no further, nor in other respects. The difference between both being infinite (Heb. 3:3, 7).

Act 3:23 And it shall be, that every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.

“It shall be.” It will surely, and, of necessity, take place, St. Peter quotes from Deuteronomy not literally, but only the meaning.

“Which will not hear,” or obey, that Prophet commissioned with authority to declare the will of God.

“Shall be destroyed.” For which it is in Hebrew. “I shall require it of him,” that is, make him answer for it. In the Septuagint, it is, “I shall be present, as an avenger,” shall punish him. The usual way for punishing grievous sinners among the Jews was, by exterminating them from among the people, subjecting them to all the penalties of excommunication; thus depriving them of all the privileges of the Jewish people and cutting them off, which was the greatest punishment inflicted by Jewish law. From this, those present could see that by continuing to disobey our Lord, they would be subjected to the heaviest punishment here and hereafter. Here, in the utter destruction of their city and the attendant horrors, which the Christians being forwarned, escaped by flying to Pella. But as he speaks of the punishment at the final restoration of all things, most likely, there is question of their punishment hereafter, in the day of judgment and the Eternal tortures of Hell. As they could now have recourse to him, although in Heaven, they should do so and repent of their sins.

Act 3:24 And all the prophets, from Samuel and afterwards, who have spoken, have told of these days.

“And.” In Greek means, nay even. Not only Moses, who holds the highest place, but, “all the Prophets,” denoting many of them, in general, without specifying them individually, “from Samuel,” who with all the Prophets that succeeded him, “have told, of those days.” Have distinctly foretold the several occurrences that took place in connection with Jesus of Nazareth, all the events of His life from His birth, from the commencement of His reign on earth, till the final consummation of all things. To these predictions the Jews should pay heed. Likely, from Moses to Samuel no Prophet arose, God was consulted in the interim and gave His responses through Urim and Thummim (Exod. 28:30; Numbers 27:21).

We have hardly any Prophecy of Samuel relating to our Lord, unless it be the famous Prophecy of Nathan, recorded (2 Kings 7:13, 14), which the Jews called and Samuel, (as they considered 1st and 2nd Kings, was written by Samuel, at least in part); and, hence, as recorded by him, this is called Samuel’s prediction. Or, it may be St. Peter refers to some Prophecy of Samuel relating to our Lord, not written, but, known to the Jews.

Act 3:25 You are the children of the prophets and of the testament which God made to our fathers, saying to Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

“The children” (in Greek, sons) “of the Prophets,” not that they were the lineal descendants of the prophets. The Hebrew words often mean, as here, those to whom any thing belongs, whether by inheritance or otherwise. The meaning, then, is, they, it is, to whom the oracles of the Prophets appertain, also the Covenant made by God with their Fathers, Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 26:4), Isaac and Jacob.

“Saying to Abraham.” To him were the promises first made. He was the Father of the faithful. “Thy seed,” posterity. This is applied by St. Paul (Galatians 3:15) to our Lord, as it is here by St. Peter.

“Kindreds.” The Greek (πατριαι) those deriving their origin from one common parent, Jews as well as Gentiles. These latter were the spiritual sons of Abraham, no less than the Jews, “blessed,” rendered happy. They should, therefore, by embracing their Messiah, avail themselves of the promises made, which promises, strictly speaking, could not be a Covenant as between God and His creatures. The solemn promises made by God were, however, called a Covenant, to show their firmness and solemnity.

Act 3:26 To you first, God, raising up his Son, hath sent him to bless you: that every one may convert himself from his wickedness.

To you first,” &c. In the order of God’s Providence, the Gospel was to be first preached to the Jews, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

“Raising up” does not refer to our Lord’s Resurrection; it only signifies commissioning him, sending him, with authority, as in v. 22.

“That everyone may convert himself,” &c. Here, the prospect of pardon and forgiveness is held out to them, which they may obtain by penance and conversion to God. The Apostle wishes to convey to them, that now, the Messiah having come, they, as well as all the other “kindreds” of the earth, by being converted to Him, may look for happiness, and the pardon of all their sins.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on Acts of Apostles, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 20:10-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 26, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of John 20, followed by his comments on verses 10-18. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


In this chapter, we have an account of Magdalen’s arrival at our Lord’s sepulchre, at twilight, on the first day of the week; finding the stone removed, she hastens to inform Peter and John (1, 2). They coming in haste, saw from the linen cloths and bandages that were scattered about, that the Resurrection had taken place. John, in consequence, believed in the Resurrection. After that, they retired to their respective homes (3–11).

Magdalen returning to the sepulchre had a vision of angels. She had, moreover, the ineffable happiness of being met by our Lord Himself, who making Himself known to her, addressed her in consoling language, and instructed her to inform His brethren of it, which she faithfully did (11–18).

Late, on the evening of the same day, after the disciples had returned from Emmaus, our Lord entering the chamber, where the disciples were gathered together, the doors being shut, communicates His peace, imparts the Holy Ghost, and gives power to remit and retain sins. Thomas was absent, this time (19, 23).

The incredulity of Thomas, which our Lord, at His apparition on the eighth day after the Resurrection, mercifully removes, by condescendingly giving Thomas the proofs he desired of our Lord’s real Resurrection (24–28). Thomas’s ardent faith, and profession in our Lord’s Divinity and Humanity (28).

Our Lord’s commendation of the faith of the simple believers (29).

The Evangelist declares his reason for writing this Gospel (30, 31).

Joh 20:10  The disciples therefore departed again to their home.Joh 20:11  But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre.

“They retired to their homes;” Peter, in a state of admiration; John, believing (see 8-9); Magdalen remaining alone at the sepulchre, lovingly anxious to inquire further about what was done with the body of her Lord, whom she so ardently loved—“weeping” over His death, and the loss of His sacred body.

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.

Although she had already looked into the sepulchre, she did not fail to do so again, out of anxiety, and was favoured with a vision of angels, in reward for her faith and anxiety. Her companions were similarly favoured (Luke 24:4).

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.

“Why weepest thou?” This is no time for weeping, but a time for joy. The reply of Magdalen, “because, they have taken away,” etc., would argue weak and confused ideas regarding our Lord’s Resurrection.

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

“She turned back and saw Jesus standing.” It may be, as many suppose, that the angels who were before her, showed signs of reverence to our blessed Lord. This made Magdalen look back to see what it meant; or, some noise may have been made, which would cause her to look back.

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.

Our Lord in His glorified body, presented a different appearance from what He had in His mortal state. Here, He had the appearance of one whom she took for the gardener, in charge of the garden in which the holy sepulchre was placed, from His appearing there at such an early hour. At another time, He had the appearance of a stranger; as when He appeared to the Apostles on their way to Emmaus.

“And I will take Him away.” Possibly, Magdalen’s eyes were held, like the disciples at Emmaus, so that she could not know Him (Luke 24:16). The excess of her love makes all things possible. On any other principle, it is hard to see how a feeble, weak woman could speak in such a way. It was the excess of holy love.

“If thou hast taken Him hence.” She is so taken up with the idea of our Lord, that she can think of nothing else. She fancies nobody could think of any one else; that all are entirely engrossed, like herself, with the one great object of love.

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

“Mary,” addressing her in His natural, well-known tone of voice.

“Rabboni,” which is understood by some to mean, “my master;” by others, “master, like Rabbi.” It would seem to be a more august and respectful term than Rabbi, applied to our Lord, only after His Resurrection. “She turning.” Likely, as our Lord, whom she took for the gardener, gave her no reply, she turned to the angels to inquire who He was; and, then, on hearing His familiar, well-known tone of voice, she turned to Him. Others understand, “turned,” recovered from the stupor she was in, like Peter (Acts 22:5).

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.

Possibly, Magdalen on discovering it to be her loving Lord, in an ecstasy of love, made signs (as St. Gregory infers, Hom. 25), of Her desire to embrace His knees and kiss His feet, and reverently adore Him, as was permitted afterwards (Matthew 28:9). Seeing this, or knowing it, our Lord prohibits her from remaining there. He, therefore, tells her to go at once, and announce to the brethren all she saw.

“I am not yet ascended,” etc., as if to say, a sufficiently long interval will elapse before I ascend to My Father; so that you will have time enough to exhibit due reverence to Me in person. Therefore, delay not in enjoying the spiritual delights and pleasures now communicated to you. But go at once, and inform My brethren, that I am, soon after My Resurrection, to “ascend to My Father,” who is your Father also, “to My God,” who is your God also.

This is the common interpretation and connexion of the words, “Do not touch Me.”

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

This was Magdalen’s second journey. In the former, she announced the taking away of the Sacred Body; in this, the glorious tidings of the Resurrection communicated to her by our Lord Himself. The other Evangelists record the two journeys as one. The disciples did not believe Magdalen (Mark 16:1), nor the other women (Luke 24:11).

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

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 28:8-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 26, 2016

This post opens with a brief analysis of the entire chapter, followed by Fr. MacEvilly’s comments on verses 8-15. Text in red, if any, ae my additions.


In this chapter, the Evangelist gives an account of our Lord’s resurrection, on Easter morning, and of the wonderful occurrences that took place in connexion with it—the earthquake, the appearance of angels at the tomb, the terror and stupefaction that seized on the guards (1–4). The consoling assurances on this head, given to the pious women, who came early to the sepulchre, by the angel who also instructed them to go at once and inform His disciples of the fact. On their way home, our Lord Himself meets them, and dispels all their fears (5–10). The obstinate impenitence of the Chief Priests, and their determined resistance to the known truth, in bribing the soldiers, with a large sum of money, to tell an unmeaning lie, viz., that the disciples came while they were asleep, and stole away our Lord’s body (11–15). The apparition of our Lord to His Apostles on a mountain of Galilee, where He communicates to them the plenitude of His authority, armed with which they are commanded to go forth, as His legates, to preach the glad tidings of Redemption, to the end of time, to the entire world. He further promises them and their successors, to the end of the world, His never-ceasing, uninterrupted protection, to guard them against error and tenure them against failure, while engaged in their glorious work, of saving the world.

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

“With fear,” or rather, awe, produced by the appearance of the Angels at the sepulchre, and the announcement of the resurrection of their Lord, and anxiety lest these things might be spectral appearances, rather than realities. “And great joy,” caused by the joyous tidings they heard. They felt mingled sensations of awe and joy.

“Running to tell His disciples,” viz., “to the eleven, and to all the rest” (Luke 24:9). What they announced to the eleven, St. Matthew does not say, but St. Luke tells us, “they told all these things,” viz., the apparition of the Angels, and the taking away of our Lord’s body (John 20:2).

The apparent discrepancy between the account of what the women announced, as recorded in St. Luke (24), and St. John (20:2), is easily cleared up. The women being timid, and in doubt whether the whole thing was a reality or not, said nothing of it on their way back (Mark 16:8), and when they reached the Apostles, they informed them alternately of what they saw and heard, and of their own doubts and fears on the subject, which made them imagine our Lord’s body was taken away. This latter point, regarding their doubts, is recorded by St. John only (20:2), and omitted by the other Evangelists. The Apostles, too, in the first instance, regarded the women’s account “as an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).

Here, we must insert what is described by St. John (20:2–19), in order to fill up the Gospel narrative, and remove the apparent discrepancies in the narratives of the Evangelists. Magdalen and her companions, in obedience to the Angels injunctions, hasten to Jerusalem from the sepulchre, to announce to the Apostles what they saw and heard (Luke 24:9). While doing this, they give expression to their own fears and doubts (John 20:2). (Some expositors hold that at her first visit Magdalen did not wait for the vision of Angels seen by the other women, she at once, on seeing the stone removed, hastened back to tell the Apostles. This opinion is not easily reconciled with Luke 24:9, 10.) Immediately, Peter and John hasten to the sepulchre, followed by Magdalen and her companions. Peter and John enter the sepulchre, and return home, wondering at what they saw. The companions of Magdalen also return, leaving Magdalen behind them, weeping from fear, and a desire to find the body of our Lord. While stooping down and looking into the sepulchre, she saw two Angels, who were exhibiting reverence to our Lord, who was standing behind Magdalen. On looking behind her, to see who it was that the Angels were reverencing, she saw our Lord, and mistook Him for the gardener in charge of the garden where the sepulchre was. But immediately after recognizing Him, from His usual tone of voice, when pronouncing her name, she would lay hold of His feet (verse 9), which in Scripture denotes a species of adoration; but this He would not allow. Magdalen was, then, the first to whom, according to the Gospel History, our Lord showed Himself after His resurrection (Mark 16:9). She merited this favour by her love and affection, owing to which she clung to the sepulchre where His sacred body had been deposited. After this, overtaking the other women on their way (verse 9), she had the privilege of seeing Him a second time, in company with these others. It is supposed by many, as a matter of congruity—although the Gospel makes no mention of it—that He appeared first of all to His Blessed Mother, on the day of His resurrection.

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

“And Jesus met them saying,” &c. This occurred on their second return from the sepulchre, after the Apostles had left, Mary Magdalen remaining alone after them at the tomb. That it could not refer to the first time they ran back in haste to inform the Apostles of what they saw and heard, expressing at the same time their anxious doubts about His sacred body, appears clear from the fact, that from SS. Mark and John, it is certain that our Lord appeared to Magdalen first, early on the morning of His resurrection, and that at the tomb, not on the road. Moreover, the women said nothing of our Lord appearing to them, when first they announced these things to the Apostles (John 20:2; Luke 24:9, &c. 23, 24). It was on their return, after the Apostles had examined the tomb, that this apparition occurred to the women, and to Mary Magdalen, who had overtaken them, after having seen Him already alone at the sepulchre.

Maldonatus, quoting the authority of St. Athanasius, holds, that the apparition referred to is the same as that in Mark (16:9; John 20:16), which was made to Magdalen only; and that Magdalen alone is mentioned by St. Mark as having been first favoured with the apparition of our Lord, not in opposition to the other women, but to the Apostles; or, that she was the first among them who saw Him, and to her alone did He speak; and that she is spoken of alone out of the rest, because she was the most prominent among them for her love and deep affection for Him.

“All hail”— the Greek χαιρετε (chaire)—is a common Hebrew form of salutation, expressive of peace, and embracing all blessings. It means, rejoice at the glad event, which has thrown open the gates of heaven, after the triumph over death and hell, and has reversed the malediction entailed by the first woman. Hence, as death commenced with the female sex, it was congruous, that the message of the resurrection—the triumph over death—should be first announced to the same (St. Hilary).

“They came up,” after recognizing Him, “and took hold of His feet,” out of modesty and reverence; they decline embracing His person. Among the Jews, it was a kind of reverence and adoration, particularly on the part of women towards men, to touch their feet (Exod. 4:25); also the case of the woman of Sunamis (4 Kings 4:27; also Luke 7:38; John 11:32). The women here touch His feet, with the view of adoring Him, which is afterwards explained. “And adored Him.” It is said, that He forbade Magdalen on the occasion of His first apparition (John 20:17) to touch Him. Whether He did so here, and that the women, in the excess of their love, still touched Him, thinking they were doing Him honour, as in the case of the blind men in the Gospel, who proclaimed His goodness, nothwithstanding His prohibition (9:30, 31), is not mentioned by the Evangelist. Neither does St. John say whether Magdalen touched Him or not. St. John tells us, He told Magdalen not to touch Him; whether she actually did so or not, he does not say. St. Matthew tells us here, that the other women actually took hold of His feet; whether they were prohibited from doing so or not, is not mentioned by him.

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

Whilst they were engaged in reverently and affectionately adoring their Lord with mingled feelings of awe and affection, “Jesus said to them: Fear not.” The presence of spiritual and supernatural beings is calculated to inspire mortal man with awe and terror. Hence, the awe and fear which the women felt at the presence of their Lord risen from the tomb. Most likely, also, their fears arose from the apprehension, as in the case of the Angels, lest what they saw might be a phantom rather than a reality. Our Redeemer, addressing them, dispels their fears, from whatever cause proceeding, and tells them:

“Go, tell My brethren that they go into Galilee,” &c. By “His brethren,” are meant all His Apostles, including those who were nearly allied to Him by kindred. Our Redeemer is supposed here to allude to the words of the Psalm (21:23), “Narrabo nomen tuum fratribus meis,” quoted by St. Paul (Heb. 2:12). During His mortal life, He called them His disciples and friends; now, risen glorious and immortal from the dead, He designates them by the tender and endearing appellation of “brethren,” to assuage their grief for His death, strengthen their minds, and inspire them with confidence; to show, that, although He is now glorious, still He participates in the same human nature; and also to suggest to them, that while He is the natural Son of God, the first-born among many brethren, they are the adoptive sons of God, heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ. He transmits the same message, that had been already given by the Angels (verse 7) to confirm the testimony of the Angels, and to show that His words and theirs perfectly agreed.

“There they shall see Me” (verse 7). He manifested Himself to them shortly after this in Jerusalem, but it was only in a passing, transient way: whereas, in Galilee He remained many days, freely conversing with them on all matters pertaining to the future government of His Church, &c.

Our Redeemer manifested Himself several times in Judea. On the day of His resurrection, He showed Himself five different times—1st, to Magdalen (Mark 16:9; John 20:16)—most probably, before all, He appeared to His Virgin Mother; 2nd, to the women (verse 9); 3rd, to Peter (Luke 24:34); 4th, to the disciples going to Emmaus (Luke 24:36); 5th, to the ten assembled disciples, after the return of the two from Emmaus (Luke 24:36), Thomas being absent.

After the day of His resurrection, He appeared five other times before His ascension—1st. After eight days, when Thomas was present (John 20:26). 2nd. When the seven disciples were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:2). 3rd. To the eleven on a mountain of Galilee, generally supposed to be Thabor (Matt. 28:16). Most likely, this is the apparition referred to by St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:6), where “He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once.” The Evangelist only makes mention of the eleven, who saw Him by appointment; he does not, however, say by how many more He was seen, on that occasion. 4th. He appeared to St. James (1 Cor. 15:7); this is not mentioned in the Gospel. 5th. To all the Apostles and others, on Mount Olivet, at His Ascension (Acts 1:9). He appeared to St. Paul afterwards (Acts 9:3; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8).

The apparition of our Lord at the Sea of Tiberias, is called by St. John (21:14), the “third;” but, this probably means, the third public appearance, in an assembly of His disciples, or, it may refer to the number of the days He appeared. He appeared, first, on the day of His resurrection, to several persons; secondly, eight days afterwards; and then on a third day, referred to here by St. John.

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

“Who when they were departed.” This, according to some (Jansenius, &c.) refers to the first departure of the women to announce to Peter and the Apostles the vision of Angels, the absence of the body, &c., although recorded after the second departure of the women, when the Apostles had returned home, on seeing the truth of the accounts given by the women.

“Some of the guards came into the city,” &c. These, most likely, proceeded in the name of the entire, to announce what they witnessed about the vision of Angels, the earthquake, &c. It is most likely, however, that it refers to the second return, or departure of the women after the Apostles had been at the tomb. It was only after the Apostles had departed, and the women followed them, that the terror which the soldiers conceived from the appearance of the Angels had left them, God so arranging it, that they were, as it were, kept spell-bound, during the entire time, so that they would not interfere with the Apostles, any more than they had done with the women, on their first approach, at early dawn, and would be in a position to give unquestionable testimony regarding all the circumstances, which placed beyond doubt, the truth of the resurrection. It was when the women and the Apostles departed, and the terror of the soldiers was removed, that “some of the guards” went to announce all they saw to the Chief Priests, by whom they were appointed, with Pilate’s sanction, to guard the sepulchre. “Some of them,” but not all, as otherwise they would have violated the duty of watching the sepulchre till the end of the third day, the morning of which had then arrived. They “told, the Chief Priests all the things that had been done,” already narrated by the Evangelists, regarding the vision of Angels, the earthquake, the removal of the stone, the absence of the body, &c., all which, very likely, they themselves, before leaving, most closely examined and ascertained. This they did, for two reasons—1st, to render an account of their own duty, lest they might be accused of neglect, or perfidy, or corruption before the Governor; and, 2ndly, to give the Chief Priests, &c., an opportunity of devising by what means they could prevent the rumour, relative to the resurrection, from being circulated among the people.

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

“Together with the ancients.” The Scribes also were there assembled, as one of the three orders which composed the Chief Council among the Jews. They adopted the wicked design of bribing the soldiers into falsehood. “A great sum of money,” such a sum as would exceed that promised for guarding the sepulchre, and would tell on the avaricious minds of the soldiery. “To the soldiers,” all the soldiers who were stationed at the tomb, were witnesses of the truth of the things related by those who came to the High Priests. These princes of the Jewish nation, persisting in their malice, refused to turn to God, and wished to persuade the world that Jesus was not risen; and sacrificed to the purposes of falsehood, the money given for the use of the temple. As they gave Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray his Master, so they now offer a large sum of money to suppress a truth so useful and so necessary for man (St. Jerome).

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

Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the blind and inexcusable perversity of the Jewish princes, than their conduct in reference to the soldiers; whose testimony was irrefragable, and beyond all suspicion; and, yet, far from yielding, they oppose the known truth, and wilfully endeavour to corrupt the minds of the soldiery, to testify to what they knew to be false. Moreover, they exhibit, in the clearest light, their own stupid folly. They prevail on the soldiers to testify to what, according to their own admission, they were in a condition to know nothing of, “Testes dormientes adhibes?” (“You use sleeping witnesses) jeeringly exclaims St. Augustine, in a tone of merited scorn, “vere tu ipse obdormisti, qui scrutando talia defecisti,” in Psalm 63 (But in truth you yourselves slept by failing to search out these things). The whole story of the soldiers was most absurd, and carried with it its own refutation, and, in truth, furnished an additional argument of our Redeemer’s resurrection. It shows the utter desperation the Jewish princes must have been reduced to, when they had recourse to so ridiculous a device. If the Priests themselves were not convinced of the fact, would they not, instead of bribing the soldiers to dissemble, have accused them before Pilate of a breach of military duty? It is preposterous to suppose, that weak, timid men, who dared not defend their Master, nay, who deserted Him while alive, would come, in defiance of an armed soldiery, to steal away His body, and remove the stone, which it required a good many hands to remove; and this with the foolish view of causelessly perpetuating an impudent fraud of which themselves would have been, in the supposition made, the deluded victims. Why not steal away His body on Friday night, before the guards were set to watch it on Saturday? The mouth of the sepulchre was also sealed. Why not take away the clothes which St. Peter saw lying in the sepulchre, and avoid the delay of taking off His clothes and the napkin that bound His head? The removal of these clothes, particularly as they must have adhered to His body, which was anointed, would cause much delay and danger to themselves.

The story of the soldiers, so clumsily invented, only rendered the fact of the resurrection the more certain; for, it admitted the body was not in the tomb. Hence, the fears and doubts of the disciples, joined to the foolish story of the soldiers, demonstrate most clearly, that the whole affair of the stealing of the body was a clumsy, unmeaning invention. Moreover, how could it be possible that Roman soldiers would all have slept, when their lives were in danger? and even, had they slept, that they would not be roused by the noise which the removal of the stone must have caused? Avarice blinded the soldiers to give circulation to this absurd story, as it had blinded the unhappy Judas, “avaritia illa quæ captivavit discipulum, comitem Christi, captivavit et militem custodem sepulchri” (But that covetousness which possessed the disciple that was the companion of Christ, blinded also the soldiers that were the guards of His sepulcher~St. Augustine).

It is likely, the princes of the Jews persuaded them, that, although our Lord had risen, still it was to a spiritual mode of living; that He would no more appear in His natural form; and, hence, there was no fear of their story being contradicted by His future appearance among the people.

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

They promised them security, in case of any investigation as to their dereliction of duty. Most likely, the Governor who had shown such weakness in condemning Jesus, whom he knew to be innocent, would be easily prevailed upon by the same influences to pardon the soldiers, in case any question were raised on the subject. But, that the soldiers secretly told the entire truth to Pilate, and testified to the truth of our Lord’s resurrection, and that Pilate informed Tiberius of the whole affair, who, therefore, wished to have Christ enrolled among the gods, is expressly stated by Hegesippus, in Anaceph. It is also stated by Tertullian (in Apologet. c. 5), and by Eusebius (in Chronico A. Christi. 38, Histor. Liber. ii., c. 2), that Pilate informed Tiberius of the matter, who threatened the accusers of the Christians with death, although, by a decree of the Fathers, it was fixed that the Christians should be driven from the city.

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

The soldiers, taking the money, did as the High Priests told them, viz., they declared that the body was stolen while they were asleep.

“And this word,” this ridiculous story about the stealing of the body of our Lord by His disciples, while the guard were asleep, which was put into the mouths of the soldiers, “was spread abroad among the Jews,” believed by most of them. He opposes “the Jews,” the unbelieving mass of the Jewish people, to the Christians converted from Judaism, and who were comparatively few. “Even unto this day,” nearly eight years after our Lord’s resurrection, when St. Matthew’s Gospel was written. The Jews, blinded by their passions, continued still in their obstinacy. Having refused to acknowledge the Divinity of our Lord, they denied the truth of His resurrection; and this blindness and hardness of heart shall continue among that accursed race, until the end of the world, when, according to the general belief, the veil shall be removed from their eyes, and the remnant of Israel shall be saved—“There shall come out of Sion He that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Rom. 11:26).

Others, by “this word,” understand, not the foolish tale regarding the stealing of our Lord’s body, but, the rumour about the bribing of the soldiers with money, to induce them to tell a lie regarding the stealing of our Redeemer’s body (Maldonatus).

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

Notes on Isaiah 50:4-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2016

The Lord’s Servant made perfect through Sufferings
Isaiah 50:4-11

Immediate Context: In Isa 50:4-9 the Servant is again introduced, speaking of himself and his work, as in Isa 49:1-6. He describes in the first place the close and intimate and continuous communion with God through which he has learned the ministry of comfort by the Divine word, and his own complete self-surrender to the voice that guides him (Isa 50:4-5); next, his acceptance of the persecution and obloquy which he had to encounter in the discharge of his commission (6); and lastly he expresses his unwavering confidence in the help of Jehovah and the victory of his righteous cause and the discomfiture of all his enemies (7–9).

Isa 50:4 The Lord hath given me a learned tongue, that I should know how to uphold by word him that is weary: he wakeneth in the morning, in the morning he wakeneth my ear, that I may hear him as a master.
Isa 50:5 The Lord God hath opened my ear, and I do not resist: I have not gone back.

The prophet, say these beautiful lines, learns his speech, as the little child does, by listening. Grace is poured upon the lips through the open ear. It is the lesson of our Lord’s Ephphatha. When He took the deaf man with the impediment in his speech aside from the multitude privately, He said unto him, not Be loosed, but, “Be opened; and” first “his ears were opened, and” then the “bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” To speak, then, the prophet must listen; but mark to what he must listen! The secret of his eloquence lies not in the hearing of thunder, nor in the knowledge of mysteries, but in a daily ‘wakefulness to the lessons and experience of common life. “Morning by morning He openeth mine ear.” This is very characteristic of Hebrew prophecy and Hebrew wisdom, which listened for the truth of God in the voices of each day, drew their parables from things the rising sun lights up to every wakeful eye, and were, in the bulk of their doctrine, the virtues, needed day by day, of justice, temperance, and mercy, and in the bulk of their judgments the results of everyday observation and experience. The strength of the Old Testament lies in this its realism, its daily vigilance and experience of life. It is its contact with life-the life, not of the yesterday of its speakers, but of their today-that makes its voice so fresh and helpful to the weary. He whose ear is daily open to the music of his current life will always find himself in possession of words that refresh and stimulate.

But serviceable speech needs more than attentiveness and experience. Having gained the truth, the prophet must be obedient and loyal to it. Yet obedience and loyalty to the truth are the beginnings of martyrdom, of which the Servant now goes on to speak as the natural and immediate consequence of his prophecy.

The relation of the Servant to YHWH is that of a favourite disciple to his master; from Him he had learned the art of persuasive and consoling speech, and to Him he daily looks for the substance of his message. Comp. Isa 49:2 (the Servant’s endowment with prophetic eloquence), and Isa 42:3 (the gentleness of his ministry).

a learned tongue] a disciples’ tongue (see ch. Isa 8:16), i.e. a disciplined tongue (R.V. “of them that are taught”). The stress laid on the Divine education of the Servant is connected with the fact that his ministry of consolation was almost a new departure in prophecy. In the hands of the earlier prophets the word of Jehovah had been like a hammer breaking the rock in pieces (Jer 23:29) rather than a dew reviving the spirit of the humble.

that I should know … weary] A difficult clause. The verb rendered “speak in season” (‘ûth) is unknown in Hebrew. The A.V., following the Jewish interpreters, takes it to be a denominative from the word for “time” (‘çth), but that is an impossible etymology. The LXX. gives a similar sense (τοῦ γνῶναι ἡνίκα δεῖ εἰπεῖν λόγον) but based on a different text. Of the traditional interpretations the most suitable is perhaps that of the Vulg. and Aquila (which is followed by the R.V.): that I should know how to sustain the weary with a word. Modern authorities who adopt this rendering support it by an Arabic verb meaning “to help,” which however is not an exact philological equivalent. Another Arabic analogy has suggested the translation “water” (i.e. “refresh”). It is impossible to get beyond conjecture, although the general sense is clear.

in the morning he waketh my ear] (cf. Isa_28:19). A far simpler sentence results if we omit with Cheyne the first word of the Heb. (or with Duhm the first two words) as an uncorrected slip of a copyist, reading the adverbial expression with the following verb; thus: “morning by morning (or “in the morning”) he wakeneth my ear to hear” &c.

as the master] after the manner of disciples.

Isa 50:6 I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me.
Isa 50:7 The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded: therefore have I set my face as a most hard rock, and I know that I shall not be confounded.

The classes of men who suffer physical ill-usage at the hands of their fellow-men may roughly be described as three, -the Military Enemy, the Criminal, and the Prophet; and of these three we have only to read history to know that the Prophet fares by far the worst. However fatal men’s treatment of their enemies in war or of their criminals may be, it is, nevertheless, subject to a certain order, code of honour, or principle of justice. But in all ages the Prophet has been the target for the most licentious spite and cruelty; for torture, indecency, and filth past belief. Although our own civilisation has outlived the system of physical punishment for speech, we even yet see philosophers and statesmen, who have used no weapons but exposition and persuasion, treated by their opponents who would speak of a foreign enemy with respect-with execration, gross epithets, vile abuse, and insults, that the offenders would not pour upon a criminal. If we have this under our own eyes, let us think how the Prophet must have fared before humanity learned to meet speech by speech. Because men attacked it, not with the sword of the invader or with the knife of the assassin, but with words, therefore (till not very long ago) society let loose upon them the foulest indignities and most horrible torments. Socrates’ valour as a soldier did not save him from the malicious slander, the false witness, the unjust trial, and the poison, with which the Athenians answered his speech against themselves. Even Hypatia’s womanhood did not awe the mob from tearing her to pieces for her teaching. This unique and invariable experience of the Prophet is summed up and clenched in the name Martyr. Martyr originally meant a witness or witness-bearer, but now it is the synonym for every shame and suffering which the cruel ingenuity of men’s black hearts can devise for those they hate.

These are not national sufferings. They are no reflection of the hard usage which the captive Israel suffered from Babylon. They are the reflection of the reproach and pains, which, for the sake of God’s word, individual Israelites more than once experienced from their own nation. But if individual experience, and not national, formed the original of this picture of the Servant as Martyr, then surely we have in this another strong reason against the objection to recognise in the Servant at last an individual. It may be, of course, that for the moment our prophet feels that this frequent experience of individuals in Israel is to be realised by the faithful Israel, as a whole, in their treatment by the rest of their cruel and unspiritual countrymen. But the very fact that individuals have previously fulfilled this martyrdom in the history of Israel, surely makes it possible for our prophet to foresee that the Servant, who is to fulfil it again, shall also be an individual.

But, returning from this slight digression on the person of the Servant to his fate, let us emphasise again, that his sufferings came to him as the result of his prophesying. The Servant’s sufferings are not penal, they are not yet felt to be vicarious. They are simply the reward with which obdurate Israel met all her prophets, the inevitable martyrdom which followed on the uttering of God’s Word. And in this the Servant’s experience forms an exact counterpart to that of our Lord. For to Christ also reproach and agony and death-whatever higher meaning they evolved-came as the result of His Word. The fact that Jesus suffered as our great High Priest must not make us forget that His sufferings fell upon Him because He was a Prophet. He argued explicitly He must suffer, because so suffered the prophets before Him. He put Himself in the line of the martyrs: as they had killed the servants, He said, so would they kill the Son. Thus it happened. His enemies sought “to entangle Him in His talk”: it was for His talk they brought Him to trial. Each torment and indignity which the Prophet-Servant relates, Jesus suffered to the letter. They put Him to shame and insulted Him; His helpless hands were bound; they spat in His face and smote Him with their palms; they mocked and they reviled Him; scourged Him again; teased and tormented Him; hung Him between thieves; and to the last the ribald jests went up, not only from the soldiers and the rabble, but from the learned and the religious authorities as well, to whom His fault had been that He preached another word than their own. The literal fulfillments of our prophecy are striking, but the main fulfilment, of which they are only incidents, is, that like the Servant, our Lord suffered directly as a Prophet. He enforced and He submitted to the essential obligation, which lies upon the true Prophet, of suffering for the Word’s sake.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, NOTES ON ISAIAH, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 19

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2016


Arg. Thomas. That Christ entered the Virginal shrine, and proceeded from it, in order that He might make known the secrets of men. Concerning the preaching of the Apostles, and the Advent of Christ. Concerning the Advent of Christ and His Ascension, by which we may unlock the 119th Psalm, where the Old and New Testament are joined. Read it with S. Matthew.

Ven. Bede. (Title: To the end; a Psalm of David.) This inscription is well known, referring what is said in the Psalm to Christ the Lord, of Whose First Advent the Prophet is about to speak: and this is the first Psalm on that subject. The others are four in number; that is, the 80th, the 85th, the 97th, and the 98th. Through the whole Psalm they are the words of the Prophet. In the first place, he praises the preachers of the Lord; he then uses the loveliest comparisons concerning His Incarnation. Secondly, he lauds the precepts of the Old and New Testament. Thirdly, he prays that he may be purged from his secret faults, and may be made a worthy Psalmist.

Syriac Psalter. The liberation of the people from Egypt, and to us a theological instruction.


This Psalm has been so universally applied to the Apostles, that it will be well, before we proceed to its consideration, to give one of the most beautiful applications thus made of it, the Sequence of Gotteschalkus. It was written for the Division of the Apostles; a favourite feast in Germany on the 15th of July.

The Heavens declare the glory of the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, made Heavens from earth.
For this glory befitteth that Lord alone,
Whose Name is the Angel of the Great Counsel.
This Counsel, the assistance of fallen man, is ancient, and profound, and true, made known to the Saints alone.
When this Angel, made Man of a woman, made an immortal out of a mortal; out of men, angels; out of earth, heaven.
This is the Lord God of Hosts, Whose angels sent into the earth are the Apostles.
To whom He exhibited Himself alive after His Resurrection by many arguments, announcing peace as the victor of death.
Peace be unto you, saith He; I am He; fear ye not; preach the word of Christ to every creature, before kings and princes.
As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you into the world; be ye therefore prudent as serpents, be ye harmless as doves.

Hence Peter, Prince of Apostles, visited Rome; Paul, Greece, preaching grace everywhere; hence these twelve chiefs in the four quarters of the world, preached as Evangelists the Threefold and the One.

Andrew, either James, Philip, Bartholomew, Simon, Thaddeus, John, Thomas, and Matthew, twelve Judges, not divided from unity, but for unity, collected unto one those that were divided through the earth:

Their sound is gone out into all lands.
And their words into the ends of the world.
How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim good things,—that preach peace;
That speak thus to them that are redeemed by the Blood of Christ: Sion, thy God shall reign.
Who made the worlds by the Word; Which Word was for us, in the end of the world, made Flesh.
This Word Which we preach, Christ crucified, Who liveth and reigneth, God in heaven.
These are the Heavens in which, O Christ, Thou inhabitest; in whose words Thou thunderest; in whose deeds Thou lightenest; in whose grace Thou sendest Thy dew:
To these Thou hast said: Drop down, O ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One; let the earth be opened and bud.
Raise up a Righteous Branch, Thou Who causest our earth to bring forth, sowing it with the seed of Apostolic words: through whose words grant, O Lord, that we, holding the Word of the Father, may bring forth fruit to Thee, O Lord, in patience.
These are the Heavens which Thou, Angel of the great Counsel, inhabitest, Whom Thou callest not servants, but friends; to whom Thou tellest all things that Thou hast heard from the Father.
By whose Division mayest Thou preserve Thy flock, collected and undivided, and in the bond of peace; that in Thee we may be one, as with the Father Thou art One.
Have mercy on us, Thou that dwellest in the heavens.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handy-work.

“By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the Breath of His Mouth.”* What heavens are these, says S. Gregory, except the holy Apostles? And this is the key-note by which all the Fathers interpret this Psalm. That as the visible heavens set forth the glory of the Creator, so these spiritual heavens should declare the praise of the Redeemer. Therefore in every Festival of the Apostles, this Psalm has borne its part; and every clause and paragraph has been interpreted, with a holy ingenuity, in this sense. The Firmament, from S. Augustine downwards, they take to be that firmness in speaking the Apostolic message even before kings, and not being ashamed, that fearing not them which kill the body,* and after that have no more which they could do, which the Apostles, weak enough till then,—they who had all forsaken their Master and fled,—received on the descent of the Holy Ghost at the Day of Pentecost. (A.) By it they showed His handy-work; the work by which in His great humility He wrought out our salvation,—His Incarnation, His earthly life, His Passion. Truly as, according to that beautiful idea in the decoration of Egyptian pyramids, the cornices are embellished with the blue wings of the sky, keeping watch over and guarding all inferior objects,—so the Apostles separated once to meet no more on earth, kept watch over all its regions, from the labours of S. Thomas in China, to those of S. Matthew in Ethiopia, and S. Paul in Spain.

2 One day telleth another: and one night certifieth another.

Day unto day. That is, (A.) Saint to Saint, Prophet to Prophet, Apostle to Apostle: Christ Himself, the King of Apostles, the Inspirer of the Prophets, the Saint of Saints, to each and to all. (L.) And night unto night. The trials and afflictions of the Martyrs and Confessors; the struggles and self-denial of every righteous soul, till the night of our own affliction and distress. But the loving-kindness that delivered them can deliver us still: “the Lord’s arm is not shortened that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear.”* That night speaks to us in no unintelligible voice, “Look at the generations of old and see: did ever any trust in the Lord and was confounded?”* Or again, take it, if you will, of the work of the six days and the rest of the seventh, (Ay.) so sedulously parallelised with the seven gifts of the Spirit. Or, (as S. Augustine truly says, “Some words in Scripture have, from their obscurity, this advantage, that they give rise to many interpretations: had this been plain, you would have heard some one thing, but as it is, observe, you will hear many,”) it cannot be more beautifully taken than of the seasons of the Church’s year: Festival speaking to Festival, Fast to Fast; the faithful soul by Advent prepared for Christmas; by Lent for Easter; by the Great Forty Days of Joy, for the Descent of the Holy Ghost: and by all these days of transitory holiness, made ready for that Eternal day, the festival which shall never be concluded.

The Church on earth,* with answering love,
Echoes her mother’s joys above:
These yearly feast days she may keep,
And yet for endless festals weep.

That succession of doctrine and comfort, day speaking to day; what a beautiful type it finds in the midnight of a Scandinavian summer! The north-western and north-eastern sky, aglow respectively with evening and morning twilight, and the space between them filled with the lines of purple or crimson, the links which unite the departing to the coming day!

[The A. V. is here nearer to the Syriac, LXX.,* and Vulgate, all which read Day breatheth out a Word unto day, and night declareth knowledge unto night. The days, the Saints filled with the wisdom and glory of God, declare the Divinity of the Incarnate Word to men; the nights, less illuminated, can yet speak of the Manhood of the Great Teacher, and lead their hearers on to love Him.]

3 There is neither speech nor language: but their voices are heard among them.

And we may take the verse in two senses: either, no speech nor language among the nations of the earth to which these voices did not go forth; which must be the sense if we refer the clause to the Apostles: or, no real speech in the preaching of the stars, and yet their language is intelligible to all nations. The great Portuguese theologian, Vieyra, referring to this verse, says,* “The most ancient preacher in the world is the sky. If the sky be a preacher, it must have sermons, and it must have words. So it has, says David. And what are these sermons and words of the sky? The words are the stars: the sermons, their composition, order, harmony, and cause.… The stars are very distinct and very clear; so must the style of preaching be. And have no fear that on this account it should appear low: what loftier than the sermons of the heavens? The style may be clear enough, and yet lofty enough too: so clear, that the illiterate may understand it; so deep, that the philosopher may learn from it. In the stars, the countryman finds instruction for his labour, the seaman for his navigation, the mathematician for his observation. So that the husbandman and sailor, who cannot read, can yet understand the stars; and the philosopher who has read every book that ever was written, cannot fathom their meaning.”

4 Their sound is gone out into all lands: and their words into the ends of the world.

The quotation of this text by S. Paul, “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily, Their sound went into all the earth, (A.) and their words to the end of the world,”* is, as is well noticed by Jansenius,1 a sufficient warrant for the explanation which would understand the Apostles by the heavens. And how did their sound then go forth? Let Cardinal Hugo answer.* “The preacher,” says he, “is raised from the earth by contemplation; has the breadth of charity; the splendour of wisdom; the serenity of a tranquil mind; the swift motion of obedience: he rains by instruction; thunders when he rebukes; lightens by miracles; is the seat of God by grace and humility.”

5 In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun: which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.

6 It goeth forth from the uttermost part of the heaven, and runneth about unto the end of it again: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

In these verses, the Church has from the beginning seen a marvellous type of the Incarnation. So S. Ambrose, in one of his most noble hymns:

Forth from His Chamber goeth He,*
The Royal Hall of Chastity;
In nature two, in Person One,
His glad course, giant-like, to run.
From God the Father He proceeds;
To God the Father back He speeds:
Proceeds—as far as very hell,
Speeds back—to light ineffable.

They first see the beauty of the literal sense, read according to the Vulgate: In the Sun He hath set His tabernacle: (A.) that is, that of all natural objects, the Sun is the best and clearest representative of the Creator. So the wise man in Ecclesiasticus: “The sun when it appeareth declareth at his rising a marvellous instrument, the works of the Most High:”* and in which so many nations of the world have seen the God whom they considered worthy of adoration. But for us, knowing that it shall pass away,* and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, it is but God’s tabernacle: the true Sun is that which “shall no more go down, (L.) when the Lord shall be our everlasting Light, and the days of our mourning shall be ended.”* Then in the mystical sense, the sun and the tabernacle are the Lord’s abiding in the womb of Mary: and they fail not to quote from Ecclesiasticus that text, “As the sun when it ariseth in the high Heaven, so is the beauty of a good wife in ordering her house.”* “The tabernacle,” says Cosmas, “is the flesh of the Lord, which was united for ever to His Divinity.” Or retaining our own translation, with a slight change of metaphor, In them hath He set His tabernacle for the sun; in the preaching of the Apostles He hath taught that the Eternal Word, the God Who is a consuming fire, the Sun of Righteousness, has tabernacled in human flesh. And as they who go out to war dwell not in houses, but in tabernacles or tents, so our Lord, going forth to His war with Satan, dwelt in the tabernacle of His flesh while He entered into the conflict with, and when He overcame, (Z.) His enemy. Which cometh forth as a Bridegroom out of his chamber. And here none ever failed to see the Lord’s entrance into the world from the womb of Mary. The Bridegroom, hereafter to be betrothed to the Church on the Cross, came forth, as it were, in the morning of that day of which the sufferings of Calvary were the evening. “That Eternal Light,” says S. John Damascene, “which, proceeding from the Co-Eternal Light,* had His existence before all worlds, came forth corporeally from the Virgin Mary, as it were a Bridegroom from His chamber.” And rejoiceth as a giant. They go back far for the full solution of this mystery. It was from the union of the sons of God with the daughters of men that those ancient giants sprang:* who may thus properly be called of “twofold substance.” Like them, it was the twofold nature of our Lord which enabled Him to accomplish the work of our redemption: and thus this word “giant” in itself sets forth to us the whole scheme of salvation. “I see,” says S. Proclus,* “His miracles, and I proclaim His Deity: I behold His sufferings, and I deny not His humanity. Emmanuel opened the gates of nature as man, but burst not the bars of Virginity as God. So came He forth from the womb of Mary as by a word He entered: so was He born as He was conceived: without human passion He entered: without human corruption He came forth.” S. Ambrose explains more fully the type of the giant.* “Him holy David the Prophet describes as a giant, because He, being One, is yet double, and of twofold nature: partaker both of the Divinity and of a body: Who, like a Bridegroom proceeding out of his chamber, rejoiced as a giant to run his course. The Bridegroom of the soul as the Word: the Giant of the earth, because performing all the offices of our nature. Being eternal God, He undertook the Sacrament of the Incarnation.” So in another hymn:

Genus superni numinis,
Processit aulâ Virginis,
Sponsus, redemptor, conditor,
Suæ gigas Ecclesiæ.

“I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world and go unto the Father.”* Would you know, asks S. Gregory,* the steps by which He thus came? From heaven into the womb; from the womb to the cradle: from the cradle to the Cross; from the Cross to the sepulchre; from the sepulchre He returned to heaven. Behold, that He might cause us to follow Him, He took these steps, that we might be able to say from our very hearts, “Draw me, we will run after Thee.”* And see the depth of the mystery in the sign that was given to Hezekiah.* The shadow went backward ten degrees, by which degrees it had gone on; thus the Lord humbled Himself below the nine orders of angels, being “made a little lower than the angels,”* to the tenth degree,* namely, man, before His glorified humanity took its place on the Right Hand of the Father. And see how beautifully those two are joined: He runneth about unto the end of it again, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. Because He Whom we love has now ascended into heaven, (G.) therefore it is that our hearts burn within us, while we think of the glory which is His, and which is to be ours. Nothing hid from the heat thereof. For that Ascension—for that land—pertain no less to ourselves than to the angels.

O common joy, O common boast,*
To us and that celestial host!
To them, that He regains the sky:
To us, that He to us is nigh.

7 The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple.

He is gone there in His own dear form, (G.) but He has left His law behind Him, the guide and rule of His Church to the end. This is the mantle which fell from our ascending Elijah,* and which, if we hold it steadfastly, will divide for us any Jordan of temptation. “A certain simple-minded and honest man,” says S. Peter Damiani, “one that feared God, had been hearing Matins, and was returning from church. His disciples asked him,* What did you hear at church, father? He answered, ‘I heard four things, and observed six.’ A very subtle reply, and one which showed his faith. He had heard four verses of the nineteenth Psalm. The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, &c., and the three following verses, in which six things are noted: which are law, testimony, righteousness, commandments, fear, judgments.”

8 The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is clean, and endureth for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

And notice, that the first character of Christ’s law is, (B.) that it is undefiled: purity being set foremost, as the foundation of all the service of God, (Z.) just as impurity occupies the first place in almost every Scriptural list of sin; because, as the greatest Saints have always taught, more will be condemned at the end of the world for more or less direct breaches of the seventh commandment, than of all the other commandments put together.* Next observe, the sixfold division of these excellencies. As our Blessed Lord taught us in the wilderness, Holy Scripture is to be our magazine of defensive armour against temptation. But six is always the type of temptation. On the sixth hour of the sixth day, the first temptation came into the world: the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Lead us not into temptation:” the sixth blessing pronounced to the seven Churches is, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation:”* and the whole culminates in the 666, the mark of the Beast,* the most fearful of the many tempters that shall ever rise up against the Church. After purity, as so continually in Scriptural lists of virtues, comes truth: (A.) the testimony of the Lord is sure. And forthwith that which the Lord Himself made the chief character of His mission,—that to the poor the Gospel was preached,—that is also recorded here: wisdom unto the simple. Notice further the connection between purity of heart and illumination: the commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes: exactly as in the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Yet it must be confessed to be rather marvellous that holy writers on this Psalm seem unable to trace the especial connection between these six characteristics of the Word of God, and content themselves with dwelling on it, without any attempt to behold in them a, ladder set upon the earth, but reaching to heaven.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb.

The much fine gold, of our version is, in the Vulgate, much, precious stone, and then they see in these three things the chief allurements of the world; riches in the gold; power in the precious stones;* pleasure in the honey. “The flowers that produce this honey,” says Chrysostom, “were fed by no earthly dew: the gentle distillations of the Holy Ghost gave them not only their beauty, but their sweetness.” And here notice how David constantly, but David and Solomon almost alone, (Cd.) use honey in a good sense, or as a type of holy things. “Ye shall burn no leaven nor any honey,”* is the command in the Law.* “It is not good to eat much honey,” say the men of Hezekiah. “It shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey,”* is the command to S. John. Is it to pursue the type too minutely to see in the special reference to the honey-comb a connection between the six-sided cell, and the sixfold characteristics, just mentioned, of the Word of God?

11 Moreover, by them is thy servant taught: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

And we naturally remember how the Lord’s Servant, (G.) when tempted in the wilderness, was taught by this same word, and by a threefold quotation obtained a threefold victory. Compare this saying of the Psalmist with that prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, My servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled, and shall be very high.”* “Deal prudently.”* He did, indeed, when with the very passage that replied most aptly He repulsed the assaults of the tempter: “exalted” He was, above the desires of the flesh, in refusing to make the stones bread: (L.) “extolled,” when raised to the pinnacle of the temple, and yet refusing the vain-glory of casting Himself down: “very high,” when carried to the summit of an exceeding high mountain, He refused the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Thy servant. And holy men have not feared thus to interpret the “Well done, good and faithful servant,”* of the parable. “Thou hast truly served,” says Guarric of Igniac,* “Thou hast served in all faith and truth, Thou hast served in all patience and long-suffering. Not after a lukewarm sort,* Who didst rejoice as a giant to run the course of obedience; not in a feigned manner, Who, after so many and so great labours, didst spend Thy life once and above all; not unknowingly, Who, when Thou wast scourged, though innocent, didst not even open Thy mouth. For it is written,* and it is just, That servant who knew his Lord’s will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. And this Servant, I pray you, what did He not that was wanting? What ought He to have done that He did not?” In keeping of them. Not for keeping of them, though that also; but he speaks here of the promise of the life that now is, (Cd.) rather than of that which is to come.

But we may, perhaps, rather take all these sayings regarding the Word of God as applicable to the true and eternal Word. It is to content ourselves with too low a view, if we restrict them to anything short of Him. See with respect to this what is said in the Third Dissertation.

12 Who can tell how oft he offendeth: O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.

Who indeed? And the question carries us at once to the greatest of all sins,* and the prayer concerning it: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”* “Do thou still,” says one, “O gentle and patient Lamb of God, so plead for us when we fall into any sin of ignorance; when we forget Thee, do not forget us;* when we are in error, send out Thy light and Thy truth; when we are in doubt, let us hear a voice behind us: This is the way, walk ye in it.”* My secret faults. And here they dwell on the tribunal of penitence, (G.) when we ourselves are the accusers and ourselves the culprits; when we proclaim the most hidden thoughts of our hearts, in order that hereafter the Eternal Judge may not say: “Thou didst it secretly, but I will proclaim it before all Israel, and before this Sun.”* Cleanse Thou me, however bitter the medicine; cleanse Thou me, however full of shame the confession. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for Thou art my praise.*

13 Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion over me: so shall I be undefiled, and innocent from the great offence.

Here, again, the Vulgate widely differs from our translation. Cleanse Thou me from my secret faults, and preserve Thy servant from the power of aliens. If they get not the dominion over me, then shall I be undefiled. But if—to follow our version—we cannot understand the countless faults into which we daily fall, against this, at least, we can be on our guard: against presumptuous sins: and more especially against that habit of presumptuous sin,* which has so fearful a tendency to terminate in the great offence. The great offence: the sin against the Holy Ghost; the sin unto death: not any one particular offence, however mortal or enormous; not even wilful and deliberate apostasy, which some have imagined it,* but, to use the terrible words of Vieyra, “that most miserable estate of final impenitence, consummated in the next life, but commenced in this. Oh, how many condemned souls,” he continues, “are still living—are still walking among us: not because, absolutely speaking, they cannot, but because they will not be converted. They are bound to the sins of which they have already filled up the measure. Woe to them, says God, when I shall depart from them.* To this woe, infinite woes will respond through all eternity: but woes of grief without repentance; woes of torment without alleviation; woes of despair without remedy.” And this is the great offence.

[They distinguish here,* for the most part, between the secret faults, which arise within man from original sin, and the promptings of his lower nature, and the sins of others, the suggestions of evil spirits or bad companions, external to the soul, understanding delictis after the word alienis here in the Vulgate. But in truth, hominibus is the lacking idea, and modern critics, following Aben-Ezra, agree in translating (מִזֵּדִים) from the proud.]

14a (14) Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart: be always acceptable in thy sight,

14b (15) O Lord: my strength and my redeemer.

He begins with the fruit, the words of my mouth, and descends to the root, the meditation of my heart. For it is written, “Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt.”* And it is singular that,* as this connection between the words and the thoughts follows in the Psalm the mention of the “great offence,” (L.) so that of the tree and its fruit immediately succeeds in the Gospel to that saying concerning blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. And thus the Psalm may well end: (G.) it began by setting forth how “the heavens declare the glory of God;” it concludes by telling how we should make manifest the same glory. It began by the perpetual succession of nights and days, (Z.) with their uninterrupted Benedicite; it ends with the supplication that our prayer may be always acceptable: acceptable to Him Who is our Strength, now that He has made us His own; as He was our Redeemer, when we were far off from Him; our Strength, to enable us to reach the land that flowed with milk and honey, as our Redeemer from the country of Egypt and the house of bondage.

[O, (D. C.) with what a thankful and devout mind ought every Christian to chant this Psalm, wherein the foundations of the Christian Faith are recorded, the preaching of the Apostles, the Incarnation of the Word, the praise of the Gospel Law, the acknowledgment of our own frailty, and the cry for divine mercy, are wondrously contained!]

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, from Whom was the going forth of the Sun; and to the Son, Which cometh forth as a Bridegroom out of His chamber: and to the Holy Ghost, the spiritual heat, from which not anything is hid;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.


Gregorian. Sunday: III. Nocturn. [Christmas Day: I. Nocturn. Circumcision: I. Nocturn. Ascension Day: I. Nocturn. Trinity Sunday: I. Nocturn. Feast of the Holy Name: I. Nocturn. Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary: I. Nocturn. Michaelmas Day: II. Nocturn. Common of Apostles: I. Nocturn. Common of Virgins: I. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Saturday: Prime.

Parisian. Tuesday: I. Nocturn.

Lyons. Monday: II. Nocturn.

Ambrosian. Tuesday of First Week: I. Nocturn.

Quignon. Monday: Terce.


Gregorian. There is neither speech nor language * but their voices are heard. [Christmas Day: The Lord coming forth as a Bridegroom from His chamber. Circumcision: In the sun He hath set His tabernacle, and Himself is as a bridegroom coming forth from his chamber. Ascension: His going forth is from the highest heaven, and His return is unto its highest place, Alleluia. Trinity Sunday: We acknowledge Thee, One in Substance, Trinity in Persons. Holy Name: At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. Comm. of Apostles: Their sound is gone out * into all lands, and their words into the ends of the world.]

Lyons. O Lord, * my strength, and my Redeemer.1

Mozarabic. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.


Most gracious God,* Who didst proceed from the Virginal shrine to liberate us, and didst thus at length ascend to the Right Hand of the Father; we beseech Thy boundless mercy, that we, being converted to Thy law, illuminated by Thy precepts, instructed by Thy testimonies, may be cleansed from our secret faults, and delivered from our enemies. Who livest (5.)

Cleanse us,* O Lord, from our secret faults, by purifying our conscience, which is stained with its own defilements; set free Thy servants also from the dominion of their enemies, and forgive us those things which we have learnt by the example of the wicked, or have done through the persuasion of evil counsellors; that we, who confess Thee to be our own Lord, may never again experience the domination of sin. Amen. Through Thy mercy (11.)

O Thou Helper in tribulation and necessity;* O Thou, my Redeemer, for that Thou hast redeemed me with Thy precious Blood; Thou art the Helper of the human race, when Thou causest us to draw near to Thee; Thou art our Redeemer, for that, by Thy Passion and Resurrection, Thou hast redeemed us from destruction. Grant that we, perpetually walking in Thy law, may be guarded by Thee, for to Thee, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is the honour and glory for ever, and to ages and ages. Amen.

[O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer, (D. C.) let Thy right statutes rejoice out hearts, cleanse our secret faults with the grace of Thy Word, whereby we being purified from the great offence, the meditation of our heart and the words of our mouth may be acceptable in Thy sight. Through (1.)]

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: