The Divine Lamp

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Archive for May, 2018

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:8-5:10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 27, 2018

The following post consists of St John Chrysostom’s 9th and 10th homilies on 2 Corinthians.

HOMILY IX

2 Cor. 4:8-18

We are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken.

He still dwells upon proving that the whole work is to be ascribed to the power of God, repressing the high-mindedness of those that glory in themselves. ‘For not this only,’ saith he, ‘is marvelous, that we keep this treasure in earthen vessels, but that even when enduring ten thousand hardships, and battered1 on every side, we [still] preserve and lose it not. Yet though there were a vessel of adamant, it would neither have been strong enough to carry so vast a treasure, nor have sufficed against so many machinations; yet, as it is, it both bears it and suffers no harm, through God’s grace.’ For, “we are pressed on every side,” saith he, “but not straitened.” What is, “on every side?”

‘In respect of our foes, in respect of our friends, in respect of necessaries, in respect of other needs, by them which be hostile, by them of our own household.’ “Yet not straitened.” And see how he speaks contrarieties, that thence also he may show the strength of God. For, “we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened,” saith he; “perplexed, yet not unto despair;” that is, ‘we do not quite fall off. For we are often, indeed, wrong in our calculations2, and miss our aim, yet not so as to fall away from what is set before us: for these things are permitted by God for our discipline, not for our defeat.’

Ver. 9. “Pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed.”

For these trials do indeed befal, but not the consequences of the trials. And this indeed through the power and Grace of God. In other places indeed he says that these things were permitted in order both to their own3 humble-mindedness, and to the safety of others: for “that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn,” (2 Cor. 12:7; ib. 6) he says: and again, “Lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me;” and in another place again, “that we should not trust in ourselves:” (2 Cor. 1:9) here, however, that the power of God might be manifested. Seest thou how great the gain of his trials? For it both showed the power of God, and more disclosed His grace. For, saith He, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (2 Cor. 12:9) It also anointed them unto lowliness of mind, and prepared them for keeping down the rest, and made them to be more hardy. “For patience,” saith he, “worketh probation, and probation hope.” (Rom. 5:4) For they who had fallen into ten thousand dangers and through the hope they had in God had been recovered4, were taught to hold by it more and more in all things.

Ver. 10. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body.”

And what is the “dying of the Lord Jesus,” which they bare about? Their daily deaths by which also the resurrection was showed. ‘For if any believe not,’ he says, ‘that Jesus died and rose again, beholding us every day die and rise again, let him believe henceforward in the resurrection.’ Seest thou how he has discovered yet another reason for the trials? What then is this reason? “That his life also may be manifested in our body.” He says, ‘by snatching us out of the perils. So that this which seems a mark of weakness and destititution, this, [I say,] proclaims His resurrection. For His power had not so appeared in our suffering no unpleasantness, as it is now shown in our suffering indeed, but without being overcome.’

Ver. 11. “For we which live are also5 delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in us in our mortal flesh.”

For every where when he has said any thing obscure, he interprets himself again. So he has done here also, giving a clear interpretation of this which I have cited. ‘For therefore, “we are delivered,” ’ he says, ‘in other words, we bear about His dying that the power of His life may be made manifest, who permitteth not mortal flesh, though undergoing so great sufferings, to be overcome by the snowstorm of these calamities.’ And it may be taken too in another way. How? As he says in another place, “If we die with him, we shall also live with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:11) ‘For as we endure His dying now, and choose whilst living to die for His sake: so also will he choose, when we are dead, to beget us then unto life. For if we from life come into death, He also will from death lead us by the hand into life.’

Ver. 12. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

Speaking no more of death in the strict sense6, but of trials and of rest. ‘For we indeed,’ he says, ‘are in perils and trials, but ye in rest; reaping the life which is the fruit of these perils. And we indeed endure the dangerous, but ye enjoy the good things; for ye undergo not so great trials.’

[2.] Ver. 13. “But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; that7 He which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus.” (Ps. 116:10)

He has reminded us of a Psalm which abounds in heavenly wisdom8, and is especially fitted to encourage9 in dangers. For this saying that just man uttered when he was in great dangers, and from which there was no other possibility of recovery than by the aid of God. Since then kindred circumstances are most effective in comforting, therefore he says, “having the same Spirit;” that is, ‘by the same succor by which he was saved, we also are saved; by the Spirit through which he spake, we also speak.’ Whence he shows, that between the New and Old Covenants great harmony exists, and that the same Spirit wrought in either; and that not we alone are in dangers, but all those of old were so too; and that we must find a remedy10 through faith and hope, and not seek at once to be released from what is laid upon us. For having showed by arguments the resurrection and the life, and that the danger was not a mark of helplessness or destitution; he thenceforward brings in faith also, and to it commits the whole. But still of this also, he furnishes a proof, the resurrection, namely, of Christ, saying, “we also believe, and therefore also we speak.” What do we believe? tell me.

Ver. 14, 15. “That He which raised up Jesus, shall raise up also11, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.”

Again, he fills them with lofty thoughts12, that they may not hold themselves indebted to men, I mean to the false Apostles. For the whole is of God Who willeth to bestow upon many, so that the grace may appear the greater. For your sakes, therefore, was the resurrection and all the other things. For He did not these things for the sake of one only, but of all.

Ver. 16. “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

How does it decay? Being scourged, being persecuted, suffering ten thousand extremities. “Yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” How is it renewed? By faith, by hope, by a forward will, finally, by braving those extremities. For in proportion as the body suffers ten thousand things, in the like proportion hath the soul goodlier hopes and becometh brighter, like gold refined in the fire more and more. And see how he brings to nothing the sorrows of this present life.

Ver. 17, 18. “For the13 light affliction,” he saith, “which is for the moment, worketh14 more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”

Having closed the question by a reference to hope, (and, as he said in his Epistle to the Romans, “We are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope;” (Rom. 8:24) establishing the same point here also,) he sets side by side the things present with the things to come, the momentary with the eternal, the light with the weighty, the affliction with the glory. And neither is he content with this, but he addeth another expression, doubling it and saying, “more and more exceedingly15.” Next he also shows the mode how so great afflictions are light. How then light? “While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen.” So will both this present be light and that future great, if we withdraw ourselves from the things that are seen. “For the things that are seen are temporal.” (v. 18) Therefore the afflictions are so too. “But the things that are not seen are eternal.” Therefore the crowns are so also. And he said not the afflictions are so, but “the things that are seen;” all of them, whether punishment or rest, so that we should be neither puffed up by the one nor overborne16 by the other. And therefore when speaking of the things to come, he said not the kingdom is eternal; but, “the things which are not seen are eternal,” whether they be a kingdom, or again punishment; so as both to alarm by the one and to encourage by the other.

[3.] Since then “the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal,” let us look to them. For what excuse even can we have, if we choose the temporal instead of the eternal? For even if the present be pleasurable, yet it is not abiding; whilst the woe it entails is abiding and irremissible. For what excuse will they have who have been counted worthy of the Spirit and have enjoyed so great a gift, if they become of grovelling mind and fall down to the earth. For I hear many saying these words worthy of all scorn, ‘Give me to-day and take tomorrow.’ ‘For,’ saith one, ‘if indeed there be such things there as ye affirm, then it is one for one; but if there be no such thing at all, then it is two for nothing.’ What can be more lawless than these words? or what more idle prating17? We are discoursing about Heaven and those unspeakable good things; and thou bringest forth unto us the terms of the race-course18, yet art not ashamed nor hidest thy face, whilst uttering such things as befit maniacs? Blushest thou not that art so rivetted to the present things? Wilt thou not cease from being distraught and beside thyself, and in youth a dotard? Were Greeks indeed to talk in this way, it were no marvel: but that believers should vent such dotage, of what forgiveness doth it admit? For dost thou hold those immortal hopes in utter suspicion? Dost thou think these things to be utterly doubtful? And in what are these things deserving of pardon? ‘And who hath come,’ saith one, ‘and brought back word what is there?’ Of men indeed not any one, but God, more trustworthy than all, hath declared these things. But thou beholdest not what is there. Neither dost thou see God. Wilt thou then deny that there is a God, because thou seest Him not? ‘Yes,’ he replies, ‘I firmly believe there is a God.’ If then an infidel should ask thee, ‘And who came from Heaven and brought back word of this?’ what wilt thou answer? Whence dost thou know that there is a God? ‘From the things that are seen,’ he answers, ‘from the fair order existing through the whole creation, from its being manifest to all.’ Therefore receive also in the same way the doctrine of the judgment. ‘How?’ he asks. I will question thee, and do thou answer me. Is this God just, and will He render to each according to his deserving? or, on the contrary, doth He will the wicked should live happily and in luxury, and the good in the contrary things? ‘By no means,’ he answers, ‘for man even would not feel thus.’ Where then shall they who have done virtuously here, enjoy the things that be good? and where the wicked the opposites, except there is to be a life and retribution hereafter? Seest thou that at present it is one for one, and not two for one. But I will show thee, as I proceed, that it is not even one against one, but it shall be for the righteous two for nothing; and for the sinners and those that live here riotously, quite the contrary. For they that have lived riotously here have received not even one for one; but those who pass their life in virtue two for nothing19. For who are at in rest, they that have abused this present life, or they that followed heavenly wisdom? Perhaps thou wilt say the former, but I prove it of the latter, summoning for my witnesses those very men that have enjoyed these present things; and they will not be so shameless as to deny what I am going to say. For oftentimes have they imprecated curses upon matchmakers20 and upon the day that their bridal chamber21 was wreathed, and have proclaimed them happy who have not married. Many too of the young, even when they might have married, have refused for no other reason than the troublesomeness of the thing. And this I say, not as accusing marriage; for it is “honorable;” (Heb. 13:4) but those who have used it amiss. Now if they who have lived a married life, often considered their life not worth the living; what shall we say of those who have been swept down into whores’ deep pits, and are more slavishly and wretchedly treated than any captive? what of those who have grown rotten in luxury and have enveloped their bodies with a thousand diseases? ‘But it is a pleasure to be had in honor.’ Yea, rather, nothing is bitterer than this slavery. For he that seeketh vain honor is more servile than any slave, and desirous of pleasing any body; but he that treads it under foot is superior to all, who careth not for the glory that cometh from others. ‘But the possession of wealth is desirable.’ Yet we have often shown that they who are loose from it and have nothing, enjoy greater riches and repose. ‘But to be drunken is pleasant.’ But who will say this? Surely then if to be without riches is pleasanter than to have them, and not to marry than to marry, and not to seek vainglory than to seek it, and not to live luxuriously than to live so; even in this world they who are not riveted to those present things have the advantage. And as yet I say not how that the former, even though he be racked with ten thousand tortures, hath that good hope to carry him through: whilst the latter, even though he is in the enjoyment of a thousand delights, hath the fear of the future disquieting and confounding his pleasure. For this, too, is no light sort of punishment; nor therefore the contrary, of enjoyment and repose. And besides these there is a third sort. And what is this? In that the things of worldly delight do not even whilst they are present appear such, being refuted22 both by nature and time; but the others not only are, but also abide immovable. Seest thou that we shall be able to put not two for nothing only, but three even, and five, and ten, and twenty, and ten thousand for nothing? But that thou mayest learn this same truth by an example also,—the rich man and Lazarus,—the one enjoyed the things present, the other those to come. (Luke 16:19. &c.) Seems it then to thee to be one and one, to be punished throughout all time, and to be an hungered for a little season? to be diseased in thy corruptible body, and to scorch23 miserably in an undying one? to be crowned and live in undying delights after that little sickness, and to be endlessly tormented after that short enjoyment of his goods. And who will say this? For what wilt thou we should compare? the quantity? the quality? the rank? the decision of God24 concerning each? How long will ye utter the words of beetles that are for ever wallowing in dung! For these are not the words of reasoning men, to throw away a soul which is so precious for nothing, when there needeth little labor to receive heaven. Wilt thou that I teach thee also in another way that there is an awful tribunal there? Open the doors of thy conscience, and behold the judge that sitteth in thine heart. Now if thou condemnest thyself, although a lover of thyself, and canst not refrain from passing a righteous verdict, will not God much rather make great provision for that which is just, and pass that impartial judgment upon all; or will He permit everything to go on loosely and at random? And who will say this? No one; but both Greeks and barbarians, both poets and philosophers, yea the whole race of men in this agree with us, though differing in particulars25, and affirm that there are tribunals of some sort in Hades; so manifest and uncontroverted is the thing.

[4.] ‘And wherefore,’ saith one, ‘doth he not punish here?’ That He may display that longsuffering of His, and may offer to us the salvation that cometh by repentance, and not make our race to be swept away, nor pluck away those who by an excellent change are able to be saved, before that salvation. For if he instantly punished upon the commission of sins, and destroyed, how should Paul have been saved, how should Peter, the chief teachers of the world? How should David have reaped the salvation that came by his repentance? How the Galatians? How many others? For this reason then He neither exacts the penalty from all here, (but only from some out of all,) nor yet there from all, but from one here, and from another there; that He may both rouse those who are exceedingly insensible by means of those whom He punishes, and may cause them to expect the future things by those whom He punishes not. Or seest thou not many punished here, as those, for instance, who were buried under the ruins of that tower; (Luke 13:4, 7) as those whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices; as those who perished by an untimely death amongst the Corinthians, because they partook unworthily of the mysteries (1 Cor. 11:30); as Pharaoh; as those of the Jews who were slain by the barbarians; as many others, both then, and now, and continually? And yet others too, having sinned in many things, departed without suffering the penalty here; as the rich man in the story of Lazarus; as many others. (Luke 16) Now these things He does, both to arouse those who quite disbelieves26 in the things to come, and to make those who do believe and are careless more diligent. “For God is a righteous Judge, and strong, and longsuffering, and visits not with wrath every day.” (Ps. 7:11. LXX.) But if we abuse His longsuffering, there will come a time when He will no more be longsuffering even for a little, but will straightway inflict the penalty.

Let us not then, in order that for a single moment (for such is this present life) we may live luxuriously, draw on ourselves punishment through endless ages: but let us toil for a moment, that we may be crowned for ever. See ye not that even in worldly things most men act in this manner: and choose a brief toil in order to a long rest, even though the opposite falls out unto them? For in this life indeed there is an equal portion of toils and reward; yea, often, on the contrary, the toil is endless whilst the fruit is little, or not even a little; but in the case of the kingdom conversely, the labor is little whilst the pleasure is great and boundless. For consider: the husbandman wearieth himself the whole year through, and at the very end of his hope ofttimes misses of the fruit27 of those many toils. The shipmaster again and the soldier, until extreme old age, are occupied with wars and labors; and oftentimes hath each of them departed, the one with the loss of his wealthy cargoes, the other, along with victory, of life itself. What excuse then shall we have, tell me, if in worldly matters indeed we prefer what is laborious in order that we may rest for a little, or not a little even; (for the hope of this is uncertain;) but in spiritual things do the converse of this and draw upon ourselves unutterable punishment for a little sloth? Wherefore I beseech you all, though late, yet still at length to recover from this frenzy. For none shall deliver us in that day; neither brother, nor father, nor child, nor friend, nor neighbor, nor any other: but if our works play us false, all will be over and we must needs28 perish. How many lamentations did that rich man make, and besought the Patriarch and begged that Lazarus might be sent! But hear what Abraham said unto him: “There is a gulf29 betwixt us and you, so that they who wish to go forth cannot pass thither.” (Luke 16:26) How many petitions did those virgins make to their fellows for a little oil! But hear what they also say; “Peradventure there will not be enough for you and for us;” (Mat. 25:9) and none was able to bring them in to the bridal chamber.

Thinking then on these things let us also be careful of that which is our life. For mention what toils soever and bring forward besides what punishment soever; all these combined will be nothing in comparison of the good things to come. Instance therefore, if thou wilt, fire and steel and wild beasts, and if there be aught sorer than these; but yet these are not even a shadow compared with those torments. For these things when applied in excess become then especially light, making the release speedy30; since the body sufficeth not unto intensity at once and long continuance of suffering; but both meet together, both prolongation and excess, alike in the good and the grievous. Whilst we have time then, “let us come before His presence with confession,” (Ps. 95:2, LXX.) that in that day we may behold Him gentle and serene, that we may escape altogether those threat-bearing Powers. Seest thou not how this world’s soldiers who perform the bidding of those in authority drag men about; how they chain, how they scourge them, how they pierce their sides, how they apply torches to their torments, how they dismember them? Yet all these things are but plays and joke unto those punishments. For these punishments are temporal; but there neither the worm dieth nor is the fire quenched: for that body of all is incorruptible, which is then to be raised up. But God grant that we may never learn these things by experience; but that these fearful things may never be nearer unto us than in the mention of them31; and that we be not delivered over to those tormentors, but may be hence made wise32. How many things shall we then say in accusation of ourselves! How many lamentations shall we utter! How many groans! But it will thenceforth be of no avail. For neither can sailors, when the ship hath gone to pieces and hath sunk, thereafter be of any service; nor physicians when the patient is departed; but they will often say indeed that so and so ought to have been done; but all is fruitless and in vain. For as long indeed as hopes remain from amendment, one ought both to say and do every thing: but when we have no longer any thing in our power, all being quite ruined, it is to no purpose that all is said and done. For even then Jews will then say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord:” (Mat. 23:39) but they will be able to reap none advantage of this cry towards escaping their punishment; for when they ought to have said it, they said it not. That then this be not the case with us in respect to our life, let us now and from this time reform that we may stand at the tribunal of Christ with all boldness; whereunto may all of us attain through the grace and love toward men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.

HOMILY X

2 Cor. 5:1

For we know, that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.

Again he arouses their zeal because many trials drew on1. For it was likely that they, in consequence of his absence, were weaker in respect to this [need]. What then saith he? One ought not to wonder that we suffer affliction; nor to be confounded, for we even reap many gains thereby. And some of these he mentioned before; for instance, that we “bear about the dying of Jesus,” and present the greatest proof of His power: for he says, “that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God:” and we exhibit a clear proof of the Resurrection, for, says he, “that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” But since along with these things he said that our inward man is thus made better also; for “though our outward man is decaying,” saith he, “yet the inward man is renewed day by day;” showing again that this being scourged and persecuted is proportionately useful, he adds, that when this is done thoroughly, then the countless good things will spring up for those who have endured these things. For lest when thou hearest that thy outward man perishes, thou shouldest grieve; he says, that when this is completely effected, then most of all shalt thou rejoice and shalt come unto a better inheritance2. So that not only ought not one to grieve at its perishing now in part, but even earnestly to seek for the completion of that destruction, for this most conducts thee to immortality. Wherefore also he added, “For we know, that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved: we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” For since he is urging3 again the doctrine of the Resurrection in respect to which they were particularly unsound; he calls in aid the judgment of his hearers also, and so establishes it; not however in the same way as before, but, as it were, arriving at it out of another subject: (for they had been already corrected:) and says, “We know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Some indeed say that the ‘earthly house’ is this world; But I should maintain that he alludes rather to the body.4 But observe, I pray, how by the terms [he uses,] he shows the superiority of the future things to the present. For having said “earthly” he hath opposed to it “the heavenly;” having said, “house of tabernacle,” thereby declaring both that it is easily taken to pieces and is temporary, he hath opposed to it the “eternal,” for the name “tabernacle” oftentimes denotes temporariness. Wherefore He saith, “In My Father’s house are many abiding places.” (John 14:2) But if He anywhere also calls the resting places of the saints tabernacles; He calls them not tabernacles simply, but adds an epithet; for he said not, that “they may receive you” into their tabernacles, but “into the eternal tabernacles.” (Luke 16:9) Moreover also in that he said, “not made with hands,” he alluded to that which was made with hands. What then? Is the body made with hands? By no means; but he either alludes to the houses here that are made with hands, or if not this, then he called the body which is not made with hands, ‘a house of tabernacle.’ For he has not used the term in antithesis and contradistinction5 to this, but to heighten those eulogies and swell those commendations.

[2.] Ver. 2 “For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven.”

What habitation? tell me. The incorruptible body. And why do we groan now? Because that is far better. And “from heaven” he calls it because of its incorruptibleness. For it is not surely that a body will come down to us from above: but by this expression he signifies the grace which is sent from thence. So far then ought we to be from grieving at these trials which are in part that we ought to seek even for their fulness,6 as if he had said: Groanest thou, that thou art persecuted, that this thy man is decaying? Groan that this is not done unto excess and that it perishes not entirely. Seest thou how he hath turned round what was said unto the contrary; having proved that they ought to groan that those things were not done fully; for which because they were done partially; they groaned. Therefore he henceforth calls it not a tabernacle, but a house, and with great reason. For a tabernacle indeed is easily taken to pieces; but a house abideth continually.

Ver. 3. “If so be that being unclothed7 we shall not be found naked.”

That is, even if we have put off the body, we shall not be presented there without a body, but even with the same one made incorruptible. But some read, and it deserves very much to be adopted, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” For lest all should be confident because of the Resurrection, he says, “If so be that being clothed,” that is, having obtained incorruption and an incorruptible body, “we shall not be found naked” of glory and safety. As he also said in the former Epistle; “We shall all be raised; but each in his own order.” And, “There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestial.” (1 Cor. 15:22, 23) (ib. 40) For the Resurrection indeed is common to all, but the glory is not common; but some shall rise in honor and others in dishonor, and some to a kingdom but others to punishment. This surely he signified here also, when he said; “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”

[3.] Ver. 4. “For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan8, not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon.”

Here again he hath utterly and manifestly stopped the mouths of the heretics, showing that he is not speaking absolutely of a body differing in identity9, but of corruption and incorruption. ‘For we do not therefore groan,’ saith he, ‘that we may be delivered from the body: for of this we do not wish to be unclothed; but we hasten to be delivered from the corruption that is in it. Wherefore he saith, ‘we wish not to be unclothed of the body, but that it should be clothed upon with incorruption.’ Then he also interprets it [thus,] “That what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.” For since putting off the body appeared to many a grievous thing; and he was contradicting the judgments of all, when he said, “we groan,” not wishing to be set free from it; (‘for if,’ says one, ‘the soul in being separated from it so suffers and laments, how sayest thou that we groan because we are not separated from it?’) lest then this should be urged against him, he says, ‘Neither do I assert that we therefore groan, that we may put it off; (for no one putteth it off without pain, seeing that Christ says even of Peter, ‘They shall “carry thee,” and lead thee “whither thou wouldest not;”—John 21:18) but that we may have it clothed upon with incorruption.’ For it is in this respect that we are burdened by the body; not because it is a body, but because we are encompassed with a corruptible body and liable to suffering10, for it is this that also causes us pain. But the life when it arriveth destroyeth and useth up the corruption; the corruption, I say, not the body. ‘And how cometh this to pass?’ saith one. Inquire not; God doeth it; be not too curious. Wherefore also he added,

Ver. 5. “Now he that hath wrought us for this very thing is God.”

Hereby he shows that these things were prefigured from the first. For not now was this decreed: but when at the first He fashioned us from earth and created Adam; for not for this created He him, that he should die, but that He might make him even immortal. Then as showing the credibility of this and furnishing the proof of it, he added,

“Who also gave the earnest of the Spirit.”

For even then He fashioned us for this; and now He hath wrought unto this by baptism, and hath furnished us with no light security thereof, the Holy Spirit. And he continually calls It an earnest, wishing to prove God to be a debtor of the11 whole, and thereby also to make what he says more credible unto the grosser sort12.

[4.] Ver. 6. “Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing.”

The word “of good courage” is used with reference to the persecutions, the plottings, and the continual deaths: as if he had said, ‘Doth any vex and persecute and slay thee? Be not cast down, for thy good all is done. Be not afraid: but of good courage. For that which thou groanest and grievest for, that thou art in bondage to corruption, he removes from henceforward out of the way, and frees thee the sooner from this bondage.’ Wherefore also he saith, “Being therefore always of good courage,” not in the seasons of rest only, but also in those of tribulation; “and knowing,”

Ver. 7, 8. “That whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.”

That which is greater than all he has put last, for to be with Christ is better, than receiving an incorruptible [body.] But what he means is this: ‘He quencheth not our life that warreth against and killeth us; be not afraid; be of good courage even when hewn in pieces. For not only doth he set thee free from corruption and a burden, but he also sendeth thee quickly to the Lord.’ Wherefore neither did he say, “whilst we ‘are’ in the body:” as of those who are in a foreign and strange land. “Knowing therefore that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: we are of good courage, I say, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” Seest thou how keeping back what was painful, the names of death and the end, he has employed instead of them such as excite great longing13, calling them presence with God; and passing over those things which are accounted to be sweet, the things of life, he hath expressed them by painful names, calling the life here an absence from the Lord? Now this he did, both that no one might fondly linger amongst present things, but rather be aweary of them; and that none when about to die might be disquieted14, but might even rejoice as departing unto greater goods. Then that none might say on hearing that we are absent from the Lord, ‘Why speakest thou thus? Are we then estranged from Him whilst we are here?’ he in anticipation corrected15 such a thought, saying, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Even here indeed we know Him, but not so clearly. As he says also elsewhere, (1 Cor. 13:12) “in a mirror,” and “darkly.”

“We are of good courage, I say, and willing.” Wonderful! to what hath he brought round the discourse? To an extreme desire of death, having shown the grievous to be pleasurable, and the pleasurable grievous. For by the term, “we are willing” he means, ‘we are desirous.’ Of what are we desirous? Of being “absent from the body, and at home with the Lord.” And thus he does perpetually, (as I showed also before) turning round the objection of his opponents unto the very contrary.

Ver. 9. “Wherefore also we make it our aim whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing unto him.”

‘For what we seek for is this,’ saith he, ‘whether we be there or here, to live according to His will; for this is the principal thing. So that by this thou hast the kingdom already in possession without a probation.’ For lest when they had arrived at so great a desire of being there, they should again be disquieted at its being so long first, in this he gives them already the chief16 of those good things. And what is this? To be well “pleasing.” For as to depart is not absolutely good, but to do so in [God’s] favor, which is what makes departing also become a good; so to remain here is not absolutely grievous, but to remain offending Him. Deem not then that departure from the body is enough; for virtue is always necessary. For as when he spoke of a Resurrection, he allowed [them] not by it alone to be of good courage, saying, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked;” so also having showed a departure, lest thou shouldest think that this is enough to save thee, he added that it is needful that we be well pleasing.

[5.] Seeing then he has persuaded them by many good things, henceforth he alarms them also by those of gloomier aspect17. For our interest consists both in the attainment of the good things and the avoidance of the evil things, in other words, hell and the kingdom. But since this, the avoiding of punishment, is the more forcible motive; for where penalty reaches only to the not receiving good things, the most will bear this contentedly; but if it also extend to the suffering of evil, do so no longer: (for they ought, indeed, to consider the former intolerable, but from the weakness and grovelling nature of the many, the latter appears to them more hard to bear:) since then (I say) the giving of the good things doth not so arouse the general hearer as the threat of the punishments, he is obliged to conclude with this, saying,

Ver. 10. “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat.”

Then having alarmed and shaken18 the hearer by the mention of that judgment-seat, he hath not even here set down the woful without the good things, but hath mingled something of pleasure, saying,

“That each one may receive the things done in the body,” as many19 as “he hath done, whether” it be “good or bad.”

By saying these words, he both reviveth20 those who have done virtuously and are persecuted with those hopes, and maketh those who have fallen back more earnest by that fear. And he thus confirmed his words touching the resurrection of the body. ‘For surely,’ sayeth he, ‘that which hath ministered to the one and to the other shall not stand excluded from the recompenses: but along with the soul shall in the one case be punished, in the other crowned.’ But some of the heretics say, that it is another body that is raised. How so? tell me. Did one sin, and is another punished? Did one do virtuously, and is another crowned? And what will ye answer to Paul, saying, “We would not be unclothed, but clothed upon?” And how is that which is mortal “swallowed up of life?” For he said not, that the mortal or corruptible body should be swallowed up of the incorruptible body; but that corruption [should be swallowed up] “of life.” For then this happeneth when the same body is raised; but if, giving up that body, He should prepare another, no longer is corruption swallowed up but continueth dominant. Therefore this is not so; but “this corruptible,” that is to say the body, “must put on incorruption.” For the body is in a middle state21, being at present in this and hereafter to be in that; and for this reason in this first, because it is impossible for the incorruption to be dissolved. “For neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” saith he, (for, how is it [then] incorruption?) but on the contrary, “corruption is swallowed up of life:” for this indeed survives the other, but not the other this. For as wax is melted by fire but itself doth not melt the fire: so also doth corruption melt and vanish away under incorruption, but is never able itself to get the better of incorruption.

[6.] Let us then hear the voice of Paul, saying, that “we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ;” and let us picture to ourselves that court of justice, and imagine it to be present now and the reckoning to be required22. For I will speak of it more at large. For Paul, seeing that he was discoursing on affliction, and he had no mind to afflict them again, did not dwell on the subject; but having in brief expressed its austerity23, “Each one shall receive according to what he hath done,” he quickly passed on. Let us then imagine it to be present now, and reckon each one of us with his own conscience, and account the Judge to be already present, and everything to be revealed and brought forth. For we must not merely stand, but also be manifested. Do ye not blush? Are ye not astonied? But if now, when the reality is not yet present, but is granted in supposition merely and imaged in thought; if now [I say] we perish conscience-struck; what shall we do when [it] shall arrive, when the whole world shall be present, when angels and archangels, when ranks upon ranks, and all hurrying at once, and some caught up24 on the clouds, and an array full of trembling; when there shall be the trumpets, one upon another, [when] those unceasing voices?

For suppose there were no hell, yet in the midst of so great brightness to be rejected and to go away dishonored;—how great the punishment! For if even now, when the Emperor rideth in and his train with him, we contemplating each one of us our own poverty, derive not so much pleasure from the spectacle, as we endure dejection at having no share in what is going on about the Emperor, nor being near the Sovereign; what will it be then? Or thinkest thou it is a light punishment, not to be ranked in that company, not to be counted worthy of that unutterable glory, from that assemblage and those untold good things, to be cast forth somewither far and distant? But when there is also darkness, and gnashing of teeth, and chains indissoluble, and an undying worm, and fire unquenchable, and affliction, and straitness, and tongues scorching like the rich man’s; and we wail, and none heareth; and we groan and gnash our teeth for anguish, and none regardeth; and we look all round, and no where is there any to comfort us; where shall we rank those that are in this condition? what is there more miserable than are those souls? what more pitiable? For if, when we enter a prison and see its inmates, some squalid, some chained and famishing, some again shut up in darkness, we are moved with compassion, we shudder, we use all diligence that we may never be cast into that place; how will it be with us, when we are led and dragged away into the the torture-dungeons25 themselves of hell? For not of iron are those chains, but of fire that is never quenched; nor are they that are set over us our fellows whom it is often possible even to mollify; but angels whom one may not so much as look in the face, exceedingly enraged at our insults to their Master. Nor is it given, as here, to see some bringing in money, some food, some words of comfort, and to meet with consolation; but all is irremissible there: and though it should be Noah, or Job, or Daniel, and he should see his own kindred punished, he dares not succor. For even natural sympathy too comes then to be done away. For since it happeneth that there are righteous fathers of wicked children, and [righteous] children of [wicked] fathers; that so their pleasure may be unalloyed, and those who enjoy the good things may not be moved with sorrow through the constraining force of sympathy, even this sympathy, I affirm, is extinguished, and themselves are indignant together with the Master against their own bowels. For if the common run of men, when they see their own children vicious, disown26 and cut them off from that relationship; much rather will the righteous then. Therefore let no one hope for good things, if he have not wrought any good thing, even though he have ten thousand righteous ancestors. “For each one shall receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done.” Here he seems to me to be alluding also to them that commit fornication: and to raise up as a wall27 unto them the fear of that world, not however to them alone; but also to all that in any wise transgress.

[7.] Let us hear then, us also. And if thou have the fire of lust, set against it that other fire, and this will presently be quenched and gone. And if thou purposest to utter some harsh sounding28 [speech], think of the gnashing of teeth, and the fear will be a bridle to thee. And if thou purposest to plunder, hear the Judge commanding, and saying, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness,” (Matt. 22:13) and thou wilt cast out this lust also. And if thou art drunken, and surfeitest continually, hear the rich man saying, ‘Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may cool this scorching tongue;’ (Luke 16:24) yet not obtaining this; and thou wilt hold thyself aloof from that distemper29. But if thou lovest luxury, think of the affliction and the straitness there, and thou wilt not think at all of this. If again thou art harsh and cruel, bethink thee of those virgins who when their lamps had gone out missed so of the bridal chamber, and thou wilt quickly become humane. Or sluggish art thou, and remiss? Consider him that hid the talent, and thou wilt be more vehement than fire. Or doth desire of thy neighbor’s substance devour thee? Think of the worm that dieth not, and thou wilt easily both put away from thee this disease, and in all other things wilt do virtuously. For He hath enjoined nothing irksome or oppressive. Whence then do His injunctions appear irksome to us? From our own slothfulness. For as if we labor diligently, even what appears intolerable will be light and easy; so if we are slothful, even things tolerable will seem to us difficult30.

Considering then all these things, let us think not of the luxurious, but what is their end; here indeed filth and obesity, there the worm and fire: not of the rapacious, but what is their end; cares here, and fears, and anxieties; there chains indissoluble: not of the lovers of glory, but what these things bring forth; here slavery and dissemblings, and there both loss intolerable and perpetual burnings. For if we thus discourse with ourselves, and if with these and such like things we charm perpetually our evil lusts, quickly shall we both cast out the love of the present things, and kindle that of the things to come. Let us therefore kindle it and make it blaze. For if the conception of them, although a faint sort of one, affords so great pleasure; think how great the gladness, the manifest experience itself shall bring us. Blessed, and thrice blessed, yea, thrice blessed many times, are they who enjoy those good things; just as, consequently, pitiable and thrice wretched are they who endure the opposite of these. That then we may be not of these but those, let us choose virtue. For so shall we attain unto the good things to come as well; which may all we attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ; by Whom, and with Whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

TITLE
A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.
Chaldee Targum: A Praise and Song which the first man spake for the Sabbath Day.

ARGUEMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ hath caused the conquerors to flourish as though with the gift of the heavenly palm. The Voice of the Church. The Voice of the Church to God concerning her enemies. The Doctrine of Confession, and concerning the glory of the righteous in the world to come.

Ven. Bede. A Psalm denotes spiritual works, which tend upwards towards the Lord; in these all ought always to sing, that is, give thanks to the Lord our Helper. The Sabbath Day is interpreted Rest, whereby we are warned to cease from every evil deed, and likewise to hope with most sure devotion for the rest to come. Arnobius saith thus: On the Sabbath Day the Lord’s enemies perish, that on the Sunday the Lord’s friends may be glad; for on the Sabbath Day the Lord lieth dead in the grave, and on the Sunday is worshipped living among the Angels. In this matter His thoughts are very deep, which an unwise man doth not well consider. At the first outset, the Church speaks, declaring that it is a good thing to utter praises to the Lord; which it asserts to be a thing whereof the unwise and ungodly are ignorant. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. In the second part she asserts that sinners will perish quickly like the grass. When the ungodly are green, &c. Thirdly; she saith that the righteous flourish like a palm-tree, and spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus; to the end that fear may correct the obstinate, and the blessed promise sustain the devout. The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree.

Syriac Psalter. Anonymous; Concerning the ministry of the Priests, and their Morning Sacrifices. It also foretells rest in the Lord.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Concerning that rest which is according unto God.

COMMENTARY

1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord: and to sing praises unto thy Name, O most Highest;

A good thing for these reasons: (Bellarmine) because it is just, and due from us to God our King; it is useful, as being one of those works which are profitable to the soul; it is delightful, for it is pleasant for one that loves, to praise the object of his affection; it is ennobling, giving man a share in the office of the heavenly spirits. (Cassiodorus) The LXX. and Vulgate, according to their wont, put the term confess instead of give thanks, and the commentators note that such confession, to be adequate, (Euthymius Zigabenus) must be two-fold; acknowledgment of our own weakness and guilt, as the first step, on the one hand, and of God’s might and holiness on the other, after we have fitted ourselves, by this preliminary cleansing of the heart, to celebrate His praises. Unto Thy Name. (Honorius): They tell us that this title especially applies to Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, by Whom God is fully revealed to us, so that we know Him, while the name Lord denotes the Holy Spirit, and Most Highest the Father Himself. The word here translated sing is by LXX. and Vulgate rendered play (ψάλλειν, psallere), (Cassiodorus) and is mystically explained as the activity of devotion in good works, whereby the notes of our souls, as of a psaltery when struck, ascend to the ears of God. And we may fitly apply here the old Leonine saw as to the recitation of the Divine office:

Rite canis horas, si Biblia evolvis et oras,
Tuneque placent horæ, cum corde canuntur et ore.

Thou singest the Hours aright, if in Scripture and prayer thou delight,
The Hours are accepted when sung by the heart in accord with the tongue.

2 To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy truth in the night-season.

There is a singular Rabbinical legend that this Psalm was the song of praise uttered by Adam as the first Sabbath dawned upon the world (Genebrardus), and that it descended by tradition as the special hymn for that day (Talmud). More consonant with actual history is the fact that it was sung in the Temple on the Sabbath at the offering of the first lamb in the morning (Kiddushim) when the wine was poured out (Num 28:4, 7), and continues still in use as a Sabbatical psalm in the rites of the Synagogue, and that the Roman Church, amongst other tokens of the powerful Jewish influence which affected its earliest days, retains it as part of the Saturday Lauds in the Breviary. Further, there is a distinct reference in this second verse to the morning and evening sacrifice (Rabbi Shelomo); while more than one Rabbi is careful to point out that the happy Sabbath of which the Psalmist sings is not one of the present time (Rabbi Ataia), but belongs to the future revelation of Messiah in His glory (Cardinal Hugo). Observe, then, how fitly it succeeds Psalm 91, wherein we hear of the victory over temptation, (Remegius of St Germainus) now followed by restful peace of mind, figured by the Lord’s repose in the grave when He, as at the beginning of creation, rested from all His work that He had done; and figuring in its turn the Sabbath of eternity (Augustine). And as the clear morning denotes the sunshine of prosperity, we thank God, while it lasts, for His mercy and bountifulness towards us. But we do not on that account charge Him with harshness and cruelty when the night-season of adversity arrives; rather we praise His truth, that is, the justice with which He weighs our faults and metes out His fatherly chastisements. And as the night always precedes the morning (Pseudo-Jerome) so it is not till we have been tried by suffering and darkened by sin and trouble, that we thoroughly realize and can fittingly praise the mercy of God in that glad morning when the Sun of Righteousness begins to arise in our hearts. We tell of His truth in the night-season, because our eyes are unable to bear the dazzling glory of His full revelation, for it is written, “He made darkness His secret place” (Ps 18:11). Therefore the Law was given amidst clouds and darkness on Mount Sinai, therefore the Prophets spake in enigmas, therefore too the Lord Himself hid the mysteries of His kingdom in parables, therefore we too, here in the night-time of the world, “see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12); then, in the morning of the everlasting Sabbath, when all secrets shall be revealed:

For when the Sole-Begotten
Shall render up once more
The kingdom to the Father,
Whose own it was before,—
Then glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
An endless Sabbath Day.

3 Upon an instrument of ten strings (decachord), and upon the lute: upon a loud instrument, and upon the harp.

There is some variation of opinion as to whether we have two, three, or four musical instruments named in this verse. The first is the view taken by the Syriac and Arabic versions, which make the lute to be the decachord, and the harp the mere accompaniment to a song. The second view is that of the Chaldee, LXX., Vulgate, and A. V.; as well as of most modern critics, who are divided as to the precise mode of rendering the second clause, some taking it to be “a song to the harp,” and others, “a loud (or a solemn) strain upon the harp” itself. The third opinion, which makes the word Higgaion, here occurring, that of a separate musical instrument, is supported by Aben-Ezra, and does, no doubt, preserve more fully the balance of parallelism in the two strophes of the verse. As to the mystical meaning of the decachord, it is only necessary to add a little to what has been already said under Psalm 33:2, namely, that one ancient Father (St Clement of Alexandria) tells us that it means the Lord Jesus Himself, seemingly because the initial letter of that holy Name stands for the number ten both in Hebrew and Greek, (Lorinus) while, as the Latin X marks the Cross, and is also the Egyptian sign of life to come, it may well denote Him too. Nay more, our modern way of writing it, with the figure 1 followed by a cipher, itself nothing, tells of the One sole sufficient godhead united by the Incarnation to the nothingness of man. Again, the decachord’s ten strings denote the ten precepts of the moral law; by compliance with which our lives make music to God (St Bruno the Carthusian), while they take the song and harp (Vulg.) to be the cheerful acceptance of bodily mortification, and the readiness of almsgiving. And that because, as was noted before, a mystical distinction is always drawn between the psaltery, whose strings are struck from above, and which is therefore taken to denote divine contemplation, and the harp, played from below, and therefore typical of humility, (Augustine) and the active service of the body. And S. Augustine here observes: Our business here is not merely to carry the psaltery but to sing to it. Even the Jews have the Law; they carry it, but they do not play upon it. Who then do play? They who put it into action. That is not enough. They who act with dejection are not yet playing. Who are they that play? They who do well with cheerfulness. For there is cheerfulness in playing. And what saith the Apostle? “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). And the same Apostle, in counting up the afflictions of mind and body which habitually befell himself in the course of his ministry (1 Cor 4:11-13), puts another decachord of suffering into our hands, wherewith we, by striking its strings boldly and cheerfully (St Clement of Alexandria), can make melody well-pleasing to the Lord. For, as one has well said, God speaks to man, saying, Thou art My harp, and flute, and temple; a harp, by reason of harmony; a flute, because of breath; a temple, because of the Word. (Note: the decachord of suffering mentioned in reference to 1 Cor 4:11-13 is a reference to the ten (deca) types of affliction mentioned there).

4 For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.
5 O Lord, how glorious are thy works: thy thoughts are very deep!

These verses appear to have suggested the Rabbinical legend already cited; that this was Adam’s morning hymn on the day after his creation (St Robert Bellarmine). And we may observe that the phrase in the first verse does not run, Thy works have made me glad, for if there be no more than that, then the beauties and marvels of creation are snares to draw us from the thought of God. But here it runs Thou hast made me glad, and that through Thy works as an instrument to declare Thy love and power. And thus John Milton, in Paradise Lost, in the hymn he puts into Adam’s mouth in Eden writes:

These are Thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty, Thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; Thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, Who sittest above these heavens,
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these Thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.

And that because, as the Apostle says, “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead” (Rom 1:20). Wherefore S. Basil the Great aptly calls creation the “school and lecture-room of souls.” But there are some marvels which lessen by experience and knowledge, and therefore the Psalmist adds here that such is not the case with God’s works, because their wonderful character, in greatest and least alike, and the whole mystery of creation is very deep, lying far below the longest plummet with which man would fain sound the abysses. But if the creation of nature be wonderful, far exceeding it in beauty and marvels is the creation of grace; and they tell us truly that the way God made us most glad through the work of His hands was when He stretched forth those hands upon the Cross, there to work out our redemption, when His thoughts were very deep, looking forward to the whole constitution and history of His Church, and the coming of the nations into the fold.

6 An unwise man doth not well consider this: and a fool doth not understand it.

They give several explanations of the distinction between the two classes of persons here named (St Bruno the Carthusian), some telling us that the first denotes unbelievers, who know nothing of the wisdom of God, and the second evil Christians, who, knowing the outer facts of His truth, are unable to comprehend them by reason of perversity. Others see, not dissimilarly, the man who is incurious of heavenly things (Cardinal Hugo), and him who is eager about earthly matters. Or again, the Jew who rejects, and the Gentile who has never learnt the Gospel. Once more, it is explained to denote the man endowed with worldly wisdom, but who is destitute of spiritual knowledge (Haymo) and the man who has neither wisdom of this world nor of the next. But the most satisfactory account seems to be that by the first are meant simply those who are deficient in understanding, and dull in observation (Pieter Titelman), as a mere mental deficiency; and by the second those who have blunted all their powers by perversity and wickedness. And we may draw one lesson from this verse, that the so-called “sacrifice of intellect” is not an oblation well-pleasing to God, for it stunts our faculty of admiration for His glory, and folds in a napkin of specious purity of intention the talent He gives us to put out at interest for Him. Wherefore Lactantius says very well: “Religion cannot be separated from Wisdom, nor Wisdom from Religion, for it is one and the same God Who ought to be understood, which is Wisdom, and honoured, which is Religion.

7 When the ungodly are green as the grass., and when all the workers of wickedness do flourish: then shall they he destroyed for ever; 8 but thou, Lord, art the most Highest for evermore.
9 (8) For lo, thine enemies, O Lord, lo, thine enemies shall perish: and all the workers of wickedness shall he destroyed.

This is one of the deep thoughts of God which are not considered nor understood by the unwise and foolish (Agellius, Michael Ayguan), namely, that there is no Sabbath rest of mind or of future happiness awaiting the wicked. It is the consolation given to the servants of God, that their enemies, who are His enemies too, will fade and disappear in the very moment of their apparent strength and triumph; while He, Who is His people’s stay, is untouched by any change, is not as the grass of the field, lying low or rank, but Most Highest, (Cassiodorus) is not one that can perish, but is for evermore. And thus, though His enemies counted Him a mere man, who could be slain, and His memory blotted out, yet His very death itself was the overthrow of both His ghostly and human foes. They give several explanations of the repetition of the words Thine enemies; (Dionysius the Carthusian) for the most part taking it as denoting some special emphasis, either as increasing the terror of the threat (St Bruno the Carthusian), or fixing the certainty of retribution; (Remigius of St Germainus) but others prefer to see a reference to the great variety of sinners (Cardinal Hugo), and one will have it that two classes of offenders are here distinguished, those who break the positive law, specially enjoined by God, and those who transgress the natural law, familiar even to heathens. Shall be destroyed. Rather, with LXX., Vulgate, and A. V., scattered. And so the Chaldee takes it, shall be separated from the congregation of the righteous; a meaning which most of the Christian expositors transfer to the division between the sheep and goats at the Day of Judgment (Haymo, St Bruno the Carthusian). There is, however, a gentler reading of the verses, which deserves citation. The sinners, observes a Greek Father (Dorotheus Abbas), who spring up like the grass, are impure thoughts, for grass is a weak and frail thing, possessing no vigour. When the evil thoughts arise in the mind, then all the workers of wickedness appear (LXX.) which mean actual sins, that they may perish for ever. For when sins appear before warriors and athletes, they are at once slain by them. Note then the order of the language; first evil thoughts spring up; then sins appear, thereupon all of them perish. All this has to do with athletes. We, who carry sin into action, and always fulfil our vices, are unable to know when bad thoughts spring up, or when sins appear, but we are still in Lower Egypt, making bricks under Pharaoh.

10 (9) But mine horn shall be exalted like the horn of an unicorn: for I am anointed with fresh oil.

Whether Christ be here the speaker, or one of His members, the horn is the same, that mighty horn of salvation raised up in the House of David, the Lord strong in His own power, or His disciple strong in His co-operation. He is a horn (Lorinus), for springing from flesh, He hath nothing of the passions of flesh, but grows out beyond the carnal nature from which He derives Himself, (Euthymius Zigabenas), and rises up on high, in strength and honour, a terror to all His foes, specially in the Judgment. He is anointed, with fresh oil, not with that old traditional oil of the decrepit Mosaic dispensation, wherewith the Aaronic Priesthood was set apart, wherewith in former days kings and prophets had been consecrated. His unction was fresh, a new thing in creation, the direct anointing of the Holy Ghost Himself, of which that elder rite was but a faint symbol, fresh, as knowing no corruption, as ever new and young, though eternal before and after all worlds; a new anointing which He sent on the Apostles in the fiery tongues of Pentecost. (Augustine) Of an unicorn (see note below). Those who take this whole speech to be that of the Church (Cassiodorus), see here in the unicorn the type of Catholic unity (St Basil, Theodoret, Jansenius, Gandolph) or as the Greek Fathers take it, the worship of One God; while a third view is that the singleness of future glory, in which no foreign elements can mingle, is denoted (Remigius of St Germainus); and a fourth sees here those who rejoice in the one hope of reaching that one glory.

Note: Of an unicorn. This rendering follows the LXX. μονοκέρως. But there is nothing to suggest the idea of one horn in the Hebrew רְאֵים, which is probably the now extinct Aurochs, urus, or wild bull.

In the latter strophe of the verse, the LXX. and Vulgate read, (Augustine) And my old age in rich mercy And this they take of the old age of the Church, (Cassiodorus) in the late evening of the world, when her beauty will be as snowy as the hair of an aged man: or again, of the future life itself (St Bruno the Carthusian), an old age in the sense of its late arrival and its tranquillity, although in itself a perpetual youth; or yet again, the gravity and calmness of life and demeanour to be observed in Saints, even in their early years, all which are blessed with the rich mercy of God. And the Carmelite, citing Aristotle, (Michael Ayguan) urges that there are five good qualities of old men which make them apt types of the Church in the time of wisdom, as of individual Saints also; namely, that their passions have cooled, they have more pity for suffering than the young, they are not given to such strong assertion of doubtful matters, and they are discreet and temperate in action.

11 (10) Mine eye also shall see his lust of mine enemies: and mine ear shall hear his desire of the wicked that rise up against me.

They take it in a threefold sense (Parez), first, of the victory of the Church, by no physical act of her own, over the Jews and the Pagans who oppressed her in the earliest days of Christianity; next, (Dionysius the Carthusian) of the inner eye of the soul beholding the victory of faith over temptation; and lastly, of the final overthrow of sinners in the Judgment.

12 (11) The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree: and shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.

Here is the forcible contrast to the lowly and fading grass of a previous verse, taken from the stateliest and most valuable trees of Palestine. There are many reasons given for the comparison of a Saint to a palm-tree, which have no lack of aptness. The palm grows in a barren soil, as the Saint in this world’s desert, and yet needs constant moisture, as he needs the fountains of the Word. It grows to a great height, and perfectly straight, denoting aspiration to heavenly things and uprightness of life; it grows as long as it lives, is an evergreen, and always fruitful, denoting spiritual improvement and continuous vitality of holiness; its leaves spread out above as high as possible from the ground, and its fruit is amongst those leaves, denoting loftiness of aim and action; it is slender and without bark, denoting the absence of all grossness of habit, or superfluity of possessions; it has wonderful elasticity of fibre, rising up from under heavy weights, a type of that buoyancy of confidence in God which makes His Saints cheerfully cast off troubles, and every part of it is good for some purpose, showing that in a holy life no faculty, talent, or opportunity is suffered to go to waste; and in its symbolical use, both amongst Jews and Pagans, because it never bends before the storm, it is the emblem of victory. The cedar, again, in its mountainous abode, in its vast spreading bulk and majesty, in its deep roots, its sweet perfume, its incorruptible wood, and its great longevity, serves as a type of other endowments of the Saints. They are cedars of Libanus, the “white” mountain, because washed clean from their sins in the waters of Baptism (Cardinal Hugo, Balthazar Corderius), and the precious Blood of Christ, and they also denote the Gentile Martyrs, because Lebanon was outside the actual limits of the Holy Land.

13 (12) Such as are planted in the house of the Lord: shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

As the cedar and palm both played their part in Solomon’s temple (Pseudo-Jerome) the one in actual timbers and beams, the other carved everywhere as an ornament; so the Saints of God, likened to these trees, can flourish only when planted within His Church, not merely inside its visible limits, but rooted in its doctrine. St Robert Bellarmine: They have been transplanted thither out of Jewish unbelief, out of Gentile idolatry, out of worldly carelessness, by the agency of God’s servants, for it is written, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God giveth the increase” (1 Cor 3:6). Only there, and only so, can they flourish, for it is written, “Every plant which My Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up (Mt 13:15, Cardinal Hugo). We may take this house and courts of the Lord to be either the Church Militant (St Albert the Great), especially in the Religious Life, or the Church Triumphant after the Resurrection, in both of which the righteous flourish, though in different fashion. And one who prefers the former interpretation remarks that the courts are in front of the house (Hugo of St Victor), and outside it, and that they denote in this place renunciation of secular things, so that he who gives up the world, plants his palm in the courts of God’s house. It is curious to find it said that they who are planted in the house shall flourish in the courts; (Michael Ayguan), but it is well answered that the righteous are planted by their inner faith in heaven itself, while the outward token of that holy rooting in love is visible in the Church below by their good works and devout conversation, or, as another tells us, (Dionysius the Carthusian) their own hearts are those outer courts of God’s house which are blooming with the trees and flowers of His inner dwelling (Roman Breviary) This verse is in use as a . and . in the Breviary Office for Martyrs.

14 (13) They also shall bring forth more fruit in their age: and shall be fat and well-liking.

Here reference is made to that distinguishing property of the palm-tree, already mentioned, that it never ceases to bear fruit, however old it may be, till its actual death, nay, that its produce is more abundant in its latter years; while the cedar, though not a fruit-bearing tree, continues to spread in bulk and foliage to a vast age (Agellius), thus signifying the undying vitality and productiveness of the Church Universal and of the holy soul to the end of their earthly time (Dionysius the Carthusian). And so the Wise Man, after telling us how “the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting,” adds that “honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that which is measured by number of years; but wisdom is the grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age” (Wis 4:3, 8; St Bruno of Aste). The Vulgate reading in the latter clause is, They shall be right patient; that is, not merely holding out sternly against suffering, as criminals often do when being punished, but with that patience which is born of love and faith (Michael Ayguan), the endurance of the Martyrs; right patient, because while they preach of heavenly things they bear adversity bravely and cheerfully (Pope St Gregory the Great), that by such endurance they may obtain yet more blessings for their souls. And this notion brings us back to the well-liking, for Tertullian says of patience, that it is “beautiful in every sex and every age.”

15 (14) That they may show how true the Lord my strength is: and that there is no unrighteousness in him.

That is (Honorius), that here in all troubles, and especially when the persecution of Antichrist falls upon the Church, they may continue steadfastly to profess their unshaken faith in the justice and promises of God, their belief that He causes them to suffer only that patience may bring forth her perfect work, and increase the glory of that crown which He, the righteous Judge, our firm Rock, hath promised to bestow upon them, when He brings them into the Sabbath which remaineth for the people of God (St Bruno the Carthusian, Euthymius Zigabenus. See Heb 4:9).

Wherefore: Glory be to the Father, the Most Highest; glory be to the Son, the Lord our Rock; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the fresh Anointing of the Lord. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Saturday: Lauds.

Monastic. Friday: Lauds. [Comm. of One Martyr: II. Nocturn.]

Ambrosian. Thursday of Second Week: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Monday: Lauds.

Lyons. Saturday: Lauds.

Quignon. Thursday: Terce.

Eastern Church. Mesorion of Prime.

ANTIPHONS

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.

Monastic. [Comm. of One Martyr: The righteous shall flourish as a palm-tree, and spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.]

COLLECTS

Ludolphus of Saxony: O God, the eternal rejoicing of the Saints, Who makest the righteous, strengthened with divers gifts of good things, to flourish unfadingly in the palm-bearing courts; we beseech Thee, that putting away the weight of our sins, Thou mayest vouchsafe to bestow upon us fellowship with them. (Note: If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen).

Mozabaric Liturgy: It is a good thing for us to give thanks unto Thee, O Lord: and to sing unto Thy most high Name; that our confession may deliver us from peril, and our zeal in singing make us more acceptable in Thy sight. (Note: The Mozarabic ending is—at the conclusion of the prayer, without any other termination: Amen. Through Thy mercy, O our God, Who art blessed, and livest and governest all things, to ages of ages. Amen.)

Mozabaric Liturgy for the Memorial of St Juliian: Thy Saints, O Lord, flourish as a palm-tree in Thy sight, and stand planted and rooted in Thy holy courts, who, when set in the conflict of martyrdom, won from their torture the palm of victory, and for death everlasting glory in Thine house. We therefore beseech Thee, O glorious God, that for their great merits Thou mayest grant us pardon for the wickedness of our sins. (see previous note)

Pseudo-Jerome: We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may fulfil in deed that which we have heard, and turn our words into works, that we who are planted here in Thy house may flourish in the court of Christ. (Note: If the prayer be addressed to God the Son: Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Dionysius the Carthusian: Plant us in Thine house, O Lord, with virtues, and make us as good seed bear fruit in all loveliness of religion, that growing up like a palm-tree in the flower of righteousness, and perfected therein by Thee, we may flourish in joy in Thy sight for evermore. (Note: If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen.)

 

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

PSALM 92
God is to be praised for his wondrous works 

Ps 92:1 It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to thy name, O most High.

An exhortation to praise God with instrumental and vocal music. He says it is right, useful, delightful, and honorable to give God his need of praise; right, because it is due to him; useful, because we save ourselves by it; delightful, for the lover always delights in praising the beloved; and honorable, because the office belongs to the celestial spirits; “and to sing to thy name, O Lord.” It is good to praise you, not only with our hearts and lips, but also to use musical instruments, such as the psaltery, whereon to make your praises resound, O Most High God.

Ps 92:2 To shew forth thy mercy in the morning, and thy truth in the night:

Such must be the subject of our praise, to announce and proclaim to all the mercy in which you created the world, and the truth or the justice with which you rule it. And, as the work of mercy appears to every one, let it be announced in the day; for who is there that does not know that the heavens and the earth, and all things in them were created by God, through his goodness and mercy, and not from necessity or compulsion. And, as the works of justice are occult; for, through God’s secret designs, the just are often afflicted, and the wicked exalted; let such works be announced at night, in the darkness of faith, and not in the light of knowledge. In like manner, let mercy be announced in the morning, and justice at night, that men may, in the light of their prosperity, return thanks to God for his mercy, and in the darkness of tribulation for his justice; for, as St. Augustine observes on this passage, the father loves his children no less when he threatens than when he caresses them; nor should we be less grateful to God when he chastises us in the time of trouble, than when he heaps favors on us in our prosperity. We should imitate the prophet, who says, in another Psalm, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.”

Ps 92:3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, upon the psaltery: with a canticle upon the harp.

As well as he explained the subject of his praise, when he said, “It is good to give praise to the Lord,” he now explains the second part of the same verse; “and to sing to thy name;” for he says he is to sing with the harp and psaltery, but not without the sweet sounds of the human voice.

Ps 92:4 For thou hast given me, O Lord, a delight in thy doings: and in the works of thy hands I shall rejoice.

He now opens on the work of creation, one of God’s mercies. I have been studying the beauty, variety, excellence, strength, and the uses of your works; of the heavens, the earth, the waters, the stars, animals, and plants: I have been delighted beyond measure with them; but it was not your works that delighted me, for I did not dwell upon them, but it was in yourself I delighted; for your works led me to reflect on your own infinite beauty; and, carried away by the love of such extraordinary beauty, I was delighted and lost in admiration; and will, therefore, daily exult and praise thee “in the works of thy hands.”

Ps 92:5 O Lord, how great are thy works! thy thoughts are exceeding deep.

Having said that he was delighted so much with the works of God, for fear he should be supposed to have comprehended them thoroughly, or to have an intimate knowledge of the excellence of all God’s works, he now adds, that the works of the Lord are too great, and his wisdom in producing them too profound for any one in this life to comprehend. “How great are thy works!” I am lost in admiration at the greatness and the excellence of your works; I cannot comprehend the magnitude of them, for truly did Ecclesiasticus say, “Who hath numbered the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of the world? Who hath measured the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss?” yet however great they may be, greater beyond comparison is the wisdom that created them; of which the same inspired writer immediately adds, “Who hath searched out the wisdom of God, that goeth before all things;” and David here adds, “thy thoughts are exceeding deep;” that is to say, those thoughts of yours so full of wisdom, through which you have devised so many wonderful things, and so perfect that nothing can be added to or taken from them, are so occult as to surpass all human understanding. To give an instance of it in most trifling and common things. Who can comprehend how in one small seed is contained an enormous tree with large and numerous branches, verdant foliage, beautiful blossoms, and its own seed for its own propagation? Who can comprehend by what art God contrived to infuse life, sense, and motion into the minutest insects, and with it endowing the ant with such prudence, the spider with such cunning, and the gnats and the fleas with such a power of incision with so poor an instrument?

Ps 92:6 The senseless man shall not know: nor will the fool understand these things.

He concludes this part of the Psalm, that treats on creation, by asserting, that it is only the wise, and not the senseless or the fool, that can know how great and inscrutable are the works of the Lord. For fools never look for anything in things created but the pleasure or the advantage they derive from them, just as the brute beasts do, who have no understanding, and know not their own ignorance. But the wise, though they do not comprehend the greatness of God’s works, still, they feel they are unequal to comprehending them, and are sensible of their ignorance therein; and the more they are sensible of it, the more they admire God’s works, and come near true wisdom. “The senseless man shall not know” how wonderful are the works of the Lord; “nor will the fool understand” how profound are his thoughts; for a knowledge of one’s own ignorance is only to be met with in the wise.

Ps 92:7 When the wicked shall spring up as grass: and all the workers of iniquity shall appear: That they may perish for ever and ever:

He now passes to direction and the providence of God, in which his justice or his truth is most conspicuous, and especially so in the fact of the wicked being allowed to flourish for a time, that they may be condemned to eternal punishment; while the just, on the contrary, suffer here for a while, that they may be crowned hereafter. “When the wicked shall spring up as grass;” when they shall flourish and multiply as quickly as the grass grows and in as great abundance; “and all the workers of iniquity shall appear” most conspicuous, in high situations, and abounding in riches, “that they may perish forever and ever.” All this prosperity of theirs will be suffered by God as a reward for some of their works, while they are sure to be punished with everlasting death for their crimes.

Ps 92:8 But thou, O Lord, art most high for evermore.

Your position, O Lord, is quite different from that of the wicked, for their elevation is only temporary, but you are “Most High” forever and ever.

Ps 92:9 For behold thy enemies, O lord, for behold thy enemies shall perish: and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.

He proves that the wicked will prosper for a time only, and that a short one. The word “behold,” implies the suddenness of the change, as if he said, They that so thrived and flourished will perish all at once; and the repetition of the expression is with a view to express his execration of them; just as a similar repetition is used by him in Psalm 124, to express his devotion, “O Lord, for I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.” Worthy of all execration is he who fears not becoming an enemy to God, that he may be a friend to the world; for thus writes St. James, “whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” What an amount of perversity to despise the friendship of the Creator for that of the creature. “And all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.” This is but a repetition and explanation of the first part of the verse. Those he called “enemies” there, he calls “workers of iniquity” here; and those he said there “shall perish,” he says here “shall be scattered;” for men become enemies to God by the fact of their contradicting his will that has been made known to us through his law; and they who “work iniquity,” contradict his law; for the law of God is most direct and straight, and the rule of rectitude; but iniquity is nothing else than crookedness, and a departure from that rule. The wicked “shall be scattered” like the dry grass, to which he compared them; for as the dry grass is hurried away and scattered by the wind, and no trace of it found after; thus, the wicked, when they shall have prospered and flourished for a while, by God’s will, are sure to be cut down and carried off, leaving not even a trace of their memory.

Ps 92:10 But my horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn: and my old age in plentiful mercy.

He now contrasts the lot of the just with that of the wicked, and shows that they will one day be exalted by the divine providence and justice; and he speaks in his own person, piously hoping he will one day be numbered among them. “My horn;” that is, my power, happiness, and glory will rise aloft; not like the frail grass, but like the horn of the unicorn, an animal having only one horn, but that a large, straight, and powerful one, “and my old age in plentiful mercy;” that is, not only will my power, happiness, and glory be great, but it will be continued and constant, following me to my old age, for my “old age will be in plentiful mercy” before God.

Ps 92:11 My eye also hath looked down upon my enemies: and my ear shall hear of the downfall of the malignant that rise up against me.

He now contrasts the lot of the just with that of the wicked, and shows that they will one day be exalted by the divine providence and justice; and he speaks in his own person, piously hoping he will one day be numbered among them. “My horn;” that is, my power, happiness, and glory will rise aloft; not like the frail grass, but like the horn of the unicorn, an animal having only one horn, but that a large, straight, and powerful one, “and my old age in plentiful mercy;” that is, not only will my power, happiness, and glory be great, but it will be continued and constant, following me to my old age, for my “old age will be in plentiful mercy” before God.

Ps 92:12 The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.

The prophet now applies to other just men what he had said of himself, gracefully comparing them to the palm and cedar trees, in contrast to the wicked he had compared to grass. Grass springs up in the morning, withers during the day, or is cut down by the mowers, is a thing of no permanence or endurance; whereas the palm tree lives a long time, and gives forth its fruit and its leaves for a long time; so does the cedar, the highest and the longest lived among trees, and in great request for the ornamentation of royal palaces and ceilings. Thus the wicked thrive and prosper for a while, and are then thrown into the fire; but the just, like the palm tree, will flourish and hold verdant, and bear the sweetest fruits forever; nor will they sink under any burden, but will overcome all difficulties, and, furthermore, “shall grow up, like the cedar of Libanus,” to an enormous height, sending out its branches of good works and roots of perseverance, which will enable them to resist any storm, however great, of temptation, and in the end, like the cedars, will be an ornament in the heavenly palace of the new Jerusalem.

Ps92:13 They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

He assigns a reason for having compared the just to the palm and the cedar, because they will not be planted in the woods or the wild mountains, but will be planted in God’s own house, and will flourish in God’s own courts; that is to say, they will be planted in his Church by true faith, watered by his sacraments and his word, fixed and rooted in charity, they will not fail to give out in abundance the flowers of virtue and the fruit of good works. For, outside the Church, and without the foundation of faith, every plantation will be rooted up, inasmuch as it was not planted by the Heavenly Father.

Ps 2:14 They shall still increase in a fruitful old age: and shall be well treated,

What the prophet previously promised himself, viz., “that his old age should be in plentiful mercy,” he now promises to all the other just; that they will prosper, not only in their youth and vigor, but that they will have a long and happy old age. “They shall still increase in a fruitful old age;” and, furthermore, “they shall be well treated;” enjoying the blessings of this life, and hoping for the next.

Ps 92:15 That they may shew, That the Lord our God is righteous, and there is no iniquity in him.

All this will turn up, that the just may show and make known to all by word or by example, “that the Lord our God is righteous;” for, though he suffers the wicked to prosper for a while, he will, in his own time, exercise the judgments of his justice, by rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked.

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