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

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2017

Mt 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:

And after six days,” St. Mark reckons the same number (9:1); St. Luke (9:28) says, “about eight days after these words,” Both Evangelists are thus reconciled, if reconciled they need be; St. Matthew, in his narrative, does not include the the day on which the preceding words were spoken, nor the last day on which the occurrence he is about narrating took place. Whereas, St. Luke includes not only the six intermediate days referred to by St. Matthew, but also two partial days besides, viz., the first and last. However, in any case, there is no contradiction; for, St. Luke says, “about eight days,” not mentioning the precise number.

Taketh unto Him Peter, James, and John,” whom, as His most attached and confidential friends, and most highly favoured among the twelve, He frequently admitted to more familiar intercourse—Peter, the head of the Apostolic College; James, the greater, put to death by Herod, and the first to seal his testimony with his blood; and John, the beloved disciple, who was to outlive all the rest. These three He took with Him as the number of witnesses required for legal proof, according to the Jewish law, “in ore duorum vel trium testiam stet omne verbum,” and also to correspond with the threefold witnesses on earth, “tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra,” as the Heavenly Father, Moses, and Elias, corresponded with the three witnesses in heaven, “tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cœlo,” &c. He confined the manifestation of His glory to these three; because, He desired that the glory of His Transfiguration should not be divulged till after His resurrection.

Into a high mountain apart.” This is commonly supposed to be Mount Thabor, situated in the centre of Galilee, not far from Nazareth. It is in favour of this opinion, that this event would seem to have occurred in Galilee (v. 21), in the centre of which Thabor is situated. Others say, it was Mount Libanus. This opinion derives some probability from the fact, that it was at Cæsarea Philippi, situated at the foot of Mount Libanus, our Redeemer conferred the Primacy on St. Peter; and it would not seem He departed as yet from that district. St. Luke says, He ascended the mountain (9:28) “to pray,” which was quite in accordance with His custom, and that it was “whilst He prayed,” (v. 29) His Transfiguration took place.

Mt 17:2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.

And He was transfigured before them.” This word here does not imply any change of substance, but only a change in His external appearance. He did not assume an ærial spiritual body, but only changed the appearance of, and added brightness to, the body He really had. This is clearly conveyed by St. Luke, “the appearance of His is countenance was altered,” &c. (9:29); and St. Matthew here explains it, “His face did shine as the sun: and His garments,” &c. He superadded splendour and glory to His former appearance, the substance remaining the same. He exhibited that glory with which He shall appear in His heavenly kingdom, and when He shall come one day to judge the world. He did not show His Divinity as He shows Himself to the saints in heaven. This, mortal eyes could not endure. He only showed the external glory of His body, which represented, in a certain way, the glory of the Divine Majesty.

And His face,” over which external splendour was diffused. Most probably, this extended to His entire body. “Did shine as the sun;” in this way was the gift of clarity, arising from the glory of the Divinity and the beatitude of the soul of Christ, shown to the Apostles. The other gifts of impassibility, agility, spirituality, were not exhibited. And, although from the moment of His Incarnation, these gifts of a glorified body, were due to the body of Christ, owing to its union with the Divinity; still, by Divine dispensation, and by a continuous miracle, they were concealed; their manifestation was repressed in His body, and prevented from taking effect. Even this gift of clarity showed itself only in a passing way, for the present occasion, but not to be perpetually manifested, as it is now manifested, in His glorified state; and shall be in the glorified bodies of the just after the General Resurrection. It was by a continuous miracle and Divine dispensation, that the body of our Lord did not exhibit the qualities of glorification from His Incarnation; and that He enjoyed the beatitude of the soul without showing itself in the glory of His body; and it was equally a miracle, that it was gifted with clarity only in a transient way, not manifested as a perpetual gift. Others say, our Lord’s glorious Transfiguration, and the passing manifestation of the gift of clarity, far from being a miracle—for, this clarity naturally arose from the beatified soul of Christ—was rather a cessation of the perpetual miracle by which were repressed the qualities of glorification.

And His garments became white as snow.” Most of the Greek readings have, “white as light.” But, the Vulgate reading is the more probable, and the comparison more natural. Moreover, all copies of St. Mark (9:2) have, “exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can make white.” Whether this snowy whiteness and shining brightness were so really impressed on the garments of our Lord, that they assumed these qualities, really and supernaturally on the occasion; and then after the Transfiguration, reassumed their former colour; or, were merely reflected on the garments from the glorified and bright Body of our Redeemer, reflecting its brightness on everything around it, is not easily determined, and forms the subject of dispute among commentators.

There can be no question whatever of the reality of this glorious Transfiguration, no grounds for regarding it as an imaginary scene. For, although the Apostles were before, “heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32), it was after awaking, they were favoured with the sight of His glory.

Our Redeemer’s object in this glorious manifestation would seem to be, by exhibiting His glory, and by adducing the testimony of Moses and Elias, to prepare His disciples for the scandal of the cross, and to animate them to undergo torments and death, by the prospects of the glory which awaited them in the Resurrection, similar to that witnessed by them on this occasion. The difference between the glory of our Redeemer and that of Moses is, that the glorious effulgence was imparted to Moses from without, from his converse with God; it was, moreover, confined to His face, the effulgence of which, owing to its being veiled, was concealed; whereas, that of our Redeemer was from within, from the glory of the Divinity and the beatitude of His soul, which, by a kind of continuous miracle, was kept from imparting the properties of glorification to His body. And, moreover, it extended to the entire body, to the entire sacred person, of our Redeemer.

Mt 17:3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.

And behold,” &c. “And,” denotes, that immediately on His being transfigured, they saw “Moses and Elias talking with Him.” St. Luke (9:32) says, they “stood with Him.” Hence, it was in a standing posture, and not while elevated from the earth, this Transfiguration took place. St. Luke (9:31) tells us, the subject on which they were speaking was, concerning “His death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Our Redeemer wished to have Moses and Elias as witnesses of His Transfiguration; the former, the promulgator and representative of the Law; the latter, the representative of all the Prophets, of whom he was the greatest; to show, that far from being opposed to the Law and the Prophets, as the Jews calumniously charged Him, the Law and the Prophets bore testimony to Him, and to His death, the great source of scandal to His followers, about which they were conversing. He, moreover, wished to show, He was the Lord of Moses and all the Prophets; and not himself either Elias or any other of the Prophets, as the multitude falsely imagined. St. Luke says, “Moses and Elias appeared in majesty.” Our Lord, by thus wishing that His attendants on this glorious occasion should be robed like Himself, in glorious apparel, meant to show, that He will one day communicate His glory to His chosen servants in heaven. The presence of these glorified witnesses would servo to heighten His glory; and their testimony would add still greater force to His words in the minds of His Apostles.

Talking with Him.” The subject of their conversation, as we are informed by St. Luke (9:31), regarded His “decease, which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The Greek word (εξοδον) shows, there is question of His exit or departure out of this world, which is rendered “excessum ejus,” by the Vulgate. It regards His future Passion. Some spiritual writers dwell on the words, “excessum ejus,” to point out the excessive love for man manifested by our Blessed Lord in His Passion and unparalleled sufferings. This is, no doubt, a pious and edifying exposition, and is included in the words; but the other, as the Greek clearly shows, is the literal meaning.

St. Luke informs us, that whilst our Redeemer was praying, Peter and his companions, “were heavy with sleep.” While they were thus asleep, it would seem our Redeemer was transfigured; and awaking, they saw Him in this state of majesty, and Moses and Elias speaking with Him regarding His future Passion. It was not before they fell asleep, but after awaking, they witnessed His Transfiguration, as St. Luke informs us. From this, it is inferred by some, that the Transfiguration occurred in the night time. In corroboration of this it is said (Luke 9:37), that our Redeemer came down from the mountain on the following day. Others, with St. Chrysostom, say, it took place in the day time. The fact, that a bright cloud overshadowed them, which most likely occurred in the day, favours this opinion, although this might occur on a calm, bright night also.

Mt 17:4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Then Peter, answering, said.” “Answering,” by a Hebrew idiom, signifies, to commence speaking, without supposing any previous question asked. “Then.” St. Luke tells us, that St. Peter spoke when Moses and Elias were about to depart. Then Peter, transported with joy and almost inebriated with delight, mingled at the same time, with a kind of fear, or rather reverential awe, at the presence of such an unusual exhibition of glory—“For, they were struck with fear” (Mark 9:5)—anxious that this felicity should be perpetual and unalterable, exclaimed,Lord, it is good (καλον, delightful, very pleasing) for us to be here.” Therefore, do not permit Moses and Elias to depart. “If Thou wilt”—if Thou allow it, with your permission—“let us make here three tabernacles,” i.e., three tents, composed of branches of trees, such as were hastily raised, by travellers, for temporary purposes, and such as were raised on the Feast of Tabernacles. St. Peter wished to raise these as places where our Lord, Moses, and Elias might dwell. St. Mark (9:5), says, “he knew not what he said,” or, as the Greek has it, “he knew not what to say;” and St. Luke (9:34), not knowing what he said.” Like the sons of Zebedee, who know not the consequences nor conditions of what they asked, “nescitis quid petatis.” Peter spoke inconsiderately, not actually attending to the import of his words, nor how inconsistent and irreconcilable what he desired was, with what he saw and witnessed. Our Redeemer had sharply rebuked him, for trying to dissuade Him from suffering death. He heard two glorious witnesses speaking of His future death, in Jerusalem; and yet, Peter tries to detain them on the mountain, and leave the work of redemption unaccomplished. Moreover, it showed inconsiderateness in Peter, to imagine that glorified saints needed tents to protect them. It was thoughtless in him, to wish to have that glory confined to a few, on the mountain, which was destined for countless numbers, by the sovereign liberality of God; and to prefer the glimpse of glory, which He saw emanating from the glorified humanity and divinity of Jesus, to that effulgent, overwhelming, and dazzling glory, which from the sight of the Divinity, “face to face,” shall be exhibited to the saints for all eternity. “Satiabor cum apparuerit gloria tua” (Psa. 16:15).

Mt 17:5 And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.

While Peter was speaking thus incoherently, the Heavenly Father interrupted his discourse. “Behold”—to call attention to it as a matter of wonder—“a bright cloud overshadowed them,” that is, enveloped them, diffusing itself around our Redeemer, Moses, Elias, and the Apostles who were near to where our Redeemer was conversing with Moses and Elias. “A bright cloud.” The Almighty is said, frequently in Scripture, to display His Majesty in a cloud (Exodus 16:10; 19:9; 24:15). Hence, the Psalmist says, “qui ponis nubem ascensum tuum,” &c. (Psa. 103) This cloud, which was an indication of the Divine presence, a visible type of the “excellent glory,” as St. Peter terms it (2 Ep. 1:17), showed that our Redeemer needed no tabernacle, made with hands. It served to temper the brightness of the majesty which struck the Apostles with fear. By it, God partly fulfilled the desires of Peter, by showing, He was Himself the pavilion, under whose shade the blessed shall repose for ever; and by it, He was pleased to sanction the public confession of Peter, regarding the Divinity of His eternal Son, by such a public and explicit declaration, and by a command to others, to hear Him. It is said to be a bright cloud, while that in which He appeared, when giving the Law to Moses, was a “very thick one” (Exod. 19:16), to show the difference between the New Law—the covenant of love—and the Old—the covenant of terror. St. Luke (9:34), says, “they were afraid, when they entered the cloud.” Who entered the cloud is disputed. The most common opinion is, that all entered the cloud, and that the cloud became more dense around Moses and Elias. Seeing them, as if vanishing from their sight, the disciples feared much. The very appearance of the cloud, together with the voice, which immediately after issued from it, was calculated to terrify them. Others say, the cloud enveloped only Moses and Elias, when they were on the point of departing. This bright cloud indicated the presence of the Divine Majesty.

And, behold,” as a thing still more strange and wonderful, “a voice out of the cloud.” Not only were the eyes of the Apostles favoured with the most convincing proof of the Divinity of our Blessed Lord, but through the organ of hearing, a most conclusive proof was afforded them. “This is My beloved Son,” &c. These words are the same in the Greek, as those uttered on the occasion of our Blessed Lord’s baptism. The article is prefixed to “Son” (ὅ νιος), and to “beloved” (ὅ αγαπητος), to show that He was His natural, only begotten Son, to distinguish Him from His adopted sons, who are many in number, angels and men. The words, literally rendered from the Greek, would run thus: hic est ille filius meus, ille dilectus—this is the Son of mine, the beloved. The word “beloved” (αγαπητος), is frequently used for (μονογενης), only-begotten, because an only-begotten son is singularly beloved. Thus it is used in Genesis (22:2). The Septuagint interpreters render the Hebrew word, αγαπητος and μονογενης (Jer. 6:26, &c.; Amos 8:10, &c.), and it is used in this sense by Pagan authors also. Homer (II. vi. 401); Hesiod, referred to by Pollux (Lib. iii. c. 2). The word, αγαπητος, used in connexion with ὕιος, is, in every part of the New Testament, used to designate the eternal Son of God, and used to distinguish Him from those, who are sons by the several titles of creation, redemption, adoption, viz., men and angels.

In whom I am well pleased.” The beloved object of My eternal complacency and love, “in whom,” and on account of whom, created objects please Me; “in whom,” I am reconciled to a sinful world; who, alone, singularly pleases Me, and in whom nothing else displeases Me. The Aorist form (ευδοκησα), conveys the idea of continuous pleasure, past, present, and future. These words point to our Lord, as the reconciler of God with a sinful world.

Hear ye Him.” St. Chrysostom observes, that it was only after the departure of Moses and Elias (Luke 9:36), this voice was heard, that it might appear beyond all cavil or doubt, that it was to Christ, and Him only, the words referred. “Hear ye Him”—that is, believe in Him, obey His precepts, embrace His law, no longer hear Moses and the Prophets. They have discharged the duty of bearing witness to Him, the Divine Legate. He is now come, the Legislator of the New Law. Their office has now ceased. Their departure need not be regretted. He, alone, is sufficient for you. By obeying Him, you will merit and secure, for yourselves, a share in the heavenly glory, a glimpse of which has been exhibited to you on the mountain. The words, “Hear ye Him,” are, probably, allusive to the prophecy of Moses, regarding Christ (Deut. 18:15), “A Prophet of thy nation … Him thou shalt hear” (see 3:17).

Mt 17:6 And the disciples hearing fell upon their face, and were very much afraid.

And the disciples hearing,” the terrible voice of God, which some of the holy Fathers say, resembled loud peals of thunder, “Vox Domini in virtute. Vox Domini in magnificentia.” (Psa. 28)

Fell upon their face,” probably, for the purpose of adoring the Divine Majesty, and of imploring Him to spare them. “And (that is, ‘for’), they were very much afraid.” For, “what is all flesh, that it should hear the voice of the living God?” (Deut. 5:26.) As they were seized with fear on beholding the glory of the Transfiguration, and on entering into the cloud, so they were terrified still more on hearing the tremendous voice of God. “Human weakness could not bear such refulgent beams of glory, and trembling in every limb, they fell prostrate on the ground” (St. Jerome). It may be, they feared that Moses, on departing, would send forth from the clouds, thunder and lightning, as happened at the giving of the Law (Exod. 19:16), and that Elias would send forth fires from the clouds as formerly (4 Kings 1:10). The Apostles, however, were not so terrified, as not to clearly perceive what occurred (2 Peter 1:18).

Mt 17:7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and fear not.

The heavenly benignity of our Redeemer, raises them up. With a gentle touch He dispels the fear with which the thundering voice and majesty of God had prostrated them to the earth. As Mediator, He interposes between the tremendous majesty of God and human infirmity. “Arise, and fear not,” intimating to them that this was the voice, not of an angry God, but of a Father, who meant to confirm them in the faith, and to point out the glory in store for His adopted sons, destined to be co-heirs of His well-beloved Son, to whom they were hereafter to bear testimony.

Mt 17:8 And they lifting up their eyes, saw no one, but only Jesus.

Moses and Elias had disappeared, so had the cloud, and Jesus Himself had laid aside the glory which had dazzled them. He, alone, was visible, in His former humble state of mortality. This shows that it was to Him, and to Him only, the voice of His Father was addressed. The disappearance of Moses and Elias pointed out the temporary and transient glory of the Law and the Prophets, and showed that the Gospel alone was permanent, and destined to continue to the end of ages. The history of the Transfiguration, although differently narrated by the Evangelists, may be thus briefly summed up. While our Redeemer prayed on the mountain, the Apostles, probably, tired by the ascent, and owing to the prolonged prayer, fell asleep, during which sleep our Lord was transfigured. Next, Moses and Elias came, and discoursed with our Redeemer, regarding His death in Jerusalem. The Apostles, roused from sleep by this conversation, and by the glory which surrounded them, saw our Lord thus transfigured, and heard Moses and Elias conversing with Him. When these gave signs of departing, Peter, overwhelmed with joy, wished to detain them, and to construct three tabernacles. Next, came the cloud, enveloping Moses and Elias, and the voice, “hic est filius,” &c., which terrified the Apostles, and cast them on the ground. Afterwards, comforted by our Redeemer, they rose up, and saw only our Lord, Moses having returned to Limbo, and Elias to where he is sojourning, till the Day of Judgment.

Mt 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.

Tell the vision,” that is, what they had been after witnessing, the glory of the Transfiguration, “to no one,” including, probably, their fellow Apostles, and all others, “until the Son of man be risen again,” &c. St. Luke says (9:36), “they told no man in those days any of these things which they had seen.” The time subsequent to the Resurrection was deemed to be the only fit time for divulging this vision. Several conjectural reasons are assigned for this. Among the rest, it might be, our Redeemer feared, as regarded the other Apostles, that they might be saddened at their not being favoured with this vision, as well as Peter, James, and John; and, as regards the people, He might have feared, they would regard the event as incredible, and seeing afterwards His weakness in His Passion, those who would be induced to believe in Him, might altogether abandon the faith, and thus it would be more difficult to bring them back again. It was only after His resurrection; it was only after He displayed, not only his omniscience, in its prediction, with all its circumstances, but also His Divine power displayed in His own resuscitation—the great proof of His Divinity furnished everywhere in the New Testament—that this vision would not be questioned, and the minds of men would be prepared to believe it. Then it would seem as a confirmatory proof of His Divinity. No danger of scandal from any subsequent manifestation of weakness, and the Apostles would be better able to proclaim it after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them (see 16:20).

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:27-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time,5 Thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, that every one who looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Having now finished the former commandment, and having extended it unto the height of self-denial, He, advancing in course and order, proceeds accordingly unto the second, herein too obeying the law.

“And yet,” it may be said, “this is not the second, but the third; for neither is the first, “Thou shalt not kill.” but “The Lord thy God is one Lord.”6

Wherefore it is worth inquiring too, why He did not begin with that. Why was it then? Because, had He begun from thence, He must have enlarged it also, and have brought in Himself together with His Father.7 But it was not as yet time to teach any such thing about Himself.

And besides, He was for a while practising His moral doctrine only, being minded from this first, and from His miracles, to convince the hearers that He was the Son of God. Now, if He had said at once, before He had spoken or done anything, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, “I am the Lord thy God, and there is none other but me,” but I say unto you, Worship me even as Him; this would have made all regard Him as a madman. For if, even after His teaching, and His so great miracles, while not even yet was He saying this openly, they called Him possessed with a devil;1 had He before all these attempted to say any such thing, what would they not have said? what would they not have thought?

But by keeping back at the proper season His teaching on these subjects, He was causing that the doctrine should be acceptable to the many. Wherefore now He passed it by quickly, but when He had everywhere established it by His miracles, and by His most excellent teaching, He afterwards unveiled it in words also.

For the present, however, by the manifestation of His miracles, and by the very manner of His teaching, He unfolds it on occasion, gradually and quietly. For His enacting such laws, and such corrections of laws, with authority, would lead on the attentive and understanding hearer, by little and little, unto the word of His doctrine. For it is said, “they were astonished at Him, because He taught not as their Scribes.”2

2. For beginning from those passions, which most belong to our whole race, anger, I mean, and desire (for it is these chiefly that bear absolute sway within us, and are more natural than the rest); He with great authority, even such as became a legislator, both corrected them, and reduced them to order with all strictness. For He said not that the adulterer merely is punished; but what He had done with respect to the murderer, this He doth here also, punishing even the unchaste look: to teach thee wherein lies what He had more than the scribes. Accordingly, He saith, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her:” that is, he who makes it his business to be curious about bright forms, and to hunt for elegant features, and to feast his soul with the sight, and to fasten his eyes on fair countenances.

For He came to set free from all evil deeds not the body only, but the soul too before the body. Thus, because in the heart we receive the grace of the Spirit, He cleanses it out first.

“And how,” one may say, “is it possible to be freed from desire?” I answer, first, if we were willing, even this might be deadened, and remain inactive.

In the next place, He doth not here take away desire absolutely, but that desire which springs up in men from sight. For he that is curious to behold fair countenances, is himself chiefly the enkindler of the furnace of that passion, and makes his own soul a captive, and soon proceeds also to the act.

Thus we see why He said not, “whosoever shall lust to commit adultery,” but, “whosoever shall look to lust.” And in the case of anger He laid down a certain distinction, saying, “without a cause,” and “for nought;” but here not so; rather once for all He took away the desire. Yet surely both are naturally implanted, and both are set in us for our profit; both anger, and desire: the one that we may chastise the evil, and correct those who walk disorderly; the other that we may have children, and that our race may be recruited by such successions.

Why then did He not make a distinction here also? Nay, very great is the distinction which, if thou attend, thou wilt see here also included. For He said not simply, “whosoever shall desire,” since it is possible for one to desire even when sitting in the mountains; but, “Whosoever shall look to lust;” that is to say, he who gathers in lust unto himself; he who, when nothing compels him, brings in the wild beast upon his thoughts when they are calm. For this comes no longer of nature, but of self-indulgence. This even the ancient Scripture corrects from the first, saying, “Contemplate not beauty which is another’s.”3 And then, lest any one should say, “what then, if I contemplate, and be not taken captive,” He punishes the look, lest confiding in this security thou shouldest some time fall into sin. “What then,” one may say, “if I should look, and desire indeed, but do no evil?” Even so thou art set among the adulterers. For the Lawgiver hath pronounced it, and thou must not ask any more questions. For thus looking once, twice, or thrice, thou wilt perhaps have power to refrain; but if thou art continually doing this, and kindling the furnace, thou wilt assuredly be taken; for thy station is not beyond that nature which is common to men. As we then, if we see a child holding a knife, though we do not see him hurt, beat him, and forbid his ever holding it; so God likewise takes away the unchaste look even before the act, lest at any time thou shouldest fall in act also. For he who hath once kindled the flame, even when the woman whom he hath beheld is absent, is forming by himself continually images of shameful things, and from them often goes on even to the deed. For this cause Christ takes away even that embrace which is in the heart only.

What now can they say, who have those virgin inmates?1 Why, by the tenor of this law they must be guilty of ten thousand adulteries, daily beholding them with desire. For this cause the blessed Job2 also laid down this law from the beginning, blocking out from himself on all sides this kind of gazing.

For in truth greater is the struggle on beholding, and not possessing the object of fondness: nor is the pleasure so great which we reap from the sight, as the mischief we undergo from increasing this desire; thus making our opponent strong, and giving more scope to the devil, and no longer3 able to repulse him, now that we have brought him into our inmost parts, and have thrown our mind open unto him. Therefore He saith, “commit no adultery with thine eyes, and thou wilt commit none with thy mind.”

For one may indeed behold in another way, such as are the looks of the chaste; wherefore he did not altogether prohibit our seeing, but that seeing which is accompanied with desire. And if He had not meant this, He would have said simply, “He who looketh on a woman.” But now He said not thus, but, “He who looketh to lust,” “he who looketh to please his sight.”

For not at all to this end did God make thee eyes, that thou shouldest thereby introduce adultery, but that, beholding His creatures, thou shouldest admire the Artificer.

Just then as one may feel wrath at random, so may one cast looks at random; that is, when thou doest it for lust. Rather, if thou desirest to look and find pleasure, look at thine own wife, and love her continually; no law forbids that. But if thou art to be curious about the beauties that belong to another, thou art injuring both thy wife by letting thine eyes wander elsewhere, and her on whom thou hast looked, by touching her unlawfully. Since, although thou hast not touched her with the hand, yet hast thou caressed her with thine eyes; for which cause this also is accounted adultery, and before that great penalty draws after it no slight one of its own. For then all within him is filled with disquiet and turmoil, and great is the tempest, and most grievous the pain, and no captive nor person in chains can be worse off than a man in this state of mind. And oftentimes she who hath shot the dart is flown away, while the wound even so remains. Or rather, it is not she who hath shot the dart, but thou gavest thyself the fatal wound, by thine unchaste look. And this I say to free modest women from the charge: since assuredly, should one deck herself out, and invite towards herself the eyes of such as fall in her way; even though she smite not him that meets with her, she incurs the utmost penalty: for she mixed the poison, she prepared the hemlock, even though she did not offer the cup. Or rather, she did also offer the cup, though no one were found to drink it.

3. “Why then doth He not discourse with them also?” it may be said. Because the laws which He appoints are in every case common, although He seem to address Himself unto men only. For in discoursing with the head, He makes His admonition common to the whole body also. For woman and man He knows as one living creature, and nowhere distinguishes their kind.

But if thou desirest to hear also His rebuke for them in particular, listen to Isaiah,4 in many words inveighing against them, and deriding their habit, their aspect, their gait, their trailing garments, their tripping feet, their drooping necks. Hear with him the blessed Paul5 also, setting many laws for them; and both about garments, and ornaments of gold,6 and plaiting of hair, and luxurious7 living, and all other such things, vehemently rebuking this sex. And Christ too, by what follows next, obscurely intimated this very same; for when He saith, “pluck out and cut off the eye that offendeth thee,”8 He speaks as indicating His anger against them.

3. Wherefore also He subjoins,

“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.”1

Thus, lest thou shouldest say, “But what if she be akin to me? what if in any other way she belong to me?” therefore He hath given these injunctions; not discoursing about our limbs;—far from it,—for nowhere doth He say that our flesh is to be blamed for things, but everywhere it is the evil mind that is accused. For it is not the eye that sees, but the mind and the thought. Often, for instance, we being wholly turned elsewhere, our eye sees not those who are present. So that the matter does not entirely depend upon its working. Again, had He been speaking of members of the body, He would not have said it of one eye, nor of the right eye only, but of both. For he who is offended by his right eye, most evidently will incur the same evil by his left also. Why then did He mention the right eye, and add the hand? To show thee that not of limbs is He speaking, but of them who are near unto us. Thus, “If,” saith He, “thou so lovest any one, as though he were in stead of a right eye; if thou thinkest him so profitable to thee as to esteem him in the place of a hand, and he hurts thy soul; even these do thou cut off.” And see the emphasis; for He saith not, “Withdraw from him,” but to show the fullness of the separation, “pluck it out,” saith He, “and cast it from thee.”

Then, forasmuch as His injunction was sharp, He shows also the gain on either hand, both from the benefits and from the evils, continuing in the metaphor.

“For it is profitable for thee,” saith He, “that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”2

For while he neither saves himself, nor fails to destroy thee too, what kindness is it for both to sink, whereas if they were separated, one at least might have been preserved?

But why did Paul then, it may be said, choose to become accursed?3 Not on condition of gaining nothing, but with a view to the salvation of others. But in this case the mischief pertains to both. And therefore He said not, “pluck out” only, but also “cast from thee:” to receive him again no more, if he continue as he is. For so shalt thou both deliver him from a heavier charge, and free thyself from ruin.

But that thou mayest see yet more clearly the profit of this law; let us, if you please, try what hath been said, in the case of the body itself, by way of supposition. I mean, if choice were given, and thou must either, keeping thine eye, be cast into a pit and perish, or plucking it out, preserve the rest of thy body; wouldest thou not of course accept the latter? It is plain to everyone. For this were not to act as one hating the eye, but as one loving the rest of the body. This same reckoning do thou make with regard to men also and women: that if he who harms thee by his friendship should continue incurable, his being thus cut off will both free thee from all mischief, and he also will himself be delivered from the heavier charges, not having to answer for thy destruction along with his own evil deeds.

Seest thou how full the law is of gentleness and tender care, and that which seems to men in general to be severity, how much love towards man it discloses?

Let them hearken to these things, who hasten to the theatres, and make themselves adulterers every day. For if the law commands to cut off him, whose connexion with us tends to our hurt; what plea can they have, who, by their haunting those places, attract towards them daily those even that have not yet become known to them, and procure to themselves occasions of ruin without number?

For henceforth, He not only forbids us to look unchastely, but having signified the mischief thence ensuing, He even straitens the law as He goes on, commanding to cut off, and dissever, and cast somewhere far away. And all this He ordains, who hath uttered4 words beyond number about love, that in either way thou mightest learn His providence, and how from every source He seeks thy profit.

4. “Now it hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.5 But I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away, committeth adultery.”6

He goes not on to what lies before Him, until He have well cleared out the former topics. For, lo, He shows us yet another kind of adultery. And what is this? There was an ancient law made,7 that he who hated his wife, for whatever kind of cause, should not be forbidden to cast her out, and to bring home another instead of her. The law however did not command him simply to do this, but after giving the woman a writing of divorcement, that it might not be in her power to return to him again; that so at least the figure of the marriage might remain.

For if He had not enjoined this, but it were lawful first to cast her out, and take another, then afterwards to take back the former, the confusion was sure to be great, all men continually taking each others’ wives; and the matter thenceforth would have been direct adultery. With a view to this, He devised, as no small mitigation, the writing of divorcement.

But these things were done by reason of another, a far greater wickedness; I mean, had He made it necessary to keep in the house her even that was hated, the husband, hating, would have killed her. For such was the race of the Jews. For they who did not spare children, who slew prophets, and “shed blood as water,”1 much more would they have showed no mercy to women. For this cause He allowed the less, to remove the greater evil. For that this was not a primary2 law, hear Him saying, “Moses wrote these things according to the hardness of your hearts,”3 that ye might not slay them in the house, but rather put them out. But forasmuch as He had taken away all wrath, having forbidden not murder only, but even the mere feeling of anger, He with ease introduces this law likewise. With this view also He is ever bringing to mind the former words, to signify that His sayings are not contrary to them, but in agreement: that He is enforcing, not overthrowing them; perfecting, not doing them away.

And observe Him everywhere addressing His discourse to the man. Thus, “He that putteth away his wife,” saith He, “causeth her to commit adultery, and he that marrieth a woman put away, committeth adultery.” That is, the former, though he take not another wife, by that act alone hath made himself liable to blame, having made the first an adulteress; the latter again is become an adulterer by taking her who is another’s. For tell me not this, “the other hath cast her out;” nay, for when cast out she continues to be the wife of him that expelled her. Then lest He should render the wife more self-willed, by throwing it all upon him who cast her out, He hath shut against her also the doors of him who was afterwards receiving her; in that He saith, “He who marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery;” and so makes the woman chaste even though unwilling, and blocks up altogether her access to all, and suffers her not to give an occasion for jealousy.4 For she who hath been made aware that she positively must either keep the husband, who was originally allotted to her, or being cast out of that house, not have any other refuge;—she even against her will was compelled to make the best of her consort.

And if He discourse not at all unto her concerning these things, marvel not; for the woman is rather a weak creature.5 For this cause letting her go, in his threatening against the men He fully corrects her remissness. Just as if any one who had a prodigal child, leaving him, should rebuke those who make him such, and forbid them to have intercourse, or to approach him. And if that be galling, call to mind, I pray thee, His former sayings, on what terms He had blessed His hearers; and thou wilt see that it is very possible and easy. For he that is meek, and a peacemaker, and poor in spirit, and merciful, how shall he cast out his wife? He that is used to reconcile others, how shall he be at variance with her that is his own?

And not thus only, but in another way also He hath lightened the enactment: forasmuch as even for him He leaves one manner of dismissal, when He saith, “Except for the cause of fornication;” since the matter had else come round again to the same issue. For if He had commanded to keep her in the house, though defiling herself with many, He would have made the matter end again in adultery.

Seest thou how these sayings agree with what had gone before? For he who looks not with unchaste eyes upon another woman, will not commit whoredom; and not committing whoredom, he will give no occasion to the husband to cast out his wife.

Therefore, you see, after this He presses the point without reserve, and builds up this fear as a bulwark, urging on the husband the great danger, if he do cast her out, in that he makes himself accountable for her adultery. Thus, lest thou being told, “pluck out the eye,” shouldest suppose this to be said even of a wife: He added in good time this corrective, in one way only giving leave to cast her out, but no otherwise.

5. “Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, swear not at all.”1

Why did He go straightway not to theft, but to false witness, passing over that commandment? Because he that steals, doth upon occasion swear also; but he that knows not either swearing or speaking falsehood, much less will he choose to steal. So that by this He hath overthrown the other sin likewise: since falsehood comes of stealing.

But what means, “Thou shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths?”2 It is this, “thou shalt be true in swearing.” “But I say unto you, swear not at all.”

Next, to lead them farther away from swearing by God, He saith, “Neither by Heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King:”3 still speaking out of the prophetical writings, and signifying Himself not to be opposed to the ancients. This was because they had a custom of swearing by these objects, and he intimates this custom near the end of his Gospel.4

But mark, I pray thee, on what ground He magnifies the elements; not from their own nature, but from God’s relation to them, such as it had been in condescension declared. For because the tyranny of idolatry was great, that the elements might not be thought worthy of honor for their own sake, He hath assigned this cause, which we have mentioned, which again would pass on to the glory of God. For He neither said, “because Heaven is beautiful and great,” nor, “because earth is profitable;” but “because the one is God’s throne, the other His footstool;” on every side urging them on towards their Lord.

“Neither by thy head,” saith He, “because thou canst not make one hair white or black.”5

Here again, not as wondering at man, hath He withdrawn him from swearing by his head (for so man himself would be worshipped), but as referring the glory to God, and signifying that thou art not master even of thyself, and of course therefore not of the oaths made by thy head. For if no one would give up his own child to another, much more will not God give up His own work to thee. For though it be thy head, yet is it the property of another; and so far from being master thereof, thou shalt not be able to do with it, no not the least thing of all. For He said not, “Thou canst not make one hair grow;” but, “Not so much as change its quality.”

“But what,” it may be said, “if any one should require an oath, and apply constraint?” Let the fear of God be more powerful than the constraint: since, if thou art to bring forward such excuses, thou wilt keep none of the things which are enjoined.

Yea, for first with respect to thy wife thou wilt say, “what if she be contentious and extravagant;” and then as to the right eye, “what if I love it, and am quite on fire?” and of the unchaste look, “what then, if I cannot help seeing?” and of our anger against a brother, “what if I be hasty, and not able to govern my tongue?” and in general, all His sayings thou mayest on this wise trample under foot. Yet surely with regard to human laws thou darest not in any case use this allegation, nor say, “what then if this or that be the case,” but, willing or unwilling, thou receivest what is written.

And besides, thou wilt never have compulsion to undergo at all. For he that hath hearkened unto those former blessings, and hath framed himself to be such as Christ enjoined, will have no such constraint to endure from any, being held in reverence and veneration by all.

“But let your yea, be yea; and your nay, nay: for that which exceedeth these cometh of the evil one.”6

What is it then that “exceeds yea” and “nay”? it is the oath, not the perjury. For this latter is quite acknowledged, and no man needs to learn that it is of the evil one; and it is not an excess, but an opposite: whereas an excess means something more, and added over and above: which kind of thing swearing is.

“What then,” saith one, “was it of the evil one? and if it was of the evil one, how was it a law?” Well, this same thing thou wilt say concerning the wife also; how is that now accounted adultery, which was before permitted?

What now may one reply to this? That the precepts then uttered had reference to the weakness of them who were receiving the laws; since also to be worshipped with the vapor of sacrifice is very unworthy of God, just as to lisp is unworthy of a philosopher. That kind of thing accordingly was now laid down to be adultery, and swearing to be of the evil one, now that the principles of virtue have advanced. But if these things had been, from the first, laws of the devil, they would not have attained to so great goodness. Yea, for had those not been forerunners in the first place, these which we now have would not have been so easily received. Do not thou then require their excellency now, when their use is past: but then, when the time was calling for them. Or rather, if thou wilt, even now: yea, for now also is their virtue shown: and most of all for the very cause, by reason of which we find fault with them. For their appearing such now, is the greatest commendation of them. For had they not brought us up well, and made us meet for the reception of the greater precepts, they would not have appeared such.

Therefore as the breast, when it hath fulfilled all its part, and is dismissing the child to the more manly diet, after that appears useless; and the parents who before thought it necessary for the babe, now abuse it with ten thousand mockeries (and many even not content with words of abuse, anoint it also with bitter drugs; that when their words have not power to remove the child’s unseasonable propensity towards it, the real things may quench their longing): so also Christ saith, that they are of the evil one, not to indicate that the old law is of the devil, but in order that with most exceeding earnestness He might lead them away from their ancient poverty. And to them He saith these things; but with regard to the Jews, who were insensible and persevered in the same ways, He hath anointed their city all round with the terror of captivity, as with some bitter drug, and made it inaccessible. But since not even this had power to restrain them, but they desired to see it again, running to it, just as a child to the breast, He hid it from them altogether; both pulling it down, and leading away the more part of them far from it: as it is with our cattle; many, by shutting out the calves, in time induce them to forego their old familiar use of the milk.

But if the old law had belonged to the devil, it would not have led people away from idolatry, but rather would have drawn them on and cast them into it; for this did the devil desire. But now we see the opposite effect produced by the old law. And indeed this very thing, the oath, was ordained of old for this cause, that they might not swear by the idols. For “ye shall swear,” saith He, “by the true God.”1 They were then no small advantages which the law effected, but rather very great. For that they came unto the “strong meat,” was the work of its care.

“What then,” it may be said, “is not swearing of the evil one?” Yes, indeed it is altogether of the evil one; that is, now, after so high a rule of self-restraint; but then not so.

“But how,” one may say, “should the same thing become at one time good, at another time not good?” Nay, I say the very contrary: how could it help becoming good and not good, while all things are crying aloud, that they are so: the arts, the fruits of the earth, and all things else?

See it, for example, taking place first in our own kind. Thus, to be carried, in the earliest age of life, is good, but afterwards pernicious; to eat food that hath been softened in the mouth, in the first scene of our life, is good, but afterwards it is full of disgust; to be fed upon milk and to fly to the breast, is at first profitable and healthful, but tends afterwards to decay and harm. Seest thou how the same actions, by reason of the times, appear good, and again not so? Yea, and to wear the robe of a child is well as long as you are a boy, but contrariwise, when you are become a man, it is disgraceful. Wouldest thou learn of the contrary case too, how to the child again the things of the man are unsuited? Give the boy a man’s robe, and great will be the laughter; and greater the danger, he being often upset in walking after that fashion. Allow him to handle public affairs, and to traffic, and sow, and reap, and great again will be the laughter.

And why do I mention these things? when killing, which among all is acknowledged to be an invention of the evil one, killing, I say, having found its proper occasion, caused Phinehas, who committed it, to be honored with the priesthood.2 For that killing is a work of him whom I just now mentioned, hear what Christ saith; “Ye will do the works of your Father; he was a manslayer from the beginning.”3 But Phinehas became a manslayer, and “it was counted unto him” (so He speaks) “for righteousness:”4 and Abraham again on becoming not a manslayer only, but (which was far worse) the slayer of his child, won more and more approbation. And Peter too wrought a twofold slaughter, nevertheless what he did was of the Spirit.5

Let us not then examine simply the acts, but the season too, and the causes, and the mind, and the difference of persons, and whatsoever else may accompany them, these let us search out with all exactness: for there is no arriving at the truth otherwise.

And let us be diligent, if we would attain unto the kingdom, to show forth something more than the old commandments; since we cannot otherwise lay hold of the things of Heaven. For if we arrive but at the same measure, that of the ancients, we shall stand without that threshold; for “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1

6. Yet, although so heavy a threat is set down, there are some who so far from over-passing this righteousness, even come short of it; so far from shunning oaths, they even swear falsely; so far from avoiding an unchaste gaze, they even fall into the very act of wickedness. And all the rest of the things which are forbidden, they dare to do, as though past feeling: waiting for one thing only, the day of punishment, and the time when they are to pay the most extreme penalty for their misdoings. And this is the portion of those only who have ended their lives in wickedness. For these have reason to despair, and thenceforth to expect nothing else but punishment; whereas they who are yet here, may have power both to renew the fight and to conquer and be crowned with ease.

Despond not therefore, O man, neither put away thy noble earnestness; for in truth the things are not grievous, which are enjoined. What trouble is it, I pray thee, to shun an oath? What, does it cost any money? Is it sweat and hardship? It is enough to have willed only, and the whole is done.

But if you allege to me thine habit; for this very reason most of all do I say, that thy doing right is easy. For if thou bring thyself to another habit, thou hadst effected all.

Consider, for example, how among the Greeks, in many instances, persons lisping have entirely cured by much practice their halting tongue; while others, who were used to shrug up their shoulders in an unseemly way, and to be continually moving them, by putting a sword over them, have broken themselves of it.2

For since you are not persuaded out of the Scriptures, I am compelled to shame you by them that are without. This God also did unto the Jews, when He said, “Go ye forth unto the Isles of Chittim, and send unto Kedar, and know if nations will change their gods; which yet are no gods.”3 And to the brutes likewise He sends us oftentimes, saying on this wise, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and emulate her ways:” and “go forth to the bee.”4

This therefore I also now say unto you; consider the philosophers of the Greeks; and then ye will know of how great punishment we are worthy, who disobey the laws of God: in that they for seemliness before men have taken exceeding pains, and you bestow not the same diligence, no, not for the things of Heaven.

But if thou shouldest reply, “Habit has a wonderful power to beguile even those who are very much in earnest:” this I likewise acknowledge; however, there is another thing which I say with it; that as it is powerful to beguile, so also is it easy to be corrected. For if thou wilt set over thyself at home many to watch thee, such as thy servant, thy wife, thy friend, thou wilt easily break off from the bad habits, being hard pressed and closely restrained by all. If thou succeed in doing this for ten days only, thou wilt after that no longer need any further time, but all will be secured to thee, rooted anew in the firmness of the most excellent habit.

When therefore thou art beginning to correct this, though thou shouldest transgress thy law a first, a second, a third, a twentieth time, do not despair, but rise up again, and resume the same diligence, and thou wilt surely prevail.

For perjury surely is no trifling mischief, If to swear is of the evil one, how great the penalty which false swearing will bring! Did ye give praise to what hath been said?5 Nay, I want not applause, nor tumults, nor noise. One thing only do I wish, that quietly and intelligently listening, you should do what is said. This is the applause, this the panegyric for me. But if thou praisest what I say, but doest not what thou applaudest, greater is the punishment, more aggravated the accusation: and to us it is shame and ridicule. For the things here present are no dramatic spectacle; neither do ye now sit gazing on actors, that ye may merely applaud. This place is a spiritual school. Wherefore also there is but one thing aimed at, duly to perform the things that have been spoken, and to show forth our obedience by our works. For then only shall we have obtained all. Since as things are, to say the truth, we have fairly given up in despair. For I have not ceased giving these admonitions either to those whom I meet in private, or in discourse with you all in common. Yet I see no advantage at all gained, but you are still clinging to the former rude beginnings, which thing is enough to fill the teacher with weariness.

See, for example, Paul himself, hardly bearing it, because his scholars were delaying a long time in their earlier lessons: “For when for the time,” saith he, “ye ought to be teachers, ye have need to be taught again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.1”

Wherefore we too mourn and lament. And if I see you persisting, I will forbid you for the future to set foot on this sacred threshold, and partake of the immortal mysteries; as we do fornicators and adulterers, and persons charged with murder. Yea, for it is better to offer our accustomed prayers, with two or three, who keep the laws of God, than to sweep together2 a multitude of trangressors and corrupters of others.

Let me have no rich man, no potentate, puffing at me here, and drawing up his eyebrows; all these things are to me a fable, a shade, a dream. For no one of those who are now rich, will stand up for me there, when I am called to account and accused, as not having thoroughly vindicated the laws of God, with all due earnestness. For this, this ruined even that admirable old man,3 though in his own life giving no handle for blame; yet for all that, because he overlooked the treading under foot of God’s laws, he was chastised with his children, and paid that grievous penalty. And if, where the absolute authority of nature was so great, he who failed to treat his own children with due firmness endured so grievous a punishment; what indulgence shall we have, freed as we are from that dominion, and yet ruining all by flattery?

In order therefore that ye may not destroy both us and your own selves with us, be persuaded, I entreat you; set very many to watch over you, and call you to account, and so free yourselves from the habit of oaths; that going on orderly from thence, ye may both with all facility succeed in attaining unto all other virtue, and may enjoy the good things to come; which God grant that we may all win, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might now and always, even for ever and ever. Amen.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 4:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 7, 2017

1 Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.

Then Jesus was led.] In his baptism Jesus has been declared to be the Messias [Is. 42:1; Ps. 2:7]; now the Messias was regarded as the founder of a new dispensation [31:32; Mal. 3:1], and as the conqueror of the serpent [Gen. 3:15]. Moses, the founder of the Jewish dispensation, and Elias, its restorer, had fasted forty days before beginning their work; the first Adam had been vanquished by Satan in temptation. It is then fit that Jesus should begin his Messianic work by a similar fast, and foreshadow his triumph over Satan by overcoming him in temptation.

1. The fast. a. When? The evangelist indicates the time by the general particle “then”; according to Mk. 1:12, this happened immediately after the baptism, and Lk. 4:1 suggests the same time. Iren. [adv. hær. II. xxii. 5] contends that Jesus retired after receiving baptism at the age of thirty, and began his public life only in the “senior ætas”; the text of the synoptic gospels, and the fact that among the Jews one could begin to teach at the age of thirty, demand no interruption between the baptism and the public life of Jesus. Iren. claims for his view the report of the gospel—probably Jn. 8:57, which does not support Iren.—and of the “Elders of Asia.”

b. Why? (1) Jesus was led [or driven, according to Mk. 1:12], without being rapt through the air [cf. ev. Heb.; Jer. in Mich, 7:5–7], by the Spirit who had come visibly upon him [cf. Bed.], into the desert, that he might return from the desert into paradise from which the first Adam had been cast out into the desert. The Greek expression shows that the Spirit led Jesus upwards from the Jordan valley. The gospel does not specify the desert that was the scene of the following events; Mald0nado. Schegg, Meyer, Schanz conclude, therefore, that the evangelist speaks of the same desert as in 3:1 [the desert of Judea]. There is no reason for identifying the desert with that of Sinai [Alf.], though we grant a scripture parallelism between Moses, Elias, and our Lord. Tradition points to the desert of Jericho, and more in particular, to the highest part of the mountain range near Jericho, on the road to Jerusalem, named Quarantania [Kuruntel or Karantel] from the Forty Days’ Fast.

(2) That solitude is well fitted for communion with God is manifest from many passages in Sacred Scripture: Ex. 34:28; 3 Kings 19:8, 9; Lk. 3:2; 5:16; Jn. 11:54; 18:2; Mt. 26:36; etc. But the evangelist adds another purpose for which the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, viz., “to be tempted by the devil.” The agent who was to tempt Jesus does not permit us to understand the word in the sense of “provoking to anger,” or of “trying to make known some secret or hidden quality in his sacred person”; and still, it seems to be a fearful thing that either God directly intended Jesus to be tempted to evil, or that the sacred humanity of Jesus should have been subjected to this awful humiliation.

(3) St. Paul has anticipated the answer to this second exception where he explains to the Hebrews the mystery of Christ’s abasement [Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 5:8]. The apostle shows that, excepting sin, Jesus must become like unto us; that he must be tried like ourselves, and that he must learn obedience by what he suffers.

(4) Nor is it unworthy of God to have intended the temptation of Jesus; for as in any attack one has to bear from one’s enemy, one may distinguish between the trial and the advantage of the enemy, so in the present case, God intended Jesus to be tried in the conflict with Satan without giving any advantage to the latter.

(5) This intention on the part of God creates the less difficulty, because on the part of Jesus sin was physically impossible. Hence it was that the temptation must come from outside; for Jesus was free from concupiscence, and could not therefore suffer any temptation arising from within.

(6) Moreover, it was fitting that the restorer of the human race should meet in single combat, as it were, the old serpent who had ruined Adam and his offspring in the garden of paradise; no wonder, then, that the Spirit of God, whom the evangelist contrasts so emphatically with the evil spirit, impelled our Lord to meet his enemy in the desert [Thomas Aquinas. Alb. Maldonado. Jansenius. Barradas. Sylveira. Lap. Lamy, Coleridge, Grimm].

c. The tempter. The desert is repeatedly represented as the dwelling place of evil spirits: Mt. 12:43; Lk. 11:24; Is. 13:21; 34:14; Lev. 16:10; Tob. 8:3; Bar. 4:33; etc. In the present case, the evangelist mentions “the devil” as the intended tempter. This word is derived from the Greek noun διάβολος, or the verb διαβάλλειν, to calumniate; this is the usual term in lxx. for the Hebrew שָׂטָן, which is σατανᾶς in the New Testament, and also σατᾶν in the lxx. The Hebrew word properly means “adversary,” and is used originally of men [3 Kings 5:18; 11:14; etc.] or angels [2 Kings 19:23; Num. 22:22]; but with the article, it means the adversary by excellence, the enemy of God, and the tempter of men [1 Par. 21:1; 2 Kings 24:1], and the accuser of men before the throne of God [Zach. 3:1, 2; Job 1:7]. In this sense the word has become almost a proper name of the prince of darkness. This excludes the rationalistic opinion that the tempter of Jesus was the chief of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish high priest, or another remarkable and influential member of the Synagogue [cf. Rosenm. Kuinoel, Schütz]. Need we add that Paulus makes the whole history a dream, Eichhorn, Dereser, etc., a fancy, Schmidt, Döderlein, Schleiermacher, Usteri, Baumgarten, a parable, Strauss, De Wette, Meyer, a myth?

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.

And when he had fasted.] d. The fast. α. That the fast of Jesus was not merely what is meant in ecclesiastical language by fasting, nor what the Jews understood by the term,—the Jewish fast ended with the day, at sunset,—is clear from the words of St. Matthew, “forty days and forty nights,” from the fast of Moses related in terms similar to those of the present passage [Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 18], and from the express statement of St. Luke [4:2], “and he ate nothing in those days” [cf. Euthymius. Paschasius. Alb. Salmeron. Maldonado. Jansenius. Lam. Calmet.].

β. It may be of interest to draw attention to the preferential use of the number forty in both the Old and New Testament: Moses and Elias fasted forty days [Ex. 24:18; 3 Kings 19:9]; it rained forty days and nights on the earth [Gen. 7:11]; the forty usual days passed after the embalming of Jacob’s body [Gen. 1:3]; the explorers of the land of Chanaan returned after forty days [Num. 13:26]; Goliath presented himself for forty days to the hosts of Israel [1 Kings 17:16]; the Jews passed forty years in the desert [Ex. 16:35]; Ezechiel did penance for forty days for the sins of the house of Israel [Ez. 4:6]; the land of Egypt was made desolate for forty years [Ez. 29:12]; Jesus was presented in the temple after forty days, he fasted forty days, and for forty days he conversed with his disciples after his resurrection; we need not add the forty days’ penance of the Ninivites, the forty days’ legal impurity after child-birth [cf. Hilary. Ambrose. Salmeron. Jansenius. Maldonado. Sylveira. Arnoldi. Schanz, Knabenbauer.].

γ. In the New Testament we find no fixed time for fasting [cf. Augustine. ep. 36, al. 38; ad Casul. xi. 25], though this holy exercise is frequently commended: Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:20; Lk. 5:35; Acts 13:2, 3; 14:22; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 11:27. As to the time of lent, it is of ecclesiastical institution, but of apostolic tradition; cf. Jer. ep. 41, 3 [al. 51 or 54]; in Mt. ix. 15; ep. 18 ad Eustoch. [al. 22]; ep. 57 ad Lætam [al. 7]; Apostol. Const. c. 68; Counc. of Laodicea, can. 15; Leo the Great, serm. xliv. 1 [edit. Ballerini, t. i. p. 168]; xlvii. 1 [ibid. p. 177]; Ignat. ad Phil. xiii; Augustine. lib. ii. ad inquis. Januarii seu ep. 55 [al. 119]; 14:27; 15:28; Daille, de jejun. x.; Bellarm. De bonis oper. 1. ii. c. xiv.; Kirchenlexicon, ed. Kaulen, t. iv. s. v. Fastenzeiten. Bellarm. has collected a number of reasons for the institution of lent: in it we practise public penance for the sins of the year, we prepare for the paschal communion, we fulfil the prediction of our Lord [Mt. 9:15], we commemorate with greater fervor our Lord’s passion and death, we pray for the catechumens to be admitted to baptism about this time of the year, we pay tithes, as it were, of our whole lives to God by consecrating to him the tenth part of each year, and finally we imitate Jesus Christ, who fasted for forty days in the desert.

δ. St. Matthew adds “afterwards he was hungry”; St. Luke [4:2] agrees with this statement, saying “and when they [the forty days] were ended, he was hungry.” Commentators are unanimous in inferring from these words that Jesus did not feel hunger during his forty days’ stay in the desert, which may have been spent in ecstatic prayer [opus. imperfectum. Hilary. Ambrose. Alb. Faber. Dionysius the Carthusian. Salmeron. Jansenius. Maldonado. Barradas. Sylveira. Lapide. etc.]. Suarez [in 3 p. disp. 29 s. 2 n. 5] is of opinion that the interpretation defended by Caj. and proposed as probable by Medina, according to which Jesus felt hunger all through his stay in the desert, is rash, because it contradicts the obvious and plain sense of Sacred Scripture, and the common teaching of the Fathers and Catholic theologians.

3 And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

And the tempter coming.] 2. The temptation. This section naturally falls into three parts, each considering one of the three temptations. a. First temptation, α. Manner of temptation. The narrative leads us to believe that the tempter assumed the form of a man, because he approached our Lord, asked to be adored by him, took him up into the Holy City, and again into a high mountain, and finally left him, when the angels in human form came and ministered to him [vv. 3, 9, 5, 8, 11]. That the whole event occurred outwardly, and has been literally described by St. Matthew, is the common and traditional opinion of the Fathers and the commentators, against which the view of Origen. Cyprin. Theodore of Mopseustia., who regard the temptation as a merely internal suggestion of the devil, cannot claim any authority.

β. Length of the temptation. Mk. 1:13 reads: “and he was in the desert forty days, and forty nights, tempted by Satan”; Lk. 4:2, 3 adds: “and was led by the Spirit into the desert for the space of forty days, and was tempted by the devil.” It is especially on account of these texts that Justin the Martyr [c. Tr. 103, 125] Clement [hom. 19, 2] Origen, Bede Euthymius Jansenius, Lapide, Coleridge, Alford extend the temptation of our Lord throughout the forty days, only admitting a greater intensity at the end; Thomas Aquinas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 2, ad 2] speaks of visible and invisible temptations of Jesus in the desert. Though St. Matthew does not say that the devil approached after the forty days for the first time, the whole tenor of the context implies this; the language of Mk. and Lk. may be reconciled with this, since it appears to indicate the place rather than the time of the temptation: “and he was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, [and there] tempted by Satan.” Besides, the hunger of Jesus is commonly regarded as the occasion of the temptation; low our Lord did not feel hungry till after forty days.

γ. Nature of the temptation. (1) The outward act to which the devil tempts Jesus is a miraculous change of the loaf-like stones found in the place where Jesus dwelt, into nourishment.

(2) The motives suggested for this act are two: the first is implied in the words “command that these stones be made bread [loaves],” seeing thon feelest the pangs of hunger; the second motive is suggested by the words “if thou be the son of God,” if indeed thou art able to do this, or if this condition is unworthy of thee as the Son of God. The motives are therefore sensuality under the pretence of necessity [cf. Gen. 3:6; Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:33; Ps. 77:30], and pride under the appearance of defending the honor of the Son of God.

(3) The end of the devil in thus tempting Jesus is twofold: first, he instigates our Lord to help himself independently of the will of God by whom he had been led into the desert, and placed in his present condition; secondly, the devil wishes to ascertain whether Jesus be truly the Son of God [Thomas Aquinas p. 3, qu. 41, a. 1; Chrysostom Amb. Theophylact, Alb. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan Sylveira Lam. Coleridge, Grimm].

(4) It is true that some commentators [Mald. Ypr.] believe that the devil knew the divinity of Jesus at the time of the temptation: (a) he had witnessed the hymn of the angels, the praises of the Magi, the testimony of John, the signs at the baptism, and the heavenly life of Jesus. (b) According to this view, the words “if thou be the Son of God” do not imply doubt, but they rather assume the fact [cf. Heb. 9:13], or they provoke more effectually by questioning that which is unquestionable. (c) That the devils knew the divinity of Jesus follows also from all those passages in which they bear testimony to it: Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34, 41; Mt. 8:29; Lk. 8:28; etc. (d) Again, it is urged that, had the devil been ignorant of the divinity of Jesus, he could not have learned it from the temptations, because the miracles could not have been wrought at the devil’s suggestion, and the last temptation is not connected with the sonship of God.

(5) But we have already given a stately array of Fathers and commentators who have not been convinced by these arguments; they must therefore not be insuperable. (a) It is St. Augustin [De civ. Dei, l. ix. 2] who says that the devils could learn only so much from the miracles of Jesus as God wished them to know; we cannot therefore “a priori” conclude that the evil spirits knew all that could be known from this source. (b) As to their testimony to Jesus, they often testify only to his Messiasship or his personal holiness, without implying his divinity; where they imply the divinity of Jesus, they may have intended to flatter him, or to deceive the multitude. (c) It is true that 1 Cor. 2:8 does not necessarily mean: if the princes of this world had known the divinity of Jesus, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, but may signify: if the princes of this world [either the earthly princes or the devils] had known the mystery of the cross, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory [cf. Thomas Aquinas in loc.; Suar. De myster. disp. xxxi.]; but from the possibility that the demons may have known the divinity of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion, it does not follow that they did know it at the time of the temptation. (d) If it be finally asked how the temptations could have testified to the divinity of Jesus, we may answer with Suar. [l. c.]: in the case of the first and second temptation, Satan knew that no one but the Son of God could have worked such mighty signs, especially in confirmation of such a truth as the devil had called in question. The third temptation was calculated to provoke our Lord, to claim for himself the honor of the Son of God, who had every right to a divine adoration.

4 Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

Who answered and said.] δ. The victory. (1) Jesus has recourse to Scripture, because the devil cannot question its veracity. His answer is not an admonition that God nourishes spiritually all those that keep his word [commandments] [Fritzsche], but is an allusion to Deut. 8:3, where Moses points back to the miraculous sustenance of the people in the desert, showing that bread is not the only support of life, but that man lives “in all that proceedeth from the mouth of God,” i. e. that God can sustain him in any way he pleases. The explanatory “word” has been added to the Hebrew text by the lxx. and the Vulgate. The means suggested by the enemy is therefore not necessary. (2) We must also admire the consummate wisdom of the answer: it restores to the heavenly Father the honor that was implicitly attacked by the suggestion of the devil [Coleridge, i.]; it says absolutely nothing concerning the divinity of Jesus [opus imperfectum, Jer. Rabbanus Alb. Dionysius the Cathusian, Cajetan, Jansenius, Sylveira etc.]; it overcomes the devil not by almighty power, such as God alone could exert, but by the aid of the law that had been given to men as a means of salvation [Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, Alb. Cajetan]; not by the show of pomp and majesty, but by humility [Leo, Jerome, Greg. Jansenius,]. While Jesus therefore teaches us the power of the inspired word, he also foreshows his future teaching [Mt. 6:33]: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.”

5 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

Then the devil took him up.] 2. Second temptation. a. Order of events. St. Luke [4:5 ff.] inverts the order of the second and third temptation found in the first gospel. Hence a number of authorities believe that the third gospel gives the true chronological order of temptations. Reasons: The external evidence is represented by the names of gloss. ord. Paschasius Alb. Reischl, Coleridge, Grimm, Knabenbauer, etc.; the internal grounds are the fact that St. Luke promises to write “in order” [1:3], and the gradation found in the order of the third gospel. For there the devil proceeds from the concupiscence of the flesh to that of the eyes, coming in the third place to the pride of life. St. Thomas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4] proves too that the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes tempt carnal men, while the pride of life is a temptation of spiritual men. Not to mention those that hesitate as to the true order of temptations [Augustine, e. g.], or those that believe the order in the two gospels differs, because the order of temptations varies in various persons, the concupiscence of the eyes preceding in some cases the pride of life, while in other cases the inverse order obtains [cf. Tostatus qu. 31, Sylveira]; we cannot omit the opinion which regards the order of the first gospel as the true one. Reasons: External evidence: Dionysius the Carthusian, Suarez, [p. 3, disp. 29, s. 4, n. 4], Maldonado, Sylveira, Barrdas, Schanz, Arnoldi, Fillion, Keil, Meschler [i. p. 191]. Internal evidence: the first gospel employs throughout the particles of succession, v. 1 “then,” v. 5 “then,” v. 8 “again”; besides, the answer of v. 10, following the third temptation related by St. Matthew, must have been the final one. It is well known that while St. Luke’s order is accurate in regard to the greater events, the first gospel often supplies a more accurate order of detail. Even the gradation of the temptations is not lost in the order of the first gospel: the first temptation appeals to the motives of sensuality and pride; the second, to vainglory; the third presents motives of avarice and pride in the highest degree, or, as Meschler [l. c.] points out, it combines all the allurements of the concupiscence of the flesh, of the concupiscence of the eyes, and of the pride of life. Other authors represent the gradation of the temptations thus: temptation to independence and want of confidence in God, to presumption, to blasphemy [Schanz]; Jesus tempted as man, as Jewish prophet, as Messias [Lutter. ii. 34]; manifestation before the tempter, before the Jewish community, before the Gentile world; Jesus tempted as man, as Messias, and as Son of God [Godet]; etc.

b. Manner of the temptation. α. The evangelist describes it in three preparatory clauses: “the devil took him up”—“into the holy city”—“and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple.” In general, it may be noted that these expressions do not favor the hypothesis of a merely internal temptation by suggestion.

β. If it be asked whether the devil carried our Lord bodily through the air, we find different answers in the best commentaries: Euthymius, Maldonado, chiefly through reverential feelings for the sacred person of Jesus, contend that he did not permit himself to be carried by the devil, but that he accompanied his tempter on foot to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain [Berlepsch]; Fritzsche believes the devil merely impelled Jesus to go to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain; but Greg. Lapide, Jerome Yp. Knabenbauer, Fillion, and most commentators adhere to the bodily transportation of Jesus by the agency of the devil. Suarez, [De angel, disp. xvi. s. iii.] infers from this passage that Satan has power to move bodies from place to place. Greg. [hom. xvi. in Mt.] explains how Jesus could allow himself to be carried by the evil spirit: “We need not be surprised if he permitted himself to be carried up into a mountain by Satan, since he permitted himself to be crucified by the members of Satan.” The wording of St. Matthew’s text together with the expression “set him upon the pinnacle of the temple” favors the third view.

γ. The “holy city” is Jerusalem, because it had been chosen by God as the site of the temple [Euth.], and as the centre of the theocracy, and therefore as the residence of God among his people [cf. Is. 48:2; 52:1; Dan. 9:24; 2 Esd. 11:1, 18].

δ. The “pinnacle of the temple” has been variously identified by commentators. The word rendered “pinnacle” occurs also in Lk. 4:9; in the lxx. version it stands regularly for the Hebrew כָּנָף [wing], though the Greek word presents the diminutive form [winglet]. Gesen. [Lexic. ed. 8, s. v.] states that the Hebrew word is never used of the “summit” or the “highest point” of anything, but only of the extremity or the border of a plain [e.g. the hem of a garment]. It must also be noted that the Greek text does not read ναός [temple proper], but τοῦ ἱεροῦ [sanctuary], so that the edge on which the devil placed our Lord may have belonged to any part of the temple structures. It is on account of these considerations that many writers reject the opinion of Or. and Hilary according to which Jesus was placed by Satan on the topmost height of the temple, preferring either the Royal Porch or the Porch of Solomon [cf. Scholz, Alterth. p. 238; Keil, Archæol. p. 151; Comment. p. 113], the height of which was considerable [Josephus Antiq. XV. xi. 5; XX. ix. 7], or the southeastern corner, at which these porches met [cf. Schæf. Alterth. p. 41], or the projecting part of the temple-roof [Maldonado, Calmet, Jansenius, Lapide], or the edge of an elevated part of the roof, or the enclosing wall [Grimm, ii. 192].

6 And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.

And said to him.] c. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which Satan impels Jesus is clearly mentioned in the gospels. β. The motives by which the devil endeavors to move Jesus are various: the motive of pride is implied in the words “if thou be the Son of God,” for they suggest, it is unworthy of thee to descend from this dazzling height in the common way; again, there was the necessity of manifesting himself as the Messias promised to appear in the temple [Mal. 3:1] in such a manner that no one should know whence he came [John 7:27], both of which prophecies would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, if he were to descend through the air among the multitudes in the temple court; finally, there was the express promise of God concerning the guardianship of the angels, which was surely due to one whom God himself had called his Son at the time of the baptism.

γ. The purpose of the devil in the second temptation is quite comprehensive: since Jesus had conquered in the first temptation through confidence in God and the use of Sacred Scripture, the devil now endeavors to gain the victory by quoting Sacred Scripture, and by appealing to our Lord’s confidence in God; as in the first temptation Jesus had postponed the preservation of his life to the will of God, the devil now incites him to jeopardize his life in order to show his trust in the help of his Father; as in the first temptation Jesus had shown his entire dependence on his Father, the devil endeavors to push the exercise of this dependence beyond the bounds of prudence. But this pretended dependence on God was a cloak of proud independence, choosing its own ways and means of Messianic manifestation; the pretended trust in God was a real distrust in the veracity of God’s words spoken at the baptism, putting them now really to the test; the seeming surrender of the earthly life to the good will of God was a real act of sovereign self-will in the choice of the time and the occasion at which God’s promises were to be verified [cf. Jerome Chrysostom, Alb. Cajetan, Jansenius, Grimm, Bede, opus imperfectum Schanz, Knab.]. It may be added that Satan either purposely misquotes [Schanz] or abbreviates [Anger] the passage of Ps. 91:11 f., omitting “to keep thee in all thy ways.” In Lk. 4:10 “to keep thee” is added, but “in all thy ways” omitted, because this clause would have shown the fallacy of the devil’s argument [Schanz]. We need not add the rationalistic gloss [Kuin.] which identifies angels with the means provided for men’s well-being and eliminates every spiritual element from the inspired record; in v. 11 Kuin. himself admits the common belief among the Jews that every child had a guardian angel.

7 Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Jesus said to him.] d. Victory. α. The “again” in the words of Jesus does not imply opposition to what has been quoted as Scripture before, but it merely adds a new passage of Scripture to the preceding; [cf. Jn. 12:39; 19:37; Rom. 15:10–12; 1 Cor. 3:20 al.]. β. The addition does not allude to the passage our Lord himself had quoted, but to the proof which the enemy had adduced from the Bible. The help of God which is there represented indefinitely is properly defined by this text from Deut. 6:10 [lxx.]. At Raphidim the Hebrews murmured against God on account of a want of water [Ex. 17:7], and Moses upbraided them in the words quoted by our Lord. γ. The change to the second person singular from the plural in the Hebrew text renders the passage more crushing to the enemy. Jesus implicitly tells him that the limits of our confidence in God are his implicit or express promises: not to trust these, or to expect more than this, is tempting God. δ. While these words reject the suggestion of the devil, they do not answer his question concerning the sonship of Jesus [cf. Hilary, Ambrose], but leave this point wholly indeterminate [Chrysostom, opus imperfectum], so that the enemy is driven to a third temptation. ε. Some authors point out that in this victory the second Adam is the counterpart of the first: our parents succumbed to sensuality, expecting that by compliance with the tempter’s words “their eyes” should be opened, and they should become like gods; Jesus overcomes the temptation of sensuality and vain display of his power in spite of the fame among his countrymen which a compliance with the enemy’s suggestion would have brought him.

8 Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,

Again the devil took him up.] 3. The third temptation. a. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which the tempter impelled Jesus was a formal acknowledgment of the devil’s superiority over Jesus, himself; our Lord was to adore Satan, and thereby recognize him as his lord and master. β. The motives proposed to Jesus include all the world can give: wealth, pleasure, honor. (1) Though it is uncertain on which high mountain Jesus was carried by Satan [Moria, Olivet, Thabor, Horeb, Nebo, Quarantania, etc.], it is certain that our Lord’s vision of all the kingdoms of the world was not merely internal; for such a vision might be had in a valley, and it would imply power of the enemy over the inner faculties of Jesus. (2) On the other hand, there can be no question of a mere natural vision of the whole world from the top of a high mountain; the addition of Lk. 4:5 implies that there was some magical effect produced by Satan “in a moment of time.” (3) The opinion of Theophylact, opus imperfectum. Alb. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Maldonado, Calmet, who maintain that the devil only pointed in the direction of the various kingdoms of the world without actually showing them, does not satisfy the text of the gospel saying that the devil showed Jesus not only all the kingdoms of the world, but also the glory thereof. (4) It seems that the devil preternaturally formed the species of all the kingdoms of the world before the eyes of Jesus “in a moment of time” [Lk. 4:5]; to make this deception more real, the devil places Jesus on the top of a mountain [Sa, Barradas, Lapide, Tir. Coleridge, Knab.]. (5) On the part of Jesus, the devil expected to find besides the triple concupiscence also the Messianic character aiding his purpose: the dominion over the whole earth had been promised to the Messias by the prophets [cf. Pss. 2:8; 71:8–11]; but it had also been foretold that he was to acquire this dominion by means of suffering [cf. Is. 49:4; 50:4–8; 53:2–12]. Satan then promises to give Jesus without labor and suffering what he otherwise must acquire at the sacrifice of his life.

9 And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.

And said to him.] b. Purpose of the devil. (1) St. Luke [5:6] adds that the evil spirit claimed authority to dispose of all he showed Jesus: “To thee will I give all this power and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them.” Though the world had not been given to Satan, nor the power of giving it to any one else, the words of the tempter had a semblance of truth, as appears from Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. (2) Seeing that he cannot overcome Jesus under the species of good, the devil throws off his mask, and proposes his principal scope plainly: Jesus is to become the master of the world, as God had promised him, but under the suzerainty of Satan. There is no more question of “the Son of God,” no more use of Scripture language: the alternative between God’s and the devil’s service is plainly stated. (3) Need we say that this is the real and final object in all temptations of the devil? It is not always put so clearly before us, because most of us are carried away by the temptations coming under the pretence of necessity and of propriety, i. e. by temptations concerning the means; hence there is no need of making us repeat the election of our last end.

10 Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

. Then Jesus saith to him.] c. Victory. The account of the victory brings before us three persons: Jesus, the devil, and the angels. α. The words of Jesus are taken from Deut. 6:13, but present two variations from the original: the word “only” is wanting in the Hebrew, and the expression “shalt thou adore” reads in the Hebrew “shalt thou fear”; since the former variation is in accord with the context, and since “fear” often implies religious worship in the language of Scripture, our Lord cannot be accused of having falsified Scripture. In the lxx. this meaning is indicated by the construction of the verb; for in the present passage it is followed by the accusative instead of the dative [cf. Ex. 20:5]. That the expression “serve” often implies religious worship is clear from Deut. 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Rom. 9:4; 12:1; Heb. 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10. The expression “Begone, Satan” does not imply that Jesus recognized the devil only at the third temptation, but it shows that while he had borne patiently the former trials, he utters this harsh word when the honor of God is attacked. Again, it must be noted that Jesus overcomes Satan in a way in which any man might have overcome; he does, therefore, give no answer to the devil’s eager inquiry whether he be the Son of God.

11 Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.

Then the devil left him.] β. Lk. 4:13 adds “for a time”; without discussing the question whether the conflict was renewed in secret, we may point to Gethsemani [cf. Lk. 22:53; Jn. 14:30], where the hour of Jesus’ enemies and the power of darkness made a renewed attack.

—and behold angels came.] γ. According to 1 Kings 19:6–8 an angel came to Elias and gave him bread to eat and water to drink. (1) It is therefore most probable that in the present case, also, the angels ministered to the bodily wants of Jesus. One angel would have been sufficient for this; but to emphasize the defeat of the devil more strongly, to show the parallelism between the victory of Jesus and the fall of Adam who was kept by angels out of paradise, to shame Satan more thoroughly, it was proper that a host of angels should present themselves. (2) Whether Jesus was carried back to his former abode by the angels, or returned thither by his own miraculous power, or again walked back, cannot be determined. But we certainly must deny the supposition that Satan should have been permitted to carry our Lord back, after the word of reprobation had been spoken. (3) St. Luke [4:13] adds “when the devil had ended all the temptation” or “all the temptation being ended.” We have seen already that the encounters between Jesus and Satan were frequent throughout the public life of our Lord; “all the temptation” cannot therefore mean that no temptation followed the present one; in other words, “all” is not used of individual, but of specific temptations. It implies, therefore, that the second Adam was tempted with all the temptations of the first, with sensuality, vainglory, and avarice [Greg. Rabbanus, gl. ord. Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas (p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4) Salmeron, Barrdas, Lapide]. (4) Again, the antitype was tempted with all the temptations of his type, the people of Israel in the desert: in the case of Israel, the want of food is supplied by the manna [Ex. 16:2], and this event is recorded in the words used by Jesus in his first temptation; the lack of water forms the second trial of Israel [Ex. 17:7], and it is with reference to this that Moses speaks the words used by Jesus in his second temptation [Deut. 6:16]; the lengthy journey and the continued labor form the third trial of the Israelites [Num. 21:4 f.; 1 Cor. 10:9], and occasion indirectly the utterance of the words employed by Jesus in his third temptation [Deut. 6:13, 14; cf. 8:2]. (5) Finally, Jesus overcame the devil in all the temptations with which he besets ourselves, i. e. in the concupiscence of the flesh, in the concupiscence of the eyes, and in the pride of life [1 Jn. 2:16]; he thus shows us that all manner of temptation can be overcome, even as death was overcome by his death; he warns us that we cannot be safe against temptation at any time, since he himself was tempted after his baptism [Greg. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Hilary, Ambrose Alb. etc.]; he teaches us how to overcome temptation; he encourages us by his own resistance, and not less by the fact that he has learned by experience how to compassionate us in our trials [Jansenius, Salmeron, Barradas, Augustine, Coleridge, etc.]. (6) The vivid contrast of Mark [1:13] must also be noted in connection with the present passage: “and he was with beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 3:5-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

This post contains two homilies by St John Chrysostom. The first is a complete homily on John 3:5; the second is on 3:6-8 and has been excerpted from a longer sermon. The remainder of that sermon will be used with tomorrow’s reading on 3:7b-11.

HOMILY XV
John 3:5

“Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

[1.] LITTLE children who go daily to their teachers receive their lessons, and repeat1 them, and never cease from this kind of acquisition, but sometimes employ nights as well as days, and this they are compelled2 to do for perishable and transient things. Now we do not ask of you who are come to age such toil as you require of your children; for not every day, but two days only in the week do we exhort you to hearken to our words, and only for a short portion of the day, that your task may be an easy one. For the same reason also we divide3 to you in small portions what is written in Scripture, that you may be able easily to receive and lay them up in the storehouses of your minds, and take such pains to remember them all, as to be able exactly to repeat them to others yourselves, unless any one be sleepy, and dull, and more idle than a little child.

Let us now attend to the sequel of what has been before said. When Nicodemus fell into error and wrested the words of Christ to the earthly birth, and said that it was not possible for an old man to be born again, observe how Christ in answer more clearly reveals the manner of the Birth, which even thus had difficulty for the carnal enquirer, yet still was able to raise the hearer from his low opinion of it. What saith He? “Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” What He declares is this: “Thou sayest that it is impossible, I say that it is so absolutely possible as to be necessary, and that it is not even possible otherwise to be saved.” For necessary things God hath made exceedingly easy also. The earthly birth which is according to the flesh, is of the dust, and therefore heaven4 is walled against it, for what hath earth in common with heaven? But that other, which is of the Spirit, easily unfolds to us the arches5 above. Hear, ye as many as are unilluminated,6 shudder, groan, fearful is the threat, fearful the sentence.7 “It is not (possible),” He saith, “for one not born of water and the Spirit, to enter into the Kingdom of heaven”; because he wears the raiment of death, of cursing, of perdition, he hath not yet received his Lord’s token,8 he is a stranger and an alien, he hath not the royal watchword. “Except,” He saith, “a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”

Yet even thus Nicodemus did not understand. Nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument; it was this that would not suffer him to suppose anything sublime and great. This is why we are called faithful, that having left the weakness of human reasonings below,9 we may ascend to the height of faith, and commit most of our blessings to her10 teaching;11 and if Nicodemus had done this, the thing would not have been thought by him impossible. What then doth Christ? To lead him away from his groveling imagination, and to show that He speaks not of the earthly birth, He saith, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” This He spoke, willing to draw him to the faith by the terror of the threat, and to persuade him not to deem the thing impossible, and taking pains to move him from his imagination as to the carnal birth. “I mean,” saith He, “another Birth, O Nicodemus. Why drawest thou down the saying to earth? Why subjectest thou the matter to the necessity of nature? This Birth is too high for such pangs as these; it hath nothing in common with you; it is indeed called ‘birth,’ but in name only has it aught in common, in reality it is different. Remove thyself from that which is common and familiar; a different kind of childbirth bring I into the world; in another manner will I have men to be generated: I have come to bring a new manner of Creation. I formed (man) of earth and water; but that which was formed was unprofitable, the vessel was wrenched awry;12 I will no more form them of earth and water, but ‘of water’ and ‘of the Spirit.’ ”

And if any one asks, “How of water?” I also will ask, How of earth? How was the clay separated into different parts? How was the material uniform, (it was earth only,) and the things made from it, various and of every kind? Whence are the bones, and sinews, and arteries, and veins? Whence the membranes, and vessels of the organs, the cartilages, the tissues, the liver, spleen, and heart? whence the skin, and blood, and mucus, and bile? whence so great powers, whence such varied colors? These belong not to earth or clay. How does the earth, when it receives the seeds, cause them to shoot, while the flesh receiving them wastes them? How does the earth nourish what is put into it, while the flesh is nourished by these things, and does not nourish them? The earth, for instance, receives water, and makes it wine; the flesh often receives wine, and changes it into water. Whence then is it clear that these things are formed of earth, when the nature of the earth is, according to what has been said;1 contrary to that of the body? I cannot discover by reasoning, I accept it by faith only. If then things which take place daily, and which we handle, require faith, much more do those which are more mysterious and more spiritual than these. For as the earth, which is soulless and motionless, was empowered by the will of God, and such wonders were worked in it; much more when the Spirit is present with the water, do all those things so strange and transcending reason, easily take place.

[2.] Do not then disbelieve these things, because thou seest them not; thou dost not see thy soul, and yet thou believest that thou hast a soul, and that it is a something different besides2 the body.

But Christ led him not in by this example, but by another; the instance of the soul, though it is incorporeal, He did not adduce for that reason, because His hearer’s disposition was as yet too dull. He sets before him another, which has no connection with the density of solid bodies, yet does not reach so high as to the incorporeal natures; that is, the movement of wind. He begins at first with water, which is lighter than earth, but denser than air. And as in the beginning earth was the subject material,3 but the whole4 was of Him who molded it; so also now water is the subject material, and the whole5 is of the grace of the Spirit: then, “man became a living soul,” (Gen. 2:7); now he becomes “a quickening Spirit.” But great is the difference between the two. Soul affords not life to any other than him in whom it is; Spirit not only lives, but affords life to others also. Thus, for instance, the Apostles even raised the dead. Then, man was formed last, when the creation had been accomplished; now, on the contrary, the new man is formed before the new creation; he is born first, and then the world is fashioned a new. (1 Cor. 15:45.) And as in the beginning He formed him entire, so He creates him entire now. Then He said, “Let us make for him a help” (Gen. 2:18, LXX.), but here He said nothing of the kind. What other help shall he need, who has received the gift of the Spirit? What further need of assistance has he, who belongs to6 the Body of Christ? Then He made man in the image of God, now He hath united7 him with God Himself; then He bade him rule over the fishes and beasts, now He hath exalted our first-fruits above the heavens; then He gave him a garden for his abode,8 now He hath opened heaven to us; then man was formed on the sixth day, when the world9 was almost finished; but now on the first, at the very beginning, at the time when light was made before. From all which it is plain, that the things accomplished belonged to10 another and a better life, and to a condition11 having no end.

The first creation then, that of Adam, was from earth; the next, that of the woman, from his rib; the next, that of Abel, from seed; yet we cannot arrive at the comprehension of12 any one of these, nor prove the circumstances by argument, though they are of a most earthly nature;13 how then shall we be able to give account of the unseen14 generation15 by Baptism, which is far more exalted than these, or to require arguments16 for that strange and marvelous Birth?17 Since even Angels stand by while that Generation takes place, but they could not tell the manner of that marvelous working, they stand by only, not performing anything, but beholding what takes place. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, worketh all. Let us then believe the declaration of God; that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, it is impossible that God’s Word should fail; let us then believe it; that which called the things that were not into existence may well be trusted when it speaks of their nature. What then says it? That what is effected is A GENERATION. If any ask, “How,” stop his mouth with the declaration of God,18 which is the strongest and a plain proof. If any enquire, “Why is water included?” let us also in return ask, “Wherefore was earth employed at the beginning in the creation of man?” for that it was possible for God to make man without earth, is quite plain to every one. Be not then over-curious.

That the need of water is absolute and indispensable,1 you may learn in this way. On one occasion, when the Spirit had flown down before the water was applied, the Apostle did not stay at this point, but, as though the water were necessary and not superfluous, observe what he says; “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47.)

What then is the use of the water? This too I will tell you hereafter, when I reveal to you the hidden mystery.2 There are also other points of mystical teaching connected with the matter, but for the present I will mention to you one out of many. What is this one? In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God;3 burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever;4 then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead.5 As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfilleth all this. To show that what we say is no conjecture, hear Paul saying, “We are buried with Him by Baptism into death”: and again, “Our old man is crucified with Him”: and again, “We have been planted together in the likeness of His death.” (Rom. 6:4, 5, 6.) And not only is Baptism called a “cross,” but the “cross” is called “Baptism.” “With the Baptism,” saith Christ, “that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized” (Mark 10:39): and, “I have a Baptism to be baptized with” (Luke 12:50) (which ye know not); for as we easily dip and lift our heads again, so He also easily died and rose again when He willed or rather much more easily, though He tarried the three days for the dispensation of a certain mystery.

[3.] Let us then who have been deemed worthy of such mysteries show forth a life worthy of the Gift, that is, a most excellent conversation;6 and do ye who have not yet been deemed worthy, do all things that you may be so, that we may be one body, that we may be brethren. For as long as we are divided in this respect, though a man be father, or son, or brother, or aught else, he is no true kinsman, as being cut off from that relationship which is from above. What advantageth it to be bound by the ties of earthly family, if we are not joined by those of the spiritual? what profits nearness of kin on earth, if we are to be strangers in heaven? For the Catechumen is a stranger to the Faithful. He hath not the same Head, he hath not the same Father, he hath not the same City, nor Food, nor Raiment, nor Table, nor House, but all are different; all are on earth to the former, to the latter all are in heaven. One has Christ for his King; the other, sin and the devil; the food7 of one is Christ, of the other, that meat which decays and perishes; one has worms’ work for his raiment, the other the Lord of angels; heaven is the city of one, earth of the other. Since then we have nothing in common, in what, tell me, shall we hold communion? Did we remove the same pangs,8 did we come forth from the same womb? This has nothing to do with that most perfect relationship. Let us then give diligence that we may become citizens of the city which is above. How long do we tarry over the border,9 when we ought to reclaim our ancient country? We risk no common danger; for if it should come to pass, (which God forbid!) that through the sudden arrival of death we depart hence uninitiated,10 though we have ten thousand virtues, our portion will be no other than hell, and the venomous worm, and fire unquenchable, and bonds indissoluble. But God grant that none of those who hear these words experience that punishment! And this will be, if having been deemed worthy of the sacred mysteries, we build upon that foundation gold, and silver, and precious stones; for so after our departure hence we shall be able to appear in that place rich, when we leave not our riches here, but transport them to inviolable treasuries by the hands of the poor, when we lend to Christ. Many are our debts there, not of money, but of sins; let us then lend Him our riches, that we may receive pardon for our sins; for He it is that judgeth. Let us not neglect Him here when He hungereth, that He may ever feed us there. Here let us clothe Him, that He leave us not bare of the safety which is from Him. If here we give Him drink, we shall not with the rich man say, “Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may drop water on my broiling11 tongue.” If here we receive Him into our house, there He will prepare many mansions for us; if we go to Him in prison, He too will free us from our bonds; if we take Him in when He is a stranger, He will not suffer us to be strangers to the Kingdom of heaven, but will give us a portion in the City which is above; if we visit Him when He is sick, He also will quickly deliver us from our infirmities.

Let us then, as receiving great things though we give but little, still give the little that we may gain the great. While it is yet time, let us sow, that we may reap. When the winter overtakes us, when the sea is no longer navigable, we are no longer masters of this traffic. But when shall the winter be? When that great and manifest Day is at hand. Then we shall cease to sail this great and broad sea, for such the present life resembles. Now is the time of sowing, then of harvest and of gain. If a man puts not in his seed at seed time and sows in harvest, besides that he effects nothing, he will be ridiculous. But if the present is seed time, it follows that it is a time not for gathering together, but for scattering; let us then scatter, that we may gather in, and not seek to gather in now, lest we lose our harvest; for, as I said, this season summons us to sow, and spend, and lay out, not to collect and lay by. Let us not then give up the opportunity, but let us put in abundant seed, and spare none of our stores, that we may receive. them again with abundant recompense, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XVI
John 3:6-8

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

[1.] GREAT mysteries are they, of which the Only-begotten Son of God has counted us worthy; great, and such as we were not worthy of, but such as it was meet for Him to give. For if one reckon our desert, we were not only unworthy of the gift, but also liable to punishment and vengeance; but He, because He looked not to this, not only delivered us from punishment, but freely gave us a life much more bright1 than the first, introduced us into another world, made us another creature; “If any man be in Christ,” saith Paul, “he is a new creature.” (2 Cor. 5:17.) What kind of “new creature”? Hear Christ Himself declare; “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights2 above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven. Well said Paul, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33.) There is no longer a mother, or pangs, or sleep, or coming together, and embracings of bodies; henceforth all the fabric3 of our nature is framed above, of the Holy Ghost and water. The water is employed, being made the Birth to him who is born; what the womb is to the embryo, the water is to the believer; for in the water he is fashioned and formed. At first it was said, “Let the waters bring forth the creeping things that have life” (Gen. 1:20, LXX.); but from the time that the Lord entered the streams of Jordan, the water no longer gives forth the “creeping thing that hath life,” but reasonable and Spirit-bearing souls; and what has been said of the sun, that he is “as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber” (Ps. 18:6), we may now rather say of the faithful, for they send forth rays far brighter than he. That which is fashioned in the womb requires time, not so that in water, but all is done in a single moment. Here our life is perishable, and takes its origin from the decay of other bodies; that which is to be born comes slowly, (for such is the nature of bodies, they acquire perfection by time,) but it is not so with spiritual things. And why? Because the things made are formed perfect from the beginning.

When Nicodemus still hearing these things was troubled, see how Christ partly opens to him the secret of this mystery, and makes that clear which was for a while obscure to him. “That which is born,” saith He, “of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” He leads him away from all the things of sense, and suffers him not vainly to pry into the mysteries revealed with his fleshly eyes; “We speak not,” saith He, “of flesh, but of Spirit, O Nicodemus,” (by this word He directs him heavenward for a while,) “seek then nothing relating to things of sense; never can the Spirit appear to those eyes, think not that the Spirit bringeth forth the flesh.” “How then,” perhaps one may ask, “was the Flesh of the Lord brought forth?” Not of the Spirit only, but of flesh; as Paul declares, when he says, “Made of a woman, made under the Law” (Gal. 4:4); for the Spirit fashioned Him not indeed out of nothing, (for what need was there then of a womb?) but from the flesh of a Virgin. How, I cannot explain unto you; yet it was done, that no one might suppose that what was born is alien to our nature. For if even when this has taken place there are some who disbelieve in such a birth, into what impiety would they not have fallen had He not partaken of the Virgin’s flesh.

“That which is born1 of the Spirit is spirit.” Seest thou the dignity of the Spirit? It appears performing the work of God; for above he said of some, that, “they were begotten of God,” (c. 1:13,) here He saith, that the Spirit begetteth them.

“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” His meaning is of this kind; “He that is born2 of the Spirit is spiritual.” For the Birth which He speaks of here is not that according to essence,3 but according to honor and grace. Now if the Son is so born also, in what shall He be superior to men so born? And how is He, Only-begotten? For I too am born of God, though not of His Essence, and if He also is not of His Essence, how in this respect does He differ from us? Nay, He will then be found to be inferior to the Spirit; for birth of this kind is by the grace of the Spirit. Needs He then the help of the Spirit that He may continue a Son? And in what do these differ from Jewish doctrines?
Christ then having said, “He that is born of the Spirit is spirit,” when He saw him again confused, leads His discourse to an example from sense, saying,

Ver. 7, 8. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.4 The wind bloweth where it listeth.”
For by saying, “Marvel not,” He indicates the confusion of his soul, and leads him to something lighter than body. He had already led him away from fleshly things, by saying, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit”; but when Nicodemus knew not what “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” meant, He next carries him to another figure, not bringing him to the density of bodies, nor yet speaking of things purely incorporeal, (for had he heard he could not have received this,) but having found a something between what is and what is not body, namely, the motion of the wind, He brings him to that next. And He saith of it,

“Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.”

Though He saith, “it bloweth where it listeth,” He saith it not as if the wind had any power of choice, but declaring that its natural motion cannot be hindered, and is with power. For Scripture knoweth how to speak thus of things without life, as when it saith, “The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly.” (Rom. 8:20.) The expression therefore, “bloweth where it listeth,” is that of one who would show that it cannot be restrained, that it is spread abroad everywhere, and that none can hinder its passing hither and thither, but that it goes abroad with great might, and none is able to turn aside its violence.

[2.] “And thou hearest its voice,”5 (that is, its rustle, its noise,) “but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. “If,” saith He, “thou knowest not how to explain the motion nor the path of this wind6 which thou perceivest by hearing and touch, why art thou over-anxious about the working of the Divine Spirit, when thou understandest not that of the wind, though thou hearest its voice?” The expression, “bloweth where it listeth,” is also used to establish the power of the Comforter; for if none can hold the wind, but it moveth where it listeth, much less will the laws of nature, or limits of bodily generation, or anything of the like kind, be able to restrain the operations of the Spirit.

That the expression, “thou hearest its voice,” is used respecting the wind, is clear from this circumstance; He would not, when conversing with an unbeliever and one unacquainted with the operation of the Spirit, have said, “Thou hearest its voice.” As then the wind is not visible, although it utters a sound, so neither is the birth of that which is spiritual visible to our bodily eyes; yet the wind is a body, although a very subtle one; for whatever is the object of sense is body. If then you do not complain because you cannot see this body, and do not on this account disbelieve, why do you, when you hear of “the Spirit,” hesitate and demand such exact accounts, although you act not so in the case of a body? What then doth Nicodemus? still he continues in his low Jewish opinion, and that too when so clear an example has been mentioned to him. Wherefore when he again says doubtingly,

 

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 3:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

The following post contains all of St Augustine’s Tractate # 11 on Jn 2:23-3:5. It includes an excerpt from Tractate # 12 on Jn 3:6-8.

TRACTATE XI
CHAPTER 2:23–25; 3:1–5.

1. OPPORTUNELY has the Lord procured for us that this passage should occur in its order to-day: for I suppose you have observed, beloved, that we have undertaken to consider and explain the Gospel according to John in due course. Opportunely then it occurs, that to-day you should hear from the Gospel, that, “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not see the kingdom of God.” For it is time that we exhort you, who are still catechumens, who have believed in Christ in such wise, that you are still bearing your sins. And none shall see the kingdom of heaven while burdened with sins; for none shall reign with Christ, but he to whom they have been forgiven: but forgiven they cannot be, but to him who is born again of water and of the Holy Spirit. But let us observe all the words what they imply, that here the sluggish may find with what earnestness they must haste to put off their burden. For were they bearing some heavy load, either of stone, or of wood, or even of some gain; if they were carrying corn, or wine, or money, they would run to put off their loads: they are carrying a burden of sins, and yet are sluggish to run. You must run to put off this burden; it weighs you down, it drowns you.

2. Behold, you have heard that when our Lord Jesus Christ “was in Jerusalem at the Passover, on the feast day, many believed in His name, seeing the signs which He did.” “Many believed in His name;” and what follows? “But Jesus did not trust Himself to them.” Now what does this mean, “They believed,” or trusted, “in His name;” and yet “Jesus did not trust Himself to them;”? Was it, perhaps, that they had not believed on Him, but were feigning to have believed, and that therefore Jesus did not trust Himself to them? But the evangelist would not have said, “Many believed in His name,” if he were not giving a true testimony to them. A great thing, then, it is, and a wonderful thing: men believe on Christ, and Christ trusts not Himself to men. Especially is it wonderful, since, being the Son of God, He of course suffered willingly. If He were not willing, He would never have suffered, since, had He not willed it, He had not been born; and if He had willed this only, merely to be born and not to die, He might have done even whatever He willed, because He is the almighty Son of the almighty Father. Let us prove it by facts. For when they wished to hold Him, He departed from them. The Gospel says, “And when they would have cast Him headlong from the top of the mountain, He departed from them unhurt.”1 And when they came to lay hold of Him, after He was sold by Judas the traitor, who imagined that he had it in his power to deliver up his Master and Lord, there also the Lord showed that He suffered of His own will, not of necessity. For when the Jews desired to lay hold of Him, He said to them, “Whom seek ye? But they said, Jesus of Nazareth. And said He, I am He. On hearing this saying, they went backward, and fell to the ground.”2 In this, that in answering them He threw them to the ground, He showed His power; that in His being taken by them He might show His will. It was of compassion, then, that He suffered. For “He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”3 Hear His own words: “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again: no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself, that I may take it again.”1 Since, therefore, He had such power, since He declared it by words, showed it by deeds, what then does it mean that Jesus did not trust Himself to them, as if they would do Him some harm against His will, or would do something to Him against His will, especially seeing that they had already believed in His name? Moreover, of the same persons the evangelist says, “They believed in His name,” of whom he says, “But Jesus did not trust Himself to them.” Why? “Because He knew all men, and needed not that any should bear witness of man: for Himself knew what was in man.” The artificer knew what was in His own work better than the work knew what was in itself. The Creator of man knew what was in man, which the created man himself knew not. Do we not prove this of Peter, that he knew not what was in himself, when he said, “With Thee, even to death”? Hear that the Lord knew what was in man: “Thou with me even to death? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”2 The man, then, knew not what was in himself; but the Creator of the man knew what was in the man. Nevertheless, many believed in His name, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them. What can we say, brethren? Perhaps the circumstances that follow will indicate to us what the mystery of these words is. That men had believed in Him is manifest, is true; none doubts it, the Gospel says it, the truth-speaking evangelist testifies to it. Again, that Jesus trusted not Himself to them is also manifest, and no Christian doubts it; for the Gospel says this also, and the same truth-speaking evangelist testifies to it. Why, then, is it that they believed in His name, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them? Let us see what follows.

3. “And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus by name, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Him by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi (you already know that Master is called Rabbi), we know that Thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these signs which Thou doest, except God be with him.” This Nicodemus, then, was of those who had believed in His name, as they saw the signs and prodigies which He did. For this is what he said above: “Now, when He was in Jerusalem at the passover on the feast-day, many believed in His name.” Why did they believe? He goes on to say, “Seeing His signs which He did.” And what says he of Nicodemus? “There was a ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus by name the same came to Him by night, and says to Him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God.” Therefore this man also had believed in His name. And why had he believed? He goes on, “For no man can do these signs which Thou doest, except God be with him.” If, therefore, Nicodemus was of those who had believed in His name, let us now consider, in the case of this Nicodemus, why Jesus did not trust Himself to them. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Therefore to them who have been born again doth Jesus trust Himself. Behold, those men had believed on Him, and yet Jesus trusted not Himself to them. Such are all catechumens: already they believe in the name of Christ, but Jesus does not trust Himself to them. Give good heed, my beloved, and understand. If we say to a catechumen, Dost thou believe on Christ? he answers, I believe, and signs himself; already he bears the cross of Christ on his forehead, and is not ashamed of the cross of his Lord. Behold, he has believed in His name. Let us ask him, Dost thou eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink the blood of the Son of man? he knows not what we say, because Jesus has not trusted Himself to him.

4. Therefore, since Nicodemus was of that number, he came to the Lord, but came by night; and this perhaps pertains to the matter. Came to the Lord, and came by night; came to the Light, and came in the darkness. But what do they that are born again of water and of the Spirit hear from the apostle? “Ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord; walk as children of light;”3 and again, “But we who are of the day, let us besober.”4 Therefore they who are born again were of the night, and are of the day; were darkness, and are light. Now Jesus trusts Himself to them, and they come to Jesus, not by night, like Nicodemus; not in darkness do they seek the day. For such now also profess: Jesus has come near to them, has made salvation in them; for He said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him.”5 And as the catechumens have the sign of the cross on their forehead, they are already of the great house; but from servants let them become sons. For they are something who already belong to the great house. But when did the people Israel eat the manna? After they had passed the Red Sea. And as to what the Red Sea signifies, hear the apostle: “Moreover, brethren, I would not have you ignorant, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.” To what purpose passed they through the sea? As if thou wert asking of him, he goes on to say, “And all were baptized by Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”1 Now, if the figure of the sea had such efficacy, how great will be the efficacy of the true form of baptism! If what was done in a figure brought the people, after they had crossed over, to the manna, what will Christ impart, in the verity of His baptism, to His own people, brought over through Himself? By His baptism He brings over them that believe; all their sins, the enemies as it were that pursue them, being slain, as all the Egyptians perished in that sea. Whither does He bring over, my brethren? Whither does Jesus bring over by baptism, of which Moses then showed the figure, when he brought them through the sea? Whither? To the manna. What is the manna? “I am,” saith He, “the living bread, which came down from heaven.”2 The faithful receive the manna, having now been brought through the Red Sea? Why Red Sea? Besides sea, why also “red”? That “Red Sea” signified the baptism of Christ. How is the baptism of Christ red, but as consecrated by Christ’s blood? Whither, then, does He lead those that believe and are baptized? To the manna. Behold, “manna,” I say: what the Jews, that people Israel, received, is well known, well known what God had rained on them from heaven; and yet catechumens know not what Christians receive. Let them blush, then, for their ignorance; let them pass through the Red Sea, let them eat the manna, that as they have believed in the name of Jesus, so likewise Jesus may trust Himself to them.

5. Therefore mark, my brethren, what answer this man who came to Jesus by night makes. Although he came to Jesus, yet because he came by night, he still speaks from the darkness of his own flesh. He understands not what he hears from the Lord, understands not what he hears from the Light, “which lighteth every man that cometh into this world.”3 Already hath the Lord said to him, “Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born again when he is old?” The Spirit speaks to him, and he thinks of the flesh. He thinks of his own flesh, because as yet he thinks not of Christ’s flesh. For when the Lord Jesus had said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him,” some who followed Him were offended, and said among themselves, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” For they fancied that, in saying this, Jesus meant that they would be able to cook Him, after being cut up like a lamb, and eat Him: horrified at His words, they went back, and no more followed Him. Thus speaks the evangelist: “And the Lord Himself remained with the twelve; and they said to Him, Lo, those have left Thee. And He said, Will ye also go away?”—wishing to show them that He was necessary to them, not they necessary to Christ. Let no man fancy that he frightens Christ, when he tells Him that he is a Christian; as if Christ will be more blessed if thou be a Christian. It is a good thing for thee to be a Christian; but if thou be not, it will not be ill for Christ. Hear the voice of the psalm, “I said to the Lord, Thou art my God, since Thou hast no need of my goods.”4 For that reason, “Thou art my God, since of my goods Thou hast no need.” If thou be without God, thou wilt be less; if thou be with God, God will not be greater. Not from thee will He be greater, but thou without Him wilt be less. Grow, therefore, in Him; do not withdraw thyself, that He may, as it were, diminish. Thou wilt be renewed if thou come to Him, wilt suffer loss if thou depart from Him. He remains entire when thou comest to Him, remains entire even when thou fallest away. When, therefore, He had said to His disciples, “Will ye also go away?” Peter, that Rock, answered with the voice of all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Pleasantly savored the Lord’s flesh in his mouth. The Lord, however, expounded to them, and said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” After He had said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him,” lest they should understand it carnally, He said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing: the words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and life.”5

6. This Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus by night, did not savor of this spirit and this life. Saith Jesus to him, “Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God.” And he, savoring of his own flesh, while as yet he savored not of the flesh of Christ in his mouth, saith, “How can a man be born a second time, when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” This man knew but one birth, that from Adam and Eve; that which is from God and the Church he knew not yet: he knew only those parents that bring forth to death, knew not yet the parents that bring forth to life; he knew but the parents that bring forth successors, knew not yet the ever-living parents that bring forth those that shall abide.
Whilst there are two births, then, he understood only one. One is of the earth, the other of heaven; one of the flesh, the other of the Spirit; one of mortality, the other of eternity; one of male and female, the other of God and the Church. But these two are each single; there can be no repeating the one or the other. Rightly did Nicodemus understand the birth of the flesh; so understand thou also the birth of the Spirit, as Nicodemus understood the birth of the flesh. What did Nicodemus understand? “Can a man enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Thus, whosoever shall tell thee to be spiritually born a second time, answer in the words of Nicodemus, “Can a man enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” I am already born of Adam, Adam cannot beget me a second time. I am already born of Christ, Christ cannot beget me again. As there is no repeating from the womb, so neither from baptism.

7. He that is born of the Catholic Church, is born, as it were, of Sarah, of the free woman; he that is born of heresy is, as it were, born of the bond woman, but of Abraham’s seed. Consider, beloved, how great a mystery. God testifies, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Were there not other patriarchs? Before these, was there not holy Noah, who alone of the whole human race, with all his house, was worthy to be delivered from the flood,—he in whom, and in his sons, the Church was prefigured? Borne by wood, they escaped the flood. Then afterwards great men whom we know, whom Holy Scriptures commends, Moses faithful in all his house.1 And yet those three are named, just as if they alone deserved well of him: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this is my name for ever.”2 Sublime mystery! It is the Lord that is able to open both our mouth and your hearts, that we may speak as He has deigned to reveal, and that you may receive even as it is expedient for you.

8. The patriarchs, then, are these three, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You know that the sons of Jacob were twelve, and thence the people Israel; for Jacob himself is Israel, and the people Israel in twelve tribes pertaining to the twelve sons of Israel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob three fathers, and one people. The fathers three, as it were in the beginning of the people; three fathers in whom the people was figured: and the former people itself the present people. For in the Jewish people was figured the Christian people. There a figure, here the truth; there a shadow, here the body: as the apostle says, “Now these things happened to them in a figure.” It is the apostle’s voice: “They were written,” saith he, “for our sakes, upon whom the end of the ages is come.”3 Let your mind now recur to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the case of these three, we find that free women bear children, and that bond women bear children: we find there offspring of free women, we find there also offspring of bond women. The bond woman signifies nothing good: “Cast out the bond woman,” saith he, “and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with the son of the free.” The apostle recounts this; and he says that in those two sons of Abraham was a figure of the two Testaments, the Old and the New. To the Old Testament belong the lovers of temporal things, the lovers of the world: to the New Testament belong the lovers of eternal life. Hence, that Jerusalem on earth was the shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of us all, which is in heaven; and these are the apostle’s words.4 And of that city from which we are absent on our sojourn, you know much, you have now heard much. But we find a wonderful thing in these births, in these fruits of the womb, in these generations of free and bond women: namely, four sorts of men; in which four sorts is completed the figure of the future Christian people, so that what was said in the case of those three patriarchs is not surprising, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” For in the case of all Christians, observe, brethren, either good men are born of evil men, or evil men of good; or good men of good, or evil men of evil: more than these four sorts you cannot find. These things I will again repeat: Give heed, keep them, excite your hearts, be not dull; take in, lest ye be taken, how of all Christians there are four sorts. Either of the good are born good, or of the evil, are born evil; or of the good are born evil, or of the evil good. I think it is plain. Of the good, good; if they who baptize are good, and also they who are baptized rightly believe, and are rightly numbered among the members of Christ. Of the evil, evil; if they who baptize are evil, and they who are baptized approach God with a double heart, and do not observe the morals which they hear urged in the Church, so as not to be chaff, but grain, there. How many such there are, you know, beloved. Of the evil, good; sometimes an adulterer baptizes, and be that is baptized is justified. Of the good, evil; sometimes they who baptize are holy, they who are baptized do not desire to keep the way of God.

9. I suppose, brethren, that this is known in the Church, and that what we are saying is manifest by daily examples; but let us consider these things in the case of our fathers before us, how they also had these four kinds. Of the good, good; Ananias baptized Paul. How of the evil, evil? The apostle declares that there were certain preachers of the gospel, who, he says, did not use to preach the gospel with a pure motive, whom, however, he tolerates in the Christian society, saying, “What then, notwithstanding every way, whether by occasion or in truth, Christ is preached, and in this I rejoice.”1 Was he therefore malevolent, and did he rejoice in another’s evil? No, but rejoiced because through evil men the truth was preached, and by the mouths of evil men Christ was preached. If these men baptized any persons like themselves, evil men baptized evil men: if they baptized such as the Lord admonishes, when He says, “Whatsoever they bid you, do; but do not ye after their works,”2 they were evil men that were baptizing good. Good men baptized evil men, as Simon the sorcerer was baptized by Philip, a holy man.3 Therefore these four sorts, my brethren, are known. See, I repeat them again, hold them, count them, think upon them; guard against what is evil; keep what is good. Good men are born of good, when holy men are baptized by holy; evil men are born of evil, when both they that baptize and they that are baptized live unrighteously and ungodly; good men are born of evil, when they are evil that baptize, and they good that are baptized; evil men are born of good, when they are good that baptize, and they evil that are baptized.

10. How do we find this in these three names, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? We hold the bond women among the evil, and the free women among the good. Free women bear the good; Sarah bare Isaac: bond women bear the evil; Hagar bare Ishmael. We have in the case of Abraham alone the two sorts, both when the good are of the good, and also when the evil are of the evil. But where have we evil of good figured? Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, was a free woman: read, She bare twins; one was good, the other evil. Thou hast the Scripture openly declaring by the voice of God, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”4 Rebecca bare those two, Jacob and Esau: one of them is chosen, the other is reprobated; one succeeds to the inheritance, the other is disinherited. God does not make His people of Esau, but makes it of Jacob. The seed is one, those conceived are dissimilar: the womb is one, those born of it are diverse. Was not the free woman that bare Jacob, the same free woman that bare Esau? They strove in the mother’s womb; and when they strove there, it was said to Rebecca, “Two peoples are in thy womb.” Two men, two peoples; a good people, and a bad people: but yet they strive in one womb. How many evil men there are in the Church! And one womb carries them until they are separated in the end: and the good cry out against the evil, and the evil in turn cry out against the good, and both strive together in the bowels of one mother. Will they be always together? There is a going forth to the light in the end; the birth which is here figured in a mystery is declared; and it will then appear that “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

11. Accordingly we have now found, brethren, of the good, good—of the free woman, Isaac; and of the evil, evil—of the bond woman, Ishmael; and of the good, evil—of Rebecca, Esau: where shall we find of the evil, good? There remains Jacob, that the completion of these four sorts may be concluded in the three patriarchs. Jacob had for wives free women, he had also bond women: the free bear children, as do also the bond, and thus come the twelve sons of Israel. If you count them all, of whom they were born, they were not all of the free women, nor all of the bond women; but yet they were all of one seed. What, then, my brethren? Did not they who were born of the bond women possess the land of promise together with their brethren? We have there found good sons of Jacob born of bond women, and good sons of Jacob born of free women. Their birth of the wombs of bond women was nothing against them, when they knew their seed in the father, and consequently they held the kingdom with their brethren. Therefore, as in the case of Jacob’s sons, that they were born of bond women did not hinder their holding the kingdom, and receiving the land of promise on an equality with their brothers; their birth of bond women did not hinder them, but the father’s seed prevailed: so, whoever are baptized by evil men, appear as if born of bond women; nevertheless, because they are of the seed of the Word of God, which is figured in Jacob, let them not be cast down, they shall possess the inheritance with their brethren. Therefore, let him who is born of the good seed be without fear; only let him not imitate the bond woman, if he is born of a bond woman. Do not thou imitate the evil, proud, bond woman. For how came the sons of Jacob, that were born of bond women, to possess the land of promise with their brethren, whilst Ishmael, born of a bond woman, was cast out from the inheritance? How, but because he was proud, they were humble? He proudly reared his neck, and wished to seduce his brother while he was playing with him.

12. A great mystery is there. They were playing together, Ishmael and Isaac: Sarah sees them playing, and says to Abraham, “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And when Abraham was sorrowful, the Lord confirmed to him the saying of his wife. Now here is evidently a mystery, that the event was somehow pregnant with something future. She sees them playing, and says, “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” What is this, brethren? For what evil had Ishmael done to the boy Isaac, in playing with him? That playing was a mocking; that playing signified deception. Now attend, beloved, to this great mystery. The apostle calls it persecution; that playing, that play, he calls persecution: for he says, “But as then he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also now;” that is, they that are born after the flesh persecute them that are born after the Spirit. Who are born after the flesh? Lovers of the world, lovers of this life. Who are born after the Spirit? Lovers of the kingdom of heaven, lovers of Christ, men that long for eternal life, that worship God freely. They play, and the apostle calls it persecution. For after he said these words, “And as then be that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also now;” the apostle went on, and showed of what persecution, he was speaking: “But what says the Scripture? Cast out the bond woman and her son: for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”1 We search where the Scripture says this, to see whether any persecution on Ishmael’s part against Isaac preceded this; and we find that this was said by Sarah when she saw the boys playing together. The playing which Scripture says that Sarah saw, the apostle calls persecution. Hence, they who seduce you by playing, persecute you the more. “Come,” say they, “Come, be baptized here, here is true baptism for thee.” Do not play, there is one true baptism; that other is play: thou wilt be seduced, and that will be a grievous persecution to thee. It were better for thee to make Ishmael a present of the kingdom; but Ishmael will not have it, for he means to play. Keep thou thy father’s inheritance, and hear this: “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”

13. These men, too, dare to say that they are wont to suffer persecution from catholic kings, or from catholic princes. What persecution do they bear? Affliction of body: yet if at times they have suffered, and how they suffered, let themselves know, and settle it with their consciences; still they suffered only affliction of body: the persecution which they cause is more grievous. Beware when Ishmael wishes to play with Isaac, when he fawns on thee, when he offers another baptism: answer him, I have baptism already. For if this baptism is true, he who would give thee another would be mocking thee. Beware of the persecution of the soul. For though the party of Donatus has at times suffered somewhat at the hands of catholic princes, it was a bodily suffering, not the suffering of spiritual deception. Hear and see in the very facts of Old Testament history all the signs and indications of things to come. Sarah is found to have afflicted her maid Hagar: Sarah is free. After her maid began to be proud, Sarah complained to Abraham, and said, “Cast out the bond woman;” she has lifted her neck against me. His wife complains of Abraham, as if it were his doing. But Abraham, who was not bound to the maid by lust, but by the duty of begetting children, inasmuch as Sarah had given her to him to have offspring by her, says to her: “Behold, she is thy handmaid; do unto her as thou wilt.” And Sarah grievously afflicted her, and she fled from her face. See, the free woman afflicted the bond woman, and the apostle does not call that a persecution; the slave plays with his master, and he calls it persecution: this afflicting is not called persecution; that playing is. How does it appear to you, brethren? Do you not understand what is signified? Thus, then, when God wills to stir up powers against heretics, against schismatics, against those that scatter the Church, that blow on Christ as if they abhorred Him, that blaspheme baptism, let them not wonder; because God stirs them up, that Hagar may be beaten by Sarah. Let Hagar know herself, and yield her neck: for when, after being humiliated, she departed from her mistress, an angel met her, and said to her, “What is the matter with thee, Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid?” When she complained of her mistress, what did she hear from the angel? “Return to thy mistress.”1 It is for this that she is afflicted, that she may return; and would that she may return, for her offspring, just like the sons of Jacob, will obtain the inheritance with their brethren.

14. But they wonder that Christian powers are roused against detestable scatterers of the Church. Should they not be moved, then? How otherwise should they give an account of their rule to God? Observe, beloved, what I say, that it concerns Christian kings of this world to wish their mother the Church, of which they have been spiritually born, to have peace in their times. We read Daniel’s visions and prophetical histories. The three children praised the Lord in the fire: King Nebuchadnezzar wondered at the children praising God, and at the fire around them doing them no harm: and whilst he wondered, what did King Nebuchadnezzar say, he who was neither a Jew nor circumcised, who had set up his own image and compelled all men to adore it; but, impressed by the praises of the three children when he saw the majesty of God present in the fire what said he? “And I will publish a decree to all tribes and tongues in the whole earth.” What sort of decree? “Whosoever shall speak blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut off, and their houses shall be made a ruin.”2 See how an alien king acts with raging indignation that the God of Israel might not be blasphemed, because He was able to deliver the three children from the fire: and yet they would not have Christian kings to act with severity when Christ is contemptuously rejected, by whom not three children, but the whole world, with these very kings, is delivered from the fire of hell! For those three children, my brethren, were delivered from temporal fire. Is He not the same God who was the God of the Maccabees and the God of the three children? The latter He delivered from the fire; the former did in body perish in the torments of fire, but in mind they remained steadfast in the ordinances of the law. The latter were openly delivered, the former were crowned in secret.3 It is a greater thing to be delivered from the flame of hell than from the furnace of a human power. If, then, Nebuchadnezzar praised and extolled and gave glory to God because He delivered three children from the fire, and gave such glory as to send forth a decree throughout his kingdom, “Whosoever shall speak blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut off, and their houses shall be brought to ruin,” how should not these kings be moved, who observe, not three children delivered from the flame, but their very selves delivered from hell, when they see Christ, by whom they have been delivered, contemptuously spurned in Christians, when they hear it said to a Christian, “Say that thou art not a Christian”? Men are willing to do such deeds, but they do not wish to suffer, at all events, such punishments.

15. For see what they do and what they suffer. They slay souls, they suffer in body: they cause everlasting deaths, and yet they complain that they themselves suffer temporal deaths. And yet what deaths do they suffer? They allege to us some martyrs of theirs in persecution. See, Marculus was hurled headlong from a rock; see, Donatus of Bagaia was thrown into a well. When have the Roman authorities decreed such punishments as casting men down rocks? But what do those of our party reply? What was done I know not; what, however, do ours tell? That they lung themselves headlong and cast the infamy of it upon the authorities. Let us call to mind the custom of the Roman authorities, and see to whom we are to give credit. Our men declare that those men cast themselves down headlong. If they are not the very disciples of those men, who now cast themselves down precipices, while no man persecutes them, let us not credit the allegation of our men: what wonder if those men did what these are wont to do? The Roman authorities never did employ such punishments: for had they not the power to put them to death openly? But those men, while they wished to be honored when dead, found not a death to make them more famous. In short, whatever the fact was, I do not know. And even if thou hast suffered corporal affliction, O party of Donatus, at the hand of the Catholic Church, as an Hagar thou hast suffered it at the hand of Sarah; “return to thy mistress.” A point which it was indeed necessary to discuss has detained us somewhat too long to be at all able to expound the whole text of the Gospel Lesson. Let this suffice you in the meantime, beloved brethren, lest, by speaking of other matters, what has been spoken might be shut out from your hearts. Hold fast these things, declare such things; and while yourselves are inflamed, go your way thither, and set on fire them that are cold.

TRACTATE 12 (Excerpt)
Chapter 3:6-8

1. WE observe, beloved, that the intimation with which we yesterday excited your attention has brought you together with more alacrity, and in greater number than usual; but meanwhile let us, if you please, pay our debt of a discourse on the Gospel Lesson, which comes in due course. You shall then hear, beloved, as well what we have already effected concerning the peace of the Church, and what we hope yet further to accomplish. For the present, then, let the whole attention of your hearts be given to the gospel; let none be thinking of anything else. For if he who attends to it wholly apprehends with difficulty, must not he who divides himself by diverse thoughts let go what he has received? Moreover, you remember, beloved, that on the last Lord’s day, as the Lord deigned to help us, we discoursed of spiritual regeneration. That lesson we have caused to be read to you again, so that what was then left unspoken, we may now, by the aid of your prayers in the name of Christ, fulfill.

2. Spiritual regeneration is one, just as the generation of the flesh is one. And Nicodemus said the truth when he said to the Lord that a man cannot, when he is old, return again into his mother’s womb and be born. He indeed said that a man cannot do this when he is old, as if he could do it even were he an infant. But be he fresh from the womb, or now in years, he cannot possibly return again into the mother’s bowels and be born. But just as for the birth of the flesh, the bowels of woman avail to bring forth the child only once, so for the spiritual birth the bowels of the Church avail that a man be baptized only once. Therefore, in case one should say, “Well, but this man was born in heresy, and this in schism:” all that was cut away, if you remember what was debated to you about our three fathers, of whom God willed to be called the God, not that they were thus alone but because in them alone the figure of the future people was made up in its completeness. For we find one born of a bond woman disinherited, one born of a free woman made heir: again, we find one born of a free woman disinherited, one born of a bond woman made heir. Ishmael, born of a bond woman, disinherited; Isaac, born of a free woman, made heir: Esau, born of a free woman, disinherited; the sons of Jacob, born of bond women, made heirs. Thus, in these three fathers the figure of the whole future people is seen: and not without reason God saith, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this,” saith He, “is my name for ever.”1 Rather let us remember what was promised to Abraham himself: for this was promised to Isaac, and also to Jacob. What do we find? “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.”2 At that time the one man believed what as yet he saw not: men now see, and are blinded. What was promised to the one man is fulfilled in the nations; and they who will not see what is already fulfilled, are separating themselves from the communion of the nations. But what avails it them that they will not see? See they do, whether they will or no; the open truth strikes against their closed eyes.

3. It was in answer to Nicodemus, who was of them that had believed on Jesus, that it was said, And Jesus did not trust Himself to them. To certain men, indeed, He did not trust Himself, though they had already believed on Him. Thus it is written, “Many believed in His name, seeing the signs which He did. But Jesus did not trust Himself to them. For He needed not that any should testify of man; for Himself knew what was in man.” Behold, they already believed on Jesus, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them. Why? because they were not yet born again of water and of the Spirit. From this have we exhorted and do exhort our brethren the catechumens. For if you ask them, they have already believed in Jesus; but because they have not yet received His flesh and blood, Jesus has not yet trusted Himself to them. What must they do that Jesus may trust Himself to them? They must be born again of water and of the Spirit; the Church that is in travail with them must bring them forth. They have been conceived; they must be brought forth to the light: they have breasts to be nourished at; let them not fear lest, being born, they may be smothered; let them not depart from the mother’s breasts.

4. No man can return into his mother’s bowels and be born again. But some one is born of a bond woman? Well, did they who were born of bond women at the former time, return into the wombs of the free to be born anew? The seed of Abraham was in Ishmael also; but that Abraham might have a son of the bond maid, it was at the advice of his wife. The child was of the husband’s seed, not of the womb, but at the sole pleasure of the wife. Was his birth of a bond woman the reason why he was disinherited? Then, if he was disinherited because he was the son of a bond woman, no sons of bond women would be admitted to the inheritance. The sons of Jacob were admitted to the inheritance; but Ishmael was put out of it, not because born of a bond woman, but because he was proud to his mother, proud to his mother’s son; for his mother was Sarah rather than Hagar. The one gave her womb, the other’s will was added: Abraham would not have done what Sarah willed not: therefore was he Sarah’s son rather. But because he was proud to his brother, proud in playing, that is, in mocking him; what said Sarah? “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”1 It was not, therefore, the bowels of the bond woman that caused his rejection, but the slave’s neck. For the free-born is a slave if he is proud, and, what is worse, the slave of a bad mistress, of pride itself. Thus, my brethren, answer the man, that a man cannot be born a second time; answer fearlessly, that a man cannot be born a second time. Whatever is done a second time is mockery, whatever is done a second time is play. It is Ishmael playing, let him be cast out. For Sarah observed them playing, saith the Scripture, and said to Abraham, “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” The playing of the boys displeased Sarah. She saw something strange in their play. Do not they who have sons like to see them playing? She saw and disapproved it. Something or other she saw in their play; she saw mockery in it, observed the pride of the slave; she was displeased with it, and she cast him out. The children of bond women, when wicked, are cast out; and the child of the free woman, when an Esau, is cast out. Let none, therefore, presume on his birth of good parents; let none presume on his being baptized by holy men. Let him that is baptized by holy men still beware lest he be not a Jacob, but an Esau. This would I say then, brethren, it is better to be baptized by men that seek their own and love the world, which is what the name of bond woman imports, and to be spiritually seeking the inheritance of Christ, so as to be as it were a son of Jacob by a bond woman, than to be baptized by holy men and to become proud, so as to be an Esau to be cast out, though born of a free woman. Hold ye this fast, brethren. We are not coaxing you, let none of your hope be in us; we flatter neither ourselves nor you; every man bears his own burden. It is our duty to speak, that we be not judged unhappily: yours to hear, and that with the heart, lest what we give be required of you; nay, that when it is required, it may be found a gain, not a loss.

5. The Lord says to Nicodemus, and explains to him: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thou, says He, understandest a carnal generation, when thou sayest, Can a man return into his mother’s bowels? The birth for the kingdom of God must be of water and of the Spirit. If one is born to the temporal inheritance of a human father, be he born of the bowels of a carnal mother; if one is born to the everlasting inheritance of God as his Father, be he born of the bowels of the Church. A father, as one that will die, begets a son by his wife to succeed him; but God begets of the Church sons, not to succeed Him, but to abide with Himself. And He goes on: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born spiritually then, and in spirit we are born by the word and sacrament. The Spirit is present that we may be born; the Spirit is invisibly present whereof thou art born, for thou too must be invisibly born. For He goes on to say: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The Spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest its voice, but knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth.” None sees the Spirit; and how do we hear the Spirit’s voice? There sounds a psalm, it is the Spirit’s voice; the gospel sounds, it is the Spirit’s voice; the divine word sounds, it is the Spirit’s voice. “Thou hearest its voice, and knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” But if thou art born of the Spirit, thou too shalt be so, that one who is not born of the Spirit knows not, as for thee, whence thou comest, or whither thou goest. For He said, as He went on, “So is also every one that is born of the Spirit.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 20:19-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

19 Now when it was late the same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you.

 “Late that same day,” not at night time, but in the evening of Resurrection day, “the first of the week,” after the disciples had, in the evening, returned from Emmaus. There is reference to the same apparition, as in Luke 24:26; Mark 16:14.

And the doors were shut … for fear of the Jews.” Our Lord’s disciples still timorous and terrified at the cruel treatment inflicted by the Jews on their Divine Master, were in dread of similar treatment themselves. Hence, “the doors” of the apartment in which they were assembled, “were shut,” as a security against attack.

Jesus came,” entered the apartment, in virtue of the gift of subtility appertaining to His glorified body, “and stood in their midst, and said to them. Peace be to you.” This was a form of salutation common among the Jews, implying the plenitude of all benedictions, temporal and spiritual. It was meant here, to inspire the disciples with confidence and consolation, in their present depressed and dejected condition.

20 And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

He showed them His hands and His side,” as a proof of His identity. The traces and marks of the wounds in His sacred body, would show He was the same whose hands and side were perforated on the cross. Whether they touched His hands and feet, is disputed.

The disciples, therefore, were glad.” Joy succeeded sadness, “when they saw the Lord,” and had no doubts of His identity. He now fulfils the promise made them on a former occasion, that “He would again see them, and their sorrow would be turned into joy” (16:22).

21 He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.

 “He said, therefore, to them again. Peace be to you.” Now being convinced that it was the Lord, they were, therefore, somewhat confused and disturbed at their inconstancy and want of firm faith. Hence, compassionating their weakness, He removes their uneasiness, and addresses them in words of consolation, giving them His peace; thus, remitting their own sins, receiving them back into favour, and preparing them for the great spiritual gift of remitting the sins of others. Also, about to send them into the entire world, He communicates His peace, which they were to impart to a world of unrest and sin.

As the Father hath sent Me,” to redeem mankind, to sanctify and save them. He was thus constituted by His Father, an Apostle, which means, “one sent”—St. Paul terms Him (Heb. 3:1), “the Apostle of our Confession”—“I also send you,” thus constituting them His Apostles and vicars, with full power to apply the merits of His Redemption, by preaching His Gospel including the precepts of faith and morals, by instituting in His name, or at least, inculcating the necessity of, the Sacraments. They were also to edify the world by the example of good and holy lives. In a word, He sends them to perfect the work of Redemption, achieved by Him, at such sacrifices, privations, and sufferings, including even the ignominious death of the cross; and communicates to them, all the authority in its fulness that the Father gave Him. The parallelism is remarkable in all the words. “The Father” (who is God), “I” (who also am God), “sent,” “send” (with the fulness and plenitude of authority), “Me,” “you.”

Catholic Tradition enables us to specify what amount of the authority here communicated, in regard to the remission of sin, was reserved for the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles to the consummation of ages; and what amount for the priests, to whom also was communicated the radical power of remitting sin, with some limitations, as to its actual exercise. The word, “as,” does not express full equality; as if the Apostles received the same amount of authority, and in the same way, as He received from His Father; but, only similarity, in many respects.

22 When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

Breathed on them.” This breathing on the Apostles was an exterior sign of His communicating of the Holy Ghost which He was about giving them—a Spirit who proceeds from the Father and Him. This breathing denotes, that as God, in the original creation, breathed into man the soul, which was the principle of natural life; so, the same God, now in the second creation and regeneration of man, breathes into him the Holy Spirit, who is the principle of spiritual and everlasting life.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” It is quite clear He now actually imparts to them His Holy Spirit. It was, however, for a certain purpose, and in reference to a certain special gift, viz., the remission of sins, the only means for securing peace and reconciliation to sinful man. This gift, although given by the Father also, is attributed by appropriation to our Lord, who died for sin and specially merited this power. The full abundance of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the working of miracles, the gift of tongues, etc., etc., was reserved for the day of Pentecost, and not publicly given, until after He ascended to the Father, as He Himself declared (16:7). But here, although the Apostles had previously received the Holy Ghost in the gift of sanctifying grace, a special gift was granted which they had not before, viz., the power to remit sin, after He Himself had paid a full ransom for sin, on the tree of the cross. It was a partial concession at present of the gifts given in their plenitude on Pentecost; just as the Apostles had previously, in receiving sanctifying grace, received the Holy Ghost. This was not publicly given, with great external show and display, as on the day of Pentecost. The power to remit sin belonged to God only, who was offended by sin. But this power is communicated by Him to the Apostles. Hence, in receiving it, they are said to “receive the Holy Ghost.”

23 Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” The power here given, as to the number or quality of sins is universal and without exception. All depends, so far as its efficacious exercise is concerned, on the dispositions and qualities of the subject, as is clear from the words, “whose sins,” etc. It is also clear, that they to whom this power is given, to the end of time, do actually remit sin and, not declare them remitted, as the Innovators teach. They remit on earth; and the sins thus remitted by a subordinate, delegated, ministerial exercise of power, are remitted by the sovereign power of God, in the High Court of Heaven. Similar are the words, “Whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven” (Matthew 17:18).

Similar is the power given to Peter (Matthew 16:19). “Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

And whose sins you shall retain,” when in the exercise of judicial discretion, you declare the subjects unfit for absolution, undeserving of receiving pardon from God, from want of proper dispositions, wanting contrition, wanting in a sincere desire to make reparation, and the other required conditions.

This two-fold power of remitting and retaining, which was not to be exercised capriciously, but with a just discretion, considering the merits of each case, shows the necessity of the confession of all sins; otherwise the party exercising would not know the case. Many grievous sins are occult—there are also sins of wicked thoughts. Neither could the dispositions of the sinner be known, save from his own confession. Hence, the necessity of a full and distinct confession of sins for the just exercise of the power here granted by our Lord to His Church (see Matthew 3:6, Commentary).

The Council of Trent defines, that the words of this verse are to be understood of the power of remitting and retaining sins in the Sacrament of Penance, as the Catholic Church always understood from the beginning; and anathematizes any one who, denying this, would wrest them, contrary to the institution of this Sacrament, to the authority of preaching the Gospel. (SS. xiv. Canon iii.)

They also condemn any one who, confounding the Sacraments, shall say that Baptism itself is the Sacrament of Penance, as if these two Sacraments were not distinct. (SS. xiv. Canon 2).

Thomas was absent when this power was given (v. 24). Some, however, maintain, that although absent, being a member of the Apostolic College, the gifts bestowed on his colleagues, as a body, were communicated to him; just as of old, the spirit of prophecy given through Moses to the Seventy of the Ancients of Israel, was given to Eldad and Medad, who were numbered among them, although absent when the gift of prophecy was given to the Seventy (Numbers 11:27).

Others, considering Thomas’s incredulity at the time, hold that this power of forgiving sins, etc., was given him after he made a full profession of faith (v. 28).

From Catholic Tradition we learn that the words, “receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins,” etc., were confined, from among those present, to the Apostles, to whom He addressed the words, “as the living Father sent Me,” etc. From the words thus understood, is proved the Sacrament of Penance and the necessity of confession (as above). The words also prove, that confession of sins with the absolution of the Priests, is the only ordinary means for the remission of sins; otherwise, it would not be true to say, “whose sins you shall retain,” etc. I say, ordinary; because, from other passages of Sacred Scripture, we know that perfect contrition, including perfect love of God, remits sin. But this contrition including the love of God involves a resolution to observe God’s commandments. Now, one of God’s commandments is, to have recourse, when convenient, to the Priests of the Church for absolution and remission of sin. On the observance of this precept, when practicable, the remission of sins, by means of contrition, is dependent and conditional. To it is it subordinate. (See Treatises on Theology, passim).

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, one of the twelve.” He says, “one of the twelve,” although the Apostolic College was now reduced to eleven, because “twelve” was the original number, just as in the case of the “Decemvirs,” they would be thus termed, although only nine out of the ten were present on a particular occasion.

Who is called Didymus.” “Didymus” is not a sirname, but, only a Greek rendering of the term, “Thomas,” which, in Hebrew, means what Didymus signifies, in Greek, that is to say, “twin,” probably, because he was one of two who were born at the same birth.

Some Commentators seem to think Thomas was present; because, St. Luke (24:33), informs us, that when the disciples returned from Emmaus, they found “the eleven gathered together” where our Lord appeared to them. But, as the Apostolic College went by the name of “the eleven,” after our Lord’s death, they might be called “the eleven,” even if any of them were absent on any particular occasion. The words of this verse very clearly state that Thomas was absent on this occasion. It may be, he did not return after the flight of the Apostles at our Lord’s Passion; or, he may have gone out on some business, and be absent when our Lord appeared. Possibly, the account given by the disciples, who returned that evening from Emmaus, may have been too much for his incredulity; and he may, becoming impatient at their recital, have left the chamber.

25 The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.

Our Lord, as we learn from St. Luke (24:40), showed them His feet also. Hence, not only His hands were each perforated with a rough nail; but, His feet also—“foderunt manus meas et pedes meos.” Whether two distinct nails were used for His feet, a nail for each, or only one for both feet, is disputed. In this is displayed the obstinate incredulity of Thomas.

Our Lord mercifully permitted this hesitation on the part of Thomas, in order to strengthen our faith, and remove all doubt on our part, “Plus enim nobis Thomœ infidelitas ad fidem, quam fides credentium discipulorum profuit. Quia, dum ille ad fidem palpando reducitur, nostra mens omni dubitatione posthabita, in fide solidatur”—(St. Gregory, Homil. in Evangel. 26).

26 And after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said: Peace be to you.

The disciples were within.” It is disputed whether this took place in the same room at Jerusalem, where He appeared before, or in Galilee, whither He ordered them to repair. (Matthew 28) It seems more likely, that it occurred at Jerusalem, as the Apostles, who were well known, and would be closely watched by the persecuting Jews, would hardly venture much out at this time, while the memory of recent events was still fresh in men’s minds. Moreover, the uniformity of narrative in regard to this and the preceding apparition would indicate the same place. There was no reason for assembling with closed doors in Galilee. The eighth day was selected, as likely having been assembled on the preceding Sabbath, they did not depart all at once. Our Lord wished to appear when they were together, so that in bestowing the faith on Thomas, He could confirm the faith of all the rest.

27 Then he said to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither and see my hands. And bring hither the hand and put it into my side. And be not faithless, but believing.

Then He saith to Thomas,” specially addressing Him, whose infidelity he came to cure. He employs the language of doubt used by Thomas, thereby showing His Divinity and Omniscience, conveying to him, that, although absent when Thomas used the language of unbelief, He still knew what he said. Hence, with merciful condescension, He said to him: as you would not believe unless you saw the prints of the nails in My hands, etc., thus irreverently dictating to Me what proof of My Resurrection I was to adduce, as if I could not bring home conviction by the sole act of My will; come now, do what you said, and, by touching Me, “see My hands,” etc.

We cannot but admire the wonderful love and condescension of our Lord in coming to bring about the conversion of His unbelieving Apostle. It is likely, though others think He durst not do it, that Thomas did actually touch our Lord’s hands and feet, which, although now glorified, were, by divine dispensation, made sensible to the sense of touch. “See My hands,” etc. The sense of seeing is made to comprise all the other senses.

And be not faithless, but believing,” as if He said, thou didst say that unless thou hadst seen My perforated hands and side, thou wouldst not believe. Now, thou hast seen them; I have done My part, by exhibiting My wounds for your inspection, with the merciful design of curing thy blindness and unbelief. Do thou, therefore, thy part; give up thy incredulity, and become a sincere believer.

St. Thomas, it is thought, was guilty of the sin of disbelieving our Lord’s Resurrection. As regards His Divinity, he would seem to have very unsettled and hazy notions. He was guilty of pride, obstinacy and self-conceit, from which his sin of incredulity sprang.

28 Thomas answered and said to him: My Lord and my God.

Thomas”—addressing our Lord—“said to Him, My Lord,” etc. This short incisive sentence, clearly expresses Thomas’s earnestness. It was a clear confession, on the part of Thomas, of our Lord’s humanity, through which He accomplished Redemption, and thus became, by purchase, Thomas’s “Lord” and Master; and of His Divinity, “my God.” In these words, Thomas acknowledges our Lord to be Man and God, and, that not only did He rise again, but raised Himself up by His own power.

The attempt on the part of some to evade the force of these words, which, in their plain and literal import, clearly denote faith in our Lord’s Divinity and humanity; by saying they were a mere exclamation, “O, My God,” as the Pagans used to exclaim, “Mi Hercle,” etc., is more deserving of ridicule than refutation, as Patrizzi (in hunc locum) observes.

The language is addressed to our Lord Himself. “Thomas … said to Him,” without reproof from our Lord, who, far from reproving him for this irreverent exclamation, as He would have done were it so; on the contrary, commends His faith, of which these words are the only expression on record.

Moreover, it would have been a shocking profanity on the part of Thomas—a thing held in horror by the Jews—to invoke the name of God, so inconsiderately. These words are, therefore, an expression of faith on the part of St. Thomas, in our Lord’s Divinity, accepted and commended by our Lord as such.

29 Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.

Because thou hast seen Me … thou hast believed.” Our Lord clearly commends the faith of Thomas, who, having seen the proofs of His Resurrection, aided by God’s grace, believed in His invisible Divinity, and also believed in what he did not see. viz., that His Resurrection was brought about by His own Divine power. This followed from his believing Him to be his “God.” Our Lord does not reprimand Thomas’s faith, but accepts it. Hence, He accepts his profession, that He was Himself God by nature, and not by participation. He was his “Lord” in right of Redemption, thus indicating His human nature. His “God,” in whom the Divine nature and all the Divine attributes were essentially resplendent.

The words, “thou hast believed,” may be understood of faith in our Lord’s Resurrection. Thomas did not believe in our Lord’s Resurrection, until he had the testimony of the senses and his own experience in proof of it. But, then, having experimental knowledge of the fact, he believed in it, not on account of his knowledge; but, on account of the authority of God revealing it. For His Resurrection proved Him to be God. Our Lord had frequently predicted His own Resurrection. The truth of this Revelation at once dawned on Thomas, and aided by Divine grace, he believed in our Lord’s Resurrection. He believed in His Divinity and Humanity, believed in all He revealed and disclosed. While our Lord commends the faith of Thomas, He tacitly reproaches him for his mode of believing, for his tardiness, and for not simply confiding in the narrative of the other Apostles, who declared they saw Him. In contrast with the obstinate tardiness of Thomas, He praises the simple faith of the others.

Blessed are they that have not seen.” Under the past, by a Hebrew idiom, often used by the prophets in expressing future events in a past form, is, as if they had actually occurred, included the present, and not the Apostles alone, but, all future believers, such as are referred to, who have not seen.”

Blessed,” is used in a comparative sense, a thing, by no means unusual in Scriptures—more blessed. For, Thomas himself was “blessed,” in his faith, “credidisti,” which faith our Lord commends.

The faith of these simple believers referred to by our Lord, is deserving of higher commendation, who, without waiting for the argument of experience and demonstration, as a motive of credibility, accept the proposed truths at once on competent authority propounding them.

30 Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

Many other signs,” etc. Some understood these words of all the miracles performed by our Lord both during His mortal life and after His Resurrection, of which this is a brief epitome. Others, more probably understand those of the miracles He wrought after His Resurrection in presence of His disciples, in order to confirm their faith in His Resurrection, the foundation of all Christian faith. The miracles performed during His missionary life were performed in presence of others, as well as “in the sight of His disciples.” “Which are not written in the book;” these are recorded partly by the other Apostles. Hence, it is not necessary to repeat them here; as those already recorded are sufficient to prove His Resurrection.

31 But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

But these,” viz., the things recorded in this Gospel, “are written,” not only that you may have a record of them, but also, and chiefly, “that you may believe, that Jesus.” the man so called, whose history I have written, “is the Christ,” the promised Messias, “the (natural) Son of God;” and, therefore, consubstantial, and of the same identical Divine nature, with His Father.

And that (thus) believing, you may have life,” the supernatural life of grace here, and the eternal life of glory, hereafter. “In His name,” through His merits and the redemption wrought by Him. To prove our Lord’s Divinity was the whole scope and end St. John had in view in writing this Gospel. With this theme he commenced, and now with the same he almost concludes his Gospel. He also had in view, as he says here, to bring conviction and faith to the minds of all; and thus to secure for them, life eternal. This design is strictly adhered to throughout the entire Gospel. The record of the miraculous works, arguments and discourses of our Blessed Lord had this clearly in view throughout.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 20:24-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

The following is excerpted from St John’s 87th Homily on the Gospel of St John.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said, Except I shall see in His hands1—I will not believe.”
[1.] AS to believe carelessly and in a random way, comes of an over-easy temper; so to be beyond measure curious and meddlesome, marks a most gross understanding. On this account Thomas is held to blame. For he believed not the Apostles when they said, “We have seen the Lord”; not so much mistrusting them, as deeming the thing to be impossible, that is to say, the resurrection from the dead. Since he saith not, “I do not believe you,” but, “Except I put my hand—I do not believe.” But how was it, that when all were collected together, he alone was absent? Probably after the dispersion which had lately taken place, he had not returned even then. But do thou, when thou seest the unbelief of the disciple, consider the lovingkindness of the Lord, how for the sake of a single soul He showed Himself with His wounds, and cometh in order to save even the one, though he was grosser than the rest; on which account indeed he sought proof from the grossest of the senses, and would not even trust his eyes. For he said not, “Except I see,” but, “Except I handle,” he saith, lest what he saw might somehow be an apparition. Yet the disciples who told him these things, were at the time worthy of credit, and so was He that promised; yet, since he desired more, Christ did not deprive him even of this.

And why doth He not appear to him straight way, instead of “after eight days”?3 (Ver. 26.) In order that being in the mean time continually instructed by the disciples, and hearing the same thing, he might be inflamed to more eager desire, and be more ready to believe for the future. But whence knew he that His side had been opened? From having heard it from the disciples. How then did he believe partly, and partly not believe? Because this thing was very strange and wonderful. But observe, I pray you, the truthfulness of the disciples, how they hide no faults, either their own or others’, but record them with great veracity.

Jesus again presenteth himself to them, and waiteth not to be requested by Thomas, nor to hear any such thing, but before he had spoken, Himself prevented him, and fulfilled his desire; showing that even when he spake those words to the disciples, He was present. For He used the same words, and in a manner conveying a sharp rebuke, and instruction for the future. For having said,

Ver. 26. “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side”; He added,

“And be not faithless, but believing.”

Seest thou that his doubt proceeded from unbelief? But it was before he had received the Spirit; after that, it was no longer so, but, for the future, they were perfected.

And not in this way only did Jesus rebuke him, but also by what follows; for when he, being fully satisfied, breathed again, and cried aloud,

Ver. 28. “My Lord, and my God,” He saith,
Ver. 29. “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

For this is of faith, to receive things not seen; since, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) And here He pronounceth blessed not the disciples only, but those also who after them should believe. “Yet;” saith some one, “the disciples saw and believed.” Yes, but they sought nothing of the kind, but from the proof of the napkins, they straightway received the word concerning the Resurrection, and before they saw the body, exhibited all faith. When therefore any one in the present day say, “I would that I had lived in those times, and had seen Christ working miracles,” let them reflect, that, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

It is worth enquiring, how an incorruptible body showed the prints of the nails, and was tangible by a mortal hand. But be not thou disturbed; what took place was a matter of condescension. For that which was so subtle and light as to enter in when the doors were shut, was free from all density1; but this marvel was shown, that the Resurrection might be believed, and that men might know that it was the Crucified One Himself, and that another rose not in His stead. On this account He arose2 bearing the signs of the Cross, and on this account He eateth. At least the Apostles everywhere made this a sign of the Resurrection, saying, “We, who did eat and drink with Him.” (Acts 10:41.) As therefore when we see Him walking on the waves before the Crucifixion, we do not say, that that body is of a different nature, but of our own; so after the Resurrection, when we see Him with the prints of the nails, we will no more say, that he is therefore3 corruptible. For He exhibited these appearances on account of the disciple.

Ver. 30. “And many other signs truly did Jesus.”

[2.] Since this Evangelist hath mentioned fewer than the others, he tells us that neither have all the others mentioned them all, but as many as were sufficient to draw the hearers to belief. For, “If,” it saith, “they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books.” (c. 21:25.) Whence it is clear, that what they have mentioned they wrote not for display, but only for the sake of what was useful. For how could they who omitted the greater part, write these others4 for display? But why went they not through them all? Chiefly on account of their number; besides, they also considered, that he who believed not those they had mentioned, would not give heed to a greater number; while he who received these, would have no need of another in order to believe. And here too he seems to me to be for the time speaking of the miracles after the Resurrection. Wherefore He saith,

“In the presence of His disciples.”5

For as before the Resurrection it was necessary that many should be done, in order that they might believe that He was the Son of God, so was it also after the Resurrection, in order that they might admit that He had arisen. For another reason also he has added, “In the presence of His disciples,” because He conversed with them alone after the Resurrection; wherefore also He said, “The world seeth Me no more.” (c. 14:19.) Then, in order that thou mayest understand that what was done was done only for the sake of the disciples, he added,

Ver. 31. “That believing ye might have life in His Name.”6

Speaking generally to mankind, and showing that not on Him who is believed on, but on ourselves, he bestows a very great favor. “In His Name,” that is, “through Him”; for He is the Life.

[3.] Perhaps when ye heard these things, ye glowed, and called those happy who were then with Him, and those who shall be with Him at the day of the general Resurrection. Let us then use every exertion that we may see that admirable Face. For if when now we hear we so burn, and desire to have been in those days which He spent upon earth, and to have heard His Voice, and seen His face, and to have approached, and touched, and ministered unto Him; consider how great a thing it is to see Him no longer in a mortal body, nor doing human actions, but with a body guard of Angels, being ourselves also in a form of unmixed purity, and beholding Him, and enjoying the rest of that bliss which passes all language. Wherefore, I entreat, let us use every means, so as not to miss such glory. For nothing is difficult if we be willing, nothing burdensome if we give heed. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:12.) What then is, “If we endure”? If we bear tribulations, if persecutions, if we walk in the strait way. For the strait way is by its nature laborious, but by our will it is rendered light, from the hope of things to come. “For our present light affliction worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen.” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18.) Let us then transfer our eyes to heaven, and continually imagine “those” things, and behold them. For if we always spend our time with them, we shall not be moved to desire the pleasures of this world, nor find it hard to bear its sorrows; but we shall laugh at these and the like, and nothing will be able to enslave or lift us up, if only we direct our longing thither,10 and look to that love.11 And why say I that we shall not grieve at present troubles? We shall henceforth not even appear to see them. Such a thing is strong desire.12 Those, for instance, who are not at present with us, but being absent are loved, we image every day. For mighty is the sovereignty of love,1 it alienates the soul from all things else, and chains to the desired object. If thus we love Christ, all things here will seem to be a shadow, an image, a dream. We too shall say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress?” (Rom. 8:35.) He said not, “money, or wealth, or beauty,” (these are very mean and contemptible,) but he hath put the things which seem to be grievous, famines, persecutions, deaths. He then spat on these even, as being nought; but we for the sake of money separate ourselves from our life, and cut ourselves off from the light. And Paul indeed prefers “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature,” to the love which is towards Him; but we, if we see a little portion of gold, are fired, and trample on His laws. And if these things are intolerable when spoken of, much more are they so when done.2 For the terrible thing is this, that we shudder to hear, but do not shudder to do: we swear readily, and perjure ourselves, and plunder, and exact usury, care nothing for sobriety, desist from exactness in prayer, transgress most of the commandments, and for the sake of money make no account of our own members.3 For he that loves wealth will work ten thousand mischiefs to his neighbor, and to himself as well. He will easily be angry with him, and revile him, and call him fool, and swear and perjure himself, and does not4 even preserve the measures of the old law. For he that loves gold will not love his neighbor; yet we, for the Kingdom’s sake, are bidden to love even our enemies. Now if by fulfilling the old commandments, we shall not be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven, unless our righteousness exceed and go beyond them, when we transgress even these, what excuse shall we obtain? He that loves money, not only will not love his enemies, but will even treat his friends as enemies.
[4.] But why speak I of friends? the lovers of money have often ignored nature itself. Such a one knows not kindred, remembers not companionship, reverences not age, has no friend, but will be ill-disposed towards all, and above all others to himself, not only by destroying his soul, but by racking himself with ten thousand cares, and toils, and sorrows. For he will endure foreign travels, hatreds, dangers, plots, anything whatever, only that he may have in his house the root of all evil, and may count much gold. What then can be more grievous than this disease? It is void of any luxury or pleasure, for the sake of which men often sin, it is void of honor or glory. For the lover of money suspects that he has tens of thousands, and really has many, who accuse, and envy, and slander, and plot against him. Those whom he has wronged hate him as having been ill-used; those who have not yet suffered, fearing least they may suffer, and sympathizing with those who have, manifest the same hostility; while the greater and more powerful, being stung and indignant on account of the humbler sort, and at the same time also envying him, are his enemies and haters. And why speak I of men? For when one hath God also made his enemy, what hope shall there then be for him? what consolation? what comfort? He that loves riches will5 never be able to use them; he will be their slave and keeper, not their master. For, being ever anxious to make them more, he will never be willing to spend them; but he will cut short himself, and be in poorer state than any poor man, as nowhere stopping in his desire. Yet riches are made not that we should keep, but that we should use them; but if we are going to bury them for others, what can be more miserable than we, who run about desiring to get together the possessions of all men,6 that we may shut them up within, and cut them off from common use? But there is another malady not less than this. Some men bury their money in the earth, others in their bellies, and in pleasure and drunkenness; together with injustice adding to themselves the punishment of wantonness. Some minister with their substance to parasites and flatterers, others to dice and harlots, others to different expenses of the same kind, cutting out for themselves ten thousand roads that lead to hell, but leaving the right and sanctioned road which leads to heaven. And yet it hath not greater gain only, but greater pleasure than the things we have mentioned. For he who gives to harlots is ridiculous and shameful, and will have many quarrels, and brief pleasure; or rather, not even brief, because, give what he will to the women his mistresses, they will not thank him for it; for, “The house of a stranger is a cask with holes.” (Prov. 23:27, LXX.) Besides, that sort of persons is impudent,7 and Solomon hath compared their love to the grave; and then only do they stop, when they see their lover stripped of all. Or rather, such a woman doth not stop even then, but tricks herself out the more, and tramples on him when he is down, and excites much laughter against him, and works him so much mischief, as it is not possible even to describe by words. Not such is the pleasure of the saved; for neither hath any one there a rival, but all rejoice and are glad, both they that receive blessings, and they that look on. No anger, no despondency, no shame, no disgrace, besiege the soul of such a one, but great is the gladness of his conscience, and great his hope of things to come; bright his glory, and great his distinction; and more than all is the favor and safety which is from God, and not one precipice, nor suspicion, but a waveless harbor, and calm. Considering therefore all these things, and comparing pleasure with pleasure, let us choose the better,1 that we may obtain the good things to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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Commentaries for the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2017

EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Note: We are in Year A

YEAR A: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN  ORDINARY TIME.

YEAR B: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

YEAR C: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

MONDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 17:20-24.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 32.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 32.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 32.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 32.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:17-27.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 10:17-27.

Pope Benedict’s Homily on Mark 10:17-27.

Another Homily on Mark 10:17-27 by Pope Benedict.

TUESDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 35:1-12.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 50.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 50.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 50.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:28-31.

Navarre Commentary on Mark 10:28-31.

St Catherine of Siena on Mark 10:28-31.

PLEASE NOTE: IN 2017 ASH WEDNESDAY WILL START TOMORROW, MARCH 1. COMMENTARIES FOR THE LENTEN SEASON CAN BE FOUND HERE.

WEDNESDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Commentary on Sirach 36:1, 4-5a, 10-17.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 79.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 79.

My Background Notes on Psalm 79:8, 9, 11, 13. Contains background on the psalm with notes on the responsorial verses.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:32-45.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 10:32-45.

The Catechism on Today’s Gospel Mark 10:32-45.

THURSDAY O F THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Commentary on Sirach 42:15-25.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 33.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 33.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 33.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 33.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 10:46-52.

Navarre Commentary on Mark 10:46-52.

FRIDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 44:1, 9-13.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 149.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 149.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 149.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 149.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 11:11-26.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 11:11-26.

SATURDAY OF THE EIGHTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Sirach 51:12cd-20.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 19.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 19.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 19.

Navarre Commentary on Mark 11:27-33.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 11:27-33.

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

Commentaries for Ash Wednesday Through Easter Sunday

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2017

Please Note: Each week contains its current and following Sunday (e.g., the Second Week of Lent begins with the 2nd Sunday and ends with the 3rd).

Commentaries for Ash Wednesday Through the Second Sunday of Lent.

Commentaries for the Second Week of Lent.

Commentaries for the Third Week of Lent.

Commentaries for the Fourth Week of Lent.

Commentaries for the Fifth Week of Lent.

Commentaries for Holy Week.

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

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 37

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 22, 2017

PSALM 37
An exhortation to despise this world, and the short prosperity of the wicked; and to trust in Providence

1–2 The prophet, in the character of a spiritual physician, admonishes the faithful, when they see the wicked prospering, not to be tempted to imitate them, or to be indignant or angry with God, as if he were treating them unjustly; because the prosperity of the evil doer will not be of long duration; nay, it will even have but a very brief existence; and then will God’s justice and providence, in not allowing them to exult and rejoice for any length of time, be made manifest to all. “Be not emulous of evil doers.” Do not imitate them; do not seek to do as they do. If they do wrong, do not the same. “Nor envy them that work iniquity.” When you see the wicked prosper, be not troubled, nor be angry with God for allowing them so to thrive in the world, as it is more clearly expressed in Psalm 72, “How good is God to Israel, to them that are of a right heart! But my feet were almost moved; my steps had well nigh slipt, because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked seeing the prosperity of sinners;” that means, God seems good to those who know and love him; but, poor creature as I am, I fell into doubt and misgiving, burning with zeal, as I thought, for justice sake, and with anger at seeing the prosperity of the wicked, who, while more deserving of torments and punishment, abound in all the temporal blessings of this world. “For they shall shortly wither away as grass.” A most appropriate idea for showing how short will be their prosperity. Grass and green herbs do not send their roots very deep into the earth, like the cedar and the palm tree, to which the just are usually compared. “The just shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.” Hence, the grass and green herbs wither and rot in a short time; the cedar and the palm tree come to an immense age. And the prophet does not confine himself to their prosperity, which, he says, will be very brief in this world; but, he goes further, and says, themselves will be very quickly destroyed; and when they are gone, their happiness and prosperity is gone with them. And though they may enjoy many and prosperous years here, they are nothing compared to the lengthened, the everlasting happiness of the just. For “the just shall live forever,” Wisdom 5; and “the just shall be in everlasting remembrance.” Any one that wishes to see the brevity and the velocity of all things temporal, painted to the life, let him refer to Wisdom, chap. 5, “All those things are passed away like a shadow, and like a post that runneth on, and as a ship that passeth through the waves; whereof when it is gone by, the trace cannot be found, nor the path of its keel in the waters: or as when a bird flieth through the air; of the passage of which no mark can be found, but only the sound of the wings beating the light air, and parting it by the force of her flight; she moved her wings, and hath flown through; and there is no mark found afterwards of her way: or as when an arrow is shot at a mark, the divided air presently cometh together again, so that the passage thereof is not known: so we also being born, forthwith ceased to be; and have been able to show no mark of virtue; but are consumed in our wickedness.”

3–4 After seeking to frighten us out of our evil ways, David now tries to encourage us to do good. If you wish to be happy and blessed, understand who is the author of all happiness, look to him for it, and to no one else. “Trust in the Lord,” he, being master of all things, can alone give us what we want; but that our hope may be certain, and that we may not be confounded, “do good;” do what God’s commandments direct you; for he cannot put his trust in him he knows to be incensed against him; and then in perfect security you will “dwell in the land,” for who can turn you out when you are known to be the friend of him to whom the earth, and “the fullness thereof” belongs? nay, more, “you will be fed with its riches,” for it will throw up its fruits in abundance to feed you. But to work, to be in God’s peace, so that one may securely confide in him, they must have love; and, therefore, he says, “Delight in the Lord;” love God from your heart, let him be your delight, and then you will be safe, because, “he will give thee the requests of thy heart,” whatever your heart shall desire. An objection—we know many who “trusted in the Lord,” who “did good,” and who “delighted in the Lord,” and still were not allowed “to dwell in the land,” nor “to be fed with its riches,” nor to get “the requests of their heart:” to say nothing of the countless multitudes of holy souls who are in extreme want. Certainly St. Paul “trusted in the Lord,” and “did good;” and yet, according to himself, 1 Cor. 4, “He was hungry and thirsty, and was naked, and was cast out as the refuse and the off scouring of this world:” and though “he delighted in the Lord,” the Lord did not grant him “the request of his heart;” for, though he asked three times to “be delivered from the sting of his flesh,” yet he was not heard. The answer is: the greater part of those who are in extreme want do not “trust in the Lord” as they ought, do not observe his commandments as he requires, much less are they “delighted in the Lord;” for, to say nothing of the promises contained in this Psalm, Christ himself most clearly says to us, “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.” There can be no doubt, then, but that God will provide all necessaries for his own, if they really put their trust in him, and keep his commandments. If the contrary sometimes happens, as was the case with St. Paul, the reason is, because God chose to give them something better, with which they are more contented, and that is the great merit of patience; for the very same Paul, who so described his want and his other tribulations, wrote in another place, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation;” and thus, though God did not grant “the requests of his heart,” by removing “the sting of his flesh,” he gave him an abundance of grace to convert that sting into a powerful source of triumph. He, therefore, withheld a thing of trifling value, that he may confer one of immense value, which he knew was the real “request of his heart.”

5–6 The prophet, in the capacity of a skilful physician, had prescribed a remedy for the internal disease of hunger, thirst, and the like; he now prescribes for the external disease of persecutions and calumnies. When such things happen, we are not forbidden to defend ourselves, and to repel the calumnies; but prayer to God, confidence in God, should be our principal resource and remedy, as was the case with Susanna, who, when condemned to death, through swearing of false witnesses, with tears in her eyes looked up to heaven, “for her heart had confidence in the Lord.” “Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it.” In prayer before God disclose all your actions to him, confide in him, commit your whole case to him, “and he will do it.” He will do justice to you. He will find out a means of detecting the falsehood of the witnesses who swore against you, so as to establish your innocence. That is more clearly expressed in the following, “and he will bring forth thy justice as a light.” God, in his wonderful providence, will cause your justice that was, as it were, buried in darkness, by the calumnies of your persecutors, to emerge and be refulgent in great brightness, as light is seen when enkindled, or brought out from a closed and darkened lantern. He repeats it, saying, “and thy judgment as the noon day.” He will establish your innocence as clearly, and make it to be seen as conspicuously as the sun is seen at noon. A thing literally carried out in the case of Susanna. At first her justice and her innocence were in darkness, she was convicted on the testimony not only of two witnesses, but even of two who professed to be together when they saw the thing, and whose character put them beyond suspicion; however, God at once raised up the spirit of Daniel, who, from the very lips of the same witnesses, so clearly establishes their own infamy, and the innocence of Susanna, that she was at once set at liberty, and they were consigned to an ignominious death.

7 The meaning of this passage, which may be considered as the fourth general spiritual rule, is, take care, and be always obedient to God; pray to him constantly, for fear the idea of seeing an unjust man successful in the world may tempt you and lead you to injustice. In fact, the success of the bad is a great temptation; but easily overcome by having God constantly before us, and clinging to him through prayer and obedience. Whoever will so unite himself to God stands, as it were, on an eminence; and, seeing the happiness of the sinner to be transient and temporary, has no difficulty in spurning and despising it. He therefore, says, “Be subject to the Lord, and pray to him.” Be obedient to God in all simplicity and honesty, and through prayer frequently converse and commune with him. “Envy not the man who prospereth in his way.” Do not seek to rival the man who is prosperous in life; that is, the man who is dishonestly so.

8–9 This verse is a repetition and explanation of the first verse. Throughout the whole Psalm the same idea is frequently repeated and inculcated, to explain it more clearly, and thereby to fix it more firmly on the memory. In the first verse he said, “Be not emulous of evil doers.” He now repeats, in clearer language, “cease from anger, and leave rage;” that is, when you see a bad man thriving, don’t get vexed or angry, don’t say, Why does this villain so prosper? Where is God’s justice? Where his providence? In the eighth verse he said, “have no emulation to do evil.” Do not seek to rival the wicked in their evil ways; do not imitate the enormities of those whose happiness you so envy, and adds, “for the evil doers shall be cut off,” to confirm what he had said before, “for they shall wither away as grass.” He then adds, “but they that wait upon the Lord shall inherit the land,” to repeat and confirm what he had said before, “trust in the Lord, and dwell in the land.” They wait on the Lord who patiently expect his promises, and expect them confidently, knowing the Lord, who made the promise, being both able and sure to carry it out; and thus, there is no doubt that the evil doers, though they may seem to flourish for a while, will not long flourish, but will be “cut off” from the land, and shoved into hell for eternal punishment; while those who keep themselves from sin, and expect their reward from God, “they shall inhabit the land,” for they shall get permanent hold of the land, of which they will never be deprived. In truth, when holy souls go to God, instead of losing possession of the land, they acquire both it and heaven along with it, when it is said of them, “that he will put them over all his property.”

10–11 Having said, that “the evil doers shall be cut off,” he now adds, that it will soon happen. “For yet a little while” and that “wicked” man, who seemed so happy, “shall not be,” cannot be found; “and thou shall seek his place and shalt not find it.” There will be no trace of him, like a barren tree torn up from the roots. “But the meek,” they who are neither indignant nor angry with God when they see the wicked prosper; but, on the contrary, patiently bear and take from God’s hand what it may please him to send, they will “inherit the land,” not only this land of exile, but that land that only deserves the name, that fixed and firm land, of which the Lord speaks in Mat. 5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land;” and as that land is called the Jerusalem, which means, the vision of peace, and whereas all its enemies are far removed from it, therefore “they shall delight in the multitude of peace;” they shall have great peace, because the number of inhabitants will be great to enjoy it; and the peace will be of long duration, or rather forever; and thus they shall enjoy the pleasure that peace always brings with it.

12–13 The just man is here advised to be in no great fear of the wicked, as God is guarding him. “The sinner shall watch the just man;” shall attentively look after everything he does, to see could he find any opening for destroying him; “and shall gnash upon them with his teeth;” like a dog, shall howl for his destruction, and through anger and fury expose his teeth, like a dog. “But the Lord shall laugh at him.” God, who beholds everything, in whose hand are all things, so that even a leaf does not fall to the ground without his order or permission, “shall laugh at him, for he foreseeth that his day shall come;” he will laugh at him, because he sees the end of the wicked man is just at hand; and that he will be taken off before he can put any of his designs against the just man into execution. Though God may sometimes allow the wicked to slay the just, the wicked, however, kills himself first, for he kills his own soul; and since the death of the just is precious in the sight of the Lord, his death, instead of being a loss, is to him a gain; on the other hand, the death of the sinner is the very reverse—is the commencement of his eternal punishment; and thus the sinner is always hurried off before he can injure the just. He is, therefore, justly “to be laughed at,” who, while he lies in wait for another, sees not his own impending destruction.

14–15 The prophet explains here, what he had more obscurely expressed in the twelfth verse. He said there, “The sinner shall watch the just man,” which he explains here, by saying, “The wicked have drawn out the sword, they have bent their bow.” The wicked stand with drawn swords, and bended bow, biding their time to shoot with the arrow, and slay with the sword the just man, “who is poor and needy,” but “upright of heart.” But God, who from on high beholds everything, causes their “swords to enter into their own hearts,” and “their bows to be broken,” and to injure themselves alone; and thus, “he will laugh at them.” What is said here of the real sword and quiver, may be also applied to the sword and quiver of the tongue, that sinners, perhaps oftener, make use of against the just. The just man is here designated as “the upright of heart,” because his heart is most conformable to the law of God, which is most upright; and as that law is the right way in which we must needs walk, the “upright of heart” is said to be right in his way, because he never departs from the right path, which is the law of the Lord. Observe also that the just man is called “the poor and needful,” because all the just are poor in spirit, and though they sometimes possess the riches of this world, they understand them not to be their own, since they have to render an account of them to God; or certainly David does not speak of all the just, but only of the poor and the needy, who are oppressed by the rich. Between the “poor” and “needy,” there is this difference, that the former signifies the humbler, the afflicted, the meek; while “needy” signifies, properly speaking, the one in want, who wishes for everything, because he is thoroughly destitute. Finally, the expression, “Let their sword enter into their own hearts, and let their bow be broken,” is more a prophecy than an imprecation. The sword of the sinner, drawn against the just, then enters into his own heart; when, while seeking to destroy the just, he really destroys himself. While he despoils the just man perhaps of his clothes, he robs himself of faith and charity; and while he deprives the just of his life, he deprives himself of the grace of God, which is the life of the soul; and while, by calumny, he shuts the just man up in prison, he precipitates himself into hell.

16–17 For fear the just should envy the rich wicked, and should, therefore, forsake justice to do evil, David encourages them in these two verses. “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked;” that means, a trifling income will be of more value to the just man than an immense fortune to the sinner; and, therefore, the just man, with small means, is much happier than the sinner with a large revenue; and, therefore, justice, with little wealth, is more to be sought after than much wealth with justice. The reason is, because the just man, being guided by God, knows how to turn his riches to proper account: he is not avaricious, nor is he prodigal, and he is, therefore, neither needy, nor is he in want; he is not in debt, neither is he burdened with useless riches, to stimulate his pride or excite his passions. On the other hand, the sinner is both proud and prodigal, and knows not the use of money; hence he is always in want, always in debt, and cannot hold his position long, as appears from what follows, “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken into pieces; but the Lord strengtheneth the just;” that means, the power and strength of the sinner will easily fail, because he depends on the arm of the flesh, and his riches can afford him no help; but the strength and power of the just cannot fail, because he depends on the arm of God, who, being the friend of the just, confirms and supports him. Finally, the sinner, in spite of all his riches, will not escape everlasting death; because, when he shall die, he will carry nothing with him, nor will his glory descend with him, while the just man, who, instead of trusting in the riches of this world, trusted in God, shall live forever.

18–19 The prophet now confirms what he said a while ago, as to the happiness of the just, however scanty their fortune may be. “The Lord knoweth the days of the undefiled.” God approves of their life, favors and blesses them; and, therefore, their days will be prolonged, and their inheritance shall be protected for a long time. “They shall not be confounded in the evil time.” In the time of want and penury they will not be in confusion, because they will not be forced to beg; “and in the days of famine they shall be filled.” So far from there being any fear of their dying of hunger in time of famine, they will be so supplied that they may eat to satiety; things that often happen in this life, but most certainly will in the next. For, after this life, a most unheard of season of sterility will set in, when no one can either sow or reap; and the rich man in hell will thirst for one drop of water even, without getting it. Then, indeed, the immaculate, who stored nothing on earth, but put up everything in heaven, shall find their everlasting inheritance, and will not be confounded with the begging of the foolish virgins, “give us of your oil,” but will be fully satiated when the glory of the Lord shall have appeared.

20 A reason why “the inheritance of the just should be forever;” and why “they shall be filled in the days of famine.” That will be the case, “because the wicked,” who were wont to harass them, and deprive them of their property, “shall perish.” The remainder of the verse corresponds with the two last verses, and the meaning is, Holy souls, as being friends of God, shall have the “eternal inheritance,” and in the “evil day will not be confounded;” but the enemies of the Lord, as all sinners are, on the contrary, shall enjoy a very brief felicity; for, so soon as ever they come to be exalted, they will vanish like smoke, which the more it is exalted, the more it is scattered, leaving not even a track of itself behind.

21–22 He confirms what he had stated in verse 16, viz., “Better is a little to the just than the great riches of the wicked.” It frequently happens that the sinner, however rich, may borrow money without returning it, because they want to live, to be dressed, or to have finer houses than they can afford; hence, they are always in debt; while the just man, however limited in his fortune, knows how to make use of that little; and hence, can afford to “have mercy on the poor,” and “shall give without expecting to get it back.” “For such as bless him,” that is God, “shall inherit the land;” and thus will always have something to give—“but such as curse him;” the ungrateful, the blasphemer, “shall perish,” so that even if they wished to give, they won’t be able to do so.

23–24 He now begins to relate God’s singular providence in regard of the just, in order to confirm them, for fear the prosperity of the wicked may induce them to commit sin. He states, then, that the life of the just is guided and guarded by God. “With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed.” The Lord, who made the just man, will direct his words and actions. “And he shall like well his way;” that is, either the just man shall like well and follow God’s way, or God shall like his, that is, the path he is pursuing. “When he shall fall, he shall not be bruised.” This may be referred to the disasters of the body as well as of the soul. For, should the just man meet any corporeal affliction or trouble, such as the falling down a precipice or into a pit, “he shall not be bruised;” he will not be entirely destroyed; for the “Lord putteth his hand under him,” assists him through his providence. Should he fall into the temptation of sin, “he shall not be bruised;” that is, he will not give full consent to mortal sin, nor will he lose his patience, his faith, or any other virtue, because God, by the assistance of his grace, will “put his hand under him.”

25–26 He proves, from his own experience, that the just “shall not be confounded in the evil time;” and also, that “in the days of famine they shall be filled.” I have been young, and now am old;” and in all that space of time “have not seen the just forsaken;” so as to be pinched by want; nor have I seen “his seed seeking bread;” that is, his children begging or seeking bread. On the contrary, I have seen the just man “showing mercy and lending;” so abounding in the riches of the world as to be able either to bestow altogether, or certainly to lend to his neighbors in their necessities; and, therefore, “his seed,” his descendants, not only shall feel no want, but they “shall be in blessing;” that is, blessed by God, they will abound in the goods of this world, or they will be blessed by all, as the children of the best of parents. Observe that the mendicant religions do not come under the sentence so pronounced here, because their mendicancy is voluntary, done through a love of poverty; nor can they be said to be forsaken by God, when he supports them by a wonderful providence. Other mendicants, generally speaking, are not the children of those who were wont “to show mercy and to lend;” to whom the promise was specially made. Very often they are neither just themselves nor the children of the just. Lastly, as we have already said, the truly just, and they who trust in God, though they may seem to be deserted by God, seeking a morsel of bread, like Lazarus, they have got something better than the goods of this world; nor would they give the virtue of patience they have got in exchange for all the riches of this world.

27–28 From what he had said of his experience from his youth to his old age, he concludes by an exhortation to “decline from evil and do good,” which are the two primary precepts of justice—“and dwell forever and ever;” be just, and you will, in security, “dwell in the land” forever. He assigns a reason why. Because “the Lord loveth judgment;” his just and holy servants; and I, therefore, assert that “they shall be reserved forever.” This promise, to a certain extent, applies to this world, where the just, through various successions, are wont to “dwell in the land” for a long time; but, properly and absolutely speaking, it applies to the future life, which, in the land of the living, will be everlasting.

29 This verse, as well as the latter part of the preceding verse, are so clear as to need no explanation.

30–31 Having previously said that divine Providence was on the watch to see that the just should not be oppressed by the wicked, he now adds, that the just themselves, by their own wisdom, which, too, is a gift of God, would enable them to save themselves from “their steps being supplanted” by the wicked. “The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom.” The just man will speak with so much wisdom, that he will not be caught in his language. To “meditate wisdom” means to be discreet in our conversation, as we have explained before; which he repeats when he adds, “and his tongue shall speak judgment;” that is, the tongue of the just man will not scatter words at random, but will speak what is right, and at the right time, which is the essence of speaking with wisdom; and he assigns a reason for it, saying, “the law of God is in his heart.”

The just man’s conversation is naturally seasoned with wisdom, because he has “the law of God in his heart;” and, therefore, while he is speaking he has the commandments of God before him, that he may not offend by his tongue; and, besides, “the law is a light,” Prov. 6; and, as the same David says, Psalm 18, “The law of the Lord enlighteneth the heart, giving wisdom to little ones;” and it is, therefore, no wonder if the just man, who has it in his heart, who loves to think on it should speak with wisdom—“and his steps shalt not be supplanted.” To supplant means to tumble another by tripping him, and that more by cunning and dexterity than by strength; but, as the just man always thinks wisely and acts wisely, he is always on his guard, and, therefore, his “steps shall not be supplanted.”

32–33 These two verses are an explanation of the two preceding. “The wicked watcheth the just man, and seeketh to put him to death,” carefully observes what he says and what he does, in order “to supplant him,” “and seeketh to put him to death;” first to trip him up, then to kill him, a thing that very often happens in unjust prosecutions, when the judge or a false accuser seeks first to entrap an innocent person, and then to put him to death. “But the Lord will not leave him in his hands.” The Lord will not allow the sinner so to keep the just man in his power, but will inspire him with wisdom, to detect the machinations of his enemies, and to speak with such wisdom as will enable him to elude them; “nor condemn him when he shall be judged.” The judge will not condemn the just man, when he shall come before him, for God will not permit justice to be so perverted.

34 An exhortation to the just to hope in God, and persevere in justice. “Expect the Lord.” Hope in God, even though he may seem to be tardy in his promise; “and keep his way,” observe his law, and turn not from the path of holiness and justice in which you have set out; “and he will exalt thee to inherit the land,” when his promises shall be fulfilled, that you may obtain the land of the living as your inheritance of right; “when the sinners shall perish, thou shalt see.” When all sinners, condemned by the judgment of God, shall have perished you will see what you now hope for.

35–36 Having said that, “when the sinners shall perish, thou shalt see;” the just man may naturally ask, when that will happen? and he therefore now says it will be immediately, for “I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus,” and placed in the highest degree of dignity and power, so abounding in wealth, subjects, friends, and the like, that one would say his happiness must needs be everlasting; nevertheless, scarcely “I passed by, and lo, he was not;” that is, in my way, I saw that man raised and rooted like the cedars of Libanus; I had scarcely passed him, when I looked back, and he had disappeared. “I sought him,” asked where he was, looked for some traces of his greatness, “and his place was not found,” as if he had never been there. These things are now of daily experience. To say nothing of petty kings and princes, where are those most powerful monarchs of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans? Had history not recorded them, we would be in ignorance of their very existence. Thus, while the merest traces of such powers have disappeared, yet such is human pride, and so does it blind men up, that they cannot see what they actually touch; and will not acknowledge what they must, in spite of them, feel and experience.

37–38 A continuation of the exhortation. “Keep innocence,” by keeping yourself so, and “behold justice,” judge what is right towards your neighbor; “for there are remnants for the peaceable man,” because God will reward him, so that he will leave children after him. Or, in a higher meaning, because many good things are in store for the just after death, “For their good works follow those who die in the Lord,” Apoc. 14; on the contrary, “the unjust shall be destroyed together,” without any exception, and “the remnants of the wicked shall perish;” they will neither leave any property nor children to enjoy it, when they shall have consumed everything in their crimes and concupiscence.

39–40 A recapitulation of the whole Psalm sufficiently clear and perspicuous.

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